Terii’s Cycling Babble


New Toys!
July 29, 2009, 4:57 am
Filed under: Misc

Finally.  I am now in high gear for my first tour.  I woke quite early this morning to scribble out a last minute list of ‘must gets’ and today will be checking off the list and beginning to pack and going over the trike to make sure it’s ready for its touring debut.

Solio Charger w/ Book for Scale

Solio Charger w/ Book for Scale

P1010273

Closed Solio

Once I got word that my tent was on it’s way, I started moving on a few things toward the tour.  One thing I’ve been eyeing is some kind of portable, solar charging battery to keep my cell phone and GPS working.  Enter the Solio Hybrid Magnesium Edition. It’s lightweight and portable with a battery to store energy.  It can also be charged via outlet, which I’ve already done. That way, I have it full to start and can use the sun to keep storing some charge.  It has adaptors for several different brand of cell phones, a USB, other similar devices.  We’ll see if it suits my needs.

Watching the FedEx tracking number, I knew when my tent was in Sweden and simply waiting for customs, I went into something of high gear by plotting out a ‘short’ tour.  It’s barely 70 miles, but given my speed and the fact the dog will be with me and it’s meant to be only an overnighter, I think that’s a good start to see what our baseline really is.  Especially since this will be the first time I’ll be taking the trailer any kind of distance and with a load of more than a few kilos of water and a tire pump.

My husband was also kind enough to drive me over the route.  It’s not the Sverigeleden, but still pretty countryside and lots of things to take pictures of (runestones, 3 castles, a 1700’s farm stead, stoneage stone work of some kind, and of course… churches).  It’s close enough to home that it won’t be a two day wait for rescue if I need it.  It’s a chance to see what will and won’t work for me and what else I might need that I haven’t thought of. 

While on the drive, Jens checked the status of my tent on his blackberry and discovered that it had been released from customs.  Since the end point of the tour was fairly close to the FedEx hub, he decided that we’d go pick up the tent, even if for no other reason than to keep us from needing to sit around the apartment all day to wait for the delievery.  When he came out carrying the box, he had this dubious look on his face.  It was a fairly small box for a tent and weighed almost nothing.  Opening it up, there it was, neatly packed.

Packed Tent w/ Book For Scale

Packed Tent w/ Book For Scale

It’s a Mountain Hardwear Helion 2 Super Lite Tent and it is TINY.  Even the sleeping bag is bigger and it’s compressed down pretty small.  It weighs just a smidge over 3 pounds and it’s freestanding.  Which is good.  That means unless there’s a raging windstorm, I don’t need to stress about trying to drive stakes in Sweden’s incredibly rocky ground.  It’s described as a two person tent.  Though I haven’t put it up yet, just from the dimension drawing, I’m dubious that even two VERY close people would be challenged to sleep comfortably in it.  Still, that’s fine.  I purchased it for my touring which my husband is unlikely to do.  I’ll take pictures of it up at my first camp.

So, while this isn’t a ride chatter, it’s still related to my cycling and I wanted to share my new toys.  Next post should be about my first ever cycling road trip!

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Been Slacking
July 23, 2009, 8:45 am
Filed under: Day Rides

It’s true.  I’ll admit that I got sucked into fiddling with my 3D art stuff.  It comes in cycles (pun not intended) and holds me for days or weeks at a time.  It didn’t really help that the weather has been a bit brutal.  If it wasn’t on the warm side with an unclouded sky and sun waiting to roast me into heat exhaustion, it was windy.  Very windy.  Enough so it made the winds on my first stage of the Sverigeleden look like soft breezes.

Monday and Tuesday, I did at least talk myself out the door for short rides.  Shorter even than my ‘short routes’.  Essentially, when I first got the trike, my beginning routes are named, “The River Loop” (3.2 miles), “The River Loop With Extension” (5.5 miles), and “The Field Loop” (6.1 miles).  The Field Loop is almost an extra loop added onto the River Loop and I can pitch in the extension for a total of 8 to 9 miles.  I also used to do a there and back leg out to the grave mounds of Gamla Uppsala, but since they’ve put soft sand on the track, I avoid it.

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

Button above is the route I’d actually planned Tuesday night.  It’s the latter half of the route in the previous post, beginning where my husband rescued me and Loke.  When I woke up yesterday at 4 am, the winds were calm and supposed to stay much calmer than they were Monday and Tuesday.  I went into a frenzy of activity.  Printed maps, collected all the stuff I’d want to take with me on a ride and organized it.  Then at 5:30 am, I was waving a cup of coffee under my husband’s nose.  He did a bit of grumping about how he would have liked a warning I was going to cycle today so that he could have loaded the trike up the night before.  He seemed to accept it with reasonable grace when I pointed out I hadn’t known I was going to be cycling.

It must be said.  My husband is an awesome guy for being so supportive and completely helpful with an activity he has no personal interest in.  It simply amazes me all the things he’s done for my cycling addiction with no complaints and loads of encouragement, even when it means he loses sleep.

There was a misting drizzle as we were loading the trike.  By then I was committed and my husband told me I was stuck for it any way.  To be honest, it wouldn’t have stopped me.  It was so light it would dry almost as soon as it hit you.  It turned out I needn’t have worried.  The misting stopped as we drove and the clouds began to break up.

Just Beyond Forsby

Just Beyond Forsby

By 7 am we were in Forsby again and I was unloading and settling everything.  Loke was excited (as always).  I think he was hoping to meet the English Mastiff again.  I was glad we didn’t.  Loke with way too much energy and a knack of making nice dogs irate mixed with a 200+ pound mass of bone and muscle?  Thanks, I’ll pass.  My husband finally said bye and as he drove off, Loke went into a frenzy of chase.  It’s sort of funny when he does that.  Not to mention the look of annoyance when I stop for something as paltry as a photo.

It was a nice area to cycle.  The winds were blissfully gentle and the clouds sort of played tag with the sun.  It was cool enough I was actually wearing an extra layer on my top.  I love mornings.  I’m sure I’ve said that before.  Loke wanted to set a good pace at first, but for the first couple of miles, it wasn’t to be.  Hills.  They slow me to a crawl every time.  Loke for once, actually threw his weight into his harness and helped me up them.  Probably from a sense of irritation with 3 mph I was creeping along at in the first 4 miles of the ride.

View Down The Road

View Down The Road

It clouded back up, but that was fine with me.  The sun has become almost the bane of my existence.  One or the other thing needs to go.  Either hills or the sun.  Personally, I love the character hills give to the countryside so I’d kinda like them to stick around.  Granted, pictures do come out better with sunshine. *sigh*  I just can’t win.  Hills do give some wild rides, especially when I’m solo.

I didn’t try to push Loke or myself much on this ride.  It was just something to get out and enjoy.  A simple 32 miles from where I’d ended my first leg of the Sverigeleden to my front door.  It was fairly cool for a larger part of the ride, not much sun.  Loke was keeping a good clip and being happy.  There wasn’t much in the way of wild life on this ride.  I did hear a pair of cranes, but never caught sight of them.

Flowers in the Wheat

Flowers in the Wheat

There is one significant drawback to the Sverigeleden. It doesn’t generally pass many of the ‘sights to see’ listed in my map books.  Make no mistake, it has gorgeous scenery I can happily and cheerfully pedal through all day, but it also seems to avoid so many of the churches and other landmarks I’ve set myself to ‘collect’ via photos.

There were 3 in one small area and I was tempted to add a few miles with a bit of out and back to track them down.  I quickly rethought that plan when I came to the turn for the first one in the first 5 miles of the ride.  It was a mile and a half down a freshly grated dirt road.  The loose stones strewn completely over its surface looked like boulders.  It wasn’t much of a mental leap to decide to not torture myself (and Loke) that way so early in the ride.

If I ever really do want to do the Sverigeleden, it’s going to be a struggle to not add several hundred miles to the distance weaving back and forth across it.

Österunda Kyrka

Österunda Kyrka

One church I did pass was Österunda Kyrka.  The original långhus (main area for the worshipers), kor (alter area I think), and sakristian (area the priest readies himself for sermons) were built sometime in the 1200’s to 1300’s.  Decades later the vapenhuset (entry way) was added.  The långhus and kor had simple high, straight arched vaults of wood and these were upgraded later to star arches.  It’s gone through various other renovations and additions over the centuries.  It was a rather small and unassuming looking little church.

Östersunda Bell Tower

Östersunda Bell Tower

The bell tower sat some distance away.  I like the bell towers.  I think they give a special character to the Swedish countryside.  Of course, I think that most countries have their own little touch that makes them special.  Now, if I can just explore more of them.

I still remember the first time I saw one of these free standing belfries and it completely baffled me. Like this one, it was quite a way from the church so the idea that it might hold the church bell didn’t cross my mind. It wasn’t until a bit later when I saw one that was actually next to its church that everything clicked and I went ‘Oooh! A bell tower!’ Makes sense since most of the small, old country churches lack a steeple to hang a bell.

This one sat on its little stone hill surrounded with trees and I actually came to it before I passed the church a bit of a distance away down the slope.  I decided to take a shot of it with my trike in the foreground.  Loke was with me on the other side of the road.  He had way too much energy to leave with my trike to get him in the photo.  I could just see it.  Walking across the street, turning to take the picture and there goes Loke with my trike, racing down the hill and over the horizon.

 

Uppland's Runestone #1168 - Österunda Church

Uppland’s Runestone #1168 – Österunda Church

There was a runestone next to the bell tower as well.  This one was a bit damaged compared to the others I’ve shared on my posts here.  All that is left is “And Gislaug allowed to be raised this stone after Järund.”  Like many of the runestones found near the churches, it was used as a threshold for one of the church doors before being moved into the church yard some time in the 1800’s.  It was moved again to its current spot in 1931.  I’m not sure how it came to be broken.

Quite a few runestones I’ve found before I began blogging have been in pieces.   Sometimes, they’re mere slivers of what they were originally.  Some, are patch works of their original pieces and concrete filler to hold them together.  Still, like the ancient little country churches, they fascinate me and I try to get photos of as many as I can.

Just past the church, the Sverigeleden made a turn onto an unpaved road.  This one was one of the better ones.  It hadn’t yet been turned into a torture course by being grated.  Give me a bit of washboard surface with the occasional shallow pothole over unavoidable 1 to 2 inch stones scattered all over.  Generally, I still end up on some stones since I try to give the smoothest possible surface for Loke’s paws.  I’m not hard hearted enough to take the easy path for myself at his expense.

Abandoned Buildings

Abandoned Buildings

Along the first patch of unpaved, I came upon a collection of old dilapidated buildings.  The leaning walls, sagging or collapsed roofs, tumbled beams joined by the tall growth of weeds, young trees and wild flowers around and through them gave an air of melancholy to them.  The smallest structured wedged between an old barn and a collapsed tumble of roof joists and broke clay roof tiles seemed the most forlorn with its small door and window.  It was almost as if it still waited for the ones who had left it so long ago to return.

It was far from peaceful here.  In Sweden there is a member of the crow family that is very common.  It’s called a kaja (pronounced with the ki from kite with yah. Ki-yah).  They’re a highly intelligent bird and have a certain appeal to them.  They have black bodies with a dark gray around the head.  Like crows, they can gather in huge groups and in an old falling apart barn across from the buildings in the picture, one such mass of them had gathered.  I was surprised to hear the sheer number of them actually in the slouching barn.

Österunda Lake

Österunda Lake

I cycled on and was able to catch little glimpses of a lake from across wheat fields and between trees.  Sweden is full of lakes and streams.  Sweden has more than 97.500 lakes over 2 acres in size.  That’s not including the countless little ponds, rivers, streams, and brooks.

It wasn’t too long before I was past the first of the unpaved sections and went through a small collection of houses called Ribbingebäck.  Sadly, no church, no rune stone, no ruins.  Most of the houses even looked like they’d been built in the last 50 years or so.  It was just a short jump through to another unpaved section.  This one was even better than the first and it was a section I’d been looking forward to as it went through a section of old conifers, soft leaf loam and mossy rocks.  Ever since my husband and I first drove the route from Broddbo to Uppsala over the Sverigeleden, I was anticipating this 5 mile or so section.

The shade was dense and the packed earth of the road had few stones.  That made good going for both Loke and myself.  If there was any drawback, it was the sheer number of those flies.  Again, they don’t bite, but when you have a few hundred of them clustered around you, it’s still annoying.  There were a few mosquitoes as well.  Still the beauty of the forest was worth it.  Here, I do wish I’d had sunlight since none of the pictures I took of the moss covered stones scattered between the tall straight trunks of the pines came out.

Mmmm... Strawberries!

Mmmm… Strawberries!

When I go for my long rides, I always take some kind of food with me.  This trip I’d packed some raw cashews, a bit of peanut butter with some crackers, and a banana.  Oddly, it’s actually quite hard for me to eat when I’m cycling.  Even on the first leg of the Sverigeleden when Loke and I were out for over 10 hours, I ate only 5 or 6 raw cashews and my banana.  The canned pineapple and peanut butter and crackers went untouched.  This time I actually ate a bit more.  All along the forest road were wild strawberries and wild blueberries.  I think this section of the ride annoyed Loke a bit as I kept stopping to gather up the strawberries every time I found them and add some of the blueberries.  A quick wash with water from my water bladder and it was a wonderful snack.  The wild strawberries might be small, but they have so much more flavor than the domestic variety.

I’m not generally too crazy about blueberries, but something about harvesting your own food from what nature (completely unassisted by man) provides seemed to make them taste almost as good as the little strawberries.  The blueberries extremely common around here.  They grow on little plants no more than 10 inches high all over the forest floor.  You can’t take a walk off a forest path without turning your shoes blue at this time of the year.  I didn’t spot any lingon berries though.

Skogstibble Church

Skogstibble Church

I finally emerged from the cool shadows of the forest stretch to come to paved road again and Skogstibble.  It was another tiny collection of residences and a few farms with little else except for a small daycare or elementary school and, yes, Skogstibble kyrka.  It was a small cute church set back off the Sverigeleden on its own little loop of road.  Thankfully, I discovered a bathroom here as well.  Sadly, I can find no information on the history of this church.

Friendly Kitty

Friendly Kitty

Near the entrance to the church was a runestone.  Since there was less than half of it and not much to translate, I’ll leave it at a brief mention.  As I was leaving the churchyard, a cat emerged from the growth along the parking lot.  I could tell she desperately wanted to come over for a bit of affection.  You could hear it in her meows.  Of course, desperate as she was, she wasn’t going to brave Loke.  I felt kinda bad for her and would have loved to spent a few minutes scratching her ears.

For a flashback, one of my first rides with my trike years ago, I’d found a woody patch in Uppsala to ride through.  I stopped to drink some water when a long haired apricot colored cat appeared.  In seconds it had run up to  jump into my lap where I sat on the trike and began to purr.  I still get a warm fuzzy remembering that.  I love cats.

Stone Barn

Stone Barn

Shortly after we left Skogstibble behind, the clouds started to break up more.  They had been fairly solid again about half an hour into the ride and stayed that way for a long while.  With the sun mostly staying out, it was finally time for me to remove my extra layer.  Loke started feeling the affects of the heat and his feet were getting tender.  A few miles past Skogstibble (around mile 20), was Hagby and there I decided Loke had had enough.  I called Jens and asked him to come get our fuzzy one.

To be honest, I thought about going home with Loke.  I’d been fighting with a migraine for a fair chunk of the ride.  My migraines don’t always involve pain.  I occasionally get the ones called aural migraines   Spots or graying out of vision, sometimes more of a kaleidoscopic effect, dizziness.  This one had the spots and occasional bits of dizziness along with spikes of pain every now and again.  Still, it was only about 12 miles home.  I could suck it up.

With Loke on his way home, I put the hammer down for a bit.  Granted, for the hardcore cyclist, it would have been a loafing speed, but for me, I was screaming along for a bit.  On flats I was able to hit and maintain 15 to 17 mph.  Up some of the gentler hills I was still able to hold 8 mph.  The steeper ones, I was still crawling along at 3 to 5 mph as always, with or without Loke.  Downhills, I was ripping along between 23 to 26 mph.

It quickly turned unpleasant though as I came up to Vänge.  In spite of clouds everywhere, I seemed to have own personal sunbeam staying with me with a grim (and sadistic) determination.  I was broiling as I crawled up hills.  On the flats and downhills, it seemed like every large bug for a 5 mile radius was aimed right at my face.  A beetle the size of a june bug doing a body slam between one’s eyes at 20 mph stings like mad.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

All the heat and the bug aggravation kicked my migraine into overdrive.  Still, with less than 10 miles to go to home, I was determined to not call my husband to rescue me.  Unless I was completely incapacitated, it just felt silly.  This section of the ride also told me how much harder I push myself without Loke to temper my pace.  My feet had felt fine the entire 20 miles with Loke.  3 miles into my solo stretch, they were starting to ache.  As were my thighs.  It felt so hard not to pedal harder/faster though.  I just couldn’t talk myself into slowing down and taking it easy without finding myself pushing hard again 5 seconds later.

I made it home in one piece, desperate to take off the cycle shoes and jump into a cool bath.

The 20 miles with Loke had taken over 4 hours.  Granted, we spent bits of time to let him go to the bathrooom, or for me to take pictures, two or three minutes here and there on the forest stretch to collect strawberries and blueberries.  Even so, it still shows how much faster I was alone in that I covered 13 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Not impressive for serious cyclists, but for me with bad knees, aching feet, and a migraine, I think rather respectable.

For the record, this trip put my year’s total at 590 miles.  I’m not entirely convinced I’ll hit the goal I so loftily set at the beginning of the year of 2,000 miles.  I’m not even certain I’ll break the 1,250 miles I made last year.  That bout of colds, tooth aches and tendinitis ate up a lot of prime cycle time.  Throw in my fits of slacking… it doesn’t look too good.

On the upside, the tent I ordered for touring has FINALLY shipped from the US.  If I can actually get out for some tours, I stand a good chance of making up some mileage.

On the Loke side of mileage, he’s sitting at roughly 470 miles for the year.  Another 50 miles or so (2 trips minimum) and he’ll have broken his last year’s best of 512 miles by a comfortable margin.  Yes, I did a lot of solo rides last year.  The sun just didn’t seem to bother me nearly as much.

So, on to planning my next day ride… and as soon as the tent arrives, my first overnight tour!!



It’s Official! Started The Sverigeleden!
July 12, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: Day Rides

 

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

 

 

It has begun!

That button will show you the initial course I’d plotted out weeks ago for my first stage of the Sverigeleden.  I’ve been itching to begin for some time, but kept getting delayed.  First it was the idea that I wanted to do it as an overnight  tour.  Let my husband drop me off at a campground near where I wanted to start the evening before and then after camping out, I’d get out on the road bright and early.  Well, the lack of a tent made that a bit of a problem.  Then when I decided that I was fed up with that delay and maybe I could do it as a day trip, the weather was either too hot or very bad and then some confusion over my husband’s vacation schedule.  Then this last Friday, everything seemed to click and I decided that I would do it the next day.

It didn’t start out too well.  I woke up at 4:30 am with the plan to start printing the maps for me and my husband.  I didn’t do it the night before because we had company until quite late.  That was when I discovered a printer issue.  So much for having THAT settled.  I fought with it for a while and finally around 5:30 am, I prodded Jens out of bed to take a look.  We finally managed something to get some kind of maps done.  They weren’t ideal, but I thought good enough to help me on my way and to help my husband find me if/when I needed rescue.  Finally, we left the house around 7 am which was about an hour later than I’d hoped.

We got to Broddbo, but for once, we couldn’t easily find a church for me to start my ride.  So, I settled for a recycling collection point.  It had a flat open area to set the trike up.  Okay, so it was surrounded by a couple of sheds with chutes for paper, plastic, metal and such and a couple steel bins for more of the same.  Not very glamorous.  Loke was very hyped and so was I.  Jens was mostly standing around, blinking owlishly and yawning in between taking the trike out of the car.  Sometime around 8 am, I kissed him bye, plopped down in the trike and set out.

Loke ripped us along at a fast pace.  His tongue was lolling in that husky grin the breed gets when they’re doing what they were designed to do and he’d glance over at me as we raced over the roads.  I always have the impression that he’s saying, “Wheeeee! Isn’t this awesome!?!?”

I Saw The Sign

I Saw The Sign

That’s how the first two miles went.  Finally, he settled into his not-pulling-just-keeping-up jog.  It wasn’t a bad morning.  The sun played hide-n-seek between huge billows of clouds that were heavy with rain.  There were also signs of it everywhere.  The roads stayed pretty much wet as we apparently missed where the rain had been by minutes.  As ever, I keep Loke off the road when I can to save his paws.  With a narrow packed track about 8 inches wide along the pavement, Loke was brushing up against the tall stalks of flowers and grass.  Heavy with drops from the rain, they wetted his legs and probably helped keep him cool.  The temperature wasn’t bad either.  He was happy.

Ahh, The Countryside!

Ahh, The Countryside!

It felt good to be over new ground and I was eager to cover it and get to Sala.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned that for the Sverigeleden, you can get this passport style booklet.  In my map books for the route, it actually says you can get the booklets at the same places you get them stamped.  It was the reason I left from Broddbo instead of Sala itself.  At 8 am I knew the most likely place to get the stamp (Tourist Info) was in no way going to be open.  Especially on a Saturday.  Leaving from Broddbo would let me cover some new ground while I passed some time and hopefully came into Sala around 10 am when most places might be open on a Saturday morning.

That turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.  First, Loke and I were MUCH slower than anticipated.  I guess because I kept stopping to take pictures, bathroom breaks for the furry one, checking his paws.  You get the idea.  So, it took us just under 3 hours to cover some 12 miles even with the good clip Loke was keeping on the flats and down slopes and I didn’t think there were THAT many hills to slow us to a crawl.  Or maybe I was just enjoying the countryside too much to notice.

I will admit I took over 10 minutes at point to watch and take photos.  We were going along a field section and across it, I could see a couple of somethings moving around.  I thought they looked too small for deer, but given the height of the wheat where I was, too large for hares.  They were simply too far away for me to make out.  I lost sight of them for a few minutes when a cluster of trees and rocks sitting in the middle of the field hid them from my view.

Cranes!

Cranes!

When I came around the copse of trees, I skidded the trike to a halt which earned me a rude look from Loke.

Cranes!  It was a pair of cranes wandering around in the middle of the field.  When I stopped, they became wary and gave those eerie alarm calls in that strange out of tune trumpet sound that echoed back from somewhere over the fields.  It didn’t help either when Loke went into hunt mode – head up, ears pricked and staring intently.  Fumbling desperately for my camera, I muttered ‘Easy’ and ‘Vänta’ at the fuzzy one, hoping he wouldn’t make a lunge to send them flapping off into the distance.  Fortunately, they simply walked back and forth, trumpeting as I watched and took a number of photos.

I loved seeing them.  That is only the second time I’ve seen cranes in the wild and both times here in Sweden.

Smiling and happy with getting to see the stately birds and being able to catch them on camera, I pedaled on.

Scenery

Scenery

For fairly long sections, it seems like the Sverigeleden is reasonably well marked.  Cycling along, you spot signs for it generally attached to the posts for speed signs.  It can get a little confusing around some intersections since they don’t put up a sign if you’re supposed to go ‘straight.  It doesn’t help that with forks in the road, it may not be obvious which way IS straight’.  So, occasionally you have to try and catch a glance from the road entering the one you’re on to see if you are actually still on it.  I was a bit lost for a while as I came into the first section of Sala.  With a bit of map use (intelligently, I had done a zoomed in view of Sala) and blind luck, I found my way back onto it through part of Sala.  Then of course, I had to turn off to go in search of the tourist information office.

Sala Centrum is kind of pretty in that “cute little turn of the 18th to 19th century touristy’ kind of way.  Small wooden buildings painted in pastel shades of green and yellow with a bit of decorative trim.  Brick paved streets restricted from most car traffic.  A square with benches and ice cream kiosks paved with cobble stones.  By the way, big rounded cobble stones + 1.5  inch rear derailleur clearance = very bad things.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the pretty parts of Sala since I was so tightly focused on getting my stamp booklet for the Sverigeleden.

This was where the disappointment entered.  The two girls working in the tourist office at first had no idea what I was talking about.  They were cheerful about trying to find out though.  It turned out that contrary to what my map book said, they didn’t have the booklets.  So, no stamp.  I think what contributed to me forgetting about taking pictures on the way out of Sala was the desperate need for a bathroom coupled with my disappointment at wasting half an hour in the office only to find the whole reason I came through Sala in the first place as for naught.

On a side note about my time in the Sala Tourist Office, I absolutely must mention Loke.  I parked the trike outside the office, locked it and tethered Loke to it.  It wasn’t an ideal spot for him being in the full sun and close to where there was quite a bit of foot traffic.  At least I could see him and my trike out the window.  He did beautifully!  Loke has never really been left alone tethered much.  He’s always shown himself to be so excitable that we haven’t wanted to leave him outside say the grocery store where he might be jumping on people, lunging to try and greet other dogs, so forth.  I knew that if I started touring, I was going to have to start leaving him alone for at least stretches of a few minutes for bathroom breaks, grabbing food and the like.  The few times I’ve done it, he’s done pretty well, but it was only for 3 to 4 minutes at a time.  The entire time I was in the tourist office, he was perfectly well behaved.  He sat or laid, watching people go by and didn’t try to do his jumping greet.  I was particularly thankful since so many of them were elderly people with walkers.  I was so completely impressed with the furry one.  I praised him profusely when I came back out and gave him a whole hot dog to munch on.

Norrby Kyrka

Norrby Kyrka

I worked my way back to the Sverigeleden and passed out of Sala.  My next turn along the trail was at a church.  Silly me, I didn’t think to look for the name of the church and there are several in and around Sala.  That makes it a bit difficult to say anything about it. *sigh*

Loke and I pressed on.  The day had warmed up slightly, but it still didn’t make it out of the comfortable range.  Of course, a large part of that might have been to the down right insane winds that were blasting over the wheat fields.  It didn’t help that the direction I was riding in seemed to be right into the teeth of it.

Dramatic Skies

Dramatic Skies

I think the major contributor to the craziness of the air was due to the march of the rainstorms across this part of Sweden.  Even so, it took a lot of work to buck the winds and I’m sure on the post-Sala side of the route it ate up a lot of time.

It was also after Sala that our luck ran out with those said rainstorms.  We started to get hit by them.  Nothing like a good rain being driven by high winds.  As ever, the rain was a bit cold though nowhere near as chilly as the rains from my last wet trip that threatened my expensive map-books.  Of course, this time, my maps were snug in waterproofing so I could continue blithely along.  With the high winds, it also meant that the scattered storms didn’t stick around very long.  Also, even with so little sun, I dried very quickly.  As ever, Loke had to share his opinion about the bad weather.  He kept giving me these looks as we moved through the most driving of the rain.  His ears back a bit and head down and chastising little side glances that seem to say, “You do know that even I’m smart enough to get out of this, don’t you?”

I wasn’t terribly worried at first.  It was just rain.  Naturally, within minutes of me first thinking that, came the first crack of thunder.  At least that one, I was fairly well surrounded by things much taller than I was.  It was the second one that un-nerved me a bit.  Surrounded by nothing but wheat fields and there’s my cycle flag cheerily popping and snapping in the gusts a good two feet higher than any wheat stalk around.  Fortunately, those where the only two lightning incidents.

A bit later into the ride, I discovered that my maps really need some improvement to be completely helpful and that I shouldn’t be so confident in the ‘if there’s not  sign, go straight rule’ with the Sverigeleden.  I was cycling along and finally starting to feel it a bit in my legs.  It was more than a little aggravating as Loke and I had barely covered 20 miles.  All my cycling seems to be re-strengthening my sense of direction.  Something kept telling me I wasn’t going right.  My poor maps weren’t terribly helpful and the scale on my map book wasn’t making things terribly clear either.  I did notice that the section of road I thought I was on did have a section that kind of went in the direction I was going, so I pressed on.  My suspicions were further strengthened as I coasted down a long slow hill through a residential area.  When I could suddenly see a busy intersection about another mile down the hill and a familiar church steeple in the distance I stopped.  I was off course.

Content Puppy

Content Puppy

Loke got a bit of a break though he was still quite happy to move (and even run) at this point.  Lost or not didn’t bother him in the least.  It was all the same to him.  Just places to see, smell and pee on, maybe see animals he’d want to chase.  I looked again at my map book and found I was about 5 miles off the route, but I was absolutely certain there had been no signs for a turn.  By then we’d covered about 25 miles which was originally when I’d planned to send Loke home.  Heby kyrka would have been an easy place for my husband to find.  I actually called him and talked about it.  Loke still jumped up, tail wagging with a happy, “We go?” cant to his ears every time I shifted my feet on the trike.  His paws looked fine and he hadn’t been limping at all.  So, it was decided that I go back and try to find where I missed the turn.

Of course that meant slogging back up that long slow hill I’d had such a nice time down.  I gritted my teeth and did it.  For a bit the wind dropped and in all honesty, I wanted it back.  With no wind to keep them down there were so many flies!  20 or 30 or more harassing us at any given time.  To be fair, they didn’t seem to bite, but when they’re buzzing inches from your face or worse, bumping into your eyes, it’s still downright unpleasant.  I was so grateful when the winds did kick back up a bit.

On my Garmin Forerunner gps thingie, in one of the modes, it plots a simple straight line on a blank field with a single north arrow.  Oddly enough it was a HUGE help combined with my map book in helping me figure out where I’d missed the turn.  Since I was backtracking, I could see the general curve of the road on that simple plot line and compare it with the map.  When the curves matched where the turn should have been, there was an intersection onto an unpaved road, but no sign.  I even got off my trike to stomp down weeds to be sure.  Still, I felt more confident about it as my map book indicated that the turn was onto unpaved.  About 50 yards down the turn, I had the view of a back of what looked like a speed sign and on the pole below it was another small square sign.  So, I sucked it up and went down the slope onto the unpaved road far enough to get a look at the small sign.  Sure enough, it was showing the Sverigeleden turning to left which was the original direction I had come from.

For The Environment

For The Environment

I was more than a little happy that it was unpaved.  Those are generally kinder on Loke’s feet.  I can’t always keep him off pavement when I’m on a paved road as the weeds can get just too thick and high for him to manage at more than a slow walk.  The surface of the unpaved road was almost perfect.  I’d keep one wheel on the pile of gravel in the center so that Loke had nice smooth packed ground with few stones to jog on.  It meant a rougher ride for me, but he’s worth it.  The rain storms came and went as we went along a bit more slowly.  All the recent rain had softened the dirt slightly.  It wasn’t mushy mud or anything.  It was just soft enough to slow us down.

We came upon a small group of horses along that road.  Unfortunately, it was raining and I wasn’t going to fry my camera.  It was a group of about 5 mares with three foals.  They were doing the ‘cow’ thing.  Being very curious and interested.  They even galloped along the fence with us.  It would have made a beautiful picture.  Elegant, well-groomed horses galloping across a green field with the richer green of trees in the background all against a backdrop of layered rain clouds.

I also found a nice place for Loke and I to have a half hour break or so.  It also would have been perfect for a camp.  That’s essentially what it was.  A little camp spot.  I found a car track going off through the trees and there was a metal barricade bar across it.  Still, with my trike I can almost always go under those and as I understand it, it’s still legal for me to do so in Sweden.  It wasn’t posted as private and Sweden has ‘right to use’ laws.  About 100 yards down, there was a three walled shelter with a bench for each wall.  Almost in the shelter was a large cement pillar with a grill pit.  The top was even built out a bit to double as a table with the grill in the center and you would tend a fire from a large slot about half way down the yard high column.  It was nice to get out of the current rain storm and sit on a different seat than my trike seat.  It’s comfortable, but it’s just mesh lashed over a frame of metal tubing.  After a few hours on it, the butt gets numb.  There were amazingly few mosquitoes as well.

Strange Tower

Strange Tower

About the time that the gravel was making its shift back to paved, I found one of the landmarks I’d been looking for.  Weeks ago, my husband and I had driven past it while exploring the route.  I find it to be a very fascinating building, though its purpose is a complete mystery.  I thought maybe it could be a decorative cover for a water tower, though it seems rather low for that.  I like it.  It gives definite character to the environment.  Definitely not the sort of thing you find everyday, especially out in the country side.

Icelandic & Thoroughbred Horses

Icelandic & Thoroughbred Horses

There was also an Icelandic horse farm here.  Most of them were far off in the distance and down slopes.  Just moving blots of color against the grass.

Down the slope from the tower and the Icelandic horses the Sverigeleden was well marked.  It did a brief stint on a larger paved road before turning back onto another unpaved.  That was where the end really began for Loke and I.  When Jens and I had driven it weeks ago, all the unpaved sections were smooth and hard packed with just narrow bands of gravel in the center and edges.  Plenty of smooth easy going hard dirt for Loke and I to move over.  Sadly, even though there had been few to none in the way of potholes or washboard-ing, it had been grated.  All the rocks well pressed and smoothed into the dirt had been ripped up and tossed around leaving the entire road bed a mass of loose stones.

Lake View

Lake View

For me, those over-sized pebbles combined with the wind made the going so much harder.  In short order, my legs were screaming with cramps.  With nothing but stones, stones and more stones to step on, Loke soon started to have periods of limping from stone bruises.  He’d step on a stone wrong and limp for a few steps.  Finally, I had to call my husband and tell him we were done.  We were firmly in the middle of no-where.  I wasn’t even sure what mile marker to tell my husband to look for on the map thanks to the extra mileage from losing the route.  Still I told him roughly where I thought I was and asked him to come get me.

Scenic Shot of Rain Clouds

Scenic Shot of Rain Clouds

I found Loke didn’t really want to sit still and it was going to be a while before my husband even got close to where we were, so I moved on… very slowly.  In my lowest gear and me pedaling not fast, we crept along at barely over 4 mph.  Loke was able to avoid the worst of the stones that way and barely limped at all.  When I’d stop, he’d just give me an irritated look, throw his weight in his harness and pull.  The bully.

Finally we won free of the unpaved stones and came to a place called Forsby.  Once we were back on paved, Loke stopped limping all together.  My legs were still screaming though and I found a bus stop that got me off the road edged by nice lawn-like grass.  I pulled the trike into the grass.  Only once Loke was completely convinced I wasn’t planning on moving any time soon, did he flop down.

That didn’t last long.  A couple came walking down the road with an absolutely huge English Mastiff.  I had a moment of initial panic as the monstrous brute suddenly dragged the man along effortlessly to come lumbering up to Loke.  Fortunately, even though he was a male, he was simply friendly and curious.  Loke was too tired to be his usual obnoxious self with the dog as well, which helped immensely.  Loke is in no way aggressive with other dogs.  He’s simply too rambunctious and as odd as it sounds, cheerfully dominant.  He doesn’t read cues from other dogs like ‘Back off!’ or if he does, he simply ignores them.  It often makes moderately friendly dogs irate.  So, a tired Loke was a definite blessing at this moment.  The way that brute flung his owner along behind him, I doubt we could have stopped him if he got aggressive with Loke.  All that happened was some cheerful conversation with the couple as their lovable monster slobbered all over me, trike and Loke before they moved back the way they came.

After quite a bit of phone time with Jens and map looking (and gps-ing on his part), my husband finally found Forsby.  I knew he was close when about 20 seconds before he came into sight he mentioned into the phone, “I’m in Forsby.  I don’t see you, but there’s a couple with a huge dog.”  I told him to just keep coming and he’d find me.  And yes, Forsby is that small.  It’s a tiny collection of a few houses and barns.

It was nice to get home.  Loke displayed some tenderness in his front paws, but there are no visible signs of damage.  Even the pads don’t look worn down.  My guess is stone bruises from that d*mned grated road.  He’s moving okay this morning.  Maybe not with his usual highly wired energy, but no real evidence of sore paws or muscle ache.  On my part, I don’t feel nearly as bad as I thought I would from how badly my legs were cramped up when I stopped in Forsby.  I’ve done 40+ mile trips this year and they didn’t kill me nearly as much.  I’m going to blame it all on the wind and the freshly turned road bed. Yep.  All their fault.

Now if my tent would just ship!



Few, Far Between and Short
July 8, 2009, 11:39 am
Filed under: Misc

That’s how my rides have been lately.

After the ‘rotissarie’ ride, the weather just stayed the same.  Quite warm with temps in the mid-80’s and absolutely cloudless.  I simply couldn’t face it.

When did I turn into such a ‘heat wimp’?  I used to cycle in southern Mississippi in August where mid-80 temps would have been a blessing.  Now, here I am with a bit over 4 years in Sweden and last week,  just taking Loke out for a short 20 minute walk in the sun for his business leaves me nauseous and light headed.  The only thing I can guess is that in Mississippi, after I pedaled or hiked for a while, I could slip into the delightful chill of air conditioning.  Something that is nearly non-existent in Sweden.  Thankfully, we had a storm front come through and since then the temps have been blissfully back down into the 65 F range.

This summer has been a wetter one then the past few and up until last week, cooler as well.  It’s been showing it self in huge swarms of mosquitoes in places I’ve never really seen that many of them.  About half a mile from home, there’s a lovely short stretch of green.  Large old trees shading the unpaved bike/foot path with cool packed earth and leaf loam.  Loke stopped in that section for a potty break last ride and in seconds we were swarmed by a few dozen of the little blood suckers.  I’ve ridden that stretch for 90% of my rides and Loke almost always stops along there for bathroom breaks and I have never had that happen.  It was almost surreal.

It’s been a rather rough year for cycling so far.  Most recently the fairly warm days and me getting heat sick.  Loke also had a health incident.

Woke up on July 1st (Loke’s whelping day incidentally) and Loke was walking funny.  A few hours later, he could barely walk.  His hind legs were doing weird things as he tried and he couldn’t sit for anything in the world.  When he’d lay down, he’d just kinda… flop for lack of a better term because he couldn’t do the initial sit to slide into lay.  There’s a vet a very short distance from here (3 min walk) that we drove to since Loke was in no condition to get there under his own leg power and we had no idea what might need to be done to him.

Thankfully, it wasn’t anything too serious.  I was a bit worried when the vet was baffled and ordered up x-rays.  Loke’s brother from the same litter was put to sleep after he was afflicted with some sort of mystery but debilitating pain.  After some poking and prodding, the vet discovered what it was.  They knocked him out and the next morning, he was vastly improved.  The day after that (July 3rd), he was harassing me to take him out with the trike.

But all these little incidents keep adding up.  Blinding tooth ache, tendentious, cold/flu for 3 weeks, heat sickness, my tent ordered on July 23 still hasn’t shipped and is holding up my touring plans, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I had hoped to break over 2,000 miles this year.  That’s roughly 750 miles more than last year since I had a 3 week period where I had to desperately try to find a replacement left crank for my special, now out-of-production road chainset with 155 mm cranks and a few shorter stretches (vacations, etc) where I couldn’t add miles.  So, I figured if I started as early as possible this year and keep to it as long as I can before winter shuts me down, 750 miles is nothing.  Right? *sigh*  I’ll settle for 1,500 miles.  Or even 1,300.  As long as it’s more than last year.

At least this winter I can still keep some condition since I found a trainer that could be adapted to my trike!  I’ll just rack up an insane video rental bill as I watch movies and pedal like I did all through January and February this year.

July 6 - Gamla Börje Road

July 6 – Gamla Börje Road

Any way, since the rotisserie ride I described in my last post and the above mentioned Loke incident, I’ve only taken 2 very short rides.  One on Monday was just over 8 miles.  I had planned to do the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala Loop, but was keeping an eye on the pads of Loke’s feet and wasn’t sure he could handle a full 14 miles without booties.  And I didn’t have booties.  It was fairly cool and mostly cloudy.  As you can see in the picture, it’s not that uniformly gray sheet over the sky, but those vibrant broken sort of clouds that give such beauty and character to a leaden gray sort of day.

I do have to say that from spring to autumn in Sweden can be so incredibly full of vibrant color   Spring often has a slow start, but then it just explodes.  Trees burst into leaf almost over night.  Crocus spring out of the ground with incredible shades of purple, white and yellow.  Daffodils everywhere.  Then for summer, the greens deepen to become rich calming shades that are still very strong and alive.  Throw in that the plant that produces canola oil is a common crop here and its flowers are bright yellow, you end up with vast stretches of intense yellow against backdrops of  blue (or gray) sky and deep earthen greens.  One place I want to photograph in the next couple days has these bright lilac flowers pushing up between wheat stalks.  Just a carpet of blue-ish purple and pale green over an entire field with a canola field beyond it.  Yellow, green and purple.  How Mardi Gras!  Throw in the ‘weed’ flowers that grow along roads but are still in intense shades of red, purple, white, and yellow.  With my trike so low to the ground, it’s most often those weedy road flowers I see.

The last ride which was yesterday, I didn’t have booties again, but I didn’t plan anything more than my ‘river loop’.  The River Loop is the equivalent of a jog around the block for someone who can run 5 to 10 miles.  It comes in 2 flavors   Unextended which 3 miles.  Extended which adds a 2 mile out and back stretch along the river.  We did the extended.  The extension is actually a fairly new addition.  I rode it one time before they paved it.  It was rough going for both Loke and I.  Two narrow gravel strips where the tires of cars might have passed a few times with a bit of weed pushing up.  Taller weeds down the center and pushing from either side of the track.  Loke had to hop through the weeds more than walk or jog.  I had to force my way over/through with weed stalks getting caught on every part of my trike.  About a month after I’d discovered the path, they closed it off and started paving and lighting it.

River Loop Extension

River Loop Extension

Now, it’s a comfy stretch of pavement that follows the river bank past crop fields.  The weeds can still get rather high along parts of it, but the paving holds them at bay.  Believe it or not, to the left of that wall of tangled stalks is a picnic table.  I can’t imagine anyone using it.  Most people aren’t going to push through weeds tall enough to lose a small (or even not so small) child in.  To the other side is the river.  Last year, there were the weeds, but they were covered by bright white flowers that looked a bit like daisies.  Much prettier.

So, this is my non-route specific babble.  Hopefully in the next few days I can change that.  I’m hoping to do a longer ride before the weekend is out.  Maybe my first planned stretch of the Sverigeleden which I figure is 50 to 60 miles.  Fingers crossed!