During my recent trip to Norway, one of my Facebook posts eluded to my husband trying, once again, to kill me. This was how it went down.
Every so often and at least once every trip, I am reminded who I married and ultimately, or at least partially, why.
On our last day at the Fjord, we had most of the day before our train departure at 5:25 to choose either a fjord cruise on the water, a hike or a bike ride with the bikes we had rented the day before. Typical for us, we got a bit later start than planned (it was vacation, afterall). We checked in at the boat, but it was already full, so we decided to “ride our bikes for a while.” A suggested itinerary in the guidebooks was to take a train up the mountain to a town called Myrdal and then bike back down to our town, Flam. We had already done a small ride out to the spot to hike up to the waterfall the previous day, so we headed in that direction, towards Myrdal. Note that we were now headed up-hill. I knew this, but a) had no intention of riding all the way to Myrdal (20km) (I don’t actually know if Mark had this intention), and b) it was the kind of incline that you can’t really SEE that you are going up-hill, so there’s no, “whoa, I’m not going THAT way” reaction. Curiously, however, you end up riding in the easiest gear and still working fairly hard. I call those hills blind, but deadly. This might also be a good time to mention the bikes – 7 speed, heavy, more of a hybrid city bike. It started out a very pleasant enough ride, despite the slight up-hill battle. Then it turned downright gorgeous with jaw-dropping waterfalls around every turn. For a while, I got so caught up in the scenery that I was hardly paying attention to the fact that I was riding…up. Around every turn there was a waterfall at least as spectacular as the one before, with a few show-offs in between. We found one that Mark dubbed his “all-time favorite waterfall of all times.” It was absolutely magical.
I’m not sure how long we had been riding, but I started to noticeably fatigue. I noted that we had not brought any food with us, despite the fact that I had on a backpack that probably weighed at least 10 pounds – it did contain water, but also 3 books, an ipad and other miscellaneous travel items (remember, I had not really planned on a 20k bike-ride). I started to stop more frequently. I found more things that I needed to photograph, which, to be fair, was every 10 feet, really. And then I hit the wall. This happens to me with some frequency while biking – well, with running too, but it takes a much longer distance for me to run out of gas while running. Once I have exhausted my physical energy, my mental energy soon goes – let’s face it – I’m using a lot of that as my physical drains, to keep me going. All that is left, then, is pure emotion and what always surfaces at this stage for me is crying. Yes, like a girl. I start o weep on the steeper inclines, partially mad and cursing Mark’s name (it’s handy to have him around) and partially just at my own end, I feel “I can’t go on”, but know that I have to, so out come the tears. Mark has usually ridden ahead of me, and he’ll either cycle back or stop and wait for me somewhere.
I finally started getting off and pushing my bike up the steeper switchbacks. We consulted along the way and it seemed the best idea was to push on to the next town on the map in search of food. As it turned out, however, this “town” consisted of a cluster of houses. By then, we were close enough to Myrdal that it seemed the best option to continue the quest for sustenance. Knowing the train station was there, we knew there would be a café. We also finally found ourselves in a relatively flat valley, so my mood lightened as I made my way closer to my next meal.
I should also mention that how Mark and I eat and use food is totally different. I eat small bits of food (or sometimes not so small) throughout the day – I am almost always hungry. Mark eats like a lion at one meal and then may go a day without eating again. Also, this up-hill ride was 10x the exertion for me, given Mark is a category 2 bicycle racer and rides the hills of Austin 3x/week. This is just to say that this was literally a walk in the park for him, while I was struggling through my sweat and tears. When the road headed up again we ditched my bike to the side and I hopped on the back of his. When it was too steep for him to ride with me (slacker), we walked and ditched his bike too. The last few kilometers were straight up. The walking was, at first, fine for me, but as we carried on, putting one foot in front of the other, even the walking was too much for my drained body.
There was some snow just before the town (which I was also unprepared for, in my suede sneakers), and it caused us to lose the path a bit. We ended up at a railway workers lodge. I was so hungry and so frustrated at this point that I barged into the lodge, looking for any sign of life that would be able to direct us to food, or perhaps give us some, seeing me in my pathetic state. And if they didn’t give it to me, I was ready to rip it out of their hands and duck into a nearby corner tearing into my find, like a wild hyena on the African savannah. But there were no people in the lodge. Only up-turned lounge chairs, some gym equipment and a half-naked girl on a calendar on the wall. I hung my head in defeat and we went searching for the train station once again. We found the path again and finally arrived to the train station. By this time, every other word out of my mouth was a curse word and I was feeling a bit pessimistic. As I cussed my way the final 100m, climbing over some train tracks, I panicked at the lack of other humans around. “oh god, the café is closed…there isn’t going to be any food here!”
And right then, I thought I might die.
I cared less about my children I was about to orphan than I thought I would in that moment as I was caught up in my own grumbling tummy. When I get that empty, I feel like I am made of air and I think that the wind might just whisk me away and I don’t really care. I might have thought about eating Mark, but given his stellar physical state, I knew I had no chance at pinning him down.
But there was a café and it was open and there was food on offer. I chose a cheese sandwich, a piece of apple pie and an orange Fanta. I could not get to the table fast enough, my body did not calm until a good 4 bites into the sandwich and ½ of my sugary drink. The apple pie (heated, no cream) was some of the best I’ve ever had. I sighed in relief – I was going to go on living after all. I sat for a moment, feeling the calories reverberate throughout my body.
Then we realized that we were potentially going to be cutting it tight to get back for our train. We jogged back down the hill (fully fueled, this was no problem). We collected the 1st bike, rode down the rest of the way to gather mine. It then took us only 45 minutes to cycle home the same distance it had just taken us 2 hours to cross. I enjoyed the coasting even more having felt I had I had earned every bit of those down hills. As we whizzed by the waterfalls and spectacular scenery, I was glad we had the slow ride up to really take it all in. There were a couple spots we had to ride up, but my newly fueled legs could manage, especially when Mark rode beside me and pushed me up. We rolled into town exhausted but exhilarated by the fast ride home. I felt proud for having worked so hard. I was again reminded why I love being married to a super-man. He pushes me (figuratively and literally), he helps me, he holds my hand through it all. At the end I feel accomplished and proud of myself for pushing through, even if I don’t do so very gracefully. The fact that he doesn’t mind my lack of grace – he never reacts or gets mad about my childish and irrational behavior – it makes me feel accepted for all of my colors, like he’s really going to see me through in life. Now that bike ride will go down in the memory books as one of the best of my life, despite the poor food planning. Thank you, Superman!