Escape: Cold Comfort

Renewing our vows on the back of a bike in Reykjavík, Iceland

By Joe Gresh, Photography by Joe Gresh

When the Vikings landed in Iceland 1000 years ago, all they found were a few Irish monks glad to be out of the rain. Lacking even basic cable, the Icelanders created The Sagas: bloody 12th-century soap operas where no one's hide went un-flayed. Saga stuff is everywhere in Iceland: Next to that rock, Guntar slaughtered Hans and his extended family. We just passed the spot where Olaf strung up Eric by his Achilles tendons. Those early Vikings were well schooled in vengeance. The modern Icelander seems much nicer. Of course, I can't vouch for them in the middle of winter. Six months of darkness will turn anyone into a Beserker.

Borgarnes, our lunch stop, is like Saga Central. Everyone who killed anyone in the ancient texts did so here. Twenty miles from Reykjavik as the puffin flies, our fjord-based route has rung up 75 sweet, twisty miles to get here. On the ragged edge of Borgarfjordur-fjord, we stop to spit out the vowels and consonants filling our mouths and dine at the Buoarklettur restaurant/Viking museum. As a rule, real Icelandic folk-cooking involves an abnormal amount of cast-off body parts. You'll want to avoid local delicacies like decomposing shark, pickled ram's testicles and split-down-the-center sheep head. Exception to this rule can be made for the homemade-in-boiling-thermal-pools bread. On this trip we stick with Nuevo-Icelandic cuisine: tjomato sjoup, hjotdogs, and Fjrench fjries.

The weather has dulled a bit and our original destination, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, not only looks like the moon, it might as well be on the moon. You know me: If I was alone, I'd push on. I laugh at cold weather like Ed McMahon laughed at Johnny Carson: by the hour. If we keep going, it will be dark and cold on the way back. My wife pulls out her 20-year-anniversary Get Out of Riding Cold pass and we head home to Reykjavik.

Luckily, before we left Riding Iceland, I bummed 200 Krona off Haddi (about $1.50) for the tunnel toll, the only hard currency I have needed in Iceland. We almost make it back to Haddi's shop before the irresistible pull of the suburban Kringlan Mall draws us into its consumer vortex. So where is the helmet lock on the Wee-Strom? Giving up, I carry the helmets through the mall while my wife purchases 10 or 15 pairs of shoes.

So here's the deal, boys: You too can be the sensitive, altruistic kind of husband I am. A long afternoon's flight out of Boston's Logan Airport puts East Coast love birds smack-dab in Iceland's other-planetary world. With a frisky motorcycle between her legs and Iceland's crisp, clean air, feather-light rainfall and impressive volcanic scenery, she can't help but fall in love with you all over again.

And listen: Play it safe. Don't wait 20 years to take her there.

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