One of the primary reasons I went to Norway was to reestablish connections with my relatives. The last known correspondence between my family and our Norwegian counterparts was decades prior by way of my late great uncle, Elmer Holk and his mother's nephew, Ole Jacob Hystad. With some diligent searching I was able to discover a way to contact Ole Jacob prior to our trip, and we had determined to stay with him and his family nearing the end of our stay. That time had finally come. Leaving Ålesund, we found ourselves hugging the western fjord walls and tunneling under entire mountains before eventually easing out onto the Hardangerfjord's broad, Atlantic bound terminus. Ferrying from one island to the next placed us on Stord, the ancient home of the Hystad family and birthplace of Celia Økland.
Returbil Gunnar: August 06, 2015
“Yet again Katy and I awoke to a sunny day, but today was not at our leisure. It is our last day at the Bjørdal’s cabin in Almås, and with a little final cleanup we set off for another final matter, our last day and night in Ålesund.
Naturally Gunnar was roasting at Jacu, and let us into the shop with usual kindness and hospitality. With the internet again at our disposal, we began the search for a route / method of travel to Stord–Hurtigruten cruise ship, car rental, Nettbuss / Fjord1–Gunnar suggested we use a system called Returbil, where you return a rental car from one area to another at no charge to you. A few hours after setting up an account and requesting a car from Ålesund to Stavanger, and after deciding upon taking a bus [after-all], Sixt Car Rental Company called me, accepting my request [for the Returbil rental].
And so we have been handed the keys to a free car for the third time, and as a result will save two-fifty on the bus, and seven-fifty on the cruise. This favor continues, and I am not accustomed to it still. I hope I never am.”
Journey Of West Norge: August 07, 2015
“It was extremely nice to not have to bicycle to the bus station this morning, as it has rained the hardest in weeks. Loading the bicycles into our newly acquired Nissan Juke, however, was a rather wet and very wet challenge. Thankfully the car dried up inside quickly, and we were quite comfortable for the ride south.
Before departing Tørla [the island outside of Ålesund where the Hanken family lives], we spoke with the San Franciscan family, Jordan and her two boys, Roman and Moses, and they were very friendly. Roman re-printed the glass pane(s) I had cleaned a week prior, and it all seemed so appropriate.
With our drive down the weather continually looked up. We went across three ferries, countless tunnels (the longest at over 24 km), underneath mountains as well as fjords, and through the most narrow, breathtaking granite valleys and canyons with frightful white and green glacial rivers flowing parallel. In all we drove some 400 + kilometers through many small villages, and even smaller roads. The ferries are always such a wonderful respite–standing on the top deck in the salty wind–it’s so nice and refreshing.
Our night rounded out with Ole Jacob and Lise, and their friends at the dock. Pizza, a lot of wine, and fire.”
The Stavanger Drop: August 08, 2015
“We woke late and we left late. After resuming conversation with the Hystad’s over breakfast, Katy and I then resumed our delivery of the Nissan Juke.
We departed Stord and noon, the originally intended time for dropping off the car, and arrived in Sula Airport around 3. The south of Norway here resembles California in many ways–especially geographically, and in the homes–the weather was even coastal California today. It took one hour to get a city bus to Sentrum Stavanger after making the drop, and this left us without time to explore the city.
The bus ride back was a good time for resting, and the driver even gave us student pricing. He made us think of Pennock. Once back in Leirvik we made more acquaintances with two friends of the Hystad’s, Kristin and Paul, who are also musicians. We drank and shared music, coffee, and childhood stories with one another.
Overall it was an underwhelming day, but it felt just right, and we even saw more of Norway that we hadn’t expected to. Our pace is slowed here, and we find our conversation turning often to similarities between Norway and home, then to plans once we have returned.”
Upper Økland: August 09, 2015
“I will not currently transcribe the scripture itself, but will state that I have a newfound fondness for genealogies contained within various books and chapters of the bible.” - [I must have been reading Numbers this day]
“Last night was another late one full of good conversation, and so this morning was late as well. Originally we had desired to attend the kirke across the street from where Ole Jacob grew up, but we awoke past the service time. Instead we ate a lunchtime breakfast, and then sat with Lise and OJ in their living room den for a time.
By mid-afternoon they were taking us on a walk through upper Økland to see where Cecilia grew up. It was a peaceful landscape, and my feelings toward it are largely inexpressible aside from saying it felt complete. Returning to the Hystad abode for that day’s fresh catch of crab and lobster, plus salmon, was a real treat!
We also returned to the den for some time, and listened to OJ’s jazz. Lise even asked about our faith, but we did not speak of the matter at length.”
For Context: Cecilia Økland was my great grandmother who immigrated to the United States. Her sister was Ole Jacob’s grandmother, and thus our relational connection.
Migrane To Bedrest: August 10, 2015
“You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” - Psalm 18:35-36
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” - Proverbs 5:18-20
“I awoke alright enough, but within an hour after breakfast, and a few chapters of journaling, I came down with an ocular migraine turned basic-severe migraine. Lise, soon after seeing my condition on her living room couch, sent me to the dark confines of my attic room where I then slept the afternoon away.
When I awoke once more, there was an early supper awaiting, and after this, Katy and I went for a walk through the Hystad nature preserve to pick some berries. She later made a most delicious cobbler with these fine, wild berries. Growing wild all around the home are raspberries, little strawberries, red currants, and blueberries. Never have I seen such a diversity of berries growing and ripe, all within the same season.
The Hystad preserve also sites on the fjord shore in a very route way, and felt like Waldo Lake in some ways.”
Hystad Naturreservet: August 11, 2015
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God shall give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” - 1 John 5:16-17
“Little children, keep yourself from idols.” - 1 John 5:21
“Running Through The Bronze Age:
A lot of fascinating history has been shared today. One might even say experienced. Like so many others, today began slow and restful; breakfast and coffee, and a long time reading in the bar, parlor. It also rained a lot, and I was even awoken by lightning, thunder, and squall-like conditions before dawn.
With half of the afternoon soon spent under such conditions, Katy and I could take the parlor no more, and decided to take a rather memorable run through the Hystad Nature Preserve. Later Ole Jacob told us how the stone-structure-remains within it date back to 1500 B.C., and it is known that the original Hystad’s came much earlier still. The old church ruins were where they had contained a Cholera outbreak. OJ also told me of old World War II stories in the area.”
Bømlo And Back - August 12, 2015
“So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, ‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that thought I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciple?’ And they reviled him, saying ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He comes from.’” - John 9:24-29
“Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to Him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from.’” - John 7:25-27
“Heineken in hand, and a proper sunset to light the Hystad parlor. This day has been good, although I must confess I’ve had a few poor moments. When navigating a contested area goes not as planned, it makes me irritated. Luckily getting out of Leirvik Sentral was brief, and the remaining ride over two exquisite bridges to Bømlo island proved most beautiful. Our destination left us wanting more, but it was otherwise worth the ride, especially for the exercise. Having run out of food caused us to splurge on sweets before dinner, that made me feel ill. Dinner, and two hours later has left me feeling better.
The sun is set.”
That’s Cool: August 13, 2015
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” - Psalm 19:1-2
“That’s what Ole Jacob says to me somewhat often, ‘That’s cool.’ He is an extremely likable man, and one has to be careful with when to, and not to, take him seriously. And although he likes to joke with people, he definitely takes jazz seriously. Today we did all of our departure preparations early, and even fixed up an early dinner before driving north to Bergen to see Ole Jacob play in a trio jazz band in the basement of an old church.
During their practice we walked the town and around the harbor before returning for a coffee cupping, of all things, and with Jacu’s coffee as well! Both the jazz and the space that followed were fantastic. The church was originally built in approximately 1250 AD for the Archbishop, and was a bigger building, about twice the size, than the kings. In that time, it has suffered several fires (always being rebuilt as the, ‘New Church’), and during World War II, a boat with explosive cargo illegally came to the harbor, and there blew up (accidentally), thereby destroying much of Bergen, church included.
But, it still stands.”
A Legitimate Uff-Da: August 14, 2015
“Up at 5am with three hours of sleep under our belts was a bit of a rough start to our west-to-east Norwegian traverse, but in the end it was to be found a small rough patch indeed.
Despite the detours to come, however, an overwhelming sense of gratitude presides in my heart. The welcome we received from the Hystad’s was of such warmth and kindness, a kindness that will last long with Katy and my own memories, and they even awoke to see us off early this morning. It’s strange that it was strange to feel the fully loaded bicycles again, although we rode them a mere 5 minutes before reaching the bus station. From here the Uff-Da set in.
A two-hour ride to Bergen proved unfruitful, as our route connecting us to Lillehammer was closed. Apparently a tourbus caught fire in a 11 km tunnel just outside of Flåm, and is now shut down for 3 weeks. Thus we were re-routed south, along the 40 minute ferry for the fourth time in 12 hours, and back through Leirvik.
Six hours later, before reaching our connection in Aksdal, where we were then routed to Oslo along the E134. This particular highway felt like Lolo Pass Rd., and was at times unnerving, and at others jaw droopingly beautiful. Of course from Oslo we still had further to go, so we finally caught a train northbound where in the end we were reunited with our Welsh friend, Prichard. It was 1am, 19 hours since first boarding our bus out of Leirvik.”