Terii’s Cycling Babble


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.

Lovely!

Lovely!

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…

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