It's well past midnight here on the southern coast of Iceland, but the sun hasn't checked the time. It sits high up on the horizon as we cycle through its amber glow, painting the sky and the clouds and the grassy plains below in golden hues and lavender tints, tracing two thin shadows of two steel bikes and two weary riders onto this narrow, two-lane road.
It's the first day of twenty-six straight days traveling Iceland at the speed of tranquility, twenty-six straight days of camping under crisp, twilit skies. Between our arrival in Keflavik and our final few days of relaxation in Reykjavik, we'll have cycled well over a thousand kilometers across black deserts of volcanic ash, through glacier-chiseled fjords and desolate lava fields, past ice caps and milky blue lagoons, over little hills and great big mountains, under ominous rain clouds and fierce arctic terns and blazing sunlight, down dazzling descents and rock-ridden gravel roads. We'll have taken a few shortcuts—two buses to Borganes, two hitches in the unpaved northeast—and a few detours too, but we'll come full circle all the same.
We'll see hundreds of sheep, a few humpback whales, and a lone field mice all-too-comfortable to climb up onto our tent in the early hours of the morning. We'll hike along volcanoes and swim in waters warmed by their heat. We'll camp everywhere: empty open fields, crowded tent pitches, the backside of a wool shop, the heights of a black sand beach. We'll eat a strict diet of peanut butter sandwiches, packaged cookies, cheeseless pizza, and the occasional non-brown perishable, and we'll warm our chilled bodies with sugary hot tea steeped in a little pot on our little stove on a little picnic bench overlooking some great big view.
We'll meet puffins from afar and friendly, fellow cyclists up close. We'll meet a few Icelanders and they'll be friendly, too, offering rides, encouragement, beer, tips. We'll get zero flat tires, break zero chains, lose one bicycle bolt and several bits of bicycle paint. We'll fall a few times and get a few scrapes, but also climb enough cumulative altitude to reach the top of Mount Everest. Twenty-six days after setting out, we'll return to Keflavik, and later DC, with fond memories and a few photos and, just maybe, enough tread on our tires and our souls for another big ride.