Terii’s Cycling Babble

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….


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