Terii’s Cycling Babble

And The Heat Goes On…
July 28, 2018, 5:13 am
Filed under: Misc

That’s all really to be said of recent events impacting my cycling.

Sweden is a giant tinderbox of relentlessly breaking high temps, upper 80’s and into the 90’s. Brutal in a country where everyone is more accustomed to 60’s and 70’s with the occasional jump into the LOW 80’s F. What makes it even more harsh is AC here is practically unheard of. Where it is used, it’s not what I would call ‘effective’. I went to a mall a couple weeks ago. Not some little out of the way nook. No. A HUGE mall. A grand mall. Not the biggest, but big. The entire thing was one giant oven. Like walking through a sauna. I couldn’t escape fast enough.

May was the warmest since record keeping of such temps began. While June was mostly pleasant, July brought the return of silly high temps again. There’s not a fan or a so-called ‘portable AC’ to be found in all of the country. I say ‘so-called portable AC’, because while, yes, it is portable, the units in question tend to be questionable in their performance. It doesn’t help that one must keep a window open for the hot air vent to stick out. Swedish windows aren’t like those in the US. There you’d slide it open 3-4 inches to stick the hose out, probably block it with a little something. No. Swedish windows open on side hinges like a door. So, not only do you need the 3-4 inch gap to get the hose out, but it goes up the entire length of the window with the acute angle from the opening’s widest point back window frame for additional entrance of hot air as whatever cool air comes from the unit escapes out.

To compound this problem with heat has been a near absolute dearth of rain. Since April, we’ve had perhaps a handful of days with some precipitation. 3 of those days it was so little rain, it only kinda dampened pavement while leaving bare earth and desiccated grass dust dry. One day where we got actual rain was naturally on the Midsummer holiday. A fair bit of light rain through the entire day. Just enough to ruin the plans of everyone in Sweden who expected to eat outside and celebrate, but not turn anything around. Particularly since the heat and scorching sun was right back the next day to bake every trace of moisture away. Then about a week ago, I think it was, the forecast was for more of the same. Record-breaking highs, cloudless skies and a pitiless sun. Instead it was thunder, which was worrying. As I said, Sweden is a tinderbox at the moment. But then it started raining. It rained off and on through the day and not a single temp record was broken. It was utter bliss. Not enough to save anything.

And I’m not exaggerating about the ‘save anything’. Green things are dying. I’m not just talking weeds or a little patch of grass here and there. Entire swathes of grass are brown with just an occasional hearty weed clinging on with some bit of green. Some places, the grass has crumbled away and left patches of cracked earth. Over a third of the trees down the center of Svartbäcken street are at least somewhat yellow or brown and a good third or more of THOSE are absolutely brown with a dozen or so that look like standing dead logs and sticks. Wheat was already being harvest a week ago. Just knee high with small seed heads and as yellow as any I’ve seen in September in other years. We went for a drive up to the streams of Gysinge and the landscape, by it’s colors was more like September. The wheat so yellow or in places, it was so pale it was almost white and the sun glared off it like snow. With surprising frequency, the dulled, dusty, faded greens gave way to patches of unhealthy yellow and browns somewhat like the turning leaves of autumn. A few days ago while driving to Fiby forest to walk Loke, I saw cows trying to eat from trees because the grass at their feet was so dead they didn’t even want it. Livestock are finding it hard and the farmers are left scrambling to try and fix that which is hard since hay stopped growing back in early June along with the rest of the grasses.

I thought last year’s drought was bad. Grass was dying and trees were wilting, but it was a cool summer and mostly cloudy. This one has just gone over the top.

In this world of bone dry grass and sticks, have been fires. Grass and forest. Probably close to 200, maybe even more since early June. I stopped keeping track. Just too depressing. Some have been caused by the sparks thrown from the trains as they zip around the countryside. Others? Others have been caused by abysmal stupidity and entitlement. “Oh, it’s pretty out! Beautiful sun! Blue skies! I’m going to go walk in the woods and grill! Fire ban!? Nah! It’s pretty out!” Then of course, are those people who go tossing their cig butts around as if the world is just their private ash tray as they walk through this sere and thirsty land.

Fortunately, before the worst of this heat hit, I was pre-warned by closely watching the forecast. The first day when it was predicted to hit above 88 F, I went out and bought a fan. As I debated between one true monster of a fan with blades like those of a small airplane and about a yard across, or a more manageable sized 2′ fan, I saw 2 other fans get grabbed and no less than THREE of those portable ACs I mentioned go flying out the door. Now, there’s not an AC or fan to be found in all of Sweden. I think any shipment they get go flying out of the hands of the stockboys before they even touch the shelves.

Jens and I did manage to get Loke something called a ‘kool pad’. It’s a sort of mat filled with a thin layer of gel and it really does feel surprisingly cool to the touch. Jens found out about it from Facebook and sent me to get one. The poor guy in the lovely little pet shop looked so harried. As I talked with him about the pads, he admitted there were some in the shop, but every single one of them had been reserved. I asked if I could at least see one and he pulled a box out. Putting my hand on it and feeling it go from warm to a lovely coolness convinced me. I reserved one of those that was supposed to come the next day. As I did, he had 4 phone calls about them and 2 people walked in, looking for them, but left without reserving or ordering. It was the same when I went to pick it up. People dashing in with, ‘Do you have the pads?’ and the phone ringing off the hook. It’s apparently been crazy enough demand for the pads across all of Sweden it wound up in the news. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if many of them were for human rather than animal use.

Loke only uses it every now and again, generally during the hottest part of the day. I’ve been tempted to swipe it for bedtime.

So, with this heat, I’ve not been doing much. Just avoiding the sun, scurrying from shady spot to shady spot like some kind of bug. Jens keeps trying to suggest I go ride. I accuse him of trying to kill me. He’s also tried to get me to go kayaking, but ugh, just no. Sitting on top of a dark expanse of water, broiling like a turkey in the unrelenting sun? I’d spend the entire time just trying to splash my clothes wet to keep from having a heatstroke. I’ve already had the normal kind of stroke, I’d rather not add the heat variety to it.

The only rides I’ve done have been 1 or 2 in the early hours when the temperature has been endurable and the sun too low to start baking things. My ankle really cut that short though. Very painful to pedal though it felt mostly okay to be walking. Less than 2 miles. Heck, less than a mile and a half and I walked about a quarter mile of that, pushing the trike because it hurt less to do that than try to pedal.

Today, is supposed to be a little cooler. Mid to high 80’s instead of up into the realms of 90+ F. There’s even a small chance it will continue for a few days more with a chance of rain. I’ll believe it when it happens and not a moment sooner. It would be nice though…

I feel bad that what might be Loke’s last summer has been the worst of his 13 years.