Love & Bicycle Touring
Words by Jamie LaFleur
In my life, I have always favored solitary undertakings over collective efforts. I’m not exactly what you would call a “team player” despite my years of playing hockey when I was growing up. Since adulthood, I’ve become an independent athlete in weightlifting and triathlon. I understand these two things have the team training dynamic, and I love this aspect of both sports, but at the end of the day, I am alone. The successes and failures out on the swim, bike, run or even the lifting platform are solely mine to hold. This is not to discredit the coaches that are behind me every step of the way, but simply, the only thing getting me over that finish line are my own physical and mental capabilities. This lone wolf attitude and self-sufficiency floods into other aspects of my life. Travel being the most important one.
The first and only time before this Norway cycling trip that I have traveled with another individual was when I moved to New Zealand for a year and it ultimately led to the realization that I should in fact, be single forever. And that was the best plan ever until I met my partner now, Morgan.
Other than the fact that we love cycling, punk rock and bourbon, we are on complete opposites of the spectrum of human life. As an athlete, I am meticulous with nutrition, train 5-6 times a week and am in bed by 10pm every night. Morgan seems to think that beer counts as a complex carb and once lived off a hard diet of frozen pizza, cigarettes and regret.
This obviously changed once we moved in together, but the time came for me to move to Norway for this past year to study and it was up to him to eat right independently and endurance train for our 957km tour to our own wedding on July 9th (the day after my birthday) from Tromso to Finse. The whole year that he had on his own led to the proverbial “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” conclusion.
We first flew to Helsinki, Finland for a few days the day after he arrived. Once we got back we realized we were pressed for time and decided to catch the train from Fauske to Trondheim. The weather in Trondheim was absolutely beautiful as it was in Helsinki and it seemed that everything would go smoothly. We took a few days to cycle around the city, ate a lot of burgers (Super Hero Burger in Trondheim is a must) and checked out the historical sites.
Day One of actual cycling was from Trondheim to Borsa. The initial plan was to cycle at least 100km a day but as it turned out for my partner in crime; beer wasn’t an efficient carb and doing nothing but the daily commute wasn’t stacking up to the psychical abilities needed for a full tour carrying an extra few pounds on the rack. I had my wedding dress in a dry bag that was worth the amount of a small car along with two 40L panniers on the back of my carbon frame Cannondale road bike, so becoming the work horse on this little adventure was the last thing I wanted to do. But alas, what kind of future wife would I be if I just left the “ol’ ball and chain” to die in Scandinavia?
The second day felt like the longest day in the entire world and this is where I strongly urge any other women similar to myself that are the strong, independent loner types, that if you are ever planning on marrying anyone… go on a bike tour first. We left our lovely campsite outside of Borsa and planned to make it to Valsoyatunet, which was 81km away. The ride was beautiful with very little elevation gain, going through cute little villages, farmland and crossing questionable bridges.
This came to an abrupt stop after 35km of rural pleasantries after realizing that we had taken a wrong turn in a roundabout and found ourselves eating bulk candy and drinking beer in a grocery store parking lot. After getting over the seven stages of grief in 15 minutes, we found a new route to get back on track. The re-route itself turned out to be an old gravel logging road with a total elevation gain of 952 meters and we were nearly eaten alive by black flies.
The grand total for the day was 57km of being so far gone off track, running on zero energy and patience on my part. We found ourselves over 1200 meters above sea level in a little piece of nowhere called Hogkjollen. It began to rain and continued to do so for the rest of our time on the bikes.
The morning after, we began navigating ourselves through the mountain fog. The air was thick and damp and reminded me of my year living in Nelson, NZ. We were rewarded for the climb the day before with the entire ride being downhill until we got back to the coast to Valsoyatunet. Upon arriving, we saw the giant tent sign and I became so excited that I had forgot to unclip before trying to get off my bike. The reaction was myself being laid out on the pavement asking if my bike was okay while Morgan worried about a concussion. We drank a lot of cider this night and fell asleep to middle-aged Norwegians listening to the Big Bopper from their RV’s.
From Valsoyatunet, there was more rain than I ever could have imagined and we ended up spending a couple extra nights in Molde. Our small tent wasn’t exactly up to the task of taking on this much precipitation and we had predictably fallen behind schedule. From Molde, we took a train to Bergen where we met up with our families and made our way to Finse.
The total amount of time spent cycling to our wedding was 268km with all the mistakes, bad weather and timeouts rolled into every segment, meter gained and meter lost. There were a couple days that graced us with sun while in Lom, where I managed to find time to climb Northern Europe’s highest peak, Galdopiggen, and eat a dangerous amount of baked goods at Bakeriet i Lom. To say the least, it was a miracle that I fit into my wedding dress at all.
I never thought I could ever possess the patience for another individual because I rarely ever have the patience for myself. I never thought it was possible to live or travel with another without having to sacrifice myself in the midst of it all. During the entire time, I kept asking myself if we were ever going to be able to do this again and my answer back was always “hell no.” And now that we are back in one piece and still went through with getting hitched, the answer is “why the hell not?” The worst times ended up being some of our greatest memories and it proved that if we can make it through this then a clearly mapped tour is more than possible and without the fear of divorce.
Although I still value being alone, our partnership and this tour proved that yes, being alone together is better. Especially when you are in a murderous rage on the ground because your right shoe always refuses to unclip.
This tour served as a way for me to learn the virtue of patience and compromise, and also allowed me to experience the act of helping someone I love cross that finish line and not just myself. This was the grand adventure of sharing our successes, our failures, our disappointments and triumphs together. It was one of the first times and most certainly will not be the last.