Terii’s Cycling Babble

The End Upon Us
December 31, 2016, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

What a year this has been. In many ways, it has treated me well. Nothing drastic with Loke. Nothing drastic with me. Some annoyances with the trike, but nothing catastrophic.

And yet, this has felt like a rather awful year. I guess it’s mostly been down to things like the train-wreck of an election year and the passing of so many of those who helped to shape or define the culture in which I grew up in. I digress.

The ‘cold de jour’ put me down for a few days, I think. At least there were no rides between the one on the 16th and my next outing on the 19th.

Normally, I work on Mondays, but I had December 19th off and awoke with full intent to tackle that 21+ mile loop I’ve had planned for weeks. From the start, it was shaping up to be a good day. Forecasted to be clear, mile temps so no risk of getting frostbitten feet, and while I still had a bit of cough and sniffle, my cold wasn’t bad enough to even give me pause.

It was just to lull me into a false sense of security.

One of the recent ongoing list of disasters earlier in the month was the separation of my chain tube that lead to half of it getting jammed in my idler cage and wrenched the derailleur up above the wheel axle. Since then, there’d been little hiccups and jumps in the gears. Nothing horrendous and so infrequent that it wasn’t even annoying.

Yet, on that perfect morning of opportunity, it went from ‘not even annoying’ and made the plunge deep into ‘rage inspiring awful’. I couldn’t get more than 5-8 turns of the pedals without the chain jerking or jumping and each time, it sent a painful shock through my knees.

The trike barely qualified for rideable. I managed 1 mile and the only reason it ended up that far is because the first .3 mile is downhill and I often coast at whatever speed Loke wants to do. Then it was about another quarter mile where Loke got a wild hair and decided to pull. Scarcely a turn of the pedals for all of that, so I had no idea until about .6 mile when I finally had to work for rolling speed. Of course, upon discovering how bad it was, I still couldn’t bear the idea of walking the trike back, so I suffered for a bit less than a quarter mile.

Before heading home, I drove to the cycle shop to ask if they could fit me in. Lotten told me they had a huge custom order to fill and would take all day, but they could easily do it on the next day (Tuesday, December 20th). I was more than welcome to drop the trike off that day so Bobby would be able to get right to it the next morning.

I went home and unwound for a bit before heading back to sling the trike into the car and drop it off.

My next ride was on the 22nd of December. The 20th, I worked all day and the shop was closed when I got off work. So, I grabbed the trike nice and early on the 21st.

Bobby was minding the shop all alone that morning, but he rolled the trike out and put it in the back of the car for me as he chatted about it.

As I suspected, the hanger was bent, but not very much. Rather than use my spare, Bobby had just manhandled the old one back into working shape. He added that it was about time to replace my chain which was probably why the gearing was so rough with just that tiny little misalignment of the hanger.

That caught me by surprise. It was replaced July 2015. My Trice never needed its chain replaced that frequently. But then, it hit me. Except for 2008, I wasn’t putting this kind of distance on my Trice as I have been my Sprint. Most years on my Trice were in the 400-600 mile range. Pretty sad really.

So, since July 2015 (right before the credit card tour down south), I’d put over 2000 miles on the chain. It’s had a lot of work in that distance, given my extra weight and the fact I was towing around 50-100 lbs in the trailer for a lot of my local rides as well. I’ve read recommendations that chains should be changed every 1500 miles or so, which I’ve certainly done.

Bobby said it wasn’t too bad yet and he recommended getting through the winter with it before changing as long as the gears remain manageable. I agreed.

I did ask what he thought of upgrading the gears from 9 speed to 10 or maybe 11 when the swap is made. The current gear shift and derailleur don’t perfectly mesh as 9 speeds are being phased out here in Sweden. So it might improve the shifting if I make the change to a shifter/derailleur that do mesh properly.

He seemed to think it was a good idea, though recommended sticking to 10 speed since that would mean being able to keep the current rear wheel. Also, he didn’t really think the extra gear was worth the rather sizable jump in price between 10 and 11 speed shifters and derailleurs.

I do feel a touch guilty since my current shifter isn’t very old, but it was replaced out of necessity when the previous one broke. The only reason I didn’t make the upgrade from 9 to 10 speed then was because I’d spent over 1000 kr on the new chain just a couple weeks before. A new shifting system would have meant replacing the chain as well as the cassette, derailleur, and grip shift.

I do really like the idea of getting an even lower ‘granny gear’. A cassette with something like an 11-38 or 12-40. *drools* Maybe then I could keep a cadence faster than 40 RPM when going up a 10% grade hill. Spin rather than shove up climbs. My knees would be so much happier if I can swing it. And who knows, maybe I’d start using my 2nd chain ring more. Dare I say it?! Even use my 3rd chain ring?!

A girl can dream. According to various media, most seem to dream of purses, diamonds, and shoes. Me? I dream of climbing up hills with uncomplaining knees even if doing 1 mph at 70 RPM.

I didn’t get out on the trike that day though. I was feeling pretty sick as well as having some neuromuscular issues that sucked my will to live.

In spite of that, I was cheerful! After all, it was December 21st, the happiest

I felt better the next morning, December 22nd. I lacked’oomph’ though. Not a bit of motivation. I woke with the idle thought of tackling that 21 mile ride as a ‘Solstice’ ride. Then proceeded to just veg through the morning until daylight constraints made it into ‘maybe do the 10 mile Vaksala Loop’. Finally it was, ‘Just get out the damn door to test the trike and exercise Loke’.

The lack of motivation was probably a combination of being so sick and painful the previous day and the sheer dreariness of the landscape. All the lovely snow in the photos of the previous post was completely gone. Just a few stray scraps of it along the edges of the paths or hiding in shadowed areas of grass. With a murky gray sky… yeah, not the most motivating scenery. The freakish warm temps had some trees swelling with buds. That’s gonna end badly when the next hard freeze comes along.

Loke was fairly eager though. He woofed and yodeled at me as I plodded around to get everything settled to roll. The ambient temperature out of the wind was 41 F, but once I was moving, the Garmin showed 36.2 F.

Unexpectedly, I felt quite a bit stronger than before. After the first mile, I gained something that resembled energy. I was perfectly dressed so not too hot or cold. The gears did some jumping over the first mile or so, but I guess they just needed some pedalling to get them sorted, because the last 3+ miles of the 4.78 mile loop, they worked fine.

Loke was a black mud ball from the belly down once we were done. Wet from a thaw is so very different on his fur than even the most wet, soggy week of rain. Rain wet just seems to to make him wet, not muddy, unless we go off road. Snow melt wet is just this black muck that sticks on the guard hairs of his fur.

It was good to get out in spite of my lack of energy at the start.

The next day (December 23rd), Jens and I were going to go see ‘Rogue One’. The hubby had booked the tickets before he was due to leave for his yearly convention in Vegas. That trip didn’t happen. Jens wound up too sick to fly, but the movie was still booked.

Since he was going to be left alone for about 3 hours, I wanted to run off some of Loke’s energy before the movie. When I laid down to sleep that previous evening, I planned to wake up early enough that I’d be rolling along on the trike before 8 am to do something like the 10 mile Vaksala Loop for a change. That would leave me enough time to ready for the movie after the ride.

It wound up being the River Loop again. I woke peacefully and lazily stretched before opening my eyes… to see a pewter gray sky and the silhouettes of the birch trees though the window. A bit after 8 am.

I flung myself out of the bed. I couldn’t believe I’d slept so late. Usually for me, sleeping in is 6 am. 8 am is just plain weird. That would mean I’d rolling out around 9 am and not done until potentially after 11 am and it was an early showing. If it took longer to do the Vaksala Loop than that, I’d be darting around like a squirrel on hyper drive. So, yeah. River Loop.

As it was, I moved fast. Gulped my meds with a few swallows of a smoothie, a handful of almonds for some energy while pulling on the layers I needed.

Though it appeared there were clouds off to the south, blocking the sun again, it was delightfully clear above. The clouds apparently scurried off in a hurry as I pushed the trike out of the storage and settled in. Suddenly sunlight was splashed across the crowns of the trees and tops of the surrounding apartment buildings.

Loke was fairly ‘meh’ about being out. He didn’t even care to break into a lope as we headed off down the slight slope of the first half mile of the ride. It was cool, probably about 41 F and my Garmin showing 37 F with the moving windchill.

Though the pavement didn’t have any hint of white to it, there was a diamond dust like glitter of frost once the full sunlight crept across the scenery.

It was soooooo wonderful to ride in actual sunlight. The mud colors of bare trees, dead grass, and plowed dirt were painting in vibrant shades with the deep red-gold light of the low sun. It perfectly complimented the bright blue of the heavens.

The further out we went on the River Loop hamster track, the colder my Garmin said it was. 35 F. 33 F. 32 F. Frost began to highlight the grass in places where the shadows stretched long. So lovely, I didn’t even care that I felt a bit on the weak and sluggish side. Just felt good to be out.

By the time we were doing the final stretch back to the garage, there seemed to be frost everywhere. Even the cycle path looked white with it in places. It took over an hour, but we rolled back for me to park the trike with 5.7 miles. With all the frost and frozen puddles locking up most of the wet, Loke wasn’t quite the inky black sponge I’d wound up with the day before.

Believe it or not, out Loke and I went the next day, Christmas Eve no less. Any thought of that 21 mile loop vanished right as I came awake. 42 F with insane winds and rain. I’ve been feeling weak and sluggish aggravated by the struggle with the chunky studded tires over gravel coated pavement. Throwing in a 25-30 mph headwind with that sounded more like torture than accomplishment.

The sky was amazing though. It was as if someone had hand drawn the clouds in perfectly aligned bands of gray scale. The ones closest were a dark, slate gray while the ones near the horizon were pale as a dove’s breast.

Around 9 am, the wind finally started to shred the clouds. That was amazing too. The gray skies with patches of pale robin’s egg blue and the edges of the clouds turned to glowing peach.

By the time Loke and I were at the storage, not a cloud was to be seen. Ambient temp was still in the mid 40’s, but those crazy gales dropped by 10 degrees. My Garmin displayed between 35 and 33 F. Brr.

It felt slow and hard… again. I keep asking myself how much of the struggle is the gravel and studded tires. My cadence isn’t down, but just so slow. Hopefully this will mean when they sweep up the gravel and the trike is back on the summer tires, I’ll be flying… relatively speaking.

It was pretty, but I didn’t have the oomph to do more than the basic River Loop. I didn’t even go along the water-side path.

The ice was disappearing on the river. There were already entire stretches completely open from bank to bank.

Though only 4.83 miles, it was a significant ride. Ride 200 for 2017 and 1300.1 miles.

It came as a complete surprise really. I’d stopped counting the mile for a time once I’d broken 2008’s distance so it amused me that it was such round numbers at that goal when I stopped to catch up on my tally.

After 3 consecutive days of the River Loop, I took a break. I think it might have been because of a brand new cold. One Jens brought home. It was only enough to make me too miserable to ride for a day or so, then I had work.

December 27th was my next ride. River Loop again.

According to the various forecasts, it was supposed to be clear. Yet I woke to water pattering outside the window, sometimes flung against the windows by another spate of crazy winds.

The dripping sound finally stopped and I dressed. Imagine my surprise when I stepped out the door, not to a murky gray day of mud-brown colors, but a thick flurry of wind driven snow. Almost an inch of it lay on the ground. A damp, heavy, clumpy inch.

At 35 F, I was surprised to see it and having it stick so well. As I drove to the storage, the snow gave way to a light rain. Not enough to wash the snow away, but to add moisture to it.

By the time I had the trike settled and out of the storage, the clouds had all blown away. The temp dropped to below freezing and all that wet snow turned into a crunchy crust over the pavement.

The last few rides had felt hard. Muscles all sluggish, weak and just exhausting to push the pedals around even for a few miles.

On the 27th, I felt stronger and not as lethargic. In spite of that, our going was still slow with the crunchy covering of frozen, wet snow. Very slow. 6.88 miles took almost 2 hours.

In spite of that, it still felt easier to keep the wheels turning than say on the 24th without that extra challenge. Maybe it was just the weather was so nice, in spite of being colder. It was sunny again and I was perfectly dressed. Loke was enthusiastic.

Loke really enjoyed the last mile. It had gotten colder, down to 29 F, mostly because the sun was so low that it couldn’t even peek over single story houses 100 yards away. That last bit down a residential street where little houses with postage stamp sized yards sitting cheek to cheek was surprisingly quick. It’s on part of a bus route and the wheels of the buses doing their circuit had flattened the snow into ice with a bit of a gloss. Not so slippery that my tires spun so we had a surface that was nearly as good as brand new pavement. We sped up to almost 9 mph, the wind at our back. A nice way to finish the ride, really.

December 28th, I didn’t go ride. Don’t remember why in all truth. December 29th, I didn’t ride either, but that was because I worked.

During those two days, the weather warmed back up and that crusty, crunchy snow disappeared. Back to murky brown hues and gray skies.

December 30th, we were going to take Jens’ parents out to dinner, so Loke needed a bit of exercise before being left alone for 3 hours or so.

The forecast seemed pleasant enough. Very little wind, high of 46 F, and partly sunny. Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad I guess. The wind was about what was predicted, though a bit colder with ambient temp of 42 F and my rolling windchill about 37 F. Partly sunny? Didn’t happen. Not even a glimpse of blue to be seen which is a prerequisite for at least SOME sunshine.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped out to head for the garage with Loke to discover we’d had a dusting of snow over night! Had no clue it even got cold enough for that. Most of it was already gone and the rest vanishing fast. Probably not much more than 1/8th of an inch before it started melting.

So, out into the murky gray we went. This time with purpose. 90% of my local ‘hamster track’ rides involve the same 1-2 miles at the start which is the original loop, I first began on in the first days of triking. The River Loop. That’s most of what I’ve been doing this year. The past few weeks, it’s pretty much all I’ve done, just with a few little extensions tacked on.

Well, after those initial 2 miles it felt sooooo good to get off the River Loop. Seriously. Where I usually turn down a path back toward the river past an old, unattractive industrial building, I went straight to do my downtown Uppsala loop. A little voice in my head cackled insanely, ‘Free! FREE! I’m FREE!’. Well, not really, but that’s almost how I felt.

Loke was moving more stiffly than usual. I took us slower, but didn’t stop or call Jens to get him. Stiff or not, he’s still a font of endless energy and drives us bonkers. Just makes all of us miserable if I try to coddle him. It’s probable that it’s just like when he was between the ages of 7-9 and he actually needed more exercise to loosen him up. So.. take it easy, but keep moving.

Stiff or not, that long decent past the hospital down to the pedestrian/cycle drawbridge, he pulled into a slow lope, casting me irritated looks when I tried to slow him down.

As we approached the bridge, I wondered if there’d been more people crossing it in 2016 than in 2015. Yep! 2000 or so more people with another day left. It won’t break 1,000,000, but I think it did push over 940,000 crossings. I’ve probably contributed no more than a dozen this year.

River loop, river loop… Erk. Sorry. Stuck in a rut.

Past there I aimed for the walking street with the shops to pop into Naturkomaniet in search of a cute little wool hat in a tartan plaid to go with my cute little wool cape in same tartan. Sadly, the shop didn’t have it. They did have some nice matching scarves though which almost tempted me.

After that, it was a brief pause at the American Food Store where I work to wish Tove a happy New Year and asked she pass that wish on to Charles and the rest of her family.

From there, it was a fairly direct jaunt home. I had to get ready for dinner after all. Finished up the day with 8.28 miles. One of the longer rides for the month. Also had a couple pounds of that inky black mud in Loke’s fur. It’s special to the conditions of gravel and snow melt. Soggy weather in summer doesn’t get him looking this way.

Though it was our longest outing in a while, Loke still immediately started harassing my husband to go for walkies.

Anyhoo, here I sit on the day of New Year’s eve. I’ve been trying to convince myself to do something to finish out the year. I thought about doing the next leg of the Mälardalsleden, Jens has been willing, even almost pushy about it. Just don’t know. Not sure why, I’m finding no motivation. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to stress about trying to get somewhere on the ride and yet back to Uppsala to have dinner with Jens’ family around 5 pm. No matter. At nearly 8:30 am now, it’s really too late to go for that.

Thinking about another River Loop today though.

Gaw. Am I really that stuck in a rut?!

I will get some miles in though. It might not be ending the year on a high note, as I’d been hoping over the last few weeks, but I will ride. And I will have a tally of my rather sad year totals. The miles were about the only success this year as far as numbers go.

Onward Plods December!
December 16, 2016, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

And the sniffles, coughing, and wheezing continue! The cold that caught me in the first week of November has lingered on and on. Now, another one jumped on its coattails.

The litany of petty little disasters I listed in the last post only grew as the days passed. Every little thing seemed to be a challenge. From walking across the apartment to putting something in the fridge or getting dressed.

It goes without saying that it has rather slowed me down. But on with the ‘reports’.

Such a cruel tease. I thought it might be a recumbent shop here in Uppsala....

Such a cruel tease. I thought it might be a recumbent shop here in Uppsala….

I rode on the 9th, but first I took a quick jaunt to the Starbucks at Granby mall for the hubby. I pulled into a parking spot and looked up, shocked to see part of a sign over the top of a car. ‘FEETFIRST’.

I brightened at the sight of it, thinking a recumbent shop had moved into the mall. Just think! A recumbent shop in my lil ol’ Uppsala.

Nope. Just a boring list of shoe stores. *sigh*

Coffee shopped, it was off to the storage with Loke. Not only was it time for a ride, but also to install the new Arkel handlebar bag that had arrived.

Settled in and started working with the hardware that allows the bag to clip onto the sidebar attached to the seat of the trike. What a fiasco! I’m not sure if the set up really has any engineering merit, but I felt like I needed 4 hands just to keep the pieces together to fit them around the sidebar.

Finally, I finagled a way to do so with electrical tape. By then, the muscles in my shoulders, arms, and hands were screaming with neurological pain so badly I couldn’t hold onto the allen wrench any longer. Just one part of the mounting hardware attached.

I still was determined to go out for a ride though. I hung my old handlebar bag by its carry strap from the Loke’s running bar.

I’d barely sat down and turned the pedals when the trike yanked to a stop causing Loke to give me a peeved look. I pulled myself up to check.

The duck tape that keeps my chain tube together had come loose, allowing part of the tube to travel back and force it’s way into part of the rear derailleur idler. The resulting mess had wrenched the entire derailleur mechanism up and over the wheel axel, a position it’s never meant to take.

Loke was so confused as I wrestled the trike back down the ramp to the storage so I could fix that hairy mess. Once everything was roughly back in place and retaped, I pushed us back up.

The first few shiftings on the first half-mile dash to the overpass, the gears were a bit sloppy. It seemed the brand new derailleur hanger might have gotten bent. Not drastically much to my relief, but just enough that some of the gears weren’t as smooth as they should be and it tried to jump gears at other annoying moments.

Some how, by what was probably a minor miracle, we did roughly 3 miles without the trike exploding into flame or a meteorite crashing down on my head. I was too exhausted and in so much pain to do more. Most of those 3 miles was more out of pity for Loke than anything.

Would you believe it, but out I went again the very next day?

The circumstances wound up a bit complicated though. My husband’s parents have their anniversary during the first week of December. On December 10th was the celebration. To get them out of the house while Jens’ sisters cooked up a lovely meal, Jens drove them to Sunnersta to walk along the river to our apartment. The very same trail I’ve ridden a few times and love actually.

The weather on December 9th had been fairly murky. Warm, but still murky. When I say warm, I mean it. It was over 50 F and after the frustrating ride, I took Loke out to the grave mounds for a walk. I did that walk in short sleeves, no jacket.

It looked much the same on the 10th, really, though a colder, at about 33 F. At least when I first woke up. About the time the sun rose behind a blanket of gray, it began to snow, a soft little dusting on the grass.

Any thought of riding was a bit delayed because of the timing for Jens to drop his parents off on the fringes of Uppsala by the river.

What a difference! By the time I headed out a bit before 10:30 am, it had gone from a light sprinkle of snow on grass and cars to a dense blanket of inches on every surface.

All that white stuff made me giddy. I was practically giggling as I drove to the storage.

Before I pushed the trike up and out though, I really wanted my new handlebar bag attached. I needed to know if it was going to work.

My experience with the first half of the mounting hardware at least made the other half go much better. Almost smoothly as a matter of fact. I got everything taped in place in much a matter of minutes and snugged it in place on the handlebar bag.

There was a bit of a complication as I went to adjust the slots on the bag itself though. One of the bolts there seemed stripped and I couldn’t loosen it to slide it in place. Thankfully, not the end of the world. The other side worked fine so any other needed adjustments were made by moving one of the mounting bars. Within about 15 minutes, it was done.

Yay! It's on! LOVE IT!

Yay! It’s on! LOVE IT!

Once it was on, I must say I was pretty much in love with the bag. It was gonna work just fine. The bottom of the bag was higher from the ground than the old one in spite of the fact that it’s almost big enough carry the old one with a bit of room to spare. It’s even large enough for my camera and a spare lens or two. There’s definitely a second one of these in my future. One for camera and lens and the other for everything else.

Did everything go smoothly from there? Nope, though it was a minor annoyance. Admittedly, none of the countless things that had been going wrong had been major disasters, just one after another after another aft…. you get the idea.

Hard work! Especially without Loke!

Hard work! Especially without Loke!

I guess the bag going on easily except for the stripped bolt had to be made up for by having an additional annoyance. I didn’t even get the trike up to the top of the ramp when the rear mudguard shoved forward to get jammed between part of the fore and the tire, sticking the wheel.

The snow was so thick and so wet and dense, that it packed tight into the tread of the tire, which in turn packed into the mudguard where friction pushed it forward.

Sometimes that rear guard is more trouble than it’s worth. This was nearly one of those times. But I didn’t really relish getting mud or soggy snow slung through the mesh seat or up the back of my head and neck.

Duck tape to the rescue. I tore strips of it off and wrapped it around the wire supports of the mudguard and fastened it to the luggage rack. To pull it forward, it was going to have to break layers of duck tape.

It held and just before 11 am, I was finally rolling out unhindered except for the extra effort of pushing through almost 3 inches of snow and more was coming down.

THIS is why I have a 26" rear wheel now. Love it!

THIS is why I have a 26″ rear wheel now. Love it!

The crazy snowfall had slacked some, so as I did the usual half mile to start out on the hamster track of the river loop, it was just a soft drift from the gray sky and hardly a breath of wind. It was barely even freezing. My gloves stayed in the bags from there.

I could hardly decide where I wanted to ride. It was just so lovely. All that fresh snow.

There was also the added complication of time. I had to be back around 3 pm to shower for the anniversary dinner, but any of my set loops, other than the River Loop, would take too long, especially with the snow slowing things down. It had come so sudden and thick that it had caught the plow teams by surprise. I heard not a hint of a plow yet even on the bigger streets and the cycle paths would be fairly low priority at first.

That, combined with my desire to do more than the river loop made me think long and hard. The countryside called, but would take too long. The cycle paths were deep in snow, not too mention pedalling along with buildings and roads with snow churned to mud didn’t appeal.

I was so torn about it, I even called Jens to discuss it. What I really wanted to do was head out into the countryside. The tires from cars would melt and churn the snow into something a bit easier to get though. All that lovely scenery covered with fresh snow called as well. Scenery I’ve not already seen multiple times on snowy days in the past couple months.

Much as I despise out-n-backs, I decided that’s what I’d do. I’d head out as if doing the Läby or Ulva loop and when it came to about 1:30 pm, I’d decide if I could make it to the end or if I needed to turn back.

Up the hill into the countryside!

Up the hill into the countryside!

As soon as it was decided and I scooted across the 272 onto Old Börje Road, I practically giggled with glee. That long slow climb up that first hill built the anticipation.

And there it is! A snowy countryside!

And there it is! A snowy countryside!

It started to level off so there were little glimpses of green-black conifer tops flocked with white. Then, there it was. The landscape spread out below with the dark line of the curving road of churned snow winding through the white blanketed fields.

So pretty...

So pretty…

Easier than the paths, it was still hard work. Even the usually flying descent down that hill was more of a brisk roll. There was a surprising amount of traffic zipping around on the little road too which brought its own little unpleasantness. At speeds of about 50 mph, even when the cars gave me the full lane, their tires splattered that slush amazing distances. Needless to say, I got well doused.

And still the snow falls.

And still the snow falls.

You know what? I still counted it as worth it. I’ve wanted another snowy countryside ride for ages. With the unpredictability of the weather, I couldn’t count on it sticking around. For all I knew it would be gone by the next day. Carpe Diem.

The trees are amazing!

The trees are amazing!

Not to mention, this was inches of snow on the open landscape. More than a faint dusting over mud and dead grass. I couldn’t get enough of it. How everything was so bright, even with the sun behind the clouds. How it changed the nearly black shape of the trees into something so lovely and interesting with the way the snow clung to branches.

Couldn't get enough.

Couldn’t get enough.

It was slow going, so I fully expected that I would be turning back rather than making a full Ulva loop of the ride. The Läby loop was completely out of the question as the mile or more of cycle path along side the 72 would have made for even slower going with the increasing depth of snow.

It's coming a little thicker.

It’s coming a little thicker.

It didn’t help either that I kept stopping for photos or that some bit of the transformed scenery would grab my attention and I found myself just sitting quietly on the side of the road, admiring it as snow flew around me. It ate up time I could have been rolling, but I was out there to enjoy the scenery. To live in the moment.

A world of contrasts.

A world of contrasts.

I wasn’t too far from the ‘kitty cottage’ where an elderly couple used to have about dozen cats, when the snow fall thickened. The wind kicked up too which had me digging out my gloves. It was stunning how quickly the snow began to build up on the road. It went from mostly slush to a mostly churned muck with the consistency of sand in most places.

Even in winter, dead trees are even sadder.

Even in winter, dead trees are even sadder.

Just before the kitty cottage, I was passing by the farm just before it, when an older man came walking down the drive with a wire-coated dachshund. The dog was a bit wary of me at first, but gave me a quick sniff before moving on to mark one of the plow poles.

I was going pretty slowly, as it’s a bit of a hill there combined with the now rather stiff wind and thickening snow, so he actually started talking to me, so I stopped to chat.

He was a very nice guy. Asked about the trike and other things. He also made a point in telling me that in just a few months, they would be celebrating that the farm there had been in his family for a full century. He seemed very proud of that fact. I think it’s probably the first time I’ve ever met someone who’s had a multi-generational bit of property.

I asked if it was going to be staying in his family. Yep. He had 3 daughters. One was going to get the big house and a portion of the land. Another girl was getting another little house on the property with more of the land and the 3rd was getting a little cottage, but only wanted the yard around it rather than more of the land.

After a short time, his dog insisted they move on, so I pushed onward.

There's the crossroads down there, I promise!

There’s the crossroads down there, I promise!

It was after 1:30 when I crested the slight hill that overlooks the crossroads below. Snow was flying furiously, driven into stinging needles by the wind. Visibility dropped so distant trees were little more than ghosts through veils of white. With the snow piling ever thicker on the road that even passing cars weren’t melting it, it became more and more like riding through damp beach sand.

Into the wind and flying snow.

Into the wind and flying snow.

It seemed silly to roll down the hill to the crossroads only to turn right back around to slog back up. I’d gone roughly 4 miles by that point, with another 9-10 miles to do the full Ulva loop. No way to get it done and home in time to not be late for the anniversary dinner.

Post card perfect...

Post card perfect…

Turning back, of course, meant going full on into the driving wind and snow. Even though it was barely freezing and I was wearing my heavy wool, the chill began to creep in. I tucked myself down and just kept the pedals turning. No speed records, unless one aims for ‘pokey’, but I was moving and in the right direction.

Hard work, but worth the views.

Hard work, but worth the views.

The friendly old man was no where to be found as I plodded back by his lovely farm. If he had been there, I’m not sure he’d have recognized me at that point. I was more snowman on a recumbent trike than plump woman on a trike.

There is a paved path under there... I think.

There is a paved path under there… I think.

Lovely as it was, I was so glad when I made it to the top of that first hill to roll back down and over the 272. From there, it was back to the snow-strangled cycle paths. While that wrecked my rolling resistance, it was out of the wind. A relief from the sting of gale flung snowflakes into my cheeks as well as the seeping chill that had been growing.

The anniversary dinner probably saved me a lot of discomfort. Turning back when I did, it was still coming up on sunset when I flopped down into the car to drive back home. I’d have been riding over half of the Ulva loop in pitch black, except for my fairly good lights.

The dinner was great. The wonderful company of Jens’ parents, sisters and their spouses made a pleasant evening. I wasn’t my most social self though. Honestly, I was so utterly and completely wiped from the ride that I felt like on the verge of dozing off at any moment.

Loke on the other hand was bouncing around hysterically. One would never have known that he’d gotten to walk almost 5 miles with grandma and grandpa.

Exhausted as I was, guess what?

Still snowing, but a freshly plowed cycle path.

Still snowing, but a freshly plowed cycle path.

Yep! December 11th, the very next day, I went back out for a ride before work. And it was still snowing!

Loke was a bundle of exuberance as I pushed the trike up the ramp through the pre-dawn. He woofed and yodeled impatiently as I settled everything. Then we pushed off through the 3 extra inches gained over night. Those little residential streets didn’t seem to have been plowed at all since the first of the snow came.

I was feeling a bit wary about the cycle paths given how worn my legs felt. Not to mention just getting up the overpass. I forgot to mention how much trouble I’d had the previous day. The snow just packed into the tread of the tires and the spikes couldn’t reach through it all to find something solid to bite. I’d had to walk the trike to the top.

We were about 100 yards from the overpass when I heard the diesel chug and scrape of a plow. It came right over the crest of the bridge and then backed up to continue on in another direction down the path.

Up and over we went in a snap.

It was a smooth charge down the hill, Loke stretching into a run through the softly drifting snowfall.

Oddly, at the bridge over the river, the cleared snow ended. All three of the directions at the intersection were inches deep in unmarked white.

Dawn and city lights reflected from snowing skies.

Dawn and city lights reflected from snowing skies.

Still, it was pretty, so I actually turned to follow the river north. The reflected glow of the coming dawn and lights of the city gave character to the sky and brightened things.

Back over my tracks.

Back over my tracks.

The attempt to ride along that portion of the river didn’t last long. My legs were aching and exhausted from the day before. Waving the white flag of surrender, I reached the wooden outdoor ‘gym’ and used that space to do a looping turn to head back.

The opalescent glow of a snowy pre-dawn.

The opalescent glow of a snowy pre-dawn.

Not even cold enough to keep the river frozen.

Not even cold enough to keep the river frozen.

And it was an deep ache. The muscles through the front of my thighs and all through my gluts. If not for my determination to hold to the ‘less than 3 days between rides’ thing, I would have stayed in.

Turning back to follow the river south didn’t seem to win me much. The path was still under inches of new, wet, and dense snow.

Not far beyond the underpass, I wound up having to squeeze waaaaay over into the deeper snow beside the path to let a plow pass. It was relief to finally have almost clear pavement to roll on as I pushed to get back to the storage.

After that morning’s ride, so began my stint at work. Sunday wasn’t too bad. Actually nor was Monday, December 12th. The 9 hour shift of late has just been dragging on and on and on and … you get the gist.

But it actually went fairly quick for once. It felt like 9 hours instead of 30.

Tuesday, was laundry day in prep for Jens’ trip to Vegas. Then also, a co-worker called to ask if I’d cover the last 2 hours of the day so he could go to an anniversary dinner with his wife. 2 hours is no problem, so I agreed. It made for a very busy day though, so no ride.

Jens had been fighting a cold through the weekend. Wednesday, December 14th, it hit him hard. It pounced on me too. My throat was raw and going out into the cold felt like gargling slivers of glass. Not conducive to an activity that leads to heavy breathing in said cold air.

Quite a shame really. Frustrating even. It turned into the prettiest day we’ve had in a while. The 72+ hours of snow had finally stopped and the skies turned utterly clear. That evening about pushed me to the edge of distraction. It remained clear, with almost a foot of snow covering everything… and a full moon!

I couldn’t quite convince myself to go though. Not just because I was sick, but also because just before the snow had stopped, it had turned to rain which had promptly frozen hard when the temp plummeted to 8 F. It left everything slick. I had images of going for a ride out toward Börje and a car skidding into me because of the ice.

Jens, dear man, offered to drive behind me with blinkers to help keep me safe. I pointed out that riding along in the glare of headlights would have wrecked the whole reason for the moonlit ride, obscuring the silver reflection of it from the snow and hiding the stars. Sick as a dog and still willing to do things like that.

Thursday, December 15th, was my next ride. Yes, by count, that made 4 full days between rides. It’s been chaotic with the sick hubby, my being sick, and so forth.

I still felt pretty rough. Riding in the snow had been brutal, but it had been an incredible ride.

Long shadows of December in Sweden

Long shadows of December in Sweden

Thursday dawned almost as gorgeous as Wednesday, and a bit warmer. I finally dragged myself and Loke out around noon. The utter lack of clouds let the low angled sun shine down, casting long shadows across the snow.

It wasn’t a long ride. I wasn’t feeling exactly froggy with the cold and all. Mostly it had been better than walking Loke. He got to move a bit faster and certainly much further (3.78 miles) than I can walk in general.

I had no strength and no energy though. Every turn of the pedals was hard. I’d planned to ride to the cycle shop and drop off freshly baked lemon/raspberry muffins as a ‘Thank you for keeping me rolling’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ to them. I cut it short, deciding to drive the muffins to them rather than ride.

Still, it was nice to get out in sunshine and even better that there was still snow over the dead grass and weeds.

Admittedly, I still had the same conflict that evening. A full moon, snow, and wanting to go ride in it. I resisted.

As for today (December 16th), out again. I toyed with the idea of taking a 20 mile ride through the countryside. It was on the warm side, for this time of year, and while cloudy, it wasn’t raining at least.

I dragged around though and didn’t get rolling until a bit shy of 10 am. 20 miles would have meant riding in the dark. While not the end of the world, I prefer daylight if I’m riding under clouds.

Instead, I aimed the trike for home. A short little 2.05 mile ride. The trike parked at home, I relaxed for a while. Just before sunset, I went back out to roll the trike back to the storage. Not an exciting day, but it still felt good to get out. Around 4.5 miles for the day.

As for Loke? He’s hardly noticed the outing. He’s been pacing around. I’ve also noticed too though that he’s been groaning like he used to before he started getting a daily dose of anti-inflammatory medication. He’s had a few episodes of limping as well. Not that it’s made him act any calmer.

December won’t be terribly impressive, but so far better than November. I’ve also rolled more than 1280 miles for the year. Each mile is one I’ll have to work on beating next year. Still, I keep rolling as much as I can.

Soon, I’ll be writing up the fully tally. It won’t be one for the record books from the standpoint of churches and other cultural sites, since as much as 90% of my rides have been hamster track runs around home. Still, I got the miles which is something I guess.

December – In With a Whimper
December 8, 2016, 6:12 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Are we sensing a pattern here?

Though I’d planned to ride on the 30th of November, it didn’t happen. I can’t remember why exactly. It might have been that I was called in to work on short notice to help out with something. Work has been rather crazy lately.

It still turns out there were 8 rides in November. A quick look at my Garmin info found one that hadn’t been entered into my BikeJournal.com calendar.

I did, however, get out the door on December 1st. There was even extra motivation in the fact that Loke had eaten the last of his kibble for breakfast that morning. While he would have been thrilled getting a nice big serving of reindeer, I prefer to stretch it out as well as we can since it requires a drive to the Stockholm area to replenish.

Even that took a shift in planning when I was called in to work that morning. I went in from 10 am until 1 pm. Then it was a quick dash to the Naturkomaniet (all things outdoor and camping) to pick up the 400 g wool thermals I’d ordered.

Then, only then, was I able to scurry home and fling myself into cycling action. The first ride in a week.

Loke was actually yodeling and woofing at me as I pushed the trike to the top of the ramp in the gloom of sunset. As I ignored him to put the lights on the trike, he finally just gave a sigh and sat down to wait.

While the various apps and thermometers at home showed a temp of around 31 F, my Garmin’s display kept going down until it hit about 23 F. The cold was no difficulty. I was in the new heavy thermals and I also was sneaky enough to wear my ‘parka poncho’. Jens would probably throw a fit if he knew. Even though a poncho isn’t the most effective thing on a recumbent, I was snug. Actually, I bordered on too warm as I pedalled along.

The daylight disappeared quick, but the sheer amount of lights along the cycle paths was more than enough to see by.

Loke and I both went along through the deepening dark briskly. I was surprised at how strong… and good I felt. I couldn’t quite recall the last time a ride felt that way, though if I scrolled back through the posts here, I’m sure I could find out. The energy and power was still a surprise given how exhausted and weak I’d been over the past 4 days or so.

Even once I’d picked up the 17 lb bag of dog food, I was still able to maintain us at a good clip. I dropped the food off at the apartment and took the usual 2.33 meander back to the storage. With the sun gone for almost an hour by that point, the temp on the Garmin now showed at 17.8 F and I started to feel it. Even my feet were becoming unhappy. Fortunately, it was just a few minutes back to parking the trike by that time.

7 miles. Not too bad for a hurried dash and a short errand.

I rode again the very next day, December 2nd.

The plan for the morning had been to go out on a ride to Gamla Uppsala mounds. The forecast was for clear skies and I wanted to arrive there just as the sun rose and painted the tops of the mounds with that gorgeous red-gold light.

I just couldn’t get the energy. Just staying awake was a small victory. It was just as well. Since the forecast was wrong and the morning stayed shrouded in clouds, it would have been annoying to rush out for that.

Jens finally harassed me out the door a bit after 11 am. Off it was onto the River Loop hamster track… again. It’s only about the 130th time out of some 190 rides of the year.

The energy and strength I’d had the day before was no where to be found. Tired, aching, lethargic, and weak even with the trailer staying behind. Loke had some bounce, but it wasn’t enough to counter my sluggishness in terms of our general speed.

The temperature was quite a bit warmer than the day before, the Garmin displaying nothing colder than 27 F, though no warmer than 30 F. With the snuggly 400 g weight thermals, I was quite cozy. Enough so that my cap ended up back in the bags to let the icy air blow through the vents in my helmet and my hair to keep from getting overheated.

On the 1st, the river surface had just a hint of a thin skin of ice at the edges, clinging to the bits of reed and grass. On the 2nd, much of it was frozen from side to side with a few dark open patches in the snow dusted surface. Amazing how quick that much water can freeze across.

Wiped as I was, I didn’t have much ‘oomp’ to push for the extra 2 miles I’d normally add. The pain in my hip and even upper thigh did me no favors either. I can combat tedium or I can combat pain. The double whammy of both just makes me want to get home where I can stop hurting so much and find something more mentally engaging to do. We finished with a bit over 5 miles.

I didn’t ride on the 3rd. Can’t remember if it was just because I wanted a rest or for some other reason.

Sundays are a set work day for me. The shortest shift of the week which is perfect for my limitations. Since I hadn’t ridden on Friday and was going to be working a full shift until 7 pm on Monday, I had to get out before heading in to the shop at noon on Sunday, December 4th.

Like the previous ride, it felt hard. My legs seemed to have no strength and turning the pedals was a bit of a challenge. Unlike the previous two rides of the month, Loke seemed to share my physical state to some degree. Or perhaps he was just bored… so very bored.

Well, we set out on the River Loop hamster track again as it was all I really had time for. I probably should have started earlier, but that sleepiness wouldn’t leg go so we’d rolled out a bit after 8 am.

It was cloudy (what a surprise) and about 25 F. Not a breath of wind which was nice at those temps. Every now and again, a single, tiny flake of snow, like a miniature puff of down would drift into view. They were so infrequent though, it would have been silly to say it was actually snowing. But we’d clearly had gotten a bit more snow than those occasional flakes as the roads and paths were dusted with white and the river, now frozen completely, was a pale, smooth surface like a sheet of pristine paper.

Slow as I was and hard as it felt to keep going, I was smiling as we went. Along the river side, a soft flurry of snow began while at my back, the low sun found a chink in the clouds to set the bare limbs of the trees ablaze with its light. Sun and snow together.

Coming back to the last stretch toward the storage, I started to go slower and slower, finally realizing it wasn’t all me. One of my hydraulic brakes was locking up. Finally, it had clamped down so tight on the disc I couldn’t pedal any more. I poked at it some, but was really starting to feel the time pressure. Not to mention, I had no clue how to at least loosen the brake without letting all the fluid out to make it easier to get home. I didn’t want to leak the fluid, leaving a potentially sweet tasting patch of poisonous snow for an unsuspecting animal to consume either.

So… I pushed. 40+ lbs of trike with studded tires, one of them locked tight, getting shoved over the pavement for over half a mile. I thought about Jens coming to rescue me, but by the time he’d have walked to the car and driven to me while I disassembled the trike and loaded it up, I could already be back at the storage probably in less time.

It was so frustrating though. My hip hurt, my back started to ache. Time was running out and I worried about getting to work late. Loke was no help. He kept stopping to sniff things, pulling against the tether, but I really didn’t want to deal with him tangling up with the trike if I walked him with the leash either.

Then, the perfect thing happen in that perfect circle of hell. One of my laces on my boots came untucked and snagged on the lace hook of the opposite boot. Suddenly, I was windmilling frantically for balance while desperately mincing along in hobbled 6 inch steps to keep from face planting into the snow dusted asphalt.

By some not-so-minor miracle, this plump old woman did NOT dive face first into the ground. I didn’t even fall to my knees. Maybe it’s because my cursed Icebug boots have given me so much practice at hobbled stumbling of late. I’m starting to think they’re out to kill me. No matter how carefully the laces get tucked, they wind up getting loose and grabbing the other boot.

Frustration was bubbling as I yanked the lace loose. Then, grinding my teeth, I looked around. No one in sight and the path was flanked by high walls on both sides. I loosened my control and a strangled scream burst out of me as I started jumping up and down while shaking my fists. I let another long shriek go and stomped around some more. Then I noticed that Loke was bouncing on the end of his tether in time with my hops and stomps, looking for all the world as if he was enjoying whatever little game I’d just started.

My yelling turned into shocked laughter and I went over to hug the fuzzy one. I felt much better, both for his antics and having vented some of my frustrated fury. It would have been embarrassing if anyone had seen me. I’m sure someone might have heard it. Still, it was better to stomp and holler than to start kicking the trike. Kicking might have loosened the brake, but damaged who knows what else.

Then it was back to shoving the trike along.

I was exhausted when I got the trike parked and trudged back to the car. Just before we got to the car though, I heard this weird noise. I looked up and took a deep breath and sighed out a bit more of the lingering stress at the sight of a perfect ‘V’ formation of 9 swans heading south. They were streaming along only 20 feet or so over the tree tops, so I could see the orange of their beaks and even the black dots of their eyes as their heads bobbed with graceful stroke of feathered wings. Strange how so large and beautiful a bird sounds like a chihuahua’s stomped squeaky toy.

Monday, December 5th, I worked and it was a bad day. Let’s just leave it at that since it had little to do with cycling other than the fact I called to ask if the cycle shop could fit me in. Neil told me to bring the trike by the next day.

So, Tuesday, December 6th, I dragged around for a bit, trying to recover from the previous 2 crappy days. I got to the cycle shop around 8:30. Before I even got the trike into the shop, Lotten stepped out to check something on a bike parked beside the door. She asked what was up. It turned out Bobby and Neil both were gone all day to some sort of function. There was no one to work on the trike. This after I’d gotten it out of the back of the car.

Oh, and the wheel was kinda loose. I found it that way when I was removing the seat. As I wrestled with the bolts, the trike moved back and forth too easily for something that was supposed to have a stuck brake. It was still dragging some, but not gripping tight.

The next available time to get the brake looked at was today (Thursday, December 8th) as they were full booked on Wednesday, December 7th.

So… more days passing without rides putting December in a very sad position as far as number of rides and distance goes. I’m thinking about telling Jens I’m keeping the car tomorrow and taking off for fresher ground. Just to have a day to myself. I’ve felt as if, aside from an hour or two in the early mornings, I’ve had NO time to relax, unwind, just BE. It’s all scramble, scramble, scramble.. or thinking about what I need to be scrambling over.