Terii’s Cycling Babble


Year End Totals… Sorta
December 25, 2011, 6:16 am
Filed under: Misc

Roslags-Bro Kyrka

This has been a rough year for cycling. It began with trying to deal with insane amounts of snow melt (snowiest winter since I’ve been here) and then a spring that kept waffling between summer and winter. Throw in breaking spokes and over a dozen flats in 2 weeks before our incredibly short spring (barely 3 weeks) gave way to a scorching summer. Generally when we’ve gotten temps between  85-95+, it’s only stuck around for 2 or 3 weeks. Not this time. We baked for 3 months! Brutal in a country where even movie theaters and malls aren’t air conditioned, let alone homes. Loke and I mostly stayed home and melted between mid-June to September. Our trip to the far northern part of Europe was a welcome break from the broiling temps.

Church Ruin Near Huddinge Kyrka

Cycling in October, when the weather was cool enough to cycle, ended up ruined by a bad tumble I took while on a short hike. I slipped and went down hard on my tail bone on like Oct 3. I fractured it at the least, maybe even a clean break. I could barely move for weeks.

In spite of the litany of bad things interfering with my cycling, I managed to collect a LOT in terms of pictures of Swedish cultural heritage. I smashed last year’s mileage of 450 miles with a total somewhere around 650 this year, though given how freakishly warm our winter remains, I might edge it up by a few more miles in the last days of 2011. Tomorrow might be in the high 40’s or low 50’s (8 – 12 c) and clear!

Christmas has come which I view with a sense of anticipation as the days get longer. Our 5 hour 44 min long day has already increased by 3 minutes since Dec 22!

Since nothing, but the mileage is likely to change in the 6 days between now and New Years, here are my year-end totals!

Churches – 43

Runestones – 57

Ruins – 11

Burial Mounds/Fields – 10

Castles – 7

Miles – 651.3 (1048 km) All but 7 miles ridden with Loke.

Total Number of Rides – 54

Tours – 2

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and your Christmas is filled with the warmth of family and friends. Here’s to an incredible New Year’s Eve and an even better year to come!



False Starts & Hurricanes – Tour September 15-16
December 19, 2011, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Tours

Strängnäs Cathedral

I had such big plans for this year, but circumstances and a viciously hot summer both derailed them. At least I managed to get two tours done.

Sö Runestone #277 - Strängnäs Cathedral

My tour in September began in a rather high stress fashion a week before I actually got under way. I’d made a list, checked it several times and packed carefully. We’d loaded the car a few days in advance. The big day came and Jens drove me to Strängnäs, a town on the southern shores of Lake Mälaren. We arrived at the cathedral there and I walked around taking pictures of the many runestones scattered about and not an info sign to be seen for any of them.

Sö Runestone #276 - Strängnäs

Building Near Cathedral

The search for stones done, I returned to the car and began to unload in the surprisingly cool morning air. The sun streamed down gloriously to sparkle on dew covered grass and I was actually humming happily to myself as I set all the packs on the ground. I had to remove the trailer before dragging out the trike. Out came the trailer’s tongue, then the two wheels, the left side, the right side and…. I stared in dread at the trike now clear of obstacles.

I’d forgotten the bottom! If I’d forgotten a side, it would have been annoying, but not a show stopper. With the tarps and the rope I had, I could still have tethered everything into a bundle, but without the bottom there was nothing to be done. Snarling at myself with a few mental kicks, I repacked everything into the car. Then came the wait for my husband to wander back with Loke so I could tell him the bad news so he could growl around about my scatterbrained-ness. I forget critical things like this just enough to for him to dread my announcements for long rides and now… tours.  Hard to say who it irritates more.  Me or Jens.

No way either of us wanted to do the hour’s drive back home to get the trailer bottom and then drive back out. So, I planned to start another day.

That came a bit later than I liked because of the weather, but soon, I had a couple days forecasted clear and we tried again.

Trike's Eye-view Of Harbor Square At Strängnäs

Loke, Trike & Trailer At The Harbor

This time went much better. Rather than beginning at the Cathedral, I unloaded the car right near the water along a section of boardwalk with benches and planters. I kept my humming to a minimum as I didn’t want to jinx myself, but it went much better. I seemed to have everything for a wonder. Soon, I was saying bye to the hubby and hitching an excited Loke to the trike. As Jens drove off in front of us, Loke took after him in a flat out run along the southern lake shore. Even as Jens turned away, Loke still kept up his exuberant charge with the tongue-lolling husky smile.

Random Lake Side Scenery

The harbor area of Strängnäs was quite pretty and I stopped to take a picture. I can’t remember exactly why, but Jens caught up with us there for a moment before leaving again.

Vansö Kyrka

Shortly outside of town, I turned more inland through pretty countryside in that gorgeous phase between Swedish summer and autumn. Loke was running well in spite of a frisky wind out of the west and it seemed mere moments before we stopped at our first country church. Vansö Kyrka. With a happy husky, I made a quick circuit of the church, but found no stones.

Old Buggy

It seemed after I left Vansö, the wind continue to pick up to the point, it became a little less fun to ride. I wasn’t going to wimp out over a little wind though. I mean, am I going to call for a rescue every time it get a little windy if I’m cycling 200 miles from home? It was part of the challenge of touring! Not just going on through the pretty, calm days, but through the wet and windy too. At least the winds weren’t enough to bother Loke. I feel a certain amount of guilt when he’s trotting along with his head down, ears flattened and squinting. I know that unless the winds are strong enough he’s flying from the end of the trike’s tether like a kite, they can’t hurt him, but he’s just never been fond of breezes. Even when we drive in the car with the windows down, after a few min, he tries to avoid the gusts. No tongue lolling, ears flapping in the breeze with his head out the window for this dog.

Fogdö Kyrka

Fogdö Kyrka was the next on my maps. I stopped in the shade there for a bit of granola as a late lunch. After Loke and I both filled our bellies with a little something, I took a slow walk around the church for photos and runestones before sitting in the shade a bit longer. I let Loke decide when it was time for us to move on. He’s enough of a bully to let me know when he’s bored and wants to run again.

In my map books was mention of a cloister ruin. Intrigued, I decided to look for it though I’d not mapped a way to it. Fortunately, there was a little sign for it pointing down a gravel road just across the paved street from Fogdö Kyrka.

The road wasn’t too bad and, as ever, I gave Loke the smoother parts and took the rougher as long as there was no danger to my derailleur. We’d gone perhaps half a mile or so when I came to T-junction with a turn to the right. There was no sign for the ruin which I suppose I should have guessed meant go straight, but I looked at my map book and decided to turn right. I’m glad I did or I would have missed a wonderful meeting.

After another half-mile or so, I began to feel perhaps I’d taken a wrong turn and was considering turning back. Ahead was a pretty country house with the barn-like roof, painted red and white trimmed and surrounded by a well kept lawn of hedges and fruit trees. An older man getting his mail stopped to shade his eyes and watch as Loke and I came down the road with curious interest. I decided to ask for directions.

I asked after the cloister in fumbling Swedish and the man smiled and asked very clearly, “You speak English? Where are you from?”

I told him and he asked about the trike, very impressed I was out for a cycling tour with my dog and then told me I should have gone straight at the T to get to the cloister ruin. I didn’t need to turn back though. He began trying to describe how to find my way there. Grinning I held up my Garmin Edge and zoomed out a bit so he could point to each turn I needed to make. I thanked him and went on my way.

Ingjald's Mound

The road deteriorated a little shortly after that chance encounter. The soil looser and rockier. I had a bit of a challenging climb up a nasty slope. At the top was something that made it worth while though. A small grave mound.

I have to admit, thrilled as I was to have found it, I was also a little frustrated. Why? Because it was the PERFECT camping spot. The mound itself was fenced in a pasture, but running along the fence line was a neat dirt and grass track leading to a smooth grassy lawn about 100 yards down with a small parking lot and a diminutive building of some kind. All of it surrounded by low shrubs and tall trees. Sheltered, secluded and well off any high traffic areas. The problem was it wasn’t even 3:30 pm! I still had at least 3 hours to full dark.

After I took my pictures of the mound, I waffled and agonized for a few minutes about staying before sucking it up and moving on.

Actually, my timing couldn’t have been more perfect for moving on. Shortly past the grave mound was the first turn. As I took it, I heard the crunch of gravel behind me and in the shaky mirror, I saw someone on an old style comfort bike coming up fast. As they caught up, I turned to smile just in time for their speed to match mine. It was the nice man who had given me directions. Smiling he said he needed a little exercise and what better way than cycling with me to the cloister to make sure I found it.

Vårfruberga (Spring Wife Mountain?) Cloister Ruin

It was kind of fun to have company for a while though it about killed me and certainly pushed Loke. I’d say probably the fastest 3 miles we’ve done in mid-ride. Loke loped the whole way at around 10 to 12 mph and kept looking at the gentleman as if to make sure he wasn’t pulling ahead. It would have been a challenge even on paved ground, but the gravel made it doubly so as we wound our way up and down small rolling hills.

Somehow, I found breath to hold a conversation with our guide and asked if he’d lived in the area long.

“No,” he replied, “only 10 years or so.” It shows a very different mind set than mine as I moved so much all my life. 10 years in one place would have been very long and blissful. He was originally from Stockholm and was a retired journalist. Now he enjoyed his retirement in the countryside, walking and cycling around as well as writing books and short stories. One story he wrote had made it into an anthology based on the cloister we were riding toward. He was part of a group of people who were very interested in the history of the cloister.

Vårfruberga Cloister Ruin

Soon, we were heading down a shady lane past a farm with a history as being a place where kings would stop when they were out touring their realm. Kungsberga (King’s Mountain) it was called.

Hard between the lake and the farm buildings was the cloister ruin. As I changed shoes and gathered my camera to take pictures, my guide wished me a good journey and in parting warned me there were quite a few wild pigs in this part of the country side. He also told me they don’t like dogs and not in the ‘run away!’ way. The ‘I’m going to rip that dog to pieces’ way.

Well, that certainly put a whole new spin on overnighting.

Though they were little more than low walls, the cloister was an interesting ruin and far more extensive than I’d thought it would be. I spent about 20 min walking around with Loke, taking pictures and keeping the furball from rolling in sheep poop.

The wind increased even more as we pedaled away from the ruin and the way back to Fogdö Kyrka was quite a bit shorter than it had been along the circuitous route I’d taken to it. I was happy for that wrong turn though since I’d had the grave mound and a delightful meeting to show for it. It occurred to me, I didn’t get my guide’s name though and it made me a little sad.

Going was slow into the force of the wind and Loke did start looking irritated with the gale whipping down upon us. As it came on toward 5 pm, I turned my attention to the country side with an eye toward a camp spot. Most of the land was fields and houses, neither of which are acceptable or legal. The few places I did spot as potential places were quickly discarded for being too close to residences.

Amazingly, I found a small ICA grocery store! I tethered Loke and ran in side to see if I could find something to eat. Their produce was uninspiring. I thought about buying a tiny thing of milk and some cereal, but they had no bowls and nor did I. Something I definitely need to correct. Finally, I just settled for some orange juice and a can of Pringles to go with my peanut butter and crackers.

My thighs were screaming as I jumped back on the trike and though there was at least an hour’s daylight left, I was beginning to get a little worried. In September, we are back to nights with full dark. I spotted a sign with the pointy ‘R’ that indicating down an unpaved road. Exhausted and with no clue how far down it might, I considered not exploring it. Then I figured it might also give me a place to camp so I made the turn.

On a wedge of land between the road I’d turned off and the curve of the gravel road, I passed a collection of large barns and sheds. It was a curious mix of well kept and obviously used structures and equipment to dilapidated and rusting. As I passed the last building before a cluster of trees mostly hiding a little abandoned cottage, I considered camping between the trees and the end of the sagging barn. It felt wrong though. Granted, there was no house mixed in with those buildings and I would have been settling in the most unused section. The cottage had three about 10 foot high sapling growing in front of the door, the barn looked like it hadn’t been open in ages, and a large piece of tilling equipment looked as if it had sat in place for years.

I went on.

Not A Perfect Spot

The cluster of trees was quite small. I’d say less than 50 yards wide when I came to the cultural site. It was a memorial stone of some kind. I’m not certain it was a runestone though. I could see no carvings and there was no information sign, but it obviously wasn’t placed just so by a glacier. Lush, low growing grass filled a little hollow between the trees and a rock ledge with fields beyond.

I sat looking at the spot for a few minutes. It seemed okay. I could tether Loke to the post with the pointy ‘R’ sign and pitch the tent maybe a bit closer to the stone since I didn’t want to be in the low spot if rain came. There was plenty of room to drag the trike and use it and the trailer with a tarp to attempt rigging a shelter for Loke. While close to the gravel road, the road seemed very little used. The closest house was well over 100 yards away, tiny in the distance. Not too many rocks either and no tree roots.

There was one problem with it though. The WIND. That wind still roared and howled as it had for a large part of the day. Worse, it came raging unhindered across a huge expanse of a field and right into the hollow. It was getting late though and I needed to get camp settled before it got dark. I thought longingly of that little sheltered nook between barn end and trees.

Loke's Shelter, Such As It Was

Sighing, I let the consideration go. Annoying and unpleasant as the wind might have been, at least it wouldn’t kick me off the site like an angry farmer might have.

Getting the tent and Loke’s tarp shelter settled proved quite challenging, but I persevered. Both of them flapped as if in the clutches of a hurricane and I found out later how ironic that was. I didn’t really like how open Loke’s shelter still looked no matter what I did, but I fought with it as long as I could. Once that was settled, I took my food and Loke’s and walked with the wind to my back for over 100 yards or so. Then sitting on a rock, I opened his travel dish with a portion of dog food in it and tucked into my own food. That way, if pigs came, they’d find where we’d eaten rather than my camp.

About 7 pm, the wind died and I had blissful silence in the camp. For a while at least. Around 8:30 pm, it kicked up again with a vengeance. Sustained I’d say was between 20 mph to 25 mph with gusts over 30 mph. Though it was almost 10 degrees warmer than the night I’d camped out in June, I felt so much colder even bundled in thick thermals and sleeping bag on my air mattress. The gales just came under the rainfly and right through the mesh walls of my tent.

It began pitch black when the sun went down, but the moon was a little past the half-phase and when it rose, it turned the world into shades of midnight blue, velvet black and subtle pewter. Even inside my tent, I could see well enough to make out shapes to find even my iPhone.

Unsurprisingly, Loke was restless though not quite as much as he had been with foxes yapping in the distance on our first tour. Finally, he curled up in his shelter.

Dismantling Camp

I read on my Kindle for a bit and then slept fitfully through the night. I kept checking on Loke or trying to get an arm or knee to warm up where a draft had wormed it’s way through my sleeping bag. I’ll admit, I considered calling Jens to come get me a few times, but it would have been close to 2 am when he got to me, longer if he had trouble finding the turn off. So, I just sucked it up and tried to sleep.

A bit after 6 am, I woke from an uncomfortable doze and crawled out of my tent. The sky had gone to that dim gray of coming dawn and thankfully, the wind had less force, though I’d still call it breezy. Staggering sleepily around, I fed Loke, topping off his water before I fed and watered myself. I was in no hurry. I wanted plenty of light before I got back on the road again.

My View As I Brushed My Teeth

Loke seemed lazy that morning. Maybe he was sulking at me. I’ll admit a bit of concern as I had to dismantle his shelter from around him. He just stayed fox-curled and watched me. Bit by bit, I packed everything and refastened the trailer to the trike. He stretched for a moment as I took the picture, but I had to nudge him to get him up so I could put his harness on a few minutes later. He sat staring across the fields as I double checked the camp and sat down. He met the click of my shoes into the pedals with indifference. Around 7:30 am, I loosed the brakes and… we were off like a shot. The 150 yards or so to the paved road was covered at nearly 20 mph as Loke ran like his tail was on fire and he slowed only long enough for me to check traffic and make the turn before cranking on the speed again.

The rest of the short day’s ride passed in a blur. A miserable one even. I hurt. My thighs ached, the wind, while not nearly as fierce as the day before, still was enough to be an issue. Before 10 am, I felt more exhausted than I had when I’d stopped to camp. I spent almost 15 minutes climbing almost 200 yards of an 18% grade at a snail’s pace. I kept wondering if my brakes were locked or something it was so hard. No, I was just tired and dragging a load of camping gear. Loke was helping all he could. He was fine at least.

Loke Enjoying the Morning

After that, terrain began to dictate where I did and did not go. ‘Oooh! Look! There’s a grave mound down that road. Oops. Never mind. It’s gravel,’ or ‘I’m NOT climbing that hill to look for a burial ground.’ The final straw was when I’d made a turn to do an out and back to find a church and look for runestones. I made it about half a mile when I stopped and just looked ahead and DOWN. It had to be at least another 18% grade… and I would have to climb back up it. Nope. I refused.

As I turned around at that point, I realized it was a waste of time to continue if I wasn’t going to see the things I wanted because I was too exhausted to go where I needed to. That decided, I looked at my maps and found what I thought would be the easiest place for Jens to find and prayed I wouldn’t have to climb a 23% grade or something silly to get there.

It was near a camp ground and not far from Lake Mälaren. I found a huge parking lot and parked myself in the shade of some trees at the edge before calling Jens. Loke tethered with a long line and watered, I flopped back down into my trike seat and napped until he arrived.

Later that evening, I discovered that the brutal winds Loke and I had suffered were due to the hurricane that had battered New York. Even though it wasn’t even a tropical storm by the time the remnant had made it to us, it was still more than enough to make the trip and overnight dreadful. No wonder tarp and tent were flapping around as if they were in a hurricane. In a sense, they were.

I barely covered 25 miles for that whole tour. Disappointing, but at least I’d had some nice parts to the first day!



Far North Road Trip – July 13-19
December 4, 2011, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Misc

While I did no rides for this trip, I decided I will post about it since it is, in a fashion, ride related connect to the Sverigeleden as it is.  Not to mention, I’ve had insistent requests for photos.

Random Church Ruin

The company my husband worked for did away with his department this year.  After he finished up their current contracts he was left with no work to do though he wasn’t released from his association with the business immediately.  They valued him and so wanted time to find another position for him.  He was technically still employed, but had no work to do so had plenty of free time.  The idea came to us to take a trip.  A long one even since we wouldn’t have any absolute deadline.  I thought it a wonderful idea and proposed we go to Nordkapp, the northern most point of the Sverigeleden and the northern most point of Europe.

High Coast Bridge

Once we decided that, we were on our way in less than two days.  Away we went with trike and fishing gear packed as well as everything else people going on a trip would take.

Random Scenery - High Coast

As I type this, it occurs to me that both times we have gone into the far northern part of Sweden, we’ve gone in July.

Baltic Sea View

The first leg of our trip was up the E4 along the eastern coast of Sweden.  It was a warm day though clouds ran through the skies on a brisk wind.  This was my second visit to the High Coast.  All of Sweden is rising as time passes.  The weight of ice from the last ice age pressed the landscape down by hundreds of meters.  Since the retreat of the glaciers, the entire landscape has been springing back up and no where faster than on the high coast.  It rises by as much as an inch a year.

Second Random Church Ruin

It was a short day’s drive since we’d gotten an unhurried start around 11 am.  Once we crossed the High Coast Bridge, we began looking for the camp ground we had stayed in on our first trip.  The landscape was gorgeous as we made our search.  By the time we were tired we decided to take what we could.  Before we set out, one thing we had decided was to not camp so we looked for a place that had the little camp cabins.

Grave Slab at Second Church Ruin

We found a place that was rather crowded, but along a lake.  Best thing about it were a pair of restaurants so we had some choice of what to eat.  That was a good thing since our tiny cabin was one room and smaller than our bedroom at home. Not even a hot plate.  Just a tiny fridge and a bunk bed with a table and 4 chairs.

We took Loke out with us as we strolled along with the crowds to take a look at the restaurants.  One was the typical burger/pizza place quite crowded and noisy.  That kind of food we could have any where, so we took a look at the one further down the shore.

The other was an actual restaurant.  An older seeming building that looked wooden and rustic on the inside.  A woman playing music.  Another section of it was a glass room.  They let us walk through with Loke to the deck outback overlooking a Baltic inlet.

Loke Wistfully Looking At The Mountains

The food was good.  That much I remember though not what I ate.  All in all, a nice ending to our first day on the road.

We had an earlier start the next morning.  After all, the beds weren’t that comfortable and the camp ground didn’t really have too much to keep us there.

Blues & Greens! Beautiful!

We continued our navigation on the fly as we continued northward. Jens encouraged me to find points of interest for us to seek out, but I tried to keep that to a minimum or we’d have been zigzagging the whole way to Nordkapp and arrive a month late for our cabin rental.

First Wooden Church

I did have us cut inland sooner than we might have if we’d been following the GPS as I wanted to see at least some places we’d not been to on our first trip north.

Second Wooden Church

Admittedly, I don’t remember much of this day’s drive except for the wooden churches and beginning the search for reindeer.

This church was a pleasant surprise though taking a picture of it drove me half nuts.  No matter how I tried to line it up, something looked out of kilter.  After about half a dozen tries, lining up carefully with different features, I gave up

In all my years in Sweden, I’ve not seen many wooden churches.  Perhaps half a dozen all told.  Not too surprising I guess given how frequently churches catch fire. Over a dozen churches I’ve researched have been burned at some point in their history.  3 this year I’ve discovered with recent fires I’ve smelled when I visited them.

Shedding Reindeer

Not long after the second of wooden churches, we saw our first reindeer.

Awwww

Reindeer always look so scruffy and tattered at this time of year as they’re still blowing their winter coat.

The calves look much better and not just because they’re baby-cute, but because they don’t look like they have mange.

Loke went nuts at his first sight of a reindeer.  The first ones were on Jens’ side of the car and he tried to climb over the rear end of my trike to smoosh his face into the window glass with a whine.  Then I spotted these on my side and he bounced back and forth trying to watch both sides of the road at once.  We had smears from his nose on the window glass in the back.  Too funny.  I’m not sure Loke would have known what to do with a reindeer if he got out.

The furry one got quite a bit of exercise from that first sighting.  Poor puppy.  We wouldn’t let him out to play.

Beautiful!

At some point during the day we rejoined roads we had traveled before on the trip in 2006, somewhere a bit south of the latitudinal line of the Polar Circle.

Woot!

A few familiar landmarks turned up.  A shallow stream tumbling over rocks with an old bridge closed to traffic we had pictures of from ’06.

At a dam we had also stopped at in ’06 I had a big smile waiting for me.

Love-bug of a Cat

There must have been a dozen people lined up at the rail to take pictures of the view, which while were not what I would call breath taking.  All the same, we stopped long enough for me to hop out with the camera.  Thankfully, Jens stayed in the car with Loke.  I’d taken a couple shots when I heard a meow.

Surprised, I looked away from the view to find a cat making a bee-line for me.  He passed three other people who called to him to come rub at my ankles.  From the car, I could see Loke frantic to get out as I stooped to give the purring cat some attention.  He was so sweet, though I’m baffled what pulled him straight to me.  I’m glad to have made his acquaintance though. I really do love cats.  Especially the ones that love and crave attention.

Loke On Top of the World

Around supper time, we started looking for a place to sleep and eat.  I seem to recall we had a little difficulty until we found a hotel perched on the lowest of the three peaks in the area.  They had some beautiful cabins, but dogs weren’t allowed in them, so we had to take a room in the hotel itself.  The beds were comfortable and the views gorgeous.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a restaurant on site.

However, we were told of a cafe on the highest peak that had a midnight-sun special.  So, we hopped back into the car, much to Loke’s dismay and drove higher up.

Rainbow!

High above the tree line, the parking lot was quite a distance from the actual cafe so we faced a walk.  It had felt almost warm at the hotel, but as we stepped out of the car we were hit with a roaring wind and the bitter cold it carried bit deep.  Fortunately, we had wisely brought coats, but they were woefully inadequate without thermals and long sleeved shirts.  My hair whipped and flew in every which direction.  Clouds streamed across the sky and rain veils scattered the broken sunlight into rainbows.

Gotta Love Mountains

Getting colder by the minute we staggered toward the cafe.  About half way, I stopped and told Jens it wasn’t worth a cup of coffee and a bit of sandwich or coffee cake.  We turned and went back to the car where we blasted on the heat and snuggled down into electric car seats on high.

Our search for food took us far down from the mountains into the closest town.  There wasn’t much.  We ended up settling for sub-par pizza.

Day 3 on the road started quite early.  We were on our way down from the mountain top before 7:30 and determined to make it into Norway at least.

The northern leg of our drive ended up being longer than it might have been since we couldn’t go into Finland with Loke.  I’d begun the process of getting his passport, but we had to wait until the end of August for the results of a blood test before he could be cleared to move freely through the EU nations.  While we could pass freely between Sweden and Norway without a dog passport, Finland was more problematical… or so we thought.

Mountains, Clouds & Rainbow

So, instead of driving across the small sliver of Finland that stretches over the top of Sweden and northern Norway, we had to drive around it adding over 150 miles (240 km).  A couple months later, we found out from a friend of Loke’s breeder that we COULD have done the quick zip through Finland. At the Finnish/Swedish border, they give permission documents to drive directly over the 30 or so miles.  It’s just you can’t stop and let the dog out to pee along the way.

Mountain & Cloud

Live and learn.  Of course, given that it would have meant missing a lot of gorgeous scenery in Norway, I think I’m happy we didn’t know about it! 🙂

Loke & The Enduring Rainbow

I almost think I should have called this trip the Rainbow Ride.  I lost count of how many we saw.  The one in this picture was incredible.  It hovered there in the mist rising from a lake.  We spotted it in the distance as we drove.  I kept waiting it to vanish during the 20 minutes since we’d first seen it until we finally came on a overlook parking spot where we could photograph it.  We weren’t the only ones there.  Three RV and over half a dozen cars worth of people were there with the same idea we had.  Get pictures!

We were there for almost 15 minutes and it never showed sign of dissipating.

Fishing Troll?

Not long after the rainbow, we finally came to the Norwegian border.  We passed through with no problems and soon stopped at a peculiar spot.  It had once been a restaurant.  A run-down red tin barn looking building with large windows, but that was what not stopped us.  It was the giant troll decked out in fishing gear.

Though it was the first restaurant we’d seen in ages, Jens told me it wasn’t surprising it had failed being on the Norwegian side of the very close border.  It seems that the rate of exchange between Norway and Sweden entices many Norwegians within 60 miles or more of a shop on the Swedish side to make the drive.  If the restaurant had been on the Swedish side, it might have flourished.  Amazing the difference 2 or 3 miles might have made to this place.

Scenery at Tourist Stop

A bit after 2 pm, Loke let us know he needed more than a quick stroll around the car for a pee break.  We found a tourist spot made up of Sami tents and sheds with all sorts of souvenirs.

Norway's Beauty

Jens and I took turns wandering outside with Loke while looking at the shops.  The largest yurt had a fire with a reindeer stew and coffee keeping warm.  I got brave and bought some dried reindeer ribs.  It was okay though nothing to rave about.  At least I tried it.  Loke on the other hand seemed to think it was wonderful.  He sat drooling as I cut each sliver of meat away for him to gobble down.

Jens ate some thin Norwegian waffles with brown goat cheese and coffee as we enjoyed scenery and sunshine.

You can tell that the border of Norway and Sweden was largely ruled by a change in geography.  The entire character of the land changed within a couple miles of crossing the border.  The lower, rounded mountains giving way to more rocks and finally the taller, more jagged tops of younger peaks.  Just amazing.

My Family & Mountains

We made quite a few stops along this stretch.  The pretty landscape just demanded to be enjoyed, savored, which is hard to do when you whip by it at 70 mph.

Glacier!

By late afternoon, we’d reached the Atlantic coast, though it was a bit hard to tell since the coast line goes north/south by way of east and west.  It makes for beautiful views though.

Around 5 pm and we found our next overnight place.  Yet another hotel and this one at least had a restaurant.  It proved to be a stop over for tourist buses full of older ladies and gentlemen exploring Norway.  As Jens took care of check-in, I walked around outside with Loke and suddenly found myself surrounded by German men and women gushing over Loke.  They simply adored him!

Hotel & Harbor

We had to leave the furball in the room when we came down supper and over a dozen people asked where our dog was.  Would we be bringing him down later?  We assured them we would.

Hotel Harbor

While the room was comfortable, I’d have to say the food was a bit of a disappointment.  It was bland and rather banal.  Essentially powdered mashed potatoes with Salisbury steak that put early 1980’s elementary school lunches to shame.  I guess they were hoping the landscape would distract their guests from actually tasting what they are putting in their mouth.

We went for a walk after the unsatisfying meal, exploring the small village sitting wedged between mountain and water.  We wandered along the harbor and then northward to the other edge of the town limits.  It took about 20 minutes at a low stroll to make it there and back to the hotel.

Calm Waters

We left the next morning about the same time as the tour bus.  There was one particular German gentleman who was more taken with Loke than the rest of his travel companions.  He seemed to enjoy being able to talk with us as he stroked the fuzzy one’s ears.

Norway's Major Highway

It felt good to get under way again, knowing we were going to get to the cabin that night.  Through the morning and early afternoon once we left the hotel, we climbed.  Up and up and up.  My ears popped every few miles.

During the whole way through Norway, I kept my eye to the roads and such with my thoughts on cycling it on a tour.  It was a daunting prospect.  The road was very narrow.  Two lanes, but neither very wide and a shoulder less than a foot wide as it twisted back and forth around sharp curves and along steep drops or against sheer rock faces.  The idea of cycling with the traffic on what passed for the interstate.  A car trying to pass me on one of a million blind curves and another comes whipping around the cliff face?  *shudder*

Highest Peak of the Trip

One thing for certain, IF I do it, Loke won’t be with me.  I need another 2 or 3 feet of space when I’ve got him along and I think I’d be mobbed by angry drivers.  The daunting thing was, we’d rejoined the Sverigeleden, which goes through Finland.

Reindeer Playing Chicken With An SUV

The road took is away from the fjords and I was sad to see them go.  The inland views just didn’t have the impact of the mountains and sea.  We did start seeing reindeer again which had been scarce since our first few sightings on day 2 still in Sweden.  Some of the places we found them were unexpected.  A long cliff face to one side of the road and a steep drop to the ocean on the other for miles and there’d be herds of the deer wandering along the road.  Migrating I guess, but it made me wonder what was forcing them to the road instead of to the green land above the cliffs.  Can’t imagine there was much to eat for so many along that cliff base.

White!

We were coming to the northern most point of the Norwegian mainland and after 4 days on the road, I’m sure we all were looking forward to reaching the cabin which would be our base of operations for 2 nights at least.  The winding road had dropped back down to the water’s edge again, but on the eastern side of Norway instead of the west.  The trees had all but vanished by this point.  They were scrubby little things, barely waist high where you saw them.

The tunnel when we came to it was a bit nerve-wracking.  It runs something like 3 miles below the North Sea to the island on which Nordkapp sits.  At the entrance, was a siren that went through your teeth like the screech of nails on a chalk-board to keep foxes or even reindeer from entering the tunnel.

Spirit of the Arctic

Then we were out the other side and paying a toll to enter the island and driving through the single town.

Our First View of Bird Island

I expected a tundra environment, but even so the island still looked incredibly stark and barren.  The wind blew ceaselessly with no trees to block it and there was a nip in the air.  We traveled narrow roads for almost 3o miles and saw not a single car.  There were so many reindeer though that Loke finally learned the word.  He’d hear it and lurch to his feet and stare longingly out the window.  Kind of funny really.  Part of the drive to the village with our cabin was barely a lane and a half wide and twisted up a slope steep enough that it made my husband nervous.  He’s never been fond of heights.

Then we were driving along a long narrow valley with small arctic lakes to either side of the road.  Suddenly, the view opened out onto water and islands as the road made a sharp curve and dropped out of sight.  As we followed it, we finally saw our destination.  A tiny village with a year round population of 140 people.  Quickly we found our hosts.

View From Our Window

They were an incredibly nice family though we never met the man.  His wife and their 18 year old son were welcoming.  Our cabin was a small apartment built over a garage.  Though small and with the ceiling too low in the sleeping area for Jens to stand upright, it was still charming, warm and comfortable with a beautiful view across the village harbor.  I think the restaurant was closed, but we had some pretty decent food just down the stairs from our cabin door.  The cabin owners also ran a little fast food trailer.  The burgers weren’t bad, but the fish and chips they had were as good as anything I’ve ever had before, even the fish and chips in England when we went to try out my Trice.

Veiled Nordkapp

We pitched our luggage in the cabin before jumping into the car to find Nordkapp.  The clouds were thickening and growing lower as we drove back to the main road and turned north.  We drove on through the worsening weather as the horizon vanished in the thick gray mists.  We found an entrance fee for Nordkapp, but decided it would be silly to pay it with such poor visibility.  But we had made it!  One of the clearest starting points of the Sverigeleden.  The very northern tip of a north-south leg.  Not an arbitrary starting point in the middle of a loop.

Yes, it really is a 3 foot long, 1 inch high birch tree.

And we saw a lot of cyclists too, all loaded with gear and stubbornly chewing their way up the steep slopes.  It tickled me pink!

An Arctic Birch Forest

On the way back to our cabin, we stopped to walk across part of the tundra with a beautiful overlook.  It was then, I finally found the northern most birch forest in Europe.  Without a bit of research I’d done while we ate our fish and chips, I never would have found it. Thank you, Google! Hehe

Apparently, in spite of the fact that the trees don’t even reach 2 inches off the ground, the ecosystem has everything that qualifies it as a viable forest.  That is so neat and I’m glad I actually found it.

We walked for about half an hour before returning to the village for a good night’s sleep.  The beds were WONDERFUL!  I also have to say it was one of the quietest night’s I’ve ever had.  No traffic, no sirens, no people yelling, not even dogs or cats.  Just the soft twilight that serves as night during the far northern summers and silence.  I slept like a baby.

I woke the next morning and found the weather had cleared slightly.  Oddly, I really had no impulse to ride my trike.  I felt too daunted by the hills.  I wanted to see more than the 5 miles I MIGHT have been able to climb in several hours with the trike.  Once Jens had stirred and slurped a bit of coffee, we decided to go back to Nordkapp.

The way was clear and we payed the fee and went in.

Europe's End - Nordkapp (North Cape)

The place was packed!  Over a dozen tour buses, too many RVs for me to bother counting, quite a few cars and even a few motorcycles.  We walked past the square block of a building to where the land ended in a sheer cliff, giving way to an endless stretch of sea and clouds.  We went to the edge, me a little closer than Jens did, and stood on the brink of Europe’s end.  There was nothing but water and ice between us and the North Pole.  Granted, miles of it, but still!  It was exhilarating!

Nordkapp Cliffs

As we walked around, we became the center of attention.  Oddly, everyone was drawn to us.  I should be more specific, I guess.  They were drawn to Loke.  I guess the tourist trap inside the building and the stunning views could only hold their attention for so long, so we were mobbed.  Men and women from Poland, Germany, France, Italy.  It was like the hotel on the harbor x10.  Even a woman with her child from Greece.  She gushed over the furball, saying how much she missed her own dogs at home.  I think over 100 pictures of Loke were taken.

Loke & Arctic Lake

Loke’s behavior was stubbornly aloof.  He didn’t want to greet any one.  He wouldn’t look at cameras.  When we’d stop so someone could pet him, he would just sit and look anywhere but at the people.  I guess there were just too many and he was trying to avoid any eye contact.  Jens left me to go look at a globe structure and the inside of the building before giving me a turn.  I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want Loke wandering around in there.

Shelter For Public Use

I walked around to the front of the building and found an elderly gentleman sitting in a wheel chair.  I guess the building wasn’t entirely wheelchair friendly and those with him and gone to take a look inside, leaving him alone.  He looked a bit despondent.  When he saw Loke, his eyes brightened a little so I walked over with a smile.  With him, Loke was a little warmer, though careful.  He put his head on the old man’s knee and wagged his tail when the gentleman stroked his head with arthritic swollen hands.  He was smiling as he took a picture of Loke.  I was glad to have brightened his day even for a few moments.

Inside of Shelter

I was only too glad to leave the sheer density of people behind when I’d finished looking through the tourist shop.  I’ll admit there were a few nice, high end things in there, but nothing I was really interested in buying.

Ravens!

One thing I really wanted to do before we left the island was to take a boat tour out to Bird Island.  That decided we returned to our cabin, where our hosts also ran said boat tours.  Actually the little village hosted two tours.  One was on a very large boat to accommodate the tour buses that came and then our hosts who had a much smaller boat which could take groups only up to 7 people.  Sometimes, they got overflow from the bigger boat.  I was a bit disappointed that Jens wouldn’t be able to come since someone had to stay with Loke.  Much to our surprise, our hosts said that if no one else showed up for the 3 pm tour, they were fine with Loke coming along.

The weather deteriorated slightly as 3 pm came.  Nothing truly bad mind you.  Just grayer with thicker clouds.

Puffin!

No one showed up!  So, we payed the fee and we wrestled into survival suits.  Just Jens and I.  Loke walks around with his survival suit and Björn, our hosts’ 18 year old son, didn’t seem to think it necessary for his well being.

In moments, we were motoring our way along the harbor and through the twisty channels between the docks and open water.  Loke did amazingly well!  I hate the fact that I didn’t think to take a picture of him.  When the boat was going slow to medium speed, Loke was sitting up and looking around, peering curiously over the side.  When Björn poured on the speed to hurry us to Bird Island, Loke decided he didn’t like that too much.  He hunched down on the floor and tried to wedge himself between the front seats, as far from the motor as he could get.

Sea Eagles!

Out on the open water it was rougher and at high speed, the boat skipped across the waves as the bulk of Bird Island and the smaller islands rose before us.  As we got closer, Björn slowed us down and we were surrounded by birds.  Puffins were everywhere, their bright beaks and stubby wings giving them a comical air.  The way they sort of frog hopped across the water, slapping at it with their wings only made them more adorable.  The other birds had a little more dignity, but I loved the puffins most.

Kittiwake Cathedral

Once the boat slowed, Jens had to keep a good grip on Loke because he was entranced by the puffins though for an entirely reason.  He was ready to leap over the side and go after the skipping black shapes.

As Björn motored us around, sometimes within arms-length of the rocks, I discovered an annoyance with the cloud cover which had thickened since we’d left Nordkopp.  On the tossing waters and with the poorer light, the shutter speed on my camera was too slow to make sharp images even with the stabilizer.  It didn’t stop me from trying though!

Looks Like Common Gulls, But They're Kittiwakes!

3 million or more birds come to this island every year to breed.  The noise was incredible and look up to see the black specks against the sky was like looking at a swarm of bees.  The island had a resident pair of sea eagles, but as many as 20 more come with the sea birds.  Puffins, kittiwakes, gannets, cormorants and auks.  Björn cheerfully pointed out the ropes that are used to reach some of the birds’ nests to gather eggs.  He told us how a man and boy would go up, then a rope would be tied around the boy for him to be lowered down to gather the eggs before being pulled up by the man.  He gave a big grin and said he’d always been a sturdy boy and too heavy to go over the side.

Gannets

I would have thought I’d be appalled at the idea of anyone hunting the birds’ eggs or even hunting the birds themselves, but I wasn’t.  There weren’t many people who lived on the island year round and Björn made it clear that what they took from the island was no more than they needed to survive the winter.  For their own use, not to be sold like the fish from their boats that went through the village’s tiny packing plant.  I wouldn’t be nearly as unruffled by the idea of hunting the birds if thousands of people descended on the island every year, each of them killing thousands to sell the beaks or something silly.

Cormorants!

Björn was quite eager to hear about the U.S. as well.  He wanted to travel to the U.S. at some point and one thing he really looked forward to was eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Delighted, I laughed and told him if he went to the southern part of the U.S., he should try Church’s too.  I hope he gets to go.  He had spent his entire life in the tiny village.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Life sounds a bit harsh there, but I imagine there’s a certain amount of peace as well.  Of course, peace is probably the last thing an 18 year old guy wants!

Auks

It was thrilling to be out on the rough waves of the open water and Björn knew the limits of the little boat.  He put almost into a shallow cave at one point and quite close to rocks.  I was happy our hosts had the boat tours as well.  I don’t think it would have been nearly as fun on the big boat restricted farther out to deeper water.  Not to mention, I tend to get sea sick on ships and large boats.  The small ones I have no trouble at all with.

In December 2005, Jens and I went up into the northern part of Norway by train to go watch orcas in the fjords.  It was an interesting trip, though we only saw the whales for 10 min when the light was too dim to take pictures of them.  When I was on deck in the bow, I was fine though the waves were 10+ feet high.  Being on the boat was like being on a roller coaster. As full dark came, I went below deck and got so sick. It didn’t go away immediately when I left the boat either.  I was even still nauseous the next morning.  So, yeah, I prefer small boats. Hehe.

Seal!

We’d been out for quite a while when Björn told us we should also keep an eye out for seals.  Less than 10 minutes after he’d mentioned it, I was looking along the wave frothed rocks.  I blinked and then looked harder.  One of the smaller rocks had vanished.  Jens and Björn were talking as I scanned.  I gave a laugh as I saw a sleek dark head come up with a toss, flinging a fish to tear the flesh.  I only too happily pointed out where I’d actually seen the seal as I hurriedly readied the camera.  The guys finally saw the seal as it bobbed up,  just a round, dark dome with black eyes and nostrils.

We saw a few more seals around a small clump of rocks and then we were skipping back across the waves to the village.  Fun as it was, it felt good to peel out of the survival suits, buy some fish and chips and slouch on the couch for the rest of the evening.

Harbor In The Sun

I was a bit sorry to be packing the next morning.  I really enjoyed our visit to the island and was sorry to be leaving it so soon.  We took one last walk through the village to get Loke to do his business before we got under way.  I’ll admit to feeling a tiny bit peeved by the fact that the skies were almost completely clear and the sun shone brightly.  Of course, our hostess pointed out that people don’t come to Nordkapp for the weather.  That’s quite true.

Too soon we were driving our way back the way we came.  Our initial plan had been to take a different way back through Sweden, finding things and places we might want to see.  Honestly, we were both too tired to think about it.  Instead, we began rushing toward home.

Mountains and Clouds

It’s amazing how much faster we were going back.  We crossed the border into Norway before we found a place to sleep that night.  It turned out to be the same resort we’d stayed in during the whale watching trip.  Resort in Sweden and boat in Norway.  The beds were ‘ehh’, but we were both tired enough to sleep deep.

The mad dash continued the next day, through good weather and bad.  Some quite bad rain at some points actually.  Somewhere around Jökkmökk, Jens asked me to drive.  He’d been a sweetie and done all the driving up to that point, freeing me to enjoy the scenery, navigate to points of interest and take pictures.

The Water Started It!

Pushing as hard as we were and over ground we’d already driven across earlier in the week, Jens was tired enough to ask me to drive some.  I managed to get us to Sweden’s eastern coast and a bit of the way down before I started to flag.  After a bit of a nap, my hubby was able to take back over.

By the time came where it was late enough to look for a place to overnight, we were back in the High Coast.  It felt down right silly to stop less than 4 hours from home.  We pushed on.

Somewhere along the way in the deepening twilight, we passed a recumbent trike!  It was way too dark for me to tell what model, but it was definitely a ‘bent 3 wheeler!  I giggled happily.  I do think he was a mad man to be riding on that section of road in near dark though!

We staggered through the door and into our own bed around 2 am with wonderful memories of an incredible trip.  Even if we didn’t cycle or fish!  So, here’s the post about my journey to the furthest northern point of the Sverigeleden and Europe!



About Dang Time! First Tour June 1-2
December 1, 2011, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Tours

Both for this post AND for the first tour.

Yes, I actually took the leap and did a tour this year! My first ever.  I began June 1, slept over night and finished on June 2.

I took a few days to pack, making a careful list as I tried to make sure I had everything I might need and likely quite a few things I didn’t.  I randomly chose a place just south of the western tip of Lake Mälaren.

I don’t remember what time we arrived at Kungs-Barkarö Kyrka.  I can’t even remember why I’d picked to begin at that church a few miles south of Köping.

Kungs-Barkarö Kyrka

Except for the wooden clad, steep peaked bell tower on one end of the church, it looked much like Börje Kyrka – that white plastered simple exterior with a high peaked wood-shingled roof.  I made a walk around it and discovered there’d been a fire recently.  I think that’s the third church I’d found this year which had suffered fire-damage recently enough you could smell it.  It seems to have survived just fine except for a bit of charring on the wood cladding of the tower.

No runestones, sadly.

All Loaded!

Church yard explored, I turned my attention to unloading the car and organizing the trike and trailer.  It was a bit cool, though not cold as I worked. I do remember the mosquitos were out in force.  I think I lost about a pint of blood as I packed everything up and hitched the trailer and dog to the trike.  Even Loke looked irritated at all the buzzing, biting insects.

With a bit of nervousness, I said goodbye to my husband, plopped down on the seat and moved off.  One good thing about getting underway was escaping the bugs.

Chalk Transport?

Loke was delighted with the new ground and we ripped along the first 2 miles at a run.  The furry one was a bit frustrated with the slower pace I was keeping.  It’s recommended to keep the loaded trailer below 15 mph.  Loke, of course, wanted to do a full charge of 18 mph or more.  I did stop during the first quarter mile to take a picture of the elevated hauling system which stretches for quite a few miles through this country side.  If I remember correctly, it was used to haul chalk, but I might be wrong.

Björskogs Kyrka

The wind was a tiny bit nippy, but not unpleasant as we came to the next church just 3 miles from the one I’d left.  Björskogs Kyrka sat high on a rather steep hill, proving a bit of a challenge to climb with the trike and trailer.  The grounds were pretty and green around a yellow painted plastered church of Neo-classical facade.

Loke refused the water I offered as I relaxed for a few minutes to devour a banana.  I tend to neglect food when I go on long rides, but since this was a tour, I figured I really couldn’t afford to do so.

Random Scenery

I didn’t push our pace at all.  After all, I had days to cover ground and burning out wasn’t in the plans.  Under the gradually lightening clouds, the temperature rose until I was slightly warm rather than cool.  Loke was panting, though not desperately so.

The way through Köping was a bit tricky.  There were a couple of churches I wanted pictures of and nothing seemed straightforward in the town. I do remember passing by the building where our friends lived when they first moved from Uppsala to Köping.  In the distance, I could see two steeples.  One lay in the direction I needed to go and the other was a bit in the opposite way.  Being in no hurry, I went to check out the western steeple first.

Pretty Chapel/Church

I found a very tiny church or a large chapel.  Quite pretty really. Red brick facade with a copper roof gone green.  I liked it.  I do wish I’d been able to get a picture of it without people clustered at the front of it, but we can’t always get what we want.

I didn’t spend much time here, feeling out of place with the people in their suits and Sunday dresses.  A parking lot isn’t the most interesting or comfortable of places to take a break either. 

One nice thing about Swedish towns is that while they have increased traffic, they have good cycle/pedestrian paths!  With occasional glimpses of the next steep through the trees to guide me, I wiggled my way along the paths to the east.  I found a lovely green park crisscrossed with paths.  Quite a few people were there, giving Loke and I rather startled looks as we went along.

Köpings Kyrka

At the head of one such path was the lichgate into the churchyard of Köpings Kyrka .  Leaving Loke with the trike, I did a quite circuit of the churchyard, but found no runestones.

It was a bit after 12 pm, so I settled in for a longer rest and something that resembled lunch.  As Loke sat, looking around the park and sighing with boredom, I munched on some granola.  Every time I got an odd look, I waved cheerily.  Most of the time, I got a rather startled and hesitant wave back.

The sun was beginning to come through the clouds when I moved on, migrating my way east.  It was a bit of tangled web to find my way out of Köping.

The clouds peeled back more and more quickly as we went and with the sun’s arrival, the temperature shot up.  I’d gone from slightly chilly when we’d started that morning to unpleasantly hot.

Around 1 pm, there were few to no clouds and those were all far off near the horizon.  Unfortunately, it coincided with our arrival along a stretch of road  with not a trace of shade.  The road I traversed ran parallel to a rail track and the main road.  Given the amount of traffic on the main road, I was glad of the smaller access road.  I had little joy of the utter lack of shade however.

Ugh! Hot!!

Though I had little joy of this stretch of the ride, Loke was downright miserable.  His tongue flapped somewhere around his feet as he slowly trotted along with sopping wet ears, lower legs and belly.  I started to fret over a place to stop with shade for him, but it just seemed to be unending.  Finally in a passing bay, I swerved over so Loke was on grass rather than warm pavement and opened my umbrella.  It took coaxing both Loke and the umbrella, but soon, I had the furball shaded and laying down in grass.  Keeping his little water dish full next to him, I hunched sideways to get a bit of shade while I waited for his panting to ease.

His breathing had mostly gone normal when he got up about 20 min later, lapped a bit more water and then gave me a ‘Well??’ look.  Off we went.

It didn’t take long before he was panting pretty good again, but not far in the distance, I could see the steeple of the next church.  I hoped there’d be a wonderfully shady spot to park the trike and planned for us to rest there for an hour or more.  We reached it after about 15 min.

Munktorp Kyrka

Happily, the parking lot was surrounded by a wide verge of lush grass and old trees.  I coasted into a nice shady spot and tethered Loke where he had a nice, soft green bed and made sure he had plenty of water again.  I also gave him a little food before turning my attention to the church.

Munktorp (Monk Square?)  Kyrka had no runestones I found and I even had a chance to look inside in rather unusual circumstances.

As I finished my walk around the church and came back to the trike, a woman arrived with her teen children.  As they emerged from the car, she greeted me with a big smile and said she had seen us on the southern side of Köping.  As we chatted, more people arrived and another woman joined us.  It turned out there was a funeral scheduled.  By then, the sun had moved and put us in sun.  As I moved the trike into shade and topped off Loke’s water, the first woman asked if I needed more water.  I happily took the opportunity to top off my water.

Grave Slab In Munktorp's Porch

Gathering up my camera bag and water bottles, I followed her into the church where she showed me to the bathroom.  Thanking her, I ducked in to refresh myself and refill Loke’s bottle.  A few minutes later, I stepped out and into a problem.

The anteroom of the church was PACKED.  People in black suits and dresses stood shoulder to shoulder, milling around in what little space there was to offer condolences.  And there I was.  A plump woman in spandex and jogging shorts, faded ball cap, sneakers, all sweaty and streaked with zink sunscreen.  Rubbing against anyone would have left a bright streak on that dark fabric.  I scuttled to a corner next to the bathroom door and stayed there.

To my astonishment, I was accepted.  No one gave me even a curious look let alone a scowl.  I half expected to be told in an insulted tone to leave, but I might as well have been dressed in black rather than in  my grimy cycling clothes.  A few people greeted me and I told them I was sorry to have intruded and they had my condolences.  The widow was them and when I gave my sympathies, she gave me a quick hug.  I was touched.  I still feel a little teary at that easy acceptance I was given at a time of their terrible loss.

Soon the people filed into another room of the church for the service and I slipped back outside.  Loke stopped his grass wallowing long enough to look at me and wag his tail before flailing some more.

I was still hiding from the sun when the service was over and people came out.  A few more people stopped to pet Loke (and gather loads of white hair on their black clothes) and chat before I had the place to myself again.

It was a bit after 3 pm when the heat broke thanks to a thickening scatter of cloud and Loke and I moved on.  After Munktorp, the road was more pleasant.  Curvy and occasionally touched with shade from trees as well as sky.

Loke and I made good time through the country side as we made for a castle where I’d planned to camp.  By this point, Loke was wearing socks, which he disliked.

Strömsholm Slott

The castle is called Strömsholm Slott and Jens and I had been there a few weeks before on a ‘drive around Mälaren Lake’ road trip we’d taken one day which was why I’d planned to camp there.  Long history if you click the thumbnail.

To my dismay, when I reached the castle, I discovered most of the places I might have pitched a tent to be occupied.  It seems there is a riding school at the castle and there was a large competition.  Tents, horse trailers, RVs everywhere!  It was around 5 pm.

I stopped at a cluster of old red wooden buildings which had been outbuildings for the castle and probably a few centuries old.  After a quick peek in the tourist shop there, I pondered what to do as Loke and I ate ice cream.  I finally decided there was nothing for it, but to ride on until I found someplace to camp.  Fortunately, even in late june, the days are wonderfully long.  Even at 5 pm, I still had hours of good light.  Ice cream done, Loke’s sock’s checked, we continued.

Random Scenery

The path I’d picked away from the castle was not an easy one.  Cars were forbidden, but not bikes.  It had been grated recently, so the stones were loose and large.  Our speed was probably not much more than 4 mph.  I kept an eye out for a place to stop, but most of it was either fenced off or growing grain.  Gritting my teeth, we pressed on.

I was only too glad when we came to paved roads again.  I wasn’t on pavement for long though.  I made a turn onto a small dirt road that wound its way between paddocks and barns of a farmstead.  To my surprise, it turned into a cycle path.  As 7 pm came, I began to feel a little anxious, knowing I was coming up on another town.  I didn’t like the idea of being exhausted and sleepy in a place I couldn’t legally camp.  As the path ran straight between a pair of fields, I saw the shoulder of a mound of rock with a cluster of trees and stopped.

First Camp!

Under the trees against the nearly sheer face of the rock mound was a small hollow.  With only 5 meters between rocks and cycle path, was it ideal? No, but not far ahead was a residential area and for the entire distance between that spot and the castle had been residential and agricultural lands.  I decided it had to do.  I tethered Loke and pitched the tent.

It was a rough night.  First of all, Loke.  He didn’t want to sleep.  He spent quite a while woofing at me to move on.  THEN it was the foxes.  Once it got darkish around 10:30 pm, they started yapping which made Loke completely nuts.  He kept pacing around, peeing and flinging leaves and dirt everywhere.  I guess I should be glad Loke was there.  I’m sure his presence kept the foxes at distance.  Still, it was rather like suffering through a neighbor’s mouthy dog barking all night.

Second of all, the cycle path was amazing busy!  Even at 2 am people were cycling and walking past.

Then there were the rocks and roots.  As I said, it wasn’t an ideal place to camp.  Lastly, I was COLD. Even wearing all my layers I was shivering as it got to around 40 F.  Over a 40 degree drop from the warmest part of the day to the coldest.  Brrrr.  I needed a better sleeping bag.

Around 2:45 am, I decided to give it up.  Sitting up, I stumbled through the faint light to feed Loke, check his feet and give him water.  Shortly after 3 am, I had plenty of light and began to break camp.  The furry was nearly hysterical with joy as put everything in the trailer and harnessed him.  By 3:30 am we were tearing at warp speed down the cycle path!

Of course, it so happened that less than a mile away, I found what would have been a perfect camp site!  It was even a historical site.

This Would Have Been A Better Camp

A lovely grassy sward overlooking the glass calm waters of a widened stream or a small lake.  I stopped to admire the place as well as look at the signs.  It turns out the place was the location of a battle!

Near a mockup of a crude wooden bridge was the information sign.  I was standing where the battle of Herrevadsbro took place in 1251.  Such a peaceful looking place for a bloody event.  I sat on the mock bridge to eat my granola breakfast as I watched the strengthening dawn.  Loke sulked some distance away, tethered to a flag pole.

It was still short of 4:30 am when I put away the food and we moved on.  I wanted to be out of the small town before frenzy of commuters in the area began rushing toward Stockholm, Västerås and Enköping and I still had to go further into the town to take a picture of a church before leaving it.

Kolbäck Kyrka

It took a bit of wiggling along the quiet streets to find my way to Kolbäck Kyrka.  I found no runestones.

The next hour and a half was spent backtracking not just the distance from camp battle site to the church, but also toward where I’d emerged north of the castle onto the paved road.  We made good time.  Loke was running happily in the early morning and I felt good, hardly tired at all from the 32 miles we had covered in the first day.

Mystery Fornborg

It couldn’t have been much later than 6 or 6:30 when I stopped to take a look at a fornborg.  It sat high on a steep hill covered with low blueberry bushes and other ground hugging growth with a few narrow paths twisting through.  The once village itself was no more than a tumbled ring of rocks sitting on the brow of the hill like a crown.  Loke was actually quite happy to stop here.  He frolicked happily through the bushes as I climbed to look for a way into the inner section of the stone.  If any existed, I couldn’t find one.

I love the faint red-gold touch the rising sun gives to the photo of the fornborg.

As we came down, Loke abruptly yelped, leaping almost a meter into the air.  He landed and began chasing something through the bushes.  I pulled him back and checked the paw which had come up first, but there seemed to be nothing wrong with it and no problem with his walk.  Soon we were out of the field and on our way again.

Shortly after the fornborg, we came to the worst stretch of the ride.  I thought it was even worse than the broiling stretch on the west side of Munktorp.  A main artery between Köping and Västerås and commuters had begun.  Traffic was whizzing by and most of it was uphill.  No shoulder.  Not fun and it didn’t help that it seemed Loke limped occasionally.  I kept checking his feet under the socks, but his feet looked fine.

It was a huge relief when we turned off onto a smaller road.

Säby Kyrka

Säby Kyrka was our next stop and I found myself eyeing Loke worriedly.  As he had on the big road, Loke seemed to limp every now and again.  Not so much that I was certain he was limping, but enough that I was suspicious.  As we made our fruitless search for runestones, I watched Loke very carefully.  I also spent almost 15 minutes going over every millimeter of his foot, looking for some spot of skin too thin on his toe pads or a cut or thorn, anything.  He gave no sign of pain at my handling.  I waffled for a bit and then called Jens to being the drive to come get us and let me know when he was on the west side of Västerås.

Loke was still desperate to run, so I gave in.

Stora Rytterne Kyra Ruin

By the time we reached Stora Rytterne Kyrka ruin, he was limping quite badly.  Our speed had dropped to barely more than 4 mph as I nursed the furry one along.  The road was narrow with no place to sit safely let alone space for Jens to park while we loaded the trike.  There was nothing for it but to keep on.

The ruin was one of the best preserved church ruins I’ve seen outside of Sigtuna.  Loke still tried to be bouncy as we explored the ruin, but his paw was bothering him quite badly.  When I took a look it was swollen and felt warm.  I was baffled.

There was no help for it, we had to sit there and wait for Jens.  In spite of his foot, Loke was restless and even pawed at me as if to say he still wanted to go on.  He wasn’t fooling me.

The only thing I could think of was perhaps when he had jumped and yelped at the fornborg, perhaps he’d been bitten by the one poisonous kind of snake here in Sweden.

Soon, Jens was there and I was home by about 10:30 after having cycled over 15 miles for the day, even with Loke limping slowly along for the last mile or so.

We kept an eye on Loke’s paw, but by the 3rd he was already showing significant improvement and by the 5th, he didn’t have the least little limp much to my relief.

So, barely 48 miles for the entire tour, but we got out and did it!  I loved it and I think Loke did too though he didn’t seem to like sitting still all night.  Goof.



Absence
December 1, 2011, 8:39 am
Filed under: Misc

Yes, I know I vanished rather abruptly.  I’d be completely honest, there wasn’t much of an excuse for it except for a sense of frustration and the feeling that I was spending way too much time on the blog.  6 hours to crop photos and write about a 2 hour ride felt a little silly.

Then again,  I really did miss doing it and finally the pressure of missing out on blogging so many rides has brought me back.

Admittedly, this year has been frustrating. It started off frustrating and stayed that way. From the breaking spokes before the Öland trip right down to a silly amount of flats and then an insanely warm year. After the Öland trip, it got hot and stayed hot. Our spring was less than 3 weeks long and the summer with 85-9o+ F temps went unbroken for over 3 months. It all just sucked my will to ride.  I’m not fond enough of cycling to do it while nauseous from the heat or worrying about Loke suffering a heat stroke, so I rode very little.

What I did ride was generally nice enough though.  I covered a lot of the territory to the north-east of Uppsala with quite a few churches, ruins and runestones to be found.  Even more astounding?  I toured! Twice!! Once in the latter part of May and again in September.  Can you believe it? Actual tours! They both were just 1 night out, but it’s the first ones I’ve managed to do after 4 years of planning.

I’ve also seen the absolute northern most part of the Sverigeleden  way up in Norway’s Nordkapp which also happens to be Europe’s northern most point. Jens was laid off from his job but given a decent severance package. Knowing he’d not have so long a stretch of time open again, we took off for the far north.  That was an astounding trip.  Breathtaking scenery and a week in the far reaches of the Arctic circle on a small island in a tiny village of just 140 year round inhabitants. Our hosts who rented the cabin were wonderful and the cabin was very comfortable.  Though Jens and I had taken trike and fishing gear, we didn’t do either.  We simply explored.

I’ll take a look through my photos and see if I can remember enough from my various rides to post something.  Unfortunately, now it’s winter and I’m cycling less.



Öland’s Runestones!!
December 1, 2011, 8:11 am
Filed under: Day Rides

May 6th Ride (Written May 7)

The morning dawned warmer than it had on the 5th and promises of a prettier day were in the forecast.  In spite of the long ride the day before, I wanted to get another one in.  We are leaving tomorrow morning after all.  Once Jens woke around 7 am, I went into a frenzy of preparation.

I waffled a bit about where to ride.  Part of me wanted to include a pair of old Iron Age village sites in a ride so I’d blog them, but beyond those two sites only about 3 miles apart, there wasn’t much in the area.  Reluctantly, I decided I’d try to find a few runestones my maps and Jens had mentioned.  I didn’t know if I had enough oomph to get to the one my husband had fished near, but I was willing to give it a shot.

Långlöt Kyrka

We had a bit of confusion when it came to the beginning point.  We headed for a little village encouragingly called Runsten (Translates to Runestone).  We passed by the non-neoclassical church on the way.  A few other items of interest lay between it and Runsten and when we couldn’t find the stones, I decided starting from Långlöt Kyrka would be a good start.  It would even link this ride to the previous!  I liked that idea.

Random Roadside Burial Stone

Loke gave no indication of excitement as I readied the trike.  He wandered around with Jens, sniffing things and marking, but hardly looked at me or the trike.  It made me wonder how soon I’d be calling my husband to come get our furry family member.  If I ended up dragging him along after a mile, no way I’d go on.  Don’t want to kill my cycle partner.

Unusual Round Burial Stone

Even so, I sent Jens off and Loke and I started out.  The usual wild mile at the beginning of our rides was lacking.  It was more like a ‘kinda quick quarter mile’ before he settled into a 7.1 mph trot.  I was okay with it.  My legs weren’t really up to freneic activity either.

One thing I noticed.  The wind which had been from mostly north for most of the week was more like west-north-west and, while not the worst wind of the week, it was steady.  That made me unhappy since a good 15 miles or more of my ride was going to be west.  I paused at a bus-stop to look at my maps, wondering if there were other things I wanted to see.  I couldn’t go east.  North I’d already covered quite a few miles the day before.  Further south?  A few neoclassical churches which I’d already seen too many of earlier in the week.  So, west it was.

Lerkaka Windmills

The first mile and a half had plenty to see.  Less than a quarter mile from the church, a tiny pasture sat in the wedge between the road I was on and a dirt drive leading into a farm.  The remains of an old grave field filled it with a couple of normal standing stones and an impressively large and spherical boulder.  A short distance further on, a pair of stones  guarded either side of an entrance to another dirt road.

Horses Behind The Roadside Shop

Around 1 mile, I stopped at park-like strip with a little souvenir/ice cream shop just opening for the day.  I parked near a picnic table and collected everything I wouldn’t leave with the trike.  I also brought Loke’s long lead with the intention of tethering him in the shade of a windmill.

There were 5 windmills in a row down the road.  My map book also mentioned a linbasta (I had no idea what it was) and TWO runestones.  Rather than drag Loke along in the quickly warming sun, I found a nice grass patch in the shade of the first windmill to leave him wallowing happily.

As I walked off, I heard yapping.  One of the people at the shop had tethered a dog out.  From the sound and look, I was pretty sure it was a puppy.

Linbasta (Linen Shed)

I began to explore.  The first thing I checked out was across the road.  A linbasta it turns out is a linen shed.  In this case, it was a small stone building reminding me of a garage though it had a sod roof.  The buildings were used to dry stalks of linen after retting but before the fibers were separated.  Back over the street, I had a closer look at the windmills.  These were in very good condition, the stairs solid with no sign of rot.  Even better, the doors were open with signs inside inviting exploration.

Inside A Mill

The signs were requests for donations to help in the upkeep of the mills.  I would happily have given something if I’d had any kind of cash on me.  The inner workings of the mill I peeked into were intact.  The large, vertical gear fitting into the horizontal spoked, spindle above the mill stones.  Even the brake made of several lengths of wood pinned together in a flexible length curving over the top of the blade gear.  I’m glad I stopped and looked.

Öland Runestone #37

Once I’d peeked in the mill, I finally spotted my first runestone on Öland.  It was back over the road down a bit from the linen shed.  Erosion and lichen obscured the runes and weathering had removed most of the paint, but here it is!  Öland Runestone #37!

#37?  You mean there were at least 36 other stones on the island and this was the first one I’d found?  Disappointing.

I strolled back to reclaim Loke.  He was laying sphinx-like in the shade and staring after me as the puppy still yapped.  It got a bit more excited as we walked back to the picnic table .  A woman emerged from the shop and came over with it on a leash as I repacked my shoes and camera.  After asking if it was okay, we let the two furry ones meet.

He was a cutie.  Some kind of spaniel type though I think too big for a cocker spaniel when she told me he, his name was Melkin or something like that, was four months old.  Loke was remarkably sedate.  After about 3 minutes of being timid, Melkin became playful and actually annoyed Loke.  Talk about a turn of events.  Loke is usually the one doing the annoying when it comes to other dogs.

From time to time as Loke sniffed around while us humans talked, Melkin would come over and plop his rump down on my feet then sit up, with front legs off the ground, back against my shins and look up at me adorably.  Young as he was, when he mouthed my hand, he was very, very gentle with those needle-sharp puppy teeth.  After a 10 minute chat about or dogs, the woman and I parted company.

Random Scenery

The scenery was pretty in the bright sun.  I passed what might have once been a grave mound, now badly damaged.  A stone or two stood on the top of the chaotic pile, but it had been torn apart and looked more like the earth debris from construction.

Around mile 2, I was feeling moderately irritated at still lacking that 2nd runestone.  Swerving off into a driveway near a closed gate to be off the road, I started digging my maps out.  A black shape rushed us from the yard beyond.  The expected barking and snarling never came.  We’d found another puppy, this one a half grown black lab.  She only whined at us as with her muzzle through the gate pickets.  She wanted petting and play!  Her howls followed us as we left.

 

Öland Runestone #36

Barely 100 yards from the black lab’s yard, I found the 2nd runestone (Öland Runestone #36).  We’d missed it both times we’d driven down the road to and from Runsten Kyrka.  It sat less than 2 yards from the side of the road.  The runes were clearly visible thanks to the red paint, clearly better cared for than the first one.

The last stretch toward Runsten Kyrka (another neoclassical facade), I noticed the wind again.  It had picked up slightly and, worse, shifted.  It now came from the south and west.

Serious thought to stopping crossed my mind as I pushed into the parking lot of the church.  I think if Loke had acted even the tiniest bit more tired than he did, I would have given in.  But it was probably our last ride of the vacation unless of course, I got in a very short one before we left.  I didn’t think it likely, so this would be my last chance.  I sucked it up.

Runsten Kyrka (Runestone Church)

The turn inland came immediately after Runsten Kyrka.  Fields and trees mostly.  One serious drawback to riding at this time of year through Öland’s agricultural land made itself known.  Fertilizing.  I think it’s mostly done with pig poo.  For one stretch of almost 2 miles, it was bad enough I almost vomited.  Riding with the collar of my cycle shirt over my lower face gave some relief, but not much.  I pitied Loke who panted with his tongue out as he trotted along.  I don’t even want to imagine what he must have been tasting.  Bad enough dog’s sense of smell is 10x stronger than a human’s.  Then again, if he could have, he’d probably have rolled in it.

Old Fashioned Well Dipper

Though pretty, the scenery for parts of my westward ride were torturous because of the stench.  Lovely buildings with flowers and stone walls and the smell.  Circling raptors and the smell.  The view down the road painted with the glory of spring by trees flushing with the pale green of new leaves and blossoms along the ditch and, you guessed it!  The smell!

Other than the scenery, little else lay along the westward road.  It was part of the Sverigeleden though!  My maps were unnecessary as I could follow the green signs all the way to Färjestaden at least.  From there, I’d have to follow the maps through Öland’s largest town to the southern end where Jens said the runestone stood.

Glömminge Kyrka

I was feeling the distance and wind when we hit the 136 opposite Glömminge Kyrka.  We coasted down the steep slope to stop in the shade next to an old farm building sitting next to the church in a residential area. Leashed with the long line, Loke drank water and then stared, drooling, as I munched on a cinnamon roll I’d packed.  I checked his feet.  Time for the socks!

I wrestled them on the resisting husky and then slapped duck tape on the bottoms so they’d last longer than 2 miles.

The way into Färjestaden was confusing.  All the Sverigeleden ended at the bridge junction where bikes have to be loaded onto a bus to go across.  I didn’t see any of the roads mentioned on my maps.  I finally had to guess.  Heading west as far as I could and then south seemed my best bet.  It made for a circuitous path thanks to many dead ends.

Trees, Field, Sea and Wet Husky Ears

Finally Out of Town!

Finally, after riding through residential roads and past a mall and ferry landing, we found ourselves on a nice cycle path.  One problem.  The wind had shifted so it came completely out of the south, the very direction we were going.  Not blowing as hard as on May 1st, but Loke and I both were very tired from the 15 miles we’d already covered and the 32.5 the day before.  So, even a 10 mph wind was killing us.

Jens called to say he was done fishing.  I admit to hovering on the edge of giving up.  I told him I was coming to the southern edge of the town.  ‘Not much further’ he said and he’d drive to the stone which would take him a bit.

Not much further.  In a car with an engine doing all the work over slightly rolling hills and into the force of wind has an entirely different meaning than an exhausted woman and dog with a trike.  Every inch of my legs were screaming though hard to say if my knees or thighs hurt more.  Loke slowed down.

I hate to say it, but the only thing that kept me going was the fact there was no where to stop.  About 20 feet of grassy slope and ditch separated the cycle path and road even if there’d been a bus stop bay on the road and there wasn’t.  The way my legs felt, I didn’t even want to hike/climb across that once let alone 3 or 4 times to get everything in the car.

So, on we fought at 5.5 mph or less.  Creeping up a windy slope and barely faster down the other side.  Each slope was only 2% or less, but it was murder with that south breeze.

I gave a weary cheer when I finally saw the sign point down a paved west road for the runestone.

The wind seemed to vanish as we made the turn.  Distantly, there was a gold colored blob of our car and an even smaller shape of someone walking around.  Jens.  ‘Loke!  There’s Jens!’ I told the furry one.

His head came up and began craning desperately around even as he found energy to leap into a 15 mph charge.  He looked in every direction for Jens except straight ahead.  Even when I said ‘Titta!  There!’ and pointed, he’d briefly look ahead and not see my husband before glancing left and right at a hard gallop.

Finally, Loke did spot Jens and stretched out into a dead run at almost 20 mph.  Fastest of the year I think.  My husband began walking toward us as I clenched the brakes, but Loke was determined to reach him.  I yelled for Jens to get out of the way because Loke didn’t want to stop.  He quickly moved aside and we shot past.  Loke threw his harnessed weight backwards and the brakes did the rest.

The fur brain was so happy to see Jens.  He was all cute and tail-wags as Jens leashed him and rubbed his fur.  I was happy to see my husband too.  The ride was over.  21+ miles.

I think it’s the first time Loke couldn’t wait to get into the car.  Usually we have to bribe him with treats or insist he jump up.  He might be the only dog in the world who dislikes car rides.  As soon as Jens opened the hatch so we could pack everything, Loke leapt in and curled up on the pillow we brought for the trip.  We almost had to drag him out of the way.

Öland Runestone #1 (Karlevistenen) & Loke Wallowing

Trike loaded, I managed the 100 yard walk to the runestone sitting in the middle of the field.  Öland Runestone #1.  Yes.  #1!  Also called the Kärlek Sten.  A very unusual stone because it has a poem on it though I couldn’t find a translation of the runes.  On the back were more common looking letters that are actually a butchered sort of Latin meaning ‘In Jesus’ name’ or the like.

As I took pictures, Loke found still more energy to flop down and wallow in the lush grass.  He spent about 5 minutes doing that.

On our way back to the cottage in the island’s northern reaches, Loke and I both dozed.  I don’t know if I would call it a good day, but it did have a sense of accomplishment to it.