Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Steinkjer, Norway

Friends: And then the rains came, and but good. This is day five of some sort of rain or another. Mostly its just been a misty, murky, drizzly rain that I know all too well from my two summers in Alaska, but I've had some good soakers as well. I was pelted by a sudden downpour on the final mile of a five-mile climb. At least I was well heated from the exertion of the climb. But the steep descent was wasted and was a tad perilous as I had to hold back my speed and brake for five miles--almost harder on the wrists than on the legs coming up. It was steep enough climbing and descending that a truck was spraying sand on the road to give motorists better traction. I don't know if it helped me or not, other than perhaps soaking up whatever oil that sometimes seeps out of the pavement with the rain.

The worst rain came the next day Sunday as I was bicycling through a narrow valley on a one hundred mile stretch called "The Wilderness Way." A billboard pronounced it one of the least polluted areas of Europe. The same could be said for the last thousand miles I've biked. It was more glorious unspoiled scenery. If it were plopped down somewhere more easily accessible, it would be heralded as one of the premier bicycle rides anywhere. The terrain was lush and the forest thick. There was an occasional farmstead and piles of logs along the road waiting to be picked up. But since this was off the coast a bit following another river, it didn't offer the dramatic fjord-like scenery that is synonymous with Norway.

The road up to Nordkapp has a 300-mile gap between the fjord scenery. The Norwegians are so proud of their fjords the person dispensing advice at a tourist office a couple hundred miles back feared I would be so bored by gap that he suggested I head over to Sweden as I approached it. I continued on and could still find plenty to enjoy in the less striking scenery. The most illustrious of the fjords is south of Trondheim after I head over to Sweden. I don't need spectacular scenery to have a great ride.

I was having a delightful spin despite an overcast sky and a slight incline. It turned even more delightful after I crossed a divide and had a gradual 50-mile descent along another river. But again, as I neared the crest, the air grew misty and cold. After about an hour it turned to a light drizzle and out came the poncho. Then it became a significant drizzle. This was my third day of rain. No spell has lasted much more than an hour or two, but I could see down the valley it was well socked in with clouds and there wasn't much of a breeze to clear them out. It was getting late in the afternoon and there were no towns for a while. At least the slight decline didn't demand too much exertion, enabling me to ride longer without having to eat or rest. I was rationing out just enough effort to stay warm.

But after three hours I was beginning to grow tired and hungry and I could feel the bonk lurking, waiting to pounce. When I came to a campground I swung in at least for some shelter and to eat a bit. No one was at the registration cabin, so I just sat there and ate and watched the puddles hoping they'd stop being splattered. I'd glance at the occasional car hoping that the rain had let up enough for them to have their wipers on intermittent. The rain would momentarily relent but then pick up again. After 20 minutes I was starting to shiver. It was 5:30, a little too early to quit. I went back at it hoping I might be able to outrun the rain--wishful thinking I knew, but sometimes wishes are granted. Not this time.

I continued to get soaked for the next two hours. When I came to the next camp ground, I relented, but before registering I checked to make sure there was ground solid and unsoggy enough for my tent. It was a campground of some quality with unlimited hot water in the showers and also a hand drier and a warm dining area I could hang out in. There were RV'ers, but no one approached me nor intruded upon the dining room with all my gear scattered about trying to dry. It was still raining when I went to bed at ten. The rain kept me on my bike so long trying to stay warm, I had my first 100 mile day in a week.

It stopped raining some time during the night. I set out under a heavily overcast sky that threatened to burst into rain at any moment. It had turned cold. It was my first four layer day. And then when the rain resumed in mid-morning my poncho made it a five layer day. Its been two more days of intermittent rain. I try to hold off putting on my poncho as long as possible, although I've discovered I can sometimes put a halt to the rain by putting on my poncho. I am only 50 miles from the point where I turn west to Sweden and can escape the coast and hopefully its wetness. Its less than 700 miles to Stockholm, not too far after having come over 2,000 miles.

Later, George

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