Terii’s Cycling Babble


Not the River Loop!
January 25, 2015, 10:35 am
Filed under: Day Rides

After my ride on the 22nd being surprisingly low on the pain scale, the itch to ride has started to return. I did take a rest on the 23rd though. My muscles ached, but in the far more acceptable ‘I exercised them’ fashion then the far-out-of-proportion-compared-to-activity burn I’d been suffering. Most of it was in my calves. Every time I got up, I’d take a few steps which reminded me to do a little gentle stretching to loosen them. Also, it was much too cold, being below 20 F.

The night of the 22nd/morning of 23rd also found us with another 4-5 inches of powdery white fluff. That only added to the impetus to get out on the trike with the fuzzy beside me. A husky in the snow where he belongs and me in a magically transformed landscape… preferably off the River Loop.

The rest day on the 23rd also gave a bit of time for plowing and graveling of the cycle paths to be done which would make things a tad bit easier.

On the morning of the 24th, I decided I’d aim for Storvreta, a small town just north of Uppsala. 8-ish miles between here and there. I asked Jens if he minded coming to get us. That one way trip would be longer than a tedious River Loop. Nope he said. So after I dressed for cycling, we drove to the storage.

Jens' iPhone picture of impatient Loke.

Jens’ iPhone picture of impatient Loke.

I had to add a few things to the trike which took a little time. The deep snow around the parking area caused a slight issue. Walking in it with cycle shoes would pack hard ice around the cleat. Difficult to chip off and impossible to clip into the pedals with it in the way. Not to mention, after a few steps, hazardously slick to walk with. So, I sat in the car next to the trike with the door open for the space to wrestle shoe-covers, foot warmers and cycle shoes on. I managed to loosen a bit of molding from the door’s edge in my struggles, which peeved Jens.

During the shoe struggles, my hands became incredibly painful from the cold. I kept chafing them together and putting them under my arms in desperate attempts to hide them from the wind and warm them. It made me wonder at the wisdom of the ride if they already felt so close to frost damage before the first turn of the pedals.

Jens had one of his rare less sympathetic moments. Of course, he didn’t have to take off his snuggly gloves, exposing hands to wind and chill for over 5 minutes. The shoes on and warmers making my toes toasty, I told him to wait a few minutes with Loke while I warmed my fingers. I closed the car, started the engine and stuck said fingers into the vents as warm air blew.

Still, the incident led to questioning my intention to ride north where the cycle path would lead me through a snowy landscape of wide open fields with nothing to block that cruel wind. The River Loop started looking better. Or maybe even something shorter.

Once the pain left my fingers, my mood was a bit more optimistic. I finally was ready to go and Loke started yodeling and hopping. He still had to wait for what little ice had collected around the cleats to be scraped away before I clipped in. Jens asked if I needed a push, but it wasn’t required. We had enough momentum to make it up and over the little bump at the parking lot exit with just a little bit of wheel spin.

Even with churned snow with the texture of damp sand covering most of the pavement and studded tires, the first quarter mile of the ride was a bit brisk. Not only because Loke did his best to run, but also because it’s a downward grade of about 2%. Upon making the turn onto the path leading to the swim hall, we slowed. Thicker snow with a scattering of gravel and flat.

Though the area is something we’ve ridden through countless times, Loke was still quite enthusiastic to be out. Our speed had gone from 8 mph at the start to about 4 mph as we approached Vattholmavägen. My hands started to get cold again, but I found it was only while holding the grips and especially if I kept fingers on the brakes. I experimented with steering with my palms and touching the brakes only when necessary. It helped.

As we approached the mosque, Loke started limping. I slowed down, watching him closely. It was his front right foot paining him. The one with the infection between the toes. We slowed to a crawl, in spite of the annoyed looks that earned me from the furball. I debated turning back, but he’d not yet ‘done his business’ which would further annoy Jens. The limp worsened and I slowed to about a walking pace, figuring I’d push on until he went to the bathroom. Then it would be a call to Jens to come get him at the very least.

That stretch of cycle path was absolutely clear of ice or snow. I wondered if what they had used to to melt it might be stinging the raw flesh. Onward to the north we crept.

After a few hundred yards, the limp disappeared as suddenly as it began. It made it a bit easier in my mind to push on, but concern still lingered.

Gamla Uppsala Church

Gamla Uppsala Church – 2010

Loke finally went potty and remained limp free as I pushed on a little further to the parking at the Gamla Uppsala Grave Mounds. The larger parking lot was the first convenient place for pickup, so I called Jens to get his take on Loke’s limp. I didn’t think there were many places as easily accessible for parking and loading a trike on the stretch from there to Storvreta. Had he hadn’t so much as given a misstep since shortly after the mosque. Jens pleaded that I go a little further and we’d figure something out if early pick up was necessary.

Drawing a deep breath, I pushed on. Loke got quite excited as we pushed past the deep pit which will become an underground tunnel for rail traffic. For about a mile, the cycle path is much improved over what it was. Smooth, new pavement which was free of ice or snow lined with brand new lights.

Northward Ho!

Northward Ho!

As before on the ice-free section near the mosque, Loke limped. Again, I slowed us down and watched carefully. As soon as we were back on pavement which had known only plowing to remove most of the snow, he was fine.

The plowing didn’t completely clear the cycle path. A layer an inch or two thick remains, moderately packed and was scattered with what looked more like dirt than gravel. Not the best for rolling, but manageable. I didn’t even have to get up to push on some of the random short, steep climbs. Here and there were thicker piles of snow with the damp-sand texture which bogged me down. A near constant upward grade meant our speed remained around 3.2 – 3-8 mph for much of the way though Loke pulled constantly. Sometimes, only a tiny bit of extra tether was pulled out of the spring bar, but every little bit helps. Never heard the jingle of the clip on the harness ring which indicates slack.

Ahh snow! Turns the dreary into wonderous!

Ahh snow! Turns the dreary into wonderous!

It turned out the wind wasn’t much of a problem either. It blew from the southwest, firmly at my back. Helped push me in the direction I was going and didn’t feel too cold even though I lacked the fluffy sheepskin I once had for cold riding. My footwarmers had little difficulty keeping up the temperature in my toes thanks to my body blocking the worst of it. When we’d pass a structure or rare clump of trees, a swirl would throw snow on us. Once a very random blast picked up a veritable blizzard from the field to throw on us.

These little building add something to the scenery, summer or winter

These little buildings add something to the scenery, summer or winter

Except for the very few moments coasting down a hill or pausing to let Loke sniff and mark, I worked to keep a steady cadence of 65. A little frustrating to pedal at such a pace and see the GPS announce you’re blazing along at 3.4 mph. It took effort to continually remind myself to relax, I wasn’t out to run a race. The whole purpose of the outing was to enjoy the scenery while getting Loke and I moving for more than a 20 minute hobble around the block.

As on the previous ride, I felt amazingly good! After about mile 4, muscles felt fatigued, but not the crazy levels I’ve been suffering since beginning hypertension medication. This fatigue and ache felt normal and ‘justified’. I’d been almost 3 weeks without single ride, so of course even a short ride in snow with studded tires was going to have me feeling wiped after a short distance. It was manageable. I could push on without seeing stars and both hips felt just fine. I couldn’t stop grinning.

Around mile 5, I was pushing up a short, but particularly steep stretch. A voice startled me by saying in Swedish, ‘On your left!’ I promptly swerved further to the right and a guy on a road bike pushed past with a cheery, ‘Tack så mycket!’. The brief glimpse I had of his tires looked like summer slicks. Certainly not studded or knobby winter sorts. As he crested the hill, he hit a patch of ‘wet sand’ snow and the bike wobbled through a bit of a skid. It didn’t even make him pause. Seeing some people ride in these conditions just leaves me shaking my head in awed wonder that they don’t go sliding down to eat ice covered asphalt.

Vallsgärde Grave Mounds/Field

Vallsgärde Grave Mounds/Field

On the brief coast down the other side of the climb, I saw a few low little hills across the otherwise flat fields. ‘Hmm. Those look like grave mounds,’ I thought to myself. A 100 yards further on, a place-name sign (Vallsgärde) pointed down a nearly invisible little road winding o’re the field. There was also the loopy square of a cultural site with ‘gravfält’ (grave field) beneath it. It was hard to tell if the track had been plowed recently with the wind shifting snow around. It had no snow piles to either side and definitely no scattered gravel.

I decided to save pedaling out to the graves for another day. Researching it just now has indicated there’s a ship setting there which I would definitely love to see. Also some amazing viking age finds I would adore laying eyes on if I can find which museum they’ve landed in.

Ooh! Look! A tiny smidge of blue sky!

Ooh! Look! A tiny smidge of blue sky!

I was approaching the overpass of the new E4 when the cycle path crossed the road. It was a little hard to make out just where the crossing was what with sloppy plow piles scattered around, but I made it over in one piece.

The sun is trying to break through!

The sun is trying to break through!

On the other side of the E4, the light took on that golden luminous quality of sunlight trying to reach through heavily frosted glass. It made the snow even more magical. A few moments later, the sun started to reach through small breaks in the clouds.

It succeeded shortly after we’d made the turn from the main road onto the final stretch into Storvreta. Thin, but warm sunlight hit the snow and brightened the landscape for about 2 minutes before the clouds reclaimed that portion of the sky. Ah well. Nice while it lasted!

Was a combination of sad and relieved when we rolled into Storvreta town limits. Sad that what had been a very lovely (if cold at times) day was coming to an end and relieved that it was nearly over. I’d been pretty tired around mile 4 or 5. We’d tipped over 8 miles as we came into a residential area.

Ice Crusted Back Wheel

Ice Crusted Back Wheel

That made the ride the longest since my stroke. By a mile and a half. My next longest ride was 7.03 miles back in December. As I rolled to a stop in the parking lot of a tiny, but crazy-busy grocery store, I’d gone 8.54 miles.

I had the reserves and strength to pushed on, but it was coming up on 2 pm and the sun still sets quite early. I hadn’t a clue where I might would like to have gone from there either. Not to mention my only meal had been breakfast consisting of about a cup of strawberry yoghurt at 6 am. Hungry doesn’t even scratch the surface to describe the void in my midsection.

I called Jens to let him know where to get us and stripped down the trike as much as I could while still leaving me somewhere to sit. The hubby arrived very quickly and took charge of Loke while I got started on loading up. When I tried brushing some of the snow away, he told me not to ruin my mittens – the tarp would catch the melt. Awwww. Isn’t he sweet?

Awwww. Trike go bye-bye...

Awwww. Trike go bye-bye…

We talked about what to have for dinner when we stopped at the storage to put the trike back. Loke looked a bit forlorn to see it go away. Clearly 8.54 miles wasn’t enough for him, tender foot or not!

Jens and I decided on Thai food for dinner. The anticipation made it possible for me to eat just a couple clementines to save most of my calories for Pad Thai with incredibly tasty spring rolls from a restaurant Jens discovered a couple months ago. Might be the best Thai in town. Being so crazy hungry made it taste even better.

It was a perfect ending to what had turned out to be a really great day. Admittedly, I had my doubts when my fingers felt like they were being twisted off with pliers, but it had become wonderful. I had conquered temperatures ranging from 23 -32 F and a near constant 12-15 mph wind’s chill. My best mileage since the stroke and for 2015. All topped off with tasty food.

Turns out today might have been slightly better for a ride, but my legs lodged protests on the short walk I took with Loke this morning. 32 F at 8 am and utterly, utterly calm. The sun has since come out and things are starting to melt a bit. That might have made things more slippery. Not going to let that diminish yesterday’s fun and accomplishment though!

Oh! And DING! Post 250!!

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