Terii’s Cycling Babble

700+ Miles!!
October 30, 2012, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I did it! It took me a few days longer than I planned because migraines knocked me flat from Saturday lunch and all through Sunday. Monday, I still needed a little time to recover.

Today though, I had Jens carry the trike out. The main reason for it was the fact my knees have been bothering since my return from England. Enough so that I woke up a few times last night because of my tendency to sleep with them deeply bent. All the walking I did in the week before and during my jaunt to Falmouth displeased them apparently. So, I hoped it would be easier to ride the trike than limp around on very short business walks with Loke.

The Autumn Leaves Have Departed!

After the glorious and cold weekend, things warmed a little and the gray returned with the wet. It rained most of this morning and a fair bit of the afternoon before the drizzle died down around 1 pm. Seeing that, I bolted out the door with Loke. Despite his paw infection, he still has a lot of energy and determination to run. I let him do so rather than argue. It was still heavily gray and chill at 41 F. The only wind I had to worry about was what our own speed generated which chilled my toes since I didn’t bother with the shoe-covers.

The ride itself was just the River Loop with a few added zigs and zags to make certain I comfortably pedaled over the 700 mile mark. To add to the murk of leaden skies, the vibrant hues of autumn leaves have fallen to the ground and faded. This is the time I start pining for at least a dusting of snow to alleviate the dreariness of skeletal trees, clouds and grass that will soon be brown. Snow also helps the soon-to-be 19 hour nights seem a little brighter.

In 2009, I cycled for 691 miles. 2010 & 2011, I cycled less than that. It feels good to have broken 700 miles (702) over a total of 79 rides. I even dare to hope I can push it past 800 miles. I’m not going to hold my breath about breaking my best ever total of  1250+ miles though. Not this year at any rate!

This warm fuzzy glow of accomplishment, however minor, feels nice!

Babbling & Return to the Sun
October 27, 2012, 8:02 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yesterday was nice. Cold, but at least it was under blue skies and sun. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Though Wednesday in Falmouth had nothing to do with cycling, it would be such a waste to let the photos languish, unseen, on my computer. Since the driving force behind my trip to the gorgeous Cornwall area was trike related, I’m going to share. After all, I did the same thing with our trip to Nordkapp and the trike was never pulled out of the car. That gorgeous, stark part of Norway is crossed by the Sverigeleden though.

Though forecasts had said it was going to be nicer in Falmouth on Wednesday (October 24th), it proved a lie. The clouds looked as if they were going to break up, but then thickened and another fog rolled in. It wasn’t nearly as thick as Tuesday’s, but still had that wet mugginess. I toyed with the idea of going to ICE any way, but the trip down and back up the stairs for breakfast told me I’d be lucky to make it a quarter up my first hill. My 3.68 mile ride which was pure up and down had left my legs aching and weak. I guess to cycle in Cornwall, I need to practice by climbing Everest.

I e-mailed my regrets and thanks for their hospitality.

In spite of the weather and wobbly, muscle-aching legs, I didn’t want to spend the day penned in my room either. After a bit of checking found the castle on a peninsula just 2.5-ish miles there and back, I decided to go for a walk. After all, less than 2 weeks ago, I’d taken a 4+ mile walk with no more than a little muscle soreness. So, with my Five Finger shoes stuffed into a backpack off I went.

View Across the Harbor

Sea & Mist

Less than 300 yards from Trelawney Guest House, I ambled up the first steep slope which took me along a cliff edge to overlook the harbor. The views in clear weather must be stunning because what little I could see through the murky morning was pretty. I longed for my trusty Canon as I went. Jens’ little digital point-n-click is good, but just can’t beat an SLR though the low light and fog might have made getting clear pictures a little tricky. Or at least with auto-settings. I really should learn to use the manual functions on day. I keep saying that, don’t I? But the Canon had to stay home since there simply was no room for it in my limited luggage space if I wanted to avoid checking anything in.

Footpath & Little Bridge

Footpath & Little Bridge

I walked slowly in hopes of sparing the more fragile parts of my physique and strolled up yet more hills. Others were out. Joggers and walkers were out in spite of the gray. Then I reached a turn for what I think was for the castle. Right across from it was the beginning of a footpath. I waffled for a bit before deciding to save the castle for last expecting there’d be another way up on the other side. The path followed along coast just below the road some 15-25 feet higher. Trees and thickets gave occasional glimpses of the sea and mist-veiled bits of land. I could hear the surf on the shore edge out of sight below the steep drop and the cry of sea birds carried on the heavy air.

The camera didn’t do the clear, pale blue water justice.

Maybe a little more than half a mile from the B&B, I felt the first twinge in my ankle. It gave me pause for consideration while staring down into one of the gorgeous little hidden coves that stud the rocky shoreline like diamonds. Not wanting to return to languish at the B&B with my Kindle for my last day in Falmouth, I found a marginally less soggy spot to sit, swapping my battered sneakers for my Five Fingers. Wiggling my toes and doing a small circle, my ankle felt fine. My old shoes were muddy, so I just carried them by the laces as I went on.

The views closed in, screened by trees and undergrowth. Voice drifted from the downward sloping path and a flash of white was all the warning I had before a very happy and very wet little dog ran up to jump against my legs in a cheerful demand for attention. Her owners apologized profusely as I gave her the petting she had soaked me down for. The man asked me curiously about my ‘toe shoes’ before they walked on.

I’d forgotten how clear the water was in that part of England. Clear as crystal and with that aquamarine gem-stone blue that reminds me of the tropics. With the clouds and mist, it was only possible to see that when looking down at the beach.

Not sure when it was built, but definitely meant to guard the shoreline

Just a little bit after meeting the family, I came to some short of defensive construction. I suppose it might be a ruin and parts of it might be quite old, but parts of it looked no older than WWII. There weren’t any signs for it.

Another Cove of Blue Water

Standing at the edge of a sheer drop on one end of the wall in those ‘ruins’, I found another pretty cove and further out an old defensive tower right at the water line. You can see part of the tower in the upper left of the above image.

My steps went a little faster, eager and curious as I was about the tower. The path looked steep, but my legs and ankles felt fine. The trail made a split going up to the parking lot and continuing on to the old tower. Up on the parking lot, an information sign was clearly visible. Since it was close, I went up the hill to it.

I really should go look at the really interesting things first. Why? As soon as I stepped off packed dirt studded with rocks or softer grass onto the pavement of the lot, the ankle which had given it’s first twinge a mile earlier locked up. The only description I have for it is it feels as if the tendons seize tight. I could stand with the foot in the neutral position under me, but as soon as the ankle had to flex for that foot to take the back position of a step, I saw stars. It couldn’t flex much to take the lead position of a step either. It used to happen a lot. It seems to occur less now, maybe because I don’t walk so much, preferring to ride my trike when I can. It has little to do with my weight. When it happened frequently (a couple times a week or more), I was a dainty little thing of less than 110 lbs who walked everywhere and went hiking for miles. Couldn’t get much skinnier without being skeletal.

The closest bench was about 100 feet away. I inched along toward the sign instead and sat down on the curb ringing the parking lot where I managed to work the foot from side to side a little. Finally it loosened somewhat and I immediately stepped on the grass. That helped a little more.

Henry VIII’s Blockhouse – “Little Dennis”

The tower was down the slope on the rocks at the water’s edge. Though curiosity pulled hard for me to go take a peek inside since there was no gate over the doorway, I decided I should limp on toward the B&B. The parking lot marked roughly the halfway point around the headland, so continued onward rather than double back.

Mmmm… Blackberries!!

The footpath ran below the edge of the parking lot. Parts of it were quite narrow, bracketed on either side by blackberry canes of all things. In places, the wall of thorns rose well above my head. Much to my surprise, there were even berries. Some red with the need to ripen and others of beautiful glossy purple-black that just begged to be plucked and savored. They made quite a nice snack as I went.

The footpath ended on the far side of the parking lot. My speed was highly variable once I was forced to take the sidewalk. My ankle would feel fine for some distance and then abruptly lock tight again. At one of the benches along the sidewalk, I stopped to change back to my sneakers in hope of a little relief. After all, my ankle didn’t twinge with the sneakers until I was dealing with the natural surfaces of the footpath. Nor did I have any problems while wearing my Five Fingers until I tried walking on pavement.

The results of the shoe change were mixed. The ankle seemed to lock up less for shorter periods.

As I followed the coastline northwest, I was disappointed to discover there was no way to the castle from that side. At least, no way I could manage. There were foot paths that wended up the steep, craggy hill. My determination to explore was not quite strong enough to overcome my commonsense that much with my crappy ankle. If I’d been problem free, I’d have been testing my knees for those climbs.

After a few more hills, I completed the loop and came back around to the road which would take me toward the turn with the castle. I considered it as some time had passed since the last lock-up. By that point though, my legs felt like they were made of wet noodles. I looked up that steep slope as it began to rain while keeping in mind I already had to climb another, if lesser hill back to the B&B. Regretfully, I turned back toward ‘home’. The time it took for the roughly 3 mile walk was amazingly short, less than 2 hours. Given how slow I went even when not slogging up hills, taking photos or just admiring scenery, I was stunned.

Disappointment weighed heavy as I spent most of the rest of the day reading in my room except for the half an hour soak in the bath for my ankle. Around 4 pm, I felt well enough to go in search of fish and chips for supper. The ankle twinged once or twice, but thankfully it remained relatively flexible.

The next morning was the return trip to London for my 8:15 flight home. On the little bus-like train between Falmouth and Truro, I talked with a very nice English woman who had family in Sweden and an absolute passion for the country I now call home. Annoyingly, the sun actually came out as Falmouth disappeared behind me. Seemed I was always leaving the sun.

Roughly Halfway Between Falmouth & London

The train ride between Truor and London went quietly. I took a couple pictures through the train window, but the reflections annoyed me. About an hour outside of London, the sun was gone again, lost behind the gray blanket of clouds.

The rest of the trip continued in tedium. Getting through security at the airport was aggravating and then followed by a 5 hour wait. Better that than killing myself at a dead run to make a 15 minute deadline across an airport. Some delays. The flight was more of the same. I shuffled through the passport check in frosty Sweden at just before 1 am. The temperatures had been well above freezing when I left, but I returned to nights with moderate freezes and frosts and days inching up to about 36 F. Stockholm had even received a dusting of snow which had quickly melted.

It felt good to be back and to see my red-haired hubby waiting. He had a bit of bad news though. Loke had been furiously licking his paw on the drive to the airport. Though all I wanted to do was fall into bed when we arrived home, I forced myself to stay awake long enough to check. Obviously the infection had returned to the skin between his footpads. I pulled out the iodine mix and the left over ointment to tend it.

I thought it looked a bit better the next morning as I cut away the hair for another iodine scrub and ointment smear. When I called Niclas to let him know, he told me to continue twice a day treatment over the weekend and to give him another call on Monday. I’m guessing this is definitely a yeast infection since Loke’s already on antibiotics for the lung issue found over a week ago. *sigh*

At least it’s been caught before Loke gave even the first limp. The skin was quite red and looked a little ‘wet’ from the beginnings of ooze, but no wound. When I went to take the fuzzy one for a rolling walk since Jens was buried under work, Loke was having none of the ‘walking’ part of our outing. He bounced and yodeled at the end of the tether and then threw his weight against the harness with his paws scrabbling madly for purchase to drag furiously against the brakes. After a few minutes of that and more kangaroo hopping, I decided it was more damaging for his paws to be scraping pavement like that then it would be to run and I let him go.

Loke, Sunshine & Blue Skies – iPhone

And the weather was pretty! First time I’ve been out doing something in the sunshine for almost 2 weeks thanks to the persistent gray and drizzle we’ve had lately! Clear blue skies with a playfully brisk wind that whirled the leaves in graceful circles like the ballroom skirt of a waltzing woman. It was cold, but I’d pulled on my heavy wool and gloves. Jens didn’t give me time to find my shoe covers though. It was my toes, aching from the cold, that cut the ride short at 5.06 miles. Otherwise, I would have pushed it closer to 9 or 10 miles by adding every little extension or mini-loop possible to the River Loop.

Hmmm. Today is as pretty, though colder. Maybe I should go hunting for my shoe-covers and take Loke out again today. I’m feeling a bit motivated to do so since another 5 miles or so will tip my year’s total mileage over 700 miles! This is the best mileage I’ve done in a year since 691 miles in 2009. My best ever was 1303 miles in 2008. I’ll easily push over 700 miles since we have another 2 months and I’m right around 695 miles.

Loke may even beat his best. He’s a bit behind me though with 601 miles. 657 miles is his best year total. We’ll see.

To Falmouth And ICE!
October 26, 2012, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yes, there are a few photos, I promise. They’re just a little further down.

Written October 23 – Early Morning

I’m tucked quite comfortably into my surprisingly nice little single bed in a lovely B&B as I type this. My hosts are a charming couple and anxious to make feel at home. I slept well and, in spite of rain, I’m looking forward to going to ICE to try one of the 26” wheeled trikes. The Sprint 26. But since the journey is meant to be part of the fun, I’ll start from yesterday’s travel.

I woke at 4 am yesterday to finish the last bit of packing. Jens and I were out on our way by 5 am to be sure I had plenty of time to deal with potential security issues. There were none thankfully.

As the plane sat on the tarmac, the sky broke open and the first sunlight in over a week came shining down on the wet concrete and asphalt. It looked to be shaping up into a gorgeous day in my part of Sweden as the plane taxied down the runway after a 20 minute take-off delay due to London fog.

Or perhaps it was just a brief interlude in the gray since shortly after take off, the clouds reappeared below. They looked quite extraordinary; more like cracked sea ice than vaporous clusters. As the plane climbed further and approached an even higher layer of cloud. It (the cloud layer) threw a strange shadow of deepest purple and magenta. Eerily beautiful.

At cruising height the veils and clumps turned into a featureless sheet of gray and white and the flight became tedious and uncomfortable. The plane was quite full. I felt guilty for moving my feet around so much over the duration, but I was determined to keep the blood flowing. I’d rather moderately annoy a fellow passenger than spend the next 6 months to a year treating another blood clot. Also, I didn’t really have enough room to twist my coat into a donut cushion for my tail bone. After an hour, I was extremely uncomfortable. On top of that, the plane had to do circles over London as the fog was still too thick.

Given how thick the fog was when the captain was finally allowed to land, I boggle to think how dense it had to be for them to keep us up in the air. The buildings and parked planes just beyond the wings as we rolled to our gate were only dim, half-seen ghosts through the haze.

So, I was stuck in the plane for over 4 hours instead of the original 3 it should have been.

It felt good to move after so long stuck in a narrow plane seat. Immigration was a breeze and after a few short minutes of confusion, I was on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station.

With the delays to the flight, I was a bit worried I’d be too late to make the train, but it turned out I needn’t have been so concerned. I had roughly an hour and a half to kick around Paddington. I put my wallet and cell phone into my jeans pocket and kept a hand on both against pick-pockets as I strolled around with my luggage. I thought about buying some food, but there didn’t really seem to be any place to sit and eat. A few metal chairs in front of the arrivals and departure boards which required one to sit back at an awkward angle or perch on the edge. Neither of which facilitate the consumption of something like a hamburger.

The last of my stress fell away as I boarded the train and found my reserved seat. I’d requested a seat at a table with a power supply and facing direction of travel. I got everything except for the direction of travel. An older couple eating the pre-made diagonally cut and boxed sandwiches occupied the aisle seats at the table. I felt terrible when the gentleman got up as quickly as he could while juggling sandwich and cane. But they insisted it was no trouble at all.

Since they were busy eating, I watched out the window at the people passing through the station until it was time for the train to move. The gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d like a sandwich. Though I hadn’t eaten in the station, I offered that as a reason to decline since the sandwiches had boiled egg which often make me sick. I thought it very sweet they’d asked.

The simple offer of food set us talking though. They were utterly, utterly wonderful people. Joan and Harry. Married for 33 years. He was 92. Joan a bit younger at 70-ish. Both of them were still very much in love. You could see it in the care they offered each other and the way they spoke. Harry had an impish sense of humor I rather liked. So, for 3 hours we chattered happily as the miles rolled beneath the wheels of the train.

Harry found it peculiar that I was going all the way to Falmouth to ride a ‘bike’ even if it was a strange sort of one, but he admired my bravery for traveling alone. They both had a good laugh over the picture of Loke in his ‘bath robe’ that I had on my iPhone.

I was sad to see them go when the train pulled into their stop. I offered to help them get their luggage off the train, but they insisted they’d be fine. Harry clasped my hand in both of his and told me to have a wonderful trip and be careful. Joan waved farewell to me from the platform as the train pulled away. My vision got a little bleary from the threat of tears. An incredible pair of people.

English Countryside Through Train Window

I love the English countryside and even while chatting with Joan and Harry, I took long looks out the windows in the occasional comfortable lulls in conversation  Occasionally, I’d see the peaks of churches. Twice, I saw something like a castle through the persistent mists though one was little more than a round drum tower. After my table-mates left, I focused more on the scenery and began to feel a touch of consternation. The picture above isn’t of the hills I’m talking about. It was taken about 2 hours before we reached Cornwall.

I remembered Cornwall being hilly, but I didn’t remember the sheer scope and steepness of the hills. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be able to handle it! A bigger problem will be if the pedals are 170 mm which is the standard length of a crank set. My Trice has a special crank set with 155 mm cranks which is much kinder on my poor knees. I might just have to settle with doing a quick loop around the industrial park where ICE sits. They have a few hills in the area. I remember that from when we came for me to test ride the Trice. I think I’d at least make a point of riding to the church a mile or so away. An English medieval church instead of a Swedish one! I rather like that idea! I’m almost giddy with glee!

Written October 23rd – Evening

Recovering from my short ride now. I had a great time with the people at Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). They’re as nice as ever, but to start from the beginning-

I woke around 2 am (3 am Swedish time) to the sound of tires on wet pavement. Though the weather forecasts I’d looked at for Falmouth had said overcast, they’d not mentioned rain. It also felt quite muggy, heavy and almost warm. Still, I was determined to go. I came all this way to try the trike, I wasn’t going to let a little wet and humidity stop me.

After staring in bafflement at a map of the bus-routes which just had all the roads in bright red with tiny little numbers written here and there with no clear delineation of which line intersected with what and where, I went with a taxi. Tessa (my hostess at Trelawney Guest House B&B), suggested a walk back which could take me along some nice foot paths.

The cab ride felt a little weird, being on the other side of the road, but in short order, I was dropped off at the door of ICE’s building. I was greeted warmly as I came into the assembly area, offered tea or coffee before Neil led me off to where they had a collection of their current model trikes tucked away.

He listened intently when I explained why I was interest in a trike with a 26” rear wheel. He showed me all the options which included an internal geared hub on a 20″ rear wheel. One of my main objections to an internal geared hub was that everything I’d seen seemed to indicate that you couldn’t have a triple chain rings with them, but they even had one set up with just that which gave me another possibility.

When I decided to try the 26″ rear-wheeled Sprint first and maybe the internal geared trike if I was still worried, Neil looked me up and down before saying it would take about half an hour to 45 minutes to get the Sprint 26x converted to a short crank. I could only make a solid decision if I rode a properly fitted trike rather than making do with a 170 mm crank set. I wasn’t about to argue! Not with my knees and those hills!

I chatted with some of the other people there. They’re all very cheerful and engaging, answered any questions I had in regard to their work. As Neil fiddled with the chain length to adjust for the smaller rings of the short crank set, I watched one of the other men begin the assembly of a trike. It went FAST. Less than half an hour, he had all the major parts installed and was starting to work on the gears. To think it took me a week to assemble my Trice!

I also took the time to change into my cycle pants which I’d packed with me though I’d left my cycle tops at home. My shoes and helmet also made the trip with me.

We also went up into the office to discuss places to ride and the severity of the hills in the area. There were going to be hills no matter which way I rode though we did find a way so that I’d be going DOWN the steepest ones and up the less severe if longer slopes. That’s always easier on my knees. Map printed out, trike set up with mudguards, lights, flag and side-pod bags to carry my camera, phone and GPS. Neil even loaned me a rain coat.

We wheeled the trike to the delivery bay door and I stared out in surprise. The morning which had begun cloudy and drizzly had been obscured with a thick FOG. I was shocked. I’m not used to fogs that roll in around lunch time. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the one my plane had landed in thankfully. Neil suggested I make a quick loop around the parking lot to try the gears and brakes and to give him a chance to see how well the lights cut through the haze.

I was amazed as soon as I sat down in the trike. Though still a mesh seat, it has foam inserts added on the seat bottom and a few to either edge of the back to add support there. The Trice’s seat, for all that it’s just unpadded mesh stretched over metal bars, is surprisingly comfortable. The only time I seem able to sit without pain in my tailbone is on the trike with my twisted blanket. Even the couch or my computer chair with the blanket still brother me. I find that really odd. But the new seat was better still! Even without the padding of twisted fabric, I felt just fine!

As I did a few figure 8’s to get comfortable with the trike, Neil waved me back for a quick adjustment of the rear light. After I did another circle through the parking lot so he could double check, he gave me a thumbs up. Off I went with my GPS running.

It felt truly strange to be riding on the left side of the road though I had no real problem staying there. The only time I had to remind myself to stay left was when I made turns onto other roads.

My heart still leapt into my mouth every time I saw headlights coming through the murk toward me. That knee-jerk thought yelling in my head every time, “OMG!!! They’re coming at me! Wrong side! Wrong side!” In spite of that, I didn’t swerve wildly, only gritted my teeth and stayed with my left wheel firmly on the road edge. Finally, I just started laughing at myself.

The first road away from ICE’s building wasn’t too bad, but as soon as I made the first left turn only 100-200 yards down, I had to chew my way up the first of the hills. I never thought I’d call 61 F warm, but it felt hot as I spun up the incline. It didn’t help that my cotton knight blouse was damp and getting damper under the rain coat. I had to stop to take the coat off in hopes of feeling at least a tiny bit cooler. It didn’t quite work, but at least I didn’t feel so much like a ‘boil-a-bag’ of rice.

A Little Less Fog Here

That moment, perched in the middle of the steep hill as I wrestled the coat off, I decided I absolutely adored the parking brake. My Trice simply has locks on the front wheel brakes for parking. Though I was on the Sprint 26X which is a bit higher end than the 26 I’m thinking of purchasing, both of them have the same rear brake option. A handy twist lever at the bottom of the steering handle. It holds tight and firm and no crushing the brake handles while trying to force the button down.

Coat off, I continued that first hard climb. The fog thinned slightly as I went up. From a perspective of visibility for cars coming over the top of the hill on that pretty, but narrow little lane, I was glad of that much.

The climb was distinctly unpleasant. The trike’s tires slipped from time to time on the wet leaves and it was hard. I don’t know how long it took me to reach the peak. I don’t even know what the grade was since my Garmin was laying in one of the pod-bags. While grinding along, an older man on a mobility scooter out with his dog shook his head at me and said, ‘Right lousy weather to be doing that!’ I heartily agreed.

I have had worse climbs on my Trice here in Sweden, but they have almost all involved ice or gravel or my trailer loaded with camping gear with gravel.

Fog Kissed Spiderweb

The place was beautiful though. As I crept along that road with steep banks crowned with trees or walls, I kept seeing openings for footpaths almost always accompanied by a wooden sign with the words “Public Footpath”. There must be a veritable spider web of them throughout the region.

Seeing those, I felt a bit guilty for not bringing my mother-in-law. She would have just adored those trails.

Finally I made it up that first nasty hill and then got one of the rides of my life. That beautiful trike just flew like a stooping hawk down the road until my wet hair was blowing back from under the helmet and I was giggling like an insane woman with the exhilaration. On one long straight stretch, I just let the brakes go and it felt like I must have hit over 30 mph. I’m not entirely sure of the speed because the Garmin wasn’t handy.

Around about the first mile and midway down the first hill, I gripped the brakes to slow for a turn. Yet something else I loved! The drum brakes on my trike are great. Better than any brakes I’ve had on the standard diamond frame bikes I’ve owned, but the disc brakes of the Sprint put them all to shame. The hand levers felt light and comfortable even to my little hands and the brakes themselves were extremely responsive. I went from streaking at white-knuckle high speed to a smooth glide for the corner gently, but in a surprisingly short distance with less force on the levers that I’d have had to use on the Trice.

Saint Budock Parish Church – First English Medieval Church via Cycling!!

I was still giggling as I coasted to a stop at the first and only church on the planned 8 miles.

Just a hint of the stained glass work. Must be stunning from the other side

I loved the church. The gorgeous stone of the walls and Gothic like detailing of the stained glass windows. I would have loved to take a peak inside to see the artwork of those windows from the proper perspective with daylight shining through them even if it was muted by cloud and fog.

The churchyard had a completely different feel to it than those I’m accustomed to in Sweden. It felt older and certainly more crowded. Swedish country churchyards feel almost open and airy. Even without the fog it wouldn’t have been much of a push for this grave yard to take on the slightly eerie feel that is often portrayed with older places like this. It felt a little close and the headstones so old, deeply weathered, lichen covered and leaning as if weary of existence. Added with that hanging mist and trees and shrubs hiding portions of it, it just deepened the mystery. All it would have needed to be a perfect Halloween setting would have been a few fluttering bats, a dead tree and a full moon shimmering ghost-like in the fog.

It reminded somewhat of a graveyard near where I spent one of the happier times of my childhood. Not far from the corner of Walnut St. And Lake Ave. where my family lived for some number of years stands the Krebs-La Pointe Home that we always called ‘Old Spanish Fort’. It dates from 1718 and right next to the grounds of that old house is the cemetery. A lot of the settlers from the area and time of the 1700’s are buried there and many of the oldest stones are inscribed in French. It had that same old feel to it. It had a spookiness as well, particularly to a young girl with a highly active imagination. The fact some of the old brick, above-ground ‘vaults’ were collapsing with dark openings big enough for one to put a hand into, or for a hand to come out of, gave an even creepier feel.

Maybe it was because it reminded me so much of the Old Spanish Fort Cemetery, and therefore those happy years of youth, but I smiled as I walked around the church. There was the sense that the passing of years stretching into centuries had been made tangible. It hung about the place as if each century was one heavy cloak after another, draped over the church. It wore that age with a heavy dignity more pronounced than that of the Swedish churches I’m familiar with. Maybe it’s because its endurance through the ages had not been stripped away beneath countless renovations to remodel the number, placement and size of windows according to the fashion of the times, nor buried under layers of youthful, glowing skins of brightly painted plaster.

I didn’t linger long. I’m anxious enough when I leave my Trice alone, unlocked, for more than a minute, but I take responsibility for someone else’s property even more seriously. By the time I finished getting pictures and looking at the beautiful details of the church windows, I was about to jump out of my skin with worry about the Sprint.

It was still neatly tucked in the out-of-the-way spot I’d found for it.

Then it was back to the wild ride down.

At the bottom of the hill, I stopped briefly. I think about the time I started making the next hard climb, the thought to cut the ride short crossed my mind. The wet was getting to me, particularly since the cotton blouse felt hotter the wetter it got. The steep, long climbs were wearing my legs out quick. I took a look at the altitude graph on my Garmin and it was showing peaks and valleys double anything I’ve faced in Sweden. AND my part of Sweden at least has stretches with something approaching flat in between the hills. Not so in this part of Cornwall unless you count a the tiny 75 – 100 meter low spots between those hills.

The final blow for me was lack of scenery. The tree lined lanes were pretty, but on the occasions the trunks parted, all I saw was 50-75 feet of green grass fading to a wall of white nothing. If the weather had permitted glimpses of the glorious views across, up and down the hills, I would have been pulled onward for more and more photos.

At least I didn’t have to double back. The wild descent had been the steepest hill of the ride and luckily, there was a turn which would take me directly back to the main road and back to ICE. It was another gorgeous tree-lined lane which offered another flying ride down before creeping upward again. That last climb before the bigger road took forever.

I was shaky and weak-kneed as I pushed up the ramp to their large delivery door. My left arm was splattered in mud where I’d put the wheel off the pavement a few times in an attempt to give passing cars more room. My hair was matted down over my neck and shoulders, dripping onto my well dampened shirt. Still I was grinning as I got off the trike.

My wobbly-legged and soggy appearance got me a few goodnatured laughs and teasing. Hero appeared and said she’d put dry towels in the ladies bathroom for me to dry off with the offer to tea or coffee when I came up into the office. I gratefully took up the offer of both the towels and some tea. I’ve never really had a fondness for tea, but as soon as I stopped pedaling all that wet went right into a chill. Hot anything sounded wonderful.

Neil was scarce as I sipped hot English tea with a bit of milk and sugar and nibbled some cookies. Soon, someone went in search of him and he breezed into the office with a smile. I told him I absolutely loved the Sprint except for the lever gear shifters at the top of the steering grips. Those are standard with the Sprint 26x. The Sprint 26 has twist shifters which I definitely prefer

The rest was perfect until they came up with something better. It felt rock solid even compared to my Trice which I’ve always considered extremely stable. Part of that greater feel of stability is likely the 2 extra inches of of width between the front tires. My Trice is a narrow-track version.

Even though I’d made no commitment to buy, Neil still spent almost an hour with me to go through all the options between my desire for a decent low-end gear range and derailleur clearance.

We quickly discarded the possibility of a internal geared hub with a 20″ wheel. The need for the short crankset with it’s smaller chain rings made the overall gear inches too low. I’d have been pedaling like crazy at the highest gear anytime Loke ran faster than 12 mph.

He quickly did the math and presented the numbers. The short crank set with the 26″ rear wheel had actually given me a smaller gear inch on the lowest gear than my Trice currently has. That surprised me. In that case, as hard as those hills were I would have hated to face them on my own trike.

Once we’d developed up my ‘nearly ideal’ trike, Neil took me back to the trike area for me to try the folding. LOVED IT. It adds nothing to the ride experience itself, but for sheer convenience, I’m wild for it. It folds to about 1/3 shorter than the Trice. The rear wheel stays on the trike so there’s no slack chain that might be smear grease on things. It’s a bit tricky to do until you’re used to it, but that’s because of the safety measures they’ve built in to make sure the trike isn’t going to collapse in the middle of a ride. I’ve folded my Trice no more than 4 times since I bought it because of the hassle of putting the rear wheel back on after it’s been removed and trying to wrap the back in plastic because of the chain. It also never really felt that much smaller after folding either. This one, I can see folding it every time I put it away. I would certainly make much easier to carry in and out since it would be a less unwieldy length.

He showed me something else as well. A pair of trikes fitted with electric assist motors. One was the usual sort with the drive in the rear wheel. That was a beast. I could barely lift the rear wheel off the ground.

The other was almost tiny by comparison. A battery with casing about the size of a large cantaloupe and an even smaller motor that drove the front chainring rather than the rear wheel. With an internal geared hub on the back, it meant the trike actually had a wider range of speeds with the motor pushing it than the heavy one.

Right after that, a shipment arrived at ICE which caused a bit of a stir among the guys. Pre-production prototypes for certain accessories. They were more than happy to show them off to me, winking as they said they’d swear to me to secrecy later. They didn’t, but I’m keeping my mouth shut as if they did. 😉 If the items pass a few last tests, they’ll likely be on the market sometime early next year.

With my shirt decently dry at last, I went to change back into my jeans. As I went around thanking everyone for their hospitality, Neil suddenly asked if I’d like a ride back to my B&B. I started to say I’d walk, but a glance out the doors showed a soggy drizzle. I accepted the offer.

Before we left the industrial park, we swung by their soon-to-be new location. Shortly after I visited in 2006, they changed location. Just moved to another part of the building they were renting in. Now, they’ll be moving again shortly after my visit. This time though, it’s a different building and instead of rent, they’ll be paying a mortgage. It looks good. It’s a little smaller, but it will be theirs.

Overall, it was a good day and they made me feel very welcome and almost even part of their little group. One of the advantages of a small business I guess.

So, in all, the Sprint was a dream to ride in spite of the bad weather and hills that cut the ride short. The folding makes me want to swoon with delight.

Neil suggested that if the weather is better tomorrow, I come back for a longer ride since the trike will be all set for me to just jump on and go. Tessa, my hostess here at Trelawney Guest House, told me the weather is supposed to be better. Fingers crossed!!

The Time Approaches
October 20, 2012, 8:34 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Just a couple days from now, I’ll be on a plane to England. I think Jens is still a bit dazed that I’m going through with the trip. Honestly, once the pressure of keeping other people amused or navigating through London was removed I’m calm about it. 99% of the times I’ve traveled by plane I did so alone. The only time I’ve had company on a flight was the first trip to Falmouth.

I do still have a few nerves about going. It’s possible I always will since my first trip there turned into such a nightmare. Nothing like being locked in an interrogation room and treated like a criminal to give one bad associations about visits to a particular country. The first time I went to England, they apparently decided I was an immigration risk. They came down hard on me, though they KINDLY let me stay a week (instead of the month I’d planned) under tightly controlled circumstances. Even held my passport as hostage. So, yeah. Going to England makes me a bit jumpy. I have this dread that not only will they pitch me back out of the country, but they’d ship me to the US instead of home to Sweden.

I’ve not been riding much so inching over 700 miles for the year stalled briefly.

My ride before last was something of a wonder. The sky was mostly clear and the sun barely clearing the horizon. Frost kissed the ground. I had a brief wish for a truly awesome camera. I was crossing the wooden planked bridge at the perfect time. The sun had just reached the boards and the frost on the wood glittered like a scattering of diamond dust. 5 minutes later and it would have just been wet timber. The picture didn’t come out too well. Nor did the later one with delicate silken strands of spider webs draped over the tops of cut wheat stalks. Thousands of them, all running in the same direction and shimmering as they danced in the soft currents of air.

I rode again yesterday. Just a rolling walk. Yep. Loke is having issues again. He needed his annual rabies booster. While I was there, I remembered hearing a ticking sound from Loke as he panted. It reminded me of the sound I’d heard in birds with respiratory infections. I asked Niclas to take a quick listen. *sigh* He heard something in Loke’s left lung. So, another round of antibiotics. At least this was the longest he’s had between doses since last December.

Yesterday was gray and blustery gray day, but hey! Closer to breaking 700 miles! Loke was half nuts to run and I think he would have set a year’s speed record if I’d let him. He’s refusing to act even remotely unwell. Big appetite, huge amounts of energy.

So, my next post will include my trip to England along with my opinions of the Sprint 26 trike. I’m looking forward to it!

Perfectly Cool Autumn Day!
October 7, 2012, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

The night of the 5th, it got cold! Not the ‘Mid-40’s-Need-A-Jacket-Against-Wind’ cold. I mean frosty cold. The first frost of the 2012-2013 cold season! I woke yesterday to 36 F and skies that looked utterly clear. The sun wasn’t yet showing so it was a little hard to tell, but I was hopeful. The forecast for the day at least promised no rain.

Jens had offered to drive me out somewhere to ride with the intention of cleaning the car inside and out. For that, the trike obviously needed to be out of it. He also prefers me to be busy but out of his way when he does such chores so it was the perfect solution.

I looked in my mapbook for an interesting area, but none jumped out at me except around Västerås. Not to mention we still haven’t bought ink/toner for our printer so it seemed that continuing along the tour I’d plotted was my best bet. Maps already printed and since Jens needed to keep the car for cleaning it didn’t have to be a loop. So, I sprang into action, packing furiously. Still wasn’t until after 9 pm that we headed out.

Lillhärad Church

Bell Tower At Lillhärad

Lillhärad Church on the west of Västerås was something of a disappointment. Jens walked around it while I put the trike together and even commented, “That’s it? Not much of a church.”

In spite of it’s boxy outer appearance which has nothing to distinguish it from a building constructed just 10 years ago, there’s a bit of history there. A chunk of stone baptismal font dates from the 1100’s. I suppose this little church has just had too much bad luck to keep very many of it’s pre-medieval and medieval roots.

After taking the pictures, I had a few doubts about the wisdom of my rushing out the door as quick as I did. My hands were cold as I latched down the seat and packed the water bladders. Thankfully not a breath of wind stirred the air, but moving at 15 mph creates its own wind chill. From the time I decided to go for the ride to doing the last of the packing, the temperature had gone from 36 F to 45 F, so when my token attempt to find wool leggings and gloves came up with nothing, I decided to not waste further time on it.

Autumnal Panorama

Look! The Moon!

I thought I’d be okay though and certainly wasn’t going to cancel the outing. Worst case, I’d go slower. Loke wouldn’t be happy with it, but life would yet go on.

It was cold as Loke bolted out of the parking lot and led us wildly down the road to the north. My wrap-around sunglasses helped keep the wind out of my eyes as the tires hummed and the country side glided past. Before the autumn air numbed my cheeks, I could feel the huge grin pulling the corners of my mouth.

And the sky! Not a cloud to flaw the dome of graduated shades of blues. High above the pale robins’ egg horizon the half-circle of the moon rested like a pearl on the azure. Brisk air, perfect skies, vibrant gold autumn sun enriching the yellows and oranges of the trees, and a happy husky running beside the trike. Having Jens ride with me would have made it absolute perfection. Maybe someday.

Not far down the road, I had a bad fright. As we sped in the amber light of the sun, a dog came rushing across the yard of a house. All I saw and heard was the German Shepherd. Being a bit light blinded and the dog being in the deep shade cast by the low sun angle with trees and his house, I didn’t see the thick chain until it yanked him short after about 10 yards. I yelped the rude version of ‘crap’ and tried to keep our speed up, but Loke came to a dead stop to wag his tail at the snarling beast straining at the end of his tether.

The dog’s owner came running, yelling at the dog. He gave me nasty looks while trying to bring the shepherd to heel. I had better luck getting Loke to give up his attentions to the aggressive animal. Just said, ‘On by’ and ‘Move out!’ and Loke resumed the run. Took a while for my heart to stop thumping around in my chest like a rock being shaken in a can.

The rest of the ride to the first major intersection was blissfully uneventful.

That first road crossing was a doozy though. No crosswalk or underpass. Just a mad scramble across the carriageway. Even on a Saturday morning the flow of traffic was steady and the cars went screaming past at 70+ mph. We finally had an opening and scooted over. I HATE carriageways. At least this time, there was an direct jump across it rather than it being the barrier it presents on the east side of Västerås between north and south.

Peace resumed north of the E-18 carriageway. In the shade of the trees, it remained on the uncomfortable side of cool, but pleasant in the sun which made me look forward to the wide expanses of fields.

First I had to make it through a wide swathe of woodland. Cold or not, I didn’t mind. I like forests. I simply alternated putting my hands between my back and sheepskin seat cover to warm.

There were a lot of parked cars along the road as well as many places where trails met the road, blocked off with big stones to keep vehicles out. I was approaching another cluster of cars when a man hailed me as he locked his up. Surprisingly, he asked most about the trike. Loke is the one who typically gets the attention. One of the first things he asked was if I had an electric motor on it. When I said no, he mentioned they had met a couple further down the road with a pair of trikes that had motors. With smiles and waves, he and his wife vanished into green and gold of a forest trail.

We went on and I was rather curious about the two trikes he’d mentioned, but figured I’d never catch them. Particularly if they motors. The hills in the area were keeping my speed down.

Autumn & Country Churches. Beautiful!

The forest gave way to fields and sunshine. Soon, I saw glimpses of Skultuna Church in the distance over fields of earth and harvest stubble. Occasionally we passed even fields of ripe wheat which seemed a little odd.

Skultuna Church

During the approach to Skultuna Church, thin clouds began to mar the horizon. I regarded their intrusion resentfully. Clouds held the skies in an iron rule (and gray) for the better part of two weeks. How dare they threaten to flaw the first glorious day in ages!? Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but I did feel a measure of that indignation, convinced the sun would vanish and rains return before I even reached Västerås.

I almost didn’t go down to the church. It was an out and back with a low spot in the middle. The climb back up to the road I needed was particularly steep and unpleasant looking. I already knew the church lacked runestones. I sat at the top of the hill for a couple minutes before deciding I was being a wimp. I have to admit, the sharply curved 10%-11% grade made a fun sprint to the bridge at least. Loke ran flat out, tongue flopping and giving me that look which I interpret as ‘Wheeeeeee!’

I didn’t find a parking spot as such. I settled for tucking Loke next to the wall at the gate courtesy of a light pole. The trike, I actually backed through the gate a little. Leaving Loke with plenty of water, I dutifully walked around the church and took the photos needed for merging. Odd, I don’t recall having the issue of finding enough space to get an entire church in frame, but it seems to be very common now.

Burial Vault Door??

Skultuna is a pretty church though at first glance not very distinguishing from dozens others in Sweden. While going around the chapel, I did find something odd. Three small iron doors. One to the south, one at the east and last on the north, all set into the foundation stone. They looked rather… coffin shaped and sized to my thinking. It occurred to me they might be burial vaults. The size and shape certainly hinted at the possibility. Just right for sliding a casket in.

On the ground right at the back of the chapel lay a trio of grave markers of iron. Two of them were from the mid-1600’s. I couldn’t make out the date of the third.

More Autumn Scenery

Duty done, I went back to tackle the hill which had been so much fun coming down. Loke kindly decided to help. Probably because he couldn’t stand creeping along 2 miles an hour. It felt good to reach the top and the view was nice enough I took pictures for another panorama.

Thank you telephoto lens!!

Autumn Blue & Gold

Taking the road following the ridge running parallel to the small river below, Loke sped us along rapidly south and east. He wore socks now, donned just before leaving the church. Following the ridge was convenient. Hills still slowed us from time to time, but they weren’t as challenging the ones on roads crossing it would have been.

The fuzzy one was loving the brisk day and wanted nothing more than to keep moving. He refused water even around mile 10, loped or ran every chance he had. When he slowed into a ‘jog’, his legs were a blur at we cruised along 8.8 – 9.2 mph. He constantly graced me with husky smiles when we zipped down hills. I felt a warm glow of joy at having my furry cycling partner beside me and healthy. He hasn’t been this fit and free of health problems since last December. Frightening to think about it.

And Loke’s improvement has not gone unnoticed. Even our neighbors who may see him only a couple times a week and very briefly have remarked on the difference. That he has more energy and is more cheerful and bouncy than he was earlier in the year. Really gives me pause to wonder how long and how much of an impact the gland problem was having on him.

Knock wood he continues to be so healthy and happy and, on the trike runs, energetic!

An October Lupin!

Everything around was blue sky, green conifers and yellow/orange broad left trees, so a flash of purple easily caught my eye. Amazingly, it was a lupin! The first one I’d seen since the end of June or beginning of July. It looked so forlorn sitting alone at the road side. I stopped, offered Loke some water and then took a picture of the lonely flower with my iPhone to share with a friend of mine who likes and grows them in his garden in Canada.

As I readied the post to Facebook, I saw blots of bright vivid yellow, the same color as my windbreaker, approaching. By the time I hit ‘post’, the colors resolved into a pair of trikes with the riders wearing jackets and gloves of the reflective yellow. Even the panniers on their trikes had covers. No missing them!

All three of us were laughing with delight and waving. The man and woman were somewhere between 50-60 years old and on a pair of Terratrikes. I recognized immediately that the woman’s had an electric assist. The man’s looked like it had an internal geared hub rather than an engine.

They stopped next to me and the man hopped right up and walked over for a look at my trike, saying he just had to get a closer look. He asked about the make and model of it, how long had I owned it.

The woman was a little slower to get up, but cheerfully walked over. Her trike had a 26″ rear wheel and a much higher sitting position. As we talked about machines, she said she needed the higher sitting position as well as the electric assist to get up hills since she had only a leg and a half. Without the least bit of self-consciousness, she bent over to lift the hem of her left pant leg to expose the ‘shin’ of her prosthetic limb.

I smiled and said I never would have known if she hadn’t shown me, she moved that well. She laughed and told me it was a good leg and she’d had a few years to get used to it since the vehicle crash in 2008. She admitted the recovery was the hardest part, taking almost a full year in a hospital before moving on frequent outpatient physical therapy sessions.

As she explained all this, it struck me how at peace she was with it. Granted, I’ve met less than a handful of people with prosthetic limbs. They all seemed embarrassed or ashamed of it. Universally, they have been burdened with an underlying current of anger and bitterness which is understandable. Not this plump, gray-haired woman with cheeks rosy from the cold and dressed in bright yellow and black. It simply was something that had happened and moved on.

The man added that they had just purchased the trikes in May of this year. Before the accident, they’d regularly gone on biking vacations which the accident put a stop to. His wife simply couldn’t maintain speed to climb any but the gentlest hills on a bike. Even with a trike, she didn’t have the strength to push up the steeper hills so when they’d discovered electric assist motors for trikes, they were thrilled and got their machines as quick as they could. They were loving it. The man laughingly described how the woman zipped far ahead on the hills as he had to huff, puff and creep his way up.

I had a wonderful time talking with them. I felt a great deal of admiration for the woman’s cheery nature even while displaying the leg and talking of the accident. Loke didn’t seem nearly impressed with them. He was fairly standoffish to their overtures. Probably sulking about sitting still for almost 20 minutes.

Skerike Church

Loke ran like a dog possessed once we parted company with the couple. One could almost think he was trying to make up for lost time. It seemed just minutes later I could see the steeple of Skerike. The church sat a little off the main road, but the map had showed a way I could avoid having to do an out and back.

Unfortunately, I found the way I’d planned to go back to the main road was a combination of unpaved road and rough track rather muddy looking. I didn’t relish getting Loke’s socks wet since it makes it so much harder to add tape layers.

I went into the parking lot to do my walk around the church while I wrestled with the dilemma.

I did take enough pictures to stitch the church together, but decided the ‘distant’ one was much nicer. Rather surprised to find a field of unharvested canola standing in the field across from it.

I went back to the start of the dirt road for a closer look. It looked possible to avoid the worst of the mud and didn’t appear too boggy. Given the steep climb back to the road I’d approached from, I decided to take it.

It wasn’t too bad given the sheer amount of rain the past couple weeks. I definitely was able to keep Loke’s socks mostly dry except for the very bottoms naturally. It was a short push of barely more than a quarter mile to rejoin the road so I think it was worth it. Another half-mile after that we came to what might be considered Västerås proper where we joined a larger road.

Thankfully a cycle path ran along side it, but I didn’t stay long on it. Just before a large bridge over the small river, there was a side path to go under the bridge where a bike bridge waited to carry us over to the path following the opposite river bank. From there, I expected a tedious residential area that I’d plotted online. It turned out to be something completely different. It was a ‘koloni området’ which translates roughly into ‘colony area’. What it really means is a garden area. Maybe I should have taken pictures to explain better. It was so busy I felt embarrassed at the idea of doing that, so words will have to suffice.

Take a section of land, generally in or very near a town or city, divide it into tiny plots for rent or sale. The people who buy or rent are usually those who live in apartments so have no lawns to putter around. They build a tiny cottage on their plot and satisfy their desire or need to garden. Flower gardens, veggie gardens, arbors, tiny gazebos, mini-orchards of fruit trees. The cottages can be as basic or fanciful as the builders like. Some are miniature versions of traditional Swedish houses.

Usually these colonies are fenced and locked. I was surprised to find this one wasn’t. Loke and I went down the little dirt lanes between picket fences, past the tiny cottages. There were few flowers to see though the dried stalks still stood everywhere, their season well past. This colony was quite established and some of the cottages and mini-houses were enchanting. One plot baffled me though. There wasn’t much ‘mini’ about the cottage. It essentially filled its space leaving just a thin band of clipped grass around the border. A plot in a place like that one aren’t cheap. Seemed odd to pay for a place to garden and then cover it with a building which wasn’t even attractive and likely still too small for a vacation home. Another plot had the right idea I think. A nice sized deck built onto their cottage with a canvas awning and a brick grill. Still had lots of room for flower beds and plants which must look stunning in the spring and summer.

As we slowly rolled by one cute cottage painted bright yellow and white, a woman yelled a greeting. She asked us to wait before hurrying inside briefly and emerged with a dish of water and few pieces of lunch meat for Loke. The gift of food instantly won her Loke’s affection of course. He was all cute and lovey as she told him what a pretty boy he was with lavish pats. It was the first time all day Loke had received any attention over the trike. It turned out she’d had a pair of huskies about 10 years ago and still missed them terribly.

The colony grounds ended at a very high bridge. Passing beneath it irked the fuzzy one. I think he disliked the noise of the cars which echoed more than it does in the small overpasses he’s accustomed to.

I didn’t get any decent pictures of the river, which had grown in size considerably. The light was uncooperative. Eventually, I ended up leaving the riverside path and went back up onto one along a smaller road. I would have stayed closer to the river in hopes of getting a pretty water shot, but it came a narrow gravel foot path. There was so much traffic on it we would have either been forcing people off the trail or ended up pushing through the grass ourselves.

Västerås Cathedral

Soon, I was seeing the steeple of Västerås Cathedral down the road. The strongest indication we were close to the cathedral came when the cycle path disappeared and Loke and I were rattling down a cobble stone street. Older buildings also gave me strong hints.

I found the cathedral. The only thing it had in common with Uppsala’s cathedral is brickwork. It’s a pretty building, and I did try to get photos of it close, but the results were not worth sharing. Even attempts to photomerge and then straighten came out badly. There are apparently runes in the brickwork and I did a slow roll around the church in search of them, but found none. So, all I really have to show for it is the steeple from a distance.

Few of the pictures I took around the cathedral came out and there were quite a few interesting buildings. The problem was the stark contrast between the shadows and sun. Black in the shade and washed out in the sunlight that just ruined any image. I’m not even sure how to begin taking pictures in such areas. My SIL who took photography classes might have some idea, but she wasn’t with me sadly.

As I rattled my teeth over the cobblestones through the old district of Västerås, Loke and I received a wealth of goggle-eyed stares, pointing fingers and even hurried snapped phone photos.

Västerås Castle

When I reached Västerås Castle, I was disappointed to find the courtyard full of scaffolding. From the outside the castle looks to be little more than a brick box. An imposing brick box, but a box all the same.

Getting through the heart of downtown Västerås stressed me a little. The main street I took didn’t have a cycle lane. The sidewalks were very large and wide, but since shops open onto them and they were crowded with people, it didn’t feel right taking Loke or myself right through the throngs. Thankfully it was only a quarter to half a mile before cycle paths reappeared.

It was mostly a straight shot to the road I needed for the next point of interest. There were a few confusing spots, but common sense worked those out easily enough even when maps and GPS failed me.

Then Loke started limping funny. We’d stopped at an intersection and he’d lifted his leg to mark a pole. As we moved out, it was like his hip hurt or something. I stopped and poked around and moved his hind legs, but got no indications of anything wrong. Yet, he still trotted funny when I rolled out again.

Anundshög (Anund’s Mound)

Twin Ship Setting From Mound Top

I’d planned to ride on to another church or two even after we’d reached Anund’s Mound east of Västerås, but with Loke limping, I’d take no chances. I immediately called Jens. The mound was less than 2 miles away by that point and had a huge parking lot for packing everything so I nursed Loke along. It would take my husband an hour to reach the place.

I stopped to give Loke some water and noticed he was holding up his left paw. I pulled off the sock to look it over, but he didn’t even look up from the water bowl as I wiggled the toes and checked the pad. Magically, his limp disappeared when we went on. Maybe a toenail had gotten caught on the fabric inside. I didn’t call Jens to say ‘never mind’ though. It was already 4 pm and the wind which had been cool through afternoon grew teeth. By 5 pm it was going to be even more unpleasant than when I’d started the ride. Not to mention, Loke had gone 5 miles without socks, so he couldn’t really handle much more with a bare foot.

That last mile and a half went much quicker without Loke’s limp.

Runestone At Anundshög

The cycle path ended at a small spot for parking bikes and the car lot was on the far side of the site. I ignored both the cycle parking and the busy road with an encouraging word to the furry one and pedaling up into the grass. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. The grass was close clipped so my front wheels went without much hindrance and the narrow packed earth foot trails gave my rear drive tire enough purchase.

Disappointment followed me as we puttered past the huge mound and various standing stones on our way to the parking lot. The low sun dipped behind the nearby trees, throwing long, deep shadows over half the site. Clearly, photographing anything was going to give me the same difficulties I’d had at the cathedral with the conflict of contrast.

On one hand, it wasn’t a huge problem. I had photos from July 2011 when Jens and I did a ‘Castles of Lake Mälaren’ road trip. Yes, I know. Mounds, stone ship settings and monolith rows don’t qualify as a castle, but I’ve been dying of curiosity about this place since I first found out about it 5 or 6 years ago. The lighting then was very nice for taking pictures of site as well. The view from the top of the mound is stunning. Hard to believe what a difference 29 feet of elevation makes to the scenery!

View of Monolith Row Along Ancient Road

Still I made the climb up the mound to see how the view was for a panorama photo cluster. No love there either. Lots of kids for Loke to bounce around with though. I didn’t let him near the edge of the mound top. Last thing I wanted was for some poor child to take a nasty tumble down the side because my husky said ‘Hi!’ a little too enthusiastically.

I stopped at a picnic table near the parking lot. Loke seemed disappointed as I stripped his harness off though I’m sure he was thrilled to be rid of the socks. I filled up his water dish and tethered him to the table.

As the sun dropped further behind the trees, I felt I’d made the right decision. The wind picked up a little, making me hunch down in my inadequate windbreaker as I read a book on my kindle. Unpleasantly, the ground seemed determined to turn my feet into blocks of ice. It just sucked every trace of warmth right through the chunky soles of my cycle shoes.

Despite the chill, a lot of people lingered and many kids with them. What surprised me more was the sheer numbers of them speaking English! American English no less! I think there were at least 3 groups.

I was glad to see Jens making the turn into the parking lot. He walked over to keep Loke company as I went into a frenzy of packing. The entire day’s ride had totaled 20.5 miles, but I counted it a good day. Beautiful weather enjoyed, new places visited, gorgeous autumn scenery photographed and I met that wonderful couple on the trikes.

October 5, 2012, 8:10 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Flight? Booked.

Hotel? Booked.

Visit to ICE? Booked.

Jens seems a bit bemused by my plans. I think he expected that I’d given up on the idea of going to England after tentative plans this spring fell apart in a cascade of stress. It probably baffles him even more than I’m calmer about going alone than I was when trying to plan for his mother or one of his sisters to accompany me.

There’s a number of reasons for that. Firstly, I’ve had time to calm my mind over the London issue. I won’t actually be going INTO London except Paddington Station where I will catch a train to Falmouth. Big relief. No anxiety over trying to plan what I can or can’t do in London to keep someone else amused while accommodating my limited walking range or willingness (or lack) to stay up late.

The same is true of activities in Falmouth. If my ankles or back start bothering me, I can find somewhere to sit and relax. It might not be exactly what I want to do, but at least I can if need be without feeling like I’m ruining someone’s fun. Goodness knows I’d be running all over the place like a crazed woman trying to see everything in 1 day if I were physically able to. Before my ankles were wrecked, I did just that. Exhausting everyone around me as I ran about like a squirrel on speed to do this, see that, too much to do in x-number of days!! I have to accept that I can’t do that FOR NOW.

It’s odd I feel stress at that but when it was the other side of the coin, I completely understood when others wanted or needed to slow down, relax.

While bashing out the plans for my trip, I also went for a ride. Wednesday, I packed up the camera with the intention of finding the stones at a burial ground along my Läby/Grocery Store loop. Hard to believe, but there was sunshine! Real, honest yellow/white light from the sky in between clouds which for once didn’t drop rain! Loke was excited as we set off on the beginning of the river loop while I hoped that Gamla Börje Road was done being paved.

It was! The new smooth, pitch black surface felt incredible beneath my wheels. It even felt easy to climb that first steep hill right of the 272. All the tooth rattling, overlapping patches? Gone! The stretches of road where parts of it had subsided making for wonky angles unless one rode in the center? Level! The yards long cracks gaping up to 4 inches wide, waiting to devour tires or dog paws? Gone! I’m not sure how long it will last, but I enjoyed it all the same!

The colors out in the countryside were a little disappointing. In Uppsala proper, there are quite a few trees in brilliant oranges and blazing reds to take the breath. Beyond the city limits, the trees which aren’t conifers seem to be restraining themselves to muted yellows.

Even so, we enjoyed being out in the brisk 55 F air with a soft sun playing peekaboo with the clouds. After more than a week of dull gray skies and dimmed light it was glorious.

It felt like no time at all that I was crossing the 55 near the Shell station to putter down the dirt road to the parking lot for the burial ground.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the stones. I put Loke on his flexi-leash before tucking the GPS into the camera bag with my phone and settling the strap over my shoulder. There’s no clear path the burial ground, just slightly flattened stretch of grass for the 250 yards or so. I turned to start the short walk and found Loke standing in 5 inches of mud/water mix. When he picked up his paws, they were black with the thick slurry clinging to them. Immediately, I put everything back on the trike. A few stones could not convince me to wade through that muck.

Loke seemed a little disappointed at first, but the run back toward the gas station distracted him. When we reached the wooded cycle paths on the other side of the grocery stores and various other shops, we fairly flew! Loke wanted to do a flat out run and I humored him, reveling in the sharp curves through the trees.

Just as we came to the edge of the paths where they end at a residential district, I saw something very large and white moving between the trunks and undergrowth. So it was we met Atlas.

His owner spotted us and came back to us as the HUGE Great Dane came walk up off his leash. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before, that huge white with black splotches pony-dog, waiting outside the Maxi grocery for his owner. He was even bigger close up. I stood up out of the trike to measure him, resting a hand against my side where his shoulders finally stopped to remember how high. When I measured it at home, I came up with 40 inches and that was in my bare feet. Probably add another inch for my cycle shoes for a total of 41 inches. Sitting in my trike seat, he could look over my head (helmet and all) without raising his own. I’m fairly certain that’s the tallest dog I’ve ever seen in my life and likely out-weighed all except the very large mastiff we met once. Atlas is a fitting name for him. He looked big enough to carry the world on his shoulders.

He wasn’t aggressive, but Great Danes rarely are. He definitely wasn’t impressed with Loke’s boorish behavior though. I think my trike spooked him some, particularly when he and his owner went to leave and I started rolling.

It wasn’t far after that we met another pair of dogs. The pair were socializing. One was a very pudgy black lab with gray on the muzzle. The other looked like a hyper husky who was trying to get the lab to play. Upon seeing us, the lab came over and the man and woman and husky came as well.

Again, the lab didn’t like Loke much for the same reasons most dogs don’t. He just doesn’t respect boundaries. He belonged to the man and after a few minutes of the lab posturing dominance and Loke ignoring it, they left. That left the woman and her husky with us to chat.

I saw very quickly the husky wasn’t a pure blood. She was bigger than Loke by a bit, her muzzle a bit thicker. Most telling were the ears. Broader at the base and about half way up, the tips flopped over. She was cute and very lovey. She actually greeted me before Loke by the straightforward method of running up to smoosh her nose into my cheeks repeatedly. Then she turned a play bow to Loke before the two of them started a boxing match on their hind legs with open mouths. Funny to watch.

It turned out she was a husky/golden retriever mix. I would have guessed golden or lab since either of those could have given her the nose, ears, size and people focus, but the rest of her looked all husky. We chatted a bit as the dogs continued to box. The woman was quite taken with Loke.

Sometime between meeting Atlas and parting from the woman and her husky mix, the puffy clouds thickened and smoothed together in a smooth lead-gray sheet. When we coasted to a stop outside the apartment for a total of 13+ miles, a few light spits of rain came. By the time I was wrestling the trike away, the drizzle was back.

Still was nice to ride in the sun!

Doggie Robes, Planes, Trains and Trikes
October 2, 2012, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The sheer amount of RAIN here has been daunting. I’m sure there have been other times with a lot of rain. I know there was at least one year where the river began running so high you couldn’t have squeezed a paper boat under the downtown bridges. The constant gray and sogginess wears on you, especially as the days get shorter so quickly. The lawn behind our apartment is so saturated it’s as slick as melting ice. The earth gone to mud beneath offers absolutely no purchase for the grass roots. I slipped 3 times while putting the trike together this morning.

Doggie Bath Robe

Most mornings for the past week or more have been dismal with hubby and dog both returning home from the daily walks resembling various drown animals. To keep from killing myself by spending 20 min of furious towel rubbing on Loke, I came up with a way to ‘robe’ him. He endures it with a good amount of patience. No attempts to evade or even struggle out of it once I’ve clipped everything in place. He shakes himself good and hard beneath the absorbent terry cloth and after half an hour or so, I remove it. Viola! Splatter free apartment, mostly dry dog and a mostly pain-free back! Amazing what can be done with a bath towel and a very large document clips.

I’ve been riding, though not frequently. This morning my husband had to leave for a very early appointment so Loke’s morning walk fell to me. So before Jens left with the car, I unloaded the trike and locked it in the back yard. I nearly went down a few times thanks to the quagmire beneath the grass. Not a cheery prospect that. Worrying about hurting my tailbone when it still hasn’t recovered from the first fall a year ago.

Speaking of fall, the autumn colors are peeking out and more so than last years or the year before. It seems the last day or two has tipped a balance though and now leaves are starting to cascade from the trees. That’s a recent development. They were holding fast 3 days or so ago, but today I noticed them scattering down from the limbs and even a few industrious souls already out raking and sweeping.

Today’s ride was fairly miserable. 54 F (12 C) with a dust-fine drizzle. That sort which isn’t even enough to make your clothes feel wet though it speckles eyeglasses with mist and you can feel it on your cheeks. Usually, I’ve only felt something that faint when walking through a very dense fog, but visibility was fine.

Loke and I did a bleah River Loop. Something to get his daily walkies.

I would love if we’d get 3+ days of nicer weather. I’d maybe risk throwing the trailer together with my camping gear and attempting yet another tour. I think it would be pretty miserable pitching a tent on grass covered goo though.

In other news, plans are being made for a trip to England! Falmouth to be exact which is the headquarters of Inspired Cycle Engineering. I’ve managed to get a handle on my discomfort at the idea of going through London since Jens has assured me I can get straight from the airport to train station with just one quick, straight little trip. Falmouth is small enough to not overwhelm this small town girl so I’m all good from there!

I’ve already been in touch with the wonderful people at ICE and they’ve penciled my visit in! Dare I say it? I’m almost giddy with anticipation!

If I wasn’t so wary of my ability to safely drive on the left, I’d risk renting a car once I got to Falmouth so I could explore. That is something I will miss which I got to do last time with Jens. Driving through the English country-side to see anything and everything. Tingatel, Dartmoor, Stonehenge, Sherborne, Berry Pomeroy and others were places we visited last time.

That said, Falmouth sounds as if it has plenty for me to see since I’ll be there for such a short time. Maybe I’ll even be able to catch a bus to the Eden Project! I would love to see that again!