Terii’s Cycling Babble


Off Track
September 22, 2016, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

In more ways then one!

Hindsight

Hindsight

Looks like this month is going to be the bad month of the year. I’m too far behind to get caught up on any goal I might have made… which I made none. The obvious goal would be ‘better than last September’ That would be 150 miles. I’m at 60 with just a few days left in the month. The cold(s) derailed my progress from the start and then I just ended up ‘meh’. No melancholy associated with bad times, just ‘meh’. Add to that the problem I’ve started having in my right hip. It makes it painful at times to cycle and I absolutely refuse to kill myself to try catching up.

Any way, on to the other way it was off the track. Literally, off the hamster tracks.

So, I’d plotted my route the day before on my new go-to for mapping rides, PlotaRoute. I even went and loaded almost everything into the car, except for the seat. Why not the seat? Because, I was having one of those bad days from a neuromuscular point and arrived at the storage to have forgotten that the tool I needed to remove Loke’s running bar was back at the apartment. I didn’t have the oomph to drive back home, plod from our little parking lot into the apartment, grab the tool, plod back to the car, and then have the strength to load everything. Once home, I stuck a note written in huge letters, “GET THE SEAT!!” on the inner door so I’d see it before I left the next morning.

Jens did me one better. After I’d gone to bed, he went for the last outing of the day with Loke and took the note with him. He taped it to the steering wheel of the car. Bless the man.

So, 4 am on September 17th, I crawled out of bed and yawned my way around the apartment. I took a moment to stop at my computer and pull up the route I was going to be taking for Jens to be able to look at if anything went wrong. While doing that, I opened the weather app and blinked. 36 F. That gave me pause.

The past few weeks had been unseasonably warm really. Not broiling, but definitely significantly warmer in September than it should. 36 F at 4 am (rather than 55 F) was more in line with this time of the year, but it was so sudden and out of the blue. Usually the weather reports on TV warn of ‘cooler temps coming this weekend’ kind of thing, but they’ve said nothing other than ‘warm, almost summer like temperatures ahead.’ I was not ready for near freezing. My footwarmers weren’t charged and they generally need a good 24 hours for the charge after having been packed away for spring and summer. I had no idea where to find a crescent wrench to swap to the strapped pedals either. Wasn’t sure I wanted to waste precious time to go hunt around in the cellar for it either.

I decided to go for it any way. I flew around to dig out my shoe covers and decided to load my fairing as well, fingers crossed those would be enough. It was supposed to get into at least the 60’s according to the app.

Finally dressed, I stepped out the door around 4:30 am, right on schedule, to head to the storage for the seat. For once, it hadn’t slipped my mind even before I sat down in the car with the steering wheel note reminder. I’m sure it would have if we’d not bothered with the note, but that’s just the way my mind works sometimes.

It also turned out that the weather app was woefully wrong! It wasn’t 36 F! It was 46 F! That’s just fine to ride in without extra measures to keep my feet warm.

It only took a few minutes to strip off Loke’s running bar and put the seat in the car. Not having Loke also simplified the packing of the fairing. I could just stick it in the back seat where the fuzzy one would usually go.

And then I was off! Still on schedule. I was quite pleased with that really.

As I hit the E4 to buzz toward the far side of Stockholm, the sky was starting to lighten with a faint slash of brighter illumination sneaking under the edge of the clouds at the eastern horizon. As I glanced at it, it occurred to me, ‘Oops, I forgot my sunglasses.’ That was followed by, ‘Well, my contacts still make it easier to use the Canon even if I don’t have the sunglasses.’ The Canon… the Canon camera that was still sitting on the footstool under the desk back at the apartment. Sighing, I hurried on to the ramp that took me to the roundabout to head back home to get the camera. No way I was going somewhere new without my Canon.

That put me behind my original schedule by about 35 minutes. It had to be done though. I also remembered to grab my sunglasses.

The sun was officially up before I reached Stockholm and the skies cleared. As I emerged from the city on the southern end, little patches of fog appeared here and there, hovering close to the ground, no higher than a person’s waist. The sunset was one of the muted ones. The colors subtle and tended toward pastel shades except for a few moments where a few of the scattering clouds were snared in light the color of molten gold.

The whole way between Uppsala and Sweden’s capital city, the car’s ambient temperature display hardly budged off of 46 F. Well, not until I was about 3 miles from the manor estate turned golf course any way. I’d come off the highway onto the smaller road and suddenly the car dinged and I looked down. It was a warning that it was cold enough for ice on the roadway to be a threat. 39 F. By the time I rolled into the parking lot, it was 36 F.

Stunning

Stunning

The first frost of Autumn 2016.

The first frost of Autumn 2016.

Cold! So cold! There was more fog too. Some of it was quite stunning as it hovered above the fields in tightly isolated clouds that left much of the surrounding air crystal clear.

As I stepped out of the car, watching golfers stream into the parking area and heading out across the course, I was very glad I’d not assumed it was going to be ‘warm’ (if one can call 46 F warm) when I arrived. I’d packed 2 additional wool tops, my gloves, my knitted cap, shoe covers, and of course, my fairing. I wasn’t going to need it for long, but even an hour in nearly freezing temps would have been unpleasant.

Cold, but what a morning!

Cold, but what a morning!

Loving the morning!

Loving the morning!

I pulled on another wool layer and hunted for my lightweight gloves in preparation to unload the trike. The metal was going to get cold fast on naked fingers. As I did that, I kept looking at the grass. It looked pale with what I thought at first was dew caught by the early sunlight, but it looked too pale. Before pulling the second glove, I walked over to run my fingers through the blades to confirm what I suspected. Yep. It was frost. It had actually gotten cold enough to give the grass and glaze of ice.

A few people dragging around their clubs stared as I began to wrestle things out. Dressed as I was, clearly golf was not in the schedule for the day. As I pulled out the body of the trike and unfolded it, there were a few double takes. As the light and veils of fog shifted around, I’d stop to take another photo or 4.

Onward!

Onward!

I felt almost dizzy once I had everything settled and the trike ready to roll. It had been so long to be somewhere else for a ride.

Södermanland's Runestone #262 - Broken, but enduring.

Södermanland’s Runestone #262 – Broken, but enduring.

My enthusiasm was tempered when I plopped down in the seat and pushed off. I felt slow and sluggish. The trike felt so very heavy. Admittedly, I haven’t been dragging the trailer lately and was carrying a bit of food for lunch, water (of course) as well as my camera gear which probably comes close to 8 lbs by itself. There was no way I was going to turn back before I’d even gone a mile though.

Just beyond the parking lots, there was a split in the path. One way was a gravel lane that led up and the other was a cycle path and went down. Right at the split, stood an unexpected rune stone. The web site I use to track such things down had shown absolutely nothing in the area.

People there to golf in what was turning into a gorgeous autumn day either stared or nodded their greetings as I chewed my way up the gravel lane toward what I hoped would give a good view of the manor house. One or two people even called out that I had a cool bike. 3 or 4 golf carts zipped by as I struggled to make the climb at about 1 mph. Such an anticlimactic and somewhat hard start to the ride did not inspire confidence.

Årsta Manor

Årsta Manor

The gravel ‘courtyard’ was clear and in full sun, letting the light fall on the front of the simple looking manor house. The two free-standing wings were quite far back from the main house. One of them was being used as a cafe and rental point for the carts.

I parked the trike in front of the manor and moved back.. and back… and back, to get everything in one shot. I really should have learned by now that the trike needs to be much closer to me for such shots than where I tend to leave it. One day, perhaps I’ll get one where the trike is more clearly visible.

Frost, early sun, and spider web make for beauty.

Frost, early sun, and spider web make for beauty.

The way down from the manor went quickly and I whipped around the sharp right onto the cycle path. I slowed down a bit as there were a few people walking the path were it ran along the base of the hill with the manor at its crown. The cycle path, which I remember being paved, came to a kind of end at an unpaved lane lined by what appeared to be dead trees. No hint of leaves and too early for most trees to be bare-branched already. Nor were there piles of fallen leaves to be seen which should have been there if these trees had carried them over the summer.

Dead trees? And what's that sound?

Dead trees? And what’s that sound?

The dead-tree lined lane cut right through the golf course, with a few points where carts could move from one green to the other. It was up a slight incline and I felt every bit of it. Combined with the gravel and how silly heavy the trike felt, it made for slow going. After a few moments, a sound wormed its way into my consciousness. A rubbery sort of rattle.

I knew that sound and it triggered a scowl. It meant the duck tape that I use to ‘repair’ my chain tube had given way so that part of it had slid back to interfere with my derailleur.

I stopped the trike, removed everything from the left side that could get damaged and flipped it on that side.

*grumble-grumble-grumble*

*grumble-grumble-grumble*

Sure enough. It was easy enough to fix, especially since I had something to help me cut away the duck tape rather than trying to convince it to unwrap. Mostly, I was annoyed about it because it’s been so recent that I had to redo it anyway. Back in July when I did that leg of Mälardalsleden where Jens did some fishing as I pedaled along past old mills and down busy roads. The first time I did the fix, it lasted for more than a year.

I think I did it a little more effectively this time. Hopefully it will last for more than 2 months. Yet in less than 10 minutes the trike was back on all 3 wheels, with everything loaded back and me on the way again.

Not bad as gravel roads go...

Not bad as gravel roads go…

Though I still had to climb, it was a bit of a relief to reach the paved road as the lane had turned into one of those tracks with the big grassy center. After about a mile of that, I made a turn onto a small gravel road that headed off in a north-west direction.

Österhaninge Church

Österhaninge Church

It wasn’t bad as gravel roads go. It was semi-flat compared to what I expected other portions of the route to do. So, I relaxed and enjoyed it. After about half a mile, I grinned to see the steeple of the first church of the day rising above the trees as I rolled along.

Just as I was coming to the end of the unpaved road, there was a sudden drop that I took at rattling, high speed. As I bounced over the rocks and shallow pot holes in the packed dirt, all I could think was, ‘I’m going to hate climbing this back up.’.

From there it was a quick dash on a larger two-lane country road. So early on a Saturday morning it was fairly quiet, except for the next person hurrying off to play golf.

Österhaninge Church in full

Österhaninge Church in full

A pair of horses watched me curiously as I made the turn onto the smaller country road that would take me by the church. One went back to munching grass when when I stopped for photos.

Österhaninge church was quite interesting in my opinion. The chapel on the back, clearly one of the newest portions of the structure. Sadly, being that it was not even yet 9 am, it was firmly closed. Admittedly, I had no idea if it was one of those churches that does open for viewings and uses, or if it spends most days of the year buttoned tight like Jumkil church, closer to home. Many churches open only for weddings, baptisms or funerals.

Loved it!

Loved it!

Interesting, but strange to find it in such a remote place.

Interesting, but strange to find it in such a remote place.

It was a bit of a climb and soon I was back on gravel and dirt instead of asphalt. It wasn’t too bad though the little country lane was littered with ‘horse apples’. A lot of of them. I couldn’t avoid them all, so I mostly tried to avoid those that were fresher and hadn’t yet been flatten down by the rare, random car that might have passed through.

I entered a screen of trees after rolling down a brief little dip. As I climbed up again through the dappled shade, I spotted an unexpected and very peculiar sort of sculpture to the side of the road. I kind of liked it in an odd way, but it felt almost surreal to find a roadside piece of art in what felt like a rather hidden location. I can’t imagine more than a dozen cars passing by it in any given day and 90% of those are likely locals who’ve seen it hundreds of times.

This just does't speak to me...

This just does’t speak to me…

Just a little further on was another one though it was comprised of 3 free standing objects. It appealed to me much less than the first one though I can’t even begin to guess why. Maybe it was the colors? The bumpy texture as if it was hastily slapped together and left unfinished? Perhaps it just felt like pieces of things, human body shapes mostly, gathered up with no clear form or aesthetic.

A bit after the sculptures, the little road turned more into a rough track. At the bottom of a slight decline where it looked like a shallow wash had formed, it had been filled in with loose, chunky rocks. I slowed waaaaaaayyyyy down to bump my way through those and back up the other side. The trees fell back again and I emerged into a more farm like area with lots of horses who watched me curiously. A bunch of girls on more horses appeared and I pulled over far to the side and sat motionless while the coaxed and urged the the nervous one by. A few of them only looked at me curiously and two didn’t even cock an ear my way so indifferent as they were. Horses that chill always make my smile. They remind me of a horse a friend of mine was stuck with at a riding stable once. His name was ‘Mayonnaise’ and he was so laid back, he honestly seemed to fall asleep while walking.

Wouldn't mind more of this!

Wouldn’t mind more of this!

For about 200 yards, I had pavement again. Then I made a right turn past a paddock and modern stable block where a gravel and weed cycle track went under the 73. It was a bit wet there, but easier going than on rough gravel and certainly the rocky stretch. Only a little soft, it made for smooth going as I came up on another paddock.

There were a pair of horses there, standing at a bathtub being used as a water trough. They looked up in spooked alarm as I rolled out from behind a few scrubby bushes where they could see me. I stopped and talked to them for a couple minutes as they snorted and blew. When they relaxed a bit, I rolled slooowwwly on as they decided I was curiosity rather than a threat and didn’t bolt off.

Not a great photo, but I loved this hill for some reason.

Not a great photo, but I loved this hill for some reason.

So pretty.

So pretty.

Look! A critter highway! Wonder what? Hares? Hedgehogs?

Look! A critter highway! Wonder what? Hares? Hedgehogs?

That stretch actually went on for almost 2 miles. The damp surface turned into a nice gravel cycle path that finally emerged onto a lovely little country road with an awesome surface for rolling along.

More of this please!

More of this please!

Even better, I was feeling a bit stronger and more optimistic about the rest fo the ride.

Just a few yards on that bit of road and my luck seemed to continue with a turn onto what the maps showed as a road, but was so narrow it looked more like a cycle path. Lovely flat with a fine grain, nicely packed gravel surface. There was a slight incline to it, but I was beaming happily as I pedaled along at a respectable (for me) speed.

Or even more of this!

Or even more of this!

There were lots of other people out enjoying the warming day along the little trail. It had gone from 36 F to about 48 F, with a soft breeze. It was warm enough I’d stripped off my shoe covers and gloves, but kept one of the extra wool layers on my top. The wooded terrain gave way to something a little more open and I spotted what appeared to be a picnic table and a firepit, as if I’d come into a park area. Puzzled, I slowed and that was when I spotted an information sign. as well as a other paths to the right, splitting out into a webwork through the trees, tall grass and ferns turning brown with the changing season.

Trench Road and Burial Mound

Trench Road and Burial Mound

Curious, I stopped by the sign and got up. What hadn’t been obvious from my low position the trike was the sheer number of stones thrusting up from the brown ferns and yellowing grass. Most of them were narrow things with smoothly rounded top like the fat end of an egg and no taller than my hip or, in a few instances, my waist.

Clearly a burial ground and one that none of my web sites had indicated to be here. Odd, because it turned out to be the largest of it’s kind in Scandinavia!

I glanced at the sign and it pointed out a tiny burial mound over by the picnic table and firepit, barely more than a meter high and less than 3 meters across. More interesting, it also pointed out a ‘hålväg’ which translates literally as ‘Hole Road/Street’. Probably more clearly, it would be called a ‘trench road’ in English. Essentially a road or path so worn down by centuries of passing humans and/or livestock that it’s become a trench in the landscape. It’s just visible under the ferns at the bottom center of the photo and curving off to the right. The small burial mound is just visible in the background just behind the small green tree.

Rocks so probably several burials.

Rocks so probably several burials.

Hard to see from this angle, but it's a 'ship setting'!

Hard to see from this angle, but it’s a ‘ship setting’!

More paths ran off to the right of my mapped route and curiosity pulled me that way. Every time I stood up there were more and more stones to see along with half a dozen information signs. After about 100 yards, the paths became less trike friendly. Narrower and bumping up and down over large rocks which probably meant ancient graves passing under my wheels. Finally I just parked the trike to one side of the paths, shouldered the packs with my electronics, and against my better judgement, started walking.

Lingon Berry or Poison Impostor?

Lingon Berry or Poison Impostor?

So many burials. One sign I found said there were over 800 burials in the area with more hidden beneath. One of them was the smallest ship setting I’d ever seen. A ship setting is an arrangement of stones that form the rough outline of a ship’s hull. It was barely 3 – 4 meters from bow to stern. Other stone groups were nearly impossible to tell if they were supposed to be some specific arrangement. Maybe they were circles? Spokes? There was one apparently ‘wheel’, a large circle of low stones with ‘spokes’ running from center to edge, but it was too far away for me to walk to. It was challenging enough for me to stagger around with burning muscles and screaming nerves, but I had to. I just had to.

The Rose Cairn

The Rose Cairn

Apparently, quite a few of the burials were for women which, supposedly, wasn’t terribly common back in the day. I guess it had to happen though and where else but in Scandinavia’s largest Bronze/Iron Age burial ground?

Rocks, rocks and more rocks

Rocks, rocks and more rocks

Burials weren’t the only think lurking in the wooded growth of skinny pines or weedy grass. Blue berries were abundant and people were wandering through the ankle high shrubs picking them. One couple had an entire plastic grocery bag full of them. I even spotted a few bright red berries that may or may not have been lingon berries. I left them alone though since my husband warned me years ago that there’s a poisonous berry that has leaves very much like the lingon plant as well as bright red berries. I love lingon preserves with my reindeer and mashed potatoes, but not fond enough of the berry to risk poisoning myself by picking them on my own.

Path runs right over what I'm sure is a burial

Path runs right over what I’m sure is a burial

Reluctantly, I went back to the trike with only the smallest bit of the burial ground explored. I was feeling a bit of time pressure. I had moments where I was doing a bit faster, but overall, I was moving at a slow crawl and 40 minutes meandering from cluster of rocks to another wasn’t helping. It was coming up on noon and I’d not even done 5 miles. Barely 1.5 miles an hour. Admittedly, I stopped bunches for photos and the bigger chunk of an hour at the burial ground, but still! I had to get moving. The entire loop was 27 miles.

I headed back to the main path and had a bit of a respite in the form of a 3% decline over a not too rough surface. The trike fairly flew through the dappled light, flanked to either side by browning ferns, scrawny pines, and countless, short standing stones with rounded tops all in a blur. For about a half mile, I made good time.

In spite of being silly slow, I was in a good mood as I left the countryside behind for a small town. The gravel trail gave way to a paved cycle path that climbed up past a modern church. I had a desperate need to respond to a call of nature. The best place for such would be a McDonald’s or at least a cafe. Thanks to my Garmin’s map, I was able to follow it to just such a cafe.

It was a little place, with a few out door seats. Mostly it was a bakery though it sold sandwiches as well as the usual pastries, cakes, and other sweets. I dashed into the restroom and then came out to see if something called. I settled for a sort of bun like thing flavored with cardamon and sugar as well as a small orange juice. It was nice to sit and rest while, nibbling on the treat.

It turned out to be the last truly peaceful moment for several hours.

Waiting for it to go

Waiting for it to go

I followed several cycle paths through the town. I came to an intersection and stopped to wait for traffic. As I waited, there was a buzz triggering an uneasy tension. Something yellow and black alighted on my knee. I relaxed, a tiny bit, when I saw it was a honey bee. I still wasn’t thrilled about it being there, but at least my nerves let me breathe where I would have been holding my breath with a yellow-jacket. They’ve got a foul temper, especially at this time of year when the chill days and morning frosts begin.

Uneasy, I waited as it crawled around and seemed to be tasting my knee. Minutes passed. Cars occasionally stopped to see if I wanted to cross, but I waved them on. A pack of about 20 road cyclists whipped through the roundabout.

Finally, I decided to at least edge through the intersection rather than continually waving kind drivers through who wanted to let me pass. I held my breath as my bobbed the bee up and down pedaling through and then I had an easy coast down a small hill. I had to stop pedaling then because the bee, starting to look clumsy, crawled to the back of my knee. I stopped again, unable to pedal without squeezing it.

It was dying. It struggled to climb back up to the top of my leg again, but then lost its grip and fell to the pavement, moving no more. Feeling a little sad, I packed up and shifted the trike around so I wouldn’t roll over it and went on.

Shortly after where the bee came to its sad end, the official cycle route went through an industrial area that looked quite unappealing. Just to the west of it though, there seemed to be an series of trails with electric lighting through a wooded area. That looked much better to roll through.

HUGE. MISTAKE.

Ummmm.... NO!

Ummmm…. NO!

It started out not too bad, following a tiny road to a parking area. Beyond that, the asphalt ended for a path of packed dirt and pine needles. Then I came to a split in the path. The way I’d mapped was to the left, through a stretch of deep, dry, churned sand. It didn’t look very convincing that the path improved somewhere down the hill and around the curve. I wasn’t even sure the trike would roll through that. Worse if I had to come back up because the path ended or sand continued.

Better to add a mile or so for firmer ground I could roll over. As if to prove it was a good choice, I found a spot of softer sand. The rear wheel bogged, digging deeper as I tried to pedal. I had to get up and push it a few yards.

Much steeper than it looks.

Much steeper than it looks.

It went okay for the better part of a mile, though I wasn’t exactly tearing up the trail. Too many roots and rocks for me to go slamming over at speed. Then I came to a stop at a silly steep descent. I do mean silly steep. My map showed a short side path to the official route through the industrial area, I made the turn, but it turned out to be more miring sand and no clear shot at getting to pavement.

Going back would have been the smartest thing, but noooooo. My stubborn streak was in full gear and down the crazy drop I went, creeping to desperately avoid the roots.

I made it to the bottom without breaking anything and pushed on. Hoping the worst was behind me. After 12 pm and barely 7 miles under the wheels. So slow, Loke even on a bad day would have been impatient with me.

No tree roots or sand!

No tree roots or sand!

The landscape dropped down again and opened up onto an area of manicured lawn with a few benches here and there. All green with the sun struggling out of clouds that had started creeping back in. The trail turned into a very narrow track just wide enough for my rear tire. Fortunately, the grass was so well clipped and dense that my front wheels rolled over it no problem.

It turned out that the grassy sward was the lawn for a Frisbee golf course. There’s a lot of those around though no one was tossing discs on this one.

Please. Stop. The. Hills.

Please. Stop. The. Hills.

The reprieve wasn’t very long. The track curved a bit until it re-entered the trees. The trail widened again, but was covered with gravel and worse, the hills. They wouldn’t stop. The climbs weren’t horribly long, 100 meters or so, but the gravel was so loose and the gradient so steep that my rear wheel couldn’t grip. I’d bump and slam down one slop, start immediately up the next, having to lock the brake when the wheels couldn’t grab and wrestle my way out of the seat. Then it was a struggling push up, muscles screaming and gasping for breath.

I was about to collapse into a boneless, whimpering puddle of meat by the 5th hill. I kept hoping it would stop, believing it would be harder, and farther, to turn back.

I couldn’t make it. I was so wiped. It was after 1 pm, just over 7 miles of the 27 miles I had mapped. There was no way I could make it before sundown.

A little bit country

A little bit country

I took a while to look at the maps to find the shortest way to a paved road so I could start back toward the manor house. My first choice was more soft, sandy roadway my tires had no purchase in, but fortunately, there was another little path that took me to firmer graveled area. Within 100 yards of that, I made it back to pavement.

Better still! It was downhill! I barely had to pedal as I rolled by little country cottages, stables, and paddocks with horses. It would have been perfect except for the rubber speed bumps the property owners had installed every 75 meters or so. They were bad enough, I had to come to a near complete stop to ease over them without breaking something. It was still better than the trails I came off of.

Didn't like this bit

Didn’t like this bit

My only alternative from there was to cross back through that industrial area I’d tried so hard to avoid. Bad enough that it was ugly buildings and weed fringed chain-link fence which is never appealing. I found the stripped down, burned out cars more disturbing. Being the weekend and daylight hours, I didn’t see a living soul most of the way, except at one corner where someone started yelling for my attention. I looked ahead and moved a little quicker. It might have been a visual eyesore, but being on pavement and mostly flat, it was almost like flying.

Soon I was in a nicer area. My pace picked up, not just because of pavement that my tires could grip, but it also seemed to be mostly downhill. 7 miles had taken me 5 hours. I did the next 5 in less than an hour, practically flying at times.

I came back around to rejoin the original trail at the burial ground no less. The quick pace continued. I hit the cycle path that took me back under the 73 and sped onward. I hit a patch of trees and didn’t recognize it as the rock filled wash until I flew at it doing more than 15 miles an hour. I literally yelled, ‘Shhhhhh******tttttt!!! Forgot the rocks!!!!’ as I slammed into them. I didn’t dare hit the brakes, so braced myself as I jolted over, my yell vibrating as if I rode a jackhammer rather than a trike. Everything stayed in one piece and I sped onward to flash by the sculptures.

The star vaults in Österhaninge church

The star vaults in Österhaninge church

After that, my pace became more off and on. Horses, so many horses, being ridden. Some 20 over a couple miles. Every time one or a group came along, I had to stop and sit quiet until they made it by. One was coming in the same direction I was going. The mare was skittish at first. Then she was unconcerned. We moved along together as I worked my way back up another hill. At one intersection, the mare gave a bit of start, her hooves almost slipping as she jumped when a car whipped around the turn. She recovered quick though.

As I came back up to the church again, the woman on the mare said goodbye and urged the horse off the road and onto a narrow little path up the side of an embankment. With a flick of a glossy tail, they disappeared.

Rolling by the churchyard wall, I noticed that the lights shone through the windows. Hopeful, I parked and grabbed my camera to see if it was open. And yes, it was.

The pulpit and pews.

The pulpit and pews.

There were no complex murals on the walls, but it was lovely. The brick, star-vaults had gorgeous detail with red and white bricks and little flowers accents where the lines merged. There were more little flowers painted along the lines of the half-columns against the walls. The pulpit wasn’t as extravagant as some, but still had touches of guilt and carving. It made for a very pretty interior.

From the church, it was another quick dash down to the busier road toward the gravel road I had emerged from hours previous.

I was still exhausted, so as I came to the turn, I pulled off the main road and eyed that hill. It was easily as steep as some of those I’d struggled with on the forest paths. Like those, it had far too much loose gravel as well. My tire would have slipped and forced me to push the trike once more.

I couldn’t do it. I’d barely made the walk up the last gravel hill before I headed for the industrial area. Another one was out of the question. A quick glance at my showed an alternative. I would add a mile or more, with what would be a very steep and much longer climb to make, but it was all paved. No gravel. I’d be able to ride the entire way. That made it possible. My best chance.

I clipped back in and gave a weak push. It tipped me over the crest of a little hill and started on an unexpected long descent. I was glad for the wool. The sun was spotty and the wind at speeds of 17 mph for almost a mile was chilly. At the bottom of the hill, I made a right turn and began the hard climb I expected. It took me almost 20 minutes to make it.

On the other side was wild ride down. From the top of the hill, the road to the golf course was almost arrow straight and a good surface without much in the way of patching or pot holes. The trike flew, my DaBrim flapping slightly, as I hit speeds of over 30 mph for the mile dash. I didn’t need to turn the pedals until after I made the turn to approach the parking lot.

It was after 3 pm when I stopped by the car. I had to sit for almost 20 minutes before I dug up the energy to start stripping things down. 16.4 miles for the day and exhaustion.

Part of me was bitterly disappointed, but the other felt glad I’d gotten to ride somewhere other than Hamster Tracks.



And So It Goes…
September 19, 2016, 7:01 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The month of September that is. And it is not going smoothly or particularly nice from a mileage standpoint. Mileage wise, it’s actually quite sad.

I was unable to ride on the 4th and/or 5th of the month. Too busy trying to turn myself inside out with coughing. I wasn’t a happy camper on the 4th, but felt okay enough to manage the 5 hours at work without feeling like the summer cold version of Typhoid Mary. Of course, she didn’t actually suffer from the disease she carried.

The 5th, I’d planned to ride before my 3:15 appointment to get the ultrasound on my heart. It didn’t happen. I was in too rough of shape. Every time I coughed, I felt like both of my sides were getting simultaneously punched by a champion heavy-weight boxer. When I wasn’t gasping and hacking, I was out like a light. Fortunately, Jens was working from home so he was able to drive me to the appointment.

The medical technician was very nice and happy to let me watch as he prodded around in search of the best angles of my heart. I was careful to turn away when I had to cough. I admitted, I’d thought about canceling, but since I’d had to wait for so long for the appointment to start with, it didn’t seem like a good idea. He agreed. It was a long wait. The list was over 1000 names long for appointments.

Restrap. Possible solution to avoiding frostbite? We shall see!

Restrap. Possible solution to avoiding frostbite? We shall see!

He got a bunch of samples and then the doctor came in. A very charming man and he even took a few fresh looks as well. His conclusion is that the murmur is because of the high blood pressure and slightly thickened muscle walls of my heart. He’d relay the results to the doctor who had ordered the exam.

Then it was back home to pass out in between coughing fits.

There was a treat waiting for me! My pedal straps had arrived! I was thrilled to have them, but didn’t have the oomph to get the tools I needed to put them on the mountain bike pedals. Especially since said tools were mostly at the garage.

With the arrival of the straps, Jens took a look at the supposed arrival time of the package from the things I ordered from ICE.

Did I mention those? Well, if not, I ordered a few things from ICE. Back when we took our very brief trip up north, I discovered that one of my seat clamps had stripped threads. Yep. I’ve been riding with only 3 good clamps. Also, my gearing has been a bit twitchy for a while even with Bobby’s excellent skills. Bobby took a look and came to the conclusion that my derailleur hanger was ever-so-slightly bent. He tried to bend it back, to limited effect. Third, my seat is a right mess. The mesh got pushed back to rub against the tension straps in a few spots which made little holes. Over time, the holes got a little bigger and the mesh along the vertical line above and below the holes started to unravel. It’s getting close to the critical point where my weight will just unzip it in one spectacular go. About the time I ordered the straps, I ordered 2 seat clamps, 2 derailleur hangers, and a new seat cover.

The delivery company contacted Jens rather than me for some reason and the delivery status on their web site was a bit confusing. Essentially said the package hadn’t been sent, to contact them. So he did, but that only confused things even more. After a closer look, my hubby thought the confusion stemmed from the fact that ICE had my old phone number which then deferred the delivery status to Jens, but tangled up the actual delivery some how.

So, the next day (6th), I contacted ICE again. I asked Hero about it and she threw in all effort to figure out what had happened. She was puzzled, but managed to track the physical package down when DHL was just confusing the issue. It had been shipped to Sweden, but wound up under a different tracking number and was waiting for delivery here in Uppsala. She asked if I wanted her to tell them to deliver it to the apartment, but I said we’d pick it up the next day.

She was incredibly apologetic, as if expecting me to go all mental. I assured her it was no problem. She sighed, “I wish all our customers were as understanding.” Honestly, I don’t know what was to be understanding about it. Confusions happen, it was a little thing, and she solved it in under 45 minutes. The main delay had been myself, trying to get the original tracking number from Jens who was stuck in meeting at work. If I’d been put off for a week before someone finally got around to solving it, I might have been irritated, but not within minutes of my call.

There it is! What I needed for 1000 miles in 2016!!

There it is! What I needed for 1000 miles in 2016!!

I also rode on the 6th. I wasn’t feeling much up to it, but I’d already gone 3 full days without riding, Jens had been awesome with taking all the walks with Loke, and most of all, those last 1.98 miles were calling. At least I was a bit more conscious and coughing a tiny bit less.

Out I went. I did one of the shortest loops I could. A whopping 3.18 miles, but hey, it gave me what I needed and spared Jens a long walk with the fuzzy when he got home from work. All Loke needed after that was a short stroll with the hubby. The furry may have wanted more, but didn’t really need it.

1000 miles for 2016. I would have cheered when the Garmin ticked over to 1.98 mile on the ride, but didn’t want to trigger a coughing fit. Finished the pitiful ride with a bouncy, eager husky and 1001+ miles for the year’s total.

The 7th and 8th were ride-less days. I honestly can’t remember if I worked on either of them or just let myself be sick, sleeping and resting as much as I could to try and break the cold’s grip on me. Summer colds are the worst. They latch in with barbed claws and don’t want to let go for anything in the world.

On one of those two days, I heard from the animal hospital about Loke’s blood test. It had come back negative for any sign of rheumatoid arthritis, which is good. It did find, however, that Loke had low grade anemia. I found that rather shocking and alarming when the woman said the word, ‘low grade’ or not. I even cast a worried glance at the furball who was sleeping in a contorted position on his back on the living room pillow. She assured me that it wasn’t bad enough to need any kind of treatment, but would need monitoring for a bit. The most likely cause was chronic inflammation which can suppress red-blood cell production it seems. I had no idea.

They wanted to take another blood test to make sure it’s stable (or improving), so back we’ll go on the 21st. I should have asked if this is going to become a ‘thing’ with Loke. Like every 3 months, in we go for him to get a patch of hair shaved off his leg and blood drawn.

The cough lingered on. Actually, I started to feel a bit better, then the next day, I felt much worse though the symptoms were more like a cold in the first day or two rather than one in the later stages. I honestly think another virus strain ambushed me before the original cleared out. 2 colds for the price of one. Yay! (sarcasm)

I must have had the trike parked at the apartment for a while, because the next ride on the 9th was just 2.33 miles. Exactly my usual meandering loop back to the garage. I remember nothing of it though. Probably coughed out those brain cells.

The 10th, I rode again. The warm weather broke for almost seasonal temps. Gloriously clear too and not much in the way of wind. In spite of the gorgeous weather, I felt frustrated more than anything. Being sick left me feeling weak and Loke was pokey and lethargic. In spite of me feeling sickly, the entire ride felt like a complete waste of such a fabulous day. 8.5 miles of hamster track! I was starting to suffer from an extreme case of a cycling version of cabin fever. I wanted to be riding elsewhere on in such fabulous weather.

I rode on both the 13th and 14th. So behind on the month’s goals and was still fighting colds. Mostly I went for the miles and to take pity on Jens. Loke had a bit of a turn around energy wise. So much so that he started harassing Jens, especially when he was trying to sleep. The first two nights, we thought he had an upset tummy so urgently needed walkies. It proved untrue.

So, I tried cycling a bit more. As much as I could manage any way, in hopes he’d leave my poor frustrated husband alone. Nope. As soon as Jens would lay down for sleep, Loke would be sitting at his bedside and staring in the dark. If Jens rolled over to put his back to Loke, the furball would start nudging him with his nose. We even tried swapping sides, but all that got was me getting nudged. Loke wasn’t even particularly interested in going out when he did this either. He’d just plod along, right beside us, bored. No sniffing, no marking territory.

During the day, out on the rides, he had energy to pull my listless self along. I just couldn’t manage to do more than the River Loops with him. That nets about 6 miles if I pull out all the stops.

The 14th was another of those glorious days. It was in the 60s F, utterly clear and, amazingly, no wind for once. I fetched the trike, intending to tackle the full River Loop with whatever extras I could find. The 6+ miles ended up cut to 4 miles because Loke started moving stiffly. I rolled the trike to the apartment, intending to go out a short time later for a quick dash downtown on some errand.

It didn’t happen. Charles’ wife called to ask if I could come finish the rest of the day at the shop because an urgent errand came up for her to do. Of course.

As I got dressed and showered for that instead of riding, the pain issue slammed hard into my muscles. It took me longer to get to the shop than I intended. Even just walking from the parking garage to the shop was brutal. Talk about a test to how I can manage a bad neuromuscular day at work. At least it was only a half day. It wasn’t as horrible as I thought. The hard part was getting back to the car after I closed.

The 15th, I rode again, mostly to get the trike back to the garage. Just the River Loop and mostly for the miles and get Loke some exercise.

I decided that was enough. Looking at my past rides, counting the days I rode since the last one off the Hamster Tracks to the present day, I’d gone out 30 days with the trike without getting any fresh ground. 45 separate rides if I count the days where I’d ride to the apartment with Loke, solo ride, and then back to storage with Loke. I’m pretty sure that’s a record since the first 2 years of riding, before the paths, trails and streets around here became so deeply rutted with my trike tires.

So, on the evening of the 15th, I announced to Jens that I would be riding elsewhere on Saturday (September 17th). I would be taking Friday as a rest day as I’d ridden for 3 consecutive days and wanted to be good and strong for my first ‘elsewhere’ ride in almost 2 months. I gave him the option of doing the ‘drop me off to do more of the Mälar Valley’s Route while going fishing’ so that Loke could get to run with me, or let me go solo with the car and take care of the dog’s walks. He chose the latter because he’s still fighting a cold as well.

Friday, I threw myself into action to find where I wanted to do a loop. First thing was that I ran up against some frustration with MapMyRide. It’s been building for a while, though the frustration had more to do with the Google Maps that it uses.

I’m not sure when it happened, but Google Maps color and contrast choices have been aggravating me for some time, especially when I try to zoom in to find the smaller roads I want to cycle. The roads are a pale cream with a background of pale gray. Might as well be white on white, I swear. It makes it nigh impossible to find small road routes.

So, I started looking at other map options to help guide me to the points on MapMyRide. MapQuest, Bing, etc.. but they weren’t really catching my eye.

Then something unexpected happen. I stumbled on to PlotARoute. At first glance, I thought maybe I’d found something to push MapMyRide aside as my ‘go to’ for mapping my rides. As I fiddled with it, it didn’t just push it aside, but bodyslammed it completely out of sight. While initially it uses the frustrating Google Maps, when I clicked for the ‘bike’ function of mapping, up popped OpenCycleMap. *swoon*

All the little roads clearly visible along with unpaved cycle paths, foot paths and more. Also, OpenCycleMap has cycle routes marked in bold colors, so it means I could map say, what I wanted to ride on the Mälar Valley’s Route without clicking back and forth between two web pages to figure out which roads I needed to click on MapMyRide to follow it. Roads I could barely see on MapMyRide, I’d like to point out. It even let me put little tags on my map for POI’s. MapMyRide used to let people do that, before it moved that function over to premium only. I’m not sure even premium can do it any more.

Then I started looking into printing. Oh happy day. PlotARoute even had a simple, free-to-use function for that. Click print, tell it if you want 1 page or up to 5 pages for the route, click print again. It breaks the route down into the number of legs as pages you specified and spits them out.

I’m kinda disappointed that the limit is 5 pages though. The 26 mile route I’d chosen made it a little hard to see where some of the turns were because the scale was too small. Easily solved I guess if I break routes down into sections and then print the sections. It would still be quicker than the method I used to get printed maps from MapMyRide. It would produce superior maps from a reading standpoint as well.

As for the ride itself, I will put that on a separate post, otherwise things will get much too length!

So for another day as I scamper off to work.

 

 



I Can’t Believe It!
September 3, 2016, 9:53 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Somehow, without killing myself or being anxious about it, I managed to make August a decent success. I really didn’t think I would after the first two weeks being in such a funk and the annoying tendency I had  about going 72+ hours without a single pedal turn several times. The fact that I actually blundered through the goal I’d set for August back in the last days of July was sheer happenstance.

Saturday, August 27th was the next day I went out for a ride after my last post.

Loke was out of car goodies that we used to bri… (Ahem) reward the fuzzy when he jumps in the car like a good boy. There was also the matter of the leash I use with the tether in the event said tether breaks. The one Loke chewed half way through. I’d really like to avoid chasing Loke across fields, or heaven forfend, through traffic if the running bar rope snaps.  I decided to make it the purpose of the ride. With the local hamster tracks, a definitive goal beyond ‘get miles’ helps push me out longer and offers focus.

It was a hard ride. At least for what I needed to buy the trailer was unnecessary. It removed the temptation to slap in 30 liters of water or something equally silly.

The main reason it was a hard ride was because of wind. It was insane. There were some crazy windy days in the last couple weeks of August and I seemed to be riding in most of them. Otherwise it was pretty, if on the warm side. As usual, the wind never really seemed to become a tail wind though I was doing a big circle. Fortunately, I never seemed to end up with it head on as it lashed trees and made grasses and grains wave like wind-tossed ocean waves.

Loke went along as if into a hurricane. His head was down, ears flattened, and eyes squinted. He ended up quite warm, but refused water every time I offered. Finally, he was warm enough that his stubbornness about drinking water concerned me.

Finally I called Jens to come get him at the bandy court. I waited in a stretch of nice dense shade and ruffled Loke’s fur so the wind could get to his skin and take some of the heat away.

The fuzzy stared mournfully at me through the car window, just over 5 miles for his bit of the trip.

So strange going this way...

So strange going this way…

From storage to bandy court, it had been standard hamster tracks. As I rolled out from there though, it was still hamster tracks, but for the first time, I was taking several miles of roads and paths in reverse.

Pushing across the parking lot for the bandy court, I joined up with the gravel riverside path that runs for miles between Flottsund to downtown Uppsala. I wasn’t going so far as Flottsund though. It felt a bit strange to be following the path downstream instead of up. I passed under the drawbridge and then took a turn to push sloooooowwwly up the ramp onto the bridge and over the river.

From there, the trees screened the wind a bit offering a bit of relief from it’s constant pressure and harder shoves. The path on that side of the river is called Skokloster Uppsala Road or something like that.

A nice view of castle and cathedral.

A nice view of castle and cathedral.

A frustrating name really. It implies a direct connection to the Skokloster estate. I’ve wanted to ride there for ages, but the roads in the area around it are very busy with no shoulders and lots of fiddling around with turns and directions. So, the hint that there might have once been a more straight-forward way is a bit of a cruel tease.

It was less than 2 miles to the working dog shop from the bandy court, but it went a bit faster without Loke. Not much, but a bit. I was working with something of a deadline too. The shop closes at 2 pm on Saturdays.

As I pedaled down the street going from the dismantled bridge to King’s Farm, the wind continued to astound. At least for that brief stretch, it was for once at my back. I practically flew. Cattails grow in the ditch to one side of the street, their dark green leaves as tall as I am. They whipped and nearly flattened at times, so abused by the wind.

The big trees just as I came to the side turn for the dog shop didn’t offer much shelter. Not to me any way, but to the 100 or more jackdaws, I guess it was paradise. They clamored and flapped through the branches. Such a ruckus, though over the wind sounds, not as loud as it would have otherwise been. The jackdaws are definitely starting to flock even though they don’t migrate.

It was nice to step into the shelter of the dog shop’s temporary location. I looked around only to discover that they didn’t have the brand of dog goodies. Freeze dried bison cubes.

What they did have though was a new staff member. A darling 8 week old, Border Collie puppy. His name was Kip. Soooooooooo darn cute and sweet. The young woman I’ve most often dealt with at the shop had only picked him up the previous day. He was already coming to his name, trying to play fetch and knew ‘sit’.

Naturally, I loved on the puppy a bit as I hunted down a leash to replace the chewed one. As I went out with my purchase to sit on the trike, the two women came out to sit at a table just at the open barn-like door of the shop. As I sat down, little Kip came over to see what I was doing. Fairly brave little thing. He was ever-so-slightly wary of the big weird thing, but he still sniffed around and tried to go under. That I stopped as there’s greasy chain down there.

Then his new mommy got his attention and he trundled back to her for a cookie. It was so cute though, when I rolled. If he’d been a child, he’d have been staring with wide eyes and wider mouth. Instead, his ears went up and he cocked his head as his little butt flumped down into a sitting position to watch.

Within minutes of leaving the shop, I lost the tailwind when I made a left turn.

By this time, it was after 3 pm, breakfast had been long ago and I was exhausted fighting Mother Nature. There was also the worrying irritation of the batteries in not only my phone, but my Garmin as well. Usually, I have what I call my ‘battery brick’ so dead electronics are rarely an issue, but for some reason, I didn’t have it. Probably left it charging at home or something.

Desperate for food at the very least, I rolled into McDonald’s by the museum rail tracks. There’s very little there that’s cholesterol friendly, but unless they’re sneakily adding butter to their frozen strawberry lemonade, I could have that. I made the order. While loitering around to wait for it, I noticed a raised table with bar-stool like chairs all empty. What caught my attention about it were the charging ports. Well, then, I’d be sipping my lemonade in the restaurant rather than out on my trike seat!

That’s what I did. I sat there while my Garmin and phone got a bit of a boost, savoring the energy kick my sugar laden beverage afforded.

In about 20 minutes, both had gotten about 10-15% boost and out I went. As I moved back to the path, I noticed that some of the trees getting battered by the wind were a pair of the many apple trees all through Uppsala. I made a quick stop and found some nice looking apples miraculously still on the branches that seemed ripe. For the next mile, I devoured 3 apples as I worked against the wind coming over my right front fender. I chose my apples well. They were yummy and worm free! Between that and the lemonade, I had energy enough to push on.

So, for about 7 miles, I had ‘reverse hamster track’ to ride on and then I rejoined the the various loops and ways in the usual direction again. Rather than going directly to the storage, I swung by the apartment to get Loke, figuring he could do the usual 2.33 mile jaunt from there back to storage. I had over 9 miles solo and once the trike was parked, it meant about 8 miles or so with Loke. Not a bad day!

It felt good to get something more in my tummy than sugar and fruit sugar though!

After that ride, things got a bit complicated and I wound up with yet another 3 straight days off the wheels.

Sunday is the one consistent work day I had. It’s the one with the least hours so easiest for me to do with my issues. So, into work I went.

Monday, Charles would have liked for me to work, but I had something else critical to do to that had been scheduled before I began working at the American Food shop. Loke was going to see an orthopedic specialist.

It turned into such a three-ring circles with monkeys running rampant and causing chaos. Took Jens to the train station. Then I left to the university animal hospital a bit more than an hour before the appointment. The plan was to get there in plenty of time and walk Loke in the area rather than plod around the usual blocks around here.

The traffic! I mean, I expected traffic, but this exceeded all expectations and not in a good way. Nor was it helped by the torrential downpour blasted by those persistent winds. A drive that usually takes 20 minutes took me over an hour. It was crazy! I didn’t think there were that many people in Uppsala! I checked in at 8:47 for my 8:45 appointment.

Thankfully the specialist was late as well.

The appointment went well. The woman was very nice, though Loke’s opinion differs. She did her thing to test Loke’s joints. I was a bit worried about that in two ways. First, that she’d find something. Second, that she’d find nothing.

When I made the appointment, Loke was slow. ‘Laughed at by passing snails’ slow. He also limped a lot with what seemed to be  pain in his shoulders and hips. He tripped and stumbled often. He’d drag a paw for a step or two on occasion as well, which is probably just part of the tripping thing.

About 8 days before his appointment, he turned around. Suddenly, he was wanting to run, chase critters, cruise at 8 mph and all without stumble, trip, limp or drag.

That’s pretty much what he was at when we were at the specialist. He’d slowed a tiny bit again, but otherwise was bouncy fit.

Going... going... GONE!

Going… going… GONE!

Well, she said he was painful in his left elbow and right shoulder, with a sort of ‘clicking’ when she manipulated him. As for his hips, he seemed completely fine there.

When I’d made the appointment, they’d scheduled him with X-ray times and that’s what was going to happen. He’d be sedated and X-rayed. She also said she wanted to get a colleague in to give his feet a quick look because his feet were stiff and uncomfortable. A actual doggie podiatrist. Oh, sure. Sweden has doggie podiatrists, but not human ones. *eye roll*

So, she went out and nurses came in to give the sedative. We moved to a quiet waiting area where they gave Loke a fuzzy blanket to lay on. It took me an minute or so to get him settled and then he soon got woozy before he was out like a light.

Poor fuzzy. Hopefully will get some answers!

Poor fuzzy. Hopefully will get some answers!

A few minutes later, an X-ray tech came out and we lifted Loke onto a gurney, blanket and all. Then I helped to shift him onto the X-ray table. From there, the tech wrestled him around, using sandbags to hold him in positions for the shots. After about 6 of them, she went to check with the radiologist who’d be reading them if they were what was needed.

Yep! Then it was back into the exam room with Loke still on the gurney.

The orthopedist came back with the podiatrist. As the podiatrist looked at Loke’s feet, the first vet told me that Loke’s X-rays came back just fine. His joints, in fact, look great. This means whatever is making him act arthritic is soft tissue issues, very likely related to his allergies inflaming muscle or even ligaments and/or tendons.

I’d wondered at times if that could happen. Even asked our usual cadre of vets if it was possible. They didn’t think so. Well, the specialist did, which is why she’s a specialist.

As for his feet, the podiatrist said the hind feet look pretty good. A little stiff, but nothing that should hinder him overmuch at his age. The front feet were a bit worse. The spot where the abscess has erupted twice, she asked if the vet had taken samples to test from the last time. I told her the results and she nodded, expecting the answer. No significant amount of bacteria. So, the abscess wasn’t from infection, but from some kind of inflammation response in the soft tissues right there.

In short, Loke’s allergies are making his immune system attack _him_. It’s not just the system shutting down so common skin flora and fauna go out of control and start making goo out of his skin, but it’s actually going after parts of his body instead.

They wanted to take some blood for tests, but for now, just continue with the anti-inflammatory medications to suppress the worst of the responses.

A prescription and said they’d call when the tests came back. The nurses would be in to wake the fuzzy.

An accusatory stare if ever there was one.

An accusatory stare if ever there was one.

Someone was very displeased with me as he came around. As soon as he could lift his head, he stared at me with an irritate cock to one ear. Clearly, I wasn’t doing my job of protecting him from evil people.

I headed out to the reception to pay, but it turned into a bit of chaos. I was stuck there for another 30 minutes or so. At one point, while waiting for the insurance to respond, I told the receptionist that I was taking Loke to the bathroom. He was steady enough on his feet that I took him to the little fenced yard they have just for that purpose. I even let him off leash as there were no other dogs there.

A few minutes after getting back in, I just paid myself rather than wait longer.

There’d been a narrow window of no rain, but naturally that window had occurred during the wait on insurance and Loke coming back to consciousness. As soon as we walked back to the car, it slammed shut on my chance to ride dry. I decided I didn’t want to ride that desperately in a windy deluge.

I was just exhausted after such a frustrating morning that even the temptation of making some progress on whittling down those last 17 miles to break over 300 miles from last year’s 8 month total couldn’t push me out into such awful weather.

Yep! August 31st, 2015, I had amassed 680.82 miles. As of August 27th, 2016, I had around 964 miles. When I discovered that, I’d planned to crank that up over 981 miles. Work, appointments and weather weren’t being terribly accommodating though.

Tuesday morning (August 30th), I thought I could at least get a few miles in while Loke was at the groomer. Poor fuzzy. Just not a great couple of days for him. About 8 am, Charles’ wife called and in the background, I could hear poor Charles coughing so hard it sounded like he was going to turn himself inside out. Could I cover the shop?

I told her I’d be happy to especially with Charles so sick, but admitted I wasn’t sure if I was up to 2 days of long shifts back to back. They agreed (in between Charles hacking and gasping for air) that they’d do their best to give me Wednesday off instead.

With that chaos, Jens checked his schedule and shuffled a meeting around so he could stay home to take Loke to the groomer and walk him.

Then it was Wednesday, August 31st and I had the day off. 17 miles nagged at me, but I’d felt pretty weak on most of the previous rides. I wasn’t convinced I had 17+ miles in me. Not to mention, I also had to go to the health ward with no idea how long it would take.

Still, I dashed with Jens to the train station in my cycle clothes so I could hurry straight to the storage and ride.

Naturally, since I had a bit of a time limit and had been fairly fit and strong for the visit with the specialist, Loke was slow and draggy with his old limping, stiff issues. *sigh* The 6 miles I’d planned to do with him was rudely chopped to about 4 miles. The weather looked pretty threatening. 55 F with a lead gray sky. For once though it was merely ‘breezy’ as opposed to ‘hurricane’.

Thankfully, my time at the medical ward didn’t take forever and a day. I hurried home, walked Loke around the block, got dressed back in my cycles clothes and scurried off to the trike.

The weather had turned by that point. The dense lead colored overcast had given way to cobwebs across blue with the sun shining down. The temp had taken a 14 degree jump and the wind had become a bit more brisk.

In spite of it feeling hot, muggy and miserable with what felt like a warm wind, I struck out across the countryside. I was feeling pretty weak, but figured I’d take a stab at the needed miles anyway.

Nothing says autumn like straw bales.

Nothing says autumn like straw bales.

It would have been nice if it had felt as autumnal as it looked. The harvesting has begun and some of the fields with grain stalks have been cut and rolled into straw bales for animal bedding. Felt like July, looked like September. Yet onward I pushed, in mortal combat with the wind. So very weary of the wind.

As I turned past Läby church and headed back toward Uppsala, I decided to go downtown to the shop. Last week, I began organizing a new price list. One where the items are in their proper categories and, therefore, easier to locate if a price label is missing. I’d left a few handwritten sheets that I needed to be added to my electronic list at the store. I’d swing by and pick them up.

There it is! The last 13 miles I needed for 981 miles!

There it is! The last 13 miles I needed for 981 miles!

Somewhere between Läby and the shop, it actually happened! I crossed 13 miles on my solo ride and officially made over 981 miles for the first 8 months of 2016. 300 miles than at the end of 8 months last year.

It turned out it was Charles at the shop. He still sounded a bit raspy, but at least he could take a breath without coughing it out. He was happy to see me and gave a hug. Then he introduced me to his sister who was also there. ‘This is my friend, Teresa. She works here too.’

His sister is a charming woman. A little thing, shorter than I am, which is saying quite a bit. A very chatty, person and extremely kind and generous from first impression. I liked her.

I chatted with her and even minded the register so Charles could go grab something to eat. It felt strange to be sitting there in my eye-bleeding color combinations of Lycra and running shorts, minding the till.

Charles also scribbled down the prices on my list while I was there.

On the way back, I stopped by the apartment to get Loke to do the 2.33 mile dash to the storage for trike parking and fetching the car.

What a change! Loke had exchange lethargy for exuberance, weakness for power. He ran strong and brisk with not a single hint of limp or stumble. Maybe his meds hadn’t completely kicked in on the morning dash, but he was practically a whole different dog.

Roughly 21 miles for the day. The original 17 miles I’d needed for the goal I’d given up on and then some!

Later in the afternoon, I realized I’d unknowingly accomplished the goal for August I’d set back in July, to double the distance I did in August 2015. Just, but still did it. August 2015, I had 65.9 miles. August 2015 ended with 134.67. I was flabbergasted. I’d felt lucky to just break 100 what with apathy, weather, health, and a new job in the mix!

It felt pretty good! There was something I overlooked though and it wasn’t until after I’d properly tallied the distances that I saw it. I was sitting at 985 miles and a few hundred yards.

Just a smidge less than 15 miles and I would break 1000 for the year! It was too late to do it in August, but a snap to do in September. Still quite an accomplishment for me. Loke’s about 150 miles less than I am. Sadly, I think this year is the most solo miles I’ve done in 5-7 years easily. There were a few years where I did less than 10 miles alone. 2008, I think, was a year for a lot more solo miles than husky ones because it was a hot summer and with the Trice, I couldn’t ride in winter.

In spite of the beating I took from 21 miles in windy conditions, I went out again the next day. I was slated to work on Friday and doing my best to ride often enough to combat the evil ‘3 or more days without pedaling’ issue I’ve been having.

I’d decided it wasn’t going to be a long ride though. Just a River Loop with an extra half mile or so to loop around to the vet clinic at its new location for Loke’s expensive kibble. Another windy day and silly me, I added to to it with not just the trailer, but 12 liters of water too.

That was probably unwise given the weary state of my muscles, the blustering air, and the fact I’ve not taken the trailer out in a week or two. Still I did it. It was a hard slog even before I dropped another 8 kilos in the trailer for more than a total of 40 lbs. My knees didn’t like me very much by time I got home.

A bit over 9 miles to be over 1000 miles for the year.

Friday morning, September 2nd, Jens was going to take the car as his parents were happy to again drive me to the shop. I dragged out of bed at about 3:45 am though, whispering at Loke to come with me out of the bedroom. He just blinked at me from his fox-curl position in his bedroom bed. I had to walk over and tug on his ear to get him up and into the living room.

"Noooo! Too early! Go back to bed, Mom!!"

“Noooo! Too early! Go back to bed, Mom!!”

As I staggered around, zombie-like and yawning, Loke flopped down into his livingroom pillow and rolled onto his back. During my leisurely approach to getting dressed (pull on tights, sit a moment to look at Facebook. Pull on shirt, sit a moment to yawn), he’d occasionally open an eye to look at me, then wriggle a bit and groan. If he’d been a kid, he’d have been rolling over and pulling a blanket over his head.

About 4:10 am, we left the apartment. In his harness and out in the crisp air of an inky black pre-dawn, he had more interest. I drove to the storage area, wondering if I’d be able to find somewhere to park. Cars that are usually gone with their owners to jobs or errands were firmly occupying parking space along the street as said owners were sensibly still in bed. Or at least their apartments. By some miracle though, I found one less than 100 yards from the garage.

You know it’s early when the early birds, yes, the ones with feathers, complain about you disturbing them. They scolded us from the hedges as we made our way from car to storage.

I pushed the trike up and clipped in. I felt some consolation that I could just make out where the sky was beginning to brighten. The trees were an inky black silhouette against a slightly less dark, inky blue sky.

We rolled away around 4:17 am. My earliest ride of the year. The first workout my lights have gotten since sometime before June.

Down to the river.

Down to the river.

Loke was happy to speed us along the first half mile to the overpass. There was a certain kind of peace to being out so early and before the sun. During the summer, it’s light at that time of morning and birds singing, beams of sunlight if it’s a mostly clear day. The first days of September and 4:30 am is still dark and nothing but the occasional grouchy bird or rare car to disturb the quiet. Or a woman on a trike puffing her way up a climb with the jingle of her husky’s harness beside her.

The descent down looked oddly pretty with the blue black sky just discernible from the trees and the small pools of shadows between the flood of lights. For once, it wasn’t windy. The Garmin’s temp display showed 53 F. I had my knit beanie on as well as thin gloves.

The fuzzy one seemed excited to see that lit path disappearing into the distant dark. He tried to run and kept giving me annoyed glances as I kept him firmly in the 6 mph range. I’m such a cruel woman, keeping him from running like the wind until he falls over.

Oh, look! It's cloudy!

Oh, look! It’s cloudy!

Between the storage and the path heading north beside the river, trees and buildings obscure most horizons. Combined with the light pollution which makes it impossible to see the stars, I didn’t know if it was cloudy or clear. Only when we made the turn and it was river and open fields of the Uppsala Garrison grounds could I see the first hints of the coming sunrise sneaking in under a chink through the clouds. So, cloudy then.

Though it was little more than a sliver of light and no real color to the clouds, I decided to follow the river path to the end as I did on the foggy morning. There was beauty to the play of light on the clouds. They had a subtle striated effect like wavelets lapping to a shore line.

Same spot, 6 minutes later.

Same spot, 6 minutes later.

Without the trailer, it was easy to turn around at the end of the path and come back. As ever, the change of just a few minutes made me smile. I’d thought it was going to be a fairly colorless sunrise like the one at the mounds, but it had surprised me. There was color and nary a pastel hue to be seen. These were vibrant, glowing shades of molten gold and dark, lush reds, magenta, and orange fading to deepest violet and indigo.

I decided not to go through the industrial area, but doubled back to the main path by the river. It was just too pretty to leave. I did leave it briefly, to go along the 272 for a about another half mile of distance. Loke was going to have a 5 hour stint all by himself until Grandma and Grandpa came to walk him.

Just wow...

Just wow…

It didn’t matter. That sunrise made even an on-ramp intersection look lovely.

It had truly turned into a nice morning. I might have been a bit irritated at dragging around when all I’d first wanted to do was roll back into bed, but the crisp air, Loke feeling strong and such a glorious dawning had cheered me. I smiled as I rolled by the ugly industrial building back toward the river.

The building is truly ugly. Some windows patched with boards, graffiti splattered over the harsh bricks. In its self, there is absolutely no aesthetic worth to the structure. It’s made to protect whatever industry happens within from the weather and keep out those who don’t belong. Period.

The ugliness reflecting nature's splendor.

The ugliness reflecting nature’s splendor.

But then nature comes along and enhances it at times. In spring, it might be the bright whites and yellows of ‘weed’ flowers growing at the edge of the wall. In winter, I’ve found incredible icicles growing to amazing lengths and shapes from the eaves. And that morning, the glass eyes of those windows not covered with boards, usually soulless, looked out with reflected sunrise.

More reflections

More reflections

Then we rejoined the river to begin the tail end of the loop back to the storage.

The city was waking up as we came to the intersection by the bakery. Cars were filling the streets and the cycleways beside them cluttered with a briskly moving cyclist heading to work. The birds were no longer grumbling at being disturbed before they were ready to wake, but beginning to start their day as well.

With a smile on my lips and spring my step as I walked from storage to car, I’d begun the day with 7.19 miles. Work waited.

Or so I thought. Apparently, there was a lapse of communication somewhere. When my husband’s lovely parents dropped me off, I walked into the mall and was baffled to find the shop’s door agape. I squeezed in and one of my coworkers popped his head out of the back room.

No, he was working today to get things labeled, didn’t anyone tell me? Nope.

I hurriedly called my mother-in-law and asked if they could come back for me.

I was a bit annoyed at having my in-laws make the unnecessary trip, but other than that, I was fine with it. Such a lovely early ride, how could I have regretted that?

Besides, it meant they didn’t have to deal with Loke and I had the time to finally boil the poor, deprived fuzzy some reindeer. It’s been a couple weeks since I felt like I had a solid 4 hour block to properly do that. Made the furry one very happy.

It was just as well work didn’t happen. I was worried I’d not be able to see it through because about 8 am, I was hit by one of ‘those days’. I’m dreading actually getting one of those while at work. Where every muscle screams with each move I make. Just pulling on a sweater or brushing my hair was agony.

I was very relieved to be relieved of my shift even if discovered only by going into work.

If I’d felt felt so completely incapacitated, I probably would have walked to the garage to do another river loop and parked at the apartment until Jens got home. After the 7.19 sunrise ride, I only needed 1.98 mile more to have the magical 1000 miles.

Today (September 3rd) is a day off from work and I would have gone out for that last little distance, except I woke feeling as if I’d gargled battery acid and my ears hurt. The first cold like this I’ve had in a long while. So, no riding today. Just laundry.

Tomorrow (September 3rd) is a work day and I think I’ll try to sleep in again. I don’t want this cold worse as I push through a 5 hour shift at the shop.

Monday… well, Monday I’ll go for an early-ish ride. Not 4 am early, but early. It will give me those last 1.98 miles to cross the magical 1000. Something to buoy me as I go in later for an ultra sound on my heart.

I’m a bit worried about that. Wondering if I’m going to discover that my rough, agonized days where I can barely move are due to congestive heart failure rather than post stroke symptoms.

I guess Monday I may have the answer, for good or for ill.