Terii’s Cycling Babble


End of an Era?
August 7, 2015, 8:19 am
Filed under: Day Rides

A few things I forgot to mention in my last post and in order of occurrence.

First, after the hell ride between Edsberg Castle and Ulriksdal Castle on June 27th, Loke started displaying pain in his left front leg. It began pretty much right after we got home from the ride. He’d seemed fine all through the outing and had been running around with Jens on the palace grounds like a mad dog. It was hard to tell if his paw hurt, but he didn’t seem to mind me messing with it any more than he usually does. That’s to say, he would generally prefer I leave it alone, but will let me have it if I insist. It is after all the one with the amputated toe.

I thought he gave a bit of a whine when I was feeling the leg though. It might have been the shoulder. When I mentioned that, Jens said, ‘Oh, Loke fell while I walk walking him while you put the trike in the car. He went to hurry down a slope, stumbled and went down on his shoulder. Might have been that one.’

I kept an eye on him and he improved through Sunday and by Monday morning was fine again, so we didn’t go to the vet. He showed no problems on the successive rides, so I gave no more thought to it.

Loke & siblings on their birthday.

Loke & siblings on their birthday.

July 1st, Loke turned 10 years old. It doesn’t seem that long. It feels more like a couple months ago, we brought home an adorable, fearless ball of fluff to be a part of our family. A few weeks ago, he was a gawky, half grown husky bouncing at the end of his leash with Jens as I rode away on the trike. Just days ago, he was a young, fit fireball pulling hard at the end of his tether as we raced down hills, sometimes over 20 mph.

But no, he’s 10.

Also on the hell ride, the brakes started to go. Not surprising given how much I used them to not smash the trike to bits on what turned out to be mountain bike trails rather than cycle paths. Probably half that ride was squeezing the brakes for all I was worth. So, I made an appointment to bring the trike to the nearby shop. The earliest they could fit me in was the week of July 6. I dropped it off on Monday as they opened and picked it up on Thursday morning.

The mechanic was awesomely nice. He said the brakes just needed a little adjustment, but should be good for a while longer. He even seemed agreeable to teach me a bit about them so I can deal with them if out on a tour. He had also checked over the rest of the trike as I asked. The chain is a little stretched and some of my gears a little worn. The chain will definitely need replacing soon, but he didn’t have enough to do it right then. He’d adjusted it so it seems to work okay and should be good for a bit longer though he couldn’t test it under pressure because he’s too tall to sit in the trike with his feet on the pedals. He was also happy to mention that the trike actually fit on his bike stand. That surprised me though I was glad to hear it.

I have to say, he did an awesome job. Even with a slightly stretched chain, the trike makes hardly a whisper when I pedal it. It also shifted beautifully and can stop on a dime.

I know what that means. I find something awesome in Sweden and it disappears. I avoided the cycle shop for years because of the ill-tempered man who owned it before, so missed out on 3 years or so of excellent local service. When the English guy bought it, he didn’t change the outward appearance or the name, so it never occurred to me it had changed owners, until Jens’ mountain bike search led him there. The headaches I could have avoided. I mean, the shop is close enough to ride to and walk home! The mechanic is a very much a ‘free-spirit’ kind of guy. Life is transitory, always changing and one should embrace it. He’s lived in random places around the world. He’s been working there with the British owner for 3 years now. I have a feeling that now, after I’ve discovered the quality work he does, he’ll be charging off into the unknown for more adventures. Ah, well.

Jens’ vacation is coming up. He couldn’t really think of anything he wanted to do so we’ve no plans for it. In place of that, knowing how much I crave rides away from the humdrum, every day loops, Jens was inspired to suggest that while he’s on vacation, we set aside some days for him to play chauffeur to drop me off and pick me up while I do the Mälardalsleden (Mälar Valley’s Route). He knows that my recovery from the stroke isn’t far enough along that I can do tours, so this is his sweet compromise even if it inconveniences him.

The inspiration for the hubby’s suggestion came from a co-worker who, with a few friends, did a major portion of the route in a day. The men were on road bikes and it took them 18-ish hours to do 311 km (193 miles). That wasn’t even the full route. There’s probably an extra 75-100 km if they’d gone fully around the lake. Not convinced that Jens was completely aware of the scope of his offer, I pointed out it would take me, at my current level of stroke recovery and fitness, 10 or more consecutive days just to do what the guys on road bikes did in 1. No way I could do more than 2 consecutive days at a time either. My body just wears down too much and I need two days of recovery to bounce back at times. It gave Jens a graceful way to say, ‘Okay, so 5 days of my vacation we can do this in any order you want’. He works hard, he shouldn’t have to work even harder for my hobby. I love him for the offers though.

Though his vacation hadn’t started yet, I did part of the Mälardalsleden Saturday, July 11th.

I set the beginning of this venture at Örsundsbro about half an hour away between Uppsala and Enköping. The little village has been used frequently on a number of rides over the years. I’ve passed through it at least twice, used it as a launching point perhaps 3 times and an ending at least once. In the village itself, there’s not much to see. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to be a very old place as such things go in Sweden. If it is an older settlement, then every evidence of it has been wiped away. There are several churches and a little manor house within a couple miles of it though.

Loke ran around excitedly with Jens as I assembled the trike near the river-side marina. The hubby dragged me away for a moment to see the type of boat he absolutely would love to have.

Salnecke Manor in the distance

Salnecke Manor in the distance

Once all was together, we rode off. Jens laughed at Loke bouncing kangaroo like at the end of his tether as we climbed up to the road from the marina. The fuzzy did his best to pull into a flat out run, but I held him down to around 11 mph or so. The village fell quickly behind us and soon we took a turn into the true countryside.

Against the backdrop of trees clad in deep summer greens, Salnecke Manor shone bright. Quite pretty from the distance and that angle. Up close it’s visually uninteresting really though the history is somewhat intriguing. I also discovered that it was for sale in 2013, might even still be on the market. Asking price was 17,000,000 kr or a bit over 2,000,000 USD.

*************************************************************************************************************

Random small manor house

Random small manor house

And this post became neglected for a while! Oops!

There’s a very good reason, but explanation will just have to wait as I attempt to dredge details from memory about the July 11th ride before moving on to the reason this happened.

Loke was setting a good pace, clipping along happily with a bit of a husky grin going on. I know we’ve ridden this stretch before, but can’t place when exactly. It had been a good long while, so it was almost like fresh new ground which was good enough for me and completely awesome in Loke’s eyes. It was a bit on the warm side with no obvious threat of rain on the horizon. I actually wouldn’t have minded a bit more cloud even if it would have meant getting a bit damp. I’ve been feeling the sun something fierce of late. If the air isn’t moving or chill enough, it feels like my skin is crisping under a fastfood heat lamp. It doesn’t seem to make the rest of me feel hot even over time, just the skin. Weird and annoying.

Nooo! Wait!!

Nooo! Wait!!

Not far after we’d rolled by a tiny (compared to Salnecke), old manor house, I heard a distinctive sound in the distance. Cranes. Sounded like more than 2 which is unusual. Climbed a slight rise and there they were, 6 or more, standing in a fallow field of grass. The first cranes I’d seen in this year and so many! I stopped quickly (thanks to the awesome mechanic’s work!) and fumbled the camera out. As I’d stopped and Loke took an interest, the birds took flight. By the time I got the camera turned on and rushed through the zooming to get a good view, they were well on the wing. Talk about frustration.

I snapped what I could and put the camera away with a sigh as the birds vanished over the trees. I remember a bit of climbing, but nothing brutal as we rolled to the first church of the day. Giresta.

Giresta Church

Giresta Church – 2013

As I said, I’ve been there before. There’s a runestone in the church, which I wasn’t able to get last time because it was closed. I wasn’t lucky this time either.

As I rolled to a stop near the churchyard wall and left Loke with his water dish, I kept hoping to see someone. I knew it was a long shot, but I still had a hope. When I was here the first time (in 2013 apparently), a man was walking across the parking lot as I rolled up. Older, perhaps even more than 75, he was fascinated with the trike and more importantly with Loke. It was the end of the ride and quite a warm day. When I went to give Loke water, he said not to bother with ‘that bagged stuff’, but come down the path to his house, meet the wife and he’d give us clear, cold water straight from his tapped spring. ‘Not processed and piped across the countryside’.

They were a dear couple. A lovely orchard yard with apples and currants all over the place. The woman, with excruciating arthritis, kept apologizing for the state of the garden as it was impossible for her husband to maintain alone. I told her it was lovely and I liked it, which I did. The man sent me home with a huge bag of apples from their trees that meant another wonderful apple pie from Jens’ mom a few days later.

They were just those kind of people you can’t help but like. So, I kinda had hoped I’d spy the man walking again and take a brief moment to say hello. It was a long shot and sadly did not pan out. And no, I didn’t do it for more apples. They aren’t in season yet, so there. 😉

Hjälsta Church

Hjälsta Church – 2013

I seem to remember a few hills as we left the church. It left me exposed to the evil sun though the slow creep upward probably helped Loke cool down a bit. It was still a relief when I rolled into the shade of the parking lot across from Hjälsta church, about 2.5 miles from Giresta. I actually rode past it on the same ride that I met the wonderful couple at Giresta.

Though we weren’t far into the ride, Loke gulped water and flopped down on the cool ground, still slightly damp from a recent rain. It didn’t stop him from jumping up hopefully as I walked off to ‘collect’ a pair of runestones a bit outside the churchyard wall. I’d missed them the first time I was here. In August they were probably even obscured by the weeds and tangles of other growth than they were this time. Clearly, I hadn’t known they were there or they would have been in that 2013 post.

Uppland Runestones #811 & #812 at Hjälsta Church

Uppland Runestones #811 & #812 at Hjälsta Church

I viewed the ground between the road and to the stones with distaste. Weedy with some coming up as high as the waist, no clear trail as such, uneven with piles and tangles of cut branches here and there, simply left where they’d been hacked off. As I threaded my way through the snarl, I kept checking my legs and hips for ticks.

After I took the photo of U #812, about 15 feet away from #811, I started to take a more direct route back to the road. I’m glad I was paying attention or I would have blundered into a dense patch of nettles almost 3 feet high. Do you know how much protection Lycra affords against nettles? Squat. Nada. Might even be worse than bare skin, trapping the stinging bits in the fabric to prolong the torment.

Fortunately, I noticed before taking that last half step into agony. It only takes one run in with nettles to make one perfectly aware of what they look like.

When he saw me coming back, Loke stood to take a few more gulps of water and was waiting impatiently for me to get back on the trike.

Uppland Runestone #746

Uppland Runestone #746

We continued to follow the same path as we had in 2013. With 2 years between the rides down these roads, they weren’t glaringly familiar. It was more like I’d see something and it would remind me. Things like Uppland Runestone #746 which sat on the side of the road next to a track used to train horses for sulky racing.

Loke was happy and thrilled to be out and moving. It was on the warm side, but not so much as to be a torment for either of us though I wasn’t fond of the crisping sensation the sun gave me. Loke definitely wasn’t too warm as he disliked me wetting his ears down like I do. I know he’s hot when he actually seems to enjoy me soaking the fur on his ears. He never fights it and rarely shakes it off, but gives me reproachful looks when he feels it’s unnecessary.

Pretty!

Pretty!

As we headed south, the shimmer of water caught my eye far across the stretches of green wheat fields. I wasn’t sure if it was the Mälardalsleden or just a random small lake. It still made for pretty scenery as we rolled toward Ekolsund Castle, the next POI in the area.

Uppland Runestone #642

Uppland Runestone #642 – Ekolsund Castle

As the little country road intersected with the 263, I pulled off to the side to dig out my maps. A road to the castle was just across the busier road, but I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Good I looked.

It turns out the ‘main entrance’ to the castle was a bit down the 263 and there were a couple of runestones along it. The first time I was here, I came in from the back as it were and had no idea there were runestones so close. The shoulder of the bigger road was nice and wide, so I made the turn without any real worry.

Uppland Runestone #643

Uppland Runestone #643

Then a sign turned up. ‘Skokloster Slott’ (Shoe Cloister (Monastery) Castle). I brightened as I stopped to poke around with my Garmin. I’ve always wanted to cycle around Skokloster. It’s a beautiful castle that I’ve actually taken a tour of and visited medieval fairs on it’s grounds. I was very tempted to take a detour off the planned route if it was close enough. I winced when my cycle GPS gave me the distance. 22 miles. That felt like a bit much. It didn’t help that sections of the road are crazy busy with absolutely no shoulder. It would have felt more possible if I hadn’t had Loke with me, reducing the amount of road space I need.

Down the shady lane

Down the shady lane

Though he’d been fairly spritely even on the busy road, Loke perked up and tried to run when we made the turn onto the rough gravel lane. It turned almost immediately onto a smoother lane, straight as an arrow and flanked by old trees. That kind of lane that just screams, ‘I go to a manor or castle!’

Loke was absolutely gung-ho for it, pulling as hard as he could in spite of the grip I had on the brakes. Only a trail of pine needles and a meandering path would have made him happier. Oh, and a huge pile of reindeer meat. Food is his first love, followed by running, then Jens’ family and then us.

The view of the castle from the ‘front’ was uninspiring to be clear. All one can see is a few blocky buildngs sitting up on a hill with a long stretch of grass lawn that was probably a more elaborate garden in the past.

Panoramic View North to South in Courtyard

Panoramic View North to South in Courtyard – 2013

I didn’t spend much time here. The estate doesn’t exactly feel open to the public as is, say, Hammarskog with a cafe and designated parking, though there are no signs declaring it private at every turn either. Since I had photos from 2013, I just rolled through rather than poking around intrusively.

First view of the manor's four buildings

View of the manor’s four buildings from the ‘back road’ – 2013

I left the castle on the back road, again making Loke deliriously happy. It had little hills that we climbed easily and would have zipped down if I’d let him, trees close to either side and wonderfully shaded from the sun. From there, it was a left turn and onward.

Random farm building caught my eye

Random farm building caught my eye

I continued to follow my mapped route and the little red ‘Mälardalsleden’ signs southward. After about 2 miles, the long established trail became… ‘interesting’ in a hellish fashion. I use the word interesting in place of other, harsher expletives.

Oh joy.

Oh joy.

It started innocently enough. The signs (and map) rolling me through a residential area near the water where an inlet or lake met the fringes of the Baltic. It came to something of a deadend. At first I was baffled until a couple came walking through a tiny little opening in a short chainlink fence.

Admittedly there was a Mälardalsleden sign right next to the narrow gap, but I simply couldn’t convince myself that a major, long established cycle route was actually, purposely, run through it.

It was a pain in the butt (and back and knees…). I had mere millimeters to spare for the front wheels, no way the running bar could fit horizontally and the handlebar bag had to sit on the ground until I managed to tilt the trike sorta sideways wrestle it through. I kind of fumbled it and scraped part of the frame of the concrete block that reinforced the 1 foot drop down to the narrow path between the hedges. All this while Loke kept yanking on the flexi-leash I didn’t want to tie off as he’s been known to chew through them in seconds if he doesn’t want to sit where he’s tethered.

It wasn’t over, though not quite as bad as the gate (at first). The path was too narrow for Loke to go beside me, so he roamed a head at the end of the leash still. I ended up going slowly and swerving back and forth between the two rows of hedges which had the occasional stunted little birch tree. The swerving was necessary to keep the running bar from hanging up on the trees.

After a few yards, the path opened up and I saw some men fishing on a bridge. Relief was short lived. It was an old rail bridge made of widely spaced sleepers leaving wide gaps straight down to the water. The only safe place to cross were on two stretches of boards to either side. These were just wide enough for the trike. Going down the left side would have been much easier as the longer section of the running bar (Loke’s side) would have been in the open. Sadly, that was the side with the fishermen. There was less than an inch of clearance of the boards on the right side to avoid scraping the running bar along the barrier. Just getting the trike up on the bridge was hard as well. 1.5 foot step up with all sorts of protrusions to catch on it. I’m so glad Loke behaved himself and didn’t do something silly like stepping off the walk way and plunging through the sleepers.

The hell continued. Getting the trike down on the other side was worse with a longer drop down and more things for it to get dinged and caught on. Trying to balance on nothing a pile of loose rocks the size of baseballs with cycle shoes did not help in the least. It was an old rail bed causeway across the rest of the little inlet between lake and Baltic sea. For over 300 yards those loose rocks stretched. I tried walking on them and about killed myself. There was simply no where stable to put a foot that rocks didn’t roll away as soon as weight was applied. Even Loke with his four feet had difficulties with it.

I rode the trike across. It was slow, hard going. I was so thankful I had purchased the Sprint because my beautiful little Trice never would have made it. Its derailleur would have been smashed before it rolled through the first foot. Actually, there wasn’t much clearance with the idler even on the Sprint with it’s 26″ rear wheel. The big stones twisted and rolled out from under the wheels as easily as they had my feet. I crept along, but with 3 of them at least I wasn’t going to fall over.

At least I had a pretty view once past the causeway.

At least I had a pretty view once past the causeway.

I couldn’t believe this was part of the route. I don’t think anyone can ride across on anything with two wheels and walking it would be brutal especially while trying to push a bike. Harsh as it was for the almost 45 minutes it took, I was thankful for my 3 wheels sparing me the walk. Loke didn’t mind. He trotted back and forth at the end of the 8 meter leash, giving me annoyed looks when I’d tell him, ‘Nej!’ every time he looked too interested in the water. He’d have tumbled right down the steep sides.

Random Scenery

Random Scenery

Finally, we reached the end of the nightmare onto a better gravel path. Just to tweak my nose, the end of it was blocked by boulders set across it. The space between them was narrow enough that even a normal bike would need lifting through because of the width of pedals. Loke was so eager to sniff bushes and explore, he made it even more fun yanking on his leash as I struggled to lift the front wheels up and over so as to roll the back through.

In spite of the fact that the whole causeway affair had left me feeling hot, sweaty, exhausted and frustrated, the following miles went by fairly quick though in a blur. Nothing that happened that sticks in my memory. Just a narrow country road with trees, fields and a scattering of houses.

Uppsala Runestone #646

Uppsala Runestone #646

It was around 4 pm when I spotted the steeple of a church in the distance, one I’d not marked on my maps. I stopped to glance at my map book in an attempt to figure out which one it was. Yttergran’s Church. It was about a mile or so off the Mälardalsleden which put it off my printed maps. A little further on, it disappeared, hidden by the gentle rise and falls of the landscape and the trees.

It was closing in on 5 pm when I decided it was time to stop. I was tired and though Loke still had energy to burn, I wasn’t going to push things for either of us. There was still plenty more Mälardalsleden to be pedaled over the duration of Jens’ 3 weeks of vacation. I gave Loke water as I examined my maps for somewhere to wait for Jens. At the tangled intersection with the E-18, a sign for a 7-11 gas station was clearly visible. Generally plenty of room for loading the trike in such places, not to mention access to goodies, but otherwise, noisy, exhaust choked and unpleasant. The church on the other hand…

I checked with the Garmin and found was roughly a mile away and with a cycle path along the fairly busy road. A church to ‘collect’ with plenty of parking for dealing with the trike and all but guaranteed pleasant surroundings to wait? The 7-11 crouched at the on-ramp of a busy highway quickly disappeared in my rear view mirror.

The reward for the choice was sweetened further by the surprise of a runestone along the way. U #646. Though tired and ravenous, I was practically humming as I rolled the last few hundred yards.

There was a bit concern when I couldn’t see the church. Odd how that works sometimes. Can see something from 5 miles or more away, but the last mile or two and it remains hidden until the last second.

Yttergran's Church

Yttergran’s Church

Yttergran’s Church is a pretty one. I rather liked the cap on the tower and the coral pink-ish plaster added to its charm. Now that I’ve researched its history, I find it even more enchanting as it was very nearly consigned to the dust of history after a devastating fire in the 1700’s. Fortunately, the people who worshiped here in that time, rejected the proposal have it demolished, rolled up their sleeves and preserved it.

Loke chilling in the shade

Loke chilling in the shade

I was pleased with my choice to go the mile out of the way to the church. The parking lot was big, the lawn around and in the churchyard was as plush as new shag carpet. There were also huge old trees that cast generous amounts of shade across the cushy grass, offering Loke and I most welcome relief from the sun.

I rolled onto the grass in the densest bit of shade, stripped off Loke’s harness and set him up all comfy with his water dish full to the brim. After a quick call to Jens to tell him where I was, I strolled off to circle the church for photos and hunting runestones. There’s supposed to be a runestone in the proximity of the church, but now that I know it was only a fragment with just a few letters on it, I don’t feel so bad that it didn’t leap out at me. Of course, it might be inside the church itself which was locked tight.

After finishing the walk and settling in the trike seat to await Jens, something made me nervous. It was the furious hum of many, many bees or wasps. It gave the impression of a huge, angry swarm clustered near-by. After a few minutes, it became more obvious that it was simply one of the huge old trees had bloomed with discreet, but plentiful little flowers that bees were raiding in their hundreds. Once I knew that, I relaxed.

Here comes the rain again....

Here comes the rain again….

Jens arrived in the nick of time. Between the time I called and his arrival, the clouds began to thicken and off to the north and east, a thunderhead reared up from the horizon. Lightning flickered there and thunder growled a couple times. While I was packing the trike, a chill wind kicked up and the sky got darker. Fortune smiled on me though and the first patters of rain came down only once trike and Loke were secure in the car and I clipped the seatbelt.

Definitely a good thing that I ended the ride there. About 10 minutes later, the rain came down in torrents, lashed by heavy winds. A few times, visibility dropped to less than 100 yards.

It didn’t last long. About the time we were passing the turn off for Orsundbro where I’d begun the ride it had started to slacken. In an amusing side note, 5 minutes after we passed that intersection, there was a traffic alert warning that a wild boar was creating a traffic hazard right in that area.

We made it home, safe and dry. The evening passed quietly, except when I went to feed Loke of course. He did his usual whirl of glee as I walked to his food dish.

The next morning, Sunday, July 12th, the furball was all but crippled, not wanting to use his left front leg just as he had after the run that ended at Ulriksdal when he tumbled down a slope while walking with Jens. Though it costs more to go on a weekend, I took Loke to the vet as soon as they opened at 11 am. Jens tried to talk me out of it because Monday would be cheaper and maybe he’d get over it as quickly as he did the first time.

I wanted to know exactly what it was though. Jens and I couldn’t even agree if it was something wrong with his foot like a thorn or such or further up the shoulder.

The vet was fine with fitting us in and soon after our arrival, he poked and prodded and flexed poor unhappy Loke. It turned out Loke was in pain all through the muscles and tendons in his left shoulder as well as the ‘wrist’ of that leg. Unexpectedly, he also had pain in the wrist of his right front leg, but to a lesser degree. Franz was uncertain if was injury or the soft tissue strained from arthritis.

He prescribed an anti-inflammatory to make the fuzzy more comfortable. He also recommended 2 weeks with as much rest and restriction of Loke’s activity as we could manage. Just short, slow walks to do his business for 2 weeks. He said he’d have said ‘cage rest’ except he knows how huskies can be, especially ones used to running around.

If the problem rears its head again, Loke will undergo X-rays to see if it’s arthritis causing the problem. If it is, we’ll probably be starting some kind of treatment to keep it’s progression down. That would mean keeping his rides shorter and definitely slower. A sad thought, but nothing confirmed yet.

I could say more about how Loke is now, but that’s jumping right over one of the big reasons this blog was postponed for a while.

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