Iceland retrospective

Bilbo never set foot in Bag End again. Neither did I.

When I got back to the Bay Area I moved my possessions into a sublet — a second-story victorian flat with lots of windows, only a few blocks from my house. The tenants I’d rented my place to carried right on renting it. I really didn’t want to move back in there.

I pictured myself, walking into the bedroom of that old apartment at the end of the first day, laying down – probably on my unrolled sleeping bag – and looking at the ceiling, and being seized with a gut-wrenching mixture of panic and disgust, as all the old memories of being in that place crowded forward from my past and trampled on my wonderful memories of Iceland, crushing the life out of them. I was determined to avoid that.

It was a very good decision. As I write this, the sublet has been running for six months, and one month remains. I’ve been working, writing, re-assessing the long-term view of my life, and also hosting my eldest nephew as he lives away from his parents for the first time. I’ve reconnected with family and most of my friends, and done a lot of dating — carefully at first, then with increasing confidence. And that has led to a good place as well.

I made a presentation of my Iceland journey at work, which was fun. I put together a slide show, and now I bust that out whenever a friend or relative wants to hear the story. They often comment on how green and fresh the countryside looks. They also like the sheep and birds and horses.

Life is good for an Icelandic horse.

Lookin' for snacks

Every time I go through the slideshow I re-live the trip a little. I remember how the people were kind and gracious, the air was clean, and every day led to a new discovery. But … six months later, you know what I miss most about Iceland? The fish.

Some days when I’ve been exercising and I feel a bit hungry, my stomach stomps upstairs into my brain and bellows, “MORE OF THAT ICELANDIC FISH. WHERE IS IT?

I’m trying to save money for the next trip, which is coming soon, and I’m struggling with that because there are taxes to pay and lots of house projects to do. Icelandair keeps sending me emails with promotional prices for flights to Iceland, and whenever I see one, my stomach says, “Forget about saving! Just go back there and stuff me full of that fish!!”

It’s very silly. Half of the appeal of that fish was due to the exercise I was getting, and the calorie and protein deficit I ran every day. I know that abstractly. But my stomach is too dumb.

The Gear

Looking back there isn’t a single thing I would change about the gear I brought. It was fantastic, especially the inflatable tent. I set it up and took it down around two dozen times, often in bad lighting conditions, and it was effortless and quick. It stood up in the wind, it didn’t leak, it didn’t get too hot or cold, and it didn’t weigh much more than a tent of similar size.

Tent all spread out, ready to inflate.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under attached tarp. That red mark is the taillight, visible through the fabric.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under, from a different angle.
You can see my hack job here, where I ziptied a tarp to the side of the tent. From a distance it almost looks like it was designed this way...
Set up in less than 5 minutes, and ready for snoozles!
Another fine setup, tucked into a corner.
Set up in the corner of the campground, for maximum wind blockage.
Had to pitch on a bit of an incline to avoid the mud, but the night only cost 6 dollars.
The tent, tucked into a nice corner of the Búðardalur campground.
Striking camp. Takes about five minutes!
I do enjoy being able to keep the bike out of the rain.
Snug as a bug.
Gotta have my morning music!

Starting with the tent in a compression sack, I could get it staked down and inflated, then get my gear inside and the bike covered, in about five minutes. I sometimes daydream about going on another bicycle camping trip just so I can use that tent.

Here’s a short list of problems I had on past trips but didn’t have to worry about this time:

  • Non-waterproof bags soak up rainwater which adds a massive amount of dead weight to your bike until they dry.
  • Generators can charge devices but it’s always slower than you’d like. Their true utility is in removing headlights entirely from the power equation, and making it so your headlights never die. This may save your life, several times over.
  • Braking with V-brakes and hitting a pothole at the same time on a heavily loaded bike can crack your rim. With disc brakes this is not an issue.
  • In a high wind, your bike may pitch over while you’re camping. If your bike is covered this isn’t a problem. You can also tie it upright with a guyline and a few stakes. A velcro strap is also handy for holding down one of your brake handles so the bike doesn’t roll. (Don’t use a tightly wound rope or a rubber band, or the high pressure will rapidly stretch your brake cables.)
  • A partially broken rack or a rack with one bolt missing is repairable if you detect it quickly. If you don’t, you will soon discover a completely broken rack, which is not repairable. Inspect your rack at least every other day. If the bolt ends stick out far enough, consider putting lock nuts on them so they don’t unwind on the road.

Clothing

I was also pleased with the clothing I packed for this trip. Here’s a short list:

  • One pair of jeans
  • A swimsuit
  • One pair of sweats
  • Four pieces of underwear
  • Three pairs of wool socks
  • Two short-sleeved shirts
  • Two long-sleeved shirts
  • A thick wool sweater
  • Some pajamas (wool top, cotton pants, thin socks)
  • A Hawaiian shirt (for fun)
  • Two thick bandanas
  • A wool cap
  • A cotton bucket hat

For rain I packed:

  • A pair of waterproof socks
  • “Gore Tex” rain pants
  • A “Gore Tex Pro” jacket
  • A waterproof rain hood
  • Thick waster resistant gloves
  • A waterproof balaclava

When I could find a clothes washer (almost impossible on this trip) I washed everything cold in one load, with the exception of the wool sweater and the rain gear. Usually I had to wash clothes in the shower or the sink of a hotel room, then hang them to dry near the radiator. That worked pretty well in the dry Iceland air. No issues with mold.

And of course I can’t forget the bike, Valoria.

Pausing on an uphill

Yeah, I spend a lot of time spinning on hills rather than powering up them like some cycle tourists do. But the comfort! The panoramas! The safety of never going over the handlebars! The dashboard!

All in all it was a massive success and I’m excited for the next adventure. Onward!