Terii’s Cycling Babble

Hated It!
July 16, 2012, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Well, it took a bit of doing, but I persevered in planning another tour. Getting packed for it became another challenge. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t have the ‘oomph’. It didn’t help either that I couldn’t get the route settled.

First, I was having a fit with that area I rode on the 12th. That conflict with the E18 and not wanting to add another day just backtracking to get across that aggravating road. Happily, the ride on the 12th corrected that problem. It meant completely remapping my route east of Västerås, but I did it quite gladly.

I’d also actually planned to do the first day with Loke and then have my hubby pick him up sometime during the 2nd day. Sadly, that was not to be. I remapped that first day’s plan to add more distance since I supposedly could ride faster and further without the fuzzy one.

Why couldn’t Loke come? Recurring problems and a new one. He’d started giving indications that the glands in his nether regions were acting up again on Wednesday and then again during the ride on the 12th, so I had already planned to make a vet’s appointment Friday. Friday the 13th was not a good day for Loke. But there was another thing I was definitely going to get checked. Loke’s breathing.

We’d finished the ride at Ängsö Castle and while waiting for Jens, I kept hearing this strange, but very faint whine. It sounded like a small dog far off in the distance protesting being left alone I thought at first. Listening harder, I realized it came from Loke every time he exhaled.

It was just as well. Friday morning, I noticed Loke’s breathing was a little off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong about it, only that it wasn’t normal. So, I called and a new vet tech (or maybe intern) scheduled me for an appointment just an hour later.

First Niclas checked Loke over and found, yes, his glands had acted up again. He had a faint bubbling sound in his lungs as well. So, first Loke had to lay still in a scary room under the terrifying x-ray machine without sedation. He was a very good boy and stayed still when I told him to, praising him all the while. When Niclas said there was no immediate concern in Loke’s lungs, Loke was sedated for the rest. Then he spent the rest of the day groggy and unhappy. Niclas said he should get at least a week’s rest for his breathing which should clear up with the injection Loke’d been given.

I still really wanted a tour under my belt and Jens’ vacation time was ticking away. So, I got into gear and managed to get most things packed on Saturday. Still had a few things left to finish up Sunday morning, but I made it and soon we were driving toward a church north of Västerås.

A rude surprise presented itself as we took the 67 north. Immediately leaving the church, the plan took me on about a mile of the 67 before making a westward turn. I’d checked Google Street View several times. It showed a busy road, but one with a nice wide shoulder. Work had been done on the road since those photos. It was now a carriage way forbidden to bikes. 3 lanes of 70 mph (though many drive faster) with the third lane alternating between the two directions to give brief opportunities to pass. No shoulder and with guardrails not only between opposing directions, but often right along the shoulder-less right side as well. No room for cars to give a cyclist space even were it legal for bikes.

Frantically, I spent the last few minutes to the church looking for an alternative in my map book. I found one. It would mean heading southward to a place called Skultuna, then cutting back northeast to rejoin my route at Svanå.

Romfortuna Church

I was grateful that the lead gray skies with drizzle had broken up and the rain stopped when we arrived at Romfortuna Church. It was a pretty church though without runestones. I was disappointed it wasn’t open. I got spoiled during the last ride with so many churches open to the public.

Loke seemed a little sluggish as Jens walked him. I felt a little surprised at my emotional reaction as I faced a tour without him. I was going to miss his companionship. Worse, I had that strange knee-jerk reaction that I was the only one who could take care of him properly mingled with a sort of panic that I’d return home to find him falling to pieces. It didn’t help that his breathing was still off. I even got a little teary.

I felt a bit guilty reacting more strongly to missing Loke than my husband. Of course, I’m accustomed to Jens taking his business trips and he’s out of the house for long hours most days of the week. The number of times I’ve been out of the furball’s presence overnight or longer can be counted on one hand with maybe even a finger to spare.

I felt a little embarrassed by the welter of emotions about leaving the furry white one for 1 or 2 nights. I knew it was silly to think he’d go to pieces without me, but emotions rarely respond to logic. Jens on the other hand kept saying he was going to miss me and it was going to be weird in the apartment overnight without me.

Then I was kissing the hubby bye and hugging Loke who had jumped into the now empty back of the car to lay down. He bounced to his feet, a look of puppy-eyed disbelief on his fuzzy face, as Jens closed him in. His heartbreak was palpable when he understood he wasn’t coming with me. My vision got a little blurry again.

If I’d known how the ride was going to turn out, I’d have called Jens right back and thrown everything back into the car.

I started down the road toward my uncharted turn to avoid the carriageway. I ran into aggravation right away when I stopped within sight of the church to find the road I needed on my Garmin. While I could see the road in my map books, I was having less luck with the GPS. There were enough roads in the area and close enough together the overlapping cluster of names obscured the actual image of the roads. I sat on the roadside fighting with the thing for 10 min, trying to find a way to turn the names off since zooming out hid the way I was looking for because it was too minor. Not an auspicious start to a tour.

I did find what I was looking for. An unpaved road with a hard-packed surface and surprisingly few rocks. Potholes were scattered here and there, water-filled and reflecting the gray sky. Few and widely spaced, I easily avoided most. I’d been very careful with assembling and loading the trailer, but saw no reason to subject it to more impact than necessary.

Maybe the drizzle wasn’t so bad…

A couple miles later, I began to wonder if the breaking up of the clouds had been a good thing. Granted, the flat, featureless lead gray drizzling on us for half of the drive to the church had been dreary but not nearly as worrying as heavy, multi-shaded dark masses developing around me. I wasn’t certain, but at times I thought I perhaps heard a distant rumble of thunder over the sound of wheels on wet dirt.

I had another problem too. I desperately needed to answer nature’s call.

After little more than 2 miles on dirt, I arrived back on pavement. The dirt road had been smoother than most pavement so my time didn’t improve much. It was nice to not worry about potholes though.

About the time I saw the steeple of Skultuna Church over the tree-line, I discovered something horrible. A dead badger. Sad as that was, the smell was worse. Clearly it had been dead for some days, rained on and rotting. Stuck with a 3% slope while dragging the trailer, I just couldn’t get away fast enough. Good thing I’d had so little to eat or I might have lost it.

The next intersection joined a road running north-south. South was Skultuna’s church and north was the little town itself. I hurried across to the cycle path before looking at my maps. I decided to wait on the church. The western part of my tour was nearly one large circle. Just 5 miles would have been missing to close the complete loop if I’d been able to take the more northern road I’d originally planned. With the adjustments necessary to avoid the carriageway, I’d had to come through Skultuna and would come through again. Just the half mile to the church would be lacking in the circle.

I decided to wait on the church until I came up on it from the south. In retrospect, I should have gone for it then, but little did I know…

I followed the cycle path through the town. My only detour was to quickly lock the trike outside a cafe, run in for a desperate bathroom break and buy a soda so I didn’t feel guilty. I should have bought a sandwich instead of soda. Hindsight. Less than 20 min later, I had to go again and, as before, couldn’t find anywhere I felt secure doing so. I have an aversion to leaving my trike on the road and/or public displays of certain body parts. Everything seemed to be fields or tangles of undergrowth so thick it rivaled the deepest Amazon jungle. I would have had to carve my way in and lacked a machete. Teach me to try staying hydrated on a tour.

I saw lightning in this passing storm

The clouds grew more threatening the further from Skultuna I went. Then came the time where all doubts I’d heard thunder were removed. Flashes of lightning and a good solid crack of sound seemed to come from overhead settled any uncertainty to such questions. With nothing but fields to either side and my little flag the tallest thing for a couple hundred yards got my heart racing. As I write this, it occurs to me that for once the scenery wasn’t marred by the presence of a single power line. Bad timing for such a rarity though I have my doubts about relying on an electrical line and pole to attract lightning instead of me. I know lightning can jump from one object to another as well.

Tree-Lined Lane

Gotta Love Umbrellas!

By some miracle, the rain held off for a bit longer. It didn’t hit me until I reached the Svåna Bruk environment. I stopped to take a picture of the road running beneath the trees. As I put the camera away, the gray veil of a hard rain fell across the fields and trees to the west. They became increasingly hazy as the front edge approached. I watched it come, resigning myself to riding wet. I suddenly changed my mind. The idea of dealing with wet clothes in my small tent with my new sleeping bad lacked any appeal. I grabbed my umbrella as the first few drops pelted my legs.

Svåna Manor

The road wasn’t the ideal spot to wait out the rain while hunched on my trike beneath the blue canopy of shelter. Just ahead I could see the gate of the Svåna manor house. I pedaled the last few yards to sit in the gravel. It worked surprisingly well. I had to hold the umbrella with one hand so it didn’t fall forward to obscure my view, but otherwise, no problem.

I’d been hoping for a bathroom at Svåna only to be disappointed. The buildings were private residences and even the manor house had a ‘Private Area’ Sign next to the gate.

Building at Svåna

Water-Driven Räck Hammer

I settled in to wait the rain out, glad to have my trike. Even with an umbrella, a bike with no place to sit while waiting out the storm would have been miserable. After a bit, I pulled out my Kindle to read with the spattering of the moderately hard rain just inches above my helmet. When it finally began to ease, I thought to take a picture with the iPhone to share with friends and family before putting the umbrella away. Except my feet and ankles, I was wonderfully dry.

Another few yards on, I found the räckhammar. Quite impressive though hard to tell without something close by to give proper scale. Boggles the mind that water provided enough power to raise that big chunk of metal.

Just beyond the hammer was the turn to Ramnäs. After the rain, I was less than thrilled to find it unpaved. The impression I had from my map books was of a road about the same size as the I’d ridden to Svåna. With few other options that wouldn’t add many, many miles, I took it.

Are we sensing a theme to this ride?

This one was worse than the first unpaved one I’d taken. It looked firm enough, but in less than 15 minutes the difference began to tell. The surface was less packed and with the recent watering it had become slightly boggy. Dragging the trailer over it felt like an extra 100 pounds had been added. There were more slopes and all of them seemed to be up. In some parts loose stones added to the effort.

The cherry on top of that merry hell was my screaming bladder. Traffic passed with surprising frequency for such a small unpaved road so I didn’t dare leave my trike where it might be hit. Why I think it would be more likely to be hit without me on it, I have no clue. The issue with fields and forest remained particularly with the traffic. Only now, water dripped through the trees. It gurgled and splashed in the ditches as I struggled uphill. Nature itself mocked me.

For Non-Swedish Speakers: Warning. Wild Children. Tame Animals.

A moment of humor offered a few seconds of relief. Slogging up a hill, I saw a sign like many posted to warn drivers of playing children. This one attempted to be entertaining about it and certainly got a breathless laugh.

Just past the sign, another cluster of clouds began to drop rain once again. At least this one was blissfully free of lightning and thunder. I put up the umbrella, but this time decided to keep going since I couldn’t go very fast and there was no wind. A house stood at the top of the long slope. In the fenced yard, a man played badminton with this son. They stopped on seeing me. The man gave a hearty laugh and said something along the lines of ‘How cool!’. Then he looked up as the rain came a little harder and asked if I was okay. I answered I was a little wet, but otherwise good.

They waved bye and wished me good trip as I began to roll faster on one of the rare downhills. The muddy road kept me from going very fast, but at least I didn’t have to pedal for a few seconds. Such moments were to be sweetly savored on this ride.

Crappy even for iPhone, but you get the idea

Then the rain came with a vengeance where the road forked. I decided I had to stop and hunker down to wait out the worst. It didn’t match the downpour on the Klarälvbanan, but not far off. It began to get through my umbrella’s fabric.

I spotted a clearing about 20 yards past the fork. A graveled spot crossed the ditch to give easy access and just enough space for me to nudge the trike off the road. The grass in the clearing had been cut recently, meaning probably about a week before. Picnic tables and a couple of stone seats were scattered around.

I stayed on the trike. The chairs and benches were wet, my trike seat dry. I took out the Kindle again though I had to prop the dry sack I carried it in over the top to protect it from the drips.

I also found myself tucking my feet as close as I could to the crossbar of the trike’s body in an attempt to keep them somewhat dry. That may have been the beginning of the end for the ride. It felt a little uncomfortable in my right hip, but not enough to make me stick my feet into the rain.

After about 40 minutes, the rain stopped abruptly. I got up to stretch, having gone a little stiff during the wait. I realized I hadn’t seen a single car the entire time I’d sat there. Trees mostly screened the turn where most of the traffic would go since the other way led to a dead end. I actually ran to the most hidden part of the clearing. Wouldn’t you know it? As I answered nature’s call, a car came. Mostly obscured by a tree and a table about 30 feet away, I don’t think they could see anything even if they had craned their heads around to look behind them.

At least it was one less discomfort as I went back to the trike. There still was the road and hills to deal with. I kept telling myself it would be better once I reached pavement. The last mile of that cursed dirt road was the worst. Looser soil turned to mud with plenty of loose stones thrown in for good measure.

My prediction of better going once I reached asphalted surfaces again was right. For about a mile. Then the climbs began. After the dirt road, I had little left. I crept upward at a crawl with screaming thighs. And curse it all, I had to pee again! I was too exhausted and miserable to notice the scenery let alone enjoy it or think about taking pictures. I came out of my pedaling daze only long enough to briefly watch a family of cranes. I would have taken a picture of them if it wouldn’t have required swapping lenses. I just couldn’t be bothered.

One climb stretched nearly unbroken for 1.5 miles. The closest thing to respite were the moments it eased to a measly 3% grade as opposed to 7% or more. Somewhere during that nightmare, my right hip gave a pop. I froze, waiting, but the pain didn’t come. That came subtly at first and then worsened with each turn of the pedals.

At least the rains had stopped for the time being. The sky even looked a bit kinder, less menacing. Small patches of blue made brief appearances.

Ramnäs Church

Finally I reached Ramnäs Church. On my trike, I searched for a bathroom, but couldn’t find one. There might have been one in the church and I saw it was open. I almost went in until I realized Sunday evening services were being held. It’s one thing to go walking in dressed for cycling when it’s open to the public. Another to do so when people are in their Sunday best and listening to a sermon. I also didn’t want to walk down that hill only to find there was no bathroom at all.

As for runestones? I pulled out my trusty iPhone and did an internet search. Ramnäs Kyrka runsten found nothing. Between my luck with runestones in the area thus far and the lack of finds via Google, I was more than happy to bet there were none. It saved me a walk (or pedal) back up that hill.

During the little break here, I also took pain meds in hopes of easing my hip. Somehow, I even found the will to continue. To think, I still had the delusion this would be a tour.

I don’t remember much about the ride between Ramnäs and Sura Church. Maybe just a few dazed recollections of more nasty climbs, but also a few down runs, hanging onto the brakes to protect my trailer. It lists a max speed of 15 mph. I’m pretty sure 30 mph would be pushing it though I did coast down one hill at 20 mph.

I was starting to feel a bit stressed when I saw the steeple of Sura Church over the trees. It meant entering into a more populated area as it came up on 6 pm. There had been too many houses and such just on the stretch between Ramnäs and Sura to camp. On the fringes of Surahammar, it could be even worse.

Sura Church

Still as I saw the distinctive stone wall that surrounds just about every old church in Sweden, I had a burst of energy as I pushed up that last hill crowned by the church. It stayed hidden behind trees for a time until I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn. When the road finally led me past them, I was stunned. Sura Church was one of the most beautiful ‘country’ churches I’d ever found. Danmark Church is beautiful, but Sura was a whole different style that took my breath.

Passed the parking lots stood a sign forbidding bikes on the paths leading up to the church. Lawless rebel that I am, I thumbed my nose at their rules and pedaled on. Or it could be exhaustion made me defy authority. Cycling, even with a painful hip is almost always easier than walking.

It didn’t save me from getting up out of the trike seat though. With the gorgeous stone foundation and lovely detailing of the exterior, I wanted to get as much of the church in frame as possible. I also wanted to capture it in a single photo rather than pray I could photoshop two parts together into something reasonable.

As it is, I seem to be trying to fix wonky photos quite a bit. It seems like every church I photograph lately has a slight fisheye effect. I wonder if they’ve always been that way with my current lens and I just didn’t pay attention. Even this one I had to fiddle with the ‘Adaptive Wide Angle’ filter in Photoshop. When I showed the unaltered version to Jens, he was baffled. He did say my standard lens is probably bottom rung since it’s the one that came with the camera. He’s suggested I do research to find a decent mid-range one to replace it. Isn’t that sweet?

Exhaustion weakened me as I wrestled the trike around and coasted down a hill to a small building where I hoped I could go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, it was locked.

Things did look up from there. It was a quick quarter mile down the church hill followed by a nice level cycle path. The path didn’t last long, ending at a side road. At the end of that short little drive, I saw a cycle/pedestrian sign at what looked like a bridge. Wearily, I headed for it.

Strömholm’s Canal Lock

The bridge crossed the Surahammar canal! As a matter of fact, a closed lock blocked the water above with a wet cascade squeezing out the edges in a gurgle. Just beyond I saw what had to be about the best sight in the world. An outhouse! It was unlit with no skylight so nearly pitch dark inside. Instead of a deep earthen pit it had bucket and smelled, but I was desperate.

After that, I noticed I’d found what was probably the best camping spot I’d seen all day. Smooth cut grass lawn with not a rock or root to be seen. The gurgle of water through the canal lock to lull me to sleep. I checked the area for signs forbidding camping but it seemed clear. Notta house to be seen and tucked back from the very quiet cycle path.

I finished my limping check of the area. I bent to take the cover from the trailer and saw stars.

Stenhuset (The Stone House)

That was it. There was no way I could stoop, bend and crawl around to put up the tent and arrange my bedding. I didn’t even think I could handle getting in and out of the tent. If I’d been hurting that badly without taking a max dose of pain meds, I would have given them a chance to work before deciding something. Since they were already in my system for an hour I shuddered to think how bad the pain would have been without them.

Ox Stall & Building at Stenhuset Museum

I think Jens was secretly glad I called for pickup. He’s nothing but supportive of my desire to tour so not a discouraging word has passed his lips. He wasn’t even irritated by an extra 3 hours in the car for the trip to Surahammar and back. I recovered the trailer to force myself to pedal on. I needed some place Jens could reach me.

Belt Wheel & 1 Ton Hammer

No hills. What a blessing as I crossed another bridge into Surahammar proper. Within minutes I saw a one of the historical/cultural signs for Stenhuset. It was right on the corner. I coasted through the parking lot and into the heart of the tiny little open air museum. With my Apple and cherries in hand, I went to a picnic table to nibble and begin writing this post.

Offering Stone

When Jens arrived about an hour later, I needed a lot of his help to load the trike. Loke alternated between being cuddly-happy to see me and wanting to mark every bush, post, tree and rock in reach.

Relief filled me as I slumped into the car seat with the heat turned up on high. The day’s ride had been pure hell dominated by my hyperactive bladder, sucking mud and hills making the trailer’s weigh 1,000 lbs, tortured muscles and scary moments with lightning. Disappointment at failing to make a tour of it warred with joy of its end. The joy won. I dozed all the way home.

This morning I can barely walk though my hip feels a bit better. Most of the pain is in my thigh muscles which is an improvement over yesterday evening. I’m feeling a bit disheartened, but odds are I’ll be attempting it again soon. I guess cycling 41 miles on a nearly level paved cycle path didn’t come close to prepping me for dragging the trailer in those conditions. I have to wonder how much easier it would have been if Loke had been at my side. Not just his company during my misery, but I suspect he pulls a bit more than I ever knew. Likely he’d have gotten me to smile and maybe even laugh more.

Hopefully he’ll be back in the traces soon.

2 Comments so far
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Have you come across Django? He rides and walks. Check out this page :0)


Comment by Derek Clark

No, I’ve never seen that blog. Thank you for showing it to me! That is so cool to see another cyclist who takes his dog and posts about it! If only I could get Loke to ride in a trailer. Of course that would beg to question what would I do with the camping gear. Hmmm. Dilemmas.

Comment by Terii

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