The call came out of the blue.
“When are you gonna be able to walk again, Honea?” It was my buddy Bob Tuttle.
We had had several discussions re: doing the El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. Northern Spain, from Bilbao along the Atlantic coast to Santiago de Compostela. One-hundred miles on foot.
“Can you be ready by November 9th?” he asked.
My first thought was, “S—! I’m having hip surgery a week from now.”
My response was a little more measured. “What ‘cha you got in mind, Tuttle?”
It turns out he had a tour coming up, needed an assistant; somebody to keep the stragglers rounded up. Twelve days in the eastern Mediterranean: Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt. The Greco-Roman ruins at Perge, the Wailing Wall, the Pyramids. Every night on a Norwegian cruise liner. A big-ass ship. He does these treks all the time, leads tours to the Holy Land, Rome. Traces the steps of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, in Great Britain: those Methodist founder guys.
“You get to sleep every night on board ship,” he said. “… Even skip a day if you need to. Or, stay on the bus if you get tired.”
Not exactly my style.
“Let me make a phone call,” I said. “I’ll get right back to you.”
“I have to know before the day is over,” he said. “Got to let ’em know you ‘re coming.”
The next call was to Southern Orthopedic & Sports Medicine, Mt. Pleasant. “Can I take a seven hour plane ride, go on a ten day cruise in nine weeks?” I asked. “… Eight weeks after surgery?”
The lady laughed. “Of course,” she said. “Have at it.” They even sent me a card certifying that I have a stainless steel hip joint, to show security when I set off the alarm at airports!
So we set the wheels in motion. Get a new hip in place. Recovery: the first week was a bit tough. Rehab: the therapist fired me after four weeks. “You don’t need me anymore,” she said. I did a lot of walking on the flat, level streets in the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to embarkation. Then it was a drive down to Charleston on 9 November, catch a flight to Washington Dulles International.
It always amazing me re: the people we encounter day to day as we make our way through this life. The lady in the aisle seat next to me from Charleston to Dulles was a pilot: on her way to pick up a FedEx plane bound to Frankfort, Germany! She does this three time a month. Then, on the long flight from DC to Rome my seat-mate turned out to be a person who lives less than two miles from my daughter in Garner. She and her husband were scheduled to be on the same cruise that my group was on. We bumped into each a couple of time in Alyana, Turkey or maybe Alexandria, Egypt.
Flights from the US to Europe are LONG ! … It is dark the whole way. I have learned that, if possible, to sit in an ‘A’ seat. For the first several hours you can see the lights of Boston and Portland. Then the fishing villages along the New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces coast line. I, however, was in a ‘G’ seat, didn’t even get to see those scattered lights in the late autumn night. I was on the open ocean side.
After that it is just long and dark until dawn, or pre-dawn, begins to break over Europe. We flew over counties Kerry and Cork in southern Ireland, then Land’s End, Cornwell, England in the dark. There were occasional lights: Schull and Clonakilty in County Kerry, and Truro and Falmouth in Cornwell. We crossed the European mainland coast at Normandy: socked in, couldn’t see a damned thing.
It was that way across the European continent; across the Alps and on to the Mediterranean coast line near Nice and Monaco. Somewhere between the coast line and a point east of Siena the skies cleared. Off the right wing, to the west, was Elba and Corsica.
Then, finally, we moved in over the Italian peninsula, looking out toward the Tyrrhenian Sea. There was the coast road. Miles and miles of green houses. Italy looked, to me, as it is suppose to look ( whatever to hell that means ) … the architecture, the umbrella trees, the green hills rolling down to the sea. Rome lay just ahead.
Look for a day-to-day account of the trip over the next several days, weeks.