Terii’s Cycling Babble


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!

Lupines!

Lupines!

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.

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