Terii’s Cycling Babble


Surprises on a Common Loop
June 2, 2014, 8:26 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, the planning for the June 3rd – 4th trip has somewhat stalled. Naughty me. Just having trouble convincing myself to get down on the floor to deal with all that needs to be dealt with. It’s never a good thing and generally results in my back feeling painful and fragile for days after. Thought I was going to try and fiddle with the gearing, but decided this morning (when Jens asked about them), it might not be too wise. While not ideal and quite annoying if I’m not careful, the shifting problems are manageable. If I get my hands on them for some tweaking, they could end up completely useless with no time to find a bike shop to correct it. Not good.

Definitely seemed best to manage with them as they are and wait until we get back.

A new on-line game came out just a couple days ago. My husband wanted to get some major play time in on it this weekend since he’s going to be so crazy busy with work all next week. He asked on Saturday night if I minded taking Loke out with the trike in the morning. I’d already planned as much and said so.

So, around 8 am (June 1st), Jens carried the trike out for us. For the ride, I’d chosen the same loop as on May 20th. I was going to see if I could hunt down any more of those runestones around the 4-H Club area and around Vaksala Church.

It was dull gray and on the cool side, so I added a thin wool layer with my cycle clothes. The clouds were clumpy though allowed no view of blue sky. The forecast for later in the morning promised sun though. At least it was dry. The first day in quite a while where things had a chance to dry out. Even better, the wind was calm for once! A lovely change over days and day of trees whipping around and dropping twigs and small branches all over the place. Flags popping in the wind as they strained furiously against their tethers.

Large Snail On Mossy Rock

Large Snail On Mossy Rock

Within the first mile, Loke already moved a little odd. Anyone not familiar with him probably wouldn’t notice. I watched it very closely for a bit until satisfied it was only a little stiffness in the knee and not that weird wobble.

It was lovely quiet. No trains passed as we went along the rail tracks. No noise of traffic. Only a couple people on bikes came along. By memory alone, I zig-zagged through the early morning cycle paths and streets of Uppsala. At the grassy sward where people had been trying out for baseball, there were only a couple joggers looping around on the hard packed trail circling the edges. The lack of sun and cooler temps helped Loke. He refused water for the first 3 miles.

Burial mound with both U #970 & 969

Burial mound with both U #970 & 969

Wallowing Goof Ball of Fur

Wallowing Goof Ball of Fur

I had a little trouble remembering exactly where to turn off the cycle path in the parkland to reach the 4-H club, but I managed. Loke picked up speed a bit, running smooth and strong, as we neared the turn off. His ears perked up and he raised his head when we made the turn onto the gravel track. He even woofed at me when I stopped at the low mound with Uppland Runestones #969 and #970. One would almost think he was looking forward to walking around there, however  briefly.

Yep, he was anticipating it. As soon as we were about 10 feet from the trike, the bee-line I tried to make for Uppsala Runestone #970 was interrupted. Loke flung himself down into the lush growth at the base of the mound and flipped over on his back for a frenic wallow session. Legs, head and tail flinging around in random directions as he writhed along almost like an upside down snake. After about 2 minutes, he got up with a huge husky grin to shake off. After a brief tail-wag at me, he flopped down for a repeat performance.

Uppland Runestone #970

Uppland Runestone #970

I couldn’t help it. I laughed which only seemed to drive him to greater efforts. I’m surprised he wasn’t green from squishing around in the grass for so long. Finally, he went all business like, trotting around to sniff things and mark trees and the non-runestone rocks.

Without the paint that U #969 has in its rune marks, the carvings on U #970 are quite faint from weathering and lichen, but knowing they were there made them more visible to me. You can just make them out on the left hand side and sort of follow them up to the broken edge at the top.

Just over the crest of the mound, a barn was visible. Since Loke was enjoying the grassy walk where he could sniff, I followed the small beaten path up and over.

Old sheep shed still in use

Old sheep shed still in use

The barn was fairly common looking. It might have been a century or more old, but the tin roof kinda ruined it and otherwise it was just a box. Over to the left, against a section of pasture that had been hidden by tall grass, trees and a thicket of undergrowth was an older looking and much more interesting building. The door wasn’t locked, so I tried to open but the wood was so warped it wasn’t going to happen. I did get a crack open enough to see that part of the building’s end was open to the pasture. It lacked a door as a matter of fact. The little building was a sheep shed; someplace for grazing sheep to get out of the weather.

Dead Tree on Mounds For the Dead

Dead Tree on Mounds For the Dead

The pasture behind the sheep shed was a rocky hillock, likely a low burial mound or remnants of a cairn. There was the trunk of a dead tree at the crown of the slope. With the gray skies as a back drop, I thought the dessicated, weathered skeleton of wood rather poignant as it stood fast in the midst of a iron age grave yard. Unlikely the tree’s remains are anywhere near 1500+ years old, but still something fitting about the image. Echos of a long gone age touched by a memory of living shade.

Loke seemed eager to get back to the trike. He flung himself down for one last fling in the grass. Once he was hitched and I clicked into the pedals, he lept. I winced as he pulled hard, imagining what he might be doing to his joints. We rattled over the gravel road in search of Uppsala #968.

Once I got Loke to settle back down, we slowly circled through the area. We passed behind a barn to emerge in a farm yard area with many small paddocks and a densely shaded pasture. In the pens were quite a mix of animals. Mini goats, horses which might be the Swedish native horses called Russ, sheep of course and various pigs.

salaTower of Vaksala Church

salaTower of Vaksala Church

I left Loke with the trike near a picnic table to circle the pens, peering at every stone I could see. In one pen was a black pot-belly pig. As I leaned against his low fence to look into the horse pasture beyond, he wandered up and grunted at me. When he turned to lean against the fence, I reached down to lightly scratch his back. He melted, eyes closing and wiggled a little against my fingers.

Still no Uppsala Runestone #968.

I gave up and we rolled back out. Loke pulling like a crazed animal all over again. It was great to see that energy even if I couldn’t let him run.

It was late enough when I rolled up to Vaksala church that I wasn’t going to bring Loke with me as I walked through the graveyard. There were signs forbidding dogs and enough people starting to move around. I settled him next to the gate with plenty of water. Just then the church bells clanged out. Loke was less than impress with the audio display.

I found the pieces of Uppsala Runestone #966 with a bit of effort. Much of Vaksala’s lower walls are made of mortared chunks of stone in an amazing variety of color and type. Dark, almost black slates, granites of gray, red and nearly white, sandstone, limestone. Quite easy for gray granite stone chunks of similar size to get loss in the chaos.

Uppsala Runestone #966 - Parts 1 & 2

Uppsala Runestone #966 – Parts 1 & 2

Never would have spotted the pieces without the red paint in the etchings. Fairly anti-climatic. Just a simple broken cross, no runes.

Uppland Runestone #959

Uppland Runestone #959

Uppland Runestone #967

Uppland Runestone #967

Turning back to the gate where Loke waited, I gave the tower doors a long glance. The main entrance of many old churches in Sweden have doubled doors. Heavy things that are just blank metal slabs except for a very odd keyhole and a single handle on one. Vaksala is one of those. Generally if the metal ones are closed, the church is locked. On impulse, I went to check. The ponderous weight responded to my tug, swinging with amazing ease in spite of its size and density. I peeked through the glass inset into the wood of the inner door and could see right through to the alter. I gave it a little push and it too opened easily.

Sadly faded murals

Sadly faded murals

I expected one runestone in the church as the web sites had mentioned only one, but two stones sat flanking the archway to the nave. It took a little digging to find out which was Uppland Runestone 967 and which was the mystery stone and what number it was. Turns out it’s U #959.

It’s amazing how tunnel visioned I can be when runestones catch my attention. Not until I’d snapped photos of the stones, did I even glance at the rest of the porch. A narrow arch led to a dark tunnel of plastered stone and brick steps curving up into the dark likely to the belfry.

Detail of the star arch above the baptismal nook.

Detail of the star arch above the baptismal nook.

I had oddly expected ‘more’ of the church’s interior given the descriptions I’d read while researching it. It’s probably because those had mentioned the wealth of murals but failed to impress just how faded they were. Certainly if the original colors remained it would have been an awe inspiring site. Rather sad to see the loss of such work to the ravages of time.

Baptismal Font

Baptismal Font

Beauty remained though! I found it in the elegant curve of the plastered arches and columns. The detail molded into the ceiling of a star arch above the area set aside for baptism made me go ‘Ooooh’. The base of the baptismal font was elaborate, but apparently the font wasn’t worth mentioning in any church information I could find.

Just loved these columns!

Just loved these columns!

The pews reminded me of those in Gamla Uppsala Church. The pulpit was modest compared to some I’ve seen. Painted a blue gray to compliment the color of the closed pews with low key, unassuming decorative accents. The ghost of the murals and simple, heavy columns which I still found elegant held my attention most. The rough slate floors were nice as well.

On the wall behind the alter area is an ‘alter piece’. A picture or relief depicting a religious subject often hung in a frame and suspended behind the alter. This is supposedly the largest of its type and was carved in Antwerp in the 1500’s and heavily gilded. The panels to the left, right and bottom of a central collection seemed to have saints, while the middle ones were images of the Passion of Christ perhaps?

Vaksala's Alter Piece

Vaksala’s Alter Piece

Clearly I’m not referring to Mel Gibson directed movie, but to the events it was supposed to portray and done so in one of the most intricate ways I’ve ever seen. Christ being seized (I think). Christ carrying the cross through the streets. His crucifixion of course and in another panel, him being taken down from the cross and surrounded by those who mourned him. One or two others, I couldn’t quite puzzle out. I know the Crucifixion account to some detail, but not to the smallest occurrence. I had a smattering of religion in my upbringing, but no more than that.

Organ Loft Over Entrance

Organ Loft Over Entrance

I was smiling as I emerged back into the church yard. It had been a lovely surprise, getting to finally see the inside of Vaksala Church. It’s been a fixture in the landscape even beyond cycling. It’s peeking above the trees every time I go grocery shopping at the mall or visit Jens’ parents. I’ve been riding by it for some 6 years or more, yet this was the first time I’d gotten a peek beyond those metal doors.

Before going back to Loke, I made a direct line toward a sign for a much needed facility. The bathroom has been built into a building that sits right at the gate. A lovely brick construction that dates to the 1400’s. According to on-line sources, it might have been used for storage or perhaps house ‘the local guild’. Guild for what? I haven’t a clue and found nothing to answer that question during my research attempts.

I really should have used the tripod on the church photos. It was in the pod bags, but my feet were already bothering me just from the short walk to the walls on the southern side of the church for the runestone. When I found the church open, I just didn’t bother limping back to the trike for the tripod before going in. Still, even without it the photos didn’t come out too badly. Just a tiny bit of blurring on the one of the organ loft… which is about 8 overlapping photos stitched together. Wasn’t about to go mucking around behind the alter for a couple pixels of focal length. It still wouldn’t have let me get the whole thing in one shot with the lens I have.

My feet really need to hurry up with the healing.

Nature’s call answered, I finally returned to Loke and trike. While putting everything away, I heard dogs starting to bark furiously behind me. Not aggressive, but more like someone desperately wanted to come say ‘hi’ and play. A woman was walking toward the church gate with three dogs. One was a spaniel of some kind. Springer I think. I gave it only a passing glance. The other two were so unusual they had all my attention.

The woman made an attempt to get the large white dogs with longish, slightly kinked coats to quiet and settle. I called out to ask what breed were they. Spinone Italiano, a type of Italian (clearly) bird dog. There’s a photo of the white one like the woman had on this link – http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/spinone.htm

They also come in roan, brown and roan, white and brown, white and roan, and pure white. The woman told me they’re quite rare in Sweden. Less than 200 in all the country. Her two beauties (mother and daughter) were 1% of them in the entirety of Sweden. Did she breed them? ‘Just one litter,’ she answered, explaining she had gone to Norway to find a dog for stud. She didn’t think much of other Spinone bloodlines in Sweden or they were too closely related. She planned to breed the daughter, but not for another 2 years. An attempt to breed the mother again at the end of last year hadn’t taken.

Clearly the woman was working for the love of the breed and careful about whatever pups would come into the world. Certainly not in it for the money if she was spacing litters 2 years apart and waiting until her youngest dog was 4 years. They were obviously very cared for.

She also asked about Loke. What breed and how old. She exclaimed in surprise at his age. ‘He’s really 9?! But he looks so young! I thought no more than 4 or 5 years old!’ I’m getting used to that reaction. It’s becoming almost universal when his age comes up. I said maybe it was the fact that he pretty fit from the years of running with the trike, though he’d had to slow down quite a bit in the past couple of years because of the start of arthritis.

Everything packed, I said goodbye and the girls started barking again as the trike rolled out. I think this time it was jealousy that Loke got to go with the funny wheeled thing.

We cruised to the mall and through the parking lot to join the cycle paths through the 4-H club grounds there. Before we hit the down slope to the park land on the other side, I saw a man just cresting the hill. His thinning hair was a little long, more than a little wild and pure white, as was the thick beard. I had to admire him for determination. He was clearly frail. He scuffed along with strides less than a quarter of the length of an average person, his arms cocked and moving back and forth with each little step like a jogger. If he went faster than 1 mph, I’d be surprised. Yet, there he was, climbing a pretty good slope and nearly half a mile away from any kind of residential building. At the sight of us, he gave a most charming and infectious smile, calling out that he liked my bike.

He reminded me of another older man, 70+ if he was a day. Wiry, with thin wisps of gray hair and a beard. I’d see him along the paths of the River Loop. Almost always dressed as if he were tackling a marathon in tank top, runner’s shorts and good quality jogging shoes, sweat bands on wrists and brow with a water bottle. In all weather. In the winter, he’d change the shorts for track pants and a light jacket over the tank top. He wasn’t fast, shuffling along with an uneven step I recognized as the leftover of a stroke. For years, he was an almost permanent fixture on the loop. I realized a few months ago I’d not seen him in 2 or 3 years. That made me sad, but for 4 or 5 years I’d see him several times a week. Again, I just have to admire that determination against physical difficulties. Gives me a bit of a kick in the butt about the times I let my body stop me.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We arrived home with 8.53 miles. Loke came up the stairs fine, gulped some water and paced around a bit before realizing nothing much was going to happen. So, he went in the kitchen to stare at Jens playing on his computer. Finally he curled up on the blanket we put near Jens’ computer desk.

Since the morning loop with Loke had been slow and fairly easy, I decided to ride to the American Food Store around 1 pm. Yep. I went twice with about 4 hour break in between. Something I’ve rarely if ever done before. I’d planned to go out again though. Even left the trike parked under the balcony for it.

Loke started pacing hopefully as I put the cycle shoes on. He looked disappointed when I went out the door without him.

I started out with the River Loop. Rather than go directly to the shop and back for a measly 3 miles at best, I was going to go through the fringes of Uppsala’s downtown before going straight to the heart of the city. I zipped along at a good pace, nearly 10 mph average for the first 2 miles. Surprising since I’d already gone over 8 miles earlier.

On the cycle path shortly passed the seemingly church-less vicarage, I came upon another older man out for a slow walk. He gamely ticked along with a pair of nordic poles. Beside him walked a young woman, blond and wearing a uniform like many of the professional care-givers in Sweden wear. She looked downright bored, her nose firmly in her iPhone. The only thing to connect the two of them was that she kept her pace to his. No other attempt to connect with him.

She didn’t even look up when the man called out to me, ‘Is it going well?’. Smiling I stopped to say it was going very well. He gave me the biggest, most heartwarming smile. We had a nice little chat as I answered his questions as best I could in Swedish since most in his generation have little to no English. He had seemed kinda cheerful before he called to me, but but lit up and chattered as brightly as a happy parakeet when I stopped to talk.

The woman had given me only the barest glance from whatever held her attention on that tiny screen. So sad that the guy had to be stuck with someone as engaging as the asphalt under his feet. If she found the job so insufferable, clearly she should be in another field of work. She might be doing her job, but only in the most bare bones way. To me, providing a little human connection should be a part of it, perhaps the most important. A part she was neglecting. I hope she was just having a bad day and isn’t always so.

There’s a thought. Jens has suggested at times that I volunteer at a sort of second hand store to get me out of the house and more exposure to ‘live’ Swedish. It’s about as appealing to me as getting my teeth drilled. I can say that now that I’m over that particular phobia. It’s still quite unpleasant, but at least I don’t throw punches and bite now.

I would love to work with wildlife. In spite of the general love of nature most Swedes have, wildlife rescue isn’t very prevalent. Maybe volunteering to visit people like that charming man? If I could trust Loke not to be crazed for the first 20 minutes in a new place, he and I both could. Loke’s occasionally showed surprising empathy to older people. One example is an elderly man we met outside the museum at Nordkapp. He was sitting there, alone in his wheel chair, blank-eyed and slumped. Loke, who had been uncomfortable with all the attention from the healthy, happy strangers wanting to hug him, tugged on the leash to go to him. The man smiled when the fuzzy one put his head his knee very carefully and wagged his tail.

And seeing how less than 5 minutes of my time yesterday brightened the man’s face makes me smile, it could be something to do once or twice a week. It would also be good for Swedish lessons. Okay, enough of random, non-cycle related rambling!

I continued on toward the road past the hospital to make the turn toward the bandi court. I love that hill! I streaked down it, hitting over 22 mph before I had to hard brake to whip around the right turn as fast as I dared. Spinning fast as I could in the highest gear short of needing to mash the pedals, I zipped along at 12 mph. I’m amazed I managed to maintain that up the 2-3% grade. Shooting under the overpass leading to the drawbridge, I skidded into the left turn onto the gravel path between two lines of trees. My left wheel almost came off the ground.

On the path along the river toward the heart of Uppsala, my speed dropped to about 9 mph. Further on, I had to slow even more because of the sheer amount of pedestrians. Shortly before Loke and I arrived home from the first ride, the day had cleared beautifully. By the time I left the apartment on the trike a second time, it had warmed quite a bit. Definitely didn’t need the extra layer. Never got hot enough to be uncomfortable though.

I reached downtown proper and whimsically decided to have an ice cream. The first kiosk wasn’t terribly busy for once. I pulled the trike to shady spot overlooking the canal corralled river to enjoy it.

Charles gave me a huge smile and a hug when I stepped into his little store. He was feeling a little under the weather thanks to a sore hip. I can definitely sympathize having had problems with mine on occasion. He had to go back to the cafe so I chatted with his wife a little as she rang up the items. She’s very kind. She even gave me a couple of cold drinks free of charge, ‘One for you and another for your husband.’ Since it was a little heavy and she worried about the paper bag falling apart, she carried it out for me to put in trike’s bags.

Seeing the pannier bags, she smiled. ‘Reminds of riding in Denmark.’ Of course, I had to ask if she’d done cycle touring. ‘Yes, but very along ago. When I was a child, my parents took me riding in Denmark.’ She’d gone to the flat places unlike me. Not that I would trade my time on Møn for anything. Would have been nice if the gears hadn’t crapped out on me and ruined the last day’s ride though.

From there, it was a quick sprint for home, spinning as fast as I could. The Garmin showed 10.27 miles when I stopped it in front of the apartment. Not bad. Just shy of 20 miles for the day! I think that’s a new record for a day’s distance for 2014!

And at least, that ride, I felt!

Now I need to do some scrambling to get ready for our trip to Borås tomorrow evening and the ride on Wednesday! Busy, busy!

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