[whitewash] by matt burns

I’m in an orange jumpsuit in a shack in the middle of nowhere. Outside, wind is swirling and hammering the wooden slats with snow. Someone slaps me in the chest with a piece of black fabric.

“Put on balaclava,” a thick Nordic accent orders me.

Oh man – could this be it? Am I about to be in a heist?! I’m actually going heisting!? In my head, every action flick I’ve ever seen is moving in slo-mo – obviously not paying attention to the explosions going off behind them.

I slip on the balaclava and it actually glides on, trickled with sweat from the last wearer. Reality comes pouring back, pouring in all the wrong ways.

“I have my own!” I scream probably too loud and burst outside into the cold. I sprint out to the superjeep, rummage through my things, and pull out the balaclava and goggles I brought to Iceland for just this reason. We’re snowmobiling Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Europe.

After an all-too quick introduction to snowmobiling (where they neglected to inform us of the hand-warming button), Steph and I hop on to our gleaming red snowmobile. I sit down on 200 horsepower of arctic ingenuity, my girl strapped to my back. I’m Icelandic Steve McQueen.

“Let’s do this,” I say as I flick the orange button to my left. Nothing happens.

“Is it on? It’s not turning on! Is yours on?”

To my left, the woman on her humming snowmobile points to the kill switch with dainty purple gloves.

I’m Icelandic Steve Urkel. I pull up the kill switch on our snowmobile, flick the orange starter again, and my snowmobile starts purring.

Within no time, we’re cruising at 60 mph in a completely white landscape. There’s no telling what’s left, right, up, down. We’re in a Justin Long Mac/PC commercial. And I’m loving it.

I underestimate just how difficult it’ll be to turn a 450 lb. tank with two grown adults atop it going 60 mph on ice. So the first couple times when our caravan turns right, I go straight. Then I awkwardly twist our way back to the right and peel out to catch up. But after a while, it’s second nature. We’re twisting, turning, jumping over tiny humps in the glacier.

Eventually a rock-face slips into the whiteness of it all and the grand scale of everything we’re doing comes into focus. The landscape expands, the speed quickens, and the beauty becomes ever apparent.


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