Terii’s Cycling Babble


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!

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