Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Long road ahead

4th June - 4am wake up, good sleep, feel ok, first thought is the weather, quick glance outside confirms a grey, slightly overcast sky, but thankfully no rain through the night so dry roads, a positive first moment in the long day ahead. Quick shower and dress, normal bib shorts plus the all too familiar practice of a second cut-down pair for added protection, to buy you a few extra days before the soreness and pain take hold. Back pack checked, packed as sparingly as possible. Bike box packed with unwanted or unneeded items and taken down to reception, their kind agreement to store the box until my return in around 10 days time, no extra charge for the service and no need to book a room for the return date, but still made the decision to reserve room, the Gardermoen Airport Hotel, a kind introduction to Norway.

Over to breakfast just before 5am and an unsurprising mix of people even at such an early hour, hotel staff, aircrew, travellers heading out to catch early flights. Good food and back to the room with one last strong black coffee to get the bike, one last look round and that was it, a moment that always seems to me like that there's no going back, you close out on perhaps the last predictable moment before heading into the unknown.

Back pack on and a quick smile and goodbye, nice that they have no idea where you're heading or what you're taking on. Gently rolling away from the hotel reception felt like one of those ramped starts to a time trial, but no countdown, no timed departure, no interval, just an empty deserted road ahead, 5.45am Sunday morning, Oslo still yet to rise.

Riding along the first section of the E6, a road that was to become my main companion over the next six days, a few miles in a westerly direction to get to road 120, heading north through forested roads, along the west side of the Hurdalssjoen lake, a misty damp morning, soulless and empty of life, solo in every respect. Almost with immediate effect you start to find annoying little problems, the interference between the back of the helmet and top pocket of the back-pack, seemingly impossible to adjust either item, you just carry on riding thinking it will eventually go away, but you still ride with head held in an ever so slightly uncomfortable position, you ride on. Riding north along the lake edge followed a gently rolling profile until reaching road 180 to again head in a westerly direction across longer bigger climbs and through the first light shower of the day, not quite enough to dig out the water proof jacket. Sight of the road opening up at the junction with the E4 was one of those small uplifting moments, every junction and change of road seems like an achievement, a new road, new energy, new sense of purpose. The decision to head north long the E4 to Gjovik rather than the option of a short section south to pick up road 34 north.

Following the E4 was a delight, back to rolling roads away from the climbs that seem to come with roads that cross east-west, passing lake Einafjorden with beautiful clear backdrop view the Vidalen mountains, forgetting it was still only very early morning all but for the solitude of the deserted Sunday-morning roads. Onto Gjovik, rolling into the edge of town to pick up the start of road 33, a new junction, uplifted again, a change of direction heading west. Stopped for a couple of strong black coffees and pastries, my first taste of a Norwegian fruit bun, the first of what would prove to be many more over coming days, a quick check of the map and miles covered on the Garmin and then off, route 33 towards Fluberg.

The next 20-30 miles proved tough, a really long climb over mountains in the Vardalsasen area, seemed relentless, compounded by another shower, this time resorting to the weather proof jacket, not the greatest apparel but finally necessary. Onto Odnes passing Randsfjorden towards Bjorgo Burflat and the last big junction of the day, a wide open road intersection, sweeping right onto the E16 and the final stretch of the day, heading north once more, rolling flat road which lifted the speed from the last two-three hours. By now early afternoon and more traffic but that uplifting feeling that comes with knowing the destination is in sight, the town of Fagernes, a left turn by the lake off the E16 and into town, passing hotels that were for sure way beyond the allocated budget, to find a campsite and the offer of a Hytter next to the lake, perfect setting, a near perfect end to being on the road for nearly 10 hours. Sitting under the canopy of the cabin, with hot tea the rain came within minutes, a 45 minute torrential downpour, your spirits drop at the thought of this being the next morning, with limited supplies, limited clothing and a long day in the saddle.

Then, the sky changed, not just for an instant but for what would prove to be the next five days, the E6 and blue sky becoming the two closest companions on the road, sitting there again watching the double rainbow appear from the lake, you can't help but count your good fortune.

Eat, rest, long hot shower, bike check, clothes check and asleep by 9pm, proper deep sleep.

Day 1 - 130 miles
Room with a view
'Rainbow stripes'

Hytter by the lake
Monday morning!

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