Terii’s Cycling Babble

This Week Has Been HARD.
April 13, 2018, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc


The title is an understatement. Grief just coming in waves. It certainly has given me a little clearer perspective on Loke’s decline though.

Bright and early on Wednesday, April 11th, I got word from old friends who were in truth more like family through all of my teen years and well through early adulthood, that their mother had a major stroke the evening before. We’d lost touch with each other for over 15 years, and I’d only recently reconnected with them. Mom J. has been struggling with health issues, among them Alzheimers. They were taking her off life support as the stroke had caused too much damage and there was nothing doctors could do.

That was like a kick to the head after the punches dropped me.

Ever since their daughter had plopped down beside me under a pine tree during lunch at one of my first days at a new school, her family had enfolded me like one of their own. Sue and I were practically inseparable. Mom J. mothered me as much as she did her own three. When I had to leave home abruptly, they took me in and gave me a new home. When Dad J. passed suddenly, Mom J. insisted I stand with the rest of the kids during the funeral. I was family and never mind what the rest of the family on his side thought of that.

I don’t know where I would have been without that wonderfully quirky girl who just appeared out of nowhere and said to a lonely, shy me, ‘Let’s be friends!’ I truly believe my life would have taken me in directions that would never have led here to Sweden with my wonderful husband and a 13 year old husky who’s explored so much of this country with me and the trike.

On Wednesday, April 11th, I had planned to take the trike to Haga Park at the northern edge of Stockholm for a slow toodle with Loke. Somewhere fresh, that the trike has never been, that could brighten our day. Mostly it was for Loke. I was going to spend hours going as slow as he wanted or even just sit in the trike as he basked in the sun if he so desired. First, I had to get done with a vet appointment.

The evaluation was about what I expected in many ways. We discussed the tumor and after going over it all, both the vet and I decided that in Loke’s current state of decline, it would be cruel and useless to subject him to that surgery. When the glands were removed from that very spot years ago, it turned into a 4 day horror show. He was young, fit and strong. Odds are now, he’d have the surgery and need to be let go within days of it, all the while, in terrible pain and terror. That’s not how I want my old man to go out. Of course, that’s if he’d wake up at all…

As for the increase in wobbly-ness, she recommended another medication to be used in conjunction with the others. It could potentially ease whatever nerve pain he might be having from the deterioration. It might make him sleepy though, so she recommended just an evening dose first and then if he still seemed uncomfortable to add another morning dose. Can even go up to 3 times a day if needed.

For when the time comes, they have a separate entrance to the clinic for just that purpose. A comfortable room one can get to without passing through the waiting room with all its generally distasteful veterinarian memories. One can pay in advance so that as the deed is done, there’s no need to fumble through payment as one sobs inconsolably over the loss of their furry companion.

I’ll admit, I started crying as we talked about it. The vet hugged me tight, saying how sorry she was.

By the time all that was done, I decided it was too late to leave for the ride. it was almost noon and once I dressed, stopped somewhere to grab something for lunch, made the drive there, unloaded and assembled the trike, it would be after 2 pm. Thursday was supposed to be as pretty though. Sunny, high in the upper 50’s. Thursday it was.

It almost didn’t happen. Loke was so unsteady on his feet. His right back leg in particular was giving him problems. And blood. It wasn’t a gush coming out of the tumor, but it was the most that there’s been. It made quite a mess of a cotton pad as I tried clean and evaluate it.

I had to step back for a moment and honestly ask myself if his time had suddenly ambushed us. After getting all teary eyed and pacing around a bit, I decided to do as I had planned. If need be, I’d call and make the appointment for his passing on Friday if he was too bad, but I was going to at least take him out for one more ride with the trike somewhere we’d maybe both like. Monday would be even better as long as he wasn’t suffering too much. That way we could spoil him over the weekend with all the naughty stuff he’s not had for years because of his allergies.

It was a hard drive. Loke usually sits up and kinda stares out a window on the drive to Stockholm. This time, he just laid down from about the moment we hit the E4 and didn’t get up until I took the off ramp for Haga Park. I had some weepy moments as I played over memories with him and even older ones of the good times with Mom J.

She was lingering on after they had ceased life-support.

I pulled into the parking at Haga and started pulling the trike out. I rolled down the windows so Loke could stick his head out if he wanted to. He did. Well, when he wasn’t watching me from over the back seat any way. He perked up almost like his January self as I worked.

I was fastening the seat when a woman in a large SUV type Jeep rolled up. She opened the back and out jumped a magnificent Rhodesian Ridgeback. I smiled and asked her about him. His name was Harry and he was 2 years old. I asked how much he weighed and she made a bit of a face, “I don’t know. I’ve not weighed him in quite a while.” Then she dropped her voice a bit, “But he needs to lose a couple kilos. He’s a bit pudgy.”

There was perhaps a little extra weight around his waist, but not as bad as some dogs can get. Personally, I think he still was a beautiful, handsome boy. His shiny short coat still showed off his musculature rather nicely. He wasn’t so well padded that it was hidden.

She admitted then that she originally wanted a husky, but didn’t believe she had the time or energy to give one the energy outlet it needed. I nodded and told her that I wished more people thought of that. We did consider it and even so, it still kinda caught us by surprise. Without the trike, we’d never have been able to keep a husky happy. And Loke was pretty laid back as huskies go. Well, healthy, fit huskies any way. Out of shape, obese, huskies condemned to a life of ‘a half hour’s walk a day’, not so much.

Then she walked on as I finished putting last touches back on the trike.

Still hates cameras. It was only because of the cookies he looked at me.

Loke seemed almost perky as he jumped out the car and was helpful in getting his harness on. It was as if he was raring to go in his decrepit own way. That made me feel a little better though I was still wondering if this was going to be his final trike outing.

I clipped in (oh beloved SPD shoes/pedals) and we did a brief roll across the parking lot to the pay machines. He actually woofed impatiently at me as I put in 4 hours. I thought about putting in more, but wasn’t sure Loke would have that much oomph to walk that long or the patience to sit still for long in the sun.

Then we left the parking lot, scooting across the entrance road to the paths and it was like the past weeks fell away. Suddenly, it was my beloved husky of February and early March beside me. The one who cheerfully loped for a good part of our 10 mile Vaksala/Granby Loop. The one who jogged and ran 12+ miles on the Läby loop in March. The one who still wanted more after both rides.

Such a lovely day at odds with the sorrow in my heart.

I kept his pace down a bit, out of respect of his wobbly back legs. A fairly simple matter at the beginning as it was immediately a bit of a climb. Loke would likely have been fine with a bit more speed, as he actually put some weight in the harness, trying to get us up the slope faster.  Happily, but a bit confusing, once we were moving, his legs seemed pretty good. Quite stable.

Even when we finally got some downhill time, we didn’t speed up too much. Too many people to weave through and every time we did get a clear trail, I’d stop for a photo. Many annoyed sighs from the husky beside me.

Baltic ice reflecting blue skies.

The Garmin showed a temp of about 55 F and the sun was quite warm, but it felt colder than 55 F. I was a bit under dressed for it, especially when a bit of a breeze would blow when we were in the shade.

Moist dirt. Just hard enough to be good for the trike, but soft for old husky paws.

I was not to be deterred though. I took the paths we generally walk. The uphill past ‘The Copper Tents’ of the cafe where so many Swedes were sitting with faces upturned to the sun. Even people who were in groups had their backs to friends. It was like looking at a bunch of human sunflowers. Then it was the downhill toward the shores of a Baltic Inlet. The small paved road leads up to the gated entrance of the Princess’s manor, always locked, but there’s a lovely unpaved path that runs along the bank between the high iron fence with it’s security cameras and the softly lapping waters of the sea. Well, waters that ‘softly lap’ when they’re not frozen that is.

We were climbing up a tiny lump of a ‘hill’ on the path, going slow as I admired some swans on the ice through the screen of dried reeds, when Loke’s head went up in interest. Ahead of us, a woman on a small, compact white mare was riding toward us. The path was pretty narrow and not much space for me to offer for a potentially skittish horse to pass. Fortunately, there was a narrow dirt track that hugged right along the water’s edge, putting some very large rocks between us and the horse. She hardly seemed to see us at all. Whew. What a relief.

Botanical Gardens & Natural History Museum across the way.

As cold as it had been coming down from the parking area, with quite a bit of open sun and away from the water, it was worse on the shore path. A half mile or so of ice, across which the wind blew, sucking up the chill to bite right through my inadequate light wool layer. Made my hands ache too. Loke loved it.

The path was nice and fortunately clear. It’s so low and close to the water, that it can become flooded if the Baltic goes high for whatever reason. The only water on it was from melt on the right side, trickling its away across to the sea.

We rounded the curve, still along the water’s edge where it peels away from the estate’s fence line and I found quite a treat!

*squee of glee!* Barnacle Geese!!!

Geese! Not just any geese either, but barnacle geese! Admittedly, I get a bit giddy at the sight of just about any other goose than the ubiquitous Canada Goose. Those are just about everywhere, generally so noisy and downright belligerent. Barnacle geese are smaller, typically less noises and something elegant about them that delights me.

Across the way.

They weren’t too concerned about our appearance though a few were less than 40 feet away when I stopped. One or two raised their heads to regard us with wary suspicion before deciding there was no threat when all I did was pull a camera out and Loke looked bored.

After a bit, I took pity on the impatient husky and we rolled on, still following the paths closest to the water. Just few dozen yards down, there were a pair of Canada geese. I warily eyed them as we rolled between them, one on each side of the path. They mantled their wings and lowered their heads with hissing threats. Yeah, I’m not fond of getting close to Canada geese at all.

Once past the mean geese, the path took us around a bit of a little inlet within the inlet so we could look across on the bit of winter-brown land where we’d just come from. There was an intersection there and instead of going right, as I’d done for all our walks there, I took a left. Oh happy day for the husky! Somewhere we’d never gone! He really stepped up his game along there. Since it was flat with some stretches of down hill, our pace came to about 5 mph. It’s been weeks since Loke’s gone so briskly. He actually wouldn’t have minded a bit more speed, but again, me being cautious.

“MUST you?! And no, I will not look at the camera phone.”

I also took a moment to point the camera at Loke. Immediately, he looked away even though it meant squinting into the sun. It’s amazing how aware he is of photos and how he responds to them. I guess it’s because of the times when a flash has gone off.

As I snapped his profile, a woman suddenly stopped. “Would you like me to take your picture for you?” she asked.

I didn’t really want that, but it was such a polite offer I said “Yes, thank you,” and handed her the phone. She snapped a few, trying to get a good angle with Loke’s face which he stubbornly avoided. After returning the phone, she patted Loke on the head and told us to have a nice ride.

Grand mystery gate to nothing?

I really enjoyed the roll through the next section. The path was kind of nestled down between two ridges. On one side were some lovely old, wooden buildings where it was a softer mounded landscape. On the other it was almost a small cliff face upon which more very distinctive buildings perched. The light wasn’t good so the photos came out poorly, except for the one of the gate.

Oh yeah. Stockholm…

The paths got a bit muddled around out of the hollow between the hills. Several branching off and weaving into a slight tangle that was hard for me to suss out which I needed for the church I wanted to find. I picked a direction that took us into open ground a bit of water and the glint of steel and glass over there to remind one that this is really part of Stockholm.

I finally decided to use the navigation function of my Garmin which proved a bit difficult as I couldn’t remember the name of the church. Haga didn’t turn up anything and now I know it’s Solna church that I needed. Since I didn’t know that at the moment, I just pulled up a list of POIs and started flipping through them. One immediately grabbed my attention. ‘Alfred Nobel’s Grave’. Hey! Why not? Provided the grave yard didn’t forbid bikes and/or dogs. I picked it and hit ‘navigate’.

Haga’s south gate and a squinting husky

It led us across the open ground, a bliss bit of warmth that was a bit sheltered from the wind. We passed by the gate for Haga’s southern entranced and then down under an overpass along a busy road. Loke ticked along like a tractor. Not fast, but unstoppable.

An old mausoleum. I think?

I found the entrance to the grave yard and crept past the gate, keeping a sharp look out for signs. Nope! Nothing that banned bikes or dogs. I was especially surprised about the dogs.

It was a lovely old grave yard. Old trees and well maintained. Most of the headstones were no earlier than middle 1800’s. A few were perhaps as old as mid-1700’s, but none older than that I saw. Respectful of the dead, I kept Loke away from the grass and definitely from the stones and trees.

The Garmin guided me well though as I came within a few meters of where it said Carl Alfred’s grave was, I had a bit of trouble locating it. I was also a bit anxious around there since a landscape crew was industriously going about the post-winter tasks of trimming plants, raking grass, and sweeping up gravel. I half expected them to tell me off. Soon enough the charmed smiles some of them cast Loke’s way reassured me that no harsh words were coming.

After, I made a turn, the Garmin showed I’d passed what I was looking for. Rather than bother Loke by rolling backwards with him tethered as I used to do before his hind legs went all wonky. I pulled out his leash to unclip him from the trike.

Poor confused husky. It completely baffled him when I rolled backwards, but he felt no tug. He even tried walking backwards without any guidance, but then just turned around to follow along with his running bar. He knew where he should be.

After going a few yards down a different path, it showed I’d passed the grave again. I finally got up with the Garmin in hand, zoomed in as close as it would go and searched around.

Resting place of Alfred Nobel.

I was rather surprised when I found it. I was expecting something a little more… well, more. It was quite modest really. An obelisk of gray stone about 8-10 feet tall framed by a horseshoe curve of tall ever-green shrubs. Perhaps one of the most famous of Swedes (barring modern musicians and film stars). Maybe it isn’t too surprising, given his dark legacy (he was called the Merchant of Death in a French newspaper once), as the inventor of dynamite and his business in weapons. But this man also became appalled by such a legacy and so founded the trust which led to the Nobel prizes for peace, technology, literature, science, and others, celebrated in grand ceremony every year in Norway and Sweden.

I took a short break there, beside Alfred Nobel, offering Loke some water and then trying to puzzle out where the church was and how to get there. We’d done almost 3 miles. It was about another half mile to the church. Loke was still pretty strong. Amazingly strong and vibrant, given I’d been expecting to call the vet to arrange sending him into the beyond just on the drive to the park the next day. It hadn’t turned out to be the ‘one last roll at half a mile an hour for old time sake’ I’d believed it was to be. Such an amazing turn around.

Even though our moving speed on the flats was between 3 to 5 mph, I’d taken time to watch birds, admire scenery, poke up hills, and take photos. It was coming up on 2 pm. Looking at the tangle of trails and bike paths on the OpenCycleMap app, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to make it to the church and then wind back across Haga to the parking lot before the time ran out. What if Loke’s boundless energy wasn’t so boundless?

I decided to start back to the parking lot waaaay on the other side of the park. To get there required some doubling back along the road-side cycle path, under the overpass, and climb back up to the southern gate.

The plan was to make our return to the car leisurely. It worked out that way at first, but only because it was a loooong steady climb. Then we tackled an even steeper climb when a sign at an intersection pointed down a shady little path just wide enough for 1 car. It was ‘Gamla Haga’ (Old Haga). Had to see it so up and up we went. Loke tried to help a bit.

The Turkish Pavilion at ‘Old Haga’

Once we got up there, I realized it was the buildings we’d seen from the path through the hollow. The ones perched on the edge of a rock face. I only took a photo of the Turkish pavilion because the other, lovely wooden buildings were rented out as private residences and some of the people were out. Just felt too intrusive to photograph them.

The other structures rented out as homes were originally in another area of the land that later became the parkland. When the king went on a building spree in the 1700’s, the original buildings were moved to the top of this hill and renovated into a modest residence for the king at the same time, taking on the name ‘Old Haga’. The pavilion was a bit later, (1788). Full history as reported by the placard if you click the photo.

There was enough space that I could just pedal the trike around in a tight (for a recumbent trike) circle and pointed back down the hill. Much to my surprise, Loke threw his weight into his harness and shot me a side ways look as if daring me to not let him run. I relented. It wasn’t a wild charge down the hill, but a good steady lope that I held back just shy of 9 mph. He tried to keep it going as we made a right turn and started back up another, less steep climb along the edge of an open field.

Soon enough it seemed, we were back to pathways I’ve walked with him quite a bit. That’s when Loke became sluggish. Looking at him though, I was pretty sure it was more of a sulk than suddenly becoming sickly or tired. He knew we were heading back to the parking lot and end of the ride.

We made it back with roughly 40 minutes to spare. So, it wouldn’t have been quite enough to get to the church. If I’d known Loke would be so strong and energetic, I would have added another hour or two, but how could I have known?

As I started to break the trike back down, I used a cable to tether Loke to the ‘Oh shit’ bar in the back of the car. Leaving the door open, it meant he could sit out with me beside the car, or jump in to lay down more comfortably. He stayed out with me and turned into an adorably, lovable hindrance as I tried to get packed up. Stooped over awkwardly to undo the seat clamps? Loke wriggled his head under my arm and licked my chin. Sitting on the back of the open car to undo his running bar? The furball rested his head on my knee and kept bumping my hands for petting. Trying to walk around to put things in the car? Leaning against my knees with pitiful looks. His way of saying, ‘Please? Can we keep going?’

One of the few times when Loke has always seemed unequivocally lovable. At the end of a ride he’s really enjoyed. Otherwise, he’s generally ‘meh’ about affection.

Loke’s been in fair condition since the ride. Certainly better than he was yesterday morning (April 12th) when I was convinced he was knocking on death’s door with three paws in the grave already. Since he did so well, I’ve decided I’m going to go riding with him again on Saturday (April 14th). I discovered that the strange tower visible across the water from Haga is in a botanical garden and there doesn’t seem to be anything banning bikes or dogs. It’s a fairly wild looking garden and paths criss-crossing everywhere. The Natural History museum is right across from it as well. I can’t go into the museum with Loke, but perhaps lots of nice spots to ride along the water and through secret gardens.

So, perhaps another interesting post coming in the next few days!


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