Terii’s Cycling Babble

Slow Start to May
May 17, 2013, 7:21 am
Filed under: Day Rides

May is half over and what do I have to show for it? 3 rides. Ah well.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for riding. The weather has been somewhat uncooperative. Not that I should let it stop me too much, but given that I toyed with the idea of going to the hospital a few times, it did. I managed to drag myself out for 4.98 miles on the 2nd before surrendering myself to being unwell for a few days.

That was hotly followed by taking the trike to Stockholm. The gears were a little sloppy since I’d managed to give the rear derailleur a knock when I got stuck in the watery crack over a frozen puddle during the thaw. I also wanted the cable oilers installed so that last winter’s gear freezing might happen less. Unfortunately, during the spring everyone is buying bikes which need to be assembled or, like me, getting one serviced to hit the ground spinning for the warm weather. So, though I’d called to set up a day for it, the soonest they had still was going to take a week and that was only if I brought it in and left it.

That was my only option really, so it’s what I did… after I spent almost 45 minutes in titanic struggle to change the studded tire for my summer one. That delightful task had me about to rip my hair out. I thought the Trice’s rear wheel was difficult to get on and off?? I should have just let the guys at the shop do it. But then, I need to get used to it or if I ever get a rear flat I’m in serious trouble. That fun was joined by the long drive to Stockholm. It’s roughly 90 km to the shop from our apartment. The first 60-70 breezes by no problem. The last 20-30 is what can take ages, creeping through Stockholm’s insane traffic aggravated by road construction everywhere.

Around 3 pm the following Monday (the 13th) I got the call the trike was done. The plan had been to get it Tuesday, but since Jens was home sick, it was easy enough to jump into the car and set off though I felt a little under-the-whether as well, fighting the cold my hubby had.

The cycle shop was a mad-house. Packed to the rafters with people, the tiny parking lot crammed with cars, men and children doing loops on bikes in what little space remained. So, when the guy who checked me out asked if I wanted to test ride it, I told him I’m sure it was fine.

*sigh* It wasn’t as I found out on the 14th. The gears bounced around like one of those super balls loosed from a sling shot. As close to being unride-able as it could be yet still move via pedal power. We did 5.88 miles, but that was mostly because Loke did 75% of the work. He’s been going crazy and turning into a huge pest with so little exercise. Jens sick, me without the trike and sick too. He’s even been harassing us at night and at 3 am a few times. So, bad gears or not, I was hoping to get a little peace if the furball got to move.

5.88 miles might as well have been a month of enforced cage rest to him. It just seemed to whet his appetite and left him crazier than before.

I called the shop immediately and explained. Eddie (I think that’s his name) was surprised and extremely apologetic. He knows I’m in Uppsala, so how much an effort it is to reach the shop. He told me when I could get it back in he’d see to it right away. Jens coughed and wheezed his concern about me driving so far while I was feeling less than spritely myself. I wanted to get it over with, so off I went.

Eddie came out as soon as I arrived. We worked on the trike outside, the only space available. He shifted a few times, ‘Loose cable. I’m so sorry!’ It just astounds me that he could tell that from a few shifts. Given that there’s like 3 different places to fiddle with tensions and angles and the like. He loosed it at the derailleur, re-set it and tried it again. Flawless. I plopped down and took a quick spin. Yep. Flawless.

He helped me load the Sprint back into the car and then gave me 20″ and 26″ tubes for free for my inconvenience along a with even more apologies.

Yesterday, I finally planned for a real ride rather than River Loop plodding. The first one of May. A runestone hunt not far to the west and bit south. The unstable weather we’ve been having finally seemed to crystallize into clear skies which made me a little more enthusiastic. Getting the maps done with runestones marked and the like seemed to take forever and I started to stress about the time. Abruptly, Jens offered, ‘I’ll drive you. That way you don’t have to stress about doing a full loop if you’re worried about the time you’ll have before dark.’

I thought that so very sweet and took him up on it. It took a huge weight off particularly since I wasn’t sure how Loke, the trike and I might hold up.

Örsundsbro was only about 25 minutes away. We found a place in town which Google had said was a modern church, but it looked more like a youth center or something. No matter, it had a nice sized parking lot, quiet with lots of space needed for assembling the trike. I pulled everything out of the car straight away for Jens to get back home to nurse his lingering cold and make work calls.

I had just started loading the panniers and putting on the flag when a man walked over, dressed in work clothes.

‘Nice! It looks fun! What’s it called?’ he asked in Swedish.

I answered in Swedish, ‘It is called a ‘recumbent trike’ in English. I don’t know what to call it in Swedish.’

He swapped to English, ‘American?’

We had a nice chat as I readied, mostly about the trike which he seemed quite curious about. How many gears, how much recumbents cost, how fast it could go. Wasn’t the dog a Siberian husky and did he run often or far? What part of the US was I from? When he heard that I’d been in Sweden for 8 years, he went back to speaking Swedish, laughing as we discussed how often and quickly people change to English when they hear me because they want to practice it, one reason my Swedish is still so bad. As I picked up the cycle shoes to swap from the Five Fingers he wished me a good ride and returned to his lawn work.

Loke didn’t yap or yodel, but we were off like a shot as soon as I loosed the brake. His big husky smile and flopping tongue seemed to yell, ‘Freedom!’

We breezed through Örsundsbro beneath a warm sun and faintly cool air. Small as the village is, the countryside soon surrounded us.

Green Trees!

Green Trees!

Spring was all around. A week or so ago, the trees finally burst into leaf. That’s exactly how it seems to happen. One day, the deciduous trees are winter bare, the beginning buds of their leaves only visible when seen closely. Wake up the next and every tree and woody shrub has clothed itself in pale yellow-green over night. It’s as if they hold a count-down and unfurl the leaves in a universal flourish. It makes me smile every year.

Stone Building & Field

Stone Building & Field

As you can see in the photo, the clear blue skies I’d unloaded the trike beneath was being crowded by encroaching clouds. Part of me was a little disappointed. The warm sun had been glorious and the temperature not too hot or too cold for riding. Loke, eternally in his parka, was a bit on the hot side though. Within 10 minutes of starting, I had already wet down his ears and he didn’t mind. He even leaned into me while I massaged the moisture into the fur. For his sake, I wasn’t unhappy to see the clouds though the concern that it might mean rain hovered in the back of my thoughts.

There were tractors everywhere as I took an alternative route toward the location of the first runestone. I had my doubts about being able to find it. The on-line database indicated that it was somewhere on a ridge covered with trees and only a fragment. Hidden like that could mean it hadn’t been maintained at all, so possibly weathered and moss covered while tumbled among unaltered rocks. Add in trees and possible undergrowth, I could probably step over it and never know. Still, I decided I’d make a token effort at least.

The lane I thought would take me under the carriageway of the 55 did nothing of the sort. It turned into a track with the twin dirt tire ruts studded with embedded stones, some as large as my head, separated with a ridge of grass. I discovered with dismay that it went across the carriageway. It seems it must be used as an offical crossing at some point though because the posts and cables that usually separate the lanes had a gap constructed there. Traffic wasn’t heavy, so Loke and I didn’t even have to wait.

We bumped on and soon I made the tentative turn toward the Uppland Runestone #810. It felt a bit intrusive. The gravel path had the feeling of someone’s country driveway, cluttered with old rusting cars, kid’s tricycles, metal barrels and more. I even saw an old wagon wheel, little more than a few rotting wooden spokes ringed with the pitted and flaking iron band which would have held the whole thing together.

I pulled the trike off the path next to the wheel and looked up the gentle hill mantled in trees and bracken. The undergrowth wasn’t too bad, so I locked the trike and set off. Loke was thrilled. He bound joyfully through the trees, sniffing and marking while I zigged and zagged with the print out of the satellite view of the hill and GPS in an attempt to narrow down the location. No luck. None of the rocks there leaped out yelling, ‘I’m a runestone!’

Bumping down the dirt road toward the first medieval church of the day gave Loke a few moments of excitement. He missed one episode though. I’d stopped to give him a little water to wash dust down raised by the tractor raking the field next to us. He lapped a little and then started sniffing furiously in the grass. Right then, only about 50 feet away, a hare jumped out of the ditch and streaked off across the freshly turned dirt. Loke never saw it.

The furball looked up when I laughed and then turned away. Something caught his attention. I saw nothing as I took a few swallows of water, but Loke was intensity personified.  As soon as the trike started forward, a second hare about 100 feet further down, broke from cover. Instead of haring (haha) across the field like the first one, it zipped down the road. Loke pulled like mad, me laughing as I steered to avoid the worst rocks, while the hare zig-zagged along for over 100 yards before finally cutting sharply right. Each bound he made left little puffs of dust.

Fröslunda Church

Fröslunda Church

The mad race after the bunny energized Loke into a lope he was happy to maintain, so I thumped along. It definitely shorted the time to Fröslunda Church.

This church is an ‘old acquaintance’ as it were. Way back from my first few posts as a matter of fact. Back then, I’d only stopped for a minute or so to snap a sloppy picture with my small point-n-click before pedaling on. This time I was going to stop. Coming from the south this time instead of the west was perfect. A small gravel drive led to a large parking area ringed with grass where I could comfortably leave Loke with the trike and a bowl of water.

No luck with Uppland’s Runestones #806 & #807 either. #806 is a small fragment which I think is hiding somewhere in the churchyard. It remained hidden in spite of the two careful loops I made, once close around the church and the next closer to the stone wall where it might have been embedded. It’s so small a piece the translation is only a few letters, not even a full word. #807, also a small fragment with ‘his’ and most of another word which might be ‘soul’, but it was hidden in the porch of the church. Locked of course. Ah well. The day’s runestone hunt was not beginning well.

Can't remember slopes like this since Cornwall. :P

Can’t remember slopes like this since Cornwall. 😛

Returning to paved roads was blissful. The Sprint’s wheels hummed along, Loke’s paws clicked on the pavement as he loped with his tether squeaking cheerfully. Well, that’s what happened on the rare moments I wasn’t chewing up hills any way. I felt a bit peeved that my legs seemed weak. Granted, there did seem to be quite a bit of up, but I didn’t think quite enough to explain how I felt. Then I looked at my Garmin’s altitude graph.

It says I’ve only climbed 140 feet total on the ride, but it’s showing nearly 120 feet over a mile there. I’m not all together convinced of its accuracy either. There have been times where I’ve ground my way up a hill and watched ‘Total Ascent’ change by 1. Look back down the hill and I know it’s higher than 1 foot from base to crown. Unless there’s some vague definition about ‘Total Ascent’ I don’t know about. ‘Highest point reached from start of ride’ rather than ‘total distance spent exerting up climbs’? That doesn’t seem right either. I’m riding in a moderately hilly region (compared to pancake flat Mississippi Gulf Coast), nothing mountainous. So I can’t imagine that the rare occasions ‘Total Ascent’ reads 300+, I was sitting nearly as high as the steeples of Uppsala Cathedral somewhere during a 20-30 mile loop. That would be rather obvious, I think.

Green! Green, I say!

Green! Green, I say!

But even pushing along, ever upward, I was still enjoying the day. There was no rain and the gray clouds couldn’t detract from the beauty of spring green leaves and the small white flowers that seemed to be everywhere. Loke was beside me, strong and healthy.

I really liked this pine tree

I really liked this pine tree

After the incident where he gobbled up cereal, he did actually have an episode with infection between his toes 4 days after his snack. Did I mention that? I can’t remember, but didn’t see any word of it glancing back over the last couple posts. I caught it early since I was looking for it so no real harm done other than torturing the furball with the iodine scrubbing and ointment. He also started developing an infection in his ears a couple days after that, but I quickly stomped on that as well. If ever proof was needed that grains trigger Loke’s immune system crashes, there it was.

Thar be grouse on that thar hill

Thar be grouse on that thar hill

About an hour and a half had passed since Jens had dropped me off. I stopped to make a check-in call and water Loke. As I pulled the iPhone out of the handlebar bag, I heard a very strange and distinctive noise. A sort of cross between someone trying to slam a car into a wrong gear at high speed combined with a chicken’s cluck and odd resonance thrown in. It came from a hill across a pasture with hummocks of grass, bracken and a few scraggly pines. I recognized the sound from watching a near endless parade of nature shows. Grouse.

I could have been mistaken as I didn’t think grouse lived in the area. I called Jens and after the ‘We’re fine’, I asked, ‘Do grouse live in this area?’ My hubby answered yes. They aren’t very common and rarely seen, but they are around. So, it seemed I was probably correct. As I put the phone away, I heard the call again. Then from a near identical hill across the road and another pasture, came an answer. The place was positively rife with grouse!

Uppland's Runestone #808

Uppland’s Runestone #808

From Grouse Hills it was a nice glide on a downgrade. Most welcome. It also took me to the first successfully located runestone of the day! Uppsala Runestone #808.

The stone is hard to miss. It sits at the road edge and this is the picture from the first time I found it. The light was better then. Years have changed the ground it sits more than I expected. A bunch of scrubby brush has been allowed to crowd it. Could hardly see the standing stone behind it and the one to the left of the frame was completely obscured by tangled, twiggy branches. Only a vague outline hinted that it was there. The paint on the carving was bright and fresh though!

I kept a close watch on the clouds while the miles passed. They didn’t intensify though the cover was solid enough the sun rarely made an appearance. Loke was more comfortable, wanting less water and moving faster. As long as it didn’t rain, I had no complaints.

Through the trees

Through the trees

Along the distance between the runestone and the next church, the scenery closed in. Fields were replaced with a patch of forest. A nice change. Wide stretches of gray dirt gets tedious after a time, even when surrounded by trees in the first blush of spring.

Loke, Sprint 26 & Wonky Buildings

Loke, Sprint 26 & Wonky Buildings

Långtora Church was in easy view when I came on a collection of old buildings which caught my curiosity. The gravel track to and between them didn’t really have the feel of a driveway, so I took it. I found no descriptive signs around them, so no idea of their age. Quite old though, if the way some of them stand out-of-kilter is any indication.

Långtora Kyrka

Långtora Kyrka

Arriving at Långtora, I pedaled around a thick hedge where a pair of picnic tables sat. Nice lush grass, recently mowed, made a good spot to tether Loke near his water dish. If nothing else, a comfy spot for him to lay down while I did my stroll.

Uppland's Runestone #800

Uppland’s Runestone #800

It’s been a long time since I’d been here. I began a ride here once back in the first couple months of beginning to blog my rides. I had no idea a pair of runestones crouched to either side of the porch door of the church. Back then, I didn’t actively look for runestones, not more than glancing around as I pedaled or stood outside the low stone walls of churchyards photographing the lovely medieval buildings. If they didn’t leap out at me from the roadside, I didn’t find them.

Uppsala Runestone #802

Uppsala Runestone #802

I think blogging changed that. It gives me a way to better ‘catalog’ the runestones I find. And the churchs, burial grounds, castles, ruins. The history I pedal across. I really have learned a surprising amount of history and I love it. Obviously or I wouldn’t have started walking around churches quite so much to look for them or trek across open fields. Granted, field stomping began just this year in earnest.

There are two more runestones in the porch of the church, sadly locked. Uppland Runestone #799 is set into the porch floor, I think, as the inscription translated on the on-line database reads, ‘Thomas lies under this stone. Ulfheoinn wards him (ie made the gravestone). Johan of Brunnar, he carved these runes.’ I would have liked to see that one. It would have been the first runestone I’ve come across dating from the 1200’s instead of 900-1100 AD as most of them seem to.

It strikes me odd how the time of runestones was so brief. A scant 200 years or so. Maybe it feels strange simply because of how enduring the stones have been though the creation period was short.

The other runestone is cataloged as ‘U Fv1955;222’. So, it was found in 1955 if I had to guess. It appears to have no inscription, just ornamental design described as a ‘ship, man figure and a cross’. That one would have been interesting as well.

I went back to Loke who was wallowing around in the grass. He stood up and wagged his tail when he saw me. He wouldn’t have if he’d known what was coming. Socks! I tempered the torment of putting them on him with tasty (to him) bits of duck jerky. The furball will put up with just about anything if it involves a treat.

Uppland's Runestones #801

Uppland’s Runestones #801

I’ve noticed that since his surgery, Loke’s front feet seem to have gotten a bit… thicker. The sock pattern which I’d finally tailored to fit him well now seem to be a bit on the small side. They don’t bother him once they’re in place, but it’s more difficult to wrestle them on. I may have to change the pattern by a quarter inch or so.

Before setting out again, I took a moment to look at my maps. Glad I did or I would have missed Uppland Runestone #801! It was back near the place of the crooked buildings which turns out to be Långtora Church’s vicarage.

Loke ran down the stone-strewn lane from Långtora Chruch back to the paved road more briskly thanks to the socks. He was a little confused when I turned us back the way we’d come and then up and around the vicarage drive again.

I found Uppland Runestone #801, though I was hesitant to identify it as such. I’m used to the stones being fairly ragged looking, irregular edges and lumpy surfaces even where ‘smoothed’ for the inscription. This one was right angles all around except for a little weathering at the corners. On the database, it says ‘date unspecified’, so maybe this one is from a later period given how finally dressed the rock is. Perhaps it dates from the 1200’s like U #799?

The next runestone was a short hop away. At least the place to stop for it was. I was parking the trike in a patch of packed grass to corner of where a barn’s driveway and dirt road met in less than 4 minutes from leaving the vicarage.

Way over there! Zoomed in photo btw.

Way over there! Zoomed in photo btw.

Across a freshly raked field, I could easily see my goal. It stood proudly on a tiny patch of grass surrounded by a sea of dusty gray earth. The clouds the tractors had been stirring up made me confident the field wasn’t going to be muddy so I made the change to my Five Finger shoes for the walk. Loke was so excited when I put him on the leash. I think he was expecting another fun, tree-tangled walk like the first runestone stop.

His disappointment was almost comical. As I walked down tractor access to the field, he bounced and romped, wallowing in the grass, sniffing and marking. Then he frolicked out into the open, swerved sharply to the left toward the grassy field edge until the leash yanked him short. I tugged, but nothing happened so I looked back.

From the full 8 meter length of the leash, Loke looked from the barren field to me, then to the trees and grass with a hopeful tail-wag. ‘Come on!’ I told him.

He stared at me a moment longer and then across the field, his tail slowly drooped. I couldn’t help but laugh. With the decent of that white plume of fur, my mind supplied a kid’s disappointed, ‘Awwww!’ as if finding out they’re having brussel sprouts for dinner instead of pizza. Sighing, head slightly down he started walking toward me.

The fuzzy one made no bones about how boring he found the field. He didn’t so much as sniff a chunk of dirt. I took the walk slow as the terrain was a little difficult, so he’d stop from time to time to stare off longingly at distant greenery. I can’t recall Loke ever being that apathetic about a walk.

Uppland Runestone #803

Uppland Runestone #803

By the time we were close enough to Uppland Runestone #803 that he could reach it at the end of his leash, Loke bolted for it. He rolled and thrashed in the narrow band of grass, he ran a sniffing circle around the rock and then went back the other way when the leash pulled tight. He was so happy to have something (anything!) to sniff and mark.

The stone was quite weathered and the lichen and moss hid most of worn carvings on its surface. I could only see a faint shadow of them toward the bottom. I took my picture and let Loke amuse himself in the grass, giving the stone an affectionate pat.

When plotting on a map where the stones are to be found, I’ve learned to take care and read the database entries. Sometimes the stones have been moved to museums which would make looking for them futile. Apparently, this one is in ‘place of origin’. I liked that. The idea that for 1000 years, this stone some man had arrogantly put up in his own memory, might have faced the changing world, standing strong just as it had been erected with freshly carved runes. It might be weathered and showing its age with a patina of lichen, yet Ulv’s name is still known even if nothing else about the man is. He got what he wanted, near immortality of his name.

I was glad I’d put the socks on Loke when I did. The road we’d taken after leaving the vicarage the second time was well strewn with rocks. Loke would have ended up with stone bruises no matter what part of the road I cycled on. Not even the grassy verge was clear of them.

More Spring Scenery

More Spring Scenery

Gotta Love Country Roads

Gotta Love Country Roads

But thanks to the socks, we were able to keep a pretty good clip even if it threatened to rattle my teeth from their sockets. I never knew how much a little round knob of rubber behind the seat of my Trice helped ‘suspend’ bumps until getting the hardtail Sprint. In spite of that, the Sprint is wonderful for it’s ability to keep the derailleur from harm.

Ambling along, I’d just spotted a cluster of buildings tucked between road and trees and identified them as a glider plane ‘club house’, when the third hare of the day jumped into view. Like most of them, it too took off down the road and Loke leapt into pursuit. I braced myself for the hard jolts and kept an eye on Loke’s socks to make sure he didn’t pull them off his feet. He was dragging that powerfully. Finally the long-eared critter cut left, leaping high and long to clear the slope and small ditch between road and a freshly raked field. I’m glad I expected it to go for the open ground where it could use speed to advantage instead of trees and thickets for cover. Otherwise, Loke would have been stomping all over my legs and torso. I had a hand out to block him, kept us going straight down the rocky road though he craned his neck after the hare.

During the rough ride on the dirt road, the gray began to break up. Sunlight streaming through the openings in cloud cover became more frequent as did the views of blue skies. It was roughly 4 pm by that time so the sun didn’t feel quite so hot and Loke’s interest in water remained brief with each offering. I felt no need to keep his ears dampened.

Uppland Runestone #804

Uppland Runestone #804

As tired as I was getting from the hard going over the stones, the sunshine helped raise my spirits and energy. Finding the next runestone was an even bigger help.

Uppland Runestone #804 was huge. I found online info which states it stands 4 meters high (over 12 feet) and weighs 11 metric tons making it much bigger than the 9+ foot tall U #455 I found on the ride around Odensala at the end of April. Somehow though, U #455 seemed much more impressive. Maybe it’s because that one was so much narrower and almost precarious.

Loke stayed with the trike while I went the short distance to a better position for the picture. Then we rattled on.

Not even a quarter mile past the U #804, I ran into a bit of difficulty. A cluster of buildings off to the left had quite a few men walking around and socializing. Further beyond were the shapes of gliders. It seems the club had been flying and was just starting to wrap up for the day.

My attention that direction was only passing. The way straight ahead concerned me more. It didn’t look hopeful. The road essentially vanished. There was a road boom across a rough track of packed grass with the wood from a cut tree stacked. I stood up from the seat to look at the situation. It appeared that with care, I could work the trike under the boom and had enough space between ditch and wood pile to squeeze the trike by. With the 26 ” wheel, I wasn’t too worried about the grass.

Before I could start, a man’s voice said in Swedish that he didn’t think I could go through. I looked at the man, in his 60’s white haired wearing a brown jacket and cap as he closed the distance between us. I asked if it was forbidden, but he answered there was a large gravel mound just out of sight. He advised that I walk down there to look first.

Respecting his knowledge, I did just that, with Loke happy to go along and sniff. Glad I did. The path came out at the back of a house which appears to be either recently abandoned or under-going renovations so extensively that no one’s currently in residence. Or it would have except for a huge pile of stone that went across the way from ditch to ditch, both full of water. One side sort of flattened a bit and I would have been able to drag the trike over it except it was mostly blocked by a piece of rusting equipment. That one heavy piece of metal turned the way into a dead end for me.

A No-Go

A No-Go

I went back to the trike. The man was waiting and asked if I could get through. I shook my head. He asked if I had maps and pointed out a route which would add roughly 5 miles, maybe 6. Two of those miles or more were back over the rough gravel… uphill. When I managed to unhappily communicate that it was back the way I came and I didn’t know if I had the strength for an extra 10 km, he stared off toward the buildings and field of the glider landing strip. I contemplated ending the ride and waiting there for Jens.

I was pulling out my iPhone when he said he thought there might be another way. The ground of the landing strip was flat and well packed, the grass very short. He thought the far end of the pasture next to it had fencing sections removed so maybe I could ride the strip and get back to the road through pasture. He offered that we could go take a look in his truck.

Maybe Sweden has made me more trusting, but I accepted.

I was encouraged by what we found. The strip was as the man described. The pasture, naturally was less firmly packed and the grass already thick, lush and unmowed, but still manageable with the Sprint. The Trice’s idler would have been choked with it within 10 feet, but not the Sprint. Would it be easy? Probably not. Grass is second only to clay/mud or sand for bad rolling resistance, even when short. But better a quarter mile of hard going with no added miles then 2+ miles barely better hard pedaling which would add 5-6 miles.

Tiny Gliders!

Tiny Gliders!

I thanked the man and wished him a nice evening as I set out. The last of the clouds were vanishing, remaining only as tatters on the horizon. Some of the other men lingering at the landing strip gave me startled looks as I rolled down the driveway and out onto the grass. I paused for photos before passing the covered gliders parked for the evening. I knew gliders were small, but seeing them on TV or drifting around several hundred feet up in the air doesn’t really give you the full sense of how tiny. I’m not generally claustrophobic, but I think cramming myself into one of those cockpits would make me so.

Completely off road.

Completely off road.

Even in my lowest gear, it was still tiring. It would have been more so except Loke was delighted with the stretches of open grass around him. He threw his weight into the harness and happily pulled us along faster than the 2 mph plod I could have managed on my own.

Even with Loke’s enthusiastic assistance, the pasture ground slowed us to a bare crawl as I worked to spare my knees. I used the tire tracks the man’s truck had left to make it a little easier.

My relief at regaining the road was short lived. It was the worst of the ones I’d ridden that day. One of the top five bad roads I’ve ever inflicted myself with on a trike. I’m sure somewhere beneath the jagged, jumbled nuggets of granite, many of them the size of chicken eggs, there was dirt, but it was not to be seen. Even with Loke’s socks, I wouldn’t have wanted to go faster than a walking pace… as if I could. Trotting or, heaven-forbid, running would have left terrible stone bruises on him. As it was, I still stayed far to the right, trying to keep him on grass and weeds as much as I could.

It was a bit over a mile of torture before I reached paved road again. Loke and I both were so happy to see it. As soon as we turned onto it, Loke jumped into a strong run of almost 16 mph. He wanted to fly! The charge was short lived when I saw someone on a horse in the distance. They were riding along the edge of a field and turned toward us. I slowed down and then stopped, not wanting to spook the horse. Loke was a bit peeved and even tried pawing at me to get us moving again.

The horse was a gorgeous little Islandic, so dark a brown he bordered on black. His fluffy poof of a mane and forelock fluttered and waved in the wind as he came along at the brisk tolt gait the breed is known for. The rider, a women, slowed him to a walk so he had time to get used to our appearance before coming up to us. Smiling, she thanked us for our care and moved out again at that fast, smooth-as-silk pace only an Islandic can do. Granted there are other breeds with a similar special gait, the Paso Fino, Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking Horse, but I’ve never seen those.

Once the horse was firmly passed, I loosed the brake and we were off. This time, I didn’t hold Loke back and we charged down a mild slope, over a bridge, back up another gentle grade before slowing to make the turn into Nysätra Church.

Nysätra Church

Nysätra Church

I’ve been to this church before, though on a different ride than the one I started from Långtora Church. As a matter of fact, I paused here for a lunch break on my first attempt at a tour years ago.

I pried myself out of the seat, my legs aching and weak as over-cooked noodles. Leaving Loke tethered to hedge with water, I hobbled around in my search for one of the two runestones. The other was locked in the porch, of course.

It turned out to be an exercise in futility. It’s supposed to be on the southern side of the churchyard and I walked back and forth through that whole area several times. I even looked behind the other buildings and clear to the edge of the field. I did find several old grave makers with little signs declaring them ‘cultural graves’, but they were all too worn to make out names or dates.

When I gave up and started back to the trike, I noticed the wind. It had been quite brisk when I’d met the horse, but during the 15-20 minutes of my runestone search around the church, it really kicked loose. It shook the hedge where Loke waited, it whipped tree limbs. It came hurtling out of the east, the direction back to Örsundsbro. 5 miles into the fury if I didn’t go west for an out-and-back for 2 other runestones which would have made it 7 or 8 miles back to where I started.

I couldn’t do it. I was spent. The hard work over the rock cluttered back roads coupled with nearly 2 full weeks of no rides had worn me down to tatters. I could have headed west with the wind at my back to get those extra stones, but the church was a nicer place to wait for the hubby than a roadside. I filled Loke’s water dish to the brim, called Jens and then pulled out my heavy wool thermal top and mittens.

Yes, wool top and mittens. The hard wind was bitterly cold and the sun too low at 6:00 pm to counter the chill. As I stripped off his harness, Loke was clearly disappointed. 16.3 miles wasn’t enough for him. He sighed and woofed at me a few times before laying down next to his water.

As tiring as it was, I still enjoyed the ride. The spring kissed scenery was worth it and it felt wonderful to get some miles in. It was also nice to have a peaceful evening at home. He might not have been completely tired out, but Loke wasn’t so bubbling over with energy he was a PITA either. He even let us sleep past 3 am.

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