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Willie Weir Moment



The setting sun over the rapeseed fields.
The setting sun over the rapeseed fields.

After five days in Copenhagen, we began to feel antsy to get back on our bikes and on the road. Dave’s quad wasn’t quite back to 100%, but he felt that he could put in a good day with the minimal pain he felt.

Fueled by cinnamon rolls from the capital city’s famous Meyers Bakery, we set off in the rain, as has become our touring pattern through Scandinavia: Spend a few warm and sunny days in a city, set off into the cold and drizzle.

We left Copenhagen on Whit Monday, a national religious holiday in Denmark. The Danes are not an overly religious population, so the observation seemed to be more an excuse to take a day off from school and work. We appreciated the quiet and empty roads.

We pedaled along a sleepy boulevard for several kilometers, noticing that most of the grocery stores were closed in honor of the holiday. Once we spotted an open store, we pulled over to buy lunch and dinner, worried that this might be our only opportunity.

It turns out that the entire town also believed this to be their only opportunity to grocery shop. Ever. For the rest of all eternity. I walked into complete chaos. There were people everywhere, grabbing items from the shelf as though they were going extinct. There were no shopping baskets to be found, let alone a cart and the produce was pulled from the bins as soon as it was restocked. Forget about bread. The bread shelves were completely barren, with no chance for replenishment. It was as though Denmark had run out of yeast. Large bins contained completely random items that I understood to be sale. You could find chia seeds, peanut butter, and instant ramen noodles all in the same pile.

I took a moment to take in this scene. I didn’t understand why this mayhem was happening. It was a Monday. Did most of the Danes in this store typically shop on Monday? This wasn’t some grand meal holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, so there were no urgent last-minute purchases. It was as though the zombie apocalypse was just hours away from this small town and the townspeople had been warned to get all the food they could before their time ran out.

Small spaces filled with people cause me stress. I don’t like large events, and tend to only attend festivals on weekdays when everyone else is in the office. I worked quickly. I grabbed a bag of chia seeds among the ramen noodles and nabbed the last pack of avocadoes, no time to determine ripeness. Dinner…dinner….something quick. Pasta and pesto it is. I never buy premade pesto, (cause mine is better!), but I had no energy to consider another option. Running out of arms to carry my goods, I spotted a yellow basket and swooped into nab it before someone else stole it from under me. I dumped my items in the basket and remembered Dave wanted dried fruit. It was probably hiding under the ramen noodles and chia seeds up front. Too frightened to head back that direction, I found some sort of fruit bar that appeared to have no added sugar and tossed it into my basket. I headed to the line that reached the back of the store and waited my turn.

I met Dave outside, crouched into as small a ball as possible, so as to avoid the rain that had started again. Both grouchy, him from waiting in the cold and rain, me from battling the Last Ever Chance to Buy Food, we got the hell out of the store and rode on in search of shelter to eat our lunch.

We appreciated the kind road signs throughout Denmark.
We appreciated the kind road signs throughout Denmark.

Continuing on, the rain turned into blue skies and sunshine and we eventually peeled off our rain gear. We knew we had a long day ahead towards a somewhat unknown destination. Forgetting to download our map in the morning, and with no reliable WiFi along our route, we only had a close idea of where we were to sleep for the evening.

Eventually, we turned off the main highway and onto the Berlin-Copenhagen Bike Route. This turned out to be some of our favorite riding of our entire trip thus far. The fields were painted a brilliant yellow thanks to the abundant rapeseed fields. Horses raised their heads and lambs scattered away at the sound of our bikes rattling by. Quaint Danish homes with thatched roofs dotted the land. We were in cycling heaven.

Riding through Scandinavia close to the summer solstice means long days of riding. The sun doesn’t set until close to 22:00 and rises around 4:45. Though we had plenty of daylight remaining, our bodies began to tire and our stomachs growl for food. Approaching 21:00, we were more than ready to finish riding for the day.

Finally, we found the driveway we believed to be our home for the night. We walked our bikes up the long, rocky road and looked for signs of life. A tattooed fellow emerged from the house and said that, no we were not in the right location. He pointed us in the direction he thought we were headed and said we could return to camp there if we were unable to find the campground.

The moment we left the rocks of the driveway, the downpour began. Dave yelled ahead to me to ride quickly and see if I could find the campground while he put on his rain jacket. I raced in the direction of the instructions we were given and found nothing that resembled a campground. I waited for Dave and as he approached, a black car rounded the corner. Dave stopped the car and asked where the campground was.

“It’s about, eeeeaaa…” I knew he was going to say eight kilometers away. That wasn’t going to fly with us. “It’s about eight to ten kilometers away,” he replied. Nope. I thought. I’m not pedaling more than five kilometers. I refuse.

And then, the man said something amazing. He told us we could camp at his house. It was three kilometers away.

Kris, the son of Bente and Gunnar. Behind him is where Dave and I slept for the night.
Kris, the son of Bente and Gunnar. Behind him is where Dave and I slept for the night.

We had been waiting for this moment. Prior to leaving on our trip, my mom had bought us two books by Willie Weir, a columnist for Adventure Cyclist Magazine. I had brought one of those along. In nearly every story, Willie talks about the hospitality he receives as a cycle tourist. Often, he is invited into the homes of complete strangers, simply because he travels by bike. It had yet to happen to us.

All throughout the terrible weather we had experienced in Sweden and Norway, we had waited for some kind stranger to invite us into their homes and out of the the elements. We had heard stories of this happening to other cyclists we had met. And now, it was it was finally happening to us.

We followed the directions he provided and were greeted by Gunnar, our rescue, and his friendly Golden Retriever, Dusty. His wife Bente emerged from the house, followed by their son, Kris and their super friendly black cat.

Our rescue family had THE MOST friendly cat in the world.
Our rescue family had THE MOST friendly cat in the world.

Gunnar said we could camp anywhere in the yard, so we wheeled our bikes to the back to begin setup. He and his wife exchanged some words, and Bente asked how long we needed to stay. When we told her just one night, she said we could sleep inside their enclosed sun porch. Gunnar then took us around to his shed and gave us a secure place to lock our bikes. He even showed us a bike traffic sign his son found in Copenhagen and told us that, see, they welcomed cyclists. After we set up, Kris, who served as our translator, showed us the bathroom, provided towels, and indicated that we could use the kitchen for water. Bente and Gunnar had to leave early for work, so we said our farewells and thank yous that evening before bed.

 In the morning, Kris made us tea and took photos of Sora, with whom he became quite enamored. Bente called Kris while we were packing up and told him to make us lunch to go. Before leaving, Kris took us out to the pasture to feed their cows some day-old bread.

Kris feeding one of his family cows. Look at that tongue?
Kris feeding one of his family cows. Look at that tongue!

As we pedaled off from their home and into the sunshine and made our way over the rolling hills, my heart was filled with gratitude for these kind strangers who took a chance on two exhausted cyclists.

Jen Sotolongo

Hello! I'm Jen. I'm a writer, photographer, dog mom, and outdoor enthusiast. When I'm not writing about awesome ways to get outside with your dog, I'm probably out for a long trail run. I also fancy myself a pretty decent vegan cook, and am always happy to whip up a batch of cookies for friends. I am based in the Pacific Northwest and I never leave home without my dogs.

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