Posted by: jeanne | September 3, 2017

the curse of endless travel

i love to travel. new places, favorite places, new friends, old friends, thousands of photos, new words in different languages, different perspectives, different foods.
but in reality, i love to be in different places. i don’t particularly love getting there. not when it involves staying packed, sitting uncomfortably for long stretches, being bounced about in the backs of buses, waiting in endless lines at airports, squinched into tiny airplane seats, driving for tortuous hours on turnpikes and back roads in the dark, sleeping in spare bedrooms, waiting aimlessly for others to have the time to go places and do things. most of that hasn’t happened yet, as i am merely at the beginning of the journey home, so i am anticipating the worst, and basing it on past experience rather than future outcomes. but still.

let me begin where i left off, in the middle of francis’ visit.

on wednesday, first thing in the morning, i took francis to the straeto bus stop for the 6:57 bus to akureyri. he decided he liked it when we passed thru on monday, so he went there for the day. later, i found out that asta reads cards, so i sent her a message saying i would like her to give me a reading. but she didn’t respond that day, so after a couple of days, i tried again. we set up a time, but then she got sick (somebody at the berjadagar festivities must have spread it around, plus all the kids went back to school this week and that means the whole town will get the same cold). so we put it off again. i think i’m missing something here, because the events don’t add up.

on thursday at 6am i was due at listhus 12 to pick up stephanie and sarah, who have to go back to their college for the fall semester. i left connor at home with francis. we stood around for awhile, talking about olafsfjordur and iceland. while they were here they did a bunch of walking and invited the artists and townspeople to go along. but they didn’t want me to stay with them until the bus came, and it was a warm morning, so i said goodbye and went straight to omar’s wall. as i was passing the church, i heard a raven. i saw a lot of the raven family when i was here in 2014, but this year i had only seen them rarely, like when i was up on asgeir’s wall and doing the car troll at mulatindur. but there she was perched on the cross on top of the steeple, a very big raven, cawing roughly and pointing in the direction of omar’s wall. i was at that moment considering whether i should alter the painting to be more like jim drew it the first time, and less cartoony. and the raven cawed a bunch, ignoring my greetings, and then flew off. but by that time i had decided to go ahead and change the mural. it was the first troll drawing that jim had done, and it was more of a drawing than a cartoon, with lots of dark shading. and the troll looked like him. and people thought it was a drawing of odin, because jim is an accidental shaman. he did a cartoon drawing later on when we were in the middle of the process, and i hung the first drawing on the wardrobe of my bedroom, but i always wanted to put it up somewhere special. so i got out the black paint, and went at omar’s robe with the wide brush, putting in texture and shading. i liked it a lot better when it was finished.

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then i went to bjarney’s house and stole the big ladder, walking it over to the pool and setting it up before going back to move the car to the pool so i could get the paint out of the back and touch up the swimmer. she wasn’t home, so didn’t need the ladder or the black paint.

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i also was there to meet the sterna bus to reykjavik at 9:30, because when i left laura off a couple of days ago, she had left a bag with some stuff in the car, and i was to give it to the driver, who would convey it to reykjavik. and since i had some time to wait, i got up on the wall and painted blue over the too-long toes of one foot, and black over the gray on the eyes, and blue again over the gray on the neck. and then i took black and painted the hashtag identifier under the forward arm – #olotrolltown. it’s what we decided to put on all the trolls, halfway thru the summer. i managed to tag most of them, but bjarney is going to have to get the rest.

after finishing the swimming troll, i got back to bjarney’s with the ladder and we worked on her troll foot, which was then almost done.

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and then i went to ala’s in the afternoon, with connor, to finish her wall. she wasn’t home, but kara was because she was getting over the cold that everyone has, and she played with connor and shared her cold with him…

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they can look at their murals from the hot tub, foreground

in the afternoon we all went swimming, connor and francis and i. he had declined to go earlier in the week, and i warned him that he would be sorry. and so he was. he didn’t much enjoy the big pool, but he loved the hot pot, and looking around at the mountains, and talking to the others in the pool. we only stayed an hour and a bit, but as we were leaving he said he should have gone earlier. yep. i made the same mistake when i was here in 2014, only going after i injured my shoulder falling off the bike. and then i was really sorry i had thought it was somehow a silly idea to want to get wet and sit outside in 50F weather. that’s why i bought a year’s pass this time.

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for dinner, francis took us to a moroccan restaurant in siglunes gesthouse in siglufjordur. it’s a funny place to put a moroccan restaurant, admitedly, but it’s a great favorite in the area, and the food was really wonderful. tajine, it’s called, and it’s baked on top of the stove in a conical-hatted clay pot, and it’s tender and juicy and very tasty and spicy, without being hot. i had the lamb, of course, and francis had the fish, and connor had spaghetti with a too-sweet tomato sauce that he asked the waiter to replace with a savory sauce. it took forever to do, because the cook was busy doing people’s dinners, and when it came out, it was very fragrant with cumin, and quite salty, and connor had eaten so much of my dinner that he wasn’t very hungry… we got an order of icelandic pancakes, split it into three, and ate it all up. and then, horribly stuffed, we went back home and i piled connor into bed and joined him only minutes later, with the shortest call yet to jim.

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the next morning was friday, and i drove francis to the akureyri airport for his plane to reykavik. he was planning to do a bus tour of reykjavik in the afternoon, a golden circle bus tour the next day, and then back to barcelona in the evening.

then connor and i went to the akureyri pool, which is much bigger than the olafsfjordur pool, with a 100m salt water pool, a lap pool, 3 hotpots, a steam room, a medium slide, and two enormous slides. this time i had to go on the slides with connor; otherwise he wouldn’t be able to go on them. so i did. 61 steps, cold metal steps. fortunately enclosed in a clear tower. then at the top, your choice of the slide to the right and the slide to the left. both were bad choices. the one to the right put us into a flying saucer shaped chamber where we were hurled around the walls, gradually slumping to the middle, where we were dragged down another chute to the pool. i got water shoved up my nose the first time. the other slide was more straightforward, slamming me from side to side into the walls, and shoving me into the pool at a horrible speed. i don’t like the slides. but we had a great time at the pool, and the hour was over very quickly.

on the way out of town we dropped all the glass bottles i’d been collecting at the recycling center, but it wasn’t open yet, so i didn’t get any money for it, and just left them there for some lucky patron to turn in.

again, i’ll have to check my daybook to see what i did, because once we got back to town, i went straight to work.  all i can find is that i finished the troll foot (actually, the entry reads:  francis back to rek, akureyri pool, bank, glass recycling, lanka, finish troll foot)

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on saturday, connor went off to akureyri at noon with angelo, elisabeth, and gummi, and they stayed all afternoon, going to a movie because it rained. i worked on the troll foot with bjarney lea, and we finished it. then once connor returned, i took him down to the lake and he played with tristan and vincent and the dog, while bjarney lea and i did more on the troll statue.

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she had gotten runar down there with the drill the night before, and they put in more rebar, so we mixed up cement and added another layer of rocks to her. we’re on the torso now, trying to build it up with several layers of rock before putting on the shoulders, the neck and the head. at this point we’re assembling the layers on the statue, then putting them aside and mixing the cement before permanently attaching to the statue. the next layers are getting to be our height, so in order for bjarney to finish it, she’s going to need stepladders and a guy to help her lift the stones. the neck stone has to be large in order to anchor the shoulder stones (more like wings, really), and that’s going to take tommi’s lift to accomplish, but i won’t be there to see it done, and all the credit will go to bjarney lea. you go girl.

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when we were done with that, we took a tour of all the troll walls in her car, so she would know where they are. we counted 13 locations, with a total of 20 walls. in two months!

i think that evening at 8 i went to tjarnarborg to get asta to read my cards. she said a great many things, which i don’t remember, but she told me i would be back to olafsfjordur in a few years, and that i would write, either finishing my novel about antarctica, or writing one about olafsfjordur. and i’ve been thinking about doing that, letting my mind play with general ideas and small plot devices. if it’s a novel of olafsfjordur, how do i put in the people of the town without offending them? if it’s a crime novel, will it be the tourist who does the crime, or a troll? do i set it in hedinsfjordur instead, which is uninhabited, and do i make it a ghost story? what about the tunnel, is it the entrance to the huldufolk world?

it rained in the evening on saturday, and i wondered if connor would be able to play on sunday, but it was a glorious morning, so connor went with jonina (his swimming teacher) and her kids to husavik, for a last soccer tournament. i cleaned the house.

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after about 10am, it rained all day where i was (tho not in husavik), so even tho i was supposed to put signage on kaffi klara, and write hashtags on several walls, i couldn’t. ida decided to do something different for her sign, anyway, so that was good, as i was prepared to spend several hours on it, and wouldn’t be able to get everything done at the house in time. but as it was, i got the whole place spectacularly clean just in time to wash and vaccuum the car before going to get alice at the airport in akureyri. i even just had time to drop off the picture of lenka and her family to her house in dalvik, tho they weren’t there. in fact, i dropped off the rest of the kids’ tie-dyed socks and all of the gift tie-dyed socks to everybody i’d done murals for, and most of them weren’t home, so i wasn’t tempted to go spend half an hour having coffee and talking to them. bye, folks.

alice’s plane was late, but that gave me time to finish cleaning the inside of the car and sew a patch on the seat where the driver’s butt had worn a hole in the fabric. it was a piece of lambskin, part of the bag i brought home, that now a bunch of people have pieces from – kara and the ladies at galeri ugla and now karolina at menntaskollin.
alice and i stopped at the indian curry hut in akureyri (best naan bread in iceland) and got MILD lamb curry and chicken tandoori, and brought it back to the house, the car reeking of curry spices all the way. when we got home i discovered that jonina did not have my phone number, and connor was playing at her house, so i went to get him, and we came back to eat.

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then i sent him to bed and finished packing. in the end, everything fit, but my suitcase was a little overweight. i decided to wait until i got to siggi and runa’s before deciding i was going to have to wear my boots on the plane. i so wanted to pack them… alice and i settled accounts then. i had to pay the mileage for the use of the car all summer. in the way of things, the amount i owed her was pretty much what i had been paid by the school for the mural of lara and the mythical beast. thanks lara, thanks alice.

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on monday, bright and early, we got up, stripped the bed, straightened up the room, put on our travel clothes, put the bags into the back of the squeaky clean car, and went to the pool right after it opened at 6am. there were only the old people in the pool, and the young ones in the gym, and connor. we talked to people we hadn’t met before, including one man whose name is gestir, which means guest.

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then we went to kaffi klara for breakfast, meeting vala and ida there. connor got to say goodbye to angelo, and had a waffle for breakfast. he ate it all. i had a sandwich with hangikjot and cheese, and coffee coffee coffee. we waited until 9 for alice; i’d left a note saying that’s where we’d be. but she didn’t come, so we walked to the house. i’d left my keys inside on purpose, and we knocked on the door a few times, but she was asleep, and we left her sleeping because she’d been traveling the day before. we got the bags out of the car (good thing i decided not to lock it) and rolled them the block and a half to the pool, and then waited. i had to leave connor with the bags while i went in and filled the water bottles, and then i stayed with the bags while he went to the bathroom. then alice came to see us off, and we talked until the bus came, and connor had to go back to the bathroom. it was the same bus driver we’d been seeing all summer, every time we’d picked up and artist or dropped them off. this time it was our turn.

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there was only a chinese tourist on the bus, in the front seat. so i sat behind him, and connor went to the back of the bus to play his tablet. our first stop was siglufjordur, and there was a 15 minute break, so i walked to the bakery for goodies, and saw two artists from the residency, and also gummi and bjarni and the recycling crew, all having coffee and sweet things.

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the spikes on the top of the mountain look like gravestones, but are really a snow fence

then it was back on the bus, and out thru the little tunnel, and away from trollaskaga. bye, troll peninsula.

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connor fell asleep and stayed asleep all the way to saudarkrokur, where the bus stopped to change drivers.

it was the end of the line for one driver, and a different driver to take us to reykjavik. i knew both of them. both of them were polish. connor got ice cream at the gas station, i got a hotdog, and the drivers got a huge plate of boiled sausage and cabbage and vegetables. i asked the old driver if he would still be there next time i came, and he told me he was probably going back to europe because iceland wasn’t a great place to work. it was easier driving in england or germany, because of no snow, and it paid the same.

and then we headed out with a new driver. we went over the mountains to blonduos, bypassing varmahlid and the ring road for awhile.

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it got foggy, and then cleared at the top, and then got foggy again as we descended. we went past a place where they were gathering the horses to bring them off the mountains for the winter.

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we went past bifrost, a place in the lava with a famous volcano. i’ve heard the name bifrost for some time, and didn’t know why it was famous. it’s famous in norse mythology, not for its volcano. but it’s really scenic.

soon we were in borgarnes, only an hour or two from reykjavik, and stopped again. again, connor got ice cream. the tourists were all covered in raingear, but i thought it was warm, and enjoyed the rain on my face and thru my sweater.

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from there it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to the capital. on a clear day you can see the snaefellsness peninsula from reykjavik. and vice versa.

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reykjavik in the distance, under the pretty clouds

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the other side of hvalfjordur, where ragnhildur lives

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we could see that the weather was much better in reykjavik as we got close, and the traffic was horrendous. the bus was 20 minutes late because of it, and runa had to wait and wait.

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tourist-led beautification project in front of the harpa

but we got to the harpa, and she greeted us, and we went to pick up siggi from some appointment. then i took them to dinner, and we drove down to hafnarfjordur to eat at a noodle house (with a branch in greenland, too), and then back to the house by way of a greenhouse where siggi picked up some spent wheatgrass for his chickens, and some for runa’s cousin, who lived down the valley a little ways in this adorable little cottage in the woods.

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we slept in the spare room. it was full of stuff, but runa and i made short work of it, and while she and siggi entertained a family who was buying a bird from them, i vaccuumed and connor went out to play in the park. and then we went to bed, and i was too tired to do more than say hello to jim at home.

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on tuesday we all woke up way late, and i prepared the photos for this post and pottered around with the bags until about 2pm, when we got around to going to hvalfjordur to visit ragnhildur and larus on their farm. but first we stopped into town to buy a dna knife. it’s called a dna knife because you will inevitably end up leaving some of yours on it when you handle it, it’s that sharp. damascus steel, japanese, really expensive. runa bought siggi a set of them and i had to have one when i saw them (and cut myself). so i was really pleased when they gave me a discount and i bought two. my present to myself.

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the trolls of this mountain produce wicked winds that knock trucks over

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it’s always wonderful to see ragnhildur. we didn’t have a lot to catch up on; her arm is mending and i told her my huldufolk and troll stories, but mostly she and runa talked, and siggi and larus talked, while connor played with the legos, and the dogs, and jumped off an elf rock until the chickens started to chase him.

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we stayed until it was getting late, and then drove home by way of the kronan grocery store, where we got spaghetti, sauce, and garlic bread to make at home with westfjords ground sheep. we ate it, i sent connor to bed, weighed and repacked the bags, and then went to bed. but not before i loaded on a bunch of games to connor’s tablet so he’d have something new to play with on the plane.

this morning (okay a bunch of mornings ago as i finish up this post) we were up at 9 and had breakfast. connor played outside until we were ready to go, and then we went by the national museum to buy me a blank notebook to start on my olafsfjordur novel. then to the airport, where we said goodbye to our good friends, and headed for the rigamarole torture that is the modern airport. which is the main reason for the blog post title.

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but the lines were short and the people were nice, and we got seats at the gate, and he found a couple from texas who haven’t had kids yet, and then a nice lady took the extra seat in our row and connor played with her on the tablet until she put the earphones and neck pillow on. we had stopped at the bonus store on the way to keflavik so we have had our sandwiches already. it’s 7pm iceland time, 3pm at home. the visibility sucks outside – all clouds – so no watching greenland pass. we arrive in almost 3 hours from the time of this writing, and it’s straight to the car rental place for a 4 hour drive to mikie’s house, where we will be spending the following day. but more about that when i continue this post. with luck it’ll cover all the way home, and then you won’t be hearing from me for awhile, until the next time i travel.

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pittsburgh

it’s sunday now, and i’ve been home less than 24 hours. i made the whole trip at 80mph even tho i had to drive thru hurricane harvey. now i am noticing mosquitos, traffic noises, the hot sun, new construction with white people on the advertising hustings and the reality of our mixed neighborhood, my skanky dogs, jim’s dishwashing abilities. i needn’t go into any of those.

but on thursday, after sleeping it off at mikie’s house, we went to see mom at her new nursing home, where she isn’t happy at all. but then, mom’s never happy, so she’ll just have to get used to it. it’s not a bad place, a sunrise assisted living community, but clearly she’d rather still be on her own, even tho it’s too dangerous for her now.

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mikie’s kids at homeschool. shan is a wonderful teacher and tiger mom

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mom, wondering if i was really going to take her picture

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the kids, moving too fast to capture

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uncle davie

and then we were off.  the sun rose as we were heading to charlottesville for our first stop, breakfast at bodo‘s and a quick visit to my old friend from college days, jimmy.

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the rugby road bridge, where the nastiness of the past weeks is fought, if symbolically

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jimmy pointing out a raccoon way high in the tree across the creek in his back yard

after that, the rain started.  we hit the northern edge of hurricane harvey, and it rained for most of the next ten hours, rain band after rain band.  sometimes hard rain, sometimes sprinkles.  i was glad to be on i-81, where it’s mainly truckers, who know how to drive.  the one accident we passed was a car that had skidded off and flipped.

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at some point, at the bottom of virginia, the temperature began to climb, starting at around 63 degrees.  within an hour it was 88.  i’m not used to that kind of heat, and it’s not any kind of humidity like what i’ve known in the north of iceland.  in fact, you can’t really equate the temperatures.  63 in iceland is warm, very warm.  63 in virginia is cold and damp, not at all comfortable.  of course, in iceland i had on two layers, and here i had on shorts.  but still.

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then, long after one of the mapping apps says ( 7 hours from dc to cchhaattaannooggaa), we arrived at emma and dallas’ house on the river.  they are always so welcoming, and their house is so comfortable, and surrounded by woods and the ocoee river.  i love stopping there, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.  in this case, it was overnight, because i’ll be damned if i’m rushing home.

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connor likes dallas’ moustache wax on his hair

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the view from their deck

the next morning, even tho it was still cloudy and cool, we abandoned my plan to go floating down the river in a tube, and instead went to the lake to swim.  the water wasn’t heated, the way we’re used to, but it wasn’t ice cold, either, so connor and i went swimming.  for me, it was the chance to wash all the chlorine out of my hair, because now i’m going to let my hair’s natural biome keep it clean (the water in atlanta is not very nice).  for connor, it was a last chance to swim.

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the scenery is every bit as nice as iceland, only more lush, and less spectacular

IMG_9601 ocoee dam, a mile upstream of their house

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and then we were off again, with a two hour drive home.  we got home about 4.  allison arrived to pick up connor to go to granny’s funeral (bye granny, watch over us), and jim and i walked the dogs, ate dinner, and went to sleep.  i got almost 12 hours of sleep, and now that i’m finished with this post, i will be adjourning until i have to go back up to northern virginia to help clean out mom’s house so we can sell it.

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sorry to subject you to such a long blog post; but that’s the nature of endless travel.


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