The Road to Santiago The Road to Santiago

The Finale

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"Of one thing I am certain," Oliver Statler wrote upon completing his pilgrimage, "the transformation I yearn for is incomplete - I do not really expect to achieve it - but I know that the attempt is worth the effort."

I spent four days in Santiago. Four days of resting and enjoying the fruit of my labors. I received my Compostellae. On the second day, I washed my bike and prepared it to ship home. I was done riding.

"Pilgrimage starts the wheel. It turns the wheel of samsara, the wheel of life, and we have to live with the consequences."
-Anthony Lawlor
I arrived home 30 lbs lighter than when I left. My resting heart rate was 39 bpm. Physically, I was just about in the best shape of my life. One year later, I am still receiving other, less measurable, gifts from this trip. Just the thought alone of this time is enough to bring me peace and still my soul.

  Right leg eight months later :: New York, USA
Right leg eight months later
New York, USA
Unfortunately, this was the last journey my poor old bicycle would take. Seven months later, on a sunny and warm Sunday morning, a Jeep driver didn't look before gunning his vehicle through an intersection at a stop sign. He didn't notice me directly in front of him until his shocked eyes met mine as I flew through the air and landed in a puddle of blood and gore. The bike is now a pretzel, my helmet split in half, and my knee and leg a reconstructed mess. I was released from the hospital after nine days, three surgeries, a steel plate, nine screws, 70 staples, and more pain than I imagined possible. Eight months later, I'm still going through rehab, learning how to walk again. It's a long process. If my mind weren't in a good place, it would be even longer.

Things move in a circle. The old bike was with me when I began my travels. It is time to move on to the next road. Once I'm walking again, I'll get to shop for a new bike, my first in 18 years. And that new bike will come along with me in January as I put everything in storage and leave the country once again. A new road stretches ahead of me.

The End

Once again, this story is complete, though the experience continues. Writing this has helped me relive the journey, re-experience the challenge, and see things I didn't see the first time around. To quote my great-great-uncle Msgr E.C. O'Reilly back in 1948, "If you get half the enjoyment in reading this book as I got in writing it, I will be amply compensated for my work."


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©Copyright Seán Connolly