Friday, June 20, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 10

Day 10, June 20To San Sebastián

This is the day we cross over into Spain and for some of us when we come to that border area we become very nostalgic. On the Spanish side of the Bidasoa river which separates the two nations is Hondarribia, the quaint town we love for its own unique charm but mostly because our friends live there—Amaia's family and a growing number of acquaintances.

Onyarbi—this post from 2010 will make you laugh as you read about the adventures Laurie and I had on our first visit. This next one—Finding Waldo-- gives a few more glimpses and you can also see what comes next on the route to our weekend headquarters in San Sebastian. On the way out some routes take you by this chapel—La ermita.

Hopefully we will be able to pause, reminisce, and perhaps even see a few known faces.

Actually last year, we did go up to the medieval center, and stopped to delight in the surroundings, the views, and the people. One of our friends, Gonzalo the radiologist, surprised our cyclists by meeting up with them and leading them to one of his favorite places, a ridge on the way out called Jaizkibel. Some of that day is pictured here--on to San Sebastian. And the next day here-- in San Sebastian.

If you are up to it, you could also go to The Hospital and see where Alberto and Gonzalo work.
As I re-read the post I question whether you caught that they do not need more advanced heart health facilities and procedures due to a healthier life-style—Mediterranean diet and exercise, a lot of walking!

Edurne, Amaia's mother, is also a doctor, a general practitioner—Zorionak, Edurne!

What will the final weekend be like? Who will we meet? Any last minute shopping (if you need to or enjoy that sort of thing)? Will it look anything like The last day in Donosti last year?
One difference is that we will already have met with our friends in Hondarribia the weekend before. I am grateful because I remember how spent I was by that time and even sick.

Thank you for following along. See you soon! ¡Hasta pronto!

P.S.: The above post, meant to give you an idea what we might be seeing and experiencing, has more live links than usual. Now I will try to tell you what our Friday, the last biking day, was like.

The cyclists were concerned about the amount of traffic they would encounter on that coastal route, but they found a two-lane bicycle path through the city. Even after a stop at yet another old church, where the organist happened to be practicing beautiful music, they arrived before us in Hondarribia.

Those of us in the van took a longer route stopping in Senpere by a beautiful lake. It is where every May tens of thousands come from all over the Basque Country to a festival called Herri Hurrats
to celebrate, promote the Basque language, and help out the schools where it is taught.

To walk/jog around the lake it took me 30 minutes.

We wound our way through a very Basque region on a narrow road, surrounded by forests, negotiating unending hair pin curves, and finally arrived in Hondarribia. Laurie and I hurried to find Edurne's clinic because we knew she'd be leaving work at 3:00 pm. We got there maybe a minute after. She had left. When we called her she was home already, but turned right around and came to meet us. We walked up to the old fort and met up with the rest of our team! The riders took off right away so they could meet up with Gonzalo who again led them to Jaizkibel. This time, however, they all made it up to the hightest point, quite a climb from la Ermita.

The van beat the cyclists to our weekend home base, Olarain. I had to smile when I opened the curtain in our new room.

When the cyclists finally arrived there was still a lot to do to prepare the rental bikes for shipping.

The beautiful weather 'accompanied us' (the Spanish expression) both weeks. The rain finally let loose last evening while we were having dinner nearby. I finally got to use my new umbrella, considered essential equipment every time you go out in the Basque Country.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 9

Day 9, June 19To Bayonne, France

Baiona is another of the large cities in the historical Basque Country.

We left Mauleon and rode on to Bayonne, the brave by bicycle and the rest by van.

I don't have much to add to what you can read and see in the blog post, if you click on the highlighted link. (I hope you have realized by now that the bulk or meat of these posts is in those links.)

Another beautiful sunny day!

Three stops on the way:

St. Palais where we went into a church with a variety of exquisite art. The cyclists arrived shortly after. And then a pilgrim on the Camino walked in. Meanwhile, outside someone nearly rode off with one of the bikes!

In Hasparren we at lunch in the same restaurant as last year and the owner remembered us! 
I remembered sharing a child menu with Barb. This time she was not there to help me out.

Espelette is famous for a type of pepper. See some hanging all over the building?

We arrived at the hotel in Bayonne (a different one from 2013) only a little before the cyclists.

Later we all headed for the beach in Biarritz, enjoyed the weather, the sunset and one another. 

Oh, and ate at the same place as last year, thanks to Sara who remembers everything and was craving Mexican.

Taco Salad

One more riding day. What will the morrow hold?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 8

Day 8, June 18To Mauleon, France

Ha! The route map (linked above) indicates it should take 50 minutes by car. I wonder how long it will take the riders over that hilly terrain.

It is beautiful countryside, sheep abound! The view somewhat hindered by fog, haze and rain.

In this blog post from last year you will see us leaving our accommodation in St Jean and moving on to Mauleon.

P.S.: The ride today from St. Jean Pied de Port to Mauleon did indeed take longer than 50 minutes but definitely was our shortest ride so far. The cyclists took a longer route to avoid the climbs. I think they were deferring to Chelsea on her last day. The van took the high road with the breath-taking scenery, though for Laurie heights are quite scary.

 As we drove into Mauleon, so much was familiar (all the places in the above-linked post), and yet there is always something new to see. 
We went up to the old fort to look over the whole city. I had not been up there before. Amazing view.
Last year I did not notice the fronton--the wall for the Basque ball game, one in every town. When we went out for a walk later, we saw children there playing pelota or jai alai.

 The cyclists arrived mid-afternoon. 

 Not too long after, we said goodbye to Tate and Chelsea who fly back to the US tomorrow. The Rush family left to spend a couple days in Paris. Our group has shrunk and that is sad, but we are so grateful for the days we've had together.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 7

Day 7, June 17To Saint Jean Pied de Port, France

The last half of this blog post shows us arriving in St. Jean Pied-de-Port after our coldest, rainiest day. Our accommodation was in a small village a few miles from the town. This year we will be right in town.

A memory from last year was when I accidentally broke some small souvenir glasses in a tourist shop. I paid for them and tried to leave a gift with the shop attendant. That's when the French word for 'gift' came back to me, after decades since high school French--cadeau! 

We are now in this charming town that swells and swarms with tourists and pilgrims of el Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James).

We have come across many today. On a touristy stop to see a medieval bridge, I talked to a peregrino, sitting at the top of the bridge eating his lunch (in the red t-shirt). He had been on the road 45 days already, all the way from Aachen, Germany. He walks an average of 35 km per day. He says he has 20 days left to his destination, Finisterre. According to him, and the myth he is following, it is the true burial spot of St. James. He was inspired by the story or legend that says St. James' bones were carried from Aachen to Finisterre, a little beyond Santiago de Compostela. That route is called el Camino de las Estrellas.

Nearby there was a star in the sidewalk. Can you see it? Could it be related in any way?

The countryside we drove through was incredibly beautiful. There is no way to do it justice with a random snapshot as we are driving.

At lunch time we happened upon an eatery by the road and were delightfully surprised by the variety of cold cuts, all local pork products. One was called Jesus PaysBasque. I wonder why?

The cyclists took a different route and stopped at the same inn as we did last year in Roncesvalles--La Posada. This time there was room at the inn, no crowds trying to come in from the rain and warm up and they were able to get a bite to eat.

And soon we were all together at the Ramuntxo in Donibane Garazi (Basque for St. Jean Pied de Port).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 6

Day 6, June 16To Pamplona

On Monday of that second week, we will spend one night in Pamplona, the capital of Nafarroa autonomous region and the historical "high water mark" for the "Basque Country". The majority of them would say that it should be called the "Nafarroan Country," says Jeff Shadowen who lives in the Basque Country and will be leading us and helping us understand and learn about this ancient culture.

As mentioned earlier, Pamplona is one of the oldest cities in the Basque region, built by the Romans.

You can relive our last year's experience of Pamplona in the last half of this blog post: on to Pamplona.
In the first part, however, we were at a lovely campground, 7 Robles/Zazpi Haritzak (Seven Oaks Camp), where we had spent the night. This year it is not on our route. Interestingly these past months I have been reading the autobiography of the man who played a major role in starting the camp. 

P.S: We have arrived at our Tuesday destination, in France, and now at last have the opportunity to update past blog posts.
Yesterday, Monday, we traveled from San Sebastian to Pamplona.

 We wound up through dense forests and sheep grazing hills and stopped at a famous sanctuary.

San Miguel de Aralar

 As soon as we arrived at our hotel we phoned Fatima, a friend of one of last year's teammate Suzi. She and her friend, Juan, came to meet us immediately at our hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening showing us the sights. We saw and experienced far more of the famous city than last year thanks to our great tour guide, Juan. I hope I can make sense of the many photos later.

Another wonderful day! But, oh, my feet hurt!!!
Another day when we were not around to cheer the cyclists on their return. Instead they met us downtown after putting the bikes away and showering.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--First Weekend

June 13 & 14

Donostia is our home base. A beautiful city with a wonderful beach and a view often referred to as El marco incomparable, like it has no equal. The beauty of God's creation is so evident everywhere we go in the Basque Country. If you have had the time to open the links I include as a travelogue of our past trips, you will enjoy a glimpse of what we experience every day.

These two days are a good time for team members to connect with their Basque families.
Our friends, Amaia's father and neighbor are planning an extra bicycle tour of some areas otherwise missed. They are putting great effort and heart into this. Hopefully most of the riders will be up to it. 
A meal at their Sociedad is in the works for 12 of us, riders and walkers. Our Last day in Donosti 2013 will help you visualize some of this.

In 2013 three guys from Hondarribia--Alberto (Amaia's father), Gonzalo, and Imanol—joined the riders on a rainy and very cold Saturday mountain pass ride. In this 2013 blog post you can read about that day and see us huddled with our friends in an inn, the one featured in the movie The Way.

Sunday is our opportunity to join our friends at Amara in San Sebastian or go to Tolosa.

Charlie García with his family (lower left) is the young man who drove the van that accompanied the cyclists last year and plans to help out again this year. 

Dave Berry, our chaplain, pictured with Jaime Ardiaca (lower right).

P.S.: Four locals and four of our guys just took off on an 80 mile ride through the valley.

Alberto, Imanol, Tate, Vance, Dane, Danny, Gonzalo, Mike

Ondo ibili!
P.S.1: Sunday a surprise awaited us in the morning--our van had been towed away! Though it was parked in a spot oft used, on this occasion they decided to impound it. Our leaders spent the whole morning bailing it out of 'van jail!

Mary: "What's happening with the van?"

Our change of plans was nothing compared to what happened to the Berrys on their way from Germany with their daughter and little ones. Just ask Dave sometime, he's a great story teller!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 5

Day 5, June 13—To San Sebastián

This is a beautiful route along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. We go through two towns where we hope to meet up with two couples we know.

On this route we will also go through Zumaia, where other friends hope to relocate in the near future. They just recently found an apartment.

Davenports and Kochs toured the area with Alberto in 2010: Zarautz and Getaria; Basque Farm Countryside; Pelota vasca (here you can watch Dane attempt Basque handball!)

We are certain to encounter many pilgrims making their way by different means to Santiago de Compostela, on the north-west corner of Spain, to where St. James is said to be buried--Los peregrinos.
Last year we met people from Australia, Austria and other countries. 

Our destination this day is also our home base for the weekends. It is the same venue that the January Taylor University team used. Brad Seeman and his group of students accompanied by Steve and Kari were treated wonderfully by the staff at Olarain. 

P.S.: So, yes, here we are at 'home base' after another wonderful day.

It was sad to leave our favorite town after such a brief stay.

We lingered in one coastal town where much of the blockbuster Ocho apellidos vascos was filmed.

The mealtime ritual takes a lot longer here. We, the van riders ate here at noon, a place our guide knew. Otherwise it can be quite time consuming to find the right food at the right time.

The earliest you can eat dinner is 8:30 p.m. and then ordering, waiting, and enjoying several courses and the sobremesa (to linger and converse) all takes times. We stay up late, but it is all quite enjoyable.

¡Hasta mañana! (yawn)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 4

Day 4, June 12--To Lekeitio

On route to this coastal fishing town, one of our favorites, we go through the historic city of Gernika. In these various posts from our 2010 visit you can learn much of its role in the history of the Basque people. The Tree of Gernika; The Plaza; Stroll through Germika

Circle Tour 2013--on to Lekeitio
Last year this was one of our final stops. Our group took over the little hotel completely. We loved María Isabel, the owner, and had good conversations with her. You can see her next to me in the first photo: Circle Tour 2013--Gernika and Beyond.

P.S.: 2014
 The cyclists arrived at our destination before us, the van riders!

We "the walkers" really lived up to our role--walked, hiked more than any other day or week!

First stop, Bakio, where we walked the beach and pier and talked to a gentleman from the town we were headed to.

Next, near Bermeo, we ventured toward the ermita (chapel on a hill) of San Juan de Gazteluguatxe, built in the X century, if not earlier, on a rugged island joined to the mainland by a bridge. A loooong winding rough path from the parking lot leads to the 231 step ascent. I decided to act my age and go no further.

Mundaka, the spot famous for its unique surfing conditions, was next. We'd been there in 2010 on a rainy day. This time we had a wonderful sunny day.

Finally, we were able to find a good parking spot for the huge van in Gernika, and thus spend an hour seeing the famous sights: the Assembly House; the famous oak trees--the old stump and the young live one; and the replica of Picasso's Gernika.

2013 Circle Tour cyclists visit Gernika

 After that many stops, it is not surprising that the riders passed us!

That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner together at the same restaurant as last year with the added pleasure of guests from a nearby town--a former student of mine with her husband and three-year-old daughter!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 3

Day 3, June 11--To Bilbao

On the way out of Vitoria we will again go near the pottery museum. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we will have been able to visit and enjoy our time with Blanka. And if not yesterday, maybe today!

Bilbao is the city we fly into. Here I tell about our arrival last year—Bilbao.

This is the home of the famous Guggenheim Museum. Both times we intended to visit, but by the time we were back in Bilbao, after two strenuous weeks, we were too exhausted. Maybe this time?

P.S.: We finally made it to the famous Guggenheim on our third visit to this area! Now back at the hotel, late, but want to update this post.

We did connect with Blanka from Ollerias.    She gave us a wonderful tour of the museum, the ancient huge kiln (held 8000 pieces) and demoed the wheel, made three pots while she talked and taught us so much!

 We were delighted to meet up with the cyclists twice on the road. No mishaps today, except for a flat tyre. Yesterday Sara had to ride most of the time in the support van with Charlie because something broke on her bike. With the help of the bike shop expert in Vitoria they were able to figure out what happened and Mike fixed it. He is the team bike mechanic.

We are enjoying having children on our team! Yesterday Dane and Laurie's daughter, husband and two kids (10 and 7) arrived safely! Even before we got to the hotel in Vitoria, Alazne and Maria were waiting there--two Basque students who spent summers in Upland.

Days are long. We have trouble finding places to eat, often have to walk far, and/or wait late for dinner hours. And now it is quite late, so I will say good night!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 2

Day 2, June 10—to Vitoria

This is a new route though not a new destination. Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of the Basque Country. We came at it from a different direction last year: Circle Tour 2013 On to Vitoria.

Here is what Jeff Shadowen, our mentor-guide writes, “We will be spending the night in a very nice hotel in the capital city of the Basque Country autonomous region. The town is called Vitoria- Gasteiz. The first name is the Spanish and the second one is Basque or euskera. Of all the other six capitals of the historical "Basque Country", this place is my favorite of all.”

"As the overwhelming population center of the province (between 226,000-228,000), Vitoria will only continue to attract people and continue growing in the future, and much of that growth will come at the expense of the surrounding town and villages of the province."

"Vitoria, along with Pamplona [going there next week], if not established by the Romans, before the time of Christ, were certainly built up by the Romans as they enlarged their holdings to include present-day Spain."

"Vitoria still maintains its impressive medieval shell (casco antiguo) and a number of older buildings. The newly completed renovation of the Santa María Cathedral, with its lighter colored stone make it among the most beautiful of all Catholic cathedrals in Spain, even though it is not among the larger ones. [And, it is ginormous!] A major part of the charm of this city is the blending of the old with the new along with careful attention to a large number of city parks, green spaces. many have told me that the parks of Vitoria Gasteiz are its most special features. One of the ways to Santiago de Compostela also passes through Vitoria Gasteiz."

"Vitoria Gasteiz is also of key importance because it is the capital of the Basque Country autonomous region. It was chosen as such, partly because it is such an old city (much older than Donosti or Bilbao), but also becaus of the three provinces, it was interior (away from the ocean) and weaker in terms of a vital Basque presence. The hope was that Basque could re-take this province. 
When you think of government in the Basque Country  (and in all of Spain), you think of that on FIVE different levels--local, provincial, autonomous region, Spain, and European Community. Vitoria Gasteiz is the political head for the Basque Country."

These are quotes from Jeff's series of communications as he prepares us for what is ahead.

I see that we will be going by a Traditional Basque Pottery Museum that we visited in 2010. Read about it here: Ollerías.

P.S.: I wrote to Blanka and she e-mailed a very warm welcome to us all, if we can possibly stop by!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Circle Tour 2014--Day 1

Day 1, June 9--to Oñati. 

This is a new destination that we are very excited about. It is more inland and accessible because of this year's figure-eight type route.

Several SUSA students have come out of Oñati. Irati is one of the girls who came to Upland.

We were also very privileged in 2010 to spend one day there and meet her mother, Karmele, an uncle and aunt and many friends.

One Day in Oñati is the book I put together as a thank you for their hospitality. But if you could not access it, here you can see Irati and her mother with Mike that one exciting day we spent with them in 2010.

Also in that area we met friends and family of our host Alberto (our girl Amaia's father). In the nearby town of Mondragón, Jose Mari gave us a tour of one of the companies where he is manager. It would be great to see him, his family and others we met there.

You will find stories of the day we met these friends in this post, The BIG Day. If you want more, go to on how to get lost in a foreign country   And here is a photo of the group dinner at their Sociedad the night of that memorable cycling event.

P.S.: We exchanged e-mails and invited them to dinner that evening at our hotel. Two couples will join us: Jose Mari & Idoia; Iñaki & Elena. Irati and family members as well!

P.S.1: Great times with our friends from Mondragon! They were so good to give us a chunk of their week day. They could not stay for dinner as that would keep them out too late and they had early work commitments the next day.
Karmele, a fifth grade teacher, taught and had meetings with parents all day, but even so stayed all evening. The girls, Irati and best friend were with us all afternoon.
These are all dear people. We so enjoyed our time with them.

The beauty of this place is idyllic! Wish you could see the views out our windows!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Week 22: Car repair, yard work, accidents.

Monday was Mike's birthday, but he refused to make a big deal of it and spent most of the day working on the entrails of his 2000 Grand Prix trying to pry out the head gaskets. Actually the task stretched out the entire week. Finally on Friday he announced, "The last one is out!" (No wonder it would have cost $1500 to have it done!) Now we wait for them to be rebuilt. 

I'm so glad the robotics kids gave him a sweet celebration on Tuesday. The student that posted this photo on Facebook wrote: "Happy birthday to a great mentor in my life."

A couple of family accidents and trips to the ER happened on Monday as well.
Remember those lovely feet featured in last week's post? 
Well, Leah fell, and in no time her foot swelled double!
Elijah fell off the monkey bars on the playground! First they thought it was a dislocated elbow, but x-rays showed a break as well.

Monday                                                                                       Tuesday

Mike and I both spent regular intervals this week doing yard work: mowing, weeding, cleaning up flower beds and planting or re-potting house plants.

We've enjoyed watching several blooms open up on the one productive iris stem. Any ideas why there were no more blossoms?

Another tandem breakfast date on Wednesday.

Thursday, father and son had a fun day away--free tickets to the Memorial golf tournament in Dublin, Ohio.

Meanwhile, back home, minus the car, I tried to drive the truck for the first time. I just could not get it to start. (Mike said later that I must not have been turning the key far enough. I am such a wimp!) I was talking to my daughter on the cell phone (she was the last to drive it) and finally decided I was not meant to go anywhere. So I jumped out of the driver's seat and fell to the ground! I forgot how high the step is. I lay there laughing and concluded it was a perfect moment for a silly selfie.

After one long gardening session I discovered this little friend on the window box--a sleepy toad, not more than 2" long.

Remember the evening I helped stitch a few butterflies on the panels for the BSU Orchid collection?
This article tells about the opening of the new orchid greenhouse, Saturday. You can see a video of the event and a photo gallery showing many of the beauties housed there. I believe it is the largest collegiate collection.

There was an important graduation celebration I had to attend. This lovely young lady was with us on the Circle Tour of the Basque Country last year.

Speaking of the Circle Tour. This year's is almost here. We leave this week, June 7! A lot to do between now and then! I will try to line up posts and program them to publish each day so you can follow along.