Terii’s Cycling Babble

Really?! That’s all?!
July 30, 2016, 4:27 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

With July wrapping up, I just looked into what I need for August compared to last year. August 2015 only had a total mileage of 65.95 miles. Seriously.

Of course, then I thought about it and it does kinda make sense for at least part of it. I started pretty good, riding roughly every other day for the first week. Then the second week, I only rode once. I have absolutely no recollection of what was going on at that time to explain why it just stopped.

The third week makes a little more sense. The 14th was my birthday and the morning of the 15th, I rushed off to the hospital because my face was feeling weird. Three days in the lower pit of hell that is a hospital stay, so clearly no riding then. That to be followed by paranoia about having a stroke or the like while out on a ride. Especially on a ride with Loke. The images of becoming suddenly incapacitated while crossing a busy intersection or at the top of a hill and dragging him to death.

That of course, took a few days to get over. I only rode 7 days of the entire month.

You know, with six months of 2015 having not even breaking out of the double digits, it’s amazing that I came so close to setting my best ever year total for mileage. January had just 18.33 miles. February, 56.14 miles. March, 58.84 miles. May, 85.02 miles. August 65.95 miles. Finally December with 95.55 miles. Just boggles me that the 140-ish mile average of the other 6 months was enough to be so close.

September 2015 was the highest mile month with 148 miles.

It also begs the question of how on EARTH did I not get more total miles in the years when 30 mile rides were a breeze? At times my health or Loke’s stopped me for a week or two, but that shouldn’t have had a 1000 mile impact. A few times there were things with the trike that took weeks to settle. Winters must be given their due. 6 years where all riding stopped once more than an inch of snow came down until the paths and roads were cleared by spring thaw until I replaced the Trice with my Sprint. But still! How did I not managed to do like 240 miles a month in warm weather and break 2000 miles for a year at least once?

Even looking back over my blog offers no adequate answers.

Okay. Enough of my ranting.

I have done a few hamster tracks since the Jumkil ride. 4+ miles here. 9+ miles there. For 2 of them, I’ve even dragged the trailer.

In the midst of the hamster tracks, Loke had another trip to the vet. The previous trip, she’d still been concerned about the hint of potential skin infection in the fuzzy’s paws. So, one of my tasks has been washing his feet with a medicated shampoo. I was to be doing it every other day and I did.

So, one morning, I was washing his paws only to find this angry red lump on the top of his foot. A bit less than half an inch across and swollen up about a quarter of an inch. The fur on his foot had hidden it until wetted and lathered. It hadn’t been there during the previous wash. I was sure of that. No clue what or why. It didn’t seem to bother him. No limping and he offered no additional trouble to getting that paw washed. I still immediately called the vet to schedule the earliest appointment possible. They had a time for the next day.

About 2 hours after I booked it, I had my answer as to what the lump was in a fashion. An abscess. I found this out because it burst. Nothing horribly dramatic like the ruptured tumor last year, but still icky. Had to insist that Loke sit still while I cleaned it as much as I could.

Naturally, by the time we went to the vet the next morning, it looked much better. Loke really didn’t like getting his foot shaved so the vet could get a good look to be certain there was nothing left in the wound. She’d clipped the hair and let go of the paw to put the razor away. When she reached for the paw again, Loke gave her hand such a look. An ‘Oh HELL no!’ glance as he yanked the foot away. Doesn’t come across as funny in text, but it was hilarious in reality. The vet and I both burst into laughter. Loke was not amused.

So, the foot washings have gone from once every 2 days to twice a day. At least Loke doesn’t have to sit in the bathroom for the 15 minutes or so to let the shampoo work. The vet actually suggested lathering his feet up and then walking him before rinsing. So, it’s what we’ve been doing.

One of my rides earlier in the week was to go get fruit. It’s been ages since I’ve had some of that tasty watermelon and cherries from Vaksala Square and the summer isn’t getting any younger. Soon, it will be gone. Just got so caught up in planning the trip up north and then taking the long rides into the countryside that fruit fetching slid by.

Morning of the 28th, Jens kept trying to encourage me to take another long ride where Loke would come for a bit and then I’d go on solo. In response to his persistent suggestion, I responded with “Fruuuuuuiiiitttt,” in zombie like fashion.

About 9 am, trailer hitched and loaded with about 28 liters of water, off Loke and I went.

It warmed quicker than anticipated, but carrying extra drinking water has become an ingrained habit. The toodle through town was fairly uneventful until we came near the square. As I came into sight of the hideous concert hall that sits on the edge of Vaksala square, all I could see was some kind of fencing that had screening up. There were metallic bangs and clangs around the shape of a structure made from pipes and tarp-like material.

I had a bad feeling. I followed the fence line where it ran right at the edge of the cycleway that skirts the square and it stretched almost to the street before I could cut over. I passed an opening where a forklift just passed and could see the structure was a stage. Along one side of the enclosed space was a row of almost 20 port-a-potties.

My guess was right. No fruit stand. They’d pretty much enclosed the whole square for the music thing, leaving no space for the produce market. Then, to further irritated me, a crew was also working to take down the old trees at the edge of the square! I hope they didn’t take them all.

Sulking and fruit-less, I headed back home.

Those miles were all extra for the month. I was aiming for 145 miles. The failed fruit run made 155 miles.

Then I went out with Loke again yesterday. The ride was pretty much for Loke. We were scheduled to have dinner at the new apartment where one of Jens’ sisters and her husband have moved recently. M is a bit fearful of dogs. If the dog is calm and quiet, he can deal. He’ll even laugh or shake his head when Loke wanders over to put his head on M’s leg to beg for food. But the first half hour or so when Loke’s excited to be with the whole family and desperately hoping/expecting food like he used to get, he’s a bit insane. Jumps and rampages around, or repeatedly yanks my arm out of its socket.

It just seems rude to go into the home of someone who’s fearful of such behavior with Loke.

Jens didn’t have time to walk him so it fell to me to get Loke properly exercised before being left alone for several hours. Out the door we went at about 10 am.

Again, it warmed fast and much more than any of the forecasts said it would. It was supposed to be in the mid-60’s but wound up in the low 80’s and no cloud cover to speak of. Another day of very slow going and lots of water and shade breaks. I just did another Uppsala toodle.

I even combined it with a foot wash. Loke was not impressed. Jens dropped us off at the storage and the first thing I did was soak Loke’s feet in extra water I brought and lather him up. Then about 20 minutes into the ride, I had him step into a puddle and swished his feet around. That got me strange looks. I finished by pouring the last of the extra water over his paws to be sure they were rinsed.

The loop got us about 6.33 miles in a bit less than 2 hours. So, now that puts me at over 160 miles for the month. It’s official. It makes it the highest mileage month in over 5 years. Maybe longer, I quit looking after going clear back to 2011 and seeing way too many months that didn’t even have 50 miles. Years before I had stroke.

As for the dinner, it was a good meal as it always is with Jens’ family. A very Armenian meal, I might add. Jens’ sister Tina has embraced the food of her husband’s heritage and has turned into a very good hand at it.

Loke and I are going to take a bit of a trike break today as I have another things to tend to. Just as well. I have a feeling it’s going to be another of those days where the weatherman lied about how pleasant and cool it’s going to be.

Out On My Own
July 29, 2016, 5:51 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I forgot to mention that the vet told me to give Loke a few days of rest from going out with the trike. Just slow walks of moderate length.

As usually happens when I can’t go out on rides with the fuzzy, the days slid by and, for the 2nd time in the month, 3 days went by without a ride. It kinda wrecked my ‘minimum mileage’ for the 7 day stretch running from 15th to the 21st. After the Mälardalsleden jaunt, I still needed about 7 miles for that week. Those would have be made up in the days running from the 22nd to 28th.

So, on the morning of the 22nd, Jens said he’d take care of Loke’s needs for the day so I could go out and not stress about him while riding. Ride where I wanted and for as long as I wanted.

Shade. Not much of this in the countryside.

Shade. Not much of this in the countryside.

The hubby didn’t have to say it twice. Pity it didn’t come earlier in the morning. I didn’t roll out until almost 9:30 and the days have been hot.

Right from the start it felt overly warm. So, even on the frequently run hamster track portions of the ride, I was grateful for those cool moments in the shade. Most of the roads in the countryside are along fields. Makes for sweeping views, but leaves little in the way of shade for much of it.

Still, I was determined to get some miles. To start with, I headed out toward Börje church since it gives me so many options to expand on before and after reaching the church. It used to be a focal point for multiple loops back when 14 miles was the riding equivalent of chump-change and 20+ miles was short.

I rather miss those days. Although, it would mean that my ‘hamster tracks’ would be much, much bigger and extensive. I would have been bored on July 9th with the 20+ mile ride that took me past Börje, off through Vänge before returning to what is now hamster-track grounds in Uppsala. Instead it felt kinda fresh. One positive thing to consider!

So, with that first goal in sight, I headed off to the west and Börje church.

The first 2 miles I do pretty much every single ride. The exceptions are if I’m cutting a ride short to head over to the east side of Uppsala like Vaksala. Since most of my rides prioritize miles while combining errands, I head west on the cycle way for those first few miles 95% of the time.

Without Loke though, I could blast through that initial distance. I sped along the flat sections at over 12 mph and flew downhills in excess of 17 mph. The big hill coming down the bridge across the Fyris river flashed by in seconds at over 22 mph. The few climbs slowed me down of course, reminding me that I really need to get back into dragging the water laden trailer.

Oooh! I forgot to mention. When I finally had the trailer loaded up with 30 liter jugs of water, I decided I wanted to aim for it’s full capacity of 100 lbs (45 kg). The problem is there’s no way to fit another 15 liter jugs. I asked Jens about borrowing the weight plates for his dumbbells. I’d forgotten he’d given them to his brother-in-law. Not wanting to disappoint me, Jens suggested maybe something like sand bags. They’d distribute the weight better than metal discs.

A good idea, but I didn’t think we could find 1 kg sandbags. After a bit of research, I discovered that 1 liter of sand weighs 1.5 kg. So, in theory, I could fill some of my jugs with sand, leaving the others with easily disposable and replaceable water to adjust weight on the fly. The hubby and I came to the conclusion that just buying a bag of sandbox sand would be the easiest way.

So, I now have a 20 kg bag of playground sand in the storage, awaiting my resumption of water dragging. That’s going to start today actually. I’ll simply go with 30 liters of water though since it’s been 2 weeks or more since I last hauled the trailer.

Yellow leaves?! It's only July!

Yellow leaves?! It’s only July!

Any way, I zipped through those first 2 miles in less than 15 minutes and soon was across the 272 onto Gamla Börje Road. That first 100 yards or so up that road are harsh. A steep climb.

As I chewed up it, I had plenty of time to take note of every little familiar detail of that stretch, including the changeable ones. Like the yellow leaves of a tree. Say what?!

I stared at those leaves as I cranked along, even stopped to photo them. It’s only July! Much too early for yellow leaves particularly since we’ve not been that short of rain this summer. My first few summers in Sweden sure. Entire months with nary a cloud in the sky if memory serves. Back before trikes and blogs. Some times, the trees would start to look wilted and yellowing, at least in Stockholm.

There was a time when I’d kinda dread any indication that colder weather was coming. That was before getting the Sprint 26 and making headway in beating the ‘threat of frost bite’ toe issue. Still a bit to go on the toe thing, but at least I’ve put a dent in it.

Cloudless skies and unforgiving sun

Cloudless skies and unforgiving sun

In spite of having been almost 2 weeks without water pulling, I felt pretty strong. It was hard not to mash and hammer at the pedals as I climbed that first hill. I gave into temptation as I came down the long glide on the other side. The wind in my hair and a huge grin on my face as I carried much of the speed along the mostly flat stretch as long as I could. Then the next, more gradual climb, slowed me again.

Grinning or not, there was a whisper of guilt in the back of my head about going out with Loke, even with the vet’s directives. I did my best to firmly quash it as I pedalled on.

There was not a single cloud in the sky on any horizon as I pushed on. Much of the wheat which had been green on the July 9th ride was turning golden. How fast it seems that summer races by.

I sped by the intersection that offers options for 12-14 mile loops and pushed on for Börje church at over 7 mph average. I had to keep reminding myself to spin, spin, SPIN! Mashing or hammering the pedals is bad for the knees.

View from my shady patch

View from my shady patch

About a mile and a half before the church, I took a break. There’s a little farm stead with a couple older looking barns. A big old tree offered a dense patch of shade off the edge of the road. A nice breeze blew across the fields there and it just felt so nice to get out of the sun. So, there I sat for about 15 minutes. I posted a photo to FB of the view I had, then put my phone away and simply enjoyed the moment.

The unfettered sun brought out the vivid gold of the fields, beautifully complimented by the blue sky and deep green of distant trees. No sounds of traffic intruded, only the chirrah of grasshoppers and wind rustling the ripening wheat. There was not a single bird to be heard. It made the world seem strangely empty… then a car blasted by playing some kind of bass thumping song and shattered the illusion.

I didn’t bother to stop at Börje church. Just made the mad flight down the hill near the school, blasted through the relative flat toward the church proper and whipped around the sharp curve where I flipped the Trice on black ice a few years ago. Hot as it was, I thought about taking the first right at the curve to continue on toward the Old Farm and Ulva mill beyond. A loop of about 18 miles.

A random stubborn streak had me zip by the turn.

Road, barn, fields, rock, and, oh look the day's first clouds.

Road, barn, fields, rock, and, oh look the day’s first clouds.

For 10 or 11 miles since leaving the storage, the ride was the same as on the 9th. It was a hot stretch between Börje and the intersection which ended the road I was on. No pleasant distractions like hawks swooping across the road or gorgeous, chocolate colored Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. But being only the 2nd time I’ve ridden that bit in 5 or more years, it still had interest.

Before I knew it, I was racing down the incline to the intersection. My average moving speed was staying a bit above 7 mph over all. I felt hot, but fairly strong. Briefly, I considered turning left and going through Vänge like last time. Spontaneity grabbed hold of me and I turned right, following a sign that said, “Jumkil”.

There’s one of my all-time favorite country churches at Jumkil. It was a longer loop than Vänge, but it had been even longer since I’d ridden there than it had been since this month’s Vänge ride.

Jumkil, here I come!

Jumkil, here I come!

Unforgiving sun or not, I felt almost giddy as the trike’s wheels rolled that first mile down roads they’ve not touched in years. My tempo remained high and speed good as I seemed to fly toward the eastern horizon and its clusters of clouds.

Somewhere around mile 15, I started to flag. My right hip became uncomfortable along with the knee. My left knee wasn’t too thrilled with me either. By mile 18, I’d slowed to a crawl.

Part of me thought the smart thing to do would be call the hubby. The louder, more emphatic part of me yelled that I push on to Jumkil. Must go to Jumkil!

Lovely, but a tad bit cooler would have been nicer.

Lovely, but a tad bit cooler would have been nicer.

The louder voice won if for no other reason than not making it Jumkil would mean I’d have to do the 18 miles all over again on another day to reach the church. I gritted my teeth and crept onward. At least by being solo I could take full advantage of the hills!

Winding road and wild flowers

Winding road and wild flowers

I love random old buildings like this.

I love random old buildings like this.

Oh, another bit of kit added to my cycling stuff. I added it before our trip up to Umeå after riding through the countryside to come at Vänge from the northwest made me think of it. A bug netting head cover. There were encounters with flies on the last ride through the Uppland countryside. Expected, but sort of forgotten because I’ve been staying so close to Uppsala’s heart that I didn’t often cross paths with them.

Much as I love country cycling and even camping, the biting flies can freak me out. I generally do okay until they start getting in my face, aiming for eyes and ears especially. Nothing like going along and suddenly there’s 3 flies bouncing off your eyeballs behind sunglasses. Once that starts happening, I begin flapping around and overreacting on the edge of panic. If some of those are the big, honking horseflies with mouth-parts the size of drinking straws, I stay on edge. Before the face/ear attacks begin, I’m more annoyed than ‘flappy’. Hence, bug netting.

I love 'keyhole' scenic views.

I love ‘keyhole’ scenic views.

Surprisingly, I didn’t need it on the ride around the lake in northern Sweden. But I used it on the ride to Jumkil. I had to put a ball cap on under my helmet so the brim of the cap could keep the netting off my nose and mouth when dealing with wind speed. A bigger net that could go around my DaBrim would be perfect, but it’s not a perfect world.

And it works. Horseflies the size of B52 bombers, bitten several times. I just swatted and shrugged it off because they didn’t get in my face.

There was a trade off though. Looking through the netting for long stretches of time gave me a feeling of eyestrain. It also slightly hindered exchange of stale, exhaled air for fresher when I was moving slower and out of the wind. Nothing drastic enough to give me the feeling of suffocation, but in the heat, definitely noticeable. So, when the fly attacks would abate, I’d flip the net up over my brim for a bit of relief.

Jumkil Church

Jumkil Church

The miles crept by, but I felt a sense of relief as I came closer to the church at Jumkil.

Uppland's Runestone #917 - Jumkil Church

Uppland’s Runestone #917 – Jumkil Church

The church was as I remember. Small and lovely if a bit more humble than some. I love the exposed stonework which has so much more character than a blank face of plaster whether yellow, white or coral in shade. As ever, it was locked

“One day,” I told myself as I went back to the trike after photographing it.

I rolled just a few meters before pausing to ‘collect’ the runestone that stands near the freestanding belfry. Uppland Runestone #917.

You know, given that it appears I’ve never posted photos of Jumkil on here, (runestone or church), I just realized how long it really has been since I rode through there. 2007. I began my cycle babble in 2009. My last time to pass by the church was two years before I even started my humble little blog that I use as a kind of diary to record all things that influence my cycling. Much longer than I thought.

From Jumkil, there are 3 choices of which way to go really. One, is back the way one came. Another is to hit the busy 272. The shoulder is tiny and traffic fast and rather steady. The last choice is a gravel road that runs parallel to the 272, emerging halfway down a hill between the lovely ‘Old Farm’ and bridge across a small stream. The first time I rode to Jumkil, I came from that direction.

Several miles of this. Not _too_ bad as gravel roads go.

Several miles of this. Not _too_ bad as gravel roads go.

While I thought about calling Jens to get me, my hip and knee being uncomfortable, there was only one choice for me to roll down. The gravel road. I decided to push on. At least most gravel roads are quiet so pulling off into a field’s tractor access is calm and isolated enough to wait for rescue if needed. Much better than along a busier paved road.

It felt a bit cooler off the paved roads and riding into the wind. The gravel made slower going, but I kept at it in a lower gear to ease the pressure on hip and knees. Though I remembered parts of the road were flanked by trees on the south side, the beginning was full in the sun. My Garmin displayed temps around 85 F. There were more clouds, but they seemed to avoid the white disc of light like water around an upthrust of rock in a stream. Wind was the saving grace of the ride. Breezy without being brutal to push against. I relaxed in the low gear and toodled, admiring the scenery.

Walking among wheat and flowers.

Walking among wheat and flowers.

And it appears that these are cornflowers!

And it appears that these are cornflowers!

I noticed that in the pale, yellow-gold wheat were those blue-ish/purple flowers. Since I saw them earlier this month, I’ve wondered if they were, in fact, cornflowers. Thanks to the internet, I now knew what cornflowers looked like. All that was required to confirm if my hunch was correct, was a closer look. The field was my chance.

The first place I spotted them was was a section with no tractor admittance. Navigating the ditch was a bit challenging in cycle shoes. Then the plowed rows offered their own slight hazard as I found a nice blossom to photograph singly. Naturally, that’s when one single cloud decided to drift across the sun and mute the colors.

Back on the trike, it occurred to me that I could have gotten a nicer photo across the fields. I pedalled on until I found an access point with a good concentration of cornflowers where I walked out to take the shot. Fortunately for the colors, the sun was back out. Made it hot, but really made the photo pop.

Looking behind me.

Looking behind me.

It was nice when I reached one of those shady sections of the road I recalled from all those years ago. Out of the sun, it was pleasant, though I still didn’t have much speed. After about a quarter mile of cooler pedalling, I stopped for another of those 15 minute pauses. A quick post to FB, put the phone away and just enjoyed the moment. There was a low pitched traffic roar from the 272 in the distance added to the grasshoppers and wind. I also seem to recall a single lone lark making a few warbles. Once some of the heat dissipated from my limbs, I rolled the trike on.

Uppsland Runestone #921

Uppsland Runestone #921

The line of trees on the right retreated, leaving fields on both sides for a few hundred yards, except for the hedges and remnants of an old apple orchard forming the yard of a house. A short distance past it, a tangle of growth was fenced with the electric ribbon often used for horses. Taking me completely by surprise, a runestone waited, peeking out of the first generation growth of trees, thickets and weeds.

The photo sort of masks the runes, but they are fairly visible in the solid. They completely lack the usual red pigment, but aren’t so weathered that the carvings themselves are impossible to see.

I had no idea it was here. There’s not even a photo from the 2007 ride and I certainly would have passed it then. Maybe the weeds were too high or it was screened by a thicket. Could have been toppled over which would have made it near impossible to spot from the road. Or maybe, after an additional 9 years of practice, these things leap out at me better. I don’t think I would have pedalled by something so obvious, but one never knows…

Sparrowhawk! Two country rides, two hawks!

Sparrowhawk! Two country rides, two hawks!

I was really feeling the gravel and miles as I moved on. Gave me plenty of time to admire my surroundings, not to mention watch a little sparrowhawk for a minute or two. It was doing what hawks do in such terrain, soaring above the wheat fields in search of a meal. Given the nearly ripened state of some of the crops, it probably was having no trouble.

I’m not sure why I was being so stubborn about pushing on rather than calling Jens. Some odd determination simply wouldn’t let me quit. There were 9 days more to make the month’s goal, so not like cutting it at 20 miles was going to ruin my chances. Yet, foot by foot, I turned those pedals.

I’m pretty sure I gave a gasp of relief when I made it back to pavement. Gravel roads may lack the traffic of most paved ones, but I was getting to the point that I needed a better rolling surface than something scattered across with pebbles and stones.

Åkerby Church in the distance.

Åkerby Church in the distance.

I let the trike speed down the sharp drop to the bridge and whipped around curve to cross it at almost 20 mph. The wind felt wonderful. Admittedly, I didn’t pedal. I was no more than a limp rag doll while gravity did all the work. I’m not even sure how I made it back up the steep grade the other side. I did and just beyond the little farm stead on the other side of the river, I could finally see Åkerby Church.

I’m pretty sure there’s just a naming issue with the church, but it almost appears that I’ve never mentioned this church or the  pair of runestones sitting in its shadow. That seems incredibly unlikely as this sits on part of what used to be one of my old, frequent loops back when 20 miles was a short jaunt. Yet, not a glimpse of the church in the blog posts. Or its runestones. Gives me a goal to correct such an oversight. How on earth did I manged that?!

Pulpit from 1674 in Åkerby Church

Pulpit from 1674 in Åkerby Church

As I pushed on, looking forward to another rest in the shade under the trees around the church, I noticed a little truck sitting at the side of the road. Creeping closer, I made out that it was something to do with the Church of Sweden. In smaller print were the names of Åkerby, Börje, Bälinge, and Jumkil. I didn’t see anyone moving around outside as I rolled to a stop at the churchyard gate. Then I grinned hopefully at the sight of the doors in tower wall standing open.

In a rush of energy I didn’t know I still had, I grabbed my handlebar and camera bags to hurry through the gate and up to the door. In 10 years of cycling through here, dozens of times, I’d never seen this church open.

A guy appeared to be finishing up a quick clean, wrapping the cord of a vacuum back into place. He looked up when I stepped in, asking in Swedish if I could take photos. “Of course!” he replied cheerfully.

A faint hint of former murals.

A faint hint of former murals.

There wasn’t much that caught my eye. White walls, standard looking vaults, windows of clear glass rather than stained. The pulpit was fairly elaborate. Then on one wall, I spotted a darker patch in the sea of white. It looked like a patch of mural left exposed on purpose. Badly degraded, it was just a melange of muted colors. I thought I could just make out a face, but nothing more. No mention of murals in what little history I could find about the church.

I kept my exploration brief as it looked like he was pretty much done with his tasks. I thanked him for letting me take the time to look and take pictures.

He said it was no problem, glad to do it. As I put my camera back in the bag to leave, I told him it was nice to get to see the inside of a church I’ve ridden by so often over the past decade. Pity I hadn’t been so lucky with the others in the area.

He asked, “So, you like the old churches?” I answered that I did. The history of them fascinated me. So many of them older than the written history of the US by centuries. I mentioned that I really liked getting to see the insides of them, but most of them were mostly locked, like Jumkil.

Loved the brick arch between the porch and Jumkil church proper.

Loved the brick arch between the porch and Jumkil church proper.

“I’m going to Jumkil next. There’s a wedding there in a few days and I have to deliver some flowers and put in fresh candles. You’re welcome to ride with me and I’ll bring you back here.”

I hesitated, of course. Jumping into a truck with an unknown guy. Then I decided to do it any way. I live with enough anxiety and fears as it is to add to it. Perhaps it was just being fed up with fear or pain stopping me from doing so much as it is. I texted Jens to let him know what I was doing as well as the truck’s plate. I parked the trike out of sight behind the churchyard wall fastened to a tree as Niklas locked the church with a key that was over 10 inches in length and weighed more than a pound.

The truck wasn’t the most comfy, made for work rather than luxury. Still it felt good to sit on something other than the trike seat. A bit of AC from the vets was a bonus. The huge key he’d locked Åkerby with joined another, Jumkil’s no less, on the dash. I commented on them and he told me there was a bigger one for an older door hanging on the wall in Jumkil church.

The old key to Jumkil church. Almost 1 ft long

The old key to Jumkil church. Almost 1 ft long

We had a nice chat as we rattled along to Jumkil. The work Niklas did with the churches was just a summer job, though he’d take odd jobs through the winter with churches in Uppland as well. He’d helped with some restoration work in Tensta church a few years ago and the like.

Other than that, he liked to go fishing and camping. Unlike most Swedes, he really didn’t like our recent hot weather. He much preferred it to be under 20 C. I agreed emphatically. Here, I thought my husband was the only exception to the rule that Swedes revel in temps close to those I grew up with on the Mississippi Gulf coast summers.

Then we were there. I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning as I bounced out the truck and said as much to Niklas which made him laugh. The lock clanged and echoed as he turned the big key and pushed it open.

The door between porch and nave stood ajar, framed by a lovely brick arch. Beyond were glimpses of old stained wooden pillars and such that support the organ loft. I’m sure Niklas was grinning at me as I darted ahead to look.

The inside of Jumkil.

The inside of Jumkil.

I stopped as the sight took my breath. The walls of the nave (area with the pews) was just white, but the vaults and columns had graceful ribs that followed the curves and gave character to what had been blank and faceless in Åkerby. The front of the church (chancel and sanctuary?) were covered with murals. It looked as if every inch of wall past the pulpit was painted.

So many murals!

So many murals!

Ceiling above the chancel

Ceiling above the chancel

Naturally, my Canon chose that very moment to act up. Normally bomb proof, it just quit working. The shutter made the noise and then the information screen went dark as the camera became unresponsive. I turned it off, but the ‘On’ button stubbornly stayed lit. Popping the battery out and putting it all back together allowed the camera to come back on as normal. It showed half a charge remaining. Tried another photo, same thing.

I almost wanted to rip my hair out. Finally a chance to see inside one of my ultimate favorite churches and my camera chooses that time to act out. Not amused. Not at all. At least the camera on my Galaxy Edge is pretty good.

I finished up about the same time Niklas finished his tasks. I thanked him several times more for giving me the chance to see the inside of both churches as he took me back to Åkerby. He assured me it was his pleasure and the company was welcome. He also said he wished it were possible to keep the churches open more often for people like me. Sadly, in today’s world, there are just too many people who would walk in and swipe things or vandalize if they tried to leave them open during the day. Nor did they have the manpower to have someone present to ‘guard’ them from opportunistic dishonesty.

The Canon is okay. Apparently, just a battery issue.

The Canon is okay. Apparently, just a battery issue.

I waved bye as Niklas left me at Åkerby. My mood, so bolstered by getting to finally see the inside of Jumkil, gave energy enough that I hopped right on the trike and pushed on. A couple miles later, I was back to creeping, but I still had a smile.

As for the Canon, I stopped the next time I wanted a photo of a wide scenic shot better suited to the DSLR. I made another attempt to use it, but the same thing happened. I removed and restored the battery to check that, yes, it did register as only half drained. Digging around in my bags, I found the extra battery and made the swap. It worked just fine.

The wind carries heavenly scents from this alfalfa field.

The wind carries heavenly scents from this alfalfa field.

Perhaps the battery was actually mostly dead in spite of what the camera showed. If it’s the original one, then it’s from 2005 or 2006 which could mean it’s on the edge of death anyway. I forget which year we went on the whale watching trip in Norway, but we got the Canon for it.

I was relieved we didn’t need to replace it. It’s such a headache to figure out what size and type of camera to get.

The ride started to feel like something of a struggle. Speed was way down as no stamina remained to give me the oomph to spin up the climbs. Every descent was a blessing. Not sure why I persisted. I suppose I passed a point that it felt silly to have come so far and not just push on back to storage under my own power.

Random old root cellar along the way.

Random old root cellar along the way.

Going so slow, one really has time to notice minute details. At one point, I actually stopped to move a stunned, probably fatally injured dragonfly off the road. Broke my heart that it probably wouldn’t survive, but didn’t have it in me to destroy such a beautiful thing. Wing-span almost as wide as my hand and a vivid, emerald green. Probably ricocheted off a passing car. I managed to get it to perch on a tall weed which offered a tiny hope it was just stunned and would be able to fly on in a while. Doubtful, but I still hope it did.

I only mention the dragonfly because of what I found about a mile further on. Another stunned or mortally wounded insect, but this one I gave a WIDE berth and tried to pedal faster. I definitely didn’t want it to recover while I was anywhere near. Something very wasp like, but HUGE. I’ve never seen a flying hypodermic so big. It is no exaggeration when I say it was as long as my thumb at least. Bright yellow and black. The only thing I could remotely think of that big was Japanese giant hornet.

The gliders are out

The gliders are out

As soon as I got home, I did research and discovered what I found is actually a European Giant hornet. Bordering on the edge of extinction. Apparently, they’re not a terribly aggressive species compared with the insanely plentiful yellowjackets that swarm all through Europe, but scare people a lot more. I can relate. I didn’t even want to stick around for a quick photo of such an impressive creature.

A few miles more and I made it to Ulva mill. I rolled to a stop there to answer a call of nature. I also realized at that point, I’d not had a single thing to eat since a couple swallows of a bottled fruit smoothie and small handful of nuts at about 6 am and it was after 3 pm when I reached Ulva. Noodle-kneed, I stumbled into the little cafe and grabbed a soda and ice cream sandwich. Not the healthiest thing, but quick, cooled me down and gave a boost of desperately needed energy.

People strolled by staring at my trike and commenting on it while I sat in the shade, marshaling my reserves for the last 5 or so mile push. From Ulva on, it was back to ‘Hamster Track’ territory.

One day, I will figure out which runestone this is.

One day, I will figure out which runestone this is.

It had been a good day though. Once I reached home it would also be an accomplishment. My longest ride of the year. The last time I had any rides of comparable length was last July on the credit card tour along the west coast of southern Sweden.

Little did I know there was an ‘encounter’ awaiting me that would sour my mood. If I’d been aware of it’s impending arrival, I’d have called Jens for a ride back. How could I know?

I wobbled back onto the trike and began the climb out of the Ulva mill area. The fish ladder is coming along at a pace, but looks like a disaster right now. Finally, I reached a tipping point and was able to glide back down toward the river again where it runs along side the old E4 a ways. Then it was another sloooooooowwww creep up the relatively gentle grade (4-5%) on the E4 that crests right when it’s time to turn left for Gamla Uppsala.

For about .5 of a mile, the gently curving road is mostly on a negative grade or flat. My speed, even exhausted, is pretty good before I hit a short, but kinda steep hill. I found some kind of reserve to start pushing, maybe the ‘end is in sight’ kind of reflex. I’d rolled maybe 100 yards along that fun bit of road, when he found me.

My ‘occasional’ stalker. The man is part chameleon, I swear. I never recognize him until I hear his voice. Sometimes, he’s well dressed, clean shaven, with nicely cut and groomed hair. Other times, he looks like a transient who’s never known the meaning of grooming, decent clothes or shaving. This was one of the scruffier times. Wild hair sticking out in all directions, a beard so long, thick and tangled, I don’t think he’s shaved or even trimmed it in over a year. He was dressed in ratty cut-offs, battered sneakers and shirtless while riding a bike.

He was heading in the opposite direction and suddenly called out. My heart dropped to my stomach and I felt sick especially when he did a quick turn to follow. I pedalled faster as he kept yelling, ‘Hi! Wait! Stop! It’s me! I want to talk!’

I snarled through clenched teeth, ‘No, I have to go! My husband is waiting.” I can’t outrun the man, not on foot or on human powered wheels, but I did my best. Our exchange of ‘Stop, I just want to talk’ and ‘No, I have to go. It’s dinner time and husband is waiting’ went on for several minutes. I made no attempt to sound polite about it. I was furious and didn’t hide it.

He was trailing a little, out of sight of my peripheral, when I heard him say, ‘Wait! You have something sticking out of your bag. The blue tube.’

‘No! Leave it! It’s fine!’ And it was. It was there on purpose. For water, I carry a 3 liter Platypus bladder in a trunk bag behind my head. For easy access, I run the tube out of the bag and clip the bite valve to my flag pole.

‘No, it’s coming out! Let me help!’ I heard the clip pop free of the pole when he snagged it. ‘Oops! It fell. Stop! You’re dragging it!’

I considered just going on, but I don’t know how easy the Platypus bladders are to replace now. I reached into my handlebar bag for the defensive spray before stopping. I went to get up and had to knock his hands away as he tried to ‘help’ me. I put the clip back and sat back down to roll on. The whole time the ‘Can’t you stop just a moment?’ and ‘No, leave me alone. I have to go,’ went on and on.

Finally he said, ‘Okay.’ Then he tried to grab my hand to kiss it and I knocked his grip away again, considered spraying him. He never noticed the spray or if he did, I’m not sure he knew exactly what it was.

I was so relieved when he didn’t follow me further as I came up to the hill. More of that at 3-4 mph as opposed to 10+ mph would have been more harrowing than it already had been. There might have been a brightly painted Armenian running around trying to evade police.

The whole thing made me furious. I’m not afraid of him. Not in the least. I know he could be dangerous, but all he does is make me beyond angry. I hate feeling that I have to take precautions. Always be aware of him, make it plain I don’t want contact with him, to be wary. I don’t even go to the city forest any more unless Jens is with me because, last I heard, he lives in the area, too many isolated places in the forest. I miss walking or riding Loke through there.

I’m more afraid of the yellow jackets building a nest in the outside cellar steps of our apartment building than I am of him. He just fills me with rage that I need to be ready to defend myself however I can.

It soured my mood the entire way back to the storage. I kept looking in the mirror and craning my head around to look behind me to be sure he wasn’t trying to follow me.

As I passed Disa Farm into the area of the church and burial mounds, I briefly thought about taking the mound path to the cycle way that would take me to where I park the trike. I decided I couldn’t deal with unpaved surface as well as the two steep climbs. If I took the paved way back along side Vattholma Road, I’d barely need to pedal for almost 2 miles. Along the road it was.

I just slumped in my seat, trying to shake off my anger and let gravity do all the work. The trike flew at speeds in excess of 10 mph as I watched for pedestrians straying into the cycle half of the path.

I had just rolled to a stop outside the storage and opened it when the phone rang. Jens. Talk about perfect timing. When I told him I’d just arrived at the storage, he said he was heading out right away. Bless the man.

Finished the day with 28.66 miles. It had been such a good day at the start. Pity the last 4 miles put a bad spin on the whole thing…

I still felt bad about leaving Loke home, but the ride would have been impossible with him at his current speeds. As it was, I was gone for over 7 hours, 6 hours and 19 minutes of it moving. The first 15 miles or so went by with an average moving speed of 7.1 mph. The last 13 miles or so took over 4 hours, barely over 3 mph average. Garmin Connect says my average moving speed for the entire ride was 4.5 mph. About 14,500 pedal strokes.

Quite a day. I keep trying to remember the scenery and meeting Niklas who was kind enough to let me see the inside of Jumkil though it meant an extra bit of driving, rather than my run-in with the Armenian stalker….

Consolation Ride
July 26, 2016, 3:56 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

At least that’s what my ride on July 18th was in my husband’s mind. As we drove back from Umeå on July 16th, he was already talking about driving me to where I ended the last portion of the Mälardalsleden (Mälar Valley’s Route) so I could do the next leg. Maybe even the next morning, spoken while he was in the middle of an 8 hour dash to get us back home after a half day of driving around to fishing locations and picking up me, Loke and the trike.

I honestly didn’t need any consoling about cutting the trip short. I had been stressed about Loke. It had been unpleasantly warm. While the scenery was nice, particularly around the little lake’s trail, it wasn’t breathtaking. To complicate things even more, in my mind at least, there were no points of interest to chase down. No manor houses or castles, no ruins or runestones. No burial grounds, churches, or lovely 400+ year old cottages dotting the countryside.

There was a collection of Neolithic or Bronze Age (I forget which) rock carvings in one place, but I would never have been able to get to it on the trike. Who am I kidding? In my current state, I couldn’t even get to it on foot. It was down a silly steep eroding trail for about half a mile. I suppose I could have slid on my rump down, but getting back up would have taken me an hour. An agonized hour.

Most of my route planning for the trip had felt… aimless. The only goal was making sure I stayed off busy roads and trying to chase down reasonably attractive looking landscapes. I suppose it will be a consistent difficulty every time Jens wants to go into the (relative) wilds of the north for fishing.

He even spoke of either teaching me to fly fish (don’t see it happening) or changing nature of our vacations. Spend a few days with me keeping  him company (from a distance) with Loke as he trolls the streams and then a few days where he plays support vehicle and follows me around as I ride. He admitted when trying to fish while I’m cycling, he can’t relax and focus very well. Always worried about getting the call that the trike or Loke broke and he’ll have to drop everything to come get me.

The 17th, he kept asking if I was planning a ride on the Mälardalsleden. One walk we took together with Loke, he even announced that he’d like for us to get up at 5:30 am for an early start. I stared at this stranger who was clearly not my husband. He needed me to show him the area on a map so he could look for a decent spot to practice a new casting technique. So, that’s what I did.

As for the fuzzy, the sores on his feet were well on their way to healed even in just a day. I wasn’t going to risk it though and called for a vet appointment. The soonest they could work me in was Tuesday. Okay. Tuesday it was.

Överenhörna Church

Överenhörna Church – March, 2016

I ended the last leg of the Mälardalsleden at a little church called Överenhörna. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere on the northern end of a 3 mile wide peninsula reaching into Lake Mälar. Getting to it was a 4 mile detour off the Mälardalsleden, one way. I had no particular urge to start at the church and redo those 4 miles in reverse. After a bit of hunting, I found a parking lot for a nature reserve about half a mile past the turn toward Överenhörna.

Getting ready for the ride on the 18th was simple enough. I got dressed and made sure I had plenty of water. Everything else, and then some, was already in the car.

Jens walked around with the fuzzy, heading up the trail cresting a hill as I pulled everything out. What I could see of the nature reserve was fairly ‘meh’. Clear cut growing back with scrubby, sickly looking trees right up the hill.

I was still putting things together when the hubby wandered back. Suddenly, Loke was crunching something, hurrying in an attempt to swallow it before we could intervene. We both rushed at him. I made it first, prying his jaws open and scooping my fingers right down his throat. Shards of bone came out. Ick.

Heading out.

Heading out.

Then back to working on getting ready and Jens had to leap on Loke again. This time, he pulled out a piece of vertebrae. That actually made me relax a bit. It meant Loke wasn’t chowing down on pork or beef rib from someone’s BBQ. More likely it was from one of the little roe deer that are thick around Sweden. He’s not allergic to them, but I’d rather not have him munching on random deer bits found in the countryside either.

In spite of the early awakening, it was after 8 am when I finally clipped in and headed for the road.

I love mornings, especially in the summers. The quality of early light, the quiet of the hours before most people awake and start the rushing of the day. Only wind, birdsong and other sounds of nature to disturb the quiet.

I would have preferred to roll out a bit earlier than I was as this bit of road can be busier than is comfortable. Fortunately, with it being right in the heart of ‘vacation season’, the traffic takes a bit longer to get rolling. Most people are hanging out in summer cabins up north, or in the archipelago off the Baltic coast, or even out of the country. So, the narrow, shoulder-less road with its hills and curves was mostly quiet.

Sundsvik Mill

Sundsvik Mill

Loke was absolutely thrilled with the new ground. He was happier and more energetic and determined than at any moment during the ride from Umeå. He tried his best to run though I wouldn’t let him and pulled like a freight engine. Maybe it was cooler temps. He even gave me a sigh and annoyed angle of ears when I stopped to photograph a pretty mill building made of brick.

Turns out this mill, from the late 1800’s, now houses a hydropower unit and there’s been a mill here since medieval times.

WHAT a morning!

WHAT a morning!

Loke was only too happy to throw his weight into the harness when I released the brake. A fresh attempt to run full out.

I’ll admit to a bit of cheating. Knowing he was going to be running through the morning at least, I had given him a full tablet of his meds. I’d already been considering putting him back on whole pills for a few days. On the days he’d been getting only half, he had times where he’d move slow and painful even on simple walkies. When I got him checked before the trip up north, the vet had said I could do it if he didn’t seem to be responding well to half. I was just resisting giving him the higher dose as much as I could. I don’t want him suffering for it though.

The open road on new ground. Gorgeous view.

The open road on new ground. Gorgeous view and first clouds of the day.

Green fields and trees beyond a crop of ripe canola.

Green fields and trees beyond a crop of ripe canola.

We continued on at about 7 mph which, for us of late, is a brisk pace. The hills wrecked the average of course, though Loke did his best to correct that.

It started to warm up a bit as it was coming up on 10 am, but nothing as bad as it had been in Umeå. It certainly didn’t slow Loke down. Just made him pant a bit harder. He kept refusing every offer of water though.

I was a bit uneasy as the road came to an end, intersecting with another, larger one. Still no shoulder to speak of and more traffic of course. This was the official path of the cycle route though. Traffic and all.

I’d mapped an out-n-back for a church a mile in the opposite direction though. A modest church with a runestone inside the porch. It just seems silly to skip things when I’m so close. It was up a gentle grade so our speed dropped to about 4-5 mph.

Turinge Church

Turinge Church

The traffic wasn’t a steady stream, but frequent enough. The worst of it were the trucks. The semi sort often hauling a double trailer set-up. Most of the time they’d give me space, but if there was on-coming traffic there wasn’t much they could do. A few times, I’d hear them hit their brakes, lurching to avoid rear ending me. Every truck made me think of ‘Pet Cemetary’ and the character Pascow in particular. You know, the young man the doctor meets on his first day of work at the school, horribly mutilated from being hit by a truck. Just the image one wants while riding a recumbent trike as a multi-ton vehicle blasts by less than 3 feet away.

Better appeal from the side/back - Turinge Church

Better appeal from the side/back – Turinge Church

From the front, the church was rather uninspiring. Still, I got up to try the door. Predictably it was locked so no runestone for the day. It was much nicer from other angles toward the rear where one could see the lovely chapel added onto the back.

Photos taken, it was time to head back west to rejoin the Mälardalsleden.

The day became warmer still. That combined with the roaring trucks, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the ride. Loke didn’t seem to care either way, still pulling like a champion. A small side street appeared on the right and right along side it was a rather nice looking dedicated cycle path. Hard packed gravel rather than pavement, but quite nice.

The unexpected path

The unexpected path

I pulled out of the way of traffic to look at the map on my Garmin and on the OpenCycleMap app on my phone. It showed the path continuing north for a bit and then cutting sharply west to join up with another road.

The temptation to get into less traffic area was too strong a pull.

Loke seemed pleased with the change. I think the traffic was even getting to him by that time.

The location of the path was baffling, I admit. It ran parallel to a very small road with hardly a bit of traffic to be seen on it. The whole way north on the path, not a single car passed us. Loke decided he didn’t like it so much when over 150 meters of it was just crawling with wood ants. They nipped his feet a few times as he jogged along.

The path ended right where the little road branched into a simple network of streets lined by suburban style houses. Really? Why on earth live in what is otherwise the middle of nowhere just so you can sit cheek to cheek with neighbors? Baffles me.

I followed the road to where the map showed the sharp curve of the path to the east. What I found was not what I wanted. It was a narrow, weedy track. A corridor through young trees with tall grass and weeds. Lots of ticks too, I’m sure. Nope. Wasn’t doing it. Annoyed, I turned back.



Thank you, Duck Tape!

Thank you, Duck Tape!

I was approaching the cycle path again when I heard an annoying sound from my chain. I knew what it was right away and stopped to correct the problem. The duck tape repair of my chain tube from last year had given way. I put Loke on his leash, pushed the trike over on its side and proceeded to remove the old duck tape to replace with new. A pair of kids came walking by and stared at Loke for a few seconds before moving on.

It only took a few moments and then the trike was righted, in all ways, Loke hitched and on we went.

Instead of taking the path back to the main road, I used the street instead. The grade of its hills weren’t as extreme, no ants, and the added luxury of shade which Loke probably appreciated more than he did the lack of ants.

It wasn’t much farther in the busy road to reach the turn I had mapped. On said maps, it displayed as a dedicated cycle path. Not quite it turned out. It was actually a service road. The weedy sort of car track that has the twin stripes of packed dirt/gravel and lump running down the center with grass and such. A road boom kept out cars.

Normally, I have no problem with such. They’re a bit more work admittedly, but after my weeks and months of dragging water, I don’t shy away from such as much unless exhausted. I hesitated because with the road boom, Jens wouldn’t be able to reach us if Loke started limping. It was about 2 miles long which with the unpaved terrain complicated with grass, hills and me still being slow as a cold turtle could take us about an hour. I decided to stick with paved surfaces or at least car accessible gravel roads.

Whew! No more trucks!

Whew! No more trucks!

Thankfully, it was maybe half a mile to the next turn toward Taxinge Manor. The signposts caused some minor confusion. According to maps, the service road should have been the Mälardalsleden, but there was the sign for it pointing right along the adjusted path I was taking. A recent change perhaps?

All I knew was that there were no more trucks roaring by me. Loke perked up a bit with the change as well.

Shady lane toward Taxinge.

Shady lane toward Taxinge.

I’d just started on the road when Jens called to ask if it would be okay if we called it a day (or at least a morning) soon. He was hungry. I decided it wouldn’t be a bad thing given Loke’s recent difficulties and that it was becoming so warm. I gave him the name of the manor, saying I’d be there in about 40 minutes.

About 15 minutes later, my hubby called with a suggestion. He could go get lunch in Marifred or Sodertälje to give me more time to ride. While the thought had merit, my mind had already settled into ‘homestretch’ mode, it was getting warm and didn’t want to push Loke. Besides, the manor was bound to have a decent parking area which would make for better trike loading than say, a bus stop. I told him to come get us.

Not the manor, but pretty

Not the manor, but pretty

While the traffic wasn’t as bad as on the big road, there still seemed to be a lot of it. Turns out there was quite a bit to do around Taxinge. The shady grounds for walking on such a hot day for one. A rather large swimming beach for another. The manor had a cafe (I think) as well as being open for tours. One of the bigger draws was a flea market in the old stables.

Taxinge Church

Taxinge Church

Taxinge-Näsby Manor

Taxinge-Näsby Manor

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Loke and I both enjoyed the shade and the scenery with fields, lanes lined with old trees. Finally the church. It’s a baby as far as Sweden’s country churches go, 1863 though there was originally a chapel and another church on the site. Still the ‘new one’ is quite pretty though with all the gothic touches.

As we came up the slope to the manor proper, threading through a stream of people, it happened. Loke limped. I looked and he had the abrasion wounds again. Not horrible, but clearly uncomfortable. These are so frustrating because I can’t stop them. Socks would only make them worse. I’m not even sure what’s changed with Loke feet to make them happen.

First bird 'manor' I've ever found in Sweden.

First bird ‘manor’ I’ve ever found in Sweden.

There was a lull in the flow of people to the manor giving me a chance to get a ‘clean’ photo. I could have ridden up, but wanted to get back down to the parking lot for Loke’s sake.

It appeared to be a good thing that I had decided to end the ride there, other than Loke’s foot. The clouds had been right on schedule. Completely clear early in the morning, increasing clouds until about noonish, they started to look heavy with rain. As seen in the manor house photo, they were starting to take quite a threatening appearance.

I considered for a moment to roll back to the parking lot on the garden paths, but the landscaping wasn’t accommodating for bikes, or trikes for that matter. Instead of the gravel paths just continuing down the slopes, there were steps. The grades weren’t really steep enough for it, but there they were. At least the road still had shade. It was more for Loke’s feet and prettier surroundings that I would have liked to take the paths.

I parked in a patch of lush grass to wait for Jens at the beach lot. The wait was less than 10 minutes.

Not a bad morning, I thought. Lovely new scenery, the mill, a pair of churches, and a manor house over a span of 13.37 miles. It was right about noon as we headed back home so I could clean the refreshed wounds on Loke’s feet.

At least we had an appointment with the vet the next day so she could see the problem while it was obvious.

It turned out I wasn’t that lucky. Whatever causes these, they heal very quickly. So, the next morning as I waited for 1 pm, the phone rang. It was the clinic. One of their vets was out sick and they were swamped with appointments and no way to meet them all. Since Loke’s problem wasn’t dangerous at the moment, would it be okay if they moved it to the next day? I consented.

While I had one of the vets on the phone though, I asked if it was okay if I continued to give Loke the full pills. After the explanation that he still limped and moved stiff with just half and that the vet currently on the issue had said it should be okay if I did it, this one gave the green light.

Unfortunately, the delay of an additional day gave the wounds a chance to close up under my careful administration. When we made the appointment, all there was to see were few tiny, hairless patches of skin on his toes. From that meager evidence and my description, the vet was baffled. So was the one she consulted.

She did however check his joints again. Then given how stubborn the condition is being and that whatever is going on with his feet getting the sores could be related, she gave a referral to a doggie orthopedist. The woman works out of Ultuna (the university animal hospital) and is apparently premier in her field in Sweden. She even has specialization in joint inflammation that is related to allergies.

This will make the 2nd such ‘leading specialist in the country’ that Loke will have.

I haven’t gotten the notice for the appointment date yet, but it should be coming. Loke and I both have referrals we’re waiting on.

Whee (sarcasm).



Brief Jaunt North
July 23, 2016, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

After my mad dash to ride the old Börje/Vänge loop on July 9th, there was a 3 day hiatus in rolling. We were still tentatively trying to plan for our vacation up in the northern reaches of Sweden and I wanted to be well rested and strong before it started. I generally dislike 3 full days without riding as I heard somewhere that muscle begins to atrophy after 72 hours of disuse, but it was for a good cause in my eyes.

To keep from lapsing into a 4th full day of not riding, I woke bright and early on the 13th and dressed. As soon as the hubby was up and staggering around, I gave him just enough time to slurp a cup of coffee before dropping Loke and I off at the storage. While Jens packed the odds-n-ends for the trip, I was going to give Loke (and myself) a bit of exercise before we all crammed into the car for the day. The 4.77 mile toodle ended at our parking lot outside the apartment where I proceeded to breakdown the trike and load ‘er up.

Whadda know. The short run helped him settle.

Whadda know. The short run helped him settle.

Amazingly, we were on the road by about 9:40. Jens had wanted to be rolling by 10 am so pretty good. Can’t remember the last time we left on a road trip and were actually driving off before the designated time. Generally we run late.

The drive was uneventful. Every time we take the E4 northward above Gävle, I end up surprised that it morphs between an interstate, a carriage way and a big two lane road. No rhyme or reason to which it will be, only that it can change at a moment’s notice. Makes for tricky navigating for cyclists who are riding on the Sweden/Coastal route. Nothing like pedalling along, trapped by a metal railing with no shoulder as cars, or worse, semi-trucks roar by at 70+ mph. Often the hapless pedal-pusher has less than 2 feet of clearance because the car/truck is also trapped by a metal barricade on the left with no shoulder. No room to give way.

On the drive up

On the drive up

REALLY need cycle paths on those stretches if that’s going to be an official cycle route. *shudder*

The drive up to Umeå was shorter than anticipated. Only took us about 8 hours. That was even with a few little detours to scout some of the rivers south of Umeå that Jens wanted to fish.

Our hotel room was pretty nice. A very dog friendly place. A couple spaniels, a larger dog though I can’t remember the breed, and a little chihuahua. Seemed like Loke was, once again, belle of the ball though. The other dogs seemed pretty much ignored, but everyone wanted to pet Loke. One Italian woman even gave him a hug which the fuzzy wasn’t thrilled with.

River scouting for Jens

River scouting for Jens

We spent part of the evening wandering around the downtown area in search of a place that would let us eat with Loke outside. Wasn’t panning out well. Finally, Jens went to fetch something from the car as I walked on, trying to get Loke to tend to business. And I found it.

It was a lovely little pub which also micro-brewed its own beer and had a wine cellar which would thrill Jens to bits. As for me. They had plank steak! All our other choices were rife with cheese and cream and fatty meats. Oxfile is one of the leanest cuts of beef and baked mashed potatoes would have far less cholesterol than something with cheese or cream. Sadly, they wouldn’t allow Loke in the eating area and I wasn’t going to tether him to a tree with all the cig butts and litter. We risked leaving him in the room.

It was a good dinner and he didn’t seem to cause any trouble.

Morning view across Umeå from hotel room

Morning view across Umeå from hotel room

Oddly, I had no real ‘oomph’ to ride the next morning in spite of several routes plotted. With no medieval churches or castles to pull me out, no idea where Jens wanted to fish and not wanting to interfere with his fun, I just felt kinda ‘meh’.

Oh! Another thing that put me off was how hot it was. When we were planning the trip, I packed my light thermals as well as brought my heavy thermal top. The idea of being up in the nice cool north made me smile. Bleah. It was warmer than back in Uppsala!

Overlooking a river from a botanical garden

Overlooking a river from a botanical garden

So, instead, I let the hubby drag me around on his search for the perfect fishing spot. I love him and it was pretty, but physically I really would have been better off cycling heat or no. All the walking about killed me. At least Jens and the furball seemed to enjoy it.

In spite of how battered I felt from all the walking, it really was good I didn’t ride. It turned into a very strange day. We searched a few rivers and then returned to downtown Umeå to look for lunch. As we wandered, thunderheads reared, dark and threatening. They loomed as if they were going to crash down on the city like a breaking tidal wave. Lightning flashed and thunder growled. We kept a wary eye on the biggest one as we wandered in sunshine, waiting for the storm to hit. A co-worker of Jens has a summer cabin about 20 miles north of Umeå and he reported hail, thunder and torrential rain.

Below a local dam.

Below a local dam.

In spite of criss-crossing every direction around Umeå for a 40 mile radius, we were rarely out of the sun and only had a few splatters of rain and wet roads. The reports of chaos were all around us though. Forest fires started by lightning, hail, rain so torrential it was stopping traffic and causing floods. It was as if we traveled along in our own little bubble of good weather with the storms grumbling just outside it.

An additional complication reared its head as we dashed around. Loke started licking a foot with a fair amount of determination.

I took a look as soon as he did it the second time and saw what appeared to be the start of another spate of infection in the skin between his toes. Just a hint, but still. Right at the start of what was potentially a 2 week holiday.

We found an apothecary that I dashed into to find what I could to treat it. I also asked one of the druggists if she could recommend something more to use topically in hopes of fighting it back.

The woman gave me a sour look. “How about a vet?” I mentioned that it could get very bad, very quick and we’d need something to slow it until we could get back to Uppsala. “We have vets here,” she said in a snarky tone.

I widened my eyes and smiled in as pleasant of an expression I could manage. “Point me to a vet clinic that is completely familiar with my husky’s complex medical issues and allergies that works with specialists who know my dog. Oh and best if they’re aware of the fact that he’s resistant to almost every available antibiotic. Is there one in Umeå?”

She dropped her judgmental manner and suggested an ointment. I gave her another smile and thanks. Kill them with kindness even if there’s sarcasm couched in a cheery tone.

Loke wasn’t happy to get his feet scrubbed and smeared with ointment. We decided to keep a close eye on it. He wasn’t limping and hadn’t licked a lot… yet.

That evening was another trip to the little pub. Loke, again, seemed to have caused no trouble while we were out.

Loke didn’t lick the feet any more during the night and it actually looked perfectly healthy. So, the next morning (July 15th), Jens readied to do some fishing at one of the river we’d scouted the day before. I scrapped the routes in the area I’d plotted for a new one. No printed maps for it, just memorized the area with the streets and cycleways I wanted to ride. Only about 15 miles, but several miles of it involved looping around a lake before heading to a little town north of Umeå in case Jens decided he wanted us to head even further north that evening.

We found an outdoor area for me to ready the trike. I didn’t like the idea of riding out of the creepy parking garage we used while in town. None of the garages I’ve found in Uppsala creep me out, but this one did. I didn’t even like going through it alone to get something from the car.

In no time, the trike was ready and Loke hitched. A quick smooch on the hubby’s cheek and we rolled out.

Very little space for cars, lots for bikes!

Very little space for cars, lots for bikes!

Umeå is a combination of good and bad for cycling. Some of the streets in the downtown area don’t have special accommodation for bikes, but then, they don’t have much traffic either. Other streets I found were almost exclusive for bikes. One way for vehicular traffic in a narrow little street bed with a huge cycleway beside it wider than what the cars had and a sidewalk almost as wide for pedestrians.

Of course, Umeå is a university town which might explain it. Students can afford bikes much easier than cars. Not to mention, said students (if old enough) can have a beer or three and jump on their bike to get home. The same with a car could get them in hot water.

Shade and not a car to be seen. Heard, yes. Seen, no.

Shade and not a car to be seen. Heard, yes. Seen, no.

There were also plenty of dedicated cycleways that just took off through green areas with nary a road for 100’s of meters.

The shady spots were very welcome. It continued to be icky warm in Umeå. A quick check with one of my weather apps showed it was quite a bit cooler in Uppsala. Loke and I took it very slow for both our sakes. I also stopped often to offer him water and he drank it. And drank and drank and drank. Suddenly, the 2 liters I’d brought with us didn’t look like was nearly enough. Good thing it became obvious before I made it to the lake and the long, shop-less stretch between Umeå and Sävar.

Just minutes after I concluded that more water was needed, I stumbled upon an ICA supermarket right along one of the climbs along a road-side cycleway. I rolled into a shady spot, locked and ran in to hunt a liter bottle of ‘still’ water. I found it hidden in a cooler. They had none on the unrefrigerated shelves. They also had only .75 liter bottles, so I grabbed 2.

A woman stopped to gush over Loke as I stowed the water. He ignored her. Then we rolled on.

I was feeling all the walking from the day before. It made the hills harder than I liked, not to mention the heat.

Not far from the shop, I made it to the path that completely circled the lake. The plan was to ride most of it, except perhaps about a quarter mile. I was going to be heading south down the western bank, the around the narrow southern shore and back up the east side before striking out north for the little town of Sävar.

Narrow, but pretty.

Narrow, but pretty.

The first part of the path was a common paved cycleway, but nicely shaded as I searched for the turn onto the lake path proper. Finally I found it and turned left onto a smooth packed earth surface left cool from the rains before and not too many rocks. Perfect for Loke’s feet. A short distance on and there was a pretty wooden bridge that crossed a bit of open water onto a peninsula.

Loke! Say "Cookie!"

Loke! Say “Cookie!”

Nice, fine packed gravel and shade! Awesome!

Nice, fine packed gravel and shade! Awesome!

It was just wide enough for Loke and me. A sign actually instructed people with bikes to walk them across, but I wasn’t going to wrestle a trike and bouncy (if hot) husky with so little clearance. The planks were quite noisy as we rolled across at a walking pace. The fuzzy didn’t care for it, but soon enough we were in the shade on the other side.

It turned out that it wasn’t exclusively a cycle/pedestrian path. I had a bit of warning before the first cars came clattering along though. There were quite a few little lake side, summer cottages tucked here and there to either side. So, the first car wasn’t a surprise at all.

Ewwww. Bigger loose rocks!

Ewwww. Bigger loose rocks!

The appearance of a road boom was welcome. While not exactly high traffic, there were enough cars to be annoying.

It was something of a mixed blessing though. On the other side of the boom, the way became rougher. Instead of fine grained gravel, well packed, there were larger loose rocks. Just the sort to make a tenderfooted husky go ‘Owie!’. I tried putting his socks on him, first the taped ones and then the soft, but all they did was make him limp. I resigned myself to going very slow and keeping Loke on the smoothest parts I could find.

It was somewhere along that rocky southern path that we had the cutest encounter. As I rolled along at a leisurely pace, a woman with a little girl were coming north. The child, about 4 years old, was wobbling along with grim determination on a bike. Clearly, she was just learning to ride, perhaps off training wheels for the first time. Actually, given the rocks, she was doing pretty good as her mother walked behind her hands out to grab her if she started to fall.

The girl finally looked up from her determined glare at the road and saw us. Surprise made her give a big wobble, but she recovered quickly. After a few seconds of staring in open-mouthed amazement, she wailed to her mother, “I can’t do it!”

View during the lakeside break

View during the lakeside break

“You’re doing great!” her mother assured her.

“No! I can’t! I need a bike like that one!” she insisted. “Three wheels!” Then her defiance turned to a pitiful pout, “and a big white doggie!”

The mother just looked helplessly from my trike to her daughter as I gave a nod in passing. I did my best to wait until they were out of earshot before I broke into gales of laughter. The girl had still been insisting on a three wheeled bike and a big white wolf-doggie even after we passed.

Looked like big ducks, but peeped like ducklings.

Looked like big ducks, but peeped like ducklings.

After a bit, the character of the woods changed a little. It became more groomed in a way. The cottages were replaced with playgrounds and sanded swimming beaches. I passed a picnic table right at the water side on the southern endof the lake with a patch of shade and pulled in for a short break. I let Loke go down and walk in the shallows as I sipped some of the still cold water. Finally bored, he came back up to sit by me and some ducks paddled by. Though they were almost the size of adults, they still had the little duckling cheeps. Cute. They didn’t seem to have a mother around, though at that size they’re about as safe as any duck would be.

Birch trees and flowers

Birch trees and flowers

As we started up the north side of the lake, the surroundings changed again, becoming a bit wilder in a way, in spite of being less than 3 miles from downtown Umeå.

The tree canopy became thinner, meaning the shade wasn’t as dense. The road rougher still with larger loose rocks. Most of the low undergrowth among the tree branches was comprised of blueberries with ripe fruit peeking out from under the leaves of their ankle high ‘bushes’.

A few blueberries!

A few blueberries!

I was tempted to stop and pick some berries, but wasn’t certain of the lake’s water quality for rinsing. I wasn’t about to use my limited water supply to wash them either. Once we left the lake, Loke would be stuck with the water I had. You have to be careful eating blueberries here, making sure they’re well washed. The bushes are so low that foxes can pee on the berries and they carry a parasite that does unpleasant things to the brain.

There were a few summer cottages as well, though they tended to be on the side of the road opposite the lake which allowed the road to follow the shore line close enough to offer nice views as I rolled along. One such cottage was just gorgeous! Almost fairy tale looking. I would have taken a picture, but the owner was puttering around in the yard. Ah well.

Then we were passing by a water park complete with slide that spread out along the northern bank of the lake. In spite of the rocks, the temptation was strong just to keep doing loops around the lake. It was shady and pretty. Soooo tempting.

No rocks for the moment.

No rocks for the moment.

But no, I pushed for the north and headed away on a paved path. I think Loke was relieved. He could go a little faster and no more rocks for him to be wary of. I did the best I could of giving him the smooth part of the path/road, but sometimes it simply doesn’t exist.

Less than half a mile on, we joined a cycle path that ran along the E4 on a north-eastern course. Actually part of the Sverigeleden I think.

Not the most pleasant stretch to ride really. It rode close to the moose fencing by the E4 which was a large carriageway on that strip so nothing to offer shade on the left even if the sun had been from that direction. On the right, if it wasn’t clear-cut or marshland, it was rocky ground that stunted the trees. That left us kinda roasting along at a very slow pace. “It’s miles,” I kept reminding myself as we crept along.

There was quite a bit of traffic on that little cycle path. A few motor scooters, bikes (of course) and about 5 roller skiers.

Stealthy spinning wheel

Stealthy spinning wheel

In one or two places, the path stopped, joining a dirt country road for a brief distance. Those added a few nice surprises in the way of things to see.  Like the top of a spinning wheel in the window of an old door in another wise modernized barn.

Nice country bridge!

Nice country bridge!



There was also a nice little bridge, car sized, and finally some lupines. These flowers have been so scarce of late!

Turns out there’s an explanation of why and it has nothing to do with climate change or ‘just a bad year’ for them.

Country Roads! Gotta love them! Never mind the E4 only 200 yards over.

Country Roads! Gotta love them! Never mind the E4 only 200 yards over.

It was my charming mother-in-law who let me onto the fact that Sweden is on the warpath with the flowers. While lovely, they’re an invasive species and in the past couple years, a program has been initiated to at least reduce lupine numbers and give native flowering plants a chance.

Swedish scenery

Swedish scenery

I can respect that. I’ll miss the occasional stunning images they’ve provided in the past, but invasive is invasive. Even at over 3 feet long and capable of snapping off fingers, or even a hand, I admired my father’s giant Chinese snakehead fish (aka Frankenfish invading the Potomac River) that started as a 3 inch long birthday gift from me and my mom when I was about 10 years old. Doesn’t mean I would have wanted it in a creek wiping out perch, bluegill, and other native fish. Never mind swimming with them!

My dad was a responsible fish owner though. He kept both of his until they died. One from an accident while chasin  down a bait minnow in its tank for dinner, the other from old age after over 20 years.

I digress.

Lovely little stream just southwest of Sävar.

Lovely little stream just southwest of Sävar.

As we crept along, sweltering, more clouds moved in and the sky turned into the shade of molten silver with a bright hot spot where sun sizzled down right through them. A few times, I considered wishing for rain. Given the weather chaos of the previous day, it seemed more prudent to simply deal with what we’d been given.

We left the short bit of country road behind, moving back onto a cycle path. About a mile into it, Loke started limping. Bad timing really as it wasn’t an area Jens could come get us. No choice but to push on, stopping in the rare patches of weak shade to cool down and drink water for us both. It wasn’t a bad limp and it wasn’t because of infection wounds. Oddly, his toes seemed to be rubbing against each other and causing abrasion sores. I’ve never seen that happen before. If he’d been wearing socks, it would have made sense with the toes perhaps squeezed together. Just randomly while going barefooted? Strange and frustrating.

Jens called along that broiling stretch and I told him about Loke’s toes. He was quiet a moment and said that he was a little frustrated with his attempts at fishing. He hadn’t prepared as well as he thought and needed. He added it would have been manageable if he wasn’t so worried about our fuzzy. Between that and Loke’s issues, my husband suggested that instead of staying another night or moving on further north, we just go home.

After discussing it a bit more, we decided that’s what we’d do. It would get us back home with the vets who know Loke if no other reason. He also promised that he’d drive me out for a couple more legs of the Mälar Valley’s Route as well. Saying he was about an hour away from Sävar, he’d see me soon.

Onward we crept!

Loved these mossy rocks.

Loved these mossy rocks.

The path deviated away from the wildlife fencing a tiny bit. It angled up hills and around clumps of trees crowning some mossy crowns of rocks. Rather pretty I thought even if it was more work to get up the slope.

All the water I was sipping finally announced itself with a emphatic call from Mother Nature. That made me a bit fretful as I wasn’t sure where on earth I was going to find a restroom in the tiny village of Sävar. Just small enough to not have a public facilities and big enough that it felt too exposed to go behind a bush.

The dedicated cycle way ended at an intersection that crossed the E4 carriageway and led into the village proper. Wouldn’t you know it? Right at the end of the path, across the road, was a traveler’s rest stop complete with a bathroom.

A tour bus had stopped there, so it was a bit crowded as I rolled to the outhouse style toilet building. I heard a beep behind me and craned my neck to see Jens rolling into the parking, dodging people. Perfectly time arrival by us both, it was only just coming up on 2 pm and Loke and I had done 15.44 miles.

We were surrounded by Danes and at least 2 Germans as I got up and started to strip down the trike, waiting for a bathroom to become available. They were curious about Loke and a few about the trike. I answered questions as best I could, understanding a bit of the Danish and the Germans knew English.

Then, the trike was put away, I was dressed in human clothes instead of mutant cyclist gear, Loke was full of fresh water and comfy in the back, and we were on our way. We were home before 10 pm. Short as it was, it wasn’t a horrible trip. It felt good to be back in our own bed, I’ll admit.

Up and Down
July 21, 2016, 7:18 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Things have been a bit rough.

One main issue has been my ability to walk.

When I first had the stroke, it about killed me to walk just 100 yards. On the trike, I’d gone from being able to do 30 miles without much trouble to barely 3 miles. But the cycling seemed to help and I did get stronger and stronger over the months. Could cycle better, though not quite as well as pre-stroke and even my walking improved. For a while, I even felt pretty normal.

Well, now walking has become difficult again. Cycling, thankfully, has remained a sort of refuge, but I can’t just live on my trike. It just feels like there’s no strength in my body when walking for more than 50 meters/yards or so. It just bleeds away and I start staggering and feeling as if my legs are about to collapse. Pain all through my legs, shoulders and arms. Jens tells me that I sound like I’m gasping for air when it’s bad. I didn’t really notice because the world narrows down to one foot in front of the other and pushing through the pain. I’ve not gone to the doctor for it because they were about as helpful as a kick to the head when I saw them about it during the first few months after the stroke.

So, another issue came up, one I went to the health ward for. The Dr. was very nice and made a referral to a specialist for what I came for as it completely baffled her. Then she decided to listen to my heart and lungs.

Well, she heard a murmur. I’ve never had any doctor ever mention a murmur. Ever. She asked how I’ve been feeling when I try to do things. Breathless? Weak? Suddenly my current issues sounded less like post stroke issues and more like a possible heart thing, particularly with Jens’ comment about me sounding like I’m struggling to breathe. Cue anxiety.

Naturally, she wants blood tests. Getting blood out of my arms or hands is kinda like trying to get out of a stone. She also referred me to get an ultrasound done soon.

I asked if I can keep riding. She asked how I felt while I’m doing it. When I answered that it was like nothing was wrong, she encouraged me to keep it up. A blessing.

Came back home, a bit down. Then she called later and asked if I could come back for an EKG. I did. That at least was normal. It helped.

I was still in a deep funk. Jens has been supportive and kind about it.

So, I woke Saturday, July 9th, planning to ride kind early. It was hard to shake the ‘down’ mood from the heart worries and I ended up bogged down a bit. I had only managed to dress before Jens came staggering out of the bedroom in ‘Cofffeeeee’ zombie mode. He offered to drive me. He even offered that we load the trike and he take me somewhere a little further out for ground I’ve at least not been on in a while. I was kinda ‘meh’ about it. Felt like too much trouble, especially with there still being doubts about Loke.

The medication has helped him a bit. He’s got a bit more zip, tries to pull more, doesn’t mind jumping into the car again. I don’t want to push him too fast or too far until I’m sure.

My wonderful hubby than encouraged me to just pick a direction and ride if I didn’t want to worry about loading the trike for drop off. He’d come get Loke when needed and then I could ride on solo. When I tired, he’d come get me and trike as well. No complaints.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do it. Admittedly, cycling has almost felt more like a chore of late. Going very slow and very short because of Loke. Over the same ground again and again. Then of course, the fact I do use the trike for errands a lot such as getting fruit from the produce market. The main thing turning it into a chore is being focused on the mileage I need to ‘beat’ months.

I told Jens I’d think about and let him know when I decided. It would be on the fly though, deciding at key turns whether I’d take a left to do the River Loop or a right to head out into the country side. I did make a token effort at the start to plan for more than a River Loop and left without the trailer.

After 4 days of the anti-inflammation medication, Loke fairly perky. He didn’t exactly try to run, but he wanted to go faster than than 7 mph. Quite an improvement over the 4-5 mph range.

I realized that I’d forgotten water, my RoadID bracelet, and my phone. So, I looped back by the apartment to correct that. Then we set off on the start of the River Loop route.

I don’t know what it is, but when we roll out from the apartment, Loke goes nuts. He pulls like mad and just wants to go, go, GO! Then on the far end of our street, he saw a miniature schnauzer. Maybe he thought it was a hare or something because he had every inch of tether pulled out of the spring.

As summer. Loke serving as a seed transport.

As summer. Loke serving as a seed transport.

The furball slowed down after the first mile, he settled back into a pace between 5-6 mph.

Having set out on the River Loop to start, limited my ‘pick a direction’ a little. I decided to head for Börje church. That would give me about 6 different routes to chose from with distances between 12 miles to over 20 miles. All those that used to be my ‘short’ loops.

Loke’s pacing was… mixed. Sometimes he wanted to zip along at over 7 mph though I did my best to restrict him to 6 mph. Then he’d suddenly drop to 3 mph. Mostly it seemed to be while climbing hills.

Simple beauty of a road-side morning glory.

Simple beauty of a road-side morning glory.

At about mile 4, I called Jens to see what he thought. Loke wasn’t limping, just slow, so we decided I should walk him along a little more since we both knew he’d have energy enough to bounce around the apartment and harass Jens.

It was warming up at a fair pace as we rolled on. It wasn’t exactly hot and Loke wasn’t affected much. I decided that Jens would be getting Loke at Börje church regardless. It would give him about 7 miles thanks to my doubling back to the apartment at the start to get the water and such.

I stopped a few times to offer the fuzzy water, but he refused it every time.

The temperature had been about 68 F at the start of the ride. Thin, cobweb like clouds ‘softened’ the sun a little which lessened its impact as the temperature rose into the 78 F range.

After a few miles, I stopped to put socks on Loke. Got them on and rolled out. He limped quite badly on his front legs. I swapped to another pair on his front, but still he limped. I’m not sure why. I checked the paws and they looked fine. Perhaps it was some display of arthritis in his ‘wrists’. He was sore there once when I took him to the vet for limping though most of the pain then had been from a shoulder injury when he’d fallen.

Love country roads.

Love country roads.

The slow pace, concern about Loke, and the fact that the first few miles on Old Börje Road is hamster-track status left me feeling rather indifferent, even bored. I made an effort to focus on flowers and birdsong. The way the sun played with the colors of grass, grain, and trees. As we came up to the cross-roads, I was feeling strong, if bored. I won against the urge to turn left or right to shorten my ride and skip Börje church and pushed on straight.

It confused Loke for a moment, but then he perked up a bit. So did I. It’s been quite a few months since I’ve gone down the road toward what is the first church I ever rode to with my trike. Well, the first one out in the countryside. Gamla Uppsala church at the burial mounds is the true ‘I rode to this church’ church, but since it’s practically next door, it hardly seems to count. I’d been walking past it for months with Loke after all.

Just a few hundred yards past the cross-roads, there’s a little farmstead that has a rather attractive barn at the roadside. It even looks more than a century old. As we were coming past it, up a bit of an incline, something grabbed Loke’s attention. Following his gaze, I spotted a hare. It looked a little small, so probably one of this year’s babies. The critter panicked and instead of running back into the wheat, it bolted onto the road in front of us.

Tree stump artwork

Tree stump artwork

Loke was in instant frenzy. All his weight, and then some, was thrust into the harness, paws scrabbling on the pavement with determined force to get that hare. Rather than continuing into the field on the other side of the road, it ran along the edge of the ditch, taunting the husky. Finally, after about 100 yards, it bolted into a hedgerow. Loke still pulled furiously, scanning the roadside for another 100 yards or so.

I stubbornly continued on at about 6 mph and Loke finally settled again once we were approaching the roll down to the little elementary school just before the church.

There was a little point of interest at the school. A tree had apparently been cut down at the road’s edge some time ago. Rather than just leave a boring stump or grind it out. They made a bit of artwork out of it.

And then we were there. I parked us under one of the apple trees at the edge of the parking lot and called the hubby. Then I just sat there, doing Swedish lessons on my phone.

Old building at the vicarage at Börje church

Old building at the vicarage at Börje church

Jens arrived and in the car Loke went. As the car pulled away, all I could see were huge, wide husky eyes looking at me through the window. The dismay in them left me feeling more than a little guilty. But Loke’s been so slow, I don’t want to break him and it was getting warmer.

I sipped some water, wrestled the trike around and headed out. I came down the short hill where the road whips around the church (where I flipped my Trice on ice once). At the last moment, I went straight instead of taking the right turn that would take me to the Old Farm and Altuna church. I was going to make a stab at heading toward Vänge and maybe even back to the garage. Easily over 20 miles which I’ve not done in quite a while.

I've not been here in YEARS!

I’ve not been here in YEARS!

As I pushed on westward, following a road I’ve not traveled in years, the dark mood that had clung to me since the doctor uttered ‘heart murmur’ fell away in bits and pieces. I mean, the sun was shining and while it was getting warm, it didn’t seem to be affecting me much. Larks and other birds were singing their hearts out. There were flowers bobbing their pedals in the breeze.

I'm telling ya, I love these country roads!

I’m telling ya, I love these country roads!

A big contributor to my improved mood I think was the sudden realization of how much stronger I am after having spent so many rides dragging that water. I mentioned breeze, but it was actually a pretty stiff wind, but I hardly seemed to feel it. Hills, while they slowed me down, I was still faster on them than I ever remember being even before the stroke.

There was part of the road that I remembered being incredibly boring. Stubby little trees, perfectly straight, no real scenery. I found it and it was on an incline. Fortunately not a very steep climb and I just rolled my way up at a (for me) brisk pace. There was even a delightful distraction. A man was out walking his dog in that ‘out in the middle of nowhere’ stretch. And what a dog! A gorgeous Rhodesian Ridgeback. A handsome boy. He was very fit and lean without losing any muscularity. He wasn’t your run-of-the-mill big, male Rhodie though. He would probably be banned from dog shows because of his color. Instead of a random shade of rusty red, he was more the color of Swedish milk chocolate with just the barest hint of red. He also completely lacked the bit of white on chest or toes that many Rhodies have. Jaw droppingly beautiful.

That makes two ‘non-standard’ Rhodies that I’ve seen. Just a few days ago, I passed one who didn’t have the distinctive ridge. A lovely girl who was surprisingly friendly to random strangers.

The hawk after it soared back to the heavens

The hawk after it soared back to the heavens

I finally came out of the boring stretch at the top of the hill. As I took a moment to take a photo and put my camera away, a hawk abruptly swooped out of the trees on the right of the road, across the pavement and then banked into a climb over the field on the left. Sadly, I couldn’t fumble my camera out for a good shot of it. It was no more than 10 feet over the asphalt and less than 30 feet away as it crossed.

One indifferent and one curious. Better than terrified of my weird cycle.

One indifferent and one curious. Better than terrified of my weird cycle.

I felt a bit excited as I came dashing down the hill to make the left turn toward Vänge. It’s been years since I’ve rolled over this ground, solo or otherwise. Definitely off the hamster tracks though not fresh ground exactly.

It was a couple miles of what felt like a lot of uphill, and therefore, slow while completely without shade. I’m faster on hills, but that doesn’t mean I’m fast. I really did feel a bit like a turkey stretched out on a roasting pan under the broiler element of an oven.

Oddly, it didn’t feel nearly as harsh as in the past when I’d feel faint and perhaps even dangerously overheated. Those days when I’d curse the fact that every pair of tights I could find was black. Always black. I suppose it could be as simple as no longer being restricted to only black tights, but I don’t think so.

Blessed shade however brief.

Blessed shade however brief.

As I neared the turn toward a lovely nature reserve called Fiby, I was quite glad I’d sent Loke home. The temperature continued to climb into an uncomfortable range. Every patch of shade, however brief, was a relief. That heat evaporated my guilt at sending Loke home right along with every bit of water I gulped.

It wasn’t so bad as to make things utterly miserable, but cooler temps would have been far preferable. The scenery and enjoying the feeling of strength and stamina was more than enough to counter that level of discomfort. I had plenty of water, no husky to worry about heat-stroking, and could still go as slow as I wished.

Photo does no justice to flowers in the wheat.

Photo does no justice to flowers in the wheat.

Between Fiby nature reserve and the little village of Vänge, there’s huge stretches of fields, generally planted with wheat all the times I’ve been through there. This was no exception. Once, I rode through there and the wheat was yellow, the trees were green, and there were purplish blue flowers mingled with the golden stalks of grain. The flowers were there again.

I’m not 100% certain, but I think the blossoms are cornflowers. If so, it makes me even happier to see them as they’ve been on the brink of extinction thanks to herbicides. Yet, here I find them and in several places over the years.

It was downright broiling as I came into Vänge. Enough that I toyed with the idea of calling it quits. The sun felt so harsh and my Garmin was displaying temps of about 88 F. I rolled to a stop at what I think is the only shop in Vänge, dashing in to grab a cold drink.

Pretty flowers by cycle way. Maybe an orchid?

Pretty flowers by cycle way. Maybe an orchid?

I didn’t stay stopped to drink it. I actually rolled along in the heat, sipping as I went.

Just on the edges of the village, I came upon a couple walking their dog. One of the biggest Newfoundland’s I’ve ever seen. I felt so bad for him in the heat, him being covered in long, dense, black fur. He was 7 years old, which is quite aged for a Newfie. He was only too glad to flop down while we talked. They were disappointed to not have the chance to meet Loke, but made ‘oh, he’s pretty’ noises over the photo I showed them. After about 20 minutes, I said my farewells so they could get their furry old man out of the heat.

Not even the hottest. Hit almost 94 F ten minutes later.

Not even the hottest. Hit almost 94 F ten minutes later.

That stretch of the cycle way beside the 72 between Vänge and Läby church is pretty fun thanks to the hills. The climbs, of course, aren’t that delightful, particularly at over 90 F. Even in that heat they weren’t as bad as they used to be thanks to the water dragging, but the long descents are a blast especially since I could let the trike go at max speed. The wind was delicious against heated skin.

Gave me a start.

Gave me a start.

Something offered me a bit of a startle on that first mile south of Vänge. Rolling along, suddenly a shape of an animal seemed to leap out of the grass. I screeched to a halt in shock and then laughed. An animal yes, but a crude cement cast of a dog.

My laughter muted as I took a photo of it and then looked at the surroundings. Was it a prank or some bit of whimsy that someone had placed there? Or something sadder? Perhaps a memorial of a beloved pet from someone walking with their dog, perhaps off leash or slipped loose, that had strayed into traffic and been hit?

Through the ride since the beginning, the density of clouds had been gradually increasing. First, thin little cobwebs that barely took the edge off the sun. Then a clump of cloud here or there in shades of brilliant white and pale gray. Then more clumps and bigger with the gray in them getting darker and darker until the undersides were a blue-gray color like fine slate, heavy with threat of rain.

Please, please, PLEASE, rain!

Please, please, PLEASE, rain!

Oh, how I wanted that rain. I wished fervently for a soft, cooling cascade to come drifting in veils from those clouds.

They mocked me as I pushed on from Läby church toward the shops around Stenhägen. Off in the distance west and north of Uppsala, I could see streamers of rain. Where I rolled though, not so much as a drop and not even fortunate enough to have cloud shadow around me. Just sun.

I resisted the urge to stop at the big grocery as I rolled through the shopping area. Also resisted the call of of a frozen lemonade from Burger King.

My energy and strength was flagging as I pushed by the new apartment complex and darted across the street to join the cycle roads through a patch of woods there. It’s one of Loke’s favorite stretches through there. A green corridor through the trees. He’d love it even more if it wasn’t paved, but smooth packed dirt and pine needles, but still. It’s not my favorite, though it is nice. It almost begs to be taken a speed with the curves and relative flatness of the terrain. The opportunity is ruined by the upthrusts of roots under the asphalt that make unpleasant obstacles to speed.

Rain!! The cloud spirits answered!

Rain!! The cloud spirits answered!

I was just rolling into the welcome shade of the trees when I felt it. A drop of rain. Then another. In moments I was speckled and it was wonderful. As I continued onward through the trees, it intensified. It was bordering on a downpour as I emerged from the wooded patch into the little residential area.

Overkill by the cloud spirits. I'll take it over 90+ F temps!

Overkill by the cloud spirits. I’ll take it over 90+ F temps!

The brief time I’d been under the dense canopy of trees, 15 minutes or so, the clumps of clouds had converged into a mass. There was a dark ceiling of them overhead and dense streamers of rain extending down. About halfway through the tangle of tiny streets lined with houses sitting side-by-side, the bottom fell out. Rain came down in buckets. Barrels even. In moments, my clothing, hair, and skin went from damp to soaked through.

I had a panicked moment when I realized that I didn’t have the rain cover on my camera bag. I’m not accustomed to bringing my Canon so much thanks to the near constant hamster track rides. I stopped to wrestle it on. Thankfully, it hadn’t yet soaked through the layers of padding to the camera.

For a Swedish rain, it was almost warm. At least there was no hail or sleet mixed in with it. The temperature did a 30 degree drop which made things a bit chilly with being so drenched. My speed and strength made a return as I powered on toward the edges of downtown Uppsala along one of the new ‘fast cycle routes’

It wasn’t really a passing rain. The deluge lingered on and kept me soaked as I rolled back to the apartment because Jens was tending to a few things and didn’t have time to pick me up from the garage.

24.67 miles from the time I rolled away to the garage to when I parked at the apartment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve gone so far. The next closest one I can be sure of is one of the rides looping through Nåntuna which is in the 20 mile range.

A few hours later, I dressed in dry cycle clothes and went out again to drop the trike off at the garage for an extra 2.31 miles.

The day had started pretty sour, but after the the last 17 miles or so of the longer ride, my mood had brightened considerably. The heavy malaise had lifted as if washed away by the rain. Feeling the results of my water dragging in terms of faster and stronger up hills helped as did the scenery that I’ve not seen in years.

I really need those moments off the hamster tracks.

The Results Are…
July 6, 2016, 5:52 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Loke’s arthritic. Technically, this has been true since early 2013 when his symptoms first displayed very noticeably. Just the symptoms were pushed away by more exercise.


Not a cloud in the sky

Not a cloud in the sky

The 4th started with Jens dropping us off at the storage, where I took Loke for a slow roll toward the apartment with 4+ miles. It was clear with temps around 54 F and hardly a breath of wind. Loke tried to have a spring in his step, but we wound up poking along. Which was fine.

Later in the afternoon, I decided to do the fruit run. Stubbornness had hold of me and I didn’t lighten the load before going. I figured it would be easy enough to just empty however many of the jugs I needed to when I got the fruit.

I should have gone earlier, but there were other things to do and I put it off. There were quite a few clouds when I started out and a few of them had dark bellies. It had gotten warm and felt quite sticky. Between the heat and Loke being so slow of late, I decided to do the ride solo. A chance to push myself and get some exercise.

Warm and humid as it was, I actually kinda wished I’d get a light sprinkle to cool things off, especially when the sun was out. The clouds grew thicker, the clumps bigger, but no rain.

Oh yes. I was gonna get soaked. Hopefully not hit by lightning.

Oh yes. I was gonna get soaked. Hopefully not hit by lightning.

As I came up near the train station, a growl of thunder rumbled. Surely it would come down in buckets as I reached the fruit stand. No. It was like it held off at the edge of downtown. Gusts of wind and a couple more snarls of distant thunder, but not a drop of rain.

I paid for my fruit, over 13 lbs of it, mostly watermelon and chucked it in the trailer. Stubborn still, I decided to see if I could make it home pulling over 30 kg of weight.

The weight was noticeable, but I kept rolling without too much difficulty. I was quite happy with the results.

The rain finally did come down when I was about 1.25 mile from the apartment. Not a fine sprinkle as I’d hoped for early in the ride. Huge heavy drops of rain. The kind that sting when they impact with skin, even if covered with Lycra. Then hail came along to join the fun. Not even the size of a pea and just a few bits here and there, but it still smarted worse than the raindrops. The absolute cherry on top was sleet! Some of rain splats left a slushy core of ice on me. Needless to say, I began to shiver.

I was pretty soaked when I made it home. Settled in with a warm cup of tea, snuggled under a blanket. While I waited to stop shivering, I called the vet to make an appointment. They could see us the very next day.

As for Loke, he didn’t even seem to notice I’d left with the trike without him. Over 8 miles solo, hauling between 53 lbs and 66+ lbs.

I just had time to warm up when Jens called to say he was on his way home. It gave me time to pull on dry cycle clothes and take the trike back to the garage at a slow toodle with Loke.

Talk about a turn around. Maybe he just has some kind of 6th sense about vet appointments and was trying to convince me it was unnecessary, but Loke was raring to go. He woofed and grumbled at me while I settled the trike. He kangaroo hopped at the end of the tether to hurry us across the lawn which I tried to dissuade. He put his head down, threw his weight into the harness to determinedly drag trike and trailer, trying to pull it into a run. He shot me irritated looks with me riding the brakes to keep his speed down. It was like the clock had jumped back to December last year or something. He was a furry freight engine and wanted to go full throttle.

After dragging all that weight on the 4th, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to take Loke to the vet via trike or car. The vet clinic has changed location. It now sits just a couple hundred yards off one of the additions to the River Loop I use often.

Kinda sad about that really. The ride to get Loke’s kibble was a lovely change from the River Loop and often netted me at least 12 miles, part of that dragging the 8 kg of dog food. Now, unless I go crazy out of my way, it will be 6 miles at best.

But, it does mean that I don’t need the car if Loke has an appointment unless he’s too sick to even walk.

My legs felt every pedal stroke I’d done with the extra load in the trailer. I wasn’t sure I had it in me, even at Loke’s pokey speed, to do another ride without a rest day. The furball convinced me. Seemed every time I looked up, he was standing a few feet away, eyes bright and hopeful, tail wagging in expectation.

So, about 40 minutes before his appointment time, I was dressed to ride and we headed to the garage.

No frills this time. Just water for Loke as the sun was mostly out and it was quite warm, his collapsible dish and my handlebar bag. No trailer. No liter jugs.

The first few hundred yards were a bit rough. Loke was no help. He wasn’t quite as slow as he’s been in the past few rides, but he wasn’t speedy either. I was glad. It meant I could be as lazy as I wanted to be.

The clinic’s new location is huge. Baffles me why they have a reception area so tiny. The chairs to wait are so close to the doors of the exam rooms that I foresee incidents with dogs rushing out into other dogs when exams are done. Even the exam rooms are half the size of their previous location. No place to set a laptop with the medical files except on the exam table. No place for a chair for owners to sit if the vet has to go out of the room for several minutes to consult or the like.

There were work men running to and fro as well. Still a lot of things need doing to give a ‘finished’ appearance, but the place is functional.

Things were going a bit slow. It was more than 15 minutes late before we were let into the exam room. The vet was an unfamiliar one and clearly new from school. I don’t mind as the vets here are only too happy to consult with others and only way to become experienced is to practice. So, I explained what was going on and she gave Loke a thorough going over in general before focusing exclusively on his joints and spine.

Loke also seemed to have a bit of abdominal pain which she decided she wanted an x-ray to check.

By the time we were done wrestling with him for the x-rays and helping to keep him standing up while she checked his limbs, I was exhausted. The good news was, everything looked normal. She thought the reason his belly was uncomfortable was because his bladder was pretty full. Makes sense. He gulped a bunch of water before we went in and hadn’t had a chance to potty since we passed through the doors almost half an hour before she started palpitating him. Not pleasant to get poked when one has a full bladder.

As for his joints, he was stiff in the right shoulder, which I’d been pretty sure of. His left was pretty normal though. The surprise was that he was also stiff in both hips. I thought maybe his right hip… maybe. She wanted to take some blood so they could a check on his liver and kidney values before deciding which medication to give to make him more comfortable. Happily, their shift in location means they no longer have to send samples off to a lab for such basic tests. I’d have the results that evening at the latest.

I was so happy to be done with it and able to flop exhausted back into the trike seat. Loke was just happy to be able to ‘mark’ a fence post or three pretty much confirming the full bladder theory.

Thar be thundar in them-thar clouds!

Thar be thundar in them-thar clouds!

It had gone from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy during the hour and a half we were in the clinic. Some of the clouds were threateningly dark.

It seems to be predictable cycle of late, almost like on the MS Gulf Coast. Clear in the mornings, increasing clouds sometime around/after lunch and rain/thunder arriving sometime between 2 and 4 pm.

I headed onward to complete the usual River Loop. The wind was gusting off and on, nice and cool with the warning of rain. It was pleasant when clouds blocked the sun. I didn’t rush Loke. Just resigned myself to getting wet again. Thunder rumbled and even saw a flash of lightning that briefly made one particularly dense and large cloud glow.

The rain held off except for a spate of blowing mist that didn’t even make spots on my clothes. Just felt it on my skin and a few tiny, tiny specks on my glasses.

There was a brief heavy downfall just as we were walking back to the car. Then it held off until we were snug in the apartment. Then for about half an hour, the bottom just fell out of the clouds. The roads were somewhat flooded for a while and quite a few rumbles of thunder. The lights even flickered once.

The vet called just before the clinic would have been closing. Loke’s values all came back. She had entered a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication in the computer for me to fill on the morrow. A full dose for a few days to get Loke’s discomfort under control and then lower dosages for the rest of the month to maintain. If there’s no improvement in a week or so, then I should get back with them. She did warn me that this could be a new normal for him, that he’d have to be on some kind of medication for the arthritis for the rest of his life.

I assured her that I was expecting that. If not this time, then one very soon. I just wanted to keep him as comfortable and happy, mentally and physically, as long as possible.

She told me to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Don’t stop taking him out with the trike, keep him moving. After looking over his file, she’s convinced I’m quite in tune with Loke and the fact that I brought him in when the arthritis, while not pleasant for him, isn’t very bad. She didn’t think most owners would have noticed. Of course, most people only walk their dogs, not go out with them beside a trike. Loke’s given little to no indications of discomfort on his walks with Jens, so if not for the trike we’d never have known.

So, she’s confident to say, keep him going. Let him tell/show me what he wants to do. Keep his speed down, but if he wants to go for longer than I’ve been doing, give him a little more. Whatever I do though, don’t stop what I am doing.

That’s good to hear. Especially as we’re supposed to go on a vacation up north. Might be riding slow, but it seems I’ll still be riding with a husky beside me for a while longer.

July 3, 2016, 5:28 am
Filed under: Misc


It looks like I’ll be calling the vet tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll try to day to book an appointment for tomorrow as they are open on weekends. Either way, Loke’s got a vet visit in his future unless he does an incredible turn around today.

As I mentioned in my last post. He’s been slowing down and shortening his stride as if his shoulders hurt. He also had a couple attempts at jumping into the car that wound up rather bungled. Well, yesterday, even when I had a cookie in hand and one in the car kennel, he wouldn’t jump. I wound up having to grab hold of a soggy husky while wearing decent clothes to plop him in.

Time to get the furball evaluated. Find out if it’s arthritis or injury.

He still has the energy regardless of how slow he moves which makes things a bit challenging for the hubby and I. When he’s had problems with feet or injuries or back when his arthritis first started back in 2012, he’s always displayed it more when moving with the trike and only at the most extreme moments when out for walks. Well, even Jens noticed that Loke was moving a bit off on his long walkie yesterday.

Taking Loke out with the trike is about the only thing that keeps him from harassing Jens into a nervous breakdown. Even if his joints hurt, his stamina, muscles and energy will convince him that he should have more, more, more. Yes, life could get quite complicated and frustrating with our fuzzball. I have issues walking and he might be developing issues triking.

Fingers crossed it turns around soon.

Helinox Chair One

Helinox Chair One

Oh! Have a new goodie for WHEN I start touring. We actually bought two very light weight camp chairs. Well, there are ones that weigh even less or convert a sleeping pad into a ground chair. I just need to be elevated off the ground a bit to keep my legs from falling asleep in under 5 minutes. Not to mention they stiffen up and make getting off the ground difficult.

I spotted the larger version of this chair in the window of the AddNature shop in downtown Uppsala on my last fruit run. Jens has said we might camp on our trip in the 2nd week of this month. I thought of how uncomfortable it was when we were sitting outside our tent in Denmark on that trip a couple years ago, before my stroke.

Intrigued I went in to look and saw they had these smaller ones as well. The bigger look more comfortable, but also weighed 1 lb more. I sat down in the smaller one and decided it would do for me just fine. I immediately took a photo of the bigger one and sent to Jens. He was intrigued, but wanted to see them for himself.

So, that’s what we did yesterday. We headed downtown to look. He tried both, but decided that while the larger was more comfortable it wasn’t worth the 600 kr extra as well as the extra weight. The shop didn’t have 2 of the chairs though. As a matter of fact, the only one of the Chair One they had was the display.

So, a trip to visit the new American Food store in Täby Centrum outside of Stockholm also turned into a hunt for another AddNature shop in search of a pair of chairs which would both be unused even for display. We also went to walk around Haga park which turned into a bit of a fiasco. Tried to rain. It was warm, humidity through the roof. Ick.

Another AddNature shop in Stockholm had the chairs. One blue/black and the other green. I have a comfy camp chair for WHEN I go on tour. And I will. It might be without Loke, but I’m not just dragging that water to be able to tackle hills better, but to tackle hills better with a full camping load.

You know… Helinox also makes little cots… hmmmmm….