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!


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“So, Jens offered to drop me off and pick me up”.
Thank heavens! I thought you were Super Woman before I read that. 😀

It sucks you can’t take bikes, and especially trikes, easily on buses and trains. We used to be able to do that you know. On buses they just shoved the bikes in the “trunk” at the bottom of the bus. free of charge, and on trains they traveled in a freight cart for a very reasonable cost. Turned it at the station of departure and fetched it when you reached your destination. If you had to change train you didn’t need to worry about your bike. They took care of it. You think Sweden is a good country for bikes, but it used to be a whole lot better. All main roads had shoulders back then for example.

Comment by scorp

No, I’m not super woman. 😛

My husband is a super man of patience though. With no interest in cycle touring himself, he will jump through hoops to support my obsession. He’s been known to crawl out of bed at 4 am on a Saturday morning to drop me off in the countryside somewhere.

I wish Sweden were still the way you describe it was with bikes. I feel a little frustrated by not being able to take everything onto a train to do some touring elsewhere. Even if I made a bag for my folded Sprint, it would still be awkward to get on a train. Add in a trailer of camping gear and a couple of pannier bags? Not doable in the 2 minutes a train sits at a station. 😛

Comment by Terii

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