Terii’s Cycling Babble


Slipping, Sliding, Skidding Toward A Goal
December 31, 2012, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

One day of clear skies and sub-freezing temps and we bounced right back to dull, pale pewter clouds and warm enough that melt water was running everywhere on the 29th. 17 miles remained to reach the elusive 800.

That goal still tugged at me. So, on the Saturday, even in the face of 34 F and wet, heavy snow falling thick, I felt the urge to ride again, but desperately wanted some place other than the River Loop. I remembered a short 10 mile route I’d plotted starting at a church between here and Enköping. Though it was a balloon loop, I was a little doubtful about the road conditions being out in the countryside. So, Jens offered to drop me off and pick me up just in case. 800 for the year.

There was still plenty of snow in spite of the melting as we drove down the 55. Dense as the snow storm had been in Uppsala, by the time we reached Litslena Church it was worse. The weather apps had indicated light snow and 7 mph winds, but what whipped across the parking lot was closer to 30 mph. The barely frozen snow stung my face and hands while I tried to find a good angle to photo the church. In spite of thick wool, my wind-resistant thermals and lycra top, the wind just snatched every bit of warmth. In minutes I was shivering.

Litslena Church - iPhone

Litslena Church – iPhone

I found a decent view of the church at an angle where the wind wouldn’t immediately plaster snow across the lens, turned the camera on and… nothing. I’d swapped batteries before leaving the house but the extra obviously had been dead. That was the last straw. I might have gritted my teeth and pushed on in defiance of snow and wind if I could take pictures. But misery and no photos was just too depressing to contemplate. So, I clicked a quick photo of the church with my iPhone to share on FB and returned to the car.

We came straight home.

Jens really wanted Loke to run. Reluctantly, I agreed to take the fuzzy one on another River Loop.

It was a nightmare. I had no strength and every muscle through my thighs and calves burned though the melt had smoothed and firmed the paths and roads. With my hyper husky pulling for all he was worth, we barely did 4 mph. A few stretches, I’m convinced an elderly someone with a walker could have outrun us.

I was a knot of pain by the time we reached home. 5.55 miles and I was wiped. Even better that I canceled the 10 mile loop if that was how I felt. Two consecutive rides on terrain unkind to bike wheels had been harder on me than I’d thought. Recovery days were needed. I waved good-bye to the 800 mile goal. 11 miles short.

Yet, this morning, I found myself thinking hard about how close it was. My mind just wouldn’t let it go. I’d fully intended to take at least 2 days rest, yet without much waffling, ended up getting dressed and slinging everything into the car.

Though the sky was still heavy gray, it was warmer at 38 F. It must have rained during the night because more than half of the snow was gone. Where it had been knee deep, it was barely higher than my ankles or less. In some areas I could even see short clipped grass. The day before yesterday, along the 55 the shoulders had still been choked with ice as well as the passing lanes. Now, they were free of anything resembling snow or ice. The wall of snow at the edge piled by the plows was barely over 1 foot high.

Fog misted through the scenery as I approached the church. In places where fields stretched to the horizon, unbroken by trees, the fog blended earth and sky into a seamless whole.

The temperature held steady, but about 3 miles from the church I ran into rain. It was coming down steadily when I reached it. I pulled into the parking lot as the bells rang for the start of Sunday.

At least 10 minutes passed as I sat in the car while my desire to reach 800 miles fought against what was either common sense or timidity. I’m not certain which. The determination to push for 800 won. Muttering under my breath about my stubbornness, I went out into the rain, pulling on every layer of top I had. Shrugging into my bright yellow windbreaker, I finally found the rain tolerable. The church parking lot was a slick gloss of ice with a thin scattering of gravel. That gave me another pause after I’d tethered Loke nearby. Parts of the loop were dirt roads which are notoriously slow to thaw and have a nasty habit of turning into ice rinks as I’d learned in March 2011. As a matter of fact, the first quarter mile was unpaved. Looking across the highway, all I could see of it was a flat white in between the snow-mounded fields to either side. Insane husky wanting to run flat out while on ice.

Yet, for some reason, I pushed on.

Just getting out of the parking lot was a little harrowing. An icy slope right down into a very busy carriageway. The only blessing was the nearby round-about slowing the traffic. I growled ‘Easy’ at Loke a few times and he settled before hauling us out into traffic. At least the carriageway surface was ice free so we scooted across quick and safe.

A Speed-Crazed Husky On This

A Speed-Crazed Husky On This

My concerns about the unpaved road were well founded. As soon as we hit it, the trike began a sudden leftward twist as Loke found purchase on the ice with his claws, dragging me out of a straight line. Fortunately, we weren’t going fast. My front wheels couldn’t find purchase and finally I fumbled for the parking break and cranked it. I don’t know why the back wheel studs had better purchase then the front, but they did. Loke’s legs were pumping like mad as he sprinted in place on the ice. It took a few seconds before he stopped to give me a baffled look.

The conflict of wills between me and Loke and the ice and the trike continued down the ‘string’ of our balloon loop. Somehow we managed. The worst moment came when I went passed our turn. Sitting on that ice, I had to attempt a multi-point turn. I tried to get up, but my feet couldn’t find grip even when I put the ice studs over the shoes. Took me almost 5 minutes to get the trike facing the other way. Creeping forward by careful inches, speaking firmly to Loke to wait, then pushing furiously with my studs to back up.

I’ll tell you, rounding the turn I needed with a rather sharp slope and uncomfortable tilt toward a ditch got my heart racing.

Loved The Chimney Cap!

Loved The Chimney Cap!

The next few hundred yards weren’t quite as bad. Still icy, but Loke had settled which helped immensely. Our speed still wasn’t much more than 3 mph and I kept a ready hand on the parking brake lever at the bottom of the steering bars. Careful use of the brakes kept us going the right direction and on the road. The fuzzy one let me know with much sighing how boring he thought it all was.

In defiance of the chill rain slowly dampening my clothes (thank goodness for good thick wool!) and the ice, I was still perversely enjoying myself. It came as a complete surprise that the pain and weakness of the previous ride wasn’t in evidence. I thought maybe it was because I was just creeping, not pushing.

Snowy Woods

Snowy Woods

I gave a gusty sigh of relief when we reached the next turn which was the beginning of the loop proper. Yes, there was ice aplenty, but it was cracked and broken. Instead of rock hard, clear-as-glass, it was brown with the dirt and gravel roughing its surface. Grinning, we sped up to Loke’s slower ‘cruising’ speed, about 7.5 mph, as I kept an eye out for hard frozen spots. The wheels still skidded a little from time to time, but never much as the scenery streamed past. Loke’s jaws parted in a tongue flopping husky grin as we splashed our way down the road.

Happily, there still was no sign of the discomfort from the 29th! I was pedaling briskly to crunch through the ice at decent speed and I felt wonderful. A smile on my lips, a song in my heart and a happy husky beside me.

I pulled over once to let a car pass safely and discovered why the ice was so rotten. In a small patch of harder ice, so clear I could see straight through it, was a white stripe. It was a paved road.

Uppland's Runestone #755

Uppland’s Runestone #755

It seemed no time at all when I stopped to take a picture of the runestone. Uppland’s Runestone #755! The final one of the year. The summer picture of it is probably clearer, but I liked this picture better.

As I got ready to move out again, I was passed by a large goods truck. Goosebumps went up along my arms when I saw the young woman driving it with one hand in the noon position on the wheel while chattering on a cell phone. I’m very glad I was sitting a bit off the road when she passed. It’s narrow and parts of it were still quite slippery. Sharing the limited space with someone who’s dismissive of bad road conditions and others on it chilled me more than cold rain in 38 F.

We continued on at a good pace, the next church just a few miles ahead. By this time, the rain had mostly ended. A few stray drops hit me from time to time, but it wasn’t the constant patter I had started with.

Horses in Winter

Horses in Winter

Just past the runestone lay an extensive collection of paddocks with horses turned out for fresh air. Six of them were close enough to notice Loke and me. One group of three was closer and they were wary of us. When I stopped to take pictures, they ambled closer for a look as the other little batch stared at us for a moment before making their way around a bit of fence to investigate. Talking to them all, I took my pictures and admired them before moving on.

The first three bolted once we moved. Apparently all was good when we were a stationary object talking in a human voice. Much as I dislike startling horses, it is still a joy to watch them in action. The others came hurrying with renewed curiosity.

Härkeberga Church

Härkeberga Church

Painting in Härkeberga Church Porch

Painting in Härkeberga Church Porch

The last 2 miles to the next church, Härkeberga, went quickly. Like many churches, it sits high on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. I’d visited the church once this summer while exploring a touring route so knew how steep it would be and that it was unpaved and, therefore, likely hard-frozen with gloss of water from the rain.

If not for the fact I needed the bathroom I knew was up on that hill, I would have settled for using one of the summer pictures of the church or even better, the snowy image of it from the distance.

The path past several old buildings, one housing a closed cafe, up the hill had been heavily salted with chunky gravel so the climb wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. I pedaled around the belfry tower to the small outbuilding with the bathrooms. I’d thought, being Sunday and likely with services held, they would be open. No such luck. They were locked. I faced another 6 miles or so, sloshing around.

Organ Loft With Its Murals

Organ Loft With Its Murals

It meant further disappointment of a locked church as well. When I stopped there in July, it had been open and I found a breathtaking interior. It was vibrant with color and murals seemed to cover every surface. Most of the photos came out blurry as I didn’t brace the camera on something to help me stabilize it for low light conditions. Not to mention, I’ve learned a lot about how to take series of images for photomerging since those were taken. The focal length of the camera was barely enough to get even half of the small church in a decent shot. I wanted to retake pictures with an eye to those honed merging skills to produced an image to display the true scope of the church.

I guess I’ll have to go back this summer just for that! At least the 2 usable photos give a fair idea.

Walking back to the trike, I considered riding a half mile in another direction to double back for that last mile I was going to need. My uncertainty of the road conditions changed my mind though. Just because the days are getting longer doesn’t mean I have 19 hours of light to play with. I was fairly certain another stretch of unpaved road awaited me and that could be as bad as the beginning stretch of the ride.

Gloomy Horizon

Gloomy Horizon

I headed for the northward turn. The brown, rotted and not-too-slippery ice of the road went on for another half mile or less. As we came down the slope, I saw a darker line of clouds crouched on the horizon beyond the trees. To the left, the sky was a pale gray-white as if the sun were trying to break through, but that murky sky reached onward to the right, the direction I needed to go of course. Looking at it, I wondered if it was going to be snow or rain. At 37 F, I guess there was little doubt which I would be graced with if the skies opened up.

Slick Ice iPhone

Slick Ice iPhone

We reached the T-junction and I stopped to contemplate what lay before us.

The first half-mile of the ride had been harrowing with the hard frozen road. At the time I hadn’t thought it could be worse, but stretching before us made me think long and hard about doubling back instead of making a loop. As if it were made of imperfect medieval glass with its faint ripples coated with oil, the road glistened. No cracks, not even a hint of gravel marred the wet shine. It appeared to go on without a break all the way to the trees at the far end of the fields.

It was daunting. I had no idea how far the unpaved road stretched, the conditions beyond what I could see or if there might be graveled stretches of it. Would I even be able to make it up the slightest slope, studded tires or no? I knew without even trying that I wouldn’t be able to stand up, let alone walk on it even with studs on my shoes

I don’t know why, but I drew a deep breath and pushed out into the ice.

Though we didn’t go much faster than 2 mph at any point, it was a ‘heart in my mouth’ ride for me. Even Loke looked a little freaked out. He had almost zero traction! Him! The hero of my first ice ride in 2011! He slipped and skidded along like Bambi on the frozen pond with Thumper. I held on to his harness to make sure he didn’t go crashing down. Every now and again, he’d give me these looks, all wide-eyed and dismayed as if to say, ‘Are you CRAZY?!’

I tried once to edge over to the side where Loke would have better footing on the crunchy snow, but it nearly proved disastrous when he immediately pulled and the trike twisted 90 degrees. The furball stopped and gave me a baffled look. There was no help for it, he had to stay on the ice with me.

We made it by going in fits and starts. I kept the parking brake on enough the rear wheel would turn only if I pedaled. That helped a lot to keep us from going into spins.

Blessed Gravel!

Blessed Gravel!

I guess it was a half-mile or so across those fields before I saw there was the start of a hill at the tree-line. I’d have been worried, but I could just make out that the road had been graveled.

The gravel wasn’t very nice. The stones were a little over large. Great for tires on cars or tractors, but less so for little trike wheels and doggie paws. I kicked myself for not bringing booties for Loke. The trike still lost traction from time to time, giving little lurches to the right or left or the rear wheel spinning, but we still made better speed than on the glassy ice.

Hard to tell, but there was fog here.

Hard to tell, but there was fog here.

Further up the long slope, the gravel disappeared, but the ice was brittle and porous, crunching under the wheels and Loke’s paws. We both had plenty of traction and by pushing my cadence up, we clipped along at roughly 7 mph. Where possible I wanted to push our speed as much as I could since I didn’t know how much longer the remaining distance would take us. Thanks to the dense clouds, I estimated the light would be fairly poor by 2:45 pm in spite of sunset being closer to 4 pm now. No way I wanted to risk getting caught on a bad icy stretch with poor daylight. No bike light on earth would make that kind of road navigable by dark.

The rest of the trip wasn’t too bad really. The places with hard ice had more of that chunky gravel and soon we reached the section of paved road with it’s brown, cracked and rough ice. Instead of the rain I expected with the darker clouds, a soft mist billowed in.

Trees, Snowy Fields & Mist

Trees, Snowy Fields & Mist

Soon, we were back to the little road of the ‘string’ back to Litslena Church. The way was much easier than it had been two hours before. Either a faint dusting of small gravel had been scattered down since we’d first crossed it or ice had melted down to a previous scattering of the small rocks. Whichever, I was grateful for it. It was still a little slippery, but not as it had been.

Scooting across the 55 was done quickly and smoothly. Loke was a bit tired, not so much from the distance I think, but from dealing with the worst of the ice. It was right at 2 pm as I jumped in the car for the drive back.

I felt the glow of accomplishment on many levels. I’d refused to turn back because of unexpected rain. The challenge of roads slick as wet glass had been confronted and beaten. I’d managed to fit in a pair of churches that I’ve wanted to add to my blog for some time now. Best of all? I was now only 1 mile from pushing over the 800 mark which has been teasing me for months.

1 mile. That was nothing. A moment of time. It would take me longer to get dressed and assemble the trike outside than it would to ride a mile. I’d do that easily the next day.

So, this morning, though I awoke with a splitting headache and a leg painful from a charlie horse cramp during the night, confidence remained. I kept looking out the window trying to decide when I’d go.

My headache was quite splitting by the time I started getting ready, but I’d decided nothing short of being dragged screaming to the hospital would stop me. Loke was quite excited to be going as well.

I took a moment to chat with one of my neighbors. The lovely woman who owns the tiny chihuahua/Chinese crested cross dog named Kaisa. As we talked, it occurred to me that we’ve talked much over the years, I knew her dog’s name, but I’d never asked hers. I corrected that and we had a good laugh at the silliness of waiting so long to ‘properly’ introduce ourselves. We kept the chat short though since mostly hairless, little Kaisa was shivering in spite of her sweater.

In moments were were off. The first street we charged down was still treacherous with enough ice to cause violent swerves from slipping tires, acerbated by a crazed furball yanking around and yodeling. The back streets of the little residential area were choked with churned ice that had the texture of a cheap, pre-made snow cone. It slowed us down and was a lot of work. The worst was the violent jouncing as we went. It pushed my headache from just a headache into a full blown migraine. Not quite bad enough to cripple me, which would have been awkward, but hell all the same.

The ride was pretty much a blur thanks to that. I had the presence of mind to photo the Garmin at 1.08 mile to commemorate the official crossing of mile 800. I’d share it, but I’m pushing to finish this blog through a haze of pain. I’ll share it later when transferring the photo from Jens’ little point-n-click camera doesn’t feel like a mountainous chore.

When we coasted up the apartment door with a ride total of 3.84 miles, we even had enough distance to push Loke over a nice round number for his most miles covered in a year. 700.3! Another silver lining to the ride? It loosened the painful muscles in my leg. It also meant 4 consecutive days of riding. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I’m not even sure I’ve ever ridden that many days in a row!

New Stats for 2012!

Mileage – 803.17

Loke’s Miles – 700.3

Number of Rides – 96

Churches – 41 (1 of them in England!)

Runestones – 32

Castles/Manors – 11

Burial Grounds/Mounds – 1

Cultural Sites – 14

Snowy Rides – 9 (counting ice rides in this)

To any who read this, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and much joy in 2013.

Now, I’m going to go lay down with a pillow over my head and let my body rest for a few days!

 

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It Was B-b-um-mp-py!
December 28, 2012, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

The snow in the wide open places of lawns and fields was a little over knee deep. That after it had a few days to compact down a little. Then came a rather freakish streak of ‘warm’ weather. 3 days and nights of above freezing. Unsurprisingly, slush filled the streets, the snow went all crunchy and packed down even more. Water puddled on every paved surface and ran gurgling through downspouts and off eaves. Oh, it also rained! Just plain ol’ water from the sky completely lacking ice or snow. Needless to say, that certainly sped the melt along.

Then last night, the temperature plunged. This morning, the snow was brittle. Ruts and ridges where the plowed soggy snow had refrozen ran down every street. A scene I would have regarded with frustration if I’d only had my Trice. Of course, the sheer volume of snow would have already brought my riding to a halt.

The sun also peeked above the horizon in a crystal clear sky. The first time we’ve had actual sunlight since the day of the freezing fog. 17 days of clouds.

Sick Puppy With His Squeaky Monkey

Sick Puppy With His Squeaky Monkey

Loke was also feeling better. The antibiotics for his ear infection apparently upset his tummy so for about 10 days, he was eating 200 calories a day if we could get him to eat at all. Poor puppy was even turning away from steak. Rare, juicy steak! The lack of calories made him lethargic.

His last dose was Wednesday and yesterday the bouncy, active cute fuzzy one I’ve been missing reemerged. He was very reluctant to eat his kibble though. I guess he was hoping for all the goodies he’d been turning his nose up at for almost 2 weeks. Looks like we’ll have to be a little strict with him until he starts eating his dog food again.

So, with a frolicsome husky and azure skies over glittering, ice studded snow, we rushed out the door to take advantage of the clear if cold weather. 27 F (-2.5 C)!

It’s nice the days are lengthening now. It is astounding how little shifts in the latitude can make a difference here. Stockholm, which is just 50 miles south of Uppsala, had 13 minutes more daylight. Of course, as we get closer to Midsummer, it will change and we’ll have more light then Stockholm.

Another random bit of trivia. The sun’s zenith is already 1 degree higher than it was 5 days ago. *happy sigh*

Just a bit after 11 am, Loke and I were on our way. Much of what was sand-like snow is now crunchy ice where it’s not a solid, rock hard slab. None of it smooth. For the first 200 meters, Loke tried to drag us at warp speed, but the bumpy surface kept us at a tooth-rattling 6 mph. Well, it rattled my teeth any way.

Long Shadows At Noon

Long Shadows At Noon

It was harder going through the small back streets. The hard snow was broken into smallish chunks in a deep layer over the pavement. Here and there were those once-dreaded hard frozen ruts. I only grinned at them as we passed over them.

Once we reached the cycle path again, the going became easier. Except for one very bad section of chunky, crunchy ice it wasn’t nearly as hard as the last ride with gritty snow. Tractor tracks from the last plowing were deeply imprinted and hard frozen added to the rattling.

Loke did get to run a little. The road leading to the military base was half bare asphalt. We pushed up to 10 mph against the raw breeze. I was glad for my face mask. When I turned to double back to the cycle path across to another residential area, the slight downhill and the wind at our backs gave us a boost. We zipped along at 12 mph for that brief stretch. Loke galloped along with that tongue floppy husky grin.

About midway, my knee started bothering me. Reluctantly, I decided to skip the out-and-back extension of the river loop though that extra 2 miles called. I’ve already surrendered the idea of reaching 800 miles for the year. That cold ate too much of the time and the short days with the snow keep me from taking the longer rides like Ulva/Gamla Uppsala loop or Vaksala.

Glossy Skin of Ice

Glossy Skin of Ice

I’m not going to start the year by aggravating my knees to the point I can’t ride. So, following the river back home we went. It was frozen over, but instead of soft, fluffy white over the ice, it was a shiny, glossy skin.

Giant Snowman!

Giant Snowman!

While shaking my way past the ducks, I discovered someone had been very ambitious.

This winter will be the 8th I’ve spent here in Sweden. In all that time I’ve seen perhaps a dozen snowmen. They’re surprisingly rare for a climate often associated with snow. Yet, here was a huge one. I had no way to give proper scale, except to say the smaller ball to the right of the photo is about 3′ in diameter. The arms of the snowman are moderately sized Christmas trees I believe. The top of the faceless head was several feet over the top of mine.

The sheer size of it reminded me of a snowman I helped my Grandpa (on mom’s side) and a teenage aunt build once during the brief time my mother and I lived in Massachusetts. I remember watching that mammoth stack of tightly packed snow, slowly sag and slump through the warming spring. I cried when it finally fell over.

Well, what do you expect from a 5 year old who watches her pride and joy fall apart?

I was glad to get home. If not for my knee, I could have gone miles more. Loke was still in a fine fettle. He probably could have trotted and loped for another 15-20 miles and still been raring to go further.

I’m just pleased I made it out the door! Tomorrow we’re supposed to return to the slushy melt with above freezing temps and rain. I’m not fond of the idea of rain at 34 F temps, but at least I can now shrug off 5 inch deep slush and ruts! So very nice!



A Ride & The Solstice
December 22, 2012, 9:49 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Not only was yesterday the end of the Mayan Calendar, but it was also the Winter Solstice. A day that usually lightens my spirit with the lengthening duration of sunlight and the tipping point where we begin the gradual climb into the gentle temperatures of spring. Thought of tours and rides start to swirl through my head in dreamy anticipation of the new cycling year.

It’s a day I look forward to even more than Christmas. I suppose it’s almost like my New Year. Alas, I spent most of it feeling stressed and anxious.

Loke’s appetite has hit rock bottom. My vibrant, perky husky has become sluggish from lack of food. His coat feels more wiry and coarse as his bones seem to feel more prominent when I stroke him. He can be encouraged to take a mouthful of wild pig ham here. A bite or two of cooked ground beef there. No more than that. The vet told me to give Loke his meds with food. I think what’s happened is the antibiotics for his ear made him feel queasy, so he didn’t eat. Then the next dose made him feel even worse because the few mouthfuls of ground meat I get him to eat isn’t enough to buffer his tummy. The vicious circle has lead to this.

At least, I hope that’s what it is and not something more sinister. I have the feeling that taking Loke to the vet would only get the same verdict… with a 400 Kr bill. Just another few days and I’ll know. *sigh* This worry would be adding to my gray hairs… if I hadn’t gone prematurely and totally silver years ago.

Wide View of Familiar Stretch

Wide View of Familiar Stretch

At least he’s still had some interest in going out with the trike. He perks up and paces around while I get dressed and still woofs a bit at my laggardly start where I’m fiddling with gloves and GPS. He even tries to run a short distance though the snow bogs the trike down. It lacks his usual verve, but better than flat-on-the-floor apathy.

He still managed to turn the last ride into the hardest since getting the Sprint.

The first stretch posed no difficulty other than the snow. Another inch or so had been laid down but not yet plowed. On the roads, light traffic on the little residential strips had packed and churned it, giving it usual texture and color of damp sand. It was tougher work to chew through than the ride before. Loke helped as much as he had energy for.

Then we reached the cycle paths. The fuzzy one’s manner suddenly changed. The lightly packed and graveled surface of the path itself grabbed his attention. His nose went down as he swerved erratically to and fro with what little play the tether offered. I had to hold an arm out, elbow locked, to act as a buffer to keep him from veering his lowered nose under the rolling wheel. Then, he stopped. ‘On By!’ and ‘Leave it!’ got no response. He appeared to be determined to sniff every inch of the path. At first I tried dragging him along for about 100 yards. Then I let him sniff to see if he’d get his fill of whatever it was. No. He sniffed a little patch for almost 10 minutes and then moved one step and seemed as if he was doing to do the same to that new spot. At that rate, it would have taken us until supper time just to do 2 miles!

Images of a thousand female dogs in heat parading before us with sirloin steaks strapped to their paws, spreading their special scent of fertility and food capered tauntingly through my mind’s eye. Gritting my teeth, I set to pedaling onward, dragging the balky Loke as he continued to snuffle along. He’s never acted that way on a ride. Not in all of the 5+ years he’s gone with me.

I never thought the river loop would be as tiring and as difficult as the rain-drench attempt at a tour this year. The one where I had to drag the trailer and gear through miles of clinging mug, mostly uphill and without Loke.

Pretty With the Snow

Pretty With the Snow

A reprieve came when I turned back onto a section of residential streets to head for the road where I do a little out and back toward the gates of a military base. Whatever fragrance had fascinated Loke was lacking on that stretch. There, the snow was packed and/or cleared enough that we hit 11 mph. Even in his lower energy state, the fuzzy one had enough ‘oomph’ for that. He loped along with a flopping tongue, even trying to pull us faster until I stopped for winter scene photos.

More Snow Scenery

More Snow Scenery

I snapped one. A second shutter sound made me frown and check my camera. Then I heard it again, but not from the camera. It’s origins were elsewhere. My skin prickled at the idea of someone hidden taking pictures as I craned around for the source. Only the distant sounds of traffic were to be heard. Starting to come off my guard, I saw a fluttering in the tree overhead.

A magpie! Smiling I tried to get a good angle to separate a black and white bird from the black and white contrasts of a snow dusted birch tree. I made the shot and blinked as the shutter sound came right back at me… from the magpie! Much as I love corvids, I never knew magpies could mimic. I know some ravens can imitate human speech. I’ve heard magpies around here sounding like a malfunctioning smoke alarm, but thought that could be just a natural call for them. Of course, for all I know, so was this one.

The way back down the road went a little faster still. I find I’m still quite wary of speed on snow and/or ice since my tumble early this year. Or should I say, more wary than I was before the tumble. The feeling of skidding and wobbling to and fro has always left a nervous knot in my belly, but it’s been more powerful since my helmeted head thumped on the road.

Snow Draped Path

Snow Draped Path

We made it safely to the short little path connecting the base’s road to another little residential area. This one was decently plowed and packed so Loke and I made quite good time through it.

Things came to a screeching near-halt again once we returned to the main path. I’m surprised Loke’s lungs didn’t pack full with ice with all the snuffling he did at the snow. Given the condition I’d lost because of almost 2 weeks with that bad cold, working the trike through the snow while hauling his furry rump along was almost more than I could take. I started to wish Loke wasn’t with me for the ride. Of course, the irony was, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the ride in the first place except for him. Jens was due back from Las Vegas that evening and it would be nice if we didn’t have to worry about doing more than taking Loke for a short pee walk before bed.

I’d also toyed with the idea of going for a short walk around the grave mounds with my snow-shoes to start getting used to them. The screaming muscles of my thighs put an end to that plan! All I was going to want to do when I got home was collapse.

An Ice Column Really

An Ice Column Really

Part of the river loop goes by some industrial buildings. Eyesores really. One of them surprised me a couple rides ago by offering something impressive.

The place looks to be one big room though from ground to eaves, it’s nearly as high as a 2-story house. Needle like spears of ice, many of them over a meter or two long dangle like the jagged teeth of a nightmarish predator. In just one place though did the ice reach the ground. It’s probably more than a foot and a half thick near the roof. This blemish on the landscape, thanks to wasteful loss of heat due to poor insulation, had for the first time offered something impressive and even beautiful.

Definitely a good idea to stay away from that wall come the next warm spell!

At least stopping to get a few pictures of the more spectacular icicles gave Loke a few minutes to sniff the path without interruption.

I don’t think Loke looked up once the the last mile or so home. We even passed half a dozen dogs or so and he was oblivious.

12-20 g Ducks 1 Pano

I Think They Dream of Spring!

Most amazing were the ducks failing to trigger his predatory instincts. While I put the camera away after taking their pictures, the feathered creatures began to stand up. Shaking their tail-feathers and stretching wings with vigorous flaps, they migrated across the snow. Some even came quacking toward Loke and I. When they swerved off, I saw most of them were tightly focused on an older woman with a little dachshund in a coat. Tethering the little dog to a sapling, she continued forward until surrounded by the eager, babbling hoard of ducks. Clearly her offerings of food were a regular occurrence.

And Loke continued his intense sniffing, the antics of ducks and the small dachshund yapping at him ignored.

I was only too glad to get home. My legs were weak as over-cooked noodles. Sheer will was the only thing that allowed me to get the trike back in the car. I spent the rest of the day cuddled under blankets and dozing until Jens walked through the door.



A Few More Miles
December 19, 2012, 7:34 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yep. Yesterday I made it out the door with the trike for the first time since the ‘Winter Wonderland’ ride.

The weather lately has been highly unstable. After the deep cold and vast amounts of snow, it warmed above freezing. The little walks with Loke were accompanied by the almost musical chime and gurgle of melt water falling from eaves and trees, chuckling merrily through downspouts. In spite of temperatures around 34 F to 35 F, we had snow rather than rain. A heavy, wet snow that stuck to tree branches like glue, threatening to snap them under its heavy weight. The ground snow which had been a fluffy, dry powder no child would have been able to make a snowball out of took on that familiar texture of wet, churned sand. Through it all, I was still sneezing, coughing and sniffling with the stubborn cold.

Yesterday, I awoke feeling a mostly normal. It’s been so long, it felt almost surreal. In spite of his ear and the fact the antibiotics have left him with little appetite, Loke’s been quite high energy. The evening before, he had been making it quite clear the little walks weren’t enough. This was after his ‘grandma’ (Jens’ wonderfully kind mother) had walked with him several miles between their apartment and ours. So, I decided since I didn’t feel sick, I would need to take him for a ride.

First it was a trip to the vet after I called to see if the test result was in. It had arrived late yesterday afternoon. At first the vet had said the pills should take care of it. When I asked advice on cleaning Loke’s ear, she asked how bad was the build up. When I gave her the gory details, she decided she should take a look. She had to clean his ear before she could see a thing. The good news was that it didn’t pain him which is an improvement. In the end, I got a prescription for the ear drops any way, something to use to clean his ear and a quick lesson on how to do so without hurting him.

Then it was home and out the door for a ride!

Yesterday was the first day in the past 3 or 4 that actually got below freezing let alone stayed there. Most of this week and part of the last weekend, even the nights hovered around 33 F to 34 F. But as I wrestled the trike out of the car, it was a nippy 30 F or so. Overhead the sky was a soft, pale gray though for once it wasn’t snowing.

I remembered my promise to my mother-in-law and instead of taking my usual route down the road to reach the school, I went another way on cycle paths to reach the tiny, very low-traffic residential roads to the rest of the river loop. What promise? I’d mentioned taking Loke for a ride and she gave me a very worried look. “Oh, I don’t think you should! It’s very dangerous with all the snow on the street corners! Cars can’t even see your flag and you can’t see them!” I promised her, I would go on very small roads with almost no traffic and paths. She told me she would appreciate it since she didn’t want to see me hurt.

She is right. The mini-blizzard followed by a near constant dusting of snow has left it piled everywhere. Once it’s shoved out of the streets, there’s few places to put it in the city. So there are street corners with mounds over 15 feet wide and higher than most tall men. Shorties like me on foot, let alone sitting on a recumbent trike, are invisible at places. Even with pedestrian crossing lights, turning cars are still a hazard. In most areas, there’s a wall of plowed snow separating sidewalks and roads. Often those are higher than Loke’s back. The city has been trying to haul it away, but it’s just near impossible to keep up.

The few roads I went down were devoid of traffic. Loke spent most of that stretch hopping on his hind legs while whining and yapping as I chewed my way along. He wanted to run. With the layer of sand-like snow over the paving, it was hard going. During the warm months for the first mile or so, Loke can pull me and the trike to speeds of 15 mph without help. Yesterday, even with him dragging and hopping with all his might and me pedaling like a mad woman, the best we were able to do was 8 mph. 9 mph maybe.

It improved a bit once we reached the cycle path beyond the school. We almost made it to 10 mph for a short while. That first underpass was still a bit of a problem, but Loke understood he had to help and we managed that first climb okay. I did get a rude shock while going under the trees on the other side. Bunches of snow still hung on branches above and the air had begun to move in a light breeze. Instead of wearing my usual winter cycling hat with a bill, I was wearing a sort of fleece beanie. A gust of wind dislodged a clump of snow and it fell right down the front of my face.

Without the cap’s bill to deflect it, I found the space between my eyeglasses and eyes packed with wet snow. Thankfully, I blinked in time so protected my eyes. Still very unpleasant and one of those 1 in 500 chance occurrences. If there’d been anyone around, I’m sure they would have fallen over with laughter.

I kept hoping for a glimpse of the sun, unseen since the fog drive, since the clouds were so thin the light made the sky look white. Where the hills had no backdrop of trees to define them, the earth and heavens were indistinguishable, one fading flawlessly into the other.

Our speed dropped before we made it to the second underpass, much to Loke’s annoyance. The week and a half of being too sick to do more than go for slow, little walks with Loke in between sleep and bouts of coughing had taken it’s toll on my strength and stamina. I had to go into lower and lower gears to deal with the snow and my cadence was down. I think roughly half the ride was at speeds of no more than 5 mph. I refused to cut it short though and even toyed with the idea of adding the field loop to give Loke more distance.

Admittedly, it felt good for me to be out too. During all the resting to give my body a chance to beat back the cold, I could just feel myself turning to jelly. The restlessness of ‘cabin fever’ has been picking at me every time I woke up from my dosing on the couch in front of the TV. I hated the idea that the goal of 800 miles was slipping away. Despised that my hard won fitness was softening up.

The wind picked up as we made the turn down the river extension. The river’s ice was a combination of that flawless, snow-dusted white and coffee-n-cream brown where the melt had let the tannin stained waters seep on top. We gained a bit more speed along there. The snow felt more stable so the rear tire bit firmly and the front didn’t slip or sink so much. For about a mile and a half, Loke got to move at about an 11 mph lope. He kept giving me happy husky grins as we sped along.

By the time we’d turned back the way we came along the river side, the clouds had darkened. The sky had gone from the almost pearly white to a misty gray with streaks of pewter and lead near the horizon. Snow spat down at us, hard frozen little pellets. Regretfully, I decided we’d have to forego the field loop. With the deepening cover between sun and earth, it started to get darker. Though the sun doesn’t set until around 3:15 pm it can get dark much sooner with a thick cloud cover. If the trend continued I estimated it would be twilight before 2:30 pm and guess who had left her lights at home?

We had a bit of a snow torrent as we did the zig toward the 272. Those little bits of snow stung and Loke went with his head low and eyes squinted. It didn’t last long thankfully. It continued to get darker though it was just 2 pm.

The usual stretch between the swim hall and home turned into something of a nightmare. The new construction at the swim hall and barriers between sidewalk and traffic combined with the snow made that stretch narrower than usual. There also seemed to be more people than usual. I’d pedal 20 yards, then need to swerve over, putting my left front wheel in the snow, pull Loke tight against me to let a person or 3 pass. Rinse and repeat. No way was I pushing over to the right which would have meant making Loke stand in traffic. He would have freaked out at cars passing on his side.

The final straw was when I saw a pair of unleashed German Shepherds coming. Fortunately, they were well trained and went back to their own when he called, but I didn’t want to test them by passing within inches of Loke. Muttering under my breath, I pushed out into an unlit crosswalk and scurried into a short stretch of road into a parking area. My plan was to take the inevitable foot/cycle path from the parking lot to the main cycle path. It would have been fine… without 3+ feet of snow we’ve had since the end of November.

The parking lot was ringed by a 6 ft tall mound, except where the cycle path to the road would have been. For about 1.5 ft wide spot, well packed by foot traffic, it was only 1 ft high. No help for it. I got up, put Loke on his flexi-leash and began to drag the trike. Very unpleasant and made worse with a hyper husky. The snow packed hard and slick around the cleats of cycle shoes after just a few steps and Loke kept yanking around as I fought to pull the front wheels through 1 ft deep, not-so-soft snow. It’s a wonder I didn’t go down and bust something.

Once I made it to a section of path wide enough to accommodate the front wheels, the rest of the trip home was blissfully uneventful. I made it back probably in the nick of time. For all I know, if I’d been spotted by an officer, they might have given me a ticket for being out without my lights. I felt a little wobbly in the knees and Loke seemed a bit calmer than he’s been. Our total ride was 8.16 miles.

Not too bad, I think. It bumps my mileage to 771.65

Oh! Another statistic I forgot to give in my last post.

Number of Rides – 91

I’d also like to mention that this is the first year since I began the blog that I’ve made at least 1 post every month!



Wrapping Up Another Year
December 13, 2012, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Misc

Well, it might be a bit premature, but I’m feeling in a bit of a funk at the moment. That sort of mood where you just want to get something over with to start fresh and new. That cold which began as a scratchy throat just hours after my ‘Winter Wonderland’ ride has deeply entrenched itself and the suffering continues. That puts the 800 mile year end goal further and further from reach.

Then, Loke has been diagnosed with an ear infection. He started showing signs of it Friday night before the snow ride and more still Saturday night. Ears kinda flopped to the side which made him look like a white, furry Yoda husky and scratching. Sunday morning, I patted him on the head and he yelped. I’d already planned to go to the vet clinic on Monday, but the yelp threw Jens and I into instant action to find a clinic with weekend hours. We were seen quickly and given treatment, but 5 days into the treatment and there’s been little to no improvement. Last night, Loke started acting sluggish. So, back to the vet we’ll go today. I’m not going to ‘wait and see’ when the bright, lively husky I know and love has been replaced with a furry plodder. On our walk last night, he just walked apathetically along at my side, head low. Not even sniffing or marking. Even offer of a cookie didn’t excite him. It took him almost 5 minutes to finish his breakfast this morning when it’s usually gone in 20 seconds or less.

Frosted Birches

Frosted Birches

So, yeah. I want to be done with the coughing and wheezing and get my puppy healthy to start on a brighter note.

There was a silver lining to the day, I guess. I would have preferred being able to enjoy it without puppy concerns. I’m going to share it as part of my love for Sweden even if I didn’t ride through it. So, get ready for a photo frenzy!

The clinic opened at 11 am, so Jens and I went out for a short ‘business’ walk for Loke before going. We stepped out into a world of fog. A dense misty white obscuring the streets of Uppsala in spite of the 10.5 F temps (-12 C). That’s only been the second time I’ve seen a freezing fog since moving here and the results have been astonishing both times.

The haze was incredibly thick in some places, reducing visibility to 30 meters or less.

We were seen quickly upon our arrival at the clinic. The vet was a very nice woman who quickly confirmed Loke’s rather bad ear infection. He needed his ears flushed clean of the nastiness the infection was building up in his ears which would require sedation. Reluctantly, we left him there for the treatment.

We stepped out into a day that had turned beautifully clear. Every tree with bare branches had gathered varying amounts of frost on the limbs and they practically glowed in the sun. As I sighed at wonder of a frosty winter, Jens suggested we go home to grab the camera and then drive to Wiks Castle to enjoy the scenery. It would be better than sitting at home, fretting about our furry one.

Sun, Snow & Low Laying Fog

Sun, Snow & Low Laying Fog

We were barely beyond the developed limits of Uppsala when we discovered the fog lingered in some places. The scenery of snow, sun and mist was stunning. Every few bus stops, I had Jens pulling over so I could step out with the camera. I went completely mad with taking overlapping photos to blend into panoramas. The views were just too sweeping to allow the beauty and wonder left by the fog to be captured in a single frame.

Stunning!

Stunning!

Jens had endless patience with my camera frenzy. Of course, he was enjoying the scenery as much as I. A little further on down the 55 toward Wiks, we found a wall of fog rearing up from the snowy fields. We were laughing like awe-struck children as we entered the bank of mist tinted a peach or apricot color by the sun shining through it.

Days like this are rare

Days like this are rare

A Swedish Noon In Winter

A Swedish Noon In Winter

At times, it was so dense the visibility was even less than it had been in some places back in the city. It seemed we could barely see past the end of the car hood. One of the worst patches like that was right as we had to make the turn off the 55. Fortunately, those didn’t last very long. It would have made photographing the scenery a little difficult if all we found was a blank, peach colored world.

More Breathtaking Scenery

More Breathtaking Scenery

And More

And More

Tree-Lined Lane To Wik's Castle

Tree-Lined Lane To Wik’s Castle

Even when the fog thinned, we still tootled in an unhurried manner. Loke’s treatment and recovery from sedation was going to take a couple hours and it was just too pretty to rush. All in all, Jens’ idea had turned into an excellent distraction for the duration of Loke’s vet visit.

Our leisurely puttering with many stops finally brought us to the narrow little lane that leads to one of the most stunning, if small castles in this part of Sweden. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but Wiks really is one of my favorites. I didn’t get any pictures of the castle itself. Still being quite sick with the cold and my right knee quite painful after the ride the day before, I didn’t feel much like hiking up a slippery hill for the photo. I didn’t really think the fog would have done much to it any way.

12-09 e Lane & Fields to Wiks Big

More Pretty Winter

Overlooking Mälaren Lake & Fields

Overlooking Mälaren Lake & Fields

Lovely Surprise While Leaving Wiks!!

Lovely Surprise While Leaving Wiks!!

I did get out to walk to the small deck at the end of the parking lot though it meant walking through knee deep snow. I wasn’t dressed for that at all, but it’s just one of the sacrifices I made. Oh the suffering I endured.

Yes, I mock myself. It was quite cold though. While 10.5 F in Uppsala, the car was reading temps of 1 F (-17 C). It didn’t feel that cold. I’ve been out in 30 F temps that felt much, much worse.

On our way back down Wiks’ lane, I spotted something across the field to the south. Three deer prancing along through the snow with the sun as a golden back drop. They were moving quite quickly and I didn’t really have time to swap to the telephoto lens. I snapped what I could and hoped for the best. It didn’t come out too badly I think.

Lovely. Just Simply Lovely.

Lovely. Just Simply Lovely.

Reaching the end of the road to Wiks, we decided to take the back way on our return to Uppsala. I’m quite glad we did!

Following the curving country roads the wended through a world of white, gold and blue, I spotted something at the tree and rock flanked sides of a snowy hill. “Moose!” I yelled gleefully. Jens, carefully but quickly, swerved over to the side of the road. There was a bit of field between the road and the hill side and, unlike the deer in the open field, the moose were harder to see against the dark trunks and low conifer limbs around them. Yes, them. Two in fact. I had no choice. I needed to take the time to change to the long lens.

Jens told me to calm down. The moose were only watching us and even glancing away to browse on the smaller trees around them. They were still there as I zoomed out and snapped a picture of first one then the other. Since they remained in place, calmly watching us, I decided to make a panorama of the pair  with a bit more hill. As I did that, I spotted yet a third animal through the view finder!

THREE!!

THREE!!

I’ve seen a pair of moose once before, years ago as Jens and I drove through the northern reaches of Sweden. We stopped the car as cow and her calf trotted across the road to be followed less than a minute later by a white, furry dog who came up to the car to say hello before moving on. Loke, only a year old, went completely nuts for both the moose and the dog.

So, three at one time was a first. Out side of a zoo at least.

Not cycling, but I simply had to share the breath-taking beauty of one of these incredibly rare winter days here.

To further update, Loke went to the vet again today. In spite of 4 days of treatment, his ears didn’t seem to be improving so I headed off as soon as the new clinic opened. I’ve not abandoned Niclas, but it does’t feel productive to change vets in the midst of treatment. The same lady vet who saw Loke on Sunday was there again today. They had gotten initial results back on the samples they took, but told us nothing more than ‘bacteria’ rather than ‘fungus’. The culture results for exactly what bacteria hadn’t returned.

She took a peek into his ears and said it was worse. She didn’t flush them again, but swabbed them out with cotton pads and antiseptic. Given that they were just flushed Sunday, the sheer amount of ‘ick’ she got out his right ear was disturbing. I cleaned Loke’s ears a little yesterday, but I didn’t go nearly as deep. I’m not a vet so I don’t know how deep is too deep and don’t risk it. Reluctantly, she decided we had to give Loke strong, broad-spectrum antibiotic pills. She had hoped that if the drops we had didn’t work, we’d have the results back and be able to give him something target specific. We didn’t dare wait.

I haven’t picked up the pills yet. Loke’s been scratching so furiously at his ears that he needs close watching and/or the Elizabethan collar. That means he can’t be left alone. I’ll take him to Jens’ parents when they get home from running errands. They’ll watch him for the half-hour or so it takes me to run a couple errands.

As for my year end stats!

Mileage – 763.5

Churches – 39

Runestones – 31

Castles – 11

Burial Ground/Mounds – 1

Cultural Sites – 12

Silver Mine – 1

Snow Rides – 3

If I shake this cold and the weather stays above 20 F and we don’t get another 3 ft of snow that will stop even the Sprint, I might collect at least 1 more church and certainly a few miles before New Year. Well see. Right now, I’m just focusing on getting myself and Loke healthy.



Crazy for Winter Riding!
December 9, 2012, 6:56 am
Filed under: Misc

Written December 8

Or is it just plain ‘Crazy’? I feel a bit self-abused at the moment. I have a content husky rug next to me as I type this, as well as some photos of winter scenery and the makings of another video. Also an intense work out with a few moments of sunshine.

Something took hold of me this morning and I wanted to ride again. I would be thrilled to pieces if I can break the 800 mile mark so I thought I’d take a stab at doing a longer ride than the River Loop with its extensions. Wasn’t convinced I could manage Ulva/Gamla Uppsala. 14 miles through the snow is a lot of work not to mention there are a couple of killer hills which would be even trickier with said snow.

The Vaksala/Granby Loop crossed my mind. There’s the ‘roller coaster’ section, but the hills are small even if close together and not insanely steep. I decided to take the car for a look at the condition of the roads and paths.

Loke looking everywhere but at me/camera.

Loke looking everywhere but at me/camera.

I’m glad I did though I was disappointed to find that getting out of Uppsala would be a nightmare. The paths were tightly constricted with walls of snow. Definitely not wide enough for my front wheels. The main road was slick as… well, ice. I could just imagine someone deciding to do 70 kph, round a curve and slam on the brakes upon seeing me only to have their stopping point some meters beyond where they smooshed me into the road. The back residential streets looked as if they hadn’t been touched since the snowstorm/mini-blizzard. Just car tire sized grooves in the foot deep snow. Again, no way to push my front wheels through that. My disappointment deepened as I went out to the country lanes and found a breath-taking winter wonderland. The sky was pearly gray with a feathery fall of snow like the softest goose down. The trees draped with snow, white fields. It begged to be ridden through and photographed. Enjoyed! The roads didn’t look too bad really. Better condition than the residential streets in Gamla Uppsala.

Bummed, I returned home and resolved myself to slog around the River Loop yet again.

Jens to the rescue! Hearing me grumble, he offered to drop off where the paths were passable and pick me up again when I wanted. I didn’t waffle about it very long.

I chose a building just past the parking for the Grave Mounds. A red barn-like building where they were setting up to sell Christmas trees. Just to one side was a big plowed circle that used to be a bus-stop. No traffic and plenty of space for me to set the trike out and loop away onto the cycle path! Jens shifted around, shivering in the cold as I organized everything.

By that time, the downy snow-fall had ceased. The clouds broke into large tatters, showing patches of blue sky and glimpses of sunlight. I couldn’t quite decide if I was disappointed  about that. The drifting snow had been gorgeous.

Pretty, Isn't It?

Pretty, Isn’t It?

Look!! Sunshine!!

Look!! Sunshine!!

Right away it was a hard slog down the first stretch of cycle path. The trike did its usual bucking and sliding as Loke frantically tried to drag us into a high speed dash. I’m actually learning to use the front brakes as a sort of corrective steering which works better than yanking the wheels around. Within the first quarter mile, I stopped us to let a woman jogger pass and take photos for a panorama.

We pushed and swerved along at about 8 mph until reaching the rail crossing. It took a bit of rocking back and forth while encouraging Loke to pull even harder to get over a line of chunky snow. That was followed by making a left turn onto the main road from someone’s plowed out driveway. The spot I usually make the turn had a 3 foot high wall across it. Traffic was light though and soon we were on the smaller country road.

Love It!

Love It!

Sun-touched Snow Beyond The Trees

Sun-touched Snow Beyond The Trees

The opening in the gray to the blue sky beyond brightened the snow draped landscape spectacularly. While I chewed along at barely 6 mph through the unforgiving sand-like road surface in my lower gears, there was such beauty to savor. Going slow just meant I had more time to enjoy it. Loke didn’t really agree. He had at least an inch of extra tether pulled out from the spring in his bar and his head down in dogged determination. I wasn’t the only one getting a work out on the ride. As hard as it was with Loke pulling like the Husky he is, I shudder to think what it would have been like without the fuzzy one.

So Worth The Effort!

So Worth The Effort!

On the other side of the E4, trees enclosed us, changing the nature of the wonder of the white world around me. As many times as I’ve ridden the stretch, it felt mysterious, secretive and new though nothing had changed except to be draped in a dazzling cloak of brilliance. The snow mounded over rocks and earth and clinging to tree limbs bowed beneath the weight hid things nearly as well as leaves in high summer.

Don't you just love panoramic views?

Don’t you just love panoramic views?

Every now and then, a few flakes would drift by from the fragments of cloud above. The wind was nearly at a stand still so the only windchill to the 24 F I had to worry about was what little Loke and I created with our speed. With a few layers of wool and windproof thermals, mittens that could be opened to free the fingers and my shoe-covers, I was perfectly dressed. It felt like there was little to detract from the ride.

A landscape of golden-peach, cream and silver. Maybe a hint of pale rose?

A landscape of golden-peach, cream and silver. Maybe a hint of pale rose?

Okay, I’ll admit to one concern while going along. My right knee.

The day before I began this cycling frenzy (Thusday, December 6th), I fell while walking Loke. Three times! I managed to not land on my face or tailbone, but my knees and hips took the abuse. Only my right knee seemed to suffer from the tumbles. The remainder of that evening was spent, reclining on the couch with the leg stretched out to keep a heating pad on the knee. I also took anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Obviously, it eased up quite a bit since I went for a hard, if short ride yesterday to follow it up with yet another today.

Just an old building

Just an old building

The knee made itself known a few times over the course of today’s outing. Nothing too serious. Just warning sort of twinges that forced me into lower gears and slower pedaling. Just thing to bring joy to Loke, the speed freak.

I shouldn’t complain that he doing his absolute best to propel us faster. There have been many times when he’s gone dragging along at 5 or 6 mph and I’ve wanted to pull my hair out. I’ve rarely made him run faster than he wanted and only for short periods, 100 yards or 200 at the most, to hurry us through difficult or potentially hazardous situations.

The roller coaster stretch really made Loke wild. He’s used to us zipping through parts of it at over 15 mph with hill-climbing at roughly 8 mph. Not uphills at 3 mph and down at maybe 8 mph… if he was lucky. That section of the loop is not only hilly and shrouded with trees, but curvy too. Loke and I both love curvy roads. For me, I have the urge to go onward to see what they hide. I’m uncertain what the draw is for the furry one. All I know is he gets bored on a long straight path, but as soon as curves appear or we make turns, he speeds up.

I adore horses. It's nice when they're curious rather than frightened.

I adore horses. It’s nice when they’re curious rather than frightened.

We finally came out from the trees. Right where they ended was the beginning of a horse pasture. One horse, standing at the near corner of the fence line, was startled by our approach and bolted into a gallop. I love to watch a horse run though I felt badly we’d alarmed him. It was especially stunning to see the animal move with snow churning around his hooves. Loke whined and wanted to run with/after him.

The spooked horse reached his pasture companion who watched us from a distance. As we continued, the calmer horse came prancing through the knee-deep whiteness. The one we’d frightened came along though hid as best he could behind the other.

Beautiful Animals

Beautiful Animals

I stopped and talked to them which really intrigued the braver one. He stretched over the fence, risking getting zapped as he gave the deep gusting breaths that horses and other large animals make when getting something’s scent.

When nothing bad happened, the timid one came out from behind the other and took his turn to sniff at us. Loke wagged his tail and stretched out his nose in an attempt to greet him. An absolutely lovely moment.

Those two weren’t the only horses. There were others in further pastures and paddocks who watched us with raised heads and perked ears. Just past the first pasture, Loke and I saw familiar little friend.

Isn't she cute? The gray is pretty too.

Isn’t she cute? The gray is pretty too.

We’ve passed by this adorable black and white pony a lot this year. Every time she’s seen us coming down the hill at a run, she gallops for the fence to race with us to the end of her pasture, often whinnying a greeting. The delicately built gray pony is more timid, but has followed the spunky little Shetland a few times. This was one of them.

I’ve wondered a couple times if this is the same pony who used to do the same thing but was in a field along my Ulva/Gamla Uppsala loop. I didn’t memorize the spot pattern or gender of the Ulva one who we’ve not seen in years. That one also would come running with perked ears and often an excited call of greeting.

Snowy Farm Building

Snowy Farm Building

After admiring the ponies for a few moments, I reluctantly went on.

I was tiring pretty quickly though we’d barely made 4 miles by this point. These snowy rides have tired me as much as 30 mile rides on a moderately windy days. I mentioned on a forum that if I can keep this up, I’ll have legs of iron and the stamina of a draft horse come spring!

We were coming up to the next major road. There was the parking lot of some kind of factory right at the juncture and I’d told Jens that I might stop there for pick up since I hadn’t been able to tell if the cycle path along the very busy thoroughfare was navigable by trike. Sturdy traffic booms across the entrance put a jinx on that idea. They couldn’t really stop me, but it meant we couldn’t get our car into a decent area to load the trike.

I had no choice really except to make the made dash across the slippery road, hoping the path was clear.

More Lovely Scenery

More Lovely Scenery

I didn’t have to wait long to cross in spite of the traffic. A nice man in a pick-up truck slowed, flashing his lights for me to go as traffic in the other direction cleared briefly. I thought that was incredibly nice.

I aimed for the bus-stop near the runestone along the road though I didn’t expect to be able to go further. The swaps sides of the road at the bus-stop and on the exploratory drive the way was blocked with more snow-wall. A plow had been chugging down the road ahead of me and it had apparently cleared the way. With my thighs burning and my knee being more insistent about stopping, I made the dash across to slog my way to the mall.

I ended the ride there, exhausted but pleased though it had been only 4.86 miles.

December 9th

I didn’t make an issue about it yesterday as I wrote the above about the ride, but a couple hours after I returned home my throat started bothering me. Maybe I wasn’t over the previous cold and the strenuous exercise weakened my immune system enough to let it regain its hold on me. Perhaps it’s a new one. Either way, it’s a cold and I’m feeling a bit petulant about it. Granted, I’d decided I needed a day of rest for my legs today, but I prefer an illusion of choice and not something enforced by sore throats, sneezing, wheezing and sniffles.

If the ride did let the cold get a grip on me, I have absolutely no regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat. It was just too glorious to be out and I enjoyed the ride far too much.

Not only did I write this post yesterday evening, but I also spent last night and part of this morning to put together a little video from the recording from my GoPro. Still silent. I guess as I rest to let the muscles in my legs repair and build up while I fight the cold I could find copy-right free music sources and maybe learn how to use a video software other than iMovie. My poor little Apple Air struggles so with it. I looked at Microsoft Moviemaker, but was appalled at how clunky and unfriendly it was to use compared to iMovie.

But here it is! My ride through the Winter Wonderland!



My First Proper Snow Ride!
December 8, 2012, 6:55 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, with the Sprint at least!

Before the rude reality of how lethal snow was to the back derailleur on my Trice thrust itself into my ken, I made attempts to keep pushing those pedals through the chilly, short days of a turning year. I have a distinct memory of riding on the bike/foot path paralleling the 55 with a vast, field of pure white between the road and track. Loke pulling along as I spun the pedals, the Trice skidding along beneath the crystalline azure sky and the sun making the winter day sparkle. It must have been in late February because the day seemed brighter than it could be at this time of the year. Of course, it might be my memory playing with me since I haven’t seen the sun in ages.

I remember too, the fateful ‘crack’ as the back wheel slipped into a hard frozen ice rut about 2 inches deep hidden beneath the powder of new snow to leave the derailleur a mangled ruin. That was followed by a delightful walk home, dragging the Trice through mid-knee deep snow with an insane husky. Still quite young then, Loke was a major handful on the leash. In hindsight, I’m surprised snow didn’t gather in the chain and freeze like it’s did on other rides when I made sure to ride only in fresh snow which hadn’t had a chance to freeze into ruts.

With memories like that, I was quite excited when the roads and paths were finally plowed after our little blizzard. Nature’s temper tantrum didn’t last long, but dumped about a year’s worth of snow on us. The sidewalks have walls nearly three feet high to either side now. Though we’ve had snow that stuck to the roads for less than a week, they’re not just plowing, but scooping it into dump trucks to carry away. In 8 years here, I’ve only seen them haul snow away twice. Year before last when we had insane amounts of the pretty white, but that took weeks/couple months to build up. Not 1 single snowstorm and a few, short and light snow showers. Amazing to go from ‘above freezing’ to freighting snow out of town so quickly.

Squinting at the dreaded camera beep.

Squinting at the dreaded camera beep.

But after his walk with Loke yesterday morning, Jens announced that the paths had been plowed. He warned me there might be a couple of difficult spots, but it should be navigable.  So, shortly after 12 pm, Loke and I went out.

The furball was in a frenzy of glee. We shot off down the road, taking a right to follow the tree-lined median right behind a gravel spreading tractor like thing. On the broken snow pack, the trike bucked and skidded as Loke dragged on it with all his weight, tail raised like a banner and tongue flopping gleefully. On that rattling stretch, I gave my GoPro a frown as the jarring rampage had already managed to tilt the camera a bit to the left.

A little further on, we passed a couple of dogs. One was a cute white little thing. The other, I think, was Loke’s Malamute buddy. At least I think it was. It looked a lot like him, but he actually growled as we went by which is not what that dog does.

I love Loke’s Mally friend. He’s absolutely gorgeous. He stands about 4 inches taller than Loke and probably outweighs him by a good 20 or more pounds. His paws are bigger around than the palm of my hand. He’s a big bouncy bundle of love and doesn’t seem to notice Loke’s boorish behavior. He is also quite stunning. I’ve seen 4 Malamutes since moving to Sweden. 3 of them look like enormous Pomeranians. You could lose small items, even children in their long fluffy fur. I’d never seen Malamutes so furry in my life! Not even in photos!

Then there’s Furvis. His coat is not much longer than Loke’s, but softer and incredibly dense. He looks like a Malamute rather than an oversized Pomeranian, which is to say, a huge, big-boned, powerfully muscled Husky type.

But if it was Furvis, his reaction to our passing gave me a possible answer to a question I’ve had when Loke and I are out with the trike. So many dogs seem aggressive. Are they really or is it just the strangeness of the trike combined with Loke’s running presence that sets them off? I’m now a little more certain it’s the Loke/trike combo. I have to say, the sight of a dog as big and powerful as Furvis standing on his hind legs at the end of his leash and growling is an impressive sight.

In spite of the plowing and the scattered gravel, even just taking the round about way past the school was hard work. The snow made the road feel just like any number of rough, unpaved lanes I’ve rattled down. The sections where the snow was loose, rather like sand, didn’t help.

Still, I was grinning as we made our way along. It wasn’t raining. Though it was 24 F under leaden skies, that was better than 1F. Better even than 40 F with rain! My feet were a little cold since I’d forgotten my shoe-covers, but endurable. Loke was happy.

The underpass beyond the school was a little harrowing. Mostly because Loke adores charging down it at 15 mph to sweep up the slope on the opposite side. I remember the last time Loke ran that fast with the trike down a slippery hill. The Trice rolled and the seat broke off leaving me dazed in the middle of the road on a blind hill.

Granted, I couldn’t tell if the underpass stretch slippery or not, but there was no gravel and I fell three times while walking on sidewalks the day before. Loke’s feet scrabbled on the packed snow as I clenched the brakes to keep us at a reasonable 5 mph down that slope. Even with the studded tire, the drive wheel slipped a bit going up the other side. Loke pulled hard as I geared down to creep up.

On the other side where the ground leveled for 100 yards or so, we sped up to a more respectable 9 mph or so. I had to work for it. Then we skimmed down the hill for the 2nd underpass. That one brought us first to a halt then a 2 mph struggle. Probably because of the plowing, that underpass was choked with brown, loose snow about 5 inches deep. I glanced back at my rear derailleur, but it was in the clear so we settled in to chew our way through it. I was reluctant to get up and pull because getting snow packed in the shoe-cleats would have meant spending 5 minutes or so to pick it out. I was going to at least try to power my way through.

We did it. I admit it would have been much less likely if Loke hadn’t been with me.

My feet were feeling a little more uncomfortable as we went on along the path through a park-like area and then over residential streets. I cut about a mile off in that area since one of the paths was so minor I couldn’t be sure it had been plowed. It turned out it had been, so the next ride, I can add that extra little out-back loop. The snow through the neighborhood was pretty mushy, but between Loke’s determination and my willingness to work it, we hit about 10 mph. I took my usual turn back toward the cycle path on the other side of the barricade and stopped to stare. A huge pile of snow, nearly as tall as the little houses around us, stood at the end of the street where the path access lay. I hadn’t looked at the previous 2 streets so I had no clue if all the accesses were blocked like this one.

Then I saw a tiny gap between the mound and hedge. For someone on a normal bike, even with a dog on a running bar, it would have been no problem. Tight and hard for me with 80 cm width between two small front tires and Loke on his tether bar. Those front wheels would have to be pushed through piled chunks of hardened snow. We did it.

After that, it was a short lope to the long hill down to the river. Again, Loke had to suffer the pangs of aggravation as I kept our speed down to no more than 8 mph. At least until we reached the flat stretch between hill and river.

Frozen?!

Frozen?!

The river had a surprise waiting for me as we coasted over the bridge. Loke gave me an irritated look as I stopped to smile at the view. It was frozen! Solid all the way across! Granted we’d had those couple days in the single digits, maybe even dipping below 0 F during the nights, but that river is very deep and the water moves. The days since the snow-storm haven’t been so bitingly cold either. I expected a wide shelf of ice on each bank, but the center still clear.

Loke and I did most of the out-and-back on the path going upstream, but my toes were really starting to complain about the cold. It was a bit tricky to do the turn around even at an intersection of another path. Instead of making the right toward the 272 to go pass the Sybilla and then left between one of the river’s tributaries and a couple of industrial buildings, we cut straight across and down through another underpass to follow the river home.

River Panorama

River Panorama

What a difference freezing solid and a little more snow makes!!

What a difference freezing solid and a little more snow makes!!

Loke was still running well, but I was tiring. The ride was hard work! I was also feeling a little jumpy about the fact that was after 2 pm. With the cloud cover, it would be getting dark fast and I hadn’t brought my lights.

The way along the river went fairly briskly. I enjoyed the scenery and also gave careful thought about my route home. The sidewalk/cycle path going by the swim hall has been at the edges of an addition to said swimhall. Huge concrete barricades between traffic and the path and fencing to keep people out of the construction site. It’s narrow when it’s clear. Had to be worse now. Across the road and further down the river to the big yellow bridge would be easiest, I decided.

The icy grip loosened on the river somewhat as we approached the swim hall. Stretches of dark, mirror smooth water made gorgeous contrast against the gray/white of snow and ice. Not far from the swimhall, there’s a little patch of work going on. I’m uncertain what exactly they were supposed to be doing, but they’ve had a spot where a bench used to sit, backed with a hedge dug into a pit. It’s over 8 feet deep, 8 feet wide and 12 or so feet long. It abuts the cycle path and has been untouched, forgotten maybe, since they dug it up early this year. Or was it even last? I rarely can keep track of such things, but it’s been a minor inconvenience for this year at least. The fencing around it hogs part of the cycle path, leaving too little space for my trike and a pedestrian. With a sharp drop to the river less than a foot from the edge of the path, I’ve had to stop many times and wait for bikes and pedestrians to pass before going through.

That was without the snow leaving just a 1 ft wide solid path flanked by walls of semi-hard chunks of snow. I tried to power through. Loke couldn’t be much help as he had to hang back behind the running bar since I couldn’t get over enough to give him space between it and the fencing. I got stuck. The front wheels were trapped in nearly 1 foot of snow chunks and the studded tire just spun. Muttering, I got up to drag the trike along by the chain guard. Loke complicated matters by wanting to leap ahead and pull, twisting the trike sideways. Gah!

This was what I expected of the river upstream!

This was what I expected of the river upstream!

Then it was across the road to the yellow bridge!

At the bridge, a woman with a toddler in stroller stopped to point us out to the youngster. I waved and said, ‘Hej!’ before making a turn between two buildings. Then I ran into my second difficulty. There was a pile of loose snow. Often when I say ‘loose snow’ in terms of road or path surfaces. I don’t mean the fluffy, freshly fallen white. I mean the stuff that’s been packed a little and then shoved around until it looks something like pie crust dough that has had the butter worked in, but not kneaded yet. Getting through it is kinda like going into damp, loose sand. It just chokes the knobs and studs of the rear tire to leave it spinning.

The woman with the child came up behind us and, bless her, pushed before I even unclipped. Once the trike was free with my pedaling, Loke’s pulling and her pushing, I stopped to thank her. Loke nosed the little boy and made him giggle.

Crossing Svartbäckgatan (Black Stream Street) took a bit. I was a little wary since there was a high bank of that damp sand like snow that looked high enough to get caught in my chain. An older couple also waited to cross. The woman was quite timid about the traffic, I think because of difficulty with mobility. I was unruffled about it, content to wait on them. The man looked down at us with a huge smile. Suddenly, he began to talk about a trip he made through Norway on a recumbent trike back in the 70’s. His expression was a little wistful as he reminisced about it, his eyes running over the trike with what can only called longing.

The last quarter mile went easily, though I had a little trouble making the turn into our parking lot.

As I staggered into the apartment, Loke still had plenty of energy. It hadn’t been a very fast 6 miles after all. For me, it felt like I’d gone 15 miles on unpaved, freshly grated lanes. Against a 20 mph headwind. All uphill. But I did it! And every time I came to the least little patch of that once dreaded ‘loose snow’, I grinned and powered through it. 1 inch? 2 inches? 4? Ppft! Notta an issue! It was glorious and it gave me one hell of a work out! As long as the temps don’t drop much below 25 F and we don’t get an unending string of blizzards I’ll come out of the winter maybe fitter than I went into it!

As the end of the year rushes in on us, I’m also going to make an attempt to get another 42 miles done before December 31st. Why? It will tip me over 800 miles for the year total! Already this is the most I’ve done in a single year since 1300-ish miles in 2008.

Loke's Stylin' Ice Soul-Patch - Mile 653

Loke’s Stylin’ Ice Soul-Patch – Mile 653

As for Loke? This ride was an accomplishment for him too, though he knows it not. Last year? According to my Garmin Training Center software, he ran 650 miles in 2011. The most he’d ever done. After yesterday’s ride, he’s covered 653 miles. Pretty good given the problems with his feet and the nightmare of his anal glands, surgery… He finished the ride in style too! A silly-cute icy soul-patch hanging from his chin!