Loveland Garden Tour 2014

20140628 Loveland Garden Tour-67_WEBWhat a fun time we had this morning at the Loveland Garden Tour, held to benefit the local group Loveland Youth Gardeners.

If you’re apt to feel garden envy, this may not be the tour for you; but if you enjoy gathering ideas for beautifying your own slice of heaven then this is the place to be on a gorgeous Colorado morning!

The Loveland Garden Tour is an annual event which allows folks to visit a handful of impressive private-residence gardens that have been dotted with local artists’ work. You may not be able to bottle up the gorgeous gardens and take them home, but you are welcomed to purchase any of the artist pieces you fancy. In fact, I couldn’t help myself and bought a beautiful antique brass porch light in which the glass covers have been replaced by works of art, curated and assembled by Loveland artist Olivia Lowe. When the lantern is off, you see delicate, French seed packet designs and when the lantern is on you can see comical vintage American seed packets (Mr. Cabbage Head and other hand-drawn veggie characters) superimposed underneath. I am mad about it! I’ll have to post a photo once I have it in my hot little hands.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

I’ve returned home from Iceland with an even stronger commitment to shrink my carbon footprint as well as our household’s overall consumption in general. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most stunning environments this globe has to offer and I was impressed by how the folks of Iceland are such amazing caretakers of their environment. I’ve decided the least I can do is take a few steps, albeit some will probably be uncomfortable steps, in my neck of the woods to lessen my impact on the world.

Last summer when we first moved into Brake Manor – which we jokingly named our little downtown brick cottage on a half acre of land – I had to work hard to learn which plants in the yard were weeds and which were keepers. During my research I learned that a good portion of the weeds we are plagued with are edible and considered highly nutritious. We run a no-nasty-chemicals household so I felt safe taste-testing the different kinds of weeds in the yard, to the chagrin of some of my surprisingly conformist friends.

Today, after working our arses off in the yard, I realized our fridge was pretty empty and found myself wishing I had planted a garden I could go pull from. That’s when I remembered the edible weeds in the yard and decided to try to use what we have before going to the store to buy food. So, I managed to prepare a lunch for my hubby and myself made up of about 70% yard goodies (not from a planted garden, mind you, but just wild weeds that had sprung up in the yard while we were out of the country). We dined on grape hyacinth bulbs flavored with lime, poppy seeds and chive; and on purslane greens with a tahini, Sriracha and balsamic dressing. It was all quite delicious, though I don’t know if I’ll ever go through the preparation process of cleaning and boiling the hyacinth bulbs ever again since they weren’t nearly as tasty as the prep was long.

To compliment our yard grub we each enjoyed a thick buttered slice of rosemary bread from a local bakery and a small glass of Saison microbrew from Loveland Aleworks. I love when I can make a simple weekend meal feel like we’ve been to a fancy fine-dining restaurant. After lunch we gluttonously gobbled up power naps in the shade of the patio for dessert. It felt satisfying to be a little more self-sufficient than normal (and for it to actually taste yummy too!).

Cheers!

Grape Hyacinth bulbs. Boiled to remove bitterness and seasoned with lime, poppy seeds and chives for a fresh dish

Grape Hyacinth bulbs. Boiled to remove bitterness and seasoned with lime, chives from the yard and poppy seeds. Zesty!

Purslane is a succulent-type weed that grows prolifically in our yard. It's high in Omega 3 fatty acid, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. The flavor is a subtle sweet and salty citrus.

Purslane is a succulent-type weed that grows prolifically in our yard. It’s high in Omega 3 fatty acid, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. The flavor is a pleasant salty-citrus.

I used Sesame oil, Tahini, Sriracha hot sauce and a fig balsamic for the Purslane sauce. It was scrumptious!

I used stirfry oil, Tahini, Sriracha hot sauce and a fig balsamic for the Purslane sauce. It was scrumptious!

I was in such a hurry to taste my creation that I didn't even check to see if my photos were in proper focus. haha, oops.

I was in such a hurry to taste my creation that I didn’t even check to see if my photos were in proper focus. ooops… and I call myself a photographer?! Tsk, tsk. 😉 (PS – the roses are from the yard too. I love it!)

 

 

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!

Lanna

The luckiest girl in the world, Lucky Lanna Brake

The luckiest girl in the world, Lucky Lanna Brake

Reykjavik: Laundromat Cafe, Seafarer’s Day, Marbles & Bees

June 1

It poured a heavy rain all night and into the morning. I started the morning graced by the company of Sigrun, Stu and a hot cup of Earl Grey. I found an amazing Indiegogo project on Facebook. It’s goal is to create solar roadways to lower emissions, create sustainable energy, create jobs in the US among other coolness… it’s a silly but informative video, check it out!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways

Heh, you thought I was already obnoxiously gung-ho about being eco friendly before I came to Iceland – but now I’m even more committed after being reminded how amazing this Earth is and how we’re freakin’ ruining it at break-neck speed. I already have a list of changes I’d like to make as soon as I get home. I’m actually pretty excited to see how quickly I can drop off the fossil-fuel grid and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

I gathered my laundry in my sleeping bag’s stuff-sack and walked across town to the Laundromat Cafe. The Laundromat Cafe is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a bustling, yummy cafe where you can do your laundry in the basement for about $7. The place is notoriously packed with people so when I walked in and saw it was only 1/3 full I was so excited! I knew I’d be able to find a good seat and to get on the wifi without a problem. When I walked in, dripping wet from the rain, I stood there with a dumb look on my face for a while, unsure what to do. A young woman helped me and gave me a shot of detergent and seven 100ISK coins for the laundry but when I went to pay for it I realized I had left my wallet all the way back at the house. Oh god dammit!

I sulkily walked back to the house in the pouring rain. An hour later I made it back to the cafe and by then the gloomy sky aptly fit my mood. The place was packed now. I waited in a long line and finally got my detergent and coins and headed down the stairs.

Downstairs the vibe was much different than the hip cafe upstairs; there were herds of loud children in a kid-friendly play area, and several mothers at the cafe tables along the wall. In the center of the area was a small laundry room with three washers and three dryers. I’m going to be overly descriptive of the laundromat portion because it’s a little intimidating and I couldn’t find any information on it before visiting so hopefully this will help someone out!

I must have had that dumb look on my face again when I was staring at the washing machines because a nice man started to help me. He tried to show me everything he had just learned but we still couldn’t get my machine working and neither could a second fellow. We all joked about what an interesting adventure using these machines was turning out to be, and then I ran upstairs to ask for help. The waiter of course got everything working right away which made me feel pretty dumb, but when you’re socially inept and you’re intimidated by a situation it’s a bit harder to think straight.

For anyone interested, here’s what it all looks like and how it works:

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The Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. A hip place to wash your underwear with strangers.

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The laundry room at Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. This kind woman is who I passed on my washing knowledge to before I left the cafe. She and her hubby were a pleasure to talk to!

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The instructions for the washing machines. Read it now before you’re standing in a crowded room feeling pressured to figure everything out. 🙂 The main coin-box numbers apply to both the washers and dryers and the smaller numbers just below the timer are for deciding whether you want washer #3(press #1) or dryer #3(press #2). Put in your coins into the box with the corresponding number on your washer then press #1 to tell it you’re on a washing machine. 
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I apologize I forgot to take photos specifically of the machines, but here’s a decent enough zoom. In the front flip-up compartment on the top left of the machine you can add your detergent; liquid on left, powdered on right. Wash buttons from left to right: Pick your temperature and wash-type (95/60/40-normal wash, then 60/40-gentle, handwash, spin only). The extra options under the LCD: the running man is quick wash, the vertical line in a bucket is for liquid detergent, not sure what the spin-cycle-looking button is for – maybe extra spin? -, last button is for extra water. Start button is on the right, and the tiny icons in a vertical line are indicators of where the wash is in the cycle.

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The dryer. Pick a temperature from the left 4 buttons and press the power button on the right. Easy enough 🙂 30 minutes of dry time was plenty for my medium sized load of travel clothes.

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The cafe. Order the Clean Brunch if you have mucho coin to spend and a big appetite to quench (or the Dirty Brunch, if you’re a meat eater) it’s all quite delicious. The ginger mango juice is soooo yummy too!

I went back upstairs after successfully getting my washer to start and tried to find a seat. There was very little space left so I asked a couple sitting at a 7-top if I could squeeze into the corner with them. They of course said yes and within 5 minutes they had left and an older woman and then a French couple joined me at the table. It took quite a while to flag someone down to order and get the wifi password, and by the time my food came I had to run downstairs to move my clothes to the dryer (40 minutes).

I had no trouble, thankfully with the dryer and the same nice man who initially tried to help me was folding his laundry so we started to chat. His name is Thubten Comerford (pronounced tube-ten)and was in town as a speaker for the Startup Iceland event going on at the big Harpa concert hall. He explained that he is a Twitter guru and the event is all about how to super-charge small startups and create a sustainable economy here in Iceland. It sounded so cool! It reminded me of the TEDx FrontRange event I work with back home and I, half jokingly, asked if he needed a personal photographer tomorrow. He said he’d check and see if that was something we could do. I laughed and said it would be awesome and we traded cards.

After Thubten and I finished chatting I went up and ate my now cold though delicious “clean brunch”. It had pancakes, Skyr with maple syrup nuts and coconut flakes, fresh fruits, a big salad with hummus and oil dressing, fried tomatoes and potatoes, eggs, and a shot of ginger mango juice. The “dirty brunch” has 3 types of meat instead of fresh hummus and a big beautiful salad.

I couldn’t get connected to the wifi, which has been pretty par for the course at busy cafes here so I cut my stay short and packed up as soon as I had finished eating and my timer for the dryer went off. When I got downstairs a new American couple was standing there with the same look on their faces I’d been sporting earlier and so I decided to pass on the kindness of showing them how to use the machines since Thubten had done it for me. They were lovely folks! We chatted about what we do for a living and I gave them my card.

After the Laundromat Cafe I called Sigrun to see where she and her 10 year old cousin, Baldur, whom she was watching for the day, were. There was a huge family event going on down by the harbor because it was SeaFarer’s Day and she said they were already there. I was only 5 blocks away and when I arrived I found them in line for riding on a mock-emergency rescue setup that went over the water to the other side of the dock. It looked like fun!

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This is Baldur as they sent him across the water on the rescue contraption.

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After Balder’s ride we went inside the Maritime Museum and there were many people having a lovely brunch in the event room and dancing a two-step on the neighboring dance floor. Sigrun and Baldur jumped right in and started dancing.

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We boarded the Icelandic Coast Guard ship next to the museum and took the tour, then looked at the displays of at least 20 different fish that are brought in at this harbor. That part was kind of disgusting because everyone (though mostly kiddos) were handling the freshly dead fish and the smell was so strong. There were Skates, Angler fish, Rockfish, and many other huge and small critters. I had no idea Angler fish were as large as they are, holy cow! Such incredible creatures.

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We walked around a bit more and Baldur played with some of the neat games that were set up for kiddos at the park.

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When they were ready to head back to the house for some pancakes I split off and went to the cafe that one of the folks I’d met in Akureyri had recommended to me, Mokka. Unfortunately, it was packed and some kiddos were loudly goofing around (I’m not a big fan of crowds or screaming and the Seafarer’s Day event had me exhausted already)… and there was no wifi. I forgot to ask about the wifi until after I ordered so I enjoyed my drink, which was lovely, and chatted with a nice man next to me. He thought I was Icelandic (the third person that day to do so!) and began chatting at me and I had to stop him and say “Sorry?”. He smiled and said I looked very Icelandic so he just assumed. I’ll take that as a compliment! He was sitting at a small table piled up with his lunch dishes, a few open notebooks and writing utensils and his glasses. He is short and a bit portly, has long wavy grey and white hair and a small beard, smiling eyes and a rolling briefcase covered in duct tape on the handle. He kind of looked like a wise sansei, and he proudly told me he comes from Iceland and many other countries when I asked him if he was a native. I told him that I was mostly Irish and German, with a minuscule amount of Comanche blood mixed in a few generations back (Dad told me that this year, I had never known!). He asked what Comanche was and I was embarrassed that I didn’t know anything about them and their history. After chatting a bit I told him I was sorry but very much needed to get some work done and he smiled and said, “So do I,” and we quietly worked next to one another for a while longer. When I was ready to post to the blog I boogied up the street to use the wifi and get another latte at my tried-and-true favorite, Cafe Babalu.

I wrote and edited for a couple hours and then Skyped with my dad, step mom, sister, brother-in-law and husband while they were all celebrating my dad’s birthday back home. I wanted to be there when Jason gave dad the present I got him. Thanks to some trading of photography skills earlier in the year I was able to have a very talented glass-blowing friend make me a set of handmade marbles for him. Dad makes these beautiful hardwood game boards that use marbles and dice – a sort of Sorry game. I wanted him to have a special set of marbles made just for him so that we can use them when we play as a family. It’s been so hard keeping this secret for nearly six months! I was so excited that I almost gave them to him the day they were delivered.

When I got home Stu was at work and Sigrun and Andy were relaxing. I went out to the car for the evening to relax and talk to Jason. We giggled and chatted for a while until a US phone number persistently kept interrupting us. I finally answered it and it was the gentleman from the Colorado Bee Keepers. A few weeks ago I had seen a Facebook post about how they were looking for backyards to host bee hives. I had been contemplating learning how to keep bees in the future and thought this would be a perfect baby-step for me. They take care of the hive every two weeks and we’ll get to have our very own pollinating specialists all summer and keep a quarter of the honey in the fall as payment. I’m hoping to pick their brains throughout the year and get a good feel for it so I can take care of my own hives down the road.

The man, Cameron, said he was ready to come by and install my bee hive! I told him I was still in Iceland but Jason was home and to head on over. I called Jason back to let him know what was happening and then I (not so) patiently waited for him to call me back and tell me how it went.

Jason called me back and said the 6 folks that came to install the hive were extremely nice and loved our yard. They were very happy with the place we chose for the bees and they set up the hive so quickly Jason could hardly believe it. He said they plopped down two support blocks, sat the hive box on top, slipped in the comb slats and queen, then dumped the bees. I wish so badly I could have been there to experience and document it, but Jason did send me a couple of photos:

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See the queen on the far right? Jason said she was moving pretty fast. It’s probably so stressful for them to be relocated like that!

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I know the marbles and my bees have nothing to do with Iceland, but I’m very excited about both of them. Today was one of those days I wished I could be in two places at once. 🙂

When I got off the phone with Jason I noticed I’d gotten an email from Thubten saying to meet him at the Harpa concert center tomorrow morning at 9. Holy moley! I was so excited that I’d get to photograph and attend the Startup Iceland event I could hardly sleep.

Reykjavik: Happy Anniversary Sweetie! & No Is Not An Option

May 31

First I want to wish my hubby, Jason, a happy Vesuvio anniversary! On May 31st, 2011  he and I climbed to the top of the volcano, Mt Vesuvius, in Naples, Italy and privately said our vows to one another on a ledge overlooking Naples Bay as the clouds rolled over misting us with cool, wet air while lavender butterflies fluttered around us (no joke, it was truly epic). It was one of the best days of my life and I’m so grateful to somehow be even happier with him today than we were on that idyllic day. I love you, sweetheart! I am so grateful for your support and encouragement while I’ve been traveling and left you home with all the responsibilities. ❤

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Now back to today: The weather in Reykjavik has turned rainy again. It’s a gentle constant mist that somehow soaks your clothes more efficiently than larger drops. At least the temperature has warmed up now. It’s been about 52-57 degrees during the day and only 48 degrees at night. It makes for much more comfortable car sleeping. 🙂

I’ve been ailing from harshly negative dreams this week. Generally, when I have an extraordinarily good day the following night’s dreams are the exact opposite. For example; if I have a fun-filled day with Jason I will then dream that he and I fight and call it quits over something awful. I wonder if it’s my mind’s way of balancing out my endorphins and stress hormones? I suppose since I’m having such bad dreams it must mean I’m having far too much fun here in Reykjavik!

Sigrun and Andy headed over to Cafe Babalu and I went downtown to return the camping stove I had purchased at the beginning of the trip. When I had realized it would be so expensive to buy one here I made a promise to myself that I would only open it and use it if I really needed to. I shouldn’t have even bought it because I had absolutely no need for it once my mind was set on returning it. Any time I made my little cup-o-soups on the road I was perfectly happy eating them cold because it meant I could still return the silly stove.

I went into the Marmot store and the man remembered me and asked how my trip has been. We chatted a bit and then I asked him if I could return the stove. He said I could only return it for store credit. I decided not to take no for an answer (you know, since I’ve been practicing being bold and doing things I wouldn’t normally do). I stood there and looked around then said “but my trip is over, there’s nothing else I would need here that I could fit into my luggage.” He stared at the receipt a bit and then pulled out the (fairly hidden) signage saying returns beyond 24 hours will result in only store credit. I mirrored his silence and read the sign for an uncomfortably long time, chewing on my lip with a worried look on my face. Just as I was about to give in, because I was getting so uncomfortable in the silence, he said “Okay, for you I will make an exception. Because you’re so nice.”  I smiled as big as I could possibly manage and thanked him. I told him I will give him rave reviews online and he laughed and said “Good, but don’t tell people that I let you return this for money back.” I laughed and gave him my word (aaaand I’m just now realizing I’ll be blowing that promise…).

Because I was able to get the stove returned when normally I would have accepted the initial answer of no, and then would have sulked about it all day, I felt like I was queen of the universe! I walked back onto the street with my head held high and mentally added another item to my list of Things I’ve Learned and/or Done Out Of My Comfort Zone In Iceland.

I popped into a few chic art galleries along Laugavegur, chatted with shop-keeps and felt right at home in the city. I hadn’t realized how often I tend to create things at home until I have now spent so much time traveling. I think I’m having withdrawls from being handy! Each time I find something cute that I might consider buying my brain snaps and says “Oh hell no, you can make that for cheaper when you get home!” I’ve been taking photos of all the cute things I want to make and the list is getting frighteningly long. 😉

Sigrun jokes about how Icelandic people park wherever they want to. This is a perfect example.

Sigrun jokes about how Icelandic people park wherever they want to. This is a perfect example.

My favorite street art shot so far. <3

My favorite street art shot so far. ❤

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This is my favorite indoor-gallery piece I’ve seen so far. It’s by Tolli. It’s so beautiful and large in real life. It’s on my “if I win the lottery” list of buys 🙂

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I stopped at a cafe-by-day bar-by-night called Tiu Dropar (The Ten Drops). I ordered a latte and tried an Icelandic donut. The coffee was not so good but the donut was really yummy. It tasted like a dense funnel cake without the powdered sugar.

I walked home in the rain and stopped in to a few more shops. I found an extremely cute teacup and saucer – it was so simple and white and elegant – but when I flipped it over and saw the price was close to $50 USD I boogied out of that store as quick as possible before I broke something I couldn’t pay for. If you ever go to Iceland know this: you will spend a fortune if you don’t want to live off of peanut butter and crackers nor forgo souvenirs. Even the crappiest, made-in-china-plastic-keychains are at least $15. I even found an 8” stuffed animal for $100 at a particularly chic store. Chic must be Icelandic for expensive. 😉

I ducked into Bonus, a grocery store chain, and picked up some milk, apples and tomato sauce. I was thinking we could maybe make pizza sometime this week with the leftover shredded cheeses from when I made the quiche. I really enjoy cooking at home and doing so here in Iceland for everyone has made me feel even more comfortable.

When I arrived back at the flat Stuart had joined Sigrun and Andy. Joanna had taken her flight out of the country that morning and now Stu will be living here for the next few weeks until his new place is ready.

Sigrun and I took the car to run some errands. It’s fun to be able to help in that way since they don’t normally have a car at their disposal. We dropped off the recyclables and collected the money for them – enough to buy a fancy bottle of wine! – then we went to pick up a loaned folding bed for Stu to use while he’s staying. We got a little lost at one point but it’s fun getting to see more of the rural outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s such a beautiful area, and the old apartments we visited were absolutely charming!

Back home we decided to rearrange the entire flat to fit Stu’s new fold-out bed and make better use of the limited space. We even moved the refrigerator to a new location! It was fun; like Tetris, but with furniture.

Once the furniture shuffling was completed we ran to Vin Budin to get our wine with the money from the recyclables, and we picked up some ginger beer that Sigrun had been wanting to try. Just like most everything else I’ve tasted here in Iceland, the ginger beer was delicious. We were all a bit tuckered out so we kicked back and watched the first Xmen movie, which I’d never seen before, and then Stu cooked us all an amazing asian inspired blackbean sauce pasta. I have to learn how to make that.

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Though I’m really loving this slow-paced week of playing in Reykjavik it’s making me miss Jason all the more. I cannot wait until he arrives so I can show him all my favorite places and we can reconnect. My heart starts to pitter-patter just thinking about it!

Reykjavik: History, GoKart Races & A Drunken Pest

May 30

My morning was filled with writing, a powdered latte and a quick visit from Stu and Jo when they brought over a few suitcases since Stu will be moving in with Sigrun and Andy for a couple weeks until his new apartment is ready.

I have begun to feel like I’m wasting the day away if I don’t at least stroll downtown for a few hours. I know I’m going to miss Reykjavik like mad when I go home so I keep trying to soak in as much as I can, always finding new art and shops during each trip I take. While I was out I visited the museum Reykjavik 871(+/-2) and it was fascinating! In 2001, while constructing a new building downtown some old artifacts were found. Construction ceased and careful excavation begun. Check out the above link for further information, it’s pretty cool. When I visit old settlement sites I always have an intense reaction. Regardless of if I’m walking through a grain factory from 1893AD or Egyptian tombs from 1300BC – it’s still amazing to me that I am witnessing bits of my ancestors’ lives.

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When I came out of the museum I could hear hundreds of children yelling and cheering. I followed the sound over to a public square that is normally filled with skateboarders. Today it was filled with primary school children dressed in 4 distinct team colors. There was an announcer dressed as a cow and all the teachers/coaches were wearing superhero capes. Everyone was screaming and cheering. It took me a while to understand what was going on but once I saw the make-shift go karts I realized it was a race. The children all had their own team chants and were all impressively in sync with one another as they chanted their little songs.

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After I’d had my fill of screaming children (it didn’t take long, haha!) I headed South of the square and found a charming cafe. It was a Te & Kaffe (which seems to be the Icelandic counterpart to Starbucks). I ordered a mocha latte and quickly understood why it was a popular joint. It easily made the top 3 lattes I’ve had in Iceland. I daydreamed in the comfortable cafe and watched the rain pour down for about an hour before heading out into it again.

On the way home I snapped images of more street art, then finally stopped by a bakery. Every single one I walk by is so enticing that I finally caved and bought a big round loaf of bread and a gorgeous little creme-filled pastry to share with Sigrun and Andy after dinner.

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I headed home and got started on making another quiche, by request. It makes me so happy everyone has liked my recipe! Sigrun and I chatted while I worked and by the time Andy got home we were ready for dinner. I absolutely love cooking while I’m here. It makes me feel so at home.

After dinner we took a walk down to the old cemetery that I had told them about a few days before (I couldn’t believe I was introducing the locals to something new in Reykjavik, woo hoo!). It was so interesting to look at the names and dates of the gravestones. So many long lives, and so many short lives. We found one unique mosaic headstone for an artist who had died at 33 in the 1890’s, and several infant gravestones for kiddos who never made it past their first year… so sad.

After our quiet walk we stopped into a pub for a brew. We were enjoying our drinks and discussing travel and movies when a man who had already pestered Andy when he went out to smoke came in and started trying to chat up a group of young women sitting near us. They were clearly annoyed by him and he was completely oblivious. He eventually got the hint and wandered away. We shook our heads and kept talking. We were deep into a conversation about the most effective teaching methods we had enjoyed as kids when someone pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. It was the Drunken Pest. He immediately started asking me questions. Where was I from? Was I Mormon? Why am I in Iceland? I knew he was intoxicated so I mostly returned his questions with the same questions about himself but he refused to answer any of them – or did so in a cryptic manner. I quickly decided to show him my mean face because he sat down, uninvited, and interrupted our conversation with his questions while never answering any of my returned lobs. Sigrun thought my mean face was pretty funny and said she’d have to remember that one. I felt bad for being cross with a stranger but he was far too aggressive and I’ve learned if you’re nice to people who already aren’t respecting your space it never ends well so it saves time to nip it in the bud. ;P

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Reykjavik: Dinner With Friends, Botanic Garden & Street Art

May 27

From my parking spot in front of Sigrun and Andy’s place I was surprised to see the day begin without any rain. The updated forecast for the day was cloudy with a slim chance of rain so I excitedly packed my day bag and planned to walk the city. I remembered seeing something in the guidebook about the Reykjavik botanic gardens and thought a stroll through some lush green gardens is just what I needed after all this gloomy weather.

I left the house on foot and figured I’d find directions once I was out and about. The gardens turned out to be about 40 minutes away on foot so I hesitated. In the end I figured it’d be good for me to get out and pound the pavement a bit since I’ve been mostly driving for the last few weeks and haven’t gotten much exercise. Besides, you can get to know a city more intimately when you walk it!

I along the way I passed what looked like an Olympic training center and down a grassy hill then through a beautiful tree-covered lane. I saw a small zoo on my right and I talked to the brindle striped cows laying on some rolling hills on the other side of the fence.

The gardens turned out to be absolutely lovely – and free! Oh how I dig free things! I thought about how much my mom would enjoy the place since she’s a natural plant whisperer (and my go-to person for all things green). I slowly walked on the white wooden bridges over narrow ponds, strolled through rock gardens and got lost in thought listening to the birds sassing each other in the trees above. I even encountered a ferocious Icelandic beast!:

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I always get so inspired when visiting beautiful locations. I take a mental picture of the best designs and tuck them away in my mind for when I get home and can work on my own garden – and this place gave me several fantastic ideas to try! My favorite elements from Iceland that I’m hoping to somehow incorporate in my home garden are the rolling grassy mini hills, stacked stone walls, and the turf houses.

Near the back corner of the gardens was a greenhouse. As I got closer I saw it was a cafe! Oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy! You know how I love my cafes.

I went inside Cafe Flora and it was absolutely fantastic. Gorgeous wooden garden tables and chairs, a koi pond, a big fruit laden fig tree, grape vines, a condiments table made of the trunks of trees… I was in heaven!

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Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-123_WEB I asked the barista for a double latte and got her opinion on what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the soup of the day was a coconut curry with shrimp and parsley. I’m not big on meat any more but I thought I’d give it a try (you know, when in Rome…). It was served in a hot, lidded glass crock on a bamboo board with a few slices of fresh sourdough grain bread and a little square of butter wrapped in parchment paper.

As the girl brought me my soup I couldn’t help but do a wiggly happy dance in my chair and clap my hands. She laughed and shook her head at me and it made me realize most people probably don’t get this excited about food. I guess Gastronomy has always pleased me. Tasty food is one thing, but tasty food served up in a beautiful presentation is happiness on a whole new level. More so, tasty food presented beautifully and sourced responsibly? Oh Jeezus!  Plug your ears because I’m apt to gush about that meal for weeks.

Maybe I’m meant to be a food blogger? A traveling food blogger? Hmmm, I have an idea… oh dammit!  theveggietraveler.com URL is already taken. Fine, back to the drawing board I go. 😉

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The bread was so soft and flakey on the inside with a thick and chewy crust. I slathered each piece with the fresh butter and then dipped them into the curry soup. I was such a perfect blend of flavors! The soup was savory though the coconut gave a hint of sweetness, and there were big hearty chunks of onions, carrots, parsley, squash and butter beans. I even tried a few of the tiny shrimp and they were so fresh and tender they practically melted in my mouth.

I enjoyed my lunch and wrote for a couple of hours in the warm, deliciously earthy smelling greenhouse. I wanted to stay right there for the rest of my life. It was heaven. I would probably live in a greenhouse if it were a feasible thing to do.

The day was so relaxing and lovely, though my stomach was not being very accepting of the shrimp and I whispered an apology to it for trying to trick it into eating meat. I promised not to do it again no matter how fresh and incredible it may be.

I meandered back towards the house and admired the fantastic pedestrian and bicycle lanes next to the large roadway. Why do we not do this in Colorado? Cycling is so popular in the state it seems insane not to. There’s even a well-known joke about Coloradans and their obsession with cycling: How do you know if someone’s from Colorado? They carry an $8,000 bike on the roof of a $1,000 car.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these pedestrian roads back home but Sigrun tells me it’s very common in Sweden and I’ve seen it in Denmark too. It seems simple enough; if we combined the widths of the current sidewalks into one wide pedestrian/bike road on either side of the automobile road it would save us so much grief. Less bicyclists would be killed or injured, drivers wouldn’t have to get frustrated with cyclists, and it would inevitably encourage people to travel via something other than gas-guzzling cars.

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I noticed both of my cameras were nearly drained of battery so I went back to the house to charge them while I took the forced downtime to nap and surf the web a bit. I made tentative plans with the group that I had met in Akureyri to meet for a beer at Micro Bar before they flew home. Chad and Mandi were heading back to Austin, Texas in the morning.

Sigrun arrived home and I told her about the plans for Micro Bar and she said Keir and Emily were cooking dinner that night and suggested we should all go together after we ate. I headed back out for a walk through the city since the weather was so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of non-rainy weather.

I ventured down the main shopping street and snapped photos of the colorful street art. I still find new pieces every time I walk down there. It’s incredible!

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I found a tiny little door that lead back to a small fashion shop. When I entered I found a spread of beautiful foods and another photographer who was carefully placing the food. I realized I maybe shouldn’t be there. I asked the man if he was working and he said he was the culinary photographer for a food magazine in Reykjavik and they were having a party for the publication. His name is AoThor (check out his food and people photography, it’s lovely!) and we chatted a little and traded cards before I boogied out of there because I felt like I was crashing a party I hadn’t been invited to.

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I headed South and then up the hill to the old wealthy neighborhoods on the East side of Reykjavik where the houses are grand with sprawling manicured gardens, and I even found the old cemetery. It was so beautiful and peaceful there, with trees growing up from many burial plots and stone walls cradling family burial plots. It’s exactly how I imagine a cemetery should be.

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I returned just before 8:00, and everyone eventually trickled back home and the dinner-making and the sharing of our respective days commenced. They made a delightful parmesan and broccoli pasta dish together and Keir brought out 5 Icelandic beers to share and sample. We all got a small jar to use as our beer sampling cup (mine was an olive jar. I love it!) and we worked through the brews while they thrilled me with their knowledge. Andy and Keir would be talking about something English and completely foreign to me and I’d have to stop them and request they explain it to me. I felt as if  I was a child hanging out with adults since I didn’t know half of the things they were laughing about. They were gracious though and happily explained things to me such as what a genuine  Cornish pasty is. I would very much like to try to make these!

Keir sliced up a little cake with marbled frosting and we shared it while enjoying a porter beer and then we headed out towards Micro Bar. I really enjoy all the walking I do in the city, though I’ve added it all up and I walked 4.5 hours this day alone. I think soreness is in my near future…

Andy decided to stay home since he had work in the morning. We were a bit late to Micro Bar and so we had missed Mandi and Chad, but I bought the 4 of us a round of beers and we talked until midnight and decided it was bedtime. I had worn my Loveland Aleworks t-shirt and had to get a photo of it while at Micro Bar! As we were taking the photos a few fairly intoxicated Americans started asking what all the photos were for and one of them was from Arvada, Colorado. I told them how fabulous Loveland Aleworks and all the microbreweries in Loveland are and he said he’ll have to make a point of heading up there next time he’s back home. I seem to become quite a braggart about my awesome little town when I’m away from it. 🙂

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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.

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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.

 

 

Westfjords In a Single (Very Rainy) Day

May 24

More rain. I have decided that all this rain is not Iceland’s way of rejecting me, but instead it’s a loving gesture of greening everything up for when Jason comes and we make one final swing around the island together. Yeah, ok, I like that. That must be what’s happening. 😉

When I awoke on my second day in Breidavik it was still pouring and the wind was still howling. I hopped on my phone to see if the forecast had changed at all. Nope. I then checked Facebook and read that my hometown was having flash flooding and several intersections and parks were underwater! gah! Only last September the Big Thompson canyon flooded and carved out a wide path through our fair city, and several surrounding cities, after an intense several days of rain so I immediately had concerns. I couldn’t check in with anyone to see just how bad it was since it was 3 am back home. I sent out a few texts to family members checking in hoping someone was awake but didn’t get the “all is well” return texts until much later in the day once everyone was awake.

I knew I had some decisions to make today so I quieted my mind and listened to my heart again to finally decide which direction I would go once I left Breidavik. I decided to go ahead and make the Westfjords loop (I now realize I kept calling it “Northfjords” in my last posts. I don’t know why my brain keeps doing that!) since I might never have the opportunity to do it again – and force myself not to stress if I wasn’t able to photograph anything. If it was too stormy I’d just keep driving and eventually make my way back to Reykjavik. There was nothing I could do about the weather, and I already knew I love Reykjavik and still have plenty of shops, museums and cafes to check out. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to pretend I’m a local and get to know the place better!

As I drove up over the pass out of Breidavik I snapped a stormy-day photo of the “town” I had driven so far out to visit and stayed at for two days. It’s a cute place and I wish I’d have had a chance to explore the beautiful beach.

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The road wasn’t as bad as I had expected, though there were several large ponds and rivers next to the road that hadn’t been there yesterday. New waterfalls were leaping off the sides of the mountains in several places. I started to worry about rock slides but knew there was nothing I could do to prevent nor predict them so I just kept truckin’. At the bottom of the first mountain pass there was a sandy area where the wind had blown the yellow sand over the dirt road. I also noticed an airstrip running through the little hills of yellow sand and beach grass alongside the road. There was what looked like a little street sweeper vehicle next to the airpot building that I assume they probably have to use daily to uncover the runway from the blowing sand.

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I continued on for a few hours through the fog and wind and rain. It was slow going due to poor visibility and the deep mud puddles in the road. As I drove through them they’d splash up over the whole car, completely obscuring my vision until my windshield wipers could clear the mud water away. I’m grateful for having such a nice vehicle to navigate that road with.

After I had made it back to the main road that winds up and around the fjords I started to feel a bit braver about going faster through the rain and puddles. The wind would momentarily blast and try to shove me off the road every once in a while but I was getting good at correcting for it. By golly, I’d gotten the hang of this nasty weather and was actually having fun 4-wheeling and splashing around! I continued to be slow and careful on the high ledges but on the level ground near the ocean I had some freedom to enjoy the drive.

The weather had cleared up a bit and I was able to see pretty far ahead!  After a while I saw what looked like a brown sheep jump down off the mountain and stop in the road up ahead. I jokingly scolded the sheep for being out in such bad weather when I noticed it was too small to be a sheep and too round not to be a big ol’ boulder. I slowed to a stop as I came up to it, thinking how bad it could have been had I not been 20 seconds too slow and it had barreled into my vehicle. I snapped a quick photo of it and got the hell out from under that rocky wall incase any more were going to break loose. It sobered me up quite a bit and I went back to my cautious, watchful driving.

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The rest of the day consisted of hours of driving punctuated by momentary stops in small towns to rest my nerves and eyes.

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I finally saw a speck of sunshine break through and it created a rainbow that touched the ground on both sides. I had always thought this was a thing of myths! (though of course I couldn’t catch it before it waned… so maybe it is a thing of myths?)

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Every once in a while through the dark fog I could see shadows of mountains in the distance. It was quite beautiful, really.

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Back up high crossing another mountain pass there was a 20+ foot wall of snow leaning over the road which made my stomach flip as I drove underneath it since I could so easily imagine it calving off the mountain right as I drove under it. Oy, my poor nerves!

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I could sometimes see white jagged scars down the sides of the mountains through the fog and they turned out to be flash waterfalls.

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This was my trusty Dacia Duster after all the rain and mountain-road driving. She’s just as cute after she’s played in the mud as she is when she’s shiny and clean!

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All the uninterrupted driving got me through the Westfjords within a single day, instead of the seven days I had planned, and I found a sweet little campsite just after returning to the Ring Road. They were teachers at the elementary school on the opposite ridge and had recently bought the site and were doing renovations right now. Because of that, the owner said I didn’t have to pay anything to camp and if I wanted to come back in to the restaurant and have a beer with him and his family I was more than welcomed to. He was so generous and I appreciated the offer so much… but all that driving had me completely exhausted and all I wanted to do was scarf down a quick dinner and sleep. This campsite was different from all the others that I’d visited because it wasn’t based on a big grassy lawn, it was a long one-way path along rolling hills through scrub-brush that had little green lawns here and there barely large enough for a pair of tents. I picked a spot on the top of a ridge and fell asleep within minutes of my apple, tortilla and peanut butter dinner.

Wonderful Breidavik, Rain & More Rain

May 23

The day was rainy and exceptionally dark. After showering in the camping facilities hut I ran from the car to the tall whitewashed hotel and purchased another night at Breidavik. I decided there was no point in driving around the Westfjords in this un-photographable weather when there was free, fast internet here and a dry room to spend the day in.

As the gentleman rang me up, a little blonde cutie-pie of about 14 months old came toddling out of the kitchen behind the bar. She was jabbering and waving her arms and dressed in a tiny tracksuit all in pink. She wandered around, making a lap around the dining room before stopping at my feet. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes, nearly falling over as she tipped her head all the way back to see my face. I grinned and greeted her in Icelandic and quickly twiddled the pygmy pigtail standing straight atop her head. She blinked hard, took a deep breath – I was sure she would scream – and turned around to wander off again, jabbering.

I set up my laptop in the camper’s dining hall and went back to the restaurant dining area to pick up a free cup of tea. Until you’ve camped for nearly four weeks in a cold and rainy climate you may not understand just how amazing it feels to have a complimentary hot beverage and a warm place to hang out for the day. It’s equivalent to the feeling of finding $50 or something, haha! I chose green tea and doused it with cream and sugar to make it an even richer treat. I was craving some Skyr too but knew the nearest convenience store was at least 2 hours away through the gloom and doom outside.

Grinning to myself and doing a happy wiggle in my chair as I settled down back at my computer in the big, silent, echoey dining hall with my hot tea and the icy rain pelting the windows behind me I got to thinking. Apparently all it takes for me to feel right at home is a hot beverage and a fast internet connection. I don’t need much to be content… though having my sweet, fat feline, Palu, purring in my lap would have made me over-the-moon happier. I miss that fur-ball so damn much lately. She’s always my companion when I work at home. Either pestering and poking her big polydactyl paws at me through the arm of my chair for attention, curled up on my lap or jumping onto my shoulders and bumping her soft little noggin against my cheek. Sigh, my heart hurts just thinking of how much I miss her. I suppose I will see her soon enough. I’m sure she thinks I’ve completely abandoned her after all this time. And the poor thing is about to lose Jason too! Maybe when we both return she’ll think he went out to find me and bring me home. He’ll be a hero!

My sassy kitty, Palu. She's the best critter I could have ever asked for. She does tricks, plays fetch and sits at the table with us when we have conversations and meows along as if she's a people too.

My sassy kitty, Palu. She’s the best critter I could have ever asked for. She does tricks, plays fetch and sits at the table with us and meows along to the conversation as if she’s a People too.

MoBot, pre-Iceland

MoBot, pre-Iceland

While rummaging through my backpack to find my power adapter I noticed a big red splotch showing through the bubble wrap around my little travel buddy, MoBot. Panicked, I unwrapped him to find he was a giant mess of rust! I must not have dried him thoroughly enough when he took a spill into the glacier lagoon, either that or the humidity from all the rain was doing him in! I was heartbroken. On our first day in Iceland his little foot had fallen off and I had bought some superglue in Reykjavik at a hardware store to hold him together until I could get him to the soldering-doctor. I’d been afraid to let him come out to play because of how much I adore him and don’t want him to get further injured… and then the very next time I took a chance and pulled him out to take a photo with him the wind gusted him off his rock and he dove into the water (which now that I think of it, was probably salt water since it was near the ocean outlet). Maybe MoBot is more of a city-bot? 😦

I scrubbed the rusty robot blood off of him in the kitchenette sink and rinsed out the bubble wrap. I stood him next to my workspace on the table and occasionally blew on him as I worked so that he’d fully dry before I tucked him away again.

The same gentleman that had helped me earlier walked by and saw MoBot. He did a double-take and then came over to me and started asking questions about him. I told him the story of what happened at the glacier lagoon and then the guy asked who made him. I gave him my card so we could get him in connection with MoBot’s creator, Maurice Woods, to see if Maurice might be willing to do a commissioned piece for him. Awesome!

I worked the day away, restraining myself just enough to only go back for more tea every two hours instead of every 15 minutes. I didn’t want to abuse the kind gesture of complimentary goodies. I took a break from work to catch up on social media and to research a few things I’d been thinking about such as how to get/make a solar electricity system for the house, if anyone had been successful in building turf walls in Colorado, and if there are any city codes about making turf houses in my area (muahahaha! We no longer have a temperature controlled basement to store our homebrew or wine as it ages… but a turf house would be perfect!…and adorable) .

I checked the weather for the week and it looked absolutely bleak. For all of the Westfjords the 10 day forecast showed every single day with an 80-100% chance of raining all day, sans two random days that were less than 50%. Well, sheeeyit. I couldn’t decide what to do; should I stay here for who-knows-how-long and get the images of this amazing yellow beach that I wanted? Should I keep driving through the soggy and muddy rock roads up over all those high passes in hopes that I’d be somewhere perfect if the sun decided to come out? Or should I turn around and head back South to Reykjavik and enjoy the city life for my last week and a half before Jason joins me?

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 2.46.10 PMI thought it’d be fun to send the question out into Facebook-land and see what other folks would do. Most said I ought to head back to Reykjavik, and a wise friend named Laura said to still my mind and listen to my heart to find the right answer for myself. My heart wanted to go back to Reykjavik too but also felt awful about missing out on the Westfjords that I may never get to see again.

Around that time another good friend, Kim, video-called me on Skype but I was completely uncomfortable being so loud in that echoey room. I’ve become very  aware of how loud Americans seem compared to all other tourists and didn’t want to prolong the stereotype. I decided to stay quiet so she talked while I listened through earbuds and typed my answers. It was both pretty ridiculous and hilarious. We were having a fun time with it but after a few noisy people came through the room I gave up and just started talking as quietly as I could. Kim and I laughed and talked for quite some time before I realized it was already 6:45pm and I still had one more post to write before I could call it a night (and I’m a slow writer).

Warmed from my lovely day in a heated hotel with tea and internet I almost opted to get a room in the hotel for the night instead of having to run back out and sleep in my cold car in the pouring rain. My desire to stretch my budget won in the end and I ran to the car. Soaked through, I changed into some dry clothes and tried to warm up under the blankets. The wind was howling and the Arctic Terns were all grounded due to the weather so the campsite grass around me was littered with the little white birds all spaced apart and facing into the wind, hunkered down against the gusts. Every once in a while an especially strong gust would push a handful of birds up off the ground and they’d frantically flap and screech angrily while trying to get grounded again. Poor little things! I stopped feeling sorry for myself since I actually had a dry place to rest and no gusts of wind were tumbling me into the air as I tried to sleep.

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