Terii’s Cycling Babble


Challenges of a Cursed Ride
June 19, 2013, 7:29 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Day rides are supposed to be simple things. Plot-n-print maps, collect the things I need and go. Easy.

Mariefred (Peace of Mary)

Mariefred (Mary’s Peace)

Not Mariefred (Mary’s Peace). Oh no. I’ve wanted to ride in that area for 2, maybe even 3 years now. This year, I decided I was going to do it. It finally happened after about a dozen planning events. One complication was the castle there. Jens’ lovely mother had given me a map of the castles located around Lake Mälaren. One day, Jens and I decided to take a day’s road trip chasing the castles down.

In Mariefred is a gorgeous one called Gripsholm. As soon as I saw it, I was desperate to do a ride in the area to add in the blog. I also wanted to look inside the castle before or after the ride so I’d have interior pictures as well. Of course, the problem with seeing the inside of the castle while doing a ride was Loke. I’m not sure they’d allow even small dogs to be carried through, let alone a giant furball leaving a blizzard of white hair in his wake. So, I made about 4 attempts to have my sister-in-law come with. The plan was she would walk around the castle’s environs with Loke while I explored within. When I was done, she could go into the castle and explore Mariefred while I did the ride. Of course, I’d cover the cost of the castle’s entrance fee and even a bit of money for her to lunch on.

Gripsholm From South

Gripsholm From South

The plans fell through. Something would come up with either one of us. Since I’d invited her and she seemed genuinely interested, I didn’t feel right going without her even when Loke’s foot started acting up and I was going to leave the fuzzy one with Jens.

Södermanland Runestone #178

Södermanland Runestone #178

Södermanland Runestone #179

Södermanland Runestone #179

Persistent would best describe this outbreak. The first treatment the vet offered only half worked since Loke has two different kinds of bacteria working on the skin there. One responds to 1 kind of antibiotic ointment, but is resistant to the one that the other is susceptible to. The skin dried, but the redness of infection has not cleared.

Gripsholm Castle - Outer Courtyard

Gripsholm Castle – Outer Courtyard

When I took Loke back, she offered an antiseptic treatment rather than oral antibiotics. It’s such a localized infection so it feels a bit overkill to treat the entire body to clear up the small area of the foot. Not to mention, Loke’s been dosed so many times with antibiotics. In his 8 years of life, he’s had more prescriptions for the stuff than I have in all my 40+ years.

I believe this is the original courtyard

I believe this is the original courtyard

Unfortunately, that treatment has only ‘maintained’ the current status of infection, so back we go on Monday, June 17th. That means oral antibiotics.

The problems this year with Loke’s feet meant I was determined to leave the furball at home with Jens. I wasn’t about to condemn my hubby to 4 hours of driving (two 2 hour round trips) for drop off and pick up. If I had the car, it would mean a huge headache for a rescue if Loke needed it. Too big a risk with 33+ miles on plan.

There was one day when I decided to set out for the ride. It was roughly 9 am when I started organizing. I was on my way with the car finally loaded and everything together around noonish. I turned around and came back after about 10 miles. 1 hour there, at least an hour to explore inside the castle and another half hour for the outside. After the 20 min or so it would have taken to me to change clothes, assemble and load the trike… say 3 pm to begin the ride. Even if I’d taken a shorter 16 mile ride, I’d have been hard pressed to see the things I wanted to. Runestones off across fields, church ruins, not-ruined churches not to mention just exploring Mariefred’s lovely buildings.

Love the wooden turret over the entrance.

Love the wooden turret over the entrance.

By this time, I started to feel the ride was cursed. So many attempts that failed at the half formed point and the day with the late start in spite of my best intentions. I continued to pedal circles near home with Loke, but nothing to be said about those rides. Other than the fact they were mind-numbing for both myself and the fuzzy one. Notta thing happened. We just did them in a semi-comatose state.

Pity Loke doesn’t do like I (or most people) do on tedious solo rides. I want to get them done with ASAP. Loke? When he gets bored with a loop, he drags and pokes, slowing to paces that I, with bad knees and ankles, could out walk! Turns a 30 minute yawn-fest into a torment that endures for an hour or more. I wheedle and encourage all I can, but I absolutely refuse to pull him. Getting accustomed to hauling him along would only lead to a greater possibility of injury or heat stroke.

Another weekend rolled around and I awoke on Saturday, June 8th, determined to do the Mariefred ride. The trike pretty much stays in the car unless it’s locked up outside on the days I plan to ride but Jens needs the car. The maps were all printed and marked with the area’s runestones. The odds-n-ends I want for a longer ride were still in the car. All I needed to do was pack my cycle clothes for changing after touring the castle, collect my camera and various electronics, fill a water bladder and go.

Small Scale Steam Train

Small Scale Steam Train

I paced around the apartment until about 8:30 am. Then after kissing the hubby bye and running out the door before Loke noticed, I was on my way. That’s the day all the above photos for this post were taken.

I arrived at Gripsholm in good time. The parking lot was just starting to fill as I attached the shoulder strap to my handlebar bag to stroll up to the castle. Walking under the lovely wooden turret to go in, I smiled. Even in the ‘lobby’ where fees are paid, the woodwork was gorgeous. Heavy dark beams supported the ceiling and every inch of wood over head was painted with countless animals in medieval style. Hares, deer, boar and more. The floor was worn old planks. I don’t remember the walls precisely.

Gripsholm Castle From West

Gripsholm Castle From West

Gripsholm Castle from South

Gripsholm Castle from South

The rest of the first floor didn’t disappoint. It seemed I was constantly sighing in soft wonder at magnificence of wood paneling, or elaborately crafted ceilings. One section of the paneling I thought was painted. Upon closer inspection, it was actually inlay. Woods of different types and grain, some stained green, blue or red, fitted flawlessly into spaces cut into the main surface. There was gilt in places which stood out stunningly among the dark earth and jewel tones. The fireplaces were surprisingly small, but lovely and some rooms had the gorgeous tiled stoves instead. Beams and walls had paintings if they weren’t paneled or carved. One room had vaulted plaster arches with some mural work and a beautiful wooden bed built into an alcove with heavy fabric hangings. Couldn’t have nobility being awaken at 3 am by a Swedish summer sun after all.

It was a rude surprise to discover photos were forbidden. In the second room of the self-guided tour, I was in the wake of a French couple. I was reaching for my camera as the man snapped a picture. A woman seemed to spring out of nowhere, dressed in a dark blue uniform like pant-suit. ‘No pictures!’ she said in Swedish.

Manor Across Inlet

Manor Across Inlet

The man gave her an odd look, ‘No photos?’ he asked in English, guessing what she had said. The woman repeated herself in English to confirm. Those ninja women were everywhere. All the castle employees I saw were women any way.

Admittedly, I tried for photos a few times, but given the circumstances none of them came out good enough to be used. The dark colors didn’t respond well to pictures taken without a flash or a tripod at the very least. Then of course, the Canon felt as noisy as a cannon (haha) in the relative silence of the castle. My iPhone images were no better though at least it was quiet if I covered the speakers with my fingers before taking a picture. Each attempt was nervous business. Some of the blue-suited women were easy to spot, strolling around with polite, even friendly smiles. Others? They seemed to pop into existence out of thin air. I’d step into a room, taking a moment to admire the details, turn for a sweeping glance to be sure and there one would be, smiling and nodding a greeting from the center of the room. Not a sound of foot step as a warning, but there. Ninjas I tell you!

Steam Engine in Rail House

Steam Engine in Rail House

I’m not sure why they don’t allow photos. Maybe they don’t want several thousand flashes a day fading the paintings and fabrics. Maybe they want to sell their booklet with a scant handful of pictures in it and not even the most visually interesting rooms, I might add! Could be both.

At least the temptation to take pictures lessened as I climbed upward. Each floor contained the appearance of a successively later period in the castle’s existence. First floor I think was 1500’s. Second floor perhaps 1600’s and the third later still.

I found it odd that the magnificence lessened each time. The second floor had some lovely rooms, but in a simpler and less grandly worked fashion than any on the first. I liked the wooden corridor with a long series of leaded glass windows down the side and the theater was pretty impressive.

Old Train Station Building

Old Train Station Building

The third floor looked rather tatty in most places. The tower prison cell was very interesting though. It was a round room set almost in the center of a guard room with barred openings set in the wall every few paces. I guess it was for those prisoners you don’t dare take your eyes from.

After looking at the 65 or so rooms open to the public I headed back to the car to fetch my cycle clothes and change in a nearby bathroom.

Serious doubts about the wisdom of the ride intruded into my thoughts while I fought with the costume change. My legs and ankles ached, my heels felt like they’d been pounded with mallets and my back had two spasms while pulling on my tights. If just getting dressed hurt this much, I could end up flat in the gravel trying to unload and assemble the trike. I swallowed some pain relievers and sat with a scoop of strawberry ice cream to think.

Interesting

Interesting

The tipping point on the decision was my dying iPhone. Though the charge had been full when I’d left the apartment and I’d barely used it, it was below half. Half! Just from 2 calls less than 3 minutes each time and posting a photo of Gripsholm to FB in less than 4 hours? It spoke ill of the likelihood that it would hold out for the duration of the ride. Disappointed, I went back to the car for the drive home.

I tell you the ride was cursed!

So then came the weekend of the 15th and 16th! I was determined to get Mariefred done!

Jens had originally wanted me to do it on Sunday and Saturday we’d do an exercise walk. Well, I’d walk, he’d do sprints on the trail back and forth with Loke. I opted to reverse the order since the weather forecasts showed Saturday as sunny, cool with little wind and Sunday gray and wet. I find it much less unpleasant to walk in the rain than ride, truth be told.

I waited until about 6 am to start getting ready, not wanting to wake Jens too early nor just vanish from the apartment without letting him know. After double checking the weather predictions (still perfect), out the door I went.

Gripsholm From Mariefred

Gripsholm From Mariefred

I really should start riding in the early mornings again. Some part of me had forgotten that I love an early morning during Swedish summer. The silence broken only by bird song as the shadows lay long cast by a red-gold sun. No cars. No people. I love that light and the peaceful quiet.

Street Toward Mariefred Church

Street Toward Mariefred Church

Though leaving Mariefred without riding the previous weekend had been disappointing, it certainly simplified the next attempt. I didn’t have to work around castle opening hours and could save the time needed to explore the inside of it. I still wanted to explore around the outside of it which I’d lacked the energy to do the previous weekend.

I arrived about 7:45 am. Though the castle didn’t open until 10 am, there were already quite a few people. Some were locals out to enjoy the gorgeous morning jogging around the castle park or walk their dogs. Others were clearly visitors. I heard someone speaking German. Of course, the day I explored the castle, I heard German, Russian, French, Danish and some Middle Eastern dialect.

A few minutes of quick work and I had the trike assembled. There was an addition to my usual day trip outfitting. I had my Solio solar charger slotted onto my flag pole. It had about a 20-25% charge already in case my iPhone’s battery decided to empty in record time, but a little extra never hurt. Car locked, I zipped off toward the castle to do a quick loop around it for more exterior photos.

To think, this building is probably 300 years old & still used.

To think, this building is probably 300 years old & still used.

Sadly, there was a sign forbidding bikes in the area past the little drawbridge. Not a problem really, but it would have shaved off about 15 minutes from the time I took me to do the loop around the mini-island.

I went slowly through Mariefred proper. Quite a few people were moving around even at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning. Mariefred Church was locked tight as expected so no runestone. I stopped for photos of the charming buildings when I found streets that weren’t crammed with parked cars. A wall of metal, rubber and glass on one side of a pretty, narrow street detracts so much from the grace of older buildings. Inevitably, it’s always on the interesting side and obscuring lovely details of the stoops or bottom edges of windows. I know people live there and need to park somewhere, but it still means unappealing clutter.

I didn’t spend too much time tootling around Mariefred, saving some of the other sections to explore when I came back through after the out-n-back toward a runestone north east of the city.

Once beyond the wooden cottages and sheds, it became clear the weather forecasters had lied. Yes, it was sunny with just a few clouds, but the wind! Supposedly the Mariefred area was to have 6-8 mph winds with gusts in the 12-15 mph range. Well, unless the definition of ‘gust’ has changed radically, they widely missed the mark there. Sustained winds were whipping the tall weeds and lashing tree limbs while making leaves hiss. When a true gust hit, the trike felt like it had rolled onto fly paper. If it kept up, the ride was going to be brutal.

First slug of 2013. Wonder if it's an infectious escapee? :P

First slug of 2013. Wonder if it’s an infectious escapee? 😛

Though pretty in parts, the out-n-back had its drawbacks. First was riding past a correctional facility which took up a fair chunk of landscape. Then as I sped down a hill, I passed a gravel drive with a large gate of steel bars. I went so fast, I may have misread the sign, but I could have sworn it read, ‘Infectious Organisms’. I might be wrong on the ‘organism’ part, but I’m pretty sure I read ‘infectious’ correctly. Comforting.

Soon, I was coasting to a stop in the area of the day’s second runestone. In theory it would have been the 4th, but I wasn’t counting the two outside Gripsholm castle since I’d photographed them the previous weekend.

It wasn’t to be. From the satellite view, the stone had appeared to be at the edge of a working farm yard. What I found instead was neat, well kept yard around a snug house. Skirting the yard would have been hard with what looked like nettles in the tall weeds where the clipped lawn ended. To say I was uncomfortable with the idea of traipsing past someone’s flower beds and children’s toys to the rear of the yard in search of the runestone would be quite an understatement. I turned back.

I will say for the wind, it was a help on the return to Mariefred. Much of the road heading south was uphill and getting the push from behind was nice. Unless it did a magical about face, the 8 or so miles back north were going to be unpleasant.

Pretty to look at, but not ride on.

Pretty to look at, but not ride on.

The buildings back in the city blocked most of the wind except for stray gusts. I swung by back the church, but alas it was still closed.  I again avoided riding on the cobblestone street, preferring the boggy gravel. It would have been hazardous for me to ride the Trice on cobbles, but just because the Sprint can do it safely doesn’t mean it’s pleasant or desirable.

Just Gorgeous!

Just Gorgeous!

I went by through what I might call the main square of the city and found a fruit stand. I nearly passed it without buying anything, but the fruit looked so gorgeous and then the heavenly scent of fresh, local grown strawberries enveloped me. The cherries were flawless globes of gleaming garnet reds.

As I settled into the seat, one small problem crossed my mind. Did I really want to use my drinking water to rinse the fruit when I had no idea how long the ride would take? Not a huge deal as I could always just eat the berries at home, but slightly irritating all the same.

My fruity snack packed so as not to get crushed and I was on my way.

I pushed north as briskly as I could for the first 3 miles or so, but then had to slow down. It was hillier in the area than anticipated which made the winds even worse. I had miles and miles yet to go. No sense in killing myself before I’d even really started. Climbing the grades may have been torment, but coming down them without the need to moderate my speed for Loke was a blast. I’m not sure what speeds I reached as I’ve still not mounted my GPS bracket, but it was fun! Would have been even more so if not for the headwinds.

Dirt Track

Dirt Track

Reaching the next turn for the next runestone, I almost didn’t take it. Unpaved dirt track, not even a road really, tightly boxed with hedges straight up a of a steep climb. My tendency for self-abuse made me go anyway. It was brutal. I don’t know how long it took me to creep over the distance, stopping slap the ache out of my muscles occasionally. Finally, it curved and the hedge gave way to more open terrain with hints of country homes. I pushed past those into hilly field areas, bumping along barely faster than a walk.

Following the curve around an old building, I came to stop. The track took a steep drop I cringed to see even if it hadn’t been covered with a fresh layer of rock chunks. Couldn’t even call it gravel as it was over 1 inch, closer to 2 inches in size. My rear wheel had slipped on the first climb to the area. That stony surface would have had me struggling on foot to drag the trike up and the Sprint doesn’t drag easy. The front wheels twist sharply right where they don’t roll. Pushing the trike works better, but is still very awkward. Shading  my eyes, I looked down the slope in hopes of spotting the stone and perhaps getting some kind of photo of it even if from a distance. I had my long lens this time at least.

I've always loved contrasts of sun & shadow on landscapes

I’ve always loved contrasts of sun & shadow on landscapes

Thwarted, I turned back. Reaching the main road again was matter of hanging on to the brakes and avoiding potholes than pedaling. Hoping a car wouldn’t come rushing up between those hedges.

A little further up was a right turn for the next runestone on my map. I pulled into it, stopping to consider as I rinsed a strawberry. It was fruity perfection as while glancing over the information I’d printed out. Getting to the stone was going to be almost a half mile walk one way. It was a fragment, tucked in a wooded area. All that comes to ‘nearly impossible to find’. So far off the beaten track, the odds were extremely high it wouldn’t have been maintained. So, no easy to spot painted runes or a handy placard. Energy, stamina and time better spent combating the wind.

Södermanland Runestone #187

Södermanland Runestone #187

Though it was supposed to be on the road side not far from the third runestone I’d let pass for the day, it took a bit of searching to find Södermanland Runestone #187. The database complicated matters by marking it on the wrong side of the road mainly. It left me stomping around through the trees near a bus stop before moving out. After I’d pedaled less than 50 yards, I found it on the opposite embankment.

The traffic was fairly constant and the climb down and up the ditch quite steep. Instead of risking life and limb, I swapped the lenses on my camera to take the shot from across the street. It meant not having the placard’s information, but better that then twisting an ankle or getting hit by a car.

By that time, I’d covered 10 miles and will freely admit my legs were killing me. Thighs and calves burned. I made a check in call to Jens and he suggested I turn around. The idea galled. The cursed ride was beating me even while doing it. Missed runestones, insane winds the forecast had gotten wrong, and not even 1/3 of the way through it felt like I’d hammered out 50 miles!

Returning to Mariefred would mean having the wind at my back which would be helpful on the hills I’d raced down, but I’d still have ridden a bit over 21 miles. Only 11-12 miles less than the full loop. Stubbornly, I pushed on.

Toresunds Church

Toresunds Church

A little further along, I coasted to a stop in the parking lot of the second church of the day. A woman waved me a cheery greeting as I walked toward the church with the camera.

Toresunds Church  as certainly… pink. Well, perhaps more of a coral shade really. Vivid either way. I tried the doors, but it was locked tight. Still, I made a slow circuit of the buildings and churchyard in hopes of spotting the runestone that’s supposed to be here.

It’s probably in the porch or worse case, since it is just a fragment big enough only for the words ‘his son’, hidden in the outer wall among the other stones.

Gravklot - Grave Sphere

Gravklot – Grave Sphere

There was something even more interesting in the church’s pink wall though. A gravklot which translates simply as ‘grave sphere’. I’ve supposedly been close to one other around Salem Church west of Stockholm, though I didn’t actually lay eyes on it. So, this was my first proper look at one of these. Beautiful. It dates from the Iron Age and is roughly 50 cm in diameter and stuck in the wall about 8 to 10 feet from the ground. It’s slightly damaged, but fairly intact given the centuries it’s endured. It utterly charmed me.

As I finished church wander, I swerved toward the bathroom. It was open and I hurried to the trike for the fruit. I used the handsoap to thoroughly scrub every inch of the sink before rinsing the cherries and strawberries, which I never allowed to touch the porcelain. I happily munched on a couple of cherries on the walk back to the Sprint. They were the best I’ve had this year and will be hard to beat I think.

I was careful not to eat too many in spite of the temptation to stuff myself on every last one of them. Bad things happen if I drink or eat too much even close a duration of vigorous exercise. I didn’t want to add more suffering to what the wind inflicted and no way was I going to twiddle around for 2 hours waiting for my body to settle the food. I wasn’t making very good time and had no idea how much longer the remaining 20+ miles while seeking runestones and church ruins was going to take.

Feeling the burn!

Feeling the burn!

Half a mile or so past the church, the route turn from north to west-south-west. I’d hoped for a little relief from the violent press of wind, but perversely, it just seemed to shift so it still came full into my teeth. After passing through the tiny village/town of Stallarholmen, the size and traffic load of the road increased though the shoulder remained minuscule. At first it was good to see the cycle path on the opposite of the ditch next to the road. That perspective didn’t last long.

While some unpaved cycle paths are fine with a well packed gravel surface, this was not one of them. It was loose and shifty. Add in the 15+ mph headwind? Ugh!

See it? A bit to the right

See it? A bit to the right

I suffered along for about a mile, which took me almost 15 minutes in those unpleasant conditions. Then I made a turn north for a short out-n-back for another stone. It was an unpaved road which somehow was worse than the cycle path, though at least the gale hit from the side instead of full on.

I found the area easily enough thanks to a small clump of trees set a bit from others in a field. Across the plowed earth, green with growing wheat not much more than 10 inches high, I could just make out what I thought was the runestone. It sat on the flank of an unplowed hill cluttered with scrubby little trees. The long lens allowed me to confirm it before setting out.

Södermanland Runestone #189

Södermanland Runestone #189

Except for a burden of guilt, the walk was easy. Why guilt? I cringed at every stalk of wheat flattened under my shoes. I was stomping through someone’s livelihood. I was glad the wheat was so low as just pushing through the chest high weeds at the edge made me cringe. Ticks *shudder*

Between the field edge and the stone was a wire fence with no clear way through/over though it looked rather park-like. Might have even been a burial ground though I haven’t found reference to such. I settled for taking a photo of Södermanland Runestone #189 from across the fence.

Even if the nightmarish cycle path hadn’t ended right in that area, I wouldn’t have gone back to it upon my return to the main road. The smooth, recently paved surface made faster going for much less effort, wind or no. I cruised on the flats at 12 mph and flew on downgrades at speeds close to 25 mph. If the day had been calmer, I probably could have hit 30+ mph on a few of those hills. The climbs as always were very slow and there seemed to be so many of them.

Now _THAT_ is a strawberry.

Now _THAT_ is a strawberry.

I took another break around mile 20. Clawing my way, tooth and nail up a bridge to go over rail tracks and a busy road, my legs demanded it. Sitting in the hot sun on an unappealing bridge wasn’t my first choice for a rest, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. At least it was cycle/pedestrian pathway with a nice solid barricade between my flesh and flying traffic. I slumped back in the seat to sip water and nibble perfectly ripe strawberries with that glorious balance of tart and sweet.

Pulling down the brim as much as I could, I semi-dozed in the sun. I looked up when I heard bikes coming. Many strange looks.

15 minutes later, I felt much better and pushed on.

Across the bridge was my turn south. I could have taken the larger and more direct road which had good shoulders, but I opted to follow the signs for a cycle trail. I can’t remember which one, there were about 4 of them. The only name I do remember from the many cycle signs I saw was ‘Water Lily Trail’ which may or may not be the one of the same name in the Trösa area. It took me down smaller streets though a semi-residential area. Trees offered a bit of shade over the unrelenting sun the larger road had.

Very sweet and purry

Very sweet and purry

I’m glad I went that way or I’d have never met an adorable cat. Since Loke was at home with the hubby, I was able to greet the furry sweetheart properly. I passed about 10 minutes loving on the cutie while he covered me in orange and white fur, face rubbing me and the trike furiously as he rumbled like a engine. I love cats.

Okay, I love most animals, but that’s beside the point.

Swedish Summer

Swedish Summer

I enjoy smaller country roads. They offer better scenery (photo ops) and shade more often than the larger thoroughfares. A better chance of seeing animals as well.

Åkers Church

Åkers Church

Once stopped at Åker Church, it felt good to get off the trike for a slow walk. The runestone there was not to be found on the outside and the church was locked. While researching for the blog, I discovered the stone is apparently in the church’s floor in front of the alter. A slightly unusual place. Granted, many runestones spent part of their long existence as thresholds for church doorways whether at the entrance or between the porch and nave.

There was a bit of confusion about my next destination. Just a bit south of the church lay a pair of boulder runestones, or so research told me. The problem was my Garmin wasn’t showing the road I needed and the area was a tangle of a semi-recent suburbia cluster. Cookie cutter type houses with just differing little details of color or whether or not the garage doors had glass. Glass? Really? I wouldn’t want to be displaying to the world the usual clutter in a garage or things to be taken.

Come out, come out where ever you are!

Come out, come out where ever you are!

Getting surprised stares from people working in their postage stamp sized, tree-less lawns, I finally came to cul-de-sac. A field flanked by clusters of trees stretched north to a road and Åkers Church a little beyond. Somewhere in the hip to waist high grass lurked a pair of rocks with runes chiseled into them. I know the grass doesn’t look that tall, but it was. The ground was a springy sod-like texture which was kinda like walking on a mattress. Muddy patches lurked under that in places too.

I was about half an hour criss-crossing that field, but the ride’s curse and the tall grass seemed determined to hide them. Maybe they were further back in the trees than my search took me. Either way, I returned to the trike without the stones and sweaty. After another 10 minutes searching for ticks on my clothes, I moved out.

In spite of the failure to find the rune boulders, I was excited as I powered north. My legs were tired as I pedaled on. While crossing the overpass across the E20, my flagging energy levels were bolstered. A horn honk made me look up to find a man grinning at me in a friendly fashion with a double thumbs up. I smile back and waved. Odd how little things like that can give a boost.

The race down the overpass was fun and a moment of rest together. I whipped around the sharp left hand curve and under the overpass to follow a small road running parallel to the E20 and rail tracks. For a short time, I fairly flew along at 12 mph with the wind somewhat to my back with Mariefred to the east. Even if not an ideal tailwind to shove me along, at least I wasn’t fighting the blustery air for a change.

The things I do to chase history

The things I do to chase history

My excitement at what lay ahead and relief to be somewhat with the wind, lasted until I made the next turn where a sign with the words ‘Kyrkoruin 0.2 km’. I was faced with track that was barely more than a cut through trees and flattened grass. With burning muscles that twitched and felt weak, that would have been bad enough, but a steep ascent made it worse.

I struggled up determinedly yet I’m sure I saw a few snails streak by… laughing. The trees blocked the wind, leaving it roaring through the upper branches and making the trunks creak. The one time I would have welcomed it. It felt muggy in that corridor of green and there were so many mosquitoes.

Just a few meters to the right, the land opened where it was divided into pastures and paddocks with horses. The paddocks were quite impressive, the sort you might expect to hold feisty stallions. The horses in them were anything but. They placidly watched where the lattice of undergrowth thinned, but nothing more. Simply curious.

Love the door's handle

Love the door’s handle

Except for the occasional glances at the horses (I couldn’t help myself), my eyes stayed mostly to the left. The ground rose even more sharply, thick with second stage growth trees and dense undergrowth. .15 from the main road and still nothing to be seen through thickets and limbs. No hint of broken stone walls. No sign tacked to a tree with an arrow pointing up a narrow, limb choked footpath. Not even a hint of a trail. The only man-made thing I found on the left was what might have been an old root cellar.

At roughly a quarter mile(or 0.4 km), a heavy wooden gate blocked the road with a solid lock and a sign declaring a private area. I wrestled to turn the Sprint and started back with no better luck than I’d had before.

The truly frustrating thing is the ruins show up so clearly on Google Maps satellite view and photos of one of the stones there shows a smoothly clipped grass surface. It isn’t some forgotten and abandoned ruin left for the scrubby trees and bracken to smother.

Södermanland Runestone #184

Södermanland Runestone #184

At least the way back was easier. The grass and such didn’t allow coasting for most of the distance, but it made pedaling much less effort

The following mile to the next runestone went quickly, being mostly downhill and feeling like I’d finally caught my 2nd wind. The gusts to my right rear quarter felt wonderful after the muggy, mosquito infested church ruin search. I actually felt better at mile 30 then I had at mile 12. The area for Södermanland Runestone #184 was easy to find, but briefly hard work. It was close to the main road with a smaller loop drive which was just as bad as the ruin trail. At least it wasn’t as long or as buggy. I was just glad to have actually found it after failing to locate the 4 after my stomp through young wheat.

Before I knew it, I made the north-eastern turn and truly had the wind at my back. A proper paved cycle path ran parallel to the busy road over ground pancake flat. Noodle legs or not, I flew into Mariefred, closing the circle. I shot past the turn to Gripsholm castle and slowed to a weary crawl toward the last point-of-interest on the ride.

Kärnbo Church Ruin - Mariefred

Kärnbo Church Ruin – Mariefred

Kärnbo Church ruin stood high on a hill behind what was once the castle’s stable, now converted into a graphics house. The driveway behind the stable was unpaved with a lot of loose gravel and very steep. I had to get off the Sprint and push it 50 yards to a flat spot of ground where it could be locked.

Södermanland Runestone #177

Södermanland Runestone #177

The doorway of the porch had an iron gate, but it stood open so I was able to go inside. On one of the inner porch walls was Södermanland Runestone #177. Sö #176 also used to be here, but was moved to a The State’s Historical Museum.

Kärnbo Ruin's Apse

Kärnbo Ruin’s Apse

Though I have no picture of Sö #176, I will mention it appears to have had an exciting existence. A veritable gypsy runestone. Originally it was at Ärja Church. When that church was abandoned and plundered for building material, it moved to Kärnbo Church where it was laid as a threshold. When Kärnbo was abandoned, the stone moved again to be used as house’s threshold in Mariefred sometime during the 1700’s. In 1854, it was moved again to stand beside Sö #178 outside Gripsholm castle before finally being moved to the State’s Historical Museum in the summer of 1896 where it has remained since. *hums the Beach Boy’s ‘I Get Around’*

I staggered down the hill back to the trike. The good thing about having climbed the hill was being to just roll from the ruin almost to the castle’s parking lot. The momentum didn’t quite take me to the car.

As I dragged myself out of the seat for the last time, it was 5:30 pm. That just gutted me. 34.3 miles took 10 hours? Less than a 4 mph average? Okay, yes, there were the stops to look around churches, wash the berries, chase runestones that I did or did not find, search for the hidden ruin and of course the wind.

Yet if I look beyond the disappointment of the undiscovered stones and ruin and the silly long time it took, it was a good day. The weather had been pretty and I had exercised an insane amount. The best tasting berries of the year had given me energy and, cursed or not, I’d done the ride.

I’ll be going back in July though without the Sprint. There’s a medieval festival then. Jousting tournaments and more. A fun thing to do with my sister-in-law, Tina. Jens may or may not come. I might also drive to Ärja ruin area and see if I can’t find it on foot!

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