Terii’s Cycling Babble


And She’s Off!
June 27, 2012, 9:45 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Feels a bit strange to write a vacation ride days after it happened instead of tapping out the pre-post with it fresh in my mind, but here goes!

Saturday night, my little Apple started having issues. It kept going into sleep mode and wouldn’t wake. Talk about frustration. I was worried I’d lost not only the two blog posts I’d written, but also a chapter or two of something else. Because of it, I got to bed even earlier than on the previous two nights.

I woke at 3 am and hurt. My back, shoulders and legs were all a tight mass of muscle aches and the bed which had been comfortable the first two nights seemed to aggravate it. I wasn’t going to wake Jens before 6 am though.

Our plan was to leave around 7 am and Jens would drop me off at Munkfors church. Then he and Loke would drive south where Jens would look around at fishing spots and sight-see until either I called or 5 pm came. We were done with the cabin

Yes, that’s right. I planned to leave the furball with the hubby. Don’t get me wrong, he’d done incredibly well on the previous two runs. Best he’s done all year both in speed and distance. I didn’t want to leave him, but he seemed to need rest and I wanted the skin on his paws to recover. Like the day before, the socks would be a problem because of rain. I didn’t think his feet could take many more miles sockless.

In truth, I think I really needed a rest as well, but it was the last day. The last chance to see more of the Klarälvsbanan I had become so enchanted with. Not even the rain would stop me from doing a few more miles.

Munkfors Church

Around 8 am, we were at the church and I was unloading the trike. Jens walked around with the fuzzy. He was moving fine, but lacked the insane, go-in-circles, heights of energy. Even so, when Jens came back as I settled the last items, Loke came directly to his running bar and wagged his tail. How is that for determination?

According to Jens, he was quite forlorn as they drove off and I headed for the Klarälvsbanan.

Loke has been at my side for almost 100% of my cycling in the past 2.5 years, so it felt very strange to be alone. I kept groping for the leash and looking over to see how he was doing. I called out ‘Höger’ and ‘Vänster’ when I made turns. I’m not sure, but I might have even smiled less.

Patches of sunshine gleamed through the clouds as made may way through Munkfors. As I adjusted to the reality of being solo, I tried to keep my pace in mind. Loke usually stops me from wrecking my knees so I made certain I didn’t push the pedals any harder than I do when he’s with me. It was difficult though.

Something’s Missing

All through Munkfors, car barriers stood across the path where it met roads. Generally they’re a nightmare, but for once, these were sensible. Each were staggered. Meaning the two weren’t directly across from each other, but one would be set back 4 feet and both rotated. It was the perfect combination. I could swerve a little to miss the left one and then push the right away to pass. Why can’t all barriers on cycle paths be made like that? I’ve come across some that were a 5 minute nightmare for me to get through.

Beautiful Surroundings

Path View

Leaving Munkfors behind for the countryside, I moved in and out of the sun. The air was cool, but not cold. I had my windbreaker thermal pants on, but no extra layer for my top which was the perfect balance between ambient temperature and exertion. My cruising speed at 1% – 2% grades was roughly 10 mph, pretty good for me really. On flats I actually kicked the chain up into the big ring to rip along at 16 or 17 mph. It’s been ages since I’ve used the 52 off the trainer. The speed was addictive though not enough to stop me from missing the fuzzy one.

Mile 7, I reluctantly left the path, dreading what I knew must come. A church waited for me across the river and the certainty it meant hills filled me. How right I was. The miles I’d already crossed proved how tired the previous two days of riding had left me though it hadn’t slowed me down much. I could feel every foot of the mild 3% grades of the cycle path I’d done and they had been harder without Loke to give me the occasional boost he offers when he decides we’re going too slow. The streets through the little residential area weren’t too bad. People out working in their yards gave me friendly greetings as I passed as well as a pair of cyclists.

In minutes, I was perched at the top of a hill and looking down at the bridge and river below. It was a solid 8% grade or better though the other side looked less steep and shorter. The road was wet with rain which had passed through, missing me by minutes from the look of it. After sitting for a minute or 3, debating how badly I wanted a picture of that church, I finally took the plunge.

Talk about a rush. I hit 25+ mph which feels more like 100 mph when you’re sitting so low to the ground. I chickened out and used the brakes to keep from going faster since the water on the road surface made it hard to tell the condition. It would have meant very bad things to hit a pot hole at 30 mph and I’m not sure at what speeds a trike will hydroplane. The brief view of the river as I flashed across the bridge looked pretty, but I didn’t stop for photos. I wanted as much momentum I could get to carry me up the other side as far as possible.

Once gravity overcame inertia and I had to work up the rest of the way, I spotted a cycle path. I didn’t risk it which was a good thing. It was unpaved steep drop into a ravine and then a nasty, unpaved climb back out. It would have killed me at the best of times I think.

Ransäter’s Church

My right knee felt a little odd, but I made it to Ransäter’s Church.

It’s amazing how regional churches can be and how just a few miles can radically change appearances. From Ekshärad and north, the churches had the distinctive wood shingled sides. From Hagfors south, they took on another appearance with Munkfors being somewhat the odd for the area.

Church collected, I turned back to face the bridge crossing once more. It was even harder, but slow and steady made it up. I felt good to coast back through the residential streets and return to the cycle path.

The 10 to 17 mph pace continued on the path. Forest, fields and tiny summer cottages lacking power or running water continued to zip by. Occasionally, I passed a house or farm stead. A few of them had set up little kiosks selling ice cream and drinks to those on the Klarälvsbanan. There were more of the signs at cross-roads indicating cafes and cultural sights, but as on the day before, I continued by them since they never offered distances. The two women who had greeted me as I left the path for the church reappeared from the south with big grins and waves.

I rarely stopped, preferring to gulp water on the go. Eating was a non-issue. As usual, I didn’t want and didn’t seem to need food. I often wonder if my performance would improve if I actually did take in a few mouthfuls of nuts and granola every hour, but once the wheels and pedals start turning I forget.

Old Train Station

One stop I made was to take a picture of the cycle path’s previous life as a rail road. This little train station appealed to me much more than the one in Munkfors.

Running Between The Rain Drops

The clouds had been thickening for more than an hour, but luck stayed with me. Every now and then, I felt a single drop, but the real rain missed me. I kept telling myself it wouldn’t last.

Building from 1800’s

Around mile 11, I made a longer stop when I found a collection of buildings. A sign announced it was a cafe and an old smithy. During most week days during the summer, it was open for interior viewing. Sundays were the exception. Still, I collected my camera and walked my way up the grassy hill from one building to another. I wondered how much further my ride would be as my legs wobbled with every step.

Built in 1800’s

Returning to the trike, I had the feeling my fortune with the rain would soon change. Unbroken and dense, the clouds made it obvious. After a few more glances skyward, I looked at maps to check for a near by church. Nothing plotted on the printouts, I double checked my map book to discover a there was one in the area. Why I hadn’t added it to the route, I was uncertain. The turn for it was less than 50 yards past the little cafe so it was good I did look.

The road to and from the church was fun! There were hills, but they didn’t seem so challenging. Enough of it was downhill from both directions I felt a bit like I was in a car race. I sped along at 20+ mph and whipped around curves without worrying my sudden direction changes were going body slam Loke or yank him off his feet. The people in the area were very friendly too. Lots of waves, particular from those in cars. Instead of the usual raised hand and nod, the people who went by had huge grins and waved enthusiastically. Some even leaned toward the windows as if wanting to be absolutely sure I saw them and waved back.

Över Ulleruds Kyrka

The wind rose as I climbed a hill toward Över Ulleruds Kyrka (Upper Ullerud’s Church). It hurried me along as I crossed the church yard for a good view of the church for the camera. I’m not sure why I rushed. It wasn’t like the trike was going to shelter me from the rain. I did have my umbrella, but it would mean sitting and waiting the rain out. A waste of my limited time.

The first big drops hit me as I sat down in my seat again. I hurried to the temporary shelter of a tree as the weather showed me it meant business this time. I stayed there only long enough to make certain the weather cover was secure on the camera bag and my iPhone was safe. Then I moved out.

The moderately heavy rain was chilly, but not as cold as I expected. At least I didn’t have half frozen drops freezing to my legs. The wind as I sped down hills blew water back in my face, but I only smiled. The climb back up to the intersection of the road and cycle path took me a while. A man and woman watched me from the shelter of their car port. Much to my surprise, they called out an invitation to join them until the rain passed. I waved and thanked them, adding I couldn’t get any wetter so I’d keep on. They laughed.

The offer was very kind and made me feel all warm and fuzzy beneath the soggy weight of my skin.

The sky darkened as I cycled through a corridor of trees under a ceiling of heavy gray. Then the bottom really fell out. Water streamed from the sky in a torrent impressing even this southern girl. I grew up with violent summer storms that could drop inches of water in record time. This almost matched them. Still rolling along at 10-14 mph, I tucked my chin down in an effort to keep it out of my face, but it fell so heavy it splashed off my shoulders and upper chest into my eyes. It reminded me of the scene in Forrest Gump where he talked about the rain in Vietnam. It came from above, it came from the side. It even fell up.

It should have been miserable. Instead, I laughed and giggled and grinned as I slogged on. I waved cheerily to a bike rider and a man on roller skis. They didn’t look nearly as giddy as I felt.

Out Of The Storm

It must have been more than 2 miles through that sky-born waterfall, around 5 miles of rain since leaving Över Ullreds. Coming out of it was like stepping through a door. One moment I was pounded by water, the next I coasted through bright sunshine with not a sprinkle. I stopped to give things a thorough check and take a picture of the direction I’d come from.

I must have been a sight for the group of 4 who came from the north. Water still ran, not dripped, off my cap, helmet and clothes as I stood in the bright sun. It must have looked like a fire-fighting helicopter had dumped on me just seconds before they saw me. They gave wary looks between me and the steely blue-gray clouds behind my trike. One of them asked how bad it was. I grinned and told them it was like going through a car wash. Hardly comforting, but the truth.

Certain nothing was ruined from the unexpected pounding, I went on. Though the storm had passed, it didn’t take the brisker winds with it and those were cold. I pulled on my bright yellow jacket, but it had gotten soaked through the panniers so wasn’t much of a help. It definitely made me pedal faster to keep warm. I soon arrived in Deje as another wave of rain arrived. It lacked the intensity of the previous, but still kept me soggy.

I’d started the ride tired from the previous 46 miles over two days. After pushing so hard through the rain and low grade hills, I was starting to feel exhausted.  Jens had planned to hangout in the Forshaga area to check fishing places as I came south. That was less than 7 miles from Deje so I was determined to make it at least that far.

I departed from the cycle path once more to find a church. It didn’t last long though. Less than 100 yards from the Klarälvsbanan, I stopped at a steep down and up. The way to the church led through a rather intense industrial area, probably even more hills than the one making me hesitate and a quick look on my GPS showed it would add a mile each way. A twinge in my knee turned me back to the trail. It wasn’t worth it. No runestones and I already knew the church looked a lot like Över Ullreds Chruch.

Through Not Over The Hill

Immediately south of Deje, the trail went through a pretty forested area against the steep western shore of a lake. My pace picked up sheltered from the wind as I was. The showers still dripped through the trees so I didn’t want to risk water getting to the camera. One of the few dry moments I had came while passing through a deep cut in a hill. Not climbing it was wonderful!

No less than 5 road cyclists passed me, low on their bars and pedaling like Lance Armstrong himself came hot on their heels. If any of them was slower than 25 mph, I’d be surprised. Almost felt embarrassed with my meager 15 mph. Still all of them gave me nods and two even offered big smiles and thumbs-up.

I even passed a cycle-tourer! His bike was fully kitted with rear panniers and a Burley cargo trailer. His trailer’s cover was blue instead of day glow yellow, but otherwise identical. He didn’t so much as nod when I waved. Ah well. He might have just been tired and miserable at the weather.

The passing showers seemed to have passed by the time I came to Forshaga. The trail went straight through the middle of the town about twice the size of Deje. Missing Forshaga church would have taken effort.

Forshaga Church

It was one of the more interesting churches of the day. I especially liked the ivy covered wall.

I called Jens to let him know I’d arrived in the town. He would be a while in coming since he had just ordered lunch and would want to eat it. He was okay with picking me up a little further along if that was what I wanted. With the choice of sitting in the church parking lot and shivering in the wind, or riding on to keep a little warmer by pedaling, I went with the latter.

I asked if he was really okay with it. Not just saying it to make me happy while going out of his mind with boredom. He assured me he was cool with just puttering around. He had changed his mind on the 5 pm limit to head home though. He would like to have me packed up and all of us on the road around 2:00 pm. I was more than okay with that, tired as I was.

As I left Forshaga, I soon wondered if I’d made the right decision. My knees were starting to bother me and my legs lacked strength.

Then I saw a sign. 20 km to Karlstad. 20?? That was only 12 miles. I paused to stare at that number. My average speed on the trail had been close to 11 mph. Potentially, I could reach Karlstad in less than 2 hours which would be within the adjusted time span. Karlstad and the end of the Klarävlsbanan. The idea of reaching the end of something pulled hard at me. It might not have been a preset goal, but what’s wrong with spontaneous ones? I could potentially accomplish a impulsive challenge and finish the trail.

I hate admitting it, but I am weary of constantly falling short on the things I set out to do on the trike. A tour cut short. Failing to reach mileage goals pains me even when it’s because of injury (mine and Loke’s). I saw the opportunity to tip the balance toward the positive, even if just a little bit. I could feel my face set into a grim expression as I clipped back in and set out, tired legs and aching knees or not.

I’d like to say I flew. It’s not entirely true. There were long hills, some went on for a mile or more. It seemed every time I had to climb one, a 20 mph wind came blasting into my face. That made me creep even on the 3% grades, though ‘creeping’ now meant 7-9 mph, not 2 mph. I hated that wind. It felt like it had appeared as soon as I accepted the challenge to reach Karlstad and it was determined to foil me. My brain screamed silent curses as it as I panted through gritted teeth and forced my legs to keep spinning.

It was during one of those tortuous, windy climbs when a couple passed me. I recognized them as they said, ‘Hej’. I had seen them the day before at the rest-stop just outside of Uddeholm where the Klarälvsbanan began. It seemed they were also riding the length of it. It surprised me they hadn’t ridden farther than I. After all, I’d stopped at Munkfors around 2 pm the day before.

They were doing perhaps 9 mph compared to my 7 mph. As I battled on, I watched the woman shifting uncomfortably on her bike. She stood on the pedals for a bit, then would sit down to knuckle her back or shake out her hands. I remember when I used to do that. It consoled me that all I had to do now was pedal rather than worry about bike discomfort. They were about 1/8 of a mile ahead when I reached the top of the gentle hill and the balance of power shifted. Even into the wind, at grades between 0% or 1% I could hit and sustain 14 mph. I shot past them and soon they disappeared around a subtle curve.

I didn’t really feel much accomplishment about skunking them though. That came a few miles later while climbing a 1% grade. I kept a close eye on my rear view mirror because as long as there was no one to hear, I was yelling my curses at the wind. Then I saw him. A 40-something year old guy fully decked in roadie gear and low in the bars as he pedaled furiously. I bit my tongue, expecting him to blast past me. A couple minutes passed and nothing. I looked in the mirror again to see him still back there. A little closer, maybe but only by about 10 yards. He stayed well back for almost 5 minutes.

Then the grade sharpened to 3% and my speed dropped to about 9 mph where he finally overtook me. He was red-faced with a determined scowl when he passed with barely a side glance. He looked pretty fit and I wonder if he was mortified to see that the engine in the weird looking bike he was only now able to pass was an overweight, gray-haired woman.

His cadence slowed a little only when a couple hundred yards separated us. About then the slope eased to 1% and my speed jumped again. Both of us on a 0 to 1% slope with a 20-22 mph wind in our faces and I edged forward. He finally threw a glance under his shoulder. The smug expression disappeared with a widening of his eyes. He stood on the pedals and hammered on them, fighting to hold the lead.

On my part, I made no more effort than I’d been making before he appeared in my mirror. I still had miles to go and who knew how many more climbs while fighting the weather and wet clothes. I wonder if I could have overtaken him if I’d put in the effort. I have no regrets for not doing so. I would have felt much worse if I’d tried and bonked out before the end.

Finally the terrain favored him again and he slowly pulled out of sight. It seems I made him work for it. Who wouldda thought I could make a seemingly fit man on a decent road-bike struggle without even attempting to race him?

My maps were forgotten in the ride south from Forshaga. There had been a church I’d planned to collect between Forshaga and Karlstad, but it would have meant adding 8 miles which would have taken too much time. Not to mention the effort. Steeper hills and that much more distance? I’m not sure I could have made it even if Jens hadn’t changed our departure for home time from 5 pm to 2 pm.

I only remember stopping once after leaving Forshaga. I called Jens to tell him I was 5 km (3 miles) outside of Karlstad. I was reaching the wall. I felt it in my screaming, cramping muscles and agonized knees. I panted desperately to get enough oxygen to my limbs. It was only 3 miles left. The basic River Loop at home is barely 3 miles. I told myself I could do that in my sleep on my worst day.

I found a little scrap of strength from somewhere. My mind wandered as my exhausted legs seemed to be on automatic. One thing puzzled me, was my knees. Why did they hurt? It was the worst I could remember in a while. I wasn’t pedaling any harder than when Loke was with me, I was making darn sure of that. The answer drifted out of the back of my tired brain. I wasn’t pedaling harder but I was pedaling more. Except the few times I’d been flying down hills at 25 mph or more, I’d been pedaling. The time spent coasting was nearly non-existent.

Not so when I’ve got the furry one with me, particularly when he’s pulling a little. I do pedal, but I spend about 1/3 to nearly half the time simply rolling. He sets the speed and I try to maintain, get up hills and avoid dragging him when conditions favor the trike’s forward momentum without my help. The difference between having him with me and going solo felt comparable to the contrast between a brisk walk and a flat out run.

I MADE IT!!!!

Before I knew it, I clenched the brakes to stare dazedly at the sign which was a close twin to the one I’d passed under the day before. I went limp in the seat and gasped for air the way a beached fish does for water. My hands shook as I took an iPhone photo to share the triumph with my friends and family on FB. They weren’t any steadier with the camera.

The last little bit of my energy rolled me under the sign to a tree near the parking lot for the lake-shore park. I called Jens to give him the coordinates before staggering to the picnic table. It felt wonderful to sit on something that didn’t move.

41.33 miles. I’d started from Munkfors after 8 am and finished in Karlstad about 2:30. Accounting for time at churches, map reading, bathroom breaks, exploring the smithy site and old train station, I spent only a bit more than 4 hours rolling. Roughly a 10 mph hour average.

I haven’t ridden that far in one go in two years or more. Not since Loke and I did 43 miles from the far side of Sala to Forsby. For the entire long weekend vacation I covered 87.69 miles. That is just short a third of the year’s total I began with! From a YTD mileage of 281 to 361. It had felt strange to go solo, but I never would have been able to do it in the time allotted if Loke had been with me even if he hadn’t already covered 46 miles during Friday and Saturday.

And best of all, I saw a goal to the end.

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From Stress to Perfection
June 26, 2012, 11:41 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Written June 23rd

Another day of vacation and another ride!

I woke this morning around 5:30 am. Surprisingly late since I passed out before 8 pm the night before. Two reasons for the early bed time. One, being exhaustion of course. The other was I simply could not sit. Irritatingly, my tailbone has been bothering me with increasing intensity. Cycling is likely part of the problem, but not something I’m willing to set aside. Can’t really walk for exercise and now supposed to stop cycling because of my rump? What does that leave? Swimming laps in the pool? My sanity would be the next casualty.

So, after yesterday’s ride and then toodling around in the car with Jens in the search for fishing spots, chairs and I became enemies. So, I flopped onto the bed, intending to finish pre-writing the blog post of the day’s ride and… that’s all I remembered until opening my eyes at 5:30.

Unsurprisingly, the skies were a pale lead hue and the car water-speckled as the forecasted rain arrived. I admit waffling about riding or not though I’d looked forward to what I’d planned for our second day here.

For the last two rides, I’d hoped to ride the Sverigeleden from Hogfors to as far south toward Karlstad I could. In Hogfors the Sverigeleden joins a cycling path called Klarälvsbanan named after the Klarälv River it mostly follows. The full length of the Klarälvsleden runs from the town of Sysslebäck all the way down to Karlstad at the northern shore of a huge lake. Between Sysslebäck and Hogfors, the path is marked on roads. I rode about 10 miles of it as I came south on the eastern bank of the river to Eksharad. Until today, I had no idea the Sverigeleden and Klarälvsleden joined for that distance.

The main thing exciting me about the stretch between Hogfors and Karlstad is it is almost exclusively a purpose made, paved bike and pedestrian road. No cars permitted. The thought of no worries about traffic made me nearly giddy.

So, I got Jens awake and we started moving around 7:30 or so. It turned rather stressful though. As we were loading the car, the chain jostled off the chain rings to the inside against the boom. When that happens, it ends up wedged with nothing short of a miracle freeing it without removing the right crank and rings. That of course requires a chainring wrench. A quick glance at the front small pocket of my red panniers told me it wasn’t there. My stress levels jumped. Attempting to remove the crank without the tool might damage it requiring a new one. A 155 mm crank with a five spokes for a road chain set which is out of production and nearly impossible to find 3 or 4 years ago. I imagine it would be even harder now. Not removing it would mean a stuck chain equaling no more rides for the duration of our time here.

Jens remained calm and the voice of reason. He decided we’d drive to where I planned to begin so we could unload the trike where I’d have enough room to check all the pannier bags for the tool. If I didn’t have it, we’d go sightseeing. I was convinced it would be better if we spared him the time away from fishing. He talked me around.

It rained off and on during the drive. As we unloaded the everything pinning the trike in the car, it drizzled. After a few moments, Jens lifted the trike down and I jumped forward to dig through the panniers. It wasn’t in the proper bag, but as I reached into one of the bigger pockets, I felt the case and pulled it out with a sense of relief.

Building Across from Hagfors Church

Hagfors Church

After all the stress, Jens seemed caught off-guard when less than 3 minutes later, I had the chain back on the rings and purring through the tubes like a kitten. It’s amazing what can happen when one has the proper tools. I carefully put them away in their proper place so future panics can hopefully be averted.

I took pictures of Hogfors church before settling into the seat. My very supportive hubby said he’d wait around town for an hour or so to be sure Loke was going to hold up before he left for the fishing spot he’d decided on the day before.

I took a wrong turn right off, probably lulled by the more attractive stretch of cycle path running between trees an a canal rather than the bridge over the canal to the backside of a large grocery. Once he had a smooth stretch of pavement before him, Loke was prepared to strangle himself on the harness if I didn’t let him run. So, I let him have a half mile sprint to make him more manageable to turn back.

The Green Sign of Happiness

AIt was a good thing I let Loke have that brief run. The area behind the shopping center was as cratered as the moon. Rolling through there at 15 to 20 mph would have destroyed the trike and likely Loke and me with it. As it was, I hit a couple gaping canyons where I stopped to check for flats.

As I bounced and swerved to avoid the worst pits, surrounded by the reek of dumpsters, I had time to reflect on how often riding in an urban area is unpleasant. I can’t remember ever enjoying a ride through anything remotely the size of a town or city population center. Uppsala I at least know well enough to avoid the worst roads so I didn’t mind it so much when I went to the cathedral for the runestones.

View From Bridge Center

The ‘Singing Bridge’

The later hills through the town weren’t nearly so steep as that first one and all of them were decently short, 200 to 400 meters. During the ups and down through a suburbia looking area, I spotted the Sverigeleden sign. That little bit of green and white colored metal was a comfort. I did have a worried moment as I followed GPS and map toward the bridge. The signs indicated a dead-end rather than a street that changes into a cycle path. Fortunately, the maps were right and after passing through a barrier, I rolled out over the river on an old suspension bridge.

The view was beautiful, but I’ve decided bridges shouldn’t make the kind of noises that one did. Creaks, groans and pings. The pinging sound bothered me most. It gave me images of the metal fibers of the suspension cables snapping.

I was quite happy to make it to solid ground on the far side even if the path was gravel and steep. My drive tire had trouble getting a grip so for every 10 feet covered I probably pedaled the equivalent of 15 feet or more.

A Pretty Country Road

The path joined a dirt road and lacked any perceivable Sverigeleden sign. I pulled out my maps to compare with the GPS. Loke sat down and gave deep sighs as if to say, ‘Hurry UP!’ He even nudged me a few times before sighing again. I’d mapped north so north I went.

I kept our pace slow on that road, attempting to keep Loke on the smooth sections as he remained barefoot. Though the rain had stopped less than a mile from the Hogfors church, the ground remained quite wet. The socks last less than 3 miles without duck tape reinforcement and I had a minimal supply, so had to hope the ground dried at least long enough for the tape’s adhesive to set before putting them on the furball.

Glimpse of Lake Over Lupins

We bounced along through dim green of a densely forested road with quite a few pot holes and zipped down a hill toward the turn onto what I thought would be the cycle path.

Wrong. At the base of the hill was an old rail bed. Apparently, cycle path joined it later because where I sat, the tracks remained in place. It was quite pretty though. Trees hugging close and arching over the metal lines and ties in a tunnel of green, vibrant even in the dull light.

It might have been yet a 3rd part of the Klarälvleden. There’s part from Sysslebäck to Hagfors routed on roads, then there’s the Klarälvsbanan which was what I was looking for. It also seems there’s a leg or perhaps a side-spur of it people can ride the old rails on specially designed bikes. One person can pedal the rail bike which has a small truck section on the back or side where you can take a picnic lunch and passenger. 2 if they’re small. A neat concept, but it did me no good.

It had barely sunk in before the assault began. Mosquitos descended on us in untold numbers. I didn’t take pictures of the pretty view of the old tracks because I was desperate to escape. I’m not sure the photos would have showed anything other than a dense cloud of flying bloodsuckers even if I’d stuck around long enough to dig the camera out. They drove Loke crazy too. He was snapping at them, sneezing and rubbing his face with a paw. We fairly flew back up that hill which thankfully was not as steep as the first one of the day.

Building & Flowers

The Old Tracks

So, we took the south way and quickly found a Sverigeleden sign. The road had some beautiful patches of scenery and wide strips of smoothly packed ground for Loke, both of which let me start to enjoy the ride. I did come to small dilemma at one intersection. The Sverigeleden went one way, but signs pointed in the opposite way for a cafe, but more interestingly, a cultural location which could be anything from a castle to a farm stead or ruins.

Annoyingly, it didn’t say WHAT or HOW FAR. I must have stared at it for a minute before I decided to stick to the path. If I’d been on tour rather than a day ride with limited time, I might have risked adding another 5 or 10 miles. Perhaps I should view it as an excuse to make the Klarälv stretch into a full blown tour in the future? If so, I really need to reexamine the trike’s gearing. As much trouble as I had relatively unloaded, I would hate to be struggling to pull camping gear up these hills. Not to mention, I need to actually start touring!

Reluctantly, I obeyed the little green sign.

The colors on this trip have been amazing. Not just during the cycling. Even on the drive up here there have been flowers all over. The most promenient have been the lupins. Stalks which can be 2 feet or more long with small blossoms dense along their length. Deep purple are the most common, then various shades of pink with white most rare. Around Uppsala they grow in small clusters of perhaps 20 stalks. I’ve seen long patches of nothing but purple and pink for 100 or 200 yards since we came to the west side of Västerås.

She Wanted Attention!

I found another another glorious burst of color with not only the lupins. Just beyond the vivid wall of purple and pink a carpet of vivid yellow spread across a field. A friend I reconnected with thanks to Facebook is the one who told me the name of the lupins which grows in his garden over the ocean. Every time I see them now, I think of him.

This scene I just had to share with him. As I took an iPhone picture and began making the post to his wall, I heard a whinny and the thud of hooves. A horse galloped through the yellow flowers toward us. She was intensely curious and something about how she came up as close as she dared with the electric fence reminded me of the very friendly cat the day before. She wanted to come greet us and, unlike the cat, had no fear of the fuzzy one. Loke was fascinated with her and not in the ‘Can I eat it?’ way. I don’t think at least.

As we rode off, she whinnied after us.

I breathed a little easier with asphalt under Loke’s paws. Smooth asphalt with plenty of bitumen filling the gaps between rocks so much less risk of stone bruises which has been the bigger problem of late.

Klarälv’s Track – Here Begins The Journey/Trip

The sign for Uddeholm appeared and the Sverigeleden signs continued to lead us through residential streets. I barely needed the maps I’d printed though they’d be necessary when I went off the route in search of churches and such.

Finally the street ended at the 62 and I saw the large welcoming sign for the Klarälvsbanan. Of course, I had to stop for a picture of it.

Loke actually whined and pranced as I put the camera away. I’m not sure why. Maybe he was catching my excitement. No cars for 50 miles or more, except when I went to look for churches and the like. I didn’t expect much in the way of hills either since rail roads tend to avoid those. I was nearly giddy.

The shoes clicked into the pedals and we were off like a shot. Loke ran. Not a full out 20 mph charge, but an enduring lope of 12 to 14 mph. 2 miles or more passed and still he ran, tongue flopping in that husky grin, ears up and giving me little side looks from time to time. I stopped him once to offer water, but he just tried to pull us onward. I managed to to get one picture taken during the stretch, but only thanks to my repaired brakes or he’d have kept us going.

Pretty Even Under Leaden Skies

I didn’t stop him except for the lake picture where I offered him water. I can’t remember the last time he ran for so long a stretch. Maybe on Öland last year as we approached the castle ruin. One reason he doesn’t get the chance to lope for miles is due to me and hills. Not many spots are so flat around Uppsala.

The trike wheels sang against pavement as smooth as newly laid asphalt, wet in most places with the past rain. The main road, the 62, vanished behind a wall of green and birds added their voices to the trike’s and the gentle squeak of the spring in Loke’s running bar. To the left, the trees occasionally parted to tease me with glimpses of a lake with waters faintly rippled like medieval window glass. I smiled with a sense of peace with all in the world. For so stressful a beginning, it was turning into a perfect day, gray skies and all.

Trike & Husky View of Path

As we rounded the northern tip of the lake and turned south, small patches of blue appeared briefly through rents in the cloud cover. I had mixed feelings about the possibility of sunshine. Yes, it would improve the colors of photos, really making the flowers pop, but for a husky running in June, clouds are better. At least the day continued to have a crisp quality to it instead getting muggy hot. Compared to last year this summer has been on the cool side if wet. I’m loving it though most Swedes are pining for the melting temps of 2011.

The lake view disappeared as I briefly joined a small road with an annoyingly steep, but brief hill. It was around 9:45 am and I passed the first of fellow travelers on the Klarälvsbanan. An older man and a young girl pedaling along on touring bikes who greeted with smiles. A return to the bike exclusive roadway carried me through a corridor of green with pines and ferns to either side. The morning air was rich with the smell of wet forest which I find pleasant.

Loke Squinting At Camera Focus Beep – Too Funny

The clouds were thinning when I could see the lake again. As I turned my attention to looking for a way off the path and across the 62, a bathroom symbol appeared on my Garmin screen. The timing was perfect! An underpass toward the church I knew was in the area went by in a blur as I hurried to the rest-stop.

It was your typical traveler’s stop with bathrooms and picnic tables with a view of the lake. I caused quite a stir among the dozen or so people there. The little hot-dog/ice cream stand was closed, but the primary reason I’d hurried to it was available.

I also took the opportunity to put the socks on Loke as it had dried enough before relaxing to admire the view while nibbling on a cold pop tart. I returned the greeting called out by a couple on bikes who arrived from the north. They had little pannier bags so I guessed they were on a day trip. They complimented Loke as they coasted by toward a picnic table.

Dusting the last crumbs from my hands and ignoring Loke’s pleading looks for a bite of forbidden carbohydrates, I moved us back toward the underpass. It was little more than a gravel path through a huge tin tube. Felt a bit like passing through a ditch’s storm drain.

Predictably, leaving the cycle path meant another hill with a grade around 7% or greater. The effort was not aided by the condition of the road. It was patch work of gravel and deteriorating asphalt. Given the decent size and quality of the houses along it, quite shocking really.

Råda Kyrka

The church was closer than I thought. I could see it as I reached the end of the dilapidated little street. A hum-drum Neoclassical appearance and absolutely no information to be found on its history. My search only turned up a church of the same name on the island of Gotland and another much further south in the area of Linköping. Given the other churches I’ve seen in the area, I’m guessing its built on the remains of a medieval church, possibly wooden, and the current structure dates to sometime in the 1600’s. Renovations around the 1800’s perhaps. I could be wildly off the mark.

The route through Råda I’d mapped was pretty complicated as I’d thought it would be a longer double back to return to the cycle path. Since it was well under a half mile to return to the Klarälvsbanan and I loved the trail so much, I ignored my map and went back.

As I coasted down the ramp from the rest stop, Loke lost a sock. Fortunately, I saw it fly off rather than seeing it missing half a mile later. As the day before went to retrieve it.

While wrestling it back on his foot, I began to get an idea of how busy the Klarälvsbanan was. In the 5 min or less it took me to secure the velcro around Loke’s leg, I was passed by a man on a mountain bike heading south, three other cyclists going north and even a man on roller skis!

I didn’t mind the traffic. I loved it! Sometimes when I ride, it feels like I’m the only non-road bike (aka wanna-be Tour de France-er) cyclist using the paths and routes outside and between towns. This one was obviously very popular.

60th Parallel

Minutes after fixing Loke’s sock, I stopped again to translate a large white sign. It seemed I was crossing the 60th Parallel. It translates, ‘You stand now on the 60th Parallel. Here you are in line with St. Petersburg in Russia, Greenland’s southern point, and Seward Alaska.’

It felt a little odd reading that. I know Sweden is a northern country, but since we were only in the middle of it, it hardly seemed we should be on the same latitude as the places listed. Things like refocus my perspective which is a good thing.

This collection of signs also introduced me to green spots along the trail. Certain places were marked with signs denoting ‘nature objects’ along the Klarälvsbanan in 2007. They’re unique places showing specific birds, insects and flowers living in the immediate environment.

When I’d begun mapping the route, I half expected to endure some tedium. In the past, long straight roads have bored Loke and I both. Even when they’ve been flanked by woods with little hills making us go up and down, I’ve found myself wishing desperately for a curve or a turn at a junction to give some interest.

Path & Lupins

No such problem with the Klarälvsbanan for either of us. The woods, flowers, small streams and lake views kept me smiling even over the most arrow straight parts. Though Loke had gone strong and faster than usual the day before on our longest ride of 2012, he continued to run just as well or even better as we crossed mile 10 of this ride. He wanted to lope every chance he had. He seemed impatient every time I stopped him for water, taking only a couple laps as if to appease me so we could move on. He was doing what he had been born to do and he was as happy as a husky could be.

The condition of the cycle path supported his enthusiasm. There were hills and some of them were quite long, but as expected, the grades were very gentle (3%) with few exceptions. In some places there were the winter cracks filled with lumps of tar or dips where it had subsided. Occasionally even odd, sudden bumps the size of watermelons painted bright yellow for high visibility. But sections like that were few and short. Where the cycle track crossed even the meanest dirt road, it had been paved for 10 meters to either side guaranteeing a smooth passage. No wonder people use it for roller skis!

Yes. More Birches & Lupins

Look! A white one!

After mile 13 or so, I wanted Loke to go a little slower so maybe he could go farther. It resulted in him pulling harder. It’s difficult to know which is more likely to tire him. Running 8.5+ mph or dragging against the brake at 7.5 mph.

The sun began to play peek-a-boo with the ground as the clouds thinned. I felt a little warmer and Loke panted heavier, but he still continued the brisk trot with dogged (haha) resistance to my attempts at a more moderate pace or stops for water and sock checks.

The endurance of the socks proved an even bigger surprise than Loke’s tirelessness. I’m accustomed to adding a new layer of tape every 3-5 miles depending on the condition of the surfaces. Maybe it was the smooth nature of the road bed, but even after 10 miles it was original tape with surface scuffing.

The traffic along the cycle path continued steadily. Cyclists wearing racing jerseys on road bikes. People on touring bikes with panniers and baskets for single day or multiple day rides. More people on roller skis than I’ve seen in the previous seven years. Even a few pedestrians.

One woman strolling along had a huge and very unusual German Shepherd. Instead of the usual black and tan, white or black coat, he was more like a tortoise-shell cat. Mostly black with random streaks, spots and patches of orange, brown with tiny bits of white thrown in. Quite striking.

At times the path ran right up against unpaved roads, close enough I was surprised those who had laid out the route hadn’t simply used the available road, saving the time, cost and effort of paving the old rail bed. I suppose they wanted a truly ‘car free’ trail. I can’t object to that in the least!

Car-free wasn’t the only convenience afforded the Klarälvsbanan users. Signs would indicate which crossing roads had points of cultural interest, B&Bs and cafes even if they didn’t mention how far away. Every 5 – 10 km, you’d find a blue outhouse, always odor-free. Picnic tables for a nice rest stop, sometimes with enough space to pitch a tent. Such amenities were often well away from roads, so obviously they had been built specifically for the cycle path.

Pretty Horses

Shortly after passing the German Shepherd, we came to a house about 75 yards from the path. A pack of dogs went absolutely nuts, gated in on the porch of the house. I eyed it a bit warily, concerned one particularly large dog might leap the flimsy gate. Once I was convinced it would hold, I saw them. Three beautiful draft horses. A white and two bays who wore fly covers.

I love horses, but I often find myself most enchanted by the cold-bloods. The size of them and the heavy-boned build combined with that unflappable calm. There’s just something so enduring and peaceful about them. These were no exception. No fear in them, only quiet curiosity as they ambled over. Even walking in an unhurried gate, their hooves thudded like drums. I sat smiling and talking to them for a few minutes as they softly blew and nickered at us.

We entered a more populated area once leaving the horses. As my Garmin showed 22 miles, making this ride longest of the year, thoughts turned toward ending the ride soon. Though my furball seemed unstoppable, two days running of over 20 miles both times was enough. If we’d been getting 20+ mile runs in every week, I would have been willing to go on.

The way became a little busier through the fringes of the larger town of Munkfors as the locals used it to get around. Other bike riders called out cheery hellos as I passed. One young man stopped his scooter, turning it off as I passed. Perhaps he was worried it might frighten Loke if he sputtered by so close.

I found an indicator of the cycle path’s history as a rail road. Loke pulled me briskly past the distinctive building and low stone platform before I recognized it for an old train station.

Entering deeper into Munkfors, I started looking for the church. It was nearing 2 pm when Jens would leave his fishing spot to return to cell coverage to check on me.

Munkfors Church

Small Chapel in Munkfors Church Grounds

Expecting difficulties to reach the church, I thought perhaps to get a distant shot of it as I passed and then a close up after Jens picked me up. Instead, it was far simpler to get there from the Klarälvsbanan than anticipated. A short climb up a not-terribly steep hill (4-5% grade) and left turn directly into the parking lot.

A bit sign forbade bikes and dogs in the church yard, but a light post near a huge, shady tree surrounded by thick, short cut lawn offered something close to luxury for Loke. I settled him with his water dish, told him I’d be right back. He watched me walk into the church yard without touching his water.

Where did my hyper husky go??

I took the photos and walked back to the trike to wait for Jens’ call. Loke, who had still been so energetic was now like this. —>

His eyes opened and head lifted as I sat down in the trike, making sure I wasn’t going anywhere. Then he wiggled onto his back and stretched before flopping onto his other side, content to doze. Any indecision I might have entertained would have ended at the sight of the flattened furry one.

I roused him long enough to remove harness and socks.

Not to fear. He wasn’t broken. The hour nap waiting for Jens followed by another 45 minutes in the car back to the cabin and Loke’s perkiness returned. It wasn’t bounce-off-the-walls high energy, but you wouldn’t have known he’d run over 45 miles in two days. Jens even teased me about hitchhiking my way to Munkfors as Loke pestered us. It only got worse once we started grilling.

He got a nice piece of pork with a big helping of kibble. That made him as happy as running did.

I didn’t eat nearly enough to cover the calories I burned, but I was tired enough to not care. It was another early night.



A Full Day’s Ride Before Lunch
June 25, 2012, 9:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Written June 22nd

That’s how it felt once it was over.

I was eagerly anticipating the morning as I went to bed after adding velcro to couple doggie socks. Since the 21st had been so warm, I wanted to get an early start to spare Loke and I both the potential heat of today. Irritatingly I slept later than I’d hoped to, waking around 4:45 am.

It had gotten nippy during the night with a low around 47 F and hovering around 48 as I dressed. It was a wonderful surprise after the heavily oppressive warmth of the day before.

During the entire drive, Loke had been antsy. He barely laid down, staring out the side window when he wasn’t watching out the front with his head resting heavily on my shoulder. Even after Jens braved the mosquito swarms to walk him for an hour, he pestered us all evening. Since we’ve done trips like this before, I guess he knew something more was going to happen and he didn’t want to wait.

Main House

It must have kept him up late because it took food bribery to coax him out of the bedroom where Jens still slept. Once he realized I was in the magic clothes, he started to get excited. Things had been moved around in the car to leave the trike free so I could get it out on my own. Around 5:30 am I clipped in, loaded up with a bit of food, maps, the dog and 2 extra liters of water to go with the 3 liter platypus bladder.

Loke took off like a shot upon hearing the click of the brakes releasing. For him, that sound at the first of a ride is like the starting pistol to a bunch of sprinters.

Klarälven River on Gloriously Cool Morning

A small road ran parallel to the main one and immediately from our cabin it had a lovely down slope that let the furry one hit 19 mph. His breath puffed in clouds around the goofy flapping tongue of the husky grin. I let him have his run in that chill morning air.

Though it was technically paved, the little remained of the bitumen in between the rocks of what had once been asphalt. It made for a very rough, nobbly surface identical to the road north of Storblåsjon that left Loke hobbling with bad stone bruises in less than 11 miles. Stone bruises he managed to hide until just before Jens picked us up to go eat, I might add. Sneaky furball. To prevent a replay of that disaster which would ruin his runs on Saturday and Sunday, socks were the only option. So, around mile 1.5, I stopped to wrestle them on.

Loke & Trike Just Before Socking

As I worked to prep the socks with extra layers of duck tape to pad Loke’s feet from the rocks, I heard ‘Meow!’ in the distance. I was across the road from a house, but after quick look around, I couldn’t see the cat. A few seconds later, the meow came again and closer and then once more before I finally spotted him. A big, plump, white and tabby marked cat trotted the last few meters across the yard to the edge of the road, a heart-melting pitch to his meows. Anyone who has ever been around cats for more than 10 minutes knows that sound. The happy-hopeful call that says, ‘It’s a people! I wants love and cuddles and petting!’

Much as I would have loved to make the cat happy, I reached out to grab Loke’s harness as he watched the purring shape approach. Thankfully, he spotted Loke, stopped and quickly retreated back across the yard. I felt a little sad. I love cats, but missing out on random kitty cuddles is the price I pay for my furry cycling buddy.

A bit of old ruin? Maybe!

Cat hidden and safe from Loke’s predatory instincts, I went back to my task while battling a cloud of mosquitoes.

Socks wrestled on and tape reinforced soles, we set out again. I kept an on-again-off-again watch on Loke’s feet, resolved that if he lost one, I’d have to turn back for it. Not knowing how long the socks can last and with 4 husky feet and only having 6 finished socks, each one could be important. Wouldn’t you know it. 1/2 a mile later, I turned around to search for a silver, white and blue crumpled shape that would be a home-made doggie sock.

We rattled along that small back road for completely peaceful, traffic free miles. When the trees permitted, I caught glimpses of the river with the morning sun shimmering on its current churned waters far below us. The cool air was still except for the trill of bird song around us. Only once was there even a hint of a car and that was only the sound of its tires on the larger road well hidden by a wall of trees.

River View From 62

At last, I was forced onto the larger 62. Perhaps it was even fortuitous. Nature was demanding I answer her call and wouldn’t you know it? Less than quarter mile after turning onto the bigger road, an outhouse. A parking bay like the dozens of others we’d passed on the drive up, but this one had the small outhouse and a picnic table. I opened the door and had a feeling Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law) was laughing at me. Just over the door and on the door itself dangled wasp nests. I froze with images of dozens of wasps streaming out in defensive fury.

I think Murphy still had a laugh at me. The kind someone gives when they’ve thrown a plastic snake at a friend. The nests were empty. Still gave me quite a scare before realizing that.

Loke and I continued our ride, climbing and coasting over the miles. Considering the tall hills (or very small mountains) flanking us on the left and the sharp drop to the river on the right, I was quite surprised at how gentle and short the slopes were.

These are Lupins!

And Loke? He ran like a finely tuned machine. He wanted to race down every slope at 15-17 mph. On the more level stretches, he still maintained a brisk trot of not less than 8.5 mph. The only time our speed dipped lower than that was when the climbs became steeper than a 3% and I couldn’t spin fast enough to hold the pace. When we did slow, he threw his weight into the harness to keep us going as fast as possible. Even by mile 8, his stamina held strong. We did hit a trip best of a little over 20 mph when we came across a hare sitting in the middle of the road. It didn’t even need to move before Loke poured on the speed. It ran down the road for 50 meters or so before cutting back into the woods.

It seemed in no time we crossed the bridge over the river to start our southward leg along its other side. As we made the made the turn south, I smiled to see a brown and white sign for ‘Brattfället’ (The Bratt Falls) 5 km away (roughly 3 miles).

My smile was brief. Immediately after the turn, came ‘The Climb’. The road tilted upward into a slope varying between 7% and 10%. While the morning had started off chill and still couldn’t be called warm, the sun was hot and the direction of the road left not a scrap of shade for meters to either side. The torment seemed unending. No fun downhill to coast along after 1/8th or a quarter mile (or less). After more than a half mile of struggle and no end in sight, it was time for the thin wool top to go.

An Unexpected Steeple

I locked my brakes, now good enough to hold even on a 10% grade, to remove helmet, hat and sunglasses. Free of the black wool, I took a moment to savor the feeling of coolness. From the corner of my eye, I saw the silhouette of a cross near head level. Baffled, I put back on my sunglasses to ease the sun’s glare. Less than 50 yards away, nearly hidden in the shadows of the trees covering the steep slope, was a church. Not an old one as Swedish country churches go, but I’d guess a century or two at least, with what might have been a copper roofed steeple. More than that I couldn’t really see in the deep shade.

It was unexpected. Really, who expects to look to one side and find the cross of a church steeple at eye level while riding a country road? Not to mention there’d been no trace of the church even with a clear view across the river. It was that well hidden back in the trees. To think I never would have seen it if not for stopping to shed a layer of wool.

Curious, I looked back wondering where the turn to the church was. That quick look killed my inquisitiveness. While the coast down that half mile might be fun, a photo of what might be a disappointing church couldn’t make me climb that stretch again. It would have taken something a little more tangible to convince me to do it. A huge bundle of cash, saving a life, that sort of thing. Only a masochist would do it for free and that I am not.

Still it was back to the torture.

I’d say that agonizing climb lasted more than a mile, maybe as much as a mile and a half. At least, that’s when the slope became less than 7%. By then, Loke didn’t seem to object to our more modest speeds of 6 − 7 mph, mostly because he was hot. I offered him water frequently, wet down his ears. The upward grades far exceeded the down, but at least additional stretches of 7% or greater were small and few. Mostly it was 3% – 4%. With more of that rough asphalt adding to the roll resistance, it still made for hard work. At least we had shade for most of it.

Bratt Falls – Panorama Style!

It seemed forever before I came to the turn for Bratt Falls. There wasn’t much of a parking lot for the paved path that led off to the rails of a wooden bridge I could just make out. Big concrete barriers were set too close for me to get the trike through even without Loke and the running bar. It was a short enough walk from the barricades to the bridge though.

I think the term ‘Falls’ was a bit too generous a term for the stretch of water. Frothing white rapids for 200 − 300 yards being squeezed into a natural rock channel for part of it, yes. Still pretty enough to admire and take pictures of, certainly. Not my first choice for the definition of a water fall.

After Bratt Falls the fruits of our laborious climb were harvested, though I can’t say if it was 1 mile or 3 miles after we left that parking lot. One moment we were plodding at 6 mph and the next, 12 mph with Loke grinning happily as he loped along. I stopped to add a few more layers of tape to protect him from the terrible road before letting him run as he liked as long as I could maintain the speed. He might have gone faster, but by that point we’d covered 12+ miles and it was another 10 or so to Eksharad where I planned to stop. I didn’t want him to exhaust himself with an extended 15 mph (or faster) charge.

We zipped down what I hoped was the last big slope of the ride toward a village below. As we went by at 14 mph, a woman sitting in her yard, enjoying the day, called out a greeting as we passed. Somewhere along that flying charge, the Garmin ticked over 19 miles! The ride had officially become the longest of the year and still more to go!

Into A Village

The last few miles toward Eksharad were nearly flat. Jens called when only two more miles lay between us and the town. He was about 10 miles away and would meet me at the church.

Just across the bridge leading up to the beautiful red church was a sign for a burial ground pointing down a dirt road that followed the west riverbank to the south. I knew the roads Jens would be traveling could take time so I decided to take a peek.

The road wasn’t too bad, but after about a half mile with no sign of the burial ground, I turned back. It wouldn’t have been fair to keep Jens waiting because of a random side trip begun after I already knew he was on his way. I felt guilty enough about my cycling potentially interfering with his fishing without adding to it. He fishes so rarely as it is.

Ekshärad Kyrka

Just as I was slowly cranking my way up one last steep hill to Ekshärad church, sure enough, Jens called. I told him I was making that final ascent from the bridge and he appeared at the top of the hill on foot. Loke was being no help up that 8% or 9% grade. I got sneaky and pointed to the top of the hill, “Loke! There’s Jens!” That furry white head whipped around in a desperate search and I repeated. Loke saw him and flung his weight into the harness as his socked paws scrabbled on the asphalt to speed our way to my stocky, red-haired husband.

My thighs were screaming as we crested the hill. As I pedaled the last few yards to the car, Loke was hyper and bouncy to see Jens. It took some time, but as Loke got to walk the hubby, I managed to pack the trike away.

After I’d taken close up pictures of the church and Jens had shopped dinner at the grocery, he asked me to ride with him to look at a few more places to fish. I agreed as long as it required no walking on my noodle legs. The area he wanted to check was further upstream from Bratt Falls. I agreed, asking if we could take a detour to find that mystery church.

We found the road easily enough and the church as well. The sight of it confirmed I’d made the right choice. The steeple top 35 feet high at most and the church the size of a smallish 2 story house. Actually, it had been converted into someone’s house. I’d have been extremely unhappy if I’d come down the hill for that. I don’t even want to use up photo space to show it.

The rest of the trip rambled along a series of dirt roads that followed the rapid running stream. It was quite pretty. Jens even found a tiny little cabin for sale. It had a neatly trimmed lawn around with the Swedish style wooden fence and sat barely 150 feet from the rushing water. A wooden home-made sign hung next to the door saying something along the lines of ‘Just Enough’ or ‘About Perfect’ in Dutch. No power and no running water unless you count the stream. I smiled to see it thinking instantly of my dad. I think he’d love a little place like that. A stream to fish from, woods to hunt and forage in. Winters could be difficult though. Hehe.

With another jaunt up to another place about 40 miles north to look around, Jens and I returned to the cabin around 7 pm. The ride had been a hard climbing 21.85 miles which had felt like a full day to me though it had ended around 10:47 am. Then lots of car time with the hubby, so it was an incredibly busy day for me. I managed to stay awake just long enough to cook sausages on the stove to eat with a little potato salad and prep some dog socks before falling face first into the bed. The last thought I had was whether or not I’d be able to move for another ride when I woke up.

As for my furry cycling companion, he had energy to spare. It even seemed my efforts with the socks paid off! Not a limp to be seen! Longest ride of the year and husky in one piece after it. Accomplishments!



Let The Posting Begin!
June 25, 2012, 4:14 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Vacation! They’re wonderful, but as I said when getting back from Storblåsjön two cycling seasons ago, it’s so good to be home.

As before I’ll do a post a day for each ride during our trip.

What did I tell you? Perfect!

Given we had no packing done on the 20th, I’m surprised at myself in retrospect how I spent the day. Clearly, I posted to my blog first thing on waking. Then I decided to take Loke for a run. Even as hectic as the rest of the evening and morning of the 21st were, I can’t regret the decision. It was too glorious outside to let it slide without spending at least little while outside. Perfect temp with just the perfect amount of wind to balance the heat of the sun without making the ride a struggle. Perfectly clear skies. And yes, I’m overusing the word ‘perfect’ on purpose. It was one of those glorious, flawless days that are rare no matter where you are in the world. Definitely no regrets at taking the ride. Only thing that would have made it better would have been more time to enjoy it. Alas.

Returning from the outing with a happy husky, I considered what needed to be done in preparation for the weekend. First order of business was tending to the trike’s brakes. I’d been using only the left one for a few months except for emergencies. The right brake cable had been sticking, so it made for a great parking brake but freeing it required unclipping, leaning forward to reach the brake lever and pulling it forward. It seems like it’s always the right cable collecting gunk and sticking the most.

As I stopped outside the apartment, I looked at my trike. It was filthy. Gunk and grime from years of riding. It seemed rather silly to do maintenance work on something so dirty. Impulsively, I decided to take it to the new ‘do it yourself’ car wash not too far away.

I was thrilled when they started building it a couple years ago. A coin (or token in this case) operated, high pressure wand, car-wash. The sort I hadn’t seen since leaving the States over 8 years ago. Given I have no access to a hose, I’d been pining for one since I got the trike. Just a huge hassle to clean it without being able to properly rinse it and can’t take it through an automated wash. So, before working on the brakes, I was going to wash my trike! And I was going to ride to the wash!

My husband offered to drive me when I announced I was riding to clean the trike. I answered that riding was better since it would allow the trike to dry instead of dripping all over the car’s interior. He agreed.

Getting to the car wash was a bit convoluted as the most direct way involves extremely high trafficked roads with no shoulder. To avoid them required riding toward Granby Mall, under one of the busy roads to take a cycle path along said busy thoroughfare from the opposite direction. Why they didn’t add a cycle path to the other side, I’ll never know.

Amazing the Difference 5 Minutes With The Proper Tools Can Make

With 4 tokens in my pocket, I stripped off the seat and luggage rack to begin blasting. I grinned as the grime disappeared in a blast of high pressured soap and water. The grease on the chain rings proved unexpectedly tenacious, but I managed to get some of it away. The rest would be taken care of on another day when I had a de-greaser and stiff brush. Two tokens and 5 minutes later, the trike practically sparkled. I felt nearly as giddy as the day I removed it from the box for assembly.

Then it was the ride back for a round trip of a little more than 7 miles. Between the outing with the dog and then to and from the wash, I’d clocked more than 14 miles for the day!

Doing the brakes was a headache and much less fun than washing had been, but once it was done, I was confident I could stop on some of the potentially steep hills I’d face in the semi-mountainous terrain I planned to ride! Always a good thing.

The next morning (June 21st) was chaos. Even when expected, chaos comes as a shock. Jens had to work in the morning, though thankfully he could do so from home. In between his phone conferences, he flew into a frenzy of packing as I ran back and forth between apartment and car to fit everything in Tetris style. In hindsight, I’m surprised my ankle held up so well with all the lugging I did. A sign it’s healed, I suppose. About time!

My husband had wanted us to leave around 1 pm, but it was closer to 2 pm when we finally wedged Loke in his travel nook of the loaded car and went on our way. As always, there’s the feeling you’ve forgotten something important. I went through the checklist in my head for the truly critical things. Trike, seat (yes, I have forgotten it once for a day ride), shoes, harness, helmet, GPS, maps and water containers. Everything checked.

The drive was fairly average, at least until we got to the far side of Västerås as we’ve done that stretch so many times. If one thing can be said about it, it is colorful at this time of year. Mostly because of the lupins in bloom. I’ll post plenty of pictures of those in the later posts.

Örebro Slott

Arriving at Örebro gave us a bit of a surprise as we headed into the city in search of an ATM for cash to pay for the cabin. The city center was stunning. Beautiful parkland with a river and old stone bridges flowing past a castle all surrounded by old buildings with charming shops and street cafes on cobble roads.

Cash fetched, we went in search of some place to eat. It had to have an outside area where we could sit with Loke since the day was much too hot to even consider leaving him in the car. Most of the street cafes were too busy, so we went with the old fast food standby.

As we drove to the nearest McDonalds, I thought on the impact Örebro had on me. My initial thought had been something along the lines of how much nicer it was than Uppsala. That felt strange. Was it really? Uppsala has the beautiful river and old buildings. Uppsala Cathedral is breath-taking, if a bit crowded with old buildings huddling around it like shy children clutching their mother’s leg. Örebro castle was much smaller than Uppsala Castle high on it’s parkland hill covered with old trees. Have I become jaded to the beauty and history of Uppsala? If so, I really need to stop that. At least when I’m cycling in the area, I always look for the castle and cathedral spires. I suppose that shows I still hold some appreciation for it.

Our dinner of burgers turned out to have its own charm as we ate. Sparrows, many of them fledged chicks harassing their parents, hopped around the outside tables. To amuse myself, I began throwing them little bits of bun until that began to draw the attention of the larger kaja. I like the kaja which are members of the crow family, but they can be more of a nuisance than tiny sparrows. After that, I dropped the bread when the kaja were absent and close. Loke was too focused on us eating to pay attention to the birds hopping around less than 3 feet away. They came within inches of my feet. At last, I bent to hold out a bit of bread and wouldn’t you know it? One of the little males was bold enough to come take it from my fingers. He seemed to be the only one, but it made me smile all the same.

The rest of the drive was uneventful.

Base ‘Camp’

We reached the cabin shortly before 8 pm. Our hosts stopped mowing the lawn to come talk to us for a time. It turned out they’re Dutch. I stayed quiet at first, spoke a little Swedish and then said something in English when Swedish failed me. The woman smiled and commented how good my English was. I laughed, “I’m American”. She gave a good-natured eye roll at herself for not having guessed the obvious. Most of the talk focused on Loke as they had a pair of huskies as well. The man in particular was very taken with the white furball who was more interested in sniffing around than getting petted. After extending an invitation for the Midsummer festivities onthe morrow, they went back to their tasks as we settled in.

The cabin was simple, lacking a TV, but comfortable enough for our needs. A place to fix food in the evenings and sleep. I did just that in anticipation of the ride I had planned.



Colds, Rides & Planning
June 20, 2012, 7:20 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Recently Discovered Path Near Apartment

The frequency of my rides has dropped slightly since Jens’ return from London. He brought a rather nasty cold with him which I’ve been fighting. So far, I’ve managed a holding pattern and not been as sick as he. It must be all the fresh strawberries grown in the fields I pass every time I ride the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala loop. The imported out-of-season berries can’t match them. Even so, I’ve been taking it a little easy rather than risk overworking my system and letting the cold get a tighter grip.

Another reason for taking it a little easier is the hope Loke’s feet will be sounder for our trip this week. His health has been good, except for seeming to be more tenderfooted than in past years. The infections have not returned to the skin of his feet, though I think he has a little problem in the toe-nail that turned orange during the last bout. No unexplained seizures and his appetite has been good and energy levels high, annoyingly so. Take him on a 7 mile run and 15 minutes at home, he’s letting me know it wasn’t nearly long enough. Leaves me caught between a rock and a hard place between exercising him enough and coddling his feet.

As for the trip, we’re all heading north-east for a fishing/cycling trip this coming weekend. I found an area around part of the Sverigeleden I thought might have good fishing for Jens. We’re leaving Thursday after lunch and will have 2 full days for our activities and half a day on Sunday before returning home.

The ride planned for the first morning, I leave the cabin and go along the river next to where we’re staying and then around a small lake. Saturday though, I’ll be leaving from Hagfors to follow the Sverigeleden southward toward Karlstad. I feel a bit guilty about that leg since it will mean driving for Jens to drop me off and pick me up. I can’t help but be excited about it though. 70-80 miles of cycle path built over an old rail line! The only time I’ll have to worry about traffic is the rare moments I leave the path to get pictures of churches. Being an old rail line, it will be mostly flat. The draw back is it will also be arrow straight for significant stretches. Trains, new or old, are not known for lots of surprising and sharp turns. Sunday will mean I’m even farther from the cabin, but at least the drive to pick me, trike and Loke up will be kinda on the way home.

That extended weekend planned, I now have to decide on another place for Jens and I to go for the first week of July. Jens initially suggested Storblåsjon again, but that would mean a lot of driving for him since I’ve already cycled the areas close the cabin and the mountains limit the number of roads. South and west toward Norway is about the only option there. Exciting for me, but probably a drag for him to ferry us back and forth as I ride further from the cabin over the week.

He also suggested Öland again. I’ve seen quite a lot of it and the idea of going during the height of the tourist season is less appealing than in May or October.

I’m thinking of us going more northward again, though not so far as the Storblåsjon. An area of lots of streams and lakes where the Sverigeleden radiates out in 3 directions from a central point with lots to see and small connecting roads between. I think I’ll even want to go to a zoo in the area to see my first ever Kodiak bear. I was surprised when Jens told me a Swedish zoo has one. They keep a running water source in his habitat full of trout for him to fish from. I’ve seen European brown, polar and black bears in zoos, even black bears in the wild, but never a Kodiak.

Non-trip related stuff!

Jens seems keen to add another toy to my cycling kit. A GoPro helmet camera. I’ve often said, ‘Pity I didn’t have a video camera to share (insert funny occurrence)’ and now I’m dragging my feet when offered one. My reluctance is a bit less since Jens showed me a video tutorial of how to fix the fish-eye distortion of a GoPro recording in Photoshop with a few clicks. Even better that you can save the settings so you can fix later recordings with even fewer clicks! I’m not sure why, but every sport, helmet-mountable camera I’ve researched has the horrid fish-eye lens. For some inexplicable reason, it’s the industry standard. Gives me a headache and makes me nauseous to watch more than a minute.

The main reason for my reluctance is cost, particularly when there are other things I deem less frivolous. Perhaps a new trike so I can have the rear derailleur further from the ground for riding in the winter or on loose gravel with big stones. Or maybe even just a 26″ wheel conversion kit for my current trike. Also I’m trying to encourage Jens to get himself a nifty new toy. He talks himself out of goodies all the time. He should spoil himself every now and again. If he spoils me much more, I’ll be insufferable.



Random Babbles & Lots of Runestones!
June 12, 2012, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Our Backyard Bunny (Hare) and Friend

Yep, I know it’s been quiet since my last post. Not much going on really. After cutting our tour short because of Loke’s feet, I was determined to give him a few days rest. Then unpredictable weather has moved in along with continuing ankle problems. That injury is giving me complete fits. Fine one day and wake the next morning to spend the entire day or two hobbling with every step.

That’s not to say I haven’t been riding mind you. It’s been restricted to River Loops or the equivalent.

Within a day or two after the failed tour, Jens decided I should try running Loke for shorter runs, but more often. Like even 2 or 3 times a day.  His hope is that it will toughen the furball’s feet. Personally, I think he just wants to not worry about taking Loke for walks.

Seriously though, I know he’s probably a little fed up listening to me grump and grumble about not being able to ride as far as I’d like us to. Unfortunately, we’ve only had one day where I did go for more than a single ride in a day, being the one after Jens made this suggestion. The problem, of course, being my ankle preventing me from lugging the trike in and out of the apartment even once let alone 2 or 3 times.

The solution was to leave the trike outside. It made for a nervous day. I kept it in the back, locked to our balcony with every cable and lock we had. I figured if anyone messed with it, I’d hear with the balcony door open. I still was quite uncomfortable and kept walking out to check every 20 minutes.

Oh, and here is a video of Loke taken in the morning before my husband left for work after carrying the trike out for the first ride of that day. Not sure why it sticks at 12 seconds, but I thought I’d share my silly furball’s antics.

Since then, we’ve been riding just about every other day for the River Loop with whatever additions I can stick on it to give it SOME measure of variety at least.

Archaeological Dig Site Near Gamla Uppsala

A few times, I’ve even ridden a sort of reverse Grave Mound loop. That’s been kind of interesting as it allows me to see the progress of their archaeological studies. They’ve opened several more HUGE stretches. I stayed to watch until Loke started woofing at me. I can’t blame him. All he had to amuse himself was the pavement of the sidewalk/cycle path and the wall of a concrete barrier.

Husby-Långhundra Kyrka

Against my better judgement, Jens and I took a short outing on the 6th of this month to the annual medieval market held every year at Husby-Långhundra Church. It still amazes me there used to be a waterway connecting to Uppsala once navigable by boats and now all that remains is a tiny thread of water not even wide enough for a canoe. I think Loke could jump it. Not that he would try. He’s a bit timid when it comes to water. Given his past experiences when he’s suffered lapses in judgement, I can hardly blame him.

Musicians at The Medieval Market

Though we rarely stay for more than an hour, Jens and I try to make it every year. I think I’d probably spend more time there and even buy a few things if I were still active in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). To quote from their official web site – “The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our “Known World” consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.”  I was an avid participant between ages of 19 – 30, attending events most weekends and making my own costumes. Very many happy memories. It even turned out my father’s mother was also a very active member long before I’d even heard of the group.

Interior of Husby-Långhundra Church to the Back

But I ramble.

There is a reason I mention this day even though I didn’t ride. Husby-Långhundra Kyrka was the beginning of a ride in June of 2010. I didn’t walk around it to look for runestones because the lawn of the graveyard was being tended. This time, I had Jens to occupy Loke and even better? The church was open to the public!

Before I discovered that, we did a stroll through the market, stopping to listen to the musicians for a time. There was also some kind of play going on, but the area was so tightly packed I didn’t think I could go into the crowd without going crazy. As it was, the market lane had so many people it was unpleasant and even Loke looked a bit rattled at times. At least one of those wasn’t when a young girl suddenly appeared to throw her arms around his neck and squeeze as she grinned happily.

Uppland Runestone #495 – Husby-Långhundra Kyrka

Little girls in particular seem to love Loke. Maybe it’s that they’re quickest to express their love of animals and it’s not every day you see a husky of gray and shining white. Or any color for that matter. As I was getting ready for another ride about a week ago, a young girl of about 4 or 5 came running out of no where. She had a huge smile and bounced from one foot to the other as she asked if she could pet my dog. Loke loves children, but his energy makes him a bit too bouncy at times so I’m glad she had been taught to stand back and ask first. I made him stand still as she patted his back. He wiggled around enough to get a lick on her face which made her give a laughing scream. Then I saw the woman coming around the hedge with a relieved look at finding her child. She didn’t mind in the least that her girl had met Loke, only that she had slipped away without asking mom first.

She never so much as took a look at my trike.

River & Uppsala’s Cathedral

Runestone NF 1975…. I think. 😛

This past Sunday, Jens left on a business trip to London. Given the lingering injury I’m suffering, I asked if we could put the trike in the car. Makes it difficult if I want to ride my trainer, but much easier to go for rides with the dog. Given how difficult it is for me to walk at times, I decided it would be better to go on the trike with Loke than hobble around the block.

It may have been a mistake. I could get very addicted to how easy it was to get ready for a ride yesterday! I got dressed, harnessed the dog, made certain I had cell, GPS, water, flag and keys before leaving the apartment to go to the parking lot. From there, I was clipped in and ready to roll in less than 5 minutes. Much smoother and easier than the 20-30 minute ordeal of getting the trike out of the apartment. Wrestling 40 to 50 lbs of trike up and down the stairs is rough even when I’m not injured! Multiple trips on those stairs to get out the pod-bags with water, seat and then Loke non-existent! I loved it!

Uppland Runestone #929 – Uppsala Cathedral

Pity I have the car so rarely on weekdays. *mournful sigh*

As I was getting dressed for the ride yesterday, I was in a mild funk at the idea of riding the River Loop AGAIN. It’s easily been 20 times out of the 30+ rides I’ve logged this year. While filling the water bladder, it occurred to me, I’ve never cycled through Uppsala with the purpose of actually seeing the city from trike PoV. I knew there were quite a few runestones at the cathedral with all the old buildings around it. I was fairly certain I could see quite a bit while avoiding the worst of the downtown streets.

Feeling much better about the ride, I slung the camera bag over my shoulder and went out.

Loke yodeled a bit as I settled the water bladder and camera bag, but in short order we were zipping along the roads. I actually decided to do most of the River Loop for a very practical reason. Much easier to clean up after the furry one’s business on a fairly quite cycle path rather than a crowded streets. Maybe I could even avoid needing to stop by adding that little distance.

Uppland Runestone #931 – Uppsala Cathedral

Uppland Runestone #933 – Uppsala Cathedral

Loke has continued to run good even over the tediously repetative River Loop. Much better than I’ve been doing lately. One could say he’s been my motivator. I don’t want to make him drag me the whole way, so I pedal enough to keep the tether latch jingling with slack rather than hearing the squeak-squeak of the spring.

Uppland Runestone #934 – Uppsala Cathedral

The sun played tag with the thick clumps of clouds with their threat of rain. In the river, I saw people in kayaks paddling up stream. In no time, we were passing the swim hall and crossing the street to continue along the river as long as we could before I’d need to part ways with it to get to the cathedral. It’s nice to have such a pretty river running through the city.

Uppsala Runestone #935

It was surprisingly busy downtown even considering it was a work day. Something was going on in the more modern shopping area, I think. At least I could hear loud music and crowd noises. I steered well clear of that.

An Old Coach House Perhaps?

It was a little hectic getting past the place where my favorite restaurant is which is right below the cathedral. The church itself sits on a high spot with walls holding earth of the hill back. There are stairs up to the doors, but getting the trike up those would be unpleasant. Instead I rattled down a tiny cobbled street with a few shops and a cafe, getting quite a few startled looks, and continued to climb up as the street circled the back of the cathedral. I’m not entirely sure, but I think cobblestones are worse on 20″ wheels rather than the usual 26″ or 27″. I’m surprised I didn’t rattle every screw on the trike loose.

Another Old Building Behind Cathedral

I found a way up to the cathedral level and pedaled around to the back where I remembered the runestones from my dad’s visit. Jens and I had taken him to the cathedral and even went inside. I think he was actually very weary of churches and cathedrals by that point, but was too polite to say so. After all, Italy probably has far more of them than Sweden does! Hard to believe it’s been almost 5 years since he was here.

South Doors of Uppsala Cathedral

The stones were there as I’d recalled. I parked the trike  in the middle of the line and walked to each of them for pictures. I wasn’t the only one. Quite a few tourists past us and, of course, took pictures of the trike. At least I wasn’t in those. Loke still had plenty of energy so I didn’t dare leave him tethered to our wheels. He made it quite a challenge to get the pictures too since all I had was the short lead I use when he’s running with the trike. The flexi-leash, I’d accidentally left in the car while readying for the ride. I couldn’t put it on the ground and stand on it while I took pictures, so I was yanked around quite a bit because Loke kept trying to mark the cathedral wall, the trees, the stones.

Runestones collected, I continued my leisurely loop around the cathedral. It is as beautiful outside as it is within. And yes, I’ve actually seen the inside! It’s open to the public most days. Yesterday was no exception. As I crossed the front of the building, a group of about 100 tourists on a guided tour goggled at me so obviously, the guide stopped talking to see what distracted them. Her jaw dropped right along with everyone else’s. I guess none of them expected to see a recumbent trike with a husky. Lots of pictures snapped as we passed.

Helga Trefaldighets Church (Holy Trinity)

I hurried past the tourists toward another church I knew of very close to the cathedral. It’s the  Helga Trefaldighets kyrka which translates to ‘The Holy Trinity Church’ It’s a pretty little church. Pity I couldn’t get a picture without the cars crowding it. From my Wikipedia search, I found photos of the interior which are breathtaking!

From there, I had the crazy idea to pedal up to Uppsala Castle. It sits on a hill much higher than the cathedral. Steeper too. So I crossed Drottninggatan (Queen Street). Random bit of trivia – Daniel Craig stood on that street when it was used to film a scene from the American adaptation of the Swedish book & film ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo.” I spotted it in the film.

The castle’s hill proved to be too much. Even in my lowest granny gear, it felt like I was dragging a 1000 pounds and Loke was being no help. I might have gritted my teeth and crept my way up, but my tire spun in the gravel more than it grabbed which was the final straw. From there, I cut across various streets to the cathedral’s grave yard. There’s a wide, tree line gravel path running along the graveyard wall and a nice 2% down grade. Loke got to run, his tongue flapping in a husky grin as we began the ride home. It was a fairly direct shot down one road that brought us out along the final stretch of the Field Loop before rejoining the River Loop. I didn’t even mind riding that section for a second time.

We finished up with bunch of photos, 7.1 miles under paws and wheels, and something to blog. Not bad for starting from the apartment parking lot.