I had no plans to go up over Norway’s highest pass on my bicycle. I didn’t even know it existed – I had some nice ideas to hug the coast, bike along the fjord, then turn north when I ran into the ocean. When I did hear about the Sognefjellet, though – a steep-grade climb from sea level to 1434 meters (4500 feet), I knew I could never do it. Why would anyone choose that way?
This feeling of certainty that I wouldn’t take the Sognefjell contradicted all the stories I tell about myself. I say I’m flexible, up for anything, looking for the best experience possible I can get out of this trip. But then, when everyone I talked to suggested this different route, I kept throwing up resistance. Is it really that beautiful to go through the mountains? Wouldn’t it be nicer to stay by the water, even if there are a few impassable tunnels I’d have to catch a ride through? Am I fit enough to climb 4000 feet, just like that, then go back down and do it two more times? Or will I wind up on the side of the road, pushing my bike (which, in this vision, has become a twisted metal scrap-heap) uphill forever, butt of some Norwegian engineer’s cruel joke?
The point here, maybe, is that on a solo bike tour, I’m finding lots of time for internal dialogue, to wrestle with my own thoughts and ways of viewing the world. I’m learning that while I think of myself as flexible and ready to choose the best way forward, I can also get set in one way of thinking. It’s freeing to be able to see that more clearly – when I can see it, I can move around it.
I took the high road. It was awesome, full of mountain camps, ancient churches, and challenging rides. I met other bike-touring folk along the way and shared the experience with them. I learned that I can, in fact, bike up 1434 meters, and that I’m capable of more than I sometimes give myself credit for. I know more about myself, how I think, what I can do, and where I’m going. And I saw where Ron Weasley made his most recent movie, about a World War II fighter-plane battle. Wins on all counts.
It rained, of course – that’s what it does in Norwegian mountains. But the ride down from Sognefjell was lovely, and then, after another pass came Geiranger, home of cruise ships, Russian tourists, and the most beautiful fjord of them all. That story comes next!
But I’m curious, too – what stories do you tell about yourself, and when have you felt them called into question?