Cake And Stables

Burrowed into the too-small guesthouse bed, I dreamed I was back home in Oakland, listening to the cars growling around me as I made my morning commute. I woke up long enough to realize I was hearing different vehicles starting up in the parking lot and trundling away, one after the other. I jammed in an earplug and got another couple of hours.

The shower rooms were empty by the time I rolled out of bed. I washed off two days of grit and then went hunting for breakfast, which I found in the restaurant next to the guesthouse. Two entire meals disappeared into my stomach. On the way out I purchased some chips, a few candy bars, and a big chunk of chocolate cake wrapped in plastic, for a midday calorie boost and because WHY NOT! I can eat WHAT I WANT!!

I imagined my gut as it usually was back home: Constantly topped off with energy, concerned mostly with digesting what few extra nutrients I needed for a single day’s activity. A slice of cake drops in. Most of that cake is pure energy, easily burned as fuel, and mostly ignored by my own body. Other creatures burn it for me. The ecosystem in my gut fills with bacteria that enjoy it. Other bacteria, ones that I might prefer to thrive for the vitamins they produce, are lost in the crowd.

Then I imagined my gut on this trip through Iceland: An endless whirlpool, draining all the calories out and always wanting more. An identical slice of cake drops in. The energy disappears into the walls, into my bloodstream, and is sucked out of that into my liver and muscles. If there are sugar-loving bacteria around, they grow for a while, but always find their favorite resource has totally vanished during the journey through my digestion. Other bacteria have more room to do their work.

I wondered if I would go back to my calorie-rich ways after the trip. How long would it take me to forget what it actually feels like to be hungry, and substitute that feeling for mere boredom, or stress, or a less-than-full stomach, or social opportunity?

I couldn’t tell. I made a note to myself, to try and write a basic outline of my relationship with food when I got back to “regular life,” whenever and wherever that was.

The road continued down, but didn’t have any more terrifying drops. Eventually it drew in close to a river, and I spent a pleasant few hours following that in a light rain.

Following the river.

Then I had to stop and look at a super-cool preserved building!

I can't tell if the houses are still in use.

Dig this turfy awesomeness!

As I approached the door I noticed the layer of corrugated aluminum integrated with the traditional roof. A mix of old and new.

Not built to last a long time, but renewable at least.

I also got a close look at the lichen scattered along the exposed lumber. “How funny,” I thought. “When I toured through Hobbiton four years ago, I saw the same colors on the woodwork, but in that case they were applied with yogurt, wood chips, vinegar, and paint.

In Hobbiton I saw this exact texture recreated with art supplies.

The interior was even darker and dirtier than I’d been expecting, mostly because this structure was never intended to be human-habitable:

A room for the orderly feeding of sheep, insulated from storms and cold.

A few modern materials augmenting the interior.

Welcome, people and sheep!

Another modern touch: An actual glass window!

Hobbiton, anyone?

A couple in an RV was parked nearby, finishing up their lunch. I waited a few minutes while they cranked their machine to life and drove away, then I took a pee break behind one of the houses and chomped a candy bar. That plus an audiobook about materials science kept me pedaling for another hour or so. The road drifted gently down and I got a nice bit of speed going, then I scooted around a corner and saw a bridge ahead of me, crossing the river I’d been following the entire day. Just beyond the bridge was a turnout, then the road launched aggressively up a hill on the other side. “Okay, here’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of the afternoon,” I said.

I zoomed onto the bridge, skipped past the turnout, and then cranked furiously until I was out of breath, which got me about a tenth of the way up the hill. My speed dropped to almost nothing and I began another of those touring-cyclist pack-animal ascents, putting one foot in front of the other, staying just on the edge of balance. The air was great, the view was pleasant, and the audiobook was amusing.

Halfway up I took a long break, and ate the most delicious slice of chocolate cake I’ve had in all of Iceland:

This was the most delicious roadside snack of the entire trip.

This delicious thing right here, is why I’ll never be a top athlete, or achieve my dream of modeling underwear for a living*. I’m always caught between two forces: There’s the steady weight loss that comes with constant exercise, and how I like what it does to my body, and on the other hand there’s the way even ordinary food tastes absolutely amazing when your whole body is really hungry. It makes the pleasure of eating twice as hard to resist.

( *Not my actual dream. )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *