Terii’s Cycling Babble

Spring! Oh, and Happy Easter!
March 27, 2016, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

March is being mean to me. There were 3 days without rides after the little 2.3 mile jaunt from home to storage.

After 2 consecutive days of riding, Loke and I had the scheduled 2 day recovery, where I actually went to the gym once in hopes of beginning a regimen to build strength in  my legs for climbs. The evening of the second day, as I got ready for bed, some kind of stomach flu slammed into me with full force. I was too sick to leave the apartment all through the 23rd.

By the 24th, it had eased enough that I could poke my nose out again, apparently just one of those 24 hour bugs. Loke was practically vibrating with excess energy, so I risked going for a ride.

Not much happened on the ride. We went out. It was mostly sunny and about 43 F with not much wind. Like earlier in the month when I went out after having been sick, I didn’t have a lot of energy. What I did have was a surprising amount of strength. As we headed out on the usual River Loop hamster-track, the pedals felt so easy even on the climb up the overpass across the 55. It was nice to see some good out of the 830+ of climbing from the last bit of the Mälardalsleden.

The lack of energy really wanted me to make it a short ride, but I decided to push on. I made an errand of the outing in the middle of it, adding a few more bits to extend the way to the cycle shop. Besides, the gears were making me nuts again.

So, I popped in and scheduled a time to get the studded tires swapped to proper ones. There hardly a hint of anything resembling snow or ice in the area in spite of the inch or so of the white stuff we had on the 20th. No reason to keep the studs. I also went over the work shop to ask Bobby about my gears.

Since swapping to the new grip shifts, I’ve had issues with the shifting getting sloppy. When it happened the first time since the swap, it was understandable as the new cables probably had a bit of stretch to settle in. Then it started happening again even on the ride on the 20th after Neil (shop owner) had done an on-the-spot adjustment for me. Well, it started doing it again, so I told Bobby about it. He looked confused and said it shouldn’t be doing that. He came out to look and did a bit of tweaking. He also explained a bit how to adjust it if it happens again. That makes me nervous. Gears and I have always been a disaster, but if it gets bad in the middle of a ride, I should be able to make it work enough to at least get somewhere safe.

They're here! Yay for Crocus!

They’re here! Yay for Crocus!

Any-hoo, March 30th, I will once again be on summer tires! Yay! Bet it’s gonna feel like I’m flying. Time to start dragging a trike loaded with water around after me on the hamster-tracks at least.

As we left the cycle shop and came down the path under the rail tracks, I started watching the grassy bank on the right while we made the climb. My vigilance was well rewarded.

Pushed up through the winter sere grass and withered leaves were a few dozen clusters of pale crocus blossoms. Of course, I had to stop to hunt among them for the prettiest grouping for a photo. Not sure why, but these are my absolute favorite of the spring flowers. Maybe because they’re among the first to spread their petals. When daffodils and others are, at best, a few green shoots coming up, the crocus and snowdrops are the first to be properly greeting the sun.

The sight of the flowers gave me a smile that lasted the rest of the day. We arrived back at the storage with 6.95 miles. Not enough to even really take the edge off Loke’s energy, but better than nothing. It had also shown me how much stronger I got from the previous hard climbing ride.

Still feeling a bit wonky from the stomach flu, I took the next day as a rest.

Yesterday, March 26th, I took Jens up on a previous offer made not too long ago. That I jump on the trike and ride in whatever direction. When I had enough, he’d come get me.

Ho-hum. At least it's a pretty day!

Ho-hum. At least it’s a pretty day!

When it dawned so pretty and promised to be nearly 50 F, I took him up on the offer. I was nice enough to wait until he woke up on his own and had coffee enough to boost him into full consciousness. Once, he was more than a staggering, grunting zombie, he dropped us off at the storage and we set out.

Loke wasn’t exactly a bundle of enthusiasm, especially at first. Can’t blame him really. The first 6 miles or so were firmly in the realm of ‘hamster-track’ territory. I felt annoyingly slow and weak as we headed down Vattholma Road. I have to keep reminding myself that a fair stretch of it between Gamla Uppsala Road and the grave mounds is actually a steady, if subtle looking climb. A lot of the time, it doesn’t really help that much. At least our wheels haven’t rutted it as deeply as River Loop or the ways into Uppsala’s heart.

A bit less 'Hamster-Track'

A bit less ‘Hamster-Track’

The furball and I both perked up a bit once we passed the turn for the grave mounds and Gamla Uppsala church, pushing onward to the north.

It was interesting to see how the progress on the rail tunnel is coming. Most of it looks to be capped over with concrete. Some spots are even getting a covering of dirt. I still feel sad at the archaeology, the history, that was destroyed with the tunnel’s construction. At least archaeologists had a couple years to discover and record as much as they could.

I wasn’t the only one out to enjoy the day. People on comfort bikes toodled by us. A few guys clad in full spandex on more mountain-ish sport kinda bikes zipped by. Other people on high end racers fully kitted out blasted by on the road above the cycle way. Even one or two roller-skiers cuffed along.

As we approached the rail crossing, an older man coming from the north had dismounted his bike to take a photo of the church in the distance across the recently plowed fields. Loke and I were about 10 yards away from the tracks when the bells began to ring. It gave a boost to all three of us. The man hurriedly fumbled to put his camera away to run his bike across and Loke and I sped up.

Cuteness Overload!!

Cuteness Overload!!

I noticed a pair of gloves laying on the pavement once we were over and called to the man. Yep, they were his. He rushed back to snatch them, thanking me, and still had time to get across before the booms came down. No danger though unless one is particularly stupid. Swedish rail crossings give plenty of warning. So, unless he stopped in the middle of the tracks to tie shoe laces and read ‘War and Peace’, he was fine.

Once the turn to Vittulsberg was behind us, Loke and I both perked up even more. We were technically off the hamster-track as far as I was concerned. The stretch between that turn and Storvreta has been ridden less than a dozen times. Less than 5 times since the stroke, I think. Not fresh, but not overdone either.

It had been barely 40 F when I started the ride. I’d gotten brave when dressing, picking to go with just thin wool under the tights and top. No footwarmers either! From the start, I hadn’t even needed gloves or more than my thin, blue knitted cap under the helmet. It was nippy in the shade, but in the sun was just about perfect.

I found myself smiling a lot as I craned my head around. The blue sky, striated with wisps of clouds was lovely. There wasn’t much wind. The only thing missing was the flood of lark song I should have been treated to. It’s absence is worrying. I’ve heard the tiny little birds singing their hearts out in February on lead gray days with a foot of snow still on fields. The snow had been mostly gone for weeks, the weather mild and yet not a single peep from the larks. They should be everywhere!

A holdout on winter!

A holdout on winter!

It feels like the distance to Storvreta gets shorter each time. I’ve ridden to the town 3 (4?) times now and the turn off the main road feels sooner and sooner. Maybe a sign that I’m getting faster?

As we made the harder climbs right outside of the town, there were a lot of people jogging and walking to enjoy the day. Some of the joggers called out a cheery hello. I stopped at the top of one of the hills to look at my maps and a couple came along, the woman with trekking poles. They stopped so she could ask what breed Loke was. Upon finding out he was a husky, she said her son just adored huskies and asked if she could greet him.

Loke was his usual indifferent self, but she was delighted all the same. They were both surprised that he was over 10 years old.

I left them behind briefly, until I came up to an intersecting cycle path that headed off into a wooded area. I wound up looking at maps on both my Garmin and new phone. The lovely cycle way and potential promise of wooded paths was a powerful lure. I do so miss riding in the city forest though not enough to risk getting caught there by the guy who triggers my instinctive alarm bells. I waffled for almost 5 minutes before I concluded that the trails wouldn’t help me on my way and I wanted to stand a chance of reaching Funbo church.

My trikes have never rolled here!

My trikes have never rolled here!

Still, maybe make it a ride for another day to go explore those trails.

I was practically giddy as I passed the intersection where we’ve made the turn toward the little grocery. Just on the other side of the crosswalk, it was official! New ground! The thought of a few miles of unexplored roads was heady. Not much to see along them, other than scenery. No runestones, churches or the like, but still wonderful fresh!

Once we got out of Storvreta anyway. That little town turned out to be unexpectedly extensive. Staying on the cycle ways through most of it turned into a little bit of a juggle in a few areas, but there is a surprising network of the paths through it.

The people there were friendly. Everyone I passed had a smile and a nod for us. One jogger who went by in one direction gave us a cheery, ‘Hej igen!’ (Hi again!) when she went back in the opposite way.

Loke never quite got as excited as I did. He wasn’t sluggish, but he wasn’t a furious powerhouse of pulling determination either. The tether pretty much stayed slack as he jogged along, ears swiveling.

Ruined farm buildings

Ruined farm buildings

A sign for 'Tame Animals, Wild Children' in the area

A sign for ‘Tame Animals, Wild Children’ in the area

Once we were back out into the countryside on smaller country roads, I wondered if I was going to have the omph to make it to Funbo. The hills were making it difficult. Not as harsh as those on the Mälardalsleden, but enough that my knees started to ache. Once again, I was wishing for lower gear inches.

I made myself slow down. What was the rush really? A pretty day even if it got a bit chilly when the clouds lessened the sun’s warmth from time to time. Fresh ground. If I wasn’t out enjoying the almost 60 F temps (at times), what would I be doing otherwise? Watching TV? Okay, probably something more productive like writing or, heaven forbid, chores. Going slower and slightly aching knees seemed not so bad. Fresh air, sun, new roads and mild temperatures can’t compete with that especially after 3 days without pedaling. I do love my trike.

I just love old, wooden buildings

I just love old, wooden buildings

Slowing helped and Loke didn’t care how pokey we were for a change. Or if he did, he gave no indication or attempt to correct it. I couldn’t stop smiling as I swiveled my head around to take in every bit of scenery that I could. Even in muted shades of brown and gray, it was pretty.

More flowers! I love snow, but I adore this too!

More flowers! I love snow, but I adore this too!

Near a bus stop, I spotted a burst of color. Loke gave me an annoyed look as I hit the brakes hard and jumped up with the camera. Mostly, the little corner between the main road and a driveway was thickly dotted with some yellow flower I don’t know the name of. A few splashes of white and one, shy little patch of purple in the form of snowdrops and crocus were also basking in the sun.

As we crept up the climbs and coasted down on the other sides, I also tried to be aware of where I’d be rejoining roads I’ve ridden before. After all, I’ve cycled to Funbo at least once before though along a slightly different route.

The sky really couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do. At least rain never really seemed to be an option. At times it was almost clear. Other moments, the striations of clouds would thicken to turn the sky a flat, glaring white and dim the sun. It made the temperature swing erratically between 52 F to 60 F.

Imagine if we couldn't see blue...

Imagine if we couldn’t see blue…

During the ride, the image of the bare-limbed birch, gleaming white against one of the clearer patches of sky reminded me of something I saw recently. A little video about the color blue. Apparently, it was one of the last colors that humans developed the ability to see and rather recently even. Only within the last few thousand years at best. In the time of Homer (ancient greek poet, not cartoon), there was no word for the color blue in any culture. Even now, there are indigenous, small tribes who have no word for it and can’t really distinguish it from gray or green. It’s as if their brains can’t perceive it because it’s undefined.

What would that even look like? Would the sky or the sea just look kinda green? Or a flat gray? In ‘The Odyssey’, Homer describes the sea as ‘wine-dark’, black, white, green, yellow and even red. I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense that blue would be the last hue to be defined. It has no true survival value as do most of the other colors. Black and white for light and dark. Red for potentially poisonous plants. Yellow and green for possible edibles, but is the color of the clear sky or its reflection/refraction in the water going to help you survive or kill you? Not likely. Why even notice?

I honestly can’t imagine a world without blue. Certainly the picture of the birch tree wouldn’t be nearly as pretty. I’m glad to have the word for it and, therefore, the perception of it. It seems we have the Egyptians to thank because they developed a blue fabric dye and had to name it. Very ‘chicken and egg’.

Okay, enough of the color side ramble.

Funbo Church

Funbo Church

The ride was uneventful. Pleasant, but nothing exciting. I felt a little baffled though as we rolled up to Funbo church. I’d not come onto any recognizable roads. I had clear memory of the last couple miles or so being on unpaved lanes. While the roads had become very narrow, barely enough room for 2 cars to pass and no center line, they had been paved the entire way.

Looking at maps, I think I came to the church on a slightly more western route the first time. That was awesome! I’d been on new roads for about 14 miles. Something so simple, yet made me happy. I probably would have passed out from sheer delight if I’d found a runestone or church along the way.

Lovely old stone bridge

Lovely old stone bridge

It was only about 2 or 3 pm, but I felt every bit of the 23.63 miles. That is the longest ride of the year. Longest ride since my credit card tour in the southern part of Sweden last summer actually.

And except for the slight ache in the knees from time to time, it had felt pretty good. At least until I got up to walk around the church and see if it was open. As soon as my feet were on the ground and I took a few steps, it was instant stiffness, particularly in my right hip.

I walked it off, hobbling around the church and then rolling down a little further to take photos of the old stone bridge. I would have loved to get a better angle, but it was hard enough to push through the tangle of winter bare shrubs at the stream side. Easier than it will be in a month or so when everything has produced screening leaves.

Uppland Runestone #987 - Funbo, January , 2013

Uppland Runestone #987 – Funbo, January , 2013

I pedaled back up to the church to wait for Jens. The area around the church and its museum were quite busy. People walking around, many of them bringing potted, blooming daffodils be planted on graves or simply left in their pots. Others seemed to be just enjoying the day, lounging in the patches of sun on the grass near the museum or wandering around.

I was only just starting to dismantle the trike when Jens arrived. Loke had plenty of energy left over to caper and bounce with joy at seeing the third member of our little pack. With a bounce in his step, he trotted off ahead of my husband who took him for a walk around the belfry on the hill.

I feel very good about the day. It was nice to spend most of it outside on a ride once I was in unfamiliar territory where boredom was less of a factor. I have a lot of respect for people who can ride the same spots over and over and over, being happy about it. Was I ever like that? I can’t remember.

It was significant in other ways too. Those 23+ miles gave me over 100 miles for March so far! Pretty good for all the sick days that left me with several gaps of 3 or 4 days in the month. I’m quite pleased with it and will add a few more miles still before the month of the lion gives way to the month of the lamb.

Today is nearly as pretty as yesterday. There were more clouds, but they’ve cleared for the moment. It’s warmer too. Still, I’m glad I rode yesterday and so can feel mostly okay about not doing so today. It’s very windy today. The kind of wind that whips flags around and threatens to tear flags off the poles. Not toppling trees, but still would be unpleasant for riding if going in the wrong direction.

I’m making good progress for the year. Makes me almost as giddy as a school girl.

Mälardalsleden Did Right By Me!
March 20, 2016, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I mentioned in the last post that plans to do the next leg of the Mälardalsleden (Mälar Valley’s Route) on March 12th had been postponed because of various reasons. My wonderful hubby, was determined that we look at doing it again on March 19th. His determination became enthusiasm upon discovery of a fishing expo on the southern side of Stockholm. I agreed to consider it. After all, the maps were all printed and ready to go.

First, Loke had to see the nice dog dermatologist again on Friday. My awesome FIL had to drive us as Jens had a very early meeting in Stockholm and needed the car.

The woman took samples and looked in the microscope, finding an annoyingly high amount of skin yeasts. Oral medication it was. She also gave us the okay to reintroduced reindeer meat to supplement his kibble. That was good to hear. I’ve been feeding him extra scoops, but his weight is still going down.

The weather was less than promising to look at on Saturday morning and the forecast didn’t offer much more encouragement. It was 27 F when I crawled out of bed around 4 am unable to calm my head enough to get back to sleep for another hour. The coldest morning we’d had in almost 2 weeks, perhaps more. A quick look on line showed it was pretty much the same in the Södertälje area where I’d be riding. 27 F though forecasted to reach 41 F around 2 pm. Chance of rain, snow or a mix between the two. My knees were also slightly achy. Nothing crippling, but just letting me know they were there. Since Jens was eager to go to the expo, I decided I’d risk it.

All did not go smoothly. I removed the seat and was juggling it around to get Loke’s running bar removed when the headrest shifted, having come loose. Annoyed, I unthinkingly grabbed the allen wrench bit and jammed it into the socket to tighten headrest down. Big mistake since I’d had the 7 mm socket on, not the universal one to accommodate the various heads for screws and allen bolts. The bit got jammed.

Angry at myself, I went back to the apartment to deliver the bad news. I tried to work it lose. Jens tried. Undoing Loke’s running bar from the seat and the fairing without the ratchet would take forever. Almost as long as waiting for someplace to open where I could get replacements. Not to mention it would triple (or more) the time it would take me to put everything back together at the start of the ride. Better to just not go.

Jens made one more attempt to undo my mistake, but the wrenches kept slipping around. I took one from him and clamped down hard with both hands on the socket. The he gave a slight twist as he pulled on the bit. POP! It came free!

Overjoyed, I grabbed both and bolted back out the door to the storage. Everything loaded up without further complication.

I was optimistic about the day in spite of the forecast and the fact it was barely above freezing as we jumped in the car. Instead of my heavy wool, I had thinner wool under my cycle tights with baggy jogging pants over those. If temperatures really did get warm enough, it would be easy to pull off the jogging pants without even removing the shoes. If I’d worn my bulletproof 400 g weight wool, I’d have been stuck with it unless I found somewhere I could strip down.

I also skipped the footwarmers. The last ride around here I did without the footwarmers was the best day my feet have had in months. I guess the inserts with the heaters are about 1 mm thicker than the usual insoles. If I’m having a bad nerve day, maybe that extra 1 mm space makes all the difference in how my feet respond. I wasn’t completely silly though. I brought them with me.

The drive went smoothly. We pulled into a parking area where I’d meant to end the last portion of the Mälardalsleden ride about 1 mile away from where I’d actually stopped. There was supposed to be the ruins of an old house.

Jens walked Loke while I unloaded everything. I started to worry that I didn’t have enough layers on my torso. Legs felt fine, but the wind blowing off the mostly frozen inlet was bitter and cut right through all 3 layers to my chest and arms. I felt like I wasn’t wearing my heavy wool top at all. My neck took the brunt of it until I undid the pony tail and shook my hair loose for extra warmth.

Swans and ducks

Swans and ducks

Jens said there was a runestone on side of the little hill across a tiny bridge. Maybe I should go look at it before we headed off on the main ride. He didn’t see the ruin though. He also told me there were 20 or more swans on the ice. Then I gave him a quick smooch and said, ‘Have fun!’ to send him on his way.

Ruins of Telge House

Ruins of Telge House

Loke was absolutely thrilled as I clipped in. He threw his weight into the harness to drag us faster over the damp, hard packed ground. The sudden swerves I made to avoid slamming into potholes annoyed him, but he had the full husky grin going on. We vibrated across the little wooden bridge and followed a dirt track around the fringe of what is technically a little peninsula. It’s a near thing though since there’s a boggy stretch that’s not quite solid ground and not quite water between the hill and the mainland.

Ruins from hill top

Ruins from hill top ‘inside’ the fortress

I wanted to come!!

I wanted to come!!

What Jens thought a runestone was actually a much more recent memorial stone of some kind. It looked ‘new’ enough I wasn’t interested and rolled along the track to the north side of the hill where the ruins became obvious. I left Loke with the trike and climbed up to take a photo of the sign before approaching the ruins. As I passed through the remains of the door, the height of the steps surprised me. My knees weren’t thrilled with flexing so deep to climb them. If they’re original, I feel sorry for those who had to climb them every day.

The view was pretty from up there. I admired it for a minute or so and took photos. Loke was disappointed he didn’t get come with me and mark the rocks. It didn’t last long. As soon as I was back in the seat and the brake loosed, he was happily pulling us the rest of the way around the little island. Then it was bouncing around the potholes toward the first of the Mälardalsleden signs.

Chatty ice

Chatty ice

Almost right away, we zipped onto a gravel path. As we came close to the water, it split, one side going up the side of the wooded hill, the other heading down to inlet’s shore. Amazingly, the arrow I needed pointed down. Whee!!

Right at the edge of the water – I mean ice – the trail took a sharp left to run right along it. Not the most perfect surface. There were a few roots and rocks, but nothing horrible. The tree-covered ridge gave way to apartment buildings overlooking the inlet.

Did you know ice is noisy in the right conditions? It can sing mournfully or ping almost like sonar. It can moan, hum or pop. Yesterday along the edge of Himmer Bay that goes between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic (helped along with a short canal), it chose the latter noises mostly. Loke kept giving it wary looks, especially when one of the strange pops would echo in almost other-worldly fashion.

I was a bit wary when it looked like the shore side trail ended. There had been ways leading up from the path, mostly stairs and even the non-stair paths were silly steep. Given how many challenges the route has given me, making me wonder who in their right mind would call parts of it a ‘cycle friendly’, I expected to go pedaling back a mile or so to find a direction that wouldn’t kill me. Amazingly, the path simply took a sharp jig around a building between two lines of fence that had plenty of room.

Great blue heron aren't a common site here .

Great blue heron aren’t a common site here .

The trail came to another fork and for a moment, I debated taking the ‘high road’. It was up along the side of a hill and among trees with an earthen surface. With questionable knees, I stayed low on pavement among buildings.

The natural shoreline gave way to vertical sided canal walls. There, right on the edge with the water gurgling meters below, perched a great blue heron.

The Gulf Coast where I spent most of my life is thick with herons of several sorts. Egrets too. Can’t toss a stick without hitting 3 or 4 of them. Not so much here, so when I spot one, it feels special.

Of course, I stopped to see if it would let me take photos. It did. Apparently with sturdy fence between us and it, it wasn’t worried. Once I started moving again, it spooked and winged away in dignified fashion as only big birds can.

Almost as soon as we came into Södertälje proper, things became confusing. And steep. Creeping up climbs gave me plenty of time to contemplate maps which wasn’t much of a help as much of the paths I’d marked were closed for construction. Even without that, the town is Stockholm in miniature for trying to navigate by bike. Took me almost 5 minutes of studying the map to figure out which way I was supposed to go from around the train station.

Of course, I decided not to take it. I had planned to go hunt down a runestone in town. There was some question about whether or not I’d be able to get to it as it appears to be in some kind of museum area that looks fenced off. So, if it was closed I’d not be able to reach it. When I saw the cycle path I needed, I changed my mind. It was steep up the side of a hill and the asphalt was covered in a thick layer of gravel from when there was snow. My knees throbbed just at the sight of it. Alternative routing would have meant sticking to busier, narrow roads for almost half a mile. I decided it wasn’t worth a ‘maybe’ and pushed on.

Look! An old building!

Look! An old building!

Södertälje is confusing and hilly. Our progress through the streets was slow as I chased down quieter ways toward the town square and church. Nearing the church, I found a nice flat way on the town’s main shopping district which is completely restricted to pedestrians and bikes. It was a pleasant little strip, I suppose. Most of the buildings seem to date to the 1960’s-70’s when Sweden went through a frenzy of ‘Out with the old! In with the new!’ before coming to its senses. But it was wide open, more so than even Uppsala’s walking district. The church was visible ahead.

St. Ragnhild's Church

St. Ragnhild’s Church

There was a little town square right before the church. A few enterprising merchants had set up there for the weekend. Two of them sold the most appalling clothing. I couldn’t imagine who in their right mind would wear it. That from someone who doesn’t have the most refined fashion sense, I might add. If you ever saw my cycle outfits, you’d know what I mean. Another had flowers galore. The 4th was leather goods.

I found what appeared to be one of the few old buildings in the area. Perhaps 200 years old. Maybe as much as 400, but at least predating the 1960’s. The church was colorful and very little of it’s medieval origins apparent due to many renovations.

I had a bit of an uncomfortable moment as I sat in the square, taking photos and giving Loke water. Of course, there were people staring at me. Between the trike, my weird clothes and the husky, who wouldn’t look? It’s never bothered me.

One guy though, didn’t just look. He glared. His face was set in an expression of fury and distaste as he came over in a stiff legged gait like a dog displaying dominance aggression. He stood about 15 feet away and glowered. After an initial flick of my eyes, I avoided eye contact. It wasn’t like I meekly kept my head down or anything, I just didn’t let my gaze focus on him. I looked at the hideous clothes as I gave Loke water and put everything away. Took the pictures, even taking time to be sure I had what I wanted before settling back into the seat. I was aware of him in case he decided to try something stupid, but acted as if he wasn’t there.

I have no idea what his problem was. He wasn’t Swedish, though I can’t say for sure what his ethnicity was except perhaps anywhere from parts of India or the Middle East. I didn’t take a close examination of his features after the first chilling glance. More perplexing was he wore a Sikh style turban and that is mostly a ‘harmonious’ religion by my understanding.

I was only too glad to leave the area.

I did a loop around the church to look for runestones though I was sure there were none. It never hurts to look as the internet doesn’t know everything… yet. A quick run up to the church doors found them locked. I was about 20 minutes too early. The church opened at 10 pm. Or was it 11? Either way, I was early.

Nice path, but I managed to smudge my new phone's lens already. :P

Nice path, but I managed to smudge my new phone’s lens already. 😛

From there, it was another confusing tangle of streets and crossings, though at least I knew I was heading for a more direct stretch. A few miles of pedaling along a cycle path parallel to a road. Even better? One that would take me out into the countryside. We like countryside!

I found the path we needed and settled in for spinning those pedals while Loke jogged along. I felt slow still, but a quick look on my Garmin showed I was going steadily upward. It wasn’t as hard as it could have been though. The path had been swept free of gravel which was a blessing. There was parkland to my left with houses beyond. Trees made a lovely screen between us and the fairly busy road on the right.

Strangely traffic free road

Strangely traffic free road

Maps and signs prompted a right turn under the road after a time. We toodled along more cycle path and emerged onto a small road through a quiet residential area. By this time, my legs were feeling quite a bit as it had been a nearly continuous gain in altitude since leaving Södertälje.

The climb remained, but the houses vanished and we rolled on down a curiously quiet little road through woodland. Loke was enthusiastic about the new scenery which meant he offered plenty of help. Much welcomed help. In addition to the near consant 3-4% grade, the surface of the road was rough and had a surprising amount of post-snow gravel scattered on it. Throw in studded tires and I was going no-where fast. At least it was pretty.

Though the little road lacked cars, it wasn’t completely free of traffic. Around every winding curve there were people with dogs. When I spotted a sign for a ‘brukhund klub’ (working dog club), it became clear. As did the random sounds of gun fire. Hunting dogs being trained and walked. Only one half grown puppy showed any interest in us. The rest were focused on making their people happy.

I swore a little bit.

I swore a little bit.

Not far beyond the club’s driveway, I discovered why there had been no vehicular traffic. An immovable barricade blocked the road. I uttered a few choice phrases, stopping to glare at the little red marker declaring that this was the Mälardalsleden. Admittedly, bikes would have not too much trouble getting through the space between the boulders or the barricade and rock. My trike on the other hand…

I got up to go holler at the obstacle and vent frustration, but was cut short when I noticed the white rock on the right was set back from the railings a bit. A closer look and I noticed sheepishly, it was passable if I just manhandled the back of the trike around a bit to fit around things. It was promptly done and we inched on our way.

Even though I was admiring the scenery and enjoying it, part of me was increasingly frustrated at all the climbing. My legs were tired, my knees starting to ache enough that I took another dose of pain relievers, and just so slow. I think slow wouldn’t bother me so much if not for the knees and feeling that I just have to push so hard on the pedals for the hills. If I could spin, I think it would help me mentally, but my cadence drops to below 60 RPM and it feels like I’m trying to push an elephant on a lot of climbs. Definitely not good for the knees. I might have to rethink my granny gears in the future.

Camera makes it look less steep, I promise.

Camera makes it look less steep, I promise.

And a doozy came along on the road north of the barrier. It was like hitting a near vertical wall. Any car going faster than 50 mph would probably go airborne at the top. I slowed to less than 1 mph and then couldn’t find the strength to push. I got up and started walk the trike up. My knees babbled in overwhelming gratitude. Says something when pushing a recumbent trike loaded with 3 liters of water, camera gear, extra clothing, some tools and odds-n-ends is easier than riding it up a hill.

Loke didn’t make it any easier. He chose then to stop pulling and instead examine the weeds at the verge. A few times, he was dragged along with the trike. My knees were still happier than trying to pedal up.

As things leveled off at the top, I let myself plop back down so Loke and I could enjoy the 100 yards or so descent. Then it was back to a less brutal climb.

When I first started riding here in Sweden, around the city of Uppsala, I shook my head at Jens’ definition of ‘pancake flat’. Before moving here, I had mentioned how much trouble I had with hills (on standard bikes as I’d not discovered recumbent trikes) and that was how he described the landscape around here. His exact words even. Mississippi Gulf Coast is pancake flat. Uppsala isn’t.

However, compared to every place along the Mälardalsleden, it actually is quite flat. A 12 to 18 mile ride around here might net me a whopping 250 feet of climbing at best. Most of my rides on the Mälar route however have been 600+ feet. At least 2 of them were over 1000 and 1 of those more than 1300 feet for distances of 12-16 miles. I’ll have to look into the exact numbers, but with that kind of difference it’s easy to see why the rides closer to Stockholm and Sweden’s 4th largest lake have been pretty hard on me.

What a lovely surprise!

What a lovely surprise!

As I came to the end of the little road, traffic-free thanks to the barricade slap in the middle of it, my nerves jangled a bit. The road ahead had looked fairly busy on Google Street view and my cycle maps showed no path. Understandable. Most roads through the country rarely have a good sized shoulder let alone a cycle lane or an independent cycle way. It was far enough outside of Södertälje and with just a couple tiny groups of houses here and there. No reason for one.

So, imagine my surprise when the little red placards directed me down a short little side road where a sign warned that it dead-ended at a cycle path.

Sure enough! The pavement was a bit rough and it was strewn with gravel. If it ever does get swept clean of post-snow grit, it’s probably one of the last stretches to have it done. But it was a at least 10 yards from the quite busy road most of the time, often more than that and screened by trees.

You know something else? It was very nearly flat! There was just a bit of a rise at the start of it and then it leveled off and for 2 blissful miles, Loke and I cruised, rather than crept. About 8 mph average for that bit of the ride. I smiled as we rolled through a tunnel of trees, passing a surprising number of pedestrians. Given that the beginning of the path was over 2 miles from more than a lonesome little farmhouse, I was baffled at all the people.

It was pretty though. Some of the wooded areas were just gorgeous. Dense conifers and mossy green ground and stones with very little undergrowth. I should have taken a picture of it, but I was just so happy to be going faster than 4 mph.

Jens called during that portion of the ride. He asked how wet I was. I told him I might have seen a snowflake as I left the ruin at the beginning of the ride, but not a drop of rain or single bit of snow more since. It seems at the convention center there had been significant rain and snow.

He also asked if I could spend another 2 hours or so riding. He was done at the expo and wanted to go to the Mall of Scandinavia for lunch. I said yes of course. I was slow and my legs were feeling it, but I had hours left in me.

The nice cycle path ended at a small, tightly packed residential area. Little houses with postage stamp sized yards sitting almost side-by-side with a bus-stop fronting the main road.

I scooted across the road to ride with the flow of traffic. It wasn’t too bad. The traffic was steady, but not insane. Swedish drivers are very polite to cyclists probably because everyone in this country rides a bike when they’re not driving.

Though the drivers were nice, I did stress at my slow pace as we were once again cursed with climbs. It bothers me to creep along at 3 mph when people might have to wait to pass. I rode as far over as I could.

Just a hill or something more?

Just a hill or something more?

Sometime on the short stretch I was on the road, my attention was snared by a good sized hill on the left. Since I was climbing at a blazing speed (sarcasm), I had plenty of time to look at it. Something about it just niggled at me. It didn’t seem entirely natural. There were a few paths that looped around it and what looked to be a bench and a picnic table at the top. Open hilly countryside and yet this hill had paths and a bench? Just felt like it could have been a burial mound or maybe the site of an old fortress. I didn’t see any signs for such as I toodled by, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling. Enough so that I even stopped and snapped a photo in between cars.

Nice scenery even if in shades of brown.

Nice scenery even if in shades of brown.

I actually wasn’t on the road for long. Less than 200 yards after the end of the cycle path, I came upon a small cafe, the scent of cooking food made my mouth water. About another 100 yards further, I stumbled on one drawback of riding a recumbent trike. They’re low to the ground. Why is that significant for that moment? Because around the area of the cafe, a new cycle path began, but since it was on higher ground than the road and I was so low, I didn’t see it right away. All I could see at first was the grassy slope on my right. After I noticed it, I rolled on for another 100 yards or so before finding a spot without a ditch where I could cut across the winter-dead weeds to be free of traffic.

How neat!

How neat!

A surprise church!  Ytterenhörna Church

A surprise church! Ytterenhörna Church

That portion of dedicated cycle way only went for about a mile. It was a nice mile though. Mostly above the traffic and wide open views around. It meant more wind, which was bitter, but a nice change of scenery from all trees I’d already had plenty of time to enjoy.

All that wide open space gave me a clear view of an unexpected church. It’s not often medieval churches catch me unawares. When I plot my rides, I look for them on multiple maps. Often they are the highlights of my rides, not incidentals and I add miles for them. So coming upon one by accident and without a clue it was there was unexpected in the best way.

The excitement gave me a boost up that hill. The cycle path ended right at the church which made me a little sad. I scooted across and parked near the church gate.

Stones with bronze age carvings

Stones with bronze age carvings

The church was a gift that kept giving! Not only was there the church (sadly closed), but also two big slabs of stone that had bronze age carvings and a huge runestone!

Södermanland's Runestone #190

Södermanland’s Runestone #190

Usually with the stone carvings, the department in charge of maintaining them will paint them with bright red to make them easy to see. I’m not sure either of these stones have ever had it done or if it’s simply been so long, it’s all weathered away. I could just make out the horizontal lines of the ship on the left one. Two footprint marks on the upper right side of the right stone were fairly easy to spot. The cupmarks were harder to guess. Still made me smile to see them. It’s actually the first time I’ve seen such carvings on individual rocks. Generally they’re chiseled onto domes of bedrock. Certainly nothing that can be moved without plenty of destruction.

Södermanland’s Runestone #190, up near the church proper, was a big one. Taller than I was by a good bit. The runes and decoration were hard to see from all the weathering. Apparently the paint on it hasn’t been refreshed recently either. Was still nice to fine at least one stone even if unexpected.

Lovin' the fresh ground!

Lovin’ the fresh ground!

Traffic was a little lighter as I went back to the road. The hills gave me a bit of a break as well. I got to relax in the seat and concentrate on the brakes in the name of keeping the furry engine’s speed to respectable 11 year old dog levels.

I really enjoyed the scenery. There was a smile on my face I couldn’t have gotten rid of if I’d wanted to. My neck was getting quite a workout too. All the craning around, trying not to miss a single thing.

It had been about an hour and a half since Jens had called to ask if I could stay out for 2 hours. Just down the hill, an intersection was visible so I pulled over into a bus stop to look at my maps and make a decision. One I’d been mulling since before starting the ride. Going straight would take me further along the Mälardal’s route. Turning right would take me to a church.

While I generally will go a bit out of the way in my hunt for churches, it’s almost always as loops or in on one road, but out on another in a zig-zag. Anyone who’s read more than 3 or 4 of my posts probably knows how I detest an ‘out-and-back’ ride. Drives me crazy to ride a stretch of ground only to immediately turn back and do it again. Such was the case of the church lurking to the north if I wanted to ‘collect’ it and continue on the Mälardalsleden. A whopping 4 miles one way. 8 miles total.

The start of the last 4 miles

The start of the last 4 miles

I thought about aiming for the church and ending the ride there. We’d done over 12 miles with more than 700 feet climbing which is at least 3 times more climbing than even a 14 mile ride around Uppsala. My knees were increasingly uncomfortable and the temperature was falling though it wasn’t even yet 2 pm. Getting to the church would give me more than 16 miles and I’d be able to check it off. I’d have to decide if I’d want to start at it next time or somewhere else.

The another factor in the equation was what was further down the route that might make a good place to wait for pick up? A quick glance at the map showed nothing for the next 6 miles or so. Sitting at a bus-stop to wait for Jens and load the trike up isn’t appealing.

Lastly, was Loke. He had been a furry freight engine for the entire ride. Pulling to help up the hills, except the one time I pushed instead of pedaled. But after one of the recent rides, a short ride even, he’d had that episode of painful stiffness and limping. This was the first long ride since that happened. Admittedly, he’d given no sign of discomfort once he’d had two days rest, but it seemed best to end on a high note than to push for 20+ miles and risk it.

The church it was. I dropped a pin in Google Maps at the church and forwarded it to my hubby. Then we rolled down the hill and made the turn.

Breaks my heart to see old building fall to ruin. Even a root cellar

Breaks my heart to see old building fall to ruin. Even a root cellar

There was something freeing about that choice. My smile was even bigger and I relaxed more. Jens called to confirm and ask how long it would take me to get there. I said about an hour, giving myself plenty of time to crank up any hills that came along. I assured him he could relax if he was still eating. It wouldn’t kill me to chill out at the church with Loke for a while. The trike seat is comfy.

Lovely old buildings NOT going to ruin!

Lovely old buildings NOT going to ruin!

End of a forest elder...

End of a forest elder…

It was a pretty area, alternating between close, wooded areas and open, sweeping vistas. I didn’t worry about speed, I just went. With 16+ miles at the end, it was going to be one of the top 4 rides for certain.

On the map, the area around the church had given a very ‘middle of nowhere’ kind of feel, but there was traffic. Seemed every few minutes a car was buzzing in one direction or the other. Better than a few cars every minute. There were climbs to be made, but for a change they were nicely balanced with descents and didn’t feel as harshly steep as over the previous 12 miles.

And wildlife! Pity I couldn’t have been quicker with a camera or I’d have come away with photos of what looked to be a moose cow with a new calf and deer that crossed the road ahead of us no less than 3 times.

The moose wasn’t in any hurry, being some distance off, which is good. Moose cows are notoriously protective of their young, right up there with bear sows. Slow as she was, I still wouldn’t have been able to make the swap to the long lens in time and they were just dark little spots in the photos I did try. It was neat to see though.

The deer were fun. They would step out into the road and freeze, staring at us as if in amazement. Then Loke would yodel and hop on his hindlegs in an attempt to drag us into warp drive. The deer would spook and dash off into the trees. My fuzzy partner would then chuff along, pulling intensely as he desperately peered through the woods after his snack-on-hooves.

Överenhörna Church

Överenhörna Church

Överenhörna Church hove into view sooner than expected. The hills had been kinder with some actual descents instead of only up and up and up. My knees and legs were relieved to be at the end as we rolled to a stop beside the church with 16.7 miles. I was sad to have it done though. The new territory had been so nice.

And for once the Mälardalsleden hadn’t thrown me a ‘what the HELL?!’ loop! No 300 meters of loose baseball sized rocks. No silly narrow trail, choked to both sides with hedges or weeds or trees. Nothing that was passable only to hardcore mountain bikes. No narrow boardwalks cluttered with pedestrians, praying no bikes came along. Not once did I have to unclip Loke and get him to walk ahead because there was no space for trike and husky.

Loke looked disappointed as I tethered him to a lamp post and started to strip the trike down. I left the seat on and sat down to wait.

After he had his fill of water, Loke came over to act all lovely. The affection lasted about 2 minutes. Then he started woofing and stomping his feet. He wanted more!

I ignored him and listened to the countryside. It occurred to me that I’d not heard a single lark. Fields everywhere, but no larks. I don’t think I’ve heard any around here either which is just weird to imagine. I’ve heard larks when there was still inches of snow on the fields. They should be fluttering and singing their little hearts out.

There were plenty of other birds to hear though. A pheasant cock made his strange rasping call of love to any passing lady pheasant. Two flocks of swans went honking overhead as did one of some kind of goose. It was a kind of the brown geese, but not Canadian. Their heads weren’t black. I even heard cranes calling in the distance. None of them topped seeing a moose with a baby even from a distance though.

About 15 minutes later, Jens arrived. Loke was thrilled to see him and I loaded the trike.

My hubby decided to take another way home than slogging through Stockholm again. Instead we headed west and north toward Strängnäs, then across the lake to Enköping before east to home. The GPS said it would only add 5 minutes travel time. Given how bad the traffic through Stockholm can be, it was probably faster.

It also gave me a glimpse of further along the Mälardalsleden. The road got a bit narrower and more twisty, but still with quite a bit of traffic. The speed limit was 70 kph, but most people drove faster. Lots of hills again too, which made me a bit uneasy combined with the traffic. Something I will need to think about for the next leg.

Between Enköping and Uppsala, we were hit with rain. A lot of it. Clearly I’d been lucky on my ride. We emerged from that and had sunshine spilling it’s golden, honey hued light across the snow-less landscape for a while. Just as we came into Uppsala, it grayed up again. Instead of rain though, it was snow! Enough snow to turn grassy areas white again.

I went to bed early and slept like the dead until almost 6 pm.

When I got up this morning, I was hoping Loke was okay. I had to wait until Jens woke to find out as the furball is always content to just loll around in bed as long as ‘daddy’ is. When Jens finally emerged, Loke was actually almost bouncy and very bright-eyed. He wanted breakfast. We had after all started feeding him reindeer again. He missed munching on Dasher and Dancer.

Around noon, to get the trike back to the storage, I actually dragged myself out for a ride. Loke cheerfully bounced along. Apparently, the 16.7 mile run in a new place has recharged his enthusiasm for Hamster Track runs. He was fast and pulling hard for the whole 2.3 miles.

I was less so. My legs were quite unhappy to be pushing pedals so soon after yesterday’s hilly rolling. Mentally though, I felt quite recharged. Didn’t dread seeing the same ole scenery at all… for now.

Not So Much
March 18, 2016, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The impetus of my rides stumbled a bit. I started to put my energy back into the mindset of ‘I am a cyclist’ even to the point of drafting up a tidy schedule and making a goal of a minimum of 15 rides for March.

I should have known better.

I took two scheduled days of rest after the nice 17+ mile ride from Björklinge to home.

On March 8th, I had Jens drop Loke and I off at the storage where I did a short ride back to the apartment, a River Loop a bit later, and finally, back to the storage once the hubby was back from work. About 9 miles for the day.

The last 2.3 miles were done in the dark which was perfect for another test of the lights. They are quite good actually. The front beam reflected cleanly off signs over 100 yards away which is a decent indication that traffic can see the lights from even further away. All that is left is a test of weather proofing, but I’m quite content to wait on that one. Rain isn’t my favorite riding weather.

I had a ride scheduled for March 9th, but my body betrayed me. Just threw a huge honking wrench in the works of my plans. I came down so sick that for days it was all I could do just to walk from bed to the couch and, then when night rolled around again, back to the bed. Riding was out of the question.

March 13, I didn’t feel as profoundly horrible physically. Mentally, I was about to climb the walls. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll do so again – there is only so much vegetating with Netflix I can endure. Still pretty sick, I yet found myself stumbling around the apartment to pull on cycle clothes and the shoes. I didn’t really want to go for a ride and yet it seemed impossible to stop.

Loke was pretty indifferent. I guess the hamster-tracking is really getting on his nerves.

Once I was in the trike’s seat, I didn’t feel quite so bad. My energy levels weren’t precisely humming, but the muscles felt strong and the pedals turned without me feeling like utter death. Loke was downright sluggish which meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for not burning up the asphalt.

Like most days since the Björklinge ride, it was well above freezing. The snow was vanishing fast and very little ice lingered in the river as we plodded around the River Loop. Given my circumstances, we managed a surprisingly brisk 5.75 miles.

I felt even better on the 14th and considered a ride. Another wrench in the works reared its head once I woke. Loke was tottering around like an infirm elder. He moved slow as if wracked with pain in muscles and joints. When he walked on any hard surface, he limped as if his right shoulder hurt.

I started getting ready to ride, but Jens began pushing me to take the fuzzy with me. Rather than argue with the hubby, I just didn’t ride. Wasn’t like I was up to running marathons either. Instead, I hobbled around the block with a very sore husky.

I have no idea what triggered it. He did the 17+ miles the week before without effort. 5.75 miles is nothing. He should have been bouncing off the walls after that little bit, not wanting to just lay flat on the floor and move as little as possible.

With Jens working from home so much lately and saying, ‘TAKE LOKE!’ if I so much as thought of going for a ride, I pretty much just gave up on riding for a bit. Wanted Loke to have some time to recover from his mystery soreness but not end up being the bad guy with my husband. So, even when Jens brought up me taking Loke for at least a short little walk, I just said I didn’t feel well enough to ride.

Tulips and/or daffodils!

Tulips and/or daffodils!

Pity, because spring was here in full force. The days had been mostly sunny and in the 40’s. The snow is all but gone. I would have loved to go out for a pleasant, not-stressing-about-my-potentially-injured-husky, solo ride. Just felt like I was being cornered by my husband when it came to the trike and Loke. While I rarely go for rides without the fuzzy, he isn’t inseparable from me and the trike. Especially when I’d rather not cripple him.

I would have ridden March 16th, but a dental appointment right in the middle of the day just left me feeling frustrated and stressed. I didn’t get home until almost 3 pm. By the time I would have dressed to ride and got to the storage, almost 4 pm. Then I would have been starving and trying to hurry through the ride with a slow, bored husky so I could dash home and and cook dinner in a rush. Rush, rush, rush. Stress, stress, stress…

Perfect to make one dread something that’s supposed to be enjoyable.

St. Patrick’s Day dawned almost as pretty as the 16th, though a bit cooler. It was 32 F when I woke with an aching hip and knee. I gulped down a couple of Alvedon (Sweden’s version of Aleve), still determined to ride.

By the time I had Jens drive us to the storage, it was almost 40 F.

After he left us so I could ride the trike from storage to apartment, Jens decided to work from home instead of heading to the office. As soon as I came in with the half mile between storage and apartment extended to a generous 3.5 miles or so, the hubby’s first words were, ‘Aren’t  you taking Loke for a longer run?’

I’m rather proud of myself about not sounding snarky when I told him I wanted to wait until it warmed up. It was supposed to be nearly 50 F and I rather liked the idea of being able to head out in lighter weight thermals or even no thermals. More importantly, being able to put away the footwarmers. I might love riding in snowy conditions, but since there is no snow I’m to the point I loathe fiddling with those batteries. Not to mention, the inserts are a little thicker than the standard insoles. My feet appreciate having that millimeter or so extra space between the sole and upper.

Jens did the ‘When are you going?’ question about a dozen times before I grumpily went out the door about noon-ish. Really feels like he’s constantly poking me with a stick of late, particularly when it comes to me riding with Loke.

Things pretty much stayed annoying. I would say Loke was ‘sluggish’, but even slugs would have laughed at us as they raced by. Seriously, slow. For about a mile on a flat, we did a walking pace. My walking pace, which is in a whole new category of pokey since the stroke.

I tried to encourage and pester him into going faster, but he was having none of it. Neither was I. I turned us right around and left him at the apartment with Jens. 1.8 miles.

Then I went back out. The only positive thing was being a little faster, but not much. My hip still pained me as did my knee. I felt weak and slow. All of it changed my mind about not going out into the countryside. There was still an errand for me to do though.

Winter's last holdout.

Winter’s last holdout.

One of the reasons I’d decided to bring the trike home for the day was because there was a cycle repair/maintenance class for women at the cycle shop that evening. So, I’d planned to go for 10+ mile ride with Loke once the sun was up and the day was warmer. When time for the class rolled around, I was going to ride to the cycle shop for the class.

My hip and knee acting up nixed that. I just couldn’t see sitting on a concrete floor to hunch over gears or brakes or tires. Pedaling was challenge enough. I stopped by to let Lotten know though. Poor woman was running around madly. Spring means everyone in the city rushes to the cycle shops to get their bikes tuned up and ready to roll for the warmer weather. She thanked me for letting her know I was cancelling and scrambled on.

I called Jens to ask he pick me up at the storage, but he was in the midst of a phone conference. So, off to back home I went with a measly 3.8 miles.

Bright light! Bright light!

Bright light! Bright light!

It was about 7 pm when I went back out to the trike to roll it to the storage. There was still a blush of light in the western portion of sky, silhouetting the clouds beautifully. I put on my new lights, turned them on with the phone app and beamed (haha) at their brightness.

Loke came with me, course. I figured if he was going to be a complete slug, I could just go the most direct route there.

He caught me by surprise. The furry powerhouse from December and January reappeared. His legs were a brisk blur as the jogged along at a clip to make a prize sulky racehorse proud. We made it back to the storage in good time with 1.39 miles.

Maybe the fact it had gotten dark was enough of a change to the scenery that he was interested enough to move.

I also felt great. My hip decided not to hurt. The weariness in the muscles that made me feel so slow on the solo jaunt was replaced with strength and vigor. If I’d had that when I left Loke at home, I would have dashed off on my old Börje Loop which is about 18 miles.

4 rides for St. Patrick’s Day with a total of 10.44 miles. Pretty sad really.

For tomorrow, March 19th, the plan is tentatively set for me to do another leg of the Mälardalsleden. The weather may put me off and I’ll do a local ride instead, but it is at least planned.

Fingers crossed!

Not the Mälardalsleden, But Not Hamster-Track!
March 6, 2016, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

First, let me lead with the good news! My dad reported the little growth was not cancer! Yay!! Stubborn old cuss will be around for years more, I’m sure.

And it’s even fitting to mention him on my cycle blog as my first trike, the Trice QNT from back in 2006, was thanks to him. It might have been years more before I’d have been able to convince my husband. In that, my father is as much a part of my cycling experience as Loke.

And it just occurred to me, that it would be even more fitting if he did take me up on the offer of coming over and exploring Sweden or parts of Europe via trikes with me. He’d be riding the very trike he paid for as my birthday gift. Would be awesome if he actually got some use of it too! It gave me 6 years of joy, smiles, laughs and adventure.

Also, before I forget, review of the See.Sense Icon lights.

See.Sense lights unpackaged.

See.Sense lights out of package.

The other reviews I’ve read about them have been good, but I was a little wary once they were in my hands. They feel decently solid, except for the rubber bumper on the back which also serves as a kind of ‘plug’ to protected the micro-USB port for charging. It didn’t seem to be a very weather-proof arrangement.

I’m probably wrong as the bands used to hold the lights on to whatever they’re mounted on probably tightens the seal.

My second item of concern was the way both the body of the light and the rubber pad are angled. It is almost as if the lights were designed solely for vertical mounting, a seat post for the back and steering post for the front. Yet on their web site, the photos of the front are all horizontally mounted on handlebars. It feels as if the light would just be aiming off to the left or right in that position. It’s left me a bit confused honestly.

When I first turned them on, they didn’t seem nearly as bright as my old, much cheaper CatEye light. The test was a bit unfair though as I’ve used the old light in the dark and it was a bright, sunny day for the See.Senses first test.

The phone app was nice and easy to use. It found the lights right off and connecting to them opened the options in an use-friendly format. Tapping app buttons turned them on and off as well as changing the flash pattern or steady shine. Seeing how much battery remains in a glance very nice indeed. I’ve not had a chance to test the ‘crash alert’ or the alarm. I love the idea of the alarm, but since Loke is often left tethered to the trike when I run in somewhere for a quick errand, I’m not sure how much use out of it I’ll get.

The lights were flashing for about 4 hours and used a bit less than 25% of charge. So decent.

On the ride where I tested them, the cold shut down the battery in my phone. It seems to be getting more and more sensitive to anything remotely ‘chilly’. Once I was home, I found the rubber button on the front of both lights that allowed them to be turned off even with a dead phone.

Also, once dressed in normal clothes and with a cup of hot tea in me, I found my old light and compared it side-by-side with the See.Sense. Don’t worry. I aimed it at the top of the coffee table. Yes, the See.Sense is much brighter and they aren’t even the brightest of Icon’s products. Might even be the ‘dimmest’. So, pretty impressive.

When he first gave me the lights, Jens told me he’d read about plans for new mounting options coming sometime this year. If that happens, then most of my concerns about the lights will be settled. All in all, I’m pleased with them.

Review done so now on to cycling!

Sometime over the night between the 1st and 2nd of March, I started to feel very bad. As if I’d been hurtled back in time by a bit more than a year, my body turned into a wreck. I was enduring the first few weeks after the stroke all over again. Walking to do more than cross the apartment was painful.

Sometime during the 2nd though, I managed to talk myself out the door for a ride. The gorgeous weather had broken and the sky was mostly gray. Only a few bits of blue peeked out between heavy looking clouds. It took me a while to manage the clothes and shoes for the ride. “I feel better riding,” kept chanting through my head.

Not this time. It was bad. My foot cramped up, forcing me to stop so I could unclip and put it on the ground. Every muscle from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head was on fire. It took me almost an hour to do creep through 4.36 miles when I’d planned for us to perhaps head out on the Ulva Mill Loop of 12-14 miles, or dare I say, the Börje church loop which is between 16 – 18 miles. I would have only been too happy to turn right around for less than 2 miles, but out of kindness to Loke, I pushed on for the smallest of my loops.

The weather on the 3rd and 4th of March suited my condition. It rained, sometimes mixed with snow and just looked altogether dismal with the snow quickly disappearing under the leaden gray sky. I could hardly function. A walk around the block with Loke took silly amounts of time and left me shaking with the pain. A ‘quick’ trip to the grocery took almost 2 hours.

Later on the 4th, it started to ease somewhat, but remained unpleasant. I just wanted to stay flat on the couch and not move. The only time I didn’t hurt. Boring by the way. I can only binge watch so much on Netflix before getting twitchy.

In spite of my body’s betrayal, I had made the determination to return to the ‘I’m a cyclist’ mentality which served me so well before November 11, 2014. Part of that is to avoid more than 2 consecutive days without a ride. That meant, I absolutely had to ride on the 5th.

Originally, I’d arranged with Jens to do another portion of the Mälardalsleden (Mälar Valley’s Route). When the plan had been made, I’d felt fine and the weather had been so gorgeous for almost 2 weeks. When I was faced with gray, wet surroundings and being a physical wreck, I took pity on the hubby. Loading the trike, driving for over an hour and reassembling only to discover it was going to be as bad as on the 2nd was too big a risk. Almost 2 hours of effort for what could potentially be a 20 minute ride?

Jens knows how much the ‘Hamster-Track’ has been getting to me though. So, he offered that I load the trike and we drive, say, 20 minutes or half an hour. If I couldn’t ride far, no huge hassle.

Desperate for somewhere other than around here, I agreed.

Björklinge Kyrka - 2011

Björklinge Kyrka – 2011

It was hard. Getting dressed and even just walking to the car was a struggle. Yet somehow, the trike got loaded and we drove off toward Björklinge church. We’d not gone around there in years. Given how I felt, the plan to perhaps cycle all the way back home didn’t seem realistic.

Loke was bouncy and excited as he walked with Jens through a dusting of new snow falling while I slowly put everything back together. Once hitched to the trike, he woofed impatiently until I had the helmet on and clipped in. Then we were off like shot.

Much more snow than 10 miles south!

Much more snow than 10 miles south!

Uppland Runestone #1113 - Fragment

2011 – Uppland Runestone #1113 Fragment

The first half mile is on a descent and Loke made the best of it. He even got to run faster than I usually allow. I was having a problem with my mitten and looked away from the Garmin. Mitten fixed, I was shocked to find we were nudging up on 15 mph. Loke flying joyfully along, wide husky grin and tongue flopping. I felt guilty for feathering the brakes until 11 mph or so. He shot me irritated looks.

The roar of water thundered through the air as we came down a steeper slope that crossed what appears to be a mill pond. Murky brown water churned over a man-made drop. Loke watched in fascination as we climbed back up to pass by the runestone that sits right at the curve beside a fence around the pond.

On the other side of the road, sits an old root cellar. Time has not treated it very well since I rode through there last. Part of the roof has collapsed and bits of the facing were coming off. Much longer and it will be a collapsed tumble of stones and rotting wood. Sad really.

'No, I will not look at the camera. Can we just go?!'

‘No, I will not look at the camera. Can we just go?!’

We made the turn, following the sign for Skuttunge. As the landscape flattened and even began to rise a bit, our speed surprised me. The first mile had hardly been a test of how good or bad the ride was going to be since all I had to do was hang on to the brake.

The next mile pleased me though. Some climbing which didn’t feel especially slow… or painful. Loke barely pulled, but we still clipped along on the flats, trike rolling completely under my power. I felt… fine. My feet didn’t hurt. The muscle pain that had cut March 2nd’s ride so short or made getting ready just an hour ago so difficult, was no where to be found.

A gray day made lovely with snow on the fields!

A gray day made lovely with snow on the fields!

Uppland's Runestones 1118 & 1121

March 2013 – Uppland’s Runestones 1118 & 1121

Skuttunge Church distant

Skuttunge Church distant

Upon the realization, I mentally and physically relaxed into the seat to really enjoy the outing. Pain free for the first time in days though my right knee did give a couple of twinges. Swapping to lower gears took care of that problem. I felt strong and we moved at a pace that was really quite brisk for me. I was surrounded by a snowy landscape in an area I’d not ridden through in years. What was not to enjoy?

It seemed we’d hardly started the ride when we came upon a pair of runestones. I hadn’t realized it was close to Björklinge church. A glance across fields found Skuttunge church very easily.

It turns out to be less than 3 miles between Björklinge and Skuttunge churches. 2.64 miles according to my Garmin. I always forget how close they are to each other.

Love snow! Love, love, love...

Love snow! Love, love, love…

I love a snowy winter landscape! Did I mention that?

I love a snowy winter landscape! Did I mention that?

The view of Skuttunge disappeared as fields gave way to pasture and yards with trees. Loke plodded along as I cranked us up a gentle series of climbs. He seemed bored. I was happy. Every few minutes, the curve of the road would part through the trees and give a glimpse of Skuttunge church ahead.

I always have a fond smile for that church. It reminds me of a warm summer day when I stopped to eat some fruit for a quick lunch. Loke was at home, too hot for huskies. A trio of men on bikes stopped to chat and gulp water, before clipping in and speeding off. A year later, I met one of them again while waiting for the light near the mosque.

I stopped briefly to see if the church was open, but no luck.

From there it was a quick zip down a hill and over a mostly dry gully. At the top of the other side is vicarage for Skuttunge church. I met the caretakers once. Very nice couple. If anyone is riding through Skuttunge and it’s the same couple taking care of the site, I recommend stopping in if you need a spot to pitch a tent. Lovely lawn (flat, cushy grass in warm weather), gorgeous old wooden buildings, and very nice people. The nice gentleman told me of a few of the cycle tourers he’d let camp there.

As I pushed on, I started to feel a little tired, but otherwise good. It didn’t feel like too much further to Balinge and we were making good time. It began to look as if riding all the way back to the storage was actually in the realm of possibility!

My memory of the landscape was pretty accurate. Soon we were cranking up a hill just outside of Bälinge and more memories of previous rides flooded in. The little burger kiosk beside a soccer field where Loke and I stopped to rest. I had an apple while he got his very own cup of vanilla ice cream. Back when the fuzzy was allowed such treats. That was on the ride that was supposed to be only about 22 miles and turned into 35. Back in younger days when Loke and I could take such distances almost on a whim.

Disappearing snow and... a game trail?

Disappearing snow and… a game trail?

Between Björklinge and Bälinge, the snow had been lush and deep. Only the occasional patch of grass or rare mostly clear field to be seen. Between Bälinge and Gamla Uppsala, it was as if the melt had accelerated. Grass and mud showed through more and more the closer I came home.

Oddly, it was also much colder on the other side of Bälinge. The first half of the ride, the Garmin had been unwavering at 35 F. South of the little town, it was like a switch had been flipped. In moments the display dipped to a chilly 29 F. Part of that may have been the wind which came up unpleasantly. Suddenly, my GorTex mittens weren’t enough and even with the footwarmers my toes became uncomfortable.

The further I go, the less of snow!

The further I go, the less of snow!

The chill forced me to stop a few times so I could put my feet on the ground in an attempt to warm them. It might have been they got damp while I walked around.

I took those moments to try coaxing Loke to drink some water. He was having none of it. Any time we strayed close to some black and gray pile of nasty looking snow, he’d try to snatch a mouthful. The fouler looking, the better it seemed, but water? Surely you jest! I went from enjoying the scenery to watching the verge of the cycle path between Bälinge and Ulva Mill, pulling up on the leash every time I had to pass close to a snow pile so Loke couldn’t duck his head and gobble some toxins left over from cars. Or leftover road salt. Just what a husky needs.

Hmmm. Maybe that’s why he was so determined for the ickiest snow? Salt?

Loke’s enthusiasm had been waning as we came ever closer to Ulva. I checked him several times for pain, but he just seemed bored. Bored! Even though we hadn’t yet reached the mill which would officially be the return to ‘Hamster Track’ territory. He didn’t even want to run down the hill to the mill race like he usually does.

As we crossed the Fyris river at the sight of the highest falls on its length, I noticed a sign that explained all the recent construction fencing and equipment in the area the past months. They’re installing a fish ladder! Awesome! It will be the 4th that I know of. The other three are right in the middle of downtown.

Snow? What snow?

Snow? What snow?

The snow made a brief reappearance on the strawberry fields around the mill. Again it disappeared as we came down the hill to cross another river and meet up with the old E4. At the bottom of the slope across the stream/river there was hardly a patch of snow to be seen that wasn’t mounded up from plows.

Back on the frequent roads and trails, my attention strayed from the mostly snow-free surroundings. Residential and no flowers, leaves or green grass under heavy skies. Just shades of mud and gray clouds. Yeah, not the most appealing landscape.

But the mileage was intriguing. It appeared I was going to end at the storage with about 16 miles and some. I was tired, my knee had started to ache even in the lower gears, but if I just added that extra little bit of cycle path between the school and road back to the storage. It was about a mile extra. Enough to tip me over the 16.whatever miles of my longest ride in 2016. That’s last ride on the Mälar Valley Route with the brakes stuck.

I just needed the Garmin to tick over to 17 miles to be sure. One measly little mile extra. Chump change compared to the 15 or so I’d already done.

I pushed for it.

And I made it. 17.81 miles when I rolled to a final stop outside the storage. Pretty sure that’s right about 1 mile further than the previous 2016 longest. What flabbergasted me most about the ride was we did that distance in a smidge less than 3 hours. Definitely less than 3 hours of moving time if one subtracts the stops for photos or Loke’s business.

I can’t remember the last time our average speed was that good. Some parts of my credit card tour last year might have had nearly as good a pace. The flat parts that is. But recently and with Loke? Very good for me.

Trike put away in its proper place and Jens was shocked when I called to say I was at the storage. Neither he nor I expected I’d make it all the way home. I’d felt so lousy right up until I plopped in the seat. It made not doing the Mälar Valley’s route feel like a waste, but better safe than sorry.

My nice hubby said he’ll cheerfully do the driving for the Valley route next weekend though. It required a bit of shuffling my ride schedule around so I’d be doing it after one of my 2 day rests. I want the best chance for Loke and I both to be fresh and strong for it. Otherwise, it feels kinda like running a marathon the day before running the New York Marathon.

Now, let’s just hope the weather and my body cooperate!

Being A Hamster on Leap Year And Hard News
March 1, 2016, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Loke and I both are starting to get stir-crazy. 9 rides this month (gah, pitifully few) and all of them local. Round and round and round… It’s a bit more than being a hamster on a wheel. A treadmill or on the cycle trainer would be a closer equivalent to a furry little critter running its little legs off on the wheel in its cage.

No, the fuzzy and I have been doing the same loops as a childhood pet scurrying in a plastic ball stuck on a plastic track. It actually moves around, but only in a tightly prescribed circle, oval, or figure-8.

From sometime around Christmas up to about the middle of this month, Loke was pulling like a freight engine stuck on full throttle. No longer. He’s bored and now the tether most often jingles with slack. Much slower too.

The dreary, above freezing gray rain/snow mix from the ride on the 22nd gave way to stunning clear skies and temps that hovered around or even slightly below freezing. There was still snow enough remaining on natural surfaces to make the scenery somewhat fresh and new too! A tiny bit more white blanketing the fields, grass and trees would have been welcome, but I still enjoyed what we had.

Getting out the door was a bit trickier. I can’t remember what kept me in on the 23rd. The 24th was laundry which, if on the 2 pm slot, I try to begin at 11 am if the person doesn’t start their turn. That pretty much takes up any daylight riding hours at this time of the year.

At last on February 25th, we were able to bolt out the door.

I was so happy that the weather held good! 3 days of such pretty weather is rare at this time of year.

Once we started on the ride, I didn’t feel particularly strong or fast. Nor did I feel lousy and painful. The sun was bright and high enough at this time of year it offers significant warmth. What clouds hung in the heavens were thin, cobweb like wisps that lacked substance enough to hinder the light. The air was still except for us moving through it. My Garmin displayed 33 F.

Pretty Husky on a Pretty Day

Pretty Husky on a Pretty Day

Such a beautiful day and one of those fortunate times when nothing demands my attention. Instead of sticking to the River Loop, I pointed the trike out into the countryside when we arrived at the 272. Loke’s interest and energy levels perked up a bit as we scurried across to Gamla Börje Road and onward.

We went along while I pondered which way to go at the crossroad ahead of us. Right would take us to Ulva Mill and onward to Gamla Uppsala with the burial ground. Straight would lead us out further into the countryside on a 16+ mile roll past Börje church before heading back toward the city past Ulva Mill and Gamla Uppsala. Right would take us toward the little church named Läby which sits on the 72 where we could take the cycle way back toward the city and past the shopping center.

Love it!

Love it!

Läby Kyrka - 2007

Läby Kyrka – 2007

It felt like we’d done Ulva so recently. Börje felt just a tad too far. My confidence in my abilities and the endurance of my flaky footwarmer batteries made me dubious.

Läby though. It had been a while since we’d gone that way. Perhaps it would even be the first time this year. The turn came and Loke at first pulled right in anticipation of the direction we’d most recently done though I said, ‘Vänster!’ (Swedish for ‘left’). He gave me an irritated look at being yanked rudely, but trotted on.

As we slowly climbed some of the steeper sections of the small road between Gamla Borje Road and the 272, I thought ahead.

My usual way back to the storage on this route involves an unpaved path that runs at the base of a rocky hill along the edge of a field. A treacherous trail at this time of year. Much of it shaded by the trunks and bare branches of winter trees, its slow to melt. It has so much traffic from pedestrians and bikes, whatever snow there is becomes packed into a rock hard, very slick surface that even my studs have had trouble on. I once almost skidded right off into the shallow ditch or even into trees.

Maybe a new stretch was in order? Yep, it was. That clear, I was able to relax and pedal us along the cycle road beside the 72.

Possible Burial Mound?

Possible Burial Mound?

The shift of my attention was fortuitous as was the snow. I’ve ridden that strip countless times, but had never noticed the bashful little hill lurking at the edge of some trees in a pasture. Without the white mantle, it would have been all but invisible in muddy brown colors against the dark trunks and needles of the conifers. I’m sure I’ve ridden by it other times with snow, but have no memory of seeing it.

It could be a left over from the Ice Age, but something about it just makes me think, ‘Man-made’. It could also be wishful thinking.

In minutes we were rolling by the big grocery store and sundry other retail shops surrounding it. Loke perked up slightly as we climbed the hill past the new apartment blocks that have devoured what was once a pretty patch of woods. He practically jumped into action when I made the turn at the top of the little climb. Across the street and another short climb took us into a surviving patch of woods.

Some snow is stubborn about melting off pavement!

Some snow is stubborn about melting off pavement!

A web of cycle paths threads all through it and it’s one of Loke’s favorite local places to breeze through. I was glad of the paved surfaces as we began our little journey. Unpaved side paths were hard packed into slick runners of rock-solid ice. A family walking down one of them turned to look as we zipped by and the woman almost tumbled when she started in surprise, feet skidding out from under her. I felt a bit guilty for startling her.

In the trees, the shade there remains dense even in winter. Trunks and branches are woven so tightly and, with a generous portion of evergreens, very little sun gets through. For a few hundred yards at least, the studded tires were necessary. Even the roads through the residential area on the other side proved to be icy, so it was extended for almost a mile.

To avoid the icy trail by the park and other less interesting areas, I took the turns to go under the 55, aiming for the rebuilt section of cycle way just recently finished. I took a bit of a wrong turn that needlessly complicated things for a brief time, but soon we were speeding along on fresh blacktop free of snow or ice.

Another fast cycle route!

Another fast cycle route!

At an intersection with another cycle road, I discovered that the stretch was another fast cycle route named ‘Flogsta’ for the area. A veritable network seems to be springing up around the city!

I rolled on, Loke curiously scanning this unfamiliar patch of ground. Then I spotted an unusual figure on the path ahead of us. Instead of the usual coat, scarves, cap and such, they were clad in what appeared to be a velveteen cloak. Curious, I slowed. An arm came out to dig a cell phone from a pouch at their waist and the sleeve looked to be that of a bright red overdress with a equally vivid yellow underdress.

I pulled a bit ahead and glanced over my shoulder as they put their phone away. Rather tall, wire-rimmed glasses and a pleasant expression. Finally, I overcame my initial shyness. “Excuse me, but do you speak English?”, I asked in Swedish as I had no clue how to go about communicating what I wanted to ask in said Swedish.

They stopped and said in a pretty thick accent, “I speak a bit of English, yes.”

I blinked. Though dressed as a medieval woman of middle-class means, complete with make-up, the person was male.

It didn’t give me more than a second’s pause. “Are you involved in the SCA?” I said.

It turned out, no, he was not part of the SCA, though he had heard of it. He was studying at Uppsala University and working on his master’s thesis on the medieval Royal Swedish Archives. Essentially, he was studying to become an archivist himself. He was dressed as a female archivist in the ‘guild’s’ colors because he was on his way to lead a tour through the ancient royal archives in the cathedral with a group of new students.

For about 20 minutes, we had a delightful chat. He told me about royal archives in the middle ages and I answered a bunch of questions about the SCA for him. I think it caught his interest when I explained about personas and how intensely people research them for qualification. Not to mention all the background into developing coat-of-arms. He’d only really heard about the costumes and fighting. The fact it was so much more intrigued him.

Poor Loke sighed and even woofed at me a couple times. When the guy went to greet him, Loke just looked away, sensing he was the reason we were rolling along. Snubbed him flat.

Our conversation pleasantly wound down and I settled back into the trike. He thanked me for the distraction. He doesn’t like talking in front of groups and had been stressing about it until I came along to offer such delightful conversation. I wished him luck on the tour and his thesis and waved over my shoulder.

I was still smiling about the encounter when I stopped a few minutes later and realized where I was. It looked a bit strange because I’ve never come from that direction, but taking a right would link me up on the usual route through downtown Uppsala. A quick mental review of possible other routes led to the conclusion that through downtown was the least annoying. Off we went!

3 consecutive rides that incorporated downtown Uppsala. I need fresh or at least unfrequented territory! While it’s been a while since I’ve done the Läby area (first time this year), it’s still been done dozens of times.

We rolled back into the storage with 15.93 miles. Once back at the apartment, Loke bounced around with his ball and pestered me, demanding to know what we were doing after that pleasant little warm-up.

I felt the mileage the next day. Still felt pretty tired on the morning of the 27th. I thought about taking another day to let my body recover, but Jens had other ideas. Finally, stressed from the ‘When are you going to ride?!’ ever few seconds, I rushed out the door to get it over with.

Jens’ main excuse to get me to ride was that he wanted me to see if there were a few things at the American food store. We were having his family over for brunch on Sunday. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going there though. It would make the 4th consecutive ride through downtown Uppsala. More than half of February rides on that same stretch though at least the beginnings varied. I practically had to drag Loke out. He’s fine, just bored. Very, very bored.

Jens dropped us off and in minutes, I had the trike up at the top of the ramp. The weather was pretty. Cold, about 31 F, but another glorious day in terms of blue sky showing brilliantly against the white of lingering snow.

I sat down in the seat and was digging for gloves in the side bag, when Loked tensed. Expecting to see someone walking by with a dog, I looked up. Just 20 feet away, sat a hare. Ears up and wary, it simply stared at us, nose wriggling a couple times. I looked down to dig for my iPhone and it still didn’t move. As I tried to swipe for the camera function, Loke gave a sudden yodeling whine and off the bunny critter went, haring off across the street and through the park on the other side.

At least this time it wasn’t trying to leap through the fairing to run up my chest and face.

It was just a tedious toodle in spite of the pretty weather. Nothing hurt which is always a good thing. Items shopped, we rolled back to the storage for a total of 9.46 miles.

While putting the trike away, I regretted not having planned for Jens to do the whole drop off and pick up for next leg of Mälar Valley’s Route the next day.

I can’t remember if I mentioned why I postponed the next portion of it. I’d planned originally to do it on the 27th or 28th, but then the previous week, Jens told me he had a business trip in Borås on March 3rd. The offer was made that we drive down on the 2nd and I could ride in the area. He was even willing to stay the night in Ulricehamn about 30 minutes away where I could jump right onto a fresh portion of the rail-trail rather than redo the 30 mile stretch between Borås and Ulricehamn again.

It seemed silly to have him do the Mälar Valley Route driving and turn around just a few days later to do the Borås trip. So, I let February’s Mälar Valley ride slide.

Of course, while I was pedaling around Uppsala on the 27th, Jens texted me that the Borås meeting had been pushed back to March 10th. *facepalm*

With some pre-prep work to do for the Sunday brunch and the fact I’d not finished planning the next leg of the valley loop, there was no way to do it the next day. I felt a little robbed.

Saturday we prepped for the brunch. My dad also called from the states. We had a good chat. One of the things he said was, “I should come back over your way for a visit.”

Knowing how my dad loves to explore new places, preferably more closely than in a car, I told him, “And I have 2 trikes now. I could set up the old one for you and we could go off on a cycle tour. You’re gonna drag the heavy stuff though.” He seemed to like that idea. We’re talking about the man who went the length of Italy on foot and train, exploring small villages where not a soul spoke English and then walked from the train station in Uppsala to our apartment without a map. Just some directions from a passing soul who told him where to find our street.

It was funny. We’d not heard from my father since he’d left the States and Jens was starting to worry. Then the doorbell rang and there was my dad. Hard to believe that was almost 8 years ago.

Our chat on Saturday, Feb 27th ended on a sour note. My father threw it out there as a passing afterthought just as the call was winding down. “Oh, by the way. I had a growth removed from my hand last week. Pretty sure it’s skin cancer.”

Wait?! WHAT?!?!!

You know, most people would tend to lead with that! I asked for more details. The doctor had asked how long it had been there. He had the mark for at least a couple years, but who knows how long it had been there before he noticed it. I said I’d hope for the best. My dad, being who he is, was of the mind-set that it would be what it is and his life had been full. Not always easy or pleasant, but full and interesting for the nearly 70 decades he’d been in the world.

If it is the worst, my father isn’t going to be one of those who spends his last months on earth throwing up and weak with chemo and radiation to hope for a few extra miserable weeks. If he weighs the odds that it will still take him even with treatments, he’ll live the last in full and let go. If he does different, then he’s become a very different person.

I wasn’t really sure what to say at first. Then I fell back on what my family often does, a black sort of humor. “Well, at least there’s my inheritance,” I quipped. It worked. He laughed and whatever tension I felt eased.

Then I told him quite honestly, that whatever he’d set aside for me on his death was still his in my mind until he was cold and buried. I was not one of those kids who was going to scream about a parent spending ‘their inheritance’ if dad dare put real cream in his coffee instead of cheap non-dairy creamer let alone take a trip or get working car. So, if it turned out to be a metastasized cancer (and skin cancers are among the worst, I understand) and he wanted to go off on another adventure through Italy or come visit me where we’d set off on trikes for as long as he felt well enough, liquidate the share set aside for me. Do something he’d really enjoy. That would be a better legacy for me to remember than heavily taxed cash or property on the other side of the Atlantic.

I need to call him. I think he was supposed to get the results yesterday.

Anyway. He’d not want me to brood, so onward about my rides instead of one that might be a country tour with my dad.

Sunday, February 28th, Jens parents, the two sisters who still live in Sweden and their husbands all arrived for an expansive brunch. It was the first time we’ve had one of the brother-in-laws over for a meal. A nice time was had by all.

Monday, Leap Year Day, I had a specific reason to march out the door for a ride. For over a week, we’d been free of fresh snow fall and the days had been so very clear that even when the temp was at freezing, the snow and ice on paved surfaces had rapidly vanished. Roads, walks and cycle ways were 99% free of anything that could melt. Still lots of gravel, but can’t have everything. It also happened that Loke ate the last of kibble for breakfast that morning. I was going to shop Loke’s food and transport it back home with the trike. It would be the first time for the year.

I was actually feeling upbeat and eager to go in spite that it would make the 5th consecutive ride through downtown Uppsala and we’d be rolling through it twice! The usual route is a sort of wonky figure-8 that crosses near the downtown.

Chilling in the snow like a husky

Chilling in the snow like a husky

Taking the trailer meant a bit more time and fiddling to get ready to roll. I clipped Loke to a section of fencing outside the storage where he could wait since he doesn’t like the inside of it even if there is soft stuff for him to lay on. He walked over to the nearest bit of snow he could reach and flopped down. You’d think he was a husky or something… oh, right.

Loke didn’t yodel at all, or even to the rearing lunge as I gave the first push. The first half-mile was mediocre rather than anything approaching wild. Boredom is taking its toll on the fuzzy.

I was feeling bit distracted, we’d gone a half mile before I realized that I’d forgotten to start the Garmin.

The trailer rattled along behind us, the temperature was in the mid-30’s with scarcely any wind. I didn’t even bother to pull out my gloves and felt perfectly dressed. The sun was bright and gave a pleasant warmth. I noticed that the sky wasn’t as flawless a blue as it’s been the past week. There were subtle striations of clouds, as faint as fading echoes, that marred the heavens.

We crossed the 55 overpass and stopped to let Loke do some business. There was a woman walking up the hill as I cleaned up after the fuzzy. I didn’t recognize her at first, thrown off by the fact she pushed a stroller. It was one of the two dogs I thought I knew first. When a bike passed her, coming up the hill and one of the dogs raced after it, I knew for sure it was one of our neighbors when she called out, ‘Kaisa!’ The little jack russel ran heedlessly on and out of sight right behind the bike. Not aggressive, just happy to move with something that went fast.

She wasn’t worried about it though and stopped to chat with me as I greeted the other Kaisa who is her dog, a Chinese crested/chihuahua. The stroller held a sleepy little boy of about 5 years old. Her grandson who was too sick with the flu to do go daycare. After a couple minutes, the jack russel Kaisa came back, looking quite pleased with herself.

After a few minutes, we parted ways.

I was in a good mood for the start of the ride. My physical state felt pretty good. Nothing hurt, even my feet felt fine. Around mile 2, it hit me how good I felt and I said, ‘Hey! This is nice!’, it was like a switch was flipped. My feet cramped and the shoes abruptly felt too tight as if either feet swelled like balloons or shoes shrank.

By mile 3, I had to stop so as to unclip and try to wiggle my toes which seemed to have no space when they’d been luxuriously unsqueezed just 15 minutes earlier. It made me wonder if my feet had actually inflated like a cartoon or was it some weird neurological leftover from the stroke acting up to give only the sensation of it?

Maybe when the weather warms, I should start carrying a tape measure. When the shoes are quicker off and on, measure before the ride and if it happens, measure again to see what is really happening. When there’s the shoe covers, tape and batteries for winter, it’s a huge hassle to try it now.

The roll through downtown was… a roll through downtown. Out toward one of the University areas, off past the Uppsala Cathedral grave yard, to the hospital area, over the pedestrian/cycle footbridge, to the train station and through the passage under the tracks. Ho-hum.

Once on cycle paths that were right next to roads, I noticed something. The ‘Dusty Days’ have begun. During the snowy days and weeks, the city scatters gravel to offer extra traction. Lots and lots of gravel. When there is snow and ice, it’s no problem. Then the snow melts and there’s all these countless tons of pebbles getting ground to a powdery dust between tires (often studded) and asphalt. If there’s no extra snow or rain to dampen it, it billows up in the wake of every rolling car, thicker and thicker as the grinding continues, adding to it.

I’ve had a persistent dry cough of late and the dusty haze roiling up from every street wasn’t helping. I also found myself frequently wiping the Garmin screen clear. If it didn’t fog up my glasses, I’d wear something over my nose and mouth. Maybe I should give up on glasses for a while.

We made a turn right after the tracks to continue onward and Loke stepped up a bit more. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve gone that way. I rolled by the little bronze statues in the track-side park. Once we crossed the old E4 and turned south to cross the museum rail tracks, Loke got a bounce in his step. After all, we’ve not rolled down those paths since sometime last autumn. It also gave us a short break from the dust as the paths through there are over 100 yards from busy roads.

My feet got chilled through there, leaving me no choice but to turn on the footwarmers. Fortunately, they stayed on.

In short order, I had the kibble loaded up and left the clinic. It always surprises me how I scarcely notice the extra weight. Even with the extra rolling resistance of 3 studded tires, it didn’t feel harsh.

From there, it was through one of the more dense commercial areas of Uppsala. A huge building supply place and big box stores not to mention Ikea. The traffic really left a haze of grit and I started riding with my shirt pulled over my nose and mouth.

If only Wonderland lay on the other side...

If only Wonderland lay on the other side…

It seems the dust solution is already underway. While waiting at a light to cross a busy intersection, dump trucks rumbled by in their dense clouds. Their backs loaded up with reclaimed gravel. It seems the annual ‘Great Vacuuming’ has begun! Yay! Cough, cough…

We rolled on along a busy road and finally through a tunnel to start the leg back toward downtown Uppsala.

I actually don’t mind part of it. Not the most exciting scenery, but with almost no change in elevation for a mile or more, it gives me a chance to see how good/bad I really am. There was no wind and Loke was in the mood to keep up, but not pull. With 17 lbs of dog food rumbling along behind us, I spun faster. 6.5 mph. 7.5 mph. I finally topped out at about 8.3 and even better, maintained it. Again, with 30 extra pounds I don’t usually haul around.

That helped improve my mindset. I’m not as weak and slow as I thought given good circumstances. Admittedly, perfect ones rarely happen, but I’ll take what I can get.

Snow hanging on for dear life!

Snow hanging on for dear life!

We came up to the turn toward Kungsängen Gård that leads toward the river. A large truck pulled up to the intersection, but the driver waved us across. The young woman gave the biggest, most delighted smile and enthusiastic wave. Clearly, she liked either the trike or the husky or perhaps both. I smiled and waved back as I completed the turn.

Loke was almost enthusiastic as we cruised toward the river. The last few yards of the deadend were choked with rotted ice that cracked and slipped from under the tires slowing us.

Once on the path along the river side, it was well packed snow. Nice and solid without having the slickness of polished ice. I smiled to see it and Loke was transformed into the furry powerhouse who had been dragging me all over Uppsala as well as Stockholm and its suburbs during Christmas and New Year before getting bored just in time for Valentine’s day. The tether spring squeaked as he put his head down to pull determinedly.

More please!

More please!

It was bumpy, one can’t deny that. But it still felt easy to roll and I would have loved another 20 miles of it. Without the kibble and trailer of course.

From the time we’d left the vet clinic with the dog food to reaching the riverside trail, the thin wisps of clouds had thickened around the edges of sky, especially in the quarter where the sun stood. Though the light didn’t look much dimmed, the temperature took a drop and the gloves came out at last.

Dim river view.

Dim river view.

Tongue flapping in a happy husky grin, Loke jogged beside me as I rolled along. In a few places, the landscape had let more sun reach trail sections left rotting ice that slowed us down. For about 50 yards in one spot, it was a heavily water-logged natural trail surface that bogged us down more than even rotten ice did.

My feet were still unhappy, but it didn’t take away the smile that curved my lips. Part of my sense of well being was simply from getting Loke’s dog food with the trike. The sense of purpose to the ride as well as the prettiness beside the river eased the tedium.

Ducks paring off. A hint of spring!

Ducks paring off. A hint of spring!

One tiny little bit did give me trouble. A few yards from the end of the nature path where it joins a tiny road between the river and the boat storage yard, there’s a little hummock. Just a sharp upthrust of ground, probably less than a meter high from its base to top and small enough to be covered in just a few steps. Well, instead of packed snow, where the trail goes up and over, it was slick ice with a few rotten patches.

We made it up a bit and then the ice crunched and bogged us to a stop. I pedaled, but the tire only spun. Locking the brake, I made to rise, but my feet slipped before I could even put weight on them.

Loke gave me a baffled look as I started trying to rock the trike (and trailer with dog food) back and forth. At first, he threw his efforts into pulling, but it just interfered with the momentum. I told him to wait. He did, head tilted as he tried to puzzle out what I was doing. Back and forth. Then when I thought maybe I had enough ‘oomph’ I told him, ‘Pull!’ and Loke did just that. It was enough gain another foot, the tire caught on a rougher patch of ice that didn’t break away and we crept up and over.

He’s a smart husky.

Something about that little hillock just wrecked my knees. The remainder of the ride back to the storage, they ached. At least my feet felt better! We arrived back with 14.65 miles. That distance tipped us over 90 miles for the month. Not too shabby given how sick I’d been for a while, weather and multiple vet trips with the fuzzy. Only 9 rides for the month, but better than 10 miles on average for each. A definite improvement over the bulk of my rides being in the 5-6 mile range!

Later that evening, my knees felt better, but my legs were letting me know how hard it really had been with that extra weight and the studded tires. Felt it this morning too, but I still hold that stubborn satisfaction of having accomplished the task!

As for the trip to Borås? Jens texted me earlier this morning that it’s been postponed again with no date yet picked. My response was to say I wanted to do the next leg of the Mälar Valley’s Route this coming weekend. The wonderful hubby was agreeable.

Fresh ground, here I come!