Terii’s Cycling Babble

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.


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