Terii’s Cycling Babble

Whatta Day!
April 30, 2013, 4:11 am
Filed under: Day Rides

I had plans for the weekend of April 27-28 which involved riding. The previous Thursday or maybe Friday, I’d mapped out a ride which would have taken me past the southern reaches of Stockholm to a lovely little town called Mariefred (Peace of Mary) named for a Carthusian monastery which once existed there. Not only had I planned to chase down whatever runestones I could find, but my sister-in-law was coming along. Admittedly, I’d invited her with some ulterior motives. I planned to have her keep Loke company while I ran into Gripsholm Castle for a look before beginning my ride. Then I would have paid her fee to explore the castle as well while I started out with the furball. She was quite happy with the idea, having a relaxing day wandering through the shops and streets of a small harbor town with older wooden buildings. I planned to do a few loops through the town not just for the church and a runestone, but for those pretty streets too.

Not only would there have been the castle, the town, runestones and at least 2 churches, but ruins too! Church ruins with runestones in the walls.

Odensala Kyrka

Odensala Kyrka

Alas, it didn’t happen. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that a sort of arts and crafts event was occurring in the area of a church between Uppsala and Stockholm. The church in the center of it, Odensala, was going to be open as a sort of rest-stop for the people puttering around the countryside from location to location. The entire event was essentially planned as a sort of bike ride though obviously, people could also drive.

The temptation was too much. Gripsholm Castle is open for viewing year round. Odensala isn’t frequently open. I thought maybe I could do a short runestone hunt around there and perhaps the Gripsholm ride on Sunday as Tina and I had planned.

Drawing of Odensala - 1682

Drawing of Odensala – 1682

Door between porch and church

Door between porch and church

I plotted the ride as a loop, thinking to take the car thereby sparing Jens the chore of driving. The hubby had other ideas, wanting the car to do some shopping.

By the time I had everything printed, marked and packed, it was around 11 am. Once we’d had lunch, stowed things in the car and made the drive, it was a bit after noon. I’d planned to just drag everything out of the car, lock the trike up with Loke tethered to it so Jens could leave. Loke would have waited with the trike while I ducked inside. Instead, Jens opted to wander around with Loke leaving me with a calmer conscience while I walked in for my interior photos.

The interior of the porch was covered with a thick layer of plaster, left smooth and white. Just inside the door was a drawing mounted on a board which showed Odensala’s outward appearance in 1682. A couple of grave slabs were inset among the lovely brick floor. Just through the door with its beautiful brick arch were hints of dark wood and some repetitive mural decoration.

On the right side of the porch was a long bench of polished wood with a sign tacked to the end near the brick arch where a chunk of stone leaned.

It was an extra runestone! This one had been discovered last year in the churchyard wall during restoration work. The stone was carved by a runemaster named Åsmund who worked during the first half of 1000 AD. What remains of the text is ‘God’s Mother’, ‘These runes’ and ‘Åsmund’. The stone doesn’t seem to even have a number yet. It’s quite weathered. I could only barely make out part of the band of runes when I looked very closely. They didn’t come out in the closeup photo though.

Speaking of newly found runestones, another one made the news earlier in the week. I didn’t catch where it was unfortunately. It’s one of the rarer sort of stones. Rather than having been made from a slab of rock moved from someplace else and erected, it had been cut into the very bones of the earth. A flat face had been cut into the side of a hump of bedrock offering a smooth(ish) surface for the runes and decorative carvings. Fascinating!

Uppland Runestones 440 & 442

Uppland Runestones 440 & 442

Back to the ride!

The simple interior of the porch gave me no real hint of what was inside. I was stunned.

A group of older women were sitting near a table which had coffee, cookies and other little treats. They gave me smiles and nods without interrupting the flow of their conversation or the soft click of knitting needles that two of them were using. Though the vivid colors of the walls in the nave pulled, I turned to peek through the glass panes of the door leading into the foot of the tower. Runestones!

Little did I know the headache I would get from the sign from one of the stones, but I get ahead of myself.

The inside of the archway into the tower

The inside of the archway into the tower

Stepping out of the tower room and from beneath the organ loft, I had to stop and stare. I’ll admit it, I was open-mouthed with awe.

The murals I saw earlier this month in Helga Trefaldighets Church in downtown Uppsala were breathtaking. Among the finest I’ve found in the few churches I’ve had the fortune to step into, but the ones in Odensala out-striped them. The colors were vivid and strong on most of the paintings, but most notable was that very nearly every inch of the walls, arches, and ceilings had some paint on it. Even if it was just an eye pleasing design on the inner width of a doorway or along the ribs of a column that became the supports of a ceiling arch.

Helga Trefaldighets Church has some blank panels. Granted, in size, its interior is much grander than Odensala’s not to mention the gorgeous brick columns. Even with that in account, it couldn’t match the murals. Stunned is the best word I can think of for how I felt at the first real look. I suddenly wished I had a tripod or at least a mono-pod for my camera. Admittedly, I’ve wished for such every time I’ve stepped into any of Sweden’s medieval churches.

Another man was also there with his camera. I sat down on one of the pews for extra stability to photograph the ceiling, hoping that by the time I was ready to start overlapping photos for merging he’d be finished. No such luck.



So, I started clicking and hoped for the best even though he was moving around enough that I expected his differing positions in each image would cause problems. As you can see, I was completely wrong! Yes, the left hand pews and a few other little spots are a little wonky, but that’s hardly the fault of the man. I did the best I could to straighten things out and it still shows the magnitude of the murals.

The Ship Mural

The Ship Mural

Door to the sacristy... I think

Door to the sacristy… I think

Most of the images, particularly those nearer to the alter were from the New Testament with images of Jesus. Closer to the entrance, the imagery was a bit more obscure to me. Like women and armed men with one man in a crown standing near the bow of a ship as it approaches an island where a pair of demons stand? Asking Jens, he thinks it might not be anything biblical, but showing a Swedish king meeting natives, most likely somewhere to the east.

The man was still lingering over photos when I left.

Jens was looking a bit restless by the trike when I emerged. I tethered Loke to a sign post, kissed the hubby bye and began assembling the trike. It was quite warm, particularly in the sun so Loke laid down in the shade under the bus stop bench while I worked. Once I had everything together, I locked the trike near the furball and set out in search of a pair of runestones in the yard behind the vicar’s house.

There were about half a dozen cars parked near the building there so I first though it wasn’t a private residence. It’s often a guessing game when it comes to vicarages. Some are clearly someone’s home, others used for other purposes. Walking around to the back though, there were a pair of boys kicking around a soccer ball and a few other people standing at the back of the house. It looked somewhat like a family reunion.

Either Uppland Runestone #443 _or_ #441

Either Uppland Runestone #443 _or_ #441

Hoping no one would notice, I skirted the edge of the property, following the fence as I did my search. I found a runestone… I think, leaning against the trunk of a tree. More of a fragment then a stone really. Though the fact it was a thin slab of stone hinted I’d found at least one of the pair I was looking for, if it had runes they’ve weathered away. Though now, looking at the photo, I think I see a hint of runes at the bottom edge.

I tromped over the brittle stalks of last year’s weeds, flattened and dried after the snows, looking for the other one. I only half expected to find anything since the web site had listed only one stone in the church where I’d discovered two in the tower room.

More people had joined the teen boys, ranging from a 10 year old girl to a silver-haired spry woman. It seemed they were organizing for a game of soccer.



I walked back up the hill along the fence line to rejoin Loke with the trike. As I began to swap my battered sneakers for the cycle shoes, I pulled off the wind-proof layer I’d put on over my cycle tights. It was too warm it. After bundling up so much over the winter, it felt strange to have only the single layer.

Kicking off the sneakers, I twisted on the wooden bench for a better angle to wrestle the Shimano on and promptly yelped. Splinters. I managed to get a lot of them in my posterior and back of the thighs. Loke watched me curiously as I hopped around like a demented frog, pulling at my tights in hopes it would free the splinters from my skin. It seemed to work. I took more care when I shifted around to get the other shoe on.

Things got a little worst still. I hitched the furball to the bar and settled the handlebar bag in its place. I started to lower myself into the seat and the ride nearly ended right there. Bursts of white flowered through my vision as I clutched my left knee and yelled, lurching away from the trike. I half fell, half sat on the ground, rocking over my knee as I struggled to straighten it through the pain. I can’t remember the last time I felt that kind of white-hot stabbing agony in either of my knees. Seriously. I’m pretty sure it was before I got married. Maybe even before I’d moved back to Mississippi from Indiana. There was once a few years ago when both my knees decided to act up just as Jens, his mother and I were starting hike, but even it hadn’t made my vision gray out.

Da Brim on the helmet and ready to go!

Da Brim on the helmet and ready to go!

Panting, I finally got the leg straight and relaxed it on the asphalt. The heat my black tights drank from the sun seemed to help a little. My vision was just starting to clear when someone, a man in his late 40’s, from the group at the vicarage walked up hurriedly asking if I was okay. He’d heard me yell. I hadn’t realized I’d vocalized my pain until they said it. I answered I’d just twisted my ankle and was fine. With a nod, he wished me a good ride and returned to the vicarage.

I flexed the knee slightly, preparing to rock to my feet. I bit my lip and stayed down. It was one of those times for the knee. The slightest bend, even without bearing weight, hurt like a knife blade just pulled out of a forage going right through it. Loke watched me for a moment, tail wagging and then he woofed impatiently.

Somehow, I managed to get up, intending to call Jens. Loke was so excited though I decided I’d see if I could get into the trike. I didn’t want to completely disappoint the furball. I made it happen, awkwardly and with much muttering of impolite words under my breath. Getting the foot clipped into the pedal was another level of hell. I undid the break and told Loke to move out. Off we were down the parking lot slope like a shot.

I’m not sure why I push on when stuck by such pain, but I generally do try. Maybe it’s because if I stopped at every twinge, little or large, I’d never do anything at all.

This was one of the times it paid off. I had to build up slowly to moving the leg. First, just rocking the pedals a tiny bit as Loke and a mild grades did all the work. After about a half mile, I was able to do full turns with my right leg producing all the effort while the left went along for the ride. Things went a bit smoother and quicker after that.

And the Da Brim? LOVE IT! The day was fairly warm, in the upper 50’s and the sun very warm. The sheer amount of shade the brim produces is great. Obviously, it’s dependent on sun angles as well, but compared to a ball cap or the pitiful excuse of a sun brim cycle helmets have, it’s wonderful. Surprisingly stable too. Loke and I went zipping down some hills at 15-17 mph and it tugged a little obviously, but never tried to flip up or slide the helmet back once I snugged it down a little. It made me nearly giddy.

Burial Ground & Uppland Runestone #448

Burial Ground & Uppland Runestone #448

Uppland Runestone #448 - Close Up

Uppland Runestone #448 – Close Up

The knee still twinged as I ramped up my pedaling though I kept it about 2 gears lower than I would normally do. We went a little slower than usual, though not for lack of Loke’s efforts, but soon enough, I saw the runestone I was looking for. It sat at the edge of a pasture at the corner where the paved road and a dirt track leading into a farm yard.

I stopped to photo the stone and took a closer look at the landscape beyond it. Something about it made me think of a viking burial ground. To be on the safe side, I did a panoramic series as well as a separate close-up of the stone. In doing the research for the stone, I discovered I was correct. Finding out that the man on the horse might be Odin also makes me rethink what I thought was a dragon above to the left of the man, could actually be a stylized raven which is often associated with that god.

Two more stones supposedly lurked in the area of the trees and hillock beyond U-448. I wasn’t sure I could reach them though as the fencing was electrified and had an almost ‘aggressive’ appearance with thicker wire, as if it was meant to hold back something more stubborn than horses. Cows? Maybe even a bull? That could be exciting.

The dreaded cattle trap from the other side.

The dreaded cattle trap from the other side.

Resigned to the possibility that the other two stones were out of reach, I still pedaled down the dirt lane in hopes I could see them from fence line. I didn’t go far when I was confronted by one of the banes of Loke’s cycling existence. The dreaded cattle trap. It can trap a dog, especially one tethered to a trike, as easily as a horse, sheep or cow.

A closer look showed this particular cattle trap needed a bit of maintenance. A strip of dirt had tightly packed beneath and between the rails. A lovely path for Loke to cross.

On the other side, the fence just ended leaving the treed hillock accessible. I scanned carefully for any hint of cattle. I didn’t think they’d be any threat to me alone. I had Loke to think about and a cow thinking she’s protecting a calf from a wolf might be problematical. Given the condition of the trap, I probably needn’t have worried. All looked clear so off we went.

Uppland Runestone #449 - I think

Uppland Runestone #449 – I think

Loke was thrilled! First he threw himself down right at my feet to wallow and flail in the winter-matted grass. Then he went bounding through the grass hummocks with a floppy tongued glee. There were lots of rocks hiding under the dense coat of grass too. It made for an interesting walk as I went up where the first of the two runestones were clearly visible.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen one perched on the top of a mound of bared bedrock. Of course, being a just a fragment, it might have originally been set somewhere else. Collecting it, I started a zig-zag across the hill to look for the next. Back in the trees were tumbles of rock, most moss and lichen covered any of which might have been the fragment of U-450 I was looking for. Thickets didn’t help either. After finishing up on level ground at the back of the hill, I concluded I wasn’t going to find it.

Going back over the trap was interesting. There wasn’t enough room for me to put the trike far enough to the left where Loke could walk on the packed dirt. No where to tether him if I walked him across first either. Certainly wasn’t going to trust him near the electric fence. One attempt to wiggle under the wire to sniff something and ZAP! A traumatized puppy. So, I sat down in the trike, holding the green leash tightly with the furball on the left and rolled forward.

Snow Drops?

Snow Drops?

Loke was so terribly confused and maybe even worried he was going to be left. He looked a little frantic and kept trying to rush ahead to cut over to the right side. Once, even tried to jump over me. I think he was glad when I stopped after the barrier and made his world familiar and right again.

The way back toward Odensala was a bit slower. I didn’t dare push too hard with the knee and it was mostly uphill. Soon though, we were passing around the side of the church toward our next turn. In a parking lot across the road from the church, a pair of women were washing a carriage of all things, wiping down the gleaming, black lacquered surface and cleaning the harness straps. I greeted them and paused to watch, but not for long. Snorting and banging came out of the large horse trailer next to them. I guess their horses could see and/or smell us. Taking pity on the animals, I pushed on.

I have no clue which stone this is!

I have no clue which stone this is!

The next runestone was within easy view of Odensala Church’s parking lot. Being a bit back from the road, I stood to see if there was a way across the steep sided 4′ deep ditch. No tractor access was near to hand. So, I sat down to swap lenses. When I took the photo, I didn’t even notice the bird, a wag-tail, sitting on top of it. Nice little surprise to find when I got home. The first wag-tail I’ve seen this year.

Researching to do this post, I ran into a tangle. The on-line database has this stone marked as U-442. What’s wrong with that? In the church tower, is a stone with a placard labeling that one as U-442. I’m slightly more inclined to trust the placard then the web site, so the one in the church remains as U-442.

Looking through the various other numbers in the same upper 40’s of the 400’s, I just don’t feel confident enough to make a guess which one this could be, particularly since the others are mostly accounted for. I think. The whole thing gives me a headache.

Still, here’s Uppland Runestone ‘Most likely 400-something’. No info what-so-ever.

Liked the building with its little birdhouse.

Liked the building with its little birdhouse.

We continued and I was still loving the Da Brim. The sun was verging on being hot, but the air had a soft coolness lending a perfect balance. Loke seemed a little warm so I made a point of stopping frequently to offer him water and he drank every time.

We were passed by quite a few couples on bikes, clearly out to enjoy the day and follow the arts and crafts signs. I think all of them had smiles, nods and waves for us. There was surprisingly little car traffic, which I found quite nice.

The scenery was lovely in most places as well. It would have been even nicer if the plowed fields had already sprouted with crops though, even if just a few inches. I’m heartily weary of dirt tones stretching as far as the eye can see in many places. Soon enough I guess.

Loke & Sprint Photo Op

Loke & Sprint Photo Op

The next turn was onto an unpaved road. One of the yellow signs pointed that way, but I hadn’t really considered exploring any of the arts and craft places. With all the water stops for Loke and the plans to be wandering across fields for the stones, I felt a bit of a time pressure. We weren’t exactly burning up the miles. That’s not to say that we weren’t finally moving at a very good place once the pain in my knee had mostly eased. It’s just that I stopped us a lot.

Just past the barns and houses at the intersection, the ground was open in half unplowed wheat stalks and half plowed dirt. Off in the distance was a tightly packed collection of growth and small trees where the database had placed a pair of runestones. Coasting down the hill to a mostly flat, dry looking spot off the road, I swerved and parked.

The half of the field which was harvested wheat stalks looked like a convenient path to where I expected (hoped) to find the stones. Follow the edge of it to the thicket and then walk along the that to the west. I could have walked on the plowed earth though. It was surprisingly dry, but the other looked like better footing.

I filled Loke’s water dish half way so he could completely drink his fill while I swapped to my sneakers. Glancing up while I did so, I thought I could just make out the shape of a stone at the very edge of the thicket. Encouraging to say the least.

From half way there

From half way there

Armed with my camera and walking shoes, Loke well hydrated, off we went.

We’d barely begun when I heard the clop of hooves and a woman’s murmuring voice. From one of the barns not far away, a couple were walking behind a beautiful, light-draft type horse. The horse, a black mare, had a bridle on with long reins which the woman had in her hands. Clearly they were teaching the horse to be driven while pulling a wagon or carriage.

Worriedly, I cast a glance back at the trike maybe 200 feet away wondering if she’d spook at such an unfamiliar shape even if it did lack a dog. Suddenly, the mare’s relaxed walk tensed as her head came up. Slowing with an excited prancing step, she whinnied. The woman chided her and gave a light slap on her haunches with the reins to move her out again.

I warned them that maybe she was afraid of my ‘bike’. The woman didn’t have a chance to answer at first. The horse sidled and then turned toward us, jumping the tiny ditch into the field. Hauling on the reins, the woman pulled her short and then hurried to grab the chin-strap of the bridle. Laughing breathlessly, she replied that the horse wasn’t afraid, she was curious. She adores dogs and wanted to come see mine.

I blinked at the unexpected answer and then laughed, calling out, ‘That is so cool!’ I’ve never seen a horse that likes dogs, all dogs, so much they’ll get so excited and want to rush up for a meeting. I stayed still, Loke sitting beside me, until they got her settled and walking on again.

The only other thing that happened during the walk was seeing a woman looking at my trike when I’d reached the last 100 yards to the first stone. Clearly, she was very curious about it. I waved and she answered in kind before walking on after a few more minutes.

Uppland Runestone #444 (Left) & 445 (Right)

Uppland Runestone #444 (Left) & 445 (Right)

Uppland Runestone #445 was mostly in plane sight and definitely had been the one I saw back at the trike. I hoped the next would be as easy to find as I marched north along the thicket edge. It was. Tucked back in a hollow space at the edge of the tangled growth it lurked. Had a bit of an argument with one of plants. There was’t much open space if I stepped past the few branches across the entrance. Finally I managed to get a decent shot without too much clutter in the way.

Not far after we’d passed the field, I ran into confusion between what I saw of the ‘roads’ and what my maps seemed to indicate. The direction I seemed to need was more of a muddy track, can’t even call it a dirt or unpaved road. Barely any rocks showed through the muddy ground where grass had been somewhat flattened by occasional traffic up the side of a short, but nasty-steep hill. The sign announcing the presence of a road boom didn’t inspire me either.

I tried going the straight in case something was wrong with my maps and GPS, but no, it was a dead end. I pedaled back to the wet slope. I so didn’t want to struggle up that. I wasn’t even sure my tire would have enough grip in the mucky ground to make it. While I sat staring at my maps, I saw the couple with the black mare coming down from wooded section to the left of the ‘road’. We smiled all around and the mare made a less showy attempt to come see Loke. I asked what breed she was. She’s part of some kind of northern Swedish draft which is was all I could make out. She was very lovely and seemed incredibly sweet.

They went on and I waited for a while at the muddy track, trying to decide what I wanted to do. The only reason that road had been marked for riding was because it would have made a half loop to the next set of stones instead of an out-n-back. I decided the challenge of a mucky road with that sort of hills wasn’t worth new scenery.

Not a bad spot to rest

Not a bad spot to rest

It’s just as well I doubled back, I suppose. It gave me a chance to answer a call of nature even if it was in a sketchy sort of outhouse. It didn’t smell, but it was little more than a tiny 2.5′ x 2.5′ tin box with a bit of cement pipe with a bucket in the bottom of it. Personally, if I’d had toilet paper, I think I would have rather gone in the thicket near the runestones. Out of sight of casual passersby, certainly more room and probably more comfortable. Still, I sat at the nearby picnic table to munch on a little hard bread sandwich and let Loke cool off in the shade, so not all bad.

After a 10 minute break, we were zipping along at speed. Loke loped joyfully along beside me, his tongue flopping in the cool air. When I tried to slow him down in case of the heat, he’d just shoot me irritated looks and pull. Unless I was reaching for the water bottle, then he was more than happy to stop for a few lusty gulps.

Uppland Runestones #453 & 454

Uppland Runestones #453 & 454

The hills weren’t too bad and quite a bit of it was down grades or flats. It seemed no time at all that I was stopping for another pair of stones. I knew exactly where these were, sitting as close to the road as they did. They’re clearly visible in Google Street-View. Yet more water to the puppy and I put on his socks.

A mile later, I looked down and 2 socks were gone. One front and one back. Muttering, I checked his feet to see which I thought might need protection most and shuffled them around rather than trying to find them. It could have meant searching more than a mile of searching.

The next location turned out to be something of a bust. The stone was just a fragment, which I already knew, and it lay across another field. That didn’t bother me so much. The fact I couldn’t make out even a hint of where it might be despite the fact it was a small field compared to the last one I’d marched across, was a bother. I didn’t relish the idea of wandering in circles for a chunk of stone that might be no bigger than my head. I did a thorough photo search though. Telephoto lens and lots of pictures. Not a hint of what I can say for certain was part of a runestone. Discouraged, I didn’t go field stomping.

I also changed my plans for the next stone. Originally, I’d mapped going down a dirt lane through a bunch of farm buildings to field walk for it. Turns out the lane was being dug up by noisy machines. Just as I considered perhaps coming at it from another direction on foot, I saw sheep. Sheep would mean an electric fence and likely with no way over or through it. Drat it.

The next leg of the ride took us over the 255 onto an unpaved road. There was solid packed dirt, but it had plenty of pointy cornered stones scattered over it. I was glad Loke at least had socks on his front paws for it. Those seem to take the brunt of abuse on our outings.

About 100 or more yards from where I’d marked the map, I began my intense search along the road and down the slope to the edge of the fields. There were large stones and small boulders scattered about and I wondered if it was another fragment. If so, it could well be a lost cause rather like the second stone at the spot with the cattle trap. Just as I was about to turn back I saw it.

The music from the opening scene in 2001 played through my head. I stopped and turned the trike around before leaving water with Loke to go to the stone.

Uppland Runestone #455

Uppland Runestone #455

Uppland Runestone #455 is huge. Certainly the tallest I’ve ever seen. Magnificent. 9 feet tall at the very least. The top of the bit sticking out on the left was higher than my helmet. Adding the extra height of my shoes and the helm, I’d guess I’d be about 5’5″ tall, so, 5’7″ with a minimum of another 4 feet for the thinner section. I couldn’t help but grin at the sheer size of it. I’m glad I didn’t turn back sooner!

Returning to the 255, I took it slow, scanning through the sheep for signs of a stone since I didn’t know if it’s a fragment or something as unmistakable as #455. There was a wooded hill close to the road and I thought I saw what could have been a runestone at the far edge. Unfortunately, the hill was more securely fenced than the sheep field would have been with a wire mesh I wouldn’t have been able to climb.

The rest of the way down the 255 wasn’t too bad. Though it was one of the more heavily trafficked sections and lacked a cycle path, but the drivers were courteous as ever. Somewhere along there, Loke managed to lose his third sock. I sometimes wonder if he does it on purpose. Actually, it might simply have been the fact that they were old, ill-fitting socks made before I perfected the pattern.

The next turn I made, Stationsgatan (Station’s Street) was going to take me straight into the heart of Märsta. Ah Märsta. I still shudder with dread when I think of the last time I cycled through there. I wanted to throw a hissy fit and rip at my hair before I was done. That road was fairly busy too, as should be expected for going into one of Stockholm’s suburbs, but it had a nice cycle path on one side, so was no problem at all.

Just before entering Märsta

Just before entering Märsta

Actually the trip through Märsta, this time, was quite straight forward and no hassle at all. It still was my least favorite part of the ride. I find the place rather … charmless. Bland, boring buildings, mostly modern. A fair bit of traffic. Ho-hum. The possible only saving grace for the town is a wonderful pizza place Jens and I used to order from at times. I was quite glad when we made the turn over the rail tracks and left the tedium behind us.

The cycle path carried us onward. It was along there I noticed Loke was now completely without socks. That time I did go back as far as the bridge back over the tracks. If it was missing in Märsta proper, no way was I going back in there.

By this time, the weather had changed for the worse. The clouds had gotten bigger and clumped together. The undersides of them had turned that slate gray color while some of them sported streamers of rain from their bellies. Occasional drops pattered down on my brim and legs. That gentle coolness in the air offsetting the heat of the sun grew teeth, forcing me to pull on my wool top and wish I’d packed my gloves. Loke loved it at least. He’d been going briskly before, but once the chill arrived he really wanted to move.

As we pushed on to the next turn, a man on roller ski’s passed us 3 times, giving us a nod for each. Given that Loke was clipping along at almost 9 mph, the guy was really making some speed. He was slurping down an energy pack near a waste bin on a light pole when we went by him for the last time. A bit of dirt track connected two parallel roads separated by maybe 300-400 yards of field. We scooted right across that onto a lovely little country road.

Could be a ruin of some sort

Could be a ruin of some sort

Just as I spotted what looked to be the ruined foundations of a building, I heard one of the oddest animal noises I’d ever heard in my life. Perhaps a sick half grown calf? It sounded like if someone took a set of bag pipes, rigged it so only the deeper notes would play and stomped on it… repeatedly.

I was a bit wary as I turned down the grassy path along a the fence that surrounded the possible ruin, but if I wanted to find a better angle, I had to go. I didn’t see the source right away because it had gone momentarily quiet. Then that ungodly noise burst forth again and I stared.



THIS made that noise??’ I blurted to no one but Loke.

The single sheep in the pasture turned toward us and made that racket I never would have believed a sheep could produce. It ran up to the fence and pranced around. Shaking my head, I did a loop to point the trike back the way we came and the animal followed us.

It seemed particularly intense about Loke, but completely fearless. Then I noticed it was a he and in another nearby pasture were other sheep, most likely ewes and it’s spring. So, I guess not only was it a ram (without horns), but it was a… frisky one and it hoped Loke was a playmate as it were.

I loosed my grip on the leash a little so Loke could stretch his nose toward the fence. The ram did the same and for a moment, they touched. Then the ram lowered his head. I pulled Loke back before he got his nose busted. I took my pictures and left the critter to belch (as good a word as any) out his frustrations.

The next runestone on my maps, I didn’t locate. I wasn’t entirely certain where it was, except behind some building. There was a house at the location, but the yard was so tiny, wedged in between road and flooded drainage canal. I didn’t want to go traipsing within 10 feet of their doors and windows. It’s one thing to go around the edge of a large yard of what might be a public building, but another to go strolling past someone’s house close enough to touch the walls.

Almost jealous of the horses

Almost jealous of the horses

It was a short jaunt to the next church and runestones. Before I reached it though, I saw a paved lane that stretched toward what appeared to be a manor house. The little road was quite busy with people jogging, walking or pedaling. Curious, I followed it. A red building caught my eye most. I thought it was a house at first, but it didn’t look quite right. The layout of the windows and doors were more like that of a stable.

A paddock on the other side of the drive was as high end as the stable. Rather than an arrangement of wood fence posts or metal rods pounded into the dirt with electric wire keeping the horses back, It was a proper fence of dark stained planks. Within were a pair of horses who were a little spooked. They were torn between being afraid and being curious so they would run away, turn in a big loop, slowing as they got close and then charge off again.

It really was a stable. I could see the stalls through the windows. There was an additional wing on the back. An open door on the side let me see that everything was all wood. The floor was pale lumber, sanded and swept. I bet if I’d stepped in, all I would have smelled was hay, saddle soap and that warm clean horsey scent.

I took pictures of the stable, which new or old, was impressive. As for the house to the side. It was big and yellow, but otherwise appeared to date from modern times so I didn’t bother taking pictures of it.

Leaving the estate was a little more work than arriving since it had all been down hill, but soon enough I was weaving through the last turns and coasting to a stop next to a light post. I left Loke there with plenty of water and went in search of runestones.

Husby-Arlinghundra Church

Husby-Arlinghundra Church

It surprised me to discover that I’ve never been to this church. I’ve ridden in the area at least once before, heading from Odensala and this church was less than 5 miles away from that church. Just seemed odd I’d missed it.

With three stones to find, I didn’t expect to find all of them. My luck with multiple stones at a single location had seemed rather hit and miss.

Husby-Arlinghundra Church is a very simple looking church. I gave it just a passing glance at first. My goal was the runestone which was supposed to be at the western wall of the church yard.

Uppland Runestone #434

Uppland Runestone #434

The 10 minutes or so squinting at the wall in search of a rune carved stone tucked among the rest didn’t happen. Not far from one of the gates into the church, the object of my search sat in pieces on the ground.

Patters of rain came and went as I walked up to the church itself. Above the western door, were carved stone slabs with the date of one of the renovations. I tried the door, but found it locked so proceeded around to the back of the church.

Uppland Runestone #435 (I think)

Uppland Runestone #435 (I think)

Uppland Runestone #433 was as easy to locate as #434, embedded in the church wall as it was. It’s a fairly large stone as well. Maybe not on the scale of #455, but nearly 4 feet long and 3 feet wide. One of the largest I’ve seen mounted in a wall like that.

Uppland Runestone #433 (I think)

Uppland Runestone #433 (I think)

Uppland Runestone #435 was also in the outer church wall.

Do I seem a little uncertain about these pair in spite of the handy little placard? I am. Between the websites for research and that sign is a contradiction. Pieces of the stone and the inscription in the one next to the window are missing, but the sign gave a complete translation. While the one next to red stone offered a broken one, but the rune-snake is clearly intact. It’s not the only thing that made me uncertain though.

The result is, though the sign you can see by the stone mounted adjacent to the window says that one is U-433, I believe it’s really U-435 and vice-versa for the other.

Who thought my runestone hunts would turn into such a informational headache as well as a physical one. Well, it gives my rides greater interest and works my mind when I do the blogs. Never a bad thing.

I returned to Loke and gave him a treat of duck jerky (which he loves). Then I pulled out the maps. No other stones were marked and it appeared to be a bit less than 3 miles between Husby-Arlinghundra and Odensala. Cold and tired, I considered calling for pick up where I was. Loke was restless though and I was chilled, getting colder by the minute thanks to sitting still. I called Jens and said I’d be ready for pick up at Odensala.

Off we went. Loke was a furball of speed and power even after 14 miles and wanted to run. There didn’t seem to be any serious hills along the way to slow us much. With no stones to search for and given how cold I felt, I was reluctant to stop for scenery photos. Actually, I don’t recall passing any landscape that called for a camera. Maybe it was just hunger and cold blocking my sense of aesthetics. I did stop us twice to give Loke water. He only lapped at it a couple times and then gave me the bright-eyed, tail-wagging look which begs, ‘We go now?’.

The distance seemed to go very quick. It felt like mere moments when I coasted into the parking lot, tethered Loke near-by with his water bowl filled to the brim, and stripped things off the trike.

The timing wasn’t bad. Jens arrived less than 10 minutes later to find a frisky husky and a tired wife.

It wasn’t a fast ride, thanks to all the stops and walking, but I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, I felt a little deflated when I entered the mileage and saw I still needed 30 miles to break April’s goal. At least it had been enough to tip me over 300 miles for the year.

Will I make it? Perhaps. I’ll find out soon enough!

Moments of Peace In Turmoil
April 23, 2013, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I’m going to have to write this over a couple days thanks to my shoulders.

The day after meteorological spring had been announced, rain moved in and proceeded to wash away the remaining snow and add to the water already laying on the over-saturated ground. A couple days were very windy. Last Friday (19th of April), I’d walked out to tend an errand and had to make my way back through high gusts that made the heavy rain ripple in horizontal sheets. Very impressive and unusual for Sweden in my experience.

After my last post I did ride again, twice. Both of the outings were very short. Mostly because of weather and concerns over aggravating whatever condition was causing such pain in my arms.

So, just basic River Loops for a bit of light exercise and boredom for Loke and myself. The first ride, the river was running fairly quick and a little high, but not unusually so for spring during the thaw. A pair of picnic tables sit near the water’s edge in one lovely spot. When the water starts rising, I use them to gauge how high it is once it spills over the lower bank.

I wasn’t surprised upon seeing the water just beginning to lap at the table/bench legs closest to the water. Jens had taken the train that day. When I went to pick him up from the station, the train was about 20 minutes late because sections of track had been underwater.

I rode again the next day (Thursday, April 18th) and water swirled over the tops of the table’s seats by a good 2 inches. A very dramatic rise in just 24 hours.

Friday, Jens asked if I wanted try sleeping on the floor with my sleeping bag and a new pad (which I’ve been pining for) to see if that would help me. I could drive him to work and find something to amuse myself and Loke in the area. When he was done with a shorter day of work, he’d take me around to the various outdoor sport shops. We were successful and I now have an Exped camping pad to fit into the bottom of my Big Agnes sleeping bag! Yay!

After we returned home, Jens heard on the news that flood warnings were being announced for downtown Uppsala. Roads closed off and sandbagging in a few spots. I wheedled him into driving us so we could look.

View Over First Spillway

View Over First Spillway

It was crazy and, in spite of the drizzle, there was an almost carnival air to the river sides near the town center. It only needed was clowns selling balloons and cheap, greasy fair food sold from wagons to be complete. In 8+ years here, I’ve never seen the river run so high. Jens can’t even remember the last time it came up that far.

Hopefully those windows are sealed.

Hopefully those windows are sealed.

There’s a lovely old mill building right near the spillway. The last time the water came unusually high, it lapped just beneath the sills of a pair windows low down, over looking the river. This time, the sills were a good 8-10 inches underwater as the churned froth swirled past the wall. Given that the mill is now the Uppland Museum, I hope those windows were made water tight.

Seating for 50..46... 22

Seating for 50..46… 22

The Greek restaurant with seating next to the water wasn’t offering outdoor seating. They were in danger of losing tables and chairs. In a couple places, the water was barely a foot below the walls separating the river and streets. Most sections of the river most of the year, it can be as much as 10 feet from top of the stone wall to the water edge. No wonder they’d closed off one of the streets to cars.

As Jens, Loke and I strolled around, in awe of the nature’s force raging through Uppsala, I found signs of a reprieve. In one spot where water quietly lapped over a tiny, park-like strip, I let Loke creep out into the 3-4 inches of water to investigate a pair of ducks, stopping him short of the drop-off into torrent. I looked down and saw the line of fine debris, a high water mark, about 5 inches short of the water’s current edge.

That’s not to say another good hard rain couldn’t have reversed the trend rather quickly, but every little bit would help.

Saturday dawned cold (33 F) and utterly clear, the gray skies and rains past. Definitely good news for the flooded areas. I was in a bit of a funk though and just let the day slip by without a ride. My arms still bothered me and my right knee had also decided to join the fun. Good thing I have an appointment with a physical therapist on the 23rd.

Sunday, April 21st, also started quite chill, 31 F and frost though at least clear as Saturday. Early on, it also began with an utterly STUPID incident which could be extremely irritating to downright ruinous. I was getting a small handful of musli out of a box. While trying to close it up, it dumped over to spill most of it’s contents onto the floor and under the table right among much of the trike stuff stored there.

Not such a big deal in itself. Muttering in annoyance, I began sweeping up, but soon had to stop because the burning pain flared in my shoulder joints. Moving the stuff around while dealing with broom and dustpan obviously wasn’t a good thing. The task required the vacuum. At 5 am, I wasn’t going to go blasting it. Jens wouldn’t have been the only person unhappy with me. Loke was closed in the bedroom with my snoozing hubby, so the cereal was safe for the moment. Making a mental note to remember to clean it up as soon as Jens woke, I took pain meds to ease my arms and settled in to watch TV.

My brain must have just glanced at the note, made a contemptuous sound and crumpled it up. Jens had been awake for about an hour when I heard him say from his computer in the kitchen, ‘Loke, what are you licking on?’

Horror filled me and I inwardly cringed at having forgotten the spilled cereal. I called Loke to come into the livingroom even as I flung myself toward the kitchen. Yep, he’d been lapping it up though at least he hadn’t been gobbling it as quick as he could. Before we cut out all wheat, rice, potato and corn from his diet, he wouldn’t have given the musli more than a cursory sniff, certainly wouldn’t have eaten it. Now, he’ll get whatever he can of the ‘Forbidden 4’.

I was so angry at myself and nearly in tears. By estimate, I think he managed to eat half to 3/4th of a cup. Most of it is oats, which I don’t know if he’s allergic to. There’s wheat too though. I just wanted to cry at the thought that my scatterbrained nature combined with bad shoulders might have effectively poisoned my furball. It won’t show up for a week or more, but it could start the whole cycle of skin infections all over again. Then there’s still the virus which caused the tumor in his toe. My only hope is that his immune system has had a chance to strengthen enough to take this blow as he’s not had anything else to send it crashing that I know of. I’ll have to step up my checks on his feet from once every 3-4 days to every other while keeping my fingers crossed.

I should have just risked ticking off the neighbors and Jens to clean it up right away. Hindsight and all that.

Obviously, the entire incident left me in a very deep funk. I still feel angry and upset just typing about it. Jens was rather pragmatic about the entire affair. ‘What happens, happens’ philosophy with ‘Don’t let it stop you going for a ride!’ chiding. He started all but bullying me to pick a place for drop off to get me away from the River Loop.

I briefly looked at runestone distribution, but that just proved too frustrating in combination with the amount water saturating the ground.

The sheer number of the stones in Uppland is boggling, over 1,400. So many I’ve been trundling passed, just out of sight and completely unaware. Most of them are far across fields, probably among the rock mounds farmers have built up over the centuries of plowing. Big stones and small boulders are always coming to the surface. Other carvings tucked into thickets of trees. The problem is, many of them require me to cross fields on foot. I might have giggled through the muddy field incident when I rode in the Danmark area, but that doesn’t mean I want to repeat it. Especially since it would mean not reaching the stones any way. Things just need to dry out a bit before I try that again.

I decided to not worry about a thorough runestone hunt and go for a ride in the area of Wik’s. Maybe pick up a few stones as I trundled along, but leave the ones across fields for dryer conditions.

By 11 am, the temperature had climbed into the comfortable range as I collected my gear. I was glad of that. It would mean sparing my shoulders the hardship of wrestling on 3 layers of clothing, my shoe-covers and settling the batteries for my foot-warmers.

Like a Phoenix From Cold Ashes Of Winter

Like a Phoenix from cold ashes of winter

A wispy veil of cloud moved in as we drove toward the castle. It was so thin it barely dimmed the sun, but I wondered if it might herald truly gray skies to come. The fields we passed were an unpredictable mix of temporary ponds/lakes, gooey mud and surprisingly dry appearing. When Lake Mälaren hove into view, it was something of a shock to find it completely frozen across except where rising water levels had seeped out from beneath the ice. Large stretches of pasture along the shore line were submerged.

We pulled up to the front of the castle proper so I could get a shot of the Sprint in front of it as I did with the Trice years ago. Loke explored happily with my husband as I readied everything. Then I waited a bit while a couple dressed in road cycling gear took turns posing for photos in front of the castle. I didn’t want to interfere with their shot given how much it annoys me when people stray into the frame.

Wik's Castle and Sprint 26 Trike

Wik’s Castle and Sprint 26 Trike

Uppland's Runestone #851

Uppland’s Runestone #851

Jens made things a little exciting as I tried to move the trike to the castle’s ramp by letting Loke romp around me on his flexi-leash. The furball was gleeful and exuberant with anticipation. Probably a bit worried as well. After all, there I was in the seat and pedaling, but he wasn’t on his running bar. My husband was laughing in spite of stress at perhaps being late for a televised Formula 1 race back at home. I made him stay while I took the photo of the trike and castle.

As I’d parked the trike, I saw a runestone standing on a little hill just to the side of the castle. As many times as Jens and I have gone to Wik’s just to walk the 2 mile trail looping the grounds, I never knew the stone was there. I took pity on Jens though and sent him rushing home while I climbed up to look at the weathered, lichen stained, 900+ year old memorial. It was very eroded and without any trace of paint highlighting the runes. With the lichen covering so much of it, I couldn’t see the least hint of a carving on it.

Loke didn’t yodel as I sat down, turned on the GPS and loosed the brake. He did pull us off like a stone out of a slingshot. It only lasted about 200 yards before I slowed. Down from the hill leading up to the castle, a woman on a horse ambled down the road…. slowly. I didn’t know horses could walk that slow if they weren’t grazing. Loke, of course, wanted to rush up and to say hi. I’m pretty sure that having something as strange as my trike with a dog attached coming up quickly behind it would not have ended well for horse or rider. One bad horse incident is enough for me thank you. I’m not about to go rampaging headlong into another. I cause enough trouble when I’m careful. I’d hate to see the results of careless.

Overflowing Lake Mälaren

Overflowing Lake Mälaren

So, for the next 200 yards I kept the brakes clenched while Loke strained and scrabbled at the tether end. Then he did yodel and yap when I stopped to take photos of the lake. By the time I put the camera away, the rider had turned down an unpaved road.

We flew. Husky smile with a flapping tongue, Loke stretched out to run. He might have gone faster, but I held us to about 16 mph. That section of road is smooth, straight and I think still on a down grade. I’m not sure how long he could have maintained that pace, but I knew there were runestones along that road. 3 or more.

Uppland Runestone #865

Uppland Runestone #865

Uppland Runestone #861

Uppland Runestone #861

I stopped for the first one I spotted and discovered that 3 had been reassembled. It seems the small chunks I remembered, scattered along the lane leading to the castle had been part of a single stone. It was fairly recent too. Relatively speaking. I’m guessing the work was done in the past 2 years. The last time I rode through the area, the pieces had been randomly spaced at the ditch side. Pity there still seems to be 2 or more parts missing.

Loke actually huffed at me when I stopped to take a photo of the next stone. He didn’t even have a chance to build up respectable speed before I applied the brakes.

As we moved on, Loke powering on at a 12 mph lope and the spring in his running bar squeaking merrily with his stride, I tried to decide which way I wanted to go. I was curious to go to Balingsta as I’ve never taken a close look at the church though the runestones around it have been moved. It would mean 2 mile out-n-back.

I decided to do it. I’ve never walked around the church there. Stopped in the parking area once or twice, but for some reason I hadn’t passed through the lychgate for a closer look.

It was a quick mile to the church. The road was in good condition even after the crazy winter and it’s fairly flat. Loke continued to run strong in spite of being a bit on the warm side. He wasn’t ready for another pause when we reached the church. He did his odd, ‘aro-ruho’ grumble at me when I tethered him to a fence post.

Balingsta Church

Balingsta Church

The place was quite busy. First it was a couple on motorcycles. Curious, they came over to give Loke a bit of a pat and ask about the trike before wishing me a good ride. I wished them the same.

I left Loke with his new collapsible bowl full of water to explore the church yard. I’m happy to have done so. The churchyard was bigger than I thought, allowing me to get a good shot of the church with its tower of beautiful bare stone and lantern cap. It really is a pretty little 12th century church which was almost lost to time and ruin. I’m quite happy that it was decided to reclaim it before it it was beyond all hope though it meant its successor was abandoned and torn down.

Flowers and Butterfly. Ah, Spring!

Flowers and Butterfly. Ah, Spring!

Signs of spring were in a blaze of color along the stone foundation of the porch. The first ‘blåstjärna’ (blue star) flowers I’ve seen this year were in full bloom. Butterflies danced on their bright petals accompanied by the drone of a lonely little bee.

Returning to Loke, who waited impatiently, another couple approached. They were older and far more curious about Loke than the trike. Then the gentleman asked if I’d ever been inside the church. Answered I had not, though I’d been fortunate enough to find some churches open last year. The woman gave Loke gentle pat on the head before they left.

If Loke was peeved about going back the way we came, it didn’t show in his speed. With him setting the pace, we sped along between 8.7 mph and 12 mph as he alternated between trotting and loping. The church and cluster of houses around it disappeared behind us and we passed the road from Wik’s to truly begin our winding way to Uppsala.

Old Farm Buildings

Old Farm Buildings

Suddenly, I relaxed. I was astonishingly free of pain and found the perfect gear with brisk cadence to keep pace with my fuzzy cycle partner over mostly flat ground. Fields stretched around us, trees in the distance. Mostly blue sky overhead with the sun still warm through the thin clouds. The air was softly cool and vibrant with birdsong. I was smiling as I took long looks upward at a raptor of some kind doing lazy circles high above.

I felt truly peaceful for the first time in days. Perhaps even weeks. The issue with my shoulders has just left me cranky, exhausted from bad sleep, and bored. Dreading bed time because I must sleep on my back. Dreading the days because I have to stay off computers, shouldn’t hold a book for reading or many of the other things I do to keep my mind busy. Fretting about the 125 mile goal for the month slipping away while walking starts off uncomfortable and becomes painful after 15 or 20 minutes. Seriously limits my exercise options. Then the morning’s disaster with Loke and the cereal was no help. Yes, peaceful feelings have been scarce, but the gorgeous day worked its magic.

Can you tell I love crocus? Purple are my fav.

Can you tell I love crocus? Purple are my fav.

One really nice thing about riding someplace other than the River Loop is being able to see that Loke really is recovered from the toe issue. Riding near home, he drags at barely more than 5.5 mph. Yet, he was trotting along at over 8 mph and showed no signs of slacking. There are other pleasant things about taking the trike to other places, but watching how strong and quick he goes when he’s not bored is comforting. It makes me smile.

We cruised onward, following the Sverigeleden. It was one of the roads we’d taken back on the foggy December day last year.

It’s amazing the things I’ve missed on the 2 previous rides I’ve done that stretch and the 3 or 4 times I’ve been in a car over it. When I reached the spot where Jens and I spotted the moose in December, I certainly don’t remember all the houses in the immediate area. When I think of moose, I think of wide open stretches with not a human dwelling except perhaps a tent or tiny sod cabin lacking power or running water.

Yet, to either side of the small, wooded hill now lacking the shroud of white over rocks and undergrowth, were at least 2 houses and another 2 or 3 on the opposite side of the road. I should be forgiven for that lack of observation at that particular time though. I was in a rush to get the lens swapped to get photos.

Maybe moose in Sweden are just a little less picky and more like those in Alaska. The news reported several moose straying into the fringes of Stockholm a few years ago.

Looks like it should be a runestone

Looks like it should be a runestone

Another example of things I’ve missed was a tall stone standing on a grassy hill at an intersection. Pulling into the shared drive of a pair of houses, I got a good look at it. If it’s a runestone, I saw no evidence of an inscription, certainly no sign. The handy Samnordisk Rune Text Database shows no stone in the immediate area. It’s placement doesn’t appear to be the influence of nature. Sweden does have standing stones, this might be one of those. Either way, I’d never noticed it before.

Random building forgotten over time

Random building forgotten over time

I was using my memory to navigate through the area with my Garmin to prompt me from time to time. I came to another intersection where I stopped to offer Loke water. The way straight would take us down the Sverigeleden, the section I’d ridden both times in this area. To the right was new ground which would follow the lake shore a little more closely. I didn’t think I’d be close enough to see much of the lake itself, but still. Completely new scenery and the tiny little road was paved.

That surprised me a little given how small the road was. I’ve actually seen larger roads that had never been paved.

One of the steeper hills

One of the steeper hills

I took it. The surface was good and made wonderful rolling. The character of the landscape changed subtly. Less of the vast plowed fields. What fields lined the road were smaller and left unplowed after last autumn’s harvest. The soft yellow-gray of winter-bleached wheat stubble made a nice change from the various shades of mud and plowed dirt. Mostly though, it seemed to be patches of woods and fenced pastures where smooth weathered bedrock rose out of yellowed grass as thick and short as plush carpeting.

As I wound through the beautiful scenery, I caught up with a woman and young boy on a bike. The child was a bit wobbly going up the hills, so when they heard me coming, they stopped to let me pass. I heard the boy ask his mom, ‘What kind of bike is that? Can I have one?’

I want to mention there were a lot of cyclists out and about. How could they not be? Mild temperatures, just short of warm and sunny skies on a Sunday. Though it had been calm at 11 am, it had gotten a little breezy in some places, but nothing torturous. I can say with confidence, I saw over 100 Lycra clad people on racing style bikes hammering for distance, speed and cadence. Perhaps a dozen of them were women. Odd that so few ride racing bikes compared to men. Before my back converted me to a trike rider, I was one of those rare women. Lycra clad and riding a road bike.

Another Standing Stone

Another Standing Stone

On a Pretty Lane

On a Pretty Lane

Roadies weren’t the only cyclists roaming the country roads. Loke and I crossed paths with perhaps a dozen people doing the leisurely, out-to-enjoy-the-day pedaling. Most of them were women riding with children.

I just love little buildings like this. Can you tell?

I just love little buildings like this. Can you tell?

Less than a quarter mile where I passed the woman and boy, the paving ended. It was no particular hardship as, thankfully, the earthen surface was reasonably well packed and the little bit of loose stone was more like small pebbles and thinly scattered.

Cresting one of the steeper hills in the area, I spotted a standing stone at the edge of a pasture. I coasted down the little lane toward a barn, but decided I didn’t feel up to tromping through the field and doubted there’d be any carvings. So, I settled for snapping a shot from the fence. I paused there for 5 minutes or so to let the water settle in Loke’s tummy and give him a moment to cool off.

He didn’t really appreciate the gesture. All that was running through his fuzzy brain was ‘Go! Go!’. At least it seemed that way. It felt as if I had a fur covered robot ticking along beside me rather than a husky. He’s definitely gaining stamina by leaps and bounds!

Lovely cluster of trees in a pasture

Lovely cluster of trees in a pasture

Västeråker’s Church came into view where the small road was going to rejoin the marginally larger one. A cluster of houses, a miniature neighborhood, had been built where a patch of woods gave way to field. From down the road, a woman on a bike stopped and called out to a pair of girls playing in the old wheat stalks. The girls ran to her and the three of them watched as we came closer.

The woman called out a hello and complimented me on the neat bike, echoed by the girls chattering questions. When the girl’s asked for Loke’s name, I answered and invited them to come pet him if they wanted. Immediately, they ran up and proceeded to do so. Loke gave them a few licks before just enjoying the attention. Why was he wearing the harness? How far could he run? How old was he?

Uppland Runestone #841 - Fragment

Uppland Runestone #841 – Fragment

I answered all I could, in Swedish of course. The girl’s weren’t quite old enough to have collected English yet. Good practice for me.

Though the dirt road had been nicely packed and with only a thin scattering of rocks, riding on the pavement again felt as if gliding on air. It made the distance between Västeråker and Dalby Church pass in a blink.

I stopped at Dalby to take a quick run around the church. From the churchyard and parking lot, the frozen surface of Lake Mälaren stretched beautifully pale blue.

As before, I left Loke tethered outside the church yard with the trike and water. An older woman was tending graves as I walked down the path toward the door. We had a cheerful conversation about the weather. She also asked how far was I riding and we talked about how strange it was to see the lake still frozen and how pretty it looked.

Uppland Runestone #840

Uppland Runestone #840

I let her get back to her task and walked around to the back of the church to find Uppland Runestone #840. It wasn’t hard to find, embedded in the wall close to the ground as it was.

Loke was impatient as I settled back into the seat after putting everything away. From Dalby there’s a long climb on the way around the marshy ground to reach Hammarskog manor. I powered up it smoothly. It felt much easier than the last time when it completely whipped my butt and forced me to call Jens to pick us up at the manor. I was baffled. I wondered if it was the difference in the trikes. Then I crested the hill and saw a little dip followed by an even steeper climb. ‘That’s more like it!’ I muttered to myself… sarcastically.

Even so, it didn’t feel nearly as brutal as I remembered. I wasn’t setting speed records on the climb, but it wasn’t killing me either.

Not Canadian Geese! Graylag, Barred, or Bean.

Not Canadian Geese! Graylag, Barred, or Bean.

Near the final stretch of the sharper grade, I heard geese or swans honking. Something about the tone made me fairly certain I’d be seeing geese near the water. As we began the descent and Loke stretched into a happy lope, I could just make the noisy birds out. The higher waters of Lake Mälaren had flooded the area which most times is no more than marshy ground of reeds and mud. Paddling happily in the unfrozen waters and sitting on the dryer portions of ground, were a few dozen geese.

They were tiny with the distance between where I sat to the edge of the water. All I could really see were goosey shapes and just enough of the details to know they weren’t Canadian geese. Loke watched them curiously as I juggled the camera and lenses in my lap to swap to the telephoto. I managed to hold steady enough to get one good photo. Still not sure what sort of geese they are, but that’s because the three gray, heavy bodied goose types look pretty much the same to me. Some of the geese seem to have darker heads then others so there might be two kinds there… or just adolescents.

We finished the fun run down the hill, whipped around the curves and turn to begin the grind up to Hammarskog.

Hammarskog's Manor House

Hammarskog’s Manor House

Most of the area around Hammarskog is park land. Places to picnic, kids to play, a swimming beach (not being used in April obviously), and lots of woodland to hike through. There’s also a cafe in the manor house. The photo is from 2009 which is why it’s my Trice in the photo and not my Sprint.

The place was packed! People wandering around everywhere. I stopped only long enough to run into a bathroom building near the manor house before winding through the throngs of people.

Once off the central grounds of the manor and heading north on a packed dirt road, I breathed a sigh of relief. Relief didn’t last long as the road became slightly mushy right where I had to chew my way up what I think was the steepest climb of the ride. It took us a little while, but the glide down the other side was worth it. At the sight of woods and open fields both, Loke decided he wanted to try a flat out charge. Bully that I am, wanting his joints to stay supple as long as possible, kept our speed to about 16 mph.

Even the road was fairly busy for its small size. We were almost to the small nature reserve area with the pond when I was passed by the first and only mountain-biker of the ride. Well, trail rider at least. I don’t know if there were enough hills with challenging paths to count as mountain biking. He sang out a friendly greeting as he ripped past us from behind. I could tell he’d had a good ride. Up his back from the bike saddle right up the back of his helmet was a dense strip of black and gray mud. Not to mention all the splatter on his legs and bike frame.

No Speed Records/Limits Broken This Time

No Speed Records/Limits Broken This Time

I would have stopped at the nature reserve, but most of it was underwater and I was starting to feel hungry. The rest of the dirt road was a short jaunt, slightly boggy with the wet and full of pot holes. I was quite glad to reach the paved road with it’s new cycle path. New to me any way.

Even after 12 miles, Loke still powered along and I felt pretty good myself. The cycle path ended right at the top of what I call ‘Speed Record Hill’. It starts off innocently enough, with about 5% grade. Then after 100 yards or so, it drops suddenly. I’m not sure what the speed limit is there, but I’m guessing 50. If that’s so, then I broke the speed limit while setting my best ever gravity assisted speed. My Garmin Forerunner clocked roughly 32 mph which comes out at about 54 kph. Not something doable with Loke. His best ever is 22 mph.

I’m not sure what speed I really could hit on this hill. I chickened out once it hit 30+ mph and started using my brakes about midway through the lines of trees. White knuckle and heart-in-mouth moment.

Uppsala-Näs Church

Uppsala-Näs Church

This time, just 16-17 mph. Even after that charge, Loke wanted to keep his pace quick. On the flat stretch to the next church, Uppsala-Näs, I let him gallop along at 15-16 mph.

Uppland Runestone #891

Uppland Runestone #891

Pulling into the parking lot, I tethered Loke to a tree and went to walk around the church. There are two runestones.

Uppland Runestone #891 sits almost under one of the windows. Alas, Uppland #892 is beyond my reach. It’s apparently inset into the same wall, but buried under layers of the plaster covering. Ah well.

I went back to the furball, who was flat on his side and sleeping like a newborn puppy with a full tummy. Being quite hungry and Loke seemingly tired, I thought about calling the hubby. I pulled out a pack of orange-white chocolate covered dried cranberries Jens had found me to snack on while I decided. I’d been nibbling on them while riding. One or two ever half-hour or so, but now I was hungry enough to eat the rest of them at once.

Loke suddenly woke and began pestering me. I offered him water, which was ignored. Instead he went to the running bar and wagged his tail. On we went.

It was moderately unpleasant. The day was still sunny and not much wind, mild temps, but those odd body pains came with a vengeance and I felt a little breathless. I’d been fine when arriving at Uppsala-Näs. The only thing that had changed was my munching on about 50 grams of the cranberries. I’ve often thought that those symptoms were linked to how much/recent I’d eaten. I got proof.

It made the rest of the way home a hard slog. Yes, home. Loke still wanted to run. I took a slightly different way back to the apartment then I’ve ever done on this stretch. Normally, I go on lovely dirt paths through a nature reserve. With all the rain and this time of the thaw, they could be muddy and miring. Not to mention coming out of the reserve were some very nasty hills and a maze of cycle paths. With my muscles cramping up I wanted to avoid them.

I ended up heading for the drawbridge which had the ramp down to the river path. From there, it was a short and mostly flat jaunt through the city that, after the last few rides, I can now do with my eyes closed.

Though a few inches lower than it had been on Friday, the river was still impressively high. I was too tired to stop for more photos of it.

Jens was surprised when I staggered through the door. Loke still had plenty of bounce, but I finally felt wiped. We finished the day with 22.35 miles. Not bad and it had been good ride right up until Uppsala-Näs. I needed that. It helped me shake off some of the burden of stress and vastly improved my mood.

Still hoping I might top 125 miles for the month…


Shoulders, Spring & Song
April 14, 2013, 12:02 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

It finally happened! The Swedish weather experts finally declared the arrival of meteorological spring! It was announced on the morning news Friday.

I know I’ve been rather quiet on here since the last disastrous ride. I haven’t been riding. For the past 2 weeks, I’d been having increasing discomfort in my neck and shoulders. Waking up several times during the night with my arms numb and neck hurting. The morning of the 10th was almost unbearable. As I struggled with the last post, I noticed that the positions of my arms on the computer keyboard appeared to aggravate it. So did riding the trike.

Jens tried to get me to go see a chiropractor, but I just couldn’t stand the idea. Being very body conscious and quite plump, the idea something so hands on as chiropractic adjustment made me cringe.

So, after finishing the post about the horses, I began a regimen of heating pads on the affected areas, careful stretching, regular doses of anti-inflammatory meds, and avoiding anything that seemed to aggravate the problem. Also I’ve been doing the stretches I was assigned last time I had pain like this.

Sleeping on my back – I’m very much a side sleeper so that has been it’s own merry h*ll. I despise sleeping on my back, but dislike of the pain has been stronger, so I’ve been sucking it up. Sleeping poorly, but at least I awake with feeling in my arms and successively less pain as the days went by.

Staying off the computers – That too has been a nightmare. Most of the things I do to keep myself busy involve a computer. Blogging, reading forums, researching random things that pop into my head or related to my writing or cycle touring, attempting to learn 3D modeling. Even cross-stitch! Of course, cross-stitch even if I printed the pattern wouldn’t have been good for the pain either.

Avoiding Reading – That requires looking down most of the time not to mention holding a book or Kindle puts my arms in roughly the same position as typing or gripping the trike’s steering.

No Riding the Trike – Not much more to say about that.

Added to those new ‘no-nos’ is of course my old difficulty with walking any sort of distance. That left me with sitting upright on the couch with arms and head/neck in neutral position while staring at a TV which had little on to entertain me.

I’ve been so incredibly bored. The only thing that kept me sane were the improvements each day.

Today, I felt pretty good and it was the first pretty day since the announcement of spring came. Out the door Loke and I bolted. Blue skies, 40+ F and little winds. I only took us out on the River Loop for 8.6-ish miles. I didn’t trust spending more time on the trike which could risk a return of the pain. It was a nice ride and Loke appreciated it as much as I did in spite of it being on our ‘Hamster Track’.

Meadow larks are back! It was so great to hear them again. The river is almost completely clear of ice except where it’s managed to cling onto roots and branches in the shade of trees.

Frustratingly, it was only the 4th ride of April and the month almost half done. The 8+ miles tipped me over 51 miles for the month which I guess is fairly respectable considering how few rides. It leaves another 74 miles or so to make the tentative goal I set for the month of 125, comfortably doubling last April’s total. Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I may scoot out for a longer ride. We’ll see. I’m keeping this post quite brief (comparatively) to avoid hurting myself.

Now, off I go to stretch, heat and medicate myself!

Crocus & Chaos
April 10, 2013, 9:00 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Let’s get this over with.

Do I sound a little sour about this posting? Probably because I am. About all I managed to do yesterday was gain miles and fail at damage control. So, let me get this painful telling done.

The morning began cheery enough. It was clear, supposed to be mild and I expected to go for a ride. I’d even decided I was going to turn it into a runestone hunt. So, before Jens even awoke, I was happily searching the locations of runestones in the Vaksala Parish on-line. There were a few hang-ups. I think at least 2 of the stones have been moved or destroyed/lost, but I was going to aim for those I could. At least one of them has been moved to a museum in the center of Uppsala.

The Vaksala Loop with various zigs and zags for runestones was a good choice as it gave me something to focus on to make the ride interesting, but I’d easily be able to do it without help from Jens. I could leave from home and loop back to home.

By the time my hubby staggered from the bedroom in his zombie-like search for coffee, I’d plotted a route, printed it and marked the stones on the map.

I waited for it to warm up from 29 F, though by no means idly. I made a set of socks for Loke. Oh, how he hates the sound of duck tape.

I put my new, cheap panniers on the trike’s rack. They’re the same brand as the red ones I’ve had for 6-7 years, but easier off and on and about double the volume. 3 big zipper bags on it. 1 to each side and 1 on the top. What I really like about it is the top bag zips off and converts into a backpack! That means all the other odds-n-ends that don’t fit into my handlebar bag, but I don’t like leaving when I walk into a church yard can still come with me, slung on my back.

Sadly, the whole thing isn’t waterproof, but nor were my red ones. That’s what dry bags are for. I might still get some nice water-tight panniers for touring. We’ll see.

It took some fiddling for me to figure out the best way to fasten the bags on.

The socks took me a while so by the time all that was settled, it was time to get dressed. Wary about being caught off guard by the weather as had happened on the 7th, I pulled on my thick 400 g wool legs and the 250 g wool top. Then I carried things out.

The temp had shot up! The sun was warm and the air remarkably so as well. Fortunately, I have a new cycle top which I’d already decided I love. It feels comfortable, light, breathable, it’s even SPF protective! More than standard clothing, I mean. SPF +40. The only drawback is the color. I despise pink, yet it seems that every cycle shirt that meets my needs (lightweight, breathable and long-sleeved with a close fitting neckline) is black, which is terrible to use during the summer, or eye-bleeding pink. I’m plump and showing off my extra size in a color that draws the eye makes me cringe. Still, if vanity were truly an issue, I’d have to scrap 90% of my riding gear. It’s arranged for comfort and function. Keep me warm in winter, cool in summer, prevent sunburn and no chafe.

Pink was all they had… so pink is what I got.

I’m also about to add a nifty thing called a ‘Da Brim’. It’s a hat style brim that fits on a cycle helmet. I’ve been pining for just that sort of thing for years now. Ball caps crammed under a helmet trap heat and sweat and they’re only good if the sun is mostly to the front. I end up riding with my neck twisted into weird angles to shade eyes when the light is coming from the sides Well, I finally discovered that there was a product to do just what I wanted. It’s been shipped, I’m just waiting for it to arrive. I’ll give a full report as my recumbent forum friends are curious to hear about it. *waves* Hi guys n gals!

Okay, enough babbling on side topics. Delaying the inevitable.

I started having problems right away thanks to my scatterbrained nature. Loke and I were a mile down the road when I realized I’d forgotten my maps. While I know the basic route by heart, I needed the maps for the stones. So, we did a quick loop. That was when I spotted these.



I screeched to a halt and tromped up the embankment with the camera. How I love these flowers. They’re fairly sturdy too. A few nights ago the temps were around 15 F. Yet, just a few days later, these beauties were pushing up through the piled gravel and dead grass. I know I’ve said it before, but these are my favorite spring-time flowers here in Sweden. In the States, it’s dogwood.

While running in to grab my maps, I also took the time to strip off the extra layer on my legs and to find my summer weight legionnaire hat. It felt strange to be wearing my summer clothes when Loke and I moved out again. I wasn’t silly about it though. In my new panniers I’d packed two extra layers for top and bottom, my winter hat, my mittens, my mask, shoe-covers and foot-warmer batteries. I had the space to carry it, I was not going to be caught off guard again.

Back out we went. Loke was a bit less enthusiastic as we trundled over the same path we’d already done an out and back on, but soon we were heading toward Gamla Uppsala.

That area is turning into a complete mess as it seems they’ve begun the construction of whatever it is they’re doing to the rail system in that area. That’s why the archaeological work was being done there last year. Much of it will be buried under shifted rail tracks and such and they wanted it recorded before it happened. It seriously messed up a stretch of the cycle path.

Soon though we were wheeling along a stretch which has not yet been torn up, weaving back and forth to avoid trucks on the path, work men, hoses and cables. Looks as if the next time I ride that way, I’ll have to use the road instead of the path.

Loke was quite happy when we finally scooted across the road to a smaller country lane. The cycle path is thick with gravel and, in his old age, Loke seems more sensitive to the bruising effect of gravel. His pads are holding up pretty well, but he still goes tender-footed where those little pebbles lay thick. That’s pretty much everywhere in the city limits. At least the Great Vacuuming is underway though in fits and starts.

With clear, smooth paving underpaw, Loke pulled us into a lope. As he ran beneath a warm April sun with temps of nearly 50 F, I was reminded of past years when I left for rides in April at 5 or 6 am to spare Loke from the heat. Like the snow squalls of the last ride, it drove home how determined the cold has been hanging on this year.

Out in the countryside, it was cooler than it had been in the city. Snow stretched across some fields, over a foot deep on some of them. It was pretty.

By mile 5, I made the turn to search for the first stone. The unpaved road there has often teased me, but I’ve never taken it as it has a sign for a private road. The surface had a few potholes, but thankfully few rocks to spare Loke’s feet. He wanted to run on that strip of damp earth lined by old trees. Bully that I am, we went slowly as I scanned the road edge and beyond for the runestone. Nothing.

Once we were past the area the web-site had marked, I stopped to consult my map in hopes of gleaning a more precise location. We went back through the area even slower as I looked for a spot to put the trike off the road. Barely any traffic on it, but I’d rather not annoy a resident of the area. Next to an old wooden shed, was perfect. It seemed to be very close to where the stone should be.

I grabbed the handlebar bag and dog and set out across a snow covered field toward an apple orchard naked in the winter. Once past a cluster of smaller cluster of mixed wild trees in the center of the field, I walked toward what I thought could be the stone. It was hard work. The snow was 8-10 inches deep, crunchy and worse than trying to walk through loose sand.

Loke, on the other hand, was in a frenzy of delight. He rampaged around me, (never yanking on his leash thankfully), a wide happy husky smile with a flopping tongue. Then he’d throw himself down, head first to thrash around in the snow on his back. He somersaulted twice doing that. He had the most fun shoving his nose into into the crunchy white and running. Chunks of snow would go flying, his muzzle playing snow-plow.

The somersaults and ‘snow-plowing’ I tried to keep him from doing. I had images of him crashing muzzle first into a buried rock at high speed and trying to explain that to Nadina or Niclas.

I was almost to the ‘stone’ when I realized it was nothing of the sort. It was the stump of a long dead apple tree. I had no idea that apple trees could get so thick! It was over 2 feet in diameter! Sighing, I looked around and began the slog toward a hill behind house without snow, covered with trees and rocks. After I did a loose loop around that with no success, I headed back to the field and tromped toward the smaller cluster of trees center field.

I walked into something of a minor mystery. To me at least.

The pit. No clue what it was for.

The pit. No clue what it was for.

On the south-eastern edge of the tree clump, was a pit. Clearly man-made, about 10 feet in diameter and over 4 feet deep. The photo makes it look much smaller than it really is. It looked old, with weathered stones covered in moss undisturbed by recent movement and some kind of wood structure crossing it, far into the last stages of decay. Someone had pitched a blue 10 gallon jug of some sort into the bottom or I’d have taken a photo to show a small, arched hole on one side.

A well perhaps? Then why the hole in the side? If it was a well, it’s amazing how full of debris it must be now. I don’t think it is a well on more careful thought. It doesn’t explain that wooden structure over it. You certainly wouldn’t hang a bucket rope from the center of it. Lean over to reach for it and in you go. Death trap.

I thought maybe a sort of sunken grist mill. Perhaps the falling apart construction across it could have been the remains of a pivot with an arm to hitch to an ox or horse to drive a mill stone. Again, it doesn’t explain the hole and why would it be so deep?

Fascinating all the same.

I still pondered the odd pit as I walked back toward the trike, each step sounding like I was stomping on cornflakes. I turned another baffled glance over my shoulder and stopped.

Almost Missed It

Almost Missed It

The pit wasn’t all. Mingled in among the trunks of the young birches at the edge of the copse, lay two lines of stones meeting at a corner. The rocks were too squared and the straight lines obvious once I saw them. There were hints of two more lines hidden in the thicker tangles of brush near the pit now I knew what to look for. The tree cluster outlined it almost perfectly. That’s probably why the trees were there. The field gets mowed and maybe plowed except for where the ruin sits, sheltering the birches from man’s activity.

I’m fairly certain the pit and building share a history somehow, sitting cheek to jowl as they are. I’d have to look again, but I think less than 3 feet separates the above ground pit wall from the remaining stone foundation of the building. I guess the two could be separated by centuries though. If so, I think the pit is newer, given the remaining wood across it.

I was a peeved with being unable to find the stone as Loke and I moved out again. The odd ruins were a bit of a compensation though.

I let Loke stretch his legs out so we made good speed back to the paved road. He kept that pace through the ‘roller coaster’ stretch of the Vaksala Loop. The furball absolutely adores it. He charges on the down slopes, pulls like mad on the climbs, desperate to keep the speed and all the while looking as happy as a husky can when he’s doing his job.

It was great having him behaving so normally. I did slow him along one short stretch where the ice still lay thick and hard on the road thanks to deep shade. I don’t think that bit ever sees direct sunlight, except a sliver down the center at high noon during Midsummer…. maybe. Loke was wearing socks which makes ice even more treacherous for him.

The 2nd runestone turned out to be a no-go as well. The field where it sat was too deep in snow. Deeper than what I’d already walked through. During that walk, my left ankle had threatened to seize up on me which would have made getting back to the trike a challenge. Might have made pedaling problematical too. With that in mind, another snow-stomp didn’t seem wise.

It was downright chilly along there too. Snow in all the fields around and occasional ice on the road. I pulled on an extra top, my gloves and powered up my foot-warmers.

Soon we crossed the 288 and moving briskly north on the cycle path beside it. After about a mile of that, we turned right for the next leg of the ride and into disaster and chaos.

Less than half a mile after leaving the 288, I turned onto a tiny dirt road for the next runestone. Right at the start was a steep little hill to pedal up. The surface was rocky, wet, riddled with potholes. A sign gave the name of a stables and there were plenty of paddocks and horses. Some of them were a little alarmed by our appearance so I took it slow and easy. Stopping when the closest bunch got too nervous. After a few minutes of my talking to them and Loke sitting bored, curiosity would win over fear. They’d come up to the fence for a closer look and I’d slowly move on, still chattering soothingly. Start with the next batch.

The Chaos Crew

The Chaos Crew

As I rounded a turn, I came on 4 horses that seemed particularly flighty in one rocky hill of a pasture. As I’ve always done, I stopped and began adjusting them to my presence. Three of them seemed to come around as usual. The bay with the star and snip in a blue coat remained a bit skittish, but I refused to be hurried so murmured nonsense as they got accustomed to my scent and shape.

Then all hell broke loose. It wasn’t even anything Loke and I did! I was relaxing comfortably and talking to the horses. Loke had laid down, head on his paws and dozing. It was the leader of the bunch, a heavy boned brown mare with a white face wearing a green blanket. She snorted quietly as she shook her forelock out of her eyes.

The blue blanketed mare freaked out at the soft sound. One could almost think someone shot her in the rump! She made a sharp whinny of alarm and bolted… roughly in our direction! She would have passed about 15 feet from the front of the trike if not for colliding with the fence. It held for a split second before giving a sharp ‘TWANG’ that made me sick in the stomach.

The brief moment between the wires catching her and breaking, she twisted and kicked away, probably driven back by the zap to follow the other horses up the hill to the back of the pasture.

As they stopped on the high ground and looked back at me, I took my hands from my mouth. I wanted to pull my hair out as I surveyed the carnage. It was hard to see exactly what was old damage and what had just happened. About 10-12 feet of the nylon ribbon looking upper ‘wire’ was missing completely, but the ends of it looked quite frayed and in one spot it was tied to a fence post. The lower wire appeared to be the more intact though it had a few spots where previous breaks had been repaired. Most of it laid on the ground, though I couldn’t tell where it had snapped this time.

As I stood there, trying to think of what to do, the horses made their slow way down the hill. I was relieved to see the panicky horse moving fine which left me free to worry about the fence.

My trike and Loke blocked most of the now open section. Ironically, after the mare’s sheer panic and their flight, all of them were much calmer. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t charged in snarling and drawing blood. Even the one who had broken everything seemed almost nonchalant about my presence.

They were still a little wary of the trike and, perhaps, Loke. That was all keeping them from ambling through the break. They watched me as I marched forward as if into pond of leeches and grabbed lower wire. The pulse hit me. Caution made me drop it, but then I grabbed it again more confidently. The pulse through it was quite weak. Barely a noticeable tingle in my fingers and palm.

While I tried to wrestle it off the ground, wrapping part of it around a fence post close to a scrubby tree, the sturdy dominant mare came up quite close, flattening her ears at me. I made a shooing motion and she retreated to regard Loke with ice blue eyes. Yep, her eyes were paler shade of blue than the clear April sky.

With the thin line set as well as I could manage, about knee height, I had no illusions about it stopping them if they really wanted out. I took a closer look at the ‘ribbon’. It was a right mess. Parts of it were tied to other parts. Frayed patches. I looked for the missing section so I could tie to the rest to help bridge the gap. It was no where to be found if it hadn’t been gone long before I came by.

I grabbed the end of what was left. Instantly dropped it with a yelp. That’s where the real charge was. That was so much fun. Getting painfully zapped every few seconds, the shock strong enough to make my fingers and hands convulse and feeling it up past my elbows. I pulled it through one of the guides it had fallen out of and across one stretch of fence posts. It couldn’t reach to the next one though. After a moment, I tied it to a kink in the lower wire to pull it up a little higher and maybe increase its shock enough to dissuade the horses from going through. I suspected it just lessened the current in the ribbon and all for naught.

Then I pulled the trike around, told the horses to behave and rushed back to the house.

Unfortunately, no one was home. Unless you count a very affectionate white and marmalade tabby cat.

I went back to Loke and turned at the clop and clatter of hooves. There went the horses past the other pastures and onto the paved road, somehow going between the paddocks. I only had a minute or so to stare in horrified frustration when a car turned onto the drive. As the woman stopped and rolled down her window, I hoped it was the owner. No, but her daughter kind of knew the owner. I explained the situation and they went on in search of a neighbor who might know how to get in touch with the owner.

I was settling into the trike to track the horses, when another car came and it was a man who asked about the loose horses on the road. I didn’t take much time to explain, wanting to hurry.

Thankfully the horses didn’t head toward the 288 which was far too close for comfort. They ambled away from it and then jumped the ditch to wander around in an open field and pester the horses still fenced in. At least 3 of them did. I haven’t a clue where the fourth went off to. It was the one who had panicked which was missing. Hopefully she didn’t go running into dense traffic.

I spent about 20 minutes on the road, waving at traffic to slow down until the loose rogues were well back from the road and grazing. Then, I did the only other thing I could think to do… I went on.

After the entire fiasco, the horses watched me pass calmly. The blue-eyed mare even whinnied and started toward us at a trot. I stopped until she got bored and returned to the others.

A Placid Pair

A Placid Pair

I was so stressed with worry over the horses and a bit of guilt that I hadn’t been able to do better, I just gave up and pounded straight for home. That was fine for Loke. He still had energy and enthusiasm to burn. We made it home with 16.8 miles, no runestones and chaos in our wake.

What a sorry ride.

Jens keeps saying it wasn’t my fault, but the mare wouldn’t have panicked had I not been there. I suspect the horses would have broken out eventually given the condition of the fence, particularly the ribbon with the main charge, but still. I hope all of them are back safe and sound.

Hopefully my next attempt will go better.

Hunting Through Unseasonable Weather
April 8, 2013, 9:51 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Hunting for what? Runestones!

I had time to ponder my rides when a low-grade cold dug its claws in. I had a few flare ups of fever where my face felt warm, but I shivered. Stuffy sinuses which meant lots of sneezing and a couple days where brisk walking proved my chest was a little congested. The symptoms were a uncomfortable and unpleasant, but I only felt miserable for a couple hours when I first woke up.

I didn’t want to pedal around with a fever, even a mild one. I’ve just been waiting the cold out while wanting to climb out of my skin with the desire to cycle, to gather miles. Annoying as it might be to wait, it would be even more so if I jumped the gun had a relapse into a worse cold.

While waiting for the annoying little illness to pass, I looked around at my local rides, trying to find something that might refresh them. The idea of redoing the Danmark area crossed my mind again. After all, there was that runestone behind Danmark Church, the one I wouldn’t walk to because waist high grass made my skin crawl. The thought of ticks kept me out. I’d planned to return after the first snows or before grass grew that high again.

While doing some research, I’d also discovered there were other stones in the area. With the extra time on my  hands, I looked into it a little more. In doing so, I discovered an on-line catalog of runestones. With each entry was a little inset of Google Map with a marker for the stone location. That little tidbit made me almost giddy!

On the 6th, I was finally starting to feel a bit normal. When I woke on the 7th and felt completely normal (no sniffles or sneezes), I set about to making maps of the area, determined to ride around in search of all the runestones in the Danmark Parish district.

Clouds had moved in during the evening of the 6th. We had a truly gray sky for the first time in a month or so. By the time the sun rose on the 7th, it looked as if the clouds had moved on and at 6 am it was just 32 F. The mildest night we’ve had in a long while. Most evenings we’ve been getting into the low 20’s though the days reached nearly 40 F.

I didn’t map a route, but I did print overlapping maps connecting all the Danmark stones. While I waited for Jens to wake, relax and have his first couple cups of coffee, I flipped through them to puzzle out the best way to pass the stones with least bit of double back.

We were out the door by 10 am to drive to the site of the first stone.

The stone was along the road not far from a small nature reserve we’ve walked in once or twice. That made the reserve’s parking lot the perfect place to begin. Nice space to unload the trike and out of traffic.

Pasture land next to parking lot.

Pasture land next to parking lot.

As I got to work and Jens strolled around with Loke, I began to regret my decision to dress lighter. I had thin wool on my legs covered over with my tights topped with my wind resistant pants. My torso was protected with thin wool beneath my pink cycle shirt. I had packed my yellow windbreaker which was critical since I’d forgotten my sheepskin again. That’s turning into a bad habit.

The wind was the big problem. It blew hard from the north and had a dry bite that cut right through my clothes. My hands ached within minutes. I had made a miscalculation about the weather based on how the past week or two had been.

Jens cast a look to north where thicker clouds crept in. ‘Those look… threatening.’ he commented, yet was still determined I ride and take Loke with me. Those words carried the weight of prophecy.

Loke was raring to go. Of course, he’s always got his Arctic parka with him and thrives running in the cold. As Jens drove off down the muddy road, the furball hopped and yodeled at the end of the tether. When I finally let go of the brakes, we were off like a bolt of lightning.

In less than 100 yards, I was truly missing that sheepskin.

Uppland's Runestone #949

Uppland’s Runestone #949

The quarter mile to the first of the runestones passed in mere moments. Loke’s paws did an impatient tap dance while I pulled out the camera.

Uppland’s Runestone #949 sat next to a small canal for field drainage and the road. It looked as if it’s had a hard time for its 900-1000 years of history since it was first carved. Broken and patched, runes lost to the damage or weathering.

Though I had the web-site for some info (like the rune translations), I’d hoped for one of the metal placards which often has more info than that. Where the stone might have been found or when discovered. Alas there was none. At least I knew what it was and had the image as well as the translation. Something at least.

Then we were off again. Loke ran. Though wet, the road was fairly well packed. I took the rocky center so Loke had the nice smooth tire strips. He loved it, tongue flopping in the wind in his goofy grin.

There were two ways to go toward the next stone. One was a mile or more longer as it zigged down mostly paved roads though nice enough scenery. The other way was shorter, unpaved, banned to motorized through-traffic and had a sign warning of a road boom.

Unless a road is marked as private, I don’t have qualms going down it. Road booms aren’t much trouble either. Generally, removing my flag is the only accommodation I have to make to scoot under them.

Pretty Farm Building

Pretty Farm Building

I stopped to look at the shorter route. It didn’t look inviting. Mushy and wet. It would put that malicious wind to my back, a welcome thought. Even with a mesh seat as meager shelter from the breeze, that would be a relief than go on with it leeching the warmth from my face and body. Not to mention, I wanted to get on with finding the stones. I took it.

It was better than it looked. The first 200 yards or so were boggy, loose mud and each step Loke took splattered his legs and belly. Then it dried out. Too much so.

The wheels cast up puffs of dust which the vagrant swirls of frigid wind threw into my face. I could feel it peppering my skin. When every time I opened my mouth to praise the furry one, I could feel the grit on my teeth. That reason alone, I was only too glad to see the end of that road and rejoin a paved street.

Colder than it looks

Colder than it looks

Off the gravel strewn lane which had added rolling resistance, Loke pulled out all the stops and I pedaled briskly to keep up. The extra warmth of vigorous exercise was needed when the sun had nearly disappeared behind the thickening clouds. In spite of the cold winds, there were a lot of people out. Just the first couple miles, I’d passed three joggers and double that number of walkers.

We passed one woman pole walking as I made the turn on the tiny little road which supposedly had two runestones within a 300 yard stretch. One at the intersection and another where the field gave way to a hedge surrounding a house. Nothing. I doubled back toward the road, driving Loke completely crazy by creeping along in my search. Still, I looped back to look twice more. As I headed back to the main street again, she was giving us curious looks. Rather, I should say increasingly curious looks as she’d stared in surprise the first time we’d passed

The next two runestones were along the 288, which is a busy 2 lane country road with not much of a shoulder. I foresee it becoming a carriageway in the near future. I’m not so worried about that however as it already had a cycle path. That much I’d seen from a quick peek at Google Street View. That’s why I was a bit shocked when I arrived at the intersection and… no cycle path.

I had no doubts there was a lovely paved MUP that went along the road and right next to one of the runestones sitting just off the road. Glancing at my maps, I went back to a turn I’d passed, wanting to avoid a climb and rough surfaces. That little lane ended in the sought-for cycle way. I winced as it carried us down a long, gravel covered hill. This was one of the double-backs I’d been unable to avoid.

The path was nice though. The majority of our time on it, it led through a field, well back from the ‘whoosh’ of passing cars. Along there, I heard honking as if geese or swans.

Elegant Birds

Elegant Birds

Swans it turned out. A small flock of them sat in the field, not far from the path. I stopped to admire them, taking photos every now and again. Part of it was also the hope that they’d shift position or do something a little more interesting than sit there. One accommodated me by stretching it’s wings, but I was too slow to catch it.

Loke didn’t seem overly impressed with them. He glanced at them a few times and spent the rest of the duration sighing at me.

A quick jaunt at a 10 mph lope carried us to the closest point to the next runestone in the distance halfway across a field. I stopped and stood up to see over railing between path and road to look at the situation. I had come mentally prepared to do some field stomping this day.

Uppland's Runestone #957

Uppland’s Runestone #957

The enormity of getting to Uppland’s Runestone #957 became obvious. The section of field along the 282 had no field access for the tractors. So, not only would I have needed to climb a steep embankment and scurry across the busy road before I could even start the hike across the field, I would have to cross a significant ditch full of water. Unlikely.

Where I expected the field access to be, along another road past the next stone, would have meant walking double the distance. Either way would have required me to leave the trike for potentially an hour or more. It would have been safe from traffic on the cycle path, but easily seen to anyone who might want to pilfer through my bags or had the equipment to cut the trike loose. Parking along the other road near a tractor access would have been right on the edge of the road (granted less traffic) and still in plain view of the 282. It didn’t appear that there’d be anything for me to chain the trike against either. A quick snatch and grab and I’d have been trike-less. Well, I’d have been back to riding my Trice.

Drawing a heavy sigh and casting a last longing look at the placard I could see even from that distance, I took a picture of the stone from far away. Pity, it looked impressive. Most stones are about 3 feet tall. This one looked as if it was taller than I was.

Uppland's Runestone #956

Uppland’s Runestone #956

Loke barely had enough time to build up speed before I stopped for Uppland’s Runestone #956.

Between the cycle path and the stone was a… barricade for lack of a better word. Maybe it was there to protect the stone from pile up of plowed snow. It didn’t look entirely permanent, though it was heavy. Most of what held it up were chains running to ground stakes. Annoyingly, one of those chains went right across the face of the stone. The placement of that huge protective bulk also made it difficult to get a good angle for the picture.

Which is a pity because this photo does little to show the unusual ‘kink’ in the stone. My first reaction upon seeing it clearly was, ‘Awww. It’s broken and they didn’t repair it?’ It took only moments for me to see that it was of one piece just oddly shaped. How the man in 1710 thought it was broken (if I translated the info sign correctly), I have no clue. Unless he just took a quick glance or something. Even bent, it still stood a little taller than my head. I think it’s become one of my favorite stones. I still haven’t found anything to replace my absolute favorite though. That’s one that shows a winter hunting scene.

The journey back along the cycle path was a bit more unpleasant. The wind was more to the front and I seriously considered digging out my mask a time or three. I also finally turned on my footwarmers and wished I’d brought my shoe covers. Granted, my toes never developed the ‘being twisted off with pliers’ feeling, but still uncomfortable with the bottoms being almost too toasty to counter the almost too cold tops.

I also heard and saw swans winging their way overhead in several directions. I thought it was the flock I’d photographed, but no, they were still sitting placidly where I left them. I took pity on Loke and we passed without stopping for more pictures. Besides, they’d hardly changed position. Returning to the road I’d earlier left behind in search of the cycle path, I did a quick scurry across.

Uppland's Runestone #950

Uppland’s Runestone #950

I made Loke happy by letting him stretch his legs for a bit, whipping around the left turn to carry us to the next stone. Since it was on the left side of the road, I passed it to find somewhere to more easily turn around so as to park next to it on the way out.

As I came up to a house and modern, metal sided barn to make the turn, a car came toward us. The couple in it were quite enthusiastic about greeting us. The man driving rolled down his window to call out greetings as the woman waved excitedly from the passenger seat. That brought a smile to my face.

For being a dead end little road there was a silly amount of traffic on it for just a pair of farm houses and a few buildings. The time I turned onto and until I left it, almost a dozen cars passed me only 3 of them were the same ones.

A small, surprisingly dry ditch separated the road and the Uppland’s Runestone #950.

I liked it! Well, I like all runestones, but this one was almost as distinctive as the kinked stone. Most of the time, the runes are carved in a band at the outer edge. On this one the inscription twisted and twined with a rune beast. I’m curious enough to search through my runestone collection to see how many do this. After this post is finished obviously.



Next to it stood a placard. Granted, the ditch bottom was dry, or at least the thick mat of grass was, but a mass of snow crouched in a long line starting at the far bottom of the ditch almost to the base of the stone. I guessed it was at least a 1 or 2 feet deep. Still, foot prints showed where someone else had approached the sign.

Loke woofed impatiently at me as I carefully placed my feet in the previous prints and leaned forward to snap the photo. No problem!

Shifting my weight back to step down, my left foot suddenly plunged down. I wobbled, standing on that leg in a hole up to my knee. As gently as I could, I shifted my weight onto the right foot to step out of the hole. That little ledge gave way, pushing my knee almost up to my waist. Things became a lot less graceful at that point, as I flailed around, trying not to send the camera flying while scrambling for balance.

Loke had quit woofing. Instead he stood with his head cutely cocked as if wondering what on earth I was doing. I had to laugh.

I briefly consulted my printed maps, waving at the passing cars. It was another of those spots where I had a choice. I could turn left at the end of the road to head to another runestone before going to Danmark Church or I could go to the church and then an out-n-back to the runestone.

I liked the contrast between the brick and wood.

I liked the contrast between the brick and wood.

I chose the out-n-back option. I had a feeling a fair bit of the other way involved unpaved roads which could be a soggy mess or, worse, a slushy one. The other way was completely paved. I was starting to feel the wind too much to not take the path of least resistance.

Small Smithy, Loke & Trike

Small Smithy, Loke & Trike

While climbing a hill just across from the previous runestone, it occurred to me I’d never approached Danmark Church from this direction. It was a pretty area. A farm house with a interesting barn across the road. Small pastures draped in snow with rocks peeking through and all of it surrounded by some kind of short-needled conifer where the snow had already retreated for the most part.

The road condition wasn’t the best, but better than mud. At the top of the hill I found a beautiful little building. A handmade sign which looked to be of recent origin said ‘Smedjan’ means ‘smithy’. With a vase and other homey touches showing in the windows, it was clearly used for something else. Still, it was lovely and I thought the straw bale and wooden barrel next to the door were a nice touch.

I felt a little guilty after I took the picture. Loke was stubbornly looking away. So, I cheerfully said, ‘Cookie?’ and his gaze whipped toward me in anticipation. Maybe I should start carrying treats just for such circumstances. Otherwise, I don’t know how many more times he’d fall for the trick.

Danmark Kyrka - Back Side

Danmark Kyrka – Back Side

The rest of the way to Danmark Church was pleasant. After the first bigger hill, the road improved a bit and the successive climbs were kinder.

As I coasted to a stop outside a small, more modern structure across from the church yard, another car pulled into the handicapped spot just at the door of the little building. An elderly woman got out as I offered Loke water. She told me with a smile that ‘He’s moving the car if you want to stop in this spot.’ Smiling back, I shook my head and pointed to the bike rack, ‘I’m going to walk closer for pictures.’

I left Loke tethered with the trike. The church yard wasn’t forbidden to dogs, just banned dogs from using it as a latrine. Rather than risking offending the nice woman who was visiting a grave, it seemed safest to leave him. I don’t let him use the bathroom in churchyards, but most people can’t know that and I am reluctant to give even the appearance of disrespect. Religion is one of those sensitive subjects.

I made my way carefully to the runestone. There was quite a bit of snow lingering around it, not to mention the ground hard frozen. If too much ice formed around the SPD cleats in my shoes, I could easily slip and go tumbling. Not good for me and probably as bad or worse for the camera.

Uppland's Runestone #946

Uppland’s Runestone #946

It felt great to finally snap the shutter on Uppland’s Runestone #946. The stone itself was rather unremarkable looking. Standing about 3 and a feet tall, the carved face had simple circular band of the inscription around a crucifix. Except for being rounder in shape, it looked much like the stone in Börje Church’s graveyard wall.

From the stone, I could see Loke sitting alertly near the trike, watching me. By the time I’d navigated down the snowy-icy slope to reach the church yard gate, he’d laid down from boredom.

He still wanted to charge along, but didn’t get to do so for far. I went around the curve to climb up to the front gate of the church yard. There, I took a rest break in the nice clean bathroom in the 1700’s building outside the wall. I was quite tempted to linger in the wonderful heat. The little radiator was too warm to comfortably touch.

An Old Building Near Danmark Church

An Old Building Near Danmark Church

Though I came promptly out, Loke still had to wait. Though it was Sunday, there weren’t enough cars around for religious services, but I hoped the church might not be locked yet. I went up the path to try the door. Sadly, it was buttoned up tight.

Loved This View

Loved This View

We breezed on down the hill from there, Loke grinning and charging along at about 16 mph. There was a stretch of tiny up and down hills tucked in a patch of woods and small houses/cottages where a couple people waved as we passed. Then the landscape opened up again into fields.

This was the 3rd time I’ve ridden that rode though the first I could recall going away from Danmark Church. Both of the previous times, I’d approached from the direction of the Mora Stones.

The sun flirted with us, though proving a cruel tease. Dressed a little too lightly, I was slowly chilling in spite of the exercise. Those brief moments of relief in areas sheltered from the wind or graced with the warmth of sunlight were too brief. I wasn’t cold enough to shiver, but I wasn’t comfortable either. Loke on the other hand was happy and enthusiastic.

At least I had my mittens to my hands were warm and dexterous.  That allowed me to managed both maps and GPS while rolling and keeping an eye out for the tiny, dead-end road with the next runestone.

Winter Clinging On

Winter Clinging On

It proved quite complicated and ended in frustration. I apparently rolled past it without seeing it which never bodes well. Turning around I went back through the stretch slower, the tether bar squeaking like crazy as as the furball tried with all his might to pull faster. Clearly he was unwilling to put up with 4 mph. The brakes said otherwise.

Finally, I stopped at a muddy drive leading through a collection of buildings. Two or three houses, a few large farm buildings, all older, perhaps dating to the 1800’s though not much earlier if I’ve become any sort of judge in such things. A child’s tiny play cottage. The GPS insisted this was the little road with the configuration matching the map. Dubiously, I went down it.

It led… no where. Any trace of a drive or path just petered out into flat ground with a huge circle of gravel where winter-dead grass peeked through. GPS insisted there was some kind of road taking a sharp right which would have been behind a barn, but there was no such thing. Baffled, I even left the trike so Loke and I could walk that way a bit. No lane/path and certainly nothing to be seen of a runestone.

The task of runestone hunting was turning out to be more frustrating than anticipated.

Nice enough scenery for the climbs

Nice enough scenery for the climbs

We zipped back toward Danmark Church. It went a little slower as it was mostly uphill with the church sitting on one of the higher points of the local landscape. The ascent could have been slower. Loke was pulling most of the way with a determined angle to his ears.

Finally, we crossed the ‘tipping point’ and the trike raced downward with Loke gleefully loping along. It’s a long coasting ride to  go beneath the E4 before it flattens out for a half mile or so. We took full advantage of that change in terrain.

I realized something as I spun along on the flat between a pair of fields. Runestones draw my eye the way a magnet pulls iron. I hadn’t begun the search for the next runestone, apparently having marked it a little wrong on the map, but I caught myself staring at it before I knew what it was.

It sat in the middle of a field, well back from any road or path. Unlike Uppland’s Runestone #957, a tractor access was near to hand. I pulled into it and rolled down a the slope about 12 feet from the road edge. I looked at the ground.

It looked smoother than a plowed field usually does, almost flat instead of ridged with chunks of earth. A soft furring of green covered it completely lacking snow or ice anywhere between the trike’s wheels to the stone some 200-300 yards away. It looked simple enough.

How wrong I was. Trike locked up, I collected the handbar bag and furball and stepped out. A bit of mud clung to the shoe bottoms in the first couple steps. Yet more on the next. Still more. By my tenth stride, I was laughing, giggling really. Each foot had a thick, gooey clump of dark mud with the consistency of potter’s clay at the very least. It did not want to let go. It never really closed over my shoes, it just got thicker and bigger around the soles. I wobbled and struggled to drag the weight of it. A few times I stopped, attempting to balance on one leg while shaking the other in hopes of dislodging some of the goop before collecting more. That nearly sent me down which would have been unpleasantly interesting.

I must have carried about 20 pounds of mud back to the trike. A small amount of it finally let go as I scraped on the grass but mostly it just collected dead leaves. Once it had a bit of grass and gravel mixed in, shaking it off helped more than my first attempts. Even so, the cleats were under nearly an inch and half of the gunk. It would need to be scraped away before I could clip back in.

I was at a loss what to use for the task. Finally, I pulled the trike back up closer to the road, easier than it sounds with a few pounds extra weight on my feet. Then I sat down and used a portion of my flag pole to carve away as much as I could.

About 20 minutes later, my cleats made the familiar ‘click’ indicating they were engaging properly. While putting the flag back on my seat, the view to the west gave me pause. A heavy mass of cloud reared up from the west, so dark a gray I almost expected to see lightning split the sky. Hanging from the pendulous underside were veils I most associate with rain. Since it was above freezing, my expectation was that it was rain. And there I was, too lightly dressed for the dry weather. Getting wet could only be a disaster.

There were a few more runestones, but with the potential of rain, I decided my task would have to be finished on another day, another ride. It was time to push for home. And push we did. Well, I pushed, Loke pulled.

Uppland's Runestone #947

Uppland’s Runestone #947

I did make one more stop as I whipped through two quick turns in succession. Seemed silly to pass a runestone sitting right at the road edge. I hurriedly collected, made a U-turn and went down the road spinning like a mad woman.

Our brisk pace came to a crawl thanks to the long hill leading past some sport fields toward rail tracks. The booms were down and lights blinking, the way was clear by the time we made it up.

This stretch of the run was also part of the Sverigeleden. It ambled through a small residential area with a slight upward grade which kept my speed to about 6 mph. A funny incident broke the tedium though. One house had a long stretch of tall, evergreen hedge. Loke, as is his nature, wanted to mark the hedge. So I swerved over to let him do so.

As the furball stuck his nose toward it, an ungodly screeching filled the air as a clump of branches thrashed wildly. Startled, Loke yelped and bound forward several strides, dragging the trike forward.

I laughed. Out of the 100 foot or so of hedge line, I’d managed to find the 2 feet which had apparently hidden a cat. Once over his surprise, Loke was all for heading back to the hissing and yowling coming unseen through the tightly packed needles. I pulled him on.

The road ended at a cycle path which still had signs for the Sverigeleden and we made a bit better time. When a green sign pointed left down an unpaved trail thick with ice and water, I continued straight. By this point, we were under the heavy gray belly of cloud. Then I thought I saw a bit of floating white whip by on the bitter wind. Snow? I prayed that it would be snow.

The path ended at a small street which intersected with a much larger and busier one. If I’d struggled down the path of the Sverigeleden, we would have been able to go under it. Fortunately, the crossing went quickly enough with a handy break in traffic.

Nearly the moment we’d made the crossing, it came. A thick white fall of swirling snow. I laughed in relief. Snow could be unpleasant, but not as much as a near freezing rain. Not to mention I’d forgotten the handlebar bag’s weather cover. Fluffy white stuff would be less likely to reach the camera and iPhone. I took a moment to take a picture of the cycle path with the falling snow. Then, I turned the camera toward Loke, intending to photograph the way the flakes dusted the back of his ears. Just as I pushed the shutter release, Loke’s head whipped toward me, to look at something on the other side of the trike I think.

A Rare Glimpse Into Loke

A Rare Glimpse Into Loke

This has to be one of my absolute favorite images of my beautiful, incredible partner in adventure. Something about the expression I think. The deep glimpse into his eyes without funny angles or the hideous orange tinge the lighting in the apartment gives every photo. It’s not perfect. I could wish the lighting had been a little brighter, better framing of his entire head and heaven knows the scenery is pure eye-sore, but his face makes that less important. I don’t know. I just look at this image and it tugs at me, heart and soul, in some profound way.

My two fave things.. Ice and precipitation. :P

My two fave things.. Ice and precipitation. 😛

At the time, I didn’t know what a precious moment I had just captured. I knew I’d missed his ears and maybe he’d been looking toward the lens, but I put the camera away without checking.

We raced on. I pedaled harder and faster than was wise for my knees. We didn’t set any speed records, but we clipped along at about 10 mph, Loke going at a gentle lope that he can sustain for a couple miles. That first flurry of snow passed but another approached hot on its heels.

Then another. The squalls of snow just kept coming in waves. Occasionally, the sun would briefly touch us through rare breaks in the clouds, but mostly it was heavy gray. It kept changing too. I never knew which sort was going to hit me. A gritty fall, rather like someone had upended a giant salt-shaker could be followed by fluffy feathers. The snow that looked like polystyrene balls before they get pressed into Styrofoam was my least favorite. Even with my tight fitting sunglasses, the hard wind still managed to blow those into my eyes though the glasses stopped the feathers and salt. I suppose I could have fitted the gasket to the lenses, but I just wanted to get home.

Another coming wave of snow

Another coming wave of snow

When we reached the drawbridge, I felt we were at the home stretch though at least 4 more miles lay between us and home. Still, it was a jaunt down along the river path to the heart of Uppsala. Taking the cycle path by the river though town is always fun. We startle so many people with our unusual appearance.

Even Loke was starting to flag a little when we reached home. Personally, I felt like a rag which had been beaten nearly to threads on a river rock, wrung out and tossed in a soggy pile. My knees were saying unkind things about me. It felt so good to stagger up the stairs with 17+ miles through cold wind behind us.

Jens was surprised I’d made it home because on my last check in call, I’d said it looked like rain. Once in the apartment, Loke was bouncing around with his squeaky toy.

While it had frustrating moments, I still counted it as a good ride. I think I’m going to do it again soon though. Try to find at least some of those other stones.

Rambles & Rides
April 4, 2013, 7:16 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I really have enjoyed riding this winter, it’s been lovely. Experiencing the familiar landscape around home in a new way. The murky browns and grays, so dominate in early spring or late autumn, lay hidden beneath a gloss of bright white. Feeling unstoppable in spite of rutted ice and churned snow which in previous years were such an obstacle.

One of the impressive Uppsala University buildings.

One of the impressive Uppsala University buildings.

Yet, I am glad the temperatures have given us some days of gentle warmth. I don’t miss the frozen gear cable forcing me to manage with 3 speeds. I don’t miss the 20 minute ordeal wrestling on 3 layers or more or wondering where on earth I left my mittens this time or staring at the traitorous thermometer displaying temps of 9 F. I don’t miss using the mask which if I put it on properly fogged my glasses with each breath. While in December, the low angle of the sun even at noon was nice for photos, I’m glad the days are now 6 to 7 hours longer.

A mixed blessing winter was, but I enjoyed most of it when not struggling with Loke’s toe. Some of it hopefully won’t be a repeating problem when the cold white returns later this year. I have every intention of getting the cable oilers installed when I take the Sprint in for maintenance service so the gear’s won’t be an issue.

One of Uppsala's museums with the cathedral behind

One of Uppsala’s museums with the cathedral behind

Since April 2nd was shaping up into another beautiful and above-freezing day after Loke and I had rested April 1st, we were due for another outing. Given Loke’s persistent abundance of energy after our past few outings, I considered taking the Börje/Gamla Uppsala Loop.

Here in Sweden, spring hasn’t officially arrived. Though the equinox has been and gone more than 10 days no, ‘meteorological spring’ has yet to be confirmed. It has something to do with temperatures over a week’s time. Same for autumn.

The fact that we’re still technically in winter in late March/early April is very unusual. This is unseasonable. Since Sweden began making records of the highs-n-lows and other weather related phenomenon, has ice lingered this late in the year.

I haven’t minded though. It might be nice to go riding without layering up, but I’d rather use that extra layer than broil. The warm sun and calm winds with temps in the upper 30’s have been pleasant enough and enjoyable.

Stone with simple knot-work beast.

Stone with simple knot-work beast.

I hope spring sticks round for a while this year and summer is mild. A little more sun than last summer would be nice, but better wet chill than clear and so hot Loke and I hide indoors all season like we did in 2011.

With April 1st spent restfully for Loke and I, I intended we ride on the 2nd. And since Loke insisted on showing off his stamina by being persistently perky after rides over 15 miles, I was going to attempt the Börje/Gamla Uppsala Loop which could give us anything between 18 miles up to 23 if I added River Loop extensions.

Uppland Runestone #1011 - Double Sided

Uppland Runestone #1011 – Double Sided

I haven’t ridden Börje/Gamla Uppsala Loop since last my attempt in March 2012 when I fish-tailed on a patch of black ice, flipped the Trice and broke the seat clamps. At least Loke wasn’t hurt. Baffled, but uninjured. I had some bruises and was stiff for a few days. My helmet was the real casualty since it ricocheted off the road with my head in it. Its sacrifice was appreciated for the safety of my noggin.

Loke seemed moderately interested though he didn’t really perk up until I told him, ‘Move out!’. Then we were off at a brisk pace.

Plans became a uncertain before we’d gone after a half-mile. With the long runs and the frequency we’ve been going out, I decided Loke should wear socks. To make it easier to find them, I stood to dig in the pod-bags. Things were fine until Loke put his head down to sniff, took a firm step forward which pulled the trike forward in spite of the locked rear wheel. The running bar hitting my leg shifted my already uncertain balance backward and I felt myself tipping into a fall on Loke. To catch myself, I had to take a reverse step.

Uppland Runestone #489

Uppland Runestone #489

Loke yelped as my cycle shoe came down on his 3 toed foot.

A flash of horrified panic made me nauseous and I blurted a word inappropriate for public consumption as a guy on a bike went by. Just the thought of damaging that foot terrified me. I was furious at being so careless. I’m sure falling on the furball would have been worse, but still…

Poor fuzzy. Holding his tromped foot up, he hung his head and wiggled his tail as if in shame. He couldn’t know my anger was at my carelessness and domino effect of circumstances. All he could tell was that I was upset and it involved him somehow. So pitifully apologetic.

I gave him a quick reassuring hug and examined his foot. Initially, he tried to pull it away, but after a second didn’t mind me carefully wiggling his toes and flexing the various joints. When I released it, he stood on it with only a little hesitation.

I went back to dealing with the socks, adding tape and such before putting them on him. The idea of him pounding that foot for 18+ miles made me additionally queasy. He still needed a decent outing though.

Uppland Runestone #896

Uppland Runestone #896

Uppland Runestone #943

Uppland Runestone #943

Properly shod, we rolled out slowly. His limping quickly evaporated. It might have been the socks more than lingering pain that he limped at all. He’s had all of winter to become unaccustomed to the velcro, fabric and duck tape torture devices after all. After about a quarter mile, he started pulling and giving me sidelong looks.

Since I still hadn’t decided to scrap the Börje/Gamla Uppsala loop, we skipped the usual River Loop extensions. Yes, I was that worried about his foot.

By the time we reached the crossing at the 272 which would take us out toward Börje, Loke had covered a few miles without even a hint of the unfortunate foot stomping incident. I took a moment to ponder my options.

Uppland Runestone #938

Uppland Runestone #938

The furry one seemed fit enough to continue for another 13 miles. He waited, bright-eyed and wagging his tail in anticipation of moving again. My eyes strayed toward the spires of the cathedral rising from the center of Uppsala. I remembered reading about a number of runestones at a little museum right around the area of the cathedral. Some place a little different, even if more urban than I liked. Not to mention, one of my favorite things… runestones!

Off we went!

Loke’s pace wasn’t much quicker than it had been on the River Loop. Unsurprising since we’ve done the stretch to (or from) the old vicarage along the field loop a few times already this year. When I made an unexpected turn to go down a familiar section of cycle path opposite the direction we generally take it, his head and tail came up a bit more as he quickened his steps. Then when we went straight toward Uppsala Center instead of turning right to the vicarage, he definitely became interested.

Less than 100 yards down, the condition of the road quashed any considerations of swapping the studded tire for a smoother one. A stretch of ice about 50 yards long stretched across the path. It was that most difficult combination of hard frozen where the tire slipped and slush which bogged the wheels. I ended up stuck a moment until Loke understood he needed to help a little more.

Fortunately, there weren’t many spots like that and we made better time.

Uppland Runestone #937

Uppland Runestone #937

In short moments, we were in areas I’d never been. Glimpses of the cathedral steeples or even the coral colored towers of the castle served as beacons. Soon, we emerged on the edge of a very busy, but familiar road.

Ice mounds lined the path, making a bit of a tight squeeze in places. Throw in the fact I wanted to avoid puddles, of which there were many, the way was challenging. Duck tape is pretty amazing, but it tends to be a bit picky about sticking to soggy fabric. Imagine that.

We made it to a traffic light and safe crossing that went by one of the many scattered buildings of Uppsala University. Most of the departments are scattered in a semi-localized area of the city. The Biology based sciences here. Physics half a mile away. I can’t remember exactly which department it was on that corner. The building is quite modern though.

It was quite obvious that classes are in session though. The area was packed with people in their late teens to early 20’s burdened with backpacks. The pair of us collected quite a few stares while trundling through, stopping often to avoid bumping anyone.

Uppland Runestone #939

Uppland Runestone #939

It just about made me crazy. I’m actually quite shy as a person though I’ve adapted to speaking with random people well enough. The interactions with curious people I’ve encountered on my rides are enjoyable. I’ve not even minded the couple times I’ve gotten ‘mobbed’ by groups of children who want to lavish adoration on Loke.

Milling crowds? Those get under my skin. Being in the middle of a dense pack of people, all going in different directions when I’m sitting 3 feet off the ground and trying to roll through is apparently even worse. It definitely had me grinding my teeth and feeling anxious for open air.

The burden of pedestrian on the MUP away from the college building remained heavy and I really wanted to get away from it. Spotting an quiet, soggy little cycle path that led between the college building and an older structure, I went for it. Unpaved, turned to miring mud from the melt water and choked with slush and ice as the cherry on top, it made for hard going. The last 75 meters of so involved pedal mashing up a hill too. That was the beginning of the knee pain.

Uppland Runestone #940

Uppland Runestone #940

The cathedral spires peeked through the trees and over building tops as I pressed onward. Finally, the special green shade of tarnished copper made an appearance prompting a turn. The top of the museum I was looking for has an odd sort of dome in the center, all sheathed in copper. Perched on top of the dome is a special kind of sundial. You can see the dome/sundial just in front of the cathedral in the 2nd photo of this post.

The trike rolled down a lovely slope, carrying me past Helga Trefaldighet’s (Holy Trinity) Church as Loke loped along, socks flopping. We made the turn onto the courtyard like arrangement just before the main University Building (first photo of this post). Which had ‘University Royal Uppsala’ in Latin over the doors. At least I’m guessing that’s what it said. My Latin is…. non-existent. What tiny bit I know, I’ve learned from TV of all places. The rest, I inferred though sometimes, it’s quite obvious what the word is. Uppsalais? Not much of a stretch.

I coasted to a stop just in front of the university building. It was huge and older, though probably quite a bit younger than the founding of the University. I clicked overlapping photos. Turning toward the museum below a small park with a statue in the center, I scanned for runestones. Research on the runestones around the back of the cathedral had told me a few were near the museum.

Uppland Runestone #932 - Triple sided!

Uppland Runestone #932 – Triple sided!

Finally I spotted one. Sitting down and rolling around a sharp hairpin to take to the paths round the statue, I spotted another. Then another. Yet another. They were mostly at the edge of the park area, close to the street. Taking a moment to count them all, I figured out the best, quickest way to loop for photos.

This part of the outing bored Loke. It required him to move a few yards and then stop while I got up from the trike for pictures of stone and sign only to repeat again. Lots of sighing.

Quite a bit of yelping from me. After about the 3rd stone, pain shot through my right knee as I lowered myself to the trike seat. When it did the same for the 4th stone, I almost broke into a sweat as I walked back to the trike after the 5th, knowing the pain waited. After a bit of juggling, I figured out how to balance myself so my left knee took most of the burden, but it gave me warnings that it wouldn’t put up with much more of that. The last 3 stones, I parked and walked. It made me jumpy being that far from my unlocked trike with a husky staring longingly after me, but I didn’t want to aggravate the knees more than I had to. After all, I still had to get us home, preferably without calling Jens.

Inside Helga Trefaldighet's Church - Porch

Inside Helga Trefaldighet’s Church – Porch

Done with the last stone, I flopped back into seat with a sigh of relief.

Inside Helga Trefaldighet's Church - Interior

Inside Helga Trefaldighet’s Church – Interior

I’m not sure why, but instead of heading directly down the hill, past the cathedral and homeward, I climbed my way back up to Helga Trefaldighet’s church. It’s a beautiful church and I love the detail in the old brick work. Maybe I just wanted to admire it again. I forget.

As I cruised past, I noticed the door to the tower entrance was open. I wrestled myself up from the trike to peek in. No lights were on. The walls and arched ceiling were whitewashed and without murals so I sat back down to slowly roll around to the other side. The second entrance, through a brick porch, was also open. There, the beige plaster walls had faded murals that covered the walls and outlined the brick arches. I parked Loke and the trike out of the way and quietly walked in for photos.

Helga Trefaldighets Church - Interior

Helga Trefaldighets Church – Interior

While I was taking overlapping pictures for photomerging, the church door opened and a woman came in. Both of us were quite startled. She offered to turn on a light so I could see the paintings better which I happily accepted. Then I asked if I could take pictures inside the church proper. With a brilliant smile, she cheerfully made me welcome to do so.

When I checked on Loke first she followed out of curiosity. ‘Oooh! He looks like a wolf!’ she breathed in an awed voice at the sight of the furball sitting pretty next to the trike.

I’d seen photos of the inside of the church and they showed a beautifully impressive interior of brick, plaster and murals. Still, the scope and detail of that interior space took my breath as I moved quietly and respectfully through the place, trying to do it justice with my meager photography skills. Thinking of the centuries of history that the murals had seen since their creator/s first laid the first brush stroke of color to pale plaster.

One of Helge Trefaldighet's Stained Glass Windows

One of Helge Trefaldighet’s Stained Glass Windows

I called out softly in thanks to the woman as I collected my things and went back out to Loke. A hum buzzed behind my teeth as we splashed through lots of melt, down a gentle hill to turn down the cobbled road that goes behind the church. We slowed before going through the arch in a building so not to run over pedestrians.

In moments, we were cruising along the cycle lane of the road along the river and on our way home. I was back at our door with 8.67 miles. Barely more than the River Loop with all extensions, but with a wealth of photos that had me grinning.

I counted it a nice boost to the year’s totals!

Oh! A random bit of news! After several years with no puppies, the kennel where Loke was born is expecting a litter in May!

When we visited a couple years ago, the couple told us they were no longer breeding their dogs. The man’s health has been poor (heart, if I don’t misremember) so they had to take things a little easier and raising and training a bunch of hyper though adorable husky pups is a lot of work.

I don’t know what changed their mind, but they’ve announced a coming litter on their website. Maybe they just missed having little ones. They love all their dogs so much, even those who leave them for other homes. I can imagine that after so long, with their dogs getting older, they wanted a new generation.

Yesterday, Jens suggested a visit later this spring so the couple can see Loke and we can get a peek at the puppies. I asked if we could wait until they were 2.5 or 3 weeks old. Open eyes and bumbling about as they learn to play. Just the thought of it makes me go ‘Awwwww!!!!’

Before anyone asks – No, we will not be getting a new husky puppy. Sometimes I feel like I barely survived Loke’s puppy-hood. Not to mention, a puppy would put a serious crimp on the cycling… unless I drag the cutie around in the trailer except for short little runs. Puppies need exercise, yes. Running around in play. Not charging along for miles next to my trike. I wouldn’t subject a young dog to a vigorous outing until he was at least 1.5 years old when I’d be sure all his joints and muscle attachments were matured.

So, no puppy!

Almost Magical
April 1, 2013, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Loke’s toe regenerated overnight! 😀

April Fools! A pretty weak joke, but I had to make a token effort for April 1st.

Easter Sunday started fairly indifferently. I planned to ride, but figured I’d just do a trip around here. Part of my expectation was I’d simply not planned a route and couldn’t think of anything very close. Another reason was not wanting to stress Jens with the chore of driving and waiting by the phone for a ‘Rescue Loke’ call. Granted, if I was going to do the Börje/Gamla Uppsala Loop which I’d not attempted since the fateful day I rolled my Trice, there was still a good chance that Loke might need a pick up.

But being in a somewhat ‘Lazy Sunday’ mood, the hours began dragging past as I amused myself with games.

Jens finally became a little more persistent offering to drive me somewhere. I answered that nothing close-by came to mind. He suggested the area around Rimbo as it had been a while since I was in that area. Seeing that he was going to continue to distract me from my game, I pulled out my maps to look at the place he suggested. Then my eyes strayed a bit further north. Österbybruk.

Jens didn’t really want to drive that far, so I cast my gaze a little further south where I spotted an area I’d not yet ridden with a few churches marked on the map. I started plotting with MapMyRide and soon had 30+ miles laid out. By then it was past 11 am, nearing noon, and I felt that I wouldn’t have enough time. My darling hubby remained stubborn. So, I found myself with the fuzzy one, the trike and hubby in the car heading north.

The trip revealed a few more roads converted into the dreaded ‘carriageways’ forbidden to bikes. Makes me want to rip my hair out. They rarely add cycle paths beside them and on sections where small roads meet them but don’t continue on the other side, you’re pretty much trapped into doubling back. Sometimes, even if a small lane/street did continue over the original non-carriageway road, they don’t make a crossing for it. Those ‘improvements’ could add pointless miles to poor cycle riders like myself. The very problem I had on part of my planned tour between Västerås and Enköping last year which would have required something like 20 extra miles to find a way to the north of the dreaded carriageway. I only solved the problem by making the southern side of the carriageway a day ride.

Tuna Church

Tuna Church

Once on the side roads to the church, the scenery became more interesting and though it was after 1 pm when I’d finished with photographing Tuna Church, looking for runestones as well as I could with a graveyard under 2 feet of snow, and readying the trike, I started to feel a sense of anticipation.

Loke seemed fairly indifferent to the whole thing. He trotted around with Jens, sniffing and marking eagerly enough, but barely looked at the trike. It wasn’t until I sat down and Jens was in the car that he got a little wound up with pulling and woofing.

I loved the detail on the door way.

I loved the detail on the door way.

Then he gave me a shock! Once I gave the pedals a push, my furball bolted past the car to the end of the little and we whipped around the turn at high speed!

That initial burst didn’t last long thanks to a rather steep hill, but after about 150 meters, we turned left into a rather steep decent. Loke ran. Not a lope (10-13 mph) which is like the equivalent of a canter (gentle rocking pace of a horse, a little faster than a trot, but slower than a gallop), but honest running which he’s not done since January with speeds that hit 17.2 mph. Not his full charge exactly, but still! I started laughing and felt nearly dizzy with joy.

Tongue flopping joyfully in a happy husky smile, Loke gave me sidelong looks as we powered down the hill. It was like he was remembering how to say ‘Wheeeeee!’

Those handful of minutes alone were pure, magical bliss. My eyes are tearing up just typing about it.

A Glorious Day With Pretty Views

A Glorious Day With Pretty Views

I’d had doubts about making that left turn near the top of the hill after leaving the church. I’d thought the tiny little road was unpaved which could have meant lots of ice so I’d had a fall back plan to follow the same roads we’d driven for the last 3-4 miles to the church.

A bit of a climb!

A bit of a climb!

It wasn’t needed. Though a little rough and worn, patched in places, it was paved and rather easy going. Astonishingly little ice. The scenery was so worth it as well. Mostly, it was pasture land studded with trees and rocks as the ground rose and fell in hills of varying size and grades. Most of it was gleaming, pure white beneath the snow though brown grasses peeked through in places as the melt marches on. Only in the stretches with the most shade did ice cling onto the pavement. It was thin, weak and patchy though. It barely slowed us and we never lost traction.

There’s character in a landscape of hills, but one pays for it in cost of effort and speed on climbing. The payouts can be good though. Zipping down the backside of those climbs for one and Loke was thrilled with the zipping. Potentially pretty scenery that flat ground is often hard pressed to match for another. Loke was fairly indifferent to that except for searching for critters. We didn’t see any, but the area was thick with woodpeckers. One spot I stopped for photos, I could hear 4 or 5 of them drumming on the scattered trees.

Making this ride extra special was, Loke being his helpful self. Instead of a bare quarter inch of pulled out tether, an inch or more of the grease blackened cord was often visible as beautiful furry one leaned into his harness. Between my care toward my knees and his pulling, the hills felt almost easy. Slow still, but not as much as they could have been.

No clue what that is next to the little building

No clue what that is next to the little building

I was enjoying my surroundings so much, trying to look everywhere at once, that I nearly missed something. After greeting a pair of women walking along, I noticed a small wooden shack with something odd and obviously old parked next to it. By the time I saw it, a bunch of leaf-bare undergrowth was sticking up twiggy branches all over the place, so I turned the trike around to find a better angle.

After snapping a few photos, I stared at the boxy, wheeled contraption for a few minutes. I thought maybe an early hay-baler? A horse-drawn fire wagon? Which ever, it does look to me that horses would have been required to move it.

Such a pretty day in a pretty place.

Such a pretty day in a pretty place.

As we briskly moved through the countryside, pausing only for me to click photos and offer Loke water, I realized it was quite warm. Especially for my thick, ‘bullet proof’ wool thermal pants. My upper body was fine as I’d pulled off my pink cycle shirt to change the 200 g weight wool shirt for a thinner one. I wasn’t about to try the same with my legs. A sturdy, well-covering sport bra is one thing. I’m not about to show my panties to the world, especially if I’m in them.

They'll be getting clipped soon! Lambing too!

They’ll be getting clipped soon! Lambing too!

A little further on, Loke had a moment of excitement when we passed a small flock of sheep. I’m guessing they were ewes waiting to drop their lambs and get their annual shearing. They definitely needed the shearing! They looked a bit like dirty cotton balls with legs and heads.

Loke made them understandably nervous, particularly since he was hopping at the end of the tether and whining. I had to wait a bit before one of them finally turned to look at me. I wanted at least one sheep face in the photo and not just a bunch of fleecy butts.

Speaking of fleecy butts, I need to replace the sheep skin I use on my trike seat in the winter. After 6 – 7 years it’s become downright tatty.

At nearly 3 miles, Loke still was going strong. On the down grades, he alternated between a fast lope or a moderate run. His basic traveling jog on the flats was 7.8 mph up to 8.1 mph. That’s quite close to what he was doing in January. Best of all, no limping or hitching and he wanted to keep going. Every time I stopped for more than offering him a quick gulp of water, he’d yodel and stamp his feet at me.

Not far after the sheep, I heard a bright, clear ‘Ding! Ding!’ carried on a brief, soft gust of wind. Puzzled, I stopped to look for a someone on a bike ringing their bell, but it was just me, Loke and distant birdsong. Going on, I noticed a something perched atop a boulder sitting in the field. It was black and seemed to be the sort of thing used to measure wind-speed on a weather reporting station.

How unusual!

How unusual!

It sat as still the air as I moved out again. Another soft breeze passed through the field and the cups caught the wind. ‘Ding! Ding! Ding!’ It wasn’t for measuring wind speed! It was an odd sort of wind chime!

It’s hard to see it in the photo since I didn’t walk through the snow for a closer image and my telephoto lens was at home. But beneath the wind cups, is a ring hung with little metal pendulums like the clappers found inside bells. Lower down, the bells are position on another fixed ring. When the wind spins the cups, the pendulums whirl on their ring, swinging out to hit the bells as they pass. Why is it on a boulder in the middle of a field? Who knows. Maybe to bring a smile to people’s faces. I certainly had a grin.

Can a March day in Sweden get any better than this?? Nope!! :D

Can a March day in Sweden get any better than this?? Nope!! 😀

Too soon that little, surprisingly paved road came to an end at one slightly larger. Instead of farmhouses, pastures, fields and barns, clustered residential with small yards lined the street. The condition of the pavement was smooth as silk which made for great rolling. Loke took shameless advantage of it to pull us faster. He got that grin again as he loped along at 13 mph. It was barely half a mile before it took a sharp north curve to join the 288.

The 288 is one of those ‘not fun’ roads. It’s rather busy while lacking a proper shoulder. Fortunately, on an Easter Sunday there was less traffic than usual. Also, it was only about 350 yards to our turn.

A different road, different landscape

A different road, different landscape

Sneaksy Ice

Sneaksy Ice

Right away, it was obvious the landscape this road wound through was significantly different from the first one. More enclosed for one thing. Though the hilly fields I’d just come through were beautiful, it was nice to be out of the sun as warm as I felt. Loke seemed to appreciate it as well. At times, I could see his breath clouding in the still air though mine wasn’t. He was that warm. No wonder he was gulping down water every mile or so. I started to worry if I’d have enough to last for the duration he was with me. Granted, if Jens came for him, I’d probably end the ride as well. Better that then to make Jens do 30-40 minute drive again just to pick me up and it was much too far to cycle home from the area without making an over-nighter.

Thicker, slushy and more ice. Uuugh!

Thicker, slushy and more ice. Uuugh!

Finally! Something other than icy roads and trees to photo!

Finally! Something other than icy roads and trees to photo!

By the 2nd mile after crossing the 288, I discovered this road, though larger and likely more trafficked, had more ice. The abundance of it crept up on me though. A patch here, a patch there. Then a few more. Within miles, most of the road had ice except for tire ruts worn into the pavement though in place it was completely hiding the asphalt. It bogged the trike down and slowed us more than all but the steepest of hills. It wasn’t helped any that walking on the crunchy stuff bothered Loke’s feet, kinda like if I were to try walking on a gravel road barefoot. I tried putting socks on him but they were older, ill fitting ones that came off once they got soggy. So, where I could, I gave Loke the tire ruts to the pavement and chewed my way through the ice. I definitely got my exercise even with Loke’s help.

I guess it must have been the denser shade due to the forest the road traversed. It did seem odd that the further north I went, the more ice there was, thicker and often harder. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the concept of ‘colder to the north’ unless one is in southern hemisphere. I just think in terms of ‘100 miles or further north there’s more ice’ or even at a significantly higher elevation. 5 or 10 miles with the ups and downs averaging out? That seems too little for a significant climate difference.

Loke seemed to appreciate all the shade though. He’d started to slow a bit just before we crossed the 288, but after about a mile in mostly shady conditions, he was pulling and keeping a good clip once more. Also started drinking a less water.

The woods held a fascination for him as well. I think at least twice he saw something back in the trees. Perhaps deer or even moose though most likely hares. He doesn’t tend to make leaping jumps to the left other wise, always resulting in the tether yanking him short and my torso/upper legs getting stomped on. Muddy and wet foot prints on Lycra! Yay! I didn’t see anything either time.

Morkarla (not Morloc) Church

Morkarla (not Morloc) Church

It was around 14 miles when I spotted the belfry of the next church. Morkarla. First glance at that name, I read it as Morlocs as in the Eloi eating humanoid mutants in the book ‘The Time Machine’ by Jules Verne.

When I saw the church proper, I was enchanted. One of my favorite churches closer to Uppsala is one in a tiny place called Jumkil I’ve ridden past that one once, twice at the most. It’s about the size as Morkarla and also has bare walls of beautiful field stones. I don’t know why, but I find it visually appealing and charming.

Morkarla Church's Belfry

Morkarla Church’s Belfry

I pulled in behind the church where the trike would be out of sight of the road thanks to the snow mounds. It also happened to be right next to the little outbuilding with the bathroom. It was unlocked! Perfect timing too. Mother Nature was just starting to clear her throat in preparation of calling.

As I returned to the trike with camera in hand, it occurred to me that the last few rides have been wonderfully undisturbed by desperate need for bathrooms or hidden nooks behind roadside shrubbery. Even the last 2 which have been some distance from home. It’s been wonderful!

Also the last 3 or 4 rides I’ve felt marvelous. Breathing easy, no random body pains. The occasional twinge in the knee when I try pushing in too high a gear, particularly up hills, but that’s nothing! On these outings, I’ve felt pretty d*mn good in my own skin. That knowledge bubbling to the surface was nearly as magical as the tentative return of my husky.

I strolled around the church outside the wall. Loke bounded around joyfully through the crispy snow. Every now and again, he’d fling himself down to roll and thrash in the unfluffy white stuff. It was hilarious to watch him shove his face down into it and run, chunks of porous ice flying.

After making a cursory search for runstones (too much knee-deep snow for anything more thorough) and taking photos, I returned to the trike to examine my maps. The route I’d plotted would take me a little east then back south for roughly 13 miles toward Alunda and beyond. I didn’t have much daylight left though, just a couple hours. I might have been able to make it if I rushed. Rushing myself is one thing, pushing Loke is another. I don’t like doing it and wouldn’t want to get accustomed to it. It could hurt him by making me overlook indications he needed to stop or slow down. Much better to let him set the pace.

Österbybruk on the other hand was within reach even if Loke slowed to the pokey amble he was doing a couple weeks ago. Not to mention there’s a manor house. I put the maps away and took off into the uncharted frontier.

Loke was as thrilled to move out as he had back at Tuna Church. To help get us out of the boggy ice of the driveway, he pulled so hard he was hopping on his hind legs. Once on the road, we streaked off at nearly 16 mph. It was still thickly shadowed by forestland pressing along the pavement’s edges. With the lower sun and shade, I became glad of my thick wool leggings and pulled the thick wool shirt back on as well.

Breathtaking Beauty!

Breathtaking Beauty!

Occasionally, the forest broke to give brief glimpses of fields and pasture and paddocks for horses. The first paddocks I came across had almost a dozen horses in two fenced sections. I stopped to admire them and abruptly fell head-over-heels in love.

Of all the horses there, only one approached. She came slowly with only a faint touch of wariness. A few steps, pause while swinging her head to cast about for our scent with deep inhalations of breath, repeat. Finally she was up to the fence.

What I could see of her coat was short, sleek and glossy. No winter fuzz on her! Except for a thin reverse ‘c’ shaped line on brow and two short white socks on her hind feet, she was beautifully dark. Head, neck and front legs were nearly as black as obsidian. Higher up on her hind legs, the black gave way for a hint of brown like very dark, bittersweet chocolate. I would have loved to see her without the blanket.

I loved the shape of her head and the lines of her legs. Even the curves of her pricked ears left me completely smitten. I noticed when she swung her head to the left that a ragged line of white hair ran 3/4 the length of her face nearly to the corner of her mouth. If I’d been in the states, I’d say she had a run-in with barbed wire that left a nasty wound, but barbed wire is rarely used here in Sweden and I’ve never seen it near horses. Always electric. So, I’m guessing she gashed it on a broken piece of wood or a nail sticking out. It was old, long healed so the only sign anything had happened was white hair growing in the scar. I thought it added to her already considerable charm.

If not for the press of time, I could have sat with her longer. Reluctantly and regretfully, I left her.

Awww! Too Cute!

Awww! Too Cute!

Just around the curve, I stopped again to take a memento of a pair of cuties. I’m not sure what breed of pony, but they are adorable. One was timid of us and the other indifferent so no close up view of them like the black mare.

Loke was quite impatient with all these stops for me to ‘awww’ and gush over the horses. Once he was done watching to see what they would do, he sighed impatiently, stamped his feet and woofed at me. I love him to bits and thrilled that he’s getting back to normal, but he can be such a bully at times. Not to mention, he’s cuter than those ponies.

Ahh! Open Vistas!

Ahh! Open Vistas!

It didn’t last long, but I enjoyed the reprieve from the murky shadows. It gave me a chance to warm up a little.

Housing for the 'factory' workers and families.

Housing for the ‘factory’ workers and families.

The trees closed in before the last mile to the next road. It was a larger and busier one, but not as bad as the 288. We only needed to do about half a mile to the Österbybruk turn. That was a mostly quiet lane and the sights began almost right away with a white ‘row’ cottage with the back windows right at the road side.

I slowed Loke down while I craned around to see everything at once. The pretty clock tower appeared and we turned past it to roll up and through the gates into the courtyard before the manor house.

Österbybruk's Manor

Österbybruk’s Manor

It’s a rather pretty house with quite a bit in common with other places I’ve seen. Not much info on the house or area other than the fact it was the site of an ironworks. Its products were highly sought after in England.

Vallon Smithy

Vallon Smithy

I finished with the photos of the manor and began to shiver. Ice was already starting to form skin on the few melt puddles. Quite a change from the earlier warmth. Hunger also gnawed deep in my gut. It’s unusual that I feel hungry on longer rides, but the burger I’d had for lunch and the banana a couple hours later were long burned off. A headache was splitting my skull apart as well. Hunger I thought. Later I added potential snow glare to the suspects. Even with sunglasses the glare from the snow was fairly harsh. Pretty though.

Clock Tower & Statue... with a scarf!

Clock Tower & Statue… with a scarf!

I dug for my gloves and rang Jens for pick up. He said it would be about 40 minutes. I decided to explore around. I pedaled around the corner from the manor. Three women stood in the doorway of a section of a building converted into a little cafe. One of the women wore period garments. A long, full skirt, peasant style blouse and a shawl.

I brightened at the thought of hot chocolate or food. I asked if they were closing, but no. They warmly invited me to come buy something. I almost pulled myself out of the trike… then remembered my wallet was back home. I usually carry cash tucked somewhere, but seeing as I’d just begun doing longer rides for the year, I’d not yet begun the habit. Disappointment.

As I moved on, one of the women said I had such a cool bike.

I finished up in that section and rolled down toward the smithy. Still shivering, I took the photos of that before turning my attention to the clock tower. It gave me a closer look at the statue of what appeared to an iron worker. The scarf someone had draped around his neck was not the only unusual thing about it. Seemed he had been cut and carved from the lower 6-7 feet of a tree trunk. I didn’t wade through the snow to be sure it was actually wood. Neat if so! Creative use of a cut tree and much more attractive than a flat stump cluttering the scenery.

I went a little further, making sure I’d found everything I wanted to photo. As I settled in Loke lunged against his lead, yodeling and hopping to get us moving. You’d think he was taking off for the first mile not moving on at mile 17 after long, slow recovery from surgery!

We rolled around another section, but found nothing more so I headed back toward the manor where Jens would have an easier time finding us. I stopped short though. I wanted to sit in sun and the area around the manor was in the shadow of coming twilight. Near a bit of large, iron industrial equipment set up as a monument where some sunlight still reached.

Loke didn’t want to stop. He waited patiently for a few minutes, followed by sighing. Then came the paw tapping. He tried pulling, but since he was unclipped, all he did was pull my arm. He yodeled and even pawed at me. 19.33 miles making the longest outing since October 2012 (20+ miles), at the fastest speeds he’d done since January and he wanted more. I laughed and hugged him. That changed him from bullying to cuddly, trying to get his muddy self in my lap. Yeech!

A very good day with magical moments. I’m so glad I let Jens talk me into it.