Terii’s Cycling Babble

Plotting and Packing
May 31, 2014, 4:27 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I’ve been doing quite a lot of one and not so much of the other. I need to get my rump in gear. I’m going to stick to the flow of time, so I’ll get to the title in a moment.

On the 20th, I decided to go for a ride with the fuzzy. Instead of just another River Loop, we were going to run a little errand to drop something off with my mother-in-law. That meant a loop through the heart of Uppsala if I wanted more distance than the River Loop. We’ve done it once before which came out around 10 miles, but instead it would be nice to avoid some of the more heavily trafficked streets we had covered.

I did a little looking at Google Maps with bike paths highlighted and found a way. Once Jens was awake and assured me his mom is an early riser, I called. She was already working at her little garden plot located not too far from their apartment. Perhaps I could meet her there? Once I had the directions and set the location firmly in my mind by looking at Google Maps again, I got ready.

As we rolled out, in a completely different direction than he expected, Loke’s excitement levels went through the roof. Faster and faster he wanted to go as we rolled along Gamla Uppsala Road. As if that wasn’t enough, before we came to the next intersection on the other side of the rail tracks, we cut sharply right, briefly doubling back as we rolled onto a cycle path running right along the rail tracks.

Not the most scenic of paths, but only 1 train blasted by and it was well away from the noise, pressure and exhaust of cars. Loke was running strong and refused to drink the first two times I offered water. We’d started before 9 am to avoid the worst of the day’s heat, but it was warming fast. We rolled over a busy road and then cut over in a northerly direction to roll through the cool green of a tiny park. From there, it was a quite stretch through a residential area made up of small, single family homes.

With only a scattering of clouds, the day warmed fast. I tried to stick to shady areas. When we emerged out of the cluster of houses onto a large grassy sward flanked by two streets, I swerved off the roads and onto the packed dirt path that ran beside a long row of trees. A surface kinder than asphalt for Loke’s feet and a bit of shade to protect him from the heat. He finally took a drink of water.

As we rolled along, I was treated to the unexpected site of Swedes swinging bats at flying balls. About 4 or 5 groups of boys and girls in their mid to late teens, always accompanied by an older person, between ages 40 – 50, with a clip board yelling out directions. Softball and/or baseball tryouts? Oddly, one group seemed to be using aluminum bats or wooden cricket paddles interchangeably. Two of the groups used baseballs and the others softballs. At times, someone would try to pitch, but mostly, the batter would toss the ball up and try to smack it on the way down. If they’re trying to form teams for some kind of league, they’ve got a lot of work to do. Still, it was neat to see them trying something completely new to them.

As we went along that stretch of green with what might be the early beginnings of an Uppsala baseball/softball league, Loke grew increasingly excited. He knows that area very well as it’s one of the main ways we always use to go to ‘Grandma n Grandpa’s place’. He is absolutely crazed about Jens family, his parents in particular. 90% of it is due to the fact that he’s learned to strongly associate them with food. He pulled hard, trying to draw us into loping speed, but I stubbornly pulled us back.

Instead of taking the turn Loke expected and desperately hoped for, we went straight. His disappointment was palpable. We came to a stop at a busy intersection where I stopped to look at the map of the area on my phone to be sure I had the right way. ‘Yep,’ I thought to myself. ‘Straight across here and then I can give these to…. ‘ The thought trailed off as I twisted my head to look at the left side of the running bar fastened to the back of the trike’s seat. Completely empty of any bag. I’d forgotten to bring the items. Sighing, I called Kiki (MIL’s nickname) to tell her I’d forgotten them. She invited me to come see her any way, but given that the day was heating up so quickly, I begged off for Loke’s sake.

We turned toward Granby from there before cutting north where an underpass let us cross the busy road where the cycle path led us through a parklike stretch between apartment blocks. I was going to make another stab at finding runestones. I’d taken a careful look at the street view of the area on Google Maps to know where the turn was. The small streets weren’t on my Garmin so knowing the turn was at the little white 4H building between the fences helped a lot.

Burial mound with both U #970 & 969

Burial mound with both U #970 & 969

Upplands Runestone #969

Upplands Runestone #969

We found the first runestone easily. Uppsala Runestone #969 sits on the side of a low mound that is actually part of an old burial ground. I’ve since found out that we missed U #970 just a few feet away on the same mound! Not a bad thing, just means we get to do the ride again, not just because of what I need to give to Kiki, but for the other stone as well. U 968 is also in the area, perhaps 100 yards or so away. I couldn’t find it, but I’m willing to take another stab at it.

It was nice and shady at the tiny burial mound, so I let Loke sniff around and rest a moment as I took photos. I was less than 6 feet away from the stone I ‘missed’ when I was taking a picture of the placard. It was sitting at the base of the tree beside the little sign. Part of the reason I didn’t notice it was because I didn’t actually read the placard until I downloaded the photos from the camera. Another was the runestone website I use to track down stones off the beaten path only mentioned U #970 at this point. Not so much as a hint of U #969. Ironically, U #970 is the one I missed.

Pasture Mounds

Pasture Mounds

We pushed on in search of Runestone U #968 which is supposed to be about 100 yards or so away. It took us past the 4H offices up to an area fenced off for pastures and pond surrounded by yet more fences. Loke looked a bit too intense at the site of geese and chickens so he stayed with the trike while I wandered for a glimpse of the stone. No luck. I would have gone into the pond area during my search, but two very large and very aggressive geese had me rethink that.

We left the 4-H area, heading toward Vaksala Church where apparently I’d missed a stone imbedded in the southern church wall, when Loke went weird. He just started moving very oddly, almost like his hind end was turning into noodles. Front of my furry cycle buddy, perfectly fine, but the back was like it belonged to a very drunk husky. I stopped and Loke sighed and threw his weight into the harness, clearly in no pain and with plenty of energy. We moved out again, very slowly and yet his hind legs and hips wobbled.

Jens unfortunately was at work, so no quick rescue. We slowed to barely my walking speed. It completely drove Loke nuts. He might have been moving funny, but it didn’t impact his enthusiasm. After about half a mile, whatever the wobble was, disappeared. He did the last mile and a half, trying to pull us faster than his allowed 8.5 mph, moving like a young husky.

I’ve been watching him like a hawk since, but whatever it was hasn’t reared its head again. It still worries me, but I have a feeling that if I took him to the vet, they’d find nothing, chalking it up to over-protective doggie momma. Kinda like one time Loke had some sort of spasm where his hind legs stiffened and kicked out, tipping him over backwards. For like 3 minutes, he just quivered, hardly able to stay upright while I flew around in search of my shoes and keys to rush him to the vet. Then it was gone as if it had never happened. I took him to the vet the next morning anyway, but they found nothing wrong. I absolutely HATE things like that.

We finished up with something like 8.75 miles.

A couple days after that run, the weather took an abrupt about-face. We went from temps in the 80’s with high humidity down to the 50’s… with high humidity.

It was 4 days without any hint of limp, hop or wobble before I risked taking Loke out again. On the 24th, we did the River Loop. Don’t remember much about the day except it was gray and chill enough that I wore thin wool under my cycle top. I should have added something to my legs to, but hindsight and all that.

On that day, Jens told me that he had a business trip on June 4th in Sweden to a town call Borås. He would go by train, though he was willing to take the car with me, trike and the dog. We’d leave leave on the evening of the 3rd, he’d have an all day meeting on the 4th so I’d have plenty of time to pedal around. Someplace fresh.

Enthusiastically, I threw myself into various maps of the area to plot a route though it didn’t have to be a loop. We would be leaving directly after Jens’ meeting finished up. Easy enough for me to just head northish and Jens swing by to grab me as he headed out of town.

That eager anticipation turned to frustration. The area around Borås directly is fairly barren. I was going to be doing a lot of doubling back to find even just 1 or 2 runestones and maybe a single church. My time was limited, double back were not something I wanted to make the day tedious.

Then there are the churches in the area. They’re boring. White plastered long houses with a square tower. Only minor variations in windows and the tower tops to separate them. I swear, it looks as if I could just take photos of one or two churches from different angles and pass them off as 5 or 6. Only anyone very familiar with them and the area would know the difference, but no one else. They’re all so…. vanilla box. Perhaps I should be less hung up on their appearance and more focused on the age and history as most of them for a 30 mile radius date from the 1100’s.

I was actually frustrated enough to debate calling it off when I plopped down the little man for Street View on Google Maps to check the size of a street. It looked acceptable, though the environs were boring, tightly packed residential. I spun the image and blinked. Slowly turning it back, I saw it and felt a surge of eagerness. I quashed it at first, refusing to hope until I was absolutely certain. But the site of a lovely paved, very straight cycle path stretching off into the trees on one side of the road and running through the village on the other was a glorious site.

It wasn’t highlighted on the bike option of Google Maps, but where ever it crossed roads that the street view car had been, I took a look and there it was. Could just make out the path on satellite view which let me follow it along. The fact it sometimes took off through the countryside, generally ran straight except for very gentle curves convinced me it was an old rail bed just like the Klarälvsbana (Clear River Track) that runs north from Karlstad for 60+ miles.

So, I did some research for cycle tracks in the area of Borås and found one that was fairly new. Probably no more than 3 years if I had to guess. The track boasts solar lighting which they seemed very proud of. And it was extensive. Almost 50 miles reported in the web site. It runs from an area south of the western end of Borås, mostly north-east where it finally wobbled east along some tiny lakes before looping around the northern shore of a large lake to run south through Ulricehamn. From there, it continued south, threading between more lakes to a town called Tranemo. That’s the 3 towns the web-site described. Actually, the trail runs even further south to another village before it peters out into rusty, weed-choked rail tracks. Those just beg for conversion into more cycle path.

That was what I’d do. Even if it barely got me any runestones or the like, I’d ride the cycle path. No worries about freshly grated gravel lanes, high trafficked gravel roads or the bike-forbidden carriage-ways blocking paths and causing double backs. I absolutely loved riding the Klarälvsbana those years ago. One of my longer rides, hammering out just over 40 miles in 4 hours against the wind. Without Loke obviously. That trail taught me the joy of riding rail-trails particularly when there’s limited time. Really, it was perfect. So, I started plotting.

I swung back to a little frustration while doing so. I found yet another path leading north from Ulricehamn. It continued northward toward a place called Falköping. There, in dizzying profusion, are over a dozen passage graves. Quite a few of them actually sit in the town itself. The frustration came with the fact that it was too far for me to reach even if Jens dropped me off in Ulricehamn, roughly 50 miles of cycle path away. Roughly an hour from Borås. Too much for Jens to do an out-n-back.

Jens chose that moment to ask how the planning was going. I muttered about not being able to take my trike by train. Then I asked if Sweden had a bus system kinda like Greyhound where you could take ‘luggage’. Something like oh… a tarp wrapped, folded trike and a trailer full of camping gear? He asked why I would need that. I explained about the sheer amount of cycle trails and stuff to see in the area we were going, but it was so far away. If I took the car, I’d have to do loops, which I didn’t always want to do with such lovely rail-trail tracks calling. “Well, as long as you stay out for at least 3 days on tour, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to drop you off and pick you up. It’s only 4 hours away after all,” he answered.

Have I mentioned I love that man?

So, I decided I’d ride from Borås to potentially Ulricehamn. That’s 25 miles with 3 churches and a few runestones to see. We’ll take it nice and slow. No pushing Loke. If we meandered along at a 5 mph or even less, I’ll be cool with it. We’d be out and together. If we need to stop after 10 miles and chill out while waiting for Jens to finish his meeting to come get us, so be it. Which reminds me, I need to remember to pack my Kindle. I’ll have the umbrella holder mounted for portable husky shade, though one advantage to the cycle paths is more shade than most roads. Plenty of water and even a bag of dried chicken snacks for Loke and fruits and such for me.

So, having decided that much is a relief. Now I just need to pack. I was going to attempt fixing the gears (again), but decided against it. I can manage with how they are. It’s too big a risk that attempting to ‘fix’ them might make the trike unrideable with no guarantees that it could be corrected before the 3rd.

So, that’s the plotting. Now I just need to do the packing… and maybe make at least a pair of socks for Loke. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my feet which makes wandering around for packing and going out to buy velcro problematical.

On Tuesday of this week, I promised Jens that I’d take Loke for a run Friday morning. I’m going to start doing that at least 2 times a week barring limping from the fuzzball. Most days, Jens takes Loke out for a long walk in the morning, particularly since I’ve had these problems with my feet. It’s been so sweet of him, so since Loke did so beautifully on his last run, I decided I could return the favor as much as possible. In place of the early morning 1+ hour walk, I think Loke can manage going with the trike at least twice a week.

So, Friday morning that’s what happened. I’d planned a longer ride than the River Loop, but remembering I had an early dental appointment nixed it. It was heavy gray, 52 F and crazy windy. Oh, and drizzling. Must mention the drizzle. Still, with an extra layer of my light wool, I was fine. Loke ran strong and seemingly limp free. Even against the wind, I felt pretty strong myself. Didn’t even feel as if I’d gone for a ride when we got back home from the uneventful outing.

I was a little baffled though. My Garmin has always showed the route I took to be 4 – 4.08 miles. This time? 3.88 miles. I mentioned it to Jens. He suggested it might be the cloud cover. True. Then he added if it needed replaced, I’d had it for quite a few years now so if it happened more often, let him know and also what I might want to replace it with.

Have I mentioned that I love that man?

So, that’s my current update. Now, I just need to get packing!

All For Loke
May 18, 2014, 3:26 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Woke up the morning after my wonderful ride on the Tortuna loop to sunny skies and warming temperatures. I was immersed in working on the May 16th post until roughly 9 am when it seemed prudent to wake Jens up. Groggy, he asked if I’d take Loke out to the hedge if he made his own coffee.

I stepped out and it was quite warm. I’d been so accustomed to the chilly nights and mornings all through the beginning of May, it came as a surprise. I didn’t want to rush Jens, but I fully intended to keep my promise to Jens (and Loke) to take the furball for an outing. Half of it at least would be on paths and roads he wasn’t very familiar with. Something to fire his brain with new or unfamiliar sights and scents.

There’s a cycle path that runs parallel to the 55 from the area of Flogsta out to the turn off from the 55 to Wiks’ Castle. I think it’s an old rail bed. Loke and I rode part of it last autumn, through a section that is a butterfly reserve. The surface was nicely packed and reasonably smooth. From years ago, maybe even before I started blogging, I rode another section of it. It had been rather soft dirt. Something I was still willing to dare. We’d go easy and slow and sand would be kind to Loke’s paws over gravel or asphalt. Jens could drop us off at the far end and I’d could cycle home. Worse case, Jens could fetch Loke if he seemed too painful at any time.

Not a bad start to the ride!

Not a bad start to the ride!

So, we’d do that path!

After Jens had enough time to wake up, He drove us out. In short order I was assembling the trike, pointed down the path back toward Uppsala. Loke was exuberant. Bouncing around with Jens as the brisk west wind ruffled his fur.

The sky was clearer than on the 16th though thankfully a touch cooler. Good for me and even better for the furball who’s continually trapped in his arctic parka.

As Jens drove off and I clipped in, Loke yodeled and hopped. I flipped the parking brake loose and Loke shot off in a determined charge. I swerved over so he was loping in the grass and allowing this small indiscretion of speed for a half mile at 10 mph.

This was a place we’d never gone and he was in his element and excited. Straight and high, his tail waved gleefully with each jogging step, his jaws gaped in that husky smile I love so much.

And No Shade...

And No Shade…

The shade from the trees along the verge didn’t last long. They fell away and left the path hammered by the strong May sun as it ran arrow straight between fields and pastures. I kept a close eye on Loke’s breathing and his tongue. That lolling pink thing is a fair gauge of how hot he is and when it’s time for water or rest. It got pretty long and floppy, but the furball wasn’t interested in slowing down under 8 mph.

The long shade-free stretch reinforced the reminder that I need to set up a way to carry his umbrella. Portable shade that can pop up when he needs shade to cool down and catch his breath with the nearest trees a mile or more away. Perhaps I’ll take a look at it when I’m done with this post.

A short break in a patch of shade

A short break in a patch of shade

Even when he started to get on the warm side, Loke ran beautifully. His motions were smooth and strong. No indication of arthritis that distresses me so.

As for me, the ride wasn’t as bad as I feared after the 16+ miles just the day before. Granted, Loke was cheerfully doing most of the work, helped by that lovely west wind at our backs. I spun the pedals gently, just enough to give us a little extra push so the furball wasn’t taking all the strain.

The real trees were far off, but every now and again, a scraggly thing resembling a jumped up bush pretending to be a tree stood by the path. Whether Loke thought he needed it or not, I’d stop in the sparse patches of coolness and offer Loke water. The first time he didn’t drink any. The next two, he wasn’t so picky and gulped a decent amount. When his tongue would shorten, his breathing slow and the water had time to settle, we’d move on.

Ramsta Church

Ramsta Church

By mile 3, Loke was content to go along at a slower 6 mph pace. It let me relax keeping an eye on him a tiny bit. Even going slow and not pulling, he clearly enjoyed being out away from the tedium of the river loop. He was more alert, ears twisting around and eyes scanning for small random movements that might hint at small quarry.

Most of the time, the 55, busy and often noisy was completely out of sight. Even on my GPS map, it looked like I was in the middle of nowhere. I could still hear faint traffic noises, but even the glint of sunlight on hoods and windshields couldn’t be seen. At one point, the trees between the busy road and fields on my left would disappear and I could make out tiny cars. Once it was the distinctive view of Ramsta Church.

Pretty country road

Pretty country road

I really should cycle there one day. I’ve ridden all through the area around, but never actually to the church itself. It just sits in the middle of a vacuum as it were. It reaching it would require about 5 miles of an out-n-back which I’ve often viewed as a waste of my precious stamina when attempting a 35+ mile loop. Or it would need riding on the shoulder of the 55. The road has a huge shoulder, as wide as a lane, but the whizzing traffic and cars, busses and trucks often use it as an extra lane to let faster traffic pass. So, Ramsta Church gone unvisited, forlorn and ignored. Maybe for Loke’s next outing, Jens can drop us off there and we’ll head north toward Vänge.

Horrid surface, but pretty scenery!

Horrid surface, but pretty scenery!

Enough rambling. Sometime after the distant view of Ramsta Church was behind us, the path changed. It went from manageable, even favorable track of good packed earth with an occasional divider of grass or dandelions to gravel. Not pea-sized well packed gravel. Larger stuff, about an inch in diameter and loose. My legs protested the abuse after the exertions the day before. Our speed dropped to 4 mph or less at times, becoming a true rolling walk. Loke took the opportunity to sniff through the growth along the verge with such an easy, even lackadaisical pace. At least going that slow, even Loke wasn’t likely to overheat, lack of shade or not.

In spite of that change of road fate, my mood remained upbeat, happy even. I can only attribute it to one thing – Loke. I had my fuzzy cycle partner by my side. He’d not limped at all and though hot at times, he was happy to do what he loves.

The gravel got even worse, but we pushed on. Very little choice in most places. Every now and again, the path intersected with little country dirt road, as some of the photos have shown, but other long stretches were well away from any road access. We wandered through a golf course, causing quite a stir with some of the players. We startled a hawk up from the grass in one place. I grinned as Loke hopefully watched it circle above us.

We scooted across the road we used to take to reach Hammarskog, but things didn’t really improve. I pushed along, legs doing a dull burn that I imagined as sulking. ‘Making us work this hard after we busted our butts for her yesterday’. The silliest things pop into my head at times.

Finally we hove into view of the butterfly section of the trail. My heart plummeted and I stopped to slump exhausted into the seat. That great rolling surface of well packed dirt dusted with fallen leaves I remembered had been GRATED. It was now all soft, sandy soil and sizeable stones churned up into a wheel bogging mess. Loke looked at me and wagged his tail when I sighed. At least it was still nice scenery and plenty of shade.

Somehow, digging deep, I found the muscle strength to continue. We were doing barely more than my walking pace at times. As for the ‘butterfly trail’? I think I saw two.

We nearly caused a disaster. The entire trail is a MUP (Multi-User Path) in the truest sense. Any non-motorize mode of transportation is welcome on it, with the exception of golf carts thanks to the course it cuts through. Horses aren’t motorize and the path generally has a bridle path sign below the pedestrian/bike.

I saw the horse approaching and crossed over to the far right of the path as far as I could. A gentleman in his 50’s rode the pretty chestnut mare. About 50 meters away, she started sidling and snorting nervously so the man stopped. We were at something of a standoff. There was no where for me to go and the horse wasn’t going to be much closer to this weird contraption of trike, husky and plump woman with bizarre headwear. The man called out he had a faint trail on his side that led a little into the trees. He’d move her off until we passed.

When he stopped about 10 meters into the trees off the path, I moved a little. The mare promptly spooked. The man fought to keep her from whirling into panicked bolt through the trees. She resisted, dropping her haunches in a half rear while skittering backwards toward a steep slope. Another yard and it would have rolled her right over her rump onto her back, crushing the rider. He was good, clearly knowing how to handle his animal with a deft calm. Once she nervously settled again, he patted her neck. He told me to wait a moment while he moved even further into the trees.

He was almost out of sight, just tiny bits of movement between the leaves, limbs and trunks. It was enough that I could see when he stopped and I slowly moved again. I came up to the small path. The man and horse were about 50 yards from the main trail. The mare only watched us go by, snorting uneasily and then we were in the clear. It definitely could have ended very badly for horse and man. I would have felt terrible.

Soon we were back out into the sun. About another mile of that and we came to the Flogsta area I’ve ridden half a dozen times or so. There’s a cycle path that runs off toward the heart of the city I’ve never pedaled, so that was the one I took. It has been a long time since I’ve been so happy to see pavement.

It was about 8 miles by that time. Loke was still doing good. He wasn’t limping from arthritis or sore feet. I was expecting him to be tenderfooted after tromping on 5 miles or so of those hideous rocks. Granted, I tried to keep him on the grassy verge as much as I could. Within half a mile, I had to slow down in spite of the easy of pedaling on asphalt. The pavement absorbed and then threw back the sun’s heat more than the gravel surfaces. Loke became quite warm.

We finally reached the more familiar streets and paths that led us toward the city forest. I didn’t loop us through that cool, green, dim bliss, but instead turned toward downtown. My legs were flagging and each push of the pedals took a real effort. I needed to head roughly homeward.

Perky Puppy

Perky Puppy

Loke’s energy was still good when I parked in the dense shade of an oak next to the parking at the ice rinks. I removed his harness and called Jens to get him. 11.02 miles. His new longest ride of the year. He had enough perk to pace around and not want to lay down. He was thrilled to death to see Jens, but watched forlornly through the window as the car drove away.

I was satisfied with the outing. Loke had enjoyed himself and made a new distance for 2014. I was going for a slow, gentle increase of muscle and stamina. I felt this was a step toward that. The fact he hadn’t limped thrilled me to no end. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I’d pushed on with him the 3 or so miles to home only have him hobbling around.

My pace picked up without the furry one. I wasn’t blazing through any speed records, but clipping along about 9 mph. Pretty good for my overworked legs. The speed slowed when I hit the gravel of the riverside path, but it was still faster going than most of the first 8 miles of the ride.

The river was beautiful. A dark, gently rippling mirror that reflected dancing images of the surroundings and the blue sky overhead. The closer I came to the heart of downtown, the more crowded it became. Everyone had turned out to enjoy the weather.

Ta Da! It's Up!

Ta Da! It’s Up!

Part of the reason the river rippled so much was a tourist boat chugging its way against the current. I kept pace with it, but knew I wouldn’t beat it to the cycle path drawbridge. I thought it might be kind of fun to actually see it go up for once.

I rolled to a stop just as it was rising. After taking a picture of it at full height and the boat passing, I sat back in the trike. Waiting for it come down, I happened to notice an electrical sign to left. Printed on the top was ‘cycle drawbridge’. The little light panel listed statistics. X-cyclists had crossed today. 4,000+ had crossed yesterday. X – total cyclists for 2014 to date. 600,000+ for 2013. I thought that was so neat!

I was quite peckish by the time I entered the downtown proper, passing some kind of festival near the parkland by the pumphouse. Breakfast was a distant memory, long burned away by the ride. I decided some great strawberry ice cream was just what I needed.

The first ice cream kiosk had almost 20 people standing in line. Ummmm. No. I wanted ice cream, but not enough to stand in a queue for 30 minutes. The next one I knew of by the cathedral was only a little better. About a dozen people, but they didn’t even have strawberry! The nerve!

Finally there’s a tiny little kiosk by the river. Just a woman and her daughter getting scoops as I rolled up. Perfect! The woman had strawberry, though she had to find a fresh tub of it. Took about 5 minutes. Poor dear was all flustered and apologetic by how long it took. I went for 3 scoops. Strawberry, chocolate and cherry dream. Mmmmm. I sat peacefully in the shade by the river and nibbled away. It was sooooo good.

From there  it was a quick jaunt home. I felt wobbly kneed as I put the trike away, but not quite as bad as I had on the 16th. I finished up with 14.3 miles. That makes 30 miles in just 2 days. Not bad though I can remember when I could crank out 150 miles in a week. *sigh* Someday again maybe.

Out And About
May 18, 2014, 8:39 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Yesterday came about as a surprise. Jens had come home around 2 am from London due to a delayed flight. My feet were utter torment so I’d decided there’s no way to put it off any longer. I’d have to go to a foot clinic. If my feet need real medical help and the myriad of foot clinics are just jumped up nail salons for the feet, hopefully that will be enough to get a doctor’s appointment. “I went, foot clinic couldn’t do anything, FIX IT!” kind of issue.

So, I woke bright and early on Friday. Waiting for 8 am to roll around so I could call the clinic, I fiddled with my currently uncooperative 3D modeling. Made the call, but I guess they were still closed, so I left my name and number before continuing my work while waiting for a call back.

As I waited I kept glancing out the window at the glorious day. Amber sunlight tinting the tops of trees and buildings with a backdrop of lapis sky. The trees barely moved, hinting at a calm day. I almost hoped the clinic wouldn’t have a time slot so I could go for a ride. Admittedly, my feet had kept me awake for hours the night before, so I was torn.

Right at 9 am, the call back came. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how one looks at it, they didn’t have slot for Friday. Monday was the soonest, so Monday it was.

I roused Jens from bed to do a little work from home before taking another glance out the windows. The decision clicked. I was going for a ride and it was going to be somewhere else.

Björka Church - December 2013

Björksta Church – December 2013

The loop I’d attempted back in December popped into my head. I’d driven out to Björksta Church, just east of Västerås, only to be thwarted by roads so icy even the car’s studded tires skidded at times. With last winter so utterly snowless and, for the most part without ice, I’d not bothered with installing the trike’s studded tires.

About a week later, Jens and I returned to the area and drove the loop, stopping at several spots with rock carvings. Most of them required walks through pastures or across fields so it was a nice way to get Loke his main daily walk. Not to mention quality time doing something together as a couple. It was a lovely day for our little family.

I didn’t blog it of course since it wasn’t related to any trike ride except for the failed attempt.

Carvings of a chariot, ships and cup marks

Carvings of a chariot, ships and cup marks

The pre-plotted December loop was just 7 miles. I wanted a more than that. Perhaps at least enough to become the new ‘longest ride of the year’ as well as making the nearly hour drive worth it. Not to mention, I wanted to spend a decent amount of time enjoying the pretty day. Peering at Google Maps and crosschecking with other websites containing information on runestones and such, I found one looping about 14.3 miles. It added another church as well as a stone ship setting and runestones. Perfect!

I felt a little guilty while readying to leave, having decided Loke would stay home for a myriad of reasons. First, the distance of the drive and problem of puppy pick-up. As mentioned, it was nearly an hour to Björksta Church. I was fairly certain Loke wasn’t up to 15 miles mostly because of his paws. Also, though it was just a short 4.5 mile River Loop on Thursday, I wanted him to have a rest day. Even so, it felt so cruel to deprive him of new territory which would have excited him to no end.

When Jens asked if Loke could come, I answered the 14 or more miles might be too much for the fuzzy. Jens offered to drive us so Loke could be ‘rescued’ if needed. I asked if he was sure and listed the various ways it could play out. The scenario with the least amount of car time for my hubby was close to 4 hours if you don’t count the hour or more sitting in the car in a parking lot, reading a book. The worst was a little less than 6. Give or take 20 minutes for traffic conditions. The darling man bravely said he’d do it (best scenario), but I’m sure he was relieved when I said Loke should have a rest day, for his paws at least. I promised that I’d take him for an outing the next day (today).

By the time I’d printed maps, collected everything I wanted to take with me (camera, water, tripod, etc) and sat down in the car, it was past noon. I barely made it 4 miles down the road, when I had to turn back. I’d realized there had been no check of the air pressure in the trike’s tires for over a month. While I didn’t think the pressure was low enough to worry about pinch flats, I prefer the ‘better safe than sorry’ scenario. Jens was surprised when I walked through the door. I grabbed the big pump as well as my small travel one and snatched up a tire repair kit as well. It would be just my luck to get a flat while 8 miles from the car and no way to fix it.

The GPS had the arrival at Björksta around 1:15 pm. That gave me no real concern. I’d packed a couple of hard bread ‘sandwiches’ for a little snack and the sun doesn’t set until almost 8:30. Even if I creeped along, there was plenty of time for the ride.

A few clouds clumped up in the sky as I headed west, but the sun still ruled the day. It remained so even when I pulled into the church. Before unloading the trike, I ran around, looking for the second set of stone carvings mentioned, but they remained elusive.

Giddiness bubbled in my chest, coming out as little chuckles, almost giggles along with a huge grin tugging at the corners of my mouth. A ride, a real ride fit for a blog post!

Drawing a deep breath that exhaled as a laugh, I pushed off.

The first quarter mile or so was a long glide downward. The trike flew, though not as fast as it would have on a calmer day. It turned out to be a bit windier than it had appeared in Uppsala or even around the church. The need to ride would not be denied for anything short of 25 mph gales. I whipped through a turn and churned the pedals over a flat before everything slowed for my first climb. I geared way down and toodled my way up. Nice and easy. I was not going to wear out my legs in the first 4 miles and have the other 10+ be a living nightmare of screaming muscles.

Pasture Entrance for Stone Carving Path

Pasture Entrance for Stone Carving Path

Odd marking type I've not seen before

Odd marking type I’ve not seen before

Another unfamiliar symbol!

Another unfamiliar symbol!

I pulled into a the tiny parking space outside the pasture where the first stone carving walk waited. I took a panoramic series showing the parking lot, the ship sign indicating the location of Bronze Age carvings and the lower farm fields beyond. Then I stood up. I wiggled my feet, wondering if I dared walk the path to see if I could find more carvings than on the day Jens, Loke and I strolled it. As if in answer, the spot on the ball of my right foot gave a slight twinge of pain. Regretfully, I decided I’d have to make due with photos from the walk. I want my feet to heal, not continue setting back the possibility of healing.

I took a few moments to adjust my Da Brim, snugging it down properly before refastening the flap to the back of my cap to keep the sun off my ears and neck. That’s a problem with pony tails. They leave more exposed skin for burning. I also hurriedly applied sun screen to the backs of the my hands and tops of my fingers. Things I should have done before leaving the church, but I was too excited to remember.

BIG Ship Carving - at least 4 feet long

BIG Ship Carving – at least 4 feet long

Lovely old building in a spring time setting

Lovely old building in a spring time setting

A pair of horses watched me from the field across the road. They trotted off skittishly when I started rolling. Since I was doubling back a short distance, I had a long fast charge down the hill I’d climbed. My speed encouraged the horses to loop around and run with me as long as the pasture fence allowed. I love that.

The zip back to the intersection that led back to the church, again, wasn’t as fast as it could be. Somehow the wind still was blowing in my face, at the intersection, I shot through straight to set out on the loop proper.

After about 10 minutes, I was glad of that wind though it made the going a little more difficult without any lovely downgrades to boost my speed. The first new miles were utterly treeless and the May sun is quite strong in Sweden. It meant Terii was rather like a chicken in a roasting pan under an oven’s heating element. So much surface area, stretched out to broil in the sun. It’s especially hard on the legs which inevitably are clad in black lycra. Yes, that sun with my slow speed up slopes made me quite happy to have some wind to keep me from boiling over.

Loving the scenery

Loving the scenery

I was a little excited about the next carving sight. When Jens and I had been there, the rock had been covered over with a tarp to protect them. The stones weighing the cover down were rather large and neither of us were up to trying to shift them for a peek, only to have to wrestle them back. So, being almost 6 months later, I was expecting to find them ‘open to the public’ again as it were.

Love the colors!

Love the colors!

Nope. The tarp was still there and no way I was going to argue with those stones by myself. I was so disgusted I didn’t even take pictures of the rock dome with it’s ugly covering of green plastic, rocks and tree branches.

As I went back to spinning the pedals under a hot sun, I realized a growing irritation was hanging about like some black, swelling storm cloud. It wasn’t triggered by the covered carvings. Once noticed, thinking over it brought the realization it had crept in, tiny and insignificant before finishing the first mile and a half. So, shortly after I’d left the first carving walk parking lot across from the horses.

Longest Man Carving In Region

Longest Man Carving In Region

That irritation was the unexpected wind and broiling in the sun. It was the bugs. It seemed I was getting smacked in the face every 5 seconds, stopping every minute to blow some annoying little beetle thing off my glasses. Flinching as yet another something whapped between my eyes. An entire body exposed to impact, but nooo, the only thing getting hit was the face. It was also the fact I felt so sluggish, the trike dragging along. Was it because of the wind coupled with weak legs from so little riding? A low grade slope I couldn’t quite perceive along with the wind? It just felt like I was crawling.

I pulled over to the side of the road to sip water and wipe away yet another bug. Drawing deep breaths with eyes closed, I savoured the music of the birds and caress of the wind which had been part of the growing temper. I told myself I love riding. I always have and part of that is dealing with the environment. I’ve laughed through freezing (literally) rains, my legs covered in nothing but lycra and ice. After that what kind of annoyance were bugs, seriously? They weren’t the biting or stinging sort.

Concentric Circles Around A Crossed Circle

Concentric Circles Around A Crossed Circle

As for the wind? Pppft, barely even 10 miles an hour. What about my last successful overnight camping tour? I pedalled all day in winds of 25+ mph with gusts pushing 30 or more. Then I camped in it, in an exposed spot since I didn’t want to be clobbered by falling branches, wondering if the tent was going to rip away. Turns out those winds were the remains of a hurricane that had hammered New York City. Irene probably

The sun? Well, okay. It’s always been a bane of my recumbent cycling existence when the temperatures get to 70 F or warmer. But it makes the scenery so beautiful! It brought out the colors of new grass and leaves, made flowers pop. The beautiful skies and brightness the sunlight had given the spring growth was a huge part of what had kicked me in the butt to do this ride. I wanted to be outside, in the sun, and enjoy the gorgeous weather.

Shade! Glorious, Blessed Shade!!

Shade! Glorious, Blessed Shade!!

I opened my eyes and looked at where I sat. Lush grass, singing birds and out where I could discover more of this wonderful country I’ve called home for over 9 years now. In a car, you can watch scenery, but on the trike, I live it. I can see the small details and have the time to take unusual turns to explore. I love that. I thrive on it. Wasn’t that worth a few bugs or being a little overheated? The wind simply meant I was exercising harder which is always a good thing – yeah, I didn’t quite buy that one either. Hehe.

I sighed with something akin to relief and pushed onward, smiling. I felt much better after that mental readjustment. There were still flares of irritation with every bug that smacked my face, but it didn’t linger and build as it had been. My improved perspective didn’t stop me from gasping in relief at the sight of the first shade for miles even if I did have to climb a hill for it. At least it was a shady hill.

That deliciously cooler climb marked the next phase of ride being a north-ish turn at an intersection for the loop. The wind still managed to be somewhat in my face, just a little off to my left. It helped.

The next mile passed with plenty of sun, but also a nice smattering of light dappled shade from trees lining the edge of the road. Mile 7 brought a stunning and completely unexpected surprise.

Trike is inside the ship of stones

Trike is inside the ship of stones

I was passing between the ranges of the Tortuna golf course. Roughly in the middle of the course, past the the club house and parking, I spotted a stone whose position was obviously due to the hand of man. I brightened at the site of it, wondering if it was a runestone. As I continued to near the end of the path of trees on my right, another two stones appeared, then more. It was a stone ship setting! I actually giggled. Finding things like this is one of the reasons I cycle!

I couldn’t stop smiling as I followed a slightly packed down trail in the grass to park the trike inside the outline of the stones. Though there was a hint of a trail cutting through the ship, the grass was still dense and springy so I didn’t go very far. Still had another 9 miles to go. The drive to Björksta had shown me that parts of it were quite hilly. Wanted to save my legs for that.

Satellite View - Thank you MapMyRide!

Satellite View – Thank you MapMyRide!

From the ground, the ships I’ve seen look kind of sloppy. Doing the minor research for the blog, I found that in this case at least, it’s just the awkward perspective of something so big on the ground. Curious, I looked at the satellite view on MapMyRide.

This one is amazing in its careful balance. Each stone is almost perfectly aligned with its mate on the other side of the ship. An artist hand-drawing that shape on paper couldn’t be faulted for such solid symmetry, but this stretches for 30 or more meters on the ground! Admittedly, I’m guessing the length, but it is not a small setting, I assure you. Many of the stones stood a little taller than my head. Others were about chest high. The skill and sheer amount of work it took to craft this with no heavy equipment astounds me. Okay, so it’s no Great Pyramid or even the passage burial mounds in Denmark, but still a grand accomplishment of human determination and faith.

I loved that stone ship. After walking around it for a good camera angle, I decided to sit for a short rest, sipping water as I munched a hard bread snack (cream cheese and French herb) I’d brought with me. I kept my helmet on in case, like the bugs, stray golf balls might be drawn to my head/face. I got a few curious looks from random golfers, but it was easy enough to ignore them and pretend I was all by myself.

Refreshed, I moved out.

Tortuna Church

Tortuna Church

It was a bit of a northward curve from there toward Tortuna. I made a slow grind up an over-pass across rail tracks for a grand glide down to fly across yet more rail tracks. The traffic into Tortuna was a little heavier, but once across the tracks, there was a convenient cycle/pedestrian path that led me right to the turn for the small village’s church.

I parked in the delightfully dense shade of a tree just outside the churchyard gate to check for a phone signal. I had 3 bars, so pulled up the web browser and Googled for info on potential runestones associated with the church. Yep, one. It didn’t say if it was inside or outside though, so I went to look with camera in hand.

As I strolled around the rather vanilla box looking structure, one thing jumped out at me. Every wall of the church, except for the tower, had at least one significant crack going from eaves to the ground. One wall had no less than 5. None of them are gaping canyons, but they’ve cleanly split the plaster. This church was obviously built on less than solid foundations. But the uneven settling causing the cracks must be slow enough to keep up with or it would have been left to ruins long ago.

Västmanland Runestone #16

Västmanland Runestone #16

I found the runestone imbedded in the church wall toward the back. Västermanland Runestone #16. No sign for it of course. It was only because of the internet I have a translation for it or even know which one it was.

Canola Yellow

Canola Yellow

I headed on, facing another long, shadeless stretch. The sun wasn’t quite so bad though, being at my back as it was. Also a thin veil of clouds had tempered some of Sol’s impact.

Västmanland Runestone #17

Västmanland Runestone #17

I was feeling happy in myself. Between leaving the church around mile 8 and toward the southward turn around mile 11.5, the ground was mostly flat. Though when I stopped, the wind felt as if it was still coming at me, pedaling felt easier. The trike cruised along at 10 – 11 mph. The tires added their nearly musical hum to the thrill of larks and other birds. For those 3.5 miles, I finally felt free.

In the middle of that happy, spinning run, I stumbled on a runestone at the side of the road. No sign of course. Again, thank you internet that I know it’s Västmanland Runestone #17 and have a translation. No other information sadly. I love knowing little details about the stones. Of course, most of those with the interesting tidbits are at churches. Those have been used as alter stones, or thresholds and such.

Around mile 10, a glint of white showed above the trees, resolving into the tower of a church that looked a lot like Tortuna’s. This ride was just full of surprises! I pulled over to scan through places on my GPS in search of the surprise church. I remembered a little village called Bred that I’d driven through. Though the place had a few road signs, it might as well have not existed as far as the maps are concerned.

Lovely River

Lovely River

I decided to see if I could find the church. It was right there in sight, so couldn’t be that far away. Continuing east instead of taking the south turn gave me a wild ride. A steep roller-coaster like hill that dropped away toward a river with a sharp turn just before a stone bridge who’s foundations looked a century old or more. The downside (haha) of that was an equally steep climb up on the other side of the river. I milked that speed as much as I could for the upward grind.

Bred Kyrka

Bred Kyrka

I took a left thinking it was roughly toward the church, which I couldn’t see thanks to trees. Finally emerged between some fields to find it was the wrong way. So, I doubled back and continued the creep up more hill. I saw the church, but it still seemed the direction was wrong. Tired after almost 14 miles (longest distance of the year) with still more hills to look forward to, I was about to give up. Then I noticed double line of young birch trees which had to be along a road. Happy day! They led right to the steeple just visible over some trees!

My legs were a little shaky as I pulled out of the trike to do the church walk.

Uppland Runestone #795

Uppland Runestone #795

The churchyard had an unusual feature to balance it’s rather plain exterior. From the inside, the yard wall had been piled with dirt up to the top, making a smooth green rise. Barely a hint of the stone wall that encircled it visible except from outside the lichyard. I thought it rather charming. I found a nice camera angle and continued around, scanning for runestones.

I found one. It stood right between the church door and the lichyard gate. How I missed it coming in is baffling.

With the stone collected into the camera, I stepped up to the placard, the first of the ride. It gave me a double take. Uppland Runsten #795? Turned out the river I’d crossed was the border between Uppland and Västmanland.

Mystery church found and another runestone in my collection, I headed back the way I came. Except for the crazy dash down hills, I took it easy. Gentle on my knees and tired legs. I even stopped at a picnic table next to the river to savor the view and a granny smith apple.

Nearly Full Circle

Nearly Full Circle

The next mile was slow being mostly low grade climbing. Toodling through a couple of tiny villages, waving at the kids who called out in surprise at the sight of the trike. The last mile was much easier, being a gentle series of drops back toward Björksta. I was exhausted, but still smiling in the midst of thinned sunshine, green fields and singing birds. My first true ride of the year. It felt glorious.

I didn’t even mind the wobbly legs as I packed everything away.

Other than chirping birds, wild life had been scarce. Cranes had been calling somewhere in the middle of big fields. Try as I might, they were not to be found even with the camera’s long lens. I tried. Naturally less than 100 yards from the church parking lot, one flew across the road too quick for me to reach the camera.

About two miles into the drive home an even better treat went across the road in a hurried trot. Coming out of the weeds, I thought it a cat at first though something odd about it. As it stepped on the pavement to cross the road, I stopped to watch the healthy, sleek fox with a big hare in its jaws. It’s catch was nearly as big as it was. It was a fox with a mission, going in a straight line through the woods on the other side, dead hare bumping along. My guess, the hare was dinner for a litter of impossibly cute kits! I ‘awwwwed’ just at the thought of it.

One last photo of December Carving Walks

One last photo of December Carving Walks

There was only one other thing of note on the way back home. Just on one side of a curve obscured with trees, a trucker had parked a trailer, right in the middle of the left hand side of the road. Not the little sort that cars use to drag a sofa, but a huge flat-bed secondary trailer. The metal dark with no gleam and no lights or reflectives. Speed limits are 70 kph, but most go faster even at night. Once the sun went down, that trailer would be on the wrong side of a blind curve and blending well into the dark. I hope no one died because of that stupidity.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful. I staggered in to the apartment, ate some boiled shrimp and collapsed onto the couch in a state of semi-consciousness. It was a good day.

Inching Up
May 16, 2014, 5:57 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The miles that is. Of course, ‘inching up’ mostly means the River Loop that I’ve taken the past 2 rides.

Both rides have had something of a minor miracle I think. Most of the time when I’ve spoken of changing weather during rides, it’s been from sunny to murky gray if I’m not rolling home through sprinkles or outright rain.

On Monday, Loke was being a bit pushy so out we went. Without Jens around to pick him up if he limped too much, I sadly kept it to the River Loop.

It was fairly cloudy, but most everything was dry as it hadn’t rained since the night before. The sky cover had the churned look rather than the flat, dull lead appearance and there wasn’t much wind. It was on the cool side, but not so much that I felt the need for the extra wool layer.

With a bit of hopping and yodeling while the Garmin found satellites, Loke made it known he wanted to move NOW. Over-done local outing or not. Starting out, it was the initial conflict between Loke wanting to run and my determination to keep him to a jog in hopes of minimizing joint impact. I won though it meant the furball gave me lots of sighs with annoyed ear tilts.

The first couple miles were fairly brisk at just under 8 mph. Somewhere along there, those clumpy clouds broke apart and beams of sunlight found their way through the blue skied chinks of gray armor.

Loke had a lot of energy. He’d hopped twice, but so mildly that I only spotted it because of my vigilance for it. Running so strongly, I decided to add a little extra distance as we crossed over the river so we made the right turn to follow the cycle path running northward along the high bank. That little out-n-back adds roughly 2 miles and it had been a long while since we’ve taken it. It was the first part of the River Loop that Loke got most bored with, probably because it is an out-n-back. Get to see it twice as much as opposed to a loop. The fuzzy one always goes faster coming back then going out, as if to say, ‘Okay, we did it. Can we please get to somewhere we’ve not already seen today?’

Parts of it sort of curve back and forth and I thought for a moment the stretch would be cut short thanks to a large backhoe blocking the way or tearing part of it up. Turned out it was beside the path and we scooted by with no problems.

I know it had been a while since we’d taken that path, but the site of a bunch of odd constructions from logs caught me by surprise as if they’d dropped from the sky. Curious, I stopped to get up for a closer look. It was an outdoor exercise space which seem to be becoming all the rage in Uppsala. There’s been one at the beginning of the Grave Mound paths for a couple years now.

Now this one just a couple miles away. A set of monkey bars, and something lower down with wider cross ties for ‘jogging’ over like football players do with tires. Another set of logs nearly 2′ across in graduated heights for hopping from one to the other and a series of bars at varying heights for chin ups from a prone position or standing. The rest of the logs have been set up and hinged in different configurations and heights to act like weight machines for chest presses, thigh presses and more. All of it is so new that the logs still have that raw ‘fresh’ look and weeds haven’t yet pushed through at the edges of the pack gravel surface.

Once the sun came out that section of the River path became a little more crowded. Joggers and older people pole walking adding to the cyclists. We made the turn at the end of the path and Loke picked up speed as we headed back to the usual River Loop.

For something a little different, I turned us left where the old path that’s been there since before I moved to Sweden is joined by the much newer section. It goes through something of a commercial/very light industrial area, but since we’ve done it less than a dozen times in 7-8 years, Loke was interested.

The little deviation from our usual route paid off in something that made me smile and Loke give a wild lunge of prey drive. A hare! Not just any hare, but a young one! He was barely half the size of an adult as he loped away to put some distance between himself and us. I think that’s the first hare of that age/size I’ve seen.

The rest of the ride back was uneventful. We finished with 6.9 miles and it hardly seemed to scratch the surface of Loke’s energy. He still gave me the bright-eyed, bushy tailed ‘What NOW?’ look when I came in. It took him a while to settle. He still half dragged Jens out the door for his walk that evening.

Tuesday, Jens left for London, but not until 10 am, so he had plenty of time to take Loke for a long walk. I was grateful for that since my feet are still feeling quite battered. Also, until I’m more certain of his joints, I prefer him to have a day or two of ‘light’ activity in between trike outings. So, he had another 3 very short walks with me through the rest of Tuesday. Wednesday was more short walkies.

Yesterday (Thursday), Loke let me know that husky lives not by kibble, water and short walkies alone. I’d awoken at roughly 4 am and took the furball for a short business walk before heading to the gym. He whined and even did a bit of that ‘husky talking’ as I left. Not quite yodeling, but still making his displeasure known. I kept the gym visit very short, having this image of coming back to the apartment to find angry, sleep groggy neighbors unhappily waiting for me because Loke had howled them from their beds. Thankfully all was peaceful.

Then it was putting his breakfast kibble in his dish sitting down to work on some 3D modeling. It sucked me in. Loke began subtly. First, by sitting beside my chair and giving little glances at my face without actually turning his head to look directly at me. When that gained him only a couple of side long looks back over about 15-20 minutes, he shifted to turn more toward me and rest his head on my mouse arm, shifting frequently to make it hard for me to aim the cursor. Finally, he wiggled under the little chair table holding my mouse pad to put his head on my leg. Within another 10 minutes, he’d managed to lever himself up into my lap in spite of the computer desk in his way. My only view was the faceful of husky fur between me and the monitor.

I didn’t have the heart to shoo him away. Besides, I knew if I didn’t take him after so pointed a hint, the entire day would disappear with just a couple more short walkies with him and the rest gone in a seeming blink with 3D work. So, I wiggled him out of my lap and started getting ready. The furball actually gave a couple of excited spins.

Though I had the car since Jens was in London, I decided I really didn’t have the time to drive somewhere more interesting. My current 3D project had devoured Wednesday which I could have done some errands in between husky walkies. Those still needed doing and better done when I was certain I had the car. I wasn’t sure if Jens was going to office on Friday (today). So… River Loop.

It didn’t put a damper on Loke in any way. He wanted to run and pulled most of the way when I stubbornly held him to under 8 mph. I didn’t take the extension, so it was just 4.5 miles. No limping. The gray skies parted to mostly sunny skies during that short 40 minute outing.

Worn more than half through

Worn more than half through

One of the main errands I felt needed done was new shoe laces for my cycle shoes. The old ones have had frayed spots for months now. Frankly, for most of this year, every time I’ve tightened the laces, it’s surprised me they didn’t just snap off in my hands. How those frazzled strands have hung on for this long baffles me.

I went to a couple of shoe stores, but all they had were the flat laces and I was determined to replace my round laces with round. Since most hiking shoes have round laces, I changed tactics by going to outdoor activity shops. The two downtown were out of the round laces. I had one more hope. The huge store out by Ikea. They have everything in a building the size of many Walmarts back in the States. Kayaks, sports (soccer, hockey even basketball), shoes for hiking, walking, running. Horse and dog accessories. Fitness equipment from treadmills to weights, kettlebells, exercise balls and bands. Fishing (fly and standard), cycling (a bit limited, but still!). Clothing for running, yoga, gym, hiking, sailing, rain wear. A rather large camping selection. It is also the first place I’ve ever seen weapons sold in Sweden. All for hunting, but still! Bows, rifles and shotguns as well as the gun safes that are mandatory in Sweden. The department store of all things outdoor is fittingly named XXL.

I ran around the shoe sections, but couldn’t spot where just the laces were. When I started making my second round through the sport shoes, one nice guy who’d greeted me before asked if he could help. Not knowing the word for ‘laces’ (not like I discuss shoe laces ever in Sweden), I had to swap to English. He knew exactly what I meant and took me right to the ones he had in his section. There were even round ones. 130 cm. I hoped those would do and picked up a pair thanking him. He then showed me to the ones in the hiking book section. They had 150 cm, but they looked a little too thick for the eyelets.

Turns out the 130 laces were fine. I pulled the most damaged section of the two laces between my hands. It’s still surprisingly strong given less than half of the strands are hanging on. They probably would have lasted out another dozen lace-ups or more!

So, that’s the update for the past two rides and a little extra. I might ride today. It depends on if I get an appointment at a foot clinic.

So Far, So Good!
May 13, 2014, 4:57 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Went out for another ride over the weekend. Nothing spectacular. Just what I’ve come to call the ‘Läby Loop’ since I pass fairly close to a church of that name. It certainly sounds better than ‘ICA Maxi Loop’ which is where I generally prefer to buy groceries because they have a better selection of fruits than the place in Granby that Jens prefers.

I decided on that route in keeping with my decision to enrich Loke’s life with more than the River Loop. It involves parts of the River Loop, but there’s about a 7-8 mile added stretch in between the beginning and end of the River Loop we’ve not seen quite so often.

Loke started out quite strong and unlike the previous ride, he did not want to settle. He wanted to go even though the first 2 miles are River Loop. When it came time to turn right and scoot over the 272 for Gamla Börje Road, he was thrilled. He was pulling hard, nearly 2 inches of extra tether straining against the spring in the running bar. His efforts made that first steep climb nearly a breeze. I think he was anticipating the long, fast glide down the other side. I hated to disappoint him, but for his long term health, I thought it best that he didn’t go charging along at 15 mph.

Over the 2+ miles between home and that climb, Loke didn’t limp or hop even once.

Just a mile or so down the Gamla Börje Road, my Garmin gave a loud beep. I glanced at it and then looked closer. ‘Low Battery’. Oops. I pushed a button the clear the message and expected it to go blank with another beep at any moment.

The fuzzy was happy as we cruised along at 7 mph beneath a murky gray sky and utterly calm air. My mind drifted as I kept an ear out and eye on the mirror for approaching traffic from behind. ‘Socks’ came to mind. If I’m going to do this, I need to start making socks again. The River Loop once or twice a week is no problem for Loke’s feet which refuse to toughen up, but say 10 – 12 miles twice a week or more could add up to tender paw-pads. Unacceptable since socks can easily remedy the issue.

Oh, how I miss the days of his iron hard foot pads that could run 25-35 miles several days a week with hardly a scuff! That said, I’m sure he would/does as well, if he can/does remember back that far. He does not approve of the socks at all.

That thought of socks, which I had none of with me, reminded me to keep an eye on his feet. I checked them around Ströbylund and decided they had a couple more miles in them, but once I reached the shopping center, I should probably call Jens to pick him up.

The final approach to the cycle path along the 55 actually became a little windy. Not howling gales, but enough to move the few weeds already present at the fringes of paved edges.

Loke was still running good and strong as we made the final approach to the grocery store. Not once had he given any indication of arthritis which had me grinning wide. We’d taken it nice and easy, roughly 7.5 mph when we weren’t climbing hills. We’d gotten off the River Loop which brightened my mood and I’m pretty sure his as well.

It was actually trying to rain as I coasted to a halt beneath the awning of the door to the recycling area of the store. There was just enough room for me to tuck the trike out of the way of people going in and out. One older man with a walker, stopped to admire the trike. Told me it was a beautiful machine, had I made it myself? It gave me a chance to sing the praises of the people at ICE.

Jens arrived and Loke was happy to see him, though he looked a bit forlorn through the car window when he realized me and the trike were going on without him. My husband asked how much longer would I be. With the weather, and the fact my thighs were already letting me know they’d had plenty of exercise, I told him I was coming directly home.

I scooted off as well as the car pulled away with Loke watching pitifully through the back window.

That 4 miles between the shopping center went quick. I zoomed along the swerves and turns of the network of cycle paths in the wooded area between the stores and a residential area. Then it was a long glide down a gentle slope through one of those housing clusters. I spun the pedals as fast as I could to milk every bit of speed out of that hill. Then it was the slow grind up a rather steep grade past a graveyard to get to the recently paved MUP path that connects with what I call the ‘forest’ loop. The single woody patch crowning another steep hill is too modest for the term ‘forest’, but looking through the trees with mossy logs and thick leaf litter reminds me of a forest.

The down from that hill can be fun, though quite white knuckle unless I creep down with squealing brakes. I tend to test my nerves a little with it when I can. This time, I could. It was unoccupied as far as the eye could see, so I shot down the nearly rollercoaster steep drop at over 20 mph. I might have hit a new high speed for that particular stretch as fresh paving made it significantly less ‘white-knuckle’ than it used to be. For years the path at the lower section of the hill has been pitted with potholes, crammed with patches or those odd lumps that could make anything with wheels airborne. Oh, and mustn’t forget to mention the gaping cracks, 10+ yards long that seem as wide as canyons when one is whizzing along at over 15 mph and desperate to avoid them.

That minefield of potential disaster is gone for now! The whole crumbling section of path has been ripped up, replaced by smooth, pitch black, fresh asphalt. I screamed gleefully as I shot through the underpass beneath the 55.

Then it was on to the soggy path between wooded park land and huge field to the vicarage before zipping back to the tail end of the River Loop for home.

My legs so hated me. They had barely noticed the 10 mile outing, but they felt every inch of the 12.7 I finished with. Loke had accompanied me for 8.7 of it. Between the shops and home, the Garmin showed exactly 4 miles. I’d done it in roughly 16 minutes. Maybe it was the greater number of hills which were steeper than any of those on the 10 miler. Add in the blazing fast (for me) 4 miles, yes, it’s easy to see why they were unhappy with me after so little cycling for the past 8 months.

Amazingly, the Garmin held out for the entire ride! It had been over an hour after the low battery alert.

All in all, I felt very good about the day’s efforts. Loke had done great. No doubt he could have done the full distance and still wanted more, but I need to buckle down and make some socks. I’d done a new ‘longest ride’ of the year for myself which felt great even if it was a measly 12 miles instead of something respectable like 30+.

I’ll get there.

Question of Life’s Quality
May 8, 2014, 7:15 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Quality of life can be quite a tricky question. Weighing very different issues against each other, like apples and oranges, and trying to discern which is better or, at least, the lesser of evils. Or in some cases, which is the greater good in difficult situations.

That is something I’ve been juggling for the past few months with Loke.

Cycling with him has been rare, which leads to my cycling being scant. His arthritis toys with me. There have been a few rides where he goes smoothly along, ticking like a perfectly balanced machine and not the least indication of problem in hip or knee. I feel almost giddy with those though I still coddle him, hoping to nurture that lack of difficulty. Then, without rhyme or reason, he goes out with his hind end hopping here and there or limping along with a stiff leg as if he’s a doggie version of a peg-leg pirate.

The hopping/limping episodes are brief, but it still distresses me. However, as the year winds on, I find myself torn. Loke pines for the outings in the long days between them even as he’s incredibly bored with River Loops. After long walks, he comes home and paces around, harassing us with bossy woofing. Kibble balls and other such mental challenges are only brief distractions. Doing the River Loop with him might as well be nothing, the way he paces around and bugs me as soon as he had a drink of water. Clearly, he’s desperate to go out and move and do more. It’s a conflict between the strength/stamina of muscle/cardiovascular which seems to still be that of a highly fit 4 year old who used to be able to run 35 miles, sleep for 2 hours before wanting to go again, and the weakness of his nearly 9 year old joints. Even if Jens had the time or if I had the ability to do 10 mile walks, I doubt it would be enough to settle him.

Also, the vet encourages anything that develops extra muscle to support and stabilize the joints. Walks don’t do anything noticeable.

So the question is weighed between letting Loke slowly go nuts until he becomes a destructive ‘problem’ dog or take him out with the trike for more than the River Loop at least once a week.

I’m leaning more and more toward taking him out.

Tuesday, that’s what I did.

Jens had to catch a 6 am train, so all of Loke’s outings fell to me. Of late, I was focusing on two walks a day, one about .75 mile and another somewhere around 2.5 miles. Added to that was Jens’ daily walks between 2 – 4 miles. So, in general, a minimum of 4 miles or a max of 7-ish a day.

I had to try for that minimum at least. After running around Stockholm like a mad woman for 3 days with a friend from the US, I was feeling too beaten and battered to do more than shuffle for .5 mile. It had to be the trike though I had my doubts about being able to do more than the River Loop.

I picked up the harness for our first trike outing of May and Loke perked up. He hurried over to hop up a few times, trying to put his head through the loops as I untangled them. He paced around as I finished dressing.

It was a slowly deteriorating day. The morning had been glorious, but cold enough for frost. Around lunch it was closer to about 60 F, but clouding. All through May the wind has been chill and persistently from the north, so it was a tiny bit too cool. Almost made me put on a layer of wool under my top, but I decided against it. Ironically, the May nights have been colder than 80% of the nights last December.

Loke Happy At 'Work'

Loke Happy At ‘Work’

I didn’t mind the thickening clouds. The sun’s quite warm regardless of what the wind feels like, so cloud shadow is kinder for the fuzzy one.

One change as we set out. I didn’t let Loke run. A brisk jog was as fast as I let the trike go. He tried bolt off at the beginning, but settled surprisingly quick. We cruised through the neighborhood at about 7.5 mph. I kept a close eye on him, but he went smoothly enough.

Around mile 1.4, he had a slight hopping episode. I think I’ve noticed they come most often after he’s gone potty. Something about the crouching and only with the trike. I slowed down until he was just walking, waiting to see what would happen. After a few steps, it went away. After about 50 yards/meters, he gave me a side-long look and pulled until we were cruising along at about 7 mph again.

So, that’s how we did the River Loop section.

When we passed by the left turn which takes us along the actual path along the river, Loke noticeably perked up. He wanted to pull faster (8+ mph) though I resisted, giving in only to 7.5. With his head raised, he carried his tail high, every inch of a happy, interested husky. The plan was to head to the city forest. That turned into something of a failure. I’d planned to come out across from the forest by way of small residential streets, but instead, I emerged along a busier street which would have been an out and back to the forest. The ‘to’ also involved a long grinding climb. Rather than chew my way up that hill with a boring double back, I simply turned left to glide down toward Uppsala center. I was around 6 miles at that point anyway and didn’t want to kill Loke with a 15 miler or the like. I was aiming for 8-10 since he had so much energy left after the few rides we’ve done around 7 miles.

For me, it was an easy glide down toward the bandi court by the river. Where I normally would have followed the street with the cycle lane beside the river channel, I turned toward the vehicular traffic-less area of the city. It was a little challenging, winding out way through pedestrians, but soon we came out near ‘Burgers and Beers’.

It’s a fairly new restaurant which, as the name suggests, serves hamburgers and beer. Huge, tasty hamburgers I might add. There are also some desserts, sodas and the like. Jens has been intrigued by it since he spotted it some months ago. We finally went a couple weeks ago. It turns out that the one who runs it is American. Really nice guy we chatted with. The subject of the poor winter somehow led to me mentioning how much I’d been looking forward to riding through the snowy season. He asked wasn’t I worried abut falling over on ice. Of course not since I had a recumbent trike. He brightened, saying, “That’s you? I’ve seen you a couple times. That is so neat! I keep saying I would love something like that every time I saw it!” I offered to go by one day so he could have a closer look. He seemed quite interested in that idea.

So, I’d planned to stop by, but everything was so busy. The street it’s on isn’t entirely closed to traffic, there wasn’t anywhere to conveniently park the trike and Loke. Also the restaurant looked pretty busy. I saw the man through the window and waved though, getting a cheerful wave back.

I toodled onward, Loke still showing no sign of flagging. He even looked irritated at all the stops and slow-downs. We had one more stop I wanted to make though. I hadn’t seen Charles in almost 2 weeks. He runs the American food store that opened last summer. Sometimes, I shop there on Monday, which is his one single day off a week. So, I figured I’d coast by and wave at least since we’d not seen each other in over 2 weeks.

He came out to say hello and then hurried down to his cafe a few doors down. He brought out a nice, big bowl of fresh, cool water for Loke. After a brief chat, he had customers so I rolled on.

We arrived home with almost exactly 10 miles. Loke ambled up the steps into the apartment with no sign of being tired or painful. He drank heartily, paced around a bit and then, miraculously, laid down for a contented sleep. It was nice that he was so peaceful. He’d open his eyes and watch me if I moved across the room, but no lurching hopefully/desperately to his feet every time I so much as scratched my nose.

He perked up fine when Jens came home and was more than happy to go out for his limp-free walk with Jens. All that made me relax.

So, in spite of 2 episodes of the ‘hip-hop’ and 1 of the peg-legged limp, the 10 miles went flawlessly, if quite slow. Honestly, slow didn’t bother me in the least. I was just happy to be out with my happy husky beside me. So, that maybe our pattern for the year. More frequent outings, at least 2 a week of more than the River Loop, but slower. Probably between 6-7 mph. If Loke improves and goes a month or so without limping, I might let him go a little faster. If this can be maintained, it is definitely better for all of us around and a better quality of life than Loke being completely trike-less. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and play it carefully by ear.