In the land of Iceland, in the heart of 101, I meet my fellowship companion Art Bicnick—the photographer—outside Grapevine HQ at 9:45am on a brisk Saturday morning. I am burdened with one small hangover, and one large quest: to travel to Langjökull to meet the snowmobilers down yonder. To prepare for this journey, I have laced up my Timberlands, which are heavy and clunky, weighing down my body and soul much like that One Ring of Power.
I imagine this is what Frodo felt like as he set off from Rivendell: anxious, filled with regret at that decision to go to Paloma last night, filled with longing for a boy named Samwise. We set off, unfortunately not in slow motion to the inspiring soundtracking of Howard Shore. No, in this car, we listen to Feist.
As Art and I land outside the city, we are immediately struck by a vast white wasteland surrounding us. There are few trees in Iceland, and the sharp, jagged mountains come out of nowhere, capturing us in a harsh vista that’s beautifully photogenic. We stop the car and gaze at the desolate wilderness—the icy lakes and small cabins in the distance.
As I contemplate my destiny, I look to the surrounding mountains and see a line of big bonfires on them. Holy shit, the beacons are lit. The beacons are literally fucking lit. Someone is calling for aid. I know now that I am here for a reason.
We stop at Geysir, land of the geysers. I’ve been to this kingdom many times in the summer, but I must say the snow complements it. Beautifully, it melts around the hot pools, revealing vivid green and gold vegetation beneath it like an Impressionist peek-a-boo.
We then journey over to the Kingdom of Gullfoss, which I now believe should only be viewed in winter. The waterfall is spectacular, even more awe-inspiring than it is in the summer. Half is frozen—an icy tundra of Henneth Annûn—while half runs wild like a stallion of Rohan.
At 12:30, we finally meet up with the rest of our fellowship, now deemed Arctic Adventures, who lead us over to a big SUV with hilariously large wheels. I think back to my pony (bike) in the Shire (New York City) with a sense of nostalgic longing.
However, soon after we set out on our perilous road through mounds of snow, I’m grateful for the gargantuan tyres. The car bounces and falls and bounces and falls until I am convinced I am about to, as they say, journey west into the undying lands. But those trusty tyres save us. While I panic, there’s a lot of joyful “whooping” coming from the back passengers. Hobbits.
We finally get to the edge of the glacier and enter a small campsite. There we get our new accoutrements—a row of gleaming red snowmobiles. I feel like I have been gifted by Galadriel herself—but this is so much better than some stupid elven rope.
After the gift of the snowmobiles, we receive our cloaks—red jumpsuits of the finest polyester, with a helmet of the most solid plastic. After some quick instruction, we set off on the snowmobiles, and I finally get a chance to look around. “Whoa,” I blurt out. I am surrounded by dusty badlands—a Mordor of white. There is no life as far as the eye can see, just mountains and mountains of snow with the occasional black speck of snowmobile in the distance. This glacier awes me. It dwarfs me. I feel small.
But I can’t spend too much time looking around—I’m in action! Happily for me, the snowmobile is easy to use. With only one gear and one accelerator, it’s easy to speed off. As we move down the first hill, all of my fellowship immediately overtakes me. I’m left at the back of the bunch. So I guess perhaps I’m not Frodo after all, but Sam.
The Breaking of the Fellowship
The activity of snowmobiling turns out to be surprisingly meditative. It’s calming and soothing—like an adult colouring book, but significantly less lame. As the wind blows in your face, it chills you, but the adrenaline (and the hand warmers on the bike) keep you warm and toasty. In the least cheesy way possible, I felt at peace on the snowmobile. I started to think about my writing, my family, and a whole host of other deep topics. I end the first half of my ride with the decision that this could be a real hobby for me.
After posing for some pictures, we entered the second half of the ride. Growing in confidence, I started to forge my own path in the snow, jumping the ‘mobile a bit. It was freeing—I heard nothing but the buzz of the wind and the laughter of my fellowship around me. I felt at one with everyone.
But alas, all great voyages must come to an end. Without having to throw a ring into a live volcano or get rescued by eagles, we hit the jeep and make our bumpy way back to Gullfoss. Our fellowship breaks up, invigorated and smiling, into our respective rental cars, to journey far away from this icy, glacial land, and back to the well earned pleasures of warm fires and second lunches.
“Well,” I think, “I’m back.”