Camino Sunrise: Thank You, Readers!

I am grateful for two reviews of Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows that arrived this week via Amazon. Also, I am thankful for my wife Sue’s ink-and-watercolor art. There is rarely a shortage of signs on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. To everyone who has shared our journey: Thank you!

From the United Kingdom: “While reading this book I was transported to the Camino. The descriptions of the people, difficulties and triumphs are so vivid and told with humour and insight. I got totally engrossed in it and could imagine myself walking with the author and his wife. They would be such entertaining companions. Great read.”

From the USA: “I’ve lived vicariously for years reading others’ adventures hiking the Camino. This book was my favorite! Down to earth, funny, moving, heartfelt, loved it, felt like I was taking the journey along with the author. I would definitely read other books he writes.”

Our adventures on Scotland’s West Highland Way, the Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy’s Way of St. Francis, and England’s South West Coast Path are getting closer to publication. Stay tuned!

Chasing Dreams in a VW Bus

In 1972, Jerry Steimel graduated college, jumped in a VW Beetle with his lifelong friend, and set out to live his dream, a cross-country trip to California. But his VW Bug had other ideas, quickly ending the trip with mechanical breakdown.

Steimel’s dream wasn’t deterred. Forty-five years later, he jumped in another Volkswagen, a 1973 air-cooled van, and set out from his home in Massachusetts for another try, this time solo. But Jerry Steimel hardly traveled alone.

In Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus, he is guided by author Nikos Kazantzakis and his book, Report to Greco, whose life lessons begin each chapter. He names his van Zorba after Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek. Steimel’s goal: California. And so much more.

Some call his plan lunacy. But Steimel is out to discover comfort in taking risks rather than living as if he is just waiting to die. He doesn’t hurry, neither in his writing nor his driving, and his literary and physical journeys are a meander. But, in the end, the book rushes up and grabs readers before leaving them with memories anchored in what it means to live life to its fullest.

Steimel goes to great lengths to find places, like the West Virginia site where four high school boys launched rockets and their lives to heights beyond their wildest dreams. It is the site of the film October Sky, which Steimel watched a dozen times. That figures, you see, because Jerry devoted 45 years to social work, lifting kids who needed an extra push.

Steimel weaves places and American history with the people he meets as he drives mostly back roads, having to stop more than now and then to take Zorba to mechanics for adjustments. The journey tests Steimel and Zorba in ways they could never have anticipated.

The author and his VW Bus still miss the turn of the key every morning. And I miss wondering what is around their next turn.

Four Treks, Four Adventures, Four Tests

The Camino Frances inspired Sue and me to backpack four more European distance treks, each with a unique personality. A closed sign greeted us at an ancient aqueduct as we left Spoleto, Italy on the Way of St. Francis in 2018. Part of the official path, the aqueduct was closed after a 2016 earthquake, forcing us to turn around and walk a lengthy detour. How many stairs are there on England’s South West Coast Path? We climbed and descended many of the 30,000 steps in 2019. Glaciers on the Mont Blanc massif frame our favorite accommodation on the Tour du Mont Blanc, Rifugio Elisabetta, in 2016. An ingenious drying rack was a godsend at the Lander Bed and Breakfast in Drymen on the West Highland Way in 2014. Our adventures on the four treks are featured in my second book, coming soon.

Smokejumper Flips His PCT

On the Camino de Santiago, the world’s most-traveled long-distance trek, pilgrims like to say, “Everyone walks their own Camino.”

In Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada, Bruce Wilson describes how he inserted a “flip” in his 2,650-mile endurance test. He began at the Mexican border in April and arrived in the Southern Sierra Nevada early, with dangerously high snow levels ahead. He got rides to Ashland, Oregon, where he flipped his PCT and walked back to the southern Sierra, where he left off. He still faced snow and snowmelt-fed waterways, but his PCT was safer, more passable. To complete his flip, he got rides back to Ashland and resumed his trek.

Nelson’s book brings home the challenges of backpacking for months on difficult terrain that reaches more than 13,000 feet. I am addicted to experiencing the PCT through hikers’ books and YouTube posts and, like many I have followed, Nelson paints a vivid picture of the beauty and the problems he faced. A retired smokejumper from Alaska, he preferred walking on his own, but accompanied others for stretches. There are days that sound just like other days and I yearned for more about his personal journey, but, in the end, I was drawn to turn the pages by an appreciation of his strength, physical and mental.