Sunday, August 18, 2013

Crossing over

This morning's route is pretty simple. Which is lucky because with rain coming down it's risky looking at the route sheet. The iPhone stays in the handlebar bag. Every neuron is dedicated to keeping the bike on the road.

It's the right road anyway because of the signs for Graensen, the border. Hard to miss. Unlike the nebulous, watery transition between Denmark and Sweden, this does actually resemble a border! It helps to feel like progress is being made. A sweet little bridge, quite narrow, crossing over a string of lakes called Nordre Kornsjo. Definitely a place to celebrate and take photos.

Can't imagine stopping, though. It's not like the rain is letting up. It's not like the day is getting any younger. It's only been 100km or so since Uddevalla. So instead I'll do my best to not collide with riders who have stopped. My contribution to storytelling for the day.

On the Norway side there's a little town, Kornsjo. Someone is asking to stop.

The majority of what I'm thinking can't be said. "I'm not stopping" are the words that come out. "You guys feel free to stop, do what you need to do. I can ride by myself no problem. But I'm not stopping."

Either it's my imagination or there's a stunned silence. So much for all for one, one for all.

Of course the thing about riding by myself is a total lie. I have no clue where I am, no desire to eat alone, no appetite for a day of monastic silence. But there are other riders around, ones who might be more compatible. Two bars and two gels are burning a hole in my back pocket. Too early to stop.

Faced with disapproval, I conjure what experienced randonneurs at home would do, people like Kim Freitas, Rob Hawks, the SFR crowd. At home we keep stops to a minimum and don't burn daylight. It's completely acceptable and expected for riders to do that. It's the way I can ride this ride.

Martin and I press on while others peel off and do their thing. We head down a long, twisty descent that requires all my focus and bike-handling skills. Then we climb again, finally emerging hungry outside a town that might be Rakkestad, Norway. We've come about 100 miles, 100 miles to go. It's the middle of the afternoon. Definitely time for lunch.

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Every town seems to have a little snack bar on the outskirts. We screech to a halt at the sight of bikes stacked outside, next to the picnic table. Inside it's lovely and warm but Martin is right, this needs to be a quick stop. He orders a hamburger, I order a hot dog with fries and a Coke. While they work on it I walk around coveting the food of other customers.
The guy with the burger is offering it to me as a joke. Little does he know....
When the hot dog arrives there's no bun because I didn't pronounce something correctly when ordering.  Well I don't speak Norwegian, or Danish. You have to say you want bread, apparently. Hot dog with bread. Not only that but my American VISA card doesn't work because there's no chip. To make me go away they hand over a bun, no charge.

It's all quite delicious.

At this point, a nap would hit the spot. Really hard to think about anything else. Still totally soaked, I start to shiver uncontrollably. Which is a helpful reminder to get back on the bike.

About 10 minutes down the road the rain lets up and there's sun! And here comes Niels-Christian! A pack of riders catches us and we hang on. There's a blistering headwind. We persevere.

It's starting to feel like a brevet.

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