Why is it that when you really want good weather you don't get it and when you really don't care if it's cold and rainy because you don't have to be outside all day, it ends up being warm and sunny? The entire time we were hitchhiking, it was hot outside, the skies were clear and we were spending our days sitting in camper vans. As soon as we took off riding again the rain began and it doesn't seem to want to stop. Thankfully it hasn't rained every day for the past 2 weeks or we probably would have hitchhiked our way all the way out of Norway. There is nothing more uncomfortable while bike touring than consecutive rainy days. Give us extreme temperatures, wind, bugs, grueling mountain passes, no showers for weeks, anything, but please don't give us constant rain day after day. Not only is it boring to spend all day staring at the white lines painted on the roads and the water spraying off the front tire because you can't see the scenery, but it's also miserable knowing you don't have a warm, dry place to go home to when the ride's over.

One day of rain is okay because even though everything you're wearing gets dirty and soaked, if the next day is dry, we are able to wash our stuff at gas stations or in a river and let it dry on the backs of our bikes while we ride. It's a different story when it rains for days. Everything is muddy and wet, even on the insides of our waterproof panniers. We set up our tent only to find the inside floor is one giant puddle from being on the bike all day. Our sleeping pads are wet because the waterproof bag they're stored in is no longer even the slightest big water resistant. Once we get set up and into our sopping wet house, there's no relaxing. Instead we spend the entire night boiling water for hot water bottles to wrap our wet shorts around, a desperate attempt to dry them out a bit before putting them on in the morning. It usually doesn't do much good and we end up slipping into freezing cold, wet clothes and shoes that squirt water with every step.

After a while the rain gets to you. It simply breaks your soul. The last thing in the world you want to do is get out of your sleeping bag and go back outside. There is no motivation whatsoever. One day last week we stayed in bed until 2:00, grumbling and groaning about the weather for a few minutes before rolling over and dozing back off to sleep. Three o'clock rolled around and we realized we didn't have enough food or fuel to get us through the night so we packed up and ventured out. A few hours into a ride we were both hating, the rain slowed and we were debating whether to set up camp or keep on going. I made the call that if it started to rain hard again, if we found shelter or if it got to be 8:30 we would stop, whichever of those things came first.

At 8:30 on the nose it began to rain so we turned down the first gravel road we found. No more than 50 meters down the road we spotted a hunter's hut which are typically nothing more than a little perch with a roof, no walls and only big enough to fit a single chair. I climbed up the 10-foot old metal ladder that leaned heavily to one side to take a look. There were walls, a sturdy floor, a seamless roof and chairs. We found our home for the night and suddenly the day of riding in the rain didn't seem so bad after all. We hung a clothesline along 2 of the walls to drape all of our wet things on, had a comfortable dinner while sitting on chairs and even though it was very cramped quarters with our tent taking up essentially the entire room, we were happy to be out of the rain for the night.

The hunting hut.

The following day it was raining again, which was no surprise, but we had sent out a bunch of Couch Surfing requests the day before and luckily had found a place to stay in Trondheim. The city was 65 miles away, a long ride in the rain, but just knowing we had a shower and laundry awaiting kept us going. We arrived at Ronny's house late that night covered in mud, soaked to the bone and shivering. His face was priceless when he opened the door to find 2 drowned rats on his doorstep but he welcomed us and all of our filthy gear in, gave us hot tea and let us stay for 2 nights while all of our clothes and equipment, which we had draped all over his porch and attic, dried. Ronny, we can not thank you enough!

One major order of business we, well Mike since he's in charge of the bikes, had to tend to in Trondheim was fixing our dying bikes. They are seriously ill and I'm not sure how much longer they're going to last. Everything is worn out, except for the brakes because we just changed them, but every other moving part is completely shot. No amount of cleaning or adjusting improves their functionality at all and it's a bad sign when you stop to check out the old, completely mutilated bikes that have been abandoned on the side of the road and realize their parts are in better condition that ours; if only they were the right sizes. The 2 days before we arrived in Trondheim, Mike couldn't shift out of granny gear so he head to pedal with hardly any resistance, which is fine for the uphills but at all other times his legs were going as fast as Road Runner's. I had the opposite problem; I couldn't get into my small ring so there was always a lot of resistance, which was great for going downhill but as soon as we had to climb, my poor legs had to work quadruple time. At the top of every hill I could barely breath, my heart was pounding so hard, and I was positive that if I had to take one more pedal stroke I'd keel over from a heart attack.

We had no choice but to buy some parts to fix the bikes and it's a real bummer that we had to do so in Norway. When we left the bike shop and looked at our receipt we actually went back in as there was no possible way the amount could be correct. These parts should have cost us maybe $20, not $60, but apparently everything was priced correctly. I hope we have no more major breakdowns in Norway. It wold be cheaper to book a plane ticket back to the US and buy a completely new bike than to simply replace our worn out drive trains here in Norway. Fortunately Mike's got the mind of an engineer so hopefully his zip-tie, jury-rigged piece of work will hold out until we're in a different country.

We've discovered that in Norway they have an excellent way to get people to recycle their plastic bottles and cans. They charge you what equates to $0.18 per bottle and can that you purchase but unlike California where you get only a fraction of that back, in Norway you get it all. But of course, just like everywhere else in the world, people still throw beverage containers on the sides of the roads, so we've taken to picking them up and returning them for cash. It's a bit of a dirty job and can slow us down a bit, but we figure we're dirty anyway, don't really have a schedule and without much effort we can easily knock $10 off of our daily food expenses, which helps us stay close to our budget. If we really wanted to I'm sure we could eat for free nearly every day but we're out here riding our bikes, not doing a major clean up Norway project. For the month of August there's an added bonus to picking up bottles. Coca-Cola has a promotion going on where if you collect 6 smiley faces from under the caps you get a free coke. A very high percentage of the bottles on the roads are Coke bottles which is doubly awesome for us as we get money for the bottle and free drinks with the caps. Between what we've collected from the roadsides and Mike's shameless asking at a small town supermarket if he could take the caps from the bottles in their recycling room, we're going to have free Coke every day for the rest of our time in Norway. It might not be the most healthful thing for us but a daily treat is nice and getting anything for free in this country feels really, really good.
This is worth lots of free Coke.


Mom said...

Enjoy the coke?? Enjoy the rain?? Enjoy the ride!!! I am interested in seeing the bikes when they return. Jorunn received my book and is looking forward to your visit, sorry we missed your call this morning. Love you bunches!!

NancyE said...

Catching up on my reading. Oh man. Norway sounds just awful. I hope things improve as you head south. It's sad to think of your beautiful, joyfully painted bikes all worn out. :-(