Terii’s Cycling Babble


Loved It!
July 13, 2012, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Last winter during my end of year post, I reported 52 rides for the 2011 cycling season. Wednesday’s ride made 52 rides for 2012. Granted, it was just a 6 mile blast around the grave mound and river loops at a 10 mph average. Quite brisk for me given how I creep up hills. Also, it ticked me over 400 total miles for the year. So, I guess it’s kinda good my hubby bulled me out the door for a solo exercise ride.

With my tour delayed thanks to minor problem with my right ear requiring a doctor’s appointment on Friday (today), Jens again bullied me to plot a day ride somewhere. Another of those ‘I’ll drive you anywhere within reason, no complaints’ outings. I picked the area south of the E18 between Västerås and Enköping. That spot has been making me crazy as I attempted to work it into my tour. A number of churches and even a manor house/castle. The problem is it would have required a huge double back of 20-30 miles to get back to things I wanted to see on the north side of the E18. The idea of an entire day spent re-traveling recently covered ground made me wince. Making a day ride of that area was the perfect solution!

I woke early to plot and print my maps of a 30 mile route then organized everything. By 8:10 am we were on the road.

The weather caused me a bit of concern. The on-line weather reports showed a very miserable day. Lots and lots of rain. As we drove west, it looked pretty gloomy at first, but then the clouds broke a bit and it turned pretty.

Irsta Church

The phrase ‘Changeable as the weather’ was never more true. Minutes before arrival at Irsta, the clouds became quite dark and thick. As Jens parked, it sprinkled. I jumped out, intending to get pictures of the church before it started raining any harder. As I opened the back hatch of the car, the bottom fell out. Fortunately we had umbrellas packed. We both were dismayed. With a startled Loke, my husband ran for the lychgate’s meager shelter. He said there was no way he was going to let me start my ride in this. We’d go back home.

I was grateful for that much. It’s one thing to get caught in storms. It’s another to begin in one.

Juggling umbrella and camera bag, I marched through the torrent to find a good angle for the church. Though it had been raining for less than 2 minutes, waterfalls cascaded from the church eaves as the gutters overflowed.

With so small a church yard and raised up on a hill as it was, finding a spot where I could frame the entire building gave me quite a bit of difficulty. During the walk around, I discovered a little bathroom building just outside the walls. Wouldn’t you know? As I came back out I found the best view to get everything in frame!

The rain also had eased to a steady fall rather than a drowning flood. My husband suggested we wait half an hour to see what happened before completely packing it in.

20 minutes later, as water still pattered off soaked leaves, I assembled the trike.

Loke seemed oddly apathetic as I loaded pod bags and water. Jens insisted I do a loop of the parking lot without Loke to see if it perked him up. It did. As soon as the wheels rolled, he rushed to the side of the trike and followed his running bar. Saying farewell to my husband, we were off.

The first turn came just yards from the church parking lot and put us on a much lower trafficked roadway. Tongue flopping, Loke ran with his usual exuberance.

I’m ‘Panorama Obsessed’ now. Can you tell?

He had about a mile and a half to burn that initial energy before hills and beautiful views begging to be photographed slowed us.

With the sun out more, the heat became a bit uncomfortable. It wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the climb. Between Irsta and Kärrbo was a gentle ridge or just a higher point in the landscape like a sort of plateau. Either way, it meant slow going without much wind to cool us. The worst were the flies. Admittedly, they were no where near as bad as they’d been in the Gysinge area. They weren’t horseflies, but the smaller swarming kind I didn’t think bit. How wrong I was. The bites hurt only as much as a mosquito, but they had a higher annoyance factor as quite a few of them went straight for my eyes. They had me flapping my hands around like a frantic chicken to keep the d*mn things out of my face.

Little more than 4 miles from Irsta, we rounded a turn up a hill to pull into Kärrbo Kyrka parking lot. With a few visitors in the church yard and the fact Loke hadn’t ‘done his business’ yet, I left the fuzzy one tethered to a shady little tree with a full dish of water near the trike.

Kärrbo Church

Kärrbo is a simple looking church that still possessed much of its medieval character. Disappointingly, no runestones were to be found, but there was a mausoleum built onto the side of the church which had a little sign. Members of the Gyllenstierna family were buried there from the 1650’s until 1840’s. You can see the mausoleum just above the tall gravestone in the right of the photos.

Of course, there is a little more info about the church with the click of a thumbnail.

Loke awaited me impatiently as I finished my stroll. I gave his feet a quick going over and they looked fine. A bit of water remained in his dish which I used to soak his ears. Leaving the parking lot for the northward trek to the next church, he pulled the trike into a flat out run and I pedaled fast enough to give him slack.

Less than 2 miles later, I came to a choice. The road ended at a ‘T’ junction. I’d mapped left, but a sign to the right, indicating a place called Lindö 3 km away, had the loopy cornered square indicating a cultural/historical site. I checked my mapbook which offered no clues, but since the outing was about enjoying a day long ride rather than getting from point A to B in X time, I decided to risk it.

Cloud-Shadow & Sunlight

The road was unpaved, but one of those nice ones where the earth is well packed and smoother than most asphalt surfaces. The recent rain had left it a ever-so-slightly mushy, but barely enough to impact our speed particularly with the gentle downward slope to the river. Loke was thrilled. Earthen tracks are his favorite. He would have been happier with a narrow forest path scattered with leaves and densely shaded, but this was the next best thing. Rocks, even in the center line, were few so I let him go as we dodged the occasional collection of shallow potholes.

That bit of nice road lasted only about a mile. The next sign pointed up to a shade-topped hill where the rock-strewn path vanished under the arching branches of trees. I almost turned back there. The distribution of the rocks was dense enough to worry me about Loke’s feet since the ground was way too wet for socks. It even looked hazardous to my rear derailleur in a few spots. All that risk for Lindö Tegelbruk. Tegel is ‘brick’ and bruk translates roughly to ‘works’ and at times can also mean ‘factory’ or ‘mill’. So, a brickworks.

I’m not sure why I decided to go for it, but I did. We took it slow and I did all I could to give Loke the least rocky spots.

Lindö Tegelbruk Road

I needn’t have bothered. The next indicated spot was a track of mostly flattened grass. Granted, my GPS indicated it, but ahead just looked like a residential area. Did I really want to face stony ground for what might be little more than a clay pit? Excuse the bad iPhone photo, it really didn’t like this lighting, but this is all I could see in the distance. It looks distinctly like a little country house.

My willingness to search for the brickworks came to an end. Rocks are bad enough, but I have to be very careless and unlucky to damage my trike. Grass on the other hand can be a headache even when trying to be careful. A stray stalk can get caught in the tiny cogs of the derailleur and wrap tight until it interferes with the chain. Getting that undone could be a 15 – 20 min greasy struggle. I turned back.

Loke and I both were glad to see the nice dirt road again and we made very good time in spite of the 3-4% slope.

Just Love This Little Building!

Traffic was sporadic but friendly as we headed north. Every car had at least one person who smiled and waved. A farmer on what appeared to be an antique tractor called out ‘What a fine dog!’ as he chugged across the road from field to farm yard. A pair of spandex clad cyclists on road bikes whizzed by at 18 – 20+ mph with huge grins and thumbs up.

The landscape was beautiful. Admittedly, not much forest, but most of the trees around were older growth. Very few weedy saplings and, thinking back, I don’t recall a single clear-cut. The gentle rolling hills with fields green under a July sun gave the impression of age. It felt as if man had established the character of this landscape centuries before and now, maintained it in a harmonious balance with nature.

The only other time I can remember that ‘peaceful human co-existence with nature’ feeling was riding through the pasture landscapes on Öland. There man’s influence has been so long established, but stable, that nature has adapted supremely. Some species, plant and animal, depend entirely on the ancient pasture lands. I remember seeing a documentary on French wildlife about similar agricultural landscapes. My first thought was ‘That would be a beautiful place to explore! I wonder how I’d get the trike there?’

I ramble.

The next turn brought Loke and I back to the road running almost directly between Irsta and the next landmark on my list, Kungsåra Church. Barely 3 miles between Irsta and Kungsåra (King’s Oar), yet by the time I could see the steeple of Kungsåra Kyrka through the trees, I’d ridden 11 miles and enjoyed every minute of it. Well, except for the rocks while looking for the brickworks.

The road between Irsta and Kungsåra was one of the busier ones and not much of a shoulder. It wasn’t nearly as bad as expected though. The few times I’ve ridden on the 72 just outside of Uppsala were far more harrowing and traffic was lighter than that with the usually polite Swedish drivers, so it Loke and I were fine.

I spotted a sign for Kungsåra Djurparken with indicators for food and camping. The thought of a cafe actually appealed to me. Imagine that. Food sounding good while on a bike ride. Given how I generally survive on 200 calories or less for a 10 hour ride with no feelings of hunger, that was surprising.

Kungsåra (King’s Oar) Church

Kungsåra Church Interior

The church came first. It stood at the top of a hill, a brutal climb. At least it was mostly shady and Loke helped. At the top of the hill, I coasted into the dense shade of trees growing next to the church yard wall. A strip of lush grass grew between wall and a patch of gravel where I coasted to a stop. A nice spot for Loke to rest with a handy sign to tether him. I gave him plenty of water and went photo hunting.

I heard the sounds of work around the church, but saw nothing as I began my walk clockwise through the church yard. As it had been at Irsta, finding a good angle, clear of trees but with enough space to get the entire church in frame became a challenge. Passing the tower entrance while searching for wall-embedded runestones, I stopped and looked the door. A small sign, barely larger than my hand hung from one of the nails. ‘Open 10 am – 4 pm’.

Medieval Triumphal Crucifix

Beautifully Decorated Pulpit

Though curiosity pulled, I felt terribly self-conscious about going in with my cycle shoes, sweaty clothes and smelling of sun-screen. Tentatively, I opened the door.

Alms Box

The porch entryway was mostly white and simply decorated. Not a sound to be heard except the faint scraping sound of the work outside. Opening the second set of doors, I found the church empty.

Royal Pew & Early 13th Century Baptismal Font

The white and pale blue of the pews and the starkly rendered walls gave the interior a rather cold and modern feel. A bit unwelcoming in my eyes. Hints of an older age could be found once past the shock of finding something so contemporary. The ancient alms box with the rusty, hand-made hinges and bands caught my attention right away. The pulpits in Swedish churches are almost always spectacularly and beautifully carved, painted and covered in gilt and this one was no exception. There is also a very old baptismal font from the 1200’s. A royal pew sat beside the font with dragon head embellishments worked into the seat back. The original pew is in a museum somewhere, but this is an exact copy.

A huge grin pulled at the corners of my mouth as I left the church. Such a little thing, but getting to see inside made me want to giggle. Runestones would have been the perfect topping for the visit there, but they seem to be a rarity west of Enköping.

Silly Furball

I laughed as I left the church yard. I’d given Loke nice thick shade and plenty of cushy grass to lay on and what did I find? The fuzzy one laying on the rocks. One has to wonder about the workings of the canine mind at times.

Once I picked up his leash, Loke bounced to his feet ready to go. The tough slope we’d slogged up was like a ski-launch as he charged at full blast. I still had to hang on brakes to not drag him. Soon we were back on the busier road.

Almost immediately I saw the animal park which had the ‘cafe’. It turned out to be a restaurant which would have been embarrassing to go into dressed as I was with the aroma of sunscreen hanging about me. A few horses stood in paddocks next to the road with the parking lot between them and the park’s building. Further along ran high wire fences. The kind that are generally used to keep moose and deer penned up rather than horses, sheep or goats. Those pastures looked empty though.

That was when something strange happened to my fuzzy friend. At first, Loke seemed to go on alert prey-drive mode. Then he jumped, throwing himself desperately into the harness as if someone had popped him in the tail with a BB. I kept looking for a hare or cat, but saw nothing. Loke continued his wild run but with his head tilted and one ear cocked funny. In spite of the hard gallop, he managed to shake his head from time to time. I finally hauled him to a stop to examine the ear, but found nothing wrong. No extra redness or swelling I would have expected from such a violent reaction.

I wanted off the busy road before doing more than taking a couple minutes to check him so we pressed on at his more usual speed. By the time I found a bus stop to pull over more safely, he was back to normal. All I can think is maybe he was stung by a wasp or bitten by a horsefly in that ear.

View from tiny bridge to Ängsö

The next stop was Ängsö. It’s an island separated from the mainland by just a few meters of Lake Mälaren. The island is quite pretty so a lot of scenery to enjoy as one travels to the castle and church there.

Loke began to lag a bit by this point though we had barely reached mile 15. I slowed down and made sure his ears stayed wet, checked his socks. The ride wasn’t meant to be a race, but an outing for both of us to enjoy.

Loke and I received more friendly waves on the way toward the manor house. One older man watched us for a moment with an open mouthed grin of delight before waving furiously. That smile was infectious. I still wore it as we went along a shady lane lined with old gnarled trees.

We passed a white plastered stable-like building where a group of older men sat talking near one of the open doors. Just beyond that another sharp turn took us along a stone wall capped with terracotta roof tiles. Above those tiles thrust the steeple of the church.

Ängsö Church

As the previous two church, I left Loke in the shade. I had to re-evaluate my definition of ‘small’ in regards to churchyards as I walked through the diminutive main gate. Less than 4 yards separated gate from church wall on one side. There was more space around the other sides, but not enough to get the whole church framed. The structure is beautiful with features I identify strongly with Gothic. Parts of it reminded me of Uppsala Cathedral and Danmark Church.

I took as many photos as I could with the hope of being able to stitch them together, but my attempts came out wonky. I had to go someplace special for this picture. I’ll get to that later.

This church was open to the public as well. Metal and glass modern doors stood inside the old ones. A lot of the old charm of its medieval roots were evident. Old floor slabs, even brick remained. A pair of old grave slabs stood before alter.

Old Murals

There were murals too though much faded. Fortunately, I managed to get one pair of photos to blend smoothly without perspective distortion. I toyed a little with contrast otherwise the paintings would have been nearly invisible. The ceilings would be stunning with restoration work.

I took my time exploring the church since I decided that I was going to end the ride and Loke was in a cool spot with lots of water. Afterwards I parked the trike where I could lock it. Loke came with me this time through a small gate in the wall too narrow for my front wheels. Loke trotted along, his tail up like a flag as he pulled out a bit of leash to forge ahead toward the open expanse of a graveled courtyard and old trees beyond.

Ängsö Slott

Nearly a dozen people sat at tables outside the front of the castle dining on waffles and other pastries filling the air with the sweet aroma.

While wandering around, I found a path looping around the back of the castle. I hurried back to the trike to move it into the courtyard. I called Jens and told him where to find me. Loke made comfortable again with shady tree, plush grass and full water dish, I followed the wonderful smells coming from the castle’s main entrance. Before I made it to the kitchen, a dark opening drew me. I’d found the entrance to the dungeon. A sign pointed out that exploration of the castle was for paying visitors.

Dungeon In Castle Foundations

Ballroom where the ghostly woman walks? Maybe!

It cost 60 kr. I decided to risk it after seeing Loke had fox-curled on the grass into a sound sleep. A self guided tour walking through a castle to finish a ride? I paid and off I went. I had a laminated printout describing the paintings, but I didn’t have quite that much time. Just a quick stroll through the rooms to read signs and take photos.

I noticed the stairs were wide and shallow as I climbed to the 2nd floor. A bit of decoration was painted on the stone at both ends of each step a bit scuffed and worn from centuries of use.

Simple Bedroom

An Elaborate Bed

Some of the rooms were simpler than expected and the beds were tiny. From what I understand they’re so short because the Swedish people (and maybe all of Europe) slept propped into a sitting position centuries ago instead of flopping down and stretching out as we do today.

It was there on the third floor I found a beautiful view of the church through one of the windows. Naturally, I took a lovely photo of it.

As I climbed, each flight of stairs became steeper and narrower. At some point they lost the decorations at the end. I think I remember them looking rougher too. As if they’d been hacked out and laid down rather than being worked and smoothed first.

I was relieved to reach the top floor. After exploring, I hurried back down the stairs to check on Loke since I’d heard a dog barking. He was sitting up to look around. I returned the laminated list of paintings to the staff in the kitchen.

Look! I’m eating on a ride! Hehe

The smells of cookies and pastries and cakes was too much to resist. I ordered a Belgium waffle!

King Carl’s Last Horse – 1740

Jens arrived a short time later and we met back at the church parking lot. A happy Loke greeted my red-haired hubby and Jens walked around with him. The trike was nearly put away when Jens called me over to look at a grave stone. I’d noticed it when riding from the church parking lot to the castle courtyard. I’d been baffled as to why the person had been buried outside the church yard.

Turns out, it wasn’t a person! A king’s horse no less.

The rest of the packing finished quickly and we were on the road for home. I think my timing was perfect. Dark clouds came rolling in and between us and Uppsala awaited a fairly impressive thunderstorm particularly for Sweden. Lightning split the sky and lit the deep steely gray clouds. After the initial storm at the start of the ride, I’d been hit by no more than 3 or 4 drops of rain. Exploring castles and churches, Belgium waffles and I stayed dry!

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