I had a lot of time to observe the red house on the hill above us as Jim, sporting a neon reflector vest, changed the front tire of our apparently-not-so-trusty campervan, somewhere in the inner Lofoten Islands.
The day's journey had been a lesson in topography: low flat expanses of gorse and deep beds of moss running up to meet the foothills of steep, rocky mountains. The coastlines were mild — the fjords were sheltered, no pounding surf. The bays filled up quietly at high tide, then slipped away almost unnoticed. Our drive along the coast was peppered with sheep – often napping or grazing right at the side of the narrow roads.
On the suggestion of the woman who rented us the campervan, we drove out to a lesser-known island in the Lofoten archipelago. It was less touristy, as she'd said, but to my observation that just meant "less quaint." The houses got drab, and there were more gas stations and fewer cafes. There were plenty of "marshmallow farms" out here — all the hay harvested for the summer, rolled into fat cylinders and wrapped for the winter. The puffy white forms dotted the fields. Here and there some farmer got fancy and had wrapped his hay in pink plastic, which gave their marshmallows a "Lucky Charms" feel.
The red house was asleep, no lights on, no one stirring. The play structure in the front yard was empty. At this time of day, the kids who lived there were probably at school. Out here they'd need to catch the bus, most likely. I tried to imagine what their life would be like: hopping off the bus and running to their swing set, their view a sweeping fjord flanked by farmland. And today, a gaudy, broken-down campervan, too.
"The rim is bent." Jim interrupted my reverie.
"What?" If this situation were reliant upon my knowledge of cars, we'd have to apply for a visa to live in that van on the roadside for the foreseeable future. Maybe we could eventually upgrade to the nearby shack with the eco roof.
Without another spare, we'd be at the mercy of Norwegian backroads for the rest of our trip. We'd had enough experience with them thus far to steer away from that plan. I said farewell to the red house, still waiting for its occupants to return, as we made our way back to "civilization" in search of a dekksenter – a tire service shop.
The wind whipped my hair into a frothy mess. It was necessary to have all the windows open, otherwise the diesel fumes would have overwhelmed us.
"Don't worry," I'd said to Jim. "This way if we get low on diesel again you can just wring out your pants and we can fill up the tank."
Earlier that day I'd sat in the van at the gas station, absentmindedly scrolling through Instagram when the pleasant "shhhh" of flowing diesel was interrupted by a harsher splashing sound, followed by a loud clunking and some frantic, choice words from Jim. When he climbed back in, he was "fuming." (sorry)
As we rolled along on our snow tire, hoping that none of the others would go, I decided to pretend that we were on a mission to write the worst Lofoten travel guide to date. Sample articles include:
Picturesque Beaches at Which to Wash Diesel Off Your Hands
Best Pizzas to Order from Non-English-Speaking Convenience Store Clerks aka Where Is All the Fish?
11 Norwegian Street Names for Your GPS to Butcher
Hot! Norwegian Fashion: Mandatory Reflector Vests for Roadside Exploits – PLUS – Is Diesel the New Old Spice?
"Our Rim Guy Will Be Here Tomorrow" and Other Tales
Best Overcrowded Mall Coffeeshops in Sortland To Wait At While Your Tire Doesn't Get Fixed
Sortland Hotell & Camping: At Least the Showers Are Hot!
Hidden Norway: Minion Tire Exhibits of Svolvær
If you ever spend 24 hours of your six-day trip to the Lofoten Islands tracking down someone who will fix a bent rim, you can write a competing travel guide, but for now this is the definitive one.