Some photos from a trip to the Trev Deeley Motorcycle Museum Exhibit, Cycles & Cinema this past weekend.
It’s been a busy weekend. J’s son came for a visit and the plan was to attend the Vancouver Motorcycle Show and hang out for the weekend (We also ended up going to a hockey game with friends. Check out the photo in the Twitter feed on the left). The last thing I really expected to be doing was signing papers to purchase A NEW BIKE! But I did! And it’s all mine!
The new ride is a 2013 Harley Davidson Street Bob, red with metal flake, it was a trade it at J’s shop. It had 1300 kms on it. I had my heart set on Wide Glide but it was too good a deal to pass up. But the beauty of it is the Street Bob is a Dyna. So it can become a Wide Glide. The plan for this 96 cui beauty is to change the standard to forward controls and add the Wide Glide front end. This hybrid will have a wider front tire than a standard wide glide. Stay tuned for the transformation.
This article is the last in my series “What I Learned on the Camino” WARNING: This is going to be a long post. When I was doing research before my Camino, I really wanted someone to go through their gear “post” Camino and do what I am about to do now. This is for those of you reading, that are about to do the Camino or just curious about what technology I carried All. That. Way.
Tech & Photography
There are those that are able to do the Camino with no technology at all. I am not one of those people. To start with John was at home anxiously following my progress. It wouldn’t be fair if I did’t check in with him at least every other day or so and let him know survived another day. Then, of course I had to post on Facebook and the MbM blog. Then there are the photos. I love taking photos.
When I was getting ready for the Camino I didn’t know what to expect in the way of computer access. I knew from reading the blogs of those who had done it before me, that wifi was widely available along the Camino (or so I thought). But because so many people have smart phones, laptops and tablets, computers (available to the public) are becoming scarce. So my weapon of choice was was the iphone. I will have to say I am fairly impressed with it. I am not going to do a review of the 5, you can google the reviews anywhere on the internet, besides, they already have come out with an newer version. But I am going to say, smartphones in general are perfect for the Camino-ite. They are lighter (smartphones, not the Camino-ite, although you certainly are lighter after walking 650kms) than a tablet or a laptop and they fit in your pocket. The cameras on most newer smartphones are fairly good and if you are looking for a great point and shoot, they are comparable to a lot of the point and shoot cameras out there. My iphone came through for me in some pretty low light conditions and takes some decent night shots as well. The 5 is also great at taking video. Although the microphone is sometimes too good at picking up sound. I was videoing a group of dancers in Leon and I didn’t know, until I played the performance back, that the microphone was also picking up comments of the crowd behind me as well. My only complaint is that the digital zoom just doesn’t compare (and never will) to the optical zoom on my DSLR.
click on picture for larger view
The great thing about my iphone is that it also has icloud backup. This means any pictures you take are automatically uploaded to the cloud and are safe if anything should happen to the phone. I also had my phone synced with my flickr account (with the privacy setting set to “Private” so I have a chance to go through them before they are broadcast to all on the interwebs). But of course all this “back-up” depends on wifi.
Impressed as I am with my 5, I was a little nervous about depending solely on it to document the trip of a lifetime.
I have been an amateur photographer since I picked up my Mom’s 35mm Pentax SLR when I was 10. I don’t profess to be an expert but I don’t think I am too bad at it either. When digital proved it’s staying power, I saved my pennies and purchased a Cannon Rebel XT-i with a 18-200mm sigma lens. I loved it and took some great shots with it. Nevertheless, I was planning for the Camino. So everything needed to be lightweight and compact. It didn’t help that my beloved 10 year old Cannon weighed about the same as an actual cannon!! But, I am of the mind that a good photographer does not depend on equipment alone, skill also factors into the equation. I reasoned that because my camera was getting old, and because it weighed a tonne AND it and the case took up a lot of space in my saddle bag causing me to leave it at home on motorcycle trips AND because I needed to brush up on my photography skills anyway, I took a deep breath, sold my DSLR and purchased an older Nikon CoolPix P7000 from a friend.
This is a great little camera. Light, compact and has some manual features to satisfy my creative side and a great optical zoom that would allow me to take some close-ups of whatever I felt it necessary to take close-ups of. It also takes great landscapes, of which clarity was sort of lacking in my iphone. Since I had visions of epic landscapes and capturing Don Quixote galloping across the massetta chasing windmills, I wanted to make sure I had the ability to capture him in all his glory.
click on picture for larger view
The Nikon, though, didn’t have cloud backup available. I could have purchased a wifi SD card but they were super expensive and some of the reviews I had read on them said they were slow and sometimes didn’t work at all. I was worried that if, after a few days, I had a lot of photos to upload, it might take more time than I was allowed on borrowed wifi. That and the largest card I could find was a 16 gig. If I filled it up, I couldn’t transfer to a regular SD card and I couldn’t afford to buy several 16 gig cards. In our present day digital paranoia, we have everything backed up 3 ways from Sunday but when I used 35mm there was no backup. I took two 32 gig cards with me, carried the phone, camera and cards all in a waterproof stuff sack in my “pack pocket” and hoped for the best.
Wifi in Spain is abundant. Most bars and restaurants have it. It’s usually password protected and all you have to do is buy something and they will give you the password. BUT, having said that, sometimes the signal is crap, its restricted or like often happens in small villages, not available at all. In my experience, more often than not, trying to make skype calls can be an exercise in frustration. Other times, like in Ponferrada, the hostel had wifi for the hospitaleros but wanted the pilgrims to pay exorbitant fees to use their computers.
We eventually picked up a Spanish SIM card. There are many different companies that sell them. We got ours from Vodafone because, well, that’s what was available at the time. It was 10 euros that included some minutes but we ended up adding some for (I think) 10 euros. The card is not a necessity for the most part, but it became a necessity in our case, when wifi kept dropping the call. The problem with a Spanish SIM is it has to be set up and if your Spanish is limited, like mine, this can become an issue. While we were on the Camino my brother got very, very sick. Between the small villages, bad wifi and messing with the Spanish SIM card, it took us a few days to be able to get the full story from home.
Ultimately, the tech you take is whatever you feel comfortable with and are willing to carry. The “willing to carry” part is important. I saw some lugging gigantic cameras with big lenses and others who carried laptops and tablets in 40 lb packs. If you want to carry it, bring whatever you want. I realized that carrying the pack, using hiking poles and gawking at all the beauty that is Spain, then trying to capture it in a picture just wouldn’t do it justice. Spending all the time worrying about all the technology just detracts from this experience. Don’t get me wrong. I took plenty of photos (almost 3000), spent time on the internet and phoned home regularly. But I think by keeping everything simple, and knowing that it was simple, allowed me to enjoy the experience all the more.
Thanks for reading my series, What I Learned on the Camino. Check out my previous posts in this series, What I Learned on the Camino: Gear and Footwear. You can also read my other posts about the Camino here. And don’t forget to subscribe so all of my new posts will land directly in your in-box.
Until next time
Please Enjoy Responsibly,
This article is the second in my series “What I Learned on the Camino” WARNING: This is going to be a long post. When I was doing research before my Camino, I really wanted someone to go through their gear “post” Camino and do what I am about to do now. This is for those of you reading, that are about to do the Camino or just curious about what I wore on my feet. All. That. Way.
This is me just before arriving at the Monastery at Roncesvalles, before my feet became the bane of my Camino existence.
Shortly after this the weather got warmer and that is where the trouble began.
For weeks I battled blisters. I tried treatment after treatment and just when one blister would start to heal, another one took it’s place. I became an expert in blister treatment. Even counselling others on how to make their feet more comfortable. “You have to know the cause before you can treat the blister.” I would tell people. The truth was, I didn’t really know the cause of my own. All I could do was guess at what was causing the problem: socks too thick or not thick enough, grit, poorly fitting insoles, laces too tight or not tight enough, too much friction or improper application of the many types of dressings, I didn’t know for sure.
My carefully researched and rigorously tested shoes of choice were Keen Targhee II. I didn’t enter into this decision lightly. During my research phase, I remember reading a post on one of the Camino forums, something about taking two pairs of running shoes and just switching them out so you always had a dry pair to put on. But, most of the forum participants, ones that had actually done the Camino, advised against it. They advocated that a good pair of waterproof, breathable hiking shoes was the way to go. So I stuck with my Keens. I had had several pairs of these in the past. They were waterproof enough to keep my feet dry trudging over the sodden moors of Scotland and England and comfortable enough to walk the hundreds of kms I put on them on the trails and pavements of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as Mexico and British Columbia. The toebox is wide enough to accommodate the swelling of my well used feet and breathable enough to keep them happy. I NEVER got blisters. NEVER.
My backups were a pair of lightweight Sketchers walking shoes. I thought they would be a good alternative to wear while exploring cities and good to have in case my Keens got wet. I did try using them in place of my Keens for a few days when the blisters were really bad, but they are Sketchers and not really designed for serious use. I also had a pair of flip flops. Great for sketchy showers and were a lifesaver when my poor blistered, swollen feet did not want to be shoved into another pair of shoes.
I took several pairs of socks. None of which (I don’t think), had any major bearing on the blisters. The most comfortable for me was a type call Wright Socks. I brought 2 pair with me. They are double layered and supposed to help wick moisture away from your skin. The only drawback is that they don’t dry that quickly after being washed and hung on a line. The double layer system is effective and I met many people who used, and swore by, a layer system of some type. Whether it is a two in one sock or a liner and an outer, just be sure to thoroughly test the socks before you leave. Early on I tested a silk liner that worked great but practically disintegrated after a dozen or so uses. I also had a pair of marino wool socks with a separate synthetic liner (that are supposed to do the same thing as the Wright Socks) and a pair of single layer toe socks. I didn’t really like the marino/synthetic combo. I can’t really say why, personal preference I guess. The toe socks I found too bulky in my shoes but combined with the flip flops they were just fine for chilly evenings. They were stripy and fun and they made me smile.
One other thing I want to mention, briefly, is the application of cream or lotion on your feet. Whether it is “bag balm”, hand lotion or marathoners chafe guard, it is all meant to reduce friction. Again, several people swore by this method of blister prevention. I have to say in all my years of hiking and tour guiding, I have never used anything on my feet and again, never had a problem. But I was willing to try anything to stop the blisters so I tried the chafe guard and then a homemade concoction of beeswax and coconut oil. They both seemed to make the situation worse for me. So I abandoned the rather weighty chafe guard container at one of the hostels.
After I returned to Canada a marathoner friend of mine suggested I go down to the local running store and ask their advice. So I did. I found out that my feet just got too hot. It is a common problem with marathoners. When I look back at some of the pictures I took of my feet (Yes, I took pictures of my feet! I spent enough time dealing with them. I might as well take pictures of them too.) I can see how swollen they were. So much so, that even after I got home, it was a good week before the swelling went away completely. My Keens were not breathable enough and the waterproofing kept the heat from escaping. My feet were fine when the weather was cooler but once it started to heat up, so did my feet. Unfortunately this was a problem that probably couldn’t have been avoided unless I could have put my feet and my Keens through the same abuse I would later put them through on the Camino.
I saw many people walking in hiking sandals. Sandals and socks in some cases and I ended up buying a pair of fairly expensive Ecco hiking sandals in Leon (definitely not the Spanish shoes I had thought I would buy). After a few days of socks and sandals or just bare feet in sandals. The problem with my blisters went away. Socks and sandals may not be fashionable but they saved my Camino. Next time (Yes, there will be a next time. I never made as far as Santiago but I got to within 130 kms of it. Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to return home without finishing. I need to finish!), I will take my sandals, a pair of good, breathable, not waterproof trail runners and three pairs of Wright socks. I had talked to a lot of people during the Camino, that said that with either the trail runners or the sandals, their feet never really got soaked. I might be carrying slightly more weight with an extra pair of good shoes in my pack but the trade-off will be worth it.
The main thing I learned that through all my research and preparation is that some things just don’t go as planned. I thought that the miles and miles I walked in my job as a tour guide would prepare my feet for the abuse I was about to put them through. In reality I don’t think anything would have prepared them for the Camino. I had thought that just talking to my local outdoor store and on-line Camino experts was enough. I wished that I would have gotten the suggestion to go down to the local marathon/running shop before embarking on the Camino. In my mind I never really equated the Camino with a marathon. (It’s not, it’s way harder.) But Marathoners know how to take care of their feet. It really should have been my first stop.
Now, after saying all that, do what is right for you. Everyone is different. People and “experts” will advocate all sorts of preventives and solutions. You really don’t know what you are dealing with until you are in that moment. Just because something worked at home, doesn’t mean the same thing will work on the Camino. All I’m saying is just do the best you can with what you have, it will all work out in the end.
I have had people ask me, with all the trouble I had, would I do the entire Camino again? While I was doing it, my answer would have been no! In fact I think my exact words were, “People that have done this more than once are crazy!”. But now, if you asked me the same question my answer would be, “In a heartbeat”.
Stay tuned for the last post in this series, What I Learned on the Camino: Tech and Photography and you can read my previous post about the gear I used in, What I Learned on the Camino: Gear. You can also read my other posts about the Camino here. And don’t forget to subscribe so all of my new posts will land directly in your in-box.
Until next time
Please Enjoy Responsibly,