Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 4: June 29, 2011

We rode 50km/31 miles from Selfoss to Hvolsvollur on the Ring Road. Today's challenges were cross winds and steady highway traffic on a road with a narrow shoulder. Upon arriving in Hvolsvollur, we immediately took advantage of the small town's thermal pool. It included a winding water slide, which Saya found irresistible. Sho and I kept warm in a nearby jacuzzi, cheering her on.

We found a cabin to sleep in and are debating our next move. Option 1: play it safe and continue to ride on Highway 1 (aka the Ring Road, which circumnavigates Iceland). There will be plenty of places to get food and shelter, but annoying traffic.

Option 2: ride into the interior, skirting north of Eyjafjallajokull Glacier (site of the volcanic eruption that disrupted air traffic in Europe for a couple of weeks last year) and the much larger Myrdalsjokull Glacier. This route will take us over 100km/62 miles on rough back roads, including 10+ river crossings. We'll need to carry about 4 day's food, and I'm not sure if our heavily-laden bikes will be up to the task. I likely won't be able to post blog updates until we finish this section, so if you don't see anything here for a few days, you'll know which option we chose!

Here are some pics from today:












- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Day 3: June 28, 2011

We slept in our tent at a campsite in Thingvellir National Forest last night. We set it up beside a pavilion that partially blocked the wind, but were still buffeted throughout the night. The tent withstood the powerful gusts, thankfully, but I woke up many times from the noise and cold. It dropped into the 40's F overnight, and rushes of cold air snuck beneath the rain cover into the tent. Sho, Saya and I huddled closely under our sleeping bags throughout the night, using our body heat to stay warm.

After breaking down the tent, loading the bikes and eating a simple breakfast, we began riding in the mid-morning Although the strong gusts did not let up, the day was sunny and warm. We rode along Thingvellir's gorgeous lake and, making our way south, enjoyed a helpful tailwind. In a remarkable contrast to yesterday's brutal, plodding ride, today I sometimes had to apply the brakes to keep from going too fast, thanks to the wind pushing us along. I called it my "fickle friend."

We rode what Sho called an "easy peasy" (thanks to the wind's help) 45km/29miles to the small town of Selfoss. No need for traffic lights here - one roundabout took care of traffic. Hoping to let the kids recover from last night's uncomfortable camping, I got a room in Hotel Selfoss, overlooking a powerful and dramatic river. After dinner, we frolicked in the town's public thermal baths, which had a collection of outdoor heated pools to choose from. The breeze was cold, and every time we emerged from a pool, we immediately chilled and scampered to the next heavenly hot water refuge.

Here are some pics from the day:

Examples of the tectonic movement at work in Thingvellir National Park:







View of the lake at Thingvellir:




Sho with the bikes:



Lake at Thingvellir:



Saya practicing her model's pose on the ride to Selfoss:


- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 2: June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011

We spent last night at Laxnes Farm, where Sho and Saya rode horses earlier in the day. The owner, Pori Jonasson, was curious about our plans to cycle around Iceland, and commented dryly, "I'm trying to figure out if you're crazy." He concluded that we were harmless, at least, and let us hang out in his home, eating soup, talking with some local cowboys and setting up our tent in his massive barn (see pic). There had been a wedding the night before, and we put our tent on a raised stage at the end of a hall filled with tables and lined with saddles hanging on the wall. Sho and Saya thought it was the coolest place they'd ever slept.
I awoke this morning to the sound of a powerful wind whistling through the eves of the barn and roaring across the treeless fields. I found Pori at work and mentioned casually, "Some wind, huh?" He shook his head and gave me a pitying look, "This is Iceland. You have no idea what you're getting into."
I heard variations on this theme when Sho and I rode 2,500 miles across Japan two years ago. "That's too hard for an eight-year old"; "Japan's roads are dangerously narrow, and the mountains are very difficult to cycle over", etc. I learned to listen to the local advice about weather and route, and ignore the anxiety. I politely thanked Pori for his kind generosity and promised to be careful. "Send me an e-mail to let me know you arrived ok," he replied with a serious look.
After breaking down the tent, loading our bikes and eating a simple breakfast of bread and butter, Sho, Saya and I thanked our hosts and set off for Thingvellir National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thingvellir was the site of an annual meeting of Iceland's first government assembly, starting around 930 AD. It is now a dramatic park beside Iceland's largest natural lake. The land is filled with fissures created from volcanic activity in a rift valley, whose sides have moved apart approximately 70 meters in the past 10,000 years. Only 30 kilometers (18 1/2 miles) away from Pori's farm, I expected an easy ride and to arrive with plenty of time to explore the park.
But in my mind I could see Pori shaking his head, as we left his farm and struggled to cycle into the powerful wind. It came in gusts, threatening to blow us off the road. A series of intimidating mountains loomed in the distance off to our left, and I could practically see the wind rushing down the mountain side and barreling toward us, unimpeded across the rocky fields. I had to step off the pedals many times to keep from being shoved over into the rocks. And on one long hill, I had to dismount and push the bikes. In our first hour of riding, we traveled about 6 kilometers (3 1/2 miles). Sho thought we might do better just walking to Thingvellir. Saya, protected from the gale in her reinforced trailer, excitedly pointed out the grazing horses and sheep we passed. The animals gave us curious looks, and I realized that ALL the locals here probably thought we were nuts.
Our luck changed as the road swung to the right, giving us a suddenly helpful tailwind. We made faster progress in the second hour, but frequently returned to barely crawling whenever the winding road brought the wind back into our faces. We finally reached Thingvellir in the mid afternoon, escaping into a comfortable cafe, the first source of food we had encountered all day.
We set up our tent in a campsite a few hundred meters from the cafe. It took all three of us to keep the wind from blowing away our things. Saya helpfully laid down on the tarp, giggling as the wind tried to rip it out from beneath her, as Sho and I quickly assembled the tent poles. Once finished, we snuggled inside in sleeping bags. I read to the kids and had to raise my voice over the ferocious wind blasts that sent undulating shivers up the canvas. Exhausted from the day's effort, we were all asleep by 9:30.

Our tent in Pori's barn:



Our cowboy friends riding off:



The family at Laxnes Farm:



Sho and Saya with Pori:



On the road to Thingvellir:



Pushing the bikes up hill into the wind:






A field of cairns on the outskirts of Thingvellir:






Arriving at Thingvellir:


Sho with flowers he thought his grandmother Nona would like:



- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011

Today was the official start of our 1,500-mile ride through Iceland. We cycled to a farm on the outskirts of Reykjavik, where Sho and Saya rode horses through the countryside. Saya has been dreaming of this day for the past 6 months, telling anyone who would listen that she was traveling to Iceland to ride the horses.

I met Jonatan Thordarson and Thordarson Thordarson at the farm, who gave me lots of advice about my planned route. Based on the weather forecast, I decided to change the route somewhat, and will cycle east along the southern coast first. This should give the wintry weather in the north of the country a little more time to go away...

Here are some pics:

Sho and Saya with Hassan, head chef at the Capital-Inn Hotel, saying goodbye:




Here's the official start of the ride:




Sho with the horse he rode:



Saya on her horse:




Jonaton Thordarson and Thordar Thordarson, friends I met at Laxness Farm, who gave me lots of routing tips.




- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Extra Pics

Here are a few pictures from the June 24 tour we took with Reykjavik Bike Tours, run by Stefan and Ursula Valsson.

Our guide, Maria (on the right), and others on the tour: Stanis (from Spain) and Jean (from New Jersey).



Ready to ride!




Getting under way:


- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 24 - 25, 2011

We spent the past two days exploring Reykjavik. Although it is cool, around 55 - 60F degrees, it has been sunny much of the time, perfect for cycling around town. On June 24th, we took a guided tour of the city organized by Stefan and Ursula Valsson, fed ducks in a pond by City Hall and played soccer on a local team's field. Sho and Saya took turns scoring on their poor, slow daddy. :-)

On June 25th, we met the film maker Villi Knudson and watched one of his documentaries about recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland. The geological activity here is remarkable, as the country sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the dividing line between two tectonic plates. There are 22 active volcanoes, hundreds of thermal springs and the world's third largest ice cap. We're about to cycle through a dramatic geology class!

We also learned about Iceland's history in the Saga Museum, with representations of the country's first Viking settlers and Irish slaves. Sho and Saya got in the spirit in the gift shop (see pic) - I denied their request to arm themselves on our impending with sword, crossbow and helmet.

We've stocked up on supplies and begin our ride tomorrow. We will head east out of Reykjavik to a farm, where we will ride horses and spend the night. We'll make our way into the interior of the country over the next week, and will post blogs as often as we can.

Pic taken Turing bike tour of Reykjavik:



Sho and Saya feeding ducks:



Mr. and Mrs. Villi Knudson, where we saw a documentary on Iceland's volcanoes:



Sho and Saya ready for battle:


- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 23, 2011

We spent the day exploring Reykjavik, starting with a nice soak in the Nautholsvik thermal pool. The pool is next to a beach, but we chose to stay warm in the luxuriously hot pool, rather than shiver in the ocean water. Sho and Saya collected shells and played "Who can splash Daddy the most." :-)

We ate lunch at "Cafe Paris" with Darri Mikaelsson and his two wonderful kids. Darri has been a great help as we've planned this trip, and even offered to drive Eiko from Reykjavik to wherever Sho, Saya and I are when she joins our ride in July. While our kids played together, Darri and I went over the route in detail. There are several isolated sections in which we will need to carry about three day's worth of provisions and some stream crossings. Should be a fun challenge!

Here are some pics:

Sho and Saya thought their grandmother Nona would love these flowers. We called this place "Nona's Hill."



Saya helping assemble my bike:



Sho with the bikes in downtown Reykjavik:



Sho and Saya in the thermal pool:



Darri Mikaelsson and his son with Sho and Saya in front of a scale model of Iceland.



- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

June 22, 2011

We arrived in Reykjavik just before midnight on Tuesday, June 21. It took 45 minutes for our bike boxes to come out, and I worried that they may have been lost. But in the end, we got all our luggage and took a "Flybus" to our hotel, the Capital-Inn. We watched the sun dip slightly below the horizon on the drive from the airport, and the sky remained light because of the northern latitude. It was 2 a.m. when we arrived at our hotel, which thankfully had heavy curtains to keep out the light.

Sho and I awoke at 11 a.m. the next morning, and we finally tickled Saya out of bed at noon! I unpacked the bikes and trailer and hoped that they had not been damaged in transit. After a couple hours' work, everything was assembled and in working order. We rode the connected bikes into downtown Reykjavik and ate dinner at an outdoor cafe on Laugavegur Street.

We will stay in Reykjavik until Sunday, then set off to ride for about six weeks on a 1,500-mile route throughout Iceland.

Here are a few pics.

Sho and Saya saying goodbye to their mommy, Eiko, at JFK Airport. We can't wait to see her when she joins us in Iceland on July 24.



Here's our luggage, which includes my bike, Sho's trailer cycle, Saya's trailer and all our gear.




Sho and Saya kept themselves entertained on the flight:




Saya didn't want to get out of bed on the first morning:



- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From Intel to Iceland

I just left a 14-year career at Intel Corporation to ride bikes around Iceland with my wife and two children. I didn't make this decision on a whim. It began three years ago - my kids were seven and two - when I decided to review how I prioritized my Time.

Not how I organized my activities in a 24-hour period to maximize productivity. That's simple time management. I mean Time, as in (Age at which you die) minus (Your current age) = Time.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted to be in charge of how I spent however much Time I have left. For much of my adult life, work demands - travel, conferences, speeches, late night calls, urgent e-mails - all took precedence over my family plans and personal goals. I had not consciously decided that would be the case. I had just internalized this way of living, as had my wife, who is also a full-time professional.

But three years ago, I decided to challenge this way of thinking and began to look at Time as a gift to be celebrated. What did I want to do with that gift? I decided to go on an adventure with my son that was physically challenging, allowed us to explore a foreign culture, and supported a worthy cause. After a brainstorming session and with my wife's blessing, we came up with Adventure #1: in the summer of 2009, I took a two-month, unpaid leave from my job at Intel and rode the length of Japan on connected bicycles with my eight-year old son. We cycled 2,500 miles in 67 days, riding over ten mountains in the process (www.japanbikeride.com). A number of people thought this was too much for an eight-year old to try, but my son just told them, "A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think."

In connection to the ride, we raised money for the United Nations' Billion Tree Campaign, which encourages governments and individuals around the world to commit to tree-planting targets, a simple and effective way to help the environment. We were named "Climate Heroes" by the UN and gave talks to schools and environmental groups about our effort. I shifted the focus of my work at Intel to the development and promotion of clean technologies, like energy efficiency software that makes it easy for companies to reduce the energy they consume while saving money. I gave speeches about the private sector's role in the development of alternative energy and developed internal environmental strategies with other like-minded colleagues at Intel.

The ride through Japan was not easy. My son and I often cycled seven hours a day, frequently through rain, and carried 75 pounds of gear. My legs were sore for the first month, and my hands regularly became painfully numb from gripping the brakes on dangerous mountain descents. My son threw several temper tantrums early on and complained about riding for so many hours. But we both grew accustomed to the physical discomfort and even came to appreciate it's value. The human body is meant to exercise vigorously. Sliding into a sedentary life, so seductively easy to do in modern society, is like injecting yourself with slow-acting poison. The ride across Japan felt like an injection of vitality.

Many nights, my son and I slept in a tent by the ocean or on mountains populated by wild monkeys. We explored caves, danced in local festivals, meditated in a Buddhist temple, and even challenged some sumo wrestlers. (Free advice: don't take on a sumo wrestler, especially if you weigh 155 pounds and would prefer not to cycle 500 miles with a broken toe). My son and I began to operate like a team. We grew closer, and I marveled at the change in my eight-year old. The temper tantrums disappeared, replaced with good-humored resilience and quiet self-confidence. When we reached the southern tip of Japan, I congratulated my son and asked him if he thought the 67-day, 2500-mile journey had been hard. He shuffled his feet and said, "Kinda."

When we returned home, I dove back into the hectic life and rigorous demands of my work at Intel, but the trip had shaken something loose. I started to write a book about the ride called Rising Son and knew that there would be an Adventure #2. This time, my wife and daughter would come along and, as with Adventure #1, it would include a physical challenge, teach us about a foreign culture, and support a worthy cause.

And so, starting on June 26th, 2011, my ten-year old son, four-year old daughter and I will embark on a 1,500-mile ride on connected bicycles throughout Iceland. We will carry about 100 pounds of gear and sleep in a tent. My wife will join us half-way through. The United Nations is sponsoring us again, and we are raising money for the UN's Billion Tree Campaign. Our site is www.icelandbikeadventure.com.

Perhaps I could have taken another unpaid leave from Intel and returned to my old life, but I decided that's not the way I want to spend my Time. I decided instead to finish Rising Son and embark on a new career as an adventure writer, speaker and consultant. And hopefully I might encourage others to ask themselves, "What do I want to do with the gift of Time?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Test post

This is a test post to see if I can add pics from an iPad. This is Sho with his MVP trophy from soccer!




- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

The Night Before

Monday, June 20, 2011

  It's the night before we leave!  The bikes are boxed up, and we're nearly finished packing.  There are so many details to keep track of, I have a nagging feeling that I'm going to forget something...

  I received a surprise call from Jon Erlingur Jonasson today.  He is the Deputy Permanent Representative at Iceland's Mission to the United Nations, and over the past few months has given me lots of help.  His surprise: a set of detailed maps of Iceland!  I was going to look for some in Reykjavik, but Jon saved me the trouble.  I will bring a GPS on the ride, but will use these paper maps as backup.  Jon was in the middle of a hectic day at work, but made time to meet with me.  Thanks Jon!

Here's a pic of the two of us

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Iceland Bike Adventure: 1 Week Out

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
  This is the inaugural blog entry for the Iceland Bike Adventure!  Our website is http://www.icelandbikeadventure.com/.  From late June to early August 2011, I will ride connected bicycles with my 10-year old son and 4-year old daughter about 1,500 miles through and around Iceland.  We've planned a figure 8 route, crossing the interior twice, and circumnavigating the entire country.
  We are sponsored by the United Nations and raising money for the UN's Billion Tree Campaign, which collects commitments each year from governments and individuals to plant trees around the world.  If you want to make a donation to the campaign or just support our ride, go to: http://www.depositagift.com/3771/icelandbikeadventure/ShopRegistry/registry  
  We fly from New York City to Reykjavik on June 21 (one week from today!) and officially start the ride on June 26.
  Here are a few pics and a video from a training ride:

A recent training ride along the Hudson River.  Saya is snoring in the trailer.

Eric Marcos at Bicycle World in Mt. Kisco, NY.  Eric has spent many hours customizing our bikes to ensure that they survive Iceland's rugged terrain. 

The crew!

video
This is a video from a training ride in April on the Natchez Trace outside Nashville, TN.  We rode around 80 miles over two days and spent a chilly night snuggled up close in our tent.  The person cheering us on is my sister, Becky Sharpe.