Terii’s Cycling Babble

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.

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