Terii’s Cycling Babble


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!

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It’s not how many miles that matters but how many smiles :0)

Comment by dexey

Well, there were a few of those on the first day at least. 😀

Comment by Terii




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