Terii’s Cycling Babble

Spring! Winter. Spring! Wint… Oh, Never Mind…
March 11, 2019, 6:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Clearly, from the title, the weather has been a roller coaster of seasons.

My rides have been few and mostly just kinda catering to Loke more than anything in spite of the gravel on the pavement. He’s been doing better with it though.

Naturally, back in February when it looked as if spring was here to stay, even the 10 day forecast seemed to hint at that. After my Feb 16th ride, I didn’t get out again until the 27th.

It was a glorious morning. A bit colder than the days before it, about 50 F, but so gorgeously clear and the sun had some warmth to it.

I had a few things to take care of, so didn’t get out for the ride until about 10:30 am. By then, thin clouds were creeping in leaving the sky a pale blue and the impact of the sun lessened.

I took Loke with me, figuring to give him a little toodle back to the apartment.

The trike felt different again. I had to wriggle around to get used to it. I guess my body shape had shifted again what with another 3 lbs gone added to the previous 7 lbs and all my gym visits.

While Loke enjoyed the very slow roll with his favorite toy in the world, it was heartbreaking for me. He struggled so. His hindlegs kept threatening to collapse. He tripped and nearly face-planted a few times. And so very slow. He’d been slow on his walks, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just boredom or him not feeling well. With the trike, it was obvious he was having a hard time.

Back at home, I made sure he had an extra scoop of kibble, something soft to lay on, and fresh water. Then, guilt or no, out the door I went to ride for both exercise and to run a couple errands.

The past rides, I guess since about Christmas, have been reminders of why I used to so love my trike. Since about the time of my stroke, I’d lost that sense of why I reveled in my rides. The outings had narrowed down to painful, agonized circles on my River Loop hamster track. The pedals spun with a heaping dish of pain.

Not on this outing. Nothing hurt. Not hips, not feet. No muscle pain as of flesh being torn from bone with meat hooks. Just pulse, breath, and the rise and fall of my knees to move me along.

The slow creep with Loke, it had been mostly sunny, but the sneaky veil of clouds had thickened until there was hint of neither blue sky or sun. The temp had warmed to about 53 F, but with the sun hidden, it dropped to 46 F. Brrrr. Still, I was determined to go on.

My first solo mile was done in under 10 minutes, which has been rare for a long while. Hitting the paths that were smothered with gravel slowed me down, not to mention that the 3 miles after that first one were a steady, if mild, climb. Just up and up and up on grades between 3% and 5%. Saps energy when combined with the gravel and chunky studded tires. Even so, it still felt so good!

My first stop was at my husband’s parents. They weren’t home, but what I’d come to drop off fit nicely in their mail box.

After that, I tried to zip on toward the Granby mall out on the north eastern edge of Uppsala, Sweden. It was more uphill and that gravel was just a nightmare. Occasional gusts of wind blew by, kicking up swirling haze, reminding me that it’s about time for the ‘Time of Dust’.

I still managed to keep a respectable pace (for me) and soon arrived at Starbucks in the mall to drop off the full recycle bag of Nespresso capsules. Thirsty thanks to the puffs of dust I’d ridden through, I got my own special drink which is apparently named after me though I call it by the guy who invented it. I rested for a bit and chatted with the people working there before heading back out to scurry home.

The ride back went much faster, thanks to being mostly downhill except for a few under and over passes.

My knee had a bit of an ache for the last 2 miles or so. I’ve been wondering if pedal extenders might be a good investment since I tend to ride with about 1/3rd of my foot off the edge of the platform pedals. Even when I swap back to my SPDs when warmer weather is here to stay, it could be good. Of course, that swap to my old pedals might be brief if my feet scream about it. I miss being able to pull on the pedals, but I like not hurting even more and the pedals with the inner tube heel slings seem pretty solid.

Though, for about 2 years, my feet were killing me no matter what pedals I used. It’s so nice to be able to go for more than 100-200 yards without stopping to put my feet down from pain bad enough to make my eyes tear up.

It was a good 8-ish mile ride with a slightly higher cadence and it felt wonderful.

A day or two after that ride, winter came surging back and erased all trace of spring’s beginning. We had almost a foot of snow. Winds would come howling across the open fields and whip the blanket of white into ‘snow devils’ in an impressive display of arctic power. Except for walks with Loke, I hunkered down to wait it out.

Hard to believe I had such enthusiasm for winter rides at the end of last year, but since the whole hospital episode with Loke, and wondering if I was going to get a phone call that he’d passed, alone and frightened, I just haven’t been able to dig up the desire to ride in the cold.

Then on the 7th, the temp jumped back up and it rained. All that snow just vanished like a snowball in well, you know. It was still raining on the 8th, but then it mostly stopped and the sun started to try coming out. Jens was also supposed to be home early. All that combined to push me out the door for a ride, laundry be damned! Even though Loke and I had to walk to the trike, that’s not the titanic effort it used to be.

The plan was, I’d walk to the storage with the furball, take a slow ride back to the apartment with the furball. Then when Jens arrived home, I’d take off on a longer, faster ride for myself. The important thing though was to get Loke out of the apartment where he’s been a huge PITA. He’d been walking on the gravel fine for a few days, so why not ride?

Ah Loke. The tyrant of the household. He’s been relentless. My hips and back hated me because the bully went to town on Jens. Jens, trying to work or enjoy a bit of computer time, hollered at me and out the door I went for the 1000th time, TRYING to satisfy the husky. The nearly 14 year old husky who’s acting worse than he did when he was 4 years old and hadn’t been out with the trike in a week. He knows the easiest way to get something is to pester my husband. You can see it when he jumps on Jens and then will stand there and stare across the apartment at me as if to say, ‘Okay, hop to it.’

It was so SLOW. Loke took us along at a listless plod I could have out run on my worst ‘post-stroke’ day. For the 0.9 mile, we never broke 2 mph. It took us roughly 40 minutes, and that’s subtracting the time we sent chatting with a woman while greeting her darling 11 month old, white Scottish terrier. He was the sweetest thing once he got over his terror of first seeing us. And so SOFT!

As we approached the Swim Hall, Loke suddenly had an episode. He started staggering and then stopped, with legs splayed as they threatened to buckle. Maybe it was a seizure though not like any I’ve seen him present before. He has had nerve problems with his legs at times, but never this bad. After a few minutes, he started tottering forward again, but it was like a drunken stagger.

By time we were approaching the apartment, he was back to what he was before the episode. Sluggish and plodding. I had to help him up the stairs into the apartment. So the wait began for Jens’ early arrival home.

Didn’t happen. The sun disappeared and Jens was later than he said. Finally he texted he was on his way home. So, I hustled out the door with Loke to get the trike back to storage.

This time, of course, Loke was more like he’s been on all the previous rides in the past few months. He started out even kinda strong at almost 5 mph, but that faltered to about 4.2 mph after a couple hundred yards. He was still kinda perky as we made the final stretch.

The 1.5-ish mile of the two rides with him seemed to be enough to settle Loke for the evening. At least until dinner any way. Pretty sure he’d be laying at death’s door, in a coma, and come awake to be a pest right at 8 pm for his dinner.

The gray, snowless landscape was transformed just hours after we got back from the ride. The temp dropped to right about freezing and snow came down again. Only about an inch, but still. Since then, we had one morning that 0 F and it’s stayed freezing. The sun is strong enough there was some melt, even with the air temp in the 20’s though. Spring will not be denied much longer.

And in a few days, it’s supposed to be above freezing for at least 7 days.

So, what other pertinent things should I speak of?

Oh, yes, the rail-trail, Loke and I went to explore one day. Someone in one of my recumbent groups on Facebook had mentioned some time ago, that some portion of an old abandoned rail line was paved and converted into a cycle path. I looked around the town he mentioned (Eskilstuna) with Plot-a-Route and Google Maps.

They both showed hints of the old rail line, but no indication if it was passable by bike (or trike). The street view images were all from 2011 and showed the tracks still in place, even if overgrown.

So, I chased down the GPS coordinates where roads met the path, packed Loke up in the car with me and off we went to find how much of it was good to go.

Loke wans’t entirely impressed with the outing. He’s not a big fan of car rides.

It was a bit of a shock to discover how much snow and ice was still hanging on west of Västerås. Even more unexpected when it actually began snowing! And me without my Icebugs.

The thick ice in some places, made it hard to tell what kind of surface was beneath. Gravel or asphalt? Even when I couldn’t be sure, it still counted as a cycle path and was easy to tell it had been developed thanks to the barricades to keep cars off it. Happily, they weren’t the sort of barricades that are impossible to navigate through with a trike.

I had hoped the entire line had been finished from Eskilstuna to Marifred, about 28 miles. Alas, no. Just 14 miles from Eskilstuna to where it stopped at a small road. The line of course, continued on, and it’s possible they may continue developing it as all the tracks from where the cycle path ends clear to Marifred have been pulled up since the 2011 street-view photos were taken. It would be very rough going on the trike though. I think I’d rather do an out-n-back on what’s finished.

Other news.

Kettlebells. They could impact how I ride.

Since walking Loke so much caused some back pain, it made me face that my core still needs strengthening. Clearly what I’ve been doing isn’t improving it has much as I’d hoped. Honestly, I almost feel cheated that I don’t have a rock hard body after 1 year. But then, I am having to undo a LOT of damage, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, I started looking around at what I could do to work on the core more within the modest confines of my little gym. Then it hit me, kettlebells.

I’ve always been intrigued by them, but was a bit wary of committing to them. At the gym, there are only 4 kettlebells. Two that are 12 kg and two that are 16 kg. Pretty sure trying to do more than pick them up to move from one spot to another would cripple me. No choice for it. If I wanted to do exercises with kettlebells, I’d have to buy my own and drag them to and from the gym. I decided it was worth it. Bells are pretty cheap at the lighter weights I needed.

Would you believe it’s even a bit tricky to find 4 kg bells? Well, I finally did find some and picked up two 4 kg for those exercises that might require a bell in each hand, and one 6 kg bell. I’m doing this very carefully, slowly, and with light weights until I’m more certain I’m not going to hurt myself.

I picked 4 exercises that are ranked for beginners as well as focusing on the core.

What a workout! Just a measly 4 kg and it got my pulse going, a bit of a sweat too. I could feel it.

There were a few hiccups with them though. My body shape for one. Parts of me got in the way when I was trying to do a couple of the moves. Then came the floor exercise. I couldn’t even do it without the bell. Given that it’s a sort of ‘get up off a flat surface’ motion, that’s pretty sad.

Still, it had felt kinda fun and I could feel that I’d done something.

Then I went to the gym for the 2nd time with the bells, and it all went even better. I could almost swear I was stronger just from the brief little set of exercises before. I ripped through the 4 km of rowing at brisk pace. As for the bells, it went better too. Even the floor exercise that I couldn’t do before, I managed to actually do a set on each side. Was it pretty? No. Smooth and strong motions like the woman in the video? Definitely not. With the bell? No, but I could do the motion which will start getting me strong enough to add the bell at some point.

I was so thrilled with that last gym visit, I even forgot to recall how much I hate the gym. I do wish my gym would allow rental of locker space so I could just park my kettlebells there, but hey, it is what it is.

I want to also mention, the past 2 days, my back has felt the best it’s been in weeks! I should have started this ages ago.

I was supposed to go to the gym this morning, but my hip had other ideas. I slept wrong on it and it woke me up with burning stabs from the Iliac Crest (high point of the hip bone) down past my knee. While today’s workout was supposed to be just gentle warm up and stretches, no bells, no hitting the rowing machine like a mad woman, and no strength machines, I didn’t think I could manage even the warm up rowing.

I think a lot of why I can ride so much better of late, is thanks to all the work at the gym. The changes in my body and such. I want to keep it up until I’ve regained my old freedoms of 30-50 mile rides through fresh countryside. Touring. Oh, how I want to do touring again!


Riding and Creative Solutions
February 19, 2019, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Out for a ride yesterday and… it was so NICE.

As mentioned in the last post, for the better part of 3 weeks, I’d not done anything fun or interesting outside the apartment for myself. Jens and Loke both being sick and then Loke going all tender-footed so he can’t deal with gravel covered asphalt, which is ALL there is in Sweden except perhaps further north where ice and snow still rule instead of spring.

I was starting to go down right batty and feeling cornered isn’t good for one’s mood. I was starting to growl at everything like a caged beast. So, as Jens was finally feeling somewhat human again, when he came staggering out the door at 5 am on February 16th, I loudly declared, “I’m leaving Loke with you today and going for a ride when I get back from Starbucks.” He blinked at me in that bleary I’ve-not-had-coffee-yet fashion and mumbled, “Okay.”

Jens was worried Loke would go nuts if he saw me getting into the ‘magic clothes’ so, as I started pulling on my single layer of wool under my cycle stuff, he went out on a long walk with the fuzzy. I waffled a bit about adding more layers, but with the reported temp in the 50’s, I didn’t think I needed it and also left the electric socks put away.

I didn’t get out as quickly as I’d hoped, not arriving at the storage until almost 11:30. There was still a thick layer of crunchy snow and slick ice on the ramp in front of the storage door. Since I’d not worn Icebugs, I searched for the least slippy parts to step as I started pulling everything out and up.

I was a bit nervous as I went to settle into the trike. Was it going to be uncomfortable and something to be endured as it was for pretty much all last year. Would I be fortunate and it would be awesome like the ride a few days ago with a owie-footed husky?

Turns out it was the latter. I sat down in the trike and it felt comfortable and right, instead of something like an ill-fitting shoe. As I pushed off on the pedals, the muscles of my legs seemed strong and the movements smooth. As I made the turns that would take me on the beginning of the River Loop, it was almost like flying, even with chunky, studded tires and pushing through an inch or more of gravel over asphalt.

The annual Great Sweeping can’t come soon enough.

Feeling surprisingly (but deservedly) fit and powerful, I was going for a countryside ride. Originally, I’d thought to do the Gamla Uppsala/Vaksala loop for 10 miles, but Jens had taken Loke out to Gamla Uppsala, and better that I didn’t go cruising past the furball. He’d perhaps decide to be an even bigger PITA than he’s been the past couple weeks.

That left me with heading out down Old Börje Road where I’d have a choice of three loops.

There was one aspect of my current fitness levels that I’m not particular thrilled with. Lactic acid build up in my legs seemed to happen very quickly and my cardio-respiratory system needs some work. There were some moments when I was trying to spin up a hill and just felt kinda breathless and ran out of muscle strength in a very short time. Disappointing.

I didn’t let it stop me from pressing onward. Just as I didn’t let the shock and cold of the howling winds turn me back.

In the residential fringes of northern Uppsala, there’d been no hint of significant winds. Even with my thinnest layer of wool under my usual riding clothes, I felt over-dressed and hot.

That changed almost the moment I crested the first steep hill right at the beginning of Old Börje Road and coasted down to a mostly flat section just before the big fields.

All that open space and the wind came screaming across it, sucking up cold from the lingering snows and the ground that’s still frozen underneath an inch or two of the frozen muck. It went right through my 100 g weight wool as if it were bare skin and a direct bite to the bone. 18-20+ mph winds out of the south-west.

The wind chill was horrendous. Suddenly, I felt like a block of ice and tucked my fingers under my arms as much as I could while riding. When I couldn’t stand it much longer, I dug in my side bags, with no real hope.

Amazingly, I came out with a thin pair of knit glove-liners as well as another cycle shirt with an additonal 100 g weight wool layer top. Meager as it was, I pushed on without feeling warm, but at least it didn’t feel bitterly cold. My feet didn’t have any real problems even though I was wearing sneakers rather than boots. Without the electric socks and in the wind, they felt cold, but not painful.

I pondered my choices as I pushed on into the raging air, my flags snapping and popping behind my head. When I’d gotten up to pull on the extra shirt layers, and could actually see the flags, the flex in the poles alarmed me. It seemed any moment my very nice, very expensive flags were going to get ripped off to go dancing across a muddy field.

My first choice, to turn left at the crossroads to head toward Läby Church was discarded. Hard as the wind was, it was coming from over my left front wheel, which was a smidge better than head-on. A left turn would put me right into the teeth of it.

That left the 18 mile Börje/Ulva Mill loop or the shorter, 14 mile Ulva Mill loop. Stressing, I looked at the time. No, not Börje. With the wind, my speed wasn’t exactly blazing and time was passing. I’d planned to get home in time for spaghetti before 4 pm, but it wasn’t looking good even if I did Ulva Mill. Just maybe though, with the wind at my back, I’d stand a chance. I really wanted more for food for the day than a serving of fruit yogurt, a oatmilk hot chocolate from Starbucks, and small handful of hazel nuts.

Another nice thing about having the wind at my back, it didn’t feel nearly as bitter or biting. My speed did pick up and for a good mile or more between the cross-road and the big road, it’s either flat or slightly downhill. I smiled wide, easily cruising along at 10 mph.

Clipping along so briskly, I enjoyed the scenery around me. Sadly, though the some fields have so rapidly cleared of snow, they were silent. No soaring, warbling song of larks. I’ve heard larks even when there was still a foot of snow on the fields, but I guess, clear or not, it’s just too early for those wonderful little singers to have arrived from their winter havens.

I did get several little surprises though. I’d hit a higher speed, almost 15 mph, where the landscape takes a slight downward tilt toward the small stream. Grinning, I spun the pedals, determined to see if I could get even faster. Then I saw a small black shape on the road surface and it was moving.

A black wooly teddy bear caterpillar?! Really? Sure enough. I shifted the line of the trike’s path enough that I wouldn’t squish the cutie even as I tore past it. I thought about rescuing it from the road, but remember the last time I tried to take pity on a caterpillar which almost turned painful. I saw 2 more a bit further on.

Every time I do that, spot something very small and swerve to avoid it at speed, I think of one of the biggest subjects of contention among us recumbent trikers. Visibility.

A lot of riders on the FB cycle groups I’m part of, take a kind of arrogant attitude about how those of us who ride on roads are taking our lives in our hands. They NEVER go off trails and there have been many time when they sneer at me for saying how sick I am of the River Loop. These are also the same people who would be snarky and mean about my putting the trike in the car in search of new places to ride.

Their main argument is that they are so low to the ground that drivers can’t see them. A low of hooey. People see small animals scurrying across the street. Lines on the road are lower still. Speed bumps? When I drive, I see those things just fine.

It’s further reinforced when I’m on the trike and going at a brisk pace and yet, I can see a vole scurry into the road, or swerve to avoid a black caterpillar, smaller than my pinky, inching along dark, wet pavement. Froglings, just fresh out of the river on pavement after a rain look just like pea-sized pebbles and yet, when riding the trike, I can spot them even when they aren’t moving and try to avoid them.

That said, there are circumstances where our low profile is a disadvantage. Riding around parked cars or hedges and the like. On the open road, no. The only excuse that a driver didn’t see us is because they weren’t looking at the road.

Personally, I’ll take the sneers and yeah, I’ve had a couple of tumbles from bad drivers. Yet, my trike world is so much bigger than those who stick to only those trails they can easily reach to ride over and over and over, like my endless River Loop. So many things I would have missed. So much I have missed these past years with my body keeping me trapped on the hamster tracks. I pine for those open roads.

I don’t know if true freedom will come this year, but I’m working hard for it. Going to the gym 4x a week and hopefully more and longer country hamster tracks this year at the very least. Jumkil and Vänge. Maybe even manage to do the huge loop out to Wiks and back to Uppsala.

But I’ve gone off track..

Wind or no, it was turning into a good ride. I felt comfortable in the trike and, when not battling the wind, I felt fairly strong and zipping along on the flats and gentler hills. A vivid reminder of why I love riding. A sense of freedom and being off the River Loop helped that right along.

About mile 8 though, it turned into a bit of struggle as my knees started to ache. I guess I was pushing a bit harder on the pedals than I should have, but with all the wind, it was no surprise.

But that was about the only discomfort, other than the cold, on the ride. I wasn’t desperately stopping every 500 yards to jerk my feet off the pedals to work out cramps.

I was borderline frozen when I turned into the collection of buildings at Ulva that sit above the mill. It looked rather closed. The cafe definitely was, but then every few minutes, someone would walk from one building to another and all signs were turned to ‘open’. I was a tiny bit bummed about the cafe being closed. A hot chocolate would have been so welcome.

I scuttered into the bathroom to warm up a bit.

It was about 2:30 pm by this time. Getting home in time for a hot dinner wasn’t looking good, but I was gonna give it my all. I’d have had to drink the cocoa on the go so I guess it was just as well the cafe was closed.

The trike buzzed down the hill to zip over the mill race and it was another steep hill to leave the water behind. I looked over at the new cycle path, only to see snow and packed ice. Staying on the road was quicker with no ice or gravel, but less interesting.

Even with aching knees, I felt the strongest I’ve felt in a while. It was just so wonderful to be pedaling along with feet, hips and all but my knees feeling good. It was also a wonderful mental boost to away from River Loop.

I came down the hill toward the intersection with the old E4 and saw the southern end of the new cycle path was actually completely free of the white and slippery stuff. It likely would have been a mushy ride, as hard on the knees as the first part with snow, but I filed the information away for later.

I was actually making pretty good time for the last few miles of the ride. By the time I hit the last 2 miles, I was so glad that it was almost completely downhill except for the underpasses. My knees were getting painful enough that they were interfering with the joy of the ride.

As the time edged toward 3 pm, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t have time to eat if I took the trike back to the storage where the car was parked. Better that I stop at home, cook the spaghetti, and stuff it down my gullet before the 4 pm deadline, and THEN ride the trike back to storage.

Or maybe I’d just put the trike away here at the apartment instead. Give my knees an early rest and then once food had settled a bit, I could walk with Loke to fetch the car.

That sounded like such a good idea! Didn’t happen. Every route to the trike’s spot here was blocked by mounds of snow knee deep or higher. Reluctantly, I parked it beside the other bikes.

I was slapping ground meat in a pan right about 3:05 pm. Had just enough time to cook and eat.

Loke was interested as I put his harness on him. The trike was still where I’d locked it up and soon we were inching along. The gravel was just horrid on the poor fuzzy’s feet. Fortunately, it was just a few yards to cycleway along Svartbäcken Street which is kept clear of gravel when it’s as warm as it’s been.

I finished with just a bit shy of 14 miles. Half a mile of that was with the furball.

Back home, Loke was his usual pain in the rump. Just relentless of late. It got my mind working on how to protect his feet without socks that clench around his ankles and cause him as much or more pain than gravel covered asphalt.

Sunday, I ran around looking for the things needed to try an idea.

I spent all day Monday arguing with denim, needles, thread, elastic and Gorilla Tape.

Oh, Gorilla Tape. How I wish I had discovered you back when Loke was still able to wear socks. One set would have lasted 4 or 5 times longer than with the standard duck tape! Of course, for all I know the stuff is a recent arrival here in Sweden. Just from my handling it the little bit to reinforce the test socks, color me impressed.

For my next ride, I’m going to replace the duck tape on my chain tube with it.

But for my sock experiment, it came to nothing. If I had the elastic attached between harness and sock just short enough to keep the sock in place when Loke lifted his foot for a step, it was too short for when he extended, jamming his toes and nails uncomfortably into the end of the sock. If it was loose enough to accommodate his extension, it was too loose and let the sock twist and slip down at the left which would then trip him when he tried to extend for the step.

Wasted an entire day on that. Now I know though. Just one more obstacle to Loke coming with me, as if his general slowness and foot frailty wasn’t frustrating enough.

So, that’s my most recent ride and so nice to get out and about.

Other cycle related things I’ve been pondering are possible upgrades to my tent. Feels ridiculous to even consider that as the tent I currently own has seen so little action. I don’t think it’s been erected more than 5 times in the years I’ve had it and only slept in twice. It’s a good little tent. I just haven’t been able to go tour as much as I’ve desperately wished to do.

A few months ago, Jens posted me a link to an Amok hammock. Supposedly, you can sleep flat and the orientation of the sleeper is across the line of the support ropes. It can convert into a chair shape as well. It has a built in bug net. To keep the rain off, you need a tarp. It got my mind thinking wistfully of sleeping up off the uneven ground with rocks and roots. I’m just a bit wary about it because a lot of wooded areas are so densely packed with undergrowth and young trees that it’s practically impossible to find an open space between two trees big enough to suspend a hammock.

I suppose I could just bring my tent to leave my options open.

It’s led to me to look at other possibilities though. I’ve found one called ‘Flying Tent’, which is a more traditional like hammock, length wise on the lines. Best of all, it can be used as a bivy tent as well, which is VERY intriguing, but reviews have shown a tendency for the bug fly to tear along the seams.

There’s another that also can swap between tent and hammock that I’m researching. My feelings are pretty mixed though. I love the idea, but wary of spending a chunk of change on something I can’t really use…

We’ll see.

Muddling Along
February 13, 2019, 8:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been very quiet here, I know, but that fits right in with the fact that since the first week of January, I’ve only had one ride and that one just a dash on my hamster track of the River Loop.

The weather was staying pretty cold for a while. Firmly below freezing even during the daylight hours, which is amazing, given it was winter and all.

Loke continued to have a bit of an up and down thing with his recovery from the hospital visits, but fortunately, nothing that put him back in the hospital. I finally just quit offering him ground deer meat to take his pills and now, it all seems hunky dorey. I guess he’s just gotten allergic to the meats we’ve been giving him since all domestic meat went off the table. Just kibble from here on. Oh, and dried rabbit ears for treats.

About a month after his last visit to the hospital, I took him to our vet clinic for blood tests to check his B vitamin levels. I also had the vet check him for kennel cough because, well, he was coughing and his nose was running like faucet. I read that correct. Kennel cough. *bangs head on desk*

So, he couldn’t go out with the trike thanks to that too.

Not that the trike was calling much. Every time I’d even consider going for a ride, I’d look at the pile of wool and electric socks and just UGH. 40 minutes just to get ready for the ride and to ride what? The River Loop? At a snail’s pace? Actually, a pace that would be easy for snails to beat. Just no. Go out for a walk, takes 3 minutes to get ready and going about the same speed. Not to mention, I could also jump in the car and say, drive to Wiks for a far more interesting walk than another plod on the hamster tracks.

Truly a pity in some ways because some of the days were just A-MAZ-ING. Mother Nature rolled up her sleeves and had every tree across the landscape perfectly flocked with snow and frost, all set against a backdrop of flawless blue skies. Days with not a breath of wind to shake the delicate layers loose from even the smallest of bare twigs.

To have gotten out and ride across the countryside in that would have been breathtaking. Then there was the wool and the socks and Jens insisting I take Loke for a ‘short’ ride which would eat into 3 hours or more of the brief daylight we have at this time of the year…. and no. Just go for a walk.

And walking has been much easier of late. I don’t even dislike it, amazingly enough. All thanks to the gym. I may hate the gym, but for the results I’ve finally been getting the past months, I can push through that hate and keep going. That combined with intermittent fasting (8 hours of the day where I eat – 16 hours I fast), I’ve lost about 11 pounds and feel worlds better.

Most shocking about it, it’s been easy. When I first researched about it, there were the all the articles talking about adjustment periods and such. Feeling hungry in the middle of the night and what-not.

Nope, none of that for me. Even the first couple days. I held off breakfast until 8 am, and had my main meal of the day around 2 pm, and finished off with some salad a bit before 4 pm. Not hungry through the evening and slept the nights through like a baby. Woke the next morning and felt fine. No low blood sugar, no gnawing hunger pangs, no headaches. Felt a bit hungry about 6:30 am, but nothing that even tempted me to throw myself at an early breakfast. I made it to 8 am just fine.

Honestly, it’s been much easier this way than going with my traditional 1400 calorie restriction diet. That one, I had headaches and hunger pangs. Sometimes, my blood sugar would have me shaking and feeling light-headed. All gone.

An even bigger surprise with the fasting, it’s completely derailed my compulsive comfort eating. Decades of struggling with that and now, it’s like it never existed. Just… wonderful and weird.

Does make things like dinner with the family a bit challenging, but I’m willing to be flexible if I need to.

The biggest challenge I think will be if I get back to REALLY riding my trike. I’m not talking plodding around the River Loop for the 10,000th time, or even my old Börje Loop or the like. I’m talking, I wake up to birdsong at 3:30 am and by 4 am, I’m dressed and either pedaling or on the road for fresher roads and staggering home 6 or 8 pm.

Breakfast in that scenario wouldn’t be a problem. Just put my fruit yogurt in one of the travel cups and stop out in the gorgeous countryside to tuck in when 8 am rolls around.

My main meal, that’s where it’s gets tricky. Just pass the entire day snacking on some fruit, nuts, and granola? What about a good solid protein source? A protein bar doesn’t count and not sure I could stomach any of them on the market.

Jens doesn’t much like the idea of me stopping with my camp stove to whip up something resembling a proper meal, but if I’m gonna stay with this fasting thing, then that’s likely what will need to happen. I’ll look at it as touring practice. Hehe.

And I do hope to tour… at sometime. I would love for it to be this year, but as long as Loke’s still in our lives, I’m not sure it will happen. If the past 2 weeks have shown anything to me, it’s how hard it is to escape him to go ride. Really ride, never mind just pedaling off across the Swedish landscape for days with a trailer full of camping gear.

The past two weeks, Jens has been home sick with a brutal cold. I kid you not, other than going to the hated gym, every moment out of this apartment has been to walk the dog, get something for Jens, or get something for the general household. I’m about to start clawing at the walls.

And even just going for a walk with Loke has gotten complicated. The weather did a major jump. In less than 2 days, it went from single digit temps to nearly 40 F. 2+ feet of snow on the ground and what had been packed into hard ice on the roads and paths suddenly turned into miniature canyons where the flush of melt water carved into it. One of my friend posted photos of daffodil shoots and buds that practically exploded out of the ground where the snow and vanished overnight.

It was so pleasant and Loke was being such a huge PITA, that I decided there was no help for it, I had to go for a ride. At least I could skip all but one layer of wool and didn’t need the socks at all. The roads and paths were mostly clear of ice too.

Loke was thrilled as I got dressed and off we went. I had a bit of a pleasant shock when I sat in the trike.

Before Christmas, when I’d ride, I felt kinda… precarious in the trike since making the swap of the seat cover for one that wasn’t coming all to pieces. It was just like I was kinda ‘pushed out’ and not comfortable at all. Of course, even before I swapped the seat cover, I’ve not often felt comfortable in the trike for a couple years or more.

Well, this ride, I just fit better in the trike. I felt comfortable. Nothing was painful. I also felt nicely strong. Admittedly, with Loke along, it wasn’t like I was exerting myself. My heart rate was barely 70 bpm the entire way.

The complication reared its head rather quickly though. I headed down the road to connect with the cycle path. Less than half a mile down the path, Loke was walking uncomfortably. The paving of the path was under a good half inch of gravel, all that the city had laid down for traction on ice and snow which had melted away. It was killing his feet. He can’t wear socks any more. The 3 miles to get him back to the apartment took over 2 hours.

I would have called Jens to come get him sooner, but he was loopy from various medications it wouldn’t have been legal for him to drive.

That just depressed me to no end. It makes me feel even more trapped since Loke can barely even go for a walk on that stuff. We were doing walking speed with the trike as it was. The walks since then have been with a ‘owie’ footed husky unless I just wander up and down the sides of Svartbäcken Street where they keep the cycle way clear of ice and gravel for commuters to go faster.

I’m hoping I can get out for a ride soon. The weather forecast seems to hint that spring is here. No daytime temps below freezing for the next 10 days at least. I truly hope that doesn’t mean we’re going to get another hellish summer like last. I just need something positive for me and my riding to happen. I’m so… trapped.

What A Bumpy Start
January 8, 2019, 6:59 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

And my fingers are crossed that it’s smoothed out a bit at least for a little while.

As mentioned in the previous post on the 2nd, Loke went into the hospital. On the 3rd, I waited for a call to update. I was so anxious and feeling a bit guilty that I’d not taken him to the emergency room on New Year’s Day. It never should have come to the point that his digestion was shutting down and heartbeat faint and fast.

Well, I missed the call at about 3:30 pm. The phone was charging in the living room while I was cooking in the kitchen. I had thought the ring would be loud enough for me to hear, but clearly not. By time I checked, the switchboard at the hospital was closed.

That was a hard night. The idea that Loke might die got stuck in my head. I mean, I know it’s coming, he’s 13.5 years old, as of January 1st no less. I have EVERY intention of being there with him when the moment comes, which clearly I wouldn’t be if this episode killed him.

When I got up on the morning of the 4th and found the kitchen door open, I actually burst into tears. Loke’s such a jackal since getting castrated that he can’t be trusted to not do something like raid the pantry or break open his food bin. The kitchen door has to be closed over night. Yet, without Loke there, Jens had left it open. It just hit me ridiculously hard.

About 10 am, the call came. Loke had responded well. He’d had a few episodes during the first night, but all day on the 3rd, he’d been improving. The tests had found everything normal, with exception of his B vitamin levels. They were completely tanked. So, he’d been given IV fluids and vitamin B injections. He was alert and ready to come home.

Sweet relief at the news. I drove there and spent some time with the vet (a very charming and kind Spanish woman) to go over all the news and post care. Then she went to go Loke.

Loke’s not the most lovey dovey of dogs, but even for him he was down right chill toward me. If a human acted the way he behaved, I would have said they were resentful and feeling betrayed. He didn’t look bad at all though. An orange bandage wrapped around his front leg where the catheter had been and a sore on his nose. I rolled my eyes at the sore and said, ‘Let me guess? Shredded his blanket and was pushing the pieces around his cage?’ The vet laughed in surprise.

Instead of heading directly home, I headed off down the old road toward Kungsängen’s new pedestrian bridge, thinking I could walk him there to burn off a little of his pent up energy.

It appeared to be a good choice as the way back toward downtown had been graveled over the hard ice on the path. I’d not worn my Icebugs naturally. Loke was happy and did his ‘business’ on the 15 minute walk and it was completely normal.

Then it was off to home where he started in on harassing Jens right away. Jens started fussing, paranoid that Loke was going to explode. Knowing that if I just walked around the block with the furball, Jens would only grumble when we came back and Loke got in his face again, I decided to go to Gamla Uppsala. Walked around there for an hour and all Loke did was sniff.

Back home and Loke was back at Jens again. My hubby finally gave up and went to take Loke for a walk. Naturally, the fuzzy went right away and it was soft. The vet said that might happen, so I wasn’t too worried at that time.

Loke didn’t really settle even after that. Mostly, I thought it was because he was hungry. Jens begged me to give Loke some food, so I did. Just half a scoop.

About 6 pm, Loke was pacing and panting and harassing both Jens and I. So we all went out the door to walk around the block. Loke exploded and it was liquid.

Not even a consideration to just wait and see how he was in the morning. As far as I was concerned, his body was still probably a bit ‘battered’ by the previous fit of this issue and I wasn’t going to let him gush all his hydration away as Jens and I hopped in and out of the apartment every 20 minutes through the night. Called the hospital and told them we were coming.

Jens had to come with since animals with vomiting or diarrhea aren’t allowed in the main reception and Loke can’t be left in the car alone. We were back at the hospital before 7 pm.

The vet was a nice guy who had tended Loke the previous two nights. He agreed it was good we brought him back in directly if it was that bad and had come back so fast. Time for more blood tests and hook him back up to the IV. I made a point of telling them and having it entered in Loke’s journal that if he took a bad turn that they call me, no matter the hour, so I could be there if it came to the end.

I wasn’t overly worried this time though. We’d caught it early, he still seemed pretty perky even as we arrived at the hospital. Oddly, he was even eager to go in. That completely baffled me.

The call on the 5th was that Loke was doing well. He’d had a few episodes on the first night with diarrhea, but had been much better during the day. What little they were feeding him, he devoured and wanted more, and it was staying down. Since the symptoms had come back so hard and fast, they decided to keep him for another day if that was fine with us. It was. Better an extra day in the hopes it would finally be over than jump the gun.

On the morning of the 6th, I made a point of vacuuming and mopping the kitchen down. Jens was eating a coissant at one point, went to get up and wander through the kitchen as he munched. I stopped him short and blocked him back at his desk until he was done so I could vacuum over it again. I really didn’t want crumbs scattered through the apartment that might re-trigger Loke.

He was back home on the 6th and we watched like a hawk.

All seemed good. So far, almost 48 hours later, he’s been okay. Hungry though. The vet told us to gradually increase his food from 1/4 the usual amount to full amount only by Thursday. He’s also been off one of his meds because it’s harsh on tummies and also no meat until the same time. I’m gonna be nervous about adding his meat and medication again on the 10th, but fingers crossed.

Through this whole fiasco, I never managed to make it out for another ride. Just too stressed and worried about Loke to want to deal with all the necessary layers of clothing, electric socks and all. A pity really since it was mild weather.

Then yesterday, even after Loke had been home for 24 hours and seemed stable, I just couldn’t find the oomph. I cringed at the idea that Jens would perhaps insist I take Loke for an outing.

Then much to my surprise, Jens actually suggested I go for a ride and he’d walk Loke. Just pick a direction and go. I found myself getting dressed with the idea of doing my old G.Uppsala/Vaksala Church loop. 10-ish miles and conveniently, it was even passing the cycle shop which was reopen after their holiday break.

Didn’t quite happen. I felt terrible. It was hard to pedal and I felt like I was dragging a sledge loaded with rocks. My knee hurt, I had trouble catching my breath. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or the trike. I supposed it could be a bit of me feeling rough for whatever reason combined with the chunky studded tires on gravel covered asphalt.

The result was that after booking a time for the shop on the morning of the 8th to get my brake repaired, I just pushed the pedals enough to get me around the River Loop. 2nd time for the year already. I was absolutely exhausted by time I got back home with 4.2 miles.

As I was putting the trike away, I noticed that the alignment of the valve on my right wheel wasn’t looking right. It was pushed in and skewed. I mushed on the tire and it had some give. Going flat. If it had been that way on the whole ride, that could have contributed to the rough going as well.

Rough start to the year continues.

But the trike is now at the shop in Bobby’s capable hands. Loke has had a bit more kibble and is now sleeping contentedly as the sky dumps down snow like mad. Signs of improvement?

2019 – A Frightening Start
January 2, 2019, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Gonna touch on a few days of the last year.

December 24th, was a gorgeous day. The clouds rolled back to reveal skies of blue and sun like honey for the first time in… I have no idea. Weeks if not a couple months at the very least. The temp took a sharp drop, the high of the day capping at 9 F. Lovely as it was, I wasn’t inspired to go out on the wheels for it. Besides, I had laundry.

On Christmas Day, the temp bounced back up to just over freezing (35 F) and clouds scuttled back in. I wasn’t feeling any more motivated than the day before. I’d had a vigorous workout at the gym and was pretty certain I’d only feel as weak and struggling as on December 23rd.

Jens wouldn’t let it go though. Around noon, he started bugging me to take Loke for a walk. Then it changed to an outing on the trike so maybe Loke could have a longer amble and my husband could relax the need to go for a long walk. Finally, I gave in and started dragging on layers of wool.

I wasn’t thrilled to be going out so late, after 1 pm by time we headed to the garage, and sunset is still rather early. Throw in that I’d been rushed and hadn’t put on the electric socks, it wasn’t looking to be a good ride.

Loke was pretty happy to get moving with the trike, jogging along at over 4 mph consistently. Much to my surprise, I also felt WAY better than I had on the 23rd. Stronger and it didn’t feel like such a painful struggle. My feet didn’t hurt, my knee was okay. The trike rolled easier, but I’m guessing it was down to having the snow more compacted since it was kinda/sorta melting. My plan to do just a short dash back to the apartment turned into something more substantial as I hit the cycle path to roll down to the bridge over the river.

Ah, the River Loop hamster track… again. 95 rides so far this year and 80 (or more) of them are very likely the River Loop in some fashion or another. *sigh*

Still, the sunset was pretty and while my toes did start getting cold when I turned north to follow the riverside path for extra distance, it wasn’t an unpleasant ride. My hands were snug, even over-warm in the cheap bar mitts. I stopped and had a lovely chat with a couple who were curious about Loke.

I arrived back at the garage with 4.4 miles. It help improve my mood that it was easier than last time. Little things.

December 26th, and out the door again amazingly. It was so mild, with a high at nearly 40 F. Over head and to the north was clue skies. Clouds lurked to the south which is where the sun stays at this time of the year, but it managed to find a few chinks and thin spots so we were graced with its delightful light.

Though moving to get dressed to ride, it wasn’t with any anticipation, lovely weather or not. The absolute, mind-numbing tedium of yet another River Loop just felt as if my brain would turn to pudding. Yet, there was the vague hope I could perhaps push it for 6 miles or so.

It didn’t quite happen as it just wasn’t ideal for me or Loke. The snow has had 2 days to get well melted before being packed down and refrozen into slick ice. The ice and pavement was then scattered with gravel by city trucks to help with traction. That wasn’t very kind on old husky paws. I tried to keep him off the worst of it while avoiding ice which could make Loke slip, but it was difficult.

Then there was the long laundry list of things that were bothering me (pain in the feet, a cut on a toe rubbing on the inside of my boot, charlie horse in my leg that had me yelling for a few seconds). All that combined with the tedium, I cut the ride short at just over 2 miles

Pity about all the issues. It was a pretty day, but creeping around at 3 mph on such old ground felt like a treadmill even before the charlie horse livened things up. I honestly had to suppress the impulse to pull out my phone and watch Netflix as we inched along.

There were no more rides for 2018 after that. It went out with only a wheezing death rattle that didn’t even qualify as a whimper. It was a combination of reasons. Feeling so bummed about how bad the year had been for cycling, starting to get a bad case of cabin fever from just circling the river, and constantly having my feet cramp up no matter how I tap dance on the pedals, just sucked the will to go out from my soul.

The final blow to my getting out for rides in the last days of 2018 was discovering that for distance, I’d already made more miles than my ‘worst year ever’ which appears to be 2017. 2017 was still better in terms of ‘adventure’ even if fewer miles.

I toyed with the idea of getting out for a ride December 31st, since it was supposed to get up near 40 F. It turned out that didn’t happen until about 7 pm. I suppose I could have gone for a ride in the dark. The River Loop scenery is so ingrained in my memory that I don’t need to see, right? Good in theory, but I just couldn’t find the energy.

December 31st passed quietly in our household though chaos of fireworks banged, thudded, and shrilled around us. This is the last chance people had to do fireworks willy nilly. From now on, it will require a permit in all of Sweden.

Delightfully, Loke didn’t seem to notice all the noise. Gone the days when he used to cower in my lap. We had a lovely dinner. Steak and potatoes for Jens and I. A fair bit of cut up deer roast for Loke.

And perhaps, that’s where the trouble began. Later that evening, Loke bullied Jens out for a walkie well after 10 pm. His tummy also started making noises.

I woke up at about 6 am to find it was 41 F. I took Loke out for a walk only to get a rude surprise. His bowels were loose. I was shocked. There was no other indication he was unwell though. He gobbled down breakfast and had plenty of energy.

The temp started to drop almost immediately. By 8 am it was about 38 F, so I started pulling on the layers to get out before it got too much colder. If I could get away with TWO layers instead of three, I was gonna hustle out the door quick as I could.

As a random experiment, I shoved my feet into a pair of Jens’ shoes. With the puffy wool over the electric socks, I had plenty of space even if there was about 2 inches too much past my toes and I felt like a clown. I still hoped it might help the foot pain I’ve been struggling with.

After a night of warm temps and maybe a touch of rain, most of the snow had vanished, leaving just patches and stretches of ice on the paths with their liberal casting of gravel.

Loke showed quite a bit of energy, but his feet seemed very sensitive. The gravel made him limp. I shifted around a lot to try and give him the spots that didn’t have much of the grit while attempting to avoid the ice which could make him fall. I made the turn as we crossed over the river, still clad in ice which had survived the night’s warmth.

As we headed north on the River Path extension, I decided to make a turn to take us back and have Jens come get Loke where we could meet the car. As we toodled along a stretch of path we’ve not done in a while, I was surprised to find a it was covered in frost in spite of above freezing temps with some sunlight casting its warmth.

Loke’s tummy showed another indication it was still unhappy just before he jumped in the car to go home after just 1.39 mile in 52 minutes. It felt less cruel than inflicting him with more gravel though the heart-broken stare through the car window might have stirred some doubts.

After sending him home with my husband, I wound up dashing home any way for a restroom break as well as to devour some lunch. The 1.58 mile took just over 15 minutes. After eating, it was back out the door for a bit of a solo ride.

That went less well. I think just because without Loke to temper my pace, I push myself in ways I’m not ready for. My knee and a groin muscle were feeling unhappy, combined with being really slow in spite of my efforts and weak.

Still, I managed to add 3.48 miles. As for my feet, they were snug, warm, happy, and pain-free. No cramping arches or toes! I looked like Bigfoot, but hey, I often look ridiculous when I ride on so many levels, what’s oversized shoes into that? I often say function over form when it comes to what works for riding.

Sunshine and pain-free feet. Suddenly riding even on the River Loop was making my mood better. It had turned into a kinda good day for a ride. I’d gotten out and started 2019 with a few miles under my wheels. I would have rather done an ‘elsewhere’ special ride, but I had no confidence in my body.

As the day progressed, Loke didn’t seem to be doing too badly. Drinking and eating like normal and with plenty of energy. I thought he was starting to get over it and drinking enough that he would be okay.

Through last night (Jan 1/2), he started bugging us to go out even when we’d been asleep. Not something he does unless it’s desperate. It was desperate.

Then at 4 am, I heard him vomiting. That’ll get someone out of bed faster than any alarm clock. It was disturbing that what he brought up was his dinner and it was mostly intact, almost no liquid or any hint of digestion. I resolved to call the vet at 8:30 when their lines opened.

By 9 am, Loke had vomited again, same result just less of it and had desperately scrambled out the door five times. One time he barely made it out of the building.

Our local vet clinic was overwhelmed. They generally have 3 on staff for weekdays, but one was sick and since they had just reopened after being closed for 4 days for New Year’s, they were heavily slammed and mostly with emergencies. No way to work in Loke and the nurse said it was probably best to take him to the animal hospital. To her, it sounded as if Loke would need longer supportive care than they could offer since they aren’t equipped to keep animals overnight. She was so apologetic and even upset about not being able to help as she’s known us for years.

That meant the animal hospital. Off we went. Poor Loke. He was still very hungry for the ‘get in the car’ bribe, but didn’t even have enough liquid to do his usual drool.

It turns out the university pet hospital has now opened an infectious ward where they want all animals with diarrhea and vomiting to go. You have to check in at main reception first, leaving the pet in the car while doing so. Well, I wasn’t about to leave Loke in the car to get into trouble. I played the ‘can’t speak Swedish very well’ card. I wasn’t thrilled with the need to go to the infectious ward, especially since I was pretty sure Loke wasn’t suffering from a bug, but something he’d eaten. Probably the extra deer meat.

The waiting room in the infectious ward was tiny. I thought the main waiting room was bad with uncomfortable chairs, but at least one has access to a vending machine for beverages and a restroom. All there was in the new area was 3 chairs, a TV, and a coffee machine. I don’t drink coffee. I settled in and expected a very long wait.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as long as expected. The doctor asked questions and I gave her a general outline about Loke’s allergies and what the issue currently was. She agreed with me that it sounded as if his digestion was shutting down from lack of fluids. He was also having some abdominal pain when she palpated. She wanted to admit him immediately for supportive care and start pouring liquids into him via IV. She expected that he’d be in their care for at least 2 days.

The nurse came a short time later and drew blood, put on a different collar and leash to take him back. I found myself choking up and my eyes getting teary. I needed a moment to hug Loke before walking away. I’d been pretty okay up to that moment.

I missed a call from the vet while I was cooking dinner. Just couldn’t hear the phone ring where it was charging in the living room.

I hope Loke comes through this okay. I hate the idea that my last memory of him will be the wide, pitifully staring eyes as I walked away. If he has to go, I want to be with him, holding him to the last and not to feel abandoned to a scary place with people doing things he doesn’t like…

Please. Let him come home from this…

Merry Christmas Or Whatever You Celebrate!
December 25, 2018, 8:37 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I hope these last weeks of the year have been full of joy and love to all who glance this way.

Even as I make this wish, I find I’ve been a bit down. Not surprising. Christmas has always come with a sense of melancholy with a cloud of those past years when they seemed fraught with disaster and misfortune. I like to think that each successive one, the mood is not as dark as the one before.

The day after my last post, amazingly, I made it out for another ride. 4 days and 4 rides. A new recent record. The snowfall mentioned at the end of the December 10th post thickened. Enough came down that the damp stuff clung to the winter bare branches and clumped on the grass. Pavement and cars only got wet, not white. Still, fluffy flakes will always be magical to someone who grew up on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. where frost was rare, never mind snow.

The main reason I went for another ride was my feet. They’ve started splitting and cracking with a vengeance which makes walkies with Loke painful and very short affairs. Admittedly, my feet have been on the painful side of uncomfortable even when I ride, but at least it’s not like getting lemon juice in giant paper cuts level of painful.

There was no trace of snow on the morning of the 11th as I started to drag on layers of wool. The sun was no where to be seen with heavy gray clouds across the sky, but very little wind and it was 33 F. Loke was at least intrigued as I readied.

His interest peaked a bit more as I took us off toward downtown Uppsala, avoiding any part of the ol’ standby of the River Loop. The plan was to aim for old pedestrian drawbridge at the city park for a total of roughly 4 to 5 miles.

There was some wobble to the old furball’s legs, but he was content to shuffle along at 4 mph with the occasional stumble. I’m sticking to the ‘quality of life’ rather than quantity of days. Better he be happy for for a shorter time than miserable for longer. As long as I’m convinced it’s just miscommunication in the nerves and not pain, we keep going though slowing down is in order if he stumbles too much. Limping is another story. If he limps, I read that as pain and get him home as quick as I can.

Loke wasn’t impressed with our roll through town, but he perked up when we reached the parkland. Of course, that’s right where the old pedestrian bridge over the river happens to be. I felt bad depriving Loke of a wander along the gravel paths and tree lines of the park to turn right back around to plod through the city heart again. Though slow, he was ticking along pretty well and interested in his surroundings. I’d push on to the big drawbridge that is a major traffic artery over the river. I could jump on a ramp to go up and over, then back down to take the riverside path on the opposite bank. That would get us another mile or more while letting the old one sniff and enjoy grass and trees.

Naturally, as I reached the big bridge, the lovely gravel path wound on along the open pasture and fields toward Kungsängen (The King’s Meadow). Loke was going a little slower, but still happy. Going to the new pedestrian drawbridge would be another mile, putting us over 7 miles by time we returned home. Jens was in Stockholm, so getting Loke wasn’t going to be an option. Did I dare?

Yeah, I dared. Loke was happy and it would make him more content if he had more of an outing. Quality of life. As we rolled southward, meadow on one side and river on the other, his pace picked up to over 4 mph again. Naturally, that’s about the time the cold finally started sucking the warmth out of my feet. Snuggly wool socks and chunky boots be damned. It occurred to me it would perhaps be wise to get the sock batteries charged.

Cold or not, gloomy or not, I enjoyed being out, off the old River Loop and having my cycle partner beside me, slow or otherwise. I let a sense of contentment sink into me as I relaxed to let Loke take lots of pauses to sniff. It wasn’t a bad way to spend 3 hours. Still, curling up under an electric blanket felt downright dreamy.

Sadly, I didn’t push on to make it 5 rides in 5 days. Distractions came up.

For one thing, the temperature dropped which triggered something in me. It’s funny how something, while annoying, is just endured as part of an activity. The something I mention was my constant argument with gloves/mittens. While it’s never been as bad (read agonizingly painful and close to frostbite) as my feet, I’ve struggled with keeping my hands warm enough. Gloves are a disaster. I have wide palms with short fingers. If I get gloves that fit the palms, I have an excess of fabric flapping at the end of my fingertips which makes me insane. Mittens, while they can have the same issue, it never bothered me quite so much, but it did make shifting gears challenging. Not to mention, gloves or mittens, I still had trouble keeping my fingers warm and often had to shove them under my jacket. I also tried glove liners.

Throw into this argument with glove/mitten sizes and finger lengths, my frequent photo stops. With the over-long mittens or gloves, I couldn’t fumble with the controls very well on the phone or camera. That meant, pulling off the handcovers with my teeth, taking the picture and spending the time to pull the glove liner back on and then wrestle the outer layer over that. 5 minutes later, doing it all over again. Sometimes, it could feel like I spent more time doing the handcovers on and off than I did rolling along.

For some reason, after 12+ winters arguing with it, I decided I’m fed up with it this winter. I wanted pogies which are also called bar end mitts. Imagine a giant, mitten with two openings. One in the normal place a mitten would have it and another out beside the ‘finger’ area. You slip the second opening over the end of your handlebar and there’s generally a way to cinch it snug so wind won’t get in so easily. Ta-da! Your grip, gear controls, and brake handles are all wrapped up in a wind and weather proof muff of various materials, often lined with insulation. I wanted THOSE. Giant mittens that say on the handlebars.

That decided, I went to the cycle shop. A quick look around and there were none to be found. When I asked Neil about them, he said he could order them, but it would take a week or so. Rather ironic, that every winter since I started going to that shop, they’ve had the mitts. The year I decided I want them? No mitts. Murphy is laughing at me again.

So, I threw myself into a frenzy to find something. No cycle shops seemed to have them. Finally I found one kind.

There’s a shop here, called Biltema. It’s a strange kind of place that has a bit of everything. Stuff for horses, camping, sports, bikes, cars, boats, tools, gardening, minor electronics, office supplies, kitchen, laundry room, toys, dogs stuff, small building supplies. It’s all dirt cheap and every single bit is labeled as the Biltema brand. Well, in the motorcycle section, they carried one kind of bar end mitts. A sort of plastic like, weather resistant fabric with a thin insulation that’s not quite cheap fleece and not quite cheap felt. Huge in size as they’re made for, you guessed it, motorcycles or ATVs. Still, the price was right and I could get them right away while deciding if I wanted something better.

So, I picked them up on the 12th. On the 13th of December, I had laundry, so I didn’t get to ride with my new mitts.

The cheap mitts.

Finally, December 14th, I started dragging on layers of wool to ride in 29 F temps. I also argued with the wires of my electric socks in between the light and medium layers of wool leggings. It was slow going to get everything on since I’d done a long and hard workout at the gym earlier that morning.

Then it was off to the storage. As I unpacked them, I was taken aback by how huge the mitts were. Seriously, there is enough space in them for the Hulk to use them and still have space to wiggle his fingers. I mounted them up.

They aren’t completely ideal. They get in the way of my opening and closing the handlebar bag as well as restrict the movement of the handlebars near the wheels which makes my turning radius even larger. But they also have plenty of room for my hands even with chunky mittens if I decide to go that way. I even tucked my phone in the mitt instead of leaving it in the bag so my hands can help keep the cold from sucking the battery dead.

There was another complication. Where to put my Garmin? The GPS has always ridden on the small rear view mirror mounted into the end of my steering bar. Well, the giant mitt covers both of them. Engulfs them is probably a more proper term. I wound up flipping open my handlebar bag and letting my Garmin ride around in the lid. It works just fine, provided it’s not raining or snowing too much.

Well, it was snowing, but not too much.

Almost right away, something was wrong. Loke was limping. I examined his feet, finding nothing, and sat for a few minutes to ponder that. The furry one needed walkies. I reasoned that he wasn’t likely to limp less if I was walking with him than with the trike. So, rolling walk it was. I’d just take it slow and keep it under 2 miles for distance which is probably a bit less than what Jens walks him even when he’s limping. We crept along at 1.5 mph as Loke limped and wobbled. There were plenty of stops to let him sniff hedges and trees.

The temp display on my Garmin dipped to 26 F, but my socks on level 1 and bare hands snug in the bar mitts, I felt almost over dressed. If I hadn’t felt so worn and weary from the morning’s strenuous workout, it would have been a pleasant even if ridiculously slow ride. It was just bits of the old River Loop, but thanks to the thin snow, it felt fresh and new. I wouldn’t have minded going longer, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety over Loke’s limping. Finished up with about 1.7 mile.

The riding stalled over various little health issues for a few days. About the 17th of December, I felt better, but had too much to do for a ride. At last, on the 18th, I had a plan to ride. A glorious plan. Not just my woefully overdone River Loop again, but a real ride out in the countryside.

Still, I went to Starbucks for my hubby’s daily addiction and while there, it started snowing. Lovely, feathery flakes drifting around on a soft wind into gorgeous swirls and spirals. It reinforced my determination to ride away from Uppsala’s heart and the river.

Back home, things just seemed to start to go wrong as I began to get ready. My energy fled. My muscles seemed to fatigue ridiculously quick and I started to feel irritable with a side helping of annoyed and frustrated. As I wrestled the layers on my legs for 26 F, I felt overheated in our 65 F apartment and then I felt the wire connector between my battery wire and my right electric sock pop loose. I had to get everything off again, plug it back in and retape the sucker before dressing once more. The only way to keep the connection is to wrap the two parts in duck tape… and even that can slip, clearly.

Loke didn’t seem to be doing to well. Wobbly and weak. He was still interested enough in going out that he came over to get harnessed, but then promptly flopped on his pillow and didn’t move again until I picked up his leash. Instead of having my hubby drop us off at the garage, I told him I’d take the car and just ride back home with Loke before taking off across the countryside.

The snow had stopped, my mood was quite sour and it just seemed EVERY LITTLE THING annoyed me. No matter what I did, it just went wrong in petty, ridiculous ways that drove me batty. For example, putting a car key in a pocket shouldn’t take 20 seconds and two hands while breaking a fingernail. Loke would move along fine for a few steps and then plant his feet and want to sniff something for 2 hours. *beats head on desk*

I wound up resigning myself to getting less than half the miles I’d planned and being stuck on the River Loop for all of it. As we were coming up to the bridge over the river, it started snowing again. That had the effect of cheering me. Even though I was feeling slow and fairly weak, Loke was being even slower still, I decided I’d add the out-n-back along the riverbank to the north.

I slipped and spun at the bridge for a few minutes before just giving up and pushing the trike up. Then Loke and I made the right hand turn to follow the cycle path north beside the river. THAT didn’t even happen for more than 200 yards or so, as up around a curve with some trees, I discovered a work crew had completely blocked the cycle path with a huge red truck. Pedestrians could squeak by and bikes could be walked past, but my trike with Loke on his bar weren’t making it by. Muttering, I slipped and skidded in a multi-point turn to go back.

The snow came down thicker and mellowed my mood again, but I’d resigned myself to doing ONLY the river loop. Mother nature was screaming. The time it would take me to get Loke home, answer the call and get all my layers and wires wrestled back on, it would be after 12:00 pm. With thick clouds, sunset is essentially 2:30 and I really didn’t want to ride in the dark, which given how slow I felt even without Loke, would have been too little time for my 11 mile route over snowy roads with chunky studded tires. So, I gritted my teeth and just got us back to the car and then home.

Pity. I really would have loved to been out in the countryside through a feathery swirl of falling snow.

That seemed to announce the full arrival of the Christmas melancholy. I felt low and apathetic with spikes of frustration and just feeling completely trapped. Trapped by my own body. Trapped by Loke’s aged limitations and Jens’ persistent insistence that every time I even THINK about going for a ride, Loke come with me. Trapped by tasks that ate up the morning until the earliest I could ride was 11 am with a 2:30 pm sunset and being incredibly slow and weak, so trapped to the cycle paths of the River Loop. I am so very over the River Loop and it just ticks me off.

On the 23rd of December, I managed to shake off the apathy a bit and decided that I was going to ride my old Gamla Uppsala/Vaksala Church loop. Out in the countryside, but still one of my shorter country loops at roughly 10 miles.

By 7 am, I was dressed to ride. It was the coldest morning we’ve had in weeks, but I still had the grand plan to do that loop. A fresh fall of snow and I wanted to go see the snowy landscape that didn’t involve the city. I desperately needed the miles as well.

It didn’t happen. We set off and I felt fine for about 200 yards or so. Loke was slow, but the sun wasn’t quite up yet and I’d get him home with a bit over a mile and then push on for the wide open, snowy places.

It was a pretty winter day. 15 F, but with no wind, my electric socks, and huge honking mitts, I was dressed for it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. What I did feel was slow. Even old Loke was being held back by me. I wasn’t comfortable in the trike or my own skin. My feet hurt as did my right knee. Every foot the trike moved was pure work, spinning the pedals at roughly 67 RPM and yet hardly faster than a walk. Just getting past the grave mounds was going to take me over an hour with the rest of the ride perhaps taking another 4 hours. I’d still potentially wind up on snowy roads in the dark. Nope. Wasn’t going to do it.

Wound up back at the storage with a whopping 1.7 miles which my Fitbit registered as 37 minutes of exercise. Instead of feeling like my wings to freedom, my trike had felt like a rock I had to drag around. Logically, I know walking that distance would have been worse, but it was still depressing.

And that brings us to the present. The end of the year is rushing up on us and I’m still lacking about 19 miles for the measly 450 I’d hoped to have. Just enough that this won’t be the worst year ever. Well, the worst year for distance any way. I had a bit of upset at the thought that this year would be perhaps the worst year in another way. A year with nothing new. 98% of the rides involving the Fyris River and 80% of those being the old River Loop, the rest down through Uppsala beside the river. The ride just west of Norrtälje was some place I’d ridden before even if I didn’t realize it until I was on it. I thought there were no new runestones or churches. Just… nothing but old circles.

It was come consolation when I looked on my GarminConnect account at the rides this year and found some discoveries that had slipped my mind. A runestone which might be one I’d not seen before. I can’t be sure. But in April, there was a new church. New places I’d not seen on the trike as I coddled sickly Loke around Haga park just outside of Stockholm, wondering if it was his last days. I found Alfred Nobel’s burial site. I found how to get to a lovely old courthouse I’ve admired for years while heading into Stockholm on the E4. A few new things at least. Some exploration that is like food for my soul. More than loops and circles on the River Loop, trapped by circumstances and my body.

I needed that realization.

Fits and Starts
December 10, 2018, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

That’s how my riding has been going. Since my last post I’ve ridden 3 times, though as I type this, I’m starting to get dress for another ride where Jens will drop Loke and I off at the storage before heading to work. It will be 3 rides in 3 days. Really need it to get another 32 miles in before 11:59 pm, December 31st. If not, then 2018 will become the new ‘worst year ever’ for miles since getting my first Garmin to track such things. Too many things just went wrong this year, the months of intense summer heat being only one.

Yay! Proper flags! Bigger than half a hanky and prettier than orange plastic! 😀

Just a day or two after my last post, it finally happened! My flags arrived! I got a text that they were ready for pick up from the local post location which is at the back of the local grocery store. I was giddy as I dashed off to bring them home and get them unpacked.

Finally, after wanting flags like this for years, I had some. One brightly colored fan type and one little twirly thing that reflects flashes and headlights spectacularly. I didn’t get out for a ride right away. Part of it was the temp took a precipitous drop and oddly, I found myself feeling every little bit of the cold right down to my bones. It was an almost surreal experience given that I’ve spent the past years driving Jens crazy by leaving windows cracked even at 13 F or walking around without jacket, hat, gloves or scarf if it was warmer than 28 F if it was a calm day. Then suddenly, everyone else is more lightly dressed than me, the apartment is buttoned up and there I am burrowed under electric blankets complaining about the cold.

Jens did his level best to get me to ride, but if I was cold and shivering in a warm(ish) apartment then going out in 27 F temps with wind had zero appeal.

Fullerö Burial Ground, bird’s eye view.

It was a real shame too. We had absolutely stunning hoarfrost. I’m sharing a photo I took at Fullerö with the drone. It might not be from riding the trike there, but it’s just too pretty not to share. It was so cold, I was only able to stay out flying the drone for about 15 minutes before my fingers started to hurt. Still was fun though!

Loke, however, was not nearly as impressed. He laid around near my feet and looked annoyed at the drone’s buzz.

Another thing I did during this ‘not riding time’ was to make the drive to Falun, Sweden. 2 hours from Uppsala, give or take. Why? Because I was curious to see the area my great-grandfather and his fathers might have walked. The place is best known for the old copper mine there. Indeed, the mining history goes back over 1000 years. It started with just the local farmers digging for the metal for their own needs before it became the big business of the town to mine Stora Kopparberg (Big Copper Mountain) extensively.

Oh, you know all those lovely, old, red buildings scattered across the Swedish countryside I so often photograph? Well, the red color is called Falu red, named after the mine where the copper was originally taken to make the pigment.

The mine was closed down in the 1960’s. It had once been called Sweden’s Treasury and more than half of the copper in Europe from the middle ages until close to the Industrial Revolution originated from it. It had originally been a shaft mine, but in the summer of 1687, the mountain, so criss-crossed with tunnels it was like Swiss cheese, had a major collapse leaving a pit over 300 feet deep. Believe it or not, no one was killed. There were only two days of the year that the mine was closed. Mid-summer and Christmas. It happened on the evening of Mid-summer, so all the miners were off. After that, it was handled as a combination of open pit and shaft mining.

It was a nice trip. I saw a fox from very close and dozens of deer on the drive. I wandered around the edge of the pit and explored a bit of the town as well as a church, which I had believed to be Stora Kopparberg Church. Sadly, it wasn’t, but a slightly newer church. I guess that just gives me a reason to go back to the town and next time I’ll take my trike. It was a nice way to spend a day.

The hoarfrost hung around for the better part of a week. Maybe even two. My grasp of time gets fuzzy after it’s in the past. The frost was finally washed away when it warmed up and started raining. Except for a few spates of snow, it feels like it’s been raining almost constantly since then.

It was a bit of a relief when it warmed back up though. The frost had actually coated a lot of road surfaces and left them quite slick. Guess who didn’t have studded tires on the trike yet?

Finally, on September 30th, I felt ‘warm’ enough to think about going for a ride and there was no trace of ice to cause problems with non-studded trike tires.

Jens wheedled at me to walk Loke. I’d been walking Loke quite a lot at the time. Going for a walk in 30 F, I can just pull on a decent long sleeved shirt, decent pants, go out with a winter coat and maybe end up feeling too warm. Go out in the same temp for a trike ride, I need 2 layers of wool on the legs, 2 or 3 on the top, gloves, a beanie, cushy wool socks with wool sock liners, and yet will still probably come home and shiver. So, yeah, I preferred to walk when I’m already feeling chilled inside. Once above freezing again though, I finally decided to take pity on my aching hips and knees and ride instead.

The lack of ice made me happy not just because I still had my winter tires, but also for Loke’s sake. He has problems keeping his feet under him on the rough wooden floors of our apartment. Ice would really give him fits.

It was going to be the first ride with my new flags. I as I set them up though, I decided to leave my pretty fan flag in the garage. I just had an image of the wind snatching it off the pole to send it capering across a field faster than I could run. There was a little zip tie I could have fastened at the bottom, but that would have pulled the flag down over the first connector for the collapsible pole, making it difficult to fold it. I needed time to think of a solution.

Still, I was glad to go with my little orange and yellow whirly.

It was coming up on twlight as we rolled out. Loke was fairly slow and it took us over 40 minutes for 2.5 miles. Though there’d been no sign of ice anywhere around the paved surfaces in the neighborhoods I’d been walking with Loke, I found slush and ice both on the cycle path near the river. I spotted it before we rolled over it so was able to push over to the side and put Loke in the grass where he had good grip.

My next ride was on December 4th. Loke had been a bit more energetic for a few days, becoming a real PITA. It was enough to overcome the general apathy I had about getting out for rides. The persistent chill that often left me shivering, the feeling that I needed to get this done and that done to the trike. Sometimes I’d think of riding and then it would turn into, ‘Oh, but I need to figure out what I want to do with the rain poncho for bikes I got and.. just forget it.’

Along with the extra energy, I also realized it had been a while since Loke had any what I guess I would call ‘sound fits’. For a time it was like certain noises would make Loke’s synapses spark so he’d give little jerks as if being jolted with brief shocks. Maybe something like a micro seizure or something. The crumple of a paper bag. The dead bolt clacking in the lock when opening the apartment door. One day it was even the crunch of gravel under the trike wheel. That had him twitching like crazy as he walked along. It doesn’t cause him pain or any apparent distress. Honestly, he doesn’t even notice. Nothing the vets can do about it, so if he’s not hurting or freaked out, we just roll with it. As I said though, as of the 4th, he’d not had it triggered by anything in a few days.

I still hadn’t even made an appointment to get the tires swapped, so I decided I should get some more distance before the forecasted snow arrived.

The short days have been a bit maddening of late. It seems most of the time, I’m not able to think about going for a ride until about lunch time. Sunset is before 3 pm, but with the persistent and thick clouds we’ve had and lack of snow, it’s pretty dark even before 2:30 pm. Just adds to the apathy that any ride I take is going to be coming home in the dark. Still, Loke, the hyper 13 year old, needed exercise and I needed miles. So, out the door we went.

It was a very doggie ride. Early in the ride as we came by an apartment complex, a couple of older men were out with their small dogs. The gray-muzzled chihuahua was kinda growly and stand-offish with Loke, though he kinda seemed to want to come say hi to me. The other was a little gray, female poodle. She had no compunction about coming to greet me. Spotted me and scrambled right over to jump up on my tummy to give my face a thorough licking. She completely ignored Loke even when he nosed at her. Very people focused that one. Very cute. Her owner was pleased for the excuse to come over and greet Loke. With him, my furball was quite standoffish, but the man didn’t seem to mind.

We left the complex behind the rolled over the 55. As we came up to the big hill down to the river, there were two women talking on the side of the path with dogs. The one with what looked like a pitbull, also had a bike. Seeing us coming, she angled the bike to block her dog. As we rolled by, I was horrified. Not by the pitbull’s highly aggressive behavior, but by his head.  Half of the poor thing’s head swollen more than twice it’s proper size. It looked almost like a doggie version of Joseph Merrick (aka Elephant Man). Broke my heart.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We took it slow since that’s about all Loke can manage now days, his average moving speed about 4 mph. I think he enjoyed it as we pedalled northward along the path beside the Fyris River just beyond the residential outskirts of Uppsala, Sweden. A light blowing mist of rain moved in a couple times, but not heavy or steady enough to get through the wool under layers I had on. We wound back up at the garage with 4.97 miles.

The only other thing of note was when we were on our way back to the park from the grocery area, there was a double glare of lights in my face on the cycle path. After a few minutes, I could make out that it was a tricycle. Like mine, it had 2 wheels in front with indirect steering, but unlike mine, it was an ‘upright’ trike, not reclined or ‘recumbent’. Attached to the side of it was a simple frame work that attached to the harness of a medium sized dog, keeping it a safe distance from the trike and it’s wheels in all directions. Turned out I recognized both the man and the dog. The last time I saw him though, he was on a bike with a little frame work and an extra wheel to one side, to keep his dog in a safe position with the bike. I guess I could say he just upgraded. Hehe.

After the ride, I drove to the cycle shop to see if they had any studded tires left and, if so, to make an appointment to get my tires swapped. Bobby was on vacation, but the other mechanic, who’s name other than ‘Skagget’ (The Beard) escapes me, was only too happy to help. It turned out though that they only had one 20 inch studded tire. That wasn’t any good. My old studded tires needed replaced. Bad enough they’d been poking holes in my tubes before Bobby shoved a section of old tubing between the tire and tubes, but the studs had become too worn to grip by the end of last winter.

There was another batch of 20 inch studded incoming at any time, so Neil (shop owner) said he’d give me a text when they arrived. They came that very evening, so back I went before they closed to make the appointment. I really needed those studs with the threat of ice and snow just a day or two away. I could drop the trike off on 5th.

I was there right as Neil was unlocking the door and starting to wheel out all the bikes he’d stored in the shop. A bit after lunch, he called to say the tires he’d gotten were ‘too chunky’ for my rims. He would need to order another two, slightly smaller, but was pretty sure they’d be there the next day (December 6th). Well, if that was what was needed, so be it. Finally, about 2 pm, I got the text my trike was ready for pick up. I didn’t have the car though. I considered for a few minutes, walking with Loke to the shop and pushing the trike, minus the seat, back to the apartment. Then I remembered, I’d also have to bring the summer tires with me. Walking along with a dog leash in one hand, pushing the trike with the other and trying to keep 3 tires from sliding off my shoulder as I plodded along for half a mile? Ummmm, I was gonna have to say no.

Jens agreed to let me have the car if I drove him on the 7th, so to be able to get the trike, that’s what I did. What an utterly miserable day. The promised snow hadn’t come, but we had drizzle and blowing mist aplenty beneath a pewter dark sky. I got the trike, but it was such an icky day that even if I’d not had laundry, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have taken the trike out.

Finally, December 8th, I made it out the door for another ride.

I had a reason to get the trike rolling other than the needed miles. My husband’s parents 51st wedding anniversary was on December 5th. We held off for the weekend to take them out to dinner so that the youngest daughter could come with us. That means, Loke was going to be at home alone for a couple hours. It’s always best to give him a bit of exercise before leaving him to his own devices.

So, even though it appeared it was going to be a twilight murk what with the clouds combined with precipitation alternating between a feather-soft misty drizzle and a light rain, I made ready to slog out the door a bit after 10 am with Loke in tow.

The furry one seemed pretty interested as I dragged on layers of wool against any possible rain as I’ve not yet taken the time to fiddle with the poncho.

Though very wet, it was about 45 F at the start. Loke quickly settled into his 4.3 mph pace as the trike vibrated along. Ah, just love studded tires when there’s no ice or snow.

At first, I was actually too warm even with the patter of light rain dampening my cycle clothes and wool under layer. That lasted until bout the time we hit the northward river extension. Suddenly there was wind enough to set my little spinner flag whirling furiously and I pulled out another layer of wool to drag on. Wind chill dropped the temperature around my Garmin from about 44 F to 34 F. Fortunately, I had the layers for it.

As I was coming back south along the river extension, the sky went from a flat iron-gray texture to having some detail in the clouds. With that, the rain finally tapered off and for the last half the ride, it was only the wind I had to deal with. Well, wind and a call of nature.

I swear, during the day when I’m not on the trike, I’m practically like a camel. Can go ages between nature calls. As soon as I sit on the trike it’s like my kidneys switch into overdrive with quadruple the output while my skin just pulls gallons of moisture out of the thin air. I went to the bathroom twice before finally going out the door for the ride, and yet 30 minutes later, there’s Mother Nature clearing her throat. By time I was 5 minutes from the apartment, she was screaming bloody murder I answer her. I’d had little to nothing to drink between breakfast and getting ready for a ride. It’s an ingrained habit just for that reason.

For Loke, the ride finished at about 4.47 miles. I desperately needed the restroom. Also, I was starting to feel a little short of time to get back home to clean up for the evening’s dinner out, so it was perfect to run in for the bathroom and leave Loke at home so I could finish that last half mile in less than 20 minutes. My total distance for the day was 5.02 miles.

I would have done more, but simply didn’t have the time.

Then, believe it or not, I went out again the very next day. Jens pleaded with me for it. My feet had been killing me though, so it was just a short little jaunt, less than 2 miles and Loke was back to harassing Jens before I even got his harness off.

This morning, with my feet feeling as if they’ve been flayed and then pounded with hammers, I really didn’t feel like hobbling around the block 5 or 6 times with Loke. I can’t even walk through the apartment without limping and lurching along while stars burst through my vision. I decided that, though still painful on the trike, it’s less painful, I would have Jens drop us off at the storage and I’d give Loke a couple rolling walks for his ‘business’ opportunities. I only pulled on the absolute minimum I thought I’d need for a short dash from storage to home. A longer outing could wait until we had some daylight.

It was pretty much dark when I was pushing the trike out of the storage and up the ramp. Not a hint of the approaching dawn to be seen at all. Loke waited patiently as I got the lights and flags settled. I felt comfortable enough even in my lesser layers at 33 F, I decided we would at least do the little swimhall loop all on the east side of the river. Usually, I take the little street down to the cycle path by the football fields, but with school traffic and Loke being so slow, I decided to ride along the sidewalk instead. Actually, I rode in the grass where Loke could mark the trees and sniff.

Unexpectedly, it felt pleasant out and to be on the trike. I wasn’t cold in the least though I would have thought myself woefully underdressed given my recent sensitivity to cold. I also felt stronger and more comfortable on the trike than I had yesterday. Whimsically, I decided I was just going to do the River Loop by turning right at the end of the street instead of left onto the cycle paths.

Loke seemed fine with that idea, ticking along at about 4 mph. I think he rather enjoyed getting out in the pre-sunrise. We weren’t fast, but it was still nice so I decided to just do the old and very basic River Loop hamster track again. I even considered heading along the out-n-back going north along the river, but decided I didn’t want to push Loke that much while hoping to do the newer River Loop jaunt which goes through downtown.

There was a little surprise as we came back along the river heading past the swimhall with its beautifully lit bridge over the river between the pool complex and parking lot. Snowflakes. Honestly, I only noticed them as we were crossing a street at the corner of the swimhall and passed in front of a car that was waiting for us to get over. The tiny flakes were clearly highlighted in the headlights where they’d been invisible in the murky gloom of pre-dawn.

Of course, it’s so easy to be up at ‘pre-dawn’ in December. Sun didn’t rise until 8:40 this morning. Will be about 8:50 am for the Solstice. Still, I count it a more than fair trade for the 20 hours between sunrise and sunset during summer. Love me some Swedish summer.