Terii’s Cycling Babble

100.23 Miles?
March 31, 2011, 4:27 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yep.  100.23 miles.  After my 3.62 mile ride around the River Loop with Loke yesterday, I loaded the rides from my Garmin into the Garmin Training Center software.  This was the total it gave me.  100.23 miles in less than a month.  Not my best.  At least one year, I was riding 100 miles in less than a week.  Quite a few solo rides admittedly, though I think Loke would have been fine covering that distance as long as he had socks.

However, as I stared at that number, I felt a significant prick of irritation and even disgust.  In 3 weeks, I’ve covered MORE than 1/4 of last year’s total distance?!  Don’t get me wrong, looking back at the whole cluster of set-backs, I understood I didn’t really cycle as much as I wanted, but for me to have done a quarter of the distance in so short a time when I’ve not been riding my best?  I don’t even feel like I’ve put forth much effort into getting out for this year’s rides at all.  If it’s been this easy, why didn’t I cover more distance last year?

It just boggles my mind.

But, I just wanted to vent that.  Get it in text to look back upon at some point.

As for the ride yesterday?  I wasn’t feeling too well.  It was a gorgeous day though and my husband came home from work a bit early.  He decided I should go for at least some kind of ride for Loke’s sake if nothing else.  We toyed with the idea of me starting from the Järlåsa Kyrka again, but though he was home early, I wouldn’t have been starting the ride until almost 4 pm or even 4:30.  Felt like a lot of effort for 2 hours riding.  So, to make husband and husky happy, I did at least get him to carry the trike out and give Loke a River Loop run.

No pictures.  The river is remarkably clear of ice already.  Some sections look rather ‘autum-ish’.  Brown grass, naked trees with dead reeds along the banks, but no snow or ice.  Not many sections, but enough.  We passed an absolutely adorable Doberman Pincer puppy.  He was about 6 months old, but already well trained enough his owner was walking along with him free of the leash.  When the man called him, he sat right next to his left leg and watched us go by with a bit of a whine and little prance with his front feet.  Very impressive restraint for a puppy.

Other than that, it was just a quick loop.  Maybe I’ll drag the trike out the door for a longer ride today if I feel better.  I think this weekend I’ll try to finish the trip I ended at Järlåsa though.

Maybe I’ll even make it a goal to crush last years total distance before the end of April. Muhahaha.  I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment, but I stand by that evil laugh. *smirk*

Trike Adventures on Ice
March 27, 2011, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Sounds almost like one of those ice shows.  Disney or something.  It was nothing warm and fluffy though.

Writing the blog earlier this morning lit a fire under my butt.  I asked my hubby if he would mind abandoning me, trike and dog somewhere in the countryside for a few hours.  He was willing so I laid out a route just outside of the ‘Been There, Done That Too Many Times’ lands though it would lead me to a place I’ve cycled through twice before.  If I was really froggy, I could probably even cycle home passed Ulva and Gamla Uppsala, though it would mean a ride of 40 miles or more.  I doubted I’d make it that far, but it was a possibility and Jens liked the idea of me cycling in the general direction toward home at least.

Every weather application/website or thermometer I checked insisted it was above freezing as I readied everything for the ride.  I’d tentatively planned to leave from Skogstibble which is along a section of the Sverigeleden I’d cycled almost 2 years ago now.  After a few miles though, I’d be on new ground with new churches.  On the way there, I decided to skip Skogtibble and start from the first new church.  I would cut nearly 4 miles from the ride.  4 miles I could apply to the other end, edging me a bit closer to home.

Ålands Kyrka

There was a bit of confusion and it turned out the second choice for a starting point wasn’t entirely good.  To get to the road I needed meant riding along a very busy section with no shoulder for about a 1/4 mile.  Not my idea of a good start.  So, I rambled around the churchyard for pictures and my constant search for runestones.  Sadly, there were no runestones to be found, but I did take a few pictures at least.  Oh! And do you see the clear skies and sun in the picture?  Yeah, so did I.

Looks So Very Old

One thing I decided as I assembled the trike.  All the weather things I’d checked and rechecked LIED about the temperature even if correct about sunshine.  In no way was it almost 40 F.  The wind was stiff and roaring through the trees with a bitter sting against my eyes and cheeks.  Before I even settled the seat, I was dragging on all the layers I’d thought to bring.  My gloves?  Completely inadequate.  It was new ground and I refused to be put off by something as paltry as wind.  Pfft!  I would conquer!  I had my bullet proof thermals on as well as thin thermals with cycle tights and 4 layers on my arms and chest.

As I settled things, Jens pointed out the sound of geese in the distance.  Kinda neat, but it didn’t hold my attention.  Geese generally mean Canadian Geese and while I like them, they’re kinda like the mallard ducks around here.  So many and so common, they blend into the scenery.  Kinda like blades of grass.

Where Did Spring Go??

The first two miles were brutal.  The wind, cold and dry, made my eyes burn so much I had tears streaming down my cheeks and could barely keep them open.  I kept thinking I needed a video camera mounted on my pedal boom so I could play it back to see the scenery I’d ridden though.  We flew over that distance at roughly 16 mph (from the few glances I managed to actually see my Garmin).  The speed wasn’t my choice, but my partner’s.  Loke was in his element!  A bitter chill in the air and a world of white all around is where a husky belongs.  He loved it!  Me?  Not so happy, but determined.

During the charge, I discovered the distant honking hadn’t been geese!  I heard it again and turned my head.  That gave my eyes a brief respite from the wind and I smiled.  Swans!  A pair of swans came from behind us fast.  Only about 30 feet away and barely 10 feet off the ground, they raced Loke and I.  The furry one’s pace fumbled a bit as he spotted them.  When those graceful, winged forms surged ahead, he poured on the speed to try and catch them.  After a few hundred yards, they canted upward, vivid white against the blue of the sky.  Swans seem to have grace in all they do.  Except maybe walking.  They do look a bit silly on land.  Sadly, no pictures.  Digging the camera out at 16 mph seemed too risky.

Worry gnawed at the back of my mind as I came up on the first turn.  I was certain it wouldn’t be paved and I was right.  It looked great though.  No snow or ice on it and while mushy enough to make me work a bit harder, it wasn’t a killer.  Loke really liked it and wanted to run, run, RUN!

Around mile 3, I spotted white on the road ahead.  Not terribly worried, we went on since it didn’t appear to be hard frozen ruts or the like.  Heh.  Yeah.  Not ruts.  Hard frozen, definitely.  We were climbing a hill when I lost all traction.  My forward momentum turned into a twisting, slow glide across the road.  When I stopped, I was cross-wise to the road direction, a sitting duck for any car coming over the hill.  All my studded rear tire accomplished was a spin.  I put a foot down and tried to push.  I even tried to get Loke to pull.  No good.  I somehow managed to get out of the trike.  With my feet sliding like crazy, I  pushed the trike back to a thin strip of gravel.  I managed to move about 100 feet with the momentum I gained from that short running start.  It was enough I was able to drag the trike to clear ground.  All of this left Loke completely baffled. He, of course, had no problem on the ice.

Little Slice of H*ll. Little Did I Know

I was shaking as I caught my breath.  Less than 200 feet in 15 minutes and I felt like I’d gone 5 miles in 10 minutes or something silly.  The picture does no justice since you can’t see the true expanse of the ice around the curve.  No way I was going to skate around the curve to get a better shot either.  Falling on my rear or face isn’t my idea of a good time.  Pretty sure it would ruin the rest of the ride.

I gave Loke a drink and then pedaled on.  Less than another 200 yards around a curve, I stopped to stare in dismay.  Ice.  Smooth, gleaming like wet, polished alabaster.

Birch Trees In Snow

The next three miles must be among the hardest I’ve ever ridden.  It was harrowing and exhausting.  Long stretches of the slick topped road where I had to build up momentum before hitting ice.  My gears had to stay low, but I needed pedal quickly so I wouldn’t lose the forward movement and yet not so fast to spin the tire.  Desperately trying to steer around curves with front tires which didn’t want to hold the surface beneath them.

Loke came into his own.   Usually, the furry one only pulls at the first mile or so of a ride, when he sees small animals to chase, or on very rare occasions up steep hills.  He’s a very smart dog and after the fiasco of the first ice patch, he sensed what was needed.  He pulled hard and steady.  I encouraged and lavished praise upon him as we skidded and slid on our way, praying the whole time he wouldn’t decide he needed to stop and mark the deep snow bank to the side.  He didn’t.  The furry one was a husky with a job and he did it flawlessly.  I’m utterly convinced that without Loke, I would have been calling my husband for a rescue in the middle of that 3 mile ice rink.

Each spot of clear road, I’d stop to catch my breath, sip water and offer some to Loke.  I pedaled so fast I sweated in spite of the cold.  I felt nauseous a few times both from exertion and, when I’d start to slide in weird directions or slow down, worry of getting stuck.  Insane cadence and struggling to control my direction took their toll.  Where there wasn’t ice, the dirt was a thick mire that slowed me to a crawl.  It took me an hour and a half to cover the 3 miles and reach clear roads.  Paved roads.  When I realized the worst was over, I had to wait for my muscles to stop twitching and my breathing to normalize before I could go on.  After the insanity of the frozen road, solid pavement under the wheels felt like air.  Even with the wind and my knobbly rear tire, it felt like I flew.  Loke was still happy to run and I noticed he barely pulled.  He’d done his duty to get me to good ground and was happy to just keep up.  I was fine with that too.

We covered the distance from the icy nightmare to the small village of Järlåsa.  Somewhere between those two points, the sun vanished behind a blanket of cloud and somehow the frigid wind got even colder.  It didn’t help, I was still fairly exhausted from the adventure.  A bit less than 3 hours of cycling to cover 9.65 miles and I found myself looking upon Järlåsa Church.

Järlåsa Kyrka

It was a surprise.  A stunning, round church of stone and yellow painted plaster capped by a domed roof with a central copper steeple.  It was quite beautiful and I was enchanted.  I’ve seen a few other round churches, but I think this one was the prettiest.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I began to shiver.  Even the warmth generated by pedalling wasn’t enough to counter the chilling I got.  Most of it was from my face and I had trouble keeping the cap down over my ears.  I gathered the camera and Loke to find a good angle to collect the church and look for runestones.  Sadly, none to find it seems unless there’s one lurking at the old ruined church I just found out about as I blogged this.  Maybe I should start researching the churches before the ride though it would ruin the surprise I get when I find gems like this.  I suppose on a later ride, I can start from here to find the ruins before I leave.

I was so cold and tired when I finished my round of the church, I decided the ride was over.  Yes, I know.  Less than 10 miles and I was giving up.  But I wasn’t sure I could push the pedals much farther.  It was long miles to the next point of interest and if I became too wiped to go on, there wouldn’t be a spot as nice to wait for a pick up either.  I went to sit in the near tropical warmth of the tiny bathroom for a while after I called the hubby.  Tethering Loke with a long line, I sat down in the trike with my back to the wind.  Hat down as far as I could pull it and collar of the windbreaker up to my nose, I waited.

Loke didn’t seem too happy with that.  When I’d turned the trike around, he immediately moved into the correct position to be hitched and followed it as if he had been tied to it.  After a few minutes, he woofed at me.  Even pawed at my leg and arm.  When that didn’t work, he sat staring off in the distance with deep sighs.  Clearly, he hadn’t run enough, but I didn’t have anything left.

It felt so nice to get home, jump into a near scalding bath and soak.  Loke’s fairly quiet, but not as flat as he was after the last ride.  About right for both of us, I’d say.

Goodness, I’m Slacking. :6
March 27, 2011, 7:37 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Seriously, I am.  I wish I could grump that I have no idea why, but I know exactly.  I’m bored.  Loke’s bored.  We’re both bored of the same ol’ loops as we try to build ourselves up.  Then of course, Loke’s feet need time to toughen up since I haven’t made him many socks in spite of the sewing machine we purchased almost exclusively for the purpose.  If I knew it wouldn’t kill Loke and I both after the first 6 hours or so (if lucky), I’d throw my gear in the trailer and take off.  I’ve tried looking at the maps for SOMETHING new I could ride to/past on a 3 to 5 hour easy loop, but nope.  I’ve pretty much covered everything in a 10-15 mile radius around Uppsala.

I could blame the low-grade cold I’ve been fighting.  It does make it harder to gather the UMPH to go out for a tedious ride, but it’s no real excuse.  Did I mention I’m bored?

My last ride was on the 23rd.  I’m tentatively planning to go for a ride again today in spite of the cold snap we’ve had.  After all, I do have the ultra-thermals which could double for bullet proof armor.

Any-hoo.  The last ride, March 23.

The day started out glorious.  The 2nd warmest day of the year.  It had stayed above freezing the night before and warmed so quickly, I got my earliest start of this new cycling season with me setting foot to pedals at 9:30 am sharp!  As I was wrestling the trike out, I felt quite warm in my lightest thermals under my tights and standard cycle top.  I decided Loke and I were going to do Börje for the first time this year.  Loke seemed quite glad to be out even though I turned toward the same ‘ole River Loop we’ve already run.. what? 5 times this year?  We skimmed along in the gorgeous sun, dodging a surprising number of people for a weekday morning.  We couldn’t even do our usual mad charge down the hill toward the river.

From Pristine Snow Covered Ice To This

I was quite surprised when I saw the river.  It had gone kind of yellow the week before, where the water was starting to seep through the ice, but a few nights of good freezes ans a 2 inch snow fall had turned it back to pristine white when I passed it on the 20th.  No longer!  The melt water is finally hitting the river and pushing the river level up above the ice.  A stunning transformation in just a few days!  As I took the picture (see my shadow on the river!  The closest I’ve come to being in these photos. Hehe), I noticed the clouds coming to flaw what had been a pure blue sky.

Loke actually sighed and slowed down a bit as I turned to cross the 272 onto Gamla Börjevägen.  As we moved between the fields and into the teeth of a brisk wind, the speed of the encroaching clouds seemed to swallow the sun.  20 minutes after starting out in a strong sun and temperatures warm enough, I wondered if my thermals might have been unneeded, I tried to huddle back into the sheepskin covering my seat and pulling up the collar of my wind-breaker I’d had to wrestle.  The temp had done at least a 5 degree F drop (2-ish for the metric users) and with no sunlight and wind bringing the lingering cold of snow-covered fields right into my face- Well, you get the idea.

I debated turning back a few times in the next 15 min as we crawled against the bitter breeze.  I argued with myself to do at least the loop which would take us out toward the 72 and then past the shopping center for roughly 10 miles.  At last, I gave a sigh as I decided to suck it up and do the Börje/Gamla Uppsala Loop any way, icy wind and inadequate thermals or not.

Börje Kyrka Over The Snow

Loke and I both perked up with a bit more interest as we went straight through the intersection we’d been turning right or left at so often this year.  I know, I know.  Less than 10 rides and I’m grumbling like we’ve ridden this stretch a few dozen.  The decision felt like a good one, even as I had shoulders hunched to keep the collar of my windbreaker up to my nose and the knitted cap under my helmet pulled down my upper eyelids.  Even through gloves, I alternated shoving hands between my back and the sheep-skin for warmth.  I felt even better about the ride when I spotted the church across the fields.

That picture of Börje is a prime example of why I love taking my larger, heavier Canon with the telephoto lens with me.  I never could have gotten such a good shot with my point-n-click.  Not without walking for 20 minutes across that snow with uneven ruts of a plowed earth lurking treacherously below.

Loke hit a pretty good lope as we rounded the curves that took us past the church about 15 minutes after it appeared in the distance.  He loves the curving slope that goes by the school.  It’s another one of those spots he delights in hitting a full run.  As we sped toward the church, I debated stopping to search the churchyard for additional runestones.

Uppsala Runestone #912 - Börje Kyrka

Börje Kyrka does have a runestone I know of.  It sits as part of the outside of the churchyard wall about 5 feet from the road.  It’s one of the most simple carvings I’ve found.

After my lesson with Vänge, I admit, I did consider stopping to look for another stone in the church yard or lower walls of the building itself.  One look at the parking lot choked with chunks of broken ice rapidly changed my mind.  In stead, we streamed past at almost 12 mph to whip around the curve where the road followed the churchyard wall.  I made a point of looking for the first sign of crocus along the ditch bank there as well.  It’s where I found one last year though I think it was a few weeks later in the year.

The road between Börje and the Gamla Gård is a pretty one.  A few farms and less than a handful of houses sitting up against the road for 2 miles.  The fields along there aren’t the huge flat expanses of a kilometer or more across where the wind comes screaming across the snow either.  They’re smaller, so the trees are visible as more than a dark line on the horizon and they break up air flows a bit too.  It’s a bit hilly as well so a few spots where I creep at 4 mph or less followed by decent stretches where I can cruise as fast as Loke is willing to run.  He was willing this time.  We covered the 2 miles at around 10 min, which considering the time I had to spend climbing, was pretty good.

This ride seemed to be a lot of ‘I considered’ and it held true again when I came up to Gamla Gård.  I know I’ve mentioned the place many times.  It’s a collection of farm buildings including a farm house from the 1700’s.  A group of residents in the immediate houses and farms in the area make it a point to collect old buildings, move them and then lovingly restore and maintain them.  I’ve had many a lunch or snack brake there.  Sitting under the shade of graceful birch trees at a picnic table while Loke, tethered to one of said birches, does his grass-thrash.  A few times, I’ve had the company of some of the men who are retired, have the time to care for the buildings and grounds, and only too happy to share the history of their buildings in a choppy combination of Swedish and English.  They’ve even proudly unlocked the house once so I could take a peek, even climb up into the loft/attic to take pictures of all the old butter churns, spinning wheels and farm equipment they’ve collected.

There is an outhouse too which has been a life saver every now and again.  It’s amazingly clean.  Even more impressive, though it is your traditional wooden outhouse, I’ve never seen fly or other insect there.  It’s cleaner than a few modern bathrooms I’ve suffered.

I sit here laughing as it occurs to me what, as a cycling enthusiast, I consider a luxury and important.

Field & Back of Gamla Gård Farm House

It would have been nice to get pictures of the half-dozen or so buildings arranged in the farm-yard with snow.  Particularly, the sod-roofed one.  But the gravel road was not melting gracefully or kindly toward my trike’s use, so I settled for taking a picture of the back of the farmhouse from the road.

From the Gamla Gård, it’s a long downhill slope.  Alternating between gentle glide and clench-the-brakes-with-white-knuckles-so-Loke-can-keep-up charge, it makes an easy mile for me.  Good thing Loke likes to run.  The steepest section is where it jags into a sharp ‘S’ curve with a bridge over a small stream right in the middle.  The latter part of the ‘S’ is one of the steeper hills on the route at almost 10%.  Without Loke, I’ve hit 28 mph (45 kph-ish).  With the blind SHARP curve, it really gets my heart going and a bit dry mouthed as I’ve wondered each time I’ve done that would a I lose traction and skid to the wrong side of the road just as a car came whipping down the hill from the other direction.  It’s also there, I once had a bird hit the brim of my hat when I was doing 25 mph.

It felt a little warmer as we moved along which I was quite glad of.  I stopped at one point to get the blood flowing to my toes again.  Sometimes those cycle shoes of mine leave them numb.  I swapped Loke to his flexi-leash, but he just stood there staring at me in confusion as I moved back and forth.  Finally, I picked up a small rock and threw it into the snowy field.  It began a frenzy.  The furry one bound after it and his face vanished as he began a search.  Some crazy, circular bounding and he finally flung himself down to wallow in the snow.  Frantic digging followed that for about 5 minutes.  When he calmed down, another tossed stone set him off.  He enjoyed himself.  Goof.  It really perked him when I hitched him to the trike.  He set off with as much vigor as our first mile usually has.

I didn’t stop at Ulva.  The cafe was closed and no way I was going to take the trike down an icy and very steep slope to get a closer look at the river.

Stone Fragment - Gamla Uppsala

By the time we made it to Gamla Uppsala, it was noticeably warmer and I decided to check out the churchyard there.  5 years of cycling past Gamla Uppsala at least a dozen times a year and I’d never looked for runestones there.  Gamla Uppsala church had them.  I found the three fragments first.  Clustered together, they lacked the sign giving any hint of a history.  The larger of the three didn’t have any runes I could spot, but I did think the etching looked a bit like a ship with a cross on the sail, but I have a feeling there is so much of the carving is missing, it could be a standard cross surrounded by a band of runes.

During the slow circle of the church, I again mentally kicked myself for having forgotten my sneakers.

Uppland's Runestone #978 - Gamla Uppsala

I found the sign for the mostly intact runestone at Uppsala before I found the stone.  I had a moment of confusion as I looked around for it.  The sign had been pulled up and leaned against the wall of the church almost 10 feet away.  Another reason it took me a bit to spot the stone was its color!  A bright, rusty red?!  Take a look for yourself!

I’m used to stones being various shades of gray from almost white to a dark slate hue with flecks of brown.  This is the first red one I’ve found.  Maybe by looking at the stones used in the church, I shouldn’t be so surprised.  A few are very dark red.  I’m going to make a guess this stone was definitely not made from granite which is what runestones generally appear to be carved from.

Translating the information on the sign, shows this stone’s oddities reach beyond its unusual color.  This is also one of the first runestones I’ve found to have a history as an alter table in the church.  The other interesting point is the name of the one who commissioned the stone.  Sigvid Englandsfararen or in English, Signvid England’s Traveler.  The first I’ve found a name with more than just a first name though the second one is more a descriptive term than a last name.  Kinda like Eric the Red.

I was definitely glad I stopped!

After that, it was just a short jaunt home.  I went along the busy road flanked by cycle paths.  Not only the most direct, but also the one I knew would be passable.  Some of the residential streets were still pretty ice choked and the grave mound path would be even worse.  Unpaved roads and paths are the last to melt.

When we got home, Loke immediately flattened out.  That surprised me.  Our last ride, 3 days earlier was 20 miles and the furry one had plenty of energy!  He bounced around with his ball, slept for an hour and then bullied Jens for his walk.  The next day, he tried to bully me out the door for a ride.  18 miles and he was flat on the floor.  And so flat the next day, we had to bully him out the door for his walks.  I might have worried except the day before our run, I’d taken him for vaccinations.  Kennel Cough, Parvo and Distemper.  It might have left his immune system in overdrive and little energy for anything else after the run.

Speaking of vaccinations!  While I’m dragging, I am still hoping to have a cycle season rich in tours!  When I took Loke in for his shots, I asked about getting a doggie passport.  After asking my husband about it since it was a moderate chunk of change, I took care of that yesterday.  Loke was given a rabies vaccination, his passport stamped with the info and in 5 months, he’ll be checked for the antibodies.  If they’re present, he’ll be cleared to move freely in the EU community!  While the odds of us riding outside of Norway or Sweden this year are small, at least the option is there come late August or early September.  I feel excited at the idea!

Hmm. I think I found the oomph to get out for a ride today!  Happy Day!

Longer and Farther and RUNESTONE!
March 21, 2011, 7:12 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, 7 days between one ‘real’ ride and the next was not part of the plan, but there it was.  The 14th was a planned rest day and I needed it.  After that- well.

In my defense, I did kind of ride on the 15th.  Though I still felt I needed another recovery day, the day was gorgeously clear and not too cold which has a whole new meaning since I bought the ultra-heavy woolies.  My husband actually bullied me out the door.  I started out with the half-hearted intention of riding the Vänge route I’d cut short on the 13th due to rain.  The ride ended up being MUCH shorter.  My body ached all over and my legs had absolutely no strength.  I felt utterly and completely wiped, drained and exhausted.  Loke seemed to agree with me.  He had no interest in racing along at 14 to 16 mph over the first mile stretch.  He just splashed along through the melt water and gave a sigh every now and again.  The 15+ mile route abruptly turned into the a 3+ mile route.  The only time Loke or I either one went faster than 5 mph was down the big hill toward the river.  I think we hit about 7 mph which is usually Loke’s absolute minimum cruising speed on flat ground, not his top speed of the day.

Absolute basic River Loop done, Loke and I both staggered through the door and flopped onto various soft surfaces and didn’t move for a while.  After that, the days sort of escaped.  Wednesday passed as another rest day.  Thursday, the curse of laundry devoured the day.  Friday, the additional snow I’d been expecting to come along and delay this apparent spring finally turned up.  It IS only March after all.  It wasn’t a raging blizzard thankfully.  Just 2″ of wet white that came down looking a lot like powdered sugar which I let melt through Saturday before finally going for my ride yesterday.

Yesterday dawned beautifully and around 10:30 am I started getting things together as my husband kindly walked the dog.  Loke and I both had a lot more energy this time.  The mad charge was back as we tore along past the apartment buildings, houses and finally the school.  Being Sunday and so pretty out with temps around 45 F, the cycle path (multi-user really) was packed.  People speed or pole walking, or just plain walking with and without dogs.  Lots of joggers.  It was more like a roving obstacle course than a bike/foot road.  We ended up taking the big hill at less than 9 mph simply because there wasn’t space clear enough to zip down at 16-19 mph.

After that, we just settled into a moderate pace.  Loke and I both are starting to feel the ‘clausterphobic’ symptoms of covering the same ground over and over.  I fought with it last year.  Even so, I was determined we were going to do the ride up to Vänge and back.  I had to bully Loke along into a decent speed down the hills as we rode along Gamla Börjevägen.

I decided one thing as we went, I’ve really enjoyed riding this early in the year and in the colder temps.  The years before when I’ve started the cycle season, the fields and woods pass by me in a bleah melange of gray and brown.  Too early for grass, crops and leaves, but late enough most of the snows are gone.  Not this year.  I’m pedalling along in a world of white fields bringing out the greens of the conifers.  It’s beautiful even when the skies above are a leaden gray.

I’m not sure why, but I got a lot more waves and smiles from passing cars than usual.

Loke picked up speed a bit as we made the turn toward Läby.  The other stretches of road in the area he’s run a lot of more, particularly the turn toward Ulva, so maybe that bit of road feels kinda new to him.

As we crossed the tracks, I had a bit of a surprise.  Nothing drastic.  Just the mouth-watering aroma of grilling meat!  Oooh, someone was getting a jump on summer!  It smelled like pork ribs.  While I hadn’t been particularly hungry, my stomach growled and I was salivating.  Loke stumbled a few times from trying to run with his nose straight up to the sky as he sniffed and started to drool.  I had to drag him past because he tried to turn longingly toward the house where the delightful smells originated.  He gave me sullen looks for almost half a mile before he forgot about it.

At the 72, Loke actually bounced off my front wheel even though I’d said ‘Höger!’.  Apparently not paying attention, he’d reflexively tried to go left toward town as we’d done before.  Suddenly, his tongue was lolling in the husky smile and he pulled hard into his harness as we faced Vänge.  I happily accommodated him, pushing harder and faster into the pedals as we hit almost 15 mph.  We zipped past Läby church and then slowed for the first of the long, but not terribly steep climbs.  At the crest of the hill, doubts reared their ugly heads.  A thick stand of tall trees across the highway reared close up to the road and apparently the warmth of the sun hadn’t reached the cycle path.  Snow looked deep, chain-strangling and, if hard frozen, derailleur busting.

I stopped to stare at it for a long while.  Loke was willing.  He gave me an impatient woof and then kangaroo hopped.  I decided to try it. Worse case, I would have to get off the trike and turn it around.  I slid, skidded, crunched and ‘slooshed’ over the 10-15 meters.  It wasn’t frozen solid and I managed to keep the rear wheel mostly in a flattened track about as wide as my hand so the chain wasn’t scooping snow/ice into the tubes.  When I made out the other side, the slushy snow had packed over the rims of my front wheels.  As we raced down the slope, it slung that freezing wet right into my face.

The rest of the way to Vänge remained clear of snow.  There were a few people even out along this country stretch.  I passed 5 people walking, 3 with dogs, and nearly a dozen cyclists, but none of the ‘hard core’ types.  All the bike riders had smiles, waves and even a few thumbs up for me.  Soon we rolled into Vänge.

Vänge Kyrka - April '07

Vänge is small village.  They have a sort of convenience store, a school, quite a few houses and, of course, the church.  How on earth have I managed to ride past Vänge even since I started blogging and not show the church?  Well, there’s that oversite corrected.

As ever, click the thumbnail for pertinent information.

I slowed down a bit as we came into the village.  After a few minutes, I decided to do something I’d never done before though I’ve been through the place more than a dozen times.  I was going to actually stop at the church and look for runestones!  It’s amazing that with my obsession with churches and runestones, I’d not done so before.  Maybe one day, I’ll even stop to look for runestones at Läby which I pass each time I ride between Vänge and Uppsala.

As I parked near the church gate, gathered camera bag and all electronics, I realized I really should have brought my sneakers.  Still, I wanted to see if runestones waited.

Upplands Rune Stone #905 - Vänge Kyrka

Yep.  Within clear view of the gate next to part of the church sat Uppland’s Rune Stone #905.  Loke made getting the picture difficult.  He yanked me around, wanting to mark all those conveniently placed stones just calling for a bit of his scent, but I persevered.

It seemed to be the only one though there were parts of the church yard I decided to skip because the snow was nearly knee deep in places.

As I settled everything back into place on the trike, an older woman came to visit the grave of a loved one.  She stopped and risked petting the soaked sponge that was Loke.  For once, the fur-brain didn’t try to jump.  He just sat, wagging his tail and taking the attention he sees as his due.  We chatted briefly in Swedish, mostly she asked if he pulls a lot.  I answered no, and joked he was a lazy husky.  Mostly he just runs.

Once she’d given Loke a few more pats and told him he was a beautiful dog and went into the church yard, I had to spend a few minutes digging the ice away from the cleats in my shoes.  Actually, I banged at it with the clip to one of Loke’s leashes to break it up and THEN dug it out.  Yes, definitely must remember sneakers for walking.

The trip back down the 72 and past the shopping center was uneventful.  There was a 5 minute break to talk to a man with a yellow lab as the dogs touched noses.  I slogged back through the icy stretch, collecting more ice on my front wheels to wash my face with.  I dodged almost another dozen people on bikes.  Two were even the hardcore, spandex wearing, racer types.

In the residential area past the shops, I cheered when my GPS showed 16 miles.  The ride had officially become my longest of the year!

My legs felt it too.  They were aching, but so close to home would have been silly to call Jens.  Especially since Loke was still running well.  For Loke, the husband would be called.  For me?  I suck it up as long as I can if the trike isn’t broken.  Soon, we were on the cycle path coming to the back of the wooded hill.  I seriously underestimated the impact the 2 inches of Friday’s snow had on that entire stretch.  It was rough enough to clatter my teeth.  The steep slope up to the treed crown was slick with it as well.  In the middle of the climb, Loke decided a certain rock under a dusting of snow demanded his attention and he jerked us to a stop.  Even with my chunky, knobbly and studded rear tire, it was hard to get going again.  The wheel spun and finally I had to bully Loke into helping.  No way I could have gotten off the trike at that angle.  It finally grabbed and I made sure we didn’t stop until we got to the top.

On the other side, it was the opposite problem.  The downhill was just as slick as the up.  Worse, Loke loves to run down there and he spotted a dog ahead.  Off we went!  I gripped the breaks for all I was worth and while the front wheels weren’t spinning, they weren’t grabbing either.  The Loke’s pulling force dragged me around sideways so we shot down the slope toward some poor, unaware woman with the full length (2 meters/6+ feet) of my trike hogging 90% of the path.  Desperate, I yanked my right foot from the pedal and slammed it into the ice, hoping to drag the trike back straight, slow us and NOT yank my leg under the crossbar.  I had images of a dislocated hip.

It worked… kinda.  The trike did at least straighten and slowed a tiny bit.  My yelling ‘Vänta!’ and ‘Easy!’ at Loke made the woman turn.  Her startled expression passed in a blur as I missed her with almost a meter to spare.  Once straight, I put my other heel to the ice.  It slowed us a bit more and gave me a crude kind of steering as I used the pressure of my heels to keep the trike on a forward facing track.  We still did between 10 and 11 mph down that hill.  As we came to the bottom, I spotted bare pavement and pulled my feet up.  I also eased up on the brakes a bit so we didn’t slam to a stop.

Beneath the 55, I locked the brakes and went limp in the seat while I waited for my heart to slow.  Even the time I hit 32 mph on the trike didn’t shake me up that much, but then I had control.  Loke just stood there, wagging his tail and glancing between me and the dog ahead.  Completely oblivious.  Fur-brain.

By the time we passed the dog which had added fuel to the near disaster, Loke wasn’t even interested in him any more.  *eye roll*

After that, I was glad the rest of the way toward home was uneventful.  I was eyeing the GPS as we went and felt a thread of aggravation that the trip was going to fall a hair short of 20 miles.  I decided we’d take a bit of a detour to swing by Loke’s vet and schedule his kennel cough vaccination.  Two birds with one stone.  Appointment made to make sure Loke didn’t get kennel cough to stop him running and make 20 miles.

The vet tech stepped out the door and locked just as I pulled up.  I yelled ‘Nej!’ in a melodramatic fashion and laughed.  She asked if everything was okay and I explained.  She smiled and told me to just come in tomorrow.  There were few enough scheduled appointments a walk-in would be no problem.

20.24 miles when I pulled up to the apartment door.  Perfect!  A tired me with lots of exercise and a tired dog stretched out on the floor for the night.  Both of us with the longest ride of the year under our belt/collar.

March 13, 2011, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Snuggly, fluffy merino wool!  Gotta love it!  The plush softness doesn’t itch as it wraps you up in a cocoon of warmth.  I’d have been in deep trouble without it today!

That makes 3 rides this week, I might add.  The total is somewhere over 40 miles I think and today’s confusing tangle of a ride at 15.04 miles was the longest by a mile or so.  While I normally consider a mile nothing on the trike, I’ll take what accomplishments I can this early in the year. *chuckle*

Today’s outing had a touch of promise when it warmed to the point I was willing to brave it.  Broken clouds streaked over the pale, hazy blue sky as the sun peeked in and out.  It changed quite quickly.  By the time I set cleats into my pedals, the sky was utterly blanketed in verigated shades of gray.  A happy Loke dragged me over streets with quite a bit less ice than the previous run, but our usual wild mile was quickly interrupted by a taxi.  Near the school we regularly pass, cars parked on one side of the road as the taxi blocked the rest.  It didn’t seem to be moving any time soon and with the mounds of snow and cars to either side of him there was absolutely no way I could pass.  I don’t know what it is about cars lately, but they seem determined to complicate my life more than usual.

After waiting 2 or 3 min, sitting where he could at least pass me, I muttered a few choice words under my breath and turned down one of the residential streets.  Snow and slush covered every inch of it.  Little to no pavement showed through and we had to creep along as I struggled to protect my rear derailleur from damage.  I made a short block around the spot the taxi was choking off and it took me almost 15 minutes to cover a distance I would, on clear roads, have made in less than 2 minutes.

One thing I noticed as we rushed along the path today, people were out in force.  Dozens of joggers, walkers (with and without dogs) and even a few people riding bikes though they seemed to be ‘using them for transportation’ riders rather than the ‘out to cover miles in the country side’ sort like me.   The snow’s retreat is in high gear now.  Along the River Loop Extention, there was a wide band of winter flattened grass to cushion Loke’s paws.  Where the dirty banks of white lay thick along Gamla Börjevägen on Tuesday, it’s almost 3 feet further back and Loke had plenty of non-paved surface to run.  He seemed to appreciate that.

The flood of people didn’t stop once we left the path.  Along the 2 miles or so of the Gamla Börjevägen I rode today, there were another dozen people walking along the side of the road.  Also, a lot more vehicular traffic than on Tuesday though I have no idea why.

Around mile 6, I offered Loke water.  He stuck his tongue in it once and then lost interest.  As I packed the bottle and dish back, I spotted the obvious sign of the worsening weather.  Something fell from the sky.  I’d only spotted it from the corner of my eye and couldn’t tell if it was water or ice, but I knew I’d seen it.  I waited a few seconds and nothing else came.

The intersection where I normally turn to Ulva, I turned the opposite way toward Läby and ultimately Vänge.  The plan had been to cycle the path to Vänge, but go home via the route past the grocery store rather than a full out-n-back.  I figured with the River Loop Extention, it would give Loke and I roughly 20 miles, putting us at just shy of 50 for the week.  As we covered the 3 miles between Gamla Börjevägen and 72, it began to get noticably colder.  The little drops of rain and spits of ice were very noticeable as well.  Not enough to dampen me or my enthusiasm, but obvious.  Before we reached the 72, I had to stop to put on my shoe covers and gloves, the rest of me still toasty warm.

Wool or not, I was fairly certain if it really started raining it was possible I’d catch a chill simply because my head and hands would get wet and there was no wool for them.  When I came to the turn toward Vänge, I regretfully turned back toward Uppsala.  The choice made Loke quite exicted.  For almost 2 miles, he dragged me and the trike into a 14 mph run.  Tongue lolling happily, he gave me those bright side-glances I can only interpret as ‘WHEEEEEEE!!!’

It lasted until the path turned into a quiet access road well choked with ice.  I spotted the cat long before Loke did.  It was strolling along the side of the road and saw me before it noticed Loke.  Having spent most of my life as a cat rather than a dog person, I immediately noticed the ‘Oooh! A nice human who will give me scratches and pets’ body language.  It only lasted 5 seconds or so before it saw Loke.  Back arched, tail puffed out and came stiffly down and ears went back.  That’s when Loke saw it and they were off!  The cat streaked to the left as Loke desperately tried to follow with me keeping him on a straight line with the harness.  I’m sure he thinks I never let him have fun.

Then it was through a very icy residential area to avoid a very crowded and certainly dangerous highway.  I took those backroads around toward the area of the Field Loop.  It’s a good thing I hadn’t planned to work in the full field loop.  The unpaved path crossing the fields between the observatory and the wooded hill was utterly inaccessiable to my trike.  Where it met the path from the residential area I’d come from, it was a 3 foot wall of hard packed ice and beyond was nothing but the shiny smoothness of foot packed ice.  I’m certain to either side of that was knee (or thigh) deep snow.  The image of trying to cycle on that packed ridge of ice, sliding to one side and vanishing into loose snow popped into my head.

The path up the wooded hill and down the other side was completely ice choked.  The studded tire came into its own again on the climb and thankfully on the way down, my front tires kept enough grip so I could keep the speed down.  Loke gave me dirty looks as he strained against the drag, twisted me a bit sideways.  He couldn’t understand why we were letting one of his favorite hills go to waste!  I was even happier I’d kept us under 8 mph when we reached the underpass of the 55.  One side of it had a ridge of snow across the path, deeply rutted and not very soft.  In spite of the care I tried to take, it got a pretty good whack.  I stopped to make sure it was okay, but couldn’t see any obvious damage.

The long slope up the other side took us a bit of time and we ended up taking a different route than usual.  The normal way we’d go was much like the unpaved path across the fields we’d passed minutes before.  A white, hard packed ice ridge over deep, loose snow.  I churned on up into an area I’ve always cycled around, but not through.  It was a bit of a puzzle and I found some interesting sections of cycle path.  Maybe it will even be my way to navigate that area.

As I made the final turn toward the river and the swim hall, the ‘adventure’ wasn’t over.  I slowed down as I spotted what looked like chunks of ice scattered across the path.  Much to my surprise, it was almost 8 inches of water covered with thick pieces of broken ice.  I snatched the camera bag up high and crawled through it.  Loke was quite unhappy as he waded through the 4 or 5 yards/meters of it.  For the second time in 2 miles, I climbed out of the trike to check my derailleur.  Again, it looked fine.

It was raining and icing signifcantly for the last mile home.  Just a sprinkle, but the outer layer I had on top of my snuggly wool dampened and I could feel the water starting to seep to my skin.  It still didn’t feel very cold.  Nor did my rump which had gotten a bit wet thanks to the ice lake I’d cycled through.  Yes, it was deep enough for that.  As I staggered into the apartment, I was dripping wet and only my hands and head felt the chill.  Loke, again, was a mudball.

Not a bad ride for a gray, barely above freezing, rainy day.

While the wool held back the cold, I’m still glad I cut the ride a bit short.  I don’t think I’m quite ready to test it for an extended duration at 35 F and rain

The Weatherman Lied!
March 11, 2011, 3:25 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

And in a good way!  We were supposed to have clouds and rain/snow mix with colder temps.  It kinda started that way.  I woke at 3 am to the pattering sound of melt and rain.  After failing to get back to sleep, I got up around 4 am.  It stayed gray for a while longer, but by 9 am, the clouds began to break!  Around 10 or 10:30, I poked my nose out the door and decided with my wonderfully heavy thermals (400 g wool for bottoms and 200 g weight top) I’d be just fine.

Loke showed a little more enthusiasm this time.  As I pulled on the thermals and rest of the layers, he was sitting by the door, his tail wagging.  By the time I burdened myself with the first load of things to go out, he started to get worried he’d be left.  When I came back from taking the trike out, he wedged himself against the door, determined HE would be the next thing to leave the apartment.  He gave a gusty sigh as if in relief when I picked up his harness.  Once outside, he waited with an amazing level of calm as I settled a few things before we were ready to go.  The main thing I did was switch the camera bag to the left side of the trike.  Every instinct in me wants to keep it on the side AWAY from passing cars, but I knew it would stay drier on the left.

We began and Loke, as ever, wanted to do his wild mile.  It completely baffled him when I yelled for him to go right, but he quickly picked up speed in the new direction as I guided us out toward the Vaksala/Gränby loop.  It’s the 2nd of our short loops and, at 14-ish miles, seemed a good choice since the muscle burn I had from the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala Loop.  With the chunky, studded rear tire and into a stiff breeze I didn’t really push too hard, but we still were cruising along at 7.5 mph.  Imagine how much faster we’d have been with all around slicks, no wind and pavement clear of the inch of gravel. *chuckle*

I tried to leave behind the busier road and go over cycle paths through a residental area, but they proved far too choked with snow and ice for me to risk.  Loke’s ears were flattened back a bit as he gave me irritated side-long glances when I did a 3 point turn to head back to the main road.

Random Scenery

Soon enough, we left the residental area around Gamla Uppsala behind for the beauty of snow covered fields, wooded hills and blue skies.  It actually felt warmer than it had on the 8th, but it might have been because of my different arrangement of layers though that wouldn’t exlain the warmer hands and feet.  Either way, I was quite happy with the temperature though my eyes teared quite a bit when the wind came from certain directions.

Studded Tire Necessary

There was a lot more ice on this loop.  At times we ran on thick sheets of it laying across the edge of the road when we had to let cars pass.  Sometimes it would give this loud POP beneath our weight and startle Loke.  His hindlegs would come up as if he were going to do a front paw stand as he’d shoot a worried look at the back wheel.  Amazingly, when he did that, he barely seemed to break stride.  Another section of road was nothing but ice.  Still hard and uncracked by the warming temps, it didn’t offer much purchase even for the studs as the tire slipped as much as it gripped.  For the 100 yard climb, I’m sure I pedalled for almost 200 yards worth.

Where it wasn’t smooth and hard, the ice resembled the shaved or crushed ice used in snow cones.  It crunched, popped, crackled and snapped rather like riding over an endless expanse of corn flakes.  It slowed me down quite a bit too.  At times, I felt like I rode through sand.  Other times, I was slipping in all sorts of wierd directions though with the trike I don’t have to worry about falling down.  The slipping didn’t seem to phase Loke much, even when he got yanked or shoved.  He kept trotting along, ears up, tongue lolling as he scanned the fields and woods.

I had a longish stop at one point.  One of the horse farms along the route apparently has a new batch of animals.  Two closest to the road completely freaked out when they saw us coming.  For a moment they even looked desperate and frightened enough to jump over or go through the electric fence.  I stopped and talked to them, even got up from the trike in an effort to calm them, but they were having none of it.  In direct contrast, two horses on the other side of the road were nickering as if they would have loved for me to give them a scratch.  After about 10 min, I decided there was nothing for me to do, but continue on.  I went as slowly as I could, talking to the frightened ones as the others walked along with us.  Finally, the skittish pair bolted along the back fence line so they were behind us.

It was rather amusing when the next horse stable down the road, they never even looked up from digging in the snow for winter-dried grass.

By mile 10, my legs were tired, but I was surprised at the complete lack of lactic acid burn in the thigh muscles that made the last 3 miles of my last ride so difficult.  It was around there the completely open stretch of road begins.   Nothing but flat, glaring white to either side for a quarter mile or more.  The wind which had been a moderate to stiff breeze the rest of the trip howled over that unsullied snow and tired me faster than the studs, hills, gravel or slushy ice.  It also sucked the cold from that frozen expanse and blasted it into my face.  My brow stung and, with the tears streaming down them to add to the chill, my cheeks burned.  Except for flatting his ears and narrowing his eyes to keep the wind out, Loke didn’t seem to notice as I hunched down miserably in an attempt to protect my face.  By the time we reached hills, trees and buildings again, my face felt sore and tender.

Then it was past Vaksala kyrka, looking beautiful in the snow with the blue sky as a backdrop.  I managed to work my way around the tangle of the new cycle paths so I didn’t have to cross a busy street.  The cycle paths on the other side of the mall were remarkably clear.  There were only a few small patches of ice and maybe three deep puddles.  As I cycled past a certain group of trees, I was surprised to hear the murder of crows gathering there already.  Every year for the past 3 I’ve passed by, it’s been the nesting place of those crows and who knows how long it’s been their place.  I thought it a bit early for them to start nesting though.  I guess I need to get busy brushing Loke on these rides so the birds can use his fur for nesting material. Hehe.

More Gray Than Usual

I felt pretty good once we coasted the last bit of the way home.  My legs were tired, yes.  Climbing the stairs was no problem nor were the three trips to get everything back into the apartment.  Loke flew inside and started attacking anything vaguely fabric like in a frenzy of face rubbing before he flopped down on the towel I used to get the worst of the mud and wet off his legs and tummy.  Two perfectly nice beds and he curls up on a thin little towel I laid down over a wet spot he left on the floor.  I guess that’s good though, the towel is easier to clean than his beds and even after 10 min of scrubbing, he still looked gray.

It was a good day.  I’m so glad the season has started!!

It’s Begun!
March 10, 2011, 9:55 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Cycle Path Around Mile 1

Yep.  Can you believe it?  The cycle season has started.

Before I even started it already looked like it might be another difficult year.  I had severe pain in my calf.  Bad enough, I thought it might be another DVT (Deep Vein Trombosis) or blood clot for us lay-people.  All the tests came back clean and they told me to go to my usual doctor.  I didn’t bother.  I did gentle stretches with the muscles and spent almost 2 weeks with it propped up on a heat pad.  It definitely shot my 10 hours a week on the trainer in the foot.

I went right back into the trainer though at shorter time frames and so far so good!

Kronborg Castle aka Hamlet's Castle

It was last weekend that really got me itching to ride outside though.  Due to a family matter, we had to go to the southern part of Sweden right along the section where you can stand on a beach and make out buildings in Denmark.  There was absolutely NO snow.  It drove me nuts to see all that wonderfully clear roadway.  Just 30 miles north, snow lay thick on the ground and slushed up most of the roads, but in the area we were, it might has well have been late April already.

When we got home, we discovered our new GPS arrived so Jens insisted we test it by driving one of my cycle routes.  I picked Ulva/Gamla Uppsala.  Much to my surprise, much of the road was clear.  There were a few sections of road that were slick ice, but I decided I absolutely needed to ride outside and planned to do so the next day.  I wrestled a studded tire onto my drive wheel and the next morning, Jens decided to work from home just in case I needed rescuing due to mechanical failure since it would be the first ride off the trainer.

Tuesday dawned gloriously clear and by 10:30 am, I decided it was probably about as warm as it was going to get.  I wrestled into my heavy weight themerals (bullet proof I call them) and then dragged my tights over them.  My top I settled with a thin wool layer topped by a semi-windproof  top.  I had an extra layer for top and bottom packed.  Water.  Camera.  GPS.  As I ran around double checking everything, Loke just kind of stared at me with his eyes wide, not daring to believe.  A few times, he paced around like maybe he started to get excited but then he’d just lay down again with a disheartened sigh.  Even when I picked up his harness, he didn’t seem convinced.  Only when I stuffed my feet into the shoes, grabbed the helmet and told my husband I was ready did he start whirling happily.

The slush on our street thankfully wasn’t cold enough to choke the chain or hard enough to damage the derailleur.  We nearly had a moment of trouble when we headed out though.  Since I’d only put studded on the rear, I had slicks for my breaking wheels.  Loke wanted to do a full out charge and traffic was coming.  Fortunately, the person stopped and waved us on.

There is a river under there! Promise!

The furry one was definitely quite happy to be out.  He did his wild mile with me pedalling like a mad woman right along with him.  As we zipped through small lakes in the road and crunched over rotting ice, Loke kept looking at me with that familar tongue-lollling husky grin.  Ice still held the cycle path in a fairly tight grip.  It definitely made the big hill just before the bridge exciting.  My front wheels sliding wildly as Loke hit 17 mph with joyful bounds.  My eyes streamed with tears from the wind whistling around the lenses of my glasses in the 40 F temperature air.

The new ultra-heavy thermals were doing a great job.  Just 2 layers and my legs were perfectly fine.  If anything was cold, it was my face.  I barely felt the bad rolling resistance of the chubby 1.75″ x 20″, nobbly AND studded rear tire even the rare moments Loke gave me a little slack on the flats.  Birds called here and there as the sun streamed down from a nearly perfectly clear sky.  Before mile 2, I decided we were doing the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala Loop as our first trip of the year.  The 13 mile version since I knew the grave mound section would be impassable.

Snowy Scenery

When we made the right turn to cross the 272, Loke went almost as crazy as when we’d first started.  Fortunately, the pavement was clear so the brakes could hold against his kangaroo hopping.  Of course, then we had to tackle the 8% slope right at the start of Gamla Börjevägen.  The furry one was pulling so hard, he could barely breathe, but I wasn’t willing to risk blowing a knee out.  On the other side, he hit his fastest speed of the year.  Almost 19 mph.  A bunch of kaya (small crow-like birds) gathered along the road side helped spur him.  He even managed a few bounding jumps as if he could actually catch them as they scattered before us.  He was a dog in the throes of joy and couldn’t be bothered with paltry things like a drink of water at mile 3 where I stopped to finally pull on my yellow windbreaker.  The wind out in the country side was crazy… and cold!

It was around then, I noticed a minor problem.  Splatter.  The melting snow along the road way was full of dirt and grime, turning Loke’s legs and belly black and drenching everything on the right side of my trike.  That included the camera bag.  Fortunately, it has a rain cover and I quickly wrestled it in place before the water soaked through.  It wasn’t helping the arm of my wind-breaker OR my panniers though.  I’ve ridden in some truly wet situations, but nothing had caused this much flying mud and wet as this snow-melt.  I stopped to double check nothing was going to get ruined before making the turn toward Ulva.

Let's Go Already!

The fur dispenser really pushed me on this ride, but I didn’t mind.  I was even rather proud of myself when on a 1% uphill grade against a wind probably hitting nearly 20 mph with higher gusts with that hideous rear tire, I hit and maintained 16 mph for over a mile.  Loke loved that.  Especially since we were coming up to the house with all the cats.  I just know he was hoping to find a few and watch them scatter.  Of course, then he kept impressing me by holding a 15 mph average for almost 2 miles when we made the turn back toward the 272.  He even gave me an irritated look when I dared stop for a water break and to take pictures.

I didn’t stop at Ulva, which came as quite a disappointment to Loke.  I’m not even sure the cafe is open even if the courtyard hadn’t been choked with ice and snow.  Shaded by the buildings, it wasn’t melting very quickly and I wasn’t going to risk bike parts to hard, rutted ice.  It was along this section the rear tire showed its worth.  The steep slope up just over the mill-race bridge was a combination of slick ice with touches of gravel here and there.  Even when knobs and studs, it slipped some and Loke threw his weight into the harness to help.

Around mile 9, the burn was starting in my thighs.  Last year, I was feeling it around mile 3 on a 5 mile loop, so it was an improvement over last year.  Loke’s pace held good and his feet looked fine from what I could tell, so I wasn’t willing to call Jens.  If I could keep the pedals turning, I was determined to make the full route.  Gamla Uppsala came and went in a blur as I focused everything into moving forward.  The muscle  just above the knee to mid-thigh burned with the lactic acid.  Oddly, the cold which had left my feet untouched for some 10 miles began to bite hard into my toes.  I didn’t want to stop to dig out my neoprene shoe-covers as I wasn’t certain I could get my legs moving again.  It was probably a fair assessment as it proved very difficult to push on the pedals from a standstill when I had to stop for a light.

The last mile turned into quite a challenge.  Ice lay thick on the cycle/sidewalk, rotting and crunching beneath tires and paws to bog us down.  Then there was the idiot who decided the sidewalk right up against the traffic light was a perfect place to park while he ran into the bakery.  I had to get off the trike, unhitch Loke and try to wrestle the trike between car and building.  A woman came along and helped me out.  She bravely held onto the mudball my dog had turned into inspite of her beautiful long coat of tan wool.  After that, it was a just a slow grind of less than a half mile through the lake the cyclepath had turned into.  With snow walls to either side, there’s no place for the melt water to go.  The result is a half mile long puddle some 3 inches deep.

I’ll admit, getting up the stairs was a challenge, but with my husband home, at least I didn’t have to wrestle the trike in.  As for Loke?  He just gave me a baffled look while waiting for me at the landing.  During the evening, he seemed slightly calmer than usual, but not nearly as tired as I thought he should be after over 13 miles for the first time since… October, I think.  Maybe the dozen or so times he went jumping through 3′ feet of snow while we walked with snow-shoes kept him in good condition?  Who knows, but I think he could do 20 miles already.  Me?  Not likely for 3 or 4 more rides at least. *chuckle*

But it’s begun and it feels so GOOD!  And I’d be out for another ride right now if it wasn’t for the curse of laundry!