XXIIX -Bicycling Through Finland, First Cycle

            “I'm so pumped, ooh yeah! You with me? Time to get fucking ripped! Two weeks of pure torture and hell, flavored with a ton of boast and protein! You ready or not!? Let’s go!”

 

All right then...

 

            “Seriously though. To be honest with you, I’m nervous as hell. That's just something to get my mind off of reality, because like.. [chuckles] I still have no damn clue what I'm doing.”

 

I never said either of those lines, though I wish I did. Talking to yourself is much more beneficial than just thinking in your head. I’m nervous as hell. I mean, how could I not be? Let's rewind a little.

 

How I ended up enjoying this hobby so much?

 

Back to the beginning of time. A.k.a., like, 12 years ago. I learnt how to ride the two wheeled chain-wonder since I was like 9. I learned a little late compared to my coevals but enjoyed it, sure. I've always used a bike as my primary means of transportation, when in town. The continuous issues with my gears and breaks, basically every part that moves and thus is vulnerable for defects, discouraged me from time to time. I remember myself exclaiming frustratingly when my bicycle would yet again go faulty. "Maybe I should just quit altogether."

 

I still enjoyed riding the bike and never really gave up on it. Sometimes I would get discouraged but always got back to it. Ironically, I always happened to own nothing but 21-speed mountain bikes. I based my judgement for the whole sport solely on one equipment type. Truth is, there's something for everyone and I didn't know any better. I've owned about 10 bicycles in total and 5 of them were mountain bikes, rest of which are what I own today, women's city bikes. No, I don't currently own five bicycles, if that's what you're thinking.

 

Bought my first city bike from a friend in 2013 and absolutely loved it. I adored the way you could lean back while riding. Sitting straight has never felt better. So I never changed the type and remain happy to this day.

 

Enough dilly-dallying, time to get to the point. In 2010, my father and me, we rode from one town to another. Sum of 52 kilometers, I recall him saying that I promised myself to never repeat the same mistake.

 

"Would you take another journey with me?"

"Never!"

 

Of course, my selective memory wouldn't remember the situation so I gotta take his word for it. However! Still scared from the day, in Fall 2014 my brother suggested we do the same route, in reverse direction. After moments of hesitation, I agreed to join him. I think this might've already been the time I forbid myself to decline requests like this and get out more. So I did.

 

Turns out it wasn't so bad. In fact, I didn't even feel that tired. My brother disagreed, but not by far. Our speed was nothing to brag about, but we both had 1-speed city bikes to work with. The fact that we had to tread the shoulder for most of the time also frightened us. The continuously bypassing cars and trucks wouldn't give us a moment's peace. But that's okay, we managed and survived that.

 

Two months later I call this brother of mine, proudly.

 

             "Remember how much fun we had in July? I've been doing that distance twice a week."

             "Wow, you really got the spark. I bet your stamina is getting off the charts by now."

            "Yeah, well. It's no longer that physically draining, but still good exercise."

 

Thus I got the idea of doing longer routes progressively. And here we are, aiming for 1 360 kilometers.

Day one. July 25th, Wednesday:

 

Keep an eye on your stamina.

 

Whenever you're anxious, it might prove troublesome to get a good night's sleep. This time the anxiety wasn't even because of some crush, which would be nothing out of the ordinary. During breakfast, I felt the most uncomfortable pressure in my head. The kind that makes your stomach hurt. Every minute I stay still, wasted. Therefore, let's not waste any more minutes.

 

I did a practice run a few weeks back. I bicycled to a friend's summer cottage. The distance was about 180 kilometers one way, so I needed a plan. The first day I would ride for about 100 and the do the rest after spending the night camping. This journey was a whole different league from my usual 52 kilometer sessions. I needed to keep a close eye on my energy levels and have a break every now and then, a concept alien to me. I'm usually too eager to have a single break and even hydrate myself properly on the go. I wouldn't afford to do that, because it was a two-day trip.

 

I figured a way to keep myself going on the right path and stay motivated, too. Instead of having breaks on an instinct, I would carry a clock. For every five quarters of riding, one quarter break; to fuel myself. Another five quarter for half an hour lunch. Resting more frequently if comes need. With cycles like that, I don't have to rely on myself to take breaks on reasonable intervals. It reminds me of having a job.

 

How is Lapland?

 

Considering I've never visited Lapland before, what's a better way to admire the landscape than experience it 20 kilometers per hour? Too bad such a large portion of my attention was occupied trying to handle the bicycling itself. The initial plan was for my father to ride 50 kilometers ahead of me and prepare a meal for me. I would have my own breaks meanwhile and arrive there eventually. We did just that and it kinda worked.

 

You just have to watch out not to burn all that energy on one go, when doing long exercises. I figured that the speed I was always going at wasn't going to work, because it would be too rough in the long run. I needed to slow down, take it easy.

 

Let's say, there's a series of steep uphills and downhills, perfectly equal in length and angle. If you had to answer the question, "How was the route to ride?" Would you answer either:

 

A. It sucked because of the uphills.

B. It was good because of the downhills.

 

I dare say you'd pick A. Don't feel bad, though. It's a natural response for people to point out the negative aspects in things. This is called complaining. Goes without saying that complaining is easier than praising. I usually try to focus on the wind direction when biking. Using the previous logic, I would claim that it's always headwinds when I ride. Let me quote myself.

 

“I swear it's always headwinds when I ride.”

 

There's always drag to cope with. Drag occurs everytime you move, reduced or increased depending on the direction of the wind. Sometimes it can feel like being all headwinds because you don't naturally notice stuff unless they're inconvenient for you. Same goes for uphills, which also seemed to go on for forever.

 

Still.. I swear, goddammit!

 

For this first day of twisted hell, I swear the weather conditions did nothing in my favor! For one, it was sunny as hell and really pushed me back with the winds. The fact that my fully equipped bicycle almost fell over from a still stance proves it.

 

So, after 123 kilometers, I had to give in. Met my absolute limit and could not go on. You could've held me at gunpoint and I wouldn't have moved. I still had 20 more kilometers to go and called my father to pick me up. I don't remember ever crying because of physical strain before.

 

I lost my chance at a perfect run on my very first day and it left me feeling disappointed.

 

Statistics of the day:

-Left at 9:30 and finished at 18:20.

-Journey length of 8 hours and 50 minutes,

of which 6 hours and 20 minutes were riding.

-Clocked a total of 123 kilometers and skipped 20 kilometers.

-Today was supposed to be 143 kilometers.

-Went to sleep feeling totally exhausted and came up with a new plan for future.

Day two. July 26th, Thursday:

 

When it comes to long-duration exercising, how you look after yourself is of utmost importance. More so if the strain occurs for many days in a row. You got to have a game plan!

 

Don't stick to your plans.

 

Yesterday's encumberance forced us to change that plan. It was no longer possible for me to succeed completely to Helsinki, for I've already skipped 20 kilometers. At first, our plan was to camp up on the spot if I had to give in. Like yesterday, we'd have to stay for the night and continue where we left off. In practice, that was unrealistic.

 

I'm completely fine with sleeping inconveniently, without a proper shower, a grade-a meal or the warmth of indoors. In any case, we weren't going to have most of those things. But the security of an established camping ground and the comfort of well maintained bath- and washrooms proved essential for this trip. I already gave all I got with the exercising, it was nice to have a little slack for the night.

 

Point is, we had a campground thought out for each day. A grid, if you will. Now imagine if we went with the original plan: We would stay for the night at where I couldn't go on. At that point, we're already missing one of the campsites, meaning we're off the grid. If I couldn't keep up and catch the original schedule, we would stay off the grid and end up with no campsites. That means difficulties in dishwashing, lack of a warm shower and laundry problems. And that's just the fraction of it, anyway.

 

So we altered the game plan to skip the distances I couldn't do. Just like yesterday, when I had to call father to pick me up. The possibility of staying right there didn't even cross my mind at the time; father had already paid for the camping site. Not sure if I could've thought any different if he didn't. I needed the shower, the comfort and most of all, the relief.

 

Recovering & Relief.

 

I started my morning feeling unexpectedly recovered. Have you ever pushed yourself so hard it gives you the feeling of nausea. You feel like vomiting and cannot deep breathe. It's awful and makes you instantly want to avoid that from happening again. Kinda like hangover.

 

A few hours later, the feeling was gone and there was no more signs of exhaustion. That's probably the best feature about my body. I recover quickly. Even yesterday, when I pushed myself harder than ever before, I was feeling better in a matter of hours. I probably could've finished the remaining distance later that night. But you cannot cling on to the past. Just focus on the following days, each at a time. That's all I can do, honestly.

 

The airflow was in my favor today, which felt remarkable. This could be my one-time chance, so I better enjoy it! About 20 kilometers in, one hour ahead of starting point, it began raining. And did it rain.. Fortunately I was prepared for the occassion and had my two-piece rainsuit within short reach. The problem was now between the ears of the traveller who needed to keep his cool.

 

I like to listen to music while on the road. Sure, the quality's awful with all the other noise around, but that's a sacrifice you must be willing to make. I was progressing like usual, spent my break trying desperately to find shelter from the rain and carried on like normal. With the risk of water damaging my phone, I didn't bother to pick any songs and just let it play the current playlist, hidden deep in the pocket of my raincoat.

 

A raincoat is waterproof so it's fine, I thought. Ironically, what doesn't come in doesn't get out, either. I figured that the playlist just ended when I caught the music stopping conveniently between tracks and didn't heed it any further attention. You figure out the rest. Things got moist.

 

-Sincerely, Nature.

 

Got to admire Mother Nature's repeated attempts at making this journey as inconvenient as possible.

 

I was furious, I was stupid and for the most part, I was without a contacting device. (Truth be told, you cannot fight the powers of nature and I eventually accepted that only I was to blame with my carelessness.) The phone may not be salvageable and we needed to yet again, alter our game plan.

 

I wasn't able to enjoy the nature resort we stopped at and I probably wasn't a pleasurable sight to see overall. Father didn't object to anything I said. We drove to the nearby town. Luckily a cousin of mine lives there and was able to offer assistance. I threw the dying iPhone in a bag of rice and let it rest there 'til tomorrow. We were now in Ivalo, Finland. Still knees deep in Lapland.

 

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly and without profanity, so to speak. We arrived at a humble camping ground, pretty elevated compared to anywhere else we've been thus far. There isn't much to tell you about the place because, well, there was nothing to see for the most part. Regarding campsites, this was the modest(-est?) of them all. Getting here was moderately tough but the slopes were rewarding. Today, too, ended up being a skipping day. My pride wasn't going to fall on that and I excused myself pretty quickly afterwards.

 

Statistics of the day:

-Left at 9:15 and finished at 17:35.

-Journey length of 8 hours and 20 minutes,

of which 4 hours and 40 minutes were riding.

-Clocked a total of 84 kilometers and skipped 23 kilometers.

-Today was supposed to be 107 kilometers.

-Went to sleep feeling sorrowful. Not because of the phone itself, but what was stored inside it.

Day three. July 27th, Friday:

 

We were surprised to have such a cold night befall on us. I was shaking the whole dawn through. My father adviced me to get a cold-insulating cover to protect myself from the cold ground. Fortunately this sleeping bag was warm enough and I just had to cover up with an extra layer of clothing. Just a few more hours until I'd have to return to the road.

 

As expected, the bag of rice did little to help that dying piece of iron. The phone wasn't going to revive, I subconsciously knew that. Didn't help mourning it, though. Let me give you a quick course on what to do if your device is water-damaged.

 

Water-damaged electronics 101.

 

First of all, let's talk about electronics and electricity in general. Why is water and electricity not such a good match to begin with? Water conducts electricity, often getting it where it shouldn't be. That's why you shouldn't play with an outlet appliance while you're having a bath, or when you've gotten out of shower. Okay, we all knew that, right?

 

But what is the delicate deal with electronics? What is this "short circuit" I keep hearing about? Well.. Some of you might have seen a circuit board, it looks pretty fancy and technical. At least that's how I always saw it. You see, there's a huge number of connections between components that make the device work as intended. It's essentially important that electric current flows by it's intended path and is insulated from everything else. And what's a better insulation than air? Well, that's the basics of it.

 

So, short circuits are, as name implies, circuits that close too short. Wrong voltages get into wrong places, wires begin corroding and components start breaking. And that's not just electronics, short circuiting can and will break some big machinery, too. So..

 

Lesson 1: If you find your device wet and turned off, don't try to boot it up! That's when the short circuits happen. Many devices today have defense mechanisms that detect moisture and shut down in order to prevent damage. It's better to wait until the device is totally dry and check then. Theoretically, you could dip an electronic device underwater to your heart's content, as long as it's unpowered while doing it. My first mistake to turn it on. That cost me the phone, because it clearly worked for a short while. If I just waited patiently..

 

Lesson 2: Disconnect the power source! In this case, the battery. Any knowledgeable person on smart phones knows that ones with a removable back cover are becoming a rare sight. Apple's iPhones have been a great example for the longest time. Well, my iPhone SE was in dire need of help (the flickering screen, out of control rumble motor and a burning flashlight made me figure as much) and I just happened to have a tiny toolset of appropriate screwdrivers for the job. This wasn't the first time I had to crack up an iPhone. I just never had to do it with such speed and aggression.

 

Lesson 3: Dry up the phone. Resist using a hairdryer and prefer putting the device in a sealed space with something moisture absorbing. The heat from a hairdryer might damage the components and thus is not a good idea. It's a popular method to put the device inside a bag of rice because rice is known for effectively absorbing water. I've seen it work before and can recommend the solution. The most ideal method, however, is to seal the device with some grains of silica gel. You know, those little peabags that come with electronics (and some other consumer items) that you end up throwing away? Yeah, those.

 

One last thing, backup your shit. I mean seriously, if the content matter to you on any level, backup your things. I sure didn't.

 

Enough talk about technology and gadgets, I'm sure you're eager to hear about the journey itself.

 

Journey of today:

 

The distance today was one of the least, only 88 kilometers in total. In similar aspect, today was eventless, for the most part. Because I’m lacking a communication device for today, we had to alter the plan. Instead of having my father drive two cycles away (about 40-50 kilometers), we reduced the interval to only one cycle. So we’ll have a rendezvous every break. Turns out it works much better. That way I'll get what I need everytime and I no longer have to watch the clock, even if I had one at the moment. Today was an easy day with lots of downhills.

 

So, noticed how I stated “for the most part” while complimenting good fortune? There’s not a second without a third. I knew things were going too smoothly.. Let me clarify.

 

We’re staying at a cabin owned by father’s acquaintances instead of a camping site. The cabin itself wasn’t too far off the road, but I had little means of knowing that without the phone. So, father drove ahead to check it out and waited on the side of the road to guide me in. The day has been astonishingly smooth so far and I’m almost done for today.

 

I arrived to that said junction where he was waiting at.

 

            “I checked the place and it looks tidy. Let’s head and unpack the car.”

            “And we’ll have enough time to visit the town for purchasing that new phone.”

            “Exactly.”

 

He proceeded to turn the ignition. “Click”. “Click”.

 

            “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!?” (That's me, by the way)

 

The ignition didn't do jack. Engines don't break like that. I helped push the car down a gentle hill in attempt to get it running. Didn’t work. As a result, the car was now stuck, blocking a lane of a country road. Such a dangerous position that we had to stand guard and indicate people to slow down until road service arrives. And let me tell you, that wasn’t fun. Anything but enjoyable.

 

Turns out that the battery had gone dead. All those times father standing still, AC on, cooler plugged and radio on max really did a score on it. Stuff like that ought to turn you paranoid afterwards. But paranoia brings much needed caution. There's no telling how much longer I'm willing to keep on going if this bullshit keeps happening. The things you learn the hard way.

 

Anyway, purchasing the phone gets delayed ‘til tomorrow. I was supposed to ride one more day before resting. The idea of staying in a comfy cabin instead of an unsure campsite reservation left little room for debate. Feels strange to just, relax…

 

Statistics of the day:

-Left at 9:30 and finished at 15:15.

-Journey length of 5 hours and 45 minutes,

of which 4 hours and 15 minutes were riding.

-Clocked a total of 88 kilometers and skipped none.

-Before the incident with the car, everything went oddly smoothly.

-Went to sleep feeling relaxed. I slept like a dead man.

Day four. July 28th, Saturday:

 

I wake up and don't give a damn. No need to wake up feeling tired and cold, ready to hit the shower, take down and pack up the tent. No need to do anything, basically. It's my first resting day. Getting to sleep later than 8AM, found the sensation gaining unfamiliarity. I have successfully planted the idea of a miserable and difficult camping vacation into your head, which ends up being an exaggeration.

 

Seriously though, when you keep your focus purely on Work & Rest cycle, it can burn you out rather quickly. This is where the importance of recreation comes in. If we wake up at 8AM and finish preparing our camp and food at approximately 6PM on days like these, there's another 5 hours of leisure time before sleep. The first couple hours are spent recovering, which leaves us about 3 hours. I might browse the internet, just talk/lay down or spend the rest of the evening reading this one book. Dunno about you, but that doesn’t sound like a whole lot to me.

 

Here at the cabin we have the luxury of sauna. Authetic and exhilarating. We also have something campers like us (on a journey like this) strive for... Electricity!

 

            “You know what? I'm going to treat myself. I've earned it.”

 

Proceeds to take out a portable game console and plugs it into the power source. As mentioned, focusing on Work & Rest routines can be potentially damaging. When you're so deeply sucked in, you might not even feel the effects taking place before finding yourself burnt out. That's the case of some workaholics. Treat yourself with something of a stress reliever and you should find tranquility. In my case, video games help. Father responds with a funny remark.

 

            “I haven't yet gotten a chance to complain about you playing all day.”

            “Damn right you haven't.”

 

We're still so far up in Lapland, our destination still over 1 000 kilometers away. One of the members of our Facebook group commented on a post, saying:

 

            “If I were you, I'd just take it easy up there for the time and come back home.”

 

I dismissed the statement.

 

If I were to do that, there's no way to forgive myself.

 

I've been constantly reminded not to push myself too hard, which happens to be a tendency there and then. I didn't get all the way up here expecting this to be comfortable or even moderately easy. I didn't leave home to be naive.

 

The amount of initial shock from everyone supplied me with enough caution. I knew I'm going to have a hard time, but it'd all be for naught if I quit now. Sure, if I was given another chance to think this through, the outcome would most likely differ from here and now. It's fatal to lose hope so early in the game, which leaves me with no choice other than to psych myself to continue.

 

We visited the heart of Lapland, Sodankylä. I’m not that fond of history, but found the art and local history museums fascinating. Visiting historically relevant buildings surely reminds you how automated our lives are today. In the old days everything had to be done manually and by yourself. The huge development in industrialism ever since has been a major factor in making our lives easier. You no longer need the skills to make everything but to master yourself in one department and contribute to the bigger market.

 

Bought the new iPhone, too. They couldn’t supply my demand with the specific model, leaving me no choice but to upgrade. And everyone knows the equation;

 

New + Technology = A lot of cash.

 

I have six months to pay it, so I'm really not worried. All thanks to my “rainy day” fund. Otherwise this poor to-be-student would be screwed.

 

I didn't really care as much for the phone itself. The data inside is what had me going nuts. I lost all the photos and videos from since last October. Near 60 different notes including drafts for blog posts, Mens'est Artifex drafts, other drafts, quotes, countless listings for different things (money consumption, completed games and movies (yeah, I do that.)), reminders and ideas. All of my bookmarked websites and articles, not to mention the 250 browser tabs that were gone. Audio clippings, messages and .pdf files.

 

It's amazing how much information a single phone can hold today. It's told that if you wish to get to know a person, check their phone. If you're a vivid user like me, it's going to take forever to setup a new one to look personal and complete. Damn, I should get out more..

 

By mere miracle, 77 notes were recovered.

So, what's next?

 

Must I say, writing this is tough. Hard enough to keep up with your memories but to force productivity along with everything else going on. But that's none of your concern. If you found this post to be too lengthy, that's really unfortunate. Planning on keeping the pace for future reads.

 

Part 2 of 5 in the on-going series: Bicycling through Finland.

 

 

What you should listen to right now to feel me; Not Your Kind of People – Garbage

 

 

-Miko

 

 

 

August 27th, 2018

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