Terii’s Cycling Babble


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.

Crocus!

Crocus!

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.

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