Monday, August 19, 2013

Still on the bridge



At this point in the ride there's not much left to say. A few intersections where we need to compare notes on turns, which way to go. That's about it.

It's Monday evening. Daylight fading around us, soft and beautiful. It's 85 hours into this project, the big circle around the waters of the Kattegat and Skagerrak. Since the Friday morning drizzle in Saeby we've put 1,194 kilometers on our legs. Climbed 34,000 feet in the process. (Never underestimate the hot dog as a riding food.)


All this and more can be read in our faces right now. With the adventure coming to a close, a deep satisfaction. We know we'll make it. We have 8 kilometers left in us.

Yes we're sleep-deprived, saddle sore, weary. Also fed and watered, in good spirits. At various times each has waited when they wanted to go. Pulled into the wind. Helped with equipment and finding the way. Pushed the pace, lagged behind. It has been more than a linguistic adventure, these 4 days. Feels like a lifetime.

Maybe all of us would have made it to this intersection anyway, riding solo. It would have been hard. It would have been a lot different.

The ride is not over yet; we were warned about the potential for moose or elk on the road in Norway. Unlike the frontage road from Arendal, road 401 is a small, twisty, lovely bike road. An adult moose could easily block these lanes and stop traffic. Keep us here until winter...

As it turns out, the only stray mammals are cyclists. That would be us. And after a couple of kilometers the road and gravity suddenly lead downward, dumping us without warning at the E18.

Under normal circumstances no cyclist would choose a major road like the E18. But at this point the E18 is the only way, a huge suspension bridge across the fjord separating us from Kristiansand. We'll take the bridge. There will be no scrambling down the rocks or swimming.

The Old Varodd bridge is a functional structure, abrupt in its lack of pretension. Chunky, all angles and bolts, industrial-looking. Wide enough for a separate cycle track. The entrance to the ramp is a bit of a puzzle, but we figure it out. We make a little swarm that commuters heading the other way have to weave through.

Nothing has felt better than the cool air as it fills my lungs. Fresh and rich with oxygen. Life-giving. I could stay here and breathe a long time. Even so, twilight is painting its pinks and smoky blues over the water. The pale moon is up, framed by a concrete tower, almost full.
Kristiansand Bridge To The City
Varoddbrua, Kristiansand, Norway. Photo by Dre Williams
The concrete feels strong and solid, well-engineered. No matter how tired, we will be delivered. For a moment everything that hurts, doesn't fit or make sense, it can just rest.

As the bridge lifts us over the water, the view stretches out to the horizon. Vast and good. It must be blustery – we're floating high above the open water–but the air feels quiet, sheltered. It must be noisy–this is the main road into Kristiansand. We're riding together, in silence. The only sound I hear is the Waterford's crank, humming smoothly.

Somehow the crank has become weightless, disembodied, as if pushing is optional and forward progress happens magically, no matter what. The cadence is fast, but time does not seem to be moving. In my head there are no thoughts or words.

In their place a sense of peace, of ease in my own skin anywhere in the world. The absence of wanting or wishing for anything, for a life other than this one. The absence of fear. It is a relief.

In a few minutes, it's done. We're in the parking lot of Budget Hotel Kristiansand, merging into the chaos of riders and crew. At last! The final routine of drop bags, shower, dinner, sleep. Tomorrow morning most of us will catch a ferry back to the start.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Not only will I be sleeping in, but tonight my sister came to help celebrate. Her first encounter with people who have just finished a 1200k. Part of me is still out there on the bridge, in a state of bliss, in another world.

It will take a while to start processing things normally. Until then she gets a gift of two bananas, imported from Arendal in a back pocket.




To Martin and Niels-Kristian, I appreciated and drew strength from your presence. May you be in good company, always.

8 comments :

  1. Wonderful! What a fine ride report, Elaine.
    Many, many thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

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  2. Elaine, your writing is fantastic. I was completely transfixed. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Elaine, It's good reading, the emotions from SBS 2013 was "awakened" and relived. It was a great, but sometimes tough route. But we did it!
    sincerely,
    "Neroracer Driver" or Velonaut
    Soren Moller
    www.velostrada.dk

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    1. Hey Søren, glad you liked it! One of the stories that's missing is how you raced that motorcycle downhill on the way to Skien…
      Can't believe you finished with us - the last day was full of hills. Congratulations!

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    2. I enjoyed your adventure Elaine, you are an excellent storyteller!

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    3. Yes, Elaine, it was fun to get the "Thumbs up" from the motorcycle.
      The hills .. hmm what comes up .. must come down :-).

      "If quitting is not an option, make sure the goal is within reach"

      It was actually not that hard for me. I sit very well in my "Neuro Racer", so did not get a sore back, legs and other less pleasant places that others got.

      Best Regards
      Soren

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