So in keeping with Charlie’s epic ride series I thought I would post my worst day on a bike. Years ago while a young fit lad I took the initiative to ride my bike around Iceland for a summer. Now riding around Iceland is a story in itself, the conditions are generally wet, cold and extremely windy. When I say extremely windy I mean like so windy that forward motion at times is not possible. My MTB was loaded with Panniers, gear and food to enter and live in the backcountry for up to a week at a time and all the crap that goes with a bike tour, IE spare parts, tent, clothes etc. My plan was to ride the interior, mainly jeep roads, sheep tracks and old Viking paths. Which I did. However, once I was out of food, I would venture back to Iceland's Route One and peddle on the only road that goes around the whole island, find a village re-supply and then head back into the bush.
Well as luck would have it, one week I made a mistake on estimating my food supply and my distance to the nearest town. To be honest, I ran out with two days to ride and had really nothing but GU and toothpaste to keep me rolling. Upon finally reaching RTE One I also realized that the next town (and thus the closest food) was 150 km away across a giant Pumice and Lava flat. Now a Pumice and Lava flat is a gnarly thing to behold, it is basically fine dust, ankle to knee deep and if it is windy it can be 10 times worse than any sand or snow storm you can dream up. The good news was that RTE One is paved so I was not having to trudge through the deep stuff, however, I was tempting fate by entering the “Sanduer” or the pumice storm zone, to rip across it in a vehicle is one thing, to crawl across it on a heavily loaded bike is another. In my mind I was thinking what if I make 100 km into it, bonk, I have not had food for two days, and then get stuck in a sand storm and am forced to hunker down as the fine pumice coated everything I own and destroyed my bike as well? When you hit the zone there are huge lights and a barricade, if they are flashing and the barricade pulled over that means somewhere out there is a heavy wind and thus an impassable road. The lights were dim and the sun high, the winds calm as I entered the zone, but my heart rate was up and I was pushing that damn bike as hard as I dared. I rationed myself to a GU an hour and used the wrappers to mark the time. It was like being in a mental hell hole. You couldn’t relax because huge trucks and tracked vehicles were surging past throwing the fine dust in your face and pushing you into the loam as you tried to steer clear of them. Finally the GU’s ran out and I started to bonk. Eventually at about 95 Km the winds finally made their appearance. I knew they would, I mean why not, you tempt the gods and generally they kick your ass, especially in Iceland where paganism is still practiced and trolls populate every large rock in the countryside. My forward speed slowed to literally nothing, I fought not only to see, but also to keep the bike upright, luckily the road veered downwind for awhile and I had an hours respite. However at about 10 hours into it the road went back into the wind and I was forced to push. Eventually even that came to a halt and I had to stop and lay flat to keep my face out of the skin peeling maelstrom. Feeling like I had to move or die I just kept doing that eventually getting back to a point where I could ride again. At about 120 km I was nearly out of the sand zone, I was wasted and looking for any sign of mercy when all of a sudden I saw some weird lumps in the road, first one, then two then three or four, then I was amidst them and I saw that it was a group of other cyclists, Italians, and they were laying on their backs to keep out of the wind exactly like I had been. Feeling good I just threaded my way through them, it was like riding through the valley of the dead, as I neared passing them all the last one gave a half hearted wave (or was it a reach for help?) and then disappeared into the sand. I arrived at the next town a mere shadow of who I had been at the start of the day. I camped on the lawn of the local grocery store and literally slept and ate there for several days.