Day #1 – Omaha, Nebraska – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Reykjavík, Iceland
Number of Miles Cycled – 0
Number of Miles Traveled – 3,333
Some men buy expensive sports cars. Others find a younger woman. I travel.
My midlife crisis consisted of reconnecting to my college years wearing really tight shorts.
Nadine and I landed in Dallas from Punta Cana, just long enough to catch a few hours of sleep, eat some of my Dad’s scrambled eggs sprinkled with pieces of jalapeños, and pick up our two youngest daughters. Waiting ahead of me was over 1,000 miles of road through the heart of the Midwest with a 32 hour window to complete it. I dropped Nadine and the kids off in Omaha, and then early the next morning, with a few hours of sleep under my belt, I jumped in my gray Nissan Altima without a functioning air conditioner, and continued the journey north through the Iowa countryside and in between the spattering of Minnesota lakes.
Five years in the making, I rolled up to the Pepper’s driveway. Waiting before us was a week of cycling, Belgian beer, friendship, and a bit more beer. Immediately in front of me, next to the “Slow Children Playing” sign, stood Pepper with a big grin on his face and Suva, the epitome of a big teddy bear. With excited anticipation in their voices, Pepper gleefully showed off his bike helmet that magically attached to the back of his red backpack while Suva informed us “it was 37 degrees in Reykjavík last night.”
“You wanna know how this helmet stays on?” asked Pepper not actually providing anyone time to answer. “This clip holds the helmet in place! You wish you had it don’t you?”
Crossing through the threshold of security at the Minneapolis International Airport, fortunately, and purely for joke fodder, Pepper was held up for an extended amount of time and submitted to a more thorough vetting which provided an adequate number of valuable compromising photos for future benefit.
Scuba Steve soon met up to join us on our Iceland Air flight to Reykjavík. Onboard, the movie Dumb & Dumber, a great moniker of our college friendship, was available. In a context similar to the movie, Pepper and I immediately streamed the video in unison from our personal plane consoles. At this point, the trip was off to a great start, just like our recollection of college memories that we would soon retell with the same fervor and fondness that we lived them.
Iceland, despite its diminutive population, has played a major role in the world. The bank failures in Iceland were the first domino to fall that initiated the global economic crisis in 2007 that is still felt in various parts of the globe. Possibly in a push to diversify and spin a more positive view of the country south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland Air has aggressively provided some of the most enticing fares to Europe. The only caveat is that you have a layover in Reykjavík. Also, Iceland Air provides a free stopover which allows passengers two trips for the price of one. With the recent deluge of photos on social media of the Blue Lagoon, it appears to be working.
To overcome his short stature and birth in New Mexico Pepper shared his purported expert travel advice . . . unsolicited, a common theme.
“You shouldn’t sleep at all flying east overnight, it’ll ruin your first day in Belgium and sleep schedule.”
Due to the fact that I can’t sleep on long international flights because of my height, I felt it only fair that I force myself to sleep solely out of spite. And then, shortly after crossing the frozen tundra of northeastern Canada with a full moon setting in the horizon, I caught some shut-eye.
Previous Stop: Planning the Trip