Grey weather wasn’t going to deter our immigrant cyclists this month. On Friday at dusk, envoys from France, Switzerland, England, Spain, South Korea, and Australia convened at the clubhouse (the Bemböle Shell), and in high spirits set out on the road to Veikkola.
Feeling light as a bird, Matthieu soon realised he’d left his backpack at the Shell; this minor delay only strengthening our collective resolve to reach our destination: cabin, fire, sauna.
We rode in two groups. The trailblazers were charged with the heating of the sauna, while the second group (self-appointed ‘löylymestarit’) would follow, dismount from their saddles and enter their element: hot air. However, a string of wrong turns and chocolate stops left the trailblazers overtaken by the rearguard action of these ‘steam-masters’.
It’s 15 kilometres from Bemböle to Veikkola, a fairly flat and straight stretch of road. About halfway the bike path ends, and we hugged the asphalt’s edge as the big rigs blew by. God bless the hi-vis vest. From Veikkola, it’s another 5 kilometres along an unlit backroad, in the pitch black rain, where the two groups were reunited.
Olivier, honorary member of the Espoo Adventurers (Espoon Retkeilijät) arranged our accommodation for the night— a tidy two-storey cabin with no running water or electricity, but enough firewood and fireplaces to warm part of the house. Those smart enough to bring slippers were rewarded with warm toes, and those so inclined enjoyed one of Lee’s fizzy beers.
How many non-Finns does it take to heat a sauna, and keep it hot? Tonight, eight. But as the first sweat broke, all agreed the ride was worth it. In true sub-24 fashion the conversation was sparkling, with topics ranging from the Gulf Stream to cycling the frozen seas. After a dip in the puro (stream), our cosmopolitan adventurers retired to the cabin to cook, eat (pesto being the choice dish of the discerning gourmand), and discuss the pressing philosophical concerns of modern man, before snuffing the candles and snuggling into their sleeping bags a touch past midnight.
Eight men and no snoring. No exaggeration, ladies. Florian made an early start for his next party, tip-toeing over the sleepers, who rose around 7. After coffee and puuro (porridge) we packed up, cleaned the cabin, and were on the road by 9. Despite tired thighs, the mist on the lakes around the sleepy township of Veikkola, the sparse traffic, and a last look at the lichen before the snow, all made for good cheer on the bitumen.
We were spared almost all the forecast rain. In fact, the sky was most kind. A big THANK-YOU to Olivier and the Espoon Retkeilijät. And to all the riders (from the serious to the seriously amateur, from sub-24 veterans to enthused newcomers), it was a memorable adventure. Prepare those head-torches for first weekend of December, and stay tuned to this space, and the Facebook page.
As Beaudelaire might have said.
When the low, heavy sky weighs like the giant lid
of a great pot upon the spirit . . . go for a bike ride.
Then all the bells at once ring out . . . bombarding heaven.