The End of an Era

It sat in the empty lot adjacent to the bait shop.  Nothing fancy, but in excellent shape and with plenty of good years left in its life.  The humble pontoon boat spoke to us.  Well, most of us anyway.

We’ve never had a new boat.  In the 29 years we’ve owned our modest cabin, our boats have matched the aura of this unassuming haven in the forest perched on a pristine lake.

The first was a 12′ row boat, which we proudly outfitted with a 1.5 hp motor.  We still own that boat.  We next became proud owners of a 16′ open boat with a steering wheel.  With 25 hp we could even pull lightweight water-skiers.  We called it the Silver Bomb, and it was Rich’s beloved fishing rig.  That was succeeded by the Green Boat. It was heavy and leaked below the floor, but it had cool seating up front and went fast when we upgraded to 50 hp.

In each of these boats we could bank and turn, roar across the lake.  As the boats grew in size we could twirl kids and grandkids on wild tube rides, entice water-skiers out of the wake.  We’d pile in wearing our bulky life jackets, holding wiggly little ones on our laps, keeping an eye out for those who insisted on leaning out over the edge of the boat.  We baited many hooks and caught fewer fish.  Three generations of memories were compiled in those motorboats.

But all that’s about to change.

In an age when pontoon boats dominate the boat lifts around the lake, the idea of having a safe platform for little ones and oodles of space for family boat rides was appealing.  And that simple tan and green used pontoon sitting on the pavement wearing a For Sale sign was the perfect solution.  Or so I thought. And so did the kids.  And grandkids.  “I don’t want a pontoon boat,” Rich stated firmly.  The patriarch had spoken.

I had to admit, I wondered if our age was showing.  If I was falling for something too tame.  But returning to our collective visions of family outings, I hardened my resolve. And we won him over.  Or at least got him to relent.

Rich and I took it out for its inaugural voyage.  When three loons surfaced and began fishing nearby, Rich’s camera came out and his shutter flew in rapid bursts as we drifted.  He even admitted the pontoon was a much more stable platform for photography.  Whew!

That simple pontoon now occupies our lift next to the dock.  It sits in readiness for our annual family and friends gathering over Labor Day.  In place of zooming and swishing, we’ll cruise and relax, drinks and snacks at the ready.  We’ll anchor and jump into the lake, exploring new swimming spots around the lake.  We think we can even give tame tube rides.

Not such bad tradeoffs, as we enter this new era.

A Dramatic Departure

Norway Flag LogoNorway, here we come!  Our next cycling tour adventure will take us above the Arctic Circle through the coastal islands of northern Norway.  We’re calling this one the Arctic Islands Cycling Tour.  But the destination is not the only unique aspect of this tour.

First, we are traveling in prime tourist season.  In the Arctic, there is a limited window between snow melt and the onset of winter.  If we wanted to see the beauty of this land, it had to be in July or August.

Next we discovered that the rest of the world wants to be there at the same time for the same reason, and accommodations are scarce.

It was time to call in the experts.  For the first time in our cycle touring history we are handing the reins over to someone else.  Rather than traveling as a self-supported duo, we booked two back-to-back cycling tours with Discover-Norway.

The appeal of these tours is that they are self-guided.  Each day we will be handed our itinerary and we are on our own to make our way to the evening’s lodgings.  Most of our meals are included.  Oh, and our bags will be there waiting for us when we arrive.  We only need carry extra clothing layers and the day’s supplies in our panniers.  Sweet!

Speaking of bikes, they are providing those as well.  After some minor trauma taking our own bikes to Scotland, we opted to rent bikes for this trip – one small, one large.  Heck, we even bought off-the-shelf Norway cycling jerseys instead of designing our own.

I have no idea who our fellow cyclists will be, or even how many of them we’ll have.  But I rather like the idea of swapping stories with them at the end of each day.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for me will be adapting to the pace of this tour.  I have to get into my vacation mode.  My sightseeing and stop to smell the flowers mindset.  Our daily mileages range from a measly 10 miles to 37 miles.  This isn’t about racking up the distances, it’s about taking in the scenery and experiencing life on these coastal islands.  I’m expecting the views to work their magic on me.

Norway area of tour

All this takes place above the Arctic Circle.  We start in Tromso and work our way out to the barrier islands, using ferries where necessary.  The Arctic Coast Tour tour lasts eight days, taking us to Svolvaer.  From there we immediately join the Lofoten Islands Tour for another six days.  That takes us down to the very tip of that archipelago, where we ferry to Bodo on the mainland.

For the next four days, we have Norway Tour Mapadded two out-and-back side trips on our own – mini adventures more in our usual style of cycle touring.  Just to remind us what it’s like.  And believe me, Rich booked those lodgings months ago.

Our finale will be hopping aboard the Hurtigruten Ferry, a near-cruise-ship vessel that hugs the coastline.  After four days of close-up shoreline views it will deliver us to Kirkenes, just miles from the border with Russia.  The end of the line for the ship.  A dramatic ending to our tour.