The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Saturday, June 20, 2015

At the Arctic Circle

I am at the Arctic Circle in Lapland, a "state" in Finland. This is my second time to cross the Arctic Circle. The first was in Alaska several years ago. I was on the same motorcycle then as well.

It has rained all but two days out of the last thirty days here in Scandinavia.  The people here say that they have never seen such bad weather. They tell me, and I have no reason to doubt them, that it was very warm here this time last year. Can you tell from this last picture that it has just been raining just before the picture was taken, and it is getting all set to rain again?

I rode up to the Arctic Circle with my traveling companions, Peter and Esther, to wish them goodbye. They are heading on north to the North Cape, but I want to stay behind to see the Summer Solstice celebrations in the town where we have been staying.  Have fun Peter and Esther, and ride safely.

The rains were over and the sun was peeking through by the time I got back to the campground.

I had a good time watching the "Midnight Sun" go around the sky. It does not happen up here the way the text books say. Instead, it is like being at the bottom of a very flat bowl looking up at the sky and seeing the sun go around and around the rim of the bowl each day, never going down very low and never going up very high.  It starts in the Northeast in the morning, slowly goes southwest, then north  again by midnight, then back to the East the next morning. Here, for example, is the sun at midnight, almost exactly North.

I tried to take a picture with my cell phone's compass in it, but it was hard to stay away from reflections. I took this picture about an hour before midnight. As you know, 360 degrees is due north, but also, as you know, the true North Pole and the magnetic North Pole do not line up. So, my compass is not actually going to point due north.  Got it?

This year, the date of June 20 was the big Summer Solstice festival. All over Finland (and I guess all over Scandinavia) they throw a big party at midnight. Part of the party includes eating a good meal. I decided to try reindeer stew.

Here is a picture of the reindeer strew. Does it look like stew to you? It is not what I call "stew".

Reindeer meat doesn't have any particular taste. It is just meat. But it goes down really well with some beer. This Summer Solstice party night is an excuse for the Finns to get drunk, I think.

After the eating, there was a lot of dancing and singing. I didn't participate in that activity, but some young kids did. Here the kids are doing some sort of special dance. It doesn't mean a thing to me, but everyone seemed to like it.

Can't tell much from that last picture, can you? Meanwhile, down on the riverfront, people are starting to gather for the special bonfire. It is all set up just waiting to be lit.

People are gathering around, just waiting with baited breaths (I never could figure out how a breath could be "baited"..... Oh well. (Actually, I think it is supposed to be "bated".... Probably from Shakespeare or somebody else famous who could get by making up things like this to say).

Look, the Midnight Sun is coming right out of the North and illuminating the bonfire (which is waiting with bated breath I think).

Time for a few more songs, then we can get on with the show. The "band" is ready.

The official fire lighters are ready too. They are just waiting for the stroke of midnight.

And there she goes. Hooray! (Personally, I think it would be more effective if it were dark, but who am I to try to change a tradition). I talked with a Finnish man who had traveled several miles, along with his family, to see this spectacle. I asked him why the Finns do it. He said he had no idea. He didn't know the history of it nor the why of it. It is just something they do.

After the fire lighting ceremony, people sort of shrugged (at least the non-drinkers did) and headed off to their beds. I headed to my bed, too. I saw what I came to see, so it is back to my tent for me. Once there, I took one last picture, again looking North. This is sunset (because the sun is as low in the sky as it will get this day).

As you can tell, the sky is very clear. There is no roof on it, so it will be a cold night. When I crawled into my tent my thermometer said 5 degrees (45 degrees). It was a good night for sleeping, but there was a heavy dew when I got up in the morning. I dried off the tent, packed Odysseus, and headed north toward the North Cape. I will be there in two days.

The road north of the Arctic Circle in Finland is not like the road north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Here, it is smooth and paved, but in Alaska is is very difficult. I was just cruising along when I spotted some reindeer grazing in a field.

If I could have figured out how to do it I might have eaten those reindeer because, and nobody had warned me about this, all of Finland shuts down for the First Day of Summer holiday. Not a store nor restaurant was open. I was very hungry by the time I got to my Bed and Breakfast where I planned to stop for the night.

Here are the owners of that B & B. They are Eeva-Liisa and Jouko Vainioranta. They were barbecuing some pork, and they had a nice salad set up out on the front lawn, and they very graciously asked me to join them. Wow! A dream come true. I was picturing a night of hunger since there were no stores open. Thanks so much Eeva and Jouko.

Jouko is a sailor. He and Eeva have owned a sailboat and have sailed it all over the Mediterranean Sea. That sure sounds like fun.

Well- that's all for now. Talk with you later.

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