Terii’s Cycling Babble

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!


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love reading about your trips and adventures with Loke!
I admire your dedication to riding in the cold weather too!

Comment by Harold Jennings

Thank you! The cold weather dedication is helped by the fact that winter can be so long here in Sweden and the fact that Loke drove us insane through the cold season when I couldn’t ride in the snow. 😉

Comment by Terii

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