Part 1 was "the rest of the story," something happening outside the adventure that sets the stage for what lies ahead. Having “angel Luke” carry my pack for 40 minutes through the steep Pyrenees helped me get where I needed to be, both emotionally and physically.

Part 2 begins the journey; the three-day hike over the French Pyrenees to Spain and the city of Pamplona — an adventure in itself. The gifting of the“red bandanna during the opening ceremonies lifted spirits, setting the stage for the moment of truth; the running of the bulls.

Arriving in Pamplona on foot and taking a taxi to the airport to pick up our rental car would end the hard part of our journey, so one would think.

Not to be.

First, take a taxi to the airport to pick up the rental car; it had been prepaid, so what could go wrong? The agent looked at me and queried; “Do you have an international license?" My “no” was met with a tsk-tsk action, leaving me to wonder if I was going to get the car or not, and why didn’t they tell me this on the rental site? He handed over the keys with the warning; “If you get stopped, you might get a ticket, or worse.” Googling it later, there were stories of drivers paying $250 “fines,” in cash, after being stopped.

It was a standard; I hadn’t driven one in five years, but felt up to the task, although a little more pressure when you don’t have an “international license” as backup. First stop — a well needed rest.

We arrived at the hotel, booked for five days — the relief from not hiking was noticeable; we all looked to rest tired bodies and take refuge in the same place for multiple days, a recipe for recovery.

We walked in with our backpacks, tired faces, and tousled hair; I asked for the room. My two sons and I stared into the abyss when the manager said we had booked and paid for two people, not three.

What’s the big deal, I thought, as I asked how much more to add the third person? Her Spanish was not distinguishable, but her assistant’s broken English gave us the message, loud and clear; we were in trouble. “We can rent you another room tonight, but we are sold out for the rest of the week.”

I nodded; “Can I get a refund for the four nights ahead?" – “No, it is non-refundable.” The story goes that you catch more flies with honey, meaning losing my cool was not my plan. Intently, my face told the story; “please help us.”

As the drama unfolded, she kept saying after tonight, we only had a room for two people. After a 10-minute standoff; the owner arrived. He got that we weren’t trying to pull a fast one and sensed how rude his manager had been to us.

Before long, they found us another room for the rest of our stay; it came at a price, but for sanity’s sake, we took it and gratefully headed to our rooms (now two of them). The manager’s tone changed and she was friendlier throughout our visit.

After three days on the Camino, a bed and bath were welcome. The next day had a limited schedule: the opening ceremonies at noon.

We arrived early to get some late breakfast, finding everyone dressed in traditional outfits of white shirt, white pants, red tie-belt around their waists, and a red scarf bandana around their necks.

The mood was festive; the party began with fireworks at the stroke of noon. Sangria flowed. It poured into the mouths of patrons and onto the shirts of their neighbors; it was like a huge food fight with Sangria the weapon of choice.

Everyone was drunk, yet polite; my shirt remained relatively dry as partygoers would ask if you wanted to be sprayed as they shook their bottles in anticipation of “yes." The boys were covered as much as I was dry and “respected.” There was zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with roadblocks set up on the edge of town – a little worrisome for a guy from away without an international license.

A good night’s sleep helped the psyche and the body; morning would lead us into Pamplona and the first day of the running of the bulls. We would watch and be students; planning our strategy for the next day, when we would turn from spectators to participants.

NEXT WEEK: Running of the bulls – participants

“It’s not the Destination, It’s the Journey.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson; preacher, essayist, lecturer, poet, philosopher (1803-1882)