The bus driver drove like the proverbial hellbat, as if he was behind schedule, And perhaps he was. Perhaps he was behind schedule because of the bicyclist, and the bike that needed to be fit into a space in a bin beneath the bus, since the bike racks on the bus were already full. To fit the bike in the bin required removing a tire, the seat, a mirror. And to fit the bike meant to twist the handlebars just so, such that it just fit in the almost too small bin. And the gear, my god, the gear on that bike that needed to be stored, and because the bike filled the bin, the gear needed to be put in a different bin. And the bike and the gear and the bicyclist at last on the bus, the driver sped to make up the time.
Earlier the cyclist, had left the Hveragerdi camp, whistling into a strong but not yet unpleasant headwind, Just forty miles from Vik, he rode confident in his pace, the fields spread before him, filled with sheep and Icelandic horses, and he sang to the animals as he passed, making up words as he went. At one point, up on the hillside, he saw movement amongst the green grass, the black lava rocks. A fox, and he watched it move easily across the rugged hillside.
The cyclist rode into the town of Skogar, where he dined on fish and chips and lingered above his coffee, just 20 miles to go. But, when he turned back onto the roadway an hour later, the challenge had changed. In his lowest gear, he struggled against a wind that seemed unnecessarily fierce. I can do this, he thought for 50 yards or so. I can do this. And then, Okay, hey now. Don’t panic. The wind pushed like a playground bully, and he strained against it, determined to fight the lost cause. And then he said, no but kept pedaling, and then looked down and saw on his cyclometer that he had travelled just half a mile, and depleted he said aw hell naw, and turned back. Back at Skogar, he inquired about a bus, was told one would be by in just 10 minutes.
Now, he watched with lament the landscape that moved too fast out his window from the high perch of the bus seat. Lament that is, until they came to the steep hill with the wind howling, the bus shaking against its force. On the descent, down came the wind from the hillside, an avalanche current of air, threatening to push them all over the steep drop off at the road’s north edge, into the abyss, into the news, into the call to loved ones back home. So shook the bus did that wind-which was not a wind but a fiend with malevolent intentions-that the driver reduced his speed to a crawl.
As the driver muttered Icelandic words that were perhaps pleas to a deity, perhaps less than holy, the cyclist turned his thoughts away from what havoc such a wind might play with a man on a bicycle. For once he was grateful for the weight that he carried.
They arrived safely to Vik. The cyclist unloaded his bike, set it by the curb. Then he moved to the other bin, and placed his gear by the curb there. Then he moved back to the bike and started to re-attach his tire.
“Is this your helmet?” said a voice from behind. It was. The cyclist turned to realize various of his gear was scattering away. He lay down his bike, and went to gather.
“Are these your gloves?” The same man, and they were.
The cyclist moved all his gear, trapped it between his bicycle and the curb to hold it.
He did a check. Tent, check. Sandals, check. Ground pad, check. Sleeping bag. Sleeping bag?
He looked around. Nothing. Oh no. Its light weight had been the selling point of that bag, and now he imagined it on its Oz-bound flight. He imagined shivering cold nights ahead without it. In a panic he searched, beneath the bus, in the parking lot, the small yard at its edge. Nothing.
He walked inside the bus stop/convenience store/cafe. Among the crowd standing, safe from the wind and waiting for the next bus stood a woman who held a bag by its cord. The cyclist recognized the color and pointed.
“It’s not mine,” said the woman. And at the relief on his face, she handed it to him. “It was blowing all over the place,” she said, and he thanked her.
Finally, his bike together, his gear secured, he rested the bike against a wall that blocked the wind. He looked around. This was Vik, where, as legend has it, three trolls tried but failed to drag a three masted ship to shore one night. When the sun rose, they turned to rock, formations that still stand at the edge of the black sand beach. Now, the cyclist could see them through the fog rising like ghosts from the sea. Between that beach and Antarctica there was no landmass, nothing but ocean for more than half the length of the planet. He went inside for coffee and lamb stew. Even in the stillness of the cafe, he still felt in motion. Then he crossed the street to procure a room for the night.
And that’s when he met the woman who roller skated across Iceland.
To be continued.
I’ve figured out how to work the video on my camera. So, this: