Terii’s Cycling Babble


Puppies and New Goodies!
February 23, 2016, 2:27 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I have to admit, thus far, February has turned into a bit of a disappointment. My intentions to carry on through the month as well, or better than in January have come to naught. It’s already the 23rd of the month and I have less than half the number of rides than I did in January. The fact I had only one ride in the first week of February didn’t help. Then there was another stretch of some 6 days without riding.

That said, I will at least break the 56-ish miles from February 2015 which makes it more likely the miles for my ‘best ever year’ can be broken. Mileage from last month more than quadrupling that of January 2015 is also a huge boost.

The very next day after my last post on Feb 12th, we headed out for the next ride.

Between the 9th and the 12th, the weather couldn’t make up its mind how it wanted to go. One day would be almost silly warm and raining. The next would be in the mid 20’s and blowing around with snow.

Around the 12th and through the 13th, it had swung more firmly toward ‘winter’. When I crawled out of bed that morning, it was still gray and snowing, about 28 F. I relaxed and just puttered around for a while. By the time I got moving to ready for a ride, the snow had stopped and clouds were breaking apart.

Blue sky and hint of sun! Yay!

Blue sky and hint of sun! Yay!

I hadn’t been feeling 100% physically though I was determined it not hinder me. The sight of the emerging sun and growing patches of blue bolstered my mood. The thought of riding through a world made fresh and new with 2 inches of new snow as well as potential sunny blue skies made the task of shoveling said snow from the ramp less onerous.

Doubts it would be a good ride nagged as snow flew and asphalt appeared so I could hopefully get up the ramp without breaking knees, tailbone or neck while wearing cycle shoes. But, I wouldn’t know if I didn’t at least try. Besides, the way Loke yodeled and stamped his feet as I labored, I think he would have dragged me back to the trike by the ankles if I attempted to go back to the car without a ride.

Turned glorious!

Turned glorious!

Loke bounced in kangaroo fashion on hind legs as I clipped in and then we were off. By the time we reached the bridge spanning the 55, doubts had flown away in tatters like the clouds. While not exactly energetic, I found reserves of strength and stamina as long as I wasn’t pushing for crazy cadence.

By time we’d covered a mile, there was hardly a cloud to be seen as the promise of azure heavens above fresh snow unfolded. There was scarcely any wind to be felt, except what we generated ourselves. My weather app said it was about 30 F though the Garmin’s temp display read 24 F.

That quickly, it became a waste to do a measly 5-6 miles and go back indoors.

Loke’s enthusiasm had tempered a bit while cruising along the River. Just another humdrum, over-done section of paths for him. When we came up to Gamla Uppsala Road and continued north, his interest was rekindled. He threw his weight into the harness as we made the turn past the mosque toward Gamla Uppsala.

I may not be fond of the way to and from Gamla Uppsala, but I never tire of place itself. With the fresh white blanket and skies that had turned so completely clear, I made the turn and crossed the tracks to view the mounds in such glorious conditions.

I never tire of this place.

I never tire of this place.

With the new snow mantle draped over them, I was surprised that there was not a single soul flying down them on a sled. The sight of them nearly untouched for once made me smile.

Rather than turn back directly down the hill, I took us past the mounds to do a loop back to the tracks by going around the back of the old church. Just something a little different.

The clouds were hiding behind the trees! Sneaky!

The clouds were hiding behind the trees! Sneaky!

Once we came back to Vattholma Road and turned away from Uppsala, Loke reached new heights of joy and energy. There’s a bit of a descent of almost half a mile from Gamla Uppsala to where the tracks, for now cross Vattholma Road. The fuzzy wanted to fly down the cycle path and I gave in, allowing our speed to tip a bit over 12 mph. As he loped along, his tongue flopped gleefully in that signature husky grin and he did something he’s not done in quite a while. He canted his head to look at me as he ran.

Loke used to do it a lot when he was younger. Something about his expression, the angle of his ears, gleam in his eyes and tilt of the head combined with that flopping tongue makes me laugh. It pops into my head that he’s saying, ‘Wheeeeeee!!! Isn’t this great?!’ or perhaps a joyful challenge of, ‘Is this all you got?’

I hadn’t realized how little he does it now and how much I loved it until that moment. I love this dog.

At the bottom of the descent, we had to stop and wait for a train. Loke cutely put his head on my arm to give me ‘pitiful puppy’ eyes and wagged his tail. Love. This. Dog.

Past the train and tracks, we made the turn toward Vittulsberg. The cycle paths, streets, and roads closer in to the city had been mostly slush thanks to the sun shining through the snow and making the asphalt warm enough to melt it in spite of sub-freezing temps. It was probably helped along with lots of salt on the paths and heat of car tires on the roads. The slush, by the way, showed me that I need a new 26″ rear tire for winter as the studs are too worn for traction.

If riding on snowy roads, this is pretty close to perfect.

If riding on snowy roads, this is pretty close to perfect.

Once we were on the smaller country road, the surface became one of packed snow. Suited me fine! It was just solid enough to not require titanic effort to roll over and just soft enough to smooth out the vibration of the studs and tread of the chunky tires. It also brought out the husky best in Loke who pulled like a freight engine with that happy, tongue-floppy grin.

A runestone somewhere down there. I'll find it one day.

A runestone somewhere down there. I’ll find it one day.

The Vaksala/Granby Loop used to be one of our favorites, back when I was younger and before the stroke slowed me down even more than age and an aging husky. We used to fly along the small rolling hills between Vattholma Road and the 288. The pretty scenery even when there’s no snow, the horses.

Just everything on either side of that stretch, accounting for 80% of the ride, is ‘ehhh’, especially without snow. It takes a bit more mental effort to take such routes when I’m so much slower than pre-stroke. Stuck looking at the boring stuff for sooo much longer now.

In spite of my recent epiphany about what trikes have brought into my life, the fact I never know if a ride is going to be complete hell or heaven from a physical stand point can make convincing myself to do ‘hamster-track’ rides even more challenging. Kinda like swimming laps in a pool only you may or may not have to deal with a cramp in one calf while trying to paddle tediously along.

More snowy road perfection!

More snowy road perfection!

Barn, snow, and trees. How post-card!

Barn, snow, and trees. How post-card!

It was nice after the ride on the 9th being such a pain (literally), that the ride on the 13th was awesome and had gorgeous weather and snow to boot!

Being along one of my more favorite stretches of road, I relaxed. I didn’t stress about time or speed or cadence. I simply breathed in the sense of feeling physically okay for the most part and enjoyed pedaling in the company of cycle partner. Nothing back at home demanded my attention so if I was happy in the moment, the only thing to do was savor it.

As we came up to the area with barns and pastures for horses, change was in the air. More clouds were scudding in from the west with a bit of wind. The sun’s warmth dimmed and I finally had to turn on the foot-warmers.

This is 'new'. The barn, not the husky ears.

This is ‘new’. The barn, not the husky ears.

Horses were out in the paddocks and pasture. Some ran up to the fence to trot along with us for as far as they could. Others ran away to the back of their space to watch warily.

As we came up to the 288, I glanced at the Garmin and realized it was potentially possible to accomplish 2 things at one go. Two birds with one stone.

The first was to double the month’s total mileage with just the one ride. All I needed was 17 miles. I was coming up on about 12 miles with a minimum of 2 more to the storage. Secondly, anything over 16.6 miles would make it the longest ride of 2016.

Here it comes!

Here it comes!

Alas, circumstances turned against me. As I made the arduous (for me) climb on the cycle path aside the 288 from Jarla to Vaksala, the sun disappeared further and winds kicked up fiercely. The clouds appeared a bit strange and I realized it wasn’t because of the way they looked, but rather the dense haze of snow being blown before them. Reminded me of a wispy version of an oncoming desert sandstorm.

It hit with the flakes formed mostly into stinging pellets. Loke and I both put our heads down and pushed on.

That alone wouldn’t have been enough to stop me from adding the miles. Just as the wind was at the most chilling, the batteries in my footwarmers died. Both of them. Way too soon I might add! They’d hardly been used since the last charge! My Garmin’s temp displayed 20 F.

With the sun gone and the wind racing in from the left where the fairing did little to block it, my feet became chilled. The tips of my big toes started to ache, then downright hurt. Nope! Wasn’t going to push the edge of frost bite even for double mileage and longest ride of 2016. I needed to get back to the storage though calling Jens to save my feet wasn’t out of the realm of possibility either. Or parking at the mall so I could run in and let the tootsies thaw at the very least.

Loke loved this part.

Loke loved this part.

Once we reached the mall area, things weren’t quite so desperate. My toes were still very uncomfortable but with trees and buildings shielding me from the worst of the wind, the pain mostly ebbed.

It also helped that the sun came out a little bit after the wall of snow blasted through. Not enough to extend the ride, but I didn’t need to call for help.

We rolled back to the storage with 14.3 miles. So frustrating to be so close and yet so far to the double accomplishment. Still, it had been a good ride and further out on the hamster track than I’ve been going. Would have been lovely to get those last 2.7 miles. As it was, I couldn’t get into the storage and swap to my snuggly warm Icebug boots fast enough.

His daddy wasn't a glass maker...

His daddy wasn’t a glass maker…

14+ miles was one of our longer rides of the year, but still wasn’t enough to satisfy the fuzzy one. He blundered around in his cone, trying to play with a ball and then came over to stare at me or pester Jens. I was perfectly content to be settled on the couch watching a movie under blankets with a couple cups of nice, hot rooibos tea. At one point, the furball even decided to hop up on the couch and plop his furry tail right on my hips. Instead of looking at a TV screen, I found myself staring at the back of a husky with a cone around his head.

I suppose it could have been the itching that wouldn’t let him settle down. Personally, I think he was just letting me know that my efforts fell short of his expectations.

Valentine’s day passed quietly. Another 3 or more inches of snow had come down overnight. In the spirit of spending the day together, Jens and I opted for a walk. I would have considered a ride except for the fact the batteries of the footwarmers refused to charge.

The 1 mile walk about killed me. At least the last half mile did, but the snowscape around Fullerö burial ground was breathtaking and completely worth the torment I suffered struggling back to the car. Cursed post-stroke symptoms…

After the Valentine’s day walk, I spent the 15th trying to recover from it. I really wasn’t feeling great and not just from flouncing through the snow. I felt drained from more than that. A persistent cough and confounded by muscle and headache plagued me. Sounds like a cold, but it didn’t feel like one. Was just miserable.

In spite of it, I pushed myself out the door on the 16th to shovel snow before it got too deep so perhaps I could ride on the 17th.

The ride didn’t happen. I was feeling worse, so let Jens take the car. Also, Loke started scratching more furiously. Right at 8 am, I called the vet clinic, expecting to make an appointment for the next day or the one after. They had a slot at 10:30 open. My FIL kindly picked us up and drove us around.

The vet still thought it might be related to the antibiotics. I did convince her to at least take a scraping and look for yeast. She found nothing again. To give some relief, she recommended an OTC cream for humans she’d read did well for itchy dogs and would be okay if he licked it as well as cortisone pills on a reducing course.

The cortisone helped, but didn’t completely ease Loke’s symptoms enough to be trusted without the cone for long. Even on the full dose, he’d occasionally get to scratching.

Loke’s itchy misery made me feel bad for not riding more. About the only time he had some kind of peace was out on walks, which I can’t do much of, or running with the trike, which hadn’t been happening very often thanks to me being under the weather. Poor fuzzy.

Finally fed up with the itch, I decided to make an appointment with the doggie dermatologist we first visited back in 2014. The last time we saw her was because Loke was having so many infections in his feet as well as the same itchy mouth as he currently suffers from. After a few visits as well as the prick tests to see see what environmental allergens he suffered from, birch/hazel and his own skin flora among them, he’d had almost 2 full years with no foot infections until the one that cropped up in December. A minor miracle.

I expected to be told, ‘We have a time on March 30th’ or the like, but instead the receptionist said, ‘Would 9:30 am Monday, the 22nd be good?’

Would it EVER!

The next ride didn’t happen until the Friday the 19th. I still felt pretty lousy, but with 5 full days of no running and the fact Jens had booked tickets for ‘Deadpool’, Loke desperately needed a run. I mean, he’s itchy but otherwise perfectly healthy. Eats like a starving elephant, bounces off the walls (literally with the cone), and is bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

I felt a bit despairing as Jens drove me to the storage. We’d had yet more snow, almost 5 inches of it. Wet snow as it hovered just above freezing. I hadn’t the strength to shovel the walk. The compromise to the problem of dealing with snow and cycle shoes was Jens would push the trike up for me, sparing me the shoveling or risking a broken neck.

As we pulled into the drive, I was amazed to see that his help wasn’t needed. All the ramps to other units were buried under the soggy white stuff. A 4 foot wide strip, completely free of any ice or snow, led right down (or up) to our unit. Recently done too as the ridges where it had been piled to either side looked unsettled or melted. I narrowed my eyes at Jens, “Did you ask one of your brothers-in-law to do this?”

He was just as baffled as I was. Snow imps doing me a favor perhaps? I don’t know who or why just our patch, but I was very grateful.

Loke was raring to go once I had the trike at the top of the slope. While fastening on my helmet, he let go with a shocking loud bark that made me jump. I was stunned. When getting ready to run with the trike, Loke may woof and yodel, or even whine, but he is not a barker. I think he’s only given a full on bark 3 times in his life. For a husky, Loke is practically mute.

The weather was being indecisive again as we rolled out, sun or no sun. The temp was a mild 33 F and I hoped I wouldn’t have to test my footwarmers. I’d spent 2 days trying to get them charged, swapping the charger cables between them every time I walked past.

For Loke’s sake I decided to give a purpose to the ride to help focus me to push for more than a measly 4 miles. The American food store was my goal. Here in Sweden, movie theaters don’t care if you bring in snacks and drinks. They carry a pretty limited selection of both actually. So, I’d pick up a few special goodies for the movie. It would mean something yummy during ‘Deadpool’ and Loke would get more miles. Win-win!

Protected from the bike's wheels.

Protected from the bike’s wheels.

The furry did his best to pull us fast down the first bit of road. Our speed remained only moderate even without me touching the brakes. The inches of snow hadn’t been plowed on that street and the meager traffic on it had served to give it the texture of wet, churned sand. A hindrance to non-motorized rolling.

He spurred to greater efforts when we came up on a man and his dog we’ve seen before. On a bike, the man has a little single wheeled attachment to the side with a basket on top and space for his little friend to be tethered underneath. I’ve seen them a couple times. I was finally able to click a quick photo, content that his face wasn’t visible in the image.

Given that I still felt sick from whatever I suffered from, it didn’t impact my pedaling as much as expected. Because of that, I decided to take the longer route to the downtown area to add a mile or two. More than that would risk not getting back home in time for the movie, but even that small amount would be nice to Loke.

So, off we went onto the cycle way that goes by an old vicarage at the edges of Uppsala. It not a bad stretch. Away from traffic, along fields and through patches of woods at the fringes of residential plots.

"I wanna chase the bunny!!"

“I wanna chase the bunny!!”

Loke had a moment as we rolled by one bit of park land. A hare sprang from cover and went bounding through the snow. He watched it go forlornly.

Not setting any speed records, but given the conditions, I made respectable time. Soon we were rolling by the cluster of university buildings and zipping briskly downhill toward the hospital. There’s a daycare at one corner and every time the tykes are out when we pass, it’s quite a stir. Little faces bright with smiles and curiosity as they run along the fence, calling out questions. The main one of course is ‘Vad heter din hund?!’ (What is your dog named?)

Dog’s everywhere, but it’s the dog they want to know about rather than the weird bike. Bless them.

Speaking of dogs, I dub the ride on February 19th ‘The Puppy’ ride. Over the duration of it, I crossed paths with over a dozen puppies. The most ever! Three Golden Retrievers with different owners, but looked to all be about 3 months old so might be siblings. A pair of standard poodles with one couple. A french bull dog puppy. Another couple had a pair of huskies, one about 8-9 months old, the other not more than 4 months. The huskies made me squee with glee.

The rest were unusual breeds that I’d never seen puppies of. A Welsh Corgi that was just too cute to be real. A Basenji puppy I would have loved to say hello to as they’re a breed I’ve been drawn to, but at just 9 weeks old, the owner wanted to wait until she’d had more vaccinations before being closely exposed to other dogs. I’ve only seen 3 real life Basenjis ever so the puppy was a special treat. The last 2 were Salukis pups.

I guess February is ‘run out and get a puppy’ month. Maybe Valentine Day gifts?

So, anyway, we passed the daycare and scooted across the intersection near the hospital. The past year or more has seen constant construction on a 200 yard stretch of road beside the hospital grounds. A few times, there’s been barely enough space to squeeze by with Loke. Apparently, they are now done for the moment. The holes and barricades were gone leaving just the open cycle/pedestrian path down beside the street all the way down the long hill.

A 'Quick Cycle' Route to help with zipping through a section of Uppsala.

A ‘Quick Cycle’ Route to help with zipping through a section of Uppsala.

As we went along, I was surprised to see a cycle route sign on one of the poles. I’d never seen this type of sign before or even knew there was a route through this portion of Uppsala. I was curious.

Well, research has revealed, it’s just short route and the sign designates it was a ‘snabbtcykleled’ (Fast/Quick Cycle Route). This particular one is roughly 4 km (less than 3 miles) long and serves to help cyclists get through a portion of Uppsala more quickly and safely. Awesome!

Loke and I rolled past the hospital and the outdoor bandy court where a pair of zambonis puttered along to resurface the ice. Not sure if it was in preparation of a game or just to let the public in to skate.

Looking upstream toward downtown.

Looking upstream toward downtown.

Just beyond the courts, we slowed to take the sharp turn through the little park toward the river where the cycle/pedestrian drawbridge spans it. Loke sighed at me when I stopped to look at the various tallies.

Last year had 938,000+ crossings. This year was running a bit behind with barely 100,000 so far. Admittedly, winter isn’t exactly the season for bike riding. People do it, but fewer of them. It will be interesting to see if it will break 1 million this year. I’ll do my part on occasion. After all, the fruit stand will be opening in a couple months giving me another purpose to roll this route.

The fuzzy sighed again when I insisted on stopping to photograph the frozen river from the middle of the bridge. Toward downtown, the river was moving briskly enough to be free of ice, but at this end where a few older ships have docked for the winter, ice still dominated.

He's mostly white under all that, I promise!

He’s mostly white under all that, I promise!

I found goodies at the shop and then we scurried home uneventfully.

We rolled back into the storage with 9.45 miles. Loke also had a couple pounds of black muck and water in the fur of his legs and tummy. I had a few minutes to try drying him off with a spare towel while waiting for Jens to make the short trip from apartment to the storage. It’s kinda like trying to sop up a lake with washcloth.

The wet might not get down to his skin, but it still holds a lot of it like a sponge. Hard to believe he was at the groomer not too long ago!

No, I'm not using the snow and asphalt to scratch... really!

No, I’m not using the snow and asphalt to scratch… really!

Once the towel was so wet as to be useless, I stepped out and locked up to wait for Jens in the parking. Free to move around, Loke promptly found a patch of wet snow that hadn’t been churned by feet or shoveling and promptly face planted into it. He does this in grass or snow, to cool off or maybe just because it feels good. This time, I suspect it had as much to do with scratching his itchy self as anything.

From there it was back home where I rushed to get ready for the movie. I hadn’t needed my footwarmers at all.

Much to my surprise, I liked “Deadpool”. I really expected it to irritated me, but no.

February 20th and 21st, I felt even worse. Couldn’t stop the dry itch my throat that made me cough though I seemed to have absolutely no congestion. I felt so drained and weak I could barely stay awake. I spent most of those 2 days curled up on the couch, doing as little as possible.

Monday, the 22nd, I woke and felt almost human. An unfamiliar sensation after more than a week of feeling somewhere between crap and hell. Jens was able to schedule working from home so he could drive Loke and I to the animal clinic in Stockholm.

We made it there about half an hour early, but still only waited for 15 min before being shown to an exam room and the vet came in before I even sat down in a chair to wait.

There was another vet with her, a very nice Russian woman who was with the clinic for a few months thanks to an exchange program.

So, we did a quick review to clarify whatever details Loke’s records didn’t show. Clearly Katarina had extensively read through his file though it lacked the recent records from the local clinic. She even knew about his 5 day stay in the animal hospital last year and the tumor in November.

After I explained, they got to work. They poked at his mouth, pulled at his lips to get as close a look as they could. Then they started yanking out tiny patches of hair from the affected areas to examine under the microscope.

It turned out the scheduling of Loke’s appointment had been fortuitous. Katarina had been back in Sweden for less than a month. For most of 2015, she’d been in California with the same exchange program that had the Russian vet visiting.

Though the local vet had found nothing in the way of yeast, Katarina did. About 8 kinds, she said and in larger than standard concentrations. In a normal dog, she wouldn’t have thought it enough to cause problems, but given Loke’s very sensitive to it (reacted almost as strongly as the control), she felt pretty confident it was his issue. After being on antibiotics for a month, she wanted to treat it topically, a choice I agreed with heartily.

So, back to Uppsala we went with a prescription for an ointment I have to work into the skin all around his mouth, twice daily.

While Jens ran in to Granby shopping center to pick up lunch and Loke’s meds, he got a text that a package was waiting for him at another local grocery. When he came out, he asked what had I purchased from Amazon. I’d not gotten anything from on-line in ages so had no clue.

So, it was off to pick up the mystery package.

New lights!

New lights!

It turned out to be a surprise from Jens. While he was in Denmark earlier in the month, he’d ordered me a set of cycle lights since the rear light of my current set had been snatched when I was putting my helmet on after going into a shop. Apparently, the shop he’d ordered it from used Amazon to send them though it hadn’t gone through Amazon. He’d never mentioned that he’d bought them.

These lights aren’t just any ol’ blinkers. They’re rechargeable via micro-USB and carry a warning about looking directly into them because they are so bright. They’re controlled via smartphone app which commands blink pattern, brightness, battery levels, and more. It can even alert a contact if you crash or serve as a alarm if someone mucks with your bike.

Not sure how much alarm use I can get out of them since I’m sure Loke pulling on his tether when I’m darting into a shop would set it off.

They’re apparently new on the market and Jens said they expect to release some additional mounts for it sometime this year.

That’s good, because the current method is rather limited and probably a bit of a challenge on my trike.

Once we were home and medication applied for the first time, I started getting ready for a ride. I felt pretty good and wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.

It was almost jinxed.

All morning, it had been rain free even if murky and gray. Temperature was about 38 F which had removed 90% of snow from anything resembling a paved surface. I felt good and Loke, of course, can run forever. The sun had even peeked out a couple times.

By the time I was dressed and went to walk out with Loke, the weather had turned. We stepped out of the building into rain. A light rain, but at 38 F, miserable once my wool got wet. I stood under the awning for a moment to contemplate going back in. One look into brown husky eyes, shining with expectation forced me on. I hunched my shoulders as we walked to the car.

Just on the short drive from apartment to storage, it went from rain, to snow, to rain and then a rain/snow mix.

The clouds were pretty clumpy, so I thought, hoped, it would be brief or decide on just snow at the very least. I sat down to wait a few minutes.

It paid off. 10 minutes later, I pushed the trike out with not a raindrop or snowflake to be seen.

Some clouds in the area still looked threatening, so I decided not to head off across the countryside. Though we’d done the Downtown Uppsala Loop just a couple days before, I set out on it again. I toyed with the idea of adding mileage by going toward Vaksala church and Granby mall.

My motivation this time was the fact I felt the best I’d been in over a week. So, it wasn’t too much of a hardship even with the tedium of the local hamster-track.

As I came across the river again (forgot to look at the new total crossings), I changed my mind about the extra distance other than what I’d added at the start. The weather was just looking to worrying particularly since it had gone from 38 F to 34 F.

That change took me by the mall with the American food store. As I passed by it, there was a knock on the glass and I looked over to see the owner, Charles, waving at me with a grin.

It’s been months since I’ve seen him! Of course, I had to run in to catch up a bit though I’d not planned to stop.

I kept an eye on Loke and the trike through the window. He saw me and gave me dirty looks on occasion. After catching up with Charles, I went back out to discover why Loke had been looking so irritated. It had actually rained a bit. Both the husky and my seat were damp along with water speckles on the fairing.

As we rolled along back to the storage, it remained dry. I parked the trike with 10.5 miles. Not bad at all. I’d felt no pain, good energy and decent strength. Actually a good ride even if not the most mentally stimulating terrain.

As for Loke’s itch? I gave him another anointing of ointment before bed last night. When I woke this morning and bullied him out of the bedroom with me so he could be freed of the cone, I realized, he’d not scratched even once during the night. Actually, he’d hardly moved! I’m a light sleeper so, am generally aware when he moves let alone scratches at the cone. After waking both Jens and I 4 times the previous night, that’s a huge improvement! Jens especially. That man can sleep through bombs.

When I applied the medication this morning though, I noticed the irritation is more extensive than even the dermatologist realized. On the left side, there’s a strip that runs up from the corner of his mouth to just below his eye. Might need more ointment.

Clearly though, he’s feeling better. He’s been sleeping like a log all day, I think because the constant itch had been keeping him from relaxing for so long.

Fingers crossed the trend continues!

 

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The Good, The Bad, and Epiphany
February 12, 2016, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The hamster track rides continue.

The first week of the month was ride-less though.

On Friday, January 29th, I’d gotten a text from the cycle shop to let me know that they’d received the new grip shifts. The timing was perfect as I’d intended to take take the trike in the next week ASAP to get them swapped. Then of course, it became even more perfect when the brake got stuck during the 5th leg of the Mälar Valley’s Route on January 31st.

The trike hadn’t even been unpacked from the car when I popped into the shop on Monday, February 1st to schedule an appointment for the trike. It was slated for the next day, but Lotten came out and helped me unload the trike for them to keep overnight. Wasn’t like it was going to be ridden with a jammed brake anyway.

The next day, I got the text that it was ready. Jens came home early enough that I was able to run to pick it up.

I was surprised upon discovering not only the new grip shifts, but a new rear derailleur as well. Turned out that the twist grips, even though they had the same part number as the originals, had a different ratio, 2:1 instead of 1:1 which couldn’t work with my old derailleur. It was a bit battered, so personally, I wasn’t unhappy with the change.

I also talked with them some more about swapping to hydraulic brakes. I think I’m going to bite the bullet on them as the problem I’d had with the brakes on that last leg of the Valley route was because grit and grime had worked its way into the cable and choked it tight. Bobby thinks it’s because the brake is so close to the ground and facing in a perfect direction that dirt and such gets blown right into the cable and the housing. Hydraulics would be a closed system. No way for grit to get in.

I should have gotten out for a ride the next day to test, but it didn’t happen. Too much going on with Loke and the weather was uncooperative for a few days.

Monday, February 1st, Loke finished his month of antibiotics. The vet was satisfied with the state of his foot. As for the itch, now we’d get to see if it improved, having been caused by the antibiotics.

By Tuesday, when I picked up the trike, it was promising. He already was scratching much less. Wednesday was pretty good too.

February 4th, my grungy,  dirty white husky was whisked off to the groomer. As always, she did a wonderful job and I had a gleaming white puff of fur to bring home after 2 hours. He’s so pretty and impressively shiny when she’s done with him.

That whole day on the 4th, Loke didn’t scratch at all. We still put the cone on him overnight though I had decided if he didn’t scratch in the night then I’d declare him cone free.

About 4 am, he scratched. All through the 5th, it got really bad though on the right side of his face instead of the left. Bright and early on the 6th, I called for time with the vet. My husband’s awesome dad had to drive us as Jens had the car that day.

The vet still thought it could be the antibiotics still lingering in his system, but we needed to do something about the desperate itch. So, she prescribed cortisone to give the fuzzy some relief.

It’s been a rather mixed bag. He’s itching quite a bit less, but we still have to watch him and the cone goes on if we have to run an errand or at night for bed.

Loke’s energy has been undiminished though. When we finally got out for a ride on February 7th, he was all bouncy eagerness.

It had rained all through the morning, but the clouds were breaking apart and showing glimpses of blue when Jens dropped us off at the storage. By the time I pushed the trike up the ramp, it was sunny and the skies almost clear. It was freakishly warm too, 45 F. Surprisingly, the ice was still mostly hanging onto the river, though the crack had widened and water ran over the top of it in places.

I can’t quite remember how I felt physically, but I do recall boredom and almost wanting to just 4 miles or so.

Instead, I gave the ride a purpose. Off to the American Food store we went. It gave me the chance to continue to support the store by picking up a few drinks and some wintergreen mints for when my tummy is upset. It also forced me to add miles. We wound up back at the storage with just bit under 9.5 miles. With all the rain puddles and muck from melt water, it completely ruined Loke’s trip to the groomer. He loved it though. Happy to be out and running, muck or not!

The trike with it’s new gears, derailleur, and brake cables worked great!

We stayed in on February 8th. I thought about not riding on the 9th as I had an appointment downtown which kept me tied up all morning until about 1 pm. I ended up going out any way, mostly out of pity for Loke.

It continued to be crazy warm, about 40 F. It was a bit breezy which flung around a miserable misty drizzle. The landscape was all in shades of gray and mud. At least the ramp outside the storage was clear so I could get the trike out.

Even with the rain and stubborn warm temps, most of the river was still icy. Further downstream toward town, it was clear, but from about the swim hall up, ice ruled though water was winning by inches.

Loke wasn’t terribly enthusiastic on the ride as we wound around an extended River Loop. I think he’s just too bored of the same ol’-same ol’.

I was equally bored, but at least physically I felt pretty good. Strong, good stamina and pain-free. Made it more bearable.

On the 10th, I found some very nice lemons at the grocery and decided to bake lemon-raspberry muffins for in-laws. My husband’s parents of course, for taking the time to drive Loke and I to the vet, one of his sisters and her husband just moved to a new apartment, so some for them as a little housewarming. The other sister and her husband have had some career changes, so still more for them as a congratulations.

February 11th, I apathetically dragged myself out the door for a ride. I really didn’t feel up to it, but purpose pushed me onward. The muffins were neatly packed in a bag to be dropped off at my husband’s parents via trike.

I felt pretty sluggish which made me even more reluctant to go out. We’d had about an inch of snow over night and I was dreading the struggle to get the trike up the ramp without falling. Dratted cycle shoes and snow are the worst combination. I just couldn’t get organized and ended up making the hazardous trip up and down several times. Finally, the trike was up, the storage was locked, Loke tethered and waiting. I picked up the red cap I wear under my helmet when it’s below 35 F. I dropped it in surprise. It was soaked. I picked it up again with my fingertip and watched in confusion as water dripped from it. The trike seat was wet too.

Sighing, I pulled out a hoodie from a bag only to discover the ends of its sleeves were wet too. I pulled it on anyway, flipped the hood up and crammed the helmet down over it.

Loke finally looked a bit interested. I loosed the brake and off we rolled… 10 whole feet before trike slammed to a stop so quick it skidded on the gravel. I tried rocking it back and forth, but the rear wheel was locked tight.

It took me a minute to figure out the problem. A bolt that holds the rear mudguard in place had worked loose and let the guard slip forward to get caught between part of the rear fork and wheel. Wedged so tight the wheel wouldn’t budge. I worked it loose and dug in my side bags for an allen wrench. Of course the tool I needed was in one of  my pannier bags back in the storage.

Down I went to fetch it. While there, I looked for a leak and found a small puddle on the storage floor and several small drips about to add to it dangling from a pipe across the ceiling. I swear it was like Murphy (as in Murphy’s Laws) and a gremlin had joined forces to have a laugh at my expense. I tromped back up to the trike, managed to get the mudguard back in place and tightened. As I went to loose the parking brake, it suddenly came loose when it had felt tight when I used it just minutes before.

Loke was sighing at me as I fought with all the things going loose at once.

At last we set off. It didn’t go well. After all the aggravation just to get the trike rolling out of the parking area, my body rebelled. My right knee hurt, my hip was bothering me. I felt weak and painful as I pushed the trike through the slush. It felt harder than it had been riding through frozen mud with jammed brakes on January 31st!

Before we’d done 2 miles, my left foot became a fiery cramp. It was the final straw. It was hell and I couldn’t endure it any longer. I cut the ride short, looping back to the storage with a total of 3 miles. At least Loke had a bit of a dash. I would just have to deliver the muffins via car.

When I staggered back into the apartment, aching and frustrated, Jens asked how the ride went. ‘It was a nightmare’, I answered. How so he wanted to know? I stubbornly answered that it just had been bad. He was determined asked again.

So, I rattled off the list of things that had gone wrong. He was quiet a moment and then told me that when I complain about trike stuff, it frustrates him. The trikes have been a lot of time and money and inconvenience so when I complain, it’s like they haven’t been worth it.

I was a little annoyed by that, I’ll admit. On one hand, I do see his point. In my defense though, he had insisted on knowing the details of how the ride was bad. As far as I’m concerned if someone does that, then whatever comes out of my mouth is not a complaint, it’s simply answering their question. Complaining would have been staggering through the door and whining about the bolts, the wet hat, the leak and the pain without having it pulled out of me and carrying on about it for a time afterwards.

Through much of the evening and again when I woke this morning, it niggled at me. Doubt. Maybe I should just give up the trikes if it aggravates Jens so much.

Then clarity came to me. An epiphany of what my trikes have meant over the years. Even what they are to me now.

From the moment I first clipped into the pedals of my Trice Q back in 2006, the world opened up to me in ways I couldn’t have understood at that moment. I have seen and done things that never would have happened if not for those pedals and three wheels. I’ve explored the landscape around Uppsala and come to understand it more thoroughly than my husband who was born and raised here. I have discovered hundreds of churches and runstones. Dozens of burial grounds, manors, castles and ruins. Things I never would have seen if not for the trikes, except perhaps by accident and far less than I would have. Those trike wheels have carried me to obscure little nooks of the countryside I never would have thought to go while zipping around in a car.

I’ve covered thousands of miles under my own power with the help of a enthusiastic partner who happens to have 4 legs and fur. I’ve camped in the wind next to a 1000 year old runestone and brushed my teeth the next morning while watching the sun rise. I’ve crawled on my hands and knees into the heart of a 5000 year old passage burial after going to Denmark just to ride my trike through such an amazing landscape. Would I ever have seen or done that without a trike? Probably not.

Loke and I have raced cows, horses, and even a pair of swans once. I’ve ridden through snowstorms bordering on blizzards, rain storms and even thunder a few times and laughed in the face of it. Challenges met and I’ve come through whether it was just those final miles to the end of a ride, my own body, or weather. People I’ve met who have greeted Loke and I with smiles and kindness, even cold, fresh water for us. People who have stopped to help when something went wrong with the trike. I will always remember the 80 year old woman who sat down in dirt to help me get my chain loose when became jammed. I’ve even been rescued from sitting in the snow at the side of the road when the seat broke off the trike when it rolled by the concern and generosity of a woman and her husband.

The trikes have been exercise. I’ve moved more with them than I ever would have without them. I can’t walk for 5-6 or more hours a day, but I damn well can ride it and have done hundreds of times. Stroke or not, my health must be vastly better than it would be without trikes. It’s kept my husky healthy, fit, and happy in spite of his myriad of allergies. He’s been able to be not just a house pet, but also doing what he was born to do. Run for miles and gladly.

That doubt I had after my husband’s words? Gone. In those moments, I was seeing only the short moment, like when you’re trying to thread a needle, eyes tightly focused. You see the thread and the needle, but everything else blurs indistinctly. I’d forgotten for moment the long view. Regaining that understanding was like stepping back into the sun. Trikes have made my world vastly larger and brightly colored. They’ve been my freedom as surely as wings are for birds. So much I would have missed without them. So much more I could miss if I gave them up.

Because of the stroke, yes, I will have bad days, but I think I’ve always had them. Maybe not as frequently as I do now, but they’ve been there. There will also be good days as I’ve already had. I don’t want my world to become so small. Little more than an apartment and skittering around in the car on errands in town and a job. Without the trikes, that’s what the past 10 years would have been.

So much grandeur I would have missed, past, present, and future. Yes, I’m frustrated by the limitations the stroke inflicted. I miss being able to call 14 miles a short ride and 30 miles was nearly effortless, but I’ve done a lot the past year. Not as fast and in smaller bits, but accomplished so much all the same. I just need to look at what I can do and what I want to see. So onward. I will make what I can of the trikes and the coming days, those good and bad.



My AHD (Assisting Husky Drive)
February 2, 2016, 5:36 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

That will be Loke’s new title. That or ‘Hero Husky’. He might not have saved my life on the last ride, but he made it a lot less horrible. I’ll get to that soon.

'Take it off! Pleeeeeeeeezzzzeee?!'

‘Take it off! Pleeeeeeeeezzzzeee?!’

The poor fuzzy has been pretty miserable since the last post.

His foot is looking much improved as the antibiotics continued. His face was another story. The ointment had reduced the angry red of the skin around his mouth and reduced the swelling some, but it seemed to itch more than ever. He tried to scratch constantly. Leaving the cone off even for a minute or two except when eating, running with the trike or out walking with Jens was a huge risk.

The constant scratching at the plastic, foot flailing furiously had the sound rather like a helicopter trapped in our apartment. That’s not even counting the bumping and scraping around on the furniture, walls and door frames every time he moves. Jens and I both were turning into zombies because Loke was waking us up 3 or more times a night with that noise. Couldn’t be angry at him, but it was taking its toll. Every day I didn’t ride with him filled me with guilt as it was pretty much the only moments with me he was free of the cone.

At least he still isn’t fighting when I have to put the cone back on him. He politely holds his head out for it to slide back into place. He does give the most pitiful glances as I buckle it in place.

As for the weather, it’s been a bit unstable. On January 28th, a rest day from the trike, it was 40 F most of the time I stepped out the door. Later in the evening, it was just barely above freezing and suddenly spitting a rain/snow mix heavily skewed toward the snow end.

The next morning, January 29th, it was back up into the 40’s F and still couldn’t make up it’s mind what it wanted to do. Even with the threat of rain hanging from heavy bellied clouds, my pity for Loke moved me out the door. It was even going to be more than a tedious River Loop too! I decided on the Ulva Mill loop which comes in at about 12 miles. I hoped maybe those extra miles would let Loke rest a little easier. A futile wish as I can relate to how hard it is when part of your body itches so bad it’s both heaven and hell to scratch, but I was going to try. If nothing else, it meant time free of the cone.

Right down the middle far as the eye could see.

Right down the middle far as the eye could see.

It was 39 F with a bit of a breeze as I settled into the trike with Loke woofing impatiently. He threw his weight into the harness as soon as the parking brake loosened.

After a night of more rain, apparently lacking snow, there was very little of the white stuff around. It clung to existence in hidden corners, tucked under trees or along the edges of ditches. All else was dreary in shades of winter dead grass or weeds, bare trees or mud.

I’ve taken a lot of photos of the river recently, but of all the times riding over or beside it, this was a first. After days of silly warm temps, I expected the ice to be gone. But it was clinging on against the odds. Apparently, it had frozen deep and well into the banks. Water filling into the river was trying to push it up. Something had to give. Instead of it’s grip on the earthen edges, the rising center had split, right down the middle. That single crack ran as far as the eye could see both upstream and down. The sight of it was fascinating and I couldn’t help myself. Another photo of the Fyris River where crossed by a bridge on my River Loop route added to the dozens of others. This one is at least a bit more unique.

Ah! Sunshine!

Ah! Sunshine!

Even though the first mile or two of the ride was the beginning of our River Loop, already completed 10 times for the year and not even yet out of January, Loke was happy to run and pulled vigorously. As we came through the new roundabout where Gamla Börje Road comes off the 272, he perked up and even more. He had over an inch of extra tether pulled out of the spring in the running bar trying to get us up that first hill as quick as he could. Grinning, I ruffled his fur which earned me an irritated ‘stop-it-I’m-working’ look. The cherry on top was the unexpected emergence of sunlight!

The last of the snow. *sigh*

The last of the snow. *sigh*

Out in the countryside, there was a little more snow. Mostly it hid at the edges of tree-lines on the northern slopes of hills. More of it was packed along the flanks and bottoms of ditches. Not even yet February and yet I felt I should have been looking for daffodils and crocus. Rolling along, I had to wonder if it was going to be an early start to spring. It’s happened before, daffodils putting out leaves and forming flower buds before Valentine’s Day. Or was it just going to be a dreary hiatus before another batch of snow rolled through?

Either way, at least we’d had some winter for almost a month. One year, winter never came. Just temps in the 40’s, months of short gray, dreary days of rain between the autumn and spring equinoxes. Just not right for Sweden.

Loke pulled constantly as he trotted along, adding to our speed, trying to run down hills. It made him so happy, I let him go faster than I generally would, almost 11 mph. He still gave me dirty looks for riding the brakes.

Just before they came running to the fence.

Just before they came running to the fence.

As we made the right turn at the crossroads, I was reminded that I really need to find some kind of neck wrap for rides. The wind from the west blew against the base of my spine at the edge of my hat. Quite unpleasant. The slight decline of the landscape there, a push from the wind thrilled Loke by allowing him to do a steady 10 mph lope for over a mile. A sharper decent a tiny bit faster still as we rushed down toward the sharp curve bordering a pasture.

The current inhabitants are a pair of horses. One looks to be some kind of Icelandic looking animal and the other might be a Friesian or crossed with one. They’ve seen us a couple times now and this time, they decided to come running toward the fence and canter along with us until the pasture ended.

Downright depressing without snow.

Downright depressing without snow.

By the time we raced with the horses, the sun had pretty much gone. As we came down the hill to cross one of the tributaries (I think) of the Fyris and back up to scoot over the 272 again, the clouds thickened and it became quite dismal as we powered on toward the Ulva mill. I do so wish that if the ground is going to be in shades of mud that we would at least have more sunshine. Gray, sun-less skies are more bearable if everything is blanketed under the crisp glow of white or grass and flowers.

The tributary was fast flowing enough it had either resisted freezing all together or had broken free of its ice. No nifty split down the center.

Ulva Mill

Ulva Mill

We made good time over the rest of the ride. We rode by Ulva mill and it’s surrounding strawberry fields. Then a quick dash back down to another section of the Fyris River.. I think. This one was iced over beneath a couple inches of murky brown water, but no split.

As we came up by the Gamla Uppsala church, I contemplated running in to take photos of the interior to share on the Facebook trike group. That was only for a few seconds as I remembered I couldn’t leave Loke alone for the 3 or 4 minutes it would take. Who knows what damage he could do to his face in that brief time. Pretty sure I don’t want to find out.

Hey! I'm picking up signals from alien civilizations!

Hey! I’m picking up signals from alien civilizations!

In spite of clouds casting a pall on much of the ride, it was nice to get out for almost 2 hours. Loke and I had actually made pretty good time for the 12+ mile loop. Perhaps one of the best for the month and it was definitely the longest ride of the year.

I hated putting that radar dish of plastic back around the fuzzy’s head. He accepted it gracefully. My furball really is such an awesome dog on so many levels. He impresses me constantly with his patience and willingness to endure what must be done to keep him as healthy as possible.

After the ride, Jens tried to suggest that I go for a ride else where on Saturday, January 30th, maybe the next leg of the Mälardalsleden? I balked. While I absolutely adored the idea of getting off the hamster track for the first ‘not Uppsala’ ride of the year, the thought of doing it the very next day after my longest ride of the year wasn’t thrilling. If I was going to tackle a fresh ride, I wanted to do it on fresh legs with at least 1 day’s rest in them. I wanted the best chance for feeling great, enjoying it and making plenty of miles.

The problem with that is Jens has voiced a strong preference to do favor of doing drop off and pickup on Saturdays, leaving him with Sunday’s to veg before returning to the frenzy of his job. The following Saturday was taken up with hanging out with friends at a sports bar, so I was looking at perhaps the 2nd week of February with only more hamster tracks roll over.

Jens does a lot for me with cycling stuff and works hard for us to live comfortably, so I was willing to respect his preference. Then he changed his mind, leaving me to scramble on Friday to get something planned for January 31st. It also felt fitting to do the first ‘not Uppsala’ ride of the year on the last day of the first month. My hubby requested that I find somewhere with an easy start in terms of parking and traffic if at all possible.

I agreed. Charging back through portions of Stockholm’s heart had no appeal after the last one on New Year’s Eve day. That had been harrowing and frustrating. It would have still been so even without Loke’s foot taking such a bad turn or my ankle feeling like it had glass shards grinding in it.

Using Google Maps satellite and street views, I hunted. Everywhere I checked just seemed be so harsh in terms of parking. It kept pushing my search for a fresh starting point further and further from where I’d ended the last portion of the route. I even ended up skipping a point of interest I’d been kinda hoping to collect, the sad little remnant of an Iron Age burial in the center of a densely developed residential spot. A few sad stones making a 3 meter circle. The hassle of a place to unload the trike and miles and miles of boring at best, unpleasant at worst, riding just wasn’t worth it.

Botkyrka Church

Botkyrka Church

My requirements finally settled in an suburb area called Botkyrka, about 12 miles from Stockholm’s city hall. The area intrigued me though it was still fairly developed. Not only is there a church I’ve been intensely curious of and have wanted to ‘collect’ for years now, but also some Bronze Age rock carvings. Both of those were off the Mälardalsleden, but I could begin at the church, ride to the carvings and then rejoin the cycle route. Perfect!

It was gray in Uppsala as Jens drove onto the E4 around 7:30 am. The temperature was about 37 F. I rode in the back with Loke. It’s impossible to use the cone in the car and once he gets to scratching, he has to be physically restrained to stop. I couldn’t be flailing around in the front of the car without the seatbelt at speeds of 70-80 mph to reach him in the back seat before his claws drew blood. Was just simpler to be in the back beside him.

Inside Botkyrka Church - First church interior of the year!

Inside Botkyrka Church – First church interior of the year!

Beautiful stained glass windows.

Beautiful stained glass windows.

Nearing the Stockholm area, we came out from under the blanket of clouds. It was blue skies and sunshine in the early light when we pulled into the parking area of Botkyrka Church.

I just about squealed with glee when I saw a sign near the churchyard wall declaring the church was open. Not only collecting the first new church of 2016, but also being able to see inside. It was turning into a good day and I’d not even taken the trike out of the car yet!

While I scrambled around to take pictures of the church and dart inside, Jens walked around with Loke in an effort to keep him distracted from scratching. Mixed results. The furball kept flinging himself down into gravel or weeds to wallow, mostly rubbing the left side of his face. According to my hubby, he even tried just rubbing it against a tree trunk.

Wooden ceiling of the porch.

Wooden ceiling of the porch.

Another portion of the porch ceiling.

Another portion of the porch ceiling.

Fortunately, I wasn’t around for such antics. After taking pictures outside, I rushed in through the tower door.

They were apparently just opening the church when we arrived. Candles were being lit and off to the right through the door to the stone porch, 3 tables were being set just as one would see for a brunch at a nice restaurant. The wooden outer door of the porch was open with a glass one keeping out the 38 F chill while letting the sun stream in.

The lack of murals in the main area of the church was disappointing, but it was still quite lovely. The stained glass windows on the western side were especially pretty.

As I rushed back out to get things ready to roll, Jens wandered over and mentioned that he thought the building just opposite the church was being used as a refugee center. It certainly seemed true as a few children who were certainly not native Swedes wandered by curiously.

As I settled in the seat, Loke started hopping and yodeling, giving my husband a good laugh.

Our start was rather anti-climatic in spite of the furball’s most determined efforts. There was a significant climb just to win free of the parking lot.

On the cycle way beside the road, it became a bit easier. We were somewhat heading downhill, Loke pulling like it was his life’s work. It wasn’t horribly unpleasant with mostly trees on our left and the rising sun on our right.

Slagsta Rock Carving

Slagsta Rock Carving

The mile after we made the first turn was bland and irritating. The cycle roads were completely choked with gravel. There seemed to be trash everywhere in the grassy verge of winter-brown as well as bags hanging in the bushes. Cigarette butts everywhere. But to get to what I wanted to collect, it had to be done. At least I wasn’t riding cheek to jowl with traffic or past the brick-like eyesores of apartment blocks.

The last quarter-mile approach to the stone carvings was more pleasant. Trees instead of sickly shrubs and less garbage. It was a bit of a climb where I played leap-frog with an older couple out for a stroll. They were completely enchanted by Loke and the guy smiled at the trike.

I’m glad I sought it out. Disappointed that the carvings were hidden beneath the staining of the rocks and fading of the paint to help those with untrained eyes to see, but still amazing. The sheer number of cup marks boggled the mind especially. There are almost 200 etchings on this mound of rock. I couldn’t make out the single human figure though, just too faint. I was able to tell which were the horses.

Sorry if the photo is even harder to see. I tried tweaking colors, brightness, and contrast, but it just started getting really weird looking just to see a few more of the etchings.

View Across the frozen lake to one of the islands.

View Across the frozen lake to one of the islands.

Old Swedish country house

Old Swedish country house

Heading north from the carvings, the surroundings improved. It was obvious when I finally joined up with the Mälar Valley’s Route proper. The bright red signs clearly marked the way at major turnings. The cycle road took a sharp curve to the west, following the edge of a complex of little houses with postage stamp size yards. It was amazing how quickly that gorgeous blue skies and gently warm sun had vanished just in the time between leaving the carvings and arriving at a little park overlooking a view across the frozen Mälaren Lake to one of the islands.

From there it was onward along the path beside the residential stretch with yards and brightly colored houses built tightly together and their backyards on one side and winter-dormant trees and undergrowth of parkland on the other.

The view was worth the climb back up!

The view was worth the climb back up!

The cycle/pedestrian path ended at an unpaved road, but the signs guided me onward.

I came to a ‘T’ intersection in the road. Left went up to curve around the edge of a hill or ridge. Right went down, toward the water where the signs pointed. I was suspicious even when turning to follow the signs. After all, the route hasn’t always been on the most bike friendly paths or terrain. There’s always been at least one bad, if not nearly impossible patch, for each leg of the route I’ve done.

Yeah... I don't think so.

Yeah… I don’t think so.

As we zipped down the hill toward the frozen lake, I spotted one of the signs, but wasn’t entirely sure if it was pointing straight or if it really meant that the cycle route actually did cut sharply up along the side of a ridge. To be sure I went down past it, all the way to the water’s edge, there were no further signs. There was a path right against the shoreline, but very narrow, clearly meant for walking, not a recumbent trike almost a yard wide with a husky taking up another 18 inches or more.

I crawled back up the hill to the path, Loke helping me along with a determined cant to his ears.

Clearly, my uncertainty about the signage had been simple wishful thinking. Once I was at the turn, it was obvious that this really was supposed to be the route. I smile sourly at trail. About an 8% or 9% minimum grade with a big chunk of rock sitting in the middle of it where I probably would have needed to lift part of the Sprint over to pass. Looked like there was still ice on the trail a bit past that.

Maybe, IF it had been ice-free, dry conditions, I would have attempted it. After all, the trail looked very pretty in spite of the hard work it would need in the best of times. Ice, mud, no telling how much more difficult it might get beyond? No, it was just too much. I wanted to make more than 1 mile over the next hour.

Loke might have preferred the trail as he likes unpaved, narrow paths covered with leaves and needles with trees close by to be marked. He was still happy enough to continue on up the hill though he would have liked to go faster. It appeared to take me off the route for about 2 miles.

It turned out to be a good thing! Yes, really!

Cairn at Hallunda Burial Ground.

Cairn at Hallunda Burial Ground.

I think what's left of a stone ring

I think what’s left of a stone ring

I followed the road up around the end of that ridge and down the other side where it ended at a cycle path beside another cluster of houses. A short distance further, a sign appeared on the right. I stopped and discovered an Iron Age burial ground that hadn’t been listed on any of the maps or websites I use to plan my rides. There was a little trail that wound a short distance through the trees to some of the burials that had been explored by archaeologists. I locked the trike and set off on foot for the 200 yard or so walk.

Loke was thrilled to be off leash. After a few steps, he immediately flung himself down to try the sneaky face scratch by rubbing against rocks and sticks on the ground. I finally had to go along with a very short grip on the leash to make any progress.

Only one of the of 3 marked burials was clearly visible to me. I might have found the second one, but wasn’t completely sure. After the first 75 yards or so, the trail just kinda disappeared between the trees and pine needles. The other 154 burials that were maybe in sight, I could only guess at. Still, I loved that I’d found such an unexpected treasure. One I would have missed if I’d stayed on the path.

Leaving the burial ground, we emerged onto another cycle road that ran parallel to a street about 3 yards away. We’d done less than 5 miles, but I was already feeling the ride as we’d already climbed some 300 feet, some of it quite steep, harsh on the knees and with tires slipping on gravel. There was still a lot of gravel on the pavement, but at least it was fairly flat along the road for about a mile. As the path and street curved sharply south, the signs for the Mälardalsleden reappeared. They pointed me off down a small little road that looked more like a parking area for some apartments.

Well, at least the trike went under it okay.

Well, at least the trike went under it okay.

That was followed by a moment of confusion as I was then directed onto what seemed to be a narrow little sidewalk leading up to and between some of the little, two-story apartment buildings. Making a tight turn, I found the walkway ended at a dirt track with a metal and rock barricade with more dirt foot-path looking trail leading across a field beyond.

The foot path looked firm and the grass short as well as packed down from the now vanished winter snows, so I had no qualms about it. A closer look revealed the trike would go under the barricade with an inch or so to spare. I didn’t even need to unhitch Loke. I couldn’t go under with it, but it was no problem to get up and wiggle it around to slide everything smoothly through.

On the other side, Loke was thrilled with the springy grass surface beside the trike. With the slight decline, he powered us into a 12 mph run. I probably shouldn’t have let the old man go that fast, but he looked so happy!

The end of the path rejoined a dirt road. The surface was only slightly wet, mostly hard frozen just beneath the surface. Actually, I’d not seen a single bit of open water since starting the ride. Puddles were mostly thin shells of ice that crackled into shards when I rolled over them. It at least kept Loke dry.

Further down the road, a large upthrust of rock reared high to overlook the surrounding country side. Steep sided and craggy, I looked up and thought to myself, ‘That would be a perfect place for a fortress.’ It very well might have been the site of one. I was surprised to see a fence around the peak of it about 2/3rds of the way up with little placards with ‘life threatening’ warnings. I saw no other signs to hint it held any cultural, archaeological or historical significance though. While researching for this post, I took a look at it on Google Satellite view and could just make out small, faint rings, so who knows.

Hundhamras (Dog Hammer) Fornborg (Fortress)

Hundhamras (Dog Hammer) Fornborg (Fortress)

Norberg Manor in the distance

Norberg Manor in the distance

Just a short distance more, there was another rocky crag but quite so high or steep. At the roadside near its base, was a sign. Wouldn’t you know? That hill was the site of a fornborg (fortress). I considered climbing up, to look for any remnant of the walls that would have stood there. It looked to risky for cycle shoes. So, I settled for taking photos and moving on.

In the distance, not far from the shore of the lake was a small manor house. The only name for the place is Norberg. Sadly an internet search turned up no info for this particular one.

I didn’t get as close a look at the mystery manor as I’d planned. There was a large sturdy gate securely locked so the distance photo is all.

The route took a sharp southward turn and then jigged back east past an old waterworks. The photo didn’t come out very well so I’m not loading it up. But it was an older brick building with some of the decorative touches Victorians tended to give even their most functional structures. A touch of beauty and grace sadly lacking in today’s age where a waterworks structure has all the style and appeal of a concrete breeze block even as it dominates the landscape.

Pretty view!

Pretty view!

The road went back south and when I made a turn onto a new road heading due west, finally I felt as if I’d been set loose from the shackles of urban riding. Admittedly, it had sort of felt that way since I’d gone charging down the apparent footpath on the other side of the barrier at the apartments. Yet somehow, being on the small, but open little road winding through fields and woods made it official.

Though the road was clear of gravel and parts of it were flat or even downhill, the ride was feeling hard though we’d not gone very far. Turning the pedals was exhausting and left me feeling pretty weak. If it wasn’t for the change of the landscape into something pretty, I would have been frustrated. The sight of my next point of interest also bolstered my spirits. A manor in the distance across the surprisingly green fields.

Traditional Swedish country cottage

Traditional Swedish country cottage

Pretty Road

Pretty Road

Something else that made the difficulty of the ride more bearable was Loke. He was unstoppable. For the miles since we’d left Botkyrka, he’d kept over half an inch of extra tether pulled out from the bar. Without him, it would have been even harder and so much slower. Slower would have been bad as I already felt like cold molasses.

As I meandered along the lovely country road toward the next manor, a number of cyclists passed me. A few on road bikes, others on tourers and some on mountain bikes. About a dozen in all. Each of them waved or nodded as they passed from either direction.

I couldn’t see much of the manor as I neared the parking area. What I did spy was an outhouse style restroom. Timing was perfect. It gave me a moment of concern when I went to step back out to the trike and abruptly discovered the door seemed stuck. I had a bit of panic, jiggling and yanking on the handle and ramming the door with my shoulder. Images of having to call Jens to get me out danced through my head. A silly and embarrassing way to end a ride.

Thankfully, it abruptly gave way so I could escape.

Sturehofs Manor

Sturehofs Manor

An outbuilding at the manor I liked.

An outbuilding at the manor I liked.

Loke nearly got bit as I was hitching him to the trike. A family had arrived and as the woman got out of the car to help her child, a little chihuahua flew out of the car like a pygmy Tasmanian devil right at my furball. Loke just stared with his head tilted as the snarling creature hit the end of its flex-leash only a couple feet away.

The family laughed as it bounced around and strained to reach Loke. I wonder if they’d have kept laughing if it had bitten Loke and gotten stepped on. Or perhaps even bitten back. Loke’s never shown aggression to other dogs of any size, but then he’s never been bitten by one barely bigger than a mouthful either.

We left the parking lot to roll down a small dirt drive past some pretty, white plaster outbuildings and found a good view of the manor. It must be a lovely place to visit in the summer. A cafe would be open and it also appears there might be a couple of craft shops including a decorative blacksmith. That would be fascinating to see at work.

Hemvärnets Stridskola (Home Guards' Combat School)

Hemvärnets Stridskola (Home Guards’ Combat School)

We headed onward, climbing yet again. There was a lot of climbing on this ride, but Loke was determined to get us up each and every hill as fast as possible. Not far down the road, we started an approach to a loose collection of buildings. The sign surprised me. ‘Hemvärnets Stridskola’. It translates as ‘Home Guard Combat School’. There were a few artillery cannons from what looked World War age at least and a museum. Though the school was founded as recently as 1943, clearly it was established in an old estate. The estate was a production area for brass and other metal products through the years. There was also a mill in the area, but nothing left of it now.

A barn near the military school I liked.

A barn near the military school I liked.

Vällinge Chapel

Vällinge Chapel

A stone’s throw from the school was a matching chapel. Quite new as most country churches in the middle/southern portion of Sweden go. Vällinge chapel was built in the latter half of the 1600’s. Barely a toddler compared to the mature medieval churches surrounding it.

Leaving the military school behind, we headed off into a wooded area as the road curved over to hug the western bank of Bornsjön (Born Lake). Couldn’t really see much of the lake itself. The bank was screened by winter dried reeds over 2 meters tall. Signs were posted everywhere forbidding swimming, fishing, dumping and such as the lake is a source of drinking water for Stockholm. On the the other side of the road were more signs warning about risk of death due to possibility of unexploded ordinance from battle practice. There was a lot of land designated for them to use.

We were coming up on Mile 11 as the route took us south. I was feeling the ride. My legs ached and a slight twinge throbbed in my right knee on some turns of the pedals. By then we’d climbed over 600 hundred feet. It felt harder than it had on previous rides.

I didn’t want to stop though. This was ride 13 of 2016. The previous 12 had all been tedious, local rides. I wanted this ride to be more than 11 miles.

We made the next turn to the west and carried along for about a half mile more. At the next turn, I stopped to regard my choices. The Mälardalsleden sign and my maps directed me down a dirt road leading south. A few horses watched curiously from their paddocks and a woman riding a horse in circles in a corral gave us glances as I waffled.

Not too bad and the scenery was nice.

Not too bad and the scenery was nice.

The small country road continued west. It looked like pretty scenery ahead and it was paved. It would lead me to a larger road with a dedicated cycle way according to my maps. So much easier than gravel, or potentially worse, mud. It would mean leaving the route for the second time in one day.

I bit the bullet and made the turn.

It wasn’t too bad. The surface was fairly smooth, even the collection of rocks and pebbles that collects in the center of gravel roads wasn’t particularly harsh. That made it less of a sacrifice for me to surrender the best parts to Loke. With the recent thaw of so much snow plus whatever rain had been in the area, it was a tiny bit mushy. Probably the closest to unfrozen water I’d seen all day.

The struggle to keep pedaling remained, but not much worse than it had been on the paved road. Onward we went.

There was a nice downhill stretching about a quarter mile and then it was back up. The dirt road curved and meandered through the countryside. I came up to turn and pushed on, climbing again.

I stopped in the middle of the climb and scrambled to get up from the trike, removing my helmet. A woman waited at the top of the hill on a nervous looking chestnut horse. We chatted about the weather a little, a mundane activity to calm the horse. Then she nudged him forward. He came down, a bit skittish, but willing to trust his rider and the fact that I was making normal human sounds. Loke helped by looking impatient and bored rather than bouncing and eager to say hi to the big animal. A young girl followed on a white mare who looked more bored than anything. We might as well have been a fence post as far as she was concerned.

About midway up the rest of the hill, we passed by a car barrier though it was raised. A sign announced that the track was closed to cars. The surface became rougher. It was scattered with sticks and water smoothed rocks, rutted from runoff without passing traffic to smooth and pack it down.

Ouch.

Ouch.

It was so hard. Loke strained into the harness as I pushed on the pedals best I could without blowing out my knees. Loke was such a champion, a furry powerhouse.

I thought about turning back. A bumpy trip back down, but it would mean climbing back up a fair distance though the road would be smoother. Not much further forward, there was another turn. I decided to push on in hopes it would turn out to be a better surface.

It got worse. Logging machines had been churning through the area. They’d been through before the return of colder temps. The exaggerated marks of the huge tire treads had frozen solid. Ridge was like slamming into a wall. We slowed to less than walking speed to keep from jolting the trike apart. I actually wished for proper mud instead of the hard frozen stuff. It would have been smoother even if no faster.

I made my ‘we’re okay’ call to Jens. He asked how it was going and I admitted how difficult it was being. I felt weak. The trike felt heavy. He offered to come get me, but the trail was banned to cars.

The Mälardalsleden exists to torment me...

The Mälardalsleden exists to torment me…

The Mälardalsleden wasn’t done with me yet. The turn onto a new section didn’t improve things. The hard frozen tread ridges were replaced with more rocks up a steep climb. It was agony. The trike felt heavy and bogged down, my right knee ached. Loke was doing his best. A bunch of horses watched us curiously.

It started feeling so harsh, I finally gave up pedaling and started pushing the trike on foot. It was easier. Seeing the horses and a cute little wooden house painted bright yellow. It meant the end to the car-free stretch was approaching. In theory, Jens would be able to fetch us.

The way smoothed on the other side of the road boom so I pushed on. It was about then, I realized one of my brake levers was stuck. I stopped to fiddle with it and thought I got it loose. Back on the trike, we started down an decline. At first, Loke was pulling. Then he slowed to sniff letting the tether slack for what might have been the first time on the ride. The trike, on a 4% grade downward with wind at my back, rolled to a stop in less than 10 feet.

Darling, old root cellar

Darling, old root cellar

I checked the lever again, but it didn’t seem to be tight. Still, I got up and tried spinning each of the front wheels. The right one spun fine. The left wheel had very little free spin. The brake was gripping. I tried to loosen it, but it didn’t want to let go. Abruptly, I had to wonder how long it had been going on. Suddenly the difficulty of the ride made sense. I thought the hills had felt a little too difficult. I think one reason I hadn’t noticed the problem sooner was because on the downhills and flats Loke was pulling so determinedly so it felt like the flats and descents were normal.

It was annoying. How long had I been fighting that brake on the ride? How much faster would we have been if it had been normal? I was coming up to the end of the ride. How much further might we have accomplished if not for it?

Finally we emerged from the dirt road onto pavement and cycle roads again. I started hunting for somewhere to stop where the car could park. It was mostly residential areas with driveways and narrow streets. The weather worsened. It had been bouncing between 33 F to 37 F, feeling bitterly cold even through gloves at times. Rain decided to jump into the mix. Not heavy, but chilling all the same. Then it was rain and snow before it went more into snow swirling in the wind.

It only lasted about 15 minutes. I took the chance to examine my maps and decided my stopping point would be in the area of a marina near a point-of-interest called ‘Tegel Hus’ (Brick House).

I didn’t quite make it there. We came down a hill, the brake stuck even tighter. At the bottom, the road took a sharp right turn around a pasture at the base of a ski slope. It didn’t look right. My map indicated I needed to go back up the hill for a turn. Nope! I was done with it. There was a little path to one side of a drive leading into the courtyard of a small manor house converted into what appeared to be a B&B.

Ragnhild Manor

Ragnhild Manor

I dropped a pin on my phone’s Google Maps and texted the location to Jens. Not the most convenient place to wait for Jens, wedged into a small space between the B&B drive and the foot path. I was about to start removing Loke’s running bar and the fairing, but the furball started trying to scratch his face. I couldn’t take my attention from him for a moment.

So, I stood over him, shifting from foot to foot and clapping my hands to stay warm. A man came out of one of the more modern buildings near the little manor. He came straight to us and asked if he could greet Loke. The furball was indifferent to him. Then the guy moved on.

I liked the brown one with flaxen mane!

I liked the brown one with flaxen mane!

There were things to see though. Flanking either side of the road just before the curve were pastures. In one, all adult horses gathered around a feed trough. One was a stunning animal. His/her coat a dark gray-brown with a flaxen mane and a tail that fade from dark at the base to pale at the ends.

Moms and babies! So cute!

Moms and babies! So cute!

In the other pasture were mares and half grown foals. One mare was an inky black with bright white blaze down her face. An adorable half-sized foal just like her hovered close. Another foal was a dun colored little critter with black mane and tail, his dam a white mare. I would have loved it if they’d come closer, but they were a little skittish.

Jens arrived. Soon I had everything packed up and was in the backseat of the car with Loke. He flopped down in the seat, head on my knee and went to sleep.

It had been a long day. Unpleasantly cold on my hands at times and hard to push on thanks for the stuck brake. We’d done it though. Less than 4 mph average, but we’d made 16.8 miles. The longest ride of the new year. I slept like the dead that night.

The next morning, we bolted off to keep an appointment with the vet at 8:15 am. She decided that his foot looked fine and it was time to stop the antibiotics when the finished his last dose later that evening. Now, it was just hoping that his itchy face was because of the meds and would clear up in a few days.

The cycle shop also sent me a text to let me know the new twist shifters were in. So Monday, the trike was dropped off for them to replace it.

So, that’s where things stand at the moment. A good ride and a bike getting fixed up and hopefully an not-itchy husky very soon!