Last ride in Iceland … to Keflavik

We woke up Tuesday morning to a very windy, chilly day. We ate breakfast and did a good job of running our food supply down to almost zero. It’s funny how a big ride like this kicks in some instinctive food hoarding behavior — we’ve been constantly trying to stock up on food and running our supply out required mental effort.

It was sad to leave our Airbnb as it had been such a nice place to stay and nest. Compared to our other rides, the ride to the airport was short, and it was easy to mentally discount it as nothing, but it was going to be 30 miles in wind and take 3-4 hours. Plus, we were going to be in traffic for 3/4 of the time.

Gratefully the ride was uneventful, although probably the windiest of our entire trip. We had a strong sidewind for most of the ride which constantly tried to push us into traffic. The road from Reykjavik to Keflavik has a great shoulder — easily the best in Iceland — and we took full advantage of it. We felt safe, even in the high wind. Our ride sometimes took us near cool lava fields and the ocean shore. It was, as has almost always been the case in Iceland, beautiful.

Our final night’s accommodation is at Alex guesthouse where we are staying in a tiny cabin — you know the ones that could double as a tool shed (it is cool how they pack so much house into such small space). It is about a mile from the airport.

We arrived cold and chilled from the winds and spent the first hour huddled around a space heater trying to warm up. Then it was down to business packing our bike. It comes apart at the middle, but requires a bit of work to fit it into bike boxes. We had arranged many months ago for our final hotel to store our boxes. They picked them up at the airport after we had assembled the bike and stored them in a shed. We were glad we had figured this out prior to arriving in country. We saw other fellow bike tourists caching their boxes under the building near the airport where we assembled the bikes and just hoping nobody would take them or clean that area. It was nice to not have to worry as both of us seem to have a nice talent for worrying.

Boxing the bike is something of a process. If there was going to be one effort on this trip that would put strain on our relationship, this was going to be it. Happily we did fine with no stress. It helped that we were in a comfortable shed out of the wind. Getting the bike into two boxes requires some disassembly of the bike. Our bike boxes had been well thrashed by the airline on the flight to Iceland. The boxes had cut outs for handles, which ended up being points of weakness and those cutouts were now large holes, so part of our effort was finding ways to patch the holes but still allow for the airline to be able to pick the boxes up easily. We pieced them together in a way we hope will hold and they are now ready for another airline thrashing. These are the boxes we bought in the airport in Amsterdam. It would be so nice if every airport sold bike boxes. That would eliminate the logistics associated with storing bike boxes and allow people to give away their boxes upon arrival.

We met a few groups beginning their bike trips today. One was a group of men from the U.K. — they were funny and enthusiastic — kind of that nervous humor where one says “we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into, but if we laugh about it, somehow that makes everything safer.” Another was a couple of women from Germany riding an orange tandem. Too bad we had just finished boxing ours or we could have taken a picture of the dueling orange tandems. Theirs was not a recumbent, of course.

Then to Netto (our favorite grocery store here) down the street to buy a few items for dinner. Breakfast is included with our stay here.

I (Pete) headed to the local pool for a final soak. Since Natalie wasn’t coming I knew I was going to have to pull her weight and do a double soak. It was, as always, awesome. Toward the end the professional football (soccer) team for the town/village of Keflavik came in for their post-practice soak. It is crazy to think that such a small town has a professional soccer team. It is similar to Roy or Morgan in Utah having their own professional soccer team…. I guess that is why Iceland was playing in the World Cup and the US wasn’t.

We planned to head to the airport at 5:30 AM but our flight has already been delayed 3 hours. Luckily we have a long layover in Minneapolis, so our itinerary can easily absorb it.

Natalie’s parting comment:

Wow, Iceland, what an experience!! We are sad to see it end, but it will also be very good to be home.

R&R in Reykjavik

We’ve been recuperating for two days in Reykjavik. Any weight we had managed to lose is back, and then some. One’s body tends to get used to consuming all calories available while riding 12+ hours a day, but it is also burning said calories. Now that we are just lounging around with more calories than we need at our fingertips, we are binging without burning.

Similarly we are sleeping a ton. Last night I slept 11 hours. I normally sleep 7.

Friday was rainy. We were happy that we were not logging miles on our bike. The campground was a madhouse. I’m really sad I didn’t get a picture of it. The more we walked around the more tents we saw. I would estimate 500 people were in the campground. They were all wet like us. And the whole place was very muddy. This campground was expensive — almost $50 for the two of us.

We went to the nearby pool and soaked our sore bodies for an hour and a half. It was raining lightly and we may have stayed longer but we needed to get out of the campsite by 2 or we would have had to pay for a second day. We had reserved an inexpensive hotel a little bit away from the city center — close to our Airbnb for Saturday through Tuesday. Even though the ride was less than 5 miles it was actually a bit tough. Downtown Reykjavik has several hills which combined with rain and a confusing route to the hotel made for a difficult ride. It probably didn’t help that our muscles were all relaxed from soaking and our bodies were saying to us “what’s up — I thought you gave us the day off!”

However, once we made it to the hotel we were back in heaven. The room was small and simple, but compared to a wet 2-man tent in the middle of 500 stinky, muddy (like us) campers, the hotel felt like it was a 5-star luxury resort. First things first: tent and fly get unrolled and stuffed under the hotel bed to dry and then long showers for both of us. We found a great Indian restaurant nearby and ate until it hurt. Then we slept soundly.

At the hotel our bike was able to be stored inside for first time on this trip! We really appreciated the hotel staff for that. When we traveled Europe our bike was almost always stored indoors. On this trip it’s been a lot more out in the elements — like us. Except we don’t have a tent for the bike…. So at the hotel, the bike was tired yet happy too. It has worked hard!

I think I could have sat around in the hotel room for the rest of the day today and been content, but we are in Iceland with so much to see — so Natalie motivated us to take the bus back to the city center and walk around. We were able to walk around in a 3-masted ship used by the Italian Navy to train its cadets which just happened to be at port. We mostly walked around, looking at the ships and city architecture and art, strolling along the seashore, enjoying the perfectly sunny day. So nice after such a rainy yesterday. We ate vegan ice cream for lunch.

Around 3 PM we bussed back to our hotel and rode our bike to our Airbnb. It is perfect — ground floor with a fenced area to store our bike and hang a clothes line. The first order of business was to do laundry. We were smelling bad! It is so nice to be able to wash our clothes. The campground had two washers, but they were shared with 500 people so you can guess what that line looked like.

After getting our laundry started drying outside we headed for a grocery store where we bought food for the next three days. We cooked a great meal and finished it with vegan ice cream.

It was a good day.

The indecisi-century to Reykjavik

Our plan for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was to piece together our ride into Reykjavik with three 30-50 mile segments. It was raining when we woke up so we were slow in breaking camp at Varmaland. We had 2 goals for the day: find a village with food and make it to Ferstikla to camp. Also, not getting killed by a car was out there as a soft goal. We had planned to stay to the east and avoid route 1 (part of the not get killed by a car objective). This plan worked well for about 30 miles but then we decided against the mountain pass due to weather and decided to try our luck on route 1 again. It was a madhouse and we were grateful when we had to exit before the tunnel. This little detour had added about 10 miles to our ride to Ferstikla and aged us both 10 years.

The inland route (from before they built the tunnel into Reykjavik) was beautiful and there were far fewer cars. We made it to our destination by 4, but we still had legs and decided to change plans and do Friday’s ride also. The next few hours were some of the best of our trip. So beautiful and peaceful! Even worth the hilly road. Everyone who drives through the tunnel north of Reykjavik is missing out….

We had almost finished this segment by 8 PM when we started talking about just finishing the loop and heading back to route 1 to Reykjavik even though it would increase our mileage for the day up to 100. There were several factors:

  1. The weather had improved and the winds were dying down.
  2. We were running out of food and facing the possibility of having to eat a cucumber, cliff bar, and perpetuem for breakfast — yum!
  3. There is a big holiday coming up which was going to pack the outbound lanes, which makes it harder for people coming up behind us to safely pass — getting in front of the holiday made sense.
  4. The mountain road we intended to take was under construction — we had happened to meet an experienced local cyclist coming off of it on a gravel bike and he said it was even difficult for him to get through.
  5. We would be hitting route 1 after 9 PM and thought traffic might be better that late.

So we changed our minds again and made for Reykjavik via route 1. There was still a lot of traffic, but definitely less than at 4-5 PM when we’d been on it earlier, and we also had a small shoulder that helped a ton. As we got closer to Reykjavik we even rode on a bike path. We were baked by this point. We lucked out and found a 24-hour grocery store, so we could provision breakfast. We drug our worn out bodies into the campground around midnight.

The plan was to eat dinner, but neither of us had the energy to even open a bag of chips. We ate a few fresh tomatoes (bought much earlier that day in a village) and crashed. We slept solidly.

Next post we’ll talk about the campground and the adjacent swimming pool.

Natalie here: The ride was tough but so beautiful (if you ignore the traffic parts) and we really feel good about having changed our plans. There were several serendipitous moments. We are tired, grateful, and happy. We only have a 25-mile ride left to the airport on Tuesday! So exciting! What a big crazy goal this has been.

Ride to Varmaland

Today’s ride started with a sustained climb into dense fog. The traffic was light and mostly moved over when they saw our flashers. The climb was such a grade that we could churn along slowly without pushing our legs to their limits. After reaching the summit it was pretty much downhill to our campground. Today’s ride was just under 50 miles. Our mileage these last few days will be lower, as we are close to Reykjavik now and no longer have to bank miles. Instead we are planning a slight detour into Reykjavik that takes us east and avoids the section with a tunnel that was going to require us to put our bike on a bus. (Bikes are not allowed in that tunnel.) The campground we are in is really unique. It used to house some small university, but now has a cucumber farm and a grade school. And it has a swimming pool, of course. We made it here before 4 and soaked for a little more than an hour. Every campsite needs a swimming pool…. Today Mr. Frugality had to face an uncomfortable fact. In the airport a kind tourist recommended that we buy a camping card — something that lets you camp for free at campgrounds in Iceland. For $200 we only needed to use it 8-10 times for it to pay off. Easy! We bought one the first night but then discovered that it is only accepted at a subset of the campgrounds here. Tonight we will use it for our third and last time. I think it could work out better for people in cars. There were several times that we were within 25 miles of a campground that would accept it — but on our bike, that usually was too much out of our way. Note from Natalie: After a very foggy, misty beginning, the day became beautiful and sunny as we descended into a green valley north of Reykjavik. The campground has filled up as usual. Vertical feet gained today — close to 1500. Much nicer than a close-to-4000 day!