Terii’s Cycling Babble


Rail-To-Trail Fun!
June 6, 2014, 10:02 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Ever since the vacation in June of 2012 where Jens and I took one of our cycle/fishing trips and I got to ride the Klarälvsbana, I’ve been more than a little intrigued by ‘rail-to-trail’ paths. My ride on June 4, 2014 sealed it firm. June seems to be the magic month for these kind of rides.

Now I pine for trails like these to be laid down on every possible abandoned rail track in the country. Pity they don’t seem as in a hurry to do it as in the States. Then again, there are scads of cycle paths webbing most any place with a population of over 100. I shouldn’t complain.

I was feeling pretty battered on Tuesday. I woke up, lurching around in a desperate attempt to finish packing before Jens took the car for work. When he got up and saw me limping around, he offered to let me have the car for the day if I didn’t mind driving him to Stockholm.

He would have taken the train except some kind of a freak accident has all but stalled rail travel between Uppsala and the airport, which means to Stockholm. Something to do with a broken power line falling on the tracks, blowing some big electrical thing. Huge fire, area looks like a miniature war zone, more than a month to repair.

While some trains can go through, they creep along at like quarter speed and are packed to the roof. The others stop at the airport to disgorge their passengers on busses to get to Uppsala. We passed one of those packed to the roof with even the aisle jammed with standing people. Not something I’d want to wedge myself into.

I thankfully agreed to drive him. Jens suggested for picking him up, I arrive at 4:30, but bring a book in case his afternoon meeting ran long.

Packing left me a bit stressed. No matter how often I went through the list, double and triple checking, I felt as if I was leaving about a million things behind. Finally, I just made sure of the necessities (trike, shoes, helmet, cycle clothes and 1 extra layer, harness, Loke and whatever Jens packed) and hoped for the best. Jens’ meeting ran until almost 6 pm. He looked a bit harried when he came out to me. I let him have the wheel, persistent in my efforts to avoid driving through Stockholm. Jens’ office is fortunately on the fringe of the city on the Uppsala side. For the first 40 minutes, we went no where fast. The joys of Stockholm traffic near rush hour.

Blurry iPhone Shot of Bored Loke

Blurry iPhone Shot of Bored Loke

As soon as we won free of the traffic and sped onward southwest, Loke settled down. I guess after all these years, he’s finally figured out if things are packed like they were and we’re not going home, it’s a long trip. It doesn’t always stop him from leaping to his feet at every reduction of speed, but this time, he just chilled. For one hour of the 4 hour trip, he even curled up with his back to us and snoozed without moving. For the entire day, it had been murky gray. Even when heading off to drop Jens at work, there had been tiny water speckles appearing on the windshield from time to time. Every now and again on the day’s short walks with Loke, I’d occasionally feel a miniscule kiss of water on my cheek.

Well, isn't this fun? :P

Well, isn’t this fun? 😛

It only worsened between Stockholm and the area with the ruins of Brahe manor on the shores of Lake Vättern. About 45 minutes before reaching that ruin, the rain had started coming down in earnest. Enough to drench the roads and make those slight, but annoying ruts fill with water, increasing the risk of hydroplaning.

Along Lake Vättern, the road rises, reaching a kind of peak along the section next to Brahe manor. The clouds were so low, we drove into them. Visibility at times was less than 75 yards. Brahe ruin generally dominates the roadside, less than 100 yards from the edge. This time, I had to squint to make out the faintest ghost of it in the dense murk. Beyond the ruin, the descent began and we finally broke out of the clouds shrouding the steep slopes along the lake. It was still raining, but at least we could see past our noses.

None of it was inspiring confidence in the weather for ride the next day. We were back to misty sprinkles upon our arrival in Borås. I went in first while Jens parked the car. It looked nice enough.

While I waited, Loke got many smiles and gushes of ‘What a lovely dog!’. When the three of us went up to the desk for check in, the woman there exclaimed happily in Swedish, ‘A husky! Oh, he’s gorgeous!’ Then as she did the paper work, sorting the keycards and such, she chattered happily that she used to have huskies, but now had a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Jens and I both chuckled at that and he even told her that we were considering a Ridgeback if we ever got another dog.

The Grand Hotel in Borås

The Grand Hotel in Borås

Our room was pretty nice I thought. Jens was a little irked that the promised dog bed wasn’t there and called to reception while I got ready for sleep. It was nearly 11 pm by that time.

He might have been a slug in the car, but once in the hotel room, Loke was quite perky and bright-eyed. He’s learned that trips like this mean something fun for him and he doesn’t like waiting until the morning.

The same clerk who’d checked us in arrived with the dog items and Loke unleashed a bit of his excitement on her. She laughed as he bounced up and pulled a sheepskin like pad out of her arms to ravage. She explained that the hotel had only just begun to set up ‘dog friendly’ rooms in the past month or so. The bed, pad and dishes were all unused. We were the first guests to have brought something other than a toy breed.

When I didn’t let him ‘play’ (read destroy) the pad, he finally said hello to the woman as only a husky can. A bounce, a kiss and about a ton of white hair on her dark uniform suit. After she left, I promptly crashed into sleep.

The next morning, woke confusingly stiff and my left shoulder was killing me. I guess the comfortable bed had been a little too soft for my body’s liking. While Jens staggered around in zombie-without-coffee mode to get ready for the day, I headed down to breakfast.

Impressive! They had ecological choices which is near non-existent at most hotel breakfast buffets. Boiled eggs, a kind of cheese, 2 kinds of yoghurt and a couple other things. They also had scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh (not canned!!!) fruit, 4 kinds of rolls, 2 kinds of fresh baked bread, more yoghurts and cheese. Salami, ham, turkey slices, roast beef and just about everything you could want to add to crunchy rolled oats for a musli breakfast. Jens admitted later it was the best breakfast buffet he’s seen outside of a luxury hotel.

Once I ate, I went to relieve Jens of Loke duty so he could come eat. The fuzzy one and I went out to the little park behind the hotel. The clerk who had checked us in that evening was just coming in for a morning shift. My sympathies for her. I’ve worked in a hotel that often did that to me. She said hello to both of us.

Azaleas!

Azaleas!

While crossing the bridge spanning the river by the hotel, a spot of color on the bridge’s decking caught my attention and I stopped to give a puzzled frown. A single detached flower, which would normally only warrant a cursory glance, but this one was a blast from the past. It brought smiling memories of spring time through most of my childhood.

An azalea blossom. I haven’t seen one since the spring of 2004. The last spring I was in the U.S. and living and working in the Gulf Coast area during spring is an azalea treat. I looked up to search for its origin and saw a wall of vibrant pink just a bit away. With a nostalgic giggle, we set off toward the colorful display to double check this was indeed the source of the flower.

Azaleas, how I have missed thee

Azaleas, how I have missed thee

I’m not sure why my iPhone made those pinks almost dayglow.

Loke’s morning business done, we returned to the hotel. The wonderfully cheerful and nice clerk was behind the desk by that time. We chatted about dogs mostly. Her pair of huskies had actually gone to live in Alaska for a time. She asked how old Loke was and the usual, ‘9 years? No! He’s so energetic!’ came up.

Of course I pointed to all the running with the trike he’s done over the years as the source of his continued general health. I told her we were going to take the cycle path on the old rain route up to Ulricehamn. She assured me it was a lovely ride. How far would we go? I answered, ‘It’s all up to Loke.’ I explained that a couple years ago, the 40 km (25 miles) would have been easy for him, but though he doesn’t act like he’s nearly 9, his joints argue otherwise from time to time. ‘We’ll just take it slow and see.’

Back in the room, I started doing the little things to get ready. Dressing in cycle clothes, filling water bags and such. Loke paced around nudging us with lots of sighing as we made no rush out the door.

When we finally did leave the hotel and drive off toward the start point I’d decided on, I was surprised at how many more azaleas I saw. Small bunches and huge. One was the largest cluster of Azalea bushes I have ever seen in my life. Dwarfed anything on the coast, occupying more space than some 2 story houses. 20+ feet high and I have no clue how big around.

In a parking lot about 100 yards down from the start point I’d picked, I got the trike ready. Loke paced around with Jens as I worked. Every now and again, he’d stray over to me, staring with that intensity we jokingly call ‘The Husky Mind Trick’. Yes, an obvious play on the ‘Jedi Mind Trick’. Things like, ‘You will drop that hotdog, bun and all’ or ‘You will take me out for a 5 hour walk’.

As I settled into the trike with Loke hitched, my loving hubby began the, ‘Do you have…’ list. Yes, yes and yes. I realized then though, I had left something at home. My house keys. I’d grabbed Jens’ rather than chase mine down. Why is that bad? Because my key ring has the keys to lock my trike. I guess it’s a good thing the trike wasn’t locked before I left home. I have a bad habit of leaving the cable through the back wheel even when putting the trike away in the car. It meant I wouldn’t be leaving the trike alone but for brief moments. Nothing to do for it but go on.

Loke wanted to set a blazing pace. This was fresh territory! New things to smell and mark! He was crazed with excitement. He even turned to try mouthing at the tether for holding him back while running.

The Day Begins!

The Day Begins!

We zipped down the path beside the road at about 8.5 mph to the sharp right turn onto the proper rail-trail cycle path. I was giddy with anticipation as the wheels hummed on smooth pavement and green surrounded us. Just a short distance away, I could see the short tunnel of an underpass. A couple walking the opposite way exclaimed over the trike and Loke before calling out cheery ‘Good morning’. While sharing an iPhone photo of the tunnel on FB, a man came along with a dog. Some kind of big terrier looking breed. Kinda like a West Highland Terrier only Husky sized.

The path was pretty narrow and he passed on Loke’s side. The dog immediately lunged and Loke got a taste of his own medicine as the dog tried to mount him. No ‘hello’ or curiosity sniff, just right to the business of dominance mounting. Loke will at least sniff and sometimes offer a bit of play time before he tries things like. Also, Loke completely lacks the aggression to back it up. He’s completely baffled and runs like crazy when the other dog he tries to dominate gets angry and snappy. This one, I think would be the type to get snappy back if another dog objected to his dominance display.

Slugus Humungus

Slugus Humungus

The first section of trail was quite busy with people out for morning walks, with or without dogs. The occasional cyclist zipped by. There was something else sharing the path. Snails and slugs. Lots and lots of slugs especially. Huge things. Some 6 inches long or more. The first few really big ones I saw, had me muttering angrily about people not  picking up after their dogs before realizing it wasn’t poop. Those oozy little critters turned the path into something of a slalom course. Just couldn’t stand the idea of running them over if I could help it.

Everyone I passed was nothing but smiles and friendly calls of good morning or comments about the Sprint or Loke. One older woman called out something different, so I stopped to say, ‘Excuse me?’ with a big smile. ‘You’re out to the ride the trail? So nice and very easy, this old train track,’ she repeated. When I said yes, she asked how far, looking quite surprised when I said I hoped to reach Ulricehamn.

Up and Up and Up and....

Up and Up and Up and….

For almost the first 2 miles of the trail, we did only about 4 mph, sometimes peaking into 5 mph. The reason was the unrelenting slope. It wasn’t more than 3% grade as I understand that’s the general ‘acceptable limit’ of slope for a rail line and has been for standard type trains almost since the beginning of rail transport. But it was unbroken and as I need to gear down and pedal faster for my knees, it was tiring even with Loke helping.

It was pretty along the trail. Everything lush and green. The misty downfall did shift to a slightly heavier drizzle. At one point, it even pushed right into a light rain. Since the temperature was in the 50’s, I pulled out the umbrella. Getting slightly damp at those temps, particularly when working up a long climb is tolerable, but fully wet is another matter. Since there was no wind and our pace quite slow, I actually continued chewing my way ever upward.

Oh, and it appears my Garmin is completely clueless when it comes to altitude. Shortly after I took this photo, I passed a sign for the ‘highest point of this trail section’. 206 meters above sea level which comes to roughly 675 feet. That’s a discrepancy of almost 400 feet.

It was so nice when we finally crested the slope. I actually paused to shake off the burn in my legs and breathe a sigh of relief.

Then it was off on a long down hill. It made Loke happy to move a bit faster than 5 mph. So was I, but I would have prefered something I had to pedal for. 7.8 mph got little nippy with damp clothes and exertion to warm me. My knees seem to think that no resistance on the pedals is as bad or sometimes worse than too much. I was already riding the brakes to keep our speed down to Loke acceptable levels. Wearing my brakes out even faster just so I can have pedal resistance feels wasteful. Not to mention it would be very annoying to need that stopping power only to have scattered it is as a fine metal or ceramic dust along the trail.

Little Lake & Lupins

Little Lake & Lupins

We passed a lot of dogs on the first 5 miles of the ride. I guess because most of it is close to residential areas and it’s not until further into the country side and away from intersecting roads things become more solitary. Makes sense.

One of those many dogs was a huge English Mastiff. Pretty sure the tiny woman walking him would have been dragged like a rag doll if he’d decided to follow us. Fortunately, he only watched us pass lazily.

As I was putting the camera away after taking the Lupins and Lake photo, a man stepped onto the path from one connecting to residential streets. He had five medium sized black poodles. Two of them went completely nuts upon seeing us. Loke and I sat quietly as I motioned for the man to pass us rather than us trying to go by him and his leashed Tasmanian Devil wanna-bes.

Can't have sunshine, but at least there's flowers!

Can’t have sunshine, but at least there’s flowers!

A bit before Mile 4, I turned off the cycle path where it crossed a rather busy road. The road had a dedicated cycle-pedestrian path beside it, so no need to risk traffic. However, it did mean climbing a couple of hills with grades exceeding 3%. We took it slow as we had most of the day. Jens warned me his meeting might run as late as 5 or 6 pm so I wasn’t to stress myself since I had so much time to kill.

Toarp Church

Toarp Church

Cranking along, I finally began to catch glimpses of my short term goal above the tops of the trees. When I finally rolled up to the church, a heavier gray mass of cloud was creeping up. Fitting I suppose as people began pulling into the parking lot. Their expressions as they greeted each other were somber. Clearly a funeral service was about to begin. Though it meant the church was open, I didn’t make the walk up the slope for a peek inside. The service hadn’t yet started, but it felt incredibly disrespectful to duck in for photos when people were already waiting inside. I settled for the exterior.

As I put the camera away, I saw the priest. He wasn’t dressed in the way most priests on TV are with the plain black slacks and a black shirt with the white collar. He was in black and he did have a black collar, but instead of a simple black shirt, he sported something almost like a ‘coat’ with a long split hem that swung as he walked. It put in my mind the image of a priest from the 1600’s or the like. Quite distinctive and very different from any I’ve seen.

Random Gray Day Scenery

Random Gray Day Scenery

Dark as the cloud was, I expected to get drenched, but as Loke and I moved out, all that touched us was a light misting of droplets like a dash of salt.

Lovely Old Stone Bridge

Lovely Old Stone Bridge

Rather than return to the busy road in search of a place where it would cut back to the path, I took a tiny fork of a gravel road right by the church. My maps seemed to indicate it should rejoin the rail trail almost directly. It did and soon we were happily on our way again.

We ticked over 6 miles and Loke still ran strong. He’d had a few episodes of limping, both in his hip and right knee. Nothing horrifyingly drastic. The furball seemed determined to not slow down and looked impatient when I slowed us. He thought it even worse when I’d stop, offer him a drink of water and let him sit for 15 minutes. That didn’t appear to make any difference to the limp. It was almost like he had to walk the kink out.

See the slightly back tilted ears? We're wasting time.

See the slightly back tilted ears? We’re wasting time.

I wasn’t going to let him go rushing off with the limp though. We’d go from ticking along at 7 to 8 mph to creeping at 5 mph or sometimes even 4 mph.

I was in love with most of the scenery we passed. If the trail wasn’t a quiet passage through twin walls of deep green conifers thrusting up through moss furred rocks and boulders, it was still lakes or pastures with a carpet of lush green studded with bright yellow and white flowers. It was a landscape that loved its water. More than the lakes proved that. Water gurgled and chuckled along most of the trail. Most often it was hidden, other times it would give me a peak of a tiny, fast flowing rill or larger cascade over an old spill way.

Ruined walls just visible

Ruined walls just visible

A few yards downstream of the broken wall

A few yards downstream of the broken wall

The first clear gurgle of water I saw, I stopped to take a picture. It was a lovely little stream that burbled through a choke point of rocks. I snapped a first quick photo and the arrangement of stones suddenly jumped out at me. It was part of an old ruin! A ruined what, I haven’t a clue, but clearly something had been done here. You can see the wall run from the left to the right of photo with a broken bit in the middle of the stream. To the right it takes a sharp turn where it continues back past where another wall meets it at a 90 degree angle. An old mill race with foundations of a water mill perhaps?

Just a few minutes ago, another possibility occurred to me. The wall goes straight across the stream. What if the stream wasn’t there when the wall/possible building was constructed? What if it was built, fell to ruin and then the stream came along a few centuries ago to erode it’s little channel and break the wall in two? Goes to show what a vivid imagination I have.

My dreamy contemplation of the walls was disturbed by a jingle of harness and a sharp, demanding ‘Woof!’ from my furry companion. Bully. Just because he can’t appreciate archeology. Once I settled in the seat, he jumped into gear. He might has well have not had 7 miles under his paws already. He sighed at me when he settled into the brisk trot he’s allowed. 8 mph.

Beauty at the overpass

Beauty at the overpass

Birdsong was replaced with the distant rush of traffic. It grew to a roar as the cycle trail swerved closer to the Highway 40. Louder still when the 40 went up and over some small country roads and an even tinier cycle path. It’s not often I find something to photograph in such places. It’s a wonder the little hut wasn’t destroyed when the overpass was built, but there it stood beside the pretty little stream as if in defiance of the unattractive pillars of concrete.

Rångedala Church

Rångedala Church

Immediately on the other side of the 40, I left the cycle way for small country roads. After just a short hop and a hill, we stopped at Rångedala Church. Yet another white box with tower on one end. I guess this one also might be considered Gustavian style of architecture. Very little info on this church except that it was built on top of a demolished stone church which likely dated to the middle ages. I checked for runestones thought didn’t expect to find any and tried the doors. They were locked, but my research just revealed the interior is pink. Pink?! Oh, and the beautifully carved pulpit is white with baby blue accents. I’m surprised people haven’t broken into out into riots forced to sit surrounded by that color combination.

The joke photo

The joke photo

It was a short hop to return to the trail. About a mile further on, I stopped the trike to make a joking post on FB about the horror of the neglected trail with a photo of a few little cracks with weeds pushing up through them. Not even enough to shave a millisecond off the most hard-core cyclist’s time, which was why it was funny and being the first cracks I’d seen.

About a 100 yards past those first little breaks, the trail got a little interesting. Of course, it was a stretch Loke really wanted to blast through for some reason. He gets moments like that. Happy with a slow pace and then the next second he wants to race like the wind. Well, the trail went kinda… wash-board for lack of a better description.

Anyone who’s ever bounced down an unpaved country lane, particularly in the southern U.S. knows precisely what I’m talking about. The ridges were a little broader and differently spaced given that it was asphalt doing the shape shift. But 8 mph, it was like being in a row boat on rough seas. I pity any fast cyclists who hit that. Would be kinda like riding a bucking bronc on hyper-speed.

Bouncing or not, can't regret the scenery!

Bouncing or not, can’t regret the scenery!

I don’t really count that as neglect. It can happen in a silly short amount of time, especially with such a light weight paving as used for a cycle path. I’ve seen it happen around here in barely more than a year of freshly laid asphalt. With over 100 miles of rail-trail in the ‘county’ as well as 100’s, maybe thousands of miles of standard cycle paths, they can’t stay on top of one section every moment. Honestly, for the fun of the trail and pretty views, I can forgive a little ‘rough seas’ riding. The bouncing makes it adventurous! Or something at least.

A little further on, the trail gave me a surprise with just a hint of frustration. The woodland had opened up into what was fields on one side and construction like mess on the other. The ground on the right has been flattened by big machines though they were gone now. All that was left was chewed up ground and neat stacks of what had once been living trees. At the beginning edge of it, a couple were working hard on their lovely yard. They stared in something akin to amazement as we passed, finally calling out friendly hellos when I waved. About 50 yards past the neat little house perched on the edge of the mess left by the machines, I spotted a stone that didn’t look naturally placed. Then another.

What appears to be a double stone circle monument.

What appears to be a double stone circle monument.

Several stones were together on a weed choked elongated mound. I could make out at least 8. It looked like some kind of low burial mound or cairn. The photo doesn’t show the stones very clearly. I wanted to get to it, but between the trail and the wheat field was a very deep and very wet ditch.  Finally, I found the tractor access further down.

Flowers other than Lupins

Flowers other than Lupins

I parked and started walking through the wheat. Loke came with me. A source of laughter as always. He didn’t walk or trot through the field, but bounded gleefully through the wheat stalks, all taller than he was. Every now and again, he’d leap high up for a quick look around. Bounce, bounce, BOING! Bounce, bounce, BOING! I couldn’t stop laughing.

Sadly, getting closer to the monument offered no insights. Like a painting or drawing done with stippling, the monument was harder to see closer up than from afar. Frustrated I turned back. There was absolutely no mention of this on any site I use to research such things in prep for a ride. So, I know nothing about it except it’s here. I’m reasonably certain it’s Iron Age at least. Maybe back to Stone Age, but that is a wild guess. The only reason I know it’s a double circle of stones is from Google Map satellite view. A very poor, grainy image of what look like tiny shadows making a pair of side by side circles. I think I prefer mystery runestones!

Pretty little fall

Pretty little fall

About 20 minutes further on from the mystery monument, another gurgle of water stopped me. A beautiful, tiny waterfall just off the path. The stream continued on under the paving to feed yet another little lake on the other side. Beside the waterfall was an arrow sign pointing the way to ‘The Haga Fall’ The trail was tiny as it twisted through thick tangled growth. No way for the trike to navigate. Even shorty little me could hardly stand up straight in some spots of it. I only walked a few yards down, unwilling to leave the trike unlocked right on the path edge. I also didn’t know how long the walk was. There was the lake lawn, but with a big sign proclaiming dogs were forbidden I wasn’t going to roll even on the edges of it. I didn’t want to ruin my nice day by getting fussed at.

I gave up the quest for the waterfall though I did take a moment to eat a few cashews to the music of cascading water. I even let Loke splash around in it a little. Mostly he just stood at the fall trying to catch the water.

Water, hills and plants make for beautiful views

Water, hills and plants make for beautiful views

Loke was raring to go when I called him back over to the trike. Kindle and rest of the nuts packed, we rolled on.

Just loved this image.

Just loved this image.

Only a few minutes further down, I confused Loke by giving a cheer. He started looking around for Jens or something, but I was cheering for him. 13 miles! Loke had officially ticked over for a new 2014 longest trip record. The previous was 12 something when we did the Läby loop and Jens picked him up at the grocery. I couldn’t remember exactly how much over 12 miles he did, so I rounded up to 13 to make the new record firm. And he was still moving strong. He’d occasionally try to run. I was hoping he’d make 15 miles at the least.

His feet were getting a lot of attention from me. I’d made some socks. I tried to use them nearly right away since Loke’d actually gotten quite a few runs recently. The skin on is paw pads seems to recover so slowly. Sadly, but not unexpected, the wet made the tape peel away. The bare fabric can’t handle more than a couple miles of pounding and friction. So, by Mile 5 of the trip, the shoes were just tatters of cloth. But thankfully at 13 miles, they still looked okay. I kept him on natural ground as much as I could. Easy enough for a lot of the way. Next to the paved path was a line of beaten earth. A bridle path in fact. It didn’t run the entire way to Ulricehamn, but for more than 15 miles at least. If offered nicer footing for the fuzzy than blacktop.

South Ving's Church

South Ving’s Church

Mile 17 or so, it was time to leave the path yet again. This time it was to collect two things. A church and a runestone. At the correct intersection, I took the turn south for the church first.

Enter South Ving’s Church. This church looked a little different than the previous ones on this ride. I suppose it was the lack of the Gustavian style for once. Turns out this was the first church of the day that hadn’t been built on top of a demolished medieval stone church during the 1700’s or 1800’s. 1130 A.D construction date for this one. The tower was odd though. Instead of being a true tower with a tall stone construction added to the end, generally the western, of the church, it was a wooden square plopped on the roof, capped with a copper lantern style construction. More of a steeple than a tower perhaps.

Maybe one of these is Runestone Vg #167.

Maybe one of these is Runestone Vg #167.

The arrangement of the parking was a little off compared to the main entrance of the church. It was closed, but checking it was on the way in the circular meander for runestones. I found the one that’s supposed to be here… I think. There were three. One was so weathered and lichen covered it was impossible to tell if it had ever been carved. The other two bore simple crosses often found on runestones carved in the 1000’s to 1100’s. Runestone Vg #167 dates from the middle ages. It could be that both (or all three) of the stones are counted among Västergötland. I’m not sure which is Vg #167 or if the other two are on any of the on-line lists.

Then I climbed my way back north to go back by the cycle trail. As I crossed the little stream in search of another runestone, I spotted a street called ‘Slottväggen’ or (Castle Street). I paused there a moment to look at my Garmin and maps to decide it was worth looking at on the way back.

Runestone Vg #168

Runestone Vg #168

The stone was easy to find. The grass around it was neatly clipped into a sleek lawn. We rolled briskly down the hill to stop at the intersection of Castle Street. I looked on my touring map for a castle, but no mark indicated such. Still the pull of the street name pulled me on though it would add distance to the ride. I think it was  somewhat downward glide. There was more clipped lawn to the right and a wooden, graceful curve of a bridge over the stream leading to football (soccer) fields. The pavement took a sharp left curve leading a grass and dirt lane running through twin rows of mature trees.

Looks more like a French chateau

Looks more like a French chateau

I felt a little nervous about going down that lane. If it was just a private home, I dislike intruding though thanks to the ‘right to use’ law in Sweden, people with cultural sites may have people coming to look for runestones, rock carvings and ruins. As long as respect is shown and no peeping, it’s probably okay. There were no signs declaring it private. So, I drew a deep breath and went for it.

Mystery Standing Stone

Mystery Standing Stone

Loke loved it. The natural ground and shade draws him. I swerved over to the left so Loke was trotting on the thick grass at the center. His jaw opened in a happy husky grin. Unpaved lanes like this aren’t as exciting to him as a lovely packed earth trail covered with leaves and pine needles winding through the dim, cool shade of woods. Still miles over a paved road. The house is impressive, but hard to tell how old it really is. I’m guessing not very. Still I took a photo.

As I turned to leave, something under some trees, a few yards off the manicured lawn, caught my attention. A stone that looked very unnatural in its position. A standing stone or perhaps a rune stone. I skirted the edge of the yard to get a good look, but no carvings visible. Still interesting enough I took a picture. No one came out to ask what I was doing or the like, but it was still a relief to retreat back to the roads. There were signs for a burial ground, without further guidance at an intersection I turned back for the trail.

Lakes, lakes and lakes!

Lakes, lakes and lakes!

Though the skies were lead gray and the threat of rain hovered, it still a great day. A bit on the cool side, perfect for Loke. The rain continued to miss us. Cruising along on dry pavement, we’d suddenly find a drenched stretch as if a giant full bucket had been over turned to soak everything for a quarter mile. Then dry again. We stopped often, letting Loke drink some water and test his patience by making him rest for 15 min or so. If he was lucky, I found places next to a lake where he could wade timidly in the shallows.

I thought Loke was going to catapult me off this.

I thought Loke was going to catapult me off this.

My touring map showed a ruin in the area of one lake the trail ran past. I didn’t think I could reach it that way, but couldn’t tell which little roads I needed for it. No need to worry. It turns out the pasture with the ruin in it was right next to the path. There was a very steep gravel path down to a bridge over the stream to enter the pasture. No way to get the trike down that. I decided to risk leaving it. A solid looking little wood bridge with a gate across it lay over the water running down to the lake. Loke flounced ahead of me. A happy 50 lb husky made the structure bounce alarmingly. It reminded me of the Mythbuster’s episode where they tested the marching army shaking a bridge apart. A faint path ran off across the rolling hills. Loke frolicked happily through the grass before casting himself down for a good wallow. He paused, still on his back to give me a goofy upside down husky grin and tail wag.

Site of an ancient fortress

Site of an ancient fortress

The flow of land had a short steep drop between two hills, as if the hollow between them had been deepened for a defensive work. As if to lend credence to my perception of that, a tumbling wall of stones looked like reinforcement. A batch of signs stood on the crest of the next hill, but other than the almost stone-wall, nothing yelled ‘ruin’. It turned out that only a central tower had a stone base in the fort. Buildings had stood on the three main hills. When the fortification was built, the lake was higher so the hills made a small island. So little evidence of any of that to be seen. I cast many nervous glances over my shoulder while walking to the signs. I hated the fact that my trike was unlocked and just sitting on the path edge. One of those moments for kicking myself over leaving the keys at home. In spite of another small sign in the distance beckoning me, I cut the exploration short to give Loke another opportunity to bounce me off the little bridge.

Before and After

Before and After

The pedals and paws took us past the 20 mile mark when I was met with an unpleasant site. One moment we moved through a world of lush green and firm paths. Then, as if an giant knife had come down, carving the woodland and pasture away like half a loaf of bread, everything became an orange scene of destruction. The path gone, not so much as a blade of grass. Large machines churned along the top of a mountainous pile of earth meant to be a multi-lane highway in the future.

I regarded the unpaved dirt track dubiously. Loke stared suspiciously at the noisy machines. He’s not usually afraid of big machines, provided they don’t get too close. He likes at least a meter’s clearance if we pass them on his side. These weren’t like any he’s seen before. The big backhoe with the crazy long arm especially irked him for some reason.

Turning back wasn’t an option in my mind, so I pushed us out. Loke pulled hard, trying to get through the area quickly as possible. He would have flown if he could. He squeezed over close to the trike while nervously keeping an ear kocked at the digger. I put a hand out to push him away from the front wheels a little. He’s already lost one toe due to a tumor. It would be no good for him to lose another because it tangled in the spokes of a moving trike wheel. Not sure the foot would still be weight bearing if it only had two toes. It was noisy and the rolling surface mushy, but I followed it, knowing the proper trail had to reappear. A bit less than half a mile and an underpass through the raised earth, we found it. I could swear my sigh of relief was echoed by one from the furball.

Old Pasture/Field Walls

Old Pasture/Field Walls

As the wheels hit pavement again, Loke still tried to pull us into a run. I guess he wanted that horrible noise far behind him. Or maybe it was just joy at being surrounded by green again! The shock of that abrupt change of view, made me forget to celebrate a mile stone as we crossed the torn earth. Mile 20 meant it was not only the continuing longest ride of the year for Loke, but also a new record for the most miles in a single day for me!

Lupin Lane!

Lupin Lane!

After mile 20, the checks of Loke’s feet came more frequently, but they were holding up great! It was a bit of a tussle from time to time to keep him on the bridle path, but clearly worth the effort. I’ll admit I did relent a few times to let him run on pavement when the weeds or distance between bridle path and cycle track became too much. He’d only had 3 limping episodes over the entire distance with a couple random ‘hip-hops’ (as I’ve come to call them) thrown in. The worst stretch of limping had occurred after his bounding and jumping through the wheat field when I tried for a closer look at the mystery monument.

Around mile 22, I did another ‘rest break’. Watered Loke up and relaxed in the trike with a good book on my Kindle while I nibbled some grapes for 15 minutes. He paced around a bit. After about 10 minutes, he laid down, head on paws and eyes never leaving my face. Every time I so much as shifted in the seat, he was on his feet in a flash, tail swinging eagerly. “22 miles? What 22 miles? More like 2 miles!” he almost seemed to be saying. When I finally put the Kindle away and released the parking brake, Loke flung himself against the tether and kangaroo hopped like it was first few yards of the day. Color me impressed.

Brunn (Well) Church Distant

Brunn (Well) Church Distant

Mile 24, it was time to cross the 40 again, over it this time. Before reaching the bridge spanning the busy 4 lane highway, I stopped to photo the next goal of the ride. Brunn Church stood on its tree covered hill in the distance. I couldn’t help but grin as I set up the tripod to steady the camera with the long lens. The gray day meant it needed that extra support. The slight reduction of shutter speed would have meant a blurry photo. Loke woofed at me to say it was taking too much time. Just off the overpass, it was time to turn onto roads again. After all, I had to collect the church properly. Ticking along briskly, Loke had his nose up in hopes of sniffing out some small (edible) critter. We made a right turn for a gentle down glide, when I stopped stopped.

Well, I'll be! A church ruin!

Well, I’ll be! A church ruin!

Ignoring Loke’s peeved look, I grinned giddily. A ruin! It was tucked in some trees across a hay field, but clearly visible. An old church by the look of it. Glancing at Brunn Church high on its hill, I decided I’d seek out the ruin first. Turned out it wasn’t hard. Even before the left turn to climb Brunn Church’s hill, was a gravel path and a sign pointing the way.

Old Brunn Church Ruins

Old Brunn Church Ruins

Unblocked view of ruin as Loke hears something in the grass

Unblocked view of ruin as Loke hears something in the grass

Loke was thrilled for another off tether adventure as I approached the ruin. The old churchyard wall was still intact. There was a gate. The wood was old, mostly dry rotted and covered with moss and lichen, but still strong enough it didn’t crumble when I tugged it open. The furball charged around in a big circle through the high grass once we were in the old church yard, doing his best to tangle me up. Then it was on his back for a good wallow and probably add to his yearly tick collection. A small scurry in the grass caught his focus and I pulled him short before he pounced on heaven knows what. My luck it would have been one of Sweden’s two snakes… the poisonous one. It’s not very poisonous, no more than a wasp or yellowjacket, but if I’m right about one having bitten Loke on his paw a few years ago, it was enough to have him limping very badly for a couple days.

View looking out from the porch

View looking out from the porch

This old ruin had clearly seen better days. It has a bit of a drunken lean in different directions and reinforcing bands of metal straps and cables held the walls at the back as if to keep them from taking off on their own paths. It was still thrilling to see. Nice to find ruins for a change instead of hearing about a medieval church flattened to put in a new Gustavian style box right on top, erasing history as it were. It makes me sad when the past is wiped away for progress. I know it happens and even part of me understands it needs to happen or there’d be no where to do anything. Man has left imprints pretty much everywhere. Take places like Greece for example. You can’t scuff a foot on any inch of land without stirring up some old building site or relic. Building in Athens, from what I understand, requires a team of archeologists to go onto the site first. It still saddens me just like the thought of the things they found on the digs around Gamla Uppsala being wrecked or buried under the expansion of the rails.

Burial Ground turned pasture?

Burial Ground turned pasture?

The climb up the new church’s parking lot was quite an effort. A slope of 12% or more not to mention all the extra weight I was carrying on the trike that I might leave at home for local rides. I’d started off with 5 liters of water to be sure I had plenty for the fuzzy, but was probably down to just under 4 liters by this time. The cool temps and lack of sun added to the times Loke got to play in lakes and streams meant he didn’t need as much of what I carried. Then there was the bit of food for Loke and I both. Extra clothing which was probably less than a pound, but it adds up. Camera with the extra long lens and tripod which is probably 7-8 lbs all together. Pump and tool kit. Wire cable for the times I tether Loke and need something he won’t chew through. More I can’t think of off the top of my head. I probably should start carrying it to get used to the weight. I used to do that on my Trice except for the extra 3 liters of water. There was a fenced area with what looked like a few burial cairns. I couldn’t see a way in so settled for taking a picture over the top of the fence of a cluster of stones, one standing upright as if it had been moved there ages ago.

New Brunn (Well) Church

New Brunn (Well) Church

I tethered Loke to a fence post next to the trike, left some water and finished the climb up to the church yard. The church was beautiful. The contrast the previous churches of the day heightened the impact of the square cut stone walls and slightly gothic appearance. I’ve seen plenty of churches of brick and many of stone, but the stones are generally natural shaped. If I’ve come across other cut granite churches it must be less than a handful. Certainly can’t remember others. This church also led me to a new tidbit of Swedish history. I’m going to chase down greater details later. I love when I can connect history to the landscape!

View from New Brunn Church graveyard

View from New Brunn Church graveyard

I walked around it, admiring the lines of the windows and beauty of the stone brick walls. My churchyard stroll also treated me to some gorgeous views across the countryside. The landscape I’d been riding through is actually quite hilly. The rich greens of the late spring/early summer with a backdrop of densely clumped gray clouds can only be admired. While sunshine would have made the greens pop more, the rain-threatening skies gave the scenery more drama. In my humble opinion any way.

New Brunn Church Interior

New Brunn Church Interior

I tried the door upon finishing the churchyard loop. Amazingly, it moved with my tug. As always, my face had a huge grin as I stepped quietly in. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I admit to some disappointment when I found such a low key interior. White walls with no real accents. Amazing really how the older churches have such color and decor with carvings and murals and guilt. The newer are so understated, dare I say bland? Maybe it has something to do with the rise of literacy?

My understanding is the murals were a sort of ‘poor man’s bible’. The illiterate commoners could see and know the bible stories on the walls of the church though they were unable to read. In 1686, a church law was passed in the ‘Kingdom of Sweden’ (Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia) enforced literacy on all the people though most, women especially, did not know how to write. So, perhaps that explains why churches built in the 1700’s and later lacked murals. People knew the stories from their bibles so no need of paintings.

As I left the church, there was a little internal debate as to should we go back the way we came to reconnect with the cycle trail or follow the signs for a cycle route along the roads. I decided to double back. Not knowing how busy the other roads between Brunn and Ulricehamn might become was the deciding factor. We’d barely done a half mile along the cycle track toward Ulricehamn when Jens called. It was roughly 5:15 pm. He was surprised when the answer to ‘Where are you’ was ‘Less than 3 km outside of Ulricehamn’. He asked where I wanted a pickup. Ulricehamn of course. I was pretty sure we could do less than 2 miles in the half-hour or so it would take Jens just to reach Ulricehamn.

It got quite noisy as we pedaled down the thin strip of land between the Highway 40 and bank of Lake Åsunden beside which Ulricehamn sits. Hamn means port so it’s no surprise the town sits on the edge of a sizeable lake.

View across the lake from Ulricehamn

View across the lake from Ulricehamn

Fortunately, I was soon able to get away from the highway by following a cycle/pedestrian path right along the northwestern shore of the lake. We caused a ripple of open mouthed stares by rolling through the parkland and enjoying the view of the less settled landscape across the open water.

Clicking on the lake view will give a brief history of Ulricehamn.

By the time we were passing a playground full of happy, yelling children and even young teens, I started looking for a spot convenient to meet up with Jens. I must say though, I had serious ‘Playground Envy’ at some of the park’s fixtures. You know, that kind of envy where you tell yourself, ‘Why couldn’t we have had things like that when I was a kid?!’

Oooh! Wish there'd been playgrounds with these when I was a kid!

Oooh! Wish there’d been playgrounds with these when I was a kid!

My favorite was a very different sort of merry-go-round. It was park merry-go-round meets swings. A mini, human powered version of the carnival ride. There was even a mini zip-line though it stayed close to the ground to avoid injuring kids who played on it.

Just a few hundred yards past the delightful playground, I found a grassy sward with several scattered picnic tables. It was right next to a parking lot and a boat ramp with a view of the lake. I fumbled for my iPhone to try for a picture of a herd of quacking ducks making a mad dash from the parking lot toward the water. A full grown female with about 8 half-grown ducklings in tow. Sadly, it came out so badly you can’t even tell their ducks.

View as I waited for Jens

View as I waited for Jens

We relaxed and enjoyed the view while waiting for Jens to arrive. Well, I relaxed and enjoyed the view. Loke sighed and paced and woofed at me in between nosing his water dish.

When my hubby arrived, Loke was bouncy thrilled to see him. You’d never guess he’d covered 28.8 miles. If I’m not mistaken, that might be the longest distance he’s covered in one go in more than 2 years. Last year was somewhere between 19 miles to 25 miles longest, run either in Denmark or outside Örsundsbro.

Must... resist.... sleep

Must… resist…. sleep

I packed everything up and soon we were on our way back home. The weather was better than it had been on our way to Borås. Jens kept asking worriedly if I’d really enjoyed myself. I had. In my books, the day had been a great one. I loved the trail and Loke showed me what he’s still capable of. He still had energy enough to be restless, more than he had been on the way out from Uppsala. He resisted sleep.

Part of it might have been he was hungry. I’d given him an extra scoop with breakfast, but he’d probably burned that off before we’d done 12 miles. We stopped for gas and I put 4 scoops in his portable dish. That’s double his usual evening portion. He’d also been getting chicken jerky tidbits through the day.

With a full belly, he finally succumbed.

It really had been an incredible day. I loved the rail to bike trail though the one running north from Karlstad has one major bonus over this one. It had nice clean outhouses every 5 km. Very nice to not have to worry about where you can answer calls of nature in potentially busy areas.

I definitely want to come back here and explore more.

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