Terii’s Cycling Babble

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.

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