Terii’s Cycling Babble

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

Loke’s toe regenerated overnight! ūüėÄ

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 B√∂rje/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. √Ėsterbybruk.

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 V√§ster√•s and Enk√∂ping 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!! ūüėÄ

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.

√Ėsterbybruk 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 √Ėsterbybruk 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.

√Ėsterbybruk's Manor

√Ėsterbybruk’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.

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