Terii’s Cycling Babble

Off The Hamster Track
March 29, 2013, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Odd title isn’t it?

I realized a few days ago that the analogy of the River Loop as a hamster wheel was not quite right. After all, the wheel spins, but the small creature on it doesn’t go anywhere.

No, riding the River Loop is more like a rodent ball (the trike) on a circular track I’ve seen in pet stores from time to time. Pieces of curved plastic, about 4 inches across with a trough in the center to keep the ball on course. They fit together like the tracks of a child’s wooden train set. Round and round and round.

Of course, what’s been keeping me on the track was my lack of confidence and worry about Loke. He’s been dragging along. He frequently limps. His speed is down and being uncertain why makes me uneasy. All that together with the fact that most of my rides have been when Jens is at work have kept me close to home. I don’t dare try for the 20 mile Börje Loop if something happens to the furball when we’re too far for me to walk home. Granted, walking even just 2 miles while dragging the Sprint would be a challenge for me.

Wednesday, I went out again with Loke to give both of us some exercise. I tried to think of some route I could take which would keep us closer to home but off the ‘ball track’ at least a little bit. Loke dragging along changed my mind and it ended up being just the River Loop again.

It was a pretty day though. Blue skies and sun, nearly 40 F or perhaps even warmer. I didn’t need my foot-warmers though I had them on and batteries plugged in. Nor did I need my gloves. I was almost overdressed in my heavy wool thermals beneath my cycling tights and removed my yellow wind-breaker.

The usual tiny back residential streets were covered in slush making for a hard if short slog. Most of the cycle paths are clear now except for tiny patches of bogging ice and lots of puddles of melt water. It’s been cold enough at night that some of those puddles refreeze clear to the pavement making mornings particularly treacherous.

As we were coming along the path between the 272 and the river path, I discovered that some puddles are just too deep to refreeze during the sunless hours. Most of the ice on that strip of path are still rather hard frozen and just a little crunchy at the edges. During the days, the melt from them and the snow to either side lays on top of the hard ice in amounts of less than half an inch to a couple inches deep.

The ice slab at the bottom of the little hill where the old rail tracks used to cross had what appeared to be shallow channels cut into where the melt in the surrounding area makes it way to the little river tributary on the other side. I edged over in an attempt to avoid the largest. Just as we were in the middle of the ice slab, I heard the ice crack. My left front wheel slipped and dropped.

Showing the depth of the water below the ice. Ice & water together - 7"

Showing the depth of the water below the ice. Ice & water together – 7″

It was much deeper than it looked. I sat for about a minute caught between dismay and something akin to panic. How on earth was I supposed to free the trike? The wheel was submerged nearly to the hub and the split so deep with abrupt edges I couldn’t just roll back out of it. I had images of the remaining ice breaking and dropping me into the cold water if I stood up to drag the Sprint out. Definitely would have been not good for the foot-warmers.

I pushed back a bit until I got to a spot where I could use both feet without my left one following the wheel into the water. Close in, nearly under the cross supports of the trike, I chipped hollows for my heels to dig in, set my feet and pushed back while yanking upward. Very close to pulling myself ‘up by the boot straps’.

It worked though. The sudden up and back motion gave me enough momentum to free myself. Saved me from walking on ice and water in nothing but my socks. Brrr.

Through all this, Loke was completely no help. He stood there with a perplexed look as I did all this bouncing around.

Only when I was marginally safe back above the ice did I slump back into the seat. Then it occurred to me I should have taken a picture of my submerged tire. I settled for pulling my flag loose. Feeling my way along the edges of the ice, I discovered it was about 3″ thick with about 4 inches of water filled space beneath it. The knowledge made my skin crawl. 26 inches or not, my derailleur would have been smashed if the rear wheel had been the one to drop.

I set my feet back to the pedals and pushed far over to pass the chasm with plenty of clearance. As we reached the edge of the slab, my rear wheel dropped. My heart went up into my throat as I heard a rasp which might have been the idler. Once out of the water, I stopped to look. It was wet, but otherwise appeared intact. I rode on and all seemed fine. Of course, it’s always seemed that a derailleur misalignment isn’t glaringly obvious at first. It just gets worse over time.

Loke and I made it home with 8.7 miles under wheels and paws. Not a single episode of limping which is delightful though he had dragged most of the way. Once in the apartment he gobbled an extra portion of his food for the exercise he did, however slowly. Then curled up and slept until about the time the hubby came home. Then he was a pest! Bouncing, playing with his squeaky monkey, harassing us. Argh! Where was all that energy when out with the trike? Admittedly, the pads of his feet looked a little worn. So, I’d planned for us to rest yesterday.

During that ride, I realized I’d not heard from Nadina to pick up the glucosamine supplement I called. The precise type of supplement that Loke could take was no longer available in Sweden. The rest all had additives, wheat or rice based the furball can’t have. She had sent inquiries, but so far no luck. *sigh*

Jens worked from home for the half day yesterday. Here in Sweden and much of Europe, I think, most offices work only half of the Thursday before Good Friday. Many other shops are closed Good Friday & Easter Sunday. Groceries and the like will sometimes reduce their hours for the weekend as well.

Jens encouraged me to go for a ride. I mentioned Loke’s feet and the fact that I had no socks made up for him. Not that socks would be very effective if he had to wade through deep melt water. The extra weight of the wet would drag them off his feet. Also I needed a day’s break from the River Loop before I could face it again. My lovely hubby offered to drive somewhere within reason.

Björklinge Kyrka - 2011

Björklinge Kyrka – 2011

Earlier this year, I’d looked into a ride which would begin from Björklinge church, loop around a close-by lake and back to the church or onward to Skuttunge. Or, if stamina and time allowed, home. But I found several miles of the proposed route were gravel roads. Unpaved road surfaces are among the worst during thaws. Traffic packs the snow down without breaking it up like in busier town roads. The first thaw allows water to bond with the snow crystals and light traffic packs into ice that freezes rock hard in colder temps. Before you know it, you’re looking at a glossy, rock hard, ice rink that can stretch for miles.

I decided I really didn’t really want to go for a long slide.

Yesterday, I decided that’s the route I wanted to do even if it might be a bit slippery. It wasn’t too far from home. It combined places I’ve not seen in years (pre-blog most of it) with completely new areas. If Loke limped, Jens had promised to come get him. He only asked that we wait until noon since he’d officially be done with work for the long weekend.

So, off we went around 12:30 when a business call ran a little longer than Jens planned. During the drive, we noticed a smell and Loke started sneezing. Wiper fluid does that to him and that’s what we smelled. We waited until arriving at Björklinge and I unloaded the trike in the church’s parking lot. Once that was out of the way, I crawled in to look. I found one of the gallon jugs of the fluid on its side, nearly empty. When I picked it up, I felt the wet and discovered the lid was barely on. I looked a little more closely, but it appeared that a tarp and layer of foam had prevented any real damage. I tossed a towel over it pat everything dry as I could, telling Jens I thought everything was okay.

I’m taking time to explain this because it became critical to how the ride played out.

Putting the last items in place on the trike, I began to regret not taking the time to pack my yellow windbreaker and shoe-covers. At least I had the foot-warmers!

Loke was quite perky as Jens walked around the parking lot with him. Once I finally readied everything and he was hitched to the bar, he yodeled. It’s been a few rides since I heard that. He wanted to run! We wheeled off down a slight slope, around a curve and stopped to wait for traffic gap on the old E4. Once we crossed, I realized there were no streets connecting to the one I needed. I had no desire to ride along the shoulder-less old E4 with lots of traffic. I could have crossed back to ride past the church on up to another crossing.

I saw a group of children leaving the school heading in the direction I needed and followed. They led to me a cycle path hidden from the main road. It wasn’t exactly fun. It was wet with melt chuckling over it like a stream, patches of ice that bogged us. Patches of it where the trike slid. Steep hills with a thick layer of gravel over the paving where my drive wheel would lose inches of traction for each turn.

Loke was actually a huge help along the stretch. He wanted to move at a fairly brisk pace. He wanted to lope when I could keep the pace. It would seem that his dragging around the river loop is simply his way of expressing the profound boredom of it we both share.

In short order we turned off the cycle path on to the road I needed. It was wonderfully clear of ice or gravel with a lovely long slope at the beginning. I grinned and Loke had his ‘tongue-flapping-happy-husky’ grin as we took the slop at 12-14 mph. Fast enough for the furball to lope, but not his old flat out 18-20 mph charge.

Långsjön (Long Lake)

Långsjön (Long Lake)

We passed many people out enjoying the day, some of them with dogs. At the bottom of that first lovely descent the lake hove into view. Smoothly white beneath a blanket of white, it told me that Jens would have no fishing this holiday as he’d hoped.

The road surface varied. Parts of it were smooth as silk where the pavement had been completely redone. Other spots were patches or stretches where the bitumen had worn away from between the knobbly rocks. A bit before the turn, old trees flanked the turn and ahead I could see the bright yellow and white front of a smallish manor house.

Indifferent photo of a lovely and unusual stable

Indifferent photo of a lovely and unusual stable

Before I got a clear view of the house, I stopped to photograph the rather pretty stable before it. Painted red and black, it just looked unusual to me. Most manors have stables of stone or brick with perhaps a bit of wood on the upper portions. This one was all wood. The dormers and columns flanking the doors added character. It was hard to find a pleasing angle that didn’t include the eyesores of high piles of plowed snow or parked cars. I finally settled for one with bad lighting.

Random building that caught my attention

Random building that caught my attention

Across the road from the stable was another building I found interesting and not only because of the unexpected spire on the roof. I just found it rather curious looking with the small windows and single door with no real ornaments. Yet there was hit clearly decorative spire perched right in the center of the top.

Perhaps it’s something related to agricultural aspect of the manor’s history. I found no sign offering an explanation.

My attention turned to the manor house itself only to be frustratingly thwarted.

The driveway for the manor house went straight up the hill as the main road curved sharply right around. Two smaller buildings of grayish-white flanked the bright yellow and white manor, one extended a wing right to the main house. The problem was, I couldn’t get a good view of it all. Huge mounds of plowed snow cluttered either side of the driveway, blocking the view of the lower floors. I thought about climbing up and just taking a bunch of overlapping photos to merge, but that wouldn’t have included the side buildings. Muttering, I followed the main road.

Sätuna Manor

Sätuna Manor

I decided to take what pictures I could and resolved that I’ll be back in a month or so… once those cursed plow piles are gone. So, here’s a photo of the right hand gray building with it’s long wing and Sätuna Manor proper peeking over the top. Quite a detailed history if you click the photo.

Cute, isn't it?

Cute, isn’t it?

I’d barely had time to put away the camera and move before I stopped to pull it out again. I couldn’t resist a darling little cottage of yellow and brown with unusual windows.

Loke sighed and shifted around impatiently as I put everything back in its place to close the handlebar bag. He actually pulled when I started us rolling again for the short jaunt above the northern end of the lake.

It was impossible not to enjoy the day. Though cooler than the previous day (37 F instead of 40+ F), the temperature remained warm enough I had all 27 gears. It was mostly clear and very little wind. Loke was keeping a decent pace and plenty of energy. What was not to enjoy?

Snow, Trees & Lake Beyond

Snow, Trees & Lake Beyond

Not to mention the feeling of freedom to be someplace I’ve not seen a dozen times or more in the past 2 months and photos to take. Added to all this was the security that rescue for Loke was near at hand if anything went wrong. I didn’t even mind the idea of an unpaved road sheathed in ice more slippery than an ice rink.

Loke & The Sprint 26

Loke & The Sprint 26

The unpaved section of the ride, taking us south down the opposite lake shore began later than I thought it would and left me pleasantly surprised. As far as I could see, not a bit of ice covered it. Though incredibly wet, most of it was so hard packed that the loose gravel added to the rolling resistance rather than mud sucking at the tires.

Here, Loke limped some, expected because of the rocks. I took the roughest part of the road to ease his feet and we went almost walking pace. That way when he trod on a particularly large or pointy stone, he didn’t come down very hard on it. It made for a lazy, almost lackadaisical pace between the fields beneath blue skies as we swerved for the smoothest sections.

Trees, Snow & Mossy Rocks

Trees, Snow & Mossy Rocks

Somewhere past the fields and among some houses and trees, the road became paved again. It was chill in the shadows of the trees, but I enjoyed the more enclosed scenery. Even in those shady spots the soft air carrying above freezing warmth was doing its magic on the snows. Among the trunks mossy rocks were appearing. It amazes me how green the moss was, as if winter’s cold had never touched it.

Once the way smoothed out some, we went a little quicker and Loke was completely limp free. Even if he wasn’t as fast as he was pre-toe incident, his endurance seemed high.

Around mile 6 or 7, Jens called. The fact he was aggravated came clear through the phone. The washer fluid which I’d thought had been stopped by the tarp and foam had actually soaked through to the carpet lining of the back of the car. It was fairly ruined. He had taken it to his parents since they have a wet-dry vac to help get the mess up. Then he was going to put in their garage with a heater and fan to work on drying it out. He asked if he came with his father’s to get Loke, could I make the full distance home on my own since he didn’t think the Sprint would fit in his parent’s car. I considered the distance and admitted that I thought I could, though not the full distance in time with Loke. I didn’t want to push him or his paw-pads that far either. Getting home some time before bedtime would be nice as well.

After telling me that he wanted to finish cleaning the car out so if I could go with Loke a little farther that would be nice.

The conversation finished Loke and I continued. Just outside Björklinge, we made a right turn onto a cycle path. This one was ice free, not much gravel and dry. Much to my pleasure, Loke tugged us faster until he was going at a gentle lope.

The 'Worst' of the Roads

The ‘Worst’ of the Roads

The path didn’t go far, ending at a shady road which turned out to be the ‘worst’ of the ride. It wasn’t too bad actually. Though covered from one side to the other with mostly crunchy and melt-soaked ice for a distance of almost a mile, it was thin and not too hard to push through. There were sections of it hard frozen, but the ice there was rough enough that I had good traction so my tire barely skidded at all. There was one hill that I disliked the most. Nasty steep, but thankfully ice-free. My knees hated it.

Before I knew it, we were turning past the school to scurry back across the old E4. Loke still had plenty of go and since I guessed Jens was still busy, I pressed on toward Skuttunge.

Another smooth section of road made for quicker rolling, but Björklinge was barely out of sight when I took more serious consideration of the remaining amount of daylight. About 2 miles from Skuttunge, I called Jens to come get the fuzzy and would he please bring my yellow windbreaker and shoe-covers. Once the sun got lower, the temperature was likely to drop and I’d need that extra protection. I asked if it was okay if I kept moving since I had limited time to get home. He answered yes, that he’d aim for Skuttunge and from there go to Björklinge to find me along the way.

Smooth and steady, Loke’s paws ticked over the distance and he really seemed to be enjoying the outing. I know I was. The last time I’d covered this ground was about 2 years ago.

All told, I think I’ve only cycled between Björklinge to Bälinge 3 times. Bälinge to Ulva is more familiar to me. There’s a dirt road I used as an extension to the Börje/Gamla Uppsala loop which extends it from 18 to 21 miles. It comes out slightly above the Bälinge church on a very busy road with a small shoulder and a long hill with roughly +4% grade. Not a favorite section so it’s been some years since I’ve ridden it.

Uppland's Runestones 1118 & 1121

Uppland’s Runestones 1118 & 1121

I kept an eye out for the pair of runestones on the way. I’ve taken pictures of them twice before, but both times the sun was behind them. Never good for a photo unless you’re aiming for silhouettes. I was determined to get a decent shot of them though I felt the pinch time wise.

Finding them, I swerved to the far side of the road and offered Loke more water before hurrying across the road for my updated photos. You can tell from the orange tint of the sunlight that the sun was starting to get low.

Skuttunge Church With Snow

Skuttunge Church With Snow

Then we were off. Skuttunge church appeared briefly in the distance before vanishing behind trees and farmhouses. I almost stopped at the church, but the need to cover distance drove me. Besides, Loke still trotted along like an unstoppable if moderately slow force of nature.

Another place I almost stopped perhaps half a mile past the church was the old vicarage. Years ago, before I began my blog, I stopped there once to look around and had a lovely visit with the couple who lived there as caretakers for the site. They had a gorgeous golden retriever so pale he was almost white. The fact my face was within easy licking range was a delight to him. The couple loved visitors and enjoy sharing the history of the buildings in their care. I even got to peek in a few of them.

There was a car parked, but between the time pressure and the fact I had no clue if the same couple were still there, I pushed on. If they are and anyone reading my blog is planning a tour in the area, they also welcomed cycle tourists to camp on their plush lawn which would make a sleeping bag almost as comfy as a bed.

Snowy Landscape

Snowy Landscape

It was less than half a mile after making the turn that would lead me through Börlinge a few miles away when I stopped at an intersection and pulled into parking lot of an old abandoned shop. As I watered Loke, Jens called. He was in Björklinge, but hadn’t seen me. When I described where I was, he knew it and told me I could push on toward Bälinge, he’d catch me there.

And within 10 minutes, he did.

The sun was getting quite low though the cold wasn’t deepening yet. I still took my windbreaker and shoe-covers from Jens gladly, traded for the soggy bottomed furball. I didn’t put them on though, preferring to stuff them into the pod bags. Jens gave me a thumbs up and drove off when I returned it.

I settled into the seat with another glance to the low sun. I took a moment to check the GPS. Loke had accompanied for 12.6 miles. He also seemed to still have an abundance of stamina and decent energy when he’d jumped into the car. For the solo portion of the ride, I hit the Garmin’s lap reset, drew a deep breath and moved out.

I nearly broke myself in that first mile or so. Tried too much for speed, pushing too hard. After that, I found the perfect tempo and force which offered good speed. Without Loke I could move quicker on the descents and flats though my climbs were no faster. It was possible thanks to still having my full range of gears allowing me to keep my legs spinning at the same pace. According to my Garmin, my average speed was nearly 3 mph faster than it had been with Loke.

Somewhere between Loke’s pick up and before getting to Börlange, I had to stop.

Gysta Smithy

Gysta Smithy

Though I’d ridden that stretch 2 or 3 times at least, I can’t remember ever having seen Gysta Smithy. A beautiful little stone building, with plaster over the stone and a mossy tiled roof. No clue how I missed it the other times.

I spent about 5 minutes there, looking it over and taking several photos in search of the best angle/lighting. Then it was back to the mad dash for home.

I continued to pull out the Garmin from time to time, watching my speed and attempting to calculate if I should call Jens to get me. Cramming the Sprint into his parent’s car would have been difficult, but I didn’t relish pedaling the roads after sundown before the moon rose. My little lights might be good for cars to see me, but don’t cast enough light to make the road visible.

Thankfully, the most of the way from there to the far side of Bälinge was familiar.

Though I still had miles to go when I arrived at the long stretch with that 4% grade hill, it felt like the final stretch. I began to cast worried glances at the sun.

Since I last rode in the area there, they’ve added a cycle path. I already knew about it though it had only been partly finished. This time, it was completed and it made a good surface for a quicker pace. The road might have been a little smoother simply because it was mostly clear of gravel.

When the path petered out, I could see some of the buildings of the Ulva Mill area. That stretch goes fast, being mostly down hill. I zipped down the road, braced against the hard turn and picked up even more speed to cross the millrace of the river by the mill proper.

Except for the 10% grade climb from the river at the mill and another, milder, but longer slope on the E4 before turning toward Gamla Uppsala, I went quickly though my Sprint is slower than my Trice. Lower gear inches mean that once I hit speeds in excess of 14-15 mph there’s no resistance on the pedals and it’s all up to gravity to go faster. Still, it’s fast enough.

Gamla Uppsala Bathed In Sunset Glow

Gamla Uppsala Bathed In Sunset Glow

I was starting to feel nervous as I made a dash for the mounds and old church in the distance. Twilight was rushing upon me. Ice had begun to form thin skins on the puddles of melt water. I was wondering if I was going to lose my gears which would have made me arriving home in the dark.

A train finally brought me to a stop for a few minutes more with nothing to photograph. So, I dug furiously in my handlebar bag for my lights. Nope. Worried, I ransacked by pod-bags s the passenger train finally roared passed. Still no lights. I chewed my lip worriedly. The police in Uppsala, or maybe whole of Sweden, take a lack of lighting on bikes quite seriously after sundown. I could just see getting stopped and fined. I considered again, calling Jens.

Again, I pushed on once the train passed. Less than 3 miles to home. It felt ridiculous to stop there.

Zipping along the darkening shadows of Vattholma Street, I passed something that surprised me. On the other ride of the road, a man skated by… pulled by a pair of dogs. A sleek, slim black lab and a Swedish Elkhound. And he was actually on the road rather than the cycle/foot path, no reflective gear. I thought that rather risky, but if he was desperate to use his roller blades, it had to be on the road thanks to the sheer amount of gravel on the path.

Aside from the ‘That’s dangerous for his dogs’ thought, the other was, ‘I wonder how mess that could have turned out if Loke had been with me?’. Obviously he trusts that his dogs were well trained enough to run straight, but would another dog with a weird ‘bike’ running in the opposite direction been too much temptation? The idea of them darting across traffic could have been a disaster.

Talk about cutting it fine!

Talk about cutting it fine!

Somehow, I made it home without being spotted by any cops. 6:18 pm I rolled to a stop at the apartment door with 11.39 miles in roughly 70 minutes. The day’s total for me was a smidge under 24 miles. I hadn’t needed my windbreaker or the shoe covers though I had pulled out the gloves at some point. Having all my gears for the entire day was a huge boost for the undertaking as well.

It felt good and I was quite surprised at myself for having done so well.

As for Loke, Jens said that he walked a little tender-footed from the car to the apartment, but he still had plenty of energy to pace around, play with his squeaky toy and be a pest. I noticed that myself as I flopped down on the couch with my noodle-legs and sense of accomplishment.

Oh, and photos. Did I mention those?

Ups and Downs
March 26, 2013, 8:00 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Yesterday, after I posted about last week’s rides, I remembered to connect my Garmin to the computer to save the rides and enter them onto the Bike Journal web site. Seeing I had around 43 miles for the month, I curiously looked at March 2012. 51.46 miles. I needed around 8 miles to break last year’s total. 9 miles for me to feel more confident and satisfied. Breaking a total by .3 mile just feels silly and nit-picky. I’m not nit-picky at all, no not me!

I started getting ready and Loke’s interest seemed low. He watched me, but mostly followed me only with his eyes. He seemed a little tired and also hadn’t eaten his breakfast. In spite of that, he still needed his walkies since Jens had rushed off to catch an early train so we were going out for a rolling walk at least.

After sitting quietly by the car while I readied things, he seemed to rouse for the first short distance and still moved pretty good for about the first mile. Not far after the school he settled into his ‘dragging pace’ for lack of better description.

Also had a very minor incident near the school. I’d stopped to let Loke mark a snow mound. After he’d done so, he scraped the ground with his paws, flinging snow, exposed leaves and sticks everywhere. As we started out, he gave an odd hop and shook his left hind leg. A few steps later, he did it again.

Baffled, I stopped to inspect him. I couldn’t miss the cause of his strange behavior. He had a huge clump (the size of a mid-sized plum) of bull thistle pods stuck to the back of his hind leg just above the foot. I instinctively reached for it without thought to pull it away, but thankfully commonsense returned before I actually touched it. ‘How on earth am I going to get that off him without getting a few hundred thorns in my fingers?’ I asked myself. ‘I need gloves.’

Then I remembered my mittens packed in my podbags. Even with those, it was a 10 minute chore. The pods were so dry they came apart too easily so I needed to pluck individual spines out of my mitten and Loke’s leg fur both. It was a relief to find that none of them had gotten through his fur, at least not enough to stick in his skin though they may have prickled him a little.

That taken care of, we poked along between 4 or 5 mph though he’d go a bit quicker down hills, even loped a few times. It was a glorious day to be out. Sunny, mostly blue skies with fluffy clouds drifting by like unshorn sheep, almost no wind at all and definitely above freezing. It was nearly 36 F when we stepped out of the apartment so I had 27 gears from the start. I’d toyed with the idea of doing the 10 mile Vaksala loop, but when Loke showed himself to be so slow, I stuck to the River Loop. Thankfully, our longer outing on Saturday with the Läby Loop made the River much more tolerable.

We took our usual way through a park-like area dividing a residential into two sections. About mid-way, a woman with a Rottweiler in a coat saw us coming and she stepped off the path to watch us. The dog made peculiar sounds, something between a whine and bark, as she danced on her hind legs. Not aggressive in the least. The woman laughed, calling out that her dog was jealous of mine getting to run with the trike.

I laughed at that since it echoed something I’d thought about before. I so love having a four-legged companion when out with the trike that I’ve often had brief ‘day-dreams’, for lack of a better term, about offering a dog-exercise service with my trike. ‘Hyper hound who’s still crazy after an hour’s walk? Walkies aren’t enough? Call (clever name inserted here) and have a happy, fit dog.’ Silly, but the thought still drifts through my head when Loke’s unable to run or I’m contemplating his mortality.

We puttered along to the out-n-back toward the military base and when Loke’s paces seemed fine though unhurried, I added the out-n-back upstream of the river too. Such a pretty day, I wasn’t in any particular hurry to return to the apartment. It was so warm I didn’t need my gloves or my toe-warmers. My legs were only covered with my heavy wool thermals under my cycle tights and that felt slightly too warm. I was even debating taking off my pink, Lycra cycle top and riding in my thermal shirt.

The warm, pretty weather begged to be enjoyed in a leisurely fashion. I stopped a few times, put Loke on his flexi-leash to let him sniff around and roll in the snow.

I was debating heading toward the vicarage near the field loop to push for a total of 9 or more miles when Loke gave an ‘ow!’ hop and began limping with his 3-toed foot. I didn’t even hesitate, we took the next turn for the shortest way home. We were going to finish with over 7.5 miles but less than 8 (7.84 miles to be exact.).

An internal argument raged while I toweled Loke off, thankfully just wet and not fur frozen with black ice) and added an extra scoop of kibble to his uneaten breakfast. I had a week left in March so getting that last mile or so would be no problem. Yet breaking the goal was soooo close, I still felt fairly strong and it was so very lovely out. As Loke drank some water and curled up on his pillow, I picked up the keys and went back out to ride again. I felt guilty doing it, but Loke only watched from his fox-curled position as I told him I’d be back soon.

I started out strongly (perhaps a little too much so) on the beginnings of the Vaksala Loop. Moving so quickly, the air felt a little cooler so I pulled on my yellow windbreaker. I zipped along Gamla Uppsala Road at over 10 mph and streaked under the train tracks at over 15 mph to splash wildly into the slush and slick ice at the bottom. While making the climb up from the underpass, weariness set in. My leg muscles suddenly felt tired and achy. I looked at my GPS as I passed the hotel. Not even a mile. I didn’t want to stop so tried to temper myself. I refused to return home with anything less than 2 miles.

I took a break under the shade of the tall pines bisected by one of my favorite little stretches of cycle path. A left turn would take me to Vattholma Road where I could take another left toward the mosque, cross the road in a right turn to go back home. Maybe that would give me 2 miles. Right over the road would take me toward Granby.

Straight? Straight would take me along the road lined with 3 story apartment blocks to yet other streets with more tedious apartment block scenery. I abruptly realized I’d never ridden it. Cruised through in a car, yes, but not on human power wheels.

To boldly go where I’d not gone before, I pushed on. Yes, I went there. I did a thinly veiled Star Trek reference.

I passed a few other people, crunching through ice quickly decaying in above freezing temps and hammered by the warm March sun. I reached an intersection, but pushed on straight rather than taking a left to begin my way home. After the outing with Loke, however leisurely, and the distance I’d done solo while forcing my way through ice, slush and piled gravel was a higher pace than I would have taken with the furry one. I began to feel the burn and a slight ache in my knees. I came to a residential area and decided to cut through it in the direction I thought would start me to home.

I miscalculated and came out on another road. It was familiar to me though and I knew the way from there. Stubbornness made me go left for a little extra distance though. The deep puddles of melt water joined the slush, slick ice and gravel. Then came a series of underpasses. Badly built ones to my thinking. The ‘down and up’ of them was squished into such a short distance that the climb out would have been brutal even on foot. Even hitting top speed on the way down, I made it only halfway up sharp incline. With wheels in gravel which lost a few inches of traction for every foot, it was still quite difficult and hard even in the lowest gear. My knees hated it.

I made it and arrived at the turn I was looking for, but a sign pointing to the right gave me pause. ‘Granby’. Another underpass and into a rather dense looking apartment block complex. Going that way would let me make a large loop taking me back to the shady cycle path leading to Vattholma Road and home.

I took it. Many strange looks followed as I navigated the labyrinthine paths of the apartment complex. My sense of direction led me onward for lack of signs. Finally, in the distance, a collection of familiar shops appeared and I pushed on. I came out near roads I drive several times a week. Under another underpass beneath the busy 55 leading to the new section of the E4, I followed signs to the Granby sport fields and mall.

Last year, I rode to the local American style ‘do it yourself’ car wash, I remember thinking how odd it was there wasn’t a cycle path along a certain section of road. It turns out there is, but it’s about 100 yards/meters back from the road and hidden by a man-made ridge of ground where it passes behind some kind of building. I’ve walked the other end of that stretch a few times as it goes along the fences of the 4H complex across from the Granby mall. On those walks with Loke while Jens shops, I’ve always turned back at a rather nasty hill. Very steep and not something I ever wanted to walk, or trike, up if I could help it.

Well, that climb sat between me and the finish of my loop. Dropping into my lowest gears, I began. Even in the smallest gear inch, it was a hard push and my knees complained the entire way. I made myself take the time to go as easy as I could with the tire slipping in gravel, pausing to give my knees brief rests. I had a view of some of the 4H buildings and even pen with a pair of dark colored, hairy pigs. They looked for all the world like wild boars or at least crosses. I locked my brake there to try for photos, but their dark coloring and angle/position of the sun just turned them, their trough and fence posts into a single dark blur.

While putting the camera away, a woman who was out pole walking, stopped next to me. ‘What an unusual bike! Is it designed for a special condition?’ she asked. I explained that I’d originally purchased it because of a bad back that had stopped me from riding a normal bike, but now loved it so much I wouldn’t go back. The questions kept coming. Was it really so comfortable? Wasn’t it heavier than a normal bike? Easy to ride? I was more than happy to brag about my secondary pride and joy (Loke being the first), especially how I could ride on ice nearly impossible to walk on and the fact my dog couldn’t pull me over.

She even asked if they were expensive. I answered that a high quality one like mine was quite pricey, but even the cheaper ones   cost more than some mid-range quality bikes. I didn’t mention how much mine had cost, but gave her a rough guess in Swedish Kronor for the cheapest ‘bents I’ve seen and mentioned that they came with 2 wheels as well.

She admired it for a moment more before we parted ways and I slogged the rest of the way up that cursed hill.

I finally made it and for about half a mile had an easy cruise on the path between the 4H fences and the road with the mall on the other side. I passed the first turn, intending to go onward to the one near the dog-yard. Loke gets to have some off-leash time there on occasion. Often, I walk Loke in the area when Jens goes shopping for dinner in the grocery store there. If the dog-yard is empty, Loke gets to run and sniff around. If there are others in it, we stroll around the paths.

I turned right and had an exciting charge down to the huge expanse of grassy sward between the 4H pastures and another cluster of apartment buildings. Acres and acres of parkland with short clipped grass sprinkled with small trees and statues (a meerkat??). In one spot toward the center, even a lone soccer goal net. Paved cycle paths criss-cross it, but I stuck to the one which parallels the pasture fences.

The way was choked with deep puddles of melt, some 5 or 6 inches deep that I crept carefully through, wondering if I was going to get a wet rump at any moment. Other spots had a combination of slush and hard, slippery ice. I powered through it all, reveling in freedom the Sprint’s 26″ rear wheel gave me by keeping the idler (that’s what the rear derailleur chain-guide arm is called!!!!) high and safe.

I came to the next turn where a thick, isolated clump of woods remained. Over head, the hoarse calls of crows echoed down. Maybe this year the murder will nest there as they’ve done every year before though oddly not 2012.

From there it was quick 1.5 mile home through the pretty wooded path to Vattholma Road and by the mosque.

As I passed the bus-stop near the mosque, a man, roughly 30 years old, dressed in work coveralls and yellow vest, looked up from his smart phone at my approach. He gave me a huge grin with double thumbs up and a vigorous nod of approval. I grinned back, a thumb up, as I passed. Then I let myself freewheel down the slope to go under the rail tracks. I hit 25 mph or more before reaching the bottom where the slush and ice waited me. I made my limbs relax before I hit it, making careful adjustments as the half-melted stuff yanked me to 15 mph before the trike bucked and skidded on the harder stuff. Quite exciting.

A few more puddles and stretches of slush were all that stood between me and home. I coasted into the parking lot with 6.07 solo miles. Though the car was due to go in for service the next morning which meant the trike would have to come in, I couldn’t face multiple trips of the stairs at that moment. The graveled slopes, the slush and the fact I have such a hard time tempering my speed and power without Loke’s help left me with quite a bit of knee pain and the thigh muscles burning. I’d have to fetch it in later.

In spite of needing a hot soak, anti-inflammatory meds (capsules and topical gel) and heating pad for my knees, I felt satisfied with the outing. That extra 6 miles bumped my total for March to 57.9 miles over 9 rides. Last March ended with 51.46 miles over 11 rides. At this time last year, my total mileage was 101.91 (subtracting rides on March 27th & 29th). Currently I’ve already clocked 166.06 miles and I’ll get a few more rides done before midnight March 31st, I’m certain. Jens wants to go fishing this weekend and is determined I ride in the areas he fishes. That will be at least 1 more outing, maybe 2 unless the Baltic is too icy for him to get his lines into the water. Then whatever rides I take on the River Loop in exchange for Loke’s business walks.

65 miles gained toward beating last year’s 800+ miles in spite of no miles at all in February or the first week of March. I feel very good about that accomplishment.

Sorry about the dearth of photos, but the pretty parts of the River Loop have been photographed so much this year. One can only display the same hill or copse of trees so many times in sun, cloud, snow, rain, autumn leaves or any combination of them all… before it blends into a sameness. The new places I went through yesterday were mostly *bleah* visually. Seriously, who wants to see clusters of boxy apartment buildings, 3-5 stories tall with a few trees, dirty snow and puddles? I didn’t. It was just miles to add on the total.

March 25, 2013, 10:22 am
Filed under: Day Rides

The breathtaking weather continues. The drought of pictures this month has broken with a few further down the post.

I did go out for a ride on the 21st after posting.

It warmed to about 26 F. A beautiful day, but this time of year can be so difficult to dress for, particularly on a windy day. The sun in March is already quite strong and bright which means it has warmth. Black wool and lycra just sucks that heat right up. In below freezing temps, that can be a good thing and it can mean the difference between 3 layers or 2.

Wind on the other hand can mean the difference between 3 layers… or even 4. Thursday it was roaring through the trees with a strength that set the naked limbs lashing. Between the fields with nothing to block it, it comes raging over the white expanse, picking up not only speed but the snow’s chill as well. It whined around the edges of my trike’s luggage rack as if the trike itself were making piteous sounds.

It’s nearly impossible to dress for those conditions. Any time I had the sun to the left or right, the sunny side was too hot while the other shivered and pined for another layer. Not the most comfortable conditions.

Still, it felt good to be out and moving. Loke did pretty well though not quite as good as the outing on the 20th. He enjoyed it none-the-less. No limping, clean stride, and eager to keep moving but a little slower and quite a bit less tugging on the tether. If I’m not mistaken, it was also the first ride during/after the vernal equinox! Spring! Granted, here in Sweden it’s not the equinoxes that dictate ‘spring’ or ‘autumn’, but temperatures. Something like 1 week of temps above (x) degrees.

As we were coming through the final stretch toward home, there was a slight choke point which was covered with potentially slick ice. I stopped just short of it to wait for a pair of women to come through. One of middle years walking with an older one who used a wheeled walker. I didn’t want to crowd or rush them on such a treacherous surface where anyone of us could have accidentally slid into the others.

They thanked me as they came through and stopped to admire Loke. The younger woman knew he was a husky and asked a few questions about him. Then both expressed concern that I wasn’t properly dressed for the weather. I assured them I was fine with footwarmers and 2 layers of good wool beneath my tights and top. Their concern was touching and sweet in a gentle, mothering fashion.

We came in with 6.95 miles under our wheels/paws and Loke took a little nap. About an hour later, he was frolicking with his squeaky monkey toy.

Given that Loke was a little more sluggish than the previous ride, I decided that Friday was to be a rest day for him. For me, it was a trip to the dentist… yay! (sarcasm)

Saturday was another pretty day. By this point, I was starting to feel a bit boxed in by the constant rides of the River Loop. That ‘hamster wheel’ mentality setting in. I thought about Saturday being another day of rest for the fuzzy one and bolting out the door for a solo ride even if it was just the Läby Loop or Ulva/Gamla Uppsala. Just something with a few more miles and scenery that, even if not new, I’d not seen for a month or two at least.

Jens, of course, wanted me to take the furball. He suggested I ‘do a quick River Loop’ and go back out. I explained to him I just couldn’t face doing a 2 mile stretch of the River Loop twice in one day. If I did a full 4.5 – 8 miles with Loke, I would simply not go back out upon arriving home. Just something about the way my mind works. It’s like swimming laps in a pool. I go completely stir-crazy.

I made it a condition that if I took Loke with me, Jens would have to come pick him up if I called – no complaints. Given my husband’s work load of late, Jens has become a bit possessive about his time off. I don’t blame or begrudge as I understand completely. Despite that, he agreed rather readily. He knows that picking up the furball from a local outing would take less time than a long walk with him.

So, with that agreement made, out the door I went to ready the trike from the car and Jens would bring Loke out when I was done.

While settling the last details, gloves and such, one of our neighbors who lives in the other end of our building came walking. As we had a brief chat about how pretty a day it was, but wasn’t it too cold for me to ride? I also took the opportunity to ask her about the elderly woman who lived in the apartment adjacent to hers. I’d noticed last week that the apartment had been cleared out. Given that I guessed she was at least in her 80’s, I was a little concerned. She’s always been so sweet, with a ready smile and a wave from my first days here in Sweden. She even noticed when I started driving when she saw me getting out of the driver side of our car about 15 feet from her balcony, and congratulated me on getting my license.

The neighbor said she would let her know I’d asked after her and assured me the woman was well. Living on her own had become too difficult so she had moved into an assisted care complex a little closer to Stockholm where all her children and grandchildren lived. My guess that the older woman was in her 80’s was correct. Actually, she was 80 when I moved to Sweden 8 years ago.

I was relieved to hear she was okay.

When Loke and I finally moved out, he had quite a bit of spunk. He didn’t try running like a mad dog for long, but set into a quick trot with a look of determination.

I began to have second thoughts about attempting the Läby Loop as my gears were frozen. They were stuck at a decent gear to manage the River Loop with my front chain-rings, but right at the beginning of Gamla Börje Road, there’s a nasty, steep little hill that I would need my lowest gear for. I can pull the cable into an easier gear, but slacking for a higher gear inch won’t happen. That would make most of the Läby Loop either spinning like crazy or mashing too hard for 10 miles or more. Spinning or mashing both can hurt my knees.

As I contemplated that displeasing reality, it occurred to me I should have taken my trike to the cycle shop sometime in February when it spent the entire month in the car because Loke couldn’t run or be left alone thanks to the toe issue. Unfortunately, concern for my beautiful companion put such considerations far into the back of my mind. The joys of hindsight.

I decided to try the longer loop any way. I was desperate for a decent ride. Not to mention, the day was so pretty with the warm sun, the sky a perfect blue with thin clouds holding to far horizons, blissfully little wind and Loke determined to move with no hint of a limp.

Fortune smiled on us and by the 2nd mile, the temperature appeared to rise above freezing. My gears unfroze. That brightened my mood.

We wended through the residential area and saw a semi-familiar face. There’s an older man, retired, who we see every now and again. He absolutely loves dogs and approves of my cycling with Loke because I treat him like a husky and not a lap dog. He called out something I didn’t hear so I stopped to ask, ‘What?’. He commented the beautiful weather and that Loke must be loving the chilly days. As we were on the same side of the road for once, he asked if he could greet Loke. I told him of course, and he crouched down to scratch through Loke’s neck fur. It made him smile when the furball nosed his cheek a few times before becoming impatient to go on. He wished us a good ride and gave the fuzzy a final pat.

Loke moved out briskly, even pulling a little. His pace faltered some when I made the turns which I think he’s learned to associate with 5 mile loop rather than the 7 to 8 miler. That hesitation didn’t last long. He even wanted to run! On the big hill down to the bridge over the river was one spot he wanted to go even faster. I curbed his enthusiasm a little, keeping him to a 10 mph lope to spare his joints.

His speed and interest bounced back when I told him ‘Höger’ (right) for us to cross the 272 onto Gamla Börje Road. There wasn’t much traffic as we zipped across and, unexpectedly, he threw his weight into the harness to assist with the climb.

Again, on the down side of the hill, he was willing to move into a lope and was content with it rather than a flat-out charge. As the road leveled he settled into a 7 mph trot. I felt free with the paths of the River Loop behind us for a while. Not until the last 1.5 mile of the ride would we see them again.

A Stunning Day

A Stunning Day

Loke impatient for me to get rolling again.

Loke impatient for me to get rolling again.

Even surrounded by fields, the wind remained remarkably absent. I finally stopped to unzip my wind-breaker and turn down the foot-warmer setting. Then with the mostly flat road before us, Loke and I pushed on.

As another half-mile or so passed, I realized I felt incredible. Usually on my rides, I feel discomfort, but my joy of riding eclipses it so well I can ignore, or go through it. My spirit is so willing that, unless it’s agony in the knees or hips, the flesh cannot stop me. Yet, on that day and moment, there was nothing of pain. My breathing was good, my knees felt fine and hip joints supple. I found a gear that let me spin at roughly 70 RPM which was enough to raise my heart-rate and breath, but seemed I could have maintained for hours. It felt effortless.

And there was Loke beside me, jogging along. He panted lightly (no dangling tongue) with the pace of a smooth trot around 7.5 mph. He wasn’t pulling, but the tether didn’t jingle either. We were matched. Dog, woman and trike in perfect harmony with the glorious day.

With nothing wrong with myself or Loke, my spirits soared like courting eagles and laughter bubbled out of me. I couldn’t stop grinning the way young Terii did on Christmas mornings when the parents finally shuffled out of the bedroom. Or every time I’ve ridden a horse. Pure happiness made me giddy.

I kept patting Loke and ruffling his fur as I spun on. At one point, I gave an exuberant burst of laughter and said, ‘Love the puppy!’.

In a post some time ago, I explained the ‘Love The Puppy’ ritual between Loke and I. I lean over with my arms out and declare, ‘Love the puppy!’ Loke goes all cute and wiggly as he comes into the circle of my arms. As he leans against my legs, I hug, ruffle his fur and even rub his shoulders and chest.

The look Loke gave me as I crowed out the words while with the trike made me giggle. He turned an ear back and gave me a side-long glance. He couldn’t have said more clearly, ‘Seriously? Love the puppy?? I’m working here. Job to do and all that’.

I so love my dog.

Have I mentioned I love birches?

Have I mentioned I love birches?

The harmony and perfection continued as we turned off Gamla Börje Road toward Ströbylund. I fiddled with my mittens as we rolled along. I’d fold back the fingers to cool down for a few minutes and then close them up again when the breeze from our forward motion made my hands ache. I was thrilled when the Garmin ticked over to 8 miles. Officially Loke’s longest outing since 3rd week of January and he still had plenty of energy and desire to go on.

On past the shops and through the wooded section with its webbing of cycle paths. The residential area on the other side bogged us down with a combination of slush and rotten ice chunks choking the little streets. I saw a few people laboring quite hard just to walk their bikes through the muck. Another of those times I’m very grateful for 3 wheels.

Soon we were climbing the steep hill not far from the graveyard and chapel where Loke and I would join the paths for the Field Loop that I occasionally use to extend the River Loop another 2 miles. The first part of the path was icy in spots and made narrow with plowed snow in others. Yet, we made it through easily in spite of the constant stream of traffic. A lot of people were out in the beautiful and mild weather. Even a few spandex clad road cyclists powered past me in packs as many roads are remarkably clear of snow, ice or gravel.

Did I dare? Yes, yes, I did.

Did I dare? Yes, yes, I did.

As we came down the tree-crowned hill to glide under the 55, I abruptly remembered I probably needed to take a detour from my usual way past the vicarage. The last time I rode the unpaved path at the bottom of the hill adjacent the field, it had been under a 6 inch thick, hard and slippery surface of ice. I stopped at the turn and contemplated what I could see.

The snow had been hard packed into a strip flanked by softer to either side, typical when people walk over it. It looked hardly wide enough for both of my front tires. It didn’t seem very slick though. I took my pictures and stared at it a while longer before deciding to risk it. If nothing else, it made for prettier scenery than riding through apartment block residential.

That first part was no problem. I went easy to keep both wheels on the harder stuff and where they did slip, only a couple inches of snow was over the winter dead grass. It wasn’t until I made the connection to the main path I suddenly had problems.

The main path was still covered with a glassy, polished and wet ice. It also tilted alarmingly toward the ditch between field and path while sloping down hill. I began to slide out of control at a neck-breaking speed of 2 mph. Yes, yes, 2 mph may not sound like much, but when you can’t stop it and you’re heading for a tree as well as a nasty tumble into a ditch full of melt water it becomes quite a bit more exciting. I fought with the brakes while trying to dig my shoes into the ice to at least correct my direction if I couldn’t stop. Finally, it was Loke who came to the rescue though I don’t think he did it on purpose. He just suddenly pulled sharply to the right to sniff at a rock which yanked me straight.

The rest of the way was made without incident.

We arrived home in one piece. Things weren’t over for Loke though. In spite of the above freezing temps, all the splashing through melt and slush had left black, muddy water frozen to Loke’s fur. It hung heavy on the underside of his chest and belly, the fringe of hair on the backside of his front legs and inside of the thighs of the hind ones. An attempt to towel him off only had little pebbles of it flying around the foyer. With my trike still outside, I ended up pushing him into the bathroom to melt off a bit while I got everything inside.

10 minutes of anxiety passed for the furball as he waited, closed in the torture chamber. The floor had turned black with the melt dripping off him. Better the bathroom than splattered all over our apartment. I finally had to rinse him with warm water since it still hadn’t all thawed. Poor, poor fuzzy.

In spite of the near disaster on the frozen path and Loke’s torment with the bathroom, it was as close to a perfect day that I’ve had in ages. The best was Loke happy and apparently well beside me the whole way.

A Little Better
March 21, 2013, 9:52 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I’m working hard to not pin too much hope on things, but the last outing was a good one.

In all the ups and downs of the past few weeks, it slipped my mind to mention an unexpected meeting that crossed my path.

I was walking Loke as it happened before he’d had the stitches removed. A brisk, chilly afternoon as we were making the final approach back home on the .5 mile ‘business walk loop’ I established back when Loke was an 11 pound ball of fluff and cute when we brought him home. The area was busy with people walking and cycling and a fair stream of cars using the small road.

Abruptly, one of the women on a bike stopped to wave me down. She spoke so quickly, I caught only 1 word in 5. I apologized for my bad Swedish and asked if she could speak a little slower. Instead she changed to English. She introduced herself, adding she was a journalist with the local Uppsala newspaper. After that, she told me that researched had shown 7 of 10 dogs in Sweden were owned by households without children in residence. That had surprised her so she was doing a piece on the subject involving a a series of 3 interviews. A younger single woman, an older (past retirement age) single man, and a couple established in a long-term relationship around the age of 40… all without children in the home. She asked if I was in a relationship and if so, did we have children.

Discovering I was married and we had no children, she was very enthusiastic about interviewing Jens and I for the piece. My interest was pricked and I considered it as we chatted about Loke some. When I mentioned the trike, how Loke runs with it and my attempts at cycle-touring with him for company she became even more interested, particularly when I mentioned the blog.

Then she mentioned that above each interview would be a ‘family’ (Jens, Loke and I) portrait photo, professionally done at their in-office studio. That made me balk. The idea of my photo out there for all of Uppsala to see. I’m quite camera shy. She tried to persuade me and I told her, it would depend on my husband. I wasn’t sure what his schedule was. I offered to send her the address for my blog and would e-mail the answer when I talked with Jens about it.

Jens’ schedule was quite bogged down and unable to work in time for the interview. I let her know as it was important for her purposes that both he and I were involved. I hoped she’d be able to find another couple in time. She asked if it was alright to keep my name in reserve if another article involving dogs came up and I answered that would be just fine. She also let me know that she had found another couple with four Salukis. Talk about a handful!

Still, it was quite an unexpected turn of events. I’ve never been in a newspaper for anything. I’ve been in scene shots for TV news stories before. Once was at a movie theater for the premier of ‘Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves’ with Kevin Costner. Our local SCA group (medieval recreation group) set up a little display in a grassy sward next to a movie theater. The local news showed up as we were giving a demonstration of a medieval folk dance to the people waiting for the next showings. There I was on the evening news with a dozen others, swirling through the high paced step. I think it was a line dance called ‘Strip the Willow’ which is a Scottish folk dance.

If you’re curious to see the dance:

Well, how was that for a side ramble?

I’ve have gone for rides since my last, maudlin post. They’ve been short and spaced far apart in hopes of giving Loke time to stop limping.

The weather has persistently been cold but otherwise gorgeous! Most days have been sunny and often utterly cloudless. A few days have had a bit of cloud sun mix. The past 2 couldn’t quite make up their mind if they wanted to snow. Sun and blue skies with drifts of snow flakes swirling through the air with diamante glitters in the warm March light.

Yesterday was the most recent ride, though I’ll likely go for another in a few minutes.

It was cold, 27 F with a wicked wind. Clouds moved in as we went so the sun often vanished. In spite of it all, I was still decently warm. The foot-warmers are a blessing and I had no idea how much body heat I was losing through my toes on the rides. I’ve been out on the trike in temps of 24 F which, before the Hotronics, I would have shied away from and stayed snug in doors. It felt no worse, better actually, than rides in 28 F to 30 F.

The outings with Loke have been fairly mixed. He started out fine, but fizzled out into a ‘bleah’ pace in less than a quarter mile and after that first burst of speed, he wouldn’t pull at all, his pace way down. A hitch in his step that often went into ‘limp’ status. The ride before yesterday’s, he was walking fine and in the next step went on 3 legs for a bit before limping badly the last half mile home.

Yesterday… yesterday was a good day. The best since Loke went from standing funny to hobbling on 3 legs in less than 2 hours way back in the 3rd week of January.

He was calm as I got everything together for the ride. He only yodeled a bit. Once I settled into the seat and loosened the brake, he was off like a shot. I expected him to settle into a slow 6 mph trot, slacking the tether, by the third turn, but he powered on. Past the school and still pulling and clipping along. He wanted to lope down the slope of the underpass beneath the 55 and had nearly 2 inches of tether drawn out to try keep up the speed on the climb.

And his paces? They were fine! Not the least little hitch or hint of a limp. His stride remains shorter than it was, but it was brisk and clean. My spirits soared and I found myself smiling in spite of thickening clouds and a wind that had still had the fangs of winter in its bite.

It wasn’t until a bit after mile 2 that the tether began to jingle with slack and it came after a short hop like he had a sudden, sharp pain in his foot very briefly. The step after was normal, but he quit dragging.

Before all this came to pass, I didn’t mind slack in the tether when out with Loke. I regarded it as an opportunity for extra exercise…. that I was keeping up with the furry-one’s comfortable pace. Now, particularly when my gears are frozen, it’s more an indication of how slow Loke’s being. Or his lack of energy or perhaps a showing of arthritis and that worries me.

Even after he quit pulling though, he didn’t slow much and the movement of his legs continued smooth and crisp.

It wasn’t until we were pulling into the parking lot that he gave another ‘OUCH’ hop and this time went across half the parking lot with just 3 legs. I think he stepped on a ‘stump’ of the hedge where it had been cut close to the ground. Essentially a deeply rooted stick thinner than my little finger sticking up. Even with a perfect foot that would hurt.

By the time we were inside, he was bouncing around with his stuffed squeaky toy before flopping onto his pillow. As I went back out to put the trike in the car, he had wriggled onto his back, legs tucked to chest and belly and snoring through his bared teeth as gravity pulled his upper lips toward the floor. Goof.

I also took an opportunity for a little experiment with the trike. I wanted to see if I could fit the Sprint 26 in the back without folding the rear seats down. It turns out I can… sorta. The trike itself fit fine as did the pod bags and the non-trike related things that are always in the back of the car. The seat proved to be the problem. Actually, I should say it’s the running bar attached to the seat. There was just no way to ‘Tetris’ it in that the bar wouldn’t be poking a passenger in the back of the head in the fully loaded car. If I removed the bar, the trike and even a bit of luggage could fit for 4 people to go on a trip.. provided the two rear passengers didn’t mind sharing the backseat with Loke.

Something to keep in mind!

It’s a Bitter Thing – Regret
March 13, 2013, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yes, this is going to be one of those gloomy posts.

Regret is not something I’m accustomed to. I have enough hang-ups and difficulties without adding that one to the list. Disappointment. Anguish. Fury. Frustration. Sorrow. Plain ol’ depression. I feel them all and even combinations of them

I’m not sure why I’ve been able to excise regret from the repertoire while others cling on like a combinations of duck tape and super glue. Or, maybe, I have felt it, but it’s come and gone like a flash of lightning. Bad decisions, even ones that bordered on life-ruining, I accepted as painful lessons. Learn from it, try to remember the hard knock and resolve to avoid it in the future. But clinging to the misery of it? Wallowing in the endless strings of ‘how could I?’ or ‘I never should have?’ or obsess about how desperately I want to change the past? It simply doesn’t happen and its been that way even back when I was barely in my teens. I recognize the past is past and cannot be changed. What was the use in wasting energy on it when my plate was full of things in the present to be dealt with.

Yet, now, I’m getting a taste of what other people deal with.

What brought this on?

Sunday, as I strolled through a grocery store for dinner fixings, Nadina called. She wanted to let me know that the results from the sample the other vet had taken from the wound when removing the stitches. The bacteria was a common sort, with no special resistance so the antibiotics would work fine. She still wanted to see us for a follow up, was Tuesday okay?

I’d begun tentative plans to go with Jens to the southern part of Sweden. It would have been a business trip for him, but a new area for Loke and I to ride. However, getting and keeping Loke healthy takes priority. So, I told her Tuesday was fine.

I sent Jens off on the train and arrived at the clinic at 8:30.

A little odd looking...

A little odd looking…

I didn’t have a long wait. Nadina immediately checked Loke’s toes, had me walk and trot him around the waiting room to watch his paces. Then we settled into an exam room. Nadina wanted to outline Loke’s status in full and discuss it all.

The bacteria that had infected his foot was the same which had caused his severe ear infection. It is an extremely common sort indigenous to the skin of most mammals. The virus which caused the bone tumor? Also very common. The fungus? It turns out it wasn’t really fungus. Their detection methods were giving a false positive for fungus because all other tests to get it to grow or find out what sort it was resulted in nothing. It was simply a product of a bacterial infection, probably resistant to meds, packed around the tumorous bone.

Then she drove to the heart of the matter. The root of all Loke’s problems is his allergy which has wrecked his immune system. In any living creature with a normal, healthy immunity, the bacteria and virus would never be the cause of the infections he’s suffered. Nadina even appeared certain the difficulties with the furball’s anal glands could be traced back to the same immune system problems. She said he’s probably so sensitive to the triggers now that any amount might send him spiraling into a series of infections. We need to be very careful what we feed him or what dropped bits he snatches up.

Once that part of the talk was done, I mentioned that Loke sometimes seems a little hesitant to put his right foot down. She immediately checked it and then moved on to test the range of motion in all his joints.

My lovely furball is starting to show signs of arthritis. She said it was very slight, but recommended we start him on supplements to slow the progression. She also assured me that for a dog his age with the type and intensity of his activities, it’s not unexpected.

The news of the arthritis is what’s pushed me into the shadow of this dark cloud of regret. It didn’t hit right away, but now it’s sitting perched on my shoulders.

Loke’s beginning to get old. I knew it had to happen. I thought I was ready for it. Yet, suddenly I feel the regret of things I wanted to do with him and didn’t. Never mind that often it’s been because I was treating his ailments or mine. The weather too hot for him to run without potential heat-stroke or too cold for me to sleep in a tent. Or, that I simply lacked confidence in myself, Loke or the trike.

I wanted to cover and miles of Sweden with the furball trotting beside me, nights camping out with the lingering light of the sun never leaving the summer sky. His antics and company keeping me smiling as maybe we rolled through parts of other countries.

I think what’s deepening the feeling that all of it is out of reach is the fact Loke doesn’t seem to be bouncing back from this whole episode very well. He ricochets around the apartment. He’s thrilled to death when I start getting the trike ready. He woofs and yodels when I’m too slow to get my gloves on. In less than a mile, the little hitch in his step worsens almost into a limp. He doesn’t pull. He doesn’t want to run much after the initial craziness. The long hill toward the river used to be where he’d stretch out into a good run 17-21 mph. The past 2 days, he’s barely broken 8 mph going down it. He’s never run so poorly even after 4 months of near inactivity when I couldn’t use the Trice in the winter.

It saddens me more than I can say.

Yet out the door I went again today. Partly sunny and 24 F. The March sun is wonderful though. The thin watery light of mid-winter is gone and warmth pours from the heavens like honey now that we’re having a bout of clear weather. With Jens in southern Sweden on business, I was glad when it warmed enough to go for a ride. It spared me from walking. Loke was bouncy as I got dressed, following me around like a second shadow as I took everything out.

Yet, within 200 yards, his fire settled and he hitched along at a trot of about 6.8 mph. Maybe it’s boredom, but I won’t know until I have a chance to ride somewhere new… or at least less familiar.

We’ll see. I need to shake this melancholy I’m in.


Easing Back Into It
March 9, 2013, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

‘It’ being Loke’s outings with the trike.

The weather here has been stunning lately. Blue skies with little to no clouds and the temperature unable to make up its mind if it’s going to strip away the snows or turn all the melt water pools into slick, bone breaking surfaces. One of our neighbors in our building did that. Slipped and went down wrong on her arm, snapping both bones in her forearm like twigs.

The return of the sun has been a source of frustration. Nothing like staring out at a dome of azure heavens with golden-white sunlight turning the snow into a dazzling display… and only being able to take short walks. The trike’s been calling me, but since Loke can’t be left alone, I’ve mostly just been pining.

After posting on Monday, I strolled down to fill Niclas in on everything that’s been happening. He was utterly flabbergasted and when I was done with all the gory little details, he shook his head and sighed, ‘Only Loke.’ Oddly, Loke was incredibly lovey with Niclas, who’s presence he generally dreads. Maybe after all he’s been through with Nadina and Steena, he realizes Niclas isn’t so bad after all.

The stitches were removed on Tuesday. That was not fun. I had to physically pin Loke down so the vet (not Nadina or Steena) could get them out. She also found a small wound right between the two toes that hadn’t healed and it looked infected which potentially explained why Loke had been limping worse and worse over the previous 2 days. She took a swab of it and prescribed antibiotics.

I’ll admit that I hit a new low then. Two weeks after surgery and Loke still had not completely healed. It meant the timeline Nadina had given for Loke returning to normal activity was not going to happen. It felt as if it was simply going to go on and on. Every hope and expectation I’d allowed myself broken. I felt so utterly hopeless. I allowed myself to let go and have a long, hard cry.

For one day, there was no improvement, but then progress turned around again for the better. The wound dried out and began to heal. Limping all but vanished.

Then his energy levels shot through the roof. He took to crashing around the apartment, spinning and leaping.

Jens worked from home yesterday. Loke was harassing both of us and my knees were too wrecked to take him for a walk. Jens begged me to try a rolling walk since he was available to get us if Loke had any difficulties.

Loke’s limping had been much less and completely unpredictable. I was convinced that his foot is as structurally sound as it’s ever going to be. So… out we went.

He was crazed as I sat down in the seat and pulled on  my gloves. He yodeled, barked and howled while he bounced and heaved at the tether. At one point, he even twisted to bite at the bar as if blaming it for my being slow.

We went off like shot in spite of my best attempts to temper the pace. In the first 100 yards, Loke limped raggedly, even going on 3 legs for a few steps. I almost turned back, but given Loke’s behavior in the apartment, I thought it best if I got him around the block at least. Give him a chance to answer nature’s call if nothing else.

Within the next 100 yards, the limp vanished and remained absent when we came to the turn which would make a loop of a block. I decided to go on a little more. The sun was shining and the skies blue. By the time we reached the school, Loke settled somewhat. Not pulling so much. The limp appeared every now again and studying the furball as he went, I finally could see a slight ‘hitch’ in his steps even when he wasn’t limping.

His stride didn’t change and he didn’t go back to a 3 legged hobble again.

I gave Loke the absolutely most basic River Loop. We returned home with 2.95 miles. Coming in from the run, Loke climbed the stairs and pranced into the apartment like any normal husky with all his toes.

He flopped down into his pillow and slept like a log. That was a little sad really. Less than 3 miles and he contently sleeping. 6 weeks ago, 15 miles wasn’t even enough to take the smallest sliver off his energy levels. He would still have been trying to bully us out the door.

This morning, Loke still had no bad affects from his outing yesterday. It turned into another glorious day.

I can’t remember the last time we had so much. I think we’ve had 2 cloudy days in 3 weeks. So much sun hasn’t been seen in maybe 8 months or more.

So, out the door we went again today! Loke limped less than he did the first time. Once I was certain of his soundness, I noticed that Loke isn’t pulling as much. Once the first crazy dash is over any way. It was also obvious that his stride is shorter. Before this episode with the torn ligament and tumor in his toe, even at a trot, Loke would stretch his stride to the utmost, wringing out every inch of distance for each pace. Now, it’s less so, though he’s not quite mincing.

Today’s run was 4.39 miles under blue skies though we didn’t get much sun. It seemed we had a cloud shadowing us the entire distance. Still a lovely outing. Loke seemed less wearied this time than from the 3 miles yesterday. If he continues to build up stamina that quickly, I’ll be quite happy.

So, there it is. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few days or weeks, but I’m going to do what I can for both us.

Oh! I should also mention that with today’s little outing, I broke Jan/Feb/March 2012’s total. Not that much of an accomplishment since I only lacked 4 or 5 miles to do it back on Jan 31st.

No mileage at all in all of Feb.

Fingers crossed we’re set for more mileage to come.

The Results Are In
March 4, 2013, 9:57 am
Filed under: Misc

Partially any way.

About an hour after my last post, Nadina called to tell me the results of the tests done on the removed toe.

The fungus still refused to grow so the lab was going to work on that some more.

The bone changes turned out to be a tumorous growth originating at the phalange’s tip where it meets the toe-nail.

The good news about the tumor – it’s benign.

The bad news about the tumor – a virus caused the cellular changes which produced the tumor.

Yep. A virus. Barring any confusion via language barriers, Nadina said that it likely reached the bone via the toe-nail. For all we know, the virus may yet be lurking in the nail of another toe on another foot. Or even deeper in the foot now lacking the toe. Potentially worst of all, floating around in his system to potentially cause problems else where on another day.

At least now we know. We know why the bone was changing. We know it was the right thing to remove the toe even if we originally did it because of increased swelling and sensitivity along with worries of the mystery fungus as much because of concerns about the bone.

The fact that a virus caused it still means some concern. It could all link back to Loke’s allergy compromised immune system. If it were possible for me to be more watchful of his diet than I already am, I would be. Just have to try our best to keep him away from the naughty foods to keep his immune system strong and hope for the best.

Tomorrow, Loke and I go to get his stitches removed.

A Source of Amusement For Murphy
March 4, 2013, 6:33 am
Filed under: Misc

I really do wonder about the reality of Murphy and whether there’s some kind of cosmic awareness that delights in watching people run afoul of his laws. I remember hearing once another side of the ‘Anything that can go wrong, will’ and it seems to be true in regards to this past weekend. ‘If nothing can go wrong… something will’.

At least it seems to have been a minor thing, but it still threw me into a frenzy of worry.

Loke’s foot had been doing so well. Except for a couple spots in the empty space between his remaining toes, the incisions have mostly healed. Those not quite healed spots that linger I think are just aggravated every time he walks in snow. Particularly the porous, crunchy mass that the snow cover has become thanks to cycles of freeze/thaw with a helping of rain thrown in. I’ve stepped in it a few times and when I break through the ice cover on top, my pant leg gets pushed up and, above my sock, it feels like getting swiped with the largest grained sandpaper possible. Painful. Yet Loke seems determined to go frolicking through it, never mind what it’s doing to not quite healed flesh.

For several days, he’d also been limp free. I started to feel a bit of hope – that just maybe this whole ordeal is over for the moment, barring the biopsy results on the toe.

I guess the infamous ‘Murphy’ decided to crush that idea.

Friday I woke up and went yawning to the kitchen to prepare the first dose of the last 3 of Loke’s medication for the day. Loke heard me and emerged, licking his chops for the delightful pieces of meat he gets. The pills hidden in them are completely irrelevant.

I fed him the first one and waited for him to swallow it. Tail wagging he sat pretty, waiting for the second. I frowned at his foot. It didn’t look right. Blinking to clear my sleep bleary eyes, I lifted it for a closer look. The last remaining ‘middle toe’ which is now the critical weight bearing structure of his foot was swollen to twice it’s normal size. The delicate new scar tissue and stitches were strained and even his nail partially hidden.

I just about had a break down then and there. Loke desperately needs that toe. If something happens to it, the foot becomes useless. The two outside and much smaller toes simply cannot bear the weight and impact of walking, let alone running. That toe goes, the leg will have to go with it.

Jens was supposed to have the car for the day, but upon seeing the swelling which had been non-existent the night before, I bullied my husband out the door to drive him to Stockholm for work. I arrived at the vet clinic around 8:30.

As Loke jumped out of the car, I could see the swelling had… reduced! Significantly.

Nadina wasn’t in, but the other vet who works there was more than willing to see us in between surgeries. We had about a 20 minute wait for her to finish with the first operation of the day and by the time she called us into an exam room, the toe looked better still.

When I described what had happened, how quickly it was disappearing and the fact Loke wasn’t limping, she was baffled. She fiddled with the toe some and could only conclude that it had been lymph fluid though why it had come and gone so quickly was a mystery. After asking about his meds, she decided I should continue with anti-inflammatory medicines at least another week though she gave me a prescription for another sort – one that will be a bit easier on Loke’s tummy.

Other than that, she was quite impressed with how cleanly and well it was healing.

Loke’s been limping a bit more since the incident though it might just be the difficult terrain. Gravel, crunchy snow packs, mounds in the way of everything he wants to mark.

I still feel wary and on edge. I want this over. I desperately need to be able to ride with Loke again. He’s been going a bit crazy with just walkies… and walkies are steadily breaking me down. My knees and ankles are a near constant bother right now.

Beyond that basic need for ‘pain free’ doggie outings, I just miss riding with Loke…