Iceland

Preconception of Iceland

This is what I believed Iceland was like, before doing ANY research on the place. It’s as a crude snapshot of what pop culture was telling me. Of course, actually going to Iceland will change this picture, I’m sure:

Iceland is a big ice-covered chunk of rock way up north, populated by a collection of pale-skinned people all crammed into one large city, close to some killer geothermal pools that are probably very relaxing to sit in. The population is so small they have to be careful who they date, but they’ve solved this problem with some very detailed bookkeeping.

Having nothing to exploit on their rock in terms of natural resources and not much of a tourism draw, but consistently bearing the best skin color, hair color, and height for social navigation, they have naturally turned to banking and finance as the means to stay at first-world levels of comfort. From a sideways perspective this isn’t too far from the plundering behavior of their ancestors, just white collar instead of blue collar.

Nobody does any crime because Iceland is too cold, but people struggle with depression a lot.  This ironically makes Icelanders a very interesting and engaging people to talk to.  This is also probably why they spawned Bjork.  Occasionally their snow-covered rock explodes a little, dumping hot ash into the air and blocking the sun, and there is some fatalistic worry over this but eventually everyone goes back to ignoring it.

Icelanders probably throw really cool parties.  And hey, don’t hate them because they’re beautiful and smart.  Do business with them instead.  You’ll live longer.

Motivation

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”

Leonard Bernstein (possibly quoting someone else)

Iceland Plans

If you like rugged snowy mountains, fresh cold air, tempestuous rivers, geothermal springs, and the challenge of regular camping, then go to Iceland. Iceland is a great place to start a bike tour through Europe, and also a great place to tour in itself.

  • The crime rate is spectacularly low.
  • Pollution is nonexistent.
  • There are good modern services at regular intervals, and plenty of nature in between.
  • Most of the people are conversant in English.
  • People are friendly to cycle tourists without being intrusively curious.
  • The country is isolated and relatively small, making a tour through it feel self-contained.
  • The main international airport is very supportive for flying in bicycles.

All this, and my favorite weird thing: During the summer, it is light out even at midnight. If you are able to sleep during the day, you can avoid the majority of car traffic by riding on an upside-down schedule.

Entering

You’re most likely to be flying in via Icelandair. Icelandair has a good policy for bicyles.

  • A bicycle counts as sporting equipment, so a single bicycle in a single box costs as much as a standard checked bag.
  • The weight limit for a standard checked bag is 50lbs, or 22kg.
  • Maximum weight of an oversize sporting equipment box: 70lbs, or 32kg. If a box is heavier than this, you need to contact Icelandair Cargo to arrange transport for it.
  • The maximum size of an oversize sporting equipment box: 87in x 22in x 40in, or 221cm x 56cm x 102cm.
  • Only 25 bicycles are allowed per flight, so it’s recommend that you contact Icelandair in advance to pre-book the box, and ensure space for your bicycle. After booking your ticket you can call the airline directly at 877-435-9423.
  • Bicycles can be paid for during check-in at the airport, but it costs 20% more than pre-booking.

Once you arrive at the airport, a shuttle will take you from the tarmac to the terminal. Inside the terminal, after a great deal of walking, you’ll go down an escalator and through a few doors to a baggage claim area.

Your bike boxes are undoubtedly larger than a standard suitcase, so they will come sliding into this room from a short ramp set in the wall between the luggage carousels. Grab a hand cart and collect them.

Your next move depends on your style. If you’re dead tired and just want to check in to your hotel, you can usually catch a free shuttle near the information desk in the lobby. If you’re feeling awake enough to work, you can wheel your bicycle boxes over to the “bike pit”, a special building a short distance from the terminal that is set aside just for assembling your bike.

If you can get your bike assembled here, you can fold up your bike boxes and put them back on the handcart and haul them directly over to the DHL storefront in the airport, and get the boxes shipped back out of the country, or shipped ahead to your last touring destination.

If you decided to go straight to a hotel and assemble your bike later, note that your hotel shuttle usually runs both ways and you can arrange to take the shuttle back to the airport with your folded-up boxes, mail them out, and then take the shuttle a third time to return to your room. It’s a bit of an abuse of the shuttle system, but very handy.

A few random notes:

  • Getting In And Out Of Iceland With A Bicycle
  • Set up accommodations for the day you arrive, then use AirBnB to book something longer.  Just open the app, enter Iceland in the search, edit the rent range to 100 or less, and press the location marker when the list appears to get a map.
  • Remember to check WarmShowers as well, just in case.
  • Get a camping card

Crossing

Before heading to Reykjavik, how about checking out VIKING WORLD?  They have a campsite too.

Iceland’s winter is the most severe of anywhere in Northern Europe, including Norway and Sweden.  Live through Iceland, and you’ll be able to manage the others.

  • Temperatures drop drastically between July and October.
  • In November the nights will drop well below freezing.
  • In December the sun will not come up at all.
  • In January it will be well below freezing, all the time.

On the other hand, you’ll probably be able to arrange to sit in plenty of hot springs along the way.

Use Iceland’s “Iceland’s 112 survival app”, and the official road conditions site.

Snaefellsness peninsula is well paved and worth going around. It’s the long skinny arm poking out from the west side of iceland, northwest of Reykjavik, with a National Park at the end.

Route overview

A very useful overview, though 14 years old, is MasterlyActivity’s Iceland page.

SimplyCycling overview and impressions, what to know about Iceland.

The most ambitious version of my route crosses through the center of the country and takes 31 days at 30 miles a day (with no days off.)

With the six-day middle crossing included, and the ferry cross up from Vatnasafn, plus time to prep gear and sightsee, touring Iceland will take at minimum 6 weeks (42 days), and most likely approach 8 weeks (56 days).

Central crossing

The central crossing will take six days during which you’ll need to carry at least four days of food, and there is a whole lot of elevation climb.

Camping outside designated areas is basically illegal in all of Iceland now without written permission from landowners, which is not likely to be granted as you’re passing through. So plan to go from one official camp to another in the interior.

Refer to the cycling map for nearby accommodation markers, and for crossing the interior get permission from hut managers.

Exiting

You can exit the country on the east side, by taking the ferry from Seydisfjordur, Iceland to Hirtshals, Denmark. It runs on Tuesday or Wednesday every week.

  • 250 Euros for one person with bike + 530 Euros for a single-person cabin or 95 Euros for a bed in a shared room
    • Example itinerary:
    • Depart Seyðisfjörður at 8:00pm day 1
      • Booked a 1-person cabin with a window
    • Pass by Faroe Islands day 2
      • Breakfast 8:00am – 10:0am
      • Dinner 6:00pm – 8:00pm
    • At sea day 3
      • Breakfast 8:00am – 10:0am
      • Dinner 6:00pm – 8:00pm
    • Arrive at Hirtshals at 10:00am day 4
    • 3 nights total on the ship, total 397 EUR, or ~$470
  • There are a number of hotels in the town, as well as a camping site:

Iceland Preparation, Flight, and Arrival

For years I was obsessed with the idea of taking a trip across all of Europe and Asia. The idea chewed around in the back of my brain, and I did my best to ignore it, because it was weird and scary.

Then some events in my life forced me to confront the idea directly, and I realized that even if I wouldn’t or couldn’t do the entire trip, I could at least do the starting portion: A zig-zag across the country of Iceland, during the summer months.

Why indeed!

Good question, Dad. Essentially the reasons are: Low crime, good infrastructure, fantastic terrain, and not much of a language barrier. Plus it’s the extreme western point of what could be called Europe, and connects to the mainland by a ship that sails on a regular schedule.

Of course, even though I had months to put together a great set of equipment and study routes and terrain, it still came down to a mad dash over the last few weeks, when all this happened at once:

  • I laid on the floor in agony for several days and passed a kidney stone.
  • I went in for a series of doctor appointments and blood tests, for the kidney stone, allergies, and other things.
  • The water heater in my apartment began to leak all over the floor. (I can’t pass this responsibility on to the landlord — I am the landlord.)
  • I gave tours to and evaluated a dozen renters, in order to rent out my apartment so I didn’t blast through my savings on the road.
  • I drove several loads of furniture to Southern California.
  • Full time work.

But somehow, the boxes got packed. I was up until 4:00am for most of the last week, but I didn’t quit. It was time to make this happen. I was done looking, it was time to leap.

Andrew gave me a ride to the airport, hauling along the massive bike boxes in his massive car. I was running on less than four hours of sleep and very grateful for the help. Hiring an airport shuttle with luggage this big is a total crapshoot. We chatted about his camping plans, his car, and his middle child Nora, who was going through a strange punk phase and making some strange decisions. There was an accident on the Bay Bridge but we got to the airport in good time.

Andrew helped me unloaded everything at the curb, and we exchanged hugs. “Send pictures!” he said. “You bet!” I said. Then he drove off, and I stood there with a backpack, two suitcases, and two huge boxes, wondering what my next move was. Find a handcart perhaps?

As I was swapping things around in the backpack, a man wandered by with a large cart and said I could use it for ten dollars. I had to get rid of my American cash anyway, so I agreed. He hauled everything onboard and pushed it inside to Icelandair check-in desk. Usually this is the point where a lot of haggling over box sizes and regulations begins, and that’s why I planned to be here several hours before the flight. Was I going to have to pull out my phone and quote from the airline’s own website, and speak to several managers, like I had last time? Yes, a box this large can go on the plane. Yes, it’s sporting equipment. Go ahead and look inside.

The attendants weighed all my stuff, and then brought up my baggage purchases on their computer. I’d put three check-in bags on my ticket, plus the carry-on, and then I’d called earlier in the week to add an oversize bicycle to the list. With only a few words exchanged, the attendants agreed that my third checked bag could be the smaller bicycle box, because I was only bringing one bicycle but dividing it between two boxes to meet weight requirements. That was it. The boxes were checked and wheeled away in less than five minutes and I didn’t have to open my wallet.

The security line was long but moved well. I had to discard my entire bottle of root beer before I got to the x-ray, which was aggravating. Then I was at the gate, with almost two hours to spare. Time to charge up all my gadgets!

I admit I would have enjoyed the flight a lot more if I haven’t been a sleep-deprived zombie. I discovered that while the exit row did have more room, it was also stone cold because of the way the air circulated in the cabin. I pulled out my fluffy pillow from my backpack, crammed it in the corner of the chair, and tried to sleep for about two hours.

I woke up somewhere over Canada and felt a bit better, but I missed the meal service. So I summoned the flight attendant – a lithe Icelandic woman with a sharp voice who spoke impeccable english – and she confirmed that I had a paid-for meal, which she then brought. A tasty falafel salad that was a bit dry, so I gulped water with every bite.

Greenland passing below...

Another nap, some cool views over Greenland, and we were there!

Packed shuttle from the plane to the terminal.

Everyone here is on their way to a groovy Icelandic adventure. Wearing my backpack, I fit right in… But soon I would claim my massive amount of luggage, and start looking like a weirdo and getting curious looks, like bike tourists always do.

Oversize items creep down that ramp on the right and slide into the room, a few at a time. In the digestive system of the baggage conveyors, this is the appendix.

It’s like the backside of some giant box-eating herbivore. A boxivore!

Miraculously, all the suitcases and boxes got here intact.

I’d already bought an Iceland-compatible data plan on my phone to keep costs down, but it didn’t let me make local calls. I had to bite the bullet and invoke my roaming charges to call up the hotel and ask when their shuttle would arrive. Turns out I needed to: They weren’t running the shuttles unless someone specifically booked them, and so far no one had booked any today. I would have been waiting forever if I hadn’t spent ten dollars on roaming charges. So … worth it?

The boxes were opened up for inspection, apparently. Good thing they didn't lose any of my stuff.

Once everything was safely inside my hotel room I discovered that someone had opened up the larger of my two boxes and inspected it, and dropped in a tag. Now I know who to yell at if something’s missing! Arrr!

Contents settled during shipping -- but only a little.

For the next four hours I unpacked, organized, and repacked everything. I’d been doing trial runs with this gear for quite a while, figuring out how to pack it down. Laid out on the foor I have to admit it looks completely impossible to fit on a bike. And yet it all does.

Everything laid out for taking inventory. That's a lot of stuff, yah?

And that was it for me. I fell onto the bed and slept. It was early evening, seven hours had vanished into jetlag, and the day was gone.

At least technically, since the sunlight never completely leaves the sky… Welcome to the far north!!

A first ride around Keflavik

For almost all of the next day I worked on putting the bicycle together. It’s a dirty business. I had to pause to wash grease off my hands about ten times!

This is one of those weird things that sets touring cyclists apart from other people: They’re perfectly willing to give up a big chunk of their vacation – perhaps an entire day – hunkered down in some room carefully reassembling a bicycle from a box of parts. They really don’t want to make a mistake or lose anything so they make it part of the schedule. It’s good planning but it’s also bizarre. Assembling a bike is tedious work that people usually pay someone else to do, and who wants to do work on a vacation? Who would want to make that their first activity upon arriving in an exciting new land with limited time to explore?

I admit it. I’m weird.

There were two points in the process where I couldn’t find a tiny part that would have made the bike unusable if it was missing.  One was a tiny threaded ring that attaches a steel plate to the rear axle, and the other was a little interconnecting piece of the under-seat rack. I got quite annoyed and a bit panicky … And then I found the parts squirreled away in other luggage.  I’d been too tired when I packed them to remember where I put them.

Once the bike was put together and sitting there in one piece, I stood back and marveled at the fact that I hadn’t actually lost anything. Not even a single bolt. I was honestly a bit surprised.

Later on as I rode through Iceland I would discover how important this was: Many supplies, parts, devices, and even pieces of clothing are almost impossible to find anywhere in the entire country, and must be ordered online and shipped in slowly or at great expense. When you come here you better have specific, conventional activities in mind for which you can rent all your equipment, or you’d better be fully prepared and arrive with everything you need.

Anyway, with the bike finally together in a new country, it was time to take it for a spin.

Valoria out and about for the first time in Iceland.

Since I was just going around town I only needed one set of bags, and my “around town” set of gear. It’s what I’m used to carrying around in Oakland on a typical day, plus the fancy camera.

This is the light outside at 11:11pm. My kind of place!

The fact that it was nearly midnight did not matter. There was still light in the sky, and a number of places open for business in the nearest town.

I probably won’t ever forget what it was like heading out of that hotel on the bike for the first time, just like I won’t forget the first day in New Zealand, or Colorado.

I set out wearing full rain gear, because the report promised rain in a few hours. For now the sky was exhaling a constant mist of tiny drops that churned silently around in the air before touching down and coating everything, like spores descending from the dome of a giant mushroom. It wasn’t fine enough to completely obscure things like fog, but it gave everything more than a hundred meters away a slightly blurred and somber look, like an aged painting. As I rode out into it I could feel the mist colliding with my face, and plunging into my nose. After only a few minutes I reached up to wipe my beard and a splash of water rolled off my hand.

I navigated the empty lamp-lit streets to the edge of the complex, and the edge of the hill looking down into the city of Reykjanesbær. (The first of an endless parade of names I can only flail desperately at pronouncing.) I could see plenty of lights on, but no movement. The most recognizable building was the massive shipyard, a cluster of industrial buildings right on the water, dominated by a dome-like structure open at two ends and large enough to cover an entire cruise ship. One was just visible inside, halfway through a restoration. At the top of my hill I estimated that I was just about twice as high as the roof.

Above me the clouds split and scattered as they moved out over the ocean. The sun was somewhere beyond it, below the horizon, sending up a blue-tinged wave of light that filtered through the clouds and illuminated the land below without casting any shadows. A perpetual twilight. This is as dark as it would ever get in the month of July, and it’s only this dark because of the mist.

I paused for a moment to take it in: The lumpy clouds, the dark ocean, the curving hillside entirely devoid of trees, the town below — all washed out in blue light, except for the pinholes of the phosphorescent yellow lamps and the rare unblocked window. Plus one more lamp, punctuating the view: A spotlight embedded in the ground, throwing up a dramatic beam turned solid by the mist, illuminating the cross of the town church.

The wind picked up from the ocean, buffeting my face, like a hand patting it in affectionate greeting. Then it died away, leaving the smell of salt. Welcome to Iceland.

I coasted down the hill in a dramatic rush, blinking my eyes as they were battered with tiny raindrops, and followed the road as it curved onto the main street of Njarðarbraut. (Good luck pronouncing that, fellow Americans. Just let your eyes drift over it…) At first it seemed like everyone was asleep and I had the town entirely to myself, but every five minutes or so a car would come drifting through, audible in the thick air long before I could see it. Sometimes the cars slowed down and I could tell the drivers were inspecting me; whether out of suspicion or just curiosity I couldn’t tell.

I've only been out one day and I already have a favorite hangout spot!

Pretty soon I arrived at my destination: A coffee shop that claimed to be open until midnight. Personally, I couldn’t see why all businesses didn’t just stay open 24 hours, since it was light all the time anyway. But I’m biased by my night-owl nature.

Back in the Bay Area this would have cost me ten dollars. Here it cost a little under seven. Iceland is expensive to most people ... to me it seems more affordable!

I arrived just as people were finishing up for the night. It was 15 minutes until closing time, but the barista said I was welcome to order something and then linger while she cleaned the place up. This led to the following conversation:

Me:
“Uh, I’m really embarrassed I didn’t think of this earlier but, I don’t suppose you take American money? It’s all I have…”
Her:
“Oh. No, we don’t take that, but if you have a credit card you can use it.”
Me:
“I have one of those, yes!”
Her:
“Also you can use your phone!”
Me:
“My phone?”
Her:
“Yeah, it’s contactless payment. Some people just hold their credit card up to the reader. Try holding up your phone.”

And sure enough, I held my iPhone close to the receiver, and it beeped and registered a credit card payment. Just like at home.

It was the Apply Pay system, and I soon found out that it had been integrated all over Iceland, for all sorts of things. I did eventually get Icelandic money from an ATM because I naturally assumed that somewhere out there was a store or a hotel or a campground that didn’t take contactless payments. There wasn’t. For the entire trip I used my “Travel Rewards” credit card, which converted Icelandic Krona to US Dollars at the current exchange rate without any fees, and I didn’t even have to take my wallet out of my backpack. I could have gone all through Iceland without ever touching their money at all.

Anyway, back to the coffee shop.

There wasn’t any real food available, but I got a donut, a slice of cake, and a swiss mocha, for the equivalent of about nine dollars. That’s basically 3/4th of what I’d pay in Oakland for the same thing.

Yes, I’m visting Iceland, a country notorious for being an expensive place to vacation, and it actually feels less expensive than my home town.

Everyone else left and the barista began clearing dishes and organizing. I asked her if I could put the cake in a container and she said, “Stay here! It really is okay; I have lots to do!”

It felt a bit strange, honestly. It was just her and me alone in the shop. I was obviously not a local. And she was – what – 20 years old?

I shrugged and took my time, then asked her if I could fetch my camera and take some pictures of the place. She agreed.

Adorable! But not for sale!
Stuff like this on the walls, you know a place is hip and cool.

Then I took a detour to the bathroom, and found this on the wall.

A rather clever map of the town.

Pretty nifty! I liked how I could see the church and the shipyard as little symbols. I wonder if they made maps like this for every town in Iceland?

Rain will strike anywhere, anytime.

The famously variable Iceland weather had struck while I was inside the cafe, and my bike was coated with a layer of rain. Good thing my bags are rainproof.

I rode out again, this time just wandering with no destination in mind. I’d given up on the idea of finding something real to eat. It was well past midnight and even the American fast food joints had closed down.

And you thought you could get away from American food?

I don’t know what “svooogott” translates to but I can guess.

I was closer to the ocean down here, and the smell of it was stronger. Combined with the eerie silence and the luminescent cloud cover, the smell brought me visions of ancient sailors on primitive boats, thrashing around in angry seas, hauling wet ropes and shouting into the wind … and seeing weird half-human shapes gleaming in the water, and wrestling with scaly monsters crawling over the rails, black and barely visible in the moonlight except when a flash of lightning etches their horrifying bodies in chiaroscuro along the deck, with claws reaching out…

My imagination gets a little out of hand sometimes.

Anyway, I eventually blundered into a Subway sandwich shop that was open very late, and used my magic phone once again to buy a tuna sandwich.

The teenager behind the counter saw my bike and made a very un-Icelandic move by actually asking me a curious question:

Him:
“So how far are you riding?”
Me:
“I’m going to the other side of Iceland, where the boat to Denmark is. But if I have time, I’d like to try crossing down through the middle of the country too.”
Him:
“Not very many people in the middle. Can’t build anything up there because of the glaciers.”
Me:
“Yeah, I have a tent and I’m going to have to carry all my food with me.”
Him:
“How long will it take?”
Me:
“To cross the middle? I’m thinking five or six days.”

He nodded in agreement, then went back to making sandwiches.

I sat down to eat mine. At the cafe earlier, and now at this sandwich shop, I was leaving the bike parked outside with all my gear on it, visible 10 meters away through a window. The few people that were around mostly ignored it.  If I was still in Oakland, I would feel completely insane doing this. If I was in a place where I was worried about theft I would unload the entire bike and take the baggage inside, and carry it around with me or leave it somewhere safe.  And lock the bicycle up of course. But here? At 1:30am in Iceland? Meh.

As I ate, the loudspeakers in the shop played “Eye Of The Tiger”, then “Two Princes”, then “Don’t Stop Believin'”, then “Another One Bites The Dust”, then a string of 90’s hits that I knew but couldn’t name. This was the beginning of a pattern. All over Iceland, in any restaurant or cafe, the music had the same focus: America or the UK, 30 years in the past. I wouldn’t find out why until later when I visited the Viking World museum.

Part of the answer was actually right in front of me, though I didn’t know it at the time. On the way back up to the hotel I passed by this:

The air force is well established here.

Apparently there is a military base here?

As I approached the hotel I also grabbed one final photo for the day, just down the road from the photo of the plane. It turned out to be another clue:

BRUGGA BRUGGA BRUGGA

Irregular sleep patterns and late-night shopping

I woke up in the late afternoon, still wrestling with jetlag, and went out again immediately. Now that I had the bike assembled I wanted to look around. Also, there was no food in the hotel except for a breakfast buffet that was very spartan and only for the desperate.

My first stop was an expensive Thai restaurant just a few blocks away from the cafe I visited last night. The prices were absurd – averaging 17 dollars per dish – but it was the only Thai food for at least 30 miles in any direction.

I brought my laptop to catch up on work messages. There were ten tables in the restaurant, and about half of them were occupied:

  • A couple talking in Icelandic in the corner.
  • A couple talking in Mandarin in the other corner.
  • Two UK English speakers, smiling and talking with a lot more animation than the Icelandic couple.
  • Four French speakers, talking loudly, all in their forties or fifties.

The French group nattered over the menus, then asked the waiter “what is a curry?” and what the differences were between each kind. They debated with each other in French for quite a while before ordering, then they changed their order three times, calling the waiter back. I hope they left an enormous tip — but I doubt it.

Also, why would you go on a vacation to Iceland and then go to a Thai restaurant, if you didn’t know what a curry was?

The portions were huge which helped to justify the cost, and I had plenty of leftovers. I packed them up and went riding casually around. There were some little bits of equipment I needed to look around for but I figured it was pointless until I got to Reykjavik. Perhaps I could visit a market and buy some snacks?

I conjured up a market on my phone, and rode in that direction.

Fluffy Icelandic cat! SO FLUFFY! I'm pretty sure it's a wizard in animal form.

Interesting coastal Icelandic style. Sunken first floor that doubles as the foundation, corrugated steel walls protected with paint, steep roof to reject snow, plenty of rain gutters to cut down on ice. A lot like houses I've seen in the Pacific Northwest except far less wood involved here. ... Because, where you gonna get it??

The market was a 24-hour joint very much like a 7-11 back home. There was no soda fountain, but there was a nice little collection of candy bars and other chocolatey snacks. I went plundering through the aisles, gathering up at least one of every weird-looking thing I found. The ones that looked especially appetizing I got two of — one for me, one for my nephews to fight over. I still needed to mail my bicycle boxes back home and I could easily throw some snacks into the package as well.

Dark chocolate rice cakes: Awesome!

This is my favorite of the various crazy Icelandic candy bars I've tried. I dunno who this Prince Polo is, but I like his style.

I heard this rumor that my nephews like chocolate... Let's see if I can help them out...

I made a purchase and then sat on a bench just inside the shop, looking out at the parking lot. There I saw another customer arrive, and do something with his car that people back home in Oakland would never do.

He got out, leaving his keys in the car with the engine running and the doors unlocked, and went into the supermarket to shop. He did not appear to be in a hurry. I was confused for a moment, then remembered that for most of the year this country is bitterly cold, and by leaving his engine running he was preventing it from freezing to the point where it might not start again.

Of course, in Oakland, this behavior is an invitation for grand theft auto. You take your keys, you lock your car, you make sure nothing expensive is visible. You peel the faceplate off your radio and set your car alarm if you have one.

Funny how you can get used to stuff like this, either way.

“I wonder if vehicles in Iceland even have car alarms?” I thought. Ten minutes later I got a nasty surprise when I heard a car alarm going off just down the street, and run for a long while before shutting off. “Okay, that’s one question answered,” I muttered to myself.

A police car pulled up. Two cops emerged and went into the store. Unlike the other customers, they shut off their engine — but they didn’t roll up their windows. They completed their shopping and one of them went back out to the car while the other one went over to the eating area where I was seated and banged a frozen burrito into the microwave, then spent an entire minute struggling with the really badly designed controls on the front of the thing. He couldn’t get it to start, and I was tempted to reach over and just smack the side of it like a badly-tuned television, sharing in his frustration. But I didn’t know how he would take it.

Instead I went back and bought a few more candy bars, plus some carrots, a bell pepper, and some milk – being careful not to accidentally buy the cultured milk with the fruit mixed in, which dominated the dairy section with six different kinds – and sat back down to answer some questions I was getting from friends about my trip.

Question:
So, are the Icelandic ladies pretty?
Answer:
I haven’t yet seen a single one that isn’t appallingly attractive. It’s as much their temperament as their shape.

Icelanders don’t seem to smile or laugh much when talking to each other.  They are very buttoned-down and it my be my tin American ear deceiving me but they also seem slightly passive-aggressive in normal chit-chat. But when they realize I am an American they seem to open up a bit more, both the men and the women but especially the women, who smile and make jokes and seem to enjoy the fact that I am smiling back. The majority of them speak excellent English, and some of them barely even have an accent.

That said, the accent itself is interesting, and the sound of the native language even more so. For example, I’m at a store right now, and I just stood in line to buy groceries, and when I got to the cashier – a pretty girl aged about 18 I think – I deliberately said nothing so she would speak to me in Icelandic.  It was just brief things like “hello there”, “is this everything?”, and “your total is 1210 kroner”, but since she was speaking casually and not enunciating for a foreigner, to my untrained ear it came out of her mouth as a series of weird melodic chirping noises and trills.

It was fascinating from a linguistic perspective because I could concentrate entirely on the sound without language comprehension obscuring it. But also, I’m a little ashamed to admit, her voice was electrifying. I felt a rude compulsion to just stand there and tell her “Say more stuff!! Read the phone book; I don’t care! This is music!”

And that, of course, makes me think of Björk.

Question:
Have you ever lost any of your stuff on a bike tour?
Answer:
Not yet, but it’ll happen I’m sure. Ride long enough and stuff goes missing.

I can lose any one thing and compensate pretty well, with the exception of certain bike parts that would stop my tour cold. Also there are places I’ll go where losing two or three things at once could seriously jeopardize my life. Like going through the highlands, and cracking my front rim and losing my jacket and my sweater at the same time.

Even then, in Iceland that would not be terrible, because I could wrap myself in my unzipped sleeping bag and walk to a place with cell signal and call for rescue, then hunker down in the tent. Lots of gear means multiple solutions to problems.

As ever, just like my daily commute to work, the real threat is cars.

Question:
How cold is it up there?
Answer:
During the “day” it’s basically a winter day in Santa Cruz, with slightly more wind depending on where you are. Not terrible at all. At “night” it gets colder, but almost never a bitter cold.

Any other season but the summer and it would be a different story of course.

Question:
Can you see the northern lights?
Answer:
Sadly, no. The northern lights are a winter-time thing, with some overlap with spring and fall. At first I wanted to come up here in early May, and try to catch the tail end of them, but it would have been very unpleasantly cold for a bike tourist at that time. Plus my own schedule didn’t work out anyway.

I haven’t seen the lights myself but my boss at work has, and he told me the story. It was an arduous trip to the northern edge of Canada, and he says it was absolutely worth it, and one of the most amazing things he’s seen in his life. We compared our stories of solar eclipse viewing, and he agreed it was like that, only more impressive. Now it’s on my list for sure.

With a pile of snacks packed away, I got back on the bike and meandered up the hillside to the hotel.

Lots of construction going on around here. Lots of hotels coming up around the airport. Tourism is exploding.

Tomorrow would be a busy day, since it was the last day I could get the bike boxes mailed out.

Shipping business

Today I wrestled my bike boxes down into their folded state, wrapped some tie straps around them, and booked a shuttle ride back to the airport.

This handy wall-size collection of information is hanging in the airport.

My intention was to drag them over to the DHL shipping office and send them back to the US, and that was what I did, except it took almost four hours instead of one because the DHL office is not actually at the airport. It’s four long blocks away.

Luckily I could make this long trek easier by swiping one of the luggage handcarts from the baggage area and chucking my boxes onto that. I felt pretty silly pushing a stack of boxes down the sidewalk, around the industrial area next to the airport, but I didn’t care — as long as I didn’t get any attention from the police. If they searched me they would find a wallet, a passport, and a big pile of candy bars. Highly suspicious!

Good thing there are handcarts sitting around at the airport, or the walk to the DHL shipping depot would have taken forever, dragging those big boxes along...

This map on the wall of the DHL shipping depot shows how Iceland is in the same time zone as the UK, even though it's a good distance west.

The clerk at the DHL office was surprised that I was trying to ship boxes with nothing in them. He took measurements of the boxes, weighed them, then told me to wait as he got on the phone with the central office and argued with them in Icelandic for almost half an hour, transferring to three different people, all of whom he knew on a first-name basis. When he hung up he announced that he could cut almost 80 dollars off my shipping fee, which was quite a relief to me since the original quote was well over 300 dollars. It would cost twice as much for me to ship these boxes back home empty as it cost me in baggage fees to fly them into Iceland fully loaded.

Stats about the bike boxes:

  • The large box weighs 14kg empty.
  • The small box weighs 10kg empty.
  • Both boxes are the same size folded: 134cm x 79cm x 12cm.

Bike boxes all taped up and ready to go! The cost of shipping was insanely expensive, but they sure got to their destination fast...

I borrowed some packing tape from the clerk and since he didn’t have anything else to do, he held the boxes closed while I applied the tape, and we chatted a bit about travel.

Him:
“I visited America last year. I have some relatives in New Jersey.”
Me:
“Oh yeah? What did you do in New Jersey?”
Him:
“They took me to see Wrestlemania.”
Me:
“That’s … A very American sort of thing to see.”
Him:
“Yes! And we went on a road trip. I saw Washington. I parked in front of the FBI building by accident and some people came out and asked me a lot of questions, then they told me to move.”
Me:
“Hah! That’s pretty cool. Not very many people can say they visited America and got hassled by FBI agents.”
Him:
“Yes. I want to go back. I would like to live there.”
Me:
“Oh? Why?”
Him:
“Everything is so inexpensive!”

I laughed and told him I could see what he meant, but my experience was the opposite, because I’m from San Francisco. Things in Iceland actually cost less for me. He seemed surprised by that. I encouraged him to visit again, because his accent would be very popular with the ladies. He didn’t say anything to that but his face turned a little red.

Now this is service. Some poor traveler left their car in the long-term parking lot at the airport with their window halfway down. Since the windows are all electric, the airport staff have no way to raise them. Instead of just ignoring the issue and letting the car interior get destroyed by the constant rainstorms, they got plastic and airport packing tape and sealed over the partially-down window. Very thoughtful!

With the boxes taken care of, I pushed the luggage cart back to the airport and waited for the free hotel shuttle. Once again I was the only person riding it. Isn’t this the height of tourist season? Shouldn’t every hotel be bursting at the seams? I wonder if they over-built…

Full deployment

I had one more day in the hotel, but I was itching to try out my camping gear. In the evening I told the folks at the counter that I probably wouldn’t be there in the morning because I’d heard there were free campsites next to the Viking World Museum.

Fully geared up for the first time in Iceland.

The full weight of my touring gear was pretty intense, but I could manage it.

The Njardvik shipyard in the distance.

On the way to Keflavik I stopped halfway down the hill and got this nice photo of the shipyard. No patchy clouds this time, just an even blanket all the way out over the ocean, where it merged with a wall of mist.

I rode by the water, then over to a Greek restaurant where I got a tasty falafel salad. That left me with nothing to do for the rest of the night but explore with the camera. I zig-zagged south, generally approaching the Viking Museum, but got caught by some interesting plants:

Recent rain, caught on a leaf, between the 1:00am Icelandic sunlight and a sodium street lamp.

Recent rain, caught on leaves, between the 1:00am Icelandic sunlight and a sodium street lamp.

Time for some photo shenanigans!

Recent rain, caught on some leaves, between the 1:00am Icelandic sunlight and a sodium street lamp.

That got me on a roll, and I walked around collecting a few more shots, including a self-portrait or two.

Can you feel the cold air coming at you through this photo?

Just a dude with too much gear, creeping around Iceland after midnight!

Just a dude and a 15-pound camera, havin' a good time.

The coast at 1:30am.

No wonder the Icelandic are described as quiet and introspective.  The land evokes quiet.  It evokes the urge to listen for tiny sounds.  If you’re indoors and you see the view outside, you are reminded of how quiet it is, and your thoughts grow wide and smooth like the undisturbed water, or the snow, or the mountains hammered flat by ice. You summon the quiet into the room.

Back home it was just about dinner time, and I chatted with my parents over text message as I wandered. It was very quiet and with no one around the city felt depopulated. I toyed with the idea of pushing my sleep schedule forward and waking up in the late afternoon, then riding my bike through the “night”. That would sharply reduce the amount of traffic I’d be dealing with. But it would also knock me out of alignment with every hotel, AirBnB, or campsite scheudule along the way.

This boat ain't goin' anywhere!

Njardvik industrial area.

That's the viking museum in the distance. I hear they have free camping there...

That's a viking ship in there, suspended from cables.

Eventually I got to the Viking World Museum, and sure enough, there was a spartan campsite right next to the building, and half the spots were empty. Time to put this gear to work.

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.
Gotta have my morning music!
Snug as a bug.

Look at that light filtering through the walls! I’m glad my standard kit includes a sleep mask…

So many times as a kid I had to set up my tent for camping and struggled with the stupid bendy poles and the vinyl sleeves, getting all sweaty and frustrated when I just wanted to go play. It was the same experience with the first tent I bought for bicycle touring, even though it was great in other respects. So when I found out about a tent that didn’t need any poles, I was all over it. It takes less than three minutes to get from having this tent in a compression sack to having it deployed like this, including staking it down and stowing the bike. I have great patience for a lot of things on bike tours, but I absolutely hate fiddling with segmented aluminum tent poles, especially when it’s dark and raining and I’m tired.

Setting the tent up is easy, and taking it down is trivial. You just pull stakes, undo two valves, and roll the thing up. Done.

Viking bones

Once as I told in glee
Tales of the stormy sea,
Soft eyes did gaze on me,
      Burning yet tender;
And as the white stars shine
On the dark Norway pine,
On that dark heart of mine
      Fell their soft splendor.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The viking museum

It was a pretty good night of sleep, thanks to the sleep mask blocking the sun. I woke up, got dressed, and immediately started wandering around with the camera.

A supremely foggy morning.

I'm not sure what that big line is all about - or if it's plastic or wax or what - but it sure looks dramatic.

I have no idea how I missed this giant stone thing last night. It wasn’t actually dark. Maybe I was just tired.

Oh it's sooo touristy but I totally can't resist the charms of a viking settlement...

"We dwarves are natural sprinters. Very dangerous over short distances!" (And/or the Atlantic.)

April showers, May flowers, et cetera... But how about July?

I inspected the outside of the tent just in case I’d missed any damage in my tired state, but all was well.

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...

… So, time to go in and explore the museum!

On the deck of the viking ship Íslendingur.

The Viking Museum has a buffet area in the Icelandic pattern. Here I had the best breakfast I’ve had in a long while: Two hard-boiled eggs and a sandwich with two kinds of cheese, three kinds of salami, mayonnaise, and lots of pickled herring, all smashed together. Yum!

Near the tables was a large television, playing a presentation that looped every five minutes. It was about the construction and maiden voyage of the Íslendingur — the ship hanging from the cables overhead. Right in the middle of it is a clip of Hillary Clinton standing on the boat and talking to some people.  The narration goes, “During an international tour, Hillary Clinton met with the shipbuilders and offered her wishes for a safe journey.”

Wistfully I thought of a time, not too long ago, when I actually enjoyed seeing the president of my country doing and saying things…

Anyway, the museum was informative, and a lot of fun as well.

Tupilaks were a phenomenon distinctive to Greenland. These small figurines were usually given to an enemy to curse them and hopefully kill them. Others were made and kept to protect from such curses. (Courtesy of the excellent Viking World museum.)

This reproduction of a Scandinavian map from 1590 combines cartographic knowledge of North America with names from the sagas, like Vinland and Markland. (Courtesy of the excellent Viking World museum.)

This ancient map appears to claim that there is pack ice between Scotland and Denmark, more of less corresponding to the North Sea on modern maps.

Diorama detail of viking settlers cutting sod out of the ground for use in lining buildings. (Courtesy of the excellent Viking World museum.)

Diorama detail of a viking woman outside a longhouse. (Courtesy of the excellent Viking World museum.)

Diorama detail of viking settlers carving and drying meat from a beached whale. (Courtesy of the excellent Viking World museum.)

Total Scooby-Doo moment in the Viking World museum...

I can only assume these are trolls. They've done something horrible to the local livestock... (From the excellent Viking World museum.)

My favorite part of this amazing art is the eyes. (From the excellent Viking World museum.)

Ahoy! And stuff!

On the way out I bought a handful of “authentic reproduction” Viking coins, and mixed them in with some Icelandic money. These are going to The Dane back home!

Viking ship in the sky over the campsite.

As if in tribute to the museum, or to vikings in general, the sky conjured up a cloud very much like a viking ship over my campsite. A good sign for the travel ahead!

Riding to Reykjavik

My collection of GPS recordings told me there was an often-used bike path just east of the museum, and I wanted to avoid getting on the highway for as long as possible, so I followed that little orange line on my phone.

Now this is a bike path.

That was a good decision. The bike path was marvelous. I couldn’t have imagined a better one, in better weather.

Lots of nesting and hunting birds.

But it did eventually come to an end, and I had to get on the shoulder of highway 41, a chunk of the “ring road” that goes around Iceland. Always super-busy, in this corridor between the airport and the capital.

The road ahead into Reykjavik. This is by far the busiest stretch of highway in the country. And yet, I saw other people biking it.

Fellow cyclist on the other side of the road, coming out from Reykjavik. In the background you can see "the tallest building in Iceland".

Yeeeah, brah!! Keep on truckin'!

It was a nice morale boost to see others enduring this road along with me.

Grasses and lichen eking out a living on lava rock, slowly turning windblown nutrients and snowmelt into soil.

It almost looks like a messy giant spread green frosting all over the hillside.

Not kidding about the frosting. It's everywhere.

Eventually the landscape grew more urbanized, and I departed from the main highway, switching around through a series of streets and bike paths.

I never realized until today how much the back of my loaded touring bike looks like a butt...

I uh ... Yeah. Okay! Why not!

It rained, then cleared, then rained again, then cleared, and the sun actually grew hot.

Enjoying the brief direct sunlight for a few moments.

For a while I was on a piece of the Eurovelo route still in the planning stages. It led me between two large buildings with a shallow fountain between them, inlaid with blue and white tiles in a very pleasing design.

This view, this nifty shallow pool, this easy afternoon weather, after those hours of hard biking ... Another truly perfect bike tour moment.

I stopped and admired the fountain, and the view, and the fresh air, and that general feeling of pleasant fatigue that sets in after riding a long way. It was another one of those perfect bike trip moments, where you say to yourself, “This just made the whole journey worthwhile, all by itself.” I lingered there for almost half an hour and took a bunch of photos. Icelanders walked in or out of a nearby restaurant at regular intervals, each giving me a quizzical look.

Another hour of fairly technical city riding brought me to the front door of my AirBnB. I was a little late, but not too late. Most of the restaurants around town were still open. I checked in quickly, heaped a pile of gear inside my room, and set out again for snacks.

Vietnamese-ish noodle soup. Not bad; not great. I wolfed it down and then went back to the house, so I could properly unpack and organize my gear for a multi-day stay. While I was doing that I browsed around the common areas of the house a little. The decorations were very cute!

This plaque is on the house where my AirBnB is. The historian Björk Ingimundardóttir (Note: Not the famous singer) was born in 1943. So... What, this was her house?

They're just SO CUTE!

Resting on the piano of my AirBnB

Staycation in Reykjavik

If it wasn’t clear to me already from riding through the towns on the outskirts of Reykjavik, it would be clear now: The capital city is a different world.

If these buildings weren't painted so nicely, the city would look quite different.

It’s mostly cement and steel, but to my eye, it sometimes looks like a little toy lego version of a city. In fact, I think the relationship goes both ways: If a child was given a heap of legos and told to build a city, they would probably create something that looks suspiciously like Reykjavik to an Icelander.

Now that I was established in my room, I reconfigured my bike for around-town touring and set off in search of food. I didn’t have hard data but I was sure I’d burned a ludicrous amount of calories getting here, and it was time to eat, sort photos, and catch up on work.

I put on my pants and Hawaiian tourist shirt – to be like Twoflower – and rode downtown to the trendy tourist area. Well, the area that was even more touristy than the rest of the city. For the first time since arriving in Iceland I entered an actual crowd. The bike got the usual distracted stares of course. I planned to spend many hours on the laptop so my destination was a cafe that claimed to be open late, and when I arrived I found a bike rack only 20 meters away, which pleased me. I can get right to work! Great to be in the city!

Catching up on the hackery

The cafe served sandwiches, cake, and various kinds of coffee. So I got one of each. Again the price was only slightly less than what I would have paid in San Francisco. Appalling to the tourists, just another day for me.

Look familiar, science fiction fans?

I was very pleased to see a crafty science fiction reference decorating the walls.

The cafe turned out to be a great place to hang out, and just like the cafe in Keflavik, I decided I would go there regularly. I know it seems stupid for a person visiting a huge city for a limited time to spend more than one day in the same place, but routine is an important part of my well-being, and the theme of my journey – the thesis if you will – is that it’s just as valuable to spend a lot of time absorbing the detail of one place, as it is to get a surface impression of many places. Perhaps even more valuable.

Yes, it's a real place.

Yes; it's the Lebowski Bar.

I had other options of course. The Big Lebowski Bar and the Chuck Norris Grill, to name two.

Yeah, I ain’t kidding! These are real places, and very self-aware.

Along with the photos and the work, I also answered some more curious questions from friends:

Question:
How does the perception of the US and of Americans feel over there?
Answer:
I don’t yet feel qualified to say, but I can at least make a guess.

Right now my best summary is, three years of Trump have not displaced three generations of slow immersion in American pop culture, and money, and military presence, with both good and bad influences.

A little bit of history here to set the stage.

Iceland was mostly populated by subsistence farmers and fishermen, of varying cultural origins, for many centuries. After World War II that all changed, and the US had a heavy hand in directing those changes, giving a big chunk of money to Iceland through the Marshall Plan and establishing a military base there as part of NATO. Iceland leapt forward and despite being the most sparsely populated country in Europe, also became one of the wealthiest and most modern.

The money was welcomed, the military protection grudgingly accepted, but Americans personally were not. Almost all the contention was over American soldiers mixing with Icelandic women. Soldiers were given curfews, women were put in jail, et cetera. The view back from the present is not a kind one: Icelanders said they were protecting culture, but what they were doing was policing their daughters. Just another case of men trying to control women for the sake of their bloodline.

Modern concerns about Icelandic culture are much more thoughtful and empathetic. It’s not about controlling women’s bodies, it’s directly about preserving history, attitudes, and the land itself. And these concerns are valid: Over the span of 70 years and two or three generations, the attitude towards Americans gradually shifted and the cultural influence of films, books, and most especially music emanating from the military base radio station has slowly but inexorably permeated Iceland and extinguished a lot of traditions. Plus, Iceland integrated very tightly with the world economy, and the American economy especially. The economic crash of 2008 was devastating for Icelanders, and a lot of their recovery has been centered around tourism, which is a further threat to their individuality.

(As an aside, the military base was shuttered in in 2006, and Iceland now has no standing army of its own.)

So, how does this translate to the reception of Americans on the ground?

Like anywhere, it’s a love and hate thing.  People from politically liberal or affluent families in the US make good tourists of Iceland, and are well received.  Their instincts are similar. Those who show up and are loud, crass, ignorant, and messy, because that’s how they are back home, are thoroughly disliked.

For example:  I came downstairs from my hotel room, on my second day in Iceland, to ride my freshly assembled bike around town and I passed by the bar area in the hotel lobby.  There were eight or nine American servicemen there getting drunk and talking crap to each other in loud voices.  One of them took a drink and bellowed:  “Okay guys here’s a question, how many of you would fuck a midget?”

His shouted question got a pile of shouted responses from his friends, all of them just as crass and stupid as you can imagine.

The woman behind the desk who had been so pleasant to me in our interactions over the past few days had a look on her face like, “I wish all of these people would catch fire and die.” And I felt exactly the same way.  I wanted to make some comment like, “on behalf of Americans, I apologize for those jerks over there,” but she was less than 15 feet away from them and I didn’t want them to overhear it and punish her.  So I just hoped I was a counterexample.

I’ve been friendly, thankful, and straight-forward, and every one of my conversations has gone well. But of course open conflict over anything is highly discouraged in Icelandic society, so, how would I really know what people think?

Question:
How’s the wireless connection?
Answer:
It’s been great everywhere except inside or just outside large buildings, and most of those are establishments that offer free wifi.

To compare wireless coverage for Americans, I think it makes sense to compare Iceland to the state of Idaho, which has several massive mountain ranges threading across it. Iceland has about 40,000 square miles of land area. That’s about half the size of the state of Idaho. Its highest peak is Hvannadalshnjúkur, about half the height of Borah Peak in Idaho. It has about 330,000 people in it. That’s less than one fifth of the population of Idaho. The land mass of Iceland has 95% wireless coverage. In Idaho, two competing cell networks give Idaho about 85% land coverage, reaching 99.4% of the population. So, in real terms, it’s about the same.

Question:
Has it been hard finding places to stay?
Answer:
So far, no. Between AirBnB, hotels, hostels, and various campsites, so far it’s easy. And definitely easier than New Zealand was.

Plenty of folks out and about at 1:30 in the morning. As it should be!

Pssst... Wanna buy some Nordic crap? Don't look too closely at the lettering. Obviously not made by native speakers.

To my Bay Area eye, this looks like someone is making a weird cultural statement by dressing up a perfectly good house so it looks like a barn.

Laundry day!

Night Exploration In Reykjavik

Maybe it's a statement about the youth of today or something?

Naptime for ducks!

My favorite part of this photo is the ducks cuddled up to the mermaid.

Birds can really ruin your look.

Dang, what time is it? If only I could lean back just a little more...

Now that's how you label a pack of cigarettes.

Final Reykjavik Day

As a tourist, it’s always a strange feeling on the last day of exploring a city. Part of you knows that you may never see this place again, and your one chance to know it intimately is slipping away. The urge to linger – when you have the chance in a relaxed schedule – needles you constantly. “Oh, this place is great; I’ll come back again some time for sure,” you say, knowing it’s a lie.

One of the things that compels me to linger is the thoughtful city planning. Take this street for example. There are benches and tables all along it, oriented so that you can sit down and watch the languid summer sun creep slowly up the base of the church and light up each stained-glass window along the way, reflecting the sun straight back down at you from each one. I only had time to watch it for about fifteen minutes while I ate a little dish of ice cream, but even that made an impression.

Like many experiences I’ve had in this city, it had a gravitational effect. It tugged at my feet, urging them to stay in place. To me, Reykjavik in the summer is like spending a day in San Francisco, except a polished microcosm of that city – smaller, cleaner, safer – and that day keeps going, and going, for two entire months of time. Just one absurdly long perfect day, with sunset clouds bursting over it to mark each ration of 24 hours. I had just enough time to establish a comfortable routine and play with it, and I seriously could have rolled with that routine for 60 more days and been happy — and productive at work.

Writ large, this is the worldwide vagabond lifestyle that many young people aspire to. But even though it’s within reach for me, I can tell it’s no longer a good fit, and perhaps it never was. I’m not here just to be in Iceland. I’m on a mission, and that is to cross Iceland. Having that mission and making progress on it is important to me. And so … On I will go.

By leaving this city I am also leaving the cultural center of Iceland, with almost all of it unexplored. That is a shame.

A new friend from Russia!

Into The Hills

Enjoying the Coast

I wonder how they fit into that house?

"The Scream", re-imagined as a rock painted like a house.

Majestic, even without snow on them.

Crumbly!
The sheep basically go where they want.
Wonderful place for a picnic!

Shot with the Canon Mk4...

... Shot with an iPhone XS.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Chomp chomp chomp...

A long-abandoned naval base.

I doubt that mural was there when the base was operational.

After another 5 hours of bicycling around the bay, this is where I will camp.

This is how I look to about 100 sheep and 50 geese each day.

Gotta keep up on current events!

Have bike, will travel. Slowly.

Paradise by the side of the road...

Meanwhile, by the side of the road in Iceland...

Can't sit here for more than five minutes without wanting to take a nap.

Everything is exploding with growth during this summer season.

All this color strongly reminds me of Alaska.

I wonder who lives here?

The wind in this section was terrifying. Random gusts that would threaten to knock me over.
Dead quiet, except for a breeze from the hills and the birdcalls from the shoreline.
I have no idea what that cairn is for.
A tough cycling day, between the hills and the wind. 15 miles in 4.5 hours. But I did take a bunch of breaks too...
What're EWE lookin' at?

Roadside sheep butt surprise.

Goat and kid, resting out of the wind.

Back To The Busy Ring Road

Goat butt on my tent in the morning!!

Startled goat crap hazard near my tent.

My first big bridge crossing in Iceland.

Looking for a place to stay in Borgarnes? This is it!

Tried to read a few ... It was impossible.

Know any good djoks?

This is probably quite funny. I have no idea.

Hangin’ In Borgarnes

Relaxin' in a wacky café
These needlepoint things always remind me of the 16-color images that I marveled at on my Apple IIgs when I was a teenager.
I dig that idea.
So much depends on a red wheelbarrow!

I like how the clouds seem to lounge on the mountain like a giant lazy cat.

The view in the morning as I'm heading out.

Oh my goodness SO FLOOFY

The Road To Snæfellsjökull

Not a great surfing spot, but still a nice view!

Pretty rugged terrain in the interior...

A busy road, but the drivers are very polite.

Attack of the green frosting!

Of all the places I've explored, this comes the closest so far to feeling like an alien world.

From close up, it really does look and feel like a carpet.

Spooooky!

Suuuper spoooooky!

No trees... But lots of grass for sheep to chomp on!

More Staycationing

This spare little room was somehow one of the best of the trip so far.

Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Back On The Road

Looks like fun for a few hours, except I feel like I've been riding a horse for weeks already!

I'm wondering what the spare horses are for... Just in case?

"I am not Kermit the GRÖF. I am not Kermit the FÖRG. I am a frog! Kermit The Frog!!"

"You better stay home; and do as you're told... Get out of the road; if you wanna grow old..." -Pink Floyd

A nifty waterfall visible ahead

The majestic blue-tasseled sheep of the far north!

Would be prettier if the sheep weren't showing me their butts, but I'll take it.

This is the one photo of the last 5 years where I've regretted having the 4.0 70-200 instead of the 2.8 70-200. Not a bad track record at all considering the weight difference.

Detail of the previous photo. Same to you, sheep!!

This is honestly the weirdest terrain I've seen, second perhaps to the spongy ground in Alaska.

Spot the critter! Hint: It's wearing a blue earring.

Alex: "This is what happens when smurfs die in the wild!"

Spring has sprung; the grass has riz.

This yonic formation looked inviting but I decided to skip it after looking up a few pictures on my phone.

See those parallel tracks? Thank some foreign doofus for that, 5+ years ago...

Do I see some glacier action up there? Yes I do!

Like, wow! It's all Iceland 'n' stuff!

A restaurant under a layer of turf? You bet!

I do enjoy being able to keep the bike out of the rain.

Arnarstapi

This sculpture does not have any historical precedent, it's just here to look cool.

Each tour bus is full of about 50 people who look like this, and do this, then leave about 25 minutes later. It's hilarious.

"Never trust an elf!!"

Striking shoreline! Good luck going for a swim!

The first dive will be your last dive.

If I were an evil Harry Potter character, I would definitely hide a horcrux here.

Some day 200 years from now, some tourist is going to be utterly shocked to see this collapse right in front of them.
Kind of reminds me of the Oregon coast, though the geologic origins are a bit different.
This lucky bird found a cave to hide in.
Looks like a great place for a swim, but there's no way to get down.
A very crafty nesting spot.
Even if it's not big enough for a nest, it's a good spot for a rest.
Naptime!
Watching the watcher.
Tough job being a parent.
Hooray for zoom lenses!

Got to raise them quickly so they can fly away before the ice comes.

The house really makes the scene I think.

Yeah it doesn't have much to do with Iceland but I like the texture.

Awesome art from a local artist.

Endurance

Somewhere in the frozen wasteland

“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”

 Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer and Geologist.