Day 77: Franz Josef Glacier, NZ - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

November 11, 2014

Day 77: Franz Josef Glacier, NZ

Of all the changes involved with going from bicycle travel as a vacation to bicycle travel as a way of life, work has been the most difficult adjustment to make. Friends and family and pets have the ability to make accommodations for this major shift in lifestyle, but work continues on like nothing has changed. This means that when projects or problems or questions come up, I have to be able to take care of them wherever I happen to be and however I happen to feel.

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Today is one of those days. Today I work.

I spend all morning and all afternoon staring at the screen of my laptop lost in thought, focused on things like writing validation code, tracking down the source of error messages, and typing out precisely worded emails instead of thinking about how the weather's changing, dodging the mirrors of RVs driven by distracted tourists, or trying to figure out how many miles we have to ride until we reach the next town. And all of this takes place while a constant stream of people come and go through the front door of the backpackers, while burning food sets off the smoke detector in the kitchen, and while German twenty-year-olds have loud conversations in a language I don't understand at the table behind me.

Kristen's quest to shed pannier weight continues.
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To step away from work for an hour, we head out to grab a drink and check out Franz Josef Glacier. The town turns out to be an unending stream of overpriced restaurants and bars with awful 80s pop music thumping from fuzzy-sounding speakers, the same terrible gift shops you find in every other tourist town like this in the world, and tour buses rumbling down the side streets and kicking up waves of water as they get set to fly to points north or south on the highway. It's a place where companies sell glacier sightseeing flights and helicopter tours that are so expensive that our mouths literally hang open and our eyes get huge when we get to the line in the brochures that lists the prices, where there are tents filled with wood carvings done with moderate skill that no one ever needs to buy, and where people walk as fast as they can from one building to the next, insulated from the cold and wet in thick coats and hats, or huddled under umbrellas wide enough to cover a mid-sized American sedan.

Um, no.
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We can't go more than twenty seconds without seeing an ad for some kind of guided tour or adventurous-sounding thing that costs as much as my monthly health insurance premiums, or without seeing another person trying to find a way to occupy themselves during the time they would have been on their guided tour or adventurous-sounding thing that costs as much as my monthly health insurance premiums had it not been canceled because of the awful weather. The most interesting thing we can say about the town is that they have a bunch of those toilets that play music while you poop, which we think are ridiculous and wonderful but haven't seen since just outside of Auckland on the North Island a month ago. It's hard to believe that Franz Josef Glacier manages to cram so many of the parts of tourism that we despise into an area that's all of about eight square blocks in size.

Not that either.
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Except for one brief sun break in the morning it rains for the entire day, at levels varying in strength from sprinkle to biblical deluge.

A small sample.
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In our room we tear out pages from a James Patterson novel and shove them into our bike shoes by the handful to try and soak up the wetness and the stink that are left over from yesterday's ride into town as the same Luluc song plays on repeat in the background. When the long work day finally comes to an end, we celebrate with a loud cheer and wide smiles. Afterward we take advantage of the backpackers' massive kitchen to make the kind of pasta dinner that our hand-sized camp stove could never hope to give us.

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And then we tuck ourselves tight underneath the covers of the bed and fall asleep within minutes, because even on the off days on a trip like this there always seems to be a hell of a lot to get done.

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