Reykjavik: My Hubby & Signing Off For Now

June 4 & 5

I have spent my last two alone-days in Reykjavik blissfully writing and dining in coffeehouses and replaying the last 6 weeks of my lucky life here in Iceland. I have seen more amazing things than I expected, met wonderful new friends and I still cannot believe that I was able to take this adventure in the first place, let alone that it’s already coming to an end.

Tonight I will drive to Kevflavik to camp before picking up my hubby in the morning. I am more excited to see him than I ever thought was possible. Before I left for Iceland back in April we had a long conversation about change. We were in a very happy place with our relationship – happier than we’ve ever been – but we were both concerned that this extended trip would change us and we discussed the possibility that we could grow apart during my time away. I tend to get overly independent when I travel, and this would be Jason’s first time living as a bachelor. These fears weren’t truly concerning, they were just something floating around in the air, gnat-like, around us. I was afraid he’d like it better without a naggy wife taking up all his free time, and he was afraid I wouldn’t want to come home and would feel like our domesticated life was holding me back from more adventuring.

I’m pleased to report that I solidly believe having someone so wonderful and supportive at home makes traveling easier and more fulfilling – and makes you all the more excited to come home to them and share your stories. And it sounds like Jason has missed me like crazy too. Whew, what a relief, haha! So, the lesson here, kiddies, is don’t put off traveling for fear that you may mess up a good thing. If it is good through and through it will be there, and maybe be better, when you return. ❤

So! Here are the 3 most important lessons I’ve gleaned (disclaimer: the top 3 lessons are subject to a change in opinion by the time I return home):

#1 – Traveling is incredible (this is a given). You will experience things you never imagined. You will grow and change and become wiser from each experience – but if you don’t have a travel companion to share the journey with, in my humble opinion, it lessens the deepness of the experience. When you sit in the shadow of a massive moss-covered volcanic mountain near sunset, listening to the roar of the waterfall cascading off of it, laughing at the screaming birds fighting and falling out of their nests, smelling the rich earth and a hint of diesel on the breeze… and then have no one to share that moment with… it isolates you in a sense. You’ve experienced a moment so precious and inexplicable but you will never fully be able to share it with anyone else. When you have a travel companion you can say to them 10 years down the road, without even a preface, “remember that time at (name the location)?” and they can just as easily remember that incredible moment and be transported back with you.

#2 – never be embarrassed you don’t speak the local language. For some reason I feel like a jerk-American when I can’t speak the local language – but that’s a silly way to think. Always be kind, smile, and be courteous. Good behavior is a universal language and anyone who doesn’t appreciate friendly gestures when you meet them would still probably be a big ol’ jerkface even if you spoke their language perfectly. 😉 Most people are so happy to meet another smiling face that you can easily fuddle through and get your point across without ever saying a single word… besides, English is the global business/travel language so it’s the most useful one to know wherever you go. No need for feeling bad if it’s the only one you know.

#3 – take opportunities as they come, and don’t fret when something doesn’t work out. I was supposed to spend a week traveling around the Westfjords and got rained out. Yes, that kind of sucked and it made me sad, but because of the crappy weather I instead got to meet the President of Iceland and a whole slew of talented, forward-moving people who will inevitably make this world a more kickass place. I got to pretend I live in one of the most incredible cities in the world, and made new like-minded happy-go-lucky friends to hang out with who have taught me so many fascinating things about the world that I never would have known. Take life as it comes – you never know how doing something boring, such as laundry, will lead to meeting the president.

I’m signing off for now with an expectation that I will be having too much fun with my sweetie in the land of fire & ice to even think about anything else… but if something unbelievable happens I’ll be sure to find time to share it. 😉

Big hugs to you, my virtual friends, and thank you for following this zany journey with me. It’s been a helluva good time. I’ll be sure to keep blogging, photographing and adventuring when I return home to Colorado. ❤

Bless bless!


The luckiest girl in the world, Lucky Lanna Brake

The luckiest girl in the world, Lucky Lanna Brake

Mission Ring Road: Completed

May 26

I’ve officially finished exploring the Ring Road around Iceland! I’m back in Reykjavik after nearly 4 weeks of traveling and living out of my car. I’m exhausted and filled to the brim with all the things I’ve seen and learned this month… and I’m already daydreaming about having another adventure even though this one isn’t quite over yet (anyone want to split a little cottage on Prince Edward Island next summer?).

Now that I know I have less ground to cover in my final days in Iceland, due to stormy weather cutting my Westfjords portion of the trip short, I have a new sense of relaxation and peacefulness. I’m not feeling like I have to go, go, go if I just want to enjoy staying wherever I am. I guess even though seven weeks sounded like ample time here I’ve still managed to pack enough into each day that I’ve left myself completely exhausted. Having these extra days to hang out in the city makes me feel “off the hook” for the week.

Expectations about adventures don’t always pan out and the delays and detours the weather has caused during this trip have been good reminders of that.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with a gal at the helicopter tour company about taking a flight to shoot arial photos. When I first checked into this a month ago the woman basically told me that the prices are per-person when three people take the flight at once (doh! Why don’t they mention this in the pricing on the website?). Unless I luck out and a couple wants to take a flight during the week I’ve requested, June 1st through 7th, I would have to pay for all three seats if I go by myself. I asked them to keep me posted just in case a couple contacts them but I haven’t heard anything yet and we’re getting down to the wire. At this point I’m not going to get my hopes up. Even if I luck out and they find a couple for me to fly with the weather is being so drippy that it might not be worth it to go on a gray, rainy day anyhow…. sigh… I keep trying to think on the bright side about not getting to do this incredible flight I’ve been so looking forward to…. but the only positive outcome I can come up with is that I can repurpose the helicopter funds and put it all towards a second photo adventure this fall to maybe give my amazing Trevolta backers (who graciously financially backed a piece of this adventure) even more bang for their buck.

I noticed Sigrun had replied to last night’s message and happily said I could stay with them but that she didn’t want any payment. They have other surfers staying with them right now too and so we’ll all be there together. She’s so generous and social! I have learned an important social lesson from her openness and generosity and I’m very excited to pay it forward and host my own surfers when I get home. It’s such a unique experience.

My calendar reminded me my niece Harlow’s birthday party was that afternoon and so decided I should find a cafe so we could Skype and I could virtually attend. I drove to Sigrun’s house and found the key she’d left me, showered, then packed a day bag and walked into the city. I have so much love for Reykjavik. It’s so bright and colorful and friendly. I’m grateful I got to experience it for the first time with Sigrun showing me around – maybe that’s why I feel it’s so friendly?

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I meant to try a new cafe but I was drawn to Babalu the moment I saw the bright orange building. It is so welcoming there. When it came into view I started hankerin’ for a hot latte and remembered I’d wanted to try their veggie chili. I sat upstairs this time by a small window that overlooked the rooftop patio. The upstairs is somehow even cozier than the downstairs. I set up my little workstation and leisurely wrote and edited all afternoon.

A small group of people and a man in a stylish suit came up from the first floor and went out to the rooftop patio. I noticed then that the sun had peeked through the clouds and it had stopped raining for a while! A few minutes later a bride with flowers in her hair came up the stairs and the man in the suit came back in to retrieve her and they kissed tenderly. My heart melted. I forgot myself for a moment and blurted out “You look so beautiful!” and asked if they were about to get married. They smiled said they had just done so down the street! I congratulated them and they were wonderfully friendly.

When the bride and groom and their small group of companions sat down at a table on the patio I asked if I could take their photo. We exchanged websites – the groom told me they are doing the ring road next and will be blogging about it too. He said they were from Germany and they had wanted a small wedding so no one back home was even savvy to what they’re doing on their “vacation”. I love that!

In all the excitement I forgot to ask their names. I wish I didn’t get so nervous talking to new people – I somehow manage to forget the most obvious details of talking to people. Someday I will finally be so good at this socializing thing that I will look back at the old awkward me and be sooo embarrassed. 😉 Or so I hope.

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A bit later, when the upstairs of Babalu’s had suddenly become busy and I was quietly enjoying listening to four distinct languages being spoken around me, Jason called on Skype so I could join in on my niece’s 4th birthday party back home. I told Harlow “Happy birthday!” and she said “Happy birthday to you!” so I laughed and thanked her and we talked for a bit. She was feeling ornery and didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming to her party. I told her I am at her party and she gave a look of confusion, blew me a kiss and waved goodbye. I had to laugh because I had waited all afternoon to chat with her and she was done in 2 minutes flat.

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Another latte later (do you like how that’s become a time signature for me?) Sigrun checked in via Facebook and said she was home now. I asked what they were all up to tonight and she said that it was one of her couch surfer’s birthday so she had baked him a cake. So thoughtful and fun! I headed back as soon as I fixed a weird error on my camera. Thank goodness for online manuals.

Walking back to Sigrun’s in the usual icy wind I felt like I was glowing. I felt like this city has become another home for me and I felt like I could belong here. I know a big portion of that feeling is due to Sigrun and Andy’s welcoming introduction to the city. I love the colorful hip vibe, the friendly people, the quirky mom & pop shops that close whenever they feel like it (even in the middle of the day), the positive attitude towards all forms of art and music. It seems to be a thriving and happy city. When I came here I wanted to bring a piece of my beloved Loveland to share with Iceland, and now I’m determined to bring a bit of Reykjavik back to Loveland when I go home.


Back at Sigrun’s house we chatted about our future travel plans and what we’d each been up to the last 4 weeks. Sigrun told me that Joanna is heading back to New Zealand for good this week now that school’s done and it’s been a bittersweet time for them all. Joanna is such a sweetheart and they have become such good friends. It’s so sad losing someone you’ve gotten so close to like that. I guess it’s wonderful that we live in a world rich with technology and social media platforms so we never have to be too far away from our friends.

I helped make a sugar frosting and a make-shift pastry bag so we could write “happy birthday Keir” on the tasty looking cake. The cake was a Swedish recipe called Sticky Cake. It resembled what we’d call a brownie in the States and was as delicious as it looked!

Joanna and her two couch surfers from Greece came over around the time Andy got home from work. When Sigrun’s couch surfers arrived we all sang happy birthday to Keir and got to know one another. Keir and Emily are a recently wed (as in, last week!) couple from the UK and they’ve just spent three years teaching English in Korea and now they’re off to the States to work in the WWOOF program for a few months. WWOOF is an organic farming and teaching organization working towards spreading knowledge and practices of organic and sustainable food production. I’m so excited now that I know what this organization is! They will receive room and board in exchange for working on the farm while learning how to do amazing things like keeping bees, grafting trees, and organic farming. They leave Iceland in two days to go visit friends in DC and then they’ll head for Seattle for a month to work on a WWOOF farm, and followed by another farm-stay location after that somewhere else in the US. And then they’ll go to Australia and New Zealand (if I understood right) for another stint with the organization. What an adventure! They seem so easy going and able to take life as it comes. That seems to simply be the way of people interested in traveling the world; they’re calm, open to opportunities and to taking exciting leaps into the unknown, and the all seem incredibly friendly.

Emily, the lovely couch surfers from Greece (I apologize I can’t remember nor pronounce their names!), Joanna, yours truly, Sigrun and Andy. Photo courtesy of Keir Thomas

We all talked late into the evening before calling it quits around 11:30 since it was a week night. It felt so good to be around people again after being on the road alone for weeks. I bid everyone good night and headed out to my cozy car. The rain had stopped and it seemed warmer than it’s been since I arrived on the island. Jason and I tried a new free phone app he found called Viber (So far it’s better than Skype with less call drops) until I nearly fell asleep on him.

We said goodnight and the last thing I remember thinking before I closed my eyes was how this incredible journey of mine is quickly coming to an end. I looked back on all the things I’ve seen and gone through and still can’t believe I’m the one who had the pleasure of living it. It’s all been so out of character for me! I slept next to geysers and volcanoes, hiked waterfalls, I defied my social anxiety and met wonderful people from all over the world, explored an incredible and volatile island without any solid plan other than seeing as much as I can before making it back to Reykjavik no later than June 5th, all while living out of a car… and the most shocking one of all: I have managed to keep up with the blog the entire time! 😉

I still have a couple more weeks of memory-making and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; I am one seriously Lucky Brake.



Whale Museum & Camping in Akureyri

May 18

Rain, rain, go away…

This morning the rain was coming down as hard as I’ve seen it since I arrived here in Iceland. Sheets, cats and dogs, buckets, the works.

I drove back to Husavik the way I had come. The fog was thick and the drive was slow. I began thinking about how having mishaps and unexpected events make for such a fun adventure, and I hadn’t had any mishaps in a while. The trip seems to be going so smoothly, aside from the rain, that I feel like I don’t have anything to report. The only mishap I’ve been dealing with is my grumpy attitude this week. 😉

As I rolled into Husavik, I remembered what a friend back home had told me before I left, “Rainy days make for great museum days!” So I stopped in at the Whale Museum which is housed in an old slaughter plant (eewww) and hung out there for a couple hours reading every single exhibit. It was extremely interesting stuff. I learned about all the types of whales in the area, the ecological impact man has made, the over-fishing of all the species in the region, the protection of several species that are now endangered. I learned about Keiko, the whale that played Willy in the movie Free Willy and his whole sad story; the history and different methods used for whaling over the years (that is some seriously disgusting and unnerving stuff). I thought it was interesting how they talked about whaling as a savage practice and how a majority of people have begun to frown upon it in recent years (yet it is still done in Iceland), and how the extreme over-whaling of the early 1900’s caused a massive population drop in most of the baleen whale species, and how that lead to them now being protected. I even saw a quote on a sign that stopped me in my tracks. It applies to so much more than whaling. It read,

“Taking the natural resources and their seemingly inexhaustibility for granted, was and is one of the biggest mistakes of human thinking.” 

Amen, preach it Sign Dude.

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I chatted with an older couple who had met in Iceland soon after WWII and married. He was a GI and she was a local. They moved to Oregon and were back visiting her family for a few weeks. We talked about life and our families, traveling and how beautiful this country is. They were curious about my plans here and I tried to explain my photography and blogging journey but I’m not sure they were keen on it. I really love meeting new people and hearing what brought them to this place at this moment when we’re both so far from home.

After being unnerved by the whale(ing) museum I headed to Akureyri, the Icelandic metropolis of the North. I first swung through a small town called Grenivik on my way for a little detour. It was a relaxing drive and the town was so tiny I would have called it a neighborhood. It was cute!

The campsite in Akureyri was pretty difficult to find so I had to pull out my GPS, which I hadn’t used much since my second day on the road. This campsite is the largest and most impressive of them all so far. There is a big heated lounge with TV, electricity outlets, free showers, a kitchen, wifi and laundry. Outside there are playgrounds, sports fields, hiking and horse trails, ATVs, you name it!

I ran inside to get out of the icy wind and slushy rain and to figure out where to pay. There I met a young man named Matt from the Toronto area (if I remember right). He said he had called the man who runs the campsite and he was coming to collect our money for the night. We sat and chatted at the table for quite some time and I learned he had just graduated and was taking a hiking adventure before he heads off to work at Square in San Fransisco in June. How exciting for him! We joked about the unpredictability of the weather here and how you just have to accept the fact that you will be doing nothing more than waiting out the weather some days, and how the photos on said days just aren’t worth a darn. We also chatted with another man who arrived later from the Netherlands and in Iceland for a few weeks.  Everyone has been so friendly at the campsites!

When the man running the campsite came in he said we were welcome to camp for the night and he’ll take our money tomorrow morning. He also pointed out a loft above our heads in an attic space that was only $5 more than camping. I was pretty excited at first but then realized I’d have to repeatedly brave the slushy rain to move my makeshift bed up into the attic and my laziness took over. I chose to hang out in the lounge until bedtime and then headed out to the car to sleep. The night was the coldest one yet (at 31 degrees) but I stayed perfectly warm as long as no part of me ventured outside of my big comforter. I ducked my head underneath the covers, tucked all the corners of the blanket underneath me to secure them and then built a little breathing channel out into the cold air so I didn’t totally feel like I was suffocating. I momentarily pictured myself as Luke Skywalker zipping myself up in the belly of that beast during a blizzard.  Sleep came surprisingly quickly.

PUFFINS & Acid Mud Pits (you know, the usual, no biggie)

May 15

I have hit a new low. I have resorted to yelling at the Icelandic scenery for being too beautiful. By the end of this day I jokingly kept yelling you disgust me!  You, with all your surplus gorgeousness. Oh, sure, just let those geese fly into the shot at the right moment. Sure, that’d make it even better. Misty fog covering a jagged landscape… at sunset?! Yeah, why not, why don’t you throw some more crystal blue waterfalls in there while you’re at it, eh? You’re exhausting me!

Excitedly awake by 6:30.

Today’s plan, I decided, was to go see some Puffins at Hafnarholmi in Borgarfjoudur Eystri. This meant I had to go up and over another high pass like yesterday’s adventure. The sun was shining and there were no stormy clouds in sight so I went for it!

I won’t bore you with repetitive details of how incredible this drive was… hopefully my photos can do it justice. It’s just magnificent. I feel like I’m running out of descriptive words for this damn island! 😉

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I arrived at Hafnarholmi and the weather was divine. Hafnarholmi is a rocky knob of land at the end of the town’s harbor covered in long grass. The grass there is much greener than the surrounding area. I assume this is because of all the bird turds from the red-beaked nesting munchkins. Just remember kids, if the grass is greener on the other side it’s because of turds… no, wait, that’s not how it goes…

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I talked to a couple from Holland who showed me my first puffin up on a ledge above our heads. I would have missed him had they not quickly pointed him out. These birds are hilarious and wobbly and I just want to take one home as a bath buddy. Those brightly colored beaks and shiny black and amber eyes make them look so regal but they bounce around on the tufts of grass in a slightly more agile fashion than a clumsy penguin. Did you know they create tunnels in the ground to nest in? They come bounding out of their little hole in the ground under long grass, pop out into the sunlight and look around as if to say “well, I’m off to find some fish” and then they fly away in a flash.

I walked to the other side of the grassy hill and up another platform. There I met a man from Canada named Pierre who is an engineer and avid amateur photographer so we helped each other spot puffins as they popped out of their dens. According to the informational sign the puffins should be laying their eggs right now, and that means there’s very little action outside on the hill. It’s like playing a photographic game of whack-a-mole as they pop up, look about, and then fly away.

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Pierre and I chatted about travel and photographed the birds for a good 45 minutes before we both agreed we had better get back over that pass before the expected afternoon rains came in. I spent a little more time loading photos and writing in the car before making the journey back West over the mountain.

The next stretch of road I wanted to drive went North West from Egilsstadir so I stopped back in town to give myself a break from driving. I realized I had saved enough money from not having to pay for camping the night before that I could splurge and get a good lunch at a cafe. I picked one near the main road called Salt because they had a big sunroom and it looked like it was crowded with happy people.

A little square of creamy milk chocolate came on the saucer with my latte – I think that’s a lovely idea! I had a hearty sandwich of tomato, onions, lettuce, cheese and a delicious herb spread all in a fresh-baked asiago bread topped with herbs, green olives and feta cheese. Heavenly!  They were both so delicious.

Salt Cafe had wireless internet so I worked on writing for about an hour, chatted with Jason, and then decided to get a slice of one of the beautiful pies in the glass case. The one I chose looked like a giant creme puff sandwich and it turned out to be frozen whipped cream filling with toasted coconut chunks, chocolate and some sort of caramelized rice krispies inside, with a crisp meringue top and bottom. I’m sure it was as expensive in calories as it was in price, but I enjoyed the heck out of being so indulgent!

Yes, it's just a phone snapshot... I didn't want to be THAT guy, taking pictures of my food with a beast camera.

Yes, it’s just a phone snapshot… I didn’t want to be THAT guy, taking pictures of my food with a big ol’ camera.

Around 5:30pm I packed up and suddenly changed my mind on the direction I wanted to go so I drove Hwy 1 to Myvatn through a few banks of fog and rain. The scenery was lovely enough but for once, it was nothing spectacular and my camera arm got a well deserved break for a few hours.

Just before crossing the last mountain pass before Myvatn I saw fuming yellow and blue rock piles with steam shooting out of them off the side of the road. This place is called Hverir, and would have been an exciting sight no matter what but because of the fog and low hanging sun it looked…ugh…stunning. I’m out of descriptive words for this damn island. 😉

I pulled in to the parking lot of what looked like a movie set for a film about an alien planet. I can’t imagine being a Viking exploring this land and not being convinced you’ve found hell. I won’t even try to describe it. The sulfur steam and blue-gray acid mud (which, the sign said, melts rocks and metal) smelled like a rancid mix between rotting eggs and a very dirty wet dog. The heat from the steam felt nice, but with the surrounding 37 degree temperature it was a bit rough getting freshly steamed and soggy and then being hit with an icy blast of wind.

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Throat sufficiently sore and lungs aching I decided it was time to get the heck out of there. I headed up the mountain pass and was hit by another incredible sight at the top. Sunset in a town that is powered by geothermal steam is something to behold.

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It was 9:15pm as I came down off the mountain into the little town of Reykjahlid, which sits on the North end of Lake Myvatn. Myvatn is one of the largest lakes in all of Iceland and was created by a dam of lava during one of the last large eruptions in this extremely active volcanic region. The sunset was breathtaking but I knew I only had a few minutes to pick a campsite since most camping receptions close by either 8 or 10pm. I decided to go ahead and take a lap around the massive lake snapping some photos as I drove (damn, not many pull-offs again).

On my drive around the lake I started to get playfully disgusted. Mind you, I had driven nearly 10 hours and was completely loopy. The mists would flow over the lake, over the setting sun and light everything up in a golden or pink glow. Little craggy rock hills stood jagged and blue against the glow. Icelandic ponies grazed in the firelight with still-white snow covered volcanoes in the distant background… I was too tired to have to be responsible for capturing all this awesomesauce right then! To tired! So I loudly complained to the scenery how this couldn’t have happened when I wasn’t bleary-eyed and prone to mistakes. Oh, you just think that because you’re Iceland you can be all magical at any hour of the day. Well, it’s bad enough you are so amazing I can’t just drive without snapping photos out the window all day but then you don’t even give me a few hours of darkness to rest my eyes from all your glaring beauty?! Selfish! You beautiful tease, you!

These are all shots taken driving at 90km/hr. I’m thinking of starting a photo feed called “roadsides of Iceland”. ha!

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I finally gave up, realized I was getting dangerous behind the wheel and sounding like a mental patient thanks to all the yelling. I was sure none of the photos were going to turn out at this point anyway. I turned in to the next campsite I drove past and the very sweet lady behind the counter of the reception/pizza joint told me I looked like I needed a good night’s rest. She had no idea. 🙂 This island is exhausting me in the best way.

Hofn, Breiddalsvik & a Viking Movie Set

May 13

I awoke early and perused the map a bit. The rain had cleared and a touch of brighter light was poking through the dark, low hanging clouds which were obscuring the mountains from view. Since I had drained my phone battery the previous night catching up on the going’s-on back home, I decided to head in to the campsite lodge area to see if I could charge my equipment and do a little writing and editing.

Inside the small building made half of glass windows there are small restrooms with pay-per-use showers, a laundry, a few tables and chairs with cheery red flowered patterns, a fridge and some basic kitchen tools.

I said good morning to the nice couple who were enjoying breakfast and we began chatting. They are from Germany and here in Iceland for two weeks – though they are stranded here in Hofn for one week since their camper van broke down. Argh, how disappointing would that be?? Having planned to travel the Ring Road for an already short two weeks and then having even that time split into half. I told her that if I could give her some of my travel days I absolutely would. They seem to be in great spirits though, and the woman said she had been to Iceland many’a time before and they keep coming back because they love it. I also chatted with a lovely young Alaskan couple, Rachel and Nick, who are currently taking six weeks to bike around Iceland. Poor Rachel had a tooth ache so they’re taking extra time here to visit the dentist.

I then talked with a nice staff member of the campsite, who has a sharp and subtle sense of humor, named Peter. He is originally from the UK but has lived in Iceland for 10 years now. He told me of his favorite photographic place in Iceland that I should keep watch for and then warned me of a winter storm up ahead in the North East that would make travel extremely difficult up on the high passes I will be needing to take. He noted that the storm was supposed to hang there for nearly a week and was doling out handfuls of hard winds and snow. That makes me pretty nervous to be on high, narrow mountain roads in blowing snow in the middle of nowhere.

I took the afternoon to edit and write, and I met another nice young American couple who will be here an extra day due to car repairs (Yikes! Is there something in the water??).  I decided I’ll move on ahead and If it gets too nasty I can always turn back and camp in a warmer location for a few nights. A few days lost isn’t the worst thing in the world when I have so many. Planning for bad weather was one of the secondary reasons for making this trip so long.

And hey, it could be worse. My car could have broken down and I could have lost half of my trip like my new German friends I met this morning. And really, if Rachel and Nick decided to move forward into the storm on their bicycles, well, I have no excuse not to brave it in my car. 😉

By the time I finished writing and editing the sun was out and I could see the mountain that had been covered in clouds when I drove in. Magnificent! I decided it was a good time to hit the road and find my next stop.

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My Hofn campsite. Beautiful!

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Just before entering the big tunnel that spits drivers out on the North side of a large mountain, I saw my new biking friends as they slowly climbed the steep hill, fighting the cold wind. I then took a side road to a little hole-in-the-wall the guidebook noted, called Viking Cafe, where one can get tasty coffee, waffles and cake. It’s still closed until June. Dang. Just over the ridge from the cafe there is a viking village movie set from 2012. I walked all the way down to it but several signs at the end of the road said no photos so I only snuck a few from a distance. Men were loading up adorable horses from the village lawn into a little red trailer (the landscaping crew? haha!) otherwise I would have snuck in closer.


Back at the car I sat in the harsh wind and dropping temperatures, deciding if I should head north and fight the weather or turn back and enjoy the SouthWestern coast a bit more. I decided I would regret it if I didn’t go North so I hopped back on the Ring Road.

I entered the tunnel with a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know why I was so afraid of going North, but I was. As I exited the tunnel I again passed Nick and Rachel on their bikes. I waved as I passed and continued to be amazed at what they are doing. I’m being a sissy about the bad weather up North and I even have heated seats and climate control. Shame, shame, shame on me!

The Northern side of the tunnel has been a beautiful drive so far, but a different beauty than the South. It’s more like the tall, sharper, snow capped Rocky Mountains than the mossy, broad mountains of the South.


I began to feel frustrated that all the amazing sights don’t have matching road pull-offs. Though, in order to do that there’d have to be pull-offs every quarter mile… and I’d probably use every single one of them. The articles on good tourist behavior I’d read before I came all noted that using private drives to pull off and take photos is very much frowned upon and I’d like to respect the landowner’s wishes. It would get pretty frustrating living in a  quiet paradise if you constantly had strangers blocking your drive and tearing up your delicate gravel driveways (seriously, it looks like they have to constantly rebuild these things due to the steep drop-offs on the sides of the roads).

I have been feeling a bit down that I’m not capturing enough Iceland to share with everyone but the fact of the matter is – you just can’t share it all. That’s the magic of the place. That’s why I thought I needed seven weeks to get a good taste. Seven weeks is a very long time, don’t get me wrong (sometimes it feels TOO long, haha!), but I have barely scratched the surface of the Southern coast and I’m over 1/3 of the way through my time here.

I found a sweet little fishing village that I absolutely loved. I almost stayed here but figured I had better keep moving. When I left town had been jokingly complaining to myself how I hadn’t seen any gosh damn reindeer yet, nor puffins, and up over a ridge I suddenly saw a massive group of reindeer laying in the grass in the distance. I suppose it’s just like seeing the many elk we have in Colorado but it was nice, none the less, to see a big group of them immediately after I’d been thinking about it.


I drove until 9pm through the beautiful misty mountains and decided to stop because I was getting bleary-eyed. I pulled into a small town called Breiddalsvik after driving through a few other small fishing villages and found their only campground is a small rectangle of grass behind some main-street buildings. I asked the raucously laughing group of Australians dining at the picnic table where I need to pay but they laughed and said it’s free. “No, no, no, you pay right here.” One of the boys said, tapping his palm, “Cash only, please.” I love happy surprises like a free, lovely campsite! I visited the heated (*squeal!*) water closet and then nestled in to let the rain sing me to sleep.

Jokulsarlon: Icebergs and Eiders and Seals, Oh My!

May 12:

Woke up early, excited to get back on the road after my two day hiatus. I enjoyed a hot shower and did my chores of emptying the car garbage can and filling up my water bottles. I then took a little time to write and post to the blog, and then with my 8 minutes left of wireless access I quickly updated the Where In The World Is Lanna map… I may have forgotten a stop or two in my haste, I’ll have to go back and check it again, I’m sure.

I drove on, enjoying the beautiful, dreary scenery for nearly an hour before the rain stopped. I reminded myself that I had to keep a look-out for Jokulsarlon (iceberg lagoon) where the nearest glacier breaks off large chunks of ice in to a large lake before the bergs are washed out to sea under a large bridge.

After seeing very little scenery for a while besides the flat gray ocean on my right and small green hills on my left, I noticed several cars parked on the left side of the road. I craned my neck, hoping to see past the tall green hills that lined the road for miles. Suddenly I saw a flash of icy white and blue in between hill valleys. It was Jokulsarlon! I pulled into the parking area, packed up my cameras and started to climb the hills.

As I crested the last dry grassy hill on foot I saw a massive white glacier in the distance, shrouded in low hanging clouds that was fracturing into what looked like millions of pieces as it slugged it’s way off the mountain. Below the glacier, an expansive body of water littered with icebergs in every shade from crystal clear to volcanic black. The undersides of all the bergs were glowing a vibrant ice-aqua, even in the dark cloudy weather, and the water was mostly clear with a short green algae growing along the shore. The pebbles along the shore were nearly as amazing as the icebergs. The majority were in pastel blues, whites and sea-greens, but several bright orange, red and porous black stones. I even noticed some white stones that had been cracked in half and had rings of orange inside which actually looked as if they were rusting. Could the yellow be sulfur and the orange be iron?


MoBot finally ventured out of the car to check out some of the scenery. He hurt his foot on the first day of the adventure and I think he’s feeling a bit nervous about reinjury now. He loved all the ice and even leapt in for a quick swim. Maybe he wanted to be in the Polar Bear Club?

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I walked East along the silent, glass-still lagoon snapping photos and stopping to pick up rocks of distinct colors. As I rounded a bend to my right I could now hear hundreds of gulls shouting and a far off water roar. I walked past a makeshift bench someone had put together out of two boulders and a piece of a pallet, and noticed some rocks in the water were moving. They were seals! I had to fight to keep myself from squeaking in glee as I silently crept up on them. There were three of them just resting with their heads peeking out of the water in the middle of a glacier-free area of the water. They’d glance over at me once in a while but otherwise didn’t stir. Right then what looked like three large ducks came flying over and nearly landed on one of the seal’s heads. The ducks, or now I know they are Common Eiders, noticed me immediately and squawked while frantically flying away again. Oops. I talked to the seals as if they were big wet puppies and snapped several shots of them. They were a bit too far away for any spectacular portraits, oh well.


The intermittent sound of icebergs breaking apart into the water sometimes sounded like glass shattering. The Common Eiders make this hilarious call that, to me, sounds like an old fancy man trying to make the sound of a bird, “gaahhhhhll” they drawl in a low, snooty, lazy voice. It made me snicker out loud every time I heard them.


I rounded yet another bend along the shore, enjoying the scenery and watching two more seals playing and twirling in the water. The bridge was now in view and I headed towards it. Across the outlet I could see a large white building with a bright blue Alpine-looking rooftop and several yellow and grey boats on the shore. The closer I got to the bridge the more I noticed the water was stirring and the current was picking up speed as if the lagoon were a bathtub being drained. Near the bridge the water was leaving the lagoon at the speed of a mountain river. I could hear the ocean waves crashing on the other side of the bridge. There were a few bergs slowly bucking and turning as they fought being dragged out to sea, and the gulls would temporarily perch on the bergs that held still the longest.

As I crossed under the bridge on a rocky pathway I could see the water of the lagoon merging with the ocean. Blue icebergs being thrashed by muddy green waves, large bits of what looked like clear glass scattered on the West bank of the black sand that was dotted with smooth pastel blue stones. It was quite a sight.


After I exhausted myself and my memory card, I then walked back towards the car. The tide must have changed while I goofed around on the beach because now muddy ocean water was starting to come into the clear lagoon by the time I was walking back. I remembered all the rocks in my pocket and realized it wasn’t proper to take them home, no matter how much I wanted to, so I lined them up on another stone and took a photo. There were many shades in between these but it’s a good example of the brilliant colors speckling the shore.


Back at the car, I chugged more water and loaded the images on the computer and enjoyed some crackers and cheese spread as the day’s walk cozily nestled itself into my memory.

Iceland_20140513_Hofn Campsite-216_WEBI jumped back on the road and headed East again. I realized that my gal pals back home would be having their coffee date in a few minutes and I got a touch homesick. I checked my phone to see if I had service and saw that they had just messaged me to ask if I was in a place where I could Skype with them! I was so excited that I found the next pull-off and rang them. It was so fun to get to see their smiling faces and I wished so badly I could join them at our favorite coffee spot for a hot, delicious cup and then teleport back to Iceland and continue my adventure. What a treat though. Technology is amazing!

I drove a slow meandering drive to Hofn (I’m told you say this name on the in breath like an unexpected hiccup, like hhop. ….you totally just tried it aloud, didn’t you? I did too.) The way was beautiful – just as every stretch of road here is. When I arrived in Hofn I stopped at the N1 petrol station to buy some sunscreen. Earlier, when I had returned to the car I’d noticed how burned I was from playing at the lagoon. I figured with that much dark cloud cover I would have been fine. Oops again.  I bought sunscreen and a tasty little sandwich of egg, ham(which I of course removed) and cheese.

I realized I was running low on groceries, and knowing this was the last larger town for a while I decided to go grocery shopping. I got some more chocolate milk and Skyr to enjoy that evening and some more dates, tortillas, apples, cheese spread, carrots and some chips as a treat. As I drove around the tiny town I noticed the many no camping signs so I decided to stay at the designated campsite I saw when I entered town. The campsite’s little building that housed the bathrooms, laundry and eating tables is open 24/7 so I decided to spend the evening using up the remainder of my phone battery with the amazing 3G signal to check in with the going’s-on back home. The ample connection with home I was able to enjoy throughout the day made me feel quite warm and fuzzy.

As per usual, the rain pitter-pattered me to sleep and continued late into the night.

Skaftafell, Rehydration & Lifting of Spirits

May 10:

Due to my nasty dehydration sickness yesterday (May 9th) I am forcing myself to take a few days off from Iceland-trotting to take care of myself. I had forgotten that when no one’s checking in on you you have to be extra vigilant about taking care of yourself.

I’ve found this amazing, everything I could have hoped for, campsite in Skaftafell that is run by the Vatnajokull National Park. Yes, I have to pay a few bucks per shower, hour of internet, laundry wash and laundry dry, but it’s all of good quality. It’s clean, bright and the people working here are all extremely friendly and helpful. It’s like another home-away-from-home and I luckily found it right when I needed it most.

My wonderful campsite. <3 Love the location, facilities and the people running it!

My wonderful campsite.

I had slept a whopping 14 hours the night before and had to work to make myself eat some peanut butter, rye crackers, apples, dates and a little bit of cheese spread. I also kept forcing myself to chug water to make sure I fully recover from being dehydrated before I try to saddle up again.

Once I started to feel like joining the land of the living again I took a shower and began working on laundry, writing and editing. The sweet folks at the visitor’s center said they don’t normally let people plug in laptops and work at the little computer desk in the lobby but since the summer season hasn’t ramped up yet (there’s maybe 7 campers in a park that can hold hundreds) they said I was welcome to work there.

Nothing too exciting to report for May 10th, it was mostly a write and rest day. Though, oh, the laundry! Oh, the smell of clean hot laundry after roughing it for 2 weeks is ever so heavenly. I could scarcely wait to get back to the car before plunging my face into it and breathing deeply and feeling like I was home. I chatted for a while with Jason on the phone as I folded the laundry and then went to bed early again to the sound of whipping wind and rain.

May 11th:

Having slept another ridiculously long night, I awoke feeling much better and listened to a couple hours of my Game of Thrones audiobook. I sipped water while thumbing through the maps and guidebook, planning my week while I confined myself to bed rest.

Around noon I decided to see if I was up for a short 1.8km hike to Svartifoss, a small but beautiful waterfall just up the hill from my campsite. The informational sign leveled it as a green/easy hike. I’m embarrassed to report I had a hell of a time with it because I just wasn’t as recovered as I’d hoped. I stopped every 20 yards or so to chug water and wait for my heart to stop pounding in my ears. Slow and easy, I climbed. I was repeatedly passed by other hikers. One couple that passed me was easily in their late 60’s. I commended them on being in better shape than I, and the man said in a German accent that he had just had knee surgery 3 months ago and was slower moving than he’d hoped to be at this point. Sheesh! I told him that such a speedy recovery was something to be very proud of (and I proudly thought of my recent shoulder injury that had healed in record time). As for me and my slow-hiking tushy on this day, well, this was no time to be prideful – just slow and steady.

The day was gray and dark and continually drizzly but the cold air felt good on my face. I eventually made it to the waterfall and was feeling fairly healthy by then. I sat on a rock and listened to the tumbling water until a group of noisy teens came catapulting out of the brush and started goofing around jumping on the rocks in the river and climbing over the do not cross boundary ropes.  I decided it was time for me to head back. I looked at my phone and realized it would be early morning back home, and the only person up would be my step-mom, Linda, so since I had a few bars of reception on the hillside I decided to call and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

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Along the trail on the return trip I’d often stop and listen to the birds. There is a sort of cousin to the Robin here who makes a similar sound and talks just as much. It was lovely to hear them chattering and to watch them tug at the worms peeking out of the damp rich trail mud. At one point I noticed a moss heart on a rock along the trail. I wonder if someone made it or it just happened to grow that way. What do you think?:

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Back at camp I decided on staying at least one more night here before hitting the road again. I hadn’t realized just how taxing it has been to constantly be figuring out my next move, where I’ll sleep, what I’ll eat, when I’ll find a toilet or wash my hair… I may have to move a little slower out here in the wilderness than I expected, but I suppose part of this trip is about self-discovery and learning my limits too.

After making arrangements with the visitor’s center for a final night of camping, I went back to the car and Skyped my mom and texted my mom-in-law to wish them a happy Mother’s Day now that it was a little later in the morning back home.

I was feeling a bit weak again after the call so I chugged some water and laid down for a bit. I awoke about an hour later completely in tears. For some reason I felt extremely homesick and felt like I had failed myself, and others, by getting ill and not completely enjoying this incredible adventure. I’ve been working so hard to keep all my amazing cheerleaders at home updated and to keep the images coming that I completely disregarded my personal needs in the meantime. I’ve been so focused on if the weather will be bad for photos, or where my next wifi access will be so I can post to the blog… I’ve kind of hit a wall, I think. Or maybe we can consider it a bump in the road and a learning experience? I somehow let myself turn this freeing adventure into a tedious job. A job that I’m afraid to fail at, and one that I’m not currently enjoying as much as I could because of the pressure I’m putting on myself. Silly girl!

After some words of wisdom from my sweet hubby (my rock, my voice of reason!) I once again remember I have to allow myself to just experience the adventure and to stop binding myself to these self-imposed responsibilities. I can always write out my tales on those rainy days when I can’t do much exploring (there seem to be many of those rainy days, haha!) and I know no one will feel cheated because I don’t manage to blog as often as expected.

This is an adventure. With no set rules. Probably the biggest, longest solo journey of my life. I need to kick off these unnecessary shackles and just live it! Besides, the more fun I have on the journey, the more fun the photos and tales I’ll have to tell will be when I return.

I know I will go through a full range of emotions being on the road by myself for such a long time, so bare with me as I sort though it all. I figure if I write out my thoughts and fears it may help me – and who knows? It may help someone else on their own adventure down the road.

I’m feeling much better now, physically and emotionally. I think I’m ready to hit the road again.

Hugs and much love from Iceland, and until next time-


Reykjavik: Home Away From Home

My hosts, Andy & Sigrun, are wonderful and warm people. Sigrun is from Sweden and Andy is from the UK, and both moved here in January. They have gone out of their way to make me feel at home and include me in their daily lives. I can’t decide if having such a warm and comfortable place to stay is helping or hindering my adventurousness, haha!

I’m still feeling quite homesick and not particularly creative at the moment so I apologize in advance for any possibly bland writing, I just want to be sure I get everything written down before I get too far away from it and begin forgetting details.

April 30th 2014:

I woke up at 7:30 this morning with Sigrun and Andy, wished them a good day, and then sat down to write a blog post. 30 minutes later I woke up again and realized I had been sleeping at the keyboard so I decided to get another hour or two of sleep. I didn’t stir again until 12:30, and only because of a nearby sound of a train-like horn and then an explosion. Apparently the construction workers a few streets over are blasting through old cement and it’s loud. I still felt I could sleep for another 8 hours but talked myself into getting up to finish writing. I’m pretty sure my last post had several errors due to sleepiness, whoops. 🙂

After finishing yesterday’s post I decided to wander around town a bit and try out the little place called Cafe Babalu. Loved it. It made me realize that no matter where you are in the world if you have a friendly coffee house and available wifi it eases homesickness like no other remedy. Sigrun had told me Babalu is owned by a wonderful, albeit quirky, American. He is, in fact, kind and quirky. He and his dog stopped in to talk with the woman running his shop so I got to listen to them talk for a bit while I drank my coffee. He is tall and thin with dark features, scruffy 5-o’clock shadow and a shaved head. He has a beagle-mix dog and was sporting navy blue sweatpants. He has a kind smile but won’t look you in the eye for long. Iceland_20140429_Reykjavik-57_WEB

I hung out at Babalu while Skype chatting a bit with Jason, listening to all the different languages I heard around me, and trying to get some photos sorted and uploaded.

Around 4:30 Sigrun was off of work and we met on the street to walk home together. We chatted a bit and got to know each other while Andy made a dinner of rice, tomatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms. They told me they dumpster dive as much as possible to save money. It was my first dumpster meal and it tasted wonderful! I was so hungry after not having more than two apples, a spoonful of peanut butter and a latte all day. I’m in a weird mood where I’m hungry but when I try to eat I have no appetite. It must be due to the time change or travel stress. That’s a new one, I’m normally a human garbage disposal, haha!

After dinner we all walked to Lucky Records (music is huge here. In vinyl though; CDs are pretty uncool.) then down along the North coast to the music center where the massive EVE Online event is being held tomorrow. We went in to use the restrooms and so I could see it from the inside. The security guard gave us a little private tour of the cordoned-off area where the VIP people will be tomorrow, which was pretty neat.

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We eventually made our way over to MicroBar, a bar that serves all 64 Icelandic microbrews. It was neat but extremely expensive due to the high alcohol tax. I paid $35USD for a flight of 4 tasters plus a pint for Andy.  It was at Micro Bar that I met Joanna, from New Zealand, and her boyfriend Stewart, from UK, and 2 hilarious guys whose names I both can’t remember and/or can’t pronounce. We had great conversation about where we all come from, my job as a photographer, Colorado legalizing cannabis, and many other things.

I stayed out way past my bedtime; we closed down Micro Bar and the gang wanted to move on to another at 1:30am to meet up with more friends but I decided it was time for me to head back. Sigrun also decided she was done so we bid farewell to everyone and walked home.

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I finally dropped into my sleeping bag on the floor around 2am and let the refrigerator sing me to sleep. I’m not sure it made it past the intro of the song before I was out.


Pardon the dust…. Under Construction

My good friend, and madly talented coding ninja, has graciously offered to help me redesign my site from the ground up in the near future, but for now he’s eyeballs deep with other fun and highly-profitable projects (I’m so excited for him!) so I’ve decided to roll up my sleeves and try to give my pretty little website a mini facelift in the meantime. I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of coherence between the blog and gallery navigation… tsk, tsk. It’s just shameful, really.

Starting today the Lucky Brake website may undergo some changes and links may not always work. I will do my best have things back in working order by end of May; retuning with (hopefully!) a better web experience for you.  So pardon the dust for now and come visit again soon so we can resume our photography fun!

Improved items to look forward to (providing I can wrap my noggin around how to do this):

– more intuitive navigation

– a more-often-updated blog which will include weekly photo tips, photo tech news, project shout-outs, and other fun tidbits to keep you entertained

– a new Fine Art print gallery

*Donning my hard hat and putting on my work gloves*

I’m ready. Let’s do this!