I’ve thrown in the towel on riding the remainder of the country. I arrived into Eglisstadir and was talking to the hostel owner about my plan. He gave me a direful warning that the next 160km should not be taken lightly. This was about the fifth warning about riding the north that I had received and put some thought into it. I knew the road would have no services for the entire stretch which I wasn’t very keen on. In the end I decided to catch a bus to Akueyri and after riding the bus through it i’m confident it was the right choice to make. The whole route was a tundra in a very literal sense of the word. I couldn’t see myself enjoying any part of that ride.
It’s almost comical how nice it is 2 weeks after I started. I lost heart on the ride after catching that bus, I’m not entirely sure why. In any case I figure I cycled about half the country which leaves me a reason to come back someday.
I’ve thought a lot about the idea of man vs. nature here and I think it is safe to say that nature is a hairs breath away from reclaiming the whole thing for herself. I have to give a lot of credit to the first settelers here. They must have been extremely stout of character to keep going on here.
On a more lighthearted note as more than a few friends have told me the hot dog here is something worth trying. I found them in every gas station on the island and I would commonly see locals partaking in them which I gauge as a positive sign. On ordering my first one I was asked if I wanted fried onions or raw onions on it to which the answer is always both. He then went on to ask if I wanted something in Icelandic and as I looked puzzled at him he thought for a second and translated it as potato salad sauce to which my answer was yes, I’ll have all the potato said sauce. Divine. I think I had at least one a day, sometimes more if I ran into other gas stations.
My favorite place has to have been Breidalsvic. The locals there were really nice and let me camp behind the hotel and gave me some licorice vodka to keep me warm.
I’ll post pictures when I get a chance. It will take a while to process them all.
Yesterday was the first day of summer here. It was a whopping 3 degrees Celsius. I’m pretty sure that my toes were blue by the time I had finished riding for the day. I arrived into this town just in time for them to have a summer music festival. I got amped up to hear some Icelandic artists only to be regaled with RHCP Californication. I had a good time and was mildly amused that all the songs I heard were in English. I didn’t understand any of the patter in between songs as they spoke on Icelandic.
I had to give up any hope of cycling around the whole country in Vik. The headwind there was forecast to be 30mph for 4 consecutive days. I took the only means available to me at that point and jumped on a bus. I don’t really regret this as the first 80km was a completely featureless plain. There would have been no respite from the elements for several days and the prospect of fighting that wind for days would have driven me mad. The bus driver was nice enough to stop every now and then for “foto-stop” every now and then.
I haven’t yet managed to see the Aurora Borealis as most nights I’m completely blanketed by clouds.
The cost of things in Iceland is shocking at times. A pint of beer tends to run $10 while the cost of a gallon of petrol comes out to about $9. Food is expensive as well. I can only hazard that they import everything as well much as Hawaii does.
Riding on the highway had gotten better north of Höfn if only because traffic had almost completely died out. There is no shoulder to speak of which puts me squarely in the road. Fortunately drivers tend to give the whole lane when they pass me. Reaction from passers-by has been generally positive as I’ve received many a thumbs-up and got my photograph taken once.
A short video showing the headwind I was faced with. http://youtu.be/Rtw3BygxIM0 I pan down at the end to show you the direction I needed to go. It was diametrically opposed to the wind. Sigh.
Hobbes came to me as I started cycling of the first day. It appropriately summed up the day as I ended. Upon setting off it immediately started to snow and that combined with a headwind was a lot to take in on the first day. The weather continued to be an issue for the remainder of the day as I went through snow, hail, and yes rain. It was ceaseless in it´s downfall all day. The only saving grace to my soul that day was ending at the Blue Lagoon, a very touristy hot spring.
My first impressions of Iceland is that it is extreme in it´s starkness. Stark in it´s ever changing weather and stark in it´s bare landscapes. The taxi driver that took me from the airport told me that the weather can change ten times a day and after cycling for 2 days now I´m apt to believe him. It´s pretty plain to see why there are so few trees in the country. The wind has been whipping me at 60km/hr, which I´m sure is enough to ruin any burgeoning tree.
I have yet to run into another cycling tourer which is what I expected seeing as I’m 6 weeks early on the season and the weather has been far from ideal.
The people here have been friendly and helpful whenever I´ve asked for help. Most everyone that I have met has had a strong command of the english language, which is benificial to me as the chances of me uttering even the plainest Icelandic phrase would be nigh impossible.
Tomorrow the goal is 75 klicks against a strong cross wind on the main highway. I´ve managed to avoid this road by taking side roads but from here on it´s the only feasible route available.
A rather unremarkable start to this trip. After arriving this morning and getting into the hostel I setup my bike and got supplies for the road. I whittled away the rest of the day sleeping and pouring over maps trying to figure out the planned stops.
The hostel I’m staying at is part of an abandoned US military base. A lot of the buildings look worn but it seems as if they are trying to make use of the buildings. The city I’m in is a fair distance from Reykjavik which means it’s very quiet. I’ve only seen one other guest at the hostel which doesn’t surprise me terribly as it is still the off season for holiday goers.
I think my chief concern now, as it has been since I thought up this scheme, is the weather. The taxi driver told me this morning to give up any hope of cycling the West coast as they are still dealing with meters of snow. Fortunately for me the West coast was last on my itinerary so I can make a decision when I get there.
It’s about time I shake off the rust on these old legs and see if they can’t propel me around another country.
In a moment of divine clarity Matthew suggested I cycle around Iceland. So there it is, I promptly booked tickets to Iceland on the 15th of April. Fourteen days away. It’s just enough time to get Penny back into riding shape and get my mind right once again. I’m not terribly sure about the route yet but from the small amount of research I’ve done it looks very manageable.
I’ve loved this video about Iceland, as it captures my imagination of the place and helps validate my choice of country (a few seconds of NSFW.):
This ‘not a blog’ has no profundity, it’s simply been a journal of some of the people I’ve met and places I’ve seen over the last several years. It won’t become a book, it’s time I lock the doors but I’ll leave on the lights in case people should stumble upon the words. If anyone has questions about cycle touring, wwoofing, travelling on a shoestring drop me a line. As karma goes I’m far in debt, were there a bank of karma I would be deep on the debits side of the ledger and light on the credits. Fortunately I don’t think one can go bankrupt on karma, I look forward to paying off that debt. It goes without saying thank you to everyone thats been a refuge for me, given me food, water, conversation or a smile; it wouldn’t have been the adventure it was without you.
I remember sitting on the same beach 2 years ago, each time a day before the end of the pacific coast. The big difference probably being one was the beginning and now it’s the end. It’s a little strange but wonderous to be able to say I’ve travelled around the world, it shrinks the perspective of the world. Theres lots left out there to explore, a popular question so far has been where to next. I wish I knew the answer to that question along with the answer to lots of other questions.
Having passed Leggett hill under my own power this time felt good, as everyone who has done it will tell you it’s a lot easier than it’s built up to be. Leggett is the start of Hwy 1 which is what I associate with the beginning of ‘Sunny California’ it’s where the route starts hugging the coast and it is officially southern California. To my disappointment I descended the hill into a thick fog that stuck with me for the next few days, there went my sunny. After I passed Leggett I had to turn up the tempo in order to make it to Los Angeles in time for a Summercamp project. Running centuries from Leggett on down to LA meant that I was doing in one day that took me three days on the previous tour. The byproduct of doing it this quickly is that none of the regular tourers will manage to keep up that kind of pace. Were I to give one piece of advice to anyone doing the Pacific Coast it would be to take your time and enjoy the ride. I had to break one of my cardinal rules of not riding at night a couple of times in order to get to particular spots, not fun again.
Strangest roadkill I’ve seen on the raod? A lobster in Maine, I literally had to do a double take in order to identify what it was I almost ran over. I just imagine that the lobster thought he was making his grand escape, only to flop onto the highway where he cooked on the blacktop.
Looking for the same experience as the last ride is perhaps the wrong attitude to have taken this time around but it proved to be no less magical a second time around.
I did manage to ride with a fellow from Canada for a few days starting from Humbug mountain on through the redwood forests. Patrick was a guy who in many ways seemed to be mirroring my first ride down with constant bike problems and not having the right gear for the time of year. Luckily for him I had a spare set of long johns and other warm clothes to help him get through the colder nights. According to rangers I spoke to on the way through Oregon the number of cyclists had certainly started to dwindle in the week before I got there, which I wasn’t very surprised at.
Much of Oregon is as I remembered it, except the hills got a lot easier a second time through. It is just as beautiful as I thought, which is a good thing since I encourage just about everyone I meet that they should do the Pacific Coast on a bike and especially Oregon. I thought I might have been more prepared for the attack of raccoons this time around always securing my bags at night before going to sleep. This didn’t deter them very much getting a few of my bagels one night and some of my granola bars. I hate raccoons. Another night they put some small holes into my panniers, which was probably one of my worst fears. Which means that one of my waterproof panniers is no longer water proof. I can see people laughing at me on this one, and on the whole I can see why. I just wish that Oregon put in bear boxes on their campgrounds like California does, it would make life so much easier and less frustrating.
I have to thank Mr. Ed from Oregon for dinner and all the smoked salmon he shared. I met Mr. Ed as he was cycling into the park and we got to talking about travels and he invited me to dinner which was really great. He had just landed a 48lbs salmon a few days previously and had been busy smoking it. He talked a lot about Spain as he’d had 14 trips there so far and I got to share a lot about other countries. He loaded me up with some salmon steaks and a heap of smoked salmon which I shared with some other campers when I got back to camp.
Getting to the Drury Parkway in Northern California is probably the best stretch to cycle down, for those that have gone down this particular stretch they probably remember it well. It’s one of the first tastes of the redwood forests and probably the most magical. There is very little traffic on this road and you coast downhill for almost 10 minutes in the quiet hush of the redwoods. I don’t think I would ever get tired of this road as the magic there is only interrupted occasionally by a passing car. I almost get annoyed by being intruded upon but their sight and sound is quickly swallowed by the forest and again your alone in the forest of Endor.
One more update for the rest of the way down the coast and some pictures.
Quick note to say that I’ve arrived at the end safely. I’ll post my thoughts in the next few days, the short daylight and long rides left me little time to post while riding so hopefully I can catch up soon. Things may be crazy in LA for a while so bear with me.
Thanks goes to Angie, Matthew, and Sam for hosting me in Seattle. I see again why I could live there, it just has a good energy and having friends there helps. The beer, food, and company was good. Two weeks went by far too quickly and it was time to hit the road once again. Of course I was already worried that I would be behind the cold as it’s already over a week after I had left last time.
Riding the pacific coast a second time I won’t lie and say I’m not looking for a similar experience to what I had the last time through riding with 4 great people. I almost found a piece of it starting the trail north of Seattle I ran into a British couple who treated me to dinner at the Public House in celebration of finishing the Northern Tier (or my version of it.) Unfortunately the next day I was heading into Seattle while they continued on south.
Speaking of looking for a similar experince of last ride I did get a chance to catch up with Jay who met me at Lincoln City and shared a pizza while he recounted to me his exploits of the last couple of years and I talked about riding around the world. Great to catch up with one of the gang from the last ride.
I found the hills of Washington to be the hardest yet and Oregon to be pretty easy compared to last time where I started each day agonizing over the many hills I’d have to crest. I do find myself thinking about where I took breaks last time and hills I had to walk my bike up, I’ve come a way from back then. It’s weird but the weather has been strangely similar to what it was last time, riding into Astoria dripping from head to toe was exactly how I rode through last time and riding into Cape Lookout to a cloudless night is just how I remember it. If things continue this way I’ll be soaked to the bone once again riding through Crescent City.
The first day riding out of Seattle it settled on me that this was the end, quite the depressing thought and something I don’t dwell on much but it’s the truth. Time for reality very quickly.
I have to give Alastair a lot of credit, I’ve now climbed the hills that lie between Canada and Seattle and they are a rough reminder of what Washington offers. I say this even after climbing all the mountains across America; Washington hills for whatever reason have me lower and lower on the cogs at a time when I didn’t think I really needed them any more. Had I started in Vancouver last time who knows how it would have went for me last time.
I’m happy to be back in Seattle, it’s probably one of the big cities I can be in and not feel overwhelmed. Though I do have the feeling I’d be pretty happy anywhere with a roof over my head, but it’s always nice to be sharing time and food with friends again. We managed to hit all of my favorite spots in town and get introduced to a few others now that Matt and Angie have had time to scout the area out properly.
I only have a few states left in this whole ride and it’s crashing to an end. I added a few pictures, I know I’ve seriously been slacking in the photo department but when I’m riding 10 hours a day it leaves little time to shoot around.