Terii’s Cycling Babble

Up, Up, Down, Down, Down, D…..
August 20, 2010, 6:13 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Written August 14, 2010

A bit behind on writing this log.  But I’m going to excuse myself that lack on the grounds of it having been a roller coaster of a day.  First of all, it was my birthday and those have been kinda iffy for me for YEARS.  A lot of crappy ones have kinda weighted it toward something I generally don’t look forward to much, though Jens does his best to make up for that.  Keeps them quiet, which I appreciate, but makes sure I get something special and we go out for dinner at a place of my choosing.

"Too Early For This," He Says

This year of course, we were up here which I was excited about.  Especially since my knees had done so well on the first ride I tried.  The day had dawned wet and gray and a tiny bit on the cool side.  That was a bit of a disappointment cycle wise.  My husband woke around 8 am and wished me happy birthday.  When I told him about the weather in a grumpy tone, he came up with the absolutely perfect birthday gift.  He knew I had been smitten with the landscape above the tree-line toward an old abandoned mine called Stekenjokk.  I had decided that it would be the perfect place to start a ride since for the first half at least, the majority of it was downhill.  Kinda cheating, but hey!  Better that then 4 hours to get six miles because 80% of it was 7 degree or greater slopes taken at less than 2 mph. Hehe.

Stekenjokk Day After Ride - View & Info

Anyway, his suggestion was we go up and he would bring his audio books and a paperback to keep him amused.  Drop me off at Stekenjokk where he would read for half an hour, then he would come find me, park and repeat.   Just leap-frog me along for a while so that if I got too chill with the temp and the rain, I wasn’t going to be waiting for like a set three hours or something for him to come back since we have only one working phone up here.  I think that was one of the absolute sweetest things he could have ever suggested.

 After he spent some time convincing me he wouldn’t be COMPLETELY bored out of his mind, I agreed.  Then we had a bit of a bad patch in the day.  While we were scrambling around to get ready since we were on a bit of a time limit with his parents due to arrive that afternoon, I discovered I couldn’t find my Garmin Edge 705.  We completely tore the cabin and car apart looking for it.  I was certain I’d had it when we went to Gäddede and the Norwegian border, but it was no where to be found.

I could tell Jens was very upset.  It was an expensive thing and I am a scatterbrained clutz which is rarely a good combination.  That little ‘toy’ of mine I adore along with its maps cost more than most of the rest of this entire trip.  While it does express itself in subtle ways, my red-haired husband’s temper fortunately doesn’t tend to explode.  He just gets eerily quiet.  I think he knows I tend to kick myself around more than enough over things like this to make up for his not doing so.

So, we jumped in the car and headed for Gäddede and the Norwegian border.  Everywhere I had gotten out of the car we checked the area we parked and I also asked in the grocery and the gas-station and thoroughly searched the parking lot at the border.  Nothing.

By then, I was really in a funk.  I knew my husband was going to be upset for a while over the loss.  Even so, Jens was determined we were going to do the trip.  We stopped at the cabin for me to grab my old Garmin which at least would plot my route on-line even if I wouldn’t have the car-like map function of my new one.

Moody as I was, the scenery was still gorgeous and captured my attention.  Who would have thought a gray and spitting rain day would have been so riveting?  But the way the clouds hung low and chased over and around the peaks was beautiful and the play of light over the valleys and ridges was incredible.  We hit the high point of my planned route and were enveloped in the dense fog of clouds which was a bit of a cause for concern.  Me on a low structure of fragile metal tubing with only a bright orange flag and a tiny blinking rear light moving along at 2 – 15 mph (depending on Loke and/or slope) with a visibility of less than 30 yards and wet road.  Bad images come to mind.

Coming Out of the Clouds

Even though he was still more than a bit peeved at the loss of the Garmin, my husband smoothly suggested he would simply creep along behind me with his caution lights which were about 100 times brighter than my cheapie little blinkie.  Again, I thought that was about the sweetest thing someone could do.  We pulled into one of the parking lots around Stekenjokk with it’s information sign and began getting ready.  The clouds there were higher so the area wasn’t enveloped in a pea soup of fog and we only got hit with random drops of rain every minute or so.  Some frozen, some not.  The wind hit us like a wall.  I would say it was doing over 20 mph with higher gusts and felt much colder than the 14 c the car said it was.  I immediately dug out my cycle jacket and wondered if I’d been foolish to leave behind my woolies.  We got the trike out and while Jens walked up to the info sign, I got everything else ready.

Then the day took a positive turn.  My husband was wandering back as I was pulling out the bag with my cycle shoes.  I reached in to grab them and something kinda gave a plastic rattle from INSIDE one of the shoes.  He was close enough to see what I dug out of the shoe.  It was my Garmin.  I started laughing, a bit of hysterical relief and Jens just kinda sighed and hung his head.  The really annoying thing about it is we had BOTH dug through that bag several times, shifting the shoes around to make sure the GPS wasn’t under them and never heard/felt it rattle.  With a bit of a rueful smile, Jens asked that we never speak of that morning.

View Up A Peak

By this point, I was feeling a bit stressed for time.  We had been getting moving around 8 am before the GPS issue, but it had taken up a lot of time.  My parent-in-laws (is that even the proper way to say it?) were due sometime that afternoon and we had to repair the mess we’d made of the cabin looking for my GPS.  Still, I was determine to get some of the ride in.  Loke was almost hysterically excited.  He really seemed to be loving this new landscape we were introducing him to.  I think the cool air with its brisk wind and wide open vistas (where the clouds weren’t hiding it anyway) caught at him in a primal way.  Very quickly we were off.

To Touch the Clouds & Know the Skies

Unfortunately, our initial high speed didn’t last long.  About a two miles before the Stekenjokk marker was another marker which stands at the highest point of that particular road.  876 meters above sea level or 2,874 feet for us non-metric users.  I had a bit of climbing to do.

As I pointed out when I mentioned this coming trip and my concerns about my lack of stamina and potential problems with my knees, at least if I’m creeping along, I’ll have something pretty to look at.  This was very true here.  I wasn’t seeing the clouds with the resentful perspective of how they were blocking the views and the sunlight.  I was astounded by the strange, almost surreal quality they gave this high, windy and tree-less world.  I was caught up with those collections of mist and shadow even as I crept along up an almost constant slope toward the high point marker.  There was a deeper sort of presence to the peaks as I watched the lower edge of a cloud skim along a mountain slope before gracefully sweeping upward as if to leap over a shallow valley.  That arch framed distant peaks beyond with the cloud line arching downward again where the little valley rose on the opposite side.

First Bit of Sun For The day

As I slowly chewed up the 100 or so yards of vertical climb across the two miles, I was still enjoying myself and trying not to let myself stress about how incredibly tedious it must be for my husband as he hung back a bit since it seemed the lower clouds which had given us so much concern had gone up a few hundred feet and left the road mostly clear.  Once I’d gotten moving, I didn’t feel the chill.  Part of it might have been the fact I’d brought my sheep skin to cover my mesh seat.  I’m sure without that, I would have been a bit on the cool side.

Loke’s nose and ears were both quite busy as we went along.  The few downish or level sections of road in that climb where I could get a bit more speed up, Loke was quick to pull into a lope.  Nothing to set the road on fire, but he was definitely willing to run.  I again was quite impressed with myself as we continued to climb.  My GPS was saying the slopes weren’t much more than 5%.  I have my doubts about that accuracy though I will agree that I’ve struggled over much steeper ones in Uppsala.  Even so, on slopes of over 3%, my pace at home was generally around the 3 mph range as I coddle my knees.  Yet here and on these slopes of 4 to 6%, I was managing an extremely respectable (for me) 4 mph.  Getting enough oxygen from the thinner air felt like my bigger problem rather than my knees.  Not the slightest little twinge or pain.

Closer View of Sun-Touched Tundra

Even so, 4 mph up the hills left me plenty of time to crane my head around to enjoy the scenery.  The banks and rows of the clouds which had filled the sky like inverted peaks of mountains with graduated layers of grays were beginning to break up.  Though the angles of the breaks didn’t allow me to see the blue beyond them, they did allow sun to lance through and touch the low tundra like growth.  The muted greens and yellows of the plants leapt into vivid relief, like a bright island in a cold sea of shadow with a low line of still dark peaks beyond.  The first time we had come up to Stekenjokk on our exploration day, it had been cloudy.  With that one kiss of sunlight in the distance showing us the true colors, I caught a real glimpse of another face that tree-less landscape could have shown us on another day.

So, I crept along those first 2 miles at around 4 mph, some times dropping to 3.5 or so and enjoyed myself immensely.

Loke on the Heights

I still have to admit though, I was SO glad when I finally crested a hill and saw the marker.  Car and trike both came to a stop as Jens got out of the car to stand out of frame while I tried to get Loke and the trike in a picture with the height marker.  The slow 2 mile climb which had brought us up almost 100 yards higher than where we’d started from was not really enough to take the edge of Loke’s willingness to run.  So, my husband was ready to catch the furry one if he took it into his head to start racing down the long slope in front of us.

And the World Falls Away

On the road before us, the world fell away a bit.  Higher up, the clouds were close and dark, a deep gray that left everything cast in gloomy shadow before they seemed to soften and rise as I looked further ahead.  It was beautiful to look and see the closest peaks so dark like coming of a storm and a ridge beyond almost sunny.  Above-the-tree-line mountains are not something I’ve experienced often and I think it is those environments which are less familiar to us we can find so breath-taking.

A Glint of Water & Touch of Sun

I have to say, I felt almost guilty as we left the high point in the road.  Loke got to do a bit of running like he wanted though I was just coasting along in my comfy sheep-skin covered mesh seat.  He wasn’t fast, only around 15 mph which is a brisk lope, but not an all out charge.  I was content to leave it at that until I’m sure there’s no problem with his heart and I kept a close eye on his breathing, his pace, etc.  Me?  All I had to do was hang on to the brakes so I didn’t go screaming down the road at warp speed which would have meant a LOT of trouble to Loke even at his best speeds two years ago.

The fastest I’ve ever gone on my trike was something like 32 mph (or 51 kph) and without the furry one who’s best all time speed is just a tiny bit over 22 mph.  While the slope might not have been as steep as the one that catapulted me at 30+ mph, I had a lot more distance to break it and I’m sure I could have.  Not sure I really have the courage to attempt it though.  The roads around here are not exactly race course quality and one good bump could send everything flying with something like my trike at those speeds.  One thing I am not is an adrenaline junkie.  I’ll leave that sort of thing to those willing to risk broken bones and concussions.

Hint of Lingering Snows

But I let Loke set the pace.  If he wanted to lope along at 13-15 mph.  Fine.  If he wanted to trot at 8 mph even on a steeper downhill.  Okay,  no worries.  I just kept my hands on the brakes and watched the scenery, paid attention to the Volvo behind me since Jens would warn me when a car was coming up behind, and tried to let go of the nagging little stress about how bored my husband must be or the disaster of the cabin with in-laws coming.  In spite of that, I continued on through that world of clouds, rock, tundra growth and water.  There are little streams everywhere and most are very shallow even if they’re eight yards across.  Here and there are bigger ones, but often they are quite small.  Most around a yard across and quite a few less than that as they gurgle through the shallow cuts they’ve cut and lined with loose stones when they run higher during the spring melt.  On a few of the mountains were touches of snow.  Just small patches, desperately clinging to hollows of the higher peaks where maybe even the lichens, dwarfed shrubs and scatterings of flowers have to give way to bare stone.

The Trees Begin

I felt a twinge of disappointment when I stopped and dug out the camera to take a picture of the tree line.  The first indication are twisted little things, less than two meters high with dark green leaves and pale trunks (aspen maybe?) scattered with equally stunted conifer types.  Loke was still running good, there had been little rain to that point.  What brief sprinkles there had been didn’t feel terribly cold oddly enough.  It had felt FAR colder when I did that ride between Husby-Långhundra and the Mörby castle ruins.

Once I actually became surrounded by those little trees struggling at the fringe of their survival range, I began to turn my thoughts toward ending the ride.  There were still beautiful views around me, but of the familiar sort and much of it was going to be walls of trees.  That can be pretty, but a wall of trees here looks much like the walls of trees around Uppsala especially in photos, so it was not enough to convince me to go on with the niggling little stresses plucking at my thoughts.

It was a mile more before I found a parking area to pull off into where we could load the trike without too much of an audience.  It might not be the peak season, but there are still a lot of people around here and the little parking strips they pave along the roads are often have people at them.  The entire ride was just a little over 8 miles, but together with the ride the day before, it seemed to be enough to leave Loke calm enough to flop down in the car and sleep once we were moving.  I even think he was a tiny bit calmer than usual when my in-laws arrived with their hyperactive (and very yappy) standard poodle.  So, while it might have started out as hell, at least I had a good ride and the day ended well!!

Blitzen?? Vixen??

P.S – I didn’t see any reindeer that day.  Here’s a picture from the following day when Jens and I drove up there with his parents.  You can’t go taking pictures of Lappland without at least ONE picture of roaming reindeer!!!


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“You can’t go taking pictures of Lappland without at least ONE picture of roaming reindeer!!!”
Reindeer are ok but I still prefer Loke :0)
I’ve had my Trice to 46mph and it was much to fast; I won’t be doing it again!

Comment by dexey

Hehe. Well, Loke can be photographed anywhere. Reindeer are a bit more picky. 😉

And 46 mph??? Gah! I was clenching my teeth with a white knuckled grip at 32!!

Comment by terii

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