Staying married

Several years ago I was on the roof, doing whatever people do on roofs, and noticed the rain gutters were full of leaves and muck. So I decided to clean them out. Natalie was down below working on her own project, but because apparently it was too hard for me to go back down the ladder to get the garbage can myself, I asked her if she could wheel it over from the side of the house and position it below me – providing a place for me to throw the mess I was about to pull from the gutter. She stopped what she was doing and walked down the steps headed toward the side of the house. In the process she misjudged her footing and went to the ground in pain. With a voice filled with concern and compassion I said something like “yeah – that looks like it hurts – you still able to grab the can?” She hobbled over and retrieved the garbage can (although at an annoyingly slow pace.) Later that day Sam took her to the hospital and we found out she had a broken foot. This story provides my friend with never-ending fodder for jokes.

Last week Natalie began to suspect another fracture in her foot – this time it was the likely result of over-training (running). Learning my lesson from the experience above I used more concern and compassion as I said “yeah – that looks like it hurts – you still able to ride around Iceland?” Although there was a little hesitation in her voice, the answer was yes. She’s been hobbling around the house gingerly ever since.

Yesterday her doctor verified the fracture (stress fracture in the third metatarsal) but cleared her for the trip, providing she takes it easy on her foot. That means our 18-mile hike-a-bike pushing a 200-lbs recumbent (bike, gear, trailer) on a gravel road at mile 400 has given way to a much longer ride around that obstacle (probably a net add of 60 miles and a few thousand vertical feet and the elimination of our pioneer handcart trek experience). It also means she gets to ride on the luggage carts in the airport. But beyond that, we’re still on for the trip and we’re still married.

We leave for Iceland in 4 days.

Day 1

Monday and Tuesday melded together into a single day. Bryan dropped us off at the airport and we quickly made it through the Delta check-in process. Let’s just say there are a few extra steps when part of your luggage is a disassembled tandem bike.

True to form neither of us slept well on the airplane. This is crazy frustrating, as I can sleep like a baby in church. Maybe this is God’s way of reminding me not to sleep in church. We touched down

in Iceland wired.

It took a bit of time to assemble the bike and get ourselves ready to ride, as expected. It was and still is a gorgeous day! Sunny, blue sky, nice tail wind! What a treat.

A local suggested a route change, which turned out nicely. It had one hill that pushed 10 percent grade for about a mile, but otherwise was flat. Beautiful lava rock landscapes and ocean views all along.

Staying in a campsite in Thorlakshofn (but with some cool Icelandic letters — the first letter looks kind of like a “P” for example).

That great idea I had about using a tarp for tent, and our bike for the poles… turns out it wasn’t such a great idea. Now I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth it to drag the tarp around for the next 3 weeks or just ditch it in a dumpster.

We are too tired to write much tonight but hope we will sleep well tonight, even though it is still middle of the day light outside at 10 pm. Sorry we can’t upload many pictures.

Long day

This is actually the day after our long day. We were too tired last night to write a blog entry.

We slept really well in our first campsite. It was nicely vacant, at least compared to what we’ve seen since.

We left Þorlákshöfn at about 10:30 headed toward Selfoss. It was raining but we knew we had to make up miles due to a route change the day before. Our riding was slow, and we didn’t make it to Selfoss until around noon. We found a great place to eat: Yellow. It had plenty of food that fit our diets. It was delicious, but expensive (but well worth it).

We left Selfoss and headed straight into the wind. This was our lot in life for the next 10 hours. In total we covered 77 miles in about 12 hours with a lunch and dinner break. It was completely draining. There was so much wind and rain and traffic — see below — that we couldn’t talk much.

We did have some spectacular scenery, despite the rain and headwind. Beautiful dark cliffs with lush greenery and cool waterfalls.

We found traffic to be much different than our first day. No shoulder and lots of cars zipping by fast. That really wears on our nerves. A couple times we had to ride off the road to make room. We are hoping that the further east we get the fewer cars we’ll see.

At about 8 pm we started looking for a hostel, guest house, or hotel. We thought it would feel good to sleep inside and dry off. No room in the inn, however. So we finally rolled into a campsite at 10:30. It was 11:30 before we were eating, but I was too chilled to eat. The beautiful waterfall we camped by made up for the discomfort.

Begin and end your day with a waterfall

After a hard long day yesterday, today was beautiful. Within view of our waterfall-of-the-moment, we ate breakfast (oatmeal and hot chocolate), packed up camp — talking to several other campers about our bike all morning (which turned out to be a theme for the day) — and got on our way. Dry weather and a tail wind much of the day! By a bit before lunch time the skies became blue and sunny. Ahhhhhh.

We did 67 miles today, so 10 miles shorter than yesterday. (But the wind being in our favor made the world of difference.) During the first third of the ride we had some brutal climbs, one that even forced us to get off the bike and push. Ugh, not fun. But we made it. Traffic was somewhat lighter than yesterday, which is nice, but still more than we’d like. It is nerve-wracking — for both us and I’m sure sometimes the drivers. We are riding as aware and as carefully as possible and we really appreciate the drivers who appear to be doing the same.

We had lunch at a small cafeteria-type diner in a gas station in a town called Vik. (We can remember the short names. Many Icelandic City names are so long!) Fries and salad for Natalie, veggie pita for Pete. We had several more conversations with other travelers from all over (as well as a few locals) about the bike! It draws a crowd. Pete is a great demonstrator. Natalie has had the chance to speak French with quite a few people already. Iceland is definitely tourist-filled.

Afternoon scenery: Some more waterfalls, amazing green and dark-brown cliffs, a very huge far-off glacier/mountain, cool lava rocks in various formations, beautiful farms, blue skies!

Tonight we are in a nice campground, again by an incredibly beautiful glacier-melt waterfall (as with our site last night) in a town called Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Wow, that’s a cool name. When we rode into town, with sore, tired bodies, we grabbed a few groceries, then headed to the community pool. They we enjoyed a shower, a swim, and a wonderful soak in the hot tub. Then to our campground to set up, eat backpacking chili, visit with a few fellow travelers, and get ready for bed. Feels great.

Beautiful finish after a long ride

Blogging first thing in the morning…. We were too tired last night.

We knew we were going to be riding into the wind and rain yesterday. We also knew that we had an extra long ride because there were only two places to stop: one at 45 miles which wouldn’t cover enough distance to get us into Hofn by Saturday night (and we have a one-night hotel reservation in Hofn that night) and the other near mile 85. We worked efficiently to eat and break camp in the morning and headed out around 9 AM.

It rained on us most of the day and the wind slowed us significantly. It wasn’t until between 3 and 4 PM that we made the midpoint. We ate at a gas station (the only one for 120 miles) and set off for another long ride. The winds shifted and we had side wind and tail wind which helped us make it to our destination before 9. So grateful for the favorable wind.

We arrived completely gassed at the place we thought we could stay. However, the campsite didn’t look like it was there. There was no road sign for it, which is strange for Iceland. However, our bike maps said there was one .3 miles down a hill. We were not feeling up to riding another 5 hours to get to the next campsite, so we rode down to the guesthouse to inquire. As we rode up we saw one tent with a bike near it. We asked inside and they said we could stay. I think they don’t advertise because they don’t want tent campers, but we were so grateful they let us set up a tent. We get to use their restaurant’s bathrooms and set up on their backyard.

Here are a few comments and observations from yesterday and the previous days:

  1. This year our bike plus gear is over 200 pounds. Hills hurt. Our last two days have had just over 1000 feet of climbing each day. Hopefully we’ll be in shape for next week’s climbs.
  2. Yesterday evening with let than 9 miles to go we saw many cars pulled over. We were moving at a good pace but decided to stop and see what everyone was looking at. We were so glad we stopped. It was a glacier lagoon and it was stunning.
  3. The horses here are beautiful. The have long manes. Some of their manes cover their faces. Many want to run with us as we ride by. (Sheep seem curious about us.)
  4. We’ve been eating at gas stations, but they are few and far between. Yesterday our only opportunity was at mile 45. We are thankful for fries and salad.
  5. The water here is amazing. The stuff that comes out of a bathroom sink is like expensive bottled water.
  6. We see a few other bikers each day, but not as many as we thought we would see. It is always nice to see someone else experiencing Iceland in the same way.
  7. We’ve had a few days of rain and are so grateful for our waterproof gear. Although after riding for 10 hours in the rain I’m soaked on the inside. It is probably sweat, but it might as well be rain. Almost all of my clothes are wet and haven’t had the chance to dry, so this morning I might be putting on wet clothes for today’s ride.
  8. Not to complain, but so far Iceland
    chocolate
    has been mediocre. Come for the water, not the chocolate.
  9. The traffic thus far had been rough. It’s like we are in a vehicular mosh pit of tourists. As we go east it is getting better. Each day we’ve been run off the road fewer times. Only twice yesterday. We are so grateful for drivers who slow down as they pass. We find that the closer we ride to the white line the more bold and dangerous drivers are when passing us – thinking there is room to pass without getting out of their lane.
  10. One way bridges are really common.
  11. We are sleeping great. Sleeping in a tent has been no problem. The only downside is all the extra gear you have to haul around.

Today we have a shorter ride and we are staying one night in a hotel (first for this trip). Hoping for a relaxing day.

Riding to Höfn

Once again blogging in the morning instead of the evening. Yesterday’s ride to Höfn (fishing village on Southeastern part of Iceland) was our easiest ride so far. On Friday we rode 85 miles in order to only have to ride 41 on Saturday. Plus, we had lucked out and made a last-minute hotel reservation so we wanted to get to Höfn as early as our check-in time would allow. We wanted to make maximum use of the reservation!

We rolled into Höfn right at 3 pm and checked into our room. It has a beautiful ocean-facing view. First things first: unpack our tent so it could start to dry and then string a clothes line across the room to start drying clothes. I didn’t have anything dry left. The combination of rainy days and lots of sweat had moistened my wardrobe. Natalie doesn’t sweat as much (she is in better shape — added note from Natalie: haha yeah right) so she still had a few dry options…. We started unpacking and hanging things around the room. It soon looked like our luggage had exploded into the room – stuff everywhere!

Next we went to a supermarket and binge shopped. $100 dollars later we were laden with food for the next 2-3 days, although it seems like we’ve somehow managed to eat half of it in our hotel room over the last 12 hours. 🙂

On Thursday we had made friends with a nice family camping near us. On Friday as they passed us in their car they stopped and gave us their contact information in Höfn and invited us to do laundry at their home. As we were shopping I sent him a note saying that I still needed to look for a part for our bike and we’d be a little late. (Long tangent: when we arrived in Iceland I failed to tighten every bolt on our bike – rattling around in an airplane hold tends to loosen things up. In our second day, riding into the wind, we hadn’t noticed when a small part fell off our bike – an idler wheel – that helps maintain the chain line when we pedal hard – keeping our pedal force from being absorbed by our rear shock. Without the part some of the chain management is being provided by a chain tube and metal bracket which have tons of friction under pressure and will eventually destroy our chain. The idler is a specialized part – unlikely I could find one even in Salt Lake City, so no chance of finding one in Hofn. However, I hoped to find something that could make the situation a little better. The ride is hard enough without mechanical inefficiencies.)

Back to the story. Our friend Siggi said he’d meet us at our hotel and look at the bike with us. It turns out Siggi his the captain of a fishing boat and after looking at our problem he called his boat’s engineer to come help. After some brainstorming we rode to their boat and they improvised something that will work. Icelandic fishermen who are days and weeks at sea have to be able to repair anything on large complex ships – our bike was easy to them. The bike situation is now improved. Siggi drove us around town and then let us use his family’s washer and dryer. He then showed us some of the fishing industry infrastructure before dropping us off at our hotel. What an amazing blessing to have met such a kind and generous person.

We spent the rest of the evening in our hotel room eating food and enjoying the space, warmth, and dryness. It is amazing to have a bathroom 4 feet from our bed!

Natalie is going to add some thoughts…

Weather on the ride into Hofn was cloudy and cool but no rain! The winds were nice to us. There were occasional small climbs but nothing killer. We saw several cyclist packers, a few even pulling trailers like us! Kinda fun to see others experiencing what we are. Lots more beautiful scenery along the coast. Loving it. There was considerably less traffic! Yay!

It was so cool to have a private tour of Hofn from a sea captain (whose father and grandfather and so on were also fishermen), someone who has lived here his entire life! It was also fascinating to get a tour of his ship. I think he said it was built around 1960 and is the oldest fishing ship still in use in Hofn. We had a great visit with him too as we waited for our laundry, talking about fishing adventures (even when he stood – literally – on a killer whale that was trapped in a net next to their ship as they worked to free it), whales, language and education (he speaks great English), family and children, the increase in tourism here and how it has affected everything, the training required to be a sea captain, the fishing industry and related regulations and recent changes as the country works to protect its resources and stay sustainable, etc.

All in all a pretty amazing day and cool “add” to our adventure!

Cruel and unusual punishment

Today we took a much needed day of rest in Höfn. We moved from our hotel to a campground at noon and then attended a small local church with about 10 others. Siggi had contacted the pastor yesterday to find out the time they hold their service. In a town this small, everyone knows everyone. It is delightful.

I’ve been thinking about the drivers who pass us too fast and too close. I think an appropriate punishment for a crime like that would be to be sentenced to ride with me for an hour. They’d certainly gain a first-hand appreciation of the perils of biking with these narrow shoulders and I’d probably get a chance to know them better and understand why they are in such a hurry. We’d both win. Although Natalie might argue that being on a bike with me violates some human rights fundamental – it could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

I’ll include a photo of one of the horses here with their cool manes. It’s like they share a barber with Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

Our campground was sparse at noon, but now at 8 pm it looks like what you would expect in Yellowstone. Natalie and I both like getting away from crowds, but we are happy to see so many people enjoying the beauty of this country.

Tomorrow should be a moderate day as far as miles and climbing go. The big unknown is the weather. Right now it appears we will be riding in light rain – if the weather matches the forecast. We’re told that the forecast is always right but sometimes the weather is wrong.

A different kind of century

I’m posting this two days late, because two nights ago neither of us had energy to do anything beyond set up our tent and eat a quick dinner of canned soup, and last night, when I tried to publish it, I was too out of it to realize I have to successfully hit the publish button…

We left Höfn on Monday around 8:30. It was good to get moving early. Our routing software showed a crazy 45 precent grade climb right at the beginning, but we knew that was impossible so were anxious to find out what our first climb looked like. Mercifully it was a short climb to a tunnel which was about a mile long. We were so thankful!

We had several stopping points in mind, but because we were rerouting around the long gravel hike-a-bike due to Natalie’s broken foot (for the record, this is just a convenient excuse) we hoped to ride far. The reroute was adding a day to our already tight itinerary and Saturday is forecast for bad weather, so we wanted to bank miles. Our route didn’t have any stops along the way (without a detour), which made it easy to keep riding without breaks.

The weather was good and the wind was often at our backs as we rode into and out of beautiful fjords. By the time we rolled into a campground 12 hours later we had covered a little over 100 miles with about 4000 feet of vertical gain.

We set up our tent, ate dinner, and collapsed. We’re sleeping great, btw.

Riding to Egilsstaðir

It rained at night (but we still slept great) and we woke to the most beautiful sunny blue skies! Our tent even dried out before we had to pack it! That rarely happens in Iceland, at least in our 8 days of experience. We biked along the Atlantic up and down hills, stopping once for the biggest order of fries we’ve ever had (to go with our canned peaches).

We left behind the zig-zag fjord roads and began to head inland and a little northwest.

The sun gave way to rain and the terrain changed as we approached and entered the mountains. Literally. We drove through a 4-mile tunnel. Bikes are allowed! But not horses or pedestrians. Or semi-trucks (although a few must have missed that memo today…). It was kinda nerve-wracking but also pretty awesome. Also a way to avoid the rain for a while!

Next we rode up up up for 5 to 10 miles (in the rain) over a beautiful steep mountain pass. (Why no tunnel there?) Coming down was less effort but much much colder. Much. We were soooo chilled and wet by the time we reached the bottom, even with our excellent rain gear.

We are in a town called Egilsstaðir. We quickly bought a few groceries, then found our guesthouse. (Pete was able to find a last minute opening.) Soooo nice to take a long hot shower and dry out. Pete opted for the community center pool and hot tub. We cooked our simple dinner in the cozy guesthouse kitchen and got to visit with fellow travelers from Dallas, France, and Korea! I honestly can’t believe how much French I have been able to speak here! And Pete got to speak Korean.

It was a good day with a few tough parts. The traffic was a little busier again today, but still not as bad as along the southern coast. It still is stressful at times. But we gratefully have had some very courteous drivers. The winds weren’t a huge factor today, but the rain definitely was. The sunshine during the first part was delightful. Having a roof over our heads tonight after getting so wet and cold cold cold is delightful.

A little under 60 miles today, with a little under 3000 feet vertical gain. This is a great adventure!

Ride to Grímsstaðir

Again posting one day late due to very poor wifi….

On Wednesday we rode from Egilsstaðir to Grímsstaðir. But before I talk about that, I need to mention the swimming pool I went to on Tuesday night. The local pools here are my favorite places to go relax. Even small towns have them. There are usually a few hot pools to soak in and sometimes an ice bath to cool off in and make it so you can start the whole soaking process over. I have a body built for soaking. If our bike breaks down, as long as there is a pool nearby, I’ll be fine. I’ll just soak for the remainder of our vacation. If you go to Iceland go to the local pools every chance you get. America has something to learn from this tradition…. Natalie, for the record, doesn’t enjoy them like I do. Maybe she is missing some important gene or something. So she usually stays and does something else while I go soak enough to make up for her absence at the pool. The pool in Egilsstaðir was perfect. I stayed until I looked like a proper raisin. Nothing else mattered after that – it was a perfect day.

Our original schedule had us riding for 50 miles and camping along the road near an outhouse. (There are surprisingly few along the way – especially when you are on bike and 50 miles is measured in many hours….) The outhouse was in a lovely location and it would have been a good campsite (better than the one we actually stayed in) but we wanted to get more miles with the hope of shaving a bike day off our schedule and doing something touristy like whale watching on Saturday, so we pushed on for another 30 miles. Our map showed a campsite 3 miles off road and even though our bike does poorly on washboard, we felt the investment in time would pay off with a nice campsite.

We bounced into the campsite at about 9 pm on light rain, clocking another 12-hour ride. We were exhausted. Unfortunately the campsite was effectively a small plot of ground next to an outhouse. Gratefully the outhouse had running water and flush toilets.

Grímsstaðir is a settlement in north-east Iceland whose main claim to fame is that its weather station holds the low-temperature record for Iceland of -38°C. Luckily we didn’t experience any of those temperatures. Instead we had to deal with a zillion flies. They were everywhere – unlike anything we’ve experienced in Iceland. We couldn’t even eat outside, so dinner was in our tent. We were so tired that we didn’t even change clothes – just rolled into our sleeping bags wearing the clothes we had sweat in all day, and in the morning we woke up and wore those same clothes today. (Natalie has worn the same kit all week….)

In summary, Wednesday was a hard day with not much of a reward at the end of the long push. We were in desolate but beautiful country. We passed only one small village earlier in our ride.

Natalie’s notes:

This day began with idyllic weather: sunshine, blue skies, favorable winds. We ate our guesthouse breakfast, packed up, said goodbye to our traveler friends, and hit the road. Beautiful perfect conditions for most of the day!

Partly because of the great conditions, we banked extra miles (85 miles total this day) and are now a day ahead of schedule.

As we moved higher and more north-central, we went from rolling green valleys, rivers, and farms to a desolate high-mountain landscape. We loved having less traffic because of the remoteness! We did a LOT of climbing — 3600 feet of vertical gain — and our legs could feel it. We saw a huge beautiful rainbow as the weather turned a bit misty and rainy towards the end of our ride.

Not so nice of a campground that night…. I’d give it half a star maybe. We had to ride out 3 miles on a washboard road (in the rain), and the ground was very lumpy. If we hadn’t been so tired after our long high-mile day, and if we hadn’t been kind of in the middle of nowhere, we probably would not have stayed. There was one other campground for miles and we just had to get off the bike. So we stayed. We were the only tent. (There were a handful of car campers.) There were SO many little annoying black flies, it was outrageous. We ate dinner in the tent to avoid them. But the little metal bathroom did have running hot water and flush toilets, which is always nice. (No shower though.) We were so tired and annoyed by the flies we decided to sleep in our bike clothes, which turned out to be a bad idea.

Ride to Goðafoss

We didn’t sleep that great (see previous post) but we woke to dry conditions. It was also very windy. The wind did help keep the flies away from us and bit. But it’s hard to break camp in the wind of course. We headed out as quickly as we could. The washboard road was better without rain.

We had less climbing today (1800 feet) due to dropping down into valley terrain again, and also because we did fewer miles (57). That was a great choice because winds were not as favorable today and it became more and more rainy. We had 2 pretty tough climbs today, and for both we opted to get off and push the bike. Our legs were tired, it was rainy, traffic has been a little heavier, and it seemed safer in those conditions. Both hills were also pushing the limits of what we can ride with this bike as loaded at it is.

We stopped for some amazing veggie pizza at Dalakofinn Útibú. Just what we needed to give us the energy to make it to Goðafoss in the rain.

We were soaked and it is raining hard so we booked a night in a guesthouse. We were very happy to find one available! So nice to have a shower and be dry. All of our gear is hanging around the room drying, as usual when we are indoors. We are super comfy now! If the rain lets up we’ll go see the mini-Niagara-Falls waterfall very close to our accomodations. Otherwise we’ll hit it on our way out tomorrow (which is forecast to be better weather).

We are tired but excited to know that we’re at about our 2/3 point for miles, and that because of this we’ll be able to enjoy Akureyri this weekend for a couple of days! We do have a steep, long climb ahead of us tomorrow, but we only have 31 miles to do, so that will be good.

Vacation from our vacation

One more note about last night before writing about today. Quite late we decided to go see the waterfalls that were literally across the road from our guesthouse at Godafoss. They are spectacular! They really are like a mini Niagara Falls. Beautiful.

Today we rode into Akureyri today. It was only 32 miles, but two miles in the middle made us pay! We pushed our bike up a 6-8 percent grade for about an hour. It is possible we could have tried to ride up it, but by pushing our bike we were a little more safe. Trying to balance this bike while fully exerting ourselves with zero shoulder (literally no shoulder) inevitably means we swerve. By pushing we were able to maintain a straight line. We were still run off the road once by a car coming towards us passing another car. Our definite least favorite thing about this trip has been the traffic.

The weather was good. Sunny and blue skies! Tailwind for the first half of our ride, headwind for the second half. Seems fair.

We checked into our Airbnb for the next 3 nights and went shopping. Dinner tonight was amazing. Salad, hummus, pasta with marinara sauce, and falafel. When we have the chance to cook in a kitchen we enjoy it.

Currently we are on a whale watching tour. It is about 2 hours by boat to where the whales are. We will likely get back to our Airbnb after midnight. We hope we get to see some! We’ll report next post. Bouncing across the waves makes us think of our fisherman friends in Höfn — Siggi and Hannes. It would be an amazing life to spend big chunks of time at sea.

Tomorrow we will hit the pool and then relax around town and see what else there is to do. We are also going to take Sunday off and attend a local worship service and then in the evening we plan on attending a concert at a local Lutheran Church.

Note after the whale watching: It has been beautiful! Being on a small ship in a fjord in the northern Atlantic is not something we do every day. We did see several humpback whales surface briefly and then dive gracefully. It is especially cool to hear them as they blow, or whatever it’s called. We also saw lots of dolphins skimming along and jumping. They look like they are just having so much fun! It was also beautiful to see the midnight sun not quite setting on the horizon of the sea. Our tour guide did a good job explaining about the sights along the way, as well as about the whales and dolphins. We won’t get back until half past midnight, but it was a great way to spend our evening.

A good and proper soaking

We slept in until almost 9 AM, and then lazed around the house eating the groceries we bought yesterday. The weather is a bit rainy and we are grateful to be in a nice Airbnb. At first we were worried this wasn’t going to work out, as the home is full of nice stuff and our gear kind of explodes out of our bags to dry when we get an opportunity to be inside. However, the owner was gracious and welcoming and assured us that she didn’t mind if we unpacked our things around her house to let them recover. So now her living room floor is covered by sleeping bags, pads, etc…. Plus, she allowed us to use her washing machine. When you only have 2 or 3 changes of clothing, every opportunity to do laundry is precious!

We headed to the public pool at 11:00 (a 5-minute walk) and soaked for about 2 hours. Natalie came with me this time, and was a good sport about everything. She even went down the water slide, even though we didn’t have the excuse of “taking our grandkids” or something like that. It was cool. A really steep dropoff into this vortex thing that can only be described as the type of feature which allows you to experience being flushed down a toilet after circling the bowl a few times, dropping through a hole in the middle and emerging at the end in a nice pool. Who wouldn’t want to do that? She also soaked in the ice bath a few times. There are many reasons not to want to do that. Toward the end I could tell she was wearing down by the “how much longer should we stay” questions. Realizing she had already gone above and beyond the call of duty, we headed home.

(Note from Natalie: Some of that paragraph made me laugh out loud. It really is an amazing community pool and we had a great time. The steam bath felt great too. And that vortex waterslide/ toilet comparison was great! We really do need to bring our grandkids when they get a bit older! It was fun to go with Pete since he loves soaking so much and is really talented at it.)

Natalie wanted to see the botanical gardens, and since she had gone to the pool for two hours, it seemed only fair for me to support that. Plus, the last time she went to botanical gardens in Victoria, B.C., she took Laura while Chris and I took the kids to find a mountain lake to swim in but ended up at a nude beach which was more disturbing than glamorous from which we made a hasty retreat — so having learned that painful lesson I went to the botanical gardens this time (Icelandic nude beaches must only be for the really hardy types — I hope they bundle up because it is a bit nippy here.)

(Second note from Natalie: the gardens were beautiful, and Pete was a good sport. Akureyri’s botanical gardens are the most northern in the whole world!)

As we were walking home we came across a downhill mountain bike race through town — right down the beautiful steps which lead up to the Lutheran church. We watched several racers descend and decided not to try it on our bike.

We’re relaxing at the Airbnb for the rest of the evening. Life is good.

We’re practically retired

Super restful day today. We slept in, had a nice breakfast, went to church, had a nice lunch, went to a concert at another church, had dinner, and are finishing the day with hot chocolate. The only thing missing was another soak at the pool.

The weather has been nice, with a light rain in the afternoon. Right now it looks like we will have decent weather for at least the next 3 days — possibly to the end of the week. Our fingers are crossed….

We have less than 250 miles left, but 3 significant climbs and at least one full day of difficult traffic. This thing isn’t over yet!

We’ve enjoyed our rest days in Akureyri and are ready to start again tomorrow.

Ride to Blönduós

Goodbye and thank you Akureyri! It was great to spend a few days relaxing and resting. Our Airbnb worked out wonderfully. We were able to cook all of our meals there and let our gear air out, and we felt very at home. We hydrated like crazy: I think we drank 10 liters of juice, oat milk, and chocolate oat milk. That’s not counting the water we constantly drank. We also ate a lot. We spent about $150 at the grocery store and almost ate everything we bought. We enjoy cooking together, and given our restrictive diet, it works so well to be able to cook for ourselves. Plus, it costs less….

Because we were coming off two rest days and had decent weather/winds we pushed and completed 90 miles today with almost 4000 feet of climbing. The climbing came mostly in two sustained hills with grades around 6 percent peaking near 10 percent. We started the day with 3 big climbs left on our entire trip and completed two of them today. That is a good feeling. The last one comes on Wednesday.

We had misty rain on and off throughout day. By the time we rolled into our campsite we were soaked with rain and sweat. The temperature was a bit below 50 and we quickly got chilled. Luckily this site has hot showers, which we made great use of. It was a little late to hit the local pool.

Traffic was not horrible, but still busy. We actually had a rideable shoulder for some of the ride. We’ve rarely had that in Iceland. Our next two days will have difficult traffic with narrow shoulders.

As usual, the scenery was amazing: green river valleys, jagged mountain ranges, farmland — beautiful.

Today, more than usual, we saw several cyclists going the other way. We played leapfrog with one cyclist going our way and ended up sharing fries with him at a stop. He was from the Netherlands and headed to the interior.

We are staying in a campground in Blönduós. After long hot showers we cooked nice hot soup and ate chocolate almonds. Life is good.

Blönduós to Staðarskáli

We are in the northwestern region of Iceland. We are working our way around to the west coast, and tonight we are within 100 miles of Reykjavik. Strange to think that we are that close to accomplishing our goal.

A word about campgrounds here: It is interesting how so many campers arrive so late. I’m sure some of that is due to basically no night here in the summer months — you can wander and explore all night if you don’t get tired! Sometimes we’ll get into a campground at maybe 7pm and it’ll be fairly empty but by 10pm it is jam packed. Most of the campgrounds (for 2 people for one night) have been between 20 and 35 U.S. dollars.

The day began with some sun and clouds, which was lovely. Later it got cloudier and eventually rained, but rather softly. Generally favorable winds. We have really truly lucked out on this trip when it comes to winds. Today was maybe 10° F warmer than yesterday and that made a huge difference for us.

We had a few sections of road with a rideable shoulder again, which was very nice. In the morning the traffic wasn’t bad, but by evening it was much busier. I thought most of the drivers were accommodating, however. We didn’t get driven off the road or even close today.

Terrain was similar to yesterday: hills, green valleys and farms, and rivers, with some last views of the northern ocean fjords. Beautiful. But we did not have any crazy steep long hills today!! Yesssssss. That felt great. Lots of small ones but none that were painfully steep or long.

We are in a “self-check-in hotel” tonight, in an area not really close to any particular town. The accomodations are old and simple yet clean, and include breakfast. It was very cheap compared to other places we’ve stayed indoors so far. We used a tea kettle to boil water for our backpacking food and ate in the big room where we’ll have breakfast tomorrow. The hotel is full or almost so. This country is so busy with tourists and local vacationers.

We are tired, probably mostly from our longer day yesterday. We have showered, eaten, rehydrated, and hung up all our damp clothing. We will probably sleep well, as has happily been our norm this trip!

Pete’s note: Tomorrow we will climb our last major hill and then descend to a campground a little north of Reykjavik where we will stay one night and then try to figure out how to get our bike on a bus to get through the tunnel to Reykjavik. (Bikes aren’t allowed in this tunnel, and even if they were we probably wouldn’t want to be in it with the traffic….) It is weird to think this part of our adventure is almost over. We’ll do a few tourist things in and around Reykjavik, as our flight home isn’t until next week. We gave ourselves extra time in case the weather set us back. For us, successfully circumventing the country was as much a factor of the weather as anything else. And as Natalie said above, we’ve been super lucky with favorable weather. The biggest surprise has been the traffic, and I think most of our traffic challenges probably involve tourists — some from countries (like the U.S.) that aren’t always bike aware. And it is just one out of a hundred that buzz by too close and too fast — but it just takes one to create a tragedy and our experience is jaded by the few close calls. Every once in a while we have the opposite experience — someone slows all the way down to our pace, passes slowly, and then gives us a thumbs up out the window. It makes us happy for hours. This type of thing applies to so much more than biking. Hats off to everyone in this world who goes out of their way, often with small gestures, to make the world better for others.

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!

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.

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.

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.