I started my trip to Iceland by walking into a bank, asking to exchange money, and being politely told that I was in an insurance office; Ryan Holliday aka “travel master” is back in action. Keflavik as a town doesn’t have a lot to offer, although there are some nice walks outside of town along the ocean, but it was good to take a nap after being up all night and to see Rod and Marlene again – not unexpectedly, Rod’s first words were “Holy cow, I come all the way to Iceland, and you’re here, too?” Some things don’t change. The last remaining member of the photo tour arrives tomorrow morning, and then we’re off to the wilds for a two week adventure.
The meat of the trip starts now as the Skipper and I are getting ready to board the plane to Reykjavik. Prior to getting to the airport today’s excitement started with a trip back up to the Kittery Trading Post. That was followed by hiking and bird-watching at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island featuring some confusion while hiking the Marsh trail and accidentally using the Dunes trail guide – “you are now standing in front of a forty foot dune that took years to form” makes no sense in a swamp. The evening concluded with a massive lobster dinner at the Gloucester House followed by a dash to the airport and some cursing over Boston’s schizophrenic street layout and lack of route markers. Now we’re sitting in Logan waiting for the call to board the plane. I haven’t taken any photos worth posting yet, but hopefully Iceland will cooperate and something other than my boring ramblings will liven the journal up soon.
From the Skipper: “Say the food was good. Say the food was great.” The Skipper likes eating.
After an insane series of thunderstorms last night that rocked the car and literally provided so much lightning that I could have read a book using the light of the flashes, I woke up this morning at 5:00 AM and headed back out on the road. Among several stops was the Quincy Bog, which I learned was actually a fen. “Fen” is apparently a British word meaning “ten billion blood-thirsty mosquitos”, and it wasn’t long before I was chased away. After a few more stops the Ryan Holliday Childhood Memories Tour 2008 resumed with a trip to New London, site of my parent’s cabin during our New Hampshire days. The cabin seems to be gone – it looks like a different cabin was built in its place – but Peter Christian’s Tavern is still here, as is the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog. This bog is a true bog instead of a fen-in-disguise, and it features the following helpful safety advice at marker twenty:
“STAY ON THE WALK! Those light green patches are only thin skims of moss and sedge. Below them are remains of cows, deer, and at least one horse.”
At least one horse? I had the best places to play as a kid.
After a brief excursion further up the coast the journey turned inland today, passing through increasingly smaller towns in Maine, and eventually leading up into the White Mountains. In the midst of this trip God sent a thunderstorm with torrential rain and insane winds to make sure I was awake – trees were literally falling down alongside the road, and a bolt of lightning hit about a hundred feet away at one point. Having the air turn a blinding red followed by an ear-shattering “BOOM” didn’t scare me or anything. Nope. Not at all.
I made a few short hikes in order to provide the millions of little bugs that are flying around with something to focus their attention on (it’s boring being a bug) and then spent an insanely long time trying to find a random road along which to park for the night. It took a while to find something suitable, and hopefully whatever rangers patrol this park won’t bother me while I’m sleeping. Tomorrow should be a good opportunity to hang out a bit more with the bugs before heading back to Boston to meet my dad. We then get a day in Boston before catching the red-eye to Reykjavik (side note: “Red-eye to Reykjavik” would be a great movie title).
The East Coast is currently experiencing a heat wave – it’s hot, and not just “wow, it’s warm out” hot, but starving-cows-and-tsetse-flies-in-Africa hot; being outside is not a particularly pleasant experience. As a result I didn’t make it very far today, and sought out air-conditioning for the evening rather than the planned bear encounters. I rambled up the coast a bit, picking up some stuff at my dad’s favorite outdoor store in Kittery, and after asking about a good seafood place was told by a particularly crusty old fellow “well, that would be Bob’s”. It’s an established fact that when a crusty old fellow gives you advice in New England you take it, so I headed over to Bob’s Clam Hut and got a massive plate of clams, haddock, shrimp, and lobster stew. Tastiness factor: 8.5.
One thing I’m suprisingly liking about being back here is the range of ages – in California, young people are disproportionately represented, while in New England there seems to be a more uniform range of ages. One extreme example: at Bob’s the lady taking orders was perched on a stool but still barely visible over the counter. I’d guess she was in her eighties, and I would have loved to see someone complain since she gave off a grandmotherly “I’ve been on this earth too long to have to deal with your crap” sort of vibe. There’s a sense here that people have been doing what they’re doing for a while, which gives this feeling that while people may not have the breadth of experience that the mobile masses on the West Coast do, everyone here has a depth of experience that would put most Californians to shame. It’s a bit odd to discover that I miss having old folks around, but traveling has a way of making a person aware of weird and embarrassing personality quirks like that one.
The Iceland adventure began in Boston. More specifically, it began with a trip to Cambridge, home to Harvard University, a place I’d never visited before. The campus reeks of smart (“smaht” as the locals say), and you can’t help but feel like the folks there all spend their hours speaking in Latin about the minutae of monetary policy in the mid-fourteenth century Incan Empire. The campus is also notable for some awesome buildings, a lot of open space, several old churches, and tons of jogging girls, all of which I greatly approved of.
My efforts to leave Cambridge were twice thwarted by some weird scientific singularity that makes Cambridge the center of the universe unless you leave along a specific bearing, but after two hours I finally found a road that didn’t eventually lead back to Harvard Square. The next stop was Gloucester, and if my ten years growing up in New England might have once qualified me as a local, the fact that I now call the town “Gl-ow-ster” instead of “Gl-ah-ster” puts me squarely in the tourist camp. Delicious seafood was eaten for a late lunch, and then a roundabout path was taken to my hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire. This was one of only a handful of trips I’ve taken back since moving away in 1984, and things continue to get smaller. At age nine my world consisted of approximately the three block radius that I was allowed to play in, but that once-massive landscape now seems pretty tiny. It’s worth noting, however, that nine-year-old Ryan knew every tree, stone, plant, and shortcut in that world, while thirty-two year old Ryan is considerably less familiar with the world that he lives in.
I’m not sure what today’s plans are – after not sleeping on the red-eye to Boston I crashed for eleven hours last night, and will enjoy having a bed and shower until the noon checkout before heading off to somewhere with considerably fewer amenities, and probably many more bears, for the next two days.