Sodankyla Finland – Mankila Finland
It was a long day and this will be a long post.
Sometime in the middle of the night I was awakened by the sound of a horse pissing on my tent. Well that’s what it sounded like anyways.
It rained off and on all through the night. From a light sprinkle to thinking the end times had come and it continued on into the morning. I lay in my tent and every time I thought the rain had slackened it just picked back up again. Finally I said to myself are you a man or a mouse (squeak-squeak where’s my cheese) and went back to sleep. In my defense I was the first motorcyclist or bicyclist break camp that day. (In retrospect that was just a sign of poor judgement)
The skies were slate grey and pissing ran. The grumpy old men were still manning the gas stations, and I had a hell of a long way to go to get out of Finland. I rode about 100 miles through the rain before pulling in for some gas for the bike and some grub for myself (instant coffee and unfiltered cigarettes are only 2/3rds of a nutritious breakfast). Shortly afterward some Harley Davidsons show up and the riders had HOG Ireland patches on. So I cleverly deduced that they might be Irish and said “Hey are you guys from Ireland? My bike’s from Ireland.”. We exchanged the usual traveler chit-chat and they mentioned they were headed to the national Finland HOG rally. Well to my way of thinking a Moto Guzzi is kind of like an Italian Harley Davidson (even though Guzzi riders want to pop me in the nose every time I say that) so I figured I might as well as head down there as well. That way I would have something to see while I was in Finland.
(Actually a member of the advrider forum had contacted about meeting him in Helsinki and when I asked him about things to see in Finland he mentioned visiting a Winter War museum or stopping the the WRC rally that was occurring this weekend. Now WRC is about as cool as car racing gets but the only race I’m interested in is the MotoGP race in Brno)
So I set my GPS to point me to the town where the HOG rally was happening (which was in the general direction of Helsinki) and hit the road in the rain for another 150 miles or so as the rain got steadily worse and worse and even in my wildest fantasies I couldn’t pretend that my riding gear was keeping me dry. I finally got fed up with it and said screw this and told my GPS to give me the fastest route to Helsinki which put me on a dirt road when the lightning and thunder started. At this point I was completely soaked and when I pulled into a gas station streams of water were running out of my gloves and jacket. Also the pumps refused to accept my credit cards or my water logged euros. I went in to the attached grocery store to exchange my water logged money for some dry money which the pumps also refused to take. At this time a car driver pulls up as it’s pissing down rain and ask me how I like Finland? “Do you want an honest answer?” I asked as I wrung water out of my gloves. I convinced him to use his card to allow me to put some gas in my bike in exchange for my now soggy euro note.
I partially filled the tank and took shelter at the entrance of the attached grocery store where some Finnish good old boy ask me something in Finnish. “Sorry I don’t speak Finnish” I said which just made him repeat himself more slowly and more loudly. “Sorry I still don’t speak Finnish.” I responded. Another refugee from the pissing rain started translating and we all agreed the weather sucked. I started asking about nearby hotels/motels/dog pounds when the good old boy spoke the only two words of English he knew “No Worries”. We proceeded to grunt and grin at each other for about 20 minutes before it was suggested that I follow him as another local showed up in his 4×4. Sure why not I thought what’s the worst that could happen.
So we proceeded down some dirt roads (in the pissing rain) through the Finnish farmland and scenes from ‘Deliverence’ are running through my head (if you hear banjo music run!) when we pull into some freaky junkyard looking place with a chopper out front and some dude who looks like he’s strung out on heroine sitting on the porch. Perfect I thought, who wants to live forever. So I’m introduced to the apparently wasted dude on the porch who tells me he has a spare bedroom and would I like to stay. “Sure” I reply, it wasn’t raining under the porch and I’ve never done heroine. It’ll be an adventure.
Well as it turns out while Timo while a bit plastered and very eccentric wasn’t a heroine addict and this wasn’t the local Hells Angels club house. In fact Timo turned out to be an exceptionally gracious host and a pretty normal family man once you got past the first impressions. Timo is the kind of guy who nurses sick birds he finds in his fields back to health so taking care of a half drowned Yankee biker showing up out of the blue was just par for the course. As the evening wore on I learned that he had built his house with his own hands and done it almost entirely for free. It was a very nice house and it even had a 200 year old wood fired sauna in the back yard which was considered a bit of a holy place in the local town. As the evening wore on Marrkku who originally talked to me at the grocery store came and went as well as a few of the other locals and a lot of laughs were had as we all tried to make ourselves understood. Late in the evening Timo fired up the smoke sauna so I could experience a genuine old school finish Sauna and Timo’s son Riku provided me with a home cooked meal.
The day started badly, got steadily worse, and ended wonderfully.
Thanks Timo, Riku, Marrku and the rest of you for your hospitality and camaraderie.
And they said Finland was boring.