XXXI -Bicycling Through Finland, Final Cycle
You must have dreams.
One day I had an idea. Some year, I want to do great things that people recognize me for. One such way to do so is to bicycle across Finland, from the northernmost point to south coast. In 2016, I flicked the idea to my father. How he responded in return caught me off-guard.
“Great! Tell me when you’re leaving and I’ll come accompany you with a moped.”
That moped changed into a station wagon and “some year” turned into summer of 2018.
Years prior, I used to ride mountain bikes. I occasionally found myself giving up the hobby because something became a liability within the transportation device itself. Sometimes my shift gears fucked up and other times it was literally anything else. I don’t want to sound biased. It is logical, however, that the less mechanical parts you’ve got on your device, the less chance of it defecting. In 2013 I switched to affordable women’s city bikes and had the time of my life.
“This is also a great example that you don’t always need to possess the latest innovation in technology in order to make your dreams come true.” –A Facebook commenter
Dear reader, the end of this on-going series is at hand. Although extremely sluggish and numbing, writing about this journey has been a great time.
Day twelve. August 5th, Sunday:
I had a great idea. A great idea that occurred a great deal too late. Now that we’ve met so many different people from so many different regions, I might as well had gotten a permanent memory out of it. I could’ve gone around campsites to ask for signatures for my bicycle. Regarding how permanently graffiti sticks on a bicycle frame is another question. But how cool would it have been if there were lots of people’s names who I don’t even know printed on my travel companion. Kinda like tattoos of random people's names flavored by their beautiful handwriting.
I'm just kidding, don't get real tattoos of random people's autographs, that's just obscure and regrettable.
For some reason, I've been going like crazy today. Between two stops, I calculated an average speed of 27 km/h. Considering the luxurious 3-speed dream in my grip, that's mad. Whoooooosh!
The story of Karl Bushby.
This long journey is nearing it’s end, with over 1 000 kilometers behind me. There's been a few days (Days 1, 2 and 6) when I couldn't make it, for various reasons. But here I am. Brings to mind this story about a English man named Karl Bushby, who attempted an uninterrupted walk across the world known as the “Goliath Expedition”. The plan was to travel from the tip of South-America, somewhere around Chile or Argentina back home in Great-Britain via North-America and through Siberia. An ambitious feat, one must agree. He is still going at the time of writing (18th of December 2018).
Late in the evening, a seemingly-odd fellow came talking to us at the camping site's common lodgings and told us the story. Not sure whether he was sober or not, such was the impression. Story was that Mr. Bushby got arrested by the Russian authorities and started all over because of the unfortunate plunder. This was not the case, however. He got permitted a visa, though renewal conditions made it difficult for him to pass Russia.
To be honest, I thought sometimes about starting over or giving up altogether all those times riding shotgun and reflecting my exhaustion through the side window. A man's greatest condemn comes from within.
Statistics of the day:
-Left at 8:50 and finished at 15:05.
-Journey length of 6 hours and 15 minutes,
of which 5 hours and 10 minutes were riding.
-Clocked a total of 119 kilometers and skipped none.
-Whoooooosh.. Feel the Speed?
-Went to sleep feeling simply amazing.
Day thirteen. August 6th, Monday:
Flying carpets? Nah. How about flying tents, for instance? Sure as hell felt like flying throughout the night. I swear this gust will be the end of me. Just the day before, I was relieved from wind-duty. Headwind became tailwind. For once! Today back to the total opposite.
It started raining, too. There I was, fully equipped for the occasion that lasted but a minute. Shows that a man, too, can learn from his mistakes. Considering my phone was bagged away in a plastic bag in the saddlebag. As soon as I saw water incoming, my fatherly senses began strapping that little piece of metal (...and plastic, glass, silicon, graphite...) in an overly protective fashion. Instead of sounding too paranoid, let's just say that this was an air-tight solution. A deed to bag about.
Small town, big plans.
Father did some research on the municipality of Sysmä, where we spent the night before. Turns out Sysmä has their own currency. Bundled with an exchange rate of ~5% to Euro, it makes the currency more valuable than Euro. How much that exchange rate will shift as time passes is beyond me. Pretty impressive for a municipality of about 4 000 people, I say. You won't believe what they named the digital currency after.. It's Sysmä, yeah. The unit is called Sysmä.
“The Sysmä currency was created to fortify Sysmä's lasting vitality.
It is extremely important, especially regarding smaller towns that the people consume local products and use local services. That's the only way to ensure that these services will remain – and even grow further.” - www.sysmaraha.fi
Let's take a leap into the future. Don't worry, we'll go back in a little bit. Swooosh! it's the end of November 2018.I've become familiar with this classmate of mine, who just so happens to live in Sysmä. One day I asked him about this Sysmä money stuff.
“Soo... I heard you've got your own currency. How's that been doing out for you?”
“Well.. No one uses it, you know. *chuckles* I don't know fucking anybody who uses Sysmäs to pay their stuff.”
Pity. The currency is a fairly new concept for them, put in practise on March of 2018. While doing research, it appears a physical form of Sysmä is being planned to be out in 2019. Despite myself not being a citizen of Sysmä, I must get one myself. I know father will get one (or dozen), too. He's a fanatic for currencies.
By the end of Monday, I was hanging around in my new apartment. First one to date. Such independency. Is this what they call being an adult? It was just 70 kilometers from Sysmä to Lahti. Felt like a day-off, honestly. Even through the intense wind resistance and awful sinewave-like terrain, I could tell today was a good day. Just one day away from the finish line.... …
You know what's great about traveling like this? Everything we do feels so authentic and modest. Even watching movies. A week ago, we watched the movie “The Triplets of Belleville” in our tent. My phone was basically strapped to the ceiling with a couple cable ties and it worked really well. Tonight, we're watching a different movie called “Memento” in my new apartment, phone set resting in the corner of my room. Apparently, the experience doesn't really falter whether you're watching from a 5.5 inch or a 60 inch display.
Days of tenting and campsites are behind us. This is the last night we're going to spend under the alibi “Bicycling through Finland”, sleeping comfortably on the bare plastic flooring of my hollow apartment. Deep inside, feels like home.
Statistics of the day:
-Left at 9:15 and finished at 13:20.
-Journey length of 4 hours and 5 minutes,
of which 3 hours and 55 minutes were riding.
-Clocked a total of 70 kilometers and skipped none.
-Contradicted thoughts. Dunno what to think.
-Went to sleep in my new home.
Final day. August 7th, Tuesday:
The last day. It is about 8 in the morning and we begin preparing for the last ordeal that’s ahead of us. Just 110 left to go. Honestly, that feels like nothing, nothing at all. In comparison, that is. Hills left behind and the sun welcoming me with a fresh embrace, everything felt right. Music is blaring, like always. The sweet tunes of The Living Tombstone and Daft Punk go unnoticed as I mull in the past.
Landscape-wise, Finland has plenty to choose from. Reputation goes around as ”The land of a thousand lakes”, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to Wikipedia, Finland has 187 888 official lakes, partnered with a thorough coat of forest that covers the entire country. Mainland Finland and Lapland have nothing in common, though. As mentioned, I’ve never been to Lapland before. A sensation like I was abroad came over once we got there. Steep hills and beautiful valleys there come closest to what you could call a mountainrange. Still totally unique to Finnish landscape. The Käsivarsi (arm) wilderness area remains undiscovered for now. I’ve never been to a place as flat as Ostrobothnia (Finnish: Pohjanmaa) province. An absolute delight to ride through. Central Finland was a completely different case, however…
A special guest!
But silly me, I shouldn’t hog all the glory for myself. I wasn’t the only one on the road. My dear brother, to whom I owe for igniting the initial spark that got me into this hobby in the first place, joined the party while passing through Kerava. Funny that I should mention. I can’t seem to find too many things that weren’t originally inspired by him, that define me today. Kerava locates about 30 kilometers north of Helsinki.
Alright, enough praising. We had a great time on the road, first time I had company at all. Something was different though. Our average speed had gone down by several kilometers per hour. Ah, when you apply a sluggish man who hasn’t exercised that much into the equation, that’s pure math. That’s okay, if only, anticlimatic. I had to gear down for my last sprint. Shouldn’t you be on the brink of death, gasping for breath instead?
ON AUGUST 7th 2018, AT 16:10, TWO MEN ON THEIR MECHANICAL STEEDS ARRIVED AT SENATOR’S PLAZA, HELSINKI. GRATIFICATIONS WERE EXPRESSED AND MEMORIES WERE SHARED. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS.
With all that's been said and done...
Let me finally tell you properly what it's been like to Bicycle through Finland. Just the sheer amount of concrete makes my head spin. All the people we've met, the towns we've gone through. I've never sung as much as I have during these past weeks. After all, what's there to do, honestly? Today that's going to end, until my next adventure. I feel awesome, if not ecstatic, yet empty.
What were the most frequently asked questions that I got during this journey? Well, for one, whenever we introduced ourselves the first thing most asked, “Who are you representing?” or more humorously, “What kind of bet did you lose?” Somebody once asked me whom I represent, to which I supplied with, 'Me and mine only'. Essentially, I'm doing this for myself regardless of external factors.
You'd imagine that with literally tens of thousands passing cars, there would be a few dangerous moments. Eh, not really. There were dozens of roadkills, I admit so, but I digress. I can't recall a single moment when my physical wellbeing would've been exposed to any significant dangers by the passing traffic, no. Quite the contrary, it wasn’t exactly myself that I was worried about. I witnessed a large number of trivial situations on the road, mostly due to impatient drivers passing one another on the country road. Literally, you could find yourself suspicious in observing which lane goes which way. People tread impatiently. You judge best when you're not involved.
How did I pass the time? My average 'working' day was about 8 hours, or 110 kilometers. There's ought to be dull moments when you're basically doing nothing. As mentioned before, I practiced my vocal cords to death. The entirety of nature served as my humble audience. Other times, I kept my eyes on all sorts of signs. You know “[place x] [set amount of kilometers]”, promotions for all sorts of holiday resorts and coffee stops, “Fast lane in [set amount of kilometers]” and municipality emblems. I swear, those signs served as the greatest time-killers imaginable.
With near 1 300 kilometers behind me, this experience taught me plenty of things. More than I could have imagined. A great crash course for me before I leave for places like Europe, or even other continents. Then I won't have a backup. By then it's just me and the unfamiliar world.
What about the other one?
But how about the maintenance team? There's nothing but humorous remarks about my father, whom without this journey wouldn't have been possible to begin with. Or at least it would have been significantly harder without him. After persistent attempts, I got hold of him. These are the comments of my father, Jarmo Lankinen, on the journey:
”The first time I remember hearing about it was two years ago. Miko told me he’d already been planning it for three years. At first I requested to accompany him with a moped until the next year I dreamed of bicycling alongside him. Then the grim reality hit me when just the year before, we executed a four-day journey by bicycle, total distance of 280 kilometers. It turned out rewarding, but tough. The distance between Nuorgam and Helsinki is almost five times as much. After careful thinking, I suggested to join him with a car. The plan was to mount the bicycle and travel to Nuorgam, from where he rides towards the capital. I'm driving along the way and taking care of maintenance. The plan was followed.
There was a lot of going on during those two-and-a-half weeks. First the phone went out, next our car and not much longer until the man itself. There were heatwaves, frost, headwinds, tailwinds and rainfall. People along the way received our story well and generated plenty of interesting encounters and conversations. Nothing catastrophic occurred, fortunately. Help was always there when we needed it, too. Regards to family and acquaintances for that.
Every journey leaves it’s marks. Experiences like these truly enrich your life. This one shall remain as one of the most special odysseys that I’ve had the honor to be a part of. Thanks for that, son. I’m really proud of you.
Statistics of the day:
-Left at 8:20 and finished at 16:10.
-Journey length of 7 hours and 50 minutes,
of which 5 hours and 40 minutes were riding.
-Clocked a total of 108 kilometers and skipped none.
This is kinda it. It's been an unforgettable journey and can't thank enough the people supporting it.
With my shitty and introverted childhood, I didn't really expect anyone to show up today. Plus it's Tuesday. At least I'm happy that the thing's done now. Kind of makes me feel important to me and my family.
Social media can make a huge dent on your self-esteem, and usually does. Some platforms more than others. With my low follower count, I don't expect much traffic to land on it. But I try to not bother myself with the thought. I don't try to fish for likes. I only aim to provoke thought through text.
You make an impression of yourself to everybody and leave it at that. Then later, change as a person. Too bad that it doesn't really matter at that point to those people. First impressions stick. Harsh reality is that you can't wind back time, only go forward. Best to make the best of the time and become the person you want to be.
Which brings us to the question; Is it better to be who you are or who you want to be(come)? These are the questions I ask myself near everyday. Not that I have depression or anything. I'm quite happy with my life as it is right now. It feels comfortable to just.. think.
So, do what you want regardless of sociological pressures is my advice, helped me a long way. After all... Life is too short and meaningless to do what you're expected to do. Find your own damn purpose.
-This is what I wrote on Instagram on the same night.
Written word doesn't cover the experience itself, that's something you'll have to be a part of. I dreamed, we planned and together with our families, made it true. Bicycling through Finland was mostly me and my father's story, but seeing how it affected some people around us really made us feel like there's something more.
I was recognized by LähiTapiola, an insurance company (father is an employee there) and was rewarded with 200€ worth of biking equipment. I can't thank them enough. The items were handed over personally by a Finnish Olympic champion named Iivo Niskanen. I brought unintentional comedy into the situation, as I didn't recognize the public figure and remained oblivious until it became blatantly obvious.
“Are you also a bicyclist?”
“No.. Heh, no I'm not.”
Iivo is a skier.
If there's something to take from all of this.. I think it would go something like this:
Fulfill your dreams. This journey wasn't exactly easy to plan and execute, but with enough determination we made it through. Don't just wait for that vague “someday” or that day “when I win the lottery...”, those are empty promises. By saying those things, you're trying to find a reason to do what you dream of. Instead, make a reason. Prioritize, reorganize your timetable, do something differently. By doing so, you're actually making your dream a priority, instead of an idea. Sure, you might need money and time, but those are arrangeable. What you really need, is a push.
In short; Stop dreaming and start doing.
After more than 15 000 words over five travel essays, my work is done. I can finally let this piece of memory to rest. It shall remain in our hearts in form of a warm story. As always, thank you for sticking with us. Your time is the most precious resource I can ask for. Love ya!
What you should listen to right now to feel me: Aging of a Beauty – Hong Yan Liu (Cover)
-Left on July 25th from Nuorgam and arrived in Helsinki on August 7th.
-Journey length of 88 hours and 15 minutes,
of which 63 hours and 35 minutes were riding.
-Clocked a total of 1 278 kilometers and skipped 88 kilometers (6,4%).
-Average speed of 20,1 kilometers per hour.
-I made this dream come true, what’s your excuse?
-Went to sleep like a normal person.
August 8th, Wednesday: I’ll have my usual resting day.
August 9th, Thursday: I won’t have to continue any longer.
That in and of itself will be a sensation to behold.
December 20th, 2018