Terii’s Cycling Babble

Gave It My All!
February 2, 2013, 9:41 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Really I did! Still, I fell short of the 14.6 miles I needed to tip January’s total over the magical 113.

A few days before Loke’s foot incident, Jens had suggested that I, the dog and trike go with him to Sundsvall where he a meeting. He could have flown, but between the drive to the airport, waiting on planes and flight time, he wouldn’t really have saved time over a 3 hour drive. Not to mention, if I was willing to drive there, it would be easier to attend his phone conferences. It would also give Loke and I someplace new to get the last few miles to make that 2nd goal I’d set for January. I was intrigued.

With Loke becoming all but crippled so suddenly and strangely and my worry about the bone changes found in the x-rays, all thoughts of that trip and making goals evaporated.

But Loke’s recovery has been… astounding. Nearly as quick as the symptoms displayed (less than 2 hours from nothing to using only 3 legs), he’s improved. Within 24 hours, he had only the occasional hint of a limp that you would only notice if you were looking for it.

With that improvement, Jens suggested that Loke was well enough to deal with his parents’ standard poodle, Laika. She’s a bit pushy with him and a pest so I hadn’t wanted to inflict my furball with her when he could hardly stand. My hubby was nearly a bully about me trying to get those last few miles. He knew how badly I’d wanted it before husky health concerns overwhelmed me and it would make me happy to beat that goal.

Even though I had only a rough idea of my route and no printed maps, off we went after delivering the fuzzy one at the ‘grandparents’ along with his noon dose of anti-inflammatory meds.

I was a bit wary as I drove north. The day was gray and raining. The 30th had been the same with temps of 46 F. 46 F!! In Sweden in January! Yesterday was 37 F in the Uppsala area.

But as I followed the E4 northward, the edge of the cloud cover hove into view. Finally we came out beneath the gray into blue skies. That made me smile. It was a little colder though at about 34 F.

The area around Sundsvall is pretty. Gently rising high hills or low mountains flank it to the west and north with the Baltic on the east with a hilly little island just off shore. The city/town itself is less than attractive. It’s a very heavily industrialized place.  There was hardly a spot you can look without seeing some chimney or eyesore marring the view of the snow-covered, tree-veiled hills beyond.

With my planning so vague, we couldn’t find the church I’d hoped to begin from. Nor did it help that the snows which had quickly vanished (again) from the Uppsala areas were thick and dense over the landscape in Sundsvall. It looked as if they’d gotten a new layer of several inches in the past 24 hours as plows worked furiously. It meant the cycle paths were choked with plowed debris tossed up from the roads. I wasn’t certain the trike would have room between the hulking walls.

By this time, my tail bone was killing me. That surprised me since I’ve had so little trouble with it the past few months. I pulled into a gas station to look at my maps either to find a new place to start from or figure out where the church was while letting Jens take the wheel. With limited time, I decided to head for the island just of the coast. It could possibly add pretty views, certainly more attractive than the first 5 miles or so out of Sundsvall, less traffic and most importantly, potentially easier terrain.

My recent cycling experience with snowy roads has showed me a trend. Inner ‘city’ roads which are used fairly frequently end up with the snow churned into a loose sand like mass. It bogs and drags at the wheels. Country roads tend to get enough traffic to pack them down a little, but not more than that. Since most of the island looked rural with a scattering of small residential, I’d hoped that remained true.

Time before Jens’ meeting was getting a little short so when he asked where I wanted dropped off on the island, I told him any place with enough space would do. He suggested a church and I pointed north.

The church was quite impressive and up a hill behind it was a large open area next to a building with several big garage doors. As good a place as any to ready the trike.

Though it had seemed quite calm on the drive up, the wind roared through the surrounding trees and whipped my hair. It was above freezing, but with that breeze, I hurriedly pulled on additional layers and had to stop from time to time to put my hands under my arms to warm them up. By then, Jens was getting antsy to hurry to his meeting. He told me to enjoy myself and get those 14 miles or more before hurrying away.

With the wind, I was quite nervous about my feet. Jens’ meeting would nail him down for 4 hours. If I had problems with my toes, it was going to be all on me to endure until it finished, preferably without frostbite. I’d brought extra things for the possibility though, including Jens’ thick wool socks like the ones I had in my cycle shoes, his thick fleece slippers and a couple of blankets. One for me and one for my feet if I got too cold.

Alnö New Church

Alnö New Church

After chiseling the snow and ice off my shoe cleats so I could clip in, I went down the hill to find a better angle for Alnö Church. I didn’t rush about it. Rather I cruised along with a careful eye at the impressive structure of brick against the white of snow and dark colors of trees.

Old Alnö Church & Scenery

Old Alnö Church & Scenery

Jens had mentioned that the church looked rather new. I found how right he was. Across the road, was a smaller white building with a thick layer of plaster on the outside. It looked like a stone medieval church. Doing research for this post, I discovered it was the original Alnö church. As usual, what history I found on-line is visible if you click the thumbnails. I found it rather surprising the old church hadn’t just been torn down or left abandoned. I’m glad given the description of the murals inside it.

Oh! Here's the winter scenery!

Oh! Here’s the winter scenery!

As I started out in earnest, the roads proved true to my observations riding around the fringes of Uppsala. In spite of recent snowfall that must have blanketed Sundsvall less than 24 hours before, the roads were fairly well packed without being churned. There were areas where the pack was a little broken and stirred up, but it was more like riding over loose pebbles than miring sand. It still made me work for the distance, but it could have been worse. Would have been worse back in Sundsvall.

The wind still came roaring and hissing up the hills from the north and I was pushing right into it. In short order, my cheeks stung enough for me to dig out my mask. That made me keep a worried ‘watch’ on my feet since the worst times I’ve had with them has been on the more blustery days.

My quick glances at the mapbook and on my Garmin showed roads that stuck fairly close to the island’s edge all the way around. It made my route choice rather easy, particularly since the book didn’t really indicate much on the island for the likes of churches or ruins. I’d have to settle for views.

After about 15 minutes, my feet had reached a feeling of ‘cool’ and I stopped to cover them over with a blanket for a few minutes. They warmed right back up once they had a little time out of the wind.

Apparently Overlooking a Burial Ground

Apparently Overlooking a Burial Ground

Though unmentioned in my handy map book, I found a sign for a burial ground. It pointed across a field and down a hill toward a line of trees. I saw no further signs down the white mantled slope and doubted I’d see anything more than a sign if I braved the trek through snow deeper than my knees. It clearly wasn’t a mound sort of burial ground, but something more subtle. I settled for taking pictures of it before pushing on.

I had sun-shine envy of the mainland.

I had sun-shine envy of the mainland.

There was a little more traffic than I expected, but not a steady stream. I kept a careful ear out for it coming up behind me I edged over to the harder packed road sections for easier going. Not far past the burial ground, I came to a long hill and just let myself coast to save my knees a little. Thanks to the above freezing temps, not counting wind chill and despite the clouds that had decided to shadow the sun, I still had all my gears. That was wonderful! I’d almost forgotten what that felt like.

I continued to chew along with the occasional glide down the hills I climbed, I began to relax and enjoy the ride. My feet seemed to be holding up just fine, the rest of me was perfectly dressed in spite of wind and the fickle sunlight. The scenery was beautiful with its white cloak, deep green conifers and bare limbed deciduous trees. The occasional glimpses of the hilly mainland made me smile even if I felt frustrated that the views were often screened by the previously mentioned deciduous trees sans leaves.

About half a mile before the road was going to east along the northern coast of the island, I found one of those blue signs with the twisted corner square and below it was ‘Geologisk Lokal’. I coasted to a stop next to a rock face which had been cut to accommodate the road across from the blue ‘pretzel’ (as I saw it translated on a Swedish web site) sign. There was another larger sign covered in a description of the Geologic Location. It seemed to have something to do with the rock face, which was mostly hidden beneath snow. I couldn’t get close enough to read the sign without struggling through a plowed mound of snow higher than my waist. Taking a picture of the sign the first time didn’t work. I could tell the text would be too small/fuzzy to read. I sat back down in the trike seat to swap the short lens for the long which solved the problem.

Geological Feature

Geological Feature

Yes, I know the photo looks a bit distorted along the edges at the road. It gets a more difficult to fix things like that when you have a large, but fairly close object in the foreground when photomerging. I’d have gotten further back if I could, but another waist high mound of plowed snow against a thick wall of trees stopped me. My skill with photomerging and distortion correction are growing though! Always nice.

I would have been far more fascinated with this house-sized lump of rock if I’d been able to read the sign while I was there. Even more so if I’d been able to read the sign and see the rock. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by volcanoes. In college, I unexpectedly discovered a deeper fascination with geology. What different rocks can show about the earth’s past in a given place. Tectonic shifts. Volcanoes. Erosion. I only had one geology class during my college years, but it made me consider changing my major a few times. I devoured the knowledge and sailed through the class with high marks even when a bad bout of the flu laid me out of it for nearly a month.

Between the geological location markers (yes, there were more) and what I’ve saw of the island’s south end via Google Street View yesterday, I guess this would be a good place to come ride come warmer, snow-free weather! The south end was more wooded and the road ran closer to the shore so it would be pretty during the spring leafing and I could glut my geology interest while getting miles!

Okay! Enough rambling!

View of the good part - iPhone

View of the good part – iPhone

The trees hid the horizon as I reached what appeared to be a cross-roads. Without printed maps, I was a little confused because I had thought I was close to where the road turned east at the northern end. It was. The other two directions were little more than glorified driveways to clusters of houses closer to the out-of-sight shore line.

I found myself grinning as I took the main road to the right. If anything, the snow pack over it was better than the first stretch from the church had been. Only a few tiny increments shy of being as good as paved in truth. For a couple miles, I zipped along at something close to my snow-free speed except when I swerved over to the less packed edge for traffic to pass. That stable white surface offered wonderful grip and on some of the hills I was streaking down at 15 mph to 20 mph, white-knuckled but laughing into the gale whipped up by the speed.

I had finally relaxed fully into the ride, the last of my worries falling away as it became pure enjoyment. The wind came from behind so gave me a little push while the seat back protected me from its chilling force. I was well dressed. My feet felt normal, not the least bit cold. My mask came off.

View Across the Snow Covered Baltic

View Across the Snow Covered Baltic

That sense of joyous freedom didn’t last very long. I abruptly slammed into the famous ‘wall’ it seemed. My muscles tired out into the fiery lactic acid burn, weakening until each turn of the pedals took every bit of effort I had. I came to cherish those downhill rolls and dread each climb no matter how small. Even the road turned traitor on me, the surface becoming less accommodating to the easy forward movement of trike wheels.

I’d barely made 5 miles by that point and nearly 2 hours had passed in spite of the time I had little rolling resistance. Part of it was time I’d taken to admire scenery, photograph the churches, ponder the snow-depths of the burial ground or solve the puzzle of the geological location. The rest was dealing with the parts of the road where the hard snow had been broken into pebbly bits. I knew making an additional 9.5 miles was out of the question. Not unless the island magically became pancake flat and snow/ice flash-melted from the roads in the next 5 minutes.

Pretty Winter Road

Pretty Winter Road

The worst was the need to answer nature’s call (a frequent problem it seems *eye roll*). It had become downright uncomfortable. But hard as it is to find places hidden from view during warm weather, it was proving more difficult in a winter landscape, particularly one that seemed to be peppered with houses spaced just so or have just enough traffic from either direction I wasn’t going to have 10 minutes without someone passing. The lack of leaves on the undergrowth and the contrast of my black cycle clothes against the white snow. That slowed me most because pedaling seemed to aggravate it.

Do my eyes deceive or is that sunshine?!

Do my eyes deceive or is that sunshine?!

And off came a 1 of three layers!

And off came a 1 of three layers!

So, except for the down slopes with good views where I dared to edge over to the hard packed side of the road for a quick coast, I limped along. Every 100-200 yards or so, I had to stop and breathe in an effort to ease the discomfort as I desperately searched. ‘No, that spot is too exposed from that direction’. Or, ‘No, it’s too exposed from the other direction’. ‘Hidden from both directions of the road, but there’s a house overlooking it.’ ‘Do I want to leave my trike on the narrow little road while I wade 100 yards through thigh deep snow to hide among those trees? No, I love my trike too much to risk it.’

Somewhere during this torture fest, I became warm enough I actually had to stop to shed a layer. The clouds which had moved in within 20 minutes of leaving the church, finally let the sun come play on the island instead of teasing me with distant views of it warming the mainland.

During that stretch I pulled over to stop to sit quietly as something unexpected came toward me. A sulky! Yes, like the ones that are used in the races. I didn’t want to startle the horse so prepared to make myself comfortable and hopefully less threatening. Fortunately, the driver turned off onto a little road about 75 yards before me.

A little later, a woman riding another horse did the same thing. I also took the opportunity to stop and talk soothingly to a few horses whose pastures flanked the road.

By that time, I’d also seen a few more of the blue twisted square signs for geological features. I even stopped to stomp through knee deep snow to get to another description sign for a picture to read later.

The little lane that mocked me

The little lane that mocked me

Then I found one of the blue signs, but unlabeled which I suppose could have been just another geology site. It pointed down a small side road climbing up a short, but quite steep little hill before curving out of sight around a house.

I eyed it speculatively. The sign could be pointing to a ruin of some sort or a cultural site. The road was so small that maybe I could even find a secluded nook to tend to nature’s scream. I had my doubts about being able to get up the hill though. The lane had been plowed, but not very deeply nor had it been packed down by passing cars. My drive tire would likely just get that soft, loose snow packed in the treads and spin, studs or not.

Still, I gave it a go. I didn’t even make it 5 yards up the lane before stalling. Even in the lowest gear and trying to ease up so the studs had a chance to bite didn’t work. After a few minutes where I tried rocking back and forth or even zig-zagging to and fro to ease the grade, I gave up. I didn’t give more than a passing though to walking up it. My cycle shoes would have collected a knob of ice around the cleats and sent me tumbling down the hill in 10 steps or less.

A Glimpse of Unfrozen Baltic Waters

A Glimpse of Unfrozen Baltic Waters

Shortly before 3 pm, I made the turn back toward the south. The wind came in from the side and chilled me enough to don the layer I’d removed. The condition of the road worsened with the snow pack broken and churned by the passing of construction vehicles working nearby. A ridge reared up ahead. The spine of the island center I would need to climb. That long hump of rock and trees blocked the sun as it had begun its decent into dusk with sunset a full 14 minutes earlier than it would be in Uppsala.

Also, I was about desperate enough for a bathroom break to stop anywhere regardless of who saw me.

In spite of it all, I crept on, literally. Stopping every 50-100 yards to pound my thighs in hopes to ease the burn, or breathing to convince my body I really didn’t need go to the bathroom that badly. I made it up the ridge and the terrain let up a little. I passed a sport field, stopping to do a quick search of a restroom but had no luck.

It was less than a quarter mile past the sporting area where I did finally get a break. A small plowed road appeared on my right. I pulled over and looked down it curiously… desperately. There was about an inch of loose snow over it, but it was flat unlike the hill I couldn’t climb. No tire tracks disturbed that thin pristine blanket. So, I made the turn and pushed about 75 yards down. The little track first looked like it came to a ‘T’ junction, but to the left was where they’d simply pushed some of the plowed snow out of the way before continuing to clear to the right. A cluster of trees sat not far beyond. I stood up and did a careful look around. If I went to the trees, I’d be out of sight of traffic which had increased with commuters from the city and there was not a house to be seen.

I bolted for the trees. It was a difficult little walk. Beneath snow deeper than my knees, the ground was uneven and I fell into a soft landing a few times. The tops of my shoe covers around my ankles packed full of the white stuff though they kept it from going up the pant-legs. Under the densely needled limbs of the pines it was only 6 inches or so of snow. Manageable.

Walking back was easier at least. All I had to do was walk in my previous footsteps. I felt sooo much better.

With dusk coming on, I took the time to mount my little lights before heading back to the main road and onward. I immediately discovered that it had dipped below freezing. How? My gears, which had worked flawlessly, had frozen.

In spite of my trike returning to its 3-speed status, the going was easier. I felt stronger and fresher despite my adventuresome floundering through over 2.5 feet of snow. The next significant hill which took me back to the ‘main’ road was hard, but not torturous. It was the same road I’d started out on, though about 2 miles south of the church. There’s a semi-town on the island along there called Vi.

Sunset - 3:49 pm

Sunset – 3:49 pm

That last stretch was downright unpleasant. The cycle path had been plowed before the road so when the roadway had been plowed, it had thrown up chunks onto the cycle way. That clumpy, uneven surface not only needed more work to get through, but it made the trike buck and slide, threatening to toss me into the heavy traffic right against the edge of the path. All this as the sun set, making the way hard to see and therefore the trike’s skittering became even more unpredictable. That last mile was a white knuckle grip even if it was very slow.

It felt so good once I’d navigated the heavy flow of cars through a round-a-bout and pulled in at the gas station overlooking the bridge to the mainland. The wind’s teeth had gotten sharper with the setting sun and dropping temperature. It was right at 4:02 pm so Jens’ meeting back across the water in Sundsvall would be finishing up. The gas station was a good place for a pick up.

I was disappointed I’d only managed to crawl 9.42 miles over the course of 4 hours. I’m not sure why it was difficult. Maybe it was the 10-15 extra pounds of the random gear in my pannier bags I’d taken along to deal with the possible problems with the cold. Maybe it was the wind and loose road surface for the first 2 miles that began the sapping. Perhaps the absence of Loke’s subtle assistance. It might even have just been the 2.5 hours of desperately needing a bathroom. Most likely, it was all of the above.

No matter the reason, it left me 5 miles short of 113 miles. Still, I don’t count the day as a total loss. It was some place new to ride! Jens drove back for which I was grateful as I half-dozed the 200 miles (300 km) back home.

I really missed Loke for the ride.

And it looks like I’ll be missing him even longer. This post was actually written over the course of 2 days. About 1 hour into it yesterday, I abruptly noticed Loke licking his foot. He stopped when I said, ‘Nej!’, but it looked wrong. A closer look showed he’d already managed to lick the problem toe nearly to the point of bleeding. Worse, one side of it was swollen, torquing the nail out of the true though he showed not the least hint of a limp.

I immediately called my husband’s dad to wheedle a ride to the clinic. Nadina had the day off and the other vet was fairly swamped. Yet, she saw me in between the rush without making it feel as if Loke was an afterthought. She shaved the foot, which apparently really hurt. Loke never threatened to bite, but he thrashed around for escape. Cleaning the blood away, she carefully checked the foot for a wound or foreign body before deciding to prescribe antibiotics both in ointment and pill form. She doesn’t think it’s connected to the bone changes in the toe and wanted to give the anti-inflammatory medication more time to work before subjecting the fuzzy to more x-rays. Maybe she also didn’t want to stomp on Nadina’s toes since she was the one who started Loke’s treatment.

So, the toe drama still continues. I hope it lets up soon. Jens has suggested I go with him on his business trip to Copenhagen in a few weeks to ride around there. I’d only do that if Loke’s foot is better. That’s my biggest worry right now. *sigh*

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