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Camping Ground Downtime

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Camping Ground Downtime

I woke up among the aforementioned spruces. An unpleasant smell assaulted my nostrils. In other circumstances I could’ve blamed a deceased rodent, but I hadn’t showered for three days, so it was probably just my own stench. Normally I try to shower at least every two days - or if it’s hot and sweaty, I go swimming every day. Some cyclists say they can go a week without bathing, but for me the third day is already a high level emergency. I just hate being filthy. So the first order of business was to find a hot shower.

On the road I felt tired again. My legs felt sluggish and pedalling felt like a chore. I was even slightly annoyed for no particular reason. I knew what that meant. It was a sure sign that I needed rest badly. Clearly I had been on the move too much and required downtime. Two or three days should do it.

The timing wasn’t bad for it - there was a severe rain warning for the area. According to yr.no up to 50-85mm of water would come down in the next two days, and I would definitely not want to be cycling during that. I found a camping ground in Eidsbygda and booked it for three nights.

The night I arrived I tried to take a time-lapse of the sunset turning into a starry sky over the fjord. Unfortunately I underestimated air humidity and the lens fogged up halfway through. But I did see a very bright green meteor, which made it to one of the still frames.

Meteor flash over a fjord in Norway.

It rained for most my stay. Not as crazy as 85mm in the end, but still the second biggest downpour I’ve experienced during my year of camping on bike trips (all tours combined). It wasn’t a problem, though. My tent kept my sleeping bag dry, and I spent much of the time in the warmth of the kitchen doing computer stuff.

I did lose one of my hard drives, however. The 480GB SSD stopped working suddenly. Luckily that’s just a temporary storage and working drive, so I didn’t lose any original photos, just some hours of time-lapse processing. Not a disaster. It’s also under warranty, and after some back and forth with Sandisk about not having a permanent address, I should be able to get a replacement. This does make me want to be more careful with the two remaining 3TB drives.

Besides that, I ate well, slept a lot, and of course enjoyed some extremely thorough showers. Good as new. These regular resets are crucial for physical and mental wellbeing. At two and a half months this is still an average tour length for me, so I feel like I have a fairly good idea of what to expect. But from the fourth month onwards it will be uncharted territory. Later on I may need to learn to take recovery periods of a week or two, perhaps even longer.

So this serves as a kind of reminder to myself to pay careful attention to how I feel, to avoid any minor issues growing into bigger problems.

Post-rain fog and clouds billowing down the mountain.

The camping ground was beautifully located by a quaint fjord surrounded by mountains. Presumably the waters were great for fishing, because there were quite a few boats on the pier. It seemed like most of the other occupants were carrying fishing poles and lures on their way out, and buckets of fish upon return.

One such fisherman was Jan from Holland. I was processing the soon-to-be-lost time-lapses in the kitchen and he walked right over to inspect my photo gear. He was a photographer also, and we tend to be curious about other people’s lens choices. So we started talking. He and his wife Corie (apologies for the probably incorrect spelling) were travelling by camper van and had been to that same camping ground dozens of times over the years.

They were an exceptionally nice and friendly couple, and soon invited me over as a guest. They told me about their history and I spoke about my trip. First over a cup of tea, and then progressing to a glass of wine. The vast majority of random meetings on a bike tour are, while wonderful, rather short. So I was very happy to sit down and talk beyond the usual questions. To the point where I probably missed the first few subtle hints that it was getting late and the evening was over.

Before I left, they even gave me packets of mashed potato powder and freshly caught fish fillet. And I was welcome to visit their home, should my journey pass through the Netherlands. It’s heartwarming to make friends like this while travelling.

After wiping off the rain-inflicted rust from my chain, I continued my adventure. All the joy of touring had returned and I smiled brightly at oncoming traffic for the first few kilometers.

I had the fish with mashed potatoes for lunch in Åndalsnes, and it was delicious!

Cycling into the sunset.
 

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Regarding Danger

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Regarding Danger

Now that the last few updates have painted a perfect rosy picture of cycling, it’s a good time to talk about the other side of bicycle touring. You see, I’ve been thinking about the dangers and risks of adventuring lately. And for a reason.

On Leksdalsvatnet south of Steinkjer, I found a fantastic campsite. Probably the best one so far. Right by a lake beach there was a large shelter and barbeque pit, with firewood and a toilet. The water temperature was something like 20C, which felt like a heated swimming pool after the hypothermia-inducing waters of the north. The countryside gravel road that brought me to this place didn’t see too many cars.

There was no need for my rule about great campsites. It was morning and I’d been traveling all night and had already been looking for a place to crash. This was perfect. I pitched my tent on the sand and was almost ready to crawl into the sleeping bag.

And that’s when I found a tick on my leg.

Different shades of mountains disappearing into the distance.

Ticks are a rather disgusting sight. Of all the dangers of bicycle touring, none are as small and insidious as these awful creatures. After biting you, they latch on for days and can spread a variety of nasty diseases.

This one was a nymph tick, which is tiny and hence particularly difficult to spot and remove. I didn’t have a proper tool with me (which I made a note to correct as soon as possible), so I went with the “loop a string around it” method. It was so close to the skin I even had to carefully shave a few hairs around it to stop them from getting in the way of the operation. This was not one of the highlights of my trip so far.

It was finicky business, but the intruder eventually came off. I cleaned up and went to sleep.

Pine tree silhouette at dusk.

When I woke up (at the perfectly normal hour of 7pm), I felt a bit frazzled at the thought of Lyme disease and other possibilities. Not in the mood for continuing yet, I decided to do a small reset. The campsite was excellent after all, and I’d been cycling well above my daily average lately, so I needed rest anyway.

After breakfast I started with the dirty work. I lubed my chain, tightened the breaks and tidied up some mud and dust off the bike. Then I washed my clothes and went for a swim to clean myself.

In the water there was time to think. The sun was setting, bathing the clouds in a deepening orange light. I was gently floating on the surface with my hands behind my head, as I always do. On every exhalation my chest fell below the water, and rose again when I breathed in. Up and down, rise and fall. The tempo gradually slowed down. Floating like this is so relaxing I often wonder if it would be possible to fall asleep on water.

Still water reflecting a sunset.

Okay - yes, many things can happen on a tour. Dangerous animals, accidents and diseases. But a lot can happen at home too. I had to remind myself of the principle behind this trip, which I allude to in my first post from the road, a few hours into the journey:

"Whatever happens from this moment on, the most important thing is that I've chosen to live life my way, without letting fear get in the way of my goals."

A life chained by fear is a life wasted, and that’s the biggest danger of all.

Not to mention the fact that life is fragile, no matter what we do. It can already end any day, so attempting to find safety and security within it is a pointless exercise. Even dying on tour is better than never living at home. Plus the day I decide to forget my dream of a world expedition as too dangerous, can be the day I slip and fall in the shower. Or get hit by a car on my “much safer” home street.

Leksdalsvatnet at night with the moon behind clouds.

By the time I got out of the water, the clouds were dark gray. The lights of farm houses far away on the other side of the lake were reflected off the surface. I made a fire and sat down to watch it.

There is something automatically calming about a campfire. It must be coded in our DNA after aeons of using fire to protect us from the elements and animals. By the flames, our minds stop racing, voices lower, movements slow down. Silence grows.

Yeah. I’d be alright.

 

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In Need of a Reset

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In Need of a Reset

After it had rained for five or six days in a row, I finally caught a break. A morning without rain - even a glimpse of sunshine. Finally I could get back to business! The total amount cycled from Bognes in the preceding week couldn’t have been much more than 30km, with zero photos taken for four days. I packed up, hit the road, and... was immediately slapped in the face with an 8m/s headwind.

That’s it, I thought. I need a reset.

Tent spot with a view by the river.

Sometimes things are difficult on a bicycle tour. When this happens, you go into a mode where you just deal with the basics - finding food and water, getting warm and dry, camping and resting. Everything else, like laundry and bike maintenance becomes secondary.

If this mode lasts for too long, it begins to have an effect on your mood. And the secondary issues pile up and also start to cause problems. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, but when it does, my method of dealing with it is a “reset”.

That means trying to make everything as fresh and new as possible, as if I was starting a new tour. Meaning I eat well, bathe thoroughly, dry everything, wash my clothes and whatever else is dirty, and fix any issues with the bicycle. If it’s a sunny and warm day I lay out everything in the sunshine, because UV radiation is an effective disinfectant.

It was neither sunny nor warm, so I decided to check in to a camping ground. It was the first time I’d done that on this trip, aside from my usual shower visits. Luckily there was a place called Notvann Camping only a few kilometers away, and mostly downhill. I arrived at nine in the morning, which I believe is slightly earlier than most people choose to camp, causing some amusement.

It was a friendly family run place, overlooking a beautiful quiet river that flowed into the nearby fjord, with a mountain view and a few horses doing things that horses do when they’re off-duty.

Like enjoying the view.

Like enjoying the view.

While I may boast about how rarely I need to stay in camping grounds, I really needed it this time. And after two showers, a shave, a machineful of laundry, one lubed bicycle chain, thousands of kilocalories, recharged batteries, hours of time-lapse processing, and a good night’s sleep, I felt like a new man. When I eventually got back on the road the next day, I was smiling again.

Reset successful.

Notvann river view with a mountain in the distance.

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