Terii’s Cycling Babble

Cold, Cruel Lies
August 26, 2014, 10:08 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Jens asked me this morning what I intended to do with my day. I gave him my general answer. Cleaning, 3D modeling practice, maybe some novel writing and of course, walking Loke. Silly of me to have completely spaced one of the more obvious activities of the day! Blogging! I actually went for a ride worth posting about. Something other than the usual hamster tracks.

On Friday, I’d planned to reattempt the ride between Enköping to Ramsta Church or maybe even home on Saturday. Jens would be home meaning Loke could stay home with him so I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking him.

The weather proved too foul when I woke on Saturday (August 23rd). Gray and forecast for rain off and on throughout the day. A bit frustrated, I looked at the forecast for Sunday and it was much better. Mild temps with fog in the morning, but clearing to mostly sunny later in the day. Sunday it was!

I also shifted my plans to ride from Ramsta Church (or home) to Enköping. My reasoning was that I could hopefully at least make it to the spot where I’d ended the failed attempt from Enköping.

Sunday was leaded gray when I woke. A quick peek at the forecast showed no change, so I passed the grim hue of the sky down to fog. I expected that it might be a bit misty as well. Jens asked me to take Loke with me for a little while. Swore he’d come get him right away when I called. I agreed. In a short time, off we went for Ramsta Church.

Ramsta Church

Ramsta Church

Ramsta Church has been mentioned multiple times on my blog. Generally photographed from a distance as I’ve not been willing to brace the traffic of the 55 to get to it. There’s a safer way to reach it, but it always required a double back of a few miles which I’ve also been unwilling to do. So, there it’s sat for almost 10 years as I’ve whizzed past the in the car on the way to other places or viewed from a distance on the trike.

Today was its time to shine! We pulled into the parking lot where I set to work assembling the trike. Jens walked around with Loke as I did that as well as walked around the church yard in search of runestones. None lept out at me, though on large stone in the churchyard wall was large and flat enough to be suspicious. If runes were on it, they were badly weathered, lacked any trace of paint to be seen and my eyes are too untrained to have spotted them without that help.

As I settled the last few things into place, Jens fretted over my lack of any kind of jacket or extra layer. It felt quite on the cool side, hovering around 54 F and if it rained…. Still I was determined and didn’t want to waste more time going back home for something else to pull on just in case. Jens offered his knit, zippered hoodie, but being one of his good ones and his favorite, I didn’t want to risk it getting ruined by who knows what.

As I said goodbye to Jens, a large droplet of water plopped onto one of the mudguards of my trike. I glowered suspiciously at the gray sky.

Ramsta sits on a small service road that runs parallel to a small section of the 55. I followed Jens down it to where it met a nice country road heading northwest.

Loke was a crazed beast. He had thrown all his weight into the harness until it made his breath rasp in his chest as he fought to pull up the hill at warp speed. Less than a half mile into the ride, I began to stop for a photo of a lovely collection of older farm buildings tucked near a horse pasture that was, alas empty of horses. I changed my mind about the photo as I abruptly heard barking and a small sized dog came running from tangle of barns and outbuildings. It looked like a kind of Scandinavian Elkhound, but squished down into the body shape of a Welsh Corgi. A woman’s voice called after it, as it stopped and continued barking furiously at us from the fence line. When the woman came around to see what was going on, he came closer, the wood rails no hindrance for him. He didn’t even have to duck his head to go beneath the lowest.

He quieted for a moment as he came close enough to touch noses with Loke. His stance was quite stiff at an attempt to impress his dominance on Loke, as if my fuzz ball would heed that. About then, the woman grabbed the trailing leash and pulled him back.

Forgotten buildings not far from the yapping dog

Forgotten buildings not far from the yapping dog

We actually talked for about 10 minutes. Chatting about our dogs. She was surprised at a husky with brown eyes. Seems to be a common misconception. Brown eyes are most common in huskies, at least in Sweden. Then it’s probably an even split between which lesser common. Two blue eyes or one of each.

With her there, I was a little embarrassed to take a picture of the buildings, so I left it at a chat. As I went to pedal on, she warned me to watch out for the young men in the area who drive like they’re the only cars on the road, cutting to the inside of curves and such. Then she waved and pulled the still yapping dog with her.

For a time after we left her, I don’t remember much about the ride, except a lot of it seemed uphill and we weren’t making particularly good time. Loke tried, goodness knows. He was pulling a bit up each and every hill. He was moving well too, which always brightens my heart. No limping, either from hurting feet or arthritic hips and knees.

The llama pair have a new friend!

The alpaca pair have a new friend!

As we pushed on to the northwest, I stopped and had a laugh at a pair of semi-familiar faces. I think I’ve posted about them before, but with over 200 posts, I can’t be sure.

It was years ago when I first saw the black alpaca with his gray and white friend. The time has treated them well. They still look good though the gray and white one appears to be as grouchy now as he/she looked way back then. I must say, their ‘new’ tan companion is quite fetching and looked downright friendly.

Excuse the lousy photo. I used my iPhone to share the trio on FB. Why it didn’t occur to me to take a better photo with the Canon for the blog, I have no clue.

After I took the picture and started rolling again, I kicked myself for not having the iPhone (lousy photos or not) ready in video mode. The three of them started moving along the fence line with us, which the original two had not done when we first passed them years ago. That got Loke excited and he pulled us into a run. I was so thrilled with the moment, three adorable alpacas racing along with us, that I let Loke have his fun unhindered for once. Would have been a cute video though!

Just 10 minutes later, I slowed the trike again as I came up to a pasture where a pair of horses grazed. I called out until they looked our way, giving them opportunity to see us and decide if they wanted to move away or were going to be curious.

A Contrasting Pair

A Contrasting Pair

They were intrigued. The mare was a little timid. She came up to the fence, blowing softly to test our scent and then would skitter off a bit snorting before her curiosity brought her back to the fence. Her field mate, some breed of draft who I found stunningly beautiful, was merely curious with that unflappable nature most cold bloods display.

I have no clue what breed he was. He might be some kind of Swedish draft type. He was very sweet though, gently taking some of the grass I offered and leaning into my hand when I rubbed his forehead.

Thar Be Hagby Church

Thar Be Hagby Church

Opposite the horses, I could see a landmark in the distance I would soon be riding by. Hagby Church. I’ve passed it a few times. Once was when I attempt to do a 50+ mile loop which would have taken me from the apartment, to Wik’s Castle and back home. Jens dropped me off there once for a ride back home back in the early years of my triking craze.

We had to go a bit further north before turning south-west at the next intersection. On the flats, Loke was still running pretty well. Admittedly we’d done less than 5 miles at this point. It stubbornly remained gray. If anything the clouds had thickened as they clumped. Definitely not the weather the forecast had promised less than 2 hours previously. It remained quite chilly, but the exertions warmed me enough that it felt comfortable.

We made the southward turn and Loke pulled us faster again. I think he was still a little hyped from the alpaca incident. I let him go a bit quicker than usual. I hate depriving him of things he loves. 90% of foods he’s most fascinated with, he can’t have. I let at least let him have some jogging along at 9 mph from time to time.

We didn’t make a stop at Hagby Church. I see now I should have as there are a pair of runestones there. I was just so focused on making rolling time in hopes of actually finishing the ride. I wanted to reach the end of a goal. My ride back in June along the rail-trail in Borås gave me a craving for that when I made it all the way from Borås to Ulricehamn.

I was surprised when the road turned unpaved. Fortunately, not one of those horrible dirt and gravel roads. It was dirt yes, and even gravel, but the decent sort. Well packed strips two either side of a scattering of gravel in the center line. As typical, I vibrated along on the shallow gathering of stones to give Loke the smooth, packed earth.

Soon we rolled up to Focksta Mill. I edged off the road as much I could, holding my breath and waiting as a huge tractor squeezed by. I had to wonder how it managed with cars as the wheels very nearly hogged the entire road from weedy verge to weedy verge. The men in the cockpit waved cheerfully as they passed me.

Focksta Mill

Focksta Mill

I only considered two of the buildings at the mill as part of the ‘old’ mill set up. One, in the above photo, looked to be a mill (saw most likely). The other, a larger building across the lane right next to the sleepy flow of water, had the look of either a residence or maybe a larger mill. Turns out most of the buildings clustered here, many of which I passed off as probably recent residences, are listed as protected. Perhaps an entire tiny village preserved like the row village, Ekeby, just outside of Vänge. Apparently, this place as been settled since the 1300’s. A web site claimed both mills (saw and flour) have all their parts and with a lot of oil could function again. Wood was cut last in 1997, flour ground in 2000 as a sort of tourist display.

The other mill perhaps?

The other mill perhaps?

Sadly, I think those days are past without a lot of hard work and extensive renovation. The last update to the blog was in October, 2011. I think the people who bought the place in 2010 gave up their dreams of restoration. There was a little deck that stretched out over the growth choked spillway. I trod carefully on it. The wood didn’t look trustworthy, particularly with wood ants building their mound of splinters on one side of it. The plants were so thick and high that they hid any trace of water though I could hear it gurgling. I saw rotted and fallen timbers on the outside fo the mill, no sign of a wheel though I guess it might be one of those horizontal sorts under the building. I think it’s working days are done. So sad.

Loke was still good to go as we moved out again. Granted, we’d not gone much more than 5 miles at this time.

Scenery With Uppland Runestone #875

Scenery With Uppland Runestone #875

Just a few minutes past the mill, I found my first runestone. It was clearly visible from the road, crouched near the fence line of a pasture. A lovely stretch of scenery complete with a dilapidated barn and curious horse in the distance. I couldn’t quite puzzle out the text of the placard at the site, only the translation portion of it and the fact that this is the stone’s original location since it was erected.

Turns out it’s a bit unusual compared to many other runestones I’ve collected over the years. This one has cup marks on top and down the left side. A cup mark is a small divot or ‘cup’ chiseled into the face of the rocks, often present with other bronze/stone age carvings of foot-prints, ships, circles and ‘x’s. They can be quite small, barely over an inch but rarely more than 2 inches across. The rune lines go right over the top of some of them, so this stone was chiseled by men from an earlier age than the runestone period. Apparently, in the 1700’s, a researcher found evidence of fat in the pits, concluding it had still been used for offerings. I thought that worth mentioning outside the thumbnail.

I must say, this stretch of landscape was lovely. Gently rolling with the greens still vibrant. In other places, the fields have gone yellow gold dotted with round bales of straw or hay. Some such fields have even received their winter plowing so show their dark faces of muddy brown in place of spring or summer green or harvest-time amber.

Uppland Runestone #876

Uppland Runestone #876

Not even 100 yards further on stood the second runestone of the day, Uppland Runestone #876. It perched atop a little hillock right next to the fence line, starkly silhouetted against the gray sky.

This stone was apparently once part of a memorial arrangement, which I’ve come across before though not very commonly. Sadly, the uncarved standing stone (or stones), appear to be long gone. Probably dragged off for someone’s building materials.

There was another unusual twist I’ve never come across in a runestone. It was erected by four siblings in honor of their father. Apparently, the father’s name couldn’t be translated! Why? Because the arrangement of runes gave no indication of a Viking Age name. Maybe his name was Robert and he was from Scotland!

An Old Road Marker

An Old Road Marker

That is a bad (since I have to explain it) in-my-blog joke referring to the time I found a gravestone in a small medieval church yard with my brother’s name on it. Turns out the man buried there in the 1700’s was the son of Scottish immigrants. Quite a womanizer who became a favorite party buddy of the king at the time. Silly man got himself exiled from Sweden for getting involved in a plot against said king, though he snuck back when the king died.

Tsk, tsk, naughty man. His descents still live in Sweden. There’s a…. baron or count, I forget which, by the same name. It’s said on formal occasions, he’ll sometimes wear a kilt. According to my dad, our ancestors are also out of Scotland. There’s a small chance there’s a very distant kinship with the Swedish noble. I still laugh to think about it.

Lovely scenery in spite of gloomy skies and light.

Lovely scenery in spite of gloomy skies and light.

Back to the ride.

Pretty. I think the clouds add character even if difficult photo conditions

Pretty. I think the clouds add character even if difficult photo conditions

In spite of all the recent rain, the road was only a tiny bit mushy, so barring the hills, we made decent time. Loke had me chuckling at one point. Pedalling along, we both spotted a cat that wandered out onto the lane. It was about halfway across when it spotted us and scooched hurriedly over to vanish in a road-side thicket. Of course, Loke tried to pull is in high gear and then wanted to stop in order to search the tangle of bush and weeds. The chuckling occurred over the next mile or so. In spite of the cat being long gone and behind us, Loke went along, ducking his head and peering intently through the weeds still looking for that kitty, “It’s gotta be here somewhere!” Silly fuzzy.

Sometime after the kitty, the clouds began to break and the temps edged up into the 60’s. That made Loke pant a little more, but he still had little interest in water as he jogged happily along. Soon, we were crossing the 55 on an overpass to begin the last stretch into Örsundsbro.

Örsundsbro is a familiar little town/village as I’ve started and ended a number of rides from here. It was a bit of a busy stretch with about a 2 foot shoulder which is too small for Loke and I both. Still the drivers were patient and courteous. I pulled over when I could to let any cars waiting behind me squeeze past.

Restless Loke ready to leap up

Restless Loke ready to leap up

Joining up with a cycle path to make the turn toward Örsundsbro center, I decided I’d end Loke’s portion of the ride there. Coasting to a stop just across the bridge over the tiny little river winding along the village’s north end, I settled at a picnic table to call my wonderful hubby to get the fuzzy.

Loke had energy enough to pace, getting himself tangled in various things. I told him several times to lay down. He would, but then be up again a minute later.

That display of energy and eagerness to be on our way made me feel guilty for ending his run there. But this only his 3rd run since his last 3-legged hobbling session. I would rather bear a little guilt for stopping when he’s still ready to go than do too much too soon and have him re-injured. He might not appreciate it, but that’s just how it’s gonna be.

'Moooommmm! Let's GO!'

‘Mmoooommmm! Let’s GO!’

The sun came out strong and bright as we waited. I enjoyed the warmth of it, sipping water. Loke switched tactics from pacing to encourage me to move out to cuteness. He walked over, put his head on my leg to look up at me adorably while wagging his tail. Naturally he looked away when I held up my iPhone to capture the image, still cute.

Jens arrived less than 20 minutes after the call. He asked if I was going home with them or pushing on. The answer, ‘Pushing on’ caught him a little by surprise I think. But we’d gone only about 9.7 miles. It had taken about 2 hours, but that was with the stops to coo at the alpacas, the horses, looking around at the mill, runestones and the 10 minute chat with the woman and her yappy dog.

Happy as he was to see Jens and jump in the car, Loke still made pitiful eyes through the windows as Jens drove away. I settled back into the trike seat and told the Garmin Edge 1000 to save Loke’s portion of the ride and start a new one.

Winding through Örsundsbro, it got warmer. It was another stretch without a cycle path and on a semi-busy road. Soon, I joined up with a short jaunt of paved path which let me scoot across the 55 again, this time without the luxury of an overpass. I hate crossings like that, particularly where cars are traveling 110 kph or, more often, faster. Can see a fair distance either way, but still not far enough for my liking to be dodging those kinds of speeds.

A stone’s throw from crossing the 55, I saw a sign with the cultural twisty cornered square pointing down a dirt road. Kvekgården (Kvek Farm or Yard.. or Farmyard). I’ve passed the turn by quite a few times, this time I decided to go look. I bumped and rattled along, dodging potholes. Next to a small building with a lovely chimney cap, two men were talking with a third on a running ATV. I really wanted a photo of the structure, but not with the socializing men and a machine. So, I pushed on, hoping they might be gone on the way back out.

A few of the Kvekgården buildings.

A few of the Kvekgården buildings.

I was starting to lose interest when I pushed up a graveled hill and saw Kvekgården proper. It was worth the climb and passing modern houses and barns. The buildings were mostly or all thatch roofed, the wood they were made from dark and weathered, lacking any trace of the common red paint.

I absolutely loved the buildings. The main entrance was through a gate ‘house’ kind of building where an old buggy lurked in the shadows. There a sign announced an entry fee of 30 Kr. It wasn’t obvious where to pay and I probably could have wandered around with no one the wiser. Fact is, I support the preservation of places like this and have no problem paying to look at them in the spirit of seeing them endure. It breaks my heart to find buildings like this left to collapse on the roadsides or far off across fields.

Not sure what this building is, but love it!

Not sure what this building is, but love it!

But, I was feeling too stressed to chase down where to pay and even just the idea of walking around felt like it might leave me short of time to reach Enköping. Regretfully, I took one picture over the lovely sapling rail fence before going back toward the paved road. I guess I’ll have to go back some time. After all, there are a few runestones to chase down when I’m not feeling hurried.

I was thrilled when I came past the red building with the chimney and no one was near it!

It continued to get warmer as I pushed on, but never became unpleasant as it almost reached 70 F. I had expected my pace to pick up with Loke gone, but quite the opposite. According to the stats from my Garmin, my average speed dropped. The entire run with Loke (9.7 miles) total distance spent climbing was 118 feet. Not much really and Loke helped on most of the ascents. Not a lot, but help is help.

The climbing might have had something to do with that because on the other side of Örsundsbro, things got a lot hillier and very little of it seemed to be down. Before I’d gone even half the distance of Loke’s run with me, I’d nearly doubled the climbing. That meant being very slow. I started to feel frustrated by it, but not so much I was going to stop before I reached Enköping or something happened to break me or the trike.

The sunlit field and trees with that dark sky seems almost surreal.

The sunlit field and trees contrasted by that dark sky seemed almost surreal.

Kvekgården was barely out of my rear view, when cold gusts of wind from the west cut the temperature significantly. The sky in that direction went from patches of blue between puffs of gray and white to a growing mound of slate gray bordering on deep blue shades. It occurred to me that maybe I should have gone home with Jens and Loke. It was going to get chilly again added with that brisk wind and what was sure to be a cold rain with no extra layers or even a jacket. I put the camera away, snugged the weather cover over the handlebar bag and pedaled on.

Oh yeah. I was gonna get wet...

Another photo 5 min later. Oh yeah. I was gonna get wet…

Did you know ripe wheat makes clicking sounds when the wind rustles it? I think I’ve mentioned it before. It really does. Mingled with the hiss of the stalks rubbing together is a sound almost like tiny beads bouncing off one another. The strangely out of place sound made me smile as I rolled to brace the approaching tempest.

So dramatic looking yet not a flicker of lightning!

So dramatic looking yet not a flicker of lightning!

Maybe tempest is a strong word for what came, but the clouds certainly made it look furious. I half expected to see bolts of lightning split the heavens and hear the crash and growl of thunder shudder the fractious winds. A bit much? Sorry, but the memory of those clouds and the photos make me wax poetic. Or at least what passes for poetic to me. Admittedly, I’m about as poetic as a brick most times. Descriptive and wordy, yes. Poetic? Not so much.

Before the first gust of wind carrying the chilly warning, my Garmin displayed 69.8 F. In less than 10 minutes, it dropped to 61.4. I pushed down the road against the wind.

On the other side of the trees in the photo above, fields opened back up into a clear view almost all the way to Långtora Church over a mile away. Or it would have been a clear view except for the curtain of rain marching across expanses of wheat and plowed earth. You could see it coming and fast. I kicked myself for not bringing Jens’ point-n-click camera which is weather proof. I wasn’t willing to pull off the cover protecting my handlebar bag to pull out my Canon. It could have gotten everything electronic drenched if I had to fight it back on. Seeing it come filled me with a sort of dread oddly mingled with excited anticipation.

I drew a breath and headed down the long decent which whipped around curve next to a familiar runestone. Before I reached the stone, the torrent hit. No soft patter of warning drops that strengthened as me and the rain front met. It was like having a bucket dumped, one that didn’t empty in an instant. The cold was a shock. I had expected cold, but not the so much that some of the dime sized drops had slushy pellets of ice hiding in them. The droplets of pure water stung as I sped along at 15 mph, but those with ice hurt.

Gasping, I looked at the Garmin. 50.0 F. This was not what the forecast had listed for the day. Fog in the morning, mostly sunny with temps around 60-63 F. Not mostly 55 F with a plummet to 50 F, very little sun and buckets of water from the sky. That was the cold, cruel lie.

I made my next turn which required another climb. Shivering, I stopped under the meager shelter of some trees. My body was definitely cold, but my hands were the worst. They ached and became stiff, much colder than the rest of me. I dug around in my pannier bags and found my winter Gor-tex mittens hiding there. Simple mittens and yet once I pulled them on, I felt sooooo much better.

After 3 to 5 minutes, the downpour began to slacken. As dense and big as it had appeared, it was technically a passing shower. It still spit and dripped as I moved on, trying to generate some warmth by pedaling furiously. About 20 minutes later, the sun emerged and I felt good enough to stip off the mittens.

Härkeberga Church

Härkeberga Church – Dec 30, 2012

By that time, I’d overlapped where I’d ended the attempted ride from Enköping to Uppsala. The sun was flirting with me again before I reached Härkeberga Church and the beautiful vicarage farm next to it. It was nearing 3 pm by this time and I wanted to push on. Some day, I need to stop in to retake photos of the interior and use my tripod for a change.

Somewhere between Härkeberga Church and the final turn to Enkoping, I remember finally getting a few pleasant descents to coast down. I didn’t pay attention to my speed, preferring to slump back and enjoy the brief rest for my whimpering muscles and complaining knees. One I know lasted for almost a mile and I broke 25 mph somewhere along it. That was enough speed I even didn’t need to pedal over a couple small rises, but just let myself roll to the crests before starting to zip down the other sides.

No traffic OR mosquitos!

No traffic OR mosquitos!

I came to the big road leading into and out of Enköping. It’s marked as part of a cycle route, but unpleasantly crowded with traffic racing in both directions. I scooted across to an unpaved path through trees instead. Just earth packed by feet and the occasional hooves of horses to disturb the leaf litter. There were a few muddy spots, but that was still more pleasant than dealing with 20 cars whizzing by every minute or less with little to no shoulder. This time there weren’t even mosquitos!

That led to an dirt and gravel road lined with houses and pastures beyond them. A few people stared from their porches as I passed.

By the time I scooted across the busy road to a small service road, I was ravenous. I used my Garmin to search for a likely place to eat while waiting for the hubby to get me. Chop-Chop Asian Express was about .3 mile away. Just the thing! After all, the only thing I had all day was a glass of milk for breakfast at 5 am and tepid water sipped from a bladder.

Not as good as mine, but hit the spot after 12 hours of nothing but water.

Not as good as mine, but hit the spot after 12 hours of nothing but water.

I called Jens to ask if he minded that I’d be eating before him. He didn’t. So I rolled through the busy collection of intersections at the edge of Enköping to lock the trike at one of the tables outside of the place. I was so starved I didn’t even care that I looked funny. A plump woman with wind-scoured cheeks, wild tendrils of hair escaping from a pony tail and wearing blue and purple lycra. I ordered a medium with nothing but orange chicken and stir-fried rice.

I went out to sit with my trike. Huge mistake! I had three gulps of my wonderfully cold and flavorful soda and tucked into the chicken. Then they came. Those flying hypodermics a.k.a wasps or yellow jackets. At this time of year they are particularly easy to tick off. Two of them buzzed around my soda, others were curious about my handlebar bag. Why I have no clue. A few were frighteningly interested in me. I spent quite a lot of time, frozen in place, even holding my breath. I’m so incredibly proud of myself that when one landed on my ear, all I did was sit unmoving, waiting for it to go away. It did, leaving me unstung.

Finally I had a chance to move away from my drink and handlebar bag a bit. I watched mournfully as one wasp wriggled determinedly into the soda straw. Then I could hear it buzzing furiously as it got stuck. No, wasn’t going near the drink again. The food tasted great and hit the spot, but it was a pretty miserable experience… and thirsty, so very very thirsty.

When Jens arrived, I managed to sneak my handlebar bag away, but left the soda sitting right where it was. No way I’d risk that angry monster in the straw getting loose while I threw it away.

Jens asked if I’d enjoyed it. I answered with an honest, ‘Not particularly.’ It had been slow and difficult the entire way. For several miles of it, I felt especially miserable, weak and even unwell. Turned out there was a reason for it, which once corrected things went quite a bit better.

Though I hadn’t ‘enjoyed’ it, there was a sense of accomplishment. I’d gone about 23 miles for the day and made it from Ramsta Kyrka to Enköping as planned. Reaching a goal always feels good. There was that at least.

Improved, But….
August 21, 2014, 3:55 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Within 12-15 hours after his first anti-inflammatory dose, Loke did improve. Subtle at first. He began dozing on the floor more comfortably rather than snapping awake to pull his foot off the floor. Then he would put it down occasionally on the walks. Then he’d hobble along, using it from time to time with 1 step in five being a quick limp on it.

By Thursday (August 14th), he was limping very little, but I’d decided he’d need at least 3 full days without a limp. Friday morning, he still favored it very slightly though by lunch he was his normal self. So, the count began on Saturday.

During the week, I was starting to go a bit stir-crazy. With an unhappy back and a crippled husky, even long-ish walks were out of the question. In terms of separation anxiety, Loke’s gotten worse. Sometimes, he gets upset if he’s left alone for anything where before it tended to be only if he thought/knew I was out cycling. That effectively pinned me in the apartment. If it had still be broiling warm, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Annoyingly, the temps had gone from near 90’s or above to absolutely glorious. Highs in the 70’s and lightly breezy that just begged, pleaded for outdoor activities which for me means cycling. Except I had the Howling Husky and didn’t really want to come back from a 4 hr ride to face a bunch of irritated neighbors.

Jens worked from home on that Friday (August 15th) and out the door I bolted. I took a rather odd meander off through the western portion of Uppsala. It came back to the city forest for a roll through there before going the usual way toward the city center. By the river, I stopped for ice cream. The guy gave me an extra cone over the first one because he thought the first might have cracked. Instead of eating it, I stood by the very low river and tossed bits into the water for the ducks and fish to fight over.

It felt so good to be out and I arrived back home with 12.5 miles.

On Sunday, I went out again and with purpose beyond spinning the pedals and adding miles under the wheels. I took a toodle through the other side of Uppsala to stop by my in-laws to drop a few things off. One of them was a bottle of local made mead Jens had discovered. It’s actually from Vänge which used to be a destination or pass through on various rides over the years. I wasn’t feeling terribly well by the middle of the ride, so I cut it a little short. Still, it felt good to go out again, especially since Jens’ work week was starting again and I would be husky bound again on Monday (August 18th).

Monday was the 3rd day of the count and Loke was looking pretty much like his normal self. Becoming quite a pest actually. Back to the high energy levels, desperate lurches to his feet every time Jens or I so much as blinked.

Tuesday afternoon, out the door we went for his first ride since August 10th. He was crazed and desperate to run. He pulled like mad as clenched the brakes to keep his speed down. We did a simple River Loop and arrived home with a smidge over 4 miles. We came home and he was bright eyed and bossy as if to say, ‘Well, that was a good warm up! What is there for real exercise?!’

I took him out again with the trike yesterday (August 20th). Jens was away in Finland for a business trip and Loke’s energy levels have been through the roof. With laundry to do and my back unhappy, trying for even a 2.3 mile walk was out of the question. A ride it had to be. That or micro walks which would have made Loke nuts in his current state of mind and energy.

It didn’t go quite as well. He started off strong and then kinda lagged, which suited me fine as I wanted to take it nice and easy. He started behaving oddly in the hind end again. At one point it was like one of his back paws didn’t come up properly for the step, so the top of it kinda dragged over the ground just before his legs half-buckled. Things like that make me sick. Yet the vet checked not only his paw with it’s hurt toe, but the rest of his joints and such as well. She wouldn’t have found anything if I’d taken him there that very moment. I cut the ride short at 2.3 miles, the same loop I would have walked him on.

So often, it’s only with the trike that he has these odd periods of limping and movement. The rest of the day on walkies with Jens and following me back and forth between apartment and the laundry room in another building, he was fine.

Later in the evening, he was being a pest again.

I swear, the conflict between Loke’s high energy levels and his aging joints is going to be the ruin of my sanity….

Fates! Take Pity On Loke!
August 12, 2014, 10:09 am
Filed under: Misc

Loke had been doing pretty well of late, but suddenly the fates have seen fit to lay him low again. How bad it is remains to be seen.

Saturday night (9th), Jens and I took him for the last short walk of the evening in preparation of the night’s sleep. He went out with us happily and trotted along fine. Then suddenly, paused a moment to do that bizarre sort of stretch, back-kick with a hind leg after which he walked weird. Jens thought at first, maybe he had something in his foot, but I pointed out that he was putting his full weight on the leg fine, just it was moving oddly. Then he stopped to do the kick-stretch with the other leg. It was like his entire backside was drunk, staggering and weaving to and fro.

I was already planning to get my purse, toss Loke in the car and drive to the animal hospital, but by the time he walked another 150-200 yards, he was fine again. Every time I’ve taken him to a vet for something like this, they find nothing wrong. I told Jens that there was no way I was going to take Loke cycling the next day after an episode like that. He would have to be solid for an entire day.

And all day Sunday, Loke was his normal happy self.

Yesterday morning (11th), Loke woke fine and bounced happily out the door with Jens for the early morning walkies. As I had on Sunday every time Jens took him out, I asked how the fuzzy one had moved. Perfectly fine and absolutely normal. Energetic.

With that news, I asked Jens to help get the trike out so I could take Loke for a short, slow outing later. About 10 am, I started getting dressed for a ride and Loke caught wind of it. He started pacing, restless with anticipation, but limping. I immediately nixed the ride. Unlike the weird drunken butt of the Saturday night, this was clearly something with the foot. I checked it, but found no indication of any kind of wound or splinter. We went for a walk instead where Loke limped along, clearly favoring his left hind paw, but still using it.

About 3:00 pm, it abruptly became bad enough that he would not for anything, use the leg. Even laying flat on his side, he kept it tense, flinching it back up every time the leg drooped and the side of the foot would rest on the floor.

That was it. I texted Jens and told him I was calling the vet clinic to see if they could fit him in today. First I called Jens’ dad to ask if he could drive Loke and I there. Of course, he could! Got an appointment for 4:45.

The last time this happened, Loke spent about a month limping while we tried to figure out what was going on with a toe on his front paw before it had to be removed due to some kind of infection and a bone tumor. After 2 months of hobbling around, that was when he started displaying symptoms of arthritis too.

The clinic was very busy, just one vet working so it was a bit late when I got in. The vet was very nice, looked up the info about the last limping episode. Then she too about 15 minutes to closely examine the offending foot. Even shaved all the hair from between, under and around his toes to thoroughly check for any foreign bodies imbedded where we couldn’t see. Nope, nothing.

So, then it was on to X-rays. While we were waiting for the X-ray results (Jens was there having left work early so his dad only had to drop us off), three women came in. Definitely a mother/daughter and what might have been an aunt or another daughter. With them was a plump, very friendly and curious Springer Spaniel. They sat in chairs across from us except for the older woman who sat on the floor next to the Spaniel and just started crying. Clearly, this was a ‘goodbye, dear one’ moment. Moved me to tears, not only for their sakes, but wondering if I might be facing the same with Loke too soon.

The X-rays were inconclusive, though the vet did say maybe there was a little, tiny bit of inflammation, but it could be just normal for him since it is the toe that takes the most weight. She prescribed some pain meds, ones strong enough we have to watch out for side-effects to be given twice a day, and told me to use the anti-inflammatory meds we still had from what she gave us for when Loke’s arthritis acts up.

Loke’s had 2 doses of the pain meds with no sign of improvement, even when he must clearly be under their influence. He’s getting those in the morning with breakfast and evening with his dinner. The anti-inflammatory meds, which he’s to have once a day, I give him at noon so he’s not getting a double whammy. Since that’s the first dose of the anti-inflammatory meds, I’m waiting to let them get good in his system before taking him out for a business walk. If he’s not improved by tomorrow or definitely by Friday, I’m calling the clinic again.

I’m worried sick. He’s been doing so well. I don’t want him to lose another toe… or worse.

Harsh Lessons
August 10, 2014, 6:20 am
Filed under: Day Rides

What can be said about the two rides of August 8th? The first one wasn’t too bad. The second? Harsh. Brutal. Knee-busting. Yeah. That sums it up.

Breakfast was pretty good at the hotel. Better than we expected actually. I had a couple thin slices of watermelon, a tiny bit of bacon and some kind of roll that I added sharp Swedish cheese and ham to for a rough kind of sandwich. Then it was back up to the room to change while Jens ate. Loke sensed something was up and paced around as I got ready for the day.

The way to the starting point was along busy, big roads at first, but soon we turned off onto smaller and the countryside was truly lovely. Pastures mostly, with a lush grass still flaunting what could only be called spring green. The ground gently rolling with slender birches in between mossy rocks that complimented the grass perfectly. Even Jens said it was pretty.

Loke was full of energy as he trotted around while I got ready. Just assembling the trike was a bit of an adventure. Wasps seemed to be fascinated with it for some reason, particularly under the seat where I needed my hands to fasten it to the trike’s body. Two of the flying hypodermics ended up in the car, adding to the challenge of pulling out my pod bags.

Old Barn or Storage at Hofnäs Estate

Old Barn or Storage at Hofnäs Estate

Since Loke was coming with me for a time, I didn’t bother loading up with any of the camping gear. Just basic ‘day ride’ stuff. I figured it would save my knees a little. Once the trike was together, Jens and I wandered through the area a little. It was an old manor estate kind of place called Hofnäs Herrgård. Nice old buildings and the like.

Lovely little cottage as Hofnäs Estate

Lovely little cottage as Hofnäs Estate

We didn’t wander too far though since the trike was sitting unlocked next to the open car. I decided I’d be good getting a photo of the manor house proper from the trike. It looked fairly humdrum to my jaded eyes.

Cookie? What cookie?!

Cookie? What cookie?!

Loke was eager as Jens hooked him up. He gave me an impatient look and a woof when I stepped back to take a picture of the the trike and furball waiting to set out. Then he twisted around to look Jens in the car. I had to say, ‘Cookie’ to get him to look my way. I’m such a cruel tease. Hehe.

Hofnäs Manor

Hofnäs Manor

The fuzzy gave a brief yodel and kangaroo hop  as we moved out. He tried so desperately to run, but I stubbornly kept his speed to around 8.5 mph. Then of course, we stopped in less than 100 yards to get a photo of the manor house. I was in such a hurry and so underwhelmed by the house, I didn’t even get up from the trike seat though it was so close and raised up from the road.

Loke was a machine as we set out more earnestly. He was moving strong and quick, giving me side-long glances of annoyance that I wouldn’t let him move into a lope. Such is the price of old age.



Actually, Loke’s been doing well on the limited runs we’ve been doing. The few rare days that it’s been cooler or a couple early mornings before the sun got high enough to begin broiling the environment. Little to no limping or weirdness in his paces which is always heartening.

Cut hay, cattle and cabin in distance

Cut hay, cattle and cabin in distance

The land around the little estate was a beautiful network of pastures, grounds for hay and glimpses of the lake to either side. It was a narrow peninsula through a lake. Seeing the little hay field, I was curious about how it had been cut. Not enough space for any kind of modern contrivance and I think part of the reason Hosnäs is popular is for showing how things were done in centuries past. Scythes perhaps like I’d seen the old man using years ago along the steep banks of Stor Blåsjön?

Crossing the lake.

Crossing the lake.

I wonder how he’s doing? If perhaps these very moments, he might still be swinging his scythe in the middle of his sheep pasture to see them fed through winter by his own hands.

Putting the camera away, I said to myself that I’d have to check my maps once I reached Torpa Stenhuset to know which way to go. At the thought, I froze like a deer in headlights before glancing over my shoulder at the left end of Loke’s running bar where the maps generally hang. Nothing. Rolling my eyes, I called Jens to ask if he’d meet me at Torpa so I could get my maps. What a silly thing to forget!

I stopped on the tiny little causeway to take photos of the lake scenes there. Pretty views.

The clumpy looking clouds grew a little more threatening as I rolled into the parking lot at Torpa Stenhuset (translates to The Torpa Stone House).

Torpa Stenhuset (The Torpa Stone House)

Torpa Stenhuset (The Torpa Stone House)

Jens awaited us in the parking lot. He offered to keep an eye on the trike if I took Loke with me to explore ‘the stone house’. I did just that. My first view of Torpa Stenhuset as I came up from the back side just screamed, ‘DEFENSIVE!’. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a block. A stone block to be exact. Thick, heavy stone walls covered over with white plaster. The windows, for the most part, are tiny little slots in the imposing exterior face. They’re hardly more than arrowslits though there were a couple larger ones to the front. There’s a section of dry moat crossed by a wooden bridge, however back when the fortress was constructed, it probably sat on a tiny little island a few yards from the original lake shore and the moat part of the lake.

Returning to the husband and trike, I felt the first few spits of rain. Then the bottom fell out. I hurriedly opened the umbrella and sat in the trike to keep the seat dry. Jens was puzzled at first why I didn’t join him in the car, but he soon realized I’d yet to figure out a way to mount an umbrella holder on the trike. So, that’s the way we sat for about 15 minutes. Jens in the car with Loke staring at me through the window, worried at being left behind. Me on the trike with rain drumming on the umbrella over my head. My current umbrella is pretty nice for that sort of thing. I thought my last one was awesome, but this one was even big enough to keep my feet and legs dry!

As expected, the downfall didn’t last very long. The clouds were too broken for it to be more than a passing shower… or torrent in this case. Once it was over, I took Loke and we continued onward.

It got quite a bit hillier on the other side of Torpa. Other than that, I don’t remember too much. Loke still ran pretty well, in spite of getting quite warm because the sun came out. We crept up long steep hills and took it easy on the downslopes with plenty of stops in shady patches to give the furry water and wet his ears.

Probably an old, water-driven textile mill

Probably an old, water-driven textile mill

I do remember crossing a small stream with a spillway to the right. A lovely older building sat beside the dam, some kind of mill I think. It might have even been water-driven textile mill, complete with what appeared to be a mill race dug out from the pond toward the foundations of the building. The reason I say ‘textile mill’ is that according to Jens, the entire area has been known for ages for garment and textile production which would explain the sign for the region which was like a coat of arms with old style scissors.

I pressed on, trying to judge if my knees were equal to the task of climbing the hills while dragging a trailer full of camping gear. It was hard for me to tell because I’d never tried the loaded trailer on the the Sprint and Loke was pulling the entire time. It’s been a long time since he’s done that. Just goes to show how much he was enjoying the new surroundings.

Jens passed us once while we were creeping up a hill. I was taking it easy as I climbed, not wanting to break myself.

Dannike Church

Dannike Church

Jens was waiting at the next POI, Dannike Church. By then it was coming up on 11:30. “I think I’ll take Loke now and get ready to head back. What do you want to do?” Then he listed options which included ‘Go on from here’, ‘be dropped off to start the official tour somewhere else’ or, of course, ‘go home with him’.

I pulled out my maps to check the distance between Dannike and Borås. It was pretty empty of anything of interest for some 15 hilly miles. I’d seriously underestimated the hills. It’s one thing to do a day ride like I did back in June where I mainly stayed on the rail-trail. But zig-zagging through the countryside was another story especially once adding the trailer load.

The first 2.6 miles I did with Loke between Hofnäs and Torpa we climbed less than 30 feet and had reached the fortress in half an hour. The peninsula was pretty flat, clearly. The 3.4 miles between Torpa and Dannike was 259 feet of climbing. It had taken me an hour. Seriously? An hour for less than 3 and a half miles?! Ugh! Admittedly, I was being pretty lazy about it to save my knees, but still!

I also decided to skip the toodle through Borås itself. Our brief walks through the city just made me feel it was too crowded, too hilly with too many cobblestones for too little return. I asked Jens if it was okay if we drove to another area while I decided exactly what to do. I definitely wanted to skip the Dannike to Borås stretch with the very busy road, no cycle path and lots of hills that became unnecessary.

On the drive to the area I’d tentatively picked as a new starting point, Jens kept giving me mild pep-talks. ‘You can do this’ and ‘Don’t worry if I have to turn around and come get you even after a few hours. Don’t even let concern about me enter into what you decide on this.’ He promised he wouldn’t voice a single complaint or let it impact his helping me get to somewhere for another tour attempt if I changed my mind.

As we pulled into a parking lot where I could ready the trike, the rain hit again with a vengeance. My hubby pointed out I’d have to learn to deal with weather if I really wanted to tour. I muttered that I knew, but it was one thing to start out with dry stuff and get caught in the rain than it was to start out with everything soggy. We waited.

It took longer than the first rain shower to stop, but it finally did after about 20 minutes. I got out and started work. First, I had to swap axles so I’d have the trailer hitch. It took a little fiddling to get it settled, but it seemed to work. Then I started loaded up. As I worked, I started kind of panicking. I had to stop and force myself to breathe and shake off stress. I kept telling Jens that I didn’t know why I was so panicky. I’d had no problem with the other tours I’d done/attempted. He soooo helpfully pointed out that I’d never been so far from home.

First time for the Sprint to be Tour-Fitted

First time for the Sprint to be Tour-Fitted

Quicker than I thought, I was loaded. Jens gave a big hug, telling me that he’d take it lazy on the way home for an hour or so, stop to eat, walk Loke. He wanted me to call in about 15 minutes to let him know if the axle exploded or trailer flew apart. Then he was driving off with Loke staring mournfully after me.

I was a bit worried when it seemed that the ‘cycle paths’ in the area I’d discovered while doing my planning seemed to be an an exercise area, but it was supposed to link up with the rail-trail so, off I went. I pedaled past joggers and had a bit of a pause upon seeing the path was painted with jogger/walkers and roller-blader symbols. I wasn’t even sure I should be on it.

The alternative was a long slog along a very busy road. Admittedly, it had a cycle path along the edge, separated from traffic by a metal railing. It would be noisy, full of exhaust and hot as it lacked even the smallest scrap of shade. I decided to push on.

I regretted it. I rolled past a nice flat sport field and made it about 100 yards down the main exercise pat and came to my first hill. It wasn’t very high, but the grade was vicious, probably about 12-15%. Dismay filled me as I hit it and the weight of the trailer, unnoticeable before, pulled back. Slooooooooowly I ground up the climb, brutal even with my granny gear especially chosen for just this sort of thing. Beyond it was yet another hill… then another. I came to one long monster that was at least 14% grade and I had to ‘ratchet’ my way up as my right knee was complaining and I just couldn’t force the leg to turn. My left had to do all the work. So I’d back-pedal to get a good position with the left, push, back-pedal, push. I was overheated, getting a headache and my knees hurting. It was misery.

I called Jens to say I didn’t think I could do it. ‘It’s been 40 minutes and I’ve not even gone 2 miles!’ I wailed. ‘If I’d just had you drop me off at the same place as in June and I were on the trail, I’d be okay, but the hills here are too hard!’

He asked how far from the trail was I? Could I at least make it that far? He’d stop to eat and walk Loke to give me time to reach it and we’d reevaluate. Since Jens would have to drive back to me and no way he could get the car to me any way, I agreed and crept on.

To further complicate things, the connecting paths that would take me to the rail-trail all turned out to be unpaved. Some little more than grassy tracks leading off through the woods. Brutal as the hills were on paved surface, I knew there was no way I could have climbed a 12-18% grade with gravel or worse, grass, adding resistance. I was forced to stay on the asphalt which took me right back around to the parking lot I started from. The good news about having done a full circle is that all the climbing I did (148 feet higher than when I started), I got to roll down. I hit speeds of 20 mph. The trike could have gone faster, but I didn’t dare for worry that a bump might send the trailer flying into orbit. As it was, there’s a warning in the trailer manual to not exceed 15 mph, but I wanted every bit of speed I could risk to avoid having to pedal up the little rises between me and the parking lot.

It was a wild ride.

It meant I had to take the hot, fume choked cycle path west to meet up with the rail-trail.

That was its own special hell. Not only baking in the sun with very little wind, the traffic noise like a physical pressure on my skull, but it was all up hill. Even the climb to the ‘peak’ on the roller-blade path had had brief little downhill rolls before tackling the next torturous climb. Not along the road side. The only blessing to it was it was only about a 4% grade with perhaps 5% every now and again. 2 miles with naught but up and up and up. Nothing to it but to keep spinning along in granny gear as best I could.

Jens called to ask if I’d reached the trail. No. What did I want to do? Go home. When I said that, he asked if it was because I really wanted to go home or because I was worried about adding to his driving? I told him it was my knees. They hurt and I didn’t know how much more they could take. Even the 4%-5% grade was increasing the ache in them. He said he’d head for Ulricehamn and call to see where we needed to meet up.

I pushed on.

The cycle path finally swerved a tiny bit away from the main road and into a more residential setting where I had a brief moment of downhill, just for 50 yards or so, that swerved toward an underpass. Instead of going under, I took a left and there I was.

If I'd just had Jens drop me off here....

If I’d just had Jens drop me off here….

The sight of the rail trail was pure heaven itself. I knew I still had a long climb ahead of me, but only of a 3% grade at most, standard for rail tracks. Even with the trailer and my knees giving spikes of pain with every flex, it was an easy spin in my granny gear. I didn’t spin fast, only about 68-70 RPM, but it was constant, smooth turning. I even managed to relax a little.

A pair of road cyclists came speeding up behind me. The first kinda gave me a little wave without lifting his had from the bars. The second actually slowed to my pace. ‘Taking a little tour?’ he asked. When I answered yes, he said, ‘That is so awesome! Good luck!’ and then sped off to catch his friend. That little kindness lifted my spirits.

As I continued up the gentle slope, I knew I’d ‘clevered’ myself out of the tour. I’d wanted a bit of fresh ground which was why I’d mapped some riding on the exercise trail which had broken me. Originally, it would have been about 25 miles into the ride which I’d estimated would have been about camping time from Hofnäs with perfectly beautiful spaces that begged for a tent. Of course, I had seriously underestimated the hills.

If I’d restarted at the trail head instead of the exercise paths, I probably could have pulled it off. The first hills off the trail where I would have turned off for the first church would have told me far more kindly to stay on the old rail bed. It would have limited the things to see and photograph, but it would have been possible for me to reach a few churches and runestones. More importantly I would have had my first tour in years under my belt. Instead, I’d broken myself.

Shortly after I’d met a charming couple and their loveable, 9 year old Malamute furry lady who was determined to kiss me into a better mood, Jens called to say he’d arrived in Ulricehamn. Did he need to go to Borås? I looked at my Garmin’s map and told him to head for Dalsjöfors which was a little east and north of Borås. The rail trail headed right toward the town. Not surprising since trains oddly seem to move from town to town.

About half a mile later, I reached another ‘peak’ in the landscape. The 3% ascent gently became a 3% descent. Suddenly, I was coasting. I turned into a ragdoll in the seat, letting wind stroke my face and hair in a cooling caress as trike and trailer rolled along at 13-15 mph. I did nothing but keep myself to the right side of the path and enjoy the ride. For an entire 1.6 miles I didn’t so much turn the pedals even a full revolution.

When the coasting came to an end where a steep, but brief climb would have led to a street crossing at the edge of Dalsjöfors, I stopped. There was a cluster of recycling bins to one side of the trail and a picnic table with stunted trees to the other. A good place for me to wait in the shade with a perfect spot for Jens to park and me load the trike up. I used my Google Maps on iPhone to drop a pin and forwarded it to Jens so he could find me.

It was a bit of challenge to get everything loaded up. Jens helped, but since I’m more familiar with how to work things into the car, it was quicker for me to do it even half crippled. Jens suggested a we could stop for me to look at a few passage burial monuments he’d seen signs for on the way back, but the weather was threatening again and I told him I wasn’t up for walking.

Yesterday, I was moving around like an injured tortoise. Mostly it was all in my thigh muscles. My knees felt surprisingly better than I expected. Not great, but but I could sit down without wincing when they flexed. Stairs weren’t fun. Jens had planned to give the car a thorough cleaning which could take a few hours, so he asked if I could take Loke for a very gentle rolling walk. He figured it would be easier on me than trying to take the furry for a longish standard walk.

I did so. Legs weren’t happy with me and we went less than 7 mph for most of it, but we managed.

Annoyingly, the battery on my Garmin announced it was low when I turned it on for the ride. 3 minutes later, the unit played dead. 15 hour battery life my butt. Maybe it’s the sensors or something, but it really does drain quick compared to my Garmin Edge 705 in its glory days.

Later that evening, on the final evening walk with Loke and Jens, something worrying happened. He did this peculiar movement with his right hind leg. Jens thought it was something stuck in his paw, but I assured him that was not an ‘oww, my foot hurts’ kind of movement. He put his weight on it fine, but just moved weird. Then it happened with his left. He walked along for about 100-150 yards oddly and then gradually, by the time we were nearly home again, he was moving more normally if slower.

I hated it. Admittedly, it was something of a relief for Jens to finally see Loke do what I’ve described. Jens hardly even gets to see Loke do any kind of limping. Back in the apartment, I made the fuzzy lay down so I could gently stretch him. He didn’t like it much. He was definitely uncomfortable. So, I gave him a dose of anti-inflammatory medication and he settled in for the night. I told Jens that I wasn’t going to cycle Loke today. He needed a little downtime after that episode which I’m sure is related to his arthritis. I hope…

Such Hopes
August 9, 2014, 7:02 am
Filed under: Misc

Begun on morning of August 8

Yep, I’ve been quiet again. Just not much happening in my cycling world. River Loop and more River Loop. Can only describe the same ride so many times when nothing occurs to make one outing differ from the other.

Not that there’s been much riding. The weather had been quite uncooperative for it. With our freakishly warm winter reminiscent of most of those of my childhood spent on the Mississippi coast, concern that we’d have a broiling summer was strong in my thoughts. At first it seemed we had been blessed. June, if rather wet, was sweetly cool and refreshing.

That changed in July. Heat and humidity marched in and camped atop the country. Sweden suddenly became a country of broken records and ‘firsts’ as temps reached upper 80’s and even peaked somewhere in the 90’s a few times. Worse the nights weren’t very cool. That thrown into a country has little to no air conditioning.

I mean, we’ve had temps as warm as that before, but the nights generally dipped back into the 60’s for some relief. This time, they stayed in the high 70’s or low 80’s. In spite of the humidity, the skies remained utterly clear for most days, so the unhindered sun poured its light down like molten iron. Stepping into it felt like a blow or heavy weight on my head and shoulders. Every moment I had to go out, I skittered for the shade, any shade, and felt like each breath was short of oxygen. Reminded me of the worst summers of my childhood.

That gave Sweden one of it’s worst firsts. Heat advisories. Sweden had never had a single one since weather records began. Suddenly they were popping up all over the country. News constantly reminding to be careful of the young and old. The need to stay hydrated and tips for finding relief from the heat.

Jens and I considered heading up north for his vacation. Even if it hadn’t taken longer for his eyes to recover from laser surgery than he anticipated, we wouldn’t have gone. Freakishly, it was hotter above the polar circle, 15-20 hours north by car, than in Uppsala. Records were toppling. Or if they weren’t toppling it was things like, ‘not since 1887 has it been so warm’.

So, with that, Loke and I just languished inside as much as we could. We do have a tiny floor AC which is fairly inadequate for the task. It doesn’t help that one needs an open window for a huge, honking exhaust tube to blast out the hot air. Yes, let’s try cooling a space with hot air rushing in through the open window. Reminded me of every summer, going in or out of the house as a kid. If I took too long with the door, my mom hollering, “Hurry up with the door! We’re not trying to cool the neighborhood!’ I managed to rig a blanket over our balcony door to block most of it, but still.

Records have continued to break. Finally things changed a bit. Though still hot, we started getting storms. The sky would darken and trees get frisky while thunder growled in the distance. One such storm had enough lightning it nearly matched some of the lesser rain squalls in Mississippi. Sadly where we were, just a few patters of rain, a hint of cooler air and nothing more of it. About 20 minutes later, the news reported streets closed in downtown Uppsala, less than 2 miles away, due to flash floods from the torrent of rain. An apartment building not far from my dentist caught fire from lightning strikes.

I can’t remember if it was that day or another, but Jens found mention that Sweden had set a new record for number of lightning strikes in the country for a day. Something like 47,400. The previous record had been in the 45,000 range so not a huge difference, but still.

Just a bit west of Sala, a forest fire broke out and a new record was set for Sweden. Its largest and most enduring blaze. I asked Jens if it had been human carelessness/malice or lightning that caused it. He said he hadn’t heard, but if he had to guess it would be a train. Apparently, the sparks from the electric trains are the most common cause of forest fires in the country. One man has died, apparently because he didn’t heed the warnings and went for a walk in the woods in the area. Quite a few evacuations.

Swedish firefighters have been completely overwhelmed by the biggest and most enduring fire in the country’s history. Water-bombing planes came over from Italy came to help though they ended up grounded when they first arrived. They landed at the wrong airport and couldn’t take off again because of visibility issues.

Still, on the 6th, we had something of a break in the weather. I had no clue at first, but was feeling restless at living like a shut-in because going out seemed to trigger heat exhaustion symptoms in minutes.

At the start of his vacation, Jens had offered to drive me a fair distance if there was anywhere I wanted to try a tour once his eyes healed enough to allow it. That’s been strong in my thoughts. I paced around the apartment at 5 am like a caged animal. For some reason, I picked up my iPhone and scanned the weather in the Borås area where the beauty of the landscape and the delightfully extensive rail-trail cycle path called.

I stared in disbelief and then squealed (under my breath so as not to wake the hubby) in joy. The area of Borås and Ulricehamn was forecasted for temps below 70 F! The problem was, Jens’ vacation time was running short so I’d have to get my rump in gear if I wanted to tour since I’m not confident in Loke’s ability to do 25+ miles for multiple days in a row.

Getting ready was a combination of productive frenzy and unproductive frustration. I was having serious issues with MapMyRide which made it impossible to plot. Jens found a work around thankfully when he got up a few hours later. After that, I struggled with a middle ground of getting things done and not straining my back or knees too badly to be able to make camp.

By that evening, I hadn’t finished things enough for a 5 am leave taking as I’d hoped. I staggered to bed around 11:30 am with the alarm set for 3:30 am. When it went off, I knew I wasn’t clear headed enough with a measly 4 hours of sleep to work on the maps some more and do a long drive to reach the destination. I slapped it off for another hour.

Getting up at 4:30, I discovered that all my work on the maps was a mess. I’d been too rushed and, by 10 pm too groggy, to be effective. I ended up redoing most of them which set things back even more. Jens woke around 6 am and saw me flying about, about to burst apart from panic at the time I was losing. He did something sensible. He asked if it would help that we relaxed the morning and leave in the afternoon to overnight in Borås at a hotel. I flung myself at him and kissed repeatedly.

Things did go quite a bit more smoothly after that. I didn’t feel this huge pressure to get out the door as early as possible to get to the area I wanted to cycle before with as much time as possible. Arriving with just 3 hours to pedal before having to search for a camp area would have made me crazy. This way, I could get an earlier start.

While I finished the maps, the irony of my route planning wasn’t lost on me. Though obsessed with the rail-trails, much of my riding for the first 80 miles or so will be on very little of it as I hare off across the countryside to chase down this church, that runestone, or whatever burial ground,ruin…etc. Admittedly, if I decide the hills are just too much for my knees right now, I may jump back on the trail and stay there except when ‘x’ POI is less than a mile from the trail.

As we started out, I managed to avert disaster before we were more than 15 minutes from home. I was staring blankly at familiar scenery as we rolled along on the E4 south when I suddenly clapped a hand over my mouth in dismay. Jens gave me a puzzled glance, “What? You forget something?”

I nodded, “The trailer hitch for the trike’s back wheel.”

Jens sighed and we turned back at the next exit. We lost about 45 minutes, but better that than having gone the entire way there only to discover it missing then. No way to pull my camping gear without that little chunk of machined metal threaded onto the end of the rear axle!

Lovely Old Building in Borås

Lovely Old Building in Borås

So, a bit later than planned, we arrived in Borås to find our luck with towns and travel is still annoying. Went to the island of Møn to have many streets of its main town closed for a day for a street carnival. Bruges, both on our way there and in the town itself, streets of some small village outside it with a street fair. Streets of old Bruges packed with pedestrians and street vendors when we first arrived.

Borås had some big concert in its square the night we arrived. People packed every available outdoor eating space we might have been able to sit with Loke other wise. Then to top it off, fireworks at midnight completely freaked the puppy out. We couldn’t see them, but they still shed enough light to illuminate the courtyard view from our room and the cannon like bangs really worried Loke. Fortunately such displays are generally brief.

Last night wasn’t terribly comfortable. Warm in our room. The only cover was a down duvet. The bed so narrow Jens and I actually had battles in and out of sleep for space. Took me forever to get to sleep.

It’s been raining this morning, but the air is lovely out right now. A glorious hint of cool. The forecast has warmed a tiny bit and a moderate chance of rain but still nice temps forecasted. Cooler than in Uppsala though we’re further south.

I’m looking forward to the day and the first few miles will actually be with Loke. Jens has decided to linger for a few hours and poke around Borås while Loke gets a bit of a run. I’ll even wait to load up and hitch the trailer to the trike until Jens comes to get the furball. That will spare my knees a bit as the first 25 miles or so are on hilly roads rather than flat trail.

Now, It’s down to breakfast and get this day rolling!

That One Last Stone…
August 9, 2014, 4:56 am
Filed under: Day Rides

I just couldn’t figure out how to cram this smoothly into the upcoming next two posts, so it’s gonna have it’s own little mini-post. Can’t believe I forgot to put this in.

For several months now, I’ve actually added a loop to my repertoire that goes through the northwestern corner of Uppsala, past my hubby’s parents place, to a 4H Club area and by Vaksala church and the mall before back home. I’ve found quite a few runestones in the 4H Club area, but one stubbornly eluded me.

Uppland Runestone #968

Uppland Runestone #968

Well, back on July 16th (before the broiling weather hit), I finally managed to track it down. The reason it was so difficult for me is because right slap in the center of the 4H grounds sits what looks to be a private residence. Pastures and club houses, offices and barns all around it and there’s a house, fenced off for the most part, hedges thick along the fence-line, kids toys in the yard. I’ve always avoided it.

Well, this time I drew a deep breath and went in yard, skirting hard along the hedges at the edge. Voila! There was the stone, Uppsala Runestone #968 peeking out from beneath a coniferous shrub, broken and faded.

The rest of that day’s ride was fairly unmemorable other than feeling a sense of accomplishment at finally having found that last elusive stone.