Tag: Finding True Love

My Wedding Story

Beverages, breakfast and merriment were our theme as Dr. Michael Payne married me while the sun rose behind us at Donner Lake, Truckee, California, on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.


Man and wife


Sunrise and the middle of the week?!  Why, Jess, why?!

I got that question.  A.  Lot.

By now you must know, there is nothing conventional about me.  As a result, Mike and I woke up before the angels were awake and exchanged vows in private.  The friendship Mike and I developed over the past several years working near one another came to fruition as we continued our day.  I was escorted to a private dock by my step-father, Kim, where we joined 30 of our immediate family.

The ceremony was beautiful.  It was short, sweet and simple.  The one thing that was evident was the immense love Mike and I have for one another.

No one walked away unmoved by our wedding and shared companionship during a morning meal.  Two remarkable families became one and the brightest future shone down on us.

My new husband and I took off with excitement for a Spainish Honeymoon where we explored Madrid, Barcelona and various portions of the Camino I’d discovered while writing Riding the Camino Dragon.

If you haven’t grabbed your copy and read it, now is a good time to ramp up for the next few posts, which will serve as somewhat of an afterward.  Oh yes, the adventure continues with my dragon.

Married life is interesting.  I excel at independence as a rock star at the single life.  Marriage has presented new challenges and pushed me outside my comfort zone in many ways.

Has it been worth it?  Absolutely.

The truth is: We are not here to be comfortable.  We are here to grow and to reach our full potential.  How awesome to have a co-conspirator, an accomplice through it all.

In my personalized vows, I promised to devote my love to Mike.  To do my best each day to express that love for him.  To care for him, stand beside him, encourage and strengthen him, protect him and cherish him with everything I am.

It is an unpopular idea, I understand – but I have found the greatest gift I can give is to put him first.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.



“Where do you want to go on our honeymoon?”  My future husband asked, pushing a grocery cart around our local supermarket a few months before we tied the knot.

Vacation hot spots flooded my vision.  Ireland. Scotland. Germany. Iceland. New Zealand. Australia. Africa. South America. Caribbean. Alaska. Pacific Crest Trail.  Appalachian Trail.  There were so man options – all I saw were stars.

“Would you like to go back to Paris?”  He asked, trying to help me decide.

“Hmm…”  I said, I’d forgotten about Paris.  “I would go back to Paris.”

“What about Portugal?”  He asked.

I shook my head.  “Might not need to go back to Portugal just yet.”


I stopped in my tracks and peered up at him.  Tears came.  They gathered and spilled out of the corners of my eyes.

“Spain it is,” he nodded.

The emotional response indicated Spain was the right place to go.  It was – for so many reasons. Over the next few weeks I would sharemy experiences in Spain, revisit a few I mentioned in Riding the Camino Dragon and create new ones.


Weeks before our honeymoon in Spain, all I had heard was how unique and genuine the Spanish culture was represented in Madrid.  I had a number of reasons for wanting to visit Madrid.  Culture was among them.  My initial experience with Madrid had been exciting to say the least.

During a connecting flight to Pamplona, Spain, before beginning the Camino de Santiago last year, there was a lay-over in Madrid.  Within ten minutes of boarding, a thundering noise echoed throughout the terminal.  Sheets of water poured from the sky.  The water was so think, it blocked the windows.  Curving architecture within the airport had difficulty in such conditions.  Water began pouring from the ceiling and gathered in large pools throughout the center of the airport.

With that – all screens with flight information went blank.  All flights had been cancelled until further notice.

Coming in to Madrid this time was not as tricky.  The duration was another story.  We had driven from our Wedding Spot at Donner Lake, Truckee, California, to the Reno, Nevada Airport.  We flew from Reno, Nevada, to Las Vegas, Nevada.  We flew from Las Vegas, Nevada, to London.  From London to Madrid.

From Madrid Airport – we caught a cab and taxied to our initial honeymoon stop – Hotel Orfila.  Upon arrival, we were welcomed with wide smiles.  Our bags were taken to our room and they invited us to the outdoor patio with a mural, fountain and garden for a beverage, cava –  a sweet, bubbly wine resembling champagne.

When we arrived in our room, there was a bottle of cava waiting on ice along with two champagne flutes.

Along with the helpful staff, if anyone knows how to welcome guests after a long day of traveling – it is Hotel Orfila of Madrid, Spain.

What was the most grand welcome you ever received at a hotel?

You hope to find a friend who will accept you exactly as you are.  A friend who will encourage you when the going gets tough and stand by your side, no matter what happens.  I did not find one of these friends, I encountered a group of them while on pilgrimage last year.

In addition to the remarkable culture, Madrid is also the home of friends such as these.

I adore these men, their passionate hearts and their friendship.  Vast sense of humor, jubilant laughter. Sweet faces, genuine smiles and open hearts.

These are the Wild Cards, immortalized and made famous in, Riding the Camino Dragon.

What better way to spend my 35th birthday than with my friends?  Furthermore, how awesome to have an opportunity to introduce my new husband to these friends who touched my heart and taught me the true meaning of friendship.  I gained so much from their teaching, when I realized that life is not a solo journey – it is meant to be shared.  Everything is more sweet when it is shared.



It’s the times we’re so crazy,
that people think we’re high.
It’s the times we laugh so hard,
we can’t help but cry.
It’s all the inside jokes
and “remember whens”.
those are all the reasons
that we’re best friends.

– Unknown


Wild Cards



Walking through Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid, one evening, we came upon an impressive building.  This park is known for being a pleasant retreat, filled with prestigious historical monuments complete with small boats to row in a large pond.  The majority of the landscaping, however – is park.  We would not have imagined we might stumble upon a Palacio del Cristal (Translation: The Crystal Palace).

We were stunned.

Why would anyone create a building of iron-framed windows?  It reminded me of the book, The Glass Castle.  We sought the answer to this mystery as we danced along the empty end of what would have made a beautiful wedding reception location.

Soon, we learned the answer.  The Palacio del Cristal was created to house exotic plants from the Phillipines in 1887. At some point, the necessity of the plants were no longer needed.  There have not been plants within this greenhouse in many years.  Today, it is used for the purpose of show-casing art.

As you can see, at the time of our visit, the art we observed appeared to be thin air.

What is your favorite art piece or art exhibit?




A true highlight for my husband and me was experiencing the Sagrada Familia, an amazing Roman Catholic Cathedral created by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).

Gaudi suffered from rheumatism as a child.  Due to his condition, Antoni Gaudi was unable to attend school with other children his age.  Determined fresh air and being in nature would be helpful, Gaudi’s mother took him for daily walks in the woods.

From this young age, Gaudi was intrigued by the strength of nature.  He was fascinated by the many patterns and how tree trunks could sustain many branches; Flower stems could hold many petals.  As a result, he pursued a passion for architecture and pushed existing boundaries by using the inspiration of nature.

Among many prized projects, Sagrada Familia was his flagship work in life.  The outside of the Cathedral is a marvel like no other with sculpture and symbolism etched in stone.  When you enter the doors of the Cathedral, large pillars raise like trees, opening up to various colored glass and archesinto leaf-like canopies.

True to the creation of many impressive cathedrals, the building of Sagrada Familia will continue through the year 2025.  Several pillars will arise over the next ten years.  We imagine the likes of this Catheral to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Perhaps we will return on our tenth wedding anniversary.

Where would you go or have you gone for your tenth wedding anniversary?



On our honeymoon, it was important to both Mike and myself that we experience new places I hadn’t seen before.  I’d seen the Camino.  Madrid and Barcelona had been new and they had been great.

Zaragoza would prove to be new as well. As the fifth largest city in Spain, Mike and I rented a car and drove what looked like Eastern Washington State – from Barcelona to Zaragoza.

The churches, basilicas and city walls lining the river were stunning. The courtyards were filled with accordion players and puppies on leashes.  We were happy to explore historic streets and indulge on a variety of pastas.  Incredibly, Spain has wonderful pasta.  As a gluten-free captive of many years, it is one place I can gorge myself guilt-free without the repercussions I experience back home.
Santo Domingo


Once upon a time in Spain, there was a man names Domingo.  He wanted to be a priest but the church refused him.  Domingo went off on his own to live as a hermit, off the beaten path.

It happened to be along the Camino de Santiago, where pilgrims had walked for years.  He watched pilgrims come and pilgrims go.  A large river was dangerous to cross and Domingo watched as pilgrim after pilgrim struggled to cross it.

Domingo felt sorrow for these pilgrims and went to work.  He built a bridge for the pilgrims.  He did not stop there.  In order to treat injured pilgrims, Domingo then opened a hospital.  This became known as the town of Santo Domingo.

Domingo dedicated his life to pilgrims. Among the many locations of the Camino de Santiago, the small town of Santo Domingo will continue to be among my favorites.

The church is the single place where live fowl are kept within the Cathedral.  They have kept this tradition since a miracle took place in the city.  Chickens on the Mayor’s dinner plate came to life after a wrongfully hung thief returned to life at the end of his noose.

If that isn’t a Miracle of Saint James – those miracles that take place along the Camino – I don’t know what is.

Although the story reminded me about the best part of life.

The best part of life is spending it with those you love.