Terii’s Cycling Babble


Jumped Outta The Rut!
August 19, 2013, 11:44 am
Filed under: Day Rides

After typing the last photo-less post, I went for a ride the next day (August 12th). As usual, it was just the River Loop. Something to get Loke and I out for some exercise. Such a drag. Almost literally. Loke was poking along at nearly walking speed for most of it. The 8 miles took an hour and 40 minutes! I was about to start hauling him along just to get the tedium over with.

On August 13, Jens offered to take the train to work, leaving the car for me to drive somewhere for a short loop. Just something to get Loke and I somewhere new. I guess he was weary of hearing me grumble about Loke tripling the time it should take for a local ride.

Björklinge Kyrka - 2011

Björklinge Kyrka – 2011

I was a bit bouncy as I collected things for the ride and once Loke realized something more than stepping out the door to sit on the trike was happening, he got bouncy too. On the drive to Björklinge, he was restless. Pacing the small space he had in the car, sighing impatiently. Once at the church parking lot, he woofed and foot tapped at me while I got everything together.

Trike settled, Loke tethered, I plopped into the seat and put my feet on the pedals… with my everyday shoes. ‘Oh! I need to put on my cycle shoes!’ popped into my head. ‘You mean the ones sitting by the apartment door?’ immediately followed that thought.

I don’t have double pedals, one side platform and the other for cleats. That makes riding the trike even riskier. Loke woofed and then yodeled. I winced.

I couldn’t disappoint him. He was the most excited he’s been in weeks about a ride. I decided to go 2 or 3 miles at least for his sake. Just take it slow and try to avoid the worst of the bumps which could drop a foot and potentially yank my leg under the trike. I did not want a dislocated hip!

Loke kangaroo-hopped and yodeled as we rolled slowly out of Björklinge Church’s parking lot. So, we toodled along. Well, I toodled, Loke tried to strangle himself on the harness. He was a bundle of ‘I wanna run!’ furry fury!

It was a tense little ride. I held myself tight at a board, bracing against every little jiggle and jounce to keep my feet on the slippery pedals. It wasn’t the only stress of the ride. For about 100 yards or so, Loke started moving oddly. A strange hitch to the pace of his hind legs that bordered on being a full-on limp. The fact it didn’t seem to involve his feet, but rather this hips, concerned me more than usual. I’d have cut the ride short with that even with my cycle shoes.

We finished with just 3.06 miles. I felt like I’d had a full, vigorous gym work out with a hammering solo ride on top of it. Every muscle I was aware of burned and twitched. Even my shoulders and arms. At least I’d come away with out getting legs yanked under the trike’s crossbar.

When Jens got home that evening, I mentioned my concern about Loke’s odd rear end limp. ‘Yeah, he walked funny for a few steps on our walk this morning.’ That might have been good information to have before hand. Silly hubby.

So, the rest of the week was devoid of further miles. If he even suspected I was going for a ride without him without at least giving him a short trike-run before hand, Loke could have a tantrum. Howling fit to wake the dead, torture a few shoes, that sort of thing. If it hadn’t been something to do with his hind end, I would have accommodated him with little 3 mile loops. But even when he’s utterly bored with the River Loop, he still pulls like a mad dog for the first 100 yards or so. It could be that strain, brief as it is, might be enough to aggravate whatever made his butt walk funny.

Maybe I should have taken Loke to the vet, but other than his few steps with Jens on that walk and the 100 yards on the ‘Wrong Shoe Ride’, there were no further indications. I refused to push anything though. So, for 4 days, Loke (and I) had to just deal with walks.

My birthday passed quietly. Just a 2.6 mile walk with Loke while Jens was at work. Then the hubby took me out to dinner at my favorite restaurant. Jay Fu’s which is Amerasian fusion. I had lamb with a sweet-sour glaze and potato fritters stuffed with goat cheese. *drool*

Saturday began gray, a bit on the chill side, and wet. Around 10 am, it looked like the rain might have finished though the heavens remained shrouded with thick clouds. Desperate to ride someplace else where I’d maybe actually get exercise rather than simply baby-sitting Loke and the trike around here, I offered Jens a choice. I could take the car to go somewhere for a ride while he took Loke for a long walk or, if Jens played chauffeur I’d take the fuzzy one with me. That way, if anything happened with Loke, rescue would be easy.

Not surprisingly, Jens opted to drive.

I decided to do the thwarted ride around Björklinge again. It’s close enough, Jens has no qualms about the time in the car. This time, I remembered my shoes.

Beneath sunless skies, I got the trike ready while Loke sniffed around, dragging Jens along by the leash. Then he started talking to us about how slow I was being. I sat down, clipped in and we were off.

Loke charged along with even more enthusiasm than the previous time. We were barely a quarter mile from the church when the rain began again as a heavy misting. I stopped briefly to pull a plastic grocery sack over my handlebar bag with the camera and phones. I really need to find the proper raincover. I had images of Jens chuckling all the way home as I rode off through the rain. He later admitted he expected to get a call for pick up before he got home.

It wasn’t too bad though. The biggest annoyance with the rain, other than the need to protect my electronics, were my glasses. Even that was minor. The rain was so light and fine, they dried almost as fast as they speckled so I never had to wipe them. The same with my clothes; they dried faster than the mist wet them.

Around mile 2, I stopped to put socks on Loke. The road from Björklinge to Sätuna is paved, but in extremely poor condition. In places the bitumen has worn away completely, leaving the stones from the asphalt paving sticking up like eggs in a carton. Very brutal to the paws of a jogging husky and I prefer to avoid doggie stone-bruises. Loke has enough issues. He wasn’t happy with the socks, but he picked up speed again once he had that protection.

I didn’t take many pictures on the ride. Generally, when I found something I considered photographing, it was misting or drizzling and I didn’t want to pull the camera out in it. Twice, I even started to set up the new tripod only to abort the attempt because another sprinkle came along.

A quick photo between rain drops

A quick photo between rain drops

Loke ran well, with no hint of wrongness. I decided to add a bit extra distance to the Långsjön Loop for the sake of variety and in the name of more miles. About a third of the ‘basic’ loop around the lake is unpaved, but it’s a decent surface. Hard packed and smooth with lines of stones down the center and edges to make the going a little work.

The roads on the addition were less nice. Parts of it were okay, others were loose soil studded with bigger stones. Add in a stiff wind which had kicked up to help drive the misting rain? It was work. Real exercise! I reveled in it as much as the new scenery.

Loke didn’t mind the wind at all and I think he found the soft rain pleasant though he hates anything heavier than a mist or drizzle. He scanned his surroundings for small critters and occasionally dropped his nose for a sniff. The whole time, his tail waved like a joyous banner. Socks or not, he was in his element and clearly enjoying the outing. That brightened my day as much as cool temps and clear skies would have. Perhaps more so.

Weathered & worn by neglect

Weathered & worn by neglect

By the time we crossed the E4 for the second time (once over and back under), I was feeling the wind and bad rolling surface. By about mile 8, the rain finally ceased and the temperature bumped up. Loke started to lag some. I suppose it makes sense he got a bit draggy around that distance. He’s been running mostly 8-ish mile loops for most of the year.

Another Forgotten Building

Another Forgotten Building

Once we rejoined the original Long Lake loop, I called Jens to come get the furry. We’d meet him back at Björklinge Church.

I had toyed with the idea of cycling home, but the loose gravel road and wind had taken their toll. There were a couple quite steep, if short, hills back toward the church and they helped finish me off. The final straw that broke the back of the ‘ride back home’ idea was noticing the wind came from the direction of Uppsala.

So, out of consideration to Jens, sparing him another drive, I decided to tag along home with Loke in the car.

Getting more miles would have been good toward my August goal. With the 10.2 miles Loke and I had done, I still needed 72+ miles to break 2012’s total of 803 miles before the end of the month. The mild disappointment I’d not been able to press onward from Björklinge was a sour taste in my mouth.

Still, it had been a good ride. Loke had done well with no signs of difficulty. I’d gotten a respectable workout from it and it had never rained enough to make either of us miserable. Miles were miles even if less than I wanted!

Then yesterday (August 18th), the day began shaping up rather nice. Not too hot and the skies full of puffy clouds playing peek-a-boo with the sun. I woke after the best night’s sleep I’d had in a week and my legs seemed to have recovered from the previous day’s workout surprisingly well.

I decided to ride again. I made it very plain to Jens that Loke would not be accompanying. He was going to have a rest day from the trike while we watched for any indication of the hip-limp.

Beyond that my brain sort of shut off. I had the worst time trying to bully myself out the door. Did I want to do just the Läby Loop for 14 miles or so? What about Ulva/G. Uppsala for roughly the same distance? Was I feeling froggy enough to leap for the Börje/G. Uppsala 18 mile loop after how tired I felt from yesterday’s ride? Perhaps wimp out for the 10-11 mile Vaksala/Granby Loop or worse, 8 mile River Loop?

Jens jolted me back to reality. ‘Where are you driving for the ride?’ he asked.

He was right! I could take the car to do a loop since there was no concern about doggie rescue!

I hurriedly flipped through my map book, found a likely area and plotted a quick route to check distance. I came up with 16 miles which would get me 4 churches and a manor. Not too bad. Not only that, but I could cut it a little short  if needed since the way to one church and the manor was an out-n-back. I also looked on my runestone web-site with the idea of hunting them down though that added another 4 miles or more.

Fittja Church

Fittja Church

The drive to and then through Örsundsbro went quickly. The town is only about 30 minutes away. Fittja Church was a few miles further on.

The scenery was nice, fresh washed from rain the night before. I passed a pasture with a pair of mares with foals. One was quite young. A month or two at the most. The other was clearly older 6 months or more. That made me grin as I expected to come back by there on the trike and could get pictures.

Anticipation practically quivered through me as I pulled into the church’s parking lot. I got out of the car and… was nearly bowled over by the wind. Okay, an exaggeration, but it was enough to require a little bit of bracing to keep from swaying like a sapling as I made a dismayed FB wall post.

Fittja Church's Belfry

Fittja Church’s Belfry

Almost immediately, my legs felt weary. If they’d been horses, they would have been the ones that fake being lame to get out of being taken for a ride. I looked mournfully at the sunny fields between the lake and church, the pretty sky of blue and puffy white clouds. But that wind! I came very close to just throwing my hands up and driving home.

But no. Even if it meant spending more time unloading and then reloading the trike than riding it, I decided to eek out as many miles as my legs could stand. I’d be heading into the wind from the start, so if the muscles complained too much, I’d have a lovely tailwind to sail back. Very little mile would help the goal.

I photographed the church and began settling the trike. It took about half an hour as I made a point of not rushing. Finally, I was pushing across the loose dirt and rocks of the parking lot and started down the road into the teeth of a 18-20 mph wind.

Liked this barn/garage

Liked this barn/garage

After a short climb sheltered from the furious air by a dense cluster of trees, a negative grade down from the church helped speed me to 12 mph on the other side. A sense of freedom and release from the over-done home loops gave my legs even more power. Add in gears that are still working perfectly, I laughed with delight. A few moments later, I laughed happily again at the sight of a skink skittering across the road. It vanished into a hedgerow before I had a chance to stop let alone even touch the camera.

Freedom!

Freedom!

By the time I’d gone a mile, the wind, tough as it was, became welcomed. The sun was hot. If it had been a couple degrees cooler, it would have been perfect. In calm air, I’d have been roasting like a chicken on a spit. Talk about mixed blessings.

A mare and two foals.

A mare and two foals.

Before I knew it, I was coasting to a stop next to the pasture with the foals. The mothers and the older colt watched me a little anxiously, but I saw hide nor hair of the little one. The gray mare came a bit closer, examining the potential ‘threat’ this strange looking thing posed.

I was disappointed that the tiny baby was no where to be seen. The brown mare and her youngster were at the far range of my short lens, but they all seemed too nervous to give me time to swap. So, I snapped what I could. Just then the little one lifted its head from where it napped in the grass (it’s just visible in the photo between the two standing horses). Seeing me, it sprung to its feet with all the agility of a startled rabbit. That sent the other three running for the shelter of the screening trees. *sigh*

Less than 100 meters beyond the pasture, I came to a confused stop. I wasn’t seeing the turn I needed. It took a few minutes before understanding that I’d gone completely the wrong way. I needed to go back almost all the way to the church to take the southern turn I’d mapped.

I counted it as 3 extra miles and at least I had nature’s help for the return.

Ruin, cairn or farmer's rubble? Either way, first photo with tripod!

Ruin, cairn or farmer’s rubble? Either way, first photo with tripod!

South was still mostly dead into the wind and it became a bit more of a struggle. My legs seemed to have accepted the reality of the ride for the most part. Not far down the proper road, I stopped. Across a field flush with the vibrant green of new growth, I could make out an unnatural line of piled rocks. I couldn’t tell if it was something significant or just a farmer’s way of getting the big stones out of the way of his plowing. I decided to get a closer look with my long lens and that naturally led to trying out my tripod.

Stone & Wood Barn

Stone & Wood Barn

While I did try setting up and breaking down the tripod on the trike a week or so ago, it was done without the camera. It took a little longer to fiddle it to the correct height for the view finder from the trike seat. It will get quicker with more practice so I’m still quite pleased with it. Best of all was getting the stable platform for the long lens that held steady even with the capricious breezes. The only blur to be seen is the background which is as it should be with focal length! Took less than a minute to fold everything up and put away. Very pleased indeed!

Further along to the south, the wind treated me to the aromatic aroma of… pig poop. GAH! I pity anyone who has to suffer that stench every time the air is going the wrong way. It came while I was slogging up a hill so needed as deep breaths as I could take. Bad enough to almost trigger my gag reflex.

Not a car to be heard or soul to be seen!

Not a car to be heard or soul to be seen!

At the same time, I also heard at least 4 cranes. I’d heard even more about a mile earlier but they eluded my sight and therefore my camera. Pity. I’ve not photographed a single one this year.

Hjälsta Church

Hjälsta Church

It was a relief to finish the southward stretch though the wind was coming from a direction that even heading east would be working against it. My knees were a bit wobbly as I stopped outside Hjälsta Church.

Before making my walk around the church, I remembered to take a few gulps of water. I have a bad habit of not drinking enough on rides.

Two runestones were unfortunately locked inside the closed church, but I expected it. Beyond that, it’s a pretty if simple country church.

Hjälsta Interior Through A Window

Hjälsta Interior Through A Window

One of the windows offered a good view inside and I was surprised.

The first words coming to mind are… stark. Devoid of ornamentation. Nearly empty. I’ve tried to remember seeing another church interior so plainly utilitarian. Only one comes to mind and I believe it was because of more recent renovations. Pure white walls smooth as a pool of white paint and a bland floor, but even there the color of the pews and a few other small touches filled it out somewhat. No, I think Hjälsta has to take the prize for ‘Most Plain Swedish Church Interior’. For the medieval and countryside classes any way.

Through another window I did catch a glimpse of what appeared to be an impressive Triumph Crucifix, 4 to 6 feet tall hanging from a ceiling beam. I couldn’t find a clear shot to record it though. According to Wikipedia, it dates from the 1400’s.

I rested there a few minutes more, sipping more water and letting it work its way into my system. Somewhat invigorated, I returned to the battle against the wind.

That eastward stretch was more annoying.  With the force of the gusts coming from a bit to the right of straight on, it pulled and pushed at my brim more than head-on had managed. Juggling between the front and back gears in smooth response between wind speeds and terrain challenged me as I had to keep a hand on the brim most of the time. Made the downhills quite interesting, trying to compensate for windforce, bumps and speed with one hand.

Love the stunted conifers!

Love the stunted conifers!

Once past Hjälsta Church, all pretense of runestone hunting had been cast aside. 4 (or is it 6?) were inside churches, all of which were likely to be closed. Churches closed on a Sunday? That’s because many of the tiny, medieval country churches aren’t used regularly. Between that minor frustration and so much energy needed just to buck winds, the additional miles to chase down whatever stones were out in fields or hiding on wooden hills felt risky. I really didn’t want to crash out before making it back to the car. Granted, I felt fairly strong, but I’d not had the additional curse of unpaved lanes as an additional challenge to my legs.

So, when the first turn came for the first outdoor runestone, I passed it by and gladly. Truly horrendous looking with big stones tumbled up from a freshly grated surface. If I hadn’t pushed so hard on just such terrain the day before, I’d have tackled it, but I was playing it safe for this ride.

A little further on and I started scanning the countryside. On the left, apparently tucked into a rocky, hilly and stunted tree covered ridge, a runestone supposedly lurked. Annoyingly, the small road had no tractor accesses in the area for me to park the trike to look on foot. Even if I could have gotten the trike off the road, a barbed wire fence was as an effective barrier to me as to livestock. I’m not as lithe and agile as I used to be.

Uppland Runestone #814

Uppland Runestone #814

Near a wooden fence, chained closed with big locks and the top board wrapped with more barbed wire, I spotted the stone. Tantalizing, the information placard threw signal-mirror like glints into my eyes. Soooo close.

Still didn’t tempted me enough to challenge barbed wire. Not until I’ve lost a fair bit more weight.

Instead I settled for getting to use my tripod with the long lens again! It was a bit trickier to set up because the stone was on the left right next to traffic. While paved, the road was small. Not big enough for a center line (a close squeeze for two cars in opposite directions to pass), no paved shoulder and not much clearance between road edge and ditch. The cars who had needed to pass me from either direction during the ride seemed determined to give this plump woman on a weird bike more room than they ever would have given a car.

But to keep my tripod from getting flattened by a random car that might decide to give me only inches instead of yards of clearance, I set it up on the right side. With no sign of approaching cars, I swapped it to the left, focused, shot and moved it back to the left for dismantling.

Sadly, even with the long lens, the placard was too far away.

Further along, I received a reminder the harvest season is upon us. A rude reminder. Holding on the edge of my brim against the worst gusts, I came to the bottom of a hill. As I began to work the climb, the harvester working the field to my right turned to make its pass along the crop edge adjacent to the road. A veritable blizzard of dust, small bits of straw and other chaff flew across the road on the back of the wind.

As the harvester closed in, passing within 50 feet of the trike, I had to stop. I closed my eyes and hid my nose and mouth in the crook of my arm. The storm of canola cast-off stung what little exposed skin I have when riding. It almost felt like I was going to have to dig out of a pile of it before the machine passed. Finally, it was over.

By feel, I pulled out my water bladder and managed to rinse my brow and eye area before risking opening them. Then I dusted off the worst of the rest before pushing on before the harvester came round again. Not an experience I care to repeat. If I have to see harvesters, I prefer them distant… and preferably downwind of me.

The fact the fields were so close to the road offered a new sound to the landscape. I’m not sure what kind of crop it was. It was brown and presumably ripe. No higher than a knee, many branched with little nodes at the end of each twig. The wind whipping across it produced an odd combination of a hiss and a rattle. The difference of it compared to hissing/whispering wheat made me smile. Novel things almost always bring a smile or a grin to my lips.

About five minutes later, I saw my first cyclists. A nice round dozen. In spite of the wind against them as well as the 4% grade I was spinning up, they caught me quickly and passed just as fast. None of them looked particularly happy doing it. A few were puffing pretty good and others had red faces. Not a single smile, nod or even a finger wave in greeting.

I gave a happy cheer when the anticipated northern turn arrived. The pedaling felt easier as the wind now rampaged from somewhere behind my right shoulder. The feel of it through the seat’s mesh back was one of the best things ever. There was about a half mile stretch just before reaching the 3rd church of the ride, where the paved road curved back to put the wind in front of me again, but it was blissfully brief.

Kulla (Hill) Church

Kulla (Hill) Church

Kulla Church (Hill Church) looked much like Fittja and Hjälsta except for the sturdy stone tower capped with a distinctive roof.

Predictably, it was locked so no runestones again. What I saw through the windows showed an interior as bland as Hjälsta’s. There was too much reflection from the window glass to get photos though.

Another short break to sip water and I moved out again. The next turn, westward, was just beyond the churchyard wall. I stopped for a moment to regard a road sign indicating the 4th church of the planned ride 3 km away on the out-n-back. My legs twinged at the touch. 3 km is just a touch under 2 miles, but the wind….

I decided I was too hungry and becoming too tired to push for it. Besides, I can always keep the maps handy and return on a day when I’m fresher to put in the proper effort for an outdoor runestone hunt.

West, blessed west. The wind was finally, truly, at my back. The trike flew, reminding me how sweetly it glides when the road surface is good, the ground is mostly flat and I’m not fighting gale-force winds.

And the road surfaces had been glorious for the entire ride. Though small country lanes, every foot of it had been paved. Not the ‘stones like eggs in a carton’ kind of paved of the stretch between Björklinge & Sätuna, but good surfaces that weren’t even worn enough to have the least little patch. Definitely a good stretch for road cyclists. Not so much traffic and the perfect surface for racing tires of lightweight road/racing bikes!

I ripped through the last miles, feeling exhilarated. The tires hummed tunelessly, but cheerful. The gears shifted beautifully. I tackled flats at 15-17 mph and streaked down hills faster than I could spin. It was intoxicating.

I coasted to a halt by the car around 3 pm. Though my legs had felt strong during the westward charge, they turned to over-cooked noodles as soon as I stopped. It took over a minute of rest in the seat to recover my breath and let the muscles stop quivering before I tried to get up. Took two tries.

Needless to say, I didn’t fly around to put the trike away. I tottered and loitered. Sip a little water, slowly pace a circle to try working the lactic acid out. Pull the seat off and shove in the car. Pace another little circle. Next bit of the loading.

It felt soooo good to sit in a car seat for the drive back. The Sprint’s seat is quite comfy, more even than the Trice’s, but still another shaped surface felt good. More padding too!

I’d done 14.05 miles in 1 hour and 38 minutes of moving time. 3/4’s or more of that was just the first 9 miles or so thanks to the wind. That last 5 had been a breeze.

Once I got home, eased my wobbly self into the shower to go out to dinner with the hubby. We ate at the new Italian restaurant he’s taken a shine too. Only fair. My birthday, we ate at my favorite. For our anniversary, only right he should have first pick. Besides, I’d recently found a pasta dish there I really like. Just the thing to refuel after two days of riding against adverse conditions.

And yes, our anniversary was August 18th. Nine years. Where on earth did the time go?

Aside from the rides over the past week, know that plans for our September trip are under way. Hotel booked in Brugge for 3 nights. I still need to decide where to ride on ‘my’ day in the area. Do I do a loop around the island where the old parts of the city sit or strike out across the countryside? The other full day in the city will be ‘our’ day. I’ll wander around with Jens as much as I can and we’ll take a boat tour on the canals for another perspective.

We also booked an overnight ferry from Sweden to Germany. Cuts down on our driving time, offering a place to sleep while still covering miles. Can’t beat that! A tentative route has been plotted from where the ferry lands to Brugge with a few castles and the like to visit on the way.

The rambling route through the eastern part of France still needs to be decided. I’m hoping to see a few places I’ve wanted to set eyes on for decades. One particularly impressive medieval walled village in the southern part of the city. The Camargue wetlands with the white, semi-wild horses and the black bulls. Jens wants to swing by an old Roman aqueduct where it crosses a gorge. That’s perfect since it’s just north of the Camargue.

There’s actually a possibility we may not make it into Italy due to time restriction if we’re stopping too much in France. We’ll see.

Just a few weeks now!

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