Northern Lights

Northern Lights

As I was riding in the tranquility of the night towards my final stop for the night, I thought about how much I love night riding. The simple focus it gives you, the need to focus, the calmness. It’s a perfect way to end a good day’s cycling. When I rolled into Grundarfjordor after 108k I hope for a bed in a dorm. Unfortunately my hope was just that, as the hostel was fully booked. Just as I approached the town I got my final soak for the day, a warm and cosy place was needed soon.

However, for some reason, I was actually looking forward to cycle the extra distance to the place I had stayed the night before. The owners of the hostel were super nice, the hostel itself was great and I knew I would have a warm bed, as the mercury approached the zero mark already. So the thought of doing another two hours in the dark after having had another day with rain, wind, hail and snow actually filled me with great joy.

There’s not much to add to my cycling during the day. After a late start stocking up with supplies the weather had actually dramatically improved, at least for the first hour. After that it was back to normal, and as soon as I cycled towards the southern coast of the peninsula it started to rain again, heavily. Maybe I simply got used to it after the first two days, somehow the constant change between rain and wind didn’t bother me. The scenery riding along the coast was stunning again, and somehow I imagined what it would be like in good weather, being actually able to see the mountains in their full glory, not just a little bit in between the low hanging clouds and massive bands of showers pushing in.

I briefly stopped at Hotel Rjukandi, as Gabriel, the owner, had left a lovely comment on my blog and I just and wanted to say thanks. While studying the map outside a jeep pulled in and two guys said hello. One of them was Max Milligan, a Scottish photographer and good friend of Robert Penn, one of my big heroes, and his friend Petur. They both were fascinated by the bike and my travels, and hopefully we get the chance to catch up again in the future. Gabriel was great with some advice, his hotel is on my bucket list for Iceland now, there’ll surely be another time.

The highlight of the day was the mountain pass crossing over to the Northern coast again. Miles of climbing, thumbs up from people in cars, and a gravel descent down the other side. The final miles in the daylight were great, riding long empty beaches with black lava sand, mixed with higher sections along cliffs, a dream to cycle.

While I was disappearing into the night I looked back a few times, and was amazed how light it still was. The day had passed the 8 o’clock mark already, and given it was October it was still light. I imagined how it would be like to cycle in the height of summer here, as the sun never sets. The perfect location for a 24hr race, wouldn’t there be the weather. With still 30k to go, I thought about how I normally motivate myself. I was used to clocking miles in the night, something I did almost every day when I cycled home from work in Stirling. I remembered how many glorious nights I had, stopping at the fuel station in Falkirk to get some potato scones as fuel and head off again. All of those positive memories flew past, while I was back on the section of road I already had cycled the day before when I struggled into the wind. I thought about the trip ahead, meeting my girlfriend Sophie in New York. And then I looked back. It struck me that Friday’s seemed to be my epic days so far.

The first Friday I has cycled 255km to get to the UK Singlespeed Champs in Yorkshire. Arriving at 1.30am at night in the cold was epic, and I matched that again the next Friday when I tackled the hilliest 4 miles of the trip so far, cycling into Salcombe with Charlie the Bikemonger. And then was Friday no.3, almost 200k through the South of France, and a lovely place to stay in Tarnos. Friday no.4 was another epic, trying to push into Barcelona but stopping in Igualada, in a rather shabby hostal.

And now this Friday, adding another 150k to my trip in Iceland, most possibly the most epic of Fridays so far. The tranquility of the night was amazing, cars passed ever now and then, I felt super safe. If something happened I would just stick my finger out and hitch a ride, I had now cycled this section of the road twice already. And then I thought about the Northern Lights. I had seen a glimpse of them the night before, but the clouds were too thick to reveal more. I looked back and was amazed about the stars on the horizon. Although my fingers didn’t like any photography attempts now, I got the tripod out and shot into the night. First attempt and a great result, and off I was again, warming the fingers up by cycling faster.
While rolling North into Stykkesholmur I saw a glimmer of green. All of the sudden it became stronger and stronger. I stopped, dropped the bike in a ditch, and stood in the middle of the road to admire a spectacle out of this world. Just me, the night and a light show that was extraordinary. And average day cycling had just become a memory I will never forget. I waited a bit longer, got the tripod out and took a picture to capture the moment. I deliberately waited, I wanted the memory in my head first. As I rolled into town and dumped myself in the kitchen with a coffee, thinking how lucky I was to be alive. This is the stuff dreams were made off, though tonight wasn’t a dream, it was life at its very best.