Terii’s Cycling Babble


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!

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