The rainy days of Norway, cool days, the aire scented by the mantel of pine and spruce, clouds wisping’n wreathing around mountain tops like the dragons of Norse myth. And a fat guy on a bicycle rides thru the middle of it like a character out of a Farside cartoon. That’s Life behind Bars, part 2.
I am not actually oblivious to the beautiful scenery that has surrounded my “almost” every pedal stroke, with the huge granite mountains that grind the countryside into tiny valleys, dotted with small farms and cottages. The classic Norse home is either barn red with white trim or a black with white trim motor. You could paint 75% of most buildings with those colors, and farms steady here are immaculately maintained….wow, it’s really kind’a unbelievable.
Trondhiem, my landing place, place of disembarcation to points south. Lay at the mouth of a fast flowing river where it empties into waters of the North Atlantic. Boats are as common a vehicle here as are cars. A clean and bustling city, Trondheim, sort of a jumping off place for a lot of Norwegian adventures. The Lofoten Islands lay north along the rugged coast, still further north in Thomson and further yet lay the starting point of adventures like that of hiking to the North Pole, or simply seeing life of the Lapp’so above the Artic Circle. I cycled out following the river due south, cycling the opposite direction of the waters flow. An unseen point here, meaning that you are actually riding uphill more or less all the time.
Made it as far as Soknedal that first day. Don’t forget, I am up in the latitudes where sunset is very late, so it’s easy to ride right into a 12 or 14 hour day and not even realize it…….and I did. I should have stopped back about Stores, but it was so light I just kept pressing on. next day was just ride up thru a morass of constant water falls. some huge falling hundreds of feet, others equally as elegant but wherected divided at Thierry birth by rocks and cliffs so that they fell in multiple white foaming channels. equally as splendid against a backdrop of verdant green. Gulp, I take another drink. and another…….all the while thinking, how keel it is I can fill a bottle anywhere.
God however has other plans. Up up up we go, like the stairs way to heaven song, and as we are cycling along on a constant rising road and we have more hill below us that we do above us……a few realities then set in. 1, it’s sunny out and 65………why does much nose feel like it’s been left in the toaster oven, matter of fact…..yikes look at those bare arms they be like LOBSTER arms. What the heck is going on here, how do you sunburn at this temp.?…….closers to the sun you get melted quicker. Well the grease off the pork rind around my belt line made good dressing for the leather Brooks B17 saddle I ride. I take another drink……do I got a leak??????? Nope, no leak, just one bottle left out of all those bottles I carry. I only filled 2 smalls, and a partial of 1 big………..”heck there be water every place here in Norway”. Lazy, careless, it got me.
I babysat about 4oz of water for the next part of the day, knowing that right around the bend there would be a waterfall, a wet Muskox track………would a Circle K too much to ask for? I had ridden out on top of a high mountain plateau, all the waterfalls and fast flowing water lay behind me. What was in front of me now we’re stagnant pools and streamers, to slow to be trusted for a drink. Still snowbound hills surround me on all sides, the only trees are what look like stunted birches. So, I do as directed, place a couple rocks in my mouth so my tongue stays busy making saliva ( I don’t think any of the rocks had COPPER in them- they just be rocks). And pedaled my bike thru the constantly undulating countryside of the Oppdal Plateau. This plateau is home to the largest herd of Muskox (do you think there is a chance that this tablet was formerlly owned by Merle Haggard……everytime I try to type in muskox it tries to insert Muskogee) on this continent, and if I read right the herd is larger than that of Canada. Not sure, cause I didn’t see any. It was not because I was cycling to quickly……oh contrary, at my speed I could have seen them calve and wean. Dang I am too dry to spit……wonder if I can PEE. Yup, same color as a Valencia Lemon…….I ain’t a doctor, but I know that ain’t good.
Big mistake 2, was letting my water desire over rule my “what the heck instinct”….that’s the same instinct tells a coyote that somethingthings that sounds like a dying RABBIT, but is wearing a ball cap…….AIN’T……that’s a classic “what the heck instinct”. Off to my left lay a pretty big, fast moving river………maybe 700 yards out and nothing but “grey…….what the heck is that”, and what looks to be grass between. Thirst will always overrule wisdom. Off the tarmac I roll and stay on gravel as far as I am able till I hit the GREY and dismount to push the bike down this gentle hill…….crunch, crunch, crunch……taco chip sounds, yet I am still thinking, maybe cheetohs……crunch. What the heck, I am sinking maybe 6 to 8 inches in this stuff, dang it’s hard to push this bike…….gott.a get water…….push, push, grunt , farther, think a lot about swearing…..push more and finally I am down about 150 feet from my starting point. Wowza, let’s have a lot
Closers look at this stuff…….so that’s what tundra looks like. Well, at least I am at the grass part of my journey. Dang I am dry, I need another rock to chew, I just swallowed mine.
Stepped right out I did, into that grass and sunk in pure mud, ooze and Muskox poop in mud, up past mid shin before I even knew it. And I am so dry I can’t even lick it off, and no water to wash it off iether. This is going to make a mess of my white Irish linen pillow case. It took me another hour at least to carry all the bags and my bike back up to the top. I was so knackered, I just went sleep after I ate a medule date. Got up in the morning, my tongue was so thick I could even understand myself…..I thought for a moment God had blessed me with the gift of tongues an I was speaking Fluent Norwegian.
About 5 miles down the road and I found a stream of water moving fast enough I could trust it. Plus, I had crossed the actual divide in that span, the water had changed direction as well. I loaded up till the crik was running dry an fish were flopping begging for water. Tongue began to work, oratory controls sent out actual word messages the brain seemed to understand. I spit out 8 rocks….guess I must have picked up an expecting female along the way. The Norwegian word for Muskox is “dovra”, and I was coming off dovra plateau headed down into a fertile river valley. It was quite a sight for the 500 or so yards that I could now see as fog and rain came my way as I descended.
The next two days may have been the ones that done me the harm to body and spirit. Hit the valley bottom wearing my new Fell raven hooded rain jacket feeling like I was wearing armor……found out that it didn’t repel a drop of water it sacked it up and by the bottom of the hill I was totally drenched. WTH=WELL THANK HEAVENS…….what did you think it meant? I reached in my panniers for my dependable Showers Pass suit. Kept on riding down a gorgeous Valley, slowly the rain let up, and clouds retreated the thier high ground lair to advance upon us another day. Maybe 20 miles riding and then a hard right heading up once again. Camped in the midst of some trees, pretty high up, made a cup of super sweet tea and hit the bag by 6.30pm, slept like a dead man till 7am and rolled out on an empty gut. Just kept pedaling up, and around, and up some more, WTH,,,,,,,where’s the top of this beast. Dang it’s getting cold as the trees begin to stunt and weed out to nothing. 2 pair of pants, all 3 of my jackets, but my fingers are the worst part. I had bought a cheap pair of heavy gloves to help with the cold……but there’s a little tricky to gloves made in China. You have 2 choices, you can just were them till they rot off…or you can ride till you feel secure that all weather ahead requires a bikini and not winter gloves. You see once you are sweated up, you pull those babies off and the lining comes right out with the hand. And unless you have worked in a circus, or have hands the size of a Mandarin Maiden, you and God himself could not jam that lining back in place and still get the gloves on. 3-4 feet of snow lay on the top, tour busses with hordes of camera bearing tourists jammed the narrow bitumen rivulets that we all had to share. Bier stolen was my sign and my only inspiration for that few hours in time. I KNEW IF I could make it there, I would slay the draggin…..my butt was dragging, I meant dragon.
Thru the top of a craggy rocky pass I slid, just a foot of space between myself and the buss I passed. He was making a left and I had just caught a gear sending me off the top of this windswept moons cape and hurtling headlong into the valley below. I quite literally almost coasted the next 40 miles, several places I actually had to really ride the brakes so as not gain to much speed. Road was very rough from frost, and heavy rigs like the busses, no shoulder, and tour busses full of folks as anxious to end the day as was I. After about 15 miles of descent we had logging trucks added to this mix jus to make it more exciting. I rolled right on thru Bier stolen where I had intended to stop and just rode the downhill in bliss. Hit Gold at the near bottom and made a righthand towards Geilo. Ack…….it’s UP A RIVER VALLEY. I hate this type of Valley ride, plus the wind was ripping me to shreds….Strait on head wind about 15 – 20 mile hour worth. 10 more miles answer I called it a day5pm it’s enough.
Rained that night, got up early enough, rolled up the tent and made out for Geilo. Another narrow road, no shoulders. At the least the traffic was not super heavy. About 25 miles and you hit Holiday. There you make a hard left, cross a small river and FART…….yes you farther. It just feels like the road goes strait up as soon as you cross the river. I was now riding uphill in he gentle Norwegian rain so typical here, in a rain suit. You bet I smelled like a goat. About the third turn up that hill and I knew I needed grub. Pulled over among some trees, whipped out my gear, made a cup of tea had a cheese sandwich and some salami……..and a second cup of tea. Rode into Geilo about 10.30am, headed strait for Geilo Hotel and my waiting package……oops. Not there yet…..5 days more waiting till it arrives. Spent 2 notes in the hotel, the others I Camped out in the trees around Geilo.
Left Geilo in a tempest of ominous cloud and pouring rain, I had made the Geilo Hotel my headquarters if you will, didn’t sleep there every night, but hung out thru the day. Got to know Kennett the manager quite well and have to say that they made the layover in Geilo very tolerable. But, it’s time to leave and what comes next will disappoint some. My route from Geilo was over 3 passes to the west and hit the coast at Larvick. But sore knees and advice from locals convinced me to handle things differently. To begin with, I was going to take a Ferry from Larvick over to Denmark. But that was a once a week ferry crossing, miss that and you sorta hurting. Plus the way my knees have been feeling, flatter ground has a certain appeal ( everyone needs a little bit of Saskatchewan once in awhile ). The hang up in Geilo was JW waiting for his new tablet to arrive. Once it came, the download of apps and link with my phone all had to be done. By just after midnight we had all that done as good as this non tech whiz is concerned. I don’t have FB yet, and maybe that’s not all bad cause Zuckerberg has a disdain for my guns, may be good to short him of my news feed…….okay, okay, that’s a bit of a finger in the eye thinking I admit.
So, we back tracked approx. 135 miles and took a morning train to Oslo…….yes it rained hamsters and pigeons all the entire way ( I gave the cats and dogs a rest…..they were already soaked from previous rain descriptions ) Dang, this is some kinda wet piece of country that be for sure. I actually enjoyed seeing it thru a large window sitting on the train. I know, that makes me a capital weanie!!! OSLO, was rather a cloudy, rain speckled blur, as I disembarked and made my way to street level with my bike. Tied all my bags back onto the old girl, looking closer to a homeless vagrant with each day of being away. Found Starbacjvargenstrata, and heck I was off………to the next National Geo Spelling Bee, which was Langervackenstrata. Jones, Smith, Maple, and never forget Oak?………I say to my Norwegian friends, what the heck is wrong with these words. Plus you could build 2 extra ships a year with the metal saved on signs alone.
I made my way to the Stena Ferry Terminal, which is less than a mile from central train station, which is also less than ½ mile from the train station. From that perspective it seems the Euro,s have that part figured better than we do. In California the train ditches passengers in an empty car lot in Bernardino, the bus routes ends 5 miles past where and ambulance dare go, and without a Versace handbag you not allowed within sight of the cruise line port…….welcome to USA. Now I am griping, but to a greater extent that gripe is true. I arrived in the terminal just as 8 buses of Korean tourists hit……..wowzers, my life got turned upside down in about 20 seconds. I had them stuck in my spokes, caught one bedding down inside my rear pannier…….it was total chaos for about and hour till they all got the March orders and headed to there boat. Just settling dust and whisks of paper still airborne, and me, sitting there waiting to get a ticket and some semblance of normalcy. Stood in line to get the bike ready for the ferry, and got totally soaked so I quit the line I was told to wait in and sought shelter. Ended up meeting a tour group of kids, about 16 in all. They are headed to Denmark for a week of cycling for the last week of school, grade 8 group. Nice bunch of kids it seemed to me.
For 40 dollars more, I got a cabin down on the poverty deck instead of a chair to sit in upstairs. You are not allowed to sleep out on the deck as I did crossing from Croatia to Italy, so a cabin may be a good thing seeing that it’s a 12 hour trip. My apologies to my friend Par Karlberg, in cycling terms I am so close but so far. Pretty sure that I am not going to make it over that far. Par, I recall your stories about how hard it is to put up good hay for horses. I can totally understand whY that is the case now that I have been here. As we say out west Par….. “ it soaks to be you”.
Offloaded the ferry from Oslo after 12 hours of cruising. I AM NOT a boat person, give me a desert sunset and a lawn hair to receive in my retirement years. Too much water is not good for the soul of a man. Donned my rainout soon as I left the boat it was needed, hit the streets of Fredrickshavin Denmark aching for some sunshine and greeted by a pelting rain. Anyways on a bright note…….it’s just like the Norwegian fella told me it was….flat’asa penkake, Nutting to see down that plase. Actually I think my left knee wants to move to Denmark……right knee still doesn’t like fish. We put in about 65km on the cranks and was passing thru a small Danish town of Flemhockin…..or similar. Smelled something unusual in the air and followed much old factory gland to its source. PETERS Fisk, a fish monger selling hot wares right on the street. So I had a freshly deep fried fish ball made of mackeral…….burned my tongue and tasted like fish…..everything normal except the tongue burning. I asked for something I could take with me, very traditional, he sold me a smoked Hake. I had it for supper, and wow was it good. Rode on thru Arlborg without incident or issue. Time to get a few more miles behind me still plenty
I mailed home a little over 6 pounds of stuff I felt I could do without, it’s not a cure from what ails me, but it seems to have helped. I also rearranged how I load the bike and that has made a big difference for sure. Much heavier over the hind wheel and much lighter front end, I am having less steering issues on hills now. Before, it was pretty iffy when struggling up a steep hill and riding in a lower gear. At that point it seemed much safer to walk beside the bike.
Put in a total of about 125km on the pedals and found a place to bed down for the night, in among a spruce Grove on the side of the road. Just me a 50 bazillion wood ants the great big buggers that don’t bite but all carry a piece of wood about the size of a telephone pole. I left them alone, and they done the same. We lived in harmony this night. Up late and headed out, nothing for breakers, my bread finally has mold on it. Need to hit a danish bakery and buy bread and butter both. Anyways I pedaled up the next hill and quickly threw on the rain gear as I could watch a wall of rain March my way. It never quit all day. Passing thru Renders, I spotted a joint offering free WiFi, so I stopped and had coffee. Been having issues with my new S8 phone, can’t connect to anything it seems. Ready to toss it in. A lake and begin using Postal again. Played with enough settings I could finally make a call home to Mom. While sitting there it came a Texas type downpour…….so I sat a while longer. Made a run for it about 4.30 and made it about 5km before another drenched hit me. Set the tent up in the rain, and get a wet bed. That’s what I have tonight. So I sit here typing this in word and will copy over to wordpress when I get a chance. Second night in Denmark, another very wet one……tent and body inside are getting just a TAD ripe……will need a wash day soon for everything. Gotta find some of those small scented candles, they are what I used last trip, and they worked great for making everything smell like “Camelmeal & Sweat”, my two favorite smells. Headed for Argus and another short ferry over to Sjelland pronounced “zelland” and into Copenhagen a place I have wanted to take my wife for years…..only she won’t be with me for this stint. May we all be Blessed by our gracious a loving God.