Bercianos del Real Camino or “The Cat Wants Your Orange Juice”

The walk from Terradillos de los Templarios was one of the longer stretches, as will tomorrow’s stretch from Bercianos del Real Camino to Mansilla de las Mulas. (So many looooooong names that don’t exactly roll of the tongue.  It would be like saying Baton Rouge of the French Where the River Runs Through.)

My Fitbit step count is frozen today at 32,171 while it charges, but that’s about 15 miles I’ve walked since 6am. The sun still isn’t up at that hour here in Spain, and so it’s neat in these little towns in the countryside to see a grand field of stars greeting the pilgrim as he or she joins the Camino path.  Not since St. Joseph Abbey as a seminarian do I remember being able to see the stars so clearly.

The last few days have been relatively flat, with much of the Camino following the highway, which rather humorously has huge signs telling drivers that they are on the “Camino de Santiago”. Zooming along at 100kph (62mph) and blowing exhaust in the faces of those who are laden with packs seems a really striking contrast! (Who am I kidding, if one of those cars stopped and said “¡Oye, Pellegrino! ¡Venga con migo en mi coche! I’d totally do it.

Today, I kinda just slogged through the towns, stopping only a few times for an orange juice and a coffee. By the way, if you’re in the mood to get me something for Christmas, I’ll take one of these Zumex machines mean, wow. Talk about giving somebody an orange juice addiction! All the good bars have a real espresso machine and a Zumex. At least that’s my metric.

While I’m on the subject of rest stops for the pilgrim, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the people of Spain for having a Decker Clean Bathroom Rating (DCBR) of 97% or “A”. You know how it is in the USA, most bathrooms that aren’t at a Bucc-ee’s are in the ho-hum to disgusting range. In Spain, in all of the bars and albergues that I’ve found myself, they’ve almost always been spotless and worthy of some sort of silk ribbon.  There have been a couple of shady conveniences, but that can be expected just by looking at the attention to detail in other parts of the bar. Bravo, Spain. Whether it’s latent fascism or the democratic freedom to keep things spick-and-Spanish, I won’t tell either way.

I had a delightful rest (for my aching feet!) at a bar with friendly cats in Sahagún, which as I said yesterday was once a great center of Benedictine monasticism with a university and spiritual influence. From 1085 until its disbanding and near demolition in the 1800s, it would be known as “The Spanish Cluny” since King Alfonso IV favored the Cluiniac reforms of The Rule of St. Benedict. Now, the former monastery of the Benedictine Mothers which stands today, is an hostel for Camino pilgrims recently taken over by the Marist Fathers of Europe.

On I trekked, with some piano-led punk music to give some rhythm to my bastones and my footfalls. I’ve learned that if you’re lip-syncing and manage to (quite easily) swallow a gnat, the best idea is just to swallow rather than cough the thing back up. If nothing else, the protein is good energy for the walk.  I’d imagine this holds true for gnats in the USA as well.

Finally, I arrived in Bercianos del Real Camino, which is a one-and-a-halfW horse town past Sahagún. With a population of 205, it caters almost exclusively to pilgrims. After looking at the few available albergues to lay my head for the ...afternoon and... evening, I settled upon another one named after St. Clare.  As you know by now, St. Clare and I are tight, so I’ve made a rule that I’ll always favor a place that has her namesake.  As it turns out, the hospitaller who runs the hostel has a tremendous devotion to both St. Francis and St. Clare, so we bonded immediately as she gushed about her spiritual connection to the saint. I must admit that her accolades of the simple little sister of Assisi were faster than my internal translator could parse, so I did what any priest does when a soul is excited: I listened and said, “¡Si!”

My hope is to watch the installation of our Sixth Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael G. Duca on the internet today. How cool it is to be able to join in the jubilation from an ocean away. I only pray that the internet keeps on pumping. Everything from the bathroom light to the shower head seems to be on a timer to conserve power. I hope that the router is hooked up to something without an off switch!  Not that he’s reading, but I wish his excellency a blessed first day on the cathedra of Baton Rouge and many years of good health and ministry. I eagerly await sharing in priestly life together!

My feet aren’t anticipating another 17 mile walk tomorrow. But, at least they still seem to acquiesce when I put them on the floor in the morning. Thank God for that!