Monday, August 19, 2013

A deeper well

The moon is up, stars coming out. Ahead are 30 kilometers and in my mind, we just need to climb a ridge and get over to the next valley. Then we'll be done. Skien is along a river so we'll just shoot down the river valley into town.

We climb steeply for 3 or 4 km. After getting my climbing legs back this morning, I'm fading behind again. No idea why. Here comes a beefy Norwegian, whose name I don't even know, circling behind me and pushing with his hand on my back. I could do a lot with an engine like that!

There's a lovely, exhilarating descent, then more climbing. Descent. The lights of a town in a small valley. Could it be Skien? I'm so ready for it to be Skien. No, it is a sweet little place called Siljan with everything is buttoned up tight. We've come only 10km. Oh god, twenty more to go!

Another steep long climb. The Edelux has to go off so I don't lag too much. The Norwegian guy (Reidar, as it turns out) tries to give me another push and I just bark at him and say I'm too miserable. Leave me alone...

Another major downhill, steep, fast, long, twisty. Unbelievable. I'm aggressive on the descents, out in front, getting revenge. The Edelux is bright, the road smooth. I'm thinking how good this is for the brain, for attention, because a moment's lapse could be fatal. Really, it's just like a video game except with great bodily risk.

Another climb. It is endless. It is hopeless. I have nothing left.

At the top of this bump Reidar says "Elaine you are a machine!" It gives me something. Love him for that, whoever he may be. Almost to myself I say "Yes I am a machine." This is a nightmare, the toughest night ride of all time. Either it's a deep hole of torture we'll never work out of or a deep well of strength that will carry us through.

In Skien the streets are all lit up, the storefronts dark. It is a major town and majorly confusing. Martin is so tired he's slurring his words. "Is it straightforward? Is it close?" he asks. No.

Reidar leads us by instinct through town, with grace. He doesn't know the way but he's been through a lot of Norwegian towns. There's some pattern they have in common.

At the far edge we try following a sign toward the "Sportell". It leads to the parking lot of some huge, ghostly mall. No go. Out comes the iPhone and the blue dot. We backtrack, heading into a neighborhood. This sets off alarm bells for everyone.

Reidar stops a group of teenagers to ask directions in Norwegian. I'm thinking, teenagers have never been known for their directional sense. But they do love to talk.

Before the ride I went through the final turns of each day on Google Maps. Mentally rehearsed the last couple of kilometers. In the dark, without sleep, hungry, exhausted, navigation is what will defeat you. You'll ride in circles, trying to be done.

The map showed the route taking an unorthodox way, a shortcut on a minor road. I ride to a street sign, see that it is the right name and just hope the others will give up on the teenagers and follow me.

Eventually they do, and it's very close, and we get there at 12:45am.

No comments:

Post a Comment