Terii’s Cycling Babble


WINTER!!
March 7, 2018, 7:27 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Well, this update is a little overdue since I left things hanging with ‘took Loke to the vet in a rush and waiting on test results.’

Over the night after my last post on February 19th, a fresh blanket of new snow came down over what we’d already had for weeks. WEEKS! I can’t remember the last time we had such an enduring winter environment! It finally felt like a Swedish winter, the kind I’ve been missing.

And it was still snowing when I stepped out with the hubby to drive him to work. But it was a magical kind of snowy day. Brilliant blue sky and sunshine… as huge, feathery flakes drifted and swirled through the air. Downright magical.

After kicking the hubby out of the car at the office, taking Loke for an hour’s walk at Haga park in Stockholm, and driving home, I was surprised I felt the pull of the trike. Still sunny out with the occasional random flurry from skies the color of robin’s eggs. With my husband at work, I didn’t feel confident enough to take a longer ride through the countryside with Loke, but it felt wrong to leave him at home.

So, I wound up waffling and then took my time to get dressed. When we finally stepped out, it was coming up on 2 pm. It wasn’t snowing.

At least he’s kinda walking as he sniffs here.

It’s amazing how much getting off the River Loop on Friday, February 19th rejuvenated my mental state for cycling even on my most common hamster tracks. I was smiling and feeling upbeat as we pushed across the snow-blanketed park. I didn’t even grumbled when Loke started his carefully-sniff-every-inch-of-the-way-resisting-the-pull-of-the-trike antics.

Most of the paths I took had either been plowed or at least the snow was packed down nicely so going wasn’t too bad.

We were about a mile and a half into the loop when I stopped. There was no way my camera phone was going to capture what I saw, so I simply marveled at the beauty of it for a good five minutes. It had begun snowing again as we were heading west, but the flakes were minuscule. So small that you really couldn’t see them. That is, couldn’t see them until the sun caught them and made them shine like tiny bits of diamond. The air was shimmering as if drifting with fairy dust. After those few minutes, it turned into large downy clusters like bits of feathers.

It was so pretty, I couldn’t resist. I was going to stay out and enjoy it as long as I could. We were going to take the out-n-back northern river path. Besides, it’s been more than a month, maybe even more than 2 months since I last added that to the river loop.

Loke even kinda stopped sniffing as we traveled north. We did a brisk (for us) pace through a swirling winter wonderland of snowflakes and sunshine. The temperature on my Garmin varied pretty wildly on the first part of the ride. Anything between 29 F up to 34 F. I pretty sure the 34 F was just the black plastic heating up from the sunshine. 29 F was probably closer to the truth.

Me, trying not to inhale snowflakes. Loke, sporting an ice beard and not impressed with the photo.

Sun set was slated for about 4:45 or so and we were going to be cutting it close. As we turned back with the sun getting lower and some clouds and snow veils starting to obscure it, the temperature dropped. It was about 24 F as we turned back for the usual parts of the River Loop.

We’d just reached the path section near the swim hall when I realised my feet were getting cold. My left big toe especially felt it, as if someone was pressing an ice cube to the tip of it. I took a quick peek at my battery to discover it was dead. Even better my Garmin showed a balmy 19 F. Not good for the tootsies. Talk about lighting a fire under my rump. Not to mention, I’d forgotten my lights. Would have been annoying to get cited for that if I got caught out after the sun set.

We made it. My feet, while quite chilled, didn’t cross the line into ‘incredibly uncomfortable and heading for frost bite’ level of pain. The sun was technically still up and no cops in sight as we zipped downhill through the park and to the garage.

While it was back on the River Loop, it was a good ride. I thought maybe over the weekend I could ride somewhere else if Jens was home as a safety net. It really gives me a mental recharge and makes riding the hamster tracks less of a chore. Of course, it also depended on what the lab tests said about Loke and what would need to be done.

I had plans to ride more, but the weather poked hole in that plan. Friday, February 23, the forecast said the temperature overnight was only supposed to get to about 18 F. When I looked at the thermometer at about 4 pm, it was 10 F. When I woke Saturday morning, the 24th, it was 0 F. ZERO! I waited all day to see what our high was going to be, but gave up when about 1 pm it was barely 12 F.

Sunday, February 25th, was looking pretty much the same as the day before, in spite of the forecast insisting it was supposed to reach 28 F. It was clear and sunny out when my hubby started bullying me to go ride since he’d twisted his ankle when on the long walk with our harassing husky the day before. It was about 15 F though and without any 400 g weight wool legs, I REALLY didn’t want to go out. But my husband was grumbling that if I only took Loke for a walk, it wouldn’t be enough and then Loke ganged up on me. It had reached about 20 F, so I caved.

Naturally, as I started dressing, the sun disappeared. I had 4 layers on my legs: light wool against the skin, mid-wool over that, my cycle tights, and a pair of cotton track pants. By the time Loke and I stepped out to the car to go to the storage, it was snowing. It didn’t look to be enough snow to be a threat to the cotton on my legs, so off we went.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. There wasn’t any real wind and the snow was the fine grained sort.

Loke was INSANE. He hopped at the end of the tether, pulled like a mad dog across the park, even hit 13 mph as we came down a small ice road to the cycle paths. His best speed in 2 years. I guess he heard me telling my husband that I saw on Facebook that Loke’s brother, Eric, is still competing. Maybe my furball was inspired… or trying to show his brother up. Sibling rivalry and all that.

What do you think, Loke? Is it snowing?

After about a mile and a half, he settled a bit, which coincided with the snow going from a moderate fall of fine, almost sand like grains, to a thick, dense swirl of fluffy feather flakes on a crazy wind. My upper body was perfectly dressed. My arms and chest felt comfortable and the snow that piled up on the upper layer of my upper body didn’t melt. Just sat there in between my dusting it off.

My legs though. Oooh, I paid for wearing that cotton. I was losing warmth like mad over my thighs especially, evident from the snow melting in into the fabric in spite of the 16 F temp on my Garmin. Once that cotton got damp, it started to suck the heat right out of the wool under layers.

Into this torment, another one jumped into the fun. I’m sure most are familiar with the phrase, ‘A call of nature’. Well, Nature wasn’t calling. It was screaming. Or maybe a thunderous demand. I had to answer. I limped home with the trike, wincing with every half turn of the pedals that squished my bladder. Once I was home and dashed in to answer the call, there was NO way, I was going to wrestle 4 sopping wet layers of leggings back on to finish the ride back to the storage.

Ironically, I wasn’t even home for 5 minutes when I glanced out the window to see the snow had stopped. 15 minutes after that, it was calming and not a cloud in the sky. My winter leg layers were still wet though, so they were going to be staying in the bathroom to drip-dry from the towel racks. Though he’d kinda bullied me out for the ride, Jens decided to be a sweetheart and he walked with Loke to get the car.

Somewhere between, or perhaps even after those rides, we got the news back on Loke’s tests. Though it wasn’t 100% confirmation, the strong indication seemed to be a specific kind of benign tumor. There were two real options to deal with it. The first, of course, was surgery.

Surgery in the exact area where Loke’s anal glands had been removed years ago which turned into 3-4 days of complete nightmare that led me into a hysterical breakdown? 3 hours of sleep in 60 hours while trying to handle a husky who was screaming with either pain or terror from morphine induced hallucinations. Alternative! PLEASE!

The other possibility was castration. If it is the kind of tumor the tests seemed to indicate, it’s reactive to testosterone. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with that idea and Jens even less so, though for me it was because I still wanted to avoid surgery on my elderly husky. Fortunately, the vet countered with, ‘We can do it chemically with a skin implant’.

Yes! That! We’ll do that!

The one who did the implant warned me that the testosterone levels would climb for a few days before tapering off, so to watch and be sure the tumor didn’t go crazy. In 2 or 3 weeks, we should know if it was going to work. One week has fully passed and the tumor looks a bit different, but I wouldn’t say ‘worse’ so I’m content to just watch it for now.

After the ride on the February 25th, the weather again changed. After that nearly tropical day with a high of 20 F, it got cold. I mean cold. Our daytime highs were in the single digits again and the nights would plunge to sub-zero. It was so harsh that my eye-lids were trying to freeze together, the bitter chill making me cough as I breathed, and ice forming in my nostrils when braving the brutal, north-eastern Siberian wind to take Loke out.

Loke of course, loved it! This was his time! He was all happy, bouncy, and bullying. It was pretty though. Crystalline clear skies and sunshine reflecting brightly on the snow that shifted like sand under the force of the wind. Just couldn’t spend more than a few minutes out in it.

After about 10 days of this, I started to go a bit mad. Getting out and walking and cycling are about all I have right now that even remotely interests me. I can’t spend much time on the computer because of issues with my arm. Typing this post is going to cost me as it is. So, no 3D modeling, no learning to code, or other things that require the computer. Reading a book puts my arm in a bad position. Cross-stitch? Bad arm position while doing it as well as the computer. So, house-hold chores and staring at the TV in between the short local walkies with Loke. That describes my days during the harsh cold snap. I was about to go flying off the handle.

Loke had already gone as crazed as a March hare. Acting more like he used to when he was 3 years old than the husky coming up on his 13th birthday. Fits of hysterical bouncing and leaping around the apartment when it even remotely looked like Jens or I were about to go out. I wonder if that initial rise of testosterone before the drop is what’s gotten him so twitchy.

March 4th, the cold snap… well, snapped! It finally warmed up to the temperatures the forecast had been promising for ‘tomorrow’ for the past week or more. Almost 26 F! I was determined to go for a ride off the hamster track. Jens even offered to have me just pick a direction to ride and he’d come get me when I decided to stop. I opted for one of my local, but longer loops I’ve not done in a while.

Loke was in a tizzy as I started getting dressed. Since I was going to be riding off the River Loop for the first time in almost 2 weeks, I decided I was going to take the camera. Also, in case I was going to wind up stuck and need to wait for Jens, I was going to stuff my heavy weight ‘parka poncho’ in a bag to come with as well. With all that extra stuff, I decided to get the trike to the front door before bringing it and Loke out.

The balcony door was open as I’d needed the winter’s chill to keep me from having a heat-stroke as I dressed. So, while I was dragging the trike out, there was a bang. I looked to see Loke bounce up above the railing. I would have thought he’d just hop up to put his paws on the side and watch, but no. For some reason, he was doing the ‘jack-russel-looking-at-food-on-a-counter’ bounce. Boing, boing, boing. Gave me quite a laugh.

Once I had the handlebar bag and Garmin set and put my feet on the pedals, there was still another errand to take care of before we headed off River-Loop-Land. Since 90% of my rides have been bike paths, I’ve not worried much about using my flag. Heading out on the open roads was another story. Also, I needed Loke’s travel water dish.

Within a few yards, I was met with a sight that seemed strange after so long with temperatures so cold. Melt water. The pavement was wet instead of snowy or icy. That was a bit of a bummer because it meant I was going to get back home with a mucky husky.

The ride wasn’t really off to the good start even for just the short half mile to the storage. My right hip felt uncomfortable and so did my knee. With the extra weight I’m still trying to shed, gained during the Christmas cold requiring a diet of cough drops to survive, added to the 4 layers of wool and such, I felt squished in the trike.

I truly considered just making the ride a quick dash on… you guessed it, the River Loop.

But then the cabin fever or whatever you might call it kicked in and I HAD to ride off the River Loop. Even if it meant having to call for a rescue. I just had to.

At the storage, I hurried down the slope, shuffling through almost 8 inches of snow. Along with the pannier bag for my poncho, Loke’s water dish, and the flag, I also grabbed the foam pad I made some time last year. I did it specifically to raise me up in the seat to reduce the amount of flex in the hips. It worked for that though I’m not sure why I quit using it. Maybe it was because of my feet.

Any way, I put it back on the seat and fastened it into place. It significantly changes the dynamics of how it feels in the seat and it did seem to lessen the discomfort.

All the years riding by here and this is the first I’ve seen of this old root cellar.

It was gray and initially about 26 F. Very calm too. Nary a breath of wind to stir the air. I fully expected all that to change once I pushed up that first hill on Old Börje Road and then coasted back down to where the fields open up into vast expanses of flat treeless views.

I was pretty sure I’d bitten off more than I could chew even as I pushed on. My hip, while hurting less, was still fairly comfortable. Every now and again, I’d get a sharp jab of pain through the knee.

I didn’t know how far I’d be able to make it, but still, just being off the River Loop brought a sense of relief and an odd relaxation. As for the weather out among the fields and woods? It held steady. The temperature actually increased to about 28 F and there still was no wind. Was almost surreal to be pedaling along a stretch of road where the fields stretched open and wide to the north for what has to be a mile if not 2 or more and no wind.

Wide open and still not a breath of wind!

A little further beyond the field stretch, I passed by an old house that has stood empty since I first began cycling by it back in 2006. Faded yellow paint, the grimy windows looking out like empty eye sockets. It’s always struck me as rather forlorn. Such a shame to see a lovely house that has seen a century or more falling to time.

I drove by it a couple weeks ago and noticed that there was something going on. Trees cut down, the old wooden gate that used to stand across the drive torn up. I was convinced the next time I’d see the place it would be a pile of rubble with perhaps just an outline of foundation stones.

Yes! Save it please!

Well, when I pedaled by it, it yet stood and it appeared that whatever was being done to it was more preservation than destruction. The thing that gave me most hope for its salvation was a simple sort of support scaffolding that had been put in place to hold up the porch roof. It’s crossed my mind to wonder if they might actually move the house.

That would make me sad too, because I’d love to watch the renovation. Still, better to be moved and restored than smashed aside and plowed under for a cookie cutter eye-sore with little character.

Loke really loved the outing. He was pulling like an old champion. Still trying to match his brother perhaps? It was good to see such enthusiasm in him. He did start to flag for the last 2 miles or so though.

Oof! A lot more snow than anticipated!

While physically uncomfortable, especially as I struggled toward the end, I counted it as a good ride on my old Läby loop. Those little country roads had a lot more of ice and snow than I anticipated. It was only a little boggy in areas, probably totaling no more than a mile for the entire ride if I don’t count the cycle path that runs along the 72 on the return leg to Uppsala. The cycle path had been plowed at one point, but previous winds had blown snow back into little ridges and ripples which made it a bit more work to push through.

By time we were back in Uppsala proper, I was desperate for the ride to end. Nature was screaming, my hip was very unhappy and the sharp pain in my knee had given way to a dull ache in both. Oh, and my left ankle decided to take up the ‘dagger like jabs of agony’ where my knees had left off. I thought long and hard about just stopping at the apartment rather than pushing on to the storage half a mile further. Slow as I was going, it felt like it was going to take a life-time to get there.

Still, I gritted my teeth and went on. Jens was nice enough to be waiting at the storage for me so I could get home, and therefore to the restroom quicker.

Laggardly Loke disappeared almost as soon as were home. I think he slept for 20 minutes or so, only to wake and begin bouncing around with a ball and one of this rawhide chews. In between those bouts of play, he’d pester us. 11+ miles and he had shaken it off like a walk around the block. He just refuses to act like the 12 years and 8 month old dog he is.

The next ride was yesterday, March 6th. I know. Right? Less than a week between rides!

I was a bit nervous about it by reason of how my hip, knee and ankle felt on the last 11+ mile ride, but I do want a bit of momentum. The problem was Jens wanted the car, so was going to have to drop me off at the storage. The sticking point was at 25 F, as displayed by my computer and the window thermometer, I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to drag everything on for a proper ride.

In that light, it seemed most reasonable to just pull on the minimum I’d need for a quick dash from storage to home, with wool socks instead of electric. Just perhaps a quarter mile extra distance to go by the American football fields and past the swim hall for a bit more convenient places for Loke to do any business he might need. Less than a mile and most of it downhill. Then when it warmed up to about 30 F later in the day, I’d have the luxury of time to do the socks and whatever extra layers I might need.

Sounded like a good plan. Right?

And it worked… until it turned into a fiasco.

Started out well enough. Opened the storage, got the trike out and stuff settled on it. My warm up consisted of climbing the steep ramp to the parking above while pushing the trike through about 8+ inches of snow.

Loke was fairly happy to be out though a bit confused when I turned to follow the road instead of going through the park. It’s downhill that way and gave me a better angle for getting the trike settled back at the apartment.

The surface of the street was covered with boggy snow, the texture of wet, churned sand. It kept our speed down which annoyed the husky. Of course, then he started to return the favor of annoyance as we reached the cycle paths. He was wanting to stop and sniff every 3 feet or so and doing his determined best to spend ages at every spot.

Then as we were coming to the swim hall, I became paranoid about my keys. Wouldn’t you know it. No keys. I panicked. Two possibilities. 1) I’d put them in my pocket and they’d fallen out. 2) I’d left them in the storage door which means the door was standing wide open.

I charged off back toward the garage. That is, I tried. I had about 200 yards/meters of boggy snow on a little street to push through. The rest of the shorter ways would have been more of the same, so I aimed for the cycle path that follows one of the Uppsala’s main streets. Cycle paths are generally much clearer than streets, specially the smaller residential roadways. Even if it was longer on the paths than the streets, it would be faster.

I still wasn’t a paragon of speed even when I reached the cycle paths. The storage sits on the side of a hill. Not a steep one, but any hill gives me fits. Then, there was Loke. 1/3rd of my effort output was dedicated to dragging him as I was in a rush to get back before anything happened to the storage.

I was gasping for air, muscles burning as I blazed along at a whopping 2 mph. I finally had to start going along with one hand on Loke’s collar to keep his head up. That made it a bit easier until I had to shift gears. Loke got canny about it very quickly. I’d let go to shift and he’d swerve off to the far reach of his tether where I couldn’t easily grab his collar again, plant his feet and sniff.

One silver lining to the panic driven efforts, I was warm. My feet were toasty and I’d pulled off gloves and hat even with my Garmin displaying 18 F.

Anxiety heightened as I came down through the park to the storage. The door was closed. I really didn’t like the odds of finding my keys on one of the snow churned streets.

I came to the top of the ramp though and saw, yep, there were my keys. If I had to guess? Some kind soul who lives the apartment complex there, and is familiar with my coming and goings, closed the door for me, but didn’t want me to be without the keys.

Thankfully, the rest of the way back was all down hill. So, keeping Loke’s head up, I just coasted back and staggered into the apartment before my over-cooked noodle legs collapsed. Just shy of 2 miles and I felt as exhausted as I had on March 4th’s 5x longer ride. Good news though! My hip, knees, and ankle seemed okay.

I didn’t make it out again with the trike though. My legs cramped up and I decided I shouldn’t push things to the point I might re-injure something. Loke had to make do with walkies for the rest of the day. He seemed okay with that. Played rug most of the time and wasn’t even too huge of a pest when Jens came home.

From here on out, it does seem the inexorable approach of Spring has snapped the back of this little bit of winter. A couple more days with highs of barely below freezing, maybe even dustings of fresh snow over what we have. End of the week though, they’re talking highs in the mid-30’s and rain. It’s been nice and I’ve enjoyed actually having enduring snow. While a little frustrated with the truly bitter cold we had, it was worth it for the rest of the winter and for the magic that the snow and freezing fog did to my little patch of Sweden.

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