What kind of circumstances does it require to make a 2.5 kilometer tunnel, all of it an uphill climb, look appealing to a cyclist? Cold, rain, and a laptop water damage emergency.
Let me paint a picture to those of you who have never cycled through a tunnel:
Imagine it’s summer. You’re on a bicycle tour. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You couldn’t be happier. Until you turn around a bend and your heart sinks. The road continues into blackness through a mountain.
All of a sudden, you’re banished from The Shire into the Mines of Moria. The temperature drops 20 degrees to near zero. Drops of icy water fall from the cracks in the rock onto your skin. The floor is wet and slippery. Strange echoes and creepy unidentifiable tunnel sounds, almost like whispers, slither into your ears.
You turn your head to try to light up every nook and crevice with your headlamp to look for monsters. Every two seconds your breath fogs up and hits the beam of light, essentially blinding you.
And then you hear the rumbling. They are coming.
You start to cycle more frantically, trying to figure out if the sound is coming from the front or back. Then you see headlights behind you on the same lane. Shit. The rumbling builds into a deafening cascade of sound. The two bright dots in your rear view mirror fuse into one ball of pure light that burns your retinas. All the while you’re trying to cycle as straight as you can, which is not easy with a heavy bicycle in an uphill tunnel with an icy floor and severely compromised eyesight.
But there’s nowhere else to go. You can only hope the car passes safely.
And that's what tunnels are like.
I try to avoid going through them whenever possible, but on Senja there usually aren’t alternative routes. So at the very least I make an effort to cycle through tunnels during very low traffic hours.
Hence, I never thought I’d be happy at the sight of the 2.5km Skaland tunnel. It had been raining for a while and I’d realized the rain cover of my backpack was leaking. That’s the one that contains the laptop and other important electronics, so water seeping into it was a huge problem. And there was no shelter anywhere. Until I spotted the tunnel. I could stay there by the side of the gate, safe from rain.
I stayed there for a few hours until the weather cleared. There was little traffic, and it was split about evenly between drivers with a "best of luck with the weather!" kind of smile and wave, and the "what the hell is this guy doing?" stare.
Luckily no damage was done. But until I can find a more waterproof backpack, I need to figure out a whole new system of protecting my valuables.