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Roadside refill #2

Richard Sleboe Tekst Richard Sleboe Gepubliceerd 06 May 2019

55.7°N 12.6°E


It wasn’t easy to get Lucy to go to Denmark with me.

“It rains all the time. The food is terrible. Everything is expensive.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do.”

Now we are in Copenhagen, and it hasn’t stopped raining since we got here. The concierge at our hotel tells us there are 27 different words for rain in Danish. The way he says it, it sounds like an accomplishment. The food is no better than the weather. The Danish diet rests on two pillars, hot dogs and candy bars. The hot dogs taste like salty pulp. The candy bars taste like sawdust mixed with sugar. Everything is outrageously expensive. I should have listened to Lucy. But here we are, and we try to make the best of it. We go to the Royal Copenhagen porcelain museum. It’s so boring that even Lucy has trouble feigning interest. We skip the underglaze painting demonstration and go to the museum coffee shop, but all they have is hot dogs and candy bars. We try shopping at a mall called Illum, but everything is so expensive that the only thing we end up buying is a hot dog. The bun is a toxic shade of yellow, and the sausage is neon red. We feed the hot dog to a sea gull. The sea gull throws up. I’ve never seen a bird throw up. It’s not a pretty sight.

At this point, I do what I always do when all else fails: I propose a bike ride. The sky is still grey, but at least the rain has dwindled to a drizzle.

“I’m thinking up the coast to Ellekilde on the 152 and the 237. Down to Gurre on the 213. Then back on the 229, through the hinterland, past Dageløkke and Brønsholm.”

“You’re making up those places.”

“You overestimate my creativity.”

“Isn’t Ellekilde the towel rack we got for your mom at Ikea last Christmas?”

Lucy snatches the map from me and looks at it. She shakes her head in disbelief.

“This language is a joke.”

“No doubt. But why let silly words get in the way of a good time?”

“It actually looks like a nice ride.”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“Will you wait for me when I stop to take a picture?”

“Sure.”

“Can we swing by the Louisiana museum? I think they have a Giacometti.”

“I can’t see why not. We would have to take a lock though.”

“Great. Let’s. And how about Hamlet’s castle?”

“Hamlet is a character in a play.”

“I know that.”

“Then why visit the castle?”

Lucy shows me a picture in her pocket guide.

“Don’t you think it will look cool on Instagram?”

At this point, I decide to go it alone. Our ideas of what makes a good bike trip are simply too different for both of us to enjoy it. Lucy just shrugs and proceeds to check herself into the hotel spa. I put on my brand-new jersey, take the 1A bus from Kongens Nytorv to Klampenborg, and rent a bike from Cranks & Coffee, a place so cool that I have to snap a picture of my helmeted self in front of their gleaming La Marzocco espresso machine before I saddle up. I send the picture to Lucy. She returns the favor with a Gingham-filtered shot of herself in a mud mask and a towel turban.

Like all things Danish, the bike is very minimalistic. In fact, it’s so minimalistic that it only has a single bottle cage. I run out of water before I have made it past the city limits. I stop at a roadside convenience store somewhere between Mikkelborg and Sletten to get water, but all they have is beer and milk. I opt for milk. I transfer the milk from its laminated carton into my bidon. The milk looks unusually thick. I take a sip. It’s not bad, but it tastes more like yogurt than like milk. I check the label. The stuff is called Skyr. The label says it’s rich in protein and long-chain fatty acids. Exactly what I need. But the Skyr is so thick that I have trouble sucking it through the drinking nozzle of the bidon. I stop, get off the bike, remove the nozzle, and try slurping the Skyr like a smoothie. Half of it dribbles onto my brand-new jersey, leaving white stains that turn yellow as they dry. What I need is a straw, one of the extra fat ones they have at Gott’s, but I’m pretty sure I won’t find a Gott’s in these heathen parts. I give up on the Skyr and leave it to slosh around in the bidon. Perhaps they have a straw at the hotel.

Just as I turn onto the 229, the sun comes out. The road is bumpy, but since the bike isn’t mine, I’m less cautious than I would normally be. I shift into a high gear and ride all the way to Lyngby without stopping, a breezy twenty-mile run. I had almost forgotten how good it feels to ride with the sun on my face. As I turn left onto Klampenborgvej, I hear a strange gurgling noise welling up from the bottle cage. It sounds like a strangled animal. At the same time, it feels like my feet are getting wet. When I look down at the bidon, I see that spurts of white froth have soaked my shoes and soiled the down tube of the bike. The sunlight and the bumpy road must have triggered some sort of runaway fermentation reaction in the Skyr. Very carefully, I lean the bike against the wall outside the Cranks & Coffee. As I cower down to clean up the mess, the bidon explodes. Longchain fatty acids splatter all over my jersey and over a rat-sized dog a heartless Dane has tied to a nearby lamp post. The dog yaps at me and shakes its tiny body, sending droplets of stinking froth flying over my bib and socks. 

When I get back to the hotel, Lucy is sitting on the bed in a waffle-weave bathrobe, painting her toenails a fetching shade of coral. The TV is tuned to a cartoon channel. Sponge Bob and Sandy are exploring the ocean floor in a submarine.

“How was your ride?”

“Don’t ask.”

She crinkles her nose.

“What’s that smell?”

“You don’t want to know.”

She grins.

“What happens on the road stays on the road?”

“Exactly.”

“So go get showered. Wash away your sins.”

When I get back from the bathroom, Lucy is looking at the room service menu.

“What do you feel like?”, Lucy asks.

“I’ll have what you’re having.”

“Carte blanche?”

“Unless you’re having a hot dog.”

She laughs.

“I want a milkshake.”

“Sounds great.”

“It says here they make it with Skyr. Some sort of superfood from Iceland?”

“Make sure it comes with a straw.”

“Okay.”

“A really fat one.”

“Like they have at Gott’s?”

That’s why I love Lucy. She reads my mind.

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