Terii’s Cycling Babble

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.

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