Terii’s Cycling Babble

A Pitiful Year
December 20, 2017, 10:15 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Title says it all. Of course, by sheer, unadulterated luck it’s not going to be my worst year ever. I had my doubts for a bit until I actually looked at previous years on BikeJournal.com. I have 10 days to get another 15 miles or so and I’ll make sure it happens. That way, 2016 will be only the second worst year for documented miles. If I’m feeling really froggy, I could try pushing out another 30 or so and it would be only the 3rd worst, but not sure if I’ve got that much oomph in me.

End of November and beginning of December was very wonky. First was the weather of course. It was hovering above freezing, but raining. So. Much. Rain. We did have one spell of nice weather, but I wound up too sick to take advantage of it. Something bizarre.

The symptoms had crept up on me unnoticed. Or, rather I noticed them but attributed them to other things. I was so very cold. Just felt like I couldn’t get warm for anything. Near constant shivering and bundled up. I didn’t think anything of it beyond annoyance as I’ve been more sensitive to cold and the chills hit during a cold snap. My feet also got a bit puffy, fitting tight in my shoes. I’ve had that happen before though so just counted it toward water retention.

So, on the last day of November, or perhaps the first day of December, the shivering started full on. Not just a deep chill, but actual body shuddering and teeth chattering. I felt abruptly dizzy and sick at the same time. Could hardly move. About lunch time, I took my temp and it was about 101. I took something to help push it back down, but it just kept climbing. It reached 103.8 even when I spent almost 20 minutes sitting under the stream of a cool shower. Took another dose of anti-fever tablets and it broke just about the time I was getting ready to go to the hospital before my brain cooked.

The next day? Felt fine. Good appetite, and energy with clear wits and no more chills. My shoes even fit like they should again. Naturally, the day of the fever it was absolutely beautiful out. The next day? Back to cold, barely-above-freezing rain. Not the light, blowing misty kind of precipitation either, but the ‘get wet to the skin’ kind of rain that would have had my woolens drenched before I’d even gone a mile.

Look! Snow! Well… kinda.

I was about going bonkers when the weather finally gave us another break. It got colder and stopped raining both. There was a tiny bit of an overlap, so we had some dusting of snow in places where the trees didn’t completely shelter the grass. So, out I went.

Loke was raring to go. No matter which way I turned, there was this bright-eyed, eager husky in my way.

It was just a short ride of 3 miles. It was a hard one too as I’d not yet gotten accustomed to the chunky studded tires and much of my fitness levels had tanked.

The furball did his best to speed us up though, which made me a bit nervous. Not only had Bobby done the tire swap for me, but he also did the pedals. While my feet were snuggly warm in my studded Icebug boots on the studded platform pedals, it’s not secure at all. I kept our speed down so that if a foot slipped, the damage from foot-suck would be minimized. There is yet a solution that spares tootsies from frostbite and secures against foot-suck.

The Garmin declared it to be 25 F with windchill. Everything else that doesn’t account for windchill said it was 33 F. Loke was disappointed with such a short run. Of course, the way he was acting, he probably would have been harassing Jens for long walkies after a 30 miler.

My next ride was on the 5th, which made it the closest together I’ve done two rides in ages. I would have ridden on December 4th, but it didn’t work out with errands and such. The 5th was an absolute ‘MUST DO’ though. Jens was trapped for a long day at work for end of quarter stuff, but we had dinner out with the family. It was the 50th wedding anniversary of Jens’ parents, so we took everyone out to our favorite restaurant.

Since Jens needed the car that meant a drop off at the garage to ride the trike for some exercise with the fuzzy one in hopes he would do something (else) uncharacteristic- like gobble down a bunch of  loose weight, mixed ‘nature goodies’.

Yeah, Loke decided to do something he’s never really done before and went after a bowl on the table that had some snacks decoratively set out. There were raw cashews, smoked almonds, and dried coconut along with more cashews covered in milk chocolate and cranberries in dark chocolate. Guess what he ate? Yep! Every scrap of chocolate-anything while scattering the non-chocolate stuff all over the livingroom floor while I was gone. What a fun 2 hours that was, rushing to the animal hospital so he could be induced to regurgitate all that. I swear, he’s been acting like an ill-mannered puppy the past few months.

So, I glanced at the window thermometer to estimate what I’d need to wear and shivered. 23 F in the sheltered side of the building, next to the wall which is radiating heat from inside. I started dragging on the layers until I felt like Maggie Simpson in her snow suit.

Moonlight! Feels right!

Loke seemed fairly ‘meh’ about the outing, a sentiment I shared, but once out of the car and walking down to the garage door, I perked up about it. Mostly because the big, full moon was gleaming through the trees. I just love moonlight.

After the trike was up at the top of the ramp and I managed to get the lights and all on it, the furry one seemed more interested. I settled in and off we went. For the first 100 yards or so, going slowly through the park, I kept craning my neck to look over my shoulder at the moon. I did spare a little attention to admire the way the lights glittered off the frosted grass, as if it had been sprinkled with diamond dust.

As we cleared the park and picked up a little bit of speed, I found myself humming Cat Steven’s ‘Moonshadow’ while admiring our celestial company. Whimsically, I decided that all my photos would have the moon in it.

Big moon above a frosted hill

From time to time, I did take my eyes off the moon and the frosted landscape to glance at my Garmin. The temp, of course, always reads quite a bit warmer at the start of a ride, so I watched the numbers dropped. It hit 23 F as indicated by our window thermometer, and it kept going. 22.4 F. 20.9 F. 19.6 F. Finally, it kind of levelled off around 17.2.

About halfway through the 3.33 miles, it was clear I should have done more for my feet. The tips of my toes were feeling a bit uncomfortable. The electric socks would have been nice, but eluded my hurried search so I had hoped they wouldn’t be needed.

No more moon, but still have trike and husky!

I also had a bit of a scare about the time the clouds kidnapped my lunar companion. We were transitioning from a tiny residential street onto the cycle paths which involves a bit of a bump. I hit it and my left foot slipped. It didn’t hit the ground, but instead oddly my leg got crunched between the pedal and the crossbar. I gave quite a yelp, but from scare factor more than pain. It was enough to startle Loke who then gave me an offended look. I REALLY need to figure something out.

Cold sunrise ride.

Since the evil clouds had snatched the moon from my sight, I turned my attention to the southeast in stead. There, sun was making use of the clouds by painting a pretty dawning, so I focused on snapping bunches of pictures of that. It also started to warm up. By time we got home, it was a balmy 22.3 F!

I didn’t get out to ride again though, so Loke had to deal with walkies for the rest of the day. I half expected to come home and find he’d eaten the couch or all of Jens’ shoes. Nope, he was apparently well behaved.

Remarkably, my next ride was on the 7th. I would have gone on the 6th of December, but just had too much to do with errands and chores. I did get out for a walk at Gamla Uppsala though, mostly for Loke. It was pretty. There was still a moon out and, though the snow wasn’t enough to cover the grass, it had been sheathed in hoarfrost which looked even lovelier than snow. Snow just flattens grass under a heavy blanket. Hoarfrost turns tall grass into gorgeous, feathery plumes.

Everything that needed doing on the 6th just about broke me down. I’ve been having problems with my right arm since early spring. It’s improved after many visits with a PT and even a handy little electrocution machine (TENS). Unexpectedly though, the shoulder of my left arm has exploded into an impressive amount of pain, making dealing with, well, pretty much everything difficult, let alone wrestling multiple layers of rough fabric over each other. So, between hitting the ground running from about 7 am and not stopping until after 7 pm and overusing my arms, yeah. Wasn’t sure I could deal with all the layers.

Another deterrent was the forecast declaring it would warm overnight to about 40 F and be raining from about 3 am onward. Yay. Rather sad when southern Mississippi (my childhood stomping grounds) is predicting snow and we’re getting their weather here in Sweden in December.

When I woke to splashy noises from traffic, there was no surprise. Not until I got up to close the window and saw the snow. Not a lot, but enough to make the pitiful, tooth-pick of a Christmas tree in the back lawn of our apartment building look pretty. Between that and the hubby grumbling at me, I endeavored against my right shoulder to get dressed.

A drizzling mist, a Christmas toothpick, a trike, and a husky.

It took a while, but after about 40 minutes, I was getting the GPS turned on and Loke hitched. The furball was quite interested, I think because of the snow or perhaps the unsatisfying walks of the previous day. Naturally, as I was taking the photo with the Christmas tree, the dusting of snowfall became a misty drizzle of rain. Ah well. At least that kind of rain I can ride in with not much trouble, even at a 27 F windchill.

It looks like REAL snow!

Loke pulled us briskly along as I headed out for the River Loop. The cycle paths that aren’t glorified sidewalks at the edges of streets, but rather on their own to connect different areas, had been ploughed. Not an improvement really when there’s this little snow. The weight of the little tractor plow compresses the snow that it doesn’t push off the pavement into ice. Instead of an inch or two of snow to walk though, you’re left slipping on ice. Yes, much better (sarcasm). Quite glad I had the studs both on tires AND shoes.

The plan to do the full river loop was cut quite short. Instead of 3 to 5 miles, just over 2 thanks to the steadily increasing rain. A misty drizzle slowly dampening the wool that still holds warmth? No problem. A rain heavy enough that it starts running over my skin through the various layers of wool? Nope. I’m done ASAP.

Still, got out for a roll which is better than nothing. AND it was my first snow ride of the season.

And would you know it? I went back out for another ride the very next day, December 8th! Can’t for the life of me recall when I’d last squeezed in 3 rides in 4 days.

Naturally, all that lovely snow we’d had the previous morning was gone. Just a few sad little clumps clinging on at the side of the cycle paths and roads. The afternoon temps of about 40 and good stiff rains had just washed it all away. The forecast for the 8th announced clear skies and sun. Well, if it’s going to be unseasonably warm, better sun than rain!

It was a bit of a lie. While there was no rain at least, the skies were far from clear. Such is the angle of the sun at this time of year that no direct light reaches the ground if there’s anything that even resembles ‘cloud cover’

With the misleading promise of sunshine, I put off riding in hopes of getting some wheel time in that glorious golden light. The last 2 rides started in the pre-dawn (7 am) and finished up just before the sun actually cleared the horizon (8:30 am). I gave up a bit after 10 am and started getting dressed.

Getting ready went much easier than yesterday as my shoulder has improved quite a bit. It also helped that being 40 F instead of 27 F, I didn’t need as much in the way of layers.

I couldn’t quite decide what to ride when I first started out. Loke didn’t seem to have a preference as long as the pace was ‘brisk’. Against my better judgement with the threat of foot-suck, I relented… a little.

I decided to stick somewhat close to home. The last 2 rides have been between 2 or 3 miles as my legs have worn out pretty quick from not just peddling, but working to keep the feet firmly on pedals. I did want a bit more distance though. With my arm keeping my computer time to about 5-10 minutes out of every hour, and my limitations for most other physical activities right now, I’ve been watching waaaaayyyyy too much TV as my shoulder takes time to heal and get right. I’ve blown through most series that hold interest so… I’ve been suffering a bit of cabin fever.

Deciding to get at least another mile or two, I struck off to the east for a short distance onto little residential roads I’ve not touched in months as well as the cycle path that goes through the frisbee golf course. Loke liked that. As I rode through the almost spring-like weather with shrubs budding in confusion and even clouds of gnats for pity sake, I decided I was gong to push it for a full on River Loop with all extensions. It’s been AGES since I’ve done that. Months at least. That would finish up with 6 miles, give or take.

The furball seriously perked up as I turned north to follow the river path. I guess it’s been long enough that it felt ‘fresh’ to him. I didn’t anticipate the wind out there though. Once past the industrial portion of it, it turns to wide open fields on the west bank of the river. Nothing to stop the wind for several hundred yards at least. It wasn’t consistent either. It would be kind of mild and then a howling gust would slam out of no-where, whipping the grass and making Loke put his head down and squint. It only intensified as we turned around to head back.

On the southern end of that portion of the river path, it was a relief to get back into the cover of the trees though they creaked and swayed as the wind made that low, roaring growl through the canopy.

As we came up to the swim hall, we over took a class out for a walk. About 30+ kids in the 10-11 age range, shepherded along by 3 adults. They saw us coming from behind and a ripple of noisy amazement and interest spread as they all moved to the left to let us pass. Such were the calls of ‘Beautiful Dog!’ and ‘neat bike!’ I decided to stop. A few of them asked about Loke and finally one of the boys asked if he could come pet Loke. I said yes. Well, the chaperone missed the part where he’d asked and yelled at him to get away from the dog. ‘You do NOT approach a dog without ASKING!’. I immediately defended the boy. When she asked if I was certain it was okay and I assured her, there was a sudden chorus of ‘Can I pet him too?’

Loke was suddenly swarmed under by about a dozen kids. He responded more warmly than usual which kind of surprised me. He ‘kissed’ faces and wagged his tail. Usually, he just kinda stands in place like a stuffed animal, indifferent to the attention. They were amazed by the fact he was older than all of them. When another of the kids not petting Loke heard me mention he was a Siberian husky, he ran over to give some attention too. Some of them, hearing my accent even showed off their English, one boy calling out ‘Merry Christmas!’ as he ran to catch up with his friends. When the moment was over, the teacher thanked me for my patience and kindness.

I smiled for the rest of the 6.4 mile ride. That was a surprisingly good ride even if on hamster tracks.

I also rode on December 10th, but it was just 2.1 miles of utter hell. Feet hurt, hip hurt, even something about the way I was sitting in the seat made my arm hurt. Just… ugh. Gray, drizzling weather on trails I’ve left ruts in deep enough to rival the Grand Canyon. Just too unpleasant on so many levels that it wasn’t worth suffering for more time/distance. Perhaps if I’d had fresh ground to distract me, I could have gone further, but loaded the trike in the car at this time isn’t really doable.

I didn’t get out for rides for several days. Mostly it was because it just felt like time was so limited. Our ‘days’ are just 6 hours long (5 hours and 55 minutes actually). I’d wake up in the dark and by time some light came around, I had things to do. When I was finished, I would have been heading out to ride about time the sun set which is a bit after 3 pm. Without the moon, I’m just not interested in ‘streetlight rides’. If I’m going to ride in the snowy dark, I would prefer it to be with clear skies, a full moon, and NO streetlights. I’m just dreamer that way. Few things are more enchanting than moonlight and snow painting a world of midnight blue, pewter, and silver. And we had no snow.

And we had full moon during that time, even if it had been clear enough to see the sky. Oh, right and NO SNOW. Mississippi, land of 100 degree summers and historically mild winters where even frost is a rarity, was getting buried under the stuff while we had the winter that should have been theirs.

Then it finally happened! We got snow! Actual, full on, snow fall. About 6 inches of it just dropped on us like a blanket. The day after it came down, we had temps cold enough that it didn’t start melting. Naturally, those were some of the ‘busy’ days I didn’t have a chance to go out. Then for 2 days, it was melting like crazy, the rain helped by temps back in the 40’s again.

December 16th was the first day in a while I’ve had the morning free enough to get out during some daylight. Much to my surprise, there is still quite a bit of snow and not so cold that my legs needed 3 layers, but would be just fine with my mid-weight wool under the tights.

Loke had a bit of bounce and anticipation as I got ready and his fuzzy tail was waving like a cheerful banner as we walked out to the trike. He also threw himself down in the slushy snow over the muddy grass to wallow around.

It was starting to sprinkle as we rolled out, but thankfully, it didn’t last long. We weren’t even 0.10 mile from home before it stopped. The furball had that husky grin going as we rolled along and for once, I seemed to find the sweet spot with feet and pedals right away. The Garmin showed a temp of 29 F, though that’s probably with wind chill. It’s probably closer to 34 F. I was perfectly dressed, Loke eager as we rolled out.

Not a long ride as my legs started to tire from the strain of being sure they don’t bounce off the pedals into the dreaded foot suck. It still was good to get out for the 3.6 miles we rolled. The studded tires were necessary, though there were spots where even they slipped. Loke clearly appreciated the exercise as well and offered a bit of assistance pretty much the whole way. He’s such a good boy.

December 17th was another warm day that was chipping away at the last of those 6 inches we’d managed to get. The forecast promised it was going to get cold and start snowing that night though. However, upon waking on the 18th, there was not a bit of fresh snow to be found. The weather app then shifted to say it would start about noon.

Actually, it started to snow at about 10 am as I was picking up groceries.

So, there it was. Fresh snow falling and temperatures were about 33 F instead of 23 F. I couldn’t help myself. It was an absolute must to go out the door for a short ride at least since I didn’t need to pull on 3 inch thick layers of wool. It was also good that it was that warm because, though I’d found my sock batteries they take a while to charge and weren’t ready.

Loke was all for it, getting underfoot. He’s a smart dog and with 12 years, you’d think he’d have figured out the way to get out the door faster is to NOT sit on my feet or try to crawl into lap while I’m pulling on the layers.

As we marched out to the trike, there wasn’t yet much accumulation though granular snow doesn’t stack up as quick as flakes. As I dragged the trike out, it rolled a little funny. A huge chunk of dirt/mud had frozen to one of the wheels. It was apparently quite a bit colder than I thought. I kicked it off and sat down to pull out the Garmin and settle the rest of the things, when Loke started singing and woofing at me to get a move on. It’s been ages since he’s done that.

The ‘sandy’ snow was starting to come down a bit more seriously as we rolled out. Even though I had dressed a bit on the light side, I decided to do more than the short river loop. Fresh snow? I was going to do the grave mounds!

As I struck out on the main road toward the grave mounds where the new ‘cycle highway’ has been built along side it, I was surprised with how there was absolutely not snow accumulating it. It almost looked as if it were heated. I was curious enough to stop, pull off my glove, and put fingers on the asphalt. While not what I would call _warm_, the surface wasn’t exactly cold either. Cool, maybe a bit chilly, but above freezing to be sure. Loke wasn’t impressed with my experiment. A waste of time that we could have been moving. No scientific curiosity, that one.

The furball had energy and ‘oomph’ enough to boost our speed a bit. What I would allow any way. I kept things on the slow side to reduce the risk of foot suck if one slipped.

We were tediously headed up a bit of an incline by some soccer fields, on the other side of which are the fields beside the Grave Mound path. On the far side of the fields, probably where the rail tracks drop into the new tunnel, was a small bridge and a pedestrian/bike path sign. First I’ve noticed it. It did perk my curiosity, though not enough to change my planned route. Still, marked and noted for another day.

Loke really turned the effort on when we hit the grave mounds proper. I hated to disappoint him, but I had miscalculated something. The condition of the path. I ALWAYS overestimate how much unpaved surfaces melt compared to paved. Where I had expected somewhat slushy gravel starting to build up a layer of snow, it was all rock-hard, brutally rutted ice. Risk of foot suck shot up into the orange threat level.

It wasn’t enough to turn me back though. I just took it easy, jolting us along at walking speed. It gave the furball plenty of time to sniff along the verge. Two spots, I had to get off the trike to push up the short, but steep climbs because the studded tire couldn’t grip enough to get me up, even with Loke’s help. At the tail end of the mound ridge, were some men with weedwhackers. I can’t imagine how sucky that must be, trying to cut several acres of snow covered grass with those. They stopped to watch us roll by.

Mounds and church hazy in the blowing snow

The wind was howling across the fields in places as the snow went from the grainy, almost sand-like stuff to something more ‘flakey’ and a denser fall of it to boot! At times it was going horizontal and I started to feel the cold as the Garmin went from a windchill temp of 29 F to 24 F. My gloves got wet and the wind with poor circulation in my feet meant the toes started to let me know they were getting unhappy. In spite of that, I was loving the ride. In one spot, sheltered by the worst of the wind by trees, I stopped to just ‘be in the moment’. Listening to the snow tick on the Da Brim of my helmet and admire how beautiful it all looked, coming down against the back-drop of deep green conifers.

“It wasn’t enough. Let’s go again!”

The Grave Mound path is about 1 mile or 1.5 mile (you’d think I’d know after all these years), and it took the better part of 40 minutes to make it. Lovely as it had been, I was so glad to reach pavement again. Nice, smooth-under-the-half-inch-of-new-snow, pavement. I was surprised the trike hadn’t shaken loose.

I would have loved to push on along the river loop extension, but hands and feet were unhappy and making the rest of me chilled in spite of wool, not to mention the temp was going to drop with dark less than 20 minutes away. I was happy though as the Garmin ticked over 4 miles for the ride. That meant 400 miles for a year. Pitiful really. Less than 1/4th of last year’s distance.

Finished up the ride with a total of 6.17 miles. Loke seemed content when we first got home. It didn’t last. After about 20 minutes as I attempted to bake away the chill under the electric blanket, there he was. Nudging and woofing at me. Such a bully!

Yesterday (December 19th) was quite cold, enough so the snow we had was able to stick around. Not that it was much around the apartment. It might have been snowing like mad at the mounds, but just a mile away, we didn’t even get a quarter inch at home.

While the distance might bump up a tad, there won’t be any more churches or runestones. So, the year’s count for those is 1 church. Unless I count the one I rode past on October 1st. While I’ve been by that church once before on my trike, it was before I started blogging. So, okay. I’ll call it 2 churches and 2 runestones then. Oh, and 1 burial ground with a bit over 400 miles for the year.

Aayyee. I hope next year is better. Now, I’m off to do my arm exercises to offset the blog typing…

Merry Christmas to one and all if I don’t post again before that.