Terii’s Cycling Babble

Hamster Tracks & Itchy Husky
January 27, 2016, 8:22 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

That’s what the past days since my last post amount to.

By the time I started getting ready to ride on January 23rd, the window thermometer displayed 25.5 F which was about 8 degrees warmer than during the ride on January 21st. The skies were a heavy gray, but the snow brightened things. Rather whimsically, I decided to do a loop through Uppsala with a specific purpose in mind.

I share photos and ride reports on a Facebook group for ‘bent trikes. One of the other members had commented on a previous post about how many of my photos reminded him of the movie, ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ with Daniel Craig. I had to laugh about that and shared the fact that part of the movie had been shot right in downtown Uppsala. I decided I’d go take photos of it to share with the sharp-eyed member.

The ride was an opportunity for Loke to have some time away from the cone of shame, something we both desperately needed.

It was nice, not needing to shovel the ramp, but we’d had no fresh snow.

Northern end of Uppsala Castle

Northern end of Uppsala Castle

Loke pulled like a champ, almost an inch of extra tether pulled out from the spring. I felt good too. Painfree, except for the bite of bitter winter winds on my cheeks. My Garmin’s display showed 22 F after windchill, but my cheeks were convinced it was much colder. For the first time on a ride this winter, I actually wished for my fleece face mask.

Aside from my face, the rest of me felt over dressed. I kept folding my mittens open to dissipate some heat. I also had no pain and my body had strength and stamina that we set a decent pace for us.

Instead of taking my new ‘normal’ route to downtown Uppsala which would have us approaching Drottninggatan from the east, I took the old, longer route that was once used to take us to the City Forest. I wanted that extra distance and it would also give the best view of the street in question because I’d be looking down it from uphill.

Drottninggatan (Queen Street) from 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

Drottninggatan (Queen Street) from ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

That took us close to the castle in its winter guise as well as some of the other older buildings in Uppsala. I was also spared creeping along up the street to climb the hill for the photo. It’s not particularly bike friendly so 3 mph or less would have been an unnecessary stress. 8-9 mph to get through it and over with was much preferable.

There was a bit of chaos as I miscalculated my way across one street to the the other near the castle. I wound up trying to bounce the Sprint up a curb. Unable to make it in one bounce, I had to get up and wrestle the trike up onto the walk. Thankfully, there was a lull in traffic. Photo of the street taken, I sat down and unlocked the parking break. As we rolled, there was this weird rubbing noise. I stopped to look for the source.

Good thing I had stopped. The clip of Loke’s flex-leash had bounced out of my side pod bag where I’d not completely closed the zipper. I’d not noticed while pulling the trike up the curb and the clip had gotten caught in a crack between 2 of the curb stones. The noise had been the leash line pulling out and rubbing against the zipper. I’d probably just about reached the limit of the leash when I stopped. Talk about timing.

Northern end of Uppsala Castle

Loke and Trike over the frozen Fyris River

Before having time to run over and free it, a very nice young woman noticed the predicament and pulled the clip loose. She even held on to it as she continued toward us rather than letting it go to wildly flail around as it retracted. I thanked her.

Then it was a quick dash down the crowded little street, dodging a bus. I gave a sigh of relief when I reached a nice, safe cycle lane.

From there it was quick jaunt to the bike shop to be sure they had my number. Having been a week since ordering new twist grip shifters and hearing nothing, I just wanted to double check. Yes, they had the number, no, sorry the shifters hadn’t arrived from the supplier yet. At least my current ones are still working.

We finished the ride with a smidge over 9 miles.

January 24th, out we went again. No particular purpose except to burn a bit of energy off Loke before we all went to my husband’s parents for dinner. I was soooooo incredibly bored. I didn’t want to be out doing the local area again. It was my 10th ride of the year and all of them had been local loops. 7 of them the River Loop. I would have been happier staying in and doing dishes.

Okay, probably not true, but it certainly felt like it. I did try to put a good spin in it. The coming week was forecasted to be silly warm for this time of year. Mid-40’s in January. December was crazy enough when it was hitting the 50’s. So, the 24th was likely to be the last winter ride for a while.

Reminding myself of that didn’t really help much. Even Loke, who’d been a powerhouse of determined pulling, performed in lackluster fashion. We both need somewhere fresh to recharge our tolerance for running the hamster track of local rides.

I tried to push myself for some distance, but I felt too impatient, had to bake muffins to take to the dinner and get ready. We managed 4.5 miles. The snow had a heavier ‘wet sand’ like quality thanks to temperatures barely below freezing.

At my in-laws, poor Loke was completely crazy, but it wasn’t lack of distance that triggered it. He hated wearing the cone visiting ‘grandma and grandpa’. He felt like he couldn’t get close to anyone. Their apartment is smaller than ours so getting around the furniture was more difficult. He freaked out a few times and tried to get it off. His scratching had increased so much that we couldn’t risk it. As we left to come back home, it started snowing. Just the thing to freshen the tired, packed down stuff we had.

Monday, January 25th was a vet visit for follow up. That made it easy to take it as a rest day.

As I waited for our appointment, a woman came in with a pair of adorably energetic border collies. Too hyper to contain themselves, every time she chastised them and told them to come back and lay down, they were so cutely apologetic for disappointing her. Then they’d forget themselves and scramble off again to stick their noses into something. It turns out they were actual working dogs too, used to herd sheep! Too neat.

After a bit she asked why was Loke in. When I mentioned he was allergic, she asked to what. After I told her ‘pretty much everything’, she asked, ‘Is he allergic even to the animals and plants on his own skin?’

I admit, I stared at her in surprise for a few seconds. When I answered yes, she told me she’d known another husky with the identical problem. Allergic to most foods, including meats, some plants and even to some of the endemic flora and fauna of his own body. She said it had been years ago and she didn’t know what ultimately became of him.

The Scottish accented vet was glad to see Loke’s foot looking better, but still not 100%. Still some discoloration in the fur and the skin looked a tiny bit too pink. Much better than the raw meat appearance we started with, but she was still concerned there might be some of the bacteria remaining and if we stop antibiotics too soon then we risk creating a more resistant strain. So, after we talked it out, we both agreed to go yet another week.

I also begged her to consider Loke’s face and desperate itching. Since it first began roughly when he started the antibiotics, we’re hoping that is the source of the problem rather than reindeer meat. So, all we can really do is treat the symptoms and hope the problem clears once the antibiotics leave his system. Neither she nor I want to give him cortisone though. It’s just harsh on kidneys as Loke starts trying to funnel the volume of water rivaling Niagara Falls. She found a topical ointment she’d heard good things about, over the counter even.

Since it was after 5 pm when we left the vet, I had to wait until the next day for the prescription to go through the system. Good thing, Loke still had enough for a couple days.

All through the 25th, the temp had hovered just below freezing. It was amazingly foggy at times too which wouldn’t have been good for a ride. By 8 pm, the temperature had jumped well above freezing and a misty drizzle had helped to turn all the snow on the roads and walks into slush and water. By 9 pm, there was hardly any slush remaining at all.

Hard work to ride the hidden paths

From this….

Yesterday, January 26th, out Loke and I went. The one day of rest seemed to do me a little good. I didn’t dread the ride as much as the last one though it was going to be another hamster track run. It was about 42 F as we stepped out. I wore only my thinnest layer of wool under my summer weight cycle clothes and a zipper hoodie. Even that felt like too much.

Getting the trike out was a bit of a challenge. Loke’s itch was so bad now that he can’t be trusted without the cone if he’s going to be standing still for more than a few minutes. The only time he’s free of it is long enough to gulp down his meals and on walks or runs.

That meant to get the trike out of the storage and get my shoes on, I had to do a bit of running back and forth to accommodate the funnel of plastic that is too awkward to carry on the trike.

... to this!

… to this! Just 14 hours.

When I finally thought I had everything settled, the cone locked in the storage and sat on the trike, I realized my helmet was still down there. It would have meant, unhitching the furball, telling him ‘Nej!’ as we walked back to the storage, unlocked, hunted for the helmet and came back up to hitch him. Accounting for however longer it would take if I had to grab his face to protect it from his scratching foot. I decided to go without the helmet. After all, I still had to go hunt down Loke’s antibiotics.

That meant the River Loop again so as to stay on cycle paths and out of traffic.

1 foot or more of snow gone in just hours.

1 foot or more of snow gone in just hours.

The difference 14 hours with temps approaching 40 and a light drizzle made! The roads, walks and cycle ways were all but utterly clear of snow. Just a few soggy piles, more water than ice, here and there. I was sad to see winter, so brief, disappearing so fast. The ridges along the sides of roads and the like had been almost 2 feet high, were down to mere inches. Fields that had just the day before been blanketed under a foot or more of white were vast, muddy morasses with only a few streaks of snow hanging on.

The ice is putting up a good fight!

The ice is putting up a good fight!

Amazingly, the river was still frozen, the ice struggling to maintain a grip beneath a thin veneer of melt water trickling down from the fields and paths.

We rolled along for 4.8 miles with a light drizzle spattering down on us. Never enough to really make me even damp, but still speckled my sunglasses. I needed no gloves, wore my lightest knit cap under the helmet which was more to keep my hair dry than for warmth. Felt a bit too warm honestly, almost like I could have skipped thermal layers completely.

And we practically flew! There was still a lot of gravel on the paths, but it hardly seemed to slow me. I felt strong, powerful even. Most of the distance, we clipped along at over 8 mph, which is pretty good for us since my stroke and Loke’s age and issues even if there’d been no gravel and on smooth summer tires. Hitting that kind of pace on studs over pebbles while feeling good was amazing to me. It ameliorated the profound boredom I’ve been feeling on the local loops of late. I actually smiled the whole way.

If not for the need to chase down Loke’s antibiotics and stay off roads, I would have gone further.

As for the hunt for said meds, it was frustrating, but could have been much worse.

The first drug store, simply told me that they didn’t have it. She could order it and odds were pretty good it would arrive the next day. I decided I’d do a bit more hunting before ordering. The second place I went into, the woman there informed me again that they didn’t have it either. Then she said to just give her a moment. She did more tapping around and told me that there were no drug stores in Uppsala with medication. This actually happens quite a bit with Loke’s needs.

If it wouldn’t have been a cultural faux pas and I’d had cash on me, I would have given that woman a generous tip out of gratitude. She saved me from running all over Uppsala. At least it meant I could place the order without wondering if what I needed as just a couple miles away. She was all but 100% certain the medication would come in by the next day (January 27th). Loke had enough for that entire day which is good.

In a few more hours, I’ll go and see if it has arrive.

I’m still tempted to take the poor fuzzy back to the vet and bite the bullet with cortisone pills. The ointment seems to have made the skin around his lips less angry and raw, but he’s more itchy than ever. He tries to scratch so furiously through the plastic. A few times I’ve caught my poor old man rubbing against a door frame or even with floor, cone and all. The slightest touch and his foot comes up and starts flailing. When he’s not out for a walk or run, he’s just miserable.

I feel guilty, but I’m trying to keep his kidneys and feet in one piece. It’s very much one of those ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situations. Hopefully it will be over soon….

Must Keep Riding!
January 22, 2016, 7:20 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

After our last outing on January 12th, the temperatures took another plunge into the single digits. Even around or below 0 F for one day, I think. Annoying really as it also became some of the most beautiful looking weather we’d had in weeks or even more than a month. Skies of flawless blue and sun shining brilliantly on all that fluffy white. Too cold for me to ride in though. Not until I figure out new ways to endure it.

The one pretty day that was warm enough for me to have ridden in turned into too much of a fiasco. Too much stuff to do with bad timing that wasted the daylight hours. Most of it involving Loke.

A husky in an Ikea bag.

A husky in an Ikea bag.

Monday, January 18th, it was back to the vet to get a follow up on Loke’s foot and to get his face checked. The last time he had issue with infections and the like, when we were seeing the doggie dermatologist, he’d gotten an outbreak around his mouth on the left side. Well, that’s back. So the nice Scottish accented vet shaved it.

With fur, it hadn’t looked so bad. An slightly reddened and swollen looking area about the size of a dime beneath the white hair. As the razor worked, it found more and more angry, puffy skin that stretched for inches around his lips. I was dismayed. The vet took a scraping, found no trace of yeast or bacteria so no idea why. It might be a reaction to the antibiotics themselves or, joy of joy, maybe he’s now allergic to reindeer or rabbit. If that’s the case, just a few more allergies and Loke will be nominated for ‘bubble dog’.

While his foot is looking much better, it was decided he should take the antibiotics for another week to be sure we’ve beaten the problem.

Oddly, Loke was pretty calm over the 6 days without running beside the trike.

Naturally, the clouds had returned by time temperature and circumstances came together in such a fashion that a ride was possible just the very next day, January 19th.

Hell. That is the only way to describe the ride. Pure and complete hell.

The first thing to do was to shovel what bit of snow had fallen since the last time I’d chucked it aside. The texture was strange, like slippery granulated sugar. At the bottom of the ramp. Loke woofed and sighed at me. As I worked, I didn’t like the ache that appeared in my shoulders and arms. It was very much like ‘post stroke muscular neurological’ pain.

Finally the ramp was clear enough, so I went to put my shoes on. Weirdly, my left shoe felt very tight, as if my foot has swollen or the laces had shrunk. I tried taking it off and on, loosening the laces several times, but it just wouldn’t fit more like it always used to. With Loke so wound up, I couldn’t just go back to the apartment. I had to take him for a few miles at least.

Off we went. The roll resistance wasn’t bad as the snow on pavement had time to be packed down or moved aside. Loke pulled furiously. Before we’d even finished the first mile, I was in agony. Pain had bloomed in my left foot, coming in sharp bursts through the ball of it and spiking up the back of my leg. By then we were at the bottom of the hill with the bridge across the river, Jens in Stockholm without the car so no rescue. It would have felt silly, needing him to come get me less than 2 miles from home even if he’d had the car. There was no help for it but to push on, hoping it would pass.

It didn’t. My foot felt as if it were squeezed in a vice while wrapped in a bag full of nettles or pot of scalding water. Just a weird combination of crushing and burning sensation. It was enough to bring tears to my eyes and I finally had to unclip and straighten my leg. The pain slowly eased slightly and I just held my foot up as inertia and Loke’s efforts rolled the trike onward for another 150 yards or so. I reclipped and the pain came surging back. It was strange. Even just being clipped to the pedals, without pedaling was agony.

The ride was less than 4 miles, limping along in that fashion. I’d pedal as long as I could endure it, then unclip while Loke, my hero of the hour, kept the wheels rolling as best as he could.

No photos. All my attention was taken up with ‘..uch.. ouch… ouch.. Ouch… OUCH.. EFFIN OUCH!! LET IT STOP!!

I just wanted it over with. So, as I said, less than 4 miles. It still took us almost an hour and a half. If Loke hadn’t been such a champion, pulling with more strength and determination than he’s displayed in years, it would have taken us more than 2 hours. Once I was off the trike and walking back to the car, it started to fade, but I was drenched in sweat and drained from the experience.

The burning feel was very much like what I experienced the first weeks and months after the stroke. Clearly, I wasn’t riding enough. Too many days between my infrequent rides. Walking with Loke and trips to the gym just don’t seem to hold it at bay. Something about cycling puts the neuromuscular pain to rest as long as I keep at it.

The indignity!

The indignity!

January 20th, I was feeling too sick to go for a ride. Chills and fever mostly. Couldn’t get warm for anything.

As for Loke, his mouth started itching worse. He would start scratching with such determination, the only way to get him to stop was by throwing myself across the room to grab his furiously scratching foot. Even with me doing that, he started drawing blood and there was no  help for it. Out came the ‘cone of shame’.

He keeps giving me dirty looks via side glances through the plastic.

Yesterday, January 21st, I started to get ready for a ride, as much for his sake as mine. I dreaded it, afraid it would be as painful as the previous.

Loke was excited. He tried to bounce around, but wound up blundering into everything thanks to the radar dish around his head. When I took it off to put his harness on and us go right out the door, he still tried to scratch, lifting that hind leg and staring at me apologetically as it came up toward his tilted head.

Amazingly, as I worked to brush away more snow from the ramp, he didn’t try to scratch where he waited for me. That waited until I was putting the shoes on. The left shoe didn’t feel as weirdly tight this time.

As I sat down in the trike, I discovered that my Garmin was still mounted to the handlebar. Completely and utterly dead. Fortunately, I had my ‘battery brick’ and the charge cable. It came on and I’d not stopped it recording after the nightmare ride. Oddly, it insisted that my less than 4 mile crawl was over 9 miles with an average speed of 0.8 mph during 11 hours and 40-ish minutes. Weird. I reset it for the new ride.

When I clipped in and loosed the brake, Loke tried to pull us off like a shot.

When hoarfrost and winter-bare tree come together

When hoarfrost and winter-bare tree come together

I must admit, Loke’s recent enthusiasm is nice and makes me smile though I find it quite strange. When he was a young fireball, he pulled quite a bit, or at least kept enough tension in the tether so it didn’t jingle. From about age 5 until recent, he was content to just keep up, the harness clip chiming like a bell against the ‘D’ ring of his harness with the slack. His pulling saved for getting me up hills quicker or the odd emergency or appearance of small animal triggering his prey drive.

Since late December though, he’s been pulling constant and at least an extra inch of tether drawn out of the spring bar. It’s like he’s 3 again, even if slower than when he really was 3 years old.

Hoarfrost and voila! A dead weed is beautiful!

Hoarfrost and voila! A dead weed is beautiful!

As on the last ride, the nature of the ride revealed itself before we’d finished the first mile. Unlike the last, it was a complete one 180. Pain free, except for the cold wind biting harshly into my cheeks. I felt strong as I rolled briskly along with a happy husky bounding beside me. I was smiling as much as Loke was.

From the start, the hoarfrost feathering the trees in the garden colony surprised me. As I made the turn to follow the river upstream for a bit, the amount of it only increased. It made the naked limbs of the trees appear to be leafed in white. The winter-dead stalks of weeds stubbornly remaining upright and tall were covered with it as well, mundane made magical. Such a pretty day, even when the sun’s pitiful attempts to come out failed.

01-21 c Gray Skies White Ground 2 alt

Colorless, but pretty!

Clouds hung gray overhead and there was almost no color around us as we cruised along. Yet, thanks to snow hiding mud-black fields and hoarfrost casting an illusion of leaves and white flowers on trees and stalks, it was a stunningly beautiful day. I smiled to be a part of it. Its spell had made the boring tedium of doing the River Loop for what must be the 10,000th time, as magical as riding somewhere new.

A little husky beard of ice

A little husky beard of ice

I thought about riding further than the 5-7 miles of the River Loop, but that wind! Without the mask, my cheeks hurt and there were still things that needed done at home. I must remember to find my face mask. Not sure where it got stored. It’s been a while since I’ve needed it.

We had about 7.6 miles beneath tires and paws when we came back to the storage.

Arriving home, I did a good deed. One of the neighbors who shares our little 8 car parking lot had his hood up. He’s in his 50’s, small wiry looking man who has always had a cheerful wave when our paths cross. As I got out of the car, he came over and asked if I had time to help. He’d been away for 3 months, visiting his son in Greece and his car battery had died. He was very anxious about not being a bother even as he asked for my help.

Of course I’d help if he had jumper cables. He did and we got things connected. I joked with him about how he’d missed the -23 C temps we’d had, which is probably what killed his battery. It turned into chaos when the key broke off in the ignition and the back of car wouldn’t open with it turned into the ‘on’ position so he could fetch pliers to get it out. We solved it. Unfortunately, his battery was too far gone to be revived.

Still, he was very grateful and even hugged me for being so nice. I only did what neighbors should do.

Loke only tried to scratch once while waiting in the car during all this.

I realized something later last night while trimming an inch off the cone of shame to make Loke’s life a bit easier. With yesterday’s ride of 7.6 -ish miles, I’d accrued more than double the the distance covered in January 2015 and still more than a week to go. Not bad for so few rides thanks to record low temps!

Yay for Winter!
January 13, 2016, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Once it came, winter has been pretty nice. The rides are more challenging on several levels, but the radical change in the scenery lifts my spirits and makes it seem like a whole new place.

As mentioned in the last post, we had a few days of temps between 0 F to -1 F where I just couldn’t summon the courage to ride. I’m still learning the limits of my current trike set up against cold. I’m confident of temps in the low 20’s, even upper teens, but going from testing my rides in that to attempting rides in sub-zero with nothing in between? I value my toes too much for that.

So, when I checked the temperature at 10 am on January 8th and discovered 23 F, I flew into action. After 5 days of idleness I was not going to let a chance to ride in proven temperatures slide by.

Thankfully, Jens was home so leaving Loke, sad faced and disappointed, wasn’t a huge issue. I felt guilty, but at least with the hubby there he wouldn’t be howling the walls down.

There was a lot of snow. It made getting the trike out of storage challenging. The long ramp had a blanket of more than 2 inches. The walk between the car and storage and then back up the ramp pushing the trike meant I had chunks of ice around the cleats making my footing wobbly as well as slick. Somehow, I managed to not kill myself.

Yay! Proper snow!!!

Yay! Proper snow!!!

It’s a lot more work to ride in snow, but still, I love it.

Within a couple minutes of starting out, I had a bit of an adventure. I made the turn after coming down the first road from the storage. As I came by the school, there was a perfect storm of activity. Two cars came toward me from opposite directions and three people were walking their dogs along a 50 meter stretch.

Right at that moment, a bell rang at the school and a hare leaped out of a snowy hedge in complete panic. The dogs, of course went nuts, and the cars slowed to work out how to politely get by me. I guess me, being smaller than a car, lacking a dog and not standing at my full height seemed less of a threat to the critter. It came part way out into the road, boxed by dogs and cars, and flung itself at me. It smacked right into the fairing. Then it bounced almost 3 feet in the air and tried to take off. One of the dogs lunged, snarling and it whirled, ricocheting off my fairing again.

By then, the cars were past and the poor thing bolted toward the fenced area with the garden plots, squeezing through the gate in the chain link.

All I could do was stare in amazement as the people with dogs laughed at the comical situation. I’d never seen a hare so close. 9 or 10 feet away was the nearest I’d ever been to previously. Honestly, I was glad that the fairing had prevented an even closer look. A panicked wild animal the size of a cat running up my belly, chest and face doesn’t sound like a good time.

Bemused, I went on.

About halfway through the River Loop, I decided to do an errand while I was out. My right twist grip shifter gives a crunchy sort of slipping click when going into gear 2 instead of a crisp snap. My guess is one of the teeth in the workings is worn down or chipped. I want to get it replaced before it becomes an issue.

Under-pavement heating. No other explanation!

Under-pavement heating. No other explanation!

As I took the cycle way along side the 272, I’ve come to a conclusion about the stretch that runs from the light industrial area and beyond the on-ramp of the 55. It’s heated. That’s the only conclusion I can come up with for why it is always so clear of snow when every other path in the area is buried under about an inch of ice and snow even after having been plowed. I was even curious enough to test that theory by pulling my glove off and putting my hand on it.

It didn’t feel warm, but certainly not bone-chilling sub-freezing either. Salt wouldn’t explain it as it was too cold for it to work. That leaves heated. I’m a bit baffled as to why when no other path I know of has been outfitted thusly. Makes for easier riding for that quarter mile section which means I get through the tedium of it faster.

Bobby, the mechanic, at the cycle shop was just setting out a bike when I rolled up. He greeted me and asked what I needed as I got up. I explained and he took a look at what I have. While looking at the computer to pick a replacement, I mentioned that we probably had to swap my gear cables back to normal alignment. I described how on sharp left turns the cable going from right lever to left brake comes unseated at the brake, locking it up

He nodded. Then he said, ‘I was thinking though, maybe it would help if you could stop both brakes with one hand? I could set up a ‘Y’  split on hydraulic lines.’

Lotten (I hope I’m spelling her name right) was walking by at the moment. ‘Yeah! You were talking about that a few days ago! How it would still leave her with the right hand to grab the husky’s harness if needed.’

You know, hearing that they actually keep me, Loke and my trike in mind when it’s not in need of immediate service gave me a warm glow. Solving potential future difficulties. To me that’s just a sign of an awesome local shop.

I told Bobby I’d think about it while waiting for the new grip shifters to arrive. More on that later.

I arrived back at the storage with a whopping 5.03 miles. Still fairly significant though. It also left me with less than 1 mile remaining to beat the total mileage in January 2015.

Saturday and Sunday (9th and 10th), I didn’t ride. I don’t think it was particularly cold. It did snow. That I do remember. It seemed every time I looked out the window or went out with Loke, it was snowing. Bits small as sand grains that hardly swirled at all and times with it was big feathery clumps that swirled in the faintest movement of air.

*nudge, nudge, nudge*

*nudge, nudge, nudge*

As for Loke, he was a complete pest. Jens took him for walks with socks on his foot. Long walks even. Still was not enough for the furry one. Every little movement on our part had him lunging violently to his feet, his expression hopeful. When my husband would get ready to take him for a walk, he’d go tearing around the apartment, spinning in circles and bunching rugs up against walls as he skidded to and fro.

Sunday, January 10th, he was driving me completely batty.

Jens left for a business trip to Denmark on Sunday, which made Loke’s harassment of me more surprising. Usually, he becomes calmer if Jens isn’t home. I was intending to wait until Monday, January 11th before taking him for a run, giving the antibiotics at least a week to work and see how much the foot healed.

If not for a 24 hour tummy flu, he would have gotten a run on Sunday. He woofed at me… loudly and repeatedly. He stomped his feet. He did the trick where he magically made his head weigh 100 lbs as it rested on my arm while attempting to type. A pretty interesting skill for a 50 lb dog. He pawed at me, trying to knock things out of my hands. Kisses, lots of kisses, which with Loke means smashing his wet, cold nose into one’s face, usually landing in an eye. Once, even he jumped on the couch to sit on my chest as I laid, curled miserably under a blanket while watching TV. I chased him away to one of his beds for that stunt. He left me alone for a whole 10 minutes.

He was making it absolutely clear that walkies were not enough. Not even the 4 mile ones Jens had done with him in the days before. If not for being sick, I would have relented just to get some peace!

'Can we go?! Can we go?! Can we....'

‘Can we go?! Can we go?! Can we….’

Thankfully, I was feeling quite a bit better when I woke up on Monday, January 11th. For a wonder, Loke let me yawn and have breakfast in peace before starting his ‘I’m going insane if you don’t run me!’ antics. It wasn’t until about 6 am that the weight of his head came down on my arm and the nudging began to escalate into other annoyances.

To be fair, I don’t get angry at him for stuff like this. He’s nailed his food puzzles to under a minute so they’re not enough to work his mind now. I try to play with him, but he ignores tossed balls or tug-ropes in preference of hopeful stares with a wagging tail and glances at his harness and door. It had been a week since he last got to run. He’s a husky and has energy galore even at his age. So, as long as it doesn’t cause me pain or break things, I laugh.

As for his foot? It looked better. Not 100%, but enough that he would be fine if I kept a sock on him and out of road salt as much as possible. We were gonna go.

Since the snatch and grab theft of my rear cycle light last month, I’ve not replaced it. Because of that, I was determined to wait for daylight enouth that police officers wouldn’t decide to cite me for its lack. The thick clouds meant I had to wait a bit after sunrise.

About the time I decided it was time to get ready, I noticed the patter of melt water from the window sills outside. A quick check showed temps of 33 F and a rain/snow mix. Oh joy. Yet, Loke was not to be denied.

He went completely berserk as I started getting ready. He stopped short of bouncing off the walls, but not by much. When he wasn’t streaking around hysterically, he was determinedly staying in my line of sight and trying to keep eye contact. It’s hard to collect clothing and otherwise get dressed with a husky stubbornly moving around to stay sitting at one’s feet and staring into one’s face. When I escaped to the bathroom to dress faster with him out of the way, he whined and even pawed at the door.

With the snow being so wet, I decided to go to the storage in my Icebug (studded) boots rather than attempting messy suicide by walking in shoes with SPD cleats. Two inches or more of snow was on the ramp, so I annoyed Loke by grabbing the snow shovel and got to work clearing the path. Less snow to collect in the cleats and less to push the trike through to the top. Hard work, but warmed me up.

It also gave the rain/snow time to stop. At the very least we’d be able to start the ride dry.

The first half mile of the ride was… interesting. Firstly, Loke pulled like an entire team of Iditarod running huskies. Secondly, the 2+ inches of wet snow was very like damp sand, but with an extra slip factor. Loke’s yanking added to the skittering of the wheels so the trike fish-tailed to and fro unpredictably like a drunken salmon going up stream even though our speed barely hit 4 mph in spite of Loke’s crazed efforts.

Seriously? Someone tried skiing on it?!

Seriously? Someone tried skiing on it?!

It was easier once we left the road for the cycle path across the 55. The snow had less of that packed yet churned quality so it acted less like damp sand. Traction was better and less slippy. We still weren’t very fast even coming down the big hill toward the river. Hit only about 6 mph there.

Crossing the Fyris River, I was surprised to find it thawing. After the days of deep cold, I would have thought it would take more than a few hours above freezing, but clearly I was wrong. More disturbing were the apparent tracks of cross-country skis and what looked like a spot where they’d broken through the ice. It’s hard to see in the photo, but it was plain as day as I looked at it.

Happy Husky!

Happy Husky!

I took a right to follow the river upstream. The spot by the bridge wasn’t the only one with a melt patch where something had fallen through the rotted ice. Given that there were almost always tracks of hares or foxes around them, I felt sorry for the poor creatures and hoped they’d managed to escape the cold grip that could have pulled them under.

Loke was unstoppable. His last run which was the most recent leg of the Mälardalsleden, taking us into the heart of Stockholm, he’d pulled the entire way. It felt like there wasn’t a single moment on that ride when he allowed slack in the tether, even when he started limping.

Hard work to ride the hidden paths

Hard work to ride the hidden paths

That was nothing compared to the sheer power he was putting through the running bar on January 11th. He hasn’t run with that much determination, especially on the local loops, in years. It was as if the clock had turned back 5 years or more!

In spite of his powerhouse pulling and me spinning the pedals like a mad woman, our speed remained quite low. The rear tire slipped quite a bit even on flat ground and it was hard to push through 2 inches or more of wet snow. For the entire 5.3 miles, we barely averaged a 4 mph pace according to my Garmin. Pretty sure if Loke had been his usual not-pulling self the average would have been 3 mph or less.

I tried though. Even at those low speeds, it was one of my best rides in terms of average cadence.

And the temp continued to climb. I actually stripped off one of the underlayers on my torso and put away cap and gloves. Never needed to turn on my footwarmers either. Even with windchill it was above freezing.

Looks like rain.

Looks like rain.

The last mile and a half, the sky darkened further off to the west. The ride started to feel like a slow motion race as I was pretty sure the deep slate gray clouds would be more likely to dump rain on us than snow.

We made it back to storage dry.

Back at the apartment, I expected Loke to continue his antics. We’d only managed 5.3 miles after all. True, he had pulled like a champion for every foot of it. It must have been enough because the evening passed remarkably quiet, Loke laying like a content rug in the middle of the living room floor.

As the evening went on, it got even warmer and the rain came with only a few flakes of snow. It turned into a flash thaw of paved surfaces. Grassy areas kept snow fine, but the side walks and roads turned to slush and by the time it was 9 pm, even most of the slush was gone.

It didn’t last. The high temp for January 12th was shortly after midnight. By the time I woke, it was about 28 F and we had almost 2 inches of fresh snow laying over what had been slush and water.

The short run on the 11th apparently won me a 22 hour reprieve. It was about that long since finishing the ride that Loke started pestering me again. He wasn’t as intense as before about it, but still quite insistent. I started dragging on the layers and we headed off for the storage about 12:45 pm.

It was snowing right up to the moment I started shoveling the ramp again. Just the grainy, sand like type rather than swirling fluffy feathers. Loke yodeled and yapped at me impatiently as I worked.

There was a woman with a pair of dogs at the top of the ramp when I got everything up. Loke almost dragged the trike right over to them. As I sat down, I discovered my Garmin wasn’t with me. Annoyed, I considered either putting stuff back in the storage to go get it, but I really didn’t want to wrestle with the cycle shoes again or deal with ice chunks on the cleats.

My solution, while not elegant did solve the problem of calculating distance for my tracking. I would do the exact route I’d done the day before. 5.3 miles. Loke, still wound up from the other dogs, yanked us off like a shot when I loosed the parking break.

In spite of the melt, refreeze, and fresh inches of snow, the first half mile went vastly better than the day before. We sped along and the trike hardly skittered at all. I can’t say exactly how much faster it was, but it was definitely faster. Loke’s tongue flopped in a joyful husky grin even though it was the same ground. He also pulled like a furry freight engine. I found a smile on my face that stayed with me the whole way.

1:30 pm in Sweden in January.

1:30 pm in Sweden in January.

As we rolled along by the refrozen river, the wind kicked up stronger, coming from the east and carried dust like snow, but to the south west, the sun found a break in the clouds. Weak in spite of it being about 1:15 pm, shining through the snow swirling around us, it was welcome. It’s been a while since it has shown itself though at least all the white on the ground and draping the trees makes gray skies less dismal. I can’t remember the last time we had clear, or even mostly clear skies.

With the increased wind, I stopped to turn on my footwarmers as it became unpleasant for my tootsies.

Snowing and sun shine. Love it!

Snowing and sun shine. Love it!

It was a good thing I’d not planned on a longer ride. Less than a minute after turning them on, they were dead. No warmth for the feet. The wind angle was bad and my feet got colder. Then uncomfortable. Finally even painful as I rushed us home. Loke was happy to accommodate. The tip of my right big toe was extremely unhappy by the time we rolled back to the storage.

Not a bad ride though I was annoyed that I’d forgotten my Garmin and that the warmer batteries had run out.

As for Loke? About half an hour later he was bugging me again. It seems he’d decided that 5 miles was no longer going to cut it.

I wasn’t budging though. No way was I going to go out again as the sun was setting with no heat for the feet. Instead I dragged Loke into the bathroom to wash any possible road salt off his feet as I’d done the day before.

After that indiginity he left me be so I could enjoy a nice pot of strawberry/lime Rooibos tea. Outside, the last of the sun struggled through the swirling snow and turned the entire world into a gorgeous shade of rosy red. It was as if I looked through pink tinted windows. Nature is amazing.

Resting today. It’s about 26 F, stiff winds and a lot of snow. About 4 inches over what we had already. It’s still coming down. It should be interesting if I ride tomorrow. Hopefully won’t forget my Garmin.

Oh! As of the ride on the 11th, I have already gone further in January 2016 than I did in January 2015 and still 2 more weeks left in the month!

With a Vengeance…
January 7, 2016, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

January 2nd was a bit busy. It was gray and colder than it had been on New Year’s day. Loke’s foot looked a bit worse than it had before the New Year’s Eve ride, but I kept at the washing and cleaning in hopes it would start healing again.

When I took Loke out for a short walk, there was a scattering of white dust drifting around. Snow technically though the flakes were smaller than grains of sand. There was almost a build up on the sidewalks as we came back to the apartment, but it had stopped.

Right at 9 am, I hurried out the door in search of a collar clamp. It was trying to snow again. Larger flakes that swirled around with the least little gust of wind. As I drove, they thickened into a proper snowfall.

At the first shop I found nothing like a collar clamp and couldn’t chase down anyone to ask. From, there, I bounced over to a building supply shop. At least there, I was able to find people who ask. The guys had never heard of one and showing a photo didn’t help either.

One of them did suggest a hose clamp which was my secondary choice. I’d brought the fairing frame with me to be sure we got the size needed.

On the return home, the snow had already stopped again. Mother Nature was toying with me.

With the replacement clamp, there was no help for it but to give it a try. Best to see if the loss of the original clamp had been solved or was I going to have to order and hope it arrived in less than a month. Loke was bouncy and excited as I dressed. Since he hadn’t been limping, I decided to bring him with. I put a sock on him and off to the storage we went.

It was a bit of chaos. Finding parking was a challenge. Then I accidentally left something in the car or in storage. Ran around in circles before I finally got everything settled.

Mother Nature, a cruel tease.. or so I thought.

More fluffy flakes coming down.

At first look, it seemed the clamp worked perfectly. It even had an added benefit of being able to use the same tool for the faring mount as I use to fasten or remove the running bar. No swapping! A very minor thing, but still worth celebrating. One less thing to lose!

Speaking of losing, Loke’s sock came off just on the darting to and fro.

During one of the dashes back and forth between storage and car, the snow returned. I regarded it with some cynicism. Scooting back to the garage, it came down in an intense flurry. Darting back into the storage to look for my Goretex hat.

01-02 b Less Than A MinuteI was away from the trike for perhaps 30 seconds. The amount of snow on it was surprising. Loke huffed at me as I took a photo of it. Then he sighed as I retrieved the sock and wrestled it back on his foot. He really doesn’t like them.

The furball wasn’t convinced all the running hither and yon was over. It wasn’t until I made the turn onto the usual street toward the river that he believed. That husky grin came out and he did his determined best to run.

Snow swirled though the winds were light. Still, I was glad of my contacts combined with my winter sunglasses. They have a seal around the frame that does a pretty good job of closing the gap between them and the face. It holds out both the wind that makes my eyes water and snow. Surprisingly, this time, they didn’t fog up either.

I’m pretty sure one reason Loke pulled so hard that time was because it increases the friction between his feet and the ground, helping strip off annoying socks. I had to go back and retrieve it.

Ice getting a dust of snow! Finally starting to look like winter!

Ice getting a dust of snow! Finally starting to look like winter!

The main goal of the outing was to make sure the hose clamp was going to work as replacement. Before we’d done a mile, the experiment was a success. The fairing was firmly attached. No wobbling or slow slouching.

After the glide down the big hill and bumping up onto the bridge, I was surprised to find the river frozen across. It was looking almost wintery.

I was thrilled the snow persisted. It was building up fairly quick. There were challenges to it however. Breathing was a bit tricky. The flakes were light fluff so the least little movement of air swirled them around. They came right in under my brim and the little tugs of air just from breathing pulled them right up into my nose. A bit like inhaling freezing water at times, triggering a lot of spluttering.

Other than that, it felt a little rough. 3 days, 3 rides and I could feel it. The snow was also piling up at a surprising rate.

Even so, I decided to ride further… without Loke. By the time I rolled to a stop outside the apartment, we had over an inch of snow.

I cleaned Loke’s foot and tried to ignore the pitiful look he gave me when I bolted back out the door without him.

I headed off for downtown, stopping at the American Food store. I visited with one of the owners and wishes that they have a happy new year.

White, white and more white!

White, white and more white!

It turned into quite a harsh ride. I was slow. The wind kicked up and snow came down even thicker. The blanket of white was slightly damp so it churned easily into a sand like texture.

Another task awaited me. Fetching more reindeer meat for Loke. Covered in snow, I didn’t go in, standing in the little entry way so as not to melt over my MIL’s floors.

Turned out I’d miscalculated the time a little. The sun was setting as I left my in-laws. ‘Å’ worriedly asked if I had lights. I assured him I had a front one at least, as I’ve not yet replaced the rear which was snatched by a couple of jerks during one of my downtown rolls.

I was so glad to roll to a stop at the storage. Getting up the slope was tricky. The damp snow packed into a clump of slick ice around my cleats which left my footing wobbly and slippery.

But, I had Loke’s food and thoroughly tested the fairing. The hose clamp had worked just fine. One of the fellow members of a triking group on Facebook mentioned I could probably order a new clamp for ‘just 20 USD’. My first thought was, ‘Hmmm 20 USD plus time/cost of overseas shipping for something so easy to lose and would need the extra tool – or something that costs maybe 1 USD, can be had the same day one is lost? AND no extra tool!’ Hose clamp it is!

It’s not like the equivalent of replacing a car window with cardboard and ducktape.

My next planned ride was January 5th. It was going to be a continuation of the Mälardalsleden!

I’m hoping to get back into the mentality of ‘I’m a cyclist’. Early in 2014, I’d read that people who consider themselves ‘runners’ or ‘cyclists’ do the activity more consistently then those who say, ‘I run’ or ‘I ride a bike’. So, I began declaring (to myself), ‘I’m a cyclist!’ I got into a groove. I rode more and actually made a fairly regular schedule of it. Every time I thought about sluffing off, the ‘I’m a cyclist’ would whisper in my head and out the door I went.

It worked great!….. until the stroke.

Still amazes me that last year was my 2nd best year ever and so close to being the best.

So, with the plan of ‘I am cyclist’ in mind, I mentally scheduled 2 days of rest to hit the ground good and fast on the 5th as a sort of year beginning blowout before buckling down. Jens’ vacation essentially extending the year end. We had a reservation for our favorite restaurant that day so a good long run with Loke and plenty of exercise for myself was just the thing.

It didn’t happen. Loke’s foot stubbornly refused to improve no matter how I washed or cleaned with antiseptic at regular intervals. On Sunday, the 4th it became really bad. He limped horribly, sometimes on 3 legs, other times trying to use only his toenails. Poor thing. I tried to make an appointment, but they were fully booked. Tuesday, January 5th was the earliest. 8 am. I took it.

It pretty much jinxed the plans to ride. The vet visit plus running around for meds if it was decided would take too much time to allow for the drive to the Stockholm area as well as showering in time to have dry hair for dinner.

It was snowing as we headed out. I gave Loke a short hobbling walk before going into the clinic.

It was a long appointment. I had the very nice vet with the Scottish accent check for yeast just to be sure as it seemed there was no choice but to use antibiotics. She took a few scrapings and looked. No yeast. So, antibiotics it was.

So, Loke is on a 21 day course of bacteria specific medication in an attempt to beat the bug into utter submission rather than giving a bigger chance of a super bug. Still scrubbing and rinsing.

I think it’s working, but I’m uneasy. Loke is at least walking fairly normal. Maybe a slight hitch in his step every now and again.

Turns out I still should have squeezed in a ride after the vet visit. Yes it was gray, but snow instead of rain and mid-20’s F. Since the 6th, the temperature plunged. I’m talking single digits.

Cold and lovely grave mound walk in a snowfall.

Cold and lovely grave mound walk in a snowfall – Jan 6th

And snow! Not feet of snow, but a lot. Currently, -0.4 F. Even cyclists have limits. I wanted winter and while I’m enjoying the snow on walks, it’s just too bitter to ride. If 20 F or even upper teens, I’d risk it, but sub-zero? I don’t think even my fairing, footwarmers and shoecovers with every pair of wool socks I could stuff in the shoes could keep my feet from frostbite in it. I’d need better gloves than I have now too.

Not good cycling weather, but pretty!

Not good cycling weather, but pretty!

We walked at the grave mounds yesterday and it was harsh. I had my eyeglasses instead of contacts. My eyes teared which caused the glasses to fog. The fog turned to ice so I ended up putting the glasses in my pocket and walking practically blind. The tears still came and began making little icicles on my lashes.

Sun peeking over the mound.

Sun peeking over the mound.

Riding on the trike brings a new level of windchill. Riding out in 25 F according to window thermometer and weather apps, my Garmin displays temps in the teens. 0F would be like what? -10 F? I need to ease in to that so I have time to figure out what gear to use for combating such bitter cold.

So much nicer than winter-dead grass and muddy, eroded trails!

So much nicer than winter-dead grass and muddy, eroded trails!

So, the 2 days rest has stretched into 4 days as of this writing. The forecast promises milder temps. Tomorrow might even be about 20 F. If so, then out the door I’ll scurry for at least a short ride.

I needed it for more than miles or the ‘I am a cyclist’ regime. My back has improved and I want it to stay that way. Walking or the gym just doesn’t seem to help it as much as a few hours a week of trike pedaling. It’s for my health in so many ways!

Winter came with a vengeance. Hopefully it will stay with us, but soften slightly. Temps a little higher, but cold enough to hold the snow and let the rest of winter be a proper one.

End of the 2015!
January 1, 2016, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

This has been a crazy year. From struggling to recover from the stroke at the very beginning of it right up attempting to make this the best year ever for my mileage on a recumbent trike. It shows how far I’ve come, recovering those first months that I’ve trounced the mileage in years when I was younger, thinner and nothing so disastrous as a stroke had hit. My best tour ever even if it was a credit card tour. Breaking 1000 miles for the first time since 2008. I’ve pushed limits and comfort zones and come through.

Not bad at all. I don’t even feel the least little twinge of regret over having thrown in the towel pushing for best mileage year on a trike ever.

After so many of my rides being runs on the hamster wheel, I decided to see the year out with a bang. Short daylight hours or not, I was going to tackle another portion of the Mälardalsleden (Mälar Valley’s Route). Jens was fine with driving and had promised to do it for at least a few rides during his holiday vacation. I’d been hesitant with the cold, but it was supposed to be a bit above freezing so, I decided to do it.

I ended up a bit behind schedule as I’d planned to be on the road by 7:30 am to arrive at Bromma Church and have the trike assembled to roll right around sunrise. I wound up loading the trike about that time while Jens finished waking up for the drive. My back gave only one small twinge which wasn’t too bad, thankfully.

According to Jens, Loke stayed by the door, tilting his head at any little sound coming through it and whined after me. Been ages since he’s done that.

Here Comes the Sun!

Here Comes the Sun!

The furball was a bit restless on the drive over. Another indication he was looking forward to the day. I had no qualms about him coming for a while even after the limping incident on the previous ride. He’d been bouncing around fine since and the skin between his paw pads looked pretty much recovered from the infection.

As for me, I was caught between excitement and a bit of nervousness at what lay ahead. While outside the city of Stockholm, I knew I’d be fine. Easy to find a place for pick up and such. In the city, well, that’s a whole new ballgame. Parking is difficult, traffic everywhere and, in spite of cycle lanes everywhere, not very kind place to ride. It’s an old city and like a lot of those, cycle lanes are just kinda squeezed in any which way. I thought I’d mapped a way that stayed mostly to greener parts of the city, but one never knows.

Bromma Church in winter!

Bromma Church in winter!

As we neared Bromma, I was delighted to see more snow than Uppsala had. Once we were at the church and I began pulling the trike out of the car, clearly it was true. I walked through some of it to get a good angle of Bromma Church in a white landscape.

One difficulty about it being warmer than on the previous ride was the snow had turned damp and wanted to pack around the cleats in my cycle shoes. Made for tricky walking a few times.

Heading out into new territory!

Heading out into new territory!

Loke was thrilled to be there. He didn’t yodel or hop, but his eyes were bright and he had the whole husky grin going on as I settled in. His tail was swinging non-stop too. Said bye to the hubby and off we went like a shot in spite of my attempts to keep him from going completely nuts.

I completely understood his frenzy. Though it was only zipping down a little residential street coated in churned snow, I couldn’t stop grinning. It was NOT Uppsala and it felt glorious.

Don’t get me wrong, Uppsala is a beautiful city as cities go, but 100 or more of the 149 rides this year have been the same 3 or 4 loops in and around the city I’ve been doing since first getting a trike in 2006.

Loke became even more fired up when we came to the little park surrounding the puddle they call ‘Kyrksjön’ (The Church Lake).

On the earlier ride to Bromma, we’d come around the west side of lake. This time we cut east, aiming for the first manor house of the day less than 2 miles away. The snow was fairly packed from people walking it, clearly a popular place to stroll particularly with dogs. We sped along at about 9 mph, Loke attempting to pull us even faster. Snow flew up from the right wheel, scattering over my arm and face. Though it wasn’t bright enough to need them, I stopped to put on my sunglasses to keep it out of my eyes.

I stopped to consult the map a couple of times to find the way. It got a little confusing for a moment around the train station. Less than 15 minutes after leaving the church, I rolled to a stop at the drive to Åkeshovs (Åke’s Court) Manor.

Åkehovs Manor

Åkehovs Manor

I’ve noticed that around Stockholm, many of the manors and palaces/castles have free standing wings. Åkeshovs was the same.

Loke waiting impatiently

Loke waiting impatiently

The manor has quite a history in its later years. It has been a house for the wealthy, a place abandoned and plundered, a home for mentally handicapped and even for refugees of the Baltic states during the great wars. Now, it has a more stable existence being used for conferences, weddings and other such gatherings.

I’d planned the route around the grounds, but rather than add to the confusion, I settled for turning the trike around to head back to the street directly. With 3 inches or so of snow, gravel paths and such are quite hard to make out. I didn’t feel like guessing if I was on a path or bouncing my way over lawn that might put me in a spot I would have to turn back anyway.

Loke was still a furry powerhouse as we turned onto the street and began a gentle climb. It was great to see him so happy and enthusiastic. I felt the same way.

Windmill! I know where I am!

Windmill! I know where I am!

I actually felt really good physically. Nothing hurt, my chest felt clear so breathing was no issue. My muscles felt decently strong and lots of stamina. It was as if everything was coming together for a perfect ride.

Looking at my printed maps, I took a turn off the plotted line to aim for a runestone. The change brought me out on a busy 4 lane road above a small park around a small lake named Lill. I was surprised by an unexpected landmark. A windmill.

The site of it helped ground me in knowing more precisely where I was, allowing it to fit into a greater scheme of the surroundings. I associate it with the area around Drottningholms Palace which is a world heritage site and where I ended a ride several years ago. A rather fun ride actually that involved a couple of islands and lots of churches, a few manors and even a ruin.

Still smiling at the mill, I made the turn and began a long slow climb toward where I had a runestone marked. Loke pulled on, trying to hurry me up that hill. I could have gone faster, but my attention was on the right, peering through tangles of thicket, trees and weeds so I wouldn’t miss the stone.

Bromma Burial Ground

Bromma Burial Ground

Uppland Runestone #56

Uppland Runestone #56

Uppland Runestone #56 stood above the cycle path and road. It turns out its position is no accident. There was a sign beside the path of packed down snow leading to the stone. I stopped to read it, discovering that the area was actually an Iron Age burial ground with a few houses thrown in for good measure.

The houses are actually from a village known as ‘Linta’. During prehistoric times, the buildings were located more north of the burial ground. In the medieval times, it seems to have shifted to the south with the foundations of a house just behind the runestone. With the dense mat of grass and snow it wasn’t possible for me to spot any indication of it. Details of the village and burial ground available with the click of the thumbnail. Same of the runestone.

Loke looked a bit confused as I turned the trike around. It happened a lot on this ride. The glide down from the burial ground was fun, though I kept us to about 9 mph max. I wanted to cross the road to the cycle path through the park at the lake side. It turned into quite a hassle. The nearest place to cross was blocked on the far side with about 8 inches of piled slushy ice from plowed snow. I gritted my teeth and bashed through. Perhaps not the wisest course.

Lill Lake 11:30 am. Winter days in Sweden.

Lill Lake 11:30 am. Winter days in Sweden.

Then the first path leading to the one by the lake was blocked by some kind of repairs to something beneath. So was the next. It also appeared that the one after that had the same. Annoyed, I just took off across the featureless white of random bit of snow-buried grass. It wasn’t bad going and Loke absolutely loved it. Grabbing mouthfuls of snow as we went.

The effort was almost for naught. I followed the path around and discovered a tiny bridge. I stopped to evaluated it for several minutes before deciding to try it. My handlebar bag scraped one side and Loke barely had space between the other side and the end of his running bar. A very tight fit and we had to make several turns on it.

Emerged with a sigh of relief which didn’t last long. I made a sharp left turn and my left brake hung up. It’s actually been happening a lot. The cable on the brake jumps out of the seating, clamping the caliper down on the disk with just about every sharp left I take. I have to stop and wrestle it back into the proper seating. I think it has something to do with the cross wiring I had done. When I get the new gear shifts installed, I’ll ask Bobby to put them back. Was a good idea, but not worth the frustration for that tiny bit of extra control over Loke’s pulling in slippery conditions.

From where it was a quick dash across another busy road to climb another hill to the next manor on my map.

Ulfsunda Manor

Ulfsunda Manor

Loke better suck in his gut!

Loke better suck in his gut!

Ulfsunda (once Ulvsunda) sat high on a raised terrace from where I stopped the trike. Loke watched as I walked across a bit of snowy lawn to climb the stairs to the courtyard for the photo. Like many manor houses in the area, it had the free standing wings flanking the main building. Fairly typical of the type with a general sort of history behind it. I came, I saw and dutifully clicked the camera.

Done with the photos, we headed toward the bridge over the tiny little gurgle of water between Lill Lake and an inlet of the Baltic. I’m not sure what is up with the pedestrian/cycle bridges in this area, but woe to anyone who has to walk a bike across one. It was another tight fit for trike and Loke. The furball was happy to pull for hurrying us through.

Across the bridge and onward to the east, it started to feel more urbanized. Fewer houses, more apartment buildings and bigger. Greater mounts of  traffic in smaller spaces. That sort of thing.

If someone is going to illegally paint on a wall, this is the way to go!

If someone is going to illegally paint on a wall, this is the way to go!

A short distance over the bridge, things took an industrial sort of turn. As if to bring home the urban feel, a large wall was covered with a stunning amount of paint. I stopped to admire it. Technically, it’s graffiti, but somehow more. It’s crossed the threshold into urban art. Not something I’d want in my apartment, but I liked it. The sheer amount of detail and little surprises hidden in the apparent chaos of color and shapes. It wasn’t small either. The wall was taller than I could reach and just went on and on for dozens of yards.

It also reminds me of the graffiti art that used to grace one of the pedestrian tunnels. It had that same bold, startling use of color and shape, though perhaps less refined than this. It was there for years until one day, it just wasn’t. Was rather sad to see it go. It brightened up a murky, cement and asphalt hole.

Across the Bay

Across the Bay

Loke, of course, didn’t see the appeal and huffed at me, trying to pull us along.

Beyond there, things got a bit frustrating and confusing. It returned to a path along the water’s edge which was nice, offering views across to the heart of Stockholm. There was no ice as there had been at the first of the ride where it was almost frozen completely across. I even saw a 4 man rowing team stroking rapidly along the rippled surface of the Baltic. A woman stopped to make cooing noises over Loke and admired him. It was slow going being most of the way uphill.



The spot I’d marked to make a turn turned out to be a no go. It was a steep stairway up a rock face. There were a little pair of ramps for someone to walk a bike or baby stroller down, but no way for me to get the trike up. The ramps weren’t conveniently spaced for my front tires. I pushed on and hoped for the best.

The best didn’t pan out. Instead it was more of stairs and ramps. I tried it but the trike’s width was not compatible. There was a path going around the side where people rode down rather than bothering with the steps, skirting a street lamp. I eyed it contemplatively, but when I stood up to evaluate the one after that, there was no way I could squeeze the trike through the 2nd… or the third. No help for it, I had to go back.

At least it was downhill. It went quickly which made Loke happy even if not quite quick enough to be perfect in his furry mind.

I zig-zagged around until finding a combination of roads that connected me to the bigger road with the bridge I needed to make it across the inlet.

Sometimes the climb is worth it!

Sometimes the climb is worth it!

There was a good cycle way next to the road right over the bridge and separated from the traffic by a sturdy metal railing with concrete pillars. It was a slow climb as I wasn’t going to push my knees. I wanted them good till the end. It was quite breezy at the top. I had to steady the camera on the railing when I stood up to get a photo.

Too neat!

Too neat!

Of course, Loke (aka furry freight engine) tried his best to lead the way down the bridge at a full charge. Kept giving me dirty looks. I feel bad not letting him run, but better that then mysteriously yelping. I didn’t like that at all.

It took me studying the maps between Garmin and print out to figure where I needed to go next. Finally, I found the connecting cycle way and was happily pedaling along the water side again. Right off though was a hideously steep climb, likely the worst of the ride. If it was less than 18% I’d be surprised and it just wouldn’t end! I don’t see how people spin up hills because there simply was no spinning. It was pure force on the pedals that moved me forward.

I stopped at one point to catch my breath. A couple, about in their 50’s, came walking down the hill. The woman stopped and looked at the trike. ‘That looks heavy,’ she said. I answered that it was a bit. Then she asked if the dog helped. I replied he did sometimes, but being almost 11 years old, he wasn’t as strong as he used to be. Then she surprised me with, ‘Would you like me to help?’. I laughed and assured her I was fine and would make it up one way or another. She looked dubious, asking if I was certain, before walking on.

I have the feeling that she thought I was handicapped actually. Still was a kind thing she offered.

The downhill, as always was nice. I enjoyed the weak winter sun that found its way through the clouds and enjoyed the views.

Hufvudsat Manor on high

Hufvudsat Manor on high

Then the cycle path ended. Barricades blocked the way along the water’s edge, reserved for pedestrians. I looked where the cycle sign pointed and frowned at the climb. Rebel that I am, I decided to go down the pedestrian way as there was enough room to squeeze the trike through. I went slowly, actually picking a pair of women who had a brisk walking pace to match speed with.

Glad I went that way because I was able to photograph my third manor house of the day. Admittedly not the most flattering angle for it. It is probably the smallest of the manor houses of the day.

Well, I'll be!

Well, I’ll be!

A bit further on, it was time to squeeze through another set of barriers into a park area. The cycle path was set back from the water. People were all out walking and enjoying the day. I came to an intersection of paths and did a double take. Ponies. One does not expect to see ponies happily munching hay in a fenced area a stone’s throw from the heart of Sweden’s largest city.

The photo is the largest of the bunch, the others were round little Shetlands all facing away so the only thing to see was horsey rumps.

Just short distance after the ponies, things got complicated, stressful and confusing. We left behind any semblance of bucolic bliss. There were still trees around, but more and more concrete and roads and looming buildings or overpasses. At one point, I started up a ramp that doubled around and took me firmly away from any view of water. Pretty impressive for a city made of islands.

It was startled when I realized it was a semi-familiar place. I’d ridden down the road below with Jens many times and it used to be the site of a rabbit colony.

A miscalculation...

A miscalculation…

Yes, rabbit colony. It was a grassy spot wedged between two busy roads where people had dumped pet rabbits. The predictable thing happened when one has a rabbit population of mixed genders. The tiny wedge of dirt was riddled with rabbit burrows and one could often see a dozen or more hopping around. There were even people who would come to leave vegetable leftovers and armfuls of hay to keep them from starving. Then some work was done on the roads there and the colony was removed. No more grassy spot, no more bunnies.

I was nervous as the ramp took us down into a tunnel underpass. This was into the beating heart of Stockholm.

It didn’t start out too bad once I came out of the tunnel. I found myself on some city streets, but made a turn toward the water where a cycle path led on beside a road and under an even larger one raised up high. The city planners for central Stockholm took lessons from M.C. Escher I swear. You go up, over, under, around, and through to get where you need to go.

The ride which had been so awesome suddenly became more of a struggle. Loke limped. With the traffic roaring along beside, I stopped to look. The sight of angry, oozy looking flesh had me glancing around desperately for a spot Jens could pick him up at the very least. Nothing. The foot had looked fine before the ride. The only thing I could think of was perhaps road salt had been too much for skin not yet completely recovered from the infection. I rinsed it from my water bottle and we went on very slowly.

He didn’t limp again, but I was still fretful.

Then my body decided to join in the fun! My right ankle seized up like it sometimes does. It’s like the tendons in the front and top of the foot pull tight and don’t want to let my foot flex. Attempting to do so makes me see stars and putting weight on it is nearly impossible. It doesn’t do it as much as it used to. This is the first time in months it’s happened. This was the first time it had ever happened on the trike.

Oh, yes. The ride became harsh. No where for Jens to get Loke though at least the fuzzy wasn’t limping any more, but pedaling made me want to scream. Then of course, I had to stop frequently to get up and rinse Loke’s paw which is hard when one has only one working foot.

Karlbergs Palace

Karlbergs Palace

I had a moment’s respite when I came to the last ‘slott’ of the day. Slott means ‘castle’ in Swedish kinda. It applies to palaces and manor houses mostly. A castle used in the sense of a defensive fortress is generally called a ‘borg’. Karlberg is huge. Mostly it’s because the central manor building is dwarfed by a pair of long wings to either side. It turns out these are a later addition from the 1700’s because it had been  used as military academy and needed more space for the cadets. It still serves that purpose today.

There was a runestone on the grounds of the palace too, but when I saw the gravel/snowy climb I had to make to look for it, there was no way. My ankle was far too painful to put that kind of pressure on it.

Parliament Building in Stockholm

Parliament Building in Stockholm

Onward! Right into the busiest, most confusing for a bike, part of Stockholm. Street side parking was packed, no space to wedge the trike in let alone the car for me to load the trike. I rolled down cycle lanes that were squeezed in between high curbs and traffic. The paths disappeared at random moments, generally associated with bus stops. Other times they were marked right between two lanes of traffic. I had to stop to ease the trike down or up curbs. Stop to drag it around in another direction when my foot could hardly bear my weight. Sometimes a stab of pain about toppled me.

I became frustrated and exhausted trying to figure out which way I couldn’t or could go and find a place where Jens could find us. I was in too much pain and frustration to enjoy finally riding in Stockholm and take photos. It didn’t help that I was on the north side of everything interesting which put the sun behind thing. Not good for photos.

Stockholm's City Hall

Stockholm’s City Hall

Finally, I aimed for Stockholm’s city hall.

The city hall in Stockholm is probably one of the most famous of it’s buildings. Every year it hosts the lavish dinner for the ceremony of handing out Nobel prizes. All the prizes, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, are handed out in Sweden. The peace one is given to it’s recipient in Norway.

Tucked at one end of the city hall, I found a tiny parking lot, mostly empty oddly. I called Jens and waited.

He made it there fairly quick, having stayed around the city for the day. He explored the new Mall of Scandinavia which he found intriguing. Lots of unfamiliar stores and the higher end restaurants really intrigued him.

Thankfully (and annoyingly), my ankle had finally loosened up so I was able to dismantle the trike and load it. I snugged down into a heated car seat and we made the drive home.

Once back at the apartment, Loke was a crazed bundled of energy. 13+ miles and a paw that looked like raw meat, yet he harassed Jens for walkies. He bugged me to play. He tossed around his moose-hide rawhide. He play-bowed at me. Loke does not play-bow! When he wasn’t doing that, he was putting his head on my leg or arm and staring at me woefully. If I tried to ignore him, he’d nudge.

Jens and I both went to bed early, weary from the day. So, the new year just had to come in without us. I even slept like the dead through the midnight crescendo of fireworks. It was loud enough to wake Jens who can generally sleep through anything. Me, who can wake up just from the sound of Loke licking his foot, slumbered blissfully through it. Loke apparently paced around, a bit nervous from it, but not afraid as he’s been in past years.

I’d resolved to begin the year on a ride too.

It was gray today, but a bit warmer than yesterday at 36 F. Around noon I started pulling on the layers I needed. Then I marched out to the car to unload and assemble the trike. The plan was to take Loke for a very short jaunt between apartment and storage where I’d decide if I wanted to go home or ride a bit more.

Bar attached to the seat, seat on the trike, bags settled on the seat to go back to storage. Then I grabbed the fairing to mount it. I slid it in place and went to tighten the bolt on the collar clamp… which was not there. No collar clamp.

I immediately looked through every corner of the back part of the car, shaking everything out that could be moved. Nothing. That meant the only place the clamp could possibly be is laying somewhere in the parking lot at the Stockholm city hall.

I was furious. This was not how I wanted to start 2016. I stomped back inside to get a cap and of course my ankle decided to seize up again briefly. Oh, yes. Lovely start to the new year.

I still went out. My feet got a bit chilled, but not too badly. As for Loke? He wanted to go as if he were 4 years old. He put his head down and pulled determinedly at a 9 mph jog, giving me sidelong glances as if wondering if he dared attempt to go into lope. His foot had looked pretty bad before the first cleaning of the morning, but he gave no sign it bothers him.

Because of that, I gave him a bit more distance than the mile and a half I’d originally planned. We rolled to a stop at the storage with 2.63 miles for the first of 2016. Not a lot, but it’s a start.

Now, here’s hoping that tomorrow when the shops open, I can find a replacement collar clamp. If that doesn’t happen, I’d prefer winter went into hiding like it was for much of December or freezing toes will jinx many a ride in the coming weeks.

With the passing of New Year’s Eve, here are the stats for 2015:

Miles in 2015 – 1,185

Tours – 1

Runestones – 39

Ruins – 5

Burial Grounds – 4

Castle/Manor Houses – 19

Churches – 20

Church Interiors – 3

Old Town Centers/Farmsteads – 6

I had no idea I’d found so many runestones.

Now, let’s see what I can do with 2016!