Thursday, June 21, 2001

Honningsvag, Norway

Friends: And again I'm lucky to find a small town library with a free Internet station for a few minutes. I'm twenty miles from road's end. I have come 58 miles so far today. At least ten of those miles have been through tunnels, one of four-and-a-half miles and two of two-and-a-half miles. The longest was under the ocean, and the only one with a toll--$15 for cars, but free for bicyclists. It plunged down a nine per cent grade for a mile-and-a-half, leveled off for the same distance, and then climbed out at the same steep grade. It was a bit of a strain, especially contending with the lingering fumes. My head felt as oxygen-deprived as I have at 15,000 feet in the Andes.

The air was frigid. My breath was gushing out in billowing clouds. I feared hitting a patch of ice. My concerns were relieved, however, when I met a French cyclist coming from the opposite direction. He assured me the road was ice free. The first long tunnel I encountered I wasn't prepared for how cold it would be.  I declined to stop and put on my jacket, plunging straight in with bare arms. When I emerged from the tunnel, my arms were numb. After that experience I stop and put on a jacket.  The sun is still shining bright for the third straight day.  The air is cold, but when in the direct sun it doesn't seem so cold. I am riding in shorts as well as a short-sleeved shirt, but also with a vest. There are patches of snow along the road. If the breeze blows off the cold water of the ocean, there is a distinct strong chill from the polar air.

I am not sorry in the least that I must double back eighty miles on this road, as it has been spectacularly beautiful. The road climbs and winds in and out and up and over one inlet after another, some as long as a mile. There is so little traffic, the road at times narrows to one lane. The road is in great shape except for one five-mile stretch of construction.

Despite the trek of tourists up this route, there were no cafes or tourist amenities for sixty miles. Since I camped a few miles beyond the last town last night, I was running low on water. I was drinking out of my reserve third water bottle for the first time. It had been five days since I'd replaced the water in it, so it wasn't the most pleasant tasting. But miraculously, after the long tunnel under the ocean, for the first time since I started bicycling in Helsinki over 1,000 miles ago, I came upon a rest area with running water. It was cold and clear and fresh, the best tasting water I've ever drunk.

No word on if there will be any festivities at Nordkapp tonight commemorating the Solstice. It is the biggest holiday of the year in Scandinavia with bonfires and dancing and drinking and much hoopla. If there is noise and commotion, I may be able to stay awake until midnight and see the sun out over the ocean.

Looking closer at the map plotting my return to Stockholm for my flight home, I noticed one upcoming stretch of 292 kilometers that takes up the same amount of space on the map as another stretch of 74 kilometers thanks to the severe twists and climbs in the road along the coast. I am much further from Stockholm than I realized. I will be spending a little more time on my bike than I anticipated. That's almost something to be excited about.

Later, George

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