Terii’s Cycling Babble


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.

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