Terii’s Cycling Babble

Ugghhh! Wind!!
May 9, 2011, 1:15 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Written May 2

May 1st Ride – Öland

Very little of yesterday went as planned.  I woke early, which was expected.  I always wake early.  I might have slept in a bit since the sun actually rises about 20 min later here in Öland.  I fiddled around to get maps ready and decided I’d ride from the southern part up the west side.  According to my maps, it had lots to see.

Poor hubby.  I guess it wasn’t much of a vac ation day for him.  I pried him out of bed around 6 am.  As he drank coffee and tried to collect his wits, I was running around like a mad woman.  Fresh water?  Check!  Thermals?  Check!  With the temp around 34 when I woke and a forecasted high of 51, I knew I’d needed my woolies at least for the first part of the ride.

Even so, we weren’t on the road until 7:15.  Jens did a bit of teasing about how we could have waited for the bread.  Given the fiasco of just trying to begin the ride turned into, I have to agree.

What do I mean about the bread?  Well our snug and very comfortable cottage sits in the backyard of a lovely old house which has been divided into little apartments also for rent.  The owners of the property also operate a coffee shop/bakery next door.  One of the perks to staying here is a complimentary morning delivery of some of their baked goods.  I have to say, it smells like a VERY good bakery.  The delicious scents wafting through the early morning air as I ran back and forth to the car had me salivating!  Pity they’re only open Friday-Sunday.

The long drive to the southern tip of the island left my husband a bit dismayed.  He admitted his image of the island’s size was small enough one could toss a rock from one end to the other.  He thought maybe 30 miles from tip to tip and roughly 10 miles wide.  It’s more like 100 miles long and maybe 20 miles at the widest, so we were on the road a while.

Eketorp Borg

My original plan had been to start at a fornborg in the south.  A fornborg is a fortified village.  This one appears to have been used from the Iron Age right through to Medieval times.  I expected an earthen wall topped by a wooden or stone wall maybe and a few restored (translate ‘completely rebuilt) buildings within.  I was half right.  As we came up on it, I could see in the distnace a fairly large, crenelated stone wall.  Very Medieval looking. (Lots of info in above thumbnail)

Eketorp Central Building

As we drove toward it, I had a flash of annoyance as we rattled over a cattle guard.  Darn it!  I HATE those things!  The trike deals with them fine, but it can be a nightmare to get poor Loke across and this one was doozy!  It changed my mind about beginning there though I was determined to get pictures.

Sod Roofed Building & Northern Gate

The parking lot was a distance from the fortifications so we piled out of the car.  The wind slammed into us.  It cut right through the light wool thermal top I’d pulled on over my cycle top.  My hair turned into dozens of little whips.  Jens hunched his shoulders and turned up the collar of his coat.  Even Loke ducked his head with flattened ears.

Right into the teeth fo the gale we marched.

Cluster of Buildings In Eketorp

It was interesting to see the little signs they had along the path.  The impression they tried to create was the parkling lot was modern times and the closer you got to the village, the further back in time you went until reaching the historical time of the fornborg.  So, starting with cell-phones and internet, successively older things and events were shown.

The last 100 yards or so had a sign forbidding dogs so my wonderful hubby stayed with Loke as I went on.  About 20 feet tall with the crenelations adding another 3 feet and THICK, the wall was impressive.

Building, Fence & Broken Wall - Eketorp

I passed through the gate arch into a mostly recreated village.  Small stone buildings with distinctive thatched roofs huddled in the stone circle.  Off to the east, part of the wall had collapsed long ago and had been left.  Buildigns in the center, east and south side had been completely restored.  Just to the west of the northern gate, a few buildings went into lesser and lesser states of recovery.  Here was one next to a completed one where the timbers making the roof were bare and you could look in.  The next one over was only walls.  The next, only parts of walls and the last two were little more than outlines of foundation stones.

Foundation Stones - Eketorp

The largest building in the cetner, completely restored, had been turned into a museum.  I’m sure it’s where they keep the cultural items they’ve found at the sight.  Of course, it wasn’t open.  It might even still be closed for the off-season.

Closed museum or not, I was thrilled with getting to see the village!

The walk back to the parking lot was much easier.  Well, except for my hair blowing around my face.  It felt like if I’d given a hop, I would have sailed for 10 – 12 feet before coming down.  The wind was that hard.

With the huge cattle guard and no where convenient to start the ride on the other side of it, it seemed beginning from the lighthouse would be the next best thing.  I wanted pictures of the chapel ruin along that road!

Ås Kyrka

On the way to the lighthouse, we stopped at a church on the way so I could ‘collect’ it.  There wasn’t much else on the stretch of road, so it’s not likely I’ll ride there.  As husband and husky waited in the car, I did a quick run around the church in the swirling winds.

I want to point out the churches here are rather boring.  They’re kind of like houses in a modern American suburb.  Cookie cutter.  You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Maybe the color of the plaster changes and small details at the top of the steeple, but otherwise, very much the same.  Not like the ones around Uppland.  I’m never sure what what awaits as I crest a hill or round a bend for the first peek.

On we drove to the lighthouse!

Southern Light House - Lång Jan

Imagine my consternation when the road to the lighthouse had not 1 but FOUR cattle guards!  Nasty ones I might add.  The ones on Fårö (Sheep Island) had been a major headache, but at least the metal bars had been flat squares and Loke and I could walk across them, albeit, one slow, careful step at a time.  Not so for these.  They had narrow, round topped peaks to make sure hoof (or human foot or doggie paw) slid off into the pit beneath.

At least these cattle guards were in use.  All through the scrub and grass to either side of the road were cows.  My heart sank even deeper when I saw the young calves everywhere.  I had images of getting stomped while the protective mothers charged Loke.  Jens didn’t think there’d be a problem.  Of course, he’s not sitting at the perfect height for a kick in the head if wrong either.

Southern Tip Scenery

By this point, I was very frustrated.  All wanted was someplace interesting to start from and cattle guards and now bovine mothers thwarted me.  Granted the lighthouse didn’t impress me much, but starting from the southern most point of the island had interest value.  Water to either side, sea birds everywhere and a chapel ruin less than a mile north.

Jens came to the rescue.  He would drive Loke over the first guard which had no walk-through and meet me at the first parking shoulder on the other side.  Then the furry one and I could cycle past the ruin for pictures while he went to make sure the other guards had walk-throughs and if they were unlocked.

Talk about a confused husky.  There was the trike.  He was in his harness.  Yet he had to jump in the car and watch as I pedaled behind.  He was so thrilled when Jens stopped, I caught up and he was tethered to the trike.  He threw his weight into the harness and off we went.  Loke pulled even harder when Jens passed us.  Howling north wind or not, we managed to hit 16 mph.

St. Johannas Chapel Model

Jens waited for us at the chapel ruin.  He’d driven ahead and doubled back when he saw a large part of the cattle herd was on the road ahead.  Even though he didn’t think there’d be any worries, he still didn’t want me to stress so was going to take Loke past the last cattle guard.  He walked with me and Loke over the chapel ruin though.

St. Johannas Chapel Ruin

I guess ‘ruin’ is almost too generous a word for the grass mound there.  Without the sign and the small bronze model of St. Johanna’s Chapel on a stand, I would have thought it was a grave cairn.  A few stones peeked through the sod with a hollow in the top and you could just make out it was square shaped… kinda.  I took pictures and off we went.  Hubby and dog in the car, me on the trike.

Loke was very unhappy to be stuck in the car again with the trike fading in the distance.

I felt the full force of the gale without Loke.  The narrow spit of land had little to nothing to break the north wind.  It felt like climbing an unending hill at a 10% grade.

The cows did offer a distraction.  I got looks of bovine astonishment as I slogged along.  Only one cow was actually in the road when I went by.  She stared over her shoulder at me until I was about 10 feet away with one wheel on the far edge of the gravel shoulder.  I would have gone over further, but there was a steep ditch and I wasn’t interested in rolling.

Suddenly, the cow tossed her head and gave a kick before trotting off in alarm.  It wasn’t an aggressive kick.  More like a ‘I don’t know what you are, but see what I can do?  You don’t want to mess with me’ kind.  It missed me by a good 7 feet, but it gave me an interesting perspective of her hoof at face level.

Soon the last cattle guard and Jens were in sight.  As he clipped Loke to the bar, I gasped, ‘Okay! I’m done!’  It didn’t seem to amuse Jens too much. Hehe.

Southern Tip Scenery

Loke heard the click of the cleats into the pedals and pulled.  I gave Jens a quick wave as the husky dragged the trike into motion.  I was glad of the help in that breeze.  I questioned my sanity about riding into it.  Of course, I didn’t really have much of a choice being at the southern tip.  I was not about to disassemble the trike and have my husband drive us more though he’d offered.  Since I wouldn’t do that and sat at the southern most parts of the island, the only way I could go was north.  It was time for Jens to go find somewhere to fish, not continue to play chauffer.

Ottenby Grave Field - Standing Stones On Horizon

Within 300 yards of making the turn to the road up the western coast, I irritated Loke by stopping for pictures of Ottenby Grave Field.  Mostly blue skies served a backdrop to lage rounded stones and strange square cairns.  When I think of grave fields, they are like Ottenby rather than the ones I’ve found in my home territory.  Those tend to be hard to spot with small low stones mostly hidden in the grass leaving you to question if they were placed there by man or dropped by glaciers in the Ice Age.  Ottenby was the first of several I found during the day and I had no doubt man had a hand in this landscape.

Ottenby Grave Field - Mounds On Horizon

The grave field was quite large and I finally found the turn to parking for it where I took a picture of the info sign.

The field went a ways past the sign.  The stones and cairns gave way to the soft curves of small mounds on the west side of the road.  To the east, it was covered with grass and brush, criss-crossed by little stone walls.  The walls were used to divide agricultural land.  Some I found were built as late as the 18th century.  Some might be older, I’m not sure.

King Karl X Gustav's Wall

The mounds and cairns of Ottenby’s grave field were still in sight when King Karl X Gustav’s wall appeared before me.

I’d thought maybe one of the walls further back might have been it since that one stretched into the distance to either side of the road.  Supposedly, it was built from coast to coast (roughly 3 miles at this point) to hinder deer.  Even in Sweden, all deer belonged to the king so he was trying to keep them where he could more easily hunt them.  At least, that’s the impression I had.  When I’d seen that first wall I thought there was no way it would stop a deer.  It might stop Loke unless he got really determined, but not a deer.

THIS wall could likely have stopped all but the most determined deer.  I’d estimate about 8 feet high and over 3 feet thick at the base.  It narrowed a bit toward the top.  I’d seen no sign of it as we came down the eastern side leaving me to wonder if it had gone to ruin over there.

Grave Mounds & Stones At Parboäng

It felt like the wall was barely out of sight before I came on another grave field.  This one had an unusual stone rising from one of the mounds.  Very, very tall and thin, sitting on its end.  It’s even been given the name of ‘Tall Maja’.  A small dirt road was dug down through the middle of the field to a farm behind it.

Less than 8 miles and my legs were killing me.  Loke had given up pulling miles before so it was all me against the wind.

Ventlinge Kyrka

It was a relief when I came to the first church of the ride.  Ventlinge Kyrka.  I debated walking it to see if there were any stones, but given how wobbly my legs felt, I decided I’d rather save my energy on pedaling.  Besides, most of the information I’d gotten from my Sverigeleden map book seemed to indicate runestones were far and few and not generally around churches.

Windmill Across The Fields

Wind, wind, wind.  It definitely dominated this ride.  Coasting?  Not happening as I fought for every foot and yard I covered.  Thankfully, the island is much flatter than Uppland.  There were no 7%, 8% or 12% slopes here.  I was especially happy of that since I was climbing from sea level.  What little climbing I did any way.  Even on the extremely rare downslopes, I still had to pedal just to keep moving.  With wind speeds around 15 mph sustained, it was brutal.  We had one harder gust which lasted about 3 seconds.  My speed dropped in a heartbeat from 7.3 mph to 4.1.  It was like hitting boggy mud.

The wind dried Loke and me out pretty quickly too.  Both of us stayed thirsty even while gulping water like crazy.  The good news though was with the cool day, stiff breezes and slower pace the furry one wasn’t overheating.  He still seemed happy to take a rest in the shade when I stopped to look at a sign along the road.  It was for an old shale and cement production site.  As we sat there drinking water, a man pulled up and asked something.  Unfortunately between the wind howling around the edges of my ears and the chugging of his car’s little diesel engine I couldn’t hear him.

Alvar Landscape

Shortly past that, the west side of the road took on the soft hills and unnaturally placed stones appearance of a grave field, though I’d seen no signs.  I did find signs to the east side.  Mostly about the alvar which is the sort of landscape with the grasses and scrub crossed by walls.  One place was both a pasture and also had old foundation stones for iron age houses and such scattered around it.  As I read the sign and looked across the pretty view, I would have loved to looking for those foundations.  I just didn’t have the ‘oomph’.  Especially if I wanted to keep riding.

Wary Horses Around The Windmill

The western grave field was STILL rolling on when I spotted a horse in the distance.  I made note of it and then went back to keeping an eye to the other side for a sign to figure out which grave field I was seeing.  Suddenly, the thudding of hooves had me looking east again.  A herd of horses, some 10 strong came running up to the fence line.  Two of them were Arabians, a white and a dainty, little dapple gray.  The rest were in shades of brown, Arabian and Thoroughbreds both.

Stopping, they stared at me, nostrils flaring in an attempt to catch our scent as the wind rippled their manes and tails.  They abruptly turned and galloped hard for the north before curving away to the east and back toward us.  Beautifully groomed, their coats gleamed.  They did that for almost a mile.  Curiosity warring with the wariness of something new and strange.  I laughed with delight.  Loke only kept his head down and jogged ‘doggedly’ into the wind.

They finally stopped near a windmill sitting in the middle of their pasture and watched us ride on before going back to their grazing.

Södra Mockleby Kyrka

The grave field was briefly interrupted for a short stretch of town and another church.  I only stopped long enough to dutifully collect the big plastered, rectangle with it’s square tower and lantern steeple.  I have discovered while doing research on this church a number of runestones used to be here, but have since disappeared.  Pity.  I would have been nice to get a few runestones at least.

Also, much to my surprise, all the churches on this ride have thier origins in the 1100’s though the story for each is the same.  Most of the original church either demolished or covered over in the 1800’s for renovations of neoclassical design.  They also didn’t seem to mind the churches being multi-use either.  Warehouses or defensive stuctures.  It makes them a little more interesting to me.

  On the other side of the village, the grave field continued with the rolling mounds studded with stones.

Finally, near a clustered formation of stones, I found a parking shoulder with a sign.  It took a bit of fiddling to get the trike positioned so it wouldn’t roll backwards UPHILL with the force of the wind.

Gettlinge Burial Ground. Mound & 'Gate' Stones

The almost 2 mile long grave field was Gettlinge Grave Field.  I had finally come to the northern head of it.  A little further on, just past a windmill, was another grouping of stones and two very large upright stones which the sign commented stood like a pair of gate posts at the entrance.

I gave the windmill long consideration.  The little door at the back stood open and curiosity pulled.  I looked at those rickety and very steep stairs leading up and decided I couldn’t do it.  My legs just weren’t up to it.  I wasn’t even sure I could push on by that time.  Somehow, I still found myself back in the seat with Loke tethered next to me and we went on.

Smedby Kyrka

As fields opened up to the west and I caught sight of another cookie cutter church in the distance, Smedby (Smith Village), I decided I’d stop there.  Only roughly 15 miles.  As I said, I had to fight for every one of those miles.

Opposite the turn down the short road to the church was a dirt track with a nature reserve sign for another of those alvar environments.  Next to the track was a windmill.  This one was a faded blue gray color and one of the blades fallen into the thick growth at the edge of the little clearing around the mill.  Also in the clearing was a table made from an old mill stone.  A comfortable place to wait for my hubby and far more interesting than the church.

Windmill Near Smedby Kyrka

As I was trying to get far enough back to take the picture of the mill and not end up stuck in thorny scrub bushes, a pair of birds burst out of cover.  They looked a lot like ptarmigans, but I can’t image them this far south.  It must have been a pair of pheasant hens though they seemed smaller and not shaped quite right.  Maybe a different kind of grouse?  Who knows.  I don’t. Hehe

The door to this windmill wasn’t locked.  Only held shut by a large chunk of wood.  I actually made an attempt to climb up, but I couldn’t bring myself to trust the weathered looking planks of the steps and the entire mill shaking in the wind didn’t inspire confidence either.  So, I settled at the table to wait for Jens.

The leg pain really kicked in during that wait.  From ankle to waist, the muscles tried to cramp and wouldn’t stop twitching.  My knees ached.  Worst were my hips, my right one especially.

The chair heat in the car felt soooo good when we had everything stuffed back in the car.  I’d enjoyed the scenery and definitely got exercise.  Loke was flat on his pillow and sound asleep, so not a bad day all things considered.


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