So you want to stay longer in Iceland?

I get it. It’s a neat country. Also, if you get a visa extension for Iceland, you can travel all around the Schengen area with it.

It’s possible to apply for an extension without entering Iceland, by going through a consulate where you live. For example, back in my home near San Francisco, the Icelandic government has outsourced all their visa procedures to a company called VFS Global (on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York.)

If you look online for “reviews” of that place, they are uniformly horrible. Calling them on the phone is a nightmare, and their website is glitchy. If you choose to deal with them you will be stepping directly into a bureaucratic swamp. That means you need to have everything perfectly prepared in advance, know their own rules better than they do, and never, ever be late for an appointment or a deadline by even a few seconds. Hooray!

I didn’t really want to put myself through that, especially knowing that the process could be derailed or delayed randomly, so I went looking for an alternate approach. I’m a US citizen, so your own needs may vary, but perhaps you’ll find this information useful.

Here is the Icelandic government’s official visa extension page, in English.

I didn’t plan to live permanently in Iceland, but I did have a job I could work remotely, so the best I could do was a “Long-term remote work” visa. That would extend my standard 90-day Schengen time, by tacking another 90 days onto the end of it.

It’s possible to travel around the rest of the Schengen area with this visa, but there’s a catch: You can only do that for a maximum of 90 days. So the idea is, the “remote work” visa gives you up to 90 additional days to stay exclusively in Iceland, during which your Schengen time isn’t depleted.

So if you want, you could spend all 180 days in Iceland, or you could spend 90 days in Iceland followed by 90 days somewhere else — France for example. But what you can’t do, is spend 89 days in Iceland followed by 91 days in France. That’s 1 day over the Schengen limit.

Since my plan was to cross Iceland by bike, which would take something like two months, getting this extension was still worthwhile for me.

Here are the conditions you need to meet:

  1. You need to be making at least $8090 a month. That’s pretty steep. It’s like 160k a year before taxes. (Official exchange rate: https://www.cb.is/statistics/official-exchange-rate/ ) That knocks almost everyone out of the running immediately.
  2. You need to have a passport size photo (35mm x 45mm) of yourself taken and printed.
    • Thankfully there are a few conveniently located places where you can get exactly this. There’s one in Egilsstaðir, in the shopping center, next to the Arion banki. You can walk in and walk out a few hours later with three passport-worthy photos.
  3. Applications need to be printed out on physical paper. In this day and age!
  4. You need to include paper photocopies of all the pages of your passport.
  5. You need to include a document confirming that you’re able to support yourself financially during your stay in Iceland.
    • I included a printout of my recent savings statement, showing how much money I had socked away.
    • I also asked my employer to sign a letter declaring that I was employed by them and had permission to work remotely, which I printed out.
  6. You need to purchase health insurance that covers your stay.
  7. You need to pay the application fee of 12.200 ISK (about 100 bucks.) This is done by wiring money directly to the consulate via a branch of their home bank, and then including proof of that payment with the application.
    • Their home bank is called Íslandsbanki.
    • There are multiple branches in Iceland. There’s one near the East coast, in the same town as the District Commissioner of East Iceland.
    • The applicant’s name and date of birth must be included in the subject line of the wire transfer.
    • Once it’s done they will give you a receipt that you can include with your application.
  8. Applications have to be submitted at the Directorate Of Immigration, which is just outside of Reykjavík.

Since the extension can only run for 90 days post-application, you should submit your paperwork as late as possible during your stay, but not so late that the two week evaluation period causes you to overstay your current visa.

The paperwork is out of my hands now.

A word about printing:

Your best bet to get this done at a “print shop”, like this one near the capital city. Don’t rely on finding one in some small town while you’re out and about.

Your income justification letter:

Here’s a template based on the letter I used. Add your company letterhead and address around it, to make it more official.

It’s good manners to ask your employer and then provide them with a pre-made template all ready for their signature, so it’s as easy for them as possible.

September 12, 2021

Directorate of Immigration,

Dalvegur 18, Kópavogur, Iceland

Re: Remote Work No Objection Letter

Dear Sir/Madam

This letter is in reference to ———-, who has been working at ——-, in ———– since October 2nd, 2017. Currently, he receives a salary of ———- per year.

As President and CIO of ——–, I am writing this letter to confirm that ——— has permission to work remotely while traveling through Iceland this year.

——— is paid enough to qualify for the remote work visa extension, and has additional funds set aside.  Accompanying this letter you will find documents that support this.

If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me via phone or email detailed here.

Sincerely,

———–

President / CIO at ———-

(email address)

The results:

In my case, I submitted my paperwork on September 13th at the government office in Egilsstaðir. I got an email from aritanir@utl.is exactly two weeks later on the 27th, asking me when I could come in to their office to obtain my visa.

This was a pretty decent turnaround time for a government office. Unfortunately I had already boarded the ferry boat that would take me out of Iceland, and had no way of returning to the country to appear in person at the office in Reykjavík. I replied to the email asking if there was some way to transmit the paperwork to me electronically, but they did not respond.

So, does it work? Yes, I suppose so. Didn’t do me any good, unfortunately. Without any proof that I could stay longer in the Schengen area than the usual 90 days, I just stuck to my previous plan and flew home in October.

Finding the consulate

Today I woke up with a mission. I knew there was an official immigration building in the capital area, and I wanted to find it and scope it out. The chances of getting anything done without a long-in-advance appointment were almost none, but I felt like physically locating the place was important.

The building is called The Directorate Of Immigration, and it’s at Dalvegur 18, 201 Kópavogur, Iceland. Most of the time they’re open for just five hours a day, from 9:00am to 2:00pm, on weekdays.

But first, breakfast! I marched my bags down to the basement and snuck my bike out through the back door, then picked a bakery at random and scored me a cheese croissant, which I ate while wandering around.

Snacks for the snacking.

Even more snacks, waiting nearby in case you snack the first snacks and still want snacks.

Nice to see that delightful cathedral again, the Hallgrimskirkja. I didn’t think I’d be seeing it a second time in my life. This time I poked around inside.

Personally I think the place could do with some stained glass, but I'm a tasteless American.

Saint Whatshisfacesson.

Very stylish!

I’ve never been a religious person, and I have some complaints about Christianity in particular, so I always feel a bit like an invader when I visit a place like this, as though other people might be able to see my lack of devotion just by reading my expression or posture.

This particular cathedral is also very open and illuminated, which makes me feel a bit vulnerable. Still quite marvelous, of course. But I wonder, how does this reflect on Icelanders? Do they enjoy the stark illumination because they feel relatively little shame or guilt? Does the confession booth get much use? (Actually, I didn’t even see one.) I know they certainly worry a lot, but that’s not the same thing…

Another recumbent tourist? AWESOME.

Back on the street, one block down, I spotted another recumbent! No sign of the rider, though. I wanted to leave a little note, like “Hey nice bike!” but I didn’t have any paper, and besides it would have just creeped them out.

I set out for The Directorate of Immigration on a meandering path, snapping photos and listening to a podcast.

Dude! I played that game as a kid!
Is that kid smoking?
It's bicycle-themed. Therefore I love it.
Dancers and jazz musicians!
Church of Filadelfia??
A sign I can get behind!
This is how the bouncy labyrinth got to Iceland. And it probably made the journey in the hold of that ferry boat on the East coast.

I did eventually find the directorate.

This is what the Directorate of Immigration looks like. They don't make it easy to find.

As I expected, it was appointment-only, but the signs posted outside were informative.

It turns out you can go through the entire visa application process by mail, and you only need to send one package, assuming it has all the correct paperwork inside. You can drop that package off directly at a government office, and there are several to choose from around Iceland. For example, there’s one on the East coast, just over the mountain from Seydisfjordur, called the Sýslumaðurinn á Austurlandi.

With this knowledge in hand, I decided I was going to prepare a visa extension application and submit it on the East coast, after crossing the country. That would give me the maximum time, since the extension can only be granted for the interval of time starting immediately after the application is sent.

From there I rode halfway back to Reykjavík and chomped lunch at a Vietnamese place. It wasn’t great, but it was great for Iceland. I debugged code on the laptop and read up on visa requirements. Then I rode to a nearby copy shop and confirmed they could print stuff from a USB stick. That would be important for putting the application together, which I wanted to do before leaving the capital area. I knew what Iceland was like and I didn’t want to have my plans derailed two months later because I couldn’t find a working printer anywhere for 100 miles.

I rode the rest of the way back to the AirBnB and then detoured to a fancy cafe around the corner.  Their power sockets didn’t work, but I had a decent chunk of battery time.  I attempted to fix an API error for work but made little progress. At the table to my left, three teenage girls were blathering in Icelandic, which sounded like cheerful gibberish to me with English phrases thrown in like, “Yo what the fuck?” and “Aaaanyway”. I had to suppress a grin once or twice.

Later on, at the table to my right, I listened to four girls with American accents, messing with sketchbooks and talking about how cool it is to be staying in Iceland, compared to being “back in the ‘States”.  “There’s just something about this place,” one of them said, a bit breathlessly. “I can’t even define it, but I really like what it is.”

I wanted to turn in my seat and say:  “That thing you sense but don’t know how to describe? That’s what we folks from Oakland would call ‘white privilege’.  You are deeply submerged in it here, at the intersection of Christianity and shipping lanes, far from malaria, racial tension, parasites, and war. Enjoy the fact that – like me – you fit in here without question, despite not knowing a word of the native language.”

It would not have been a helpful thing to say, I know. Not the right context…

I rode back to the house and stowed the bike without trouble, by going through the back door.  I’m learning fast! Straight to my room, and I set up my folding chair, and kept writing code until my work conference.

I also gathered my visa notes together into a useful summary. (As follows.)

Boxes and coffee

Now that the bike was unpacked and ready, I had to deal with the box.

I made some improvements since the last trip. Now the box had crude cardboard end-caps, so I could hold all the little foam bits safely inside. I still had to seal it with tape, but I didn’t need a whole dang roll.

Innermost layer of the box, folded up.

The endcap makes a little holder for foam blocks!

Ready for shipping.

The next step was to get the box shipped out of the country. Like last time, I couldn’t be sure of my eventual destination, so I couldn’t just send it ahead of me. I needed to ship it to someone who could hold onto it for three months or possibly longer, and then be willing to send it somewhere else. This time the (dubious) honor would go to my nephew James.

Last time I thought perhaps DHL had a desk inside the airport itself.  Nope!

Super bonus expert strategy time! I booked a free shuttle ride to take myself and the box over to the airport, but instead of getting out at the airport like a sucker, I asked the shuttle driver to take me directly around to the DHL office one street over, saving me almost an hour of pushing the box around on a pilfered airport trolley. He was fine with it, since I was the only person left in the shuttle.

I would have handed him a cash tip, but I didn’t have any cash yet. Bonus expert strategy failure; boo!

The lobby was closed but a guy came out and started to tell me that the nearest DHL shipment center was quite a ways away. Then he paused mid-sentence, shook his head as if to clear it, and told me to come inside because they could just ship the package there.

He led me back into the rear office, and I sat in a chair by his desk. He opened the website shipping interface on his computer and walked through the forms with me. All around, people were moving boxes and loading up a van, listening to 80’s-era rock music loud on a stereo built into the wall. In about ten minutes they shut the van doors with a bang and it sped out of the loading bay.

My friend clicked the last button on the form and saw that the site intended to charge me 900 dollars to ship an empty box. He hissed in his breath, then without saying a word to me, he put on his earphones and made several phone calls, talking rapidly in Icelandic. During the second call, he leaned his head close to mine and said, “bear with me,” then got up and left the desk for a while, still arguing on the phone.

Eventually he pulled out his earpiece and sat down again. He opened another window on his computer, typed a few things, and presented me with a bill for $450 — cutting the cost right in half.  I had never asked for a discount, and he had no obligation to give one to a wacky foreign tourist like me, but there it was. I could only conclude that charging so much to ship a box was morally offensive to him, and he had the freedom to do something about it, and so he did.

It’s kind of morally offensive to me too, frankly. $900 is a huge amount of money. But on the other hand, I have an object twice the size of the average suitcase, and I’m asking a company to transport it over an ocean about 1/4 of the way around the entire planet, and deliver it right to the front door of a specific house, without damaging it, in less than a week. And I want them to do this without my oversight, while I’m off doing something else, and not screw it up. What’s that supposed to cost?

I admit, if the man hadn’t given me a discount, I would have tried to bargain for one. But I would have eventually accepted the bill no matter what, because I really like my bike, and I really like keeping it safe in this box, and these boxes are really hard to find … and so on. It’s a complicated problem, and I’m lucky there’s even one way to solve it, even if that way is expensive.

It reminds me of what my friend Tavys says about batteries and electricity:

“You have a battery. You have a machine you want to power. But the voltages are different, so you get a converter. You look at the specs and it says you lose 10% of the power from the battery, just to do the conversion. That seems crazy, right? Well, only if you don’t know how complicated the problem is, turning one voltage into another without losing power. And trust me, it’s really complicated. Besides, if you don’t do any conversion, you can’t use the battery at all, and that makes the power loss 100% right? 10% loss is way better than 100%!”

Anyway, while the paperwork printed and he ran my credit card, I applied some additional tape to the box and we chatted about traveling the island and the weather projections. I used all the tape I brought and it still didn’t seem like enough. Another note for next time…

I showed him a picture of the bike. He seemed pleased that I was traveling in a slower way than the usual tourists, and wished me a good journey. I walked over to the airport, then caught the shuttle scheduled at the top of the next hour and rode it back to the hotel. Box handled!

It was now evening – at least according to my watch – and I was hungry, so I visited the cafe I’d grown fond of on the last visit.

Cafe Petite in Keflavik
Excitedly showing me the sketches for the remodel.
The local motto of Cafe Petite
Piggy bank butt! Oink!
My gut says this is Bach or Mozart, but I'm probably wrong.
One of my favorite bands.
Comfy and eclectic.
I just love old maps. Even when they're useless artistic prints on bathroom walls.

No one else was there when I arrived, so I got to chat with the proprietor for a while. He was glad that business was picking up again, and showed me some sketches of plans for a remodel of the cafe. He almost had enough money saved up. He said he could actually make money a bit faster if he put out a tip jar, but had strong feelings against it.

“I think a tip jar is just thievery.  People in Iceland get paid a living wage.  But it’s complicated, because sometimes visitors feel obligated to leave a tip, or the custom is too strong and they feel weird if they don’t.  So I have a jar at the end of the bar there.”

He pointed to a glass jar hidden partway behind a plant.

“But I don’t label it.  Really though, don’t tip.  It’s just businesses taking money for no reason here.  It’s almost stealing.”

“I see what you mean,” I said. “Yeah, I wish it was like that back in the U.S.  Employers can hire someone and pay them very little, because they count on making money from tips.  But then they also take a cut of the tips. That’s just sick.  It’s like, people are trying to be nice, but they’re undermining the need for a living wage. And now they feel like it’s compulsory, with this electronic stuff. You hand out a tip at the beginning of the transaction, before anyone does anything. What kind of sense does that make?”

He nodded. “Yeah.  Also it’s confusing for me when I travel. I was back in the ‘States, and I gave a tip to a waiter who did a really good job.  My friends told me that he doesn’t actually get the money; it goes into a pot and all the waiters get a cut, and also the chef in the back.  It gets split evenly, so…  How do I reward good service?  And if a waiter is doing badly, the other waiters will want to punish them, because they don’t bring in as much tips.  Plus the taxes are different in every state.  I feel bad if I don’t tip, but how much is right?  So, I don’t know.  But there’s two things I tell everyone who comes to Iceland:  One, don’t tip for anything.  And two, don’t buy the bottled water.  The water from the tap is better.  And it hasn’t been sitting in a plastic bottle on a shelf for who-the-eff-knows how long, pardon my language.”

I like this guy.

Mmm. The first of probably many slices of cake.

This time I was ready for the fully electronic payment system. Between 2019 and 2021 it had spread extremely rapidly back home, and was now the default payment method for nearly everything. No hands touching money — perfect for pandemic safety.

I ordered a tasty looking slice of cake, and what I’ve decided to call an Icelandic-style mocha, which is more like an elaborate hot chocolate with coffee mixed in. They call it a “Swiss Mocha.” I ain’t complaining — it’s delicious!

A familiar-looking painting.

There’s that guy again… I suppose it’s time for me to hit the internet and try and figure out who he actually is.

Aha. It’s a painting of a fisherman by a German-born artist named Harry Haerendel. Apparently it’s become popular in a semi-ironic way. “You come to Iceland thinking about stoic old fisherman, yeah? Okay, here he is. The rest of us don’t fish much, but he does.”

After my pie and coffee, I went riding around in search of more substantial food, and came upon a tiny little fish and chips shop:

Room enough to dine in ... For maybe three people!

While I chomped my order inside and away from the wind, I read the little “about us” poster they were displaying on the wall:

The charming story of this tiny Fish And Chips shop.

Across the street I could see a situation unfolding that I’d never seen during my previous visit. A police officer pulling over a motorist.

It's the coppers!!

A little more riding around town and I came upon something I never thought I’d see in Iceland: A vandalized car.

Local hoodlums must have stolen this car and taken it for a joyride?

It's pretty messed up in here. What are the rocks for?

For a brief moment it was just like being back in Oakland. And not in a fun way.

But then I saw something that made me laugh out loud, as I was riding back to the hotel for a nap:

TWIN OLSENS. Get it? GET IT??

I suppose you have to be of “a certain age” now to find it funny that a shop is making an oblique reference to “Olsen twins”. (But it’s not really worth explaining, so if you don’t get it, go poke the internet…)

I crawled into my hotel bed and tried to sleep for five whole hours, but tossed and turned with my brain racing instead. “Don’t Stop Believin'” kept echoing around in my head, to my extreme annoyance. The restaurant I used to frequent back in Santa Cruz would play that song every night as they shut down, and I’d grown to dread the way the few remaining patrons would burst into song during the chorus. Now it was filling the silence of this room. Arrgh!

I had coffee but it was seven hours ago.  Would it still be that strong? Was my resistance to Icelandic coffee weaker? Is this some ricochet from jet-lag?

Me And Some Big Boxes Take A Trip

I woke up in my van, stowed my bedsheets, and re-packed my toiletries bag. It was time to set in motion that long, weird collection of gears that would move me and three big chunks of luggage nearly four thousand miles across land and ocean in less than a day.

My friend Zog had plans to use the van while I was gone, so I gave him a brief tour and promised to write him an official guide later. While he helped me lug the suitcases and bicycle box into the cargo area, I chatted with his relatives, and they gave me some messages to send along to the Icelandic people, as follows:

Dear Iceland,

Lawrence A. Bell says he’s sorry about Mr Trump, but he takes responsibility.  Jeremy is sorry too, but does not take responsibility.

And then we were on our way to the Portland airport!

Zog is my co-pilot.

We chatted about work and groovy electronics projects, and listened to some throwback 90’s-era goth electronica by Gods Of Luxury. (Sooo deliciously pretentious and cheezy and well produced…) In short order I was hugging Zog at the terminal curb, and then I was alone with my giant pile of stuff and a couple of hours to get on a plane.

Two disposable suitcases, each right up at the 50 pound limit, and one oversize bike box, right up at the 70 pound limit.

A handcart was only a few feet away, so I stacked everything onto that. The little wheels that I’d roped onto the bottom of the bike box turned out to be redundant, which was great news.

Check in went easier than usual. I didn’t encounter any sarcastic resistance from airline agents who didn’t know their own luggage rules. They knew the box was legal, and they knew it could go up to 70 pounds as long as I paid the oversize fee. I was asked to haul it to a special roped area, and allowed to watch as they unbuckled the straps and poked through the equipment inside.

Inspecting the box in the open, where I could see. I like that.

I appreciated that a lot because it meant I could watch them reassemble the box as well, and make sure they got everything back inside and properly tightened the straps.

With that done, all I had to do was get a few labels attached, then check my other suitcases along with the giant box and wave goodbye to the whole set.

It was exactly 70 pounds, but the clerk approved it anyway.

In the trip through security, my hands tested positive for some chemical contaminant so they padded me down and then searched my backpack. No big deal; I’ve got lots of time. I wonder if it was something from the van?

They also said my second camera lens – the 50mm f1.2 – was a strange object on the scanner, so they asked me to take it out of the bag and show them. The woman looking it over said, “holy mackerel, that’s a serious lens!”

“Yeah it’s nice,” I said, “but my arm just about falls off after using it for a while.”

She laughed and waved it through. I was happy to stop talking about it, because I really didn’t like drawing attention to the fact that I was hauling around thousands of dollars of electronics in a sack. I have this probably incorrect assumption that if my luggage looks ratty and old, thieves will assume there’s nothing valuable inside and target someone else. And I don’t like breaking that illusion.

But I have to be paranoid about my carry-on, because I obviously can’t be putting all this fancy gear into a checked bag. Back home in Oakland, thieves will roll up in the arrivals lane using a stolen car, run inside, and yank unclaimed bags off the carousel. They go for classy monochrome bags with discreet labels that look like they could belong to several people, and once they’ve sped out of the airport, the quality of the bag makes only a few minutes’ difference in how long it takes for them to wedge it open, rifle the contents, and then shove the rest out the door and all over the sidewalk. Then it’s back for another round. Unless you’re checking luggage in a heavy steel trunk with a nasty built-in lock, the container you use is irrelevant.

(You may be wondering how I know what kinds of bags these criminals prefer. It’s because I see them scattered around Oakland, mostly on the fridge of the homeless encampments.)

At least three times, over the years, I’ve been biking around the city and discovered a heap of clothing and paperwork all over a sidewalk next to a suitcase, and used the paperwork or the label on the suitcase to contact the unlucky victim and tell them where their stuff is. One memorable time I reached the victim by getting their phone number off a receipt from a gun shop, and in the ensuing dialogue they told me that their luggage had contained several handguns in boxes, now in the possession of some random Oakland criminal. Freakin’ whoops.

Anyway, yeah. I digress. Laptop, camera, lenses… That’s gotta stay with me.

Boarding went smoothly. I couldn’t see the baggage handlers as they loaded the plane so I had no idea if my bicycle was on the same flight. Nothing I could do about it now. Distracted, I bumped my head on the overhead bins, and declared I should just wear my bike helmet all the time, even if it does make me look like a dangerous lunatic.  Airport security would get worried though…

Skirting Mt. Hood as we take off.

As the plane vaulted into the sky and Portland shrank below me, I felt like the journey was truly started. I thought about the next few months. A return to Iceland was something I never thought I’d make — because of time, logistics, and personal reasons. And why return to such a far away place when there are so many other places I haven’t seen at all?

Well, the past resolved itself various ways to lead me here, and I’d worked through that decision. But a question I hadn’t asked was: What do I want to accomplish?

What felt most important was including my father on this trip, more than I’d done in 2019. We share an enthusiasm for trekking out into strange places and then telling stories about what we learned and saw. He with his 35mm slide projector, and me with my digital camera and phone. Actually I suppose this isn’t a trait we share, so much as a trait I absorbed from him in bits and pieces as I grew up, and telling him all my stories is – among other things – a way of turning a line of inheritance into a circle. He’s too frail these days to join me on a bike, and the rough weather of Iceland would be too risky for him even if he could get there, but I can still send pictures and call him up and make sure he’s part of the journey as it happens.

Let me pause here and marvel yet again at the astonishing changes wrought by electronics, in his lifetime. He was born two years before the invention of the printed circuit. The first prototype electronic computer didn’t show up on the planet until he was eight years old. (It was built at Iowa State and weighed 750 pounds.) And now I can do a real-time video chat with him, standing on a street, in a time zone eight hours away, while he sits at his desk in Oregon.

And the location is remarkable as well: When he was born, Iceland was still a Kingdom, not yet a Republic, and was home to about 90 thousand people, almost all of them subsistence fishermen and ranchers. There was no international airport, no ring road, and the capital city was still burning imported coal to generate electricity. (The first hydroelectric power station didn’t take over there until 1937.) Now I can fly there on a plane, assemble a bicycle, ride it around the country eating fish in restaurants and camping as I go, and pay for everything with a credit card. My goodness, the changes…

Anyway, yes. That’s the number one goal: Make sure he’s part of the trip. I made plans to call him as soon as I got to the hotel.

My second goal was to try and get into the highlands this time. I’d seen a lot of amazing terrain along the northern coast in 2019, but I had to scrap my plan to cross the highlands after I found out how rough the roads were. Now I had a chance to use the “partially improved” roads in the southern half.

That was it, really. I cast around in my head for additional goals, but all I found was a general desire to explore, learn, and eat more fish. I had some residual angst about my recent dating life to mull over, but that wasn’t essential, and I knew it would happen organically. The rest was up to the road, my feelings each day, and my desire to improvise.

I knew I should lay back and sleep to combat the approaching jet-lag, but as I often do in planes, I glued myself to the window and watched the clouds scroll by instead. Being this far up in the air is an absolute wonder.  I had an audiobook about material science playing, and listened to the chapter about water and clouds.

We moved north up towards the latitude of Iceland, and passed over the sea. It was white — a solid blanket of ice and show. After a few hours the ice broke up into patches. It didn’t look thick enough to walk on, but it was definitely enough to endanger any ship without a specialized hull.

In time, the patches dispersed a little, and I could look down and see the forbidding coastline of the Nunavut territory of Canada.

Looks cold down there.

Somewhere around here, I did my best to take a nap. I would be losing most of a day upon landing in Iceland, and getting through the next one would be challenging.

Believe it or not, the Qikiqtarjuaq airport is down there.

As I dozed I imagined the freezing air streaming all around the plane, and the churning ocean far below, and how utterly impossible it would be for me to make this journey if I had to deal with the surface.

How many paths was I crossing over, from thousands of forgotten explorers in the near and distant past, who endured loneliness and desolation beyond anything I’ve felt, as they searched for a place to live?

I bet the Inuit people have some amazing history to share that has been almost entirely hidden from me by language and cultural barriers. If I was down there, perhaps I would encounter it organically. Plane travel is miraculous, but every time I use it, I am struck by how much I am missing from the spaces in between.

The chance to see those in-between places is why I love bicycle touring so much. Ironic that I’d start out a tour with a plane flight, yeah? If I had the time, I’d cycle all the way to the eastern-most chunk of the Canadian archipelago instead, then look for some way to cross the ocean.

Barring that, I’d go to the eastern-most airport. I already figured out where that is, of course, being the obsessive planner I am. It’s St. John’s International Airport on the Avalon Peninsula. At some point perhaps I’ll close this link by cycling across North America and ending up there. But not this time.

Iceland Round 2 Gear And Bike Setup

For my own reference, here is the overwhelming amount of gear I packed for my second Iceland tour, and how I arranged it.

This is what everything looks like packed on the bike. It’s basically the same as my 2019 trip:

Here are the bags without the bicycle:

In the back: Two Ortlieb sport packer plus bags, each with an add-on net pocket and an add-on large roll-top pocket.

In the middle: Two ortlieb recumbent bags. The one on the left has three net bags attached to its underside in a row. The one on the right has a net bag, and then two small roll-top bags attached below, since it hangs over the drivetrain of the bike.

In the foreground: A Kelty Redwing backpack. On the loaded bike, this is placed sideways on top of the recumbent bags, where it fits nicely behind the seat, and is held down with two bungee cords.

All the gear I'm taking with me. Can you believe this all fits on a bike?

This is everything that’s packed onto the bike, including the bags shown above. As with the 2019 trip, the majority of the weight and space is claimed by the sleeping bag and the tent, shown on the far left.

In The Large Bags

These items went into the recumbent-style bags on the rear rack, or into the attached pockets:

In The Small Bags

These items went directly into the sport packer bags below the seat, or into the attached pockets:

The following mesh bags and their contents went into the sport packer bags as well:

The white bag: Assorted USB cables and adapters.

The green bag: Media cards and drives, and the cables for reading them.

The biggest change here is, I left out any kind of multi-port USBC hub doodad. I have wasted money on so many of them, and they all have problems. Some get very hot. Some of them have misshapen connectors. Most of them can’t read from an SD card and a Micro SD card at the same time. And almost all of them have annoying power problems and fail to reliably charge or stay connected to more than one USB device at once.

A pox on the lot of them!

The pink bag: Lens and laptop cleaning supplies.

  • Generic lens-cleaning wipes (For cleaning laptop and camera.)
  • Microfiber cloth (For cleaning/drying lenses.)
  • Extra microfiber cloth (In case the big one is soiled.)

A lightweight power brick with 3 USB-A and 1 45-watt USB-C.

This charger has one fewer USB ports than the one I took in 2019, but it’s a good amount lighter. Like the old one it allows me to charge the laptop and my other doodads at the same time, from one outlet — which in turn means I need only one international plug adapter when I’m traveling.

My Frankensteined portable speakers, and an iPod Nano to drive them.

I use the iPod Nano to play bedtime music. An iPod shuffle is not suitable for this purpose since it has no ability to stop playing! It will always repeat the current playlist forever or until it runs out of power! How silly.

Not that it matters, since all iPods have been discontinued and will soon die out, and we will all be locked into digital subscription services and completely abandon the whole idea of controlling what we listen to without it being mediated from one minute to the next by a jealous corporate overlord in the sky. (I’m not bitter.)

A good wind-resistant microphone for conference calls.

The above items attach to my headphones. The resulting setup works with the laptop and the iPhone lightning adapter, there’s no flaky Bluetooth involved, and it sounds far better than anything else I’ve tried. The strangest place I’ve used this so far is by the side of the road next to a geothermal power plant in the middle of Iceland.

The sport packer bags also hold two SenReal Mesh Makeup Organizer Pouches that contain camera-related gadgets:

In The Backpack

These items went into the Kelty Redwing backpack:

The toiletries bag. Basic stuff for a mixture of hotels and camping.

In Other Bags Or Directly Attached

The following items were attached directly to the bike:

These items went into the Allnice 1L PVC Bicycle Pouch just behind the seat:

These items went into the FastBack NorBack Frame Pack between the seat and the front wheel:

Also in the NorBack pack, my toolkit:

Replaced or Removed

These are items I brought in 2019 but have replaced with newer items for this trip:

These are items I brought in 2019 but decided to leave out entirely for this trip, with no replacements for them. They were just not useful enough.