IYAMAVIKING!

Going to a foreign country always seems to be a challenge in some way, whether it is a new language, new cuisine, new geography, or even new driving rules! However, all seems forgiven once you meet up with a true native who cares about people in general. Please allow me to share…

My husband and I were joined by two good friends on a trip to Iceland before it became the happening place it is today. We had many challenges to overcome because of the fact we went in the dead of winter, which meant research of their weather and the ensuing  appropriate clothing, which, in turn, led to extra baggage and weight, which, again, led to renting a large enough car to hold us all AND our luggage! After two car rentals we finally were able to head out to our hotel in downtown Reykjavik IF we girls held our luggage on our laps in the back seat.

We were pleased with our hotel and spent the first two days walking the city (it is a walking city) discovering both historic museums and wax museums to city water towers used also as a Convention Center to modern Music Centers. As serendipitous as travel may often be, we even happened to be there on “Woman’s Day” when ALL women are honored. My female fellow traveler and I happened to be in a flower shop when a man breezed through and gave each woman he saw a long-stemmed tulip. He cared nothing for the fact we were strangers to his land.  Needless to say, both she and I coveted our tulips the rest of our days there in Reykjavik, having put them in an empty plastic bottles on our window sills.

However, we encountered our first challenge the moment we arrived: There is very little parking in the city of Reykjavik. Had we missed the fine print somewhere? Hmmm. What to do with a rental car? Get up early and move it quite often! We needed that car to get out of town and see the many sights we’d read about in our research, but now we knew why the rental cars were mostly of the small variety.

It was on our third day we attempted to venture out of the city.  Believe it or not, accomplishing this became a major challenge. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the reason for this became two-fold: The main city streets and the major highway roads were often labeled with the same numbers, something I can’t understand to this day. After literally driving past the same boat marinas, water towers, restaurants, houses, etc. for an hour in what seemed like circles, the guys finally gave up and went into a gas station to (yes) ask for directions. AGAIN, serendipity befriended us, as there were two Icelanders in the station talking with the owner. Our men waited for a break in the conversation and then asked the owner how the heck one gets out of Reykjavik.  He showed them on the map and also explained the duplicate numbers the best way he could.  The two men listening looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders, adding, “Hey. We’re going that way. Just follow us!”.  We then also figured out why they were selling T-shirts in the local tourist shops with “Lost in Iceland” printed on them.

An hour and a half later, over the mountains and past the sea, the Icelanders we were following finally turned on their left turn indicator.  They turned and pulled off to the side of the road.  We followed as we wanted to thank them greatly! They came over to our car and told us to continue on up the road for about a half hour and we would see signs in English for the geyser we were interested in experiencing.  In thanking them, I noticed my friend studying their faces. She finally added, “You look like a Viking!” To which one of our guides replied proudly in a very loud voice, “I AM a Viking!”!  (Apparently, she was a Viking, too, in some past life).

So. Without the help of these two kind men, we would probably to this day still be circling Reykjavik, be it spring, summer, fall, or another winter. Their helpfulness was so greatly appreciated. After that day, we had no trouble figuring out the layout of Reykjavik and its outskirts.  I personally was hoping for a Man’s Day in Reykjavik after this. My friend and I would have had the perfect gift to give them, fresh from the window sills in our rooms, beloved as they were.

Wind

Anyone, who is anyone, knows Jalama Beach on the California coast is a wind surfer’s dream, but anyone, who is anyone, also knows there is a reason why:  It’s WINDY. Well, ninety percent of the time, I’d say. Anyone, who is anyone, would agree with me I’d also say. HOWEVER, here’s the rub: Not everyone even knows where and what Jalama (pronounced ha-lama) Beach is. I mean, yeah, it’s a beach; but it’s not your ordinary run-of-the-mill California beach. It’s more like an adjective rather than a noun: It’s… well… Etherial.

It is precisely because of that description rather than definition that I long to be there as many days of the year as I can, which, because we travel a lot to other wonderful places on Earth, isn’t very often. But that’s another story.

My husband was a firefighter. That meant he worked every other day for a while and then had a week off. It happened to be one of those weeks off that we decided to spend at Jalama Beach. We enjoyed a wonderful time there, and when it became time for us to address returning  home, I began to get a bit… pouty.  He was supposed to work a three-day schedule upon returning and I, in my ever-sideways-thinking-abilities, projected that I stay at Jalama and he could return and join me for the weekend.  This was not an easy task for him, let me assure you. We lived and worked in Orange County in southern California.  Jalama Beach borders northern California, basically 2 1/2 hours away IF you don’t encounter a snag or two going through Los Angeles (yeah, right).  I mean, what could go wrong?  We were “camping” in a trailer which was in good working order. We had a very attentive and protective dog (Oscar).  It was only three days that he would be gone.  The most amazing part of this whole plan was that he agreed.

It was a bright and sunny day that my husband drove off into the sunset leaving Oscar and myself to enjoy each other’s company. As he was driving away I decided to open one of our folding chairs to place on the sturdy wooden table and enjoy the color. Wouldn’t you know it! My fingers got jammed and stuck between the rods! In pain, I couldn’t even wave good-bye or even yell at him to quickly return… he had, by this time, gone beyond the cliff that overlooked the campground. Deciding I was not going to be rescued, I struggled with the dang chair until I was finally able to wrench my fingers free. Alas, as wonderful as my dog was, he was unable to assist me and could only lie there and watch me in my obvious dilemma. I remember thinking, “Egad. Is this a harbinger of things to come?”

As the sun set Oscar and I had dinner inside the trailer as the eternal wind began to get a little stronger. By the time I turned in it had grown into a filibustering tyrant. It occurred to me that the awning attached to our trailer  was beginning to behave more like a sail than a shade. I considered bringing it in, but unfortunately it was a two man effort as opposed a woman/dog proposition. By two o’clock in the morning I realized I was going to have to try my best to bring it in alone. In the dark. In the howling wind. In my nightie. Without my underwear (no time).

Out into the unknown I went, struggling at first to keep my dignity in place but then charging the awning full force, running from strut to strut to release locks and pulling the center cord like a window shade to get the thing in motion. It was not agreeable to my efforts.

Did I mention there happened to be other campers in this campground? Until this time, I was remiss in seeing them (watching me) from the moment my husband left until the moment one of them approached me at this ungodly hour and he simply asked, “Do you need help?”

“Ummm… Yes,” (she said understatedly).

Together we tried to roll it back in, but it was to no avail. It was somehow jammed after the wind had had its way with it (and probably me). At that point my rescuer disappeared into the night. I went back into my trailer to sit and ponder life. The next thing I knew was a knock on my door. I was shocked to see a Ranger in full uniform.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Your neighbor here came to get me to help him get your awning rolled back in place. I think I can help you.”

I sat down again. This life thing was getting even more worth a ponder.

Both men worked against adversity but they were able to get the job done. I, of course, thanked both of them over and over for different reasons. It was now 2:30 A.M. for Pete’s sake! Yes, things happen FAST on cold and windy nights.

The following day, those wonderful neighbors who I had met in the dark of the night had to pack up and go home themselves. I was sorry to see them leave as they had given me a sense of security and a new friendship. They, on the other hand, cleaned out their refrigerator of everything and insisted I take it all. They must have been a little worried I would end up isolated on this wind-forsaken beach and would never be seen again.

To the contrary, my husband cheerfully returned in two days asking what was new.

Thinking back, the pictures in my mind were baffling: Wind. Nightie. Fingers. Wind. Neighbors. Ranger. Wind. Underwear. Wind.  2 A.M.  Neighbors. Ranger. NO underwear.  Wind. A full refrigerator. Overwhelming thankfulness. Oscar.

Wind.