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Old 08-21-2010, 08:18 PM   #1
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My first ride report.

My buddy Manny turned 50. He wanted to do a series of adventures for his 50th. Ours was riding motorcyles accross Iceland for eight days.

One of my favorite trips ever. Phenomenal country to ride motorcycles, honestly crazy good terrain. I could easily spend a couple of months (or maybe a lifetime) and not get bored.

Things I learned:

Iceland is about the size of the main island of Japan.
Japan's population is 127,420,000.
Iceland’s population is 320,000.
127 million Japanese could leave Japan and the population would still exceed Iceland by 25%.
July weather in Iceland is similar to March weather in Seattle.
Hotdogs are very popular in Iceland.
If you insist on sampling the most traditional food in Iceland, you might get a half a sheep's head and other items you probably won't be familiar with.
Common American stove fuel (white camp gas) isn't common in Iceland. Icelandic "Grill fuel" is barely flammable and doesn't burn in American stoves.
Icelandic air flies direct from Seattle to Reykjavik.

Day 1 getting to Iceland, getting the bikes.

About the language. Thank you is one of the easiest phrases to say. The language is near impossible for an American. I gave up trying to pronounce place names. Manny told me that the airline-industry-disruptive-volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, is referred to as E15. It starts with the letter “E” and has 15 more letters. We used this. Stykkishólmur became Stykki (sticky) - 7. If anyone wanted to know where we'd been or where we where going I had to bust out the map and use my finger.

Me. Hair shorn to helmet length. The day before I rode the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride on a tandem with my daughter… but that is another story. I don’t recommend starting a motorcycle trip with a severely sore saddle. Or having to rush your packing… Manny’s texted me “pack light”…

Icleand has long sunsets in the summer. About half the 7 ˝ hour flight seemed to be a sunset.


The bus ride from the airport, Keflavík, takes about 45 minutes. Why? This is where our military built it in WWII, the base was used to shuttle GIs to England.


Picking up our bikes from Eyţór (or Eythor, prounounced “A-thor”) at Biking Viking. These guys came highly recommended from an inmate that had visited Iceland and was also vouched for by an Icelandic inmate. Eyţór is the man. On his advice and since we were traveling to the Highlands, he advised us to switch our reservation from the BMWF650GS to more dirt oriented bikes. I can’t say enough good things about the Biking Viking operation. I got a Kawasaki KLR 650 with soft bags and Manny got a Yamaha 660R with Pelican hard bags. Both were in perfect working condition but I was befuddled by the water in the KLR’s headlight and speedometer. I had failed to learn the Icelandic phrase for "has this motorcycle previously fallen during an attempted river crossing in the Highlands?"

more later...

bc_seattle screwed with this post 08-22-2010 at 01:31 PM
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Old 08-21-2010, 08:24 PM   #2
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I love Iceland reports

I'll get there one day - I've got kin there I've never met
Sometimes you get the ABAT....and sometimes the ABAT gets you
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Old 08-22-2010, 11:34 AM   #3
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Day 1

Boxermoose – its you and me brother… you and me. Stay with me here, don't leave me. This RR is dedicated to you and your kin which hopefully I was nice and respectful to if I ran into during our outlaw adventure.
Here’s how I figure the math… 300,000 people on Iceland… I talked to maybe 300 in eight days. So that is a 1-in-100 chance that met one of your kin multiplied by how many you got over there. If you have 6 kin then 6-in-100 = 6%; 20 kin ups my chances to 1-in-5. Not betting odds, but not crazy to think I might have met some of your clan.
Here’s the thing: If you like riding a motorcycle in the dirt and you got kin in Iceland and you can afford some warm clothes then you really are kind of blowing it by not getting up there while you can still stomach the local fire-drink, Brennivín. But hey just my $0.02… and don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to scare off my only subscriber.

I should also apologize upfront… my pictures suck. Too many pretty sights… not enough of the getting-down-and-dirty. As I said, my first RR and when the sh_t-was-flying I wasn’t thinking about the camera, haven't earned my war-photographer stripes yet. I’ll work on it for next time…

Some empty Brennivín shots.

Things to know about Icelandic drinking: They generally don’t drink during the week; for the most part this is a hardworking industrious crew. Some/many/all (?) can get really really piss drunk on Saturday. I mean really piss drunk. And the funny thing is, depending on where you are, no one even gets going until really late. Actually I think there is heavy drinking earlier in the evening it is just that folks done generally go out until late. Here’s where having some local family will help enormously to decode things.

Some landscape shots below our way into the Highlands. Our first day, Monday consisted of me arriving at 6:15am, eating breakfast with Manny, and us having hotpants to get on the road before we were properly provisioned.

For those playing along at home, we took 435 east to 360 north to 36 northeast to 361 east turned into 365 east to 37 north turning into 55 north to 30 south to 326 east fueled up at the wrong place then 32 east to F26 east and finally some gravel road. All on Monday.

can you see the water in the bottom of the speedometer and temp gauge?

We did our crossed our first river at around 10 or 11pm, camped on the other side and felt like conquering heroes until the facts presented themselves clearly. We were in fact dumbasses without a working stove that had screwed-the-pooch in our discussions of food-provisions and who brought what.

We went to bed with cold wet feet and empty bellies worrying about three big river crossings Eyţór had warned us about. He said we’d be likely fine so long we crossed them early… like 5am early. Any guesses on what time we actually woke up? Reminder: I rode a crazy long bike ride with my daughter then got on a plane to europe then rode for 14 hours or so on a motorcycle. It isn't looking good for a 5am crossing of the big rivers, not even close. Epic first day and epic day two coming up...

Pictures of our 1st river crossing Monday evening. Nice work Manny... not bad for fiddy.

More to come: hunger in the Highlands, where's the gas-station?, soiled-underwear-river-crossing-attempts, Icelandic Search and Rescue, female Icelandic backcountry hitchhikers, sand and more sand... miles and miles of sand, naked swimming in milky white lake next to a blue lake... and Boxermoose, I'm open to requests. Just let me know what you want to hear and I'll play it.

bc_seattle screwed with this post 08-28-2010 at 07:22 AM
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Old 08-22-2010, 11:39 AM   #4
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This report rocks and many of the pics too!!!!
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Old 08-22-2010, 12:25 PM   #5
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This interests me very much indeed.

A trip I'm planning to do solo asap.


Please continue.
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:31 PM   #6
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More story/pics!!!

And I thought the best dish to go with Brennivin was Hakarl? We going to get a food report too?

No kin, but gonna go someday.

Lead on.
"If I wanted someone to clean me up I'de find myself a maid"-Dawes
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:45 PM   #7
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:51 PM   #8
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Nice, nice, nice. I've always wanted to go to Iceland. Thanks!

Ride Report: Canada North to South 2008 here
Drive Report: Ice Road Trucking 2005-2014 here

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Old 08-22-2010, 02:39 PM   #9
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Icelandic search and rescue??
I'd rather die living than live dying.

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Old 08-22-2010, 08:22 PM   #10
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Day 2: Tuesday

Day 2. Tuesday.

First of all thank you all for your generous comments.
CBR-Eleventy-Ten – for sure do a solo trip to Iceland. Let me know how I can help. I’m happy to offer any advice I can give but you may want to read on before actually taking it. Many questions… the first is when and are you bringing a bike or renting.
Tripod – yes there will be food reports and especially lack-of-food reports.
Squonker – do it! You will not regret it, I’m sure of it.
Thorne – yes you read correctly, hang on a bit.

Couple of things I’d like to touch on.
Kawasaki KLR 650. Holy smokes I realize I’m about to step into a religious doo-doo pile (google KLR 650 vs. F800GS if you must) but let me say I loved this bike. I really should say “bing it” in deference to my friend Paul at Microsoft that is shaking off a broken heel. My ride is an 1150GS so maybe the KLR just seems super nimble by comparison but it was a great companion even when tortured or drowned and always seemed to want to tackle more. It went 80 miles an hour and my helmet with an offroad beak was no problem. Aerodynamics way better than my 1150GS but that isn’t saying much if anything at all. I can’t say to what extent the KLR was stock. Eyţór mentioned that his shop does a fair amount to “tighten things up” I have no idea how extensive his mods are. I do know if I go to Iceland again I’m back on the KLR and maybe there is one in my garage in the future who knows.

Exped DownMat sleeping pad with built in hand pump. After decades of sleeping on a variety of foam pads I finally made the leap. This thing is the best! And it keeps you warm since it has down fill in it. My favorite piece of gear as I began to despise my impotent stove.

So how is it that a couple of supposedly smart dudes end up in the Highlands without a working stove and a food shortage (and maybe a pending fuel shortage)? Very good question and one that I should just address up front. You see I need to take you back in time a bit. In college I went on this canoe trip down the Colorado River which for part of its meandering runs between California and Arizona. Usually this is pretty tame and I had heard stories of canoes rafted with kegs of beer, gentle floating, girls etc. I had prepared carefully for the trip, my first in a canoe. I had a rented sleeping bag, bought a cooler with refreshments and food for the weekend, a folding chair, some extra clothes etc. I was less prepared for the 30mph+ winds that picked up and created 3 – 4 foot whitecaps in a river that has long stretches of high banks on both side... meaning you have no option other than pressing on. I learned many things that day. I learned that difficutly rating of canoeing with a mate in 3 - 4 foot whitecaps on a river with no side exits can be multiplied by a factor of 4 or 5x if your mate is on a deprived mushroom bender. Or the importance of bringing rope and tying everything very securely to the inside of the canoe. I learned I couldn’t afford to replace the lost rented sleeping bag that floated away or sunk with all of our other possessions and one of our paddles. I learned about hypothermia, yes especially I learned about this. So after the river trip, and after a few other epic backcountry experiences that involved being lost, cold, hungry, thirsty or hurt I became a bit of a planner and started to play the role of trip-den-mother. Do you have a couple of extra layer of clothing? Is that jacket actually waterproof or pretend waterproof? Do we have an industrial strength first aid kit? Does everyone know how to use it? Do we have extra food? Over the years I realize that I became a bit of a planning-bummer for these adventures and somewhere in the last decade I decided to stop playing the role of trip-den-mother. Sure I’ve learned a bunch and I try to quietly make sure that my posse has some sort of meager safety margin the biggest probably being who you go with. Here’s where I’m trying to get to: if you want to go fast-and-light with a half-baked plan and use your wits to figure it out along the way I’m game. I could do lots of second guessing here but it doesn't matter. All I know is when Manny (or was it me?) wanted to hightail it out of Reykjavik I was more than game and figured we’d wing it along the way. Back in Seattle, I had thrown in a couple of those two person freeze dried meals. I often do this as a back-up with the plan being never to use them and to instead buy and eat actual real food. I also threw in some oatmeal for breakfast. I mean it isn’t like we’re going to starve to death in eight days. Are we?

Our camp spot in the morning. And no it is not 5am despite Eyţór’s warnings to cross the rivers early as in 5am early. I think it is about 8am when I woke up. I will say I had a great night sleep (new pad) and no breakfast sort of sped things up. More on the stove troubles later.

Our camp spot in the morning. As far as we can see in any direction there is no evidence of humans other than the dirt road.

Cool fact about camping in Iceland: with only a couple of limitations you can pretty much camp anywhere.

The ride and terrain was unbelievable. The Highlands is basically a high desert volcanic environment with several adjacent massive glaciers. The meltwater creates a number of rivers going in every direction. Riding includes dirt, rock, lava fields, you name it. Easy terrain and technical terrain. Wild wild stuff. Flowers in the Highlands:

One of the glaciers in the distance.

More flowers.


My KLR and Manny

River crossings. While in the past there apparently were few bridges in Iceland, the country is now very flexible in respect to river crossings. You can choose a route that has no river crossings and all bridges. You can choose a route that has many river crossings and no bridges. We choose the later but we're very certain of our decision, we're a couple of river-crossing-rookies. This is an easy one:

The Icelandic Search and Rescue. I wish I could report that this would be our only picture with these guys but alas this isn’t the case. I should say to anyone looking for blood or broken bones they will be disappointed, this trip had neither. However, we will hear from our Search and Rescue friends again before this RR is over.

got to run… more to come be patient with me, the next couple of days are busy for me. Next: three big river crossings.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:34 PM   #11
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- Mark

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Old 08-22-2010, 11:57 PM   #12
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I'm planning to do this next summer... so I'll be watching this report and maybe even tracking you down to buy you a beer to work on my planning from Seattle!

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Old 08-23-2010, 12:27 AM   #13
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Excellent report, i love Iceland, although never been yet. Its not that far from the UK but is so expensie to get too
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:42 PM   #14
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Day 2 continued:

AZ Adv Rider – great climbing picture. We have climbing here in Seattle too but really, in the sunshine? That’s obscene.
Motorzen – PM me… I’ll help. Beer? In Seattle? I’ll bring maps, pictures, old girlfirends phone numbers whatever. Let’s do it.
DavidXT – money? screw it, put it on the plastic. Or just add it to the big Iceland UK bill… careful on this one thought, might be worth getting some Canadian patches for your rucksack. I can tell you accommodations in the Highlands are very cheap and well as you’ll see Manny and I definatley came in under budget in the food category.

Seriously thanks for reading!

Previously on “Iceland”:

Got to Iceland, rented bikes, long day on the bikes headed into the Highlands.
First river crossing and camped for the night.
Dumbasses don’t have a functioning stove due to Icelandic fuel / American stove handshake problems; food limited to two freeze dried meals and a bunch of oatmeal all of which require a working stove to prepare.
Had been advised by Eyţór’s to do three upcoming big river crossings early… like 5am. Rivers rise during the day during “warm weather” (and I do use the term warm loosely). The weather was “warm” as what you’d expect a nice spell in Seattle to be like in March.
Woke up late for a bunch of lame reasons, left camp around 8:30am.
Got to the first big river crossing on F-26 and talked to Icelandic Search and Rescue. Good luck, conditions are still very reasonable for crossing.
Are having the time of our lives (at least I know I am, can’t speak for Manny).

First big river crossing… notice current moving more quickly than the last crossing. Went smoothly, no problem!

Second crossing (sorry no picture) was a bit deeper and swifter but still not bad. We had a heightened sense of concentration when the Icelandic Search and Rescue truck waded out into the river upstream of us and turned around to watch our attempt. Were they placing bets on which one of us would bite it? Did they recognize the KLR with the water in the headlight? Both of us made it…

After the crossing we consulted with Search and Rescue leader… we were planning on taking F910. Yes the newer, northern route. Old 910 apparently isn’t maintained isn't to be attempted. Search and Rescue warned that there was lots of water crossings on new 910 but only one of concern. We estimated we’d hit it at 11am or so. I asked him what he thought (by the way, one thing that I find very endearing about Icelanders is that you don’t get a bunch of unsolicited advice from folks. If you want to know something you have to ask which is great by me.) He said “should be no problem” and then made a worried look at his watch. I only decoded later that “no problem” is part of almost every reply and that modifiers are what matter. Modifiers such as “should” or non-verbal modifiers such as worried glances at watches. I think in American he meant we were dumbasses to be on 910 doing the tough crossing at 11am or noon. But no one was going to wreck our high… we had just nailed the crux of F-26 with no drama, no injuries, no water in the engine.

Another thing that I love about Iceland is that no one really tosses around “no” or “you shouldn’t do that” or “you used to be able to do that but someone got hurt and sued and now no one can do anything fun.”

Fun riding having a blast… wondering if I should have tried to pimp the Search and Rescue guys for a working stove. Hunger in the background… having too much fun to really notice. Get to the crux (river-wise… we haven’t gotten to the sand part yet) of F-910 between 11am and noon.

The picture below doesn’t really do justice to what happened next. Cleary the river is running faster than our last crossings. Walk it? Nah… what’s the point. We're committed! Burn your boat just like the Vikings and move forward! What are we going to do, turn back and re-cross the F-26 double river crossing in the afternoon? No we’re going to cross although we did let the bikes cool off per Eyţór’s request on the deeper river crossings. Tick tock... give you time to think, makes the experience more intense.

Manny goes for it, I’m taking pictures, wishing I had a fancy camera that could bank out 7+ frames a second instead of the 1 picture per 3 seconds the mine is doing. Then about a second after the picture taken below I realize Manny is in trouble, the river got deeper. And presumably Manny had realized it too. He lost all forward momentum and the river was starting to push his bike over downstream. He had a leg down but the water was rising quickly as it pushes against the bike. I put the camera down and ran into the river. It was moving was faster than I had imagined from shore. Shit! I get to Manny, help push the bike upright. Water was running 100% through the engine and the current was pushing water over the seat. Miraculously, Manny was able to restart the engine (how?? where is it getting air from?? are you kidding me??) and with the engine assist we push pull and lurch across the river. Some revs of the engine, water out the tailpipe and everything seems good.

Everything is good except that my bike is still on the other side. As I walk/swim accross the river again to get back to my bike my imagination runs amuck.

I repack my stuff, realize my soft-bag panniers are anything but waterproof, and hope I’m not too screwed with water runs unfettered through my belongings. I make it 90% of the way, Manny helps at the end, gives me a tug and I’m up and out the other side. Amazingly, I took on no additional water in the headlight compartment.

BTW, my United Pilot friend tells me that when he was a young pilot (back in the days when porn was allowed in the cockpit… hey I never thought about this until I just typed that but duh no wonder it is called the “cockpit”. Anyway, one of the old salty dog pilots probably a viet nam or korea vet had told my buddy “son learn from my mistakes. If it flys floats or “fuc_s, rent it” Let me make a plug for Biking Viking. The above “floats” rule definitely should be in force when a motorcycle is in pannier deep river crossings. Rent it.

More pictures:

I know dumb place for my helmet.

easy... yawn...

riding is unbeleivalbe... of course when the riding was the best I wasn't taking pictures. Crazy insane lava fields etc...

nothing notable about the last one other than two things. Riding over the lava into the river was very cool and what is Manny saying on the other side? What's that? What do you mean your gas light's on? Are you sure? No no no don't give me any of that gaslight crap. It can't be. Huh. I just knew we got all dis-cumb-screwed-up on where the last gas was before we got into the highlands and we had the range wrong when we converted back-and-forth from miles to kilometers making simple calculations complex. I can't do anything by paper anyway, where's my spreadsheet for crying out loud. Carry extra fuel? Nah! SH_T SH_T SH_T!!! We had seen 1 other car on 910 about 5 hours ago. Cell phone coverage is amazingly good around the islanc but not yet in the highlands. We are S C R E W E D!

The view out Manny's tent where we camped when he finally ran out of fuel.

Inventory. A tent. A bivy sack (behind rock outcropping out of the wind). A Yamaha with zero gas. The KLR with an undetermined amount of gas (love the KLR but no gas guage). A non-functioning stove. Freezedried crap that needs a working stove. Last meal 30 hours ago. Wet stuff from my soft bags in the river. And oh yes the wind starts to pick up and then the rain. Excellent!

We are absolute dumbasses. And of course we are still having the time of our lives. We'll I can only really vouch that I was, I haven't yet ventured to talk to Manny about this chapter yet... still too fresh.

to-be continued... just wait... the tent hasn't blown away yet.
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:08 PM   #15
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