16. Jun, 2019

I removed the "C," and changed the meaning of the "N."

I suppose I'm just not meant to cycle to the North Cape.  I don't know what my downfall is.  I guess is could be coping with lonliness.  It seems that's what affects me the most on days I'm not in the saddle.  So, instead of Aachen-North Cape-Aachen (ANCA), I suppose this should be Aachen-Norway-Aachen (ANA).

Or, maybe my problem is addiction to comfort.  I camp when I must.  I camp in the wild when I must.  But, when there's the opportunity to stay in a warm, dry little cabin, I will jump at it.  Being cold and wet are not my favourite things.  Still, I can cycle 100 km on a cold, rainy day.  

I suppose it all boils down to, I can endure quite a bit when I have to, but nothing is making me go to the North Cape.  So, despite all my build up of the great adventure, it's too easy for me to toss it all and turn home.  At least this year I'll not be turning home on an airplane with my bike posted back to my house.  I have abandoned the target of riding to the North Cape, but I will continue with this little adventure for a while circling my route back to Aachen on my bike.  

So, what's happened since the last post?  

I had quite some interesting and physically challenging days on my way north from Kungälv, Sweden.  The route to Lake Värens was straight forward enough, and I ended up in a gigantic campground with a nice restaurant that had a terrace dining area directly on the lake.  It was nice and very clean, but there were a zillion people there.  Too busy for my liking. 

On the very next night I enjoyed the 100% opposite.  There was no campground around for miles, so I found a nice place in the woods off an obscure side track from the highway.  It was quite a restful evening.  

Getting food was proving difficult in this rural part of Sweden.  In one town I stopped a guy walking on the side of the road to ask whether there was a small market nearby.  He was very friendly and jovial.  He gave me directions to the small market not far down the road.  As we said our goodbys and I started to ride away, he called for me to stop so he could tell me about his deep love for the United States.  He even had evidence of his admiration for my home country.  To my surprise, he lifted his shirt to expose two very well done tatoos.  On either side of his chest he had tatoos of Jennifer Lawrence and Sandra Bullock.  Crazy!

In Gustavsfors, Sweden I was surprised to ride around a curve in the road and see a German bakery and cafe.  It is owned by a man who came here from Hildesheim 15 years ago.  I had a nice breakfast and ordered a brotchen with cheese and salami to take with me for later in the day.  

This was to be my last day riding in Sweden for a while.  It turned out that the routing was heavily built around unpaved, one-lane, farm roads.  Though the road surface quality was, for the most part, o.k., the grading of the roads was as one would expect on country roads.  That is, not much grading.  If there was a hill, the road simply went over it and down the other side.  I rode miles and miles of uphill, then downhill.

Late in the day the forecasted rain started coming down in buckets.  I rode the last 30 km to my campground in Skillingsfors in the rain.  I was happy that I had called ahead and reserved a cabin. As I was taking a rest day there, I was able to get all my stuff dried out.  I was, however, disappointed in having arrived 15 minutes after the local Coop market had closed.  It was a Saturday afternoon, and the store was closed on Sunday.  So, my menu for the next couple days was noodles with pesto / gulasch soup / noodles with pesto.  After that, I was out of food.

After leaving Skillingsfors I was again on the same rural dirt roads.  Happily, I reached the Norwegian border in less than 15 km, and the road surfaces were immediately better.  The food situation, however, was not.  I got to Kongsvinger, Norway (a good sized town), and I figured there I would be able to find some things to stock me up for some days.  Imagine my dissappointment when I realized it was Phingsten, and it's a big holiday in Norway.  Everything was closed.

I managed to get two bacon wrapped hotdogs for breakfast / lunch.  When I got to my campground in Braskereidfoss the owner was kind enough to go into her own pantry and sell me a can of beans and two sausages.  That carried me over to the next day.

On the next day I had a relaxing ride to Rena, NO.  I hit the jackpot there.  Not only did I have another nice cabin, but there were three supermarkets within 1 km of the campground.  Food supplies replenished I was now ready to hit the road with few worries.

Planning my departure from Rena, I assumed (silly me) I would continue north on the highway 215 which I had been following the past two days.  So, with only a cursory glimpse at my maps confirming 215 continued north from Rena, I took off on Wednesday in, what I later learned, the wrong direction.  Aaaggghhh!  About 13 km down the road the 215 took a sharp turn to the east.  This surprised me, so I checked my route more closely and realized I was well off course.  My only options were to double back all the way to Rena and start over on the correct route; continue north (not on the 215, but a regional highway) which would likely add 30 km to my planned day; or, using logging roads and Google Maps, ride overland to rejoin the correct route.  I elected for the later option.  I suspect doubling back would have been better.

Once I was back on the planned route I had travelled 33 very difficult kilometers on steeply graded logging roads which were deeply rutted and recently strewn with deep gravel.  This made control and traction terribly difficult.  Especially on the steep ascents and descents.  

I was so relieved to get back on a paved road.  The going was much nicer, and just before reaching Koppgang, Norway I met two other bicycle tourists heading in the opposite direction.  They were Lividinia and Alexi from Switzerland.  They had flown to Tromsø, and were cycling. back to their home.  

The day was getting long, and I was anxious to get to my campground and the cabin I had reserved.  Koppgang was the last town before my destination, Atna.  It was 33 km, 25 of which was unpaved and rolling hills.  To add to the difficulty there were huge dump trucks coming from both directions every five minutes or so.  Often I had to simply pull over to the side of the road and stop to let them pass.

The campground in Atna was superb.  It is a very small, German-owned, campground.  The owner was very gracious.  I had a great little cabin with a nice view to the Glåma River.  The facilities were spotless, but the shower's hot water timing was a good deal off.  I'm glad I got the soap rinsed out of my hair and face before the hot water stopped.  10 kr was supposed to get me six minutes of hot water.  It got me maybe 2,5 minutes.  I had to finish my shower with ice water.  At least it was a morning shower and I was fully awake when I got finished.

There was again a lot of rain on my day in Atna, so I took another break.  That the previous day had been so long and difficult was one more reason why this was o.k.  But, it was on this day I decided to turn back towards home.  I knew I could go further, but my heart just isn't in it for such a long period away from Gudrun, my children, our beautiful new home, and the daily comforts I'm used to.  So, I plotted a return route that would make my trip a big loop.  I was not going to get to the nearest airport and fly home, but rather take a different route home by bike.  It's still going to take me about three weeks to get back.

Rather than head on to Trondheim, I saw the opportunity to head directly to Ringebu, Norway from Atna.  It involved crossing a mountain pass, but the distance made it seem quite doable for one day.  That turned out to be the case, but it doesn't mean it was easy.  It was 52 km from Atna to Ringebu.  The summit of the pass is 36 km from Atna.  It took me 5,5 hours to ride those 36 km.  On a good day I can usually cover that distance in about two hours. 

The ride from the summit to Ringebu was exhilarating.  The roads had recently been resurfaced, and I flew down the backside of the pass.  The wind, however, was giving me some troubles maintaining control at high speed.  So, I had to start putting those Migura disc brakes to the test. They worked.

Once reaching Ringebu, I turned back southwards to a campground just north of Tretten, NO.  To get there I had to ride on the shoulder of the E6 highway.  This is miserable cycling.  It is flat and fast, but the amount of traffic makes it totally nerve wracking.  I was truly happy when I pulled off the highway and into the campground.

Here, my route truly turned south.  The first thing I did on Saturday morning was ride the five kilometers on the E6 to Tretten, then cross the river to the old King's Highway.  Since the E6 was built, the King's Highway has turned into a route with far less traffic.  It is not graded like the more modern highways, so there are many more hills to climb, but it's much more safe.  

At some point the E6 crosses over the the right side of the river, so, just before Hamar, Norway, I crossed over to the left side.  I knew my route for the day was long, but I had not counted on the number of hills.  At the end of the day I had covered 128 km and over 1.000m of climbing.  The bonus at the end was a nice apartment (can't call it a cabin as it's built on the end of the main reception / cafe building) with a scenic view and a restaurant / bar within meters of my door.

Tomorrow I will ride roughly 80 km to Skarnes, NO.  Then, on Tuesday I will ride about 75 km into Oslo where I will stay at the Thon Bristol Hotel.  On Wednesday evening I will take the overnight ferry to Frederikshavn, Denmark to  begin the final 1.000 km leg home.  I won't be backtracking (other than the Glucksburg-Wischhafen ferry) to Aachen.  I'll be following the North Sea coast in Denmark and North Germany, then west to Groningen, NL, then south.  

More to come as the trip progresses.