"Iceland 2000" story # 4

Mt. Esja          June 8, 2000

At midnight, I started biking for the mountains. Reykjavik is on this inlet, and on the opposite side of the inlet is a long, flat, snow-topped mountain. I knew another kid who'd biked there. "It's a lot farther than it looks," he said. What a dope, I remember thinking, how could something look closer than it is?
     I figured it'd take me four hours total to bike to the mountain, climb it, and come back. I borrowed a bike from some spare room in my building. It was way too small for me, and it squeaked when I rode it as if it might fall apart. It looked like Dorothy's bike from the Wizard of Oz, without the basket (and judging by the shape this thing was in, it might've actually been that bike!).
     After ten minutes, the chain fell off and I banged my knee hard on the handlebars. Many people might've given up at this time, but I said, "Press On!" and continued.
     Ten minutes later, the chain fell off again. There seemed little promise of it staying on for long. Most people would've gone home at this point, but I said, "Press On!" and continued.
     The problem was I had no directions on how to get to this mountain. When I'd left my building, I'd done so with blind faith that I would find my way to the mountain easily. But after forty minutes, the mountain was the same size as it looked from my window - just in a different direction. After an hour, it seemed to have actually gotten smaller!
     Finally, I came to Reykjavik's edge and a bridge across the inlet. The road ended, so I decided the mountain was close enough to walk to. I left the bike and set off through these "moguls" of grass where lots of birds live. Some birds flew high and sung like reverberations, and the black-headed, orange-beaked birds circled around me like sharks. To pass the walk, I invented a game called grass-mogul-jump-race (of which I'm the sole competitor and proud champion). My record is 17 grass-mogul-jumps without falling.
     Then came another major setback. The mountain was apparently further away then it looked, because the inlet sprung up in front of me again - meaning the only way off the grass-moguls, on land, was to turn around. At this point, I didn't care what most people would've done - I was going to reach that mountain if I had to wade through the inlet to get there!
     Actually, I considered that option until my (brief) geology knowledge told me that if there was a mountain on the other side of the water, the 2000 feet of 40-degree water wouldn't be a wadeable depth.
     So, I went back to my bike, having wasted one hour, and returned to the main road.
     I quickly abandoned that for a side road that winded by the inlet. I started to enjoy the biking here for a second, until my chain fell off for a fifth time. Instead of immediately fixing it, though, I danced for five minutes to the Guns N'Roses song on my headphones. (Out in the Icelandic countryside at 2:30 in the morning - definitely the weirdest place I've ever danced at)
     That was fun, but I soon discovered more of the inlet in front of me. It seems my side road was a dead end, and I now had to cut across three wide Icelandic farms to get back on-track. My bike and I went over one fence, under another, and through one more - and I twice had to throw the bike over creeks.
     At last, I was off the "farms" (I don't even know why they were fenced off, there was nothing there - not animals, not crops, not even grass moguls to race on), having wasted another hour.
     My next mistake was an inadvertant sightseeing trip through the town of Mosfellsbær. There's nothing to see in Mosfellsbær, though, except many destination-less roads that lure you with their siren-call promising quick routes to the mountain.
     Duped again by the mountain's false-closeness, I'd wasted another hour. I got back on the main road and followed (with a few more bad turns, many fallen-off chains, and a badly-aching knee) until I reached the foot of the mountain - at about four or five in the morning.
     In hindsight, my route to the mountain was bad navigational error upon bad navigational error. Every turn I made, in fact, was the wrong one. If I simply would've stayed on the same road the whole way, the very road within a quarter-mile of my house, I would've gotten to the mountain in an hour.
     I started up the mountain's grassy/hilly bottom. I wasn't sure what I'd do at the top (build a snowman, yodel?), until I came across an abandoned...something. But it was made out of wood, so I spent twenty minutes throwing rocks on it and jumping on it until I'd made myself a snowboard.
     I continued on. You don't know how many times I told myself, "Just another half-hour 'til the top!" But half-hour after half-hour passed without the top seeming to get any closer. My knee began to excruciate with every painful step I took, and the heavy snowboard I was carrying didn't help.
     Whenever I reached a stream, I got down on my hands-and-knees like a dog and drank from it. After seven straight hours of exercise, that water tasted like it flowed straight from heaven.
     I came to a small bit of snow. The perfect chance to try out my snowboard! I stood on it proudly and waited to zoom off for the ride of a lifetime...but it didn't go anywhere.
     Ohhh, I was pissed! I took the stupid thing and threw it as far as I could, from out of my disgusted sight. I took some running slides down the snow on foot. I built up a pretty good speed and slipped around, trying to keep my balance. Eight hours of work for 30 seconds of fun. Weeeeee!
     I got about 90-95% up the mountain before I finally realized that no matter how many hours of work I had to go, the top was always going to "appear" to be just a short distance off. Stupid deceitful mountains! - that kid was right.
     So, I yodelled and headed down.
     During the descent, all I could think about was how I hoped some nice country person would invite me into their home on the way back for breakfast.
     When I got on my bike, my knee hurt way too much to ride. I pulled to the side of the road and stuck out my thumb. 3 of the first 6 cars stopped for me, but only the third had room in it for my bike.
     The driver, Ása, took me right to the door of my building.
     But not without first inviting me to her dad's house...where she made me a traditional Icelandic breakfast (two kinds of yogurt, four kinds of bread, and two bacon, ham, and cheese spreads)! Woohoo for Ása!

- Modern Oddyseus

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