This story takes you back a long time in the “Life On A Bike” chronology but it couldn't be written about at the time of its happening as there were some people who needed to hear the news in person rather than read it on the internet or hear it over the phone. It has been a difficult secret to keep but now that we've told everyone in our immediate families in person, I can finally write the story.
Rewind all the way back to the U.S. portion of this trip, August 2010, as that's where the story officially began. We were at my parents' house in Minnesota and somehow, though I don't remember this happening, Mike got a hold of the one piece of jewelry that I always wear, a piece made by my sister in a college class and I've never removed since she gave it to me at least 5 years ago. Anyway, he managed to get his hands on it, tried it on himself for size and made a mental note of how it fit.
Then there's a huge gap in the story. We rode the rest of the distance across the U.S., through South America and some 7 months later, in southern Spain, the story resumed. We were camped by a river with huge boulders that had sweeping, comfortable grooves for sitting in so I took the opportunity to do some writing in such a beautiful and peaceful setting. Mike took off on a walk through the forest in search of the perfect piece of wood for making a sling shot for his brother-in-law. Unbeknownst to me, he was also searching for something else; another piece of wood with tight grains, that was dry and had no cracks. He found exactly what he was looking for, cut 2 small pieces about a quarter of an inch thick from the 1 ½ inch diameter stick, tucked them away in his handlebar bag and waited.
Later that week we were staying at a Couch Surfing house in Granada. While I was in the shower, Mike found a ¼” drill bit in a tool box in the room we were given, quickly drilled a hole through the centers of the wood pieces before I returned and again put them away for later.
Another 2 weeks passed and the project remained untouched until we reached Zaragoza, a city in northern Spain. There, we had a Warm Showers house to stay at so while I was busy making phone calls and writing emails, Mike went out to search for some cardboard to send some stuff home. While out and about he bought a utility knife, which he was waiting until he was alone to buy as we documented every penny we spent and he didn't want to have to make up a bogus reason for his purchase. The knife was then used to carefully carve out the center of the wood piece any chance he got to get away from me. It's not an easy task when you live together in a 5x7 foot tent and though he's talented, he hasn't quite mastered the art of wood carving while cycling, which most days is the only time we get away from each other.
Again there was a long span of time where nothing happened, through France, Switzerland and on up to northern Austria. It wasn't until we reached the city of Schladming where we again had a house to stay at for a couple of days and Mike had some time to himself. Bike maintenance in the basement of the apartment was what I was told he was doing, which to a certain extent he was, but he was also sanding. With the sandpaper in our tube patch kit, he was meticulously smoothing down the outer surface of his creation.
Again there was another big break in the progress until we reached Kallstugan in southern Sweden where we stayed with our friend Gisela for nearly a week. There was a lot of down time while we were there waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. I spent an entire afternoon in town with Gisela which left Mike at home alone, and another afternoon he went “fishing” at a nearby lake. Those 2 large chunks of time were spent putting the final touches on his project. First he had to smooth out the inside surface and make it perfectly round which he did by wrapping a tiny piece of sandpaper around a small stick. Once completed, he had to seal the wood so he coated his work with clear fingernail polish that he had found in a bathroom cupboard at the house we were at. It wasn't the perfect sealant but it was the best he could do at the time. After it dried he set it in our tube patch kit, the only small box we have with us, tucked it in his pocket and waited for the perfect moment.
That moment finally arrived exactly 1,567 miles later. Fast forward to Nordkapp, Norway (The North Cape), the northernmost point in Europe to which you can drive (or ride a bike), the place where we saw the midnight sun. There was actually much more to that story than I originally published on the blog, so here's the remaining part.
There was a point along the cliffs at Nordkapp that we noticed right away; it was narrow with enough space for one to stand safely on its point or maybe two if you squeezed, it had beautiful views of the surrounding sunset golden cliffs and the Arctic Ocean far below but the best thing about it was there was no fence like most of the area. It was the place where you could sit on the top of the world with your legs dangling free over the ocean below; the place everyone seemed to be waiting to stand. “That's the perfect spot,” I remember Mike saying, but of course it always seemed to be occupied . We stood along the fenced section of cliffs until finally, shortly before 11pm, it was empty. By that time in the night most of the crowd was gathering around the globe, the iconic spot at Nordkapp where people come from around the world to witness the midnight sun.
I sat down on a small, grassy step, let the setting sunshine warm my face from the crisp Arctic breeze and invited Mike to sit down next to me. But he declined and just stood there, smiling at me from the edge of the cliff with his hands in the pockets of his puffy down jacket and replied, “You've been quoted as having said that you'd never marry a man who wouldn't ride his bike across the U.S. with you.” (Which is true, those words have come from my mouth on many occasions; a small requirement in my opinion). Before he finished his first sentence we were both smiling our biggest smiles and crying our biggest tears as he pulled his hands from his pockets. “Well, I hope I made the cut.” And then he asked me to marry him. No, not down on one knee as he would have tumbled down a cliff, and besides, that's a little too traditional for me anyway. Of course I said YES as he placed the perfectly sized, beautiful, hand carved wooden ring on my finger.
Since it came from an Oak tree is southern Spain, we like to say it's made out of “Spanish Oak” just to make it sound fancy and if I hold my hand in front of the sun it has more bling than any ring in the world. It is an invaluable ring that shines as bright as the sun and is made with the most sought after elements in the world, hard work and love. Mike has asked me to marry him about 100 times since that night in July, and every time I say yes. Now that he's said it once he can't seem to stop and he'll likely propose another thousand times or more before we actually get married as it's going to be a while. We still have a whole lot of the world to see from the seat of a bicycle and a wedding can always wait.