Terii’s Cycling Babble


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*

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