Sunday, July 27, 2003


Friends: I arrived yesterday afternoon at the Blonduos Tourist Office by the town campground at 1:42, twenty minutes before Lance was due in the starting gate for his thirty-mile time trial which would determine the outcome of the Centenary Tour de France.  (Its not the 100th, as there were ten years during the two World Wars when it was not contested.)

But this Tourist Office was one of the few that did not have a computer for tourists, just staff.  Another such Tourist Office had a similar arrangement, but let me check in on The Race, so I wasn't quite ready to slit my wrists.  I told the woman on duty how eager I was to learn the outcome of The Race, which should be decided around three, and could I just have a minute at the computer then.  She said that would be okay.

That was just barely okay with me, but I was happy to settle for that.  I had been in high anticipation all day awaiting this moment and now I had to wait another eighty minutes.  At least it would give me time to eat, to really load up, so I could be well fueled to ride another fifty miles or so after the race. I'd already come 43 miles, which included a six-mile climb up to 1,500 feet, one of the longer climbs of these travels.

I'd had an even higher one yesterday, just the second I've come across here that posted the height of the summit at the start of the climb.  It was 540 meters, an ant hill compared to those 5,000 meter climbs in Bolivia, but still an hour of sustained effort in my lowest gear.  Just over the summit was another of those bright orange emergency huts. It was easily seen,  but there was a sign right along the road with an arrow pointing towards it.  It also gave a distance of 45 meters, as in white-out conditions it couldn't be seen.  I've been in near white-outs here thanks to fog and low-lying clouds, but no true white-out. In the winter with driving snow-storms and the dark, true white-out conditions can occur any time.

It was 7:15, near quitting time. I was tempted to take advantage of it, but preferred to push on.  From the summit I had a nice six-mile descent into a vast river valley. The pedaling was so pleasant I contemplated continuing on to within thirty miles of Blonduos and the Internet, the same distance Lance would be riding in  the day's time trial, so we could compare times, but the unexpected climb had depleted me.  It wouldn't be a fair comparison, he with his aerodynamic helmet and skin suit and super-light bike, and me with my baggy clothes and fenders catching the wind, not to mention my sixty pounds of gear.  He'd manage those thirty miles in less than an hour.  I'd be lucky to do it in less than twice his time.

When I decided to call off the race fifteen miles before that thirty mile mark, I began looking for a place to camp after the terrain flattened out.  Before long I saw a solid-walled corral for horses that was about as high as my tent a couple of hundred yards off the road.  I gave it a look and discovered it was overgrown with weeds and was dung-free, perfectly suitable.  It was wind-protected as well as sheltered from the road, not that it mattered.  I have on occasion seen tents pitched a little ways off the road with no pretense of trying to be discreet.  Camping just anywhere is accepted practice here.  But this was the first night that someone did come upon me as I camped wild.  About two in the morning I heard the clomping of a bunch of horses and the chatter of several Icelandic cowboys.  Could they possibly be rustlers out at this hour or just some pokes working late?  I didn't feel any alarm, just charm at this moment.  They doubtlessly noticed me, but just moved on.

Later, George

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