Terii’s Cycling Babble

Dodged a Bullet…
January 29, 2017, 10:38 am
Filed under: Misc

… for now.

Just a short little blurb to try and stay on top of things so my next post doesn’t take a stab at rivaling ‘War and Peace’.

January has continued to not go well. My riding has been, at best in fits and starts since the 14th. All very short in the 4-6 mile range. Very local too, I might add.

This time it’s not been my own sluggishness so much as concern for Loke. Well, at least not for the past week or so any way.

It seemed the infection was back. To all appearances, it’s turning into some kind of year end/year beginning thing. The last time he was so inflicted was in late December 2015/January 2016.

Last week, January 20th, Jens told me Loke was limping. Would I look at his feet? Sure enough, his 3-toed foot had a patch of angry red looking skin. I immediately pulled out the medicated scrub and washed both front feet. Since then, it seems I’ve been managing a sort of holding pattern according to the appearance of the skin, though the limping told another story. He seemed to be getting worse.

So, out of pity for his feet, the rides have been short and few. It’s only out of pity for the whole dog, except for his feet, that I’ve taken him out with the trike at all. When he’s in the apartment, he doesn’t care that his feet have sores. He wants to go and run.

It was something of a relief that I already had an appointment scheduled with a vet at the dermatology clinic in Stockholm. Originally, it was for a little wound on his nose. His feet just decided to join in on the fun.

The appointment was for January 26th. The plan was for Jens to drive us into the city where he’d run off to take the subway to his office while leaving the car for me to drive back home.

We were an hour early, but there was a park a short distance from the vet clinic. While around home, Loke’s limp was, at times, extreme, he seemed to have no problem as he determinedly jogged along the city sidewalks and then along the paths of the park that wound up, down, and around the charming little hillocks of bedrock domes and clusters of trees. Part of it, I think, was he was so distracted by some place he’d not sniffed and marked a few dozen times in a week. Another factor was probably the fact that Stockholm seems to be much better about sweeping up the gravel after the snow/ice melts. Or maybe all the streets and walks in the area were heated so no need for graveling.

All I know, is Loke hardly limped.

Things were a little exciting in waiting room. One dog came through who was highly fear aggressive. He kept making savage lunges for Loke especially, though only when Loke’s attention wandered and he looked away. It was a relief when the man dragged that one off. I had a chat with a young woman there with her Boston Terrier. He was a bit fear aggressive as well, but quicker to calm and finally was even ignoring Loke.

Then we were off to see the vet. She was very nice. First, she looked at the original reason I’d made the appointment. Loke’s nose. Ironically, it’s improved quite a bit starting right when I’d booked the appointment. Her judgement was that it’s just a little sore that erupted from an allergy response. Such things can take weeks or even months for the proper pigment to return. As long as it doesn’t turn lumpy or start getting bigger again, she’s good to just leave it be rather than inflict a biopsy on a sensitive and potentially painful spot of a 11+ year old dog.

Then she moved on to look at his feet. She announced that there really was no sign of infection in the skin between Loke’s paw pads. Yes, the skin was a very angry red and raw looking, but no different than it might be on a human with an allergic outbreak of hives or rash. There was none of the sloughing or ‘gooey’ appearance an infection would have produced. Then she saw in his chart that he’d had the same sort of outbreak at roughly the same time last year though that one had turned into an infection and that he’s allergic to birch and/or hazel.

She plopped down on her computer and after a minute, she said, “The hazels are in bloom. They usually bloom in March or April, during the thaw, but the past 2 years have had extended warm spells in the winter and triggered early blooms. That’s probably why it’s happened at this time in 2 years.”

She told me to keep up with the 2x daily foot washes or perhaps exchange one wash for working alcoholic gel into his feet and toes if that’s easier on me. That’s to keep infection from getting a toehold (haha) in his feet. To help the skin combat the rash, she prescribed a steroidal spray once a day for 1 week and maintenance spraying 1-2x a week for a month or so to help hold out until the bloom is done.

Then it was back home where Loke limped… badly. It was heartbreaking just trying to get him from the car into the apartment.

I was absolutely thrilled that there was no infection and Loke, for the moment, wouldn’t need another course of antibiotics. It will help keep the resistant strain from becoming even more resistant.

The morning of the 27th, Loke was still pretty limpy every time he went out, but so desperate for more than hobbling walkies. Jens was taking the car, but I decided to have him drop us off at the storage where I’d take a short rolling walk with the fuzzy back to the apartment.

Loke did pretty good all things considered. I thought he seemed maybe a tiny bit less sensitive. I felt surprisingly good too. Of course, it wasn’t like I was pushing myself, but then I didn’t seem to need to push myself. One of those chicken and egg things.

Though it was less than 2 miles, it seemed to help Loke settle a bit. At least he wasn’t trying to bully me any more. He still paced around and sighed, but was mostly content to leave me in peace.

Yesterday, there was marked improvement in the fuzzy. He still had ‘ouchie’ moments where he’d give a brief hobble like I would if I stepped barefoot on a sharp pebble, but not limping with nearly every step even on heavily graveled surfaces.

I didn’t get to take advantage of it though because I started feeling very unwell yesterday. Not sure what was going on, but all I felt up to doing was laying around and feeling woozy and nauseous.

Today, 2nd full day after the vet visit, Loke is much improved. Hardly a hint of sore feet at all. Jens took him for a longer walk and reported only a few moments of hesitation where the gravel was worst, but nothing he’d call an actual limp. The skin is looking much better too!

Sadly, it comes too late to save the month. I’d set a goal of 25 miles a week for a minimum of 100 miles for January. The first week, fell short. The 2nd week I managed to squeak out 26 miles over 4 rides. 3rd week, nose dive with a 15 miles. Last week was a pathetic 7.46 miles since I could only go on very short, slow rolls and Loke wouldn’t let me leave him alone to ride without whining with possibility of erupting into howls. Our neighbors would just have loved that.

I’ll break 60 miles for the month. Maybe even 70, if Loke’s feet hold up, but still significantly short of the 100 I wanted to do better than January 2016.

Some people on my recumbent trike FB group point out that goals like those of ‘more miles than last time’ build up into a self-defeating prophecy. I recognize they’re right in the ultimate long run, but really, 25 miles a week shouldn’t be brutal even for me! I remember when 25 miles was hardly worth going out the door for! If I wanted to try and smack down 1000 miles a month, yes. But the pitiful distances I set as goals should be obtainable, barring threat of frostbite or a husky going all hysterical with separation anxiety and boredom because his feet keep him housebound.

Setting the same goal for next month. 100 miles broken into 25 mile weeks. February 2016 had 91 miles so it’s not like the goal is doubling the miles or anything. January 2016 was 87 miles, so a measly 13 mile increase shouldn’t have been so killer. I suppose I should give myself some slack for Loke’s issues and the days when we had highs of 2 F, but… just a bit frustrating all the same.

January Can’t Make Up Its Mind…
January 20, 2017, 10:52 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

So, on January 1st I hit the ground running with that lovely, frosty ride.

After that, things did a nose dive. The 2nd and 3rd of the month, I didn’t ride because of work naturally.

On Sunday (Jan 2nd), while at work, I planned out my goals for the month. I need/want more miles in this January than I had last if aiming to make 2017 the new ‘Best Ever Distance Year’, obviously. At 87.98 miles for January 2016, I decided to aim for the nice round figure of 100 miles. Breaking the month of January into four 7-day blocks, I would need 25 miles per block.

I knew, with the weather and how slow I’ve been of late, not to mention the parade of colds, it could be a tight schedule, but at least I have the 3 ‘extra’ days that don’t fit into the nice, neat 7-day blocks which I could use for make up or just 1 or 2 (dare I even think 3?) extra rides for the cherry on top.

The 4th, out I went, sticking to schedule as it were!

I can’t remember why nor did I mention the ride on Facebook as a reminder, but the ride was only 2.12 miles, a bit shorter than my usual dash from the apartment back to the storage. The ride did that, but mostly, it was just doubling around. I did a very short out and back past the mosque as if I’d meant to go toward the grave mounds, but changed my mind. I guess I must have felt really weak or perhaps there was so much snow to push through. Something that just slowed or bothered me too much to be endured.

Almost up to the axles on my 20" front wheels.

Almost up to the axles on my 20″ front wheels.

After that pitiful ride, there were no additional rides for that first 7-day block of the month. A bitter disappointment, but we had insane amounts of snow fall and then days where the highs were in the single digits. Low 20’s or perhaps even into the high teens I’ve adapted to, but single digits?! Not yet. Maybe one day. On one of the warmer (temps in the teens), Jens tried to talk me out for a ride, but I said I wanted to wait. He persisted, asking what waiting another day was going to get me. I pointed out that riding on a plowed road was much easier than trying to pedal the trike through 5 or more inches of untouched snow. I wanted at least the streets plowed.

The reason the city was so laggardly about plowing was mostly because of 12th Night holiday that Sweden observes in its secular fashion.

Of course, once they did plow, the temp dropped.

The first week of January finished with a whopping (sarcasm) 11.18 miles.

Then Sunday (Jan 8th), the temp crept back up until barely freezing and I watched as it sorta snowed through the windows of the shop at work. Monday (Jan 9th), was more of the same, except the temps did a huge jump into the 40’s and it was mostly a drizzling rain in place of the snow. It triggered a major flash thaw that turned the streets into rivers and lakes.

I woke at 5:30 am on January 10th. The thermometer showed above freezing (34 F) and the forecast said it would be cloudy, but warm for Sweden in January and dry.

I pulled on layers for what I thought would be good enough for for mid-20’s to account for any windchill. Loke bounced around as I made sure I had my phone and Garmin, plus everything else in my handlebar bag.

We stepped out the door and I immediately stopped to hang my head with a sigh. The forecast was wrong again. Rain. I stood there a moment, evaluating, before deciding the precipitation was light enough that it wouldn’t do more than dampen my outer layers in the hour or so I’d be out. Determinedly, I marched to the car.

Loke was thrilled to be out after 6 days of having nothing but walkies. The first half mile stretch of road was slush, but the furball’s sheer exuberance pulled us into a brisk 9 mph as he ran happily through the pools of light of the lamps in an otherwise, inky dark morning.

The cycle paths were wonderfully clear and so were most of the other roads of my River Loop hamster track. One of them was hard frozen enough it could have been used for a crude skating rink, but offered plenty of grip for husky paws and studded tires. Once, the Garmin displayed 28 F, but mostly it hung at about 29.7. The rain got lighter if anything so I never felt any chill from that at least.

As for me, I felt pretty strong at the start of the ride, which was a nice change from weak and sluggish of many of the last few rides. My stamina petered out rather quickly, but given how few rides I’ve had since the beginning of November, that’s hardly surprising. Gives me hope though.

It was annoying that I didn’t have time to ride more than I had, but the car had to get back to Jens for him to go to work.

Another annoyance pricked at me through the duration of the ride. My little fairing started to list over to the left. A few times during the ride, I had to kick my left foot out of the straps to push it back to the right. I was baffled, because I was absolutely certain, it had been wrenched it down good and tight when remounted. I would have tightened it as soon as I noticed it moving, but had left the tool at home.

Slow as I was and with the fairing slouching over bit by bit with every bump, I had plenty of time to ponder the problem.

One explanation of course was that I’d not tightened it down as much as I thought. Another though, was when I’d removed the fairing the last time, the powder coating paint of the bar that gets clamped by the removable part of the fairing mount just flaked off in one piece. Maybe the unpainted metal of the inside of the fairing’s bar with the uncoated metal of the part on the trike offered too little friction to keep it from moving.

Wobbly fairing, rain and general slow speed, we got through the ride and all before there was even a hint of dawn in the sky.

Then Loke and I were off to his vet appointment. He’s been stiff so much of late, as well as needing a renewal on his prescription of anti-inflammatory medication.

The vet said he’s mostly stiff and uncomfortable in his feet and ankles, so just a continuation of what the podiatrist he saw last year commented on. She did have a recommendation about a treatment though. A series of injections over 4 weeks with boosters to be given every 3 to 6 months that supposedly would help lubricate the joints. She said there’s been good results. I said I’d think about it.

As for the spot on the nose, she said it just looked like a little abrasion. Nothing lumpy or particularly threatening about it. Still, she took my word about its persistence as well as the fact Loke doesn’t seem to be rubbing at it. She recommended I see a dermatologist about it.

I told her I’d arrange it since we have a dermatologist as it were.

Turns out, no we don’t. I called the wonderful woman who helped us stem the flood of infections Loke used to have and get him stable, only to find she’s no longer at the Stockholm clinic. She moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Since the clinic there still seems to have the best collection of animal dermatologists, I booked a time with one of the others. The earliest they had was January 26th. The receptionist told me to keep an eye on the spot and if it starts looking dramatically different, she’d fit us in with the one GP vet that works there to at least start tests for cancer.

Later in the day, one of my bosses/co-workers called to ask what other days of the week I was scheduled. Gave me a pang of frustration as I can’t really afford to keep harassing my husband’s family with my job, not to mention Loke needs more than walkies. I’d say, he does best with a minimum of 3 outings with the trike a week. Less than that and he starts getting bored and annoying. More is better when I can swing it.

I answered that no further shifts been scheduled so they asked for Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday, I had laundry scheduled and it was desperately needed, but I unbent enough to say I could work 2 to close on Wednesday. That would still give me a chance to run Loke with the trike in the morning, he could be left alone for the 5 hours I worked without anyone else needed to come walk him, and since I had the car, I could drive myself.

When I originally started working at the shop, Charles had put it forth that I work just 1 day a week, Sundays with emergency shifts when needed. Sunday is the shortest shift with the store open just from Noon to 5 pm. He knows about my stroke and respects whatever physical limitations I might have, yet would give him and his wife time with the family.

I felt a bit rough for the first couple weeks, but hung in and actually improved. Charles would call and ask if I could fill in other days. I soon built up better stamina though so offered them another day a week. I picked Monday. It’s a day that seems to be easiest on my husband’s parents to come walk Loke around 2 pm when Jens and I are at work. Having it as a set day, means they always know it’s on Monday and don’t have to continually scramble their schedule around my job.

Now, it another partner seems more in charge of the Uppsala store and if there’s an expectation for me to work more days of the week when it’s not an emergency, it could get complicated. I can’t and won’t further burden other people with my job. It’s not fair to them and losing outings with the trike isn’t fair to Loke or to me. My weight has already gone up. I’ll admit that could be mostly down to colds, weather, and other such cutting my rides short, but still, losing those two potential days to ride can’t help.

So, when I went out for a ride on Wednesday, Jan 11th, I felt stressed. Before my co-worker’s call, The plan had been to tackle a nice 15 mile ride on Wednesday. Instead, I had to keep an eye on time to be sure I had time to get ready for work. Time, time, time. Two rides and both of them dictated by restrictions of forces other than my own strengths and the weather.

Still, with work only starting at 2 pm and being awake so early, I thought about at least tackling my 10 mile Vaksala Church loop to give Loke more exercise as well as try to make up the miles I lacked in the first week of the year. While dressing and lookout out at a world entirely devoid of sunlight, I decided to wait for dawn. The previous day’s ride had been undertaken completely in artificial light sources. Might have been a nice change to do it daylight even if it was a gray sky.

So, about 9 am we were at the storage. I had remembered the tool and tried tightening the clamp on the fairing, but even when I’d wrenched it until it wouldn’t budge, the fairing still wanted to wobble. Electrical tape to the rescue!

The later start meant I had to forego the 10 mile ride so, River Loop again.

The ride was much like the previous day’s. Slush at the start, mostly clear cycle paths, but in murky gray daylight instead of dark. Oh, and wind. The. Wind. Any time I was riding near clusters of trees, they rocked and swayed with creaking limbs as the torrent of air in the branches sounded like rapids of a river. Little bits of twig and even thin branches were scattering about. It made the ride even harder as it seemed no matter which way I rode, the wind was in my face.

My Garmin said it was about 34 F even with windchill. Generally at that temp, my feet would have been happily snug in their boots with cushy wool socks and the fairing, but that wind found ways around the fairing and stripped away any bit of warmth. By about mile 3, my left toe actually became uncomfortable, bordering on painful from the cold. Naturally, my footwarmers’ batteries had decided they didn’t have a charge in spite of spending most of the night plugged in. At least the rest of me was perfectly dressed even against such blustering air.

Because of the cold toes, I skipped the extra 2 miles I had planned to add before starting the ‘get ready for work’ scramble. 4.5+ miles. Once we were back home, Loke’s spent the entire time following me around and staring at me pitifully. I think he knew he was going to be all by himself for a time. Or maybe he’s was trying to tell me he wanted more than a pitiful, shortened River Loop.

Thursday, Jan 12th, was laundry day. In the hopes of getting an early start on the wash, there was no ride.

Friday, the 13th. The first one of only two we’ll have this year. What a muck up it turned into.

After the first two rides of the week being such stressful, time constrained things, I’d fully planned to to just head out and go for a ride WHEN I wanted, HOW I wanted, and for as LONG as I wanted. The only time issues I’d allow for it would be sunset and how long I could endure the cold.

Though I wasn’t entirely convinced it was true, the forecast was excellent. 35 F, not supposed to be much in the way of wind, and at least partly sunny.

Normally, I don’t hold much stock in the Friday the 13th thing, but UGH! It seemed to be in high form on that day.

It started out well enough. Waking early, I plotted a tentative route out through the countryside with my hubby’s offer to come get Loke and I at the end of it, rather than worrying about a loop. Though the ground wouldn’t entirely be new, after about 4-5 miles, it would at least not be ‘Hamster Track’ ground. I had the way mapped in good time… and everything fell apart when I started trying to print the maps.

First, I couldn’t copy the screen view of my monitor and get it to paste into Photoshop. Finally, I had to bully the hubby out of bed to figure out what was wrong with it after beating my head against that for almost an hour. Then, Plotaroute.com wasn’t printing its maps like it should either. That ate up almost another hour. Then I started to get dressed and discovered I couldn’t find my camera which was another 20 minutes or more tearing around the apartment in desperate searching. Finally I remembered I’d left it at the storage.

After all that silliness, it was coming up on 11 am, less than 4 hours of day light left. Probably would have had to pack up and go home about the time I got off the Hamster Track and into more interesting ground. Just wasn’t worth it.

The hubby grumbled when I said I’d do just another river loop, but out Loke and I went.

Waiting for warmer times.

Waiting for warmer times.

The fuzzy was thrilled and enthusiastic. Pulled like mad for that first half mile and happily charged down the long hill toward the river after going across the overpass. There was a bit of sun and blue skies as we followed the cycle path beside the Fyris River north of Uppsala, Sweden. Clouds were coming though, in interesting bands across the north eastern horizon.

We were on the return half of the loop when Mother Nature started calling. Actually, she kinda skipped calling and went right down into screaming. Fortunately, by the dog yard at the beginning of the Grave Mound path is an outhouse. The 150 yards/meters between the outhouse and the intersection was rock hard, slick ice. For the first 100 yards or so, I’d guess I pedalled the equivalent of 200 yards with so much tire slipping.

34 F ambient temps aren’t ideal for an uninsulated outhouse where one can see day light between the floor boards, but any port in a storm.

Wistful about the other dogs.

Wistful about the other dogs.

When I stepped back out, Loke was staring mournfully past me at the dog yard where fellow canines ran and played. Unfortunately, since Loke doesn’t play well with other dogs, we moved on.

Yeehaw. A bumpy ride down.

Yeehaw. A bumpy, slippy ride down.

Silly me, we should have just skidded back the way we came. For some reason the ice armored path up a hill called to me. I should have let the previous 150 yards of path be a warning. At first it wasn’t too bad. Lots of tire slipping, but still we inched forward. Finally I found there was enough room to the far edge of the path where I could put the rear wheel for more traction and still give Loke enough space to walk. Then it was all ice across as we slid in a rattling glide down the hill we climbed. The next hill was just a little bump and yet I absolutely got _NOT_ get any traction. The ice was laughing at me and thumbing its figurative nose at my studded tires.

Finally, I had to give up. The last 200 yards of that portion of path, I got up, turned the trike around, and started dragging it. Loke was NO help. He kept pulling off in random directions for sniffing, dragging the trike. Finally, I was stuck walking in the crunchy snow beside the path with the rear wheel in one hand and Loke’s collar in the other just to be able to make any progress.. He kept shooting me reproachful looks.

Finally under a bit old oak, was a big patch of bare gravel of the path where it intersected another. I plopped the trike down, turned it and then sat down to continue. The rest of the way off that end of the burial ground path was flat, so even though the tire spun, I didn’t have to walk the trike.

Every now and again, I need that little reminder that ice on unpaved paths and roads is in a whole different class than anything on paved surfaces.

That wasn't enough! Again!!

That wasn’t enough! Again!!

We made it back with 7.19 miles and a bit of minor adventure on ice. As I finished the ride, it occurred to me that after all the aggravation of trying to plot things earlier, it was Friday the 13th. Guess that might explain some things, though at least it mostly stopped that silliness once I was on the trike. Unless one counts the ice, but that was completely self-inflicted rather than Friday the 13th style happenstance.

Loke was an immediate pest once we were back home. It seemed that 7+ miles was barely more than a stroll around the block though I certainly felt all that hard work in my legs. Not only was the furball giving me a bit of a hard time, but so was Jens. Mostly on my husband’s part it was because when Loke wasn’t harassing me with woofs and pitiful looks, he was attempting to bully Jens. So, the generally wonderful man in my life kept asking me, ‘Are you riding tomorrow? Maybe for the longer one? Are you?’ while the fuzzy one kept woofing at him or even jumping up to paw at his shoulder as if trying to pull him out of the chair.

I steadfastly answered, ‘I don’t know. I’ll see how I feel in the morning.’

It turned out I didn’t feel so bad after all.

I still waffled a bit about heading out to tackle the longer ride that had been so thwarted the day before. On January 13th, the temps had been in the mid-30’s. On the morning of the 14th, the window thermometer and various weather apps showed 21 F. Throw in windchill just from rolling the trike, it would go easily into the mid-teens if not colder. Still having some foot challenges, so it made me wary.

Jens assured me he’d come pick us up even if less than an hour into the outing. So, bitterly cold or not, I decided to go. I took special care pulling on the layers though, adding medium weight wool leggings under my heavy weight leggings under my tights. A first for this winter.

Sun-touched tree tops

Sun-touched tree tops

Though the forecast was for cloudy, it was delightfully clear as Jens dropped us off at the storage just a few minutes after sunrise. An earlier start would have been nice, using the murky light of pre-dawn to get through the places ridden the most, but that’s what I get for swinging back and forth with indecision.

Loke was soooo confused when we went straight out from the parking instead of whipping around to follow the street in our usual direction. He kept looking at me in bafflement as we rolled toward the area with our apartment. Rather than taking my usual way toward the river which would have meant riding away from the area that was my focus. Slow as I’ve been, it would have been ridiculous to waste time on the hamster tracks that wasn’t needed. I was aiming for Vaksala Church by the shortest, most direct route I could think of that didn’t involve busier roads.

The change perked Loke up more than he otherwise would have been, I think. We were still on over done ground, but rolling in the opposite direction along the paths than we typically do.

Brrr! New 'lowest ever' temp display while out on a ride.

Brrr! New ‘lowest ever’ temp display while out on a ride.

As for the temperature? The numbers on my Garmin kept dropping. The previous lowest I could remember was about 16 F last year before I had to call my husband for rescue at Storvreta because my toes felt like they were being twisted off.

Early sun through the trees

Early sun through the trees

I kept waiting for the chill to set in, but it didn’t happen. I would have turned around then if so, but nope. Feet were all snuggly and warm feeling even without turning on my undependable footwarmers. I really should get around to replacing them.

And 'Brrrr' again! New coldest ever record.

And ‘Brrrr’ again! New coldest ever record.

Loke was really excited about time the Garmin displayed a whopping 13.8 F. It had nothing to do with the temperature though. He knew the wooded stretch we rolled along quite well and the direction we were going in revved him up. It’s probably the way my husband walks when he goes on foot with Loke to his parents’ apartment. There’s a cycle path that cuts through the heart of the complex where their building is.

I felt a twinge of guilt as my furball was absolutely convinced that ‘Grandpa’, the man with unemptying pockets of goodies was so very close… only for us to roll right by the proper turn off. Loke’s tail came down and he kept twisting his head to look back over his shoulder. Finally, he sighed and gave me glances of mournful reproach.

I gave him an apologetic pat as I pushed on toward the new section of road/cycle path that runs along the edge of the ever growing sport complex. The sidewalk/cycle way beside the road was lightly uphill and the thin crust of crunchy snow made it more of a workout and even slower going. While Loke still cast hopeful glances back toward Grandpa’s house, we passed a jogger who greeted me with a cheery, ‘God morgon!’

As I reached the round-about and scooted across the busy road to the next cycle path at the intersection, it struck me how much archaeology there was so recently cleared away in progress. For years, I rode by these empty fields in cars, not knowing about the runestones and stone-setting burials there. Now, I do know and it’s all gone. Dug up, bulldozed flat and paved over. Sad, but in human terms, progress is destruction though many would disagree. Of course, there’s practically no where in this part of Sweden where one can build without destroying some hint of long past inhabitants.

Uppsala in miniature!

Uppsala in miniature!

In the new shopping area, I did a little detour to dash across the mostly empty and quiet parking lot to head for a new playground recently built there.

It’s Uppsala in miniature! The burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala. The heart of Uppsala with the swan pond, the river with the mill-turned-museum, cathedral, and of course the palace. Even the eye-sore of the concert hall. All the major landmarks laid out in playful scale on rubberized surface for kids to tumble around on. The river, hidden under frost, is just blue painted rubber as is the swan pond, but still there. The playground has enchanted me from the moment I realized what it was.

Photos taken, I headed out to the nearest cycle way to rejoin the one out toward Vaksala church. I had a bit of an argument with myself as I pushed on. Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate or not?

Surviving bit of burial ground across the fields.

Surviving bit of burial ground across the fields.

The internal debate raged on as I stopped to photograph a bit of burial ground I’ve driven by hundreds of times, though ridden past only a few occasions. I’ve always suspected it was one, but now I have confirmation.

I decided against the hot chocolate as I pedaled on by the Granby Mall. I didn’t want the complications it would cause later in terms of calls of nature.

Another burial ground

Another burial ground

Loke was finally over his disappointment and happy to walk or slowly jog along at the creeping pace that seems to be my new speed of late. We scooted across the 288 and paused there for me to take more photos.

Another burial ground just 100 yards or so from the previous.

Another burial ground just 100 yards or so from the previous.

Something poignant about old, bare-limbed trees.

Something poignant about old, bare-limbed trees.

In the field to my right, which was also a burial ground as I’ve long suspected, the low morning sun was doing amazing things to the frosted wisps of grass that had somehow managed to stay upright in spite of the past heavy snows. It gave the impression that a white-gold mist hovered above the snow. Sadly, my camera couldn’t quite seem to catch the magic of it.

I came up to the entrance to Vaksala church and turned in to take a quick break at the restroom there.

I have to say, while out riding in it, I didn’t feel cold at all. Once I hit the heat of the delightfully warm little stone building where the church’s restrooms hide, it was clear I was actually a bit chilled.

Still, I didn’t linger long. I wanted to do at least a little riding in places that aren’t considered part of my hamster tracks. My pace was incredibly slow, not helped in the least by the frequent photo stops. Lounging around next to a radiant heater wouldn’t have sped things along at all.

Ooooh. THAT'S the cloudy weather the forecast was talking about.

Ohhhh. That’s the cloudy weather the forecast was talking about.

We moved on a bit quicker as it’s a bit downhill from Vaksala church to the road crossing just south. As we emerged from the trees around the church and vicarage, I was startled by the view off to my left. A heavy finger of clouds reach off toward the south. I cast a glance behind me and the entire northern horizon was dark with the approach of the weather front. Quite dramatic looking really.

No way to outrun it, but at least it was cold enough that it would be some kind of extremely freakish weather phenomenon for it to be rain. Though I guess ice storms are proof it could happen.

A tiny little burial ground.

A tiny little burial ground.

We scooted across the road and continued down the cycle path running through the residential area. Another quick stop to photograph a mini-burial ground with 4 circular stone settings. I was racking up the burial ground count fast. All of them ones that I’ve ridden by on my hamster tracks countless times or driven past even more. Even just going to the mall is visiting what was once an burial ground. Quite a major one was apparently built and paved over when the mall was built.

Sun goes byebye.

Sun goes byebye.

The clouds arrived fast and soon were covering the sky overhead and threatening the southern horizon where the sun calls the winters home in Sweden.

Not-so-old-ground under gray skies.

Not-so-old-ground under gray skies.

The progress of the clouds sweeping in from the north coincided almost perfectly with my shift from ‘hamster track’ ground to ‘not so frequent’ territory. We toodled through at not-great-speed through the last of the cycle paths through the residential area and reached the first little road that began the transition to ‘country lane’ as it were. Under all the houses there, it seems was once a rather significantly sized activity stretching from the Stone Age right through to the Middle Ages.

While writing this up, I’ve also found several burial grounds that I missed within about half a mile of the area. I may have to ride through again to collect those. It seems runestones and churches were my obsessions (and still are), chasing burial grounds has joined the fun. I’ve always been thrilled to find them when I’ve done so, but as my archaeology map website is proving, they’re a lot more tricksy than churches and runestones. Well, except for runestone fragments hiding among tumbled stones in woods.

Look! Not a burial ground! :P

Look! Not a burial ground! 😛

Loke had already been fairly interested in our surroundings. After all, it wasn’t the River Loop. Yet, once we pushed free of the little houses with their postage stamp sized backyards with little fences and hedges, he perked up even more. He likes trees and fields, places with slightly more open views where he might catch a glimpse of some small creature in the distance.

The sheep we passed? He couldn’t have cared less. I’m not even sure he glanced at them though they watched us with intense suspicion. Perhaps it’s that ancestral memory of the whole sheep/wolf conflict and it’s been remarked on occasion how much like a wolf Loke resembles.

Somewhere around and perhaps even a bit before the sheep were, you guessed it, burial grounds. I missed 2 of them as I was abruptly dazzled by ground I’ve not seen a dozen times in a single year.

Bad lighting, but a standing  stone to the right.

Bad lighting, but a standing stone to the right.

The 3rd one was more obvious. It was the big standing stone that called my attention to it and reminded me of my fascination. The lighting wasn’t the best, what with it being off to the south and there still being a thin band of brighter light where the edge of the clouds hadn’t quite reached the distant horizon.

Burial Ground.

Burial Ground.

It was amazing. Though I was still as slow as ‘turtles stampeding through peanut butter’ (an favorite phrase to describe me at times), I felt so much freer. Things to notice that I’d not seen in just about every conceivable non-disastrous condition on my rides. Examples being fire, flood, asteroid impact, or zombie apocalypse, but I think I can do without seeing the scenery near my apartment in those conditions. Not once had I set eyes on the Fyris River! That in itself was cause for joy.

Snow making distances hazy.

Snow making distances hazy.

The landscape opened up for the final push to cross the busy 282 for the push for Danmark Church. Rather boring stretch really. There’s hints of archaeology described on my map site, but all of it is lost to vast stretches of plowed fields as well as the E4. About the time we emerged from the trees, the clouds that had blanketed the sky except for the bare edge of the southern horizon finally proved to be carrying precipitation after all. Snow.

Not big fluffy swirling flakes mind you. More of a grainy, blowing dust wasn’t even really enough to accumulate any where in spite of the fact that it made distant tree-lines into misty shadows. A kind of sandstorm but with tiny grains of ice.

It was a bit unpleasant along that open stretch as we pushed on and had a bit of a faster charge to go under the E4. Utterly flat and nothing to break the wind for 100’s of yards if not a mile or more in some directions. Even on days where it’s generally not that windy, such open spots seem to encourage it. Though at least my Garmin was displaying 23 F instead of 13 F.

Finally, we scooted across the 282 when someone was nice enough to stop which made traffic easier to navigate since I only had to worry about one direction instead the both. I made sure to give them a big smile and cheery wave as I passed the bumper of their car.

Loved the combination of rocks, buildings, and trees here.

Loved the combination of rocks, buildings, and trees here.

Back in among the trees, it was more pleasant going as we sloooowwwly cranked up the little hill by the vet where Loke had surgery years ago. It didn’t appear Loke had any recollection of the horror of that experience. He was focused in getting us up that hill.

Burial ground among the trees.

Burial ground among the trees.

The scenery was much more interesting again among hills and with patches of woods to break up the areas of crop fields and pastures.

I admit, by this time, there was a sense of aggravation. A petty one, to be honest. The sheer number of things I wanted to photograph was slowing me down. Rather, what was slowing me down most wasn’t just grabbing the phone or the Canon from my handlebar bag, but arguing with my hand covers.

It started to feel like, pedal for 100 yards, stop, pull off my windproof Gore Tex mittens with wool glove liners, grab photo device, take picture, put away device, pull on glove liners, pull on one mitten, fight with too long thumb on mittened hand to get a grip on other mitten to pull mitten over glove liner. Repeat 2 minutes later. Taking the photo was generally less than 30 seconds. The mitten wrestling took almost 2 minutes, in part because there’s not a mitten or glove in existence that fits me proper. My current mittens, a bit oversized to fit with my glove liners has almost an inch and a half too much thumb. Even the old mittens which the width of my hand without glove liners had better than half an inch too much thumb.

Bored Loke waiting on me to finish glove combat.

Bored Loke waiting on me to finish glove combat.

Gloves, don’t even GET me started on gloves. I’m apparently a freak of nature when it comes to fingers. I’ve toyed with the idea of finding a professional seamstress (seamster if male?) to alter gloves and mittens with more skill than my hack and whip-stitch fashion could manage.

If not for the fact that it felt so incredibly, bitterly cold, I would have just left the gloves off. Bizarrely, it felt so much worse at 24 F than it had earlier with the record setting 13 F for a ride. Maybe it was sunshine. Maybe it was plenty of warm blood since it was the start of the ride. Could also be a matter of humidity levels. Don’t think it was really any more wind than when I started, but I could be wrong about that. All I do know for sure is that early in the ride, glove liners were enough. Later, I needed the mittens over them.

Danmark Kyrka - Back Side

Danmark Kyrka – Back Side (April, 2013)

Upon reaching Danmark church, I debated calling Jens for pick up. I was feeling cold and started to worry about my feet getting chilled. Still, it wasn’t even noon yet and my feet, while a bit cool, didn’t feel bad and I’d not even turned on my warmers yet.

I decided to push on. It was so early and glove/photo annoyance aside, I didn’t feel too bad. I wanted a bit more than 8 miles. I mean, I can get 8 miles with just a few minor additions to the River Loop.

One of the Danmark vicarage buildings.

One of the Danmark vicarage buildings.

Of course, Loke was happy to keep going. Our pokey pace was barely enough to get his heart rate up if I had to guess. A few downhill stints where we might have hit 9 mph, but little more than that. Much of the rest of the way was 5 mph at best and often less. My heart rate, on the other hand, was probably up quite a bit. Felt like I was working for every foot I rolled. I didn’t feel weak or sluggish. Just felt like the trike weighed about 1000 lbs rolling through sand.

I had optimistically plotted roughly 20 miles for the ride. While hopeful I could make it, I didn’t really expect to. At least it gave me plenty of distance with guidance for chasing down the burial grounds, runestones, or ruins that might be lurking around the area. Not to mention other medieval churches.

Burial Ground

Burial Ground

So, it was the next church on the route I hoped to hit before needing to call the ride. It was less than 5 miles way, which I was fairly sure was possible before sunset.

Alas. It wasn’t to be. Not long after I left Danmark and plodded on, the cold abruptly got to my feet even with my footwarmers working. To alleviate the discomfort, I had to stop every 15 minutes or so to walk around for 3 or 4 minutes to get the toes to stop aching and warm up. Then it was every 10 minutes for 5 minutes of warm up. Wasn’t going to get anywhere at that rate.

Between my toes and perhaps my annoyance with the mitten tussle for every photograph, I got sloppy and passed by quite a few landmarks without noticing. Tsk-tsk on me.

I called Jens to come get me at Linnaeus’ Hammarby, an open air museum celebrating the Swedish national hero who developed the method of categorizing plants, animals, and fungus in Latin.

The cold had a good grip on me by then. I had to keep stopping to put my hands under my arms to stop the harsh sting as I worked to dismantle everything to hurry along getting the trike loaded when Jens arrive.

Loke was disappointed, I think. So was I really. We’d just managed 9.99 miles. It was barely 1 pm. Just couldn’t take the cold any more.

Still, it had been nice to have about half the distance, or a bit more, off the hamster track. Not exactly new ground, but somewhere I’d not been in the better part of a year at least.

And here, I’ll end the post as 6500 words is a bit overlong as it is.

2016 Out With a Whimper – 2017 In With a Bang
January 3, 2017, 11:02 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Though Jens offered, repeatedly, to do pick up and drop off for another leg of the Mälardalsleden, I couldn ‘t quite dig up the motivation for it. Part of it was the fact that the portions of the loop are moving further and further away from home and Stockholm and the days are currently so short. By the time he’d reach the Mall of Scandinavia, it would practically be dark and he’d have to come get me again. No way he could get home and sit for more than 20 minutes either. There was also the fact we were to have dinner with his parents that evening which put more pressure on cutting the day short sooner.

So, 2016 went out with me on the hamster tracks around here.

Loke’s been having issues though. Moving stiff or as if his feet hurt. I’ve looked closely at every inch of his toes and paw pads, but everything looks fine. Still, he’s often been moving how I would if walking barefoot on fresh oyster shells. Combined with the fact I felt weak and sluggish with an aching hip, the last ride of 2017 was a whopping 2.95 miles.

With that, here are my stats for 2016

Miles – 1318.21

Rides – 203 total

Solo Rides – 24 for a total of 130 miles.

Rides With Loke – 179 for a total of 1,188 miles.

Hours Moving – 297

Medieval Churches – 9

Church Interiors – 4

Burial Grounds – 5

Runestones – 5

Ruins – 1

Rock Carvings – 2

Manors/Castles – 8

Fornborg(Ancient Fortress) – 1

I beat the miles to make 2016 the best distance year ever, probably the time and certainly number of rides, but the rest of the stats are pretty sad. I was surprised there were that many manor houses, but I guess I have the Mälardalsleden to thank for that.

The rest of the numbers are simply pitiful. Pretty much every single year I’ve been blogging, I’ve found more than a dozen churches, one year it was 40, the average is probably 25. Same with runestones. It’s all the hamster tracks I’ve been doing. They’re wrecking my numbers.

24 solo rides is the most of those I’ve done in a dog’s age. Perhaps since 2008 when I set that first enduring mileage record of 1200+ miles. Last year, except for the tour, I don’t think Loke was away from my side except on those occasions when Jens would come get him mid ride.

That said, this year for Loke was his best ever. 1,188 miles. Pretty good for an old man, wouldn’t you say?

Through the rest of New Year’s Eve, Jens kept telling me that for January 1st, he’d drive me anywhere for me to ride. No complaints.

I took him at his word and started looking for something to ride. I don’t know what it is, but I had a really hard time deciding on where. It wasn’t until I woke up on the 1st (about 5:30 am), I picked something and started plotting.

I took pity on Jens and didn’t pick something too far either. Admittedly, it wasn’t completely fresh territory and it wasn’t the next leg of the Mälardalsleden. A few years ago, I did some kind of ride involving a little village called Österbybruk with a history of iron working. Apparently there’s something there called a Walloon Forge and it is the world’s only perfectly preserved working example. Another ride, years ago, was started in a little town called Alunda. So, for my New Year’s Day treat, I plotted a route between the two.

For a tiny bit of fresh ground, I set the start point of the ride 4 miles outside of Österbybruk, at a church called Dannemora. I’ve been curious about this church for years. So, about 3/4ths of the 20 mile route was going to be on roads I’ve never ridden. The rest have only been ridden once years ago. Most of the major landmarks were one’s I’ve seen before.

With the help of the Swedish Archaeology web site, I found minor points of interest to chase down. A lot of it was ‘might not be much visible’ category, but I was determined to still look when I could.

The weather forecast was pretty nice for the day around the area I was going to ride. Highs at about 38 F and sunny. Little to no wind. To err on the side of caution, I dressed my legs in my bullet proof 400 g weight wool, which is good for anything between 33 F to perhaps 24 F without extra help and packed a couple extra layers for my top.

We got a later start than I’d wanted, but I was determined to do at least a bit of the ride. Loke seemed a bit restless, dare I say even eager? Perhaps it was because he was already in his harness and the trike was loaded up in the back of the car.

It was a beautiful drive. The sun was playing a bit of hide and seek with the clouds cluttering the southern 1/3 of sky. Across the fields, patches, pools, and streamers of mist drifted up from the fields. One stretch where the land dropped into a deeper valley around the river, the fog pooled like water turning it into a lake of opalescence where the sun touched it. Sadly, the drive was on a carriage way with no place to safely pull over so I could take photos of such breathtaking beauty.

As we neared my destination, I was given a rude surprise. While staring out the window dreamily, I absently asked Jens, “What does the car say?” That our code for the ambient temperature reading the car’s dash displays.

He glanced down, “-2.5 C.”

That snapped me to the present and I echoed that number in disbelief and concern. -2.5 C comes to 27.5 F. Waaaaayyyy colder than the 35 F the computer had told me it was.

It made the back roads interesting I must say. We went to a stop at one intersection and nearly slid right through it.

Dannemora Church - First of 2017!

Dannemora Church – First of 2017!

Yet, we arrived at Dannemora Church without incident.

It was cold as I scrambled about to assemble the trike. Jens walked down the little road with Loke a ways and nearly went down on its slick surface which convinced him to walk in the frost-crunchy grass. Though it was after 10 am, the surroundings were much in shadow as there was a bit of a tree covered rise to the south hiding the sun which at this time of year is still sits low to the horizon even at its zenith.

I discovered I’d left the flag at storage. That worried Jens some, given how shadowed most of the road was not to mention slippery. To ease his mind, I mounted the nice, bright lights he bought me a couple years ago and turned them on.

Jens wasn’t convinced my studded tires would be enough to keep me from sliding around on the roads, but he didn’t attempt to dissuade me as Loke was hitched up and I settled into the trike.

Lovely little barn going to ruin.

Lovely little barn going to ruin.

My furry cycle partner was all bright eyes and wagging, bushy tail as I turned the Garmin on.  As soon as I loosed the parking brake, he threw his weight into his harness and hauled like a dog possessed. Gone was the limping creature of the past weeks. No sign of hesitation brought on by stiff, inflamed muscle. He was all power and smoothly running animal.

There wasn’t much of anything like hills at first and I let Loke go as he wanted, pedaling a bit to boost us along when I wasn’t lurching us to a stop for photos. He had that happy, tongue-floppy husky grin as we hit speeds nearing 15 mph. It’s been weeks, perhaps even months since I’ve seen such verve and enthusiasm in him. It was worth that extra windchill at such speeds to see him so strong and crazy-happy. He honestly seemed happier than I was to be off the hamster tracks!

Frosty roads or not, both Loke and the trike had no trouble keeping traction. Our breath puffed in clouds as I rolled along with the loping, delighted husky beside me. My Garmin showed 28 F but I felt surprisingly little of it. While I had my wool socks and boots (non-studded), the cold has tended to get to my feet at those temps, but my feet felt snug.

No problem on the frosty roads!

No problem on the frosty roads!

After a couple miles of shadowy, mossy green woods, younger tangled wooded clumps, fields and the occasional little house, we came up to the main road in the area and scooted across into the first climb of the day.

There were signs along that climb, yellow with a stylized steam engine. That generally means an old museum railway like the one that runs in and out of Uppsala here. The one I keep meaning to take a ride on. This is a different one though. I could tell because the gauge of the tracks was larger than the Uppsala one.

Frosty grass kissed by sun and old buildings. Heaven!

Frosty grass kissed by sun and old buildings. Heaven!

After about 3 miles, Loke settled into a more sedate pace. Mostly because I think he just didn’t want to drag me around any more. There was still a bit of extra line pulled out on his tether, but not the wild dragging as at the start.

Free! FREE! I'm FREE!! Mwua-hahaha... *ahem*

Free! FREE! I’m FREE!! Mwua-hahaha… *ahem*

I was loving the scenery. The fields, some turned pale with a kiss of frost. The deeper, greener depths of forest where one could almost expect to see a wood imp or unicorn passing among the green capped rocks and silent tree trunks. What an incredible sense of freedom off the hamster tracks.

How gorgeous is this?

How gorgeous is this?

There wasn’t much archaeology to chase down over the first few miles. There were bits and pieces a bit off the route I’d planned, but much of it was buried deep in woods or under houses. Nothing I could easily access even if I rode to the general area. Some of the old country buildings were lovely though. One was a pretty barn converted into a dog kennel, though it might have been a newer construct.

Odd rocky ramp

Odd rocky ramp

One structure really leaped out at me from the road side at one spot though. It was back from the edge of the road, a neatly arranged ramp of rocks only slightly shifted over time. No idea what it was, but clearly man-made. If it had been near the bank of a stream or such, I would have said it was the footing for a bridge, but there was no such water course to be crossed. In hindsight, I suppose it could have been the ramp it appeared to be. One of those built to get goods easily into the upper loft of a barn. If so, it must have been a large one as it was bigger and more solid a footing than other such barn ramps I’ve seen.

First old buildings I passed in Österbybruk.

First old buildings I passed in Österbybruk.

Finally we came rolling into Österbybruk. The fringes were fairly boring, but soon I was into the older parts of the village. The first buildings I found predating the 20th century were timber barn looking things painted in the traditional Swedish red. I passed them by riding down the main street that curved around them toward a mill race.

Adored it and its twin!

Adored it and its twin!

Before I crossed the little gurgling path of water, I noticed a pair of buildings at the end of the line of timber ones. Curved, quarter-circle structures of brick with yellow plaster and white accents. 4 of them would have made a lovely little round building with a tiny circle of courtyard in the middle. There were only two, set a bit apart from each other. They almost looked like the free-standing wings often added to Swedish manor houses in the area, but without the manor house.

A mill race ran through it, but not sure it's a mill.

The unfamiliar building with mill race running through it.

They intrigued me enough that I turned to ride between them and further up through the little lane that ran between the timber houses as well. It gave me a good look at all of them and made looping back around to come down the main road again easier.

Smithy in Österbybruk

Smithy in Österbybruk

Clock tower across frozen mill pond.

Clock tower across frozen mill pond.

Loke was a little impatient as I toodled along at about 4 mph through there, just enjoying the look of the old town. While items in it looked familiar (the clock tower, the smithy, the manor), the arrangement was nothing like I recalled. Part of it could be perhaps that when I saw it the first time, it was warmer weather with things all green and lush. Also, it was at the end of a long ride and I was exhausted.

One building didn’t look familiar at all and that was the kinda barn looking thing just a pebble’s toss from the lovely part-circle buildings. Some of the sides were open beam structure. There was a ramp leading up to the overhead loft like many old barns in Sweden have. There was the clear sound of gurgling water echoing from it as the mill race actually ran through it. That led me to believe it was an unusual mill of some kind.

Odd that I had no memory of it given it was snuggled right up against the old smithy with it’s plaster painted a vivid yellow and the date 1794 in iron lettering just below the peak of the eaves. The smithy, I clearly remembered.

Österbybruk's Manor - April 2013

Österbybruk’s Manor – April 2013

Housing for the 'factory' workers and families. April 2013

Housing for the ‘factory’ workers and families. April 2013

I made the turn toward the manor house, parking near the smithy to get pictures of it as well as the frozen mill pond and the clock tower on the other side with it’s blurry reflection in the ice. We passed by the manor house, stopping long enough for me to photograph the chapel which stood as one free standing wing to front and right of the main house. Then I did a quick loop to pass by it all again and cross the mill race to continue on.

From there, it was the little road out of the village to pass by the workers’ housing from back in the day, centuries passed when this was a major iron producing town. Those were familiar as well though I’d come from the other direction when i saw them last.

Once outside of Österbybruk, I was nervous about the next 0.7 mile or so. It was going to be on the 272 where I think the speed limit is about 90 kph. There’s a moderate shoulder on it, but apparently it’s been consistently colder in the area than in Uppsala. Black, gravel mixed ice took up most of the shoulder.

Frosty country roads.

Frosty country roads.

Fortunately, the lanes are nice and wide and visibility up and down the road was good. Also the fact it was New Year’s Day meant was probably quieter than usual. I still didn’t like it. I pedaled faster which made Loke happy. Even with a slight climb up, I hit and maintained about 8 mph for most of that distance. Nothing like motivation to get one moving better than one thinks one can.

I was sooo glad when I finally got to turn back onto a nice, little country road again. Narrow, not even 2 full lanes wide, but slower speeds and in general, less traffic.

"The Sunstone". A property marker, I think.

“The Sunstone”. A property marker, I think.

That’s not to say it was all song and roses. It was sunshine though. The road mostly went south and in areas there were clear cuts, I caught that low angled sun full in the face. Even sunglasses weren’t much help. I kept thinking to myself how much easier it would have been going north. But I’d already ridden that area from south to north. I sucked it up and used my hand as a sunshade for much of the way.

I also started keeping an eye out for when I approached the areas where I’d marked archaeology. As I was approaching the first such marked item, I spotted an upright stone on the side of the road.

At first, I thought it was a runestone though I’d seen no hint of such in the area according to my various websites.

According to the little placard next to it (barring bad translation) it’s named ‘The Sunstone’ and it was apparently placed there to mark someone’s ownership of the land. Could be wrong. I need to ask the hubby if I’m even remotely translating it correctly.

Last gasp of the Canon's battery.

Last gasp of the Canon’s battery.

Thank goodness for my decent camera on the Galaxy Edge!

Thank goodness for my decent camera on the Galaxy Edge!

As I wandered around photographing the stone and scenery, my Canon’s battery chose that moment to die. I pulled out the spare and… nothing except a little flashing red battery icon telling me to replace the battery. I’m not sure if I forgot to charge after swapping last time or if the cold sapped it. Irritating, but at least my Galaxy’s camera is fairly decent most of the time.

Overlooking a burial ground

Overlooking a burial ground

Just a 100 yards further on from the stone, I came up to the first of the burial grounds I’d marked. As I guessed, there wasn’t really much to see. As a rule, most burial grounds aren’t as glaringly obvious as Gamla Uppsala. Sometimes, it’s pasture land with deep, lush grass and a few stones poking up hear and there with the rest of the rocks (1-2 feet in diameter) forming the ring smothered under grass. Or under shrubs or scrubby trees. Stone rings seem to out-number mounds 7 out of 10 from what I’ve noticed. Mounds, tend to be small things. 30 feet or less in diameter, but rarely even a meter high which makes them very hard to spot in an otherwise rippled landscape, especially with bushes and trees in the way.

This burial ground perfectly fit the description. Lots of long grass, browned and flattened by winter, with clusters of shrubs and a few scrawny trees. Some stones showed here or there with caps of lush green moss, but they had no clear pattern at a glance.

I still grinned at it. Gaining that deeper awareness of the places I rode through heightened my delight in it.

Of course, I was already thrilled with my surroundings even without finding the burial ground. While I’ve ridden it once before, it was from the opposite way and I have no clear memory of that specific scenery. Free of the hamster tracks. Such a sense of freedom.

Medieval house foundation

Medieval house foundation

Loke and I pushed onward, making a significant climb for a bit. Along the way, I searched along both sides of the road less than a quarter mile away from the burial ground where there were supposed to be old building foundations quite close to the road. I didn’t really expect to find them though, knowing they could have been well down in the dirt, covered over with centuries of composted grass or even trees and shrubs.

Amazingly, one of them did leap out at me. A roughly square outline of similar sized rocks with a bunch of trees growing out of it. At least, I think it was one of the foundations I was looking for. It seemed there was a honking big hump of a boulder right in the middle of it that sat higher than the stones forming the square.

Frost at 1 pm! Brrr!

Frost at 1 pm! Brrr!

Even though it was after 1 pm shortly after I found the foundation, there was still frost everywhere. Most fields seemed to have a dusting of it, turning the brown of dead grasses and leaves to a more muted beige. Even dead leaves scattered along the road side were delicately outlined with white lines of the finely frozen once-dew.

I started to feel the cold. Mostly it was in my hands. Every time I stopped to offer Loke water, the canteen just sucked the heat out of my fingers and they were slow to regain it even with my glove liners and mittens.

Another burial ground. Perhaps it's a burial mound on the left.

Another burial ground. Perhaps it’s a burial mound on the left.

As I came up to the next area of burial ground, I was treated to a trio of sturdy little draft type horses in a paddock. Either Haflinger or Norwegian Fjord from the look of them, but I can’t be sure. Someone was out in the pasture with them or I would have taken a picture. As it was, I felt a bit weird photographing the burial ground at the edge of the paddock. This one, small and narrow as such things go at least had what appeared to be a recognisable little mound in the edge. It was supposed to continue on the other side of the road, but there was nothing to be seen beyond the sun brightened tangle of brushy, little trees.

Another burial ground.

Another burial ground.

The next burial ground patch was easier to make out knowing it was there, though it was thick with older trees. There were swells and ripples of the ground that were probably parts of mounds, though the stones didn’t seem to be in any formation what-so-ever.

At one stretch, Loke and I came to stop for a few minutes, but it was more to keep a pair of horses from spooking at the sight of us. Well, to keep the high strung thoroughbred type from spooking any way. The other horse was another of those little draft types. It was bundled up in a horse blanket almost right up to the ears so it was hard to tell, but I think it was Norwegian Fjord horse. I love draft horses. They’re just so calm and undisturbed by random things and end up being curious rather than scared.

The thoroughbred calmed right down. Now is curious.

The thoroughbred calmed right down. Now is curious.

The bundled one was no exception. He/she saw us and wandered right up as close as possible to the electric fence to watch us. That calmed the thoroughbred down and soon it was standing close by the fence line too. Of course, as soon as I pulled my phone out, the draft horse was mostly hidden by a winter shrub. Then it started munching on dried grass and wouldn’t move. *grumble*

Finally, the thoroughbred was starting to get distracted by other things and probably wouldn’t panic when we moved. I don’t want to spook a horse into hurting itself. I’ve already spooked one into breaking through an electric fence which allowed an entire herd to go trotting off across fields and woods. Never again if I can avoid such.

This line of stones looks a bit unnatural.

This line of stones looks a bit unnatural.

Bad as that event was, I’d feel ever worse if a horse panicked and fatally injured itself because it ran blindly over rocks or into trees just because of my weird bike.

An almost colorful shelf fungus

An almost colorful shelf fungus

While every now and again, I get frustrated at my slow pace, I must admit, it does let me enjoy scenery when it’s worth enjoying. This was no exception. I had time to admire the deep, secretive looking patches of woods or the frosted grass of the fields. Once, something as simple as a colourful bit of shelf fungus growing a tree stump caught my eye. Something I never would have seen blasting by in a car… or even speeding along at 15 mph with the trike.

Morkarla (not Morloc) Church

Morkarla (not Morloc) Church – April 2013

Morkarla Church's Belfry

Morkarla Church’s Belfry

It was coming upon 2 pm and in the 3 hours hours or so since starting the ride, we’d not even done 10 miles. I was already going to call the ride done though. My hands ached with the cold. With the sun getting lower, the temp dipped into the 24 F range and my feet started to feel the cold. I’d packed the foot warmers, but turned out the batteries were dead. There was only about half an hour of good daylight left.

Another significant influence in the decision was we were approaching Morkarla Church. I’ve been there once before, but coming from the other direction. It had a nice parking lot to load the trike. I even hoped the restroom would be unlocked, though on New Year’s Day, I was sure it was a bit too much to expect.

Aside from the church, there was also another interesting bit of archaeology to end the day on. Other than the church itself, I mean.

I rolled into the parking lot and ran up to try the bathroom door. Yes! It was open. Would you believe it was also deliciously heated?! I had really been crossing into the threshold of suffering when I arrived at the church. Hands aching in my gloves, bone deep chill burrowing through the layers of wool on my top. I think if I’d pulled on the 400 g weight top sooner, I might have been okay. I was just too cold for any body heat to build up under it when I did dig it out of the packs. My legs were chilled too though not as bad as my upper body. My feet of course, but not nearly as bad as they normally have been. I didn’t feel like there was a threat of frostnip or frostbite at all.

I practically wrapped myself around the radiator in there for 3 or 4 minutes before going back out to keep Loke company.

Loke did not want to stop. He stared at me with this bright eyed gaze and wagged his tail in hopes of continuing. I unhitched him and we walked toward what remained of the dike (like a moat but smaller in this case) that used to surround the church and the stone bridge across it. Loke bounced around me and even flung himself down for a good wallow on the mossy like plant that seemed to thrive there in place of grass.

Didn't realize exactly what this was back in 2013. Bridge and little moat.

Didn’t realize exactly what this was back in 2013. Bridge and little moat.

I took photos of the old bit of bridge and moat from several angles, wondering how I’d missed realising what it was the first time I was there. Then I scurried back to the restroom to hangout, this time with Loke. Every time I heard a car coming, I’d open the door a crack for a peek.

Finally Jens came and I rushed around, loading everything back into the car. Then it was off toward home where snuggled down into the heated car seat, trying to shake off the chill. It took me hours to stop feeling cold, buried under my electric blanket.

In spite of how cold I got, and it was less than 10 miles, it was a good day. It felt marvelous to ride somewhere else. It was inspiring to see Loke acting like a young dog again. By the way, he immediately started harassing Jens to take him for walkies the moment we were home. I counted it a good start to 2017.

Hopefully it will stay that way. I have an appointment on Jan 2nd for Loke at the vet. Part of it is to get him checked and renew his prescription for anti-inflammatory medications. Maybe even switch him since he’s been feeling uncomfortable when he doesn’t have the distraction of new places to sniff and run.

Another thing though, is he’s had a little wound on the top of his nose for almost 2 weeks now. It won’t heal. No clue how he got it. He doesn’t seem to have been rubbing his nose on anything and it won’t go away. The last time he such an sore on his nose, it was because he was stuck for 5 days on strict cage rest in the animal hospital. He shredded every blanket they put in with him and then would shove the pieces around with his nose for hours. Poor guy was just that bored. But once he was home from the hospital, it healed up in a matter of days. This has just been going on and on.

When I look at it, I keep seeing in my mind’s eye pictures of a friend of mine’s cat who had a similar sore on her nose. It turned out to be a malignant cancer. Loke’s had countless hours out in the sun and it’s impossible to keep sunscreen on a dog’s nose.

So, I’m crossing my fingers that Loke’s just been managing to rub his nose on something without me spotting it though I seem to have a supernatural sense about when he licks a foot or scratches his face, or, or, or… you get the idea.

Let’s hope that the awesome start of the year isn’t crushed by bad news.