Iceland: Crossing the Middle

In 2005 we traveled the northern Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, riding our tandem bicycle  much of the distance. The border crossings, language challenges, violence and political upheaval on our route made for some interesting decisions and experiences.

Iceland is a great deal different than Asia. Iceland is tucked up on the arctic circle, technically part of Europe, but unique in the way any place isolated by a big cold ocean would be.
Panorama of and Icelandic river entering the sea.

We took two mountain bikes, in hopes of riding as much of the middle highlands of the island nation as possible, if the tracks melted out in time; they did, sort of. We went from average highs of 98F in Tucson in late May to an average high in Iceland of about 40F. It was a bit like mid-winter mountain biking on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Only there, we could drive home, hose the mud off each other in the driveway (the neighbors loved it) and go in for a hot shower and a warm-up by the wood stove.

Here is a story Claire had published Sweat, an Arizona monthly fitness magazine:


by Claire Davesdottir

After a cooling late evening swim, I retired to the women’s locker room for a quick shower before going home. My brisk pace stopped cold at the doorway. Six feet in front of me was the biggest tarantula I’d ever seen. “We’re not in Iceland anymore Toto,” I thought to myself, breathing a sigh of relief.
Yes, poisonous snakes, scorpions and tarantulas share our space here in the beautiful Sonoran desert. Why not evade such nasties by venturing someplace like Iceland for a summer? It turns out Iceland has its own wealth of gremlins, namely wind, rain and cold, cold, cold.

I should have realized we were in trouble when I noticed the Gore-tex baby buggies. Iceland does have a high birth rate, but I never actually saw any babies, just lots of oversize prams with waterproof covers snugged down so tight that had a baby cried, I surely wouldn’t have heard it.

Our previous self-supported tours have taken us across Australia’s Outback and through some offbeat places in Central Asia. How hard could a month in Iceland be? …  

“How hard can 57 kilometers be?” I thought to myself as we huddled in a ditch for the tenth time that day and fumbled on more layers. Worse yet, 57 kilometers is only 35 miles, an easy day ride for most climates. But this is Iceland and the weather had pitched an unmerciful fit our way by lulling us into thinking it was going to be a nice day. We planned to ride a remote backcountry ridge road north to Husavik and packed up the tent under sunny skies with no wind and 55 balmy degrees.