Terii’s Cycling Babble


Traffic Jams and New Ground
September 20, 2012, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

I’m not sure I say it enough. My husband is awesome in how supportive he is of my hobby. Tuesday morning he suggested I plan for taking the car to someplace south of Stockholm for a loop like Sunday’s. I could drop him off at work and then pick him up when I was done. I came close to ripping my hair out trying to find a place close to Stockholm that I either hadn’t done or had cycle paths between from one area to another. One small island looked intriguing, but the way off it was an insanely busy road with absolutely no shoulder between traffic and rails.

Glimpse of Autumn Leaves

Looking a bit further abroad, I spotted a castle Jens and I visited once. That evening, I commented to my hubby how annoying it was that it was too far a drive. He said it was no further from where he worked in Stockholm than his office was from Uppsala. I should do it if it was what I wanted. Intrigued, I took a closer look. I found a few things to see and in a blink I smiled at a 24-ish mile balloon loop!

The rest of the evening and early next morning, I spent sewing extra socks for Loke, prepping maps and packing the little things I take for longer day trips. Jens brought home a bag of malted milk balls for me as well. Not quite as good as Whoppers in the U.S., but tasty. Certainly enough calories to keep me going. I also had some of the hard bread with sour cream and chive filling things.

The next morning, off we went around 8 am. Jens drove between home and his office, explaining the best way to get back to the E4 through the insane amount of road reconstruction they’re doing. Parts of Stockholm are being completely rerouted. He fretted a bit about me ending up in the wrong lane of E4 and ending up in Oslo or something too. I assured him I’d be fine.

Pretty

I wasn’t completely sure of it, though at least I wouldn’t be heading into central Stockholm. The idea of driving in Stockholm proper makes my heart race. Overpasses, underpasses, tunnels. You might have to go under and then over an area before finally being able to reach your destination. I’m always impressed with my husband’s ability to navigate what to me feels like the real world equivalent of Escher’s ‘Relativity’. That’s the print with the stairs going every-which-way and strange perspectives. One of my favorites right with ‘The Waterfall’.

The traffic jam between my husband’s work and Tullgarn Castle was blissfully brief. Soon, Loke and I were speeding over the E4 with little traffic under mostly cloudy skies which made the day feel even chillier than 54 F. Loke was wound tighter than clock springs. For the hour’s drive between Stockholm and castle he didn’t settle at all. He paced a small circle in his little nook between trike, front seats and back passenger door. Or he stood with his head draped over the front passenger seat in a way reminding me of Snoopy playing vulture.

Shortly after 10 am we turned into the parking lot of the castle.

Treatment Pond at Tullgarn – April 2011

This wasn’t the first time we’ve been at Tullgarn. Last year on Easter Weekend, Jens and I drove to it after visiting an old archaeological site on the south western end of Stockholm. It made a nice outing. We found something quite surprising there as well. The board that is in charge of the castle and grounds has worked hard to make the place somewhat ‘green’.

I was quite impressed with the system when we visited last April. There had been no smell at all and kind of pretty as long as you didn’t think too hard about what it was. They wisely had the ponds and fountains fenced off for the most part.

I parked next to an apple tree and tethered Loke to one of the low limbs. He watched almost anxiously as I started pulling things out of the car. Once the luggage rack was on the ground, the first thing I did was unpack my yellow windbreaker and pull it on. It was down right nippy and with a stiff wind it just went right to the bone. Made me wonder if I should have packed my light woolies.

While working on the trike, I heard the honking of geese with another strange sound. Looking up a flock of 30 or so birds passed overhead. The odd noise was when one or more of the geese would do an almost violent mid-air twist of 90 degrees, as if beginning a barrel-roll only to change it’s mind as right itself as abruptly. It was weird to watch.

That was only the first flock of many though the rest were smaller. A dozen here. 20 there. A flock or two passed every minute, aiming for the Baltic just beyond the trees. By the time I had the trike together a couple hundred birds must have flown over. The few times the wind stopped whipping the trees, I could hear the cacophony of still many more. Tethering Loke to the trike, I went for a look.

Just a Fraction of the Flock

It caused a bit of conflict between the furball and I. He, of course, wanting to do a 15-18 mph charge for a mile or so. Me, wanting to look around for photos. I won… barely. Part of the little bay beside the castle grounds was crammed with geese. I couldn’t find a spot to get a clear photo of the most tightly packed part of the group thanks to trees and tall reeds, but I found an area past the trees and over a hedge where I could get a fraction of the feathered mass bobbing on the Baltic wavelets. I can’t begin to guess how many Canadian Geese there were, but I feel safe saying more than a thousand and yet others arriving every minute. Most were further to the right behind the tree at the edge of the photo.

I’ve seen large flocks of black birds growing up as a child. Significant flocks of kajas here in Sweden. Once, even a flock of crows that seemed to have no end in the first beginnings of dawn while heading to work early in South Bend, Indiana. I couldn’t remember ever seeing so many geese, Canadian or otherwise, in one place.

Tullgarn Palace

After finding the geese, I crossed to the other side of the parking, stopping to take a picture of Tullgarn castle/palace. Quite a long history if you click the photo. Loke still tried to run, almost strangling himself on the harness as I went in search of the ponds we’d found last year. Annoyingly, I couldn’t locate them as it all seemed to be trees and parkland right to the waters of the Baltic opposite the geese.

As I continued my search, I noticed the trike handled badly. It kept pulling sharply to the left. Stopping to figure it out, I discovered my left front wheel felt mushy. I didn’t look forward to wrestling with a flat as I returned to the car. At least it had happened before I left so I had access to the big pump instead of needing to work with my emergency one. It’s a good little pump, but it takes forever to inflate even a 20″ tire.

The tire didn’t seem to flatten any more over the few minutes it took to slowly return to the car. I decided to pump it up and wait 15-20 min to see if it lost pressure. It was easy enough to do since the big pump has a pressure gauge. I filled it to the proper PSI and cleaned out the car a little, fed Loke the sausage patty from the McDonald’s muffin we’d bought him, brushed him a bit. It was during this wait I also discovered I’d managed to leave the duck tape at home.

Old Stone Barn at Tullgarn

Not good. Granted, I had Loke’s socks from the last trip, but already worn a bit they likely wouldn’t last long. I had 4 new socks, but with only 1 layer of tape, they wouldn’t take much abuse either. After a some agonizing, I decided to go for it any way. I could make the socks last by turning them so he’d run on fresh tape which hopefully would carry him through to the end. Running him on grass and dirt as much as possible would help to.

Power Tower!

Not sure what made the tire lose over 30 lbs of pressure in 4 days, but it didn’t seem to be a leak. If it was, it was a very, very slow one. I decided to not bother dismantling the wheel to submerge the tube in the bathroom sink. I hitched Loke up, made sure the car was locked and off we went.

Loke ran as if his feet had wings for over a quarter mile. The nippy temps and sheer exuberance he has helped propel us to almost 19 mph even on a 2% grade. I helped of course. He yodeled at me when I stopped to take pictures of an old stone barn and an odd tower. It had been set up as a power pole and looked like it had parts on the side which may have been something like a transformer arrangement. Those looked to me like additions. Beyond that, the building was baffling. The footprint wasn’t much more than 3 yards to a side and yet it was two very tall levels. Not enough space to live in even by medieval standards and with such small interior spaces stacked on top of each other, useless for storage.

After that, I let Loke race onward. Lucky for him a woman was walking a Giant Schnauzer at the time I saw a mare and foal in a field on the long straight stretch to the main road. The foal was cutely playing with fallen tree branch of all things. It stopped to stare, leafy toy forgotten in its mouth, as we streaked past. We did slow from 18 mph to about 16 as Loke took a glance back at the dog. Knowing how Giant Schnauzers can be, I didn’t want to stick around. Not even for a such an adorable photo as a half grown horse with a big leafy stick in hanging from its mouth.

I’ve never seen a Giant Schnauzer other than in photos. Those do not do the size of the dogs justice. He wasn’t quite the size of the Great Dane ‘ponies’ I see at the grocery sometimes, but he looked a close second. I’m glad all he did was watch us whip by.

At the head of the shady lane to the castle was a larger road. The sign across from us had distances to various places in each direction, but it was the small green and white bike sign with the word Sverigeleden that made me grin. That why I decided to call those “The Green Signs of Happiness”.

Traffic came steadily, but not irritating or overwhelming as on the Drottningholm ride so I had little trouble making the left turn. A nice shoulder helped our way after that. At times it was wide enough for both Loke and the trike with not so much as my mirror lapping over the white line into the car lane. The furry one still loped happily in and out of the patchy sunshine as we made our way out of the ‘string’ of our balloon loop. All that slowed him down were the hills where I couldn’t keep up the speed. My bright yellow windbreaker stayed zipped to my chin. Armor against that wind which came with a vengeance where trees gave way to fields.

During that stretch we had an ‘incident’ with a cat. Were he human Loke would be mortified to know I’m telling this to the world. A cat scared him near to death. As we came up to a patch of particularly thick weeds, I noticed something white lurking in the middle of them. How Loke missed it when it was less than 3 feet away, I have no clue. Maybe he was too busy running with his husky smile and the wind was wrong. We’d almost passed when the white and tabby feline of medium size sprang its ambush. Somehow, it briefly caught Loke’s rapidly moving right hind leg though his forward movement pulled it out of the cat’s grasp.

Loke yelped as all 4 feet left the ground in a startled jump before leaping into hyperspeed without even looking back, his tail tucked. I twisted around to look back to where the cat sat on the shoulder, looking disappointed. I couldn’t stop laughing. Since I’d been watching when it ‘attacked’, I’d noticed the complete lack of aggression in the cat’s behavior. I have the feeling it grew up with dogs as playmates and it was sad to see this potential new friend running away as in fear for his life.

To be absolutely certain, I did stop Loke after most of a mile to make sure he had no scratches. I couldn’t find so much as a spot of blood. I was still laughing.

A short time later, we came to the next intersection which was a bit busier and lacking a shoulder. Parallel to it lay a nice cycle path which is often better than the best shoulder a road can offer. I discovered this was slug central. This whole year I’ve seen maybe 3 slugs. There was no way to count how many I dodged on the half mile of path it was to the first church of the day.

Trosa Lands Church

Trosa Lands (that is the true Swedish name, not a translation) Church was fairly uninspiring as far as Swedish Country churches go. A squat looking bell tower with the entrance to a block-shaped main room. The top of the tower was nice. The more interesting things I found was an old window with ‘Anno 1618’ painted above it and a gorgeous wood and iron door into what I think is the sacristy chamber.

Yard work was being done and a few people were visiting graves, so I left Loke outside the wall. I didn’t find any runestones. Since the church is what is called a vägkyrka (road church), I tugged on the main door to see if it was open.

Trosa Lands Church 1618 Window

‘Road side’ churches are those churches with interest either architecturally or historically, accessible to road travelers and have extended opening hours particularly during the summer months. They have certain requirements to be listed as a road side church. 1) Easily accessible particularly for road users traveling through. 2) Be open for visitors at least 5 hours per day and at least 2 consecutive weeks during June to August. 3) Provide staff for the call and if opportunity exists for guidance. 4) Will provide services. 5) Will have a toilet.

Sadly, I seem to have arrived too early for Trosa Lands church to be open. The bathroom was unlocked though.

Loke continued to set a brisk pace as we went onward. Most of the time we rolled/jogged along at 8.8 mph and others, we went at 12-13 mph. Fields and woods went by and once a flock of ravens seemed to be meeting in a small cluster of trees. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 or 3 ravens together at a time. Eight of them flapping around makes for an impressive sight. They’re as large as some hawks. One of my favorite birds aside from raptors.

While riding the path, I discovered it wasn’t only the Sverigeleden that claimed the stretch. A yellow sign turned up every now and again with ‘Näckrosleden’ on it. ‘Waterlily trail’. It might mean something other than Waterlilly though.

Runestone Sö #36

The paved cycle path came to an abrupt end, but the signs (yellow and green) steered me down an small roughly paved lane. Pine needles scattered across it and the right edge of the road was covered with long stretches of vivid green moss. It was a pleasant ride through the shade as one of the few times the sun made an appearance lasting more than 2 minutes. I still hadn’t taken off my windbreaker though it was unzipped below my collarbones at least.

Barely 100 yards past the turn, I found my first runestone of the day. It sat right at the road edge as if waiting for me.

And during my research I discovered there were two viking age carvings in the immediate area as well. Drat!

I took the time there to reluctantly put Loke’s socks on. I started with the used ones. He didn’t argue with me too much about, though each time I fastened the last velcro strip, he gave me an expectant look. I read his expression easily. “So where’s the tasty treat you gave me with the socks last time??” I’d forgotten them in the car of course.

The road ran between a field on the left and a sharp slope that looked almost like a small cliff on the ride. Less than a mile past the runestone, it was time to chew our way up a significant hill toward what looked like an old (1700’s or so?) fancy stable. It was being used as a feed store, crowded around with so many storage buildings and the like I was uninspired to take a photo. It’s like seeing a castle with a bunch of semi-trucks parked out front. Ruins the image so you don’t even want to take pictures. That’s how I feel any way. Oddly I found no sign of an equally fancy or fancier manor/palace to go with said centuries-old looking stable.

Glimpse of the Baltic

The cycle route signs and my maps both indicated I had to cross the busy road there for a smaller one that went south east. I sat at the intersection for almost 10 minutes before getting enough of a break in the constant stream of cars to scurry across.

Fields stretched in all directions as I pedaled south. With few hills for most of the way, Loke kept up an easy lope of about 10.5 mph. It would have been faster except for the wind we both pushed against.

About half an hour later, Loke and I coasted into Trosa from the east. It was a small town with a slight touristy feel like Sala or Sigtuna. Cycle paths lined most of the streets. Just as we came into the town proper, we surprised a hare. Actually, the poor thing was already a bit startled and freaked out. A dog on a run-line in the backyard of a house had seen us and set to barking, which was what had startled the hare in the front yard. It went to bolt across the street which was toward us, saw Loke and completely panicked. It jumped in the air a few times while running in circles like a drunken bat on speed. Finally, it straightened itself out to shoot across cycle path and road to vanish in hedges. It passed less than 10 feet away from us. I had a tight grip on brakes and Loke’s harness.

I waited for Loke to calm down before pressing on.

Some of Trosa’s Old Wooden Buildings

The Sverigeleden signs took me onto a tiny little road with no cycle path. It was tough to wedge a pair of cars in between the buildings that sight right on the pavement’s edge. I actually had to scoot past a road sign and then squeeze in behind it, nearly squashing Loke against a pretty yellow wood building to let some traffic pass. While I waited for the cars to clear, I saw the little road cross from me was forbidden to cars. The sign indicated it was a walking street. Bikes were allowed, but had to respect pedestrians. As soon as I could I scooted across.

While pedaling my way between the beautiful old buildings painted in the traditional red with white trim, I spotted the rather elaborate steeple over the rooftops. Assuming it was the church, I looked at my GPS for an idea of how to get over there. That area was a bit of a maze even without the river in between. A very tiny river I might add. Less than 1/3 the width of the one close to our apartment.

Trosa Church Bell Tower

The church was something of a let down. It was a yellow plastered box capped with a peaked slate roof and completely surrounded by scaffolding. Even without metal bars and wooden planking it wouldn’t have been terribly interesting. I tethered Loke to a tree and went for a stroll around the grounds. The black wooden bell tower perched on its high dome of rock was far more appealing, particularly with the elaborate steeple.

Men were hard at work as I looked for runestones or something about the church insisted I get a picture of it in spite of the scaffolding. Nope, not a thing.

The men seemed to be adding a fresh yellow wash to the rough plaster. The front doors stood open, but not as an invitation to the public. What I could see of the inside was completely devoid of pews or any other furnishing. Nothing but the rails and planks of yet more scaffolding. The history I found said the church had much of it’s 1700’s character, but what I saw might mean that will have changed once the workmen pack up the tools of their trade and vacate the site.

Returning to Loke and the trike, I topped off the furball’s water dish and decided to nibble one of the hard-bread snacks I’d packed. While crunching away, a couple in their mid-50’s or early 60’s passed. They waved and I smiled with a nod of greeting. They took it as an invitation which I didn’t mind at all. The man was very curious about the trike and both were happy to chat. The woman spoke quite quickly and I finally apologized and said I wasn’t very good at Swedish.

Immediately, she changed to English which was actually a little worse than my Swedish. She asked where I was from. Alabama of course, she didn’t know, so I gave my fall back answer of “About 2 hours east of New Orleans”. Thanks to Katrina just about everyone in the world knows where New Orleans is. As soon as I said that she grinned and asked if I’d ever been to New Orleans. When I answered yes, she said she had visited the city in the 1970’s. Clearly she had loved it, speaking wistfully about wandering through the French Quarter, the food, the drinks, the music.

Her husband stood next to her with a tolerant and affectionate smile. Every now and again, he’d remind her to speak Swedish since she spoke it better and I understood it well enough most of the time. When she mentioned taking a ride in a taxi to look at the mansions, I said it might have been the Garden District. She couldn’t remember what the mansions looked like, but one thing she remembered most was a beautiful iron fence of corn stalks. I laughed and nodded, telling her I’d seen that same fence just 10 years ago when my husband and I took a walking tour of the Garden District. That delighted her to no end.

The idea of Katrina ruining such a beautiful city saddened her. I agreed, but said that much of what she remembered, the French Quarter, had survived since it was part of the original founding of the city and therefore had been built on dry, solid land instead of reclaimed. Much else had lost though.

They asked how I liked Sweden and if I was enjoying my visit to Trosa. I, of course, love Sweden and said I’d just come through the old streets with the wooden houses and shops which I found lovely. The man asked if I’d been to the harbor yet. It was a definite must-see. After a few more minutes, the man began nudging his wife and we parted.

Trosa Tourist Office

I took a moment to look at my maps, but decided the harbor was too far out of my way. While I didn’t have a definitive time line, I did need to be back at the car by sunset which was roughly 6:30 pm. Getting home before 9 pm would have been nice too. I did decide to look around the old sections of Trosa though. Check another street for more of the wonderful old structures and maybe try to find a path beside the tiny river.

I found the old town center which had some shops, even a couple banks and the tourist office which was in a particularly pretty building. I scoured the shopping area for some place that might sell duck tape since I’d already had to turn Loke’s socks.

After that brief in-town excursion, we made our way to the main road out of town. Back to a cycle path! Loke still went strong as we ticked over toward mile 12. Me? I felt more like we’d done 25 miles already with the hills and that annoying wind.

Heading west, I kept an eye out for a sign indicating the next castle . All I found at roughly the right area were those pointing to a riding school. Juggling my map-books, I decided to go look. I’d actually looked at the castle on-line before starting the ride. Not sure why since I usually want to be surprised, so I knew it had to be there.

It was a short half mile jaunt down an arrow straight road. It felt more like 3 miles. Not a tree within half a mile, the breeze was unrelenting. It felt like I’d left a brake locked or something. Even Loke went with his head down and eyes squinted. It was a relief to turn onto a little unpaved lane with trees walling each side.

Thureholm Castle

Thureholm Castle was both like and unlike many castles, manors and palaces I’ve seen in Sweden. The ramp leading up to the main building which sat at the back of a forecourt above other buildings. I don’t recall seeing such an arrangement before.

Castle photoed, it was a quick glide back to the main road with the cycle path. Even Loke got an extra boost from that wind at our backs.

Can’t remember much about the ride between Thureholm (Tureholm, which ever) and Västerljung except one thing. I seemed to be mostly uphill and the smell! Ugh! How I pity the inhabitants. Pig poop! Miles and miles of that reek in my nose as we made our way to the church.

Västerljung Church

Västerljung Church was a nice change from the other churches. A different color plaster and copper roof with a tall steeple on the tower. Okay, so not so different except for the roof and plaster.

Södermanland’s Runestone #SÖ40

As I came into view of the church, I had a brief chat with a couple of boys who seemed to be about 9 years old. They asked a couple of questions about the trike while one of them struggled to keep his Swedish Elk Hound puppy from charging Loke. Young as it was (4 month) it didn’t seem to have any puppy friendliness to my white furball. He was nearly big enough to drag the boy like a rag on the end of his leash. He was otherwise a cutie!

I looped around to the church parking lot and left Loke in a patch of shady grass. Almost immediately I found Södermanland’s Runestone #Sö40!

It mentions figures on the stone, but I didn’t notice any. I guess this means I really should slow down and take a closer look, hmm?

Not far past Västerljung, semi-disaster struck. I pedaled down a small country road with a few curves when I discovered a cycle path. I took a look. By now, Loke had worn through the last sections of his last socks so I saw the softer gravel and took off. It was decently well packed and smooth. An extremely well-tended path for it’s remote local and the fact it was gravel. Loke pushed us into a brisk 9.1 mph as we rode between a wall of weeds on the left and a wall of unharvested wheat on the right. I remember feeling surprised at the sight of untouched wheat. Seems rather late in the season for it to be in the field.

We zipped past a house, heading down a hill. The next thing I knew we were halfway up the next slope. I had geared down on the rear cogs, but forgot to do the same with the front chain rings. I couldn’t power up in the higher gears. So, I locked the brakes and tried to get out of the trike. The slope was too steep. My now-well-adjusted brakes held fine, but the tires kept slipping on the gravel when I tried to rock up and out. I was stuck.

My heart in my mouth, I concluded my only choice was to let the trike roll backwards down the hill some 50-60 feet. I thought about trying to turn the trike as I did, but that could just leave me in a worse predicament. Though I hadn’t touched selector for the front rings, the chain gave a loud ‘POP’ and jumped to the small ring.

I made it down to the bottom of the hill. Rather than risk stalling out again, I dragged the trike up (with Loke’s help) until the slope leveled off somewhat. Overheated and furious at myself for the carelessness, I got back on the road as quickly as I could to avoid a replay. The road leveled and Loke wanted to run so I went to put the chain into the second ring. It hiccuped. It bounced. It jerked. It twitched. It wouldn’t stay on the central ring for anything. I let it go back to the lower gears and pedaled. I could see that 2 or three of the teeth had gotten bent.

Just as I decided I needed a closer look, I saw a sign for a cultural sight just 100 meters down a dirt road. I pulled into a space of nicely flattened grass and double checked they were bent and not that a pebble had gotten stuck or something silly. Nope bent.

A few minutes passed where I just stared at it. I finally decided that, while annoying, it wasn’t the ruin of the ride. I would slow me down certainly. I’d have to pedal more, definitely, but other than that I could manage. Now, if my granny gear ring had bent I’d have been in trouble. I need that little ring to make it up the steeper hills. As long as I could climb the hills, I’d press on.

Silda Grave Mounds

That decided I turned my attention to the site. Right away my attention was caught by small mounds so reading that I’d discovered Silda Burial Mounds. Among some of the oldest burials I’ve come across I think. 40 A.D.? I think there might have been one place with burials in late B.C., but I can’t remember exactly.

As you can see from the photos, clouds were thickening by this time. The forecast had warned of chance of rain in the evening and it was coming fast onto 4 pm.

I was tired. Battling the wind had taken a lot out of me as had the struggle with the gravel hill of destruction. At least the wind was against us less as we pushed on back toward ‘string’ of our balloon loop. There was another church, but it was a little out of my way nor had I mapped it for some reason so it slipped by as we poddled along in my little chain ring. We lost about 1 mph on our average thanks to it though Loke still did his best to keep it up.

We came into the little village of Vagnhärad. I had a bit of confusion through there between trying to see the church steeple I thought had to be there and my map not quite matching what my GPS showed.

I did quick bit of research to be sure that the church at Vagnhärad wasn’t a modern place of worship. My mapbook doesn’t discriminate between churches that are centuries old and mere decades or less. It turns out the oldest parts date from the 1100’s. It is nearly identical to Trosa Lands Church! Same square main building. Squat, strong tower. Yellow painted plaster over the stone/brick. Even down to roofs of copper and number of windows! Just slight differences in the roof and steeple and the towers. I had to look for that small difference. I’ll hopefully get to it one day.

As I approached a major intersection, the first rain came. Hurriedly, I coasted under the shelter at a gas station to make certain of the weather cover on my camera bag. It didn’t last long and less than 5 minutes later, I hurried across one road to a cycle path following another. The same path I’d jumped onto at the beginning of the loop!

I was tired when we reached the road that would finally take us back to the shady lane to the castle. Rain started again and then passed over us as we waited for a break in the cars to scoot over.

Rainbows!

Sun broke out between the gray as I pushed on as hard as I could with the little chain ring. My right knee was starting to hurt with the strain of keeping a high cadence to keep our speed up. Then something appeared to distract me. A rainbow arched over the road directly in front of me from one field of wheat stubble to the other. It looked almost close enough to touch. I don’t think I’ve seen an unbroken rainbow touching the ground more than twice in my life. Stopping, I dove for my camera. Rain started to pour down on me as I turned it on. Part of me knew I should put the camera away, but I tried sheltering it as much as I could and snapped a shot.

It’s not the full arch of color from field to field, but I did at least catch part of the second rainbow in the upper right of the shot.

Beautiful. Cramming the camera back into the bag, I saw something stunning and unpleasant. Heavy, angry clouds the same blue-ish shade of bruises. I honestly went ‘ACK!’, fastened the photo bag shut and took off. Loke didn’t need any excuses to run. He was happy to do so. The rain storm came up fast. Finally I accepted we weren’t going to out run it and stopped to take a bunch of photos to merge.

Odd 90+ degree view. I like it!

An example of panorama pushed over a 90 degree field of view. Click on the thumbnail for a full view. I think this is my favorite of any photo (or series) taken by me ever.

Loke and I still went fast as we could. The rain caught us about the same time we got to the castle road. The light along the tree-lined lane was almost as dim as dusk. Splats of water hit us, but not from overhead. The tree leaves were thick enough to hold back rain a bit. It came in from the side. The wind, hard and steady most of the day, had kicked up to storm force just shoved the rain right at us between the tree trunks.

The moderate rain became a torrent as we turned onto the final stretch along the inlet where the geese had bobbed on the waters that morning. It flew at us from a nearly horizontal angle. Loke’s head went down almost to the road, ears flattened as hard as they would go against his head, eyes almost closed and even tail clamped against his haunches. I rode with my head tilted so the bill of my cap protected most of my face. The drops stung and felt like they were on the verge of freezing.

I was so glad to see the car. I think Loke was too though I had to leave him tethered to the apple tree as I hurried to put everything away.

Of course, as soon as I had Loke jump into his spot, the rain stopped.

I could stop the post there, but I want to write about the sunset for myself if nothing else. The drive back to Jens’ work was tedious. Most of the time was spent in one long traffic jam. I’d put the last bit of my equipment at the car right at 5:03 pm. I picked up Jens at 6:30. Shortly after leaving his office, we broke free of traffic. I noticed red tinging clouds the color of dark iron, slate and pewter. It came from beneath and faded to purple as it reached further ‘up’ the clouds. The colors intensified until it was the same deep garnet you can find in blood oranges with lighter shades of scarlet and red-gold closer to the horizon. It was a stormy, glorious kind of sunset and I’ve never seen one with such dark yet strong colors. It took my breath and was the perfect ending to a day which had been difficult at a few moments. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but I was driving and not enough shoulder to pull over for pictures on the E4. *mournful sigh*

The last matter of business for this post is to say my trike is already at the wonderful shop in Stockholm. Loke’s been a bit more lazy in the apartment today though he’s been perky enough on his walks. His feet are fine in spite of the fact his socks were ribbons and less than useless with still 6 miles to the castle.

I guess I can’t really complain unless it’s about the fact I won’t be able to ride this weekend. The shop says Monday to get the proper chain ring and check the gears. Ah well.

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A Landmark Ride
September 16, 2012, 12:50 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Old Gas Pump & Older Building

Loved This Hollow, Resilient Tree

And not in the sense of churches and castles though there are those as well.

I decided I wanted to go for a ride when I woke yesterday. I sat down and plotted out what I’ll start calling a ‘Balloon Ride’. That is an out and back with a loop in between. It turned into a 25 mile ride leaving from a castle to visit another castle and 3 churches before returning to the first. It looks like a rough outline of a balloon with a string.

After printing the maps, I woke Jens. He wanted to get up early any way and I asked if he’d drive me. When I told him about the ride, he pointed out that with a loop I could drive myself. I thought about it. Did I trust the trike? Yes. Did I trust that Loke could run the distance? Yes, after all he’d run 24 miles on the island ride and still had energy to be a PITA.

That said, Jens agreed to drive me if I really wanted him to, but he would love it if I drove myself. It would spare him the time on the road and save extra miles on the car. I considered it as I made extra socks for Loke. In the end, I decided I’d do it. We’d talked about this sort of arrangement back when I was first trying to get my Swedish driver’s license. It was time to put it in practice. If anything went wrong where I absolutely couldn’t get myself back to the car, Jens would get his dad to drive him to our car or worse case, he’d rent one.

Tidö Castle

Intricate Down Spout Above Castle Gate

As soon as I had the socks finished, I packed what I’d need. To easily find my start point, Tidö Castle, I pulled the coordinates from Wikipedia for the GPS. Who knows what would have turned up if I’d tried typing in the name. It probably would have picked something way down to the south or the like.

Loke seemed a bit excited as we left. Confused as well. I had the clothes. He was wearing his harness. The problem was one of our packmates was missing. It took him a while to settle as we drove off toward Tidö. I was a bit dismayed by the weather as we left. The morning had dawned clear and the forecast for Västerås was for more of the same. Yet the sky was obscured by misty gray clouds. Not the sort threatening rain, but still enough to mute the colors and light of day.

It felt just a short time later we cruised through an industrial section of Västerås to reach the countryside on the south side. The road toward Tido was quite small, curvy and hilly. One hill in particular I thought, “I’m going to hate that on the return.” Then I slowed to a crawl to pass dozens of Weimaraners and a single Springer Spaniel. It seemed to be some kind of hunting dog competition. In a field to one side 3 dogs were running crazy zig-zags in search of birds. Utter chaos. I suddenly didn’t like the idea of pedaling past there only to have 30+ dogs hot on our tails.

Can You Spot The Deer?

The last straw came when I arrived at the castle grounds themselves. A sign indicated parking 50 meters ahead, but it only led me to a farm yard. Big buildings encircled it and lots of vehicles every which way that looked as if they’d maybe need to move at any time. No place that looked safe and out of the way to park for 4-6 hours. I drove a little further down where I found what looked like the proper parking lot for the castle. The problem with it was a road boom. Granted, it was open, but would it be open at 5 pm or would I find the car locked in?

I tucked the car in the farm yard area where I figured it would be safe enough for a few minutes to look over the maps. Between the hunting dogs and the parking issue, I decided I’d start from one of the churches. That would chop 8 miles or so off the ride, but better that then disaster. Still, I wasn’t going to leave without taking a stroll around the castle. In a field at the back, I spotted a deer. It stood and watched us warily as we ambled along the rear wall. Personally, with all the dogs, I think the deer should have been making tracks for safer pastures. If it didn’t, it was going to have a very exciting day unless the dogs are trained to ignore deer.

During my relaxing walk around the castle, the skies started to clear which made me grin. By the time I got back to the car, I was happy to pull off my wind breaker.

Barkarö Kyrka

The church I’d decided as an alternate beginning point was about 5 miles away.

Barkarö Church was a perfect launching point. Nice large parking lots to put the car and it felt relatively secluded with low traffic on the shady, narrow roads. I tethered Loke to a sign in the shade and wandered over for a look at the church.

Simple plastered exterior painted yellow. I thought at first I could get a look inside since the heavy shutter like outer doors were open, but alas, the wood and glass inner doors were firmly locked. Through the glass I could see a very old baptismal font carved from stone which likely weighed as much as a horse. Little else.

Loke sat pretty and wagged his tail at me when I came back to unload the trike. He woofed at me a few times, letting me know I was much to slow. Around 11 am, I finally locked the car, hitched Loke and clipped in.

I love old buildings like this!

Loke was in a frenzy as he bolted off with the trike in tow, me pedaling as fast as I could so he wasn’t completely dragging me. He made a huffing kind of sigh when I stopped us less than 200 yards along to take a picture of an old farm building. A moment later we were zipping along the curves at nearly 18 mph.

The skies cleared and the last nip in the air eased away as the sun shone done. Loke’s tongue flopping husky grin became a warm pant. To me the temp was perfect, but anything short of freezing is warm for the furball. He didn’t seem terribly interested in water when I offered it to him at mile 2 or even mile 3 for that matter. He just wanted to run. I put socks on him at about mile 3. He didn’t mind them as much as usual since I gave him a little bit of dried chicken for each. By the 4th sock, he even tried to be helpful. Challenging for him since it was one of his hind feet.

Fullerö Castle

After a few miles on the tiny country roads we made a brief turn onto one large enough to have proper lanes. About a quarter mile later we left it for a smaller, tree-lined lane to approach the second castle of the day.

Fullerö Castle wasn’t open to the public sadly. Marked private all I could see was one little corner of it through gate flanked by tall hedges. I half expected it though since there wasn’t an description of it in my map book. The end of one wing that I could see hinted at a very beautiful, wooden manor house. Not often I find one of wood. Those are rarer even than wooden churches.

Like many other places I’ve photographed, it was once owned by the Oxenstierna family. I’m starting to think they’ve owned every castle and manor house in Sweden at one point or another. At least within 100 miles of Uppsala. A castle not far from Stockholm used to be theirs (Mörby which is now a ruin), a couple others near Uppsala and now Fullerö and Tidö southwest of Västerås. If I can ever successfully pull off a week long tour, I might find their reach extended further south as well. Aside from kings, they are one of the most frequently mentioned families in the history of the places I look in to. They are (were?) apparently one of the oldest noble families with several branches.

First Runestone of The Day

Leaving the partial glimpsed manor house meant pedaling back to the busier road. Quite a few cars, but polite drivers and not nearly as busy as it could have been. Sunday traffic is generally less hectic than weekdays. Loke started drinking the water enthusiastically when I offered it to him at bus stops. As we headed north toward Västerås, I finally took a turn into a residential area where the little streets ran parallel to the larger road. It came to an end at a cycle path and I stopped to regard a pair of signs. One indicated Önstensborg. That intrigued me. ‘Borg’ translates into fort which typically means a medieval or even earlier fortified village like Ismanstorp. I couldn’t quite figure out where it was. The grass track between fields on the other side of the busy road maybe? Irritated that it was so vague I went on.

The cycle path took me deeper into the industrial fringes of Västeras. In spite of that, the path itself was quite pleasant. It led through dense shady groves of trees that obscured the views of busy road and unattractive industrial complexes. I had to leave the cool green at some point and the path even helped with that as it took a sharp turn west over the road where it split at an intersection.

Second runestone of the pair. Just a ‘Rune Animal’, no inscription.

Loke still trotted along like a machine, running every chance he got as we went past building suppliers and who knows what else. Not the prettiest place to ride, but at least the day itself had turned so glorious. Going through that tedium, it was a shock when I saw a runestone sitting in a patch of neatly mowed grass to next to the cycle path. Stopping, I gave Loke water before gathering my camera. There was another stone on the other side of the road.

Västmansland (West Mans Land) is the name of the ‘state’ which surrounds Västerås and the region has very few runestones. Near as I can tell Uppland, particularly the area around Uppsala and perhaps extending a bit south toward Stockholm has the highest density. The fall off rate from ‘many’ runestones to ‘none’ is very abrupt. Where as Uppland has over 1000 known stones, Västmansland has little over 30 that are numbered. Most of those seem to be associated with the cathedral or a huge mound and stone ship complex on the east side of Västerås. On the flip side, it has a much higher concentration of Bronze Age/Early Iron Age rock carvings particularly in the area between Västerås and Enköping. I’m looking forward to riding around there and hope I can actually find those!

Enough rambling! Back to the ride!

Loke waited with a surprising amount of patience as I scurried across the street for the animal runestone. Once I sat back down in the trike, I gave him another bit of chicken jerky which made him very happy. With that brief rest, he was ready to dash on.

Lundby Church

South took us from the industrial area and back into what looked like countryside miles and miles away from anything resembling a city. One would have thought were 30 miles into forests and fields instead of a mere 5 or 10. The road was small and curving as we approached our second church of the day.

Lundby Church was a delight! It might have been plastered in the past, the tower certainly was, but most visible were the stones. Circling around to the parking lot, I found a nice grass spot in the shade for Loke before looking for good angles. I had the usual difficulty with the focal length and space available. Finally I stepped up onto the church yard wall. It was over a meter thick and topped with a dense mat of low growing plants.

Lundby Church Interior

As I stood, balanced on that uncertain surface in an attempt to get two decently aligned and exposed photos for ‘stitching’, someone hailed me. An older couple stood near my trike about 15 feet away. The man asked, with a grin, if I was getting a good photo and I answered ‘Of course!’ Then he turned his attention to the trike with a multitude of questions. Was it easy to ride? Did it have an electric motor? How many gears?

Then the woman asked if I’d brought it from England with me. I answered I’d purchased the trike from England, but I was from the US. Such attention to the trike is unusual, but soon they were asking about Loke as well. What kind of dog? How far could he run? Did I make his shoes myself? They thought him very handsome.

After a bit they wished me a good ride and went on into another part of the church yard as I stepped down from the wall.

The church was open and I stepped into the porch before realizing people exiting had been there for the baptism of a baby. I hurriedly scurried out to finish the circle around the outside. After a few minutes I poked my nose inside and saw an ‘official’ looking man and woman and quietly asked if I could come in for pictures. The man looked at his watch before saying I was more than welcome to do so though there would be services in an hour. I promised I’d be very quick. Such a small church took little time to explore and I took only two photos. I thanked the woman before leaving.

More Old Gas Pumps

The road got narrower and curvy. At one point, I thought the pavement ended, but no. It just got patchy.

This really seemed to the ride for old style gas pumps! First the very old one at Tidö with the glass cylinder on top which might have been from as early as the 1920’s. These two (with the same Esso trade mark) which could be 1950’s. The last vestige of an old fill station next to some houses.

Loke’s stamina seemed inexhaustible as the miles went by. Except for uphills, his (and therefore the trike) speed never went below 8.3 mph. At times he would do quarter to half mile stretches at 12 mph on the flats before slowing back to 8.3. Even a bit warm, he just wanted to keep going and briskly. Since his surgery he just seems unstoppable.

About a mile from the next church of the ride, my heart dropped into my stomach. Something went wrong with the drive train. It was as if the chain slipped and lurched past a section of gears somewhere. It wasted a lot of the transfer of power between pedals to tire not to mention made it difficult to pedal. It made the chain jerk and jump around so much I was certain it would come off the front chain rings. I pushed to a spot where the ditch bank widened a little so I could get off the road to look.

It’s difficult to get a good idea of what’s happening between the gears and chain with a trike. It’s so long that if you’re moving the pedals it’s nearly impossible to see what’s going on with the rear derailleur even if you don’t have a seat and luggage rack with panniers in the way. After a couple cars passed on that narrow little road, I decided I had to get some place with more room to dismantle the trike. A quick glance up showed me the church steeple seemingly so close. The only choice I seemed to have was the church parking lot unless there was a proper bus stop bay between here and there.

Loke helped as much as he could as I nursed my wounded trike along. I did some diagnostic experimentation too. Flipping gears made little difference except to the frequency of the jumps. Harder gears, more often. Easier gears, less. That told me it had to be in the rear derailleur or something between. With Loke pulling so determinedly that our speed was roughly 7 mph in spite of the problem in the drive train, we quickly reached the church.

Loke watered and shaded by the churchyard wall, I proceeded to pull the seat and panniers off. Less than a minute later, I was rolling my eyes and correcting the problem. It was a pebble half the size of a green pea. Directly under the seat is a guide wheel that helps to stabilize the chain between the front chain rings and rear cogs. It’s toothed like a gear. Somehow a pebble had gotten wedged between two of the teeth which made the chain slip and lurch 3 or 4 links when it came around. A quick flick of the finger to remove it and all was good. Made me glad the church had been so close and Loke decided to be so helpful. I shudder to think what that mini-rock was doing to my chain each time it slipped. I never would have spotted it with the seat in the way.

Dingtuna Church

With the trike put back together and near Loke, I did a quick round of Dingtuna Church. A rather unassuming church with much in common with the first one of the day though the plaster was a bland white in desperate need of paint instead of bright yellow.

Researching this church led me to learn about ‘stave’ churches. They’re wooden churches built in a particular style. They were significant examples of wooden medieval architecture in Europe, but sadly many have been lost. Given how frequently stone churches burn, not surprising the wooden ones are mostly gone. Most were built by Vikings when they began to convert to Christianity so it’s no wonder they have pre-Christian style elements. There are traces of about 20 such churches in Sweden. Quite a few more were built in Norway and a few of them are still standing. The picture of the one in Borgund, Norway that I found on Wikipedia is breath-taking. Makes me sad to think all of Sweden’s are gone.

Loke was again ready to run when I was done with the church. Just a short distance on (couple miles at most) we passed the little road which would have been the ‘string’ of the balloon to and from Tidö Castle. Though it was nearing 4 pm, I was feeling a little sad with the ride’s end so near. Loke ran the last 3 miles with the same vigor as the first. He really seemed to have enjoyed the day.

Then we were rolling to a stop in Barkarö Vicarage parking lot. Loke gulped some water and then seemed disappointed when I began dismantling the trike. He woofed at me a few times before flopping down with a sigh.

He still had plenty of energy to be a huge pain once we got home.

The ride was wonderful. The day had turned beautiful. I had 3 churches, 2 castles and 2 runestones to show for it. Most important, for the first time ever, I’d taken the trike in the car to do a loop somewhere new. It had been a worrying moment when the pebble messed with my chain, but it all turned out good! It could lead to problems though. How often can I get my hubby to take the train to work…. *wink*



Apathy, Autumn & Overdue Ride
September 10, 2012, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

I have been riding. Not as frequently as I should, but on occasion at least.

This entire year has been an aggravating muddle full of failed tours, miserable birthdays, a cycling accident, broken trike parts and health difficulties for both the fuzzy one and myself. Last week I finally noticed that my usual enthusiasm and passion for cycling had just… gone. Last week, I had brief flickers of it when I stepped outside under a crystalline sky of autumnal blue with brisk temps and giggled at the thought of a ride. 5 min later, it was gone like water draining from a bucket riddled with holes. Getting dressed and assembling the trike felt like way more effort than it was worth.

And it seems autumn is truly here. It wasn’t announced with the turning of the leaves. They are still quite green except tiny peeks of yellow on 1 tree out of every 100 or so. Perhaps the Swedish TV commercials were a hint. One day they were shouting wildly about summer sales this and summer sales that. It seemed just a day later I looked up in bafflement from my 3D fiddling as a commercial hollered about an autumn sale. Autumn?

Just a couple days later, it let me know. I stepped out and it felt like fall. This has been a very cool, wet and strange summer so the temp wasn’t a clue. I’ve talked quite a bit about the feel of a season and this day just had it. Some specific briskness in the wind utterly different from an equally cold day a few weeks previous. Never fails to put a spring in my step those first days. The next day it was back to a more summery feel, but the change had begun.

Loke seems to have completely recovered from his surgery. I’m profoundly grateful. When we’ve taken the trike out, he’s been thrilled to death to run even though it’s just been river loops with various additions.

Vaksala Kyrka – 2010

On the 4th of September, I decided to get a decent ride in. There are runestones at Vaksala I’ve never seen so I decided to go ‘get’ them. It was a glorious day with that definite feel of fall.

Loke was a bit crazy to go. It’s lovely to see him with his old fire even when it’s over the usual places.

The Vaksala loop takes us past the archaeological digs at Gamla Uppsala. The sheer scale of them is downright impressive. They cover acres by now. One older (abandoned) house has had every inch of ground around it for 50 yards or more scraped back with little stick markers everywhere. In some places tarps have been pinned down with rocks to protect the evidence beneath.

The rest of the ride was uneventful as far as I can remember. If not for the clear skies and my determination to enjoy such a glorious day where Loke could run without risk of fainting from heat stroke, it would have been tedious. I thought about doing the full 13 mile loop, but the 2 tedious miles past flat, featureless fields made me go ‘ick’, so the 10 miler it was.

I took a short cycle path of gravel to the church rather than riding to Granby Mall and cutting back. It brought me to a tight residential cluster of small wooden houses reminiscent of an old church village. Within moments of passing through that, I came upon Vaksala’s churchyard wall. There were the runestones.

They stood lined up prettily along the church’s stone wall. Aggravatingly, I found no signs for them. There are also two stones or fragments in the outer wall of the church that I chose to save for another day. Any motivation to ride. All I managed to find on the internet is a number range for them. Uppsala Runestones 959 to 967 with the exception of 961 which sits a quarter mile or so away on side of the 288 road out of Uppsala. That number range includes the 2 in the church walls. No pictures or information for those stones, so no way I can puzzle out which is which. *sigh*

As I made my way home from the church, it occurred to me that I actually missed the crows that nest in an area next to the 4H fields. The past summers I’ve ridden through there the trees were full of the raucous calls of the birds as they tended their young. I have no clue why they weren’t there this year. Makes the place feel strangely empty. I’m sure the tenants in the apartments nearby were grateful for the respite.

Another ride I’d planned to do was a 14 mile loop out toward Läby Kyrka, down toward the shopping center with a side trip to a cluster of stones. That ended up derailed when I found the Gamla Börje Road stripped right down to the rocky road bed. It was as bad as any far back-country unpaved road that has been freshly turned. Huge, loose rocks everywhere. Loke was limping in less than 100 yards and I’m sure my rear derailleur took knocks. No way I could crawl across nearly 3 miles of that. I think that’s the ride where I settled for adding the field loop to the river. Supposedly, they’re supposed to be done with that road at the end of this month. That would be nice since it’s the springboard for most of my longer local rides.

That said, I’m glad they’re completely relaying the road. It was more patchwork than many quilts I’ve seen with plenty of gaping yards-long cracks wide enough to swallow a doggie paw or trike tire.

Jens has been trying to encourage me to ride more. Once he even suggested I take the trike in the car out somewhere to do a loop. I got dressed to ride and then decided to stick to a local area. Unless I drove for an hour or more, I couldn’t think of anywhere worth the effort. This weekend, he did his, “I’ll drive you anywhere within reason, no complaints’ offer. A route did pop into my head. He winced a little when I told him where, but decided it wasn’t unreasonable.

A few years ago, one of my first planned cycle tours was exploring a trio of islands in Lake Mälaren just west of Stockholm. Roughly 70 miles and requiring a short (couple 100 yards) ferry ride for the smallest, most western island. I’ve never done it, mostly because I felt daunted by the ferry, uncertain how to find out if they’d object to carrying a strange ‘bike’ with a trailer and dog on their narrow deck with just enough space for cars. The middle and next largest island is long and thin with just a single road, so no loops. The last of the three, closest to Stockholm is large enough it has a looping road not to mention a caste (or VERY large manor) and no less than 4 churches. Even better, it is quite close to Drottningholm Castle which is a breathtaking world heritage site. Now THAT was very interesting. I’ve wanted to do that loop at the very least for years now.

Svartsjö (Black Lake) Castle With Ruin Foundations in Foreground

It was quite cold as I got ready for the ride. 39 F. I had my thermals packed in a bag in case I needed them. Gloves too! In spite of the fact that the sun disappeared behind thin clouds, it warmed on the drive. By the time we reached Svartsjö (Black Lake) Castle it was a slightly nippy 54 F. As always, Jens walked Loke. I had the trike together as he returned to tell me of old castle ruins just a short distance away. He offered to walk with me as I pedaled the trike over to take a look.

Loke was crazy as we went over. He was on his flexi-leash walking with Jens. He darted across my path a couple times, trying to figure out what was going on and probably wanting to be certain I didn’t leave without him. If I’d not been going walking pace I’d have run over him.

Svartsjö Ruin – Tower Base (I think)

Inside Tower Foundations

Just around a curve and up a slight hill sat the promised ruins. Not much left, but foundations and a bit of inset walls with hints of doors and windows. Work has been done to preserve them, including capping parts of it with cement and sod roofs and barring the door entrances to stop people from going in for safety sake.

I wandered around the ruins for a bit, even climbing up onto the sod cap over the tower foundation for a better look at the rest of the ruined outline. Quite a tricky maneuver with cycle shoes, even my excellent touring ones.

That done, I settled into the trike while Jens clipped Loke in place. With a blown kiss to the hubby, we were off like a shot. It didn’t last long though. There were parts of the parking lot with big holes. Going over those at speed would have bucked me out of the trike as quick as a rodeo bull. Once we turned onto the road proper, I let him go and powered into the pedals so he wouldn’t have to drag me. We hit a respectable 18 mph.

Though the sky had gone to a pale gray and sun vanished, I still wore a smile. I felt good and anticipation of what lay ahead lightened my mood more than sunshine would have. Even the sheer amount of traffic lacked the power to dampen my cycling spirits which had been so low of late. Loke loped along like a machine at 10 mph with his jaws gaping in a tongue flopping husky grin rather than panting to cool off.

The traffic admittedly surprised me. It’s an ISLAND for goodness sake! Where on earth were all those people going or coming from?? There only one place that might be called a town is on the south-western part of the island with a couple tiny villages and widely scattered farmsteads and country houses over the rest. The greater part is agriculture and woods and it’s maybe 10 miles long and less than 5 miles wide. It’s main road had traffic that probably equaled parts of inner Stockholm. Fortunately, Swedish politeness prevailed so there were no honking horns or cars passing so close I could touch them. I guess they must be accustomed to bike traffic because there was a lot of it. The first 2 miles before turning onto a smaller road for my first church I saw over a dozen cyclists.

Hilleshög Church

As I turned onto the that blissfully quite small road, I stopped at the first bus stop to wrestle Loke’s socks on. He suffered the procedure with quiet resignation. Doggie socked, we continued toward Hilleshög Church.

The grounds had lots of trees which are an added complication in the summer for taking pictures of churches. I settled for taking a number of photo sets in hopes of being able to stitch them together since I found no good angles to get the entire building in a single shot.

Actually, I’m quite pleased with the photo stitching of the church. It started out very wonky, but I managed to get it rather un-distorted. Pity the light was so quick to change between shots which is why the top of the tower looks a different color than the bottom. How to fix things like that in Photoshop, I haven’t a clue.

Uppland Runestone #25 – Hilleshög Church

Uppland Runestone U26 – Hilleshög Church

I didn’t have to look far for the first rune stone. It sat right at the front wall in the tower base. It wasn’t the only one. I found no less than 3 more… or so I thought. I actually saw a 4th, but didn’t realize it was a runestone or at least a fragment until researching this morning. Two of the things I photoed are claimed as fragments of the same stone. I’m not convinced as one piece is a very deep vivid red I’d never seen in a runestone before and the other is a more typical gray shade. The last one I found at this church sat beneath  window with an sill of dark red stone. The red windowsill was another runestone which I failed to recognize which is why I missed getting even an accidental picture of it by inches. Those two stones have no inscriptions, just ornamental designs.

Fragments of Uppland Runestone U23

After a closer look at the two fragments, I suppose it looks as if they might fit together, but the rock just doesn’t look the same to me. Even to a naked eye, one was very red and the other piece gray.

Once done with my survey of the church, I returned to the trike to wrestle with a source of irritation.  Somewhere before the church was a stone with Sweden’s longest rune carving. Longest in terms of sheer number of runes, not physical size though I guess the two have to be related to some extent. I’d been watching for signs and looking for the stone along the edge of the road, but it seemed to be somewhat hidden. With only a general sort of idea of where it was, I didn’t think it likely I’d find it. With a hefty sigh, I reluctantly decided it would be a lost cause. Double checking Loke’s socks, we zipped down the road which had surrendered its pavement right at the church parking lot.

The unpaved road was no difficulty. The rocks were few with mostly well packed earth. The few places that did have scatterings of stones were no problem to Loke’s well padded feet. The way became a touch confusing when the little road became smaller still and ran right through the middle of a farm yard. It even seemed to disappear there until I spotted where it passed between two very large barns. Shortly past it I still stopped to stare in confusion mingled with dread. A few hundred yards ahead it looked as if the road became a track. You know the sort. Two lines of dirt to either side of a higher ridge of grass. Looking at my map book and the ones printed from MapMyRide.com which uses Google maps insisted there was a road. My gps showed a line of dashes which can mean anything from a grassy track to a dirt road. I chanced it.

Turned out I needn’t have worried. What I thought had been grass in the center of the road was just slightly softer soil that had held moisture from the last rain better than the drier parts. Loke still wanted to run and the road was remarkably free of wash-board and potholes so we sped along under pale gray skies. About 3 cars passed us along that 1 mile stretch. Even obscure dirt roads had higher than expected traffic.

Before I knew it we were back on pavement with the steady roar of passing cars. And the cyclists! Just the mile or so between the turn back onto the main road and the next church I saw about 8 of them. At a large bus stop, a group of about 15 people were just setting out on a group ride.

Färentuna Church

Färentuna Church looked much like Hilleshog though it had a proper parking lot rather than being wedged right up against the road. Like the previous church a lot of people were visiting graves and tending flowers so Loke had to stay with the trike. I made sure he had a little patch of grass and full water dish. A few passing people called out ‘Nice dog’ as I gave him a pat on the head. He didn’t seem impressed with my offering of water and gave a resigned sigh before flopping down on the rocks instead of grass. Perhaps he was letting me know my attempts to make him comfortable weren’t a fair exchange. Hehe.

A Millstone??

The main entrance into the churchyard was at the back of the church. Not uncommon. What was highly unusual though was what appeared to be a millstone set into the church wall. I could be completely wrong and it’s something else, but I can’t think of many other large stone objects with holes in the center of them. Except maybe on the Yap Islands where giant stones with central holes are used as currency. Some of those are supposed to be nearly 4 feet across. I doubt this is a Yapese coin though.

Uppland Runestones – U20 & U21

Old Iron Alms Box

There were also runestones. More correctly fragments of one stone. Oddly, they’ve been given separate numbers. Partial translation if you click the thumbnail. As I wandered to the front of the church, I found something else I’d never seen before. Right next to the door into the porch was a nook sheltered by a bit of iron work. In the nook sat an iron poor box secured by an bolt with a loop in the end that looked handforged! No idea how old it is but it was pretty rusty beneath the black paint. I grinned as I raised and lowered the lid to see if it was the least bit functional. My second alms box ever! Both of them this year. One wood bound with iron and an this one!

The next road after Färentuna was blissfully smaller. Though traffic was not absent, at least it was only 1 car ever few minutes instead of 5-10+ cars a minute. The sun made a few brief appearances as we cruised our way south. Loke became a bit warm as the temperature nudged into the upper 60’s. It didn’t stop his desire to run every chance he had. I just made certain to stop and offer him water every 2 miles instead of every 3 or 4. In spite of that, he still refused to drink a couple times.

As we followed the road a sudden eastward turn, I realized that I sat on an island and I’d yet to see a sign of Lake Mälaren since unloading the trike. The largest body of water I’d seen was Svartsjö at the castle and it was small enough to throw a rock across. Admittedly, the person would need a better throwing arm than me, but that’s not hard to find.

Sånga Church

As we came close to Sånga Church, I passed a parking lot just packed with cars. No idea what so many people were doing there. I certainly saw hide nor hair of any of them. Just 20 or 30 cars.

The sky was mostly blue except off to the east when I reached Sånga. It was the same style of stone church covered in white plaster as the last two. The steeple was a distinctive need sharp point which gave it some character. I could also see outlines of the stones beneath the plaster which is unusual. Generally the plaster is so thick and smoothed you’d never know if it was brick, stone or wood under it.

Though the church was interesting, it had no surprises or even a single runestone.

Less than a quarter mile past Sånga we rejoined the main road. If anything the traffic was worse. A near constant stream of cars. The noise was bad enough I started to get a headache and thinking I should carry some kind of hearing protection with me since I don’t have the buffering influence of a car’s shell between me and it.

Roughly 12 miles had passed beneath wheels and paws. I was feeling a bit of it, but Loke still had energy to spare. Every little down slope, he wanted to run. With the sun peeking out of apparently clearing skies as well as another 12 or so miles to go, I tried to temper his pace. He was having none of it. When he sensed the downward grades, he’d throw his weight into the harness. Once, I noticed he was loping at 8.4 mph which is usually a jogging pace. A quick glance at the running bar showed he’d pulled almost 2 inches of rope out against the spring. Whether trying to drag the trike faster at 8.4 mph while I hang onto the brake or letting him lope along at 10 mph, I guess he’s working equally hard. I took pity on him and we went faster.

Skå Church

Thankfully it was a bit less than 2 miles to the last church on the island. Right at the turn into a tiny road to the church a cycle path started along side the busy streeet. I was glad to see it and even anticipated it as I made my stop at Skå Church.

Like Sånga Church, this one had no runestones or other surprises to offer. So, after a quick run around, I refreshed the tape on Loke’s socks and cheerfully went to the cycle path.

That path with a 4 yard buffer between us and the traffic refreshed both of us. Loke turned into a powerhouse of moving legs. 8.8 mph average on the flats and throwing effort into helping me up the hills. He barely drank in spite of the fact his tongue seemed to hang to his feet and not in a husky grin. When I stopped to offer water, he generally just gave me irritated looks, a couple of laps and then woofed at me. “Move it!” I think I’m fluent in impatient husky.

The cycle path also meant increased bike traffic. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it was. More? Roller skis! The surface of the cycle path was smooth and offered the perfect surface for the small wide wheels. They could get going too! Even at 8-9.5 mph some of them overtook us. That seemed to offend Loke because each time he’d start after them as fast as I’d let him. I wouldn’t let him overtake though. It would have been silly to do so knowing we’d only end up leap-frogging.

Leaving Färingsö – iPhone

A short time later, Loke and I reached the bridge that would take us to another island where our end goal lay. In spite of the claustrophobic feel of the railed cycle path, I stopped to pull out my iPhone for a picture of the transition to share on FB. I would have taken a proper photo with a proper camera, but a large group of bike riders appeared ahead of me and it felt rude to sit there.

The cycle path went pleasantly on. All the stopped it from being perfection was, you guessed it, the traffic noise. Even more people on bikes came and went, most of them the serious looking types with jerseys, shorts and helmets matching their ‘look’ as they rode low in the drops with expressions of intense concentration. It was startling to see one guy pass me who sharply stood out from the others. He had the helmet, glasses, bike, shoes and jersey… with a pair of jeans cut off at the knee. I grinned.

The path went on for miles, occasionally playing tag with roads. I think most of it was an old road honestly. It also turned out to be a surprising amount of climbing. Once it went up and over a ridge the main road went down and under. At one point, it was a long grueling climb onto a sort of plateau, noticeable only by the increasing discomfort in my thighs and the altitude graph on my GPS. As we neared Drottningholm, I was tired and my legs hated me.

Before I reached the castle, there was one more stop to make. The last church of the day – Lovö. The road intersected the cycle path and ran straight to the church about a mile from the main road. I can’t say it was arrow straight since there was a rather nasty hill in between. At least it was going to be nasty on the way back. To the church, it was just another excuse for Loke to run like the wild dog he is.

Lovö Kyrka

The church was in sight when I spotted something that both made me smile and worried me. A pair of women came riding on adorable Islandic horses from the southern road. The worry? A pure white German Shepherd looking dog. I’ve learned to be wary of that breed since moving to Sweden. Rather sad really, but they tend to be universally aggressive here, particularly to other dogs. I don’t remember them being that way in the US.

I considered stopping on the road I was on to wait, but traffic was enough it didn’t feel safe. So, I risked it.

Uppland Runestone – U46

Uppland Runestone – U47

Knowing that a mad charge down that last bit of hill would be unwise, I forced Loke to take it slow. As we coasted into the parking lot, the dog did tense and go into ‘stalking’ mode until one of the women called out sharply, “Frosty!”. The shining white dog had an English name. He stared at Loke a moment longer, but then obeyed. He didn’t give Loke a second look after that. I think he was at least a shepherd cross. He had much of a German Shepherd’s look, but that snowy coat was longer than is common for the breed.

Uppland Runestone – U48

Uppland Runestone – U49

The women were much impressed with Loke, stopping to admire him and ask (in Swedish) if he was a Siberian Husky, how old, and about his shoes. I told them the shoes were home-made and necessary since running 40 km or more over pavement was hard on paws. They goggled at the distance and then shook their heads in wonder when I said he’d run 70 km once before.

Uppland Runestone – U50

I absolutely adored the horses and told the women so. Both had dark brown coats, but one had a cream colored mane and tail that was stunning. After a few minutes, they wished me good journey and rode on, Frosty ranging ahead.

Sure enough of Frosty to turn my attention to Lovö Church, I was delighted. The gleaming white plaster churches with their various towers capped with lantern style tops or needle thin steeples were interesting, but Lovö was a whole different creature. The walls were mortared stone and the tower topped with both a lantern and spire of wood and painted in vividly contrasting red and black. The bright yellow addition on the back of the church added another bright element which added to the charm rather than clashing with the rest. The overall sight was stunning. Of course it helps that I simply adore unplastered stone buildings.

I made sure Loke had water and went for my usual church yard stroll. There were runestones aplenty. Five to be precise.

While photographing one and pausing to look at an outline of a bricked in window, a grave marker caught my eye. Hard to miss really being a 6 to 8 foot high cross enclosed with stone pillars and thick iron chains. I usually look through them, but the name on this one caught my eye. General Amiralinnan (Admiral maybe?) von Stedingk. Sounds important. I found a few people of the name from roughly the time period, but none match the birth-death dates. So, not sure WHO it is exactly. Ah well.

I called Jens as I left the last church of the ride, figuring it would give me a little time to explore the grounds of Drottningholm without needing to sit around with nothing to do for an hour until he arrived. Well, something to do other than read a book I was smart enough to bring.

Alas it was not meant to be. At least not as thorough an exploration as I would have liked. It would have been best if I could have rolled slowly along through the glorious park to find the China Palace deep in the grounds and a few other things. No, there were signs all over the paths forbidding bikes. I toyed with the idea of not seeing them (wink, wink), but I’d have been too tense about being called out on it to enjoy the ride. Not like I’d have been rampaging down the paths at high speed. I planned to slowly coast at walking speed out of respect to the pedestrians and sense of peace on the grounds. Given my limitations with walking, I guess a real exploration of Drottningholm is beyond my reach.

I found a little convenience kiosk toward the front of the palace and parked nearby. With Loke tethered to a tree and trike locked, I ran over for a soda for myself and a hot dog for the fuzzy one. A tourist boat sat at a little dock a few yards away. Gave Loke quite a start when the steam whistle tooted for its departure.

Finishing my soda, I walked out on the dock to get a good angle of the castle.

Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm is a breath-taking palace and a world heritage site. I’ve wanted to include it properly in my blog for a while and now, I can. Long history of the palace and grounds if you click the thumbnail.

Loke dozed for about 15 min and then decided we should move again. I relented enough for us to return to the main parking lot for the palace park. He ran as if it was the first minutes of the ride instead of the end of 24-25 miles. The 600 meters to the parking lot was covered in a flash at nearly 18 mph. When Jens arrived, he still had plenty of spunk to bound around as my husband strolled along the local, bike-forbidden paths while I loaded everything in the car.

I enjoyed the day and it was the first ride in over a month that I didn’t view as a chore. Something that needed done to give Jens a break from walking Loke or because I really should get more exercise than my occasional trips to the gym. Hopefully it’s recharged my interest in riding at least a bit. It’s disheartening to feel bored with cycling.