Terii’s Cycling Babble


Debacle.
October 22, 2018, 6:57 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Debacle – Derived from French. It’s meaning is slanted toward a situational failure more drastic than ‘fiasco’ which tends to have somewhat comedic overtones, but… I’m tired of using the word ‘fiasco’ in my posts of late, so the word for this post is ‘Debacle’. It’s good to swap things up from time to time. I’m sure I’ll laugh about the days between Thursday, October 18th to the morning of October 20th in time, but right now, I’m more grumbly about it than chuckling.

Gripsholm From Mariefred – 2013

As mentioned in the last post, I had planned to do a ride away from Uppsala. I’ve had it all plotted out and been buzzing with anticipation, but was starting to wonder if it was cursed. As cursed as a ride in 2013 around a town called Marifred, west of Stockholm and on the southern shore of Lake Mälaren. It has a beautiful castle, runestones, church ruins and more I really wanted to see. I must have made 3 or 4 drives there and wound up coming back without the trike’s wheels ever touching the soil in that area. I finally did it, but it took several tries and I was starting to despair.

So, originally, I was going to do the ride between Finsta and Norrtälje on Friday, October 19th. With it being the first ‘away from Uppsala’ ride in… I can’t even think in how long, I wanted my legs good and fresh for the ride. I wasn’t going to wear them out with riding around home or overworking at the gym. So, I did just a light workout on the rowing machine at the gym Thursday morning and focused more on stretches.

The ride didn’t happen. Jens, it turned out had an appointment with his chiropractor and so, needed the car. That made me a little crazy. Thursday, the weather had been SOOOOOOO gorgeous. Mild, temps in the 50’s, but no wind and gloriously clear, blue skies and… just… *wistful sigh*. That perfect autumn day that begs for a person to go out and spend every moment of sunlit hours beneath the azure dome of the heavens, but no. I’d had to save my legs.

Saturday it would be then. Which meant, of course, that I wasn’t going to go for a ride on that perfect, equally flawless autumn day that was Friday, October 19th as well.

Saturday morning, my PC’s weather app, my phone’s weather app, Jens’ iPhone weather app, and the weather woman on the TV all claimed that while cold (34 F at 8 am when I’d be starting the ride and high of 42 F), it would be clear, sunny, and very little wind.

Friday, I had the trike packed in the car and Saturday (October 20th) morning, I assembled everything else, with the intention of getting on the road by 7 am. I dressed for cold, but dry.

It felt a bit warmer than my weather app said when I stepped out at 6:57 am. So much so, I did an about face to swap my cushy wool socks for cotton before my feet burst into flame. I did bring the wool socks though. Not 5 minutes out the door, Mother Nature cleared her throat, so I stopped at McD’s for their restroom. I didn’t fully get underway until almost 7:20 am.

As I hit the E4, I noticed it didn’t look particularly clear though it was a bit hard to tell since the sun wasn’t due to make it’s dawn debut for another 20 minutes.

By the time I made the turn off the highway at the exit for Knivsta, it was obvious that it was not clear. Rain started to spit down. Not that soft mist where the droplets are smaller than grains of salt. No. It was rain.

I kept peering at the skies and hoping for a break in the clouds as I went on, but they remained stubbornly unyielding and continued to drizzle and rain on the car. Pity, it was a pretty drive. One moment when the rain let up for a moment, I was driving by a lake and it was picture perfect with the trees of the opposite bank reflected in mirror smooth waters. Or it would have been picture perfect if I could have found a spot to pull over without getting hit by traffic to actually get a picture. So much autumn foliage still dazzling the landscape even under gray skies.

Skederids Kyrka – 2011

As I came into Finsta and made the turn to Skederids Church, I remembered that intersection and not fondly. The turn from the smaller road onto the 77 had been harrowing. It’s a hill no matter which way you go and a bit of a curve. My slow self trying to get across and up a hill meant getting in the way of someone whipping around the curve at high speed. I was going to have to think about maybe starting somewhere else.

Still, I drove to the church as it seemed as good a place as any to wait a bit in hopes the rain would let up. By then it was coming up past 9 am which made me antsy. I knew the old rail bed which had been converted into a cycle/bridle/foot path was unpaved, meaning it would be slow going for me. I wanted as much daylight hours I could get to do the loop I’d plotted. Days are getting short fast, already less than 10 hours between sunrise and sunset. It was coming down even harder 20 minutes later. Restless, I decided to go check out the prayer cave of St. Brigitta.

St. Birgitta’s Prayer Cave.

Just a short hop from the church to the ‘cave’ where I found lots of nice parking. It made me want to start from there rather than the church. Now, if only there were a connection between where I needed to join the rail trail. It was at least on the correct side of the busy road, but I wasn’t sure I could get over without going on the 77.

It felt bitterly cold as I walked, under umbrella across the grounds of the little farmstead area to the prayer cave. It was more of a cleft than a cave. A small space in the middle of a giant chunk of rock that had split ages ago, open to the sky above.

I was shivering as I walked back to the car. I saw snowflakes too. My hands ached. I was not dressed for this kind of weather. I’d worn thin wool under my tights and not enough layers on my torso though I did have my 400 g weight wool pullover on. It was inadequate for anything other than dry weather. For rain, I needed quite a bit more layers

If it’s not raining, is this liquid sunshine on the windscreen?

I called Jens to tell him I couldn’t make the ride thanks to the rain. It was nearing 10 am by that time. He was baffled as he checked the weather sites on his end and, apparently, they all said it was sunny and no rain.

I felt pretty peeved as I drove back through a leaden cloud cover of spitting rain that reached all the way to Uppsala by that time. Two glorious days I could have at least ridden locally, skipped just so I could have my planned ride on well rested legs, the first in years away from Uppsala, ruined by precipitation that the weather experts said wouldn’t be there.

That bothered me more than anything. The fact that every single weather source I’d checked insisted there should be no rain. That there would be no rain. If something had said it was going to be barely above freezing with rain, I likely wouldn’t have wasted the drive. At the very least, I’d have been dressed for riding in the wet.

Jens tried to console me with the news that Sunday, October 21st was supposed to be dry and warmer. I thought it was sweet of him to try. I spent the rest of the day doing laundry.

So, Sunday, October 21st, I woke up early, got my yogurt and started trolling the various weather apps and sites. A Swedish one even had current satellite and radar images which I checked… a lot. The only rain on them was over 100 miles to the north and forecasted to stay up there.

I was gonna risk it. I pulled on layers and readied to go. On my top, I had a light layer and then a medium wool layer before dragging the cycle top over those and then a big sloppy sweater over that. My heavy wool was packed in a pannier bag in case I needed it. My legs got the same treatment, only I had the medium wool against the skin, light wool over that and then the Lycra. Wool socks were packed.

Ma Nature was tweaking my nose as I went out on a short walk with Loke before leaving. Droplets of water plopped down on me from the trees. I peered suspiciously up at a dark sky that looked cloudy. An inspection of the pavement showed the droplets were only under the trees. Where there was open sky, it was dry.

Loke fed, hubby smooched bye, I jumped in the car. Was that a speckle of rain on the windshield? I narrowed my eyes at it, but decided to go on.

There were more spits of moisture on the glass as I went. The last couple miles to the exit on the highway, it got a bit heavier. In truth, I was about to turn back.

You know how someone starts joking with you about something relentlessly until you just want to wave your arms and holler? Then they might go, “Oh, I’m just teasing you. Here, I’ll show you,” and then does something amazing for you?

And this was just the warm up!

Well, that’s exactly what Mother Nature did. I made the turn off the E4 at the Knivsta exit and suddenly the sky was splashed with color and the rain stopped. The first moment I could, I pulled off to the side to snap a photo through the windshield.

And Mamma Nature wasn’t done yet. She rolled up her sleeves and pulled out all the stops. She was making her ‘apology’ for jerking my chain by making one of the most astounding visions I’ve had the fortune to ever see.

I’ve never seen such a darkly vibrant light that does such strange loveliness to the scenery.

It became the most heartrendingly beautiful sunrise I’ve seen in years. The quality of the light was just… I can’t even find the proper words. It was apricots, peaches, and roses all in one, giving their own hues and shades to the landscape and deepening the autumn pallet into entirely new colors with elusive names I’ve never had to describe. Such an inadequate way to say it. At one spot where I stopped in a bus-stop to take pictures, I saw the precise moment when the very edge of the sun’s corona cleared the distant treeline across a lake. My eyes got teary at the sheer magnificence of the morning.

Just a few seconds before the sun’s edge cleared the trees across that lake.

The intensely tinted light that turned the landscape into that of a magical other world, went on for over half an hour. It was seriously going to impact my arrival time in Finsta. I took my time for that portion of the drive, pulling over into bus stops to let faster traffic pass. I was bouncing in and out of the car every quarter mile or so where I could take photos. Sometimes, the camera didn’t even click. I just stood there with it in hand and… breathed, took it all in, amazed that such ephemeral beauty had unfolded.

More normal portion of sunrise, but lovely.

The astounding gave way to the more mundane once the sun actually came over the horizon. it was still lovely and I stopped a few more times for photos.

From this…

By the time I rolled into Finsta, the best of it was done and I was able to get to the task of deciding where to start. I would have loved to park at St. Birgitta’s Cave area, but I wasn’t sure if there was a way through the 100 yards or so of trees to the school area without getting on the 77 where traffic was already picking up. Over at the school, I did find a nice little parking lot and classes certainly weren’t going to be in on a Sunday. I decided to go for that. First, I went to the nearby church to see if the restroom there was locked. It wasn’t.

…to this in a snap!

I had the trike out in what felt like record time. Clearly, the gym is paying off. That 30 lbs or so of awkwardly shaped metal, plastic, and rubber feels about 10 lbs lighter and quite a bit less cumbersome.

The sun had become a bit more shy as I rolled down from the parking lot on a small hill above the street, but I was encouraged by the patches of blue sky off to the west. I rounded a curve and spotted one of the round blue and white signs indicating a path reserved for walking and cycling. In this case, it triple served as a bridle path too.

I made the turn and the trike zipped down a short dip and there I was, on the old Länna-Norrtälje rail-way. Given how much I adore ravens, I took the distinctive call of one from nearby as a welcome and good omen. I would have loved to have seen it, but at least I heard it.

I had hoped for more gravel and less grass.

I already knew the rail trail was unpaved for much (if not all) the way. In the spots where I’d been able to get a glimpse of it with Google Street View, where it crossed roads, it had been a gravel and grass track. And where it wasn’t a lot of grass, the gravel was still pretty loose, bordering on sand and bogged me down a bit.

It made for slow going, but I was good with it. I enjoyed the fresh scenery, the autumn colors that were clinging on in this part of Sweden.

I can’t remember if I mentioned, but it turned out that none of the 3 churches on my plotted route were new. It turned out that I’d actually ridden in the area back in 2011 where I found photos of them all.

I guess the guys who clear cut this little patch were bored. 100+ lb stone on a 12 foot tree trunk.

Firmer gravel under lovely leaves. Very changeable path.

It didn’t really dishearten me though. I mean, seriously eight years ago since I last rolled across this part of Sweden? Given that it feels like I’ve rolled on my old River Loop every 8 minutes the past 3 years or so, this was still glorious. Not to mention, this time I knew where a bunch of burial grounds and the like were. I had grand plans to go buzz the ones that weren’t overgrown with my drone, which was fully charged and snug from the weather in my waterproof pannier bag.

Autumn colors across the fields. And, hard to tell, but some blue sky.

Yet, I found as I pedaled by first a burial ground and then a hill with the invisible remains of an ancient fortified village/fortress, I was reluctant to get the drone out. That screaming controller and the quiet of the early (for some people) morning with houses clustered here and there just close enough to where I would have been flying. It put me off.

Loved the colors and the peek at old buildings among the trees.

I’m sure the controller isn’t loud enough to be heard for a even quarter mile, but it feels like it when there’s mostly silence all around you. Still, the result was, I’d come up to one of the landmarks I meant to buzz around and would chicken out because of houses or a jogger would spring by like a gazelle.

I didn’t let it dishearten me too much though. It was too lovely to be on what felt like fresh ground. I stopped for lots of photos. I enjoyed the surprising number of birds chattering around. In and around Uppsala, it’s almost dead silent and devoid of anything resembling bird chatter or song. Just the occasional fuss from sparrows or the harsh calls of jackdaws and, rarely, hooded crows.

When I was moving, my rolling speed swung between about 4 mph to about 3.5, depending on the surface. There was gravel, nice and loose and slippy. There was gravel and grass. Gravel covered with leaves. Mud. Mud with grass. Mud covered with leaves. Quite a workout even at slow speeds.

Approaching a crossing with a country road.

I hit a muddy stretch where the trees closed in, forming an autumn shaded corridor. Ahead, it was brighter with the quality of light that indicated it was another crossing. Light at the end of a pleasant tunnel. Just a smidge over 1.5 mile.

Abandoned House – 2011

I rolled out and immediately recognized the spot. Years ago, I’d ridden here. I recognized the little house at the edge of the road where the rail trail continued on to the northeast. When last passing through here to turn onto the cycle path toward Norrtälje, I’d come down the road from the right. The discovery of the rail trail had been a happy happenstance I’d not planned for back then. I remember being intrigued, not just by the arrow straight gravel corridor through the trees, but also by the little house sitting there so sadly. I had contemplated what joys and sorrows it might have seen in its time span perhaps stretching back a century or more.

Oh wow! Whatta change. I love when old buildings are rescued!

I was truly surprised to find the house not only still standing, but no longer abandoned and neglected. Clearly, someone had invested time, money, and no small measure of love.

I never would have thought the structure was salvageable or that someone would have bothered with it even if it was. Looking at the old photo again though, I can see the bones were still strong, holding the little house straight and even the roof line was good and even which tends to be the first to go under the weight of clay roof tiles.

I was so thrilled. I even giggled at how darling it looked. Bright, fresh red paint on the walls and vivid white trim. The cute yellow shutters were just the perfect touch. Odd how random little things like that can make one happy.

See? Very lovely trail surface!

On the other side of that street, the trail improved. Less grass and the gravel, in general, was a bit more packed. There were some shallow, smooth-edged potholes here and there, but it was manageable. At times, my moving speed was about 9-10 mph without much effort. Of course there were still the pesky stops for photos and the like.

Drone Play!

Then it happened. I was toodling along and came out into the open where the only trees near the path were little thing, barely more than shrubs with plenty of clear space along the path. It was nearly lunch time so even if any noise could reach the random house faaaarrr across the fields, the people should all be awake. For over 15 minutes, I’d seen neither jogger, dog walker, horseback rider,or cyclist.

I was gonna do it! I was gonna pull out the drone! By happy coincidence, it also happened to be when the sun decided to come out for a brief while. Perhaps the sun, open ground, and the fact I’d not seen another living soul in a while all conspired to put the idea in my head to fly some.

Swedish countryside from on-high.

It was fun. Though I wasn’t yet brave enough to send it whizzing across the fields, I do think I’ve gained significant confidence in my handling of it. It also gave me a chance to figure out why the last time I flew it and took photos at Kungsängen they came out so dark. It frustrated me because the camera was on auto. Well, like my Canon, I can control the exposure intensity even on the auto setting. Turned out it was on one of the controllers little wheels. Once I figured that out the images came out much better. Nice to have that little mystery solved.

Meant to be a video buzzing down the trail about 6 feet off the ground past the little trees to those in the distance.

I also made an attempt at a video. I brought the drone about a foot higher than my head, over the trail. I was pretty sure I’s swapped it from camera to video and hit record as I sent the drone zipping off down the trail. Nope. Managed to flub it, but I didn’t get it stuck in the shrubby little tree or smack it into the ground, so I count that a win.

I buzzed it around some more, never straying more than 150 feet or so away from where I stood, training myself with lowering and raising the camera, flying circles and 8’s to get used to turning the drone by its personal orientation rather than by mine. After about 20 minutes, before it could start screaming at me about low batteries, I brought it down.

I kid you not, less than a minute after I landed it, gun shots. I was folding the props back in against the body to put it back in its snug case when they ran out through the air. I’m pretty sure they weren’t because of my drone. It is the hunting season after all, but the coincidence was kinda funny. Not only that, as I was zipping up the case and putting my phone back in its case, a jogger came by.

I think I know what the hunters were after. Barely 200 yards down the path from where I’d spent my fun 20 minutes with the drone, a pair of pheasants ran across the trail, no more than 70 or so feet past the front of my trike. Naturally too fast for me to get a photo. I paused to comment on it though so I wouldn’t forget it for this post. Odd it was a pair of males. I joked about how the first time I rode this trail, I’d seen a single pheasant cock. This time, I’d seen two. Maybe if I rode it again, I’d see 3? As I typed on the phone, I could hear them rustling around in the undergrowth and they even called a few times.

One of the two, bravely watching as I crept closer…

Of course, just a few minutes later another pair of male pheasants completely ruined that amusing theory.

I didn’t know they were pheasants at first, though I suspected that the moving black dots in the distance were just that. One of those times when having my long lens would have been nice.

Instead of flying up on them, I crept closer foot by foot, taking a series of about 8 photos. One of the two chickened out (haha) rather early and slipped into the reeds. The other stood there, watching as if trying to figure out what I was. I didn’t get as close a photo as I would have liked before that one also scuttled under cover. Still,  you can tell it’s a pheasant.

How is that for an autumn image?

There must have been something about that stretch of about half a mile or so. Perhaps it was just the marsh that flanked the trail, making it such a bird sanctuary. I doubt it was all the golfers wandering around that made them happy with it.

Though that could explain all the pheasants there, hiding out from people wearing combinations of camo and bright orange. Not like hunters are going to be allowed to go tromping around a manicured golf course, taking pop shots at birds in random directions. I think the golf club would get rather displeased if all its members wound up bleeding or worse. Not good for membership dues. Not at all. So, very likely a safe haven for pheasants.

And ducks. I kept hearing a lot of ducks in the distance as I rolled on, keeping the camera in hand because I was so enchanted by the autumn hues along the trail and also, yes, hoping to get a better photo of a pheasant or two.

Mom, dad, and young’uns.

And there was another noise, not at all harmonious. It sounded rather like an inflated set of bag pipes getting used for soccer practice, sort of sharp honking squeaks. I passed into a row of birch trees and could see water just beyond them. There, at a golf tee spot, was a little pond. It looked as if the golfers were supposed to smack the ball across the pond to reach the green. On the water I spotted a family of swans.

They were kinda far out, but I thought I could get a decent enough photo with my camera’s current lens while catching some of the lovely backdrop of the pond. So focused on the swans (the source of that bizarre honking), I didn’t really notice the ducks in the water along the pond’s edge. Blasted things about gave me a heart attack when I stood up. The surface of the water just kinda exploded as a 100 or so ducks frantically took wing. I think they got my heart going faster than theirs.

It was a wonder the swans didn’t freak out and go flapping across the water for the reeds. They swam a little faster, but didn’t rush exactly. It would have been nice to get them when they were a bit closer. Dratted ducks.

Not the first time ducks have caused me problems. I still feel my hackles rise when they quack thanks to 2 solid nights of a duck quacking in Bruges, the sound echoing off the canal walls and depriving me of sleep. It’s a myth that the quack doesn’t echo. That or it was 2 or three very talented ducks in perfect synchronicity.

More grass and gravel. Slower going

The next distraction. The first riders of the day.

Just past the swans, the marshland ended and it seemed the golf course as well. The boundary was pretty clear now that I think about it. The trail went from nice, generally smooth and well packed gravel back into grass and gravel. It dropped my moving speed some. As if the many distractions hadn’t been doing that anyway.

And of course, the distractions didn’t stop coming. The next one was a pair of riders, on sturdy, adorable Icelandic horses. I saw them coming, stood up from the trike and took my helmet off. Once they were close enough and one horse looked a bit nervous, I started talking. Just a bit of snorting and pulling uneasily at the reins which calmed as I spoke and then they were by.

Would have liked a nicer sky here, but still a pretty picture.

So many reasons to stop. Scenery. Swans. Drone flying. I blame that for making less than 5 miles in 2 hours than I do grass, loose gravel and mud. So worth it though!

The weather by that point hadn’t been too bad. It had been bouncing a bit, covering a range between 43 F and 52 F. A lot of that was to the on again and off again presence of the sun. Shortly after the swans though, the sun disappeared and the wind kicked up a bit. Naturally, that triggered a temp drop. There was also something about that wind that made me think of rain. Maybe it was some subtle smell triggering the rain sense of my subconscious. Sometimes wind is just wind and other times it makes me start searching the horizon for heavier clouds.

Oh, I saw another pheasant as I was pondering possible rain while pedalling the trike through a combination of sand and loose gravel. A female that ran across the path almost under my pedal boom. I think both of us were quite startled and, she was too fast for me to pull out a camera.

The heavier clouds came. The day got darker and I actually started stressing about the time and tried to speed up a bit. Another bit of worry was triggered when I looked at my PlotaRoute info on my phone of the day’s ride. It showed that the total climbing for the 13-ish miles (if I didn’t go into Norrtälje), was going to be over 800 feet. There I was, just shy of 5 miles and my Garmin showed I’d climbed less than 80 feet.

Not even 1 pm and yet, it felt later than 3 pm.

Time wasn’t really an issue at that point… I think. It wasn’t even noon when I reached the road where I was to turn from the rail trail onto a country lane and go to Malsta Church. As I went from loose rocks to good, ole’ solid pavement, my Garmin said I’d gone 5.9 miles and climbed a whopping 82 feet.

Malsta Church & Lake

It was maybe a quarter mile from the trail to Malsta. I was over 100 feet of climbing when I reached the church. Still, after the loose gravel for almost a mile, it didn’t feel that harsh. It gave me hope that I could actually manage 6+ miles with over 800 feet of climb.

Interior of Malsta Kyrka – 2011

I really had to answer a call of nature when I arrived at the church. There just hadn’t seemed to be any where I could get off the rail trail without some random golfer getting mooned. I hoped the bathroom at the church was unlocked. Alas, no. My suffering was to continue. I had also been so excited by the thought of flying my drone around the church and get a gorgeous shot of the little lake. And… didn’t happen. Parked right by the little shack with the restroom was a car. I could hear voices and children giggling and yelling from somewhere near the water below the churchyard. I went to see if the church was open.

No luck, but I could see the family. There was a little dock on the water at the shoreline and they were capering around. No drone.

And you know, I took a photo of Malsta church from almost the same spot as I did in 2011, except I was further from the churchyard gate so was able to get more of the church in the shot with the lake and old wall. I like the new one much better!

I sat at the church for a bit, pondering the maps and the situation. It really did feel so very late to me thanks to the heavy gloom of clouds and the rising wind. Maybe it was just the oppressive force of deeply buried instinct warning me of rain. Something in me was just saying, urgently, “Go! Go! Gotta get back to the car before sunset. Hurry!”

I really wanted to take the road back for some fresh scenery, but that 800 feet climbing was daunting. I knew it would slow me down more than gravel, mud, and the many distractions the trail had offered. It did turn out however, that for the next mile or so down the road, there were little unpaved lanes that I’d crossed while on the trail. I could turn onto one of those and get back on it. After that 3rd one though, it was 5 miles or more to the next. Still, I could give it a shot.

Heavy, gray skies, but lovely on the ground!

So, I left the church and pushed on through the increasingly gloomy afternoon. Almost right away, I was climbing a hill. I was slow, but it didn’t feel particularly brutal. And the scenery with a lovely building at the road side and the color of the leaves made for a pleasant view as I crept upward.

I stopped to take a photo of that first hill. You know how they say cameras add 10 lbs to people in photos? Well, hills look 10% less steep in photos. A 12% grade magically looks like 2% in any picture.

Another hill, pretty cottage and more gray skies.

I had a bit of a downward dash and then some short distance that resembled something semi-level. The climbs were slow, but I just took the ‘steady’ approach up them and didn’t feel too bad for it. There was still that insistent little voice in my head. “Hurry, hurry. It’s getting dark. You don’t want to be out here after the sun sets! Go!” I kept looking at the time. 1:30 pm. Yet the voice wouldn’t stop.

I passed the 3rd chance to turn back to the trail and decided I’d go on. It was less than 200 yards when I discovered the first real hill of the ride. There was no ‘spinning’ the pedals to get up it. It was a hard push even in my ultimate granny gear. I had to stop frequently to gulp air and let the discomfort in my muscles and knees subside.

For a third of a mile, I went up that slope by inches. I wasn’t too far from the top when an older couple came walking along. “Quite a hard climb, isn’t it?” the man said. I agreed. “Bikers really don’t like this part,” he added. I told them maybe I should have stayed on the old train line path. The woman nodded, “That would have been wise.” They waved and left me to my creeping.

Somewhere along that 0.3 of a mile (which took me over 15 minutes), I felt the first kiss of moisture on my face. Just droplets of what might have been rain about the size of sugar grains. When I reached the pate of the hill, I swerved into the parking for a go-cart track so I could secure everything that needed to stay dry, like my drone. It was also an excuse to catch my breath and stop gasping like a beached fish.

I spent 5 minutes in that spot. It wasn’t just to catch my breath either. I was calculating, evaluating. Looking down the hill it was a precipitous drop. A fun ride with gravity doing all the work, for sure. Beyond that though, I could see the start of the next climb and it looked as steep as what I’d just huffed, and strained my way up. The top of that hill put me at 6.9 miles for the ride. In the mile between the 5.9 mile when I left the trail with 82 feet of climb to 6.9 mile at the top of that 3rd, steepest hill so far, my climbing had jumped to over 200 feet. 600 more of it to go. With sunset less than 4 hours away, I had my serious doubts. It would be getting dark even faster if the clouds lingered and stayed as thick as they already were.

Feeling stressed for time, I looked down from the way I came. I could just see the beginning of the little gravel road that would take me back to the rail trail. I could be on it in just seconds with the speeds I’d hit. Regretfully, I turned the trike around and shot back down the way I’d come.

Just around the corner of this nice building was the trail

There was a car behind me as I started the down-dash. He didn’t get a chance to pass me though as I hit almost 30 mph in what seemed like a ridiculously short time. The road surface was descent, so I didn’t chicken out and hit the brakes like I do when I come down the long drop between The Old Farm and the small stream on my Börje Loop. To keep the car from trying to pass, I let go of one steering handle to motion my intention to do a left turn and then hit the brakes hard to whip around from pavement onto the unpaved country lane.

The car beeped and the driver gave me a grin and thumbs up as I twisted around to look. Then I pulled out my camera to take a photo of that pretty building right on the corner of where the gravel met pavement.

Much to my shock, the trail was right behind the far end of that building. I’d had no idea I’d passed so very close to the paved road.

Oh, lovely, lovely rail trail. I was a fool to leave you!

Though I generally hate out-n-back type rides, it was such a relief to get back on the nice, flat rail trail.

As I pushed back the way I came, I did at least take fewer photos. With the wind still kicking it up higher and the day continuing to get more gloomy, I was powering it back to the car as rapidly as I could.

The scenery being so recently seen, my mind was free to wander. For some reason, the idea of riding in the snow during a full moon crossed my mind. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I love moonlight and what it does to a snow covered landscape is nothing short of magical. Almost as magical as the sunrise I’d witnessed that morning.

Lovely mushroom that I missed the first time through here.

I’d had a chance to do it last winter, but had decided not to. I kept having images of cars skidding into me on the slick, recently snow covered country roads in the dark. Cycle paths wouldn’t give me the experience I wanted, all of them being fairly well lit. That would make moonlight on snow all but impossible to see. Like stars in the heart of New York City. I needed a path, that would be plowed, but unlit.

I wondered if this path could offer that.

As that crossed my mind, it suddenly took the pressure off getting back to the car before sunset. If I was willing to ride here in the dark for snow and moon, why should I rush. The reason to hurry had been not wanting to be on the hilly, twisty roads in the dark. My lights are good, but depending on them to keep drivers, rushing over the tops of hills or swinging wildly around curves from hitting me didn’t feel wise. Now, I was back on the trail. Safe from cars.

That figured out, my mind stopped the fretting and whispering at me to rush, rush. Another concern rushed into the space once that other thought vacated it. Mother Nature was screaming at me. I needed to answer.

I finally found a spot where I could get the trike off the trail by a few feet. There were little paths webbed up the side of a hill, winding around little clumps of rocks and the trunks of trees. Somewhere there would be no mooning someone on the path.

I still took a few photos on the way back.

That taken care of, I also took the chance to gobble up a couple handfuls of my granola and nuts for an extra energy boost. Then I put the trike back on the path.

Hill with the remains of a fornborg (fortress) atop it.

I didn’t even roll more than 50 yards before I stopped again. From down the path came a group of women on horses and one on a bike. The line of them was stretched out over 200 yards or so. They were all on adorable Icelandic horses. I removed my helmet and stood up. The first one came up on a white one. She stopped and looked at my trike and I looked at her horse. I asked about it. It wasn’t hers. All of them were on horses from a riding school. The woman on the bike was the instructor. The woman then asked why had I stopped. I explained that it was to help keep the horses from spooking about how weird my bike was. They tended to do better if I was standing up and talking to them, so they could see I wasn’t some weird monster, but just a person. She laughed and said it took a lot to make Icelandic horses afraid. She’s right, but better safe than sorry.

The other riders started catching up and soon they were all past me. The woman on the bike last. She gave me a huge smile and stopped to thank me. “You know how horses work! Thank you so very much for being kind and patient!”

From there the rest of the ride was pretty anti-climatic. The temperature did drop to about 45 F and wind increased. I kept a good pace on the packed gravel through the grounds of the golf course. There were no pheasants though. The swan family was gone though the ducks had returned, only to burst out of the water and into flight as I zipped by. Startled me again.

Then I was across the road with the restored house and back to the harder slog of mud, sand, and loose gravel. That was when my knees started to bother me. It got quite uncomfortable as I made the push and arrived back at the car before 2:30. Loading back up even with my unhappy knees went quickly.

My timing was perfect. As I got in the car, the windshield started getting speckled. My plans to maybe go see if I could fly the drone around the churches was scrapped.

It had been a good day though. Perhaps not as I’d planned it, me riding back to the car on the trail again. Still, I’d had that breath-taking sunrise, a bit of drone flying, pheasants. Oh, and AWAY from Uppsala on the trike for the first time in YEARS. So, while it had started turning into a debacle with my first attempts to get out of the house and go ride it, it had turned into a good day and avoided becoming one of the cursed rides.

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And I Keep Rolling!
October 18, 2018, 6:09 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

What an about face! From riding not-so-much to riding quite a bit!

It hasn’t all been wine and roses though.

Saturday, October 13th was a rest day. By my ‘strict’ gym schedule, I was supposed to go workout, but my knees were uncomfortable and other parts of my body really didn’t like the thought of going to do gym stuff for an hour. Friday was fun with the 21+ mile ride, but it left me feeling a bit battered

Sunday I went to the gym and did a gentle workout to loosen some things up. My right calf was especially tight. Mostly, I stretched.

The beautiful weather was continuing though. That amber light and colorful trees with temperatures warm enough that it bordered on the weird given it’s October. I planned to go for a ride once I got back from Starbucks for Jens.

Things took a bit of a nose dive as I walked through the door, however. Without even a chance to hand his coffee to him, Jens told me to come look at something on Loke’s back. What he showed me completely soured my mood, leaving me stressed and anxious. It was a patch of skin next to spine about midway between his shoulders and tail. It was a bit angry looking, but more worrisome was the yellowish goo and once the fur was parted to reveal it, the smell just about had me hurling my cocoa.

It was exactly what used to be so common on Loke’s feet, between his toes and the footpads. The same angry skin, the slime, the smell. A reaction of his allergies and overgrowth of skin yeast (which he’s allergic to) and bacteria turning his flesh into something like pudding. In all the years of dealing with his issues, I’ve never seen it anywhere but on his feet. The one blessing was it being out of reach of both his feet so he couldn’t scratch and his tongue so he couldn’t lick it bloody. I cleaned it with some wound cleaner and made plans to call the vet on Monday (October 15th).

That cursed raspberry.

Bummed, I still dressed, intending to ride the downtown River path. Jens, naturally, asked me to take Loke for at least a ‘short while’. I agreed and off we went.

He wasn’t really thrilled with it and seemed more wobbly than usual. Slower too. We crept along at 2 mph or less as he plodded with his head low and just no interest.

Then, there was a momentary bright spot that I would have missed if we’d been going faster. There was a flicker of movement near a flower. Curious, I stopped to look closer. A tiny little shape hovered around the rather pitiful looking blossom. For all the world, it looked like a hummingbird. Sweden doesn’t have hummingbirds and then it clicked. I was watching a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. I inched closer, fumbling with my camera, intending to get a photo. It was so adorable and tiny, barely an inch long. Sadly, before I could get the camera out and on, it flitted away through the hedge and out of sight.

Still, I got to see it! So neat!!

That was pretty much the high point of the day though. Loke didn’t perk up as we crept along. He was actually struggling quite a bit. Feet dragging, a lot. His back legs buckled a few times and he kept tripping over nothing. His limbs just refused to move when they were supposed to. The final straw came when he knuckled his front paw, came down on it pretty hard and then started limping. We’d not even gone half a mile and I called Jens to come get him. I wasn’t even going to try to get him back the short distance to home. He was that bad.

Between the slimy patch on his back and how hard the little walk had been for him, I was pretty bummed. I drew a deep breath and decided to continue on though.

That didn’t last long either. I hit the cycle path and it was like landing in a swarm of humanity. I can’t quite remember a time when the cycle path of my local River Loop hamster track has had such a press of people. So many out walking, then throw in those who were flying around between the pedestrians on bikes at speed and a number of roller skiers too. I could hardly do faster than a walk even without Loke. With such a mess no one was walking in straight lines, so I’d go to pass someone and they’d suddenly drift right, nearly getting caught by Loke’s running bar which sticks out a bit past the width of the trike.

No, it just wasn’t going to work. Bad as the local path was, the path by the river through downtown and the south side of town was going to be a 100x worse. I’d be leaving a wake of crippled people behind, knee-caps crushed by Loke’s bar. I would have just struck off down Old Börje Road to get some miles in the countryside, but it was really too late and guess who hadn’t charged her lights… again? I needed to go home first and remove the bar.

Such was my mood and my dislike of such crowded conditions, that ‘Go home and remove the bar’ just became ‘Go home.’

Over-night, the icky patch on Loke’s back improved. It dried out and the smell went away. Even the skin looked a bit less angry. That helped cheer me a bit. So, when Jens worked from home Monday, I headed out the door for a ride shortly after Starbucks. Before I took off for my own fun, I took Loke out for a little wobble. A lazy walking pace and he did better. We didn’t have the car though (service) so it wasn’t like I could just set off in a direction and have Jens come get the furry when he got tired. So, I kept it short, just 1.5-ish mile loop to leave him back home and this time, I remembered to leave the bar even though the crowds weren’t nearly so thick, it being a week day and all.

We did go by the hedgerow where I’d seen the hummingbird moth the day before. I went the entire way of that hedge with camera in hand, hoping. Alas, I was not so fortunate.

I set a brisk pace for downtown a bit before noon. In my usual pattern, I found myself ravenous because breakfast was long past and I’d not done more than shove a handful of mixed nuts into my mouth before running out the door.

Before and after of the same trees. The difference of just a few days…

It was another gorgeous and warm day. The sun was kind, the air was soft and still a bit hazy. There was a change though. The beautiful autumn leaves have begun to plummet from the limbs. Friday, there weren’t many leaves on the ground during the long ride, but Sunday and Monday, it seemed there were more leaves on the ground than on the trees. Now, the ground was carpeted in amber foliage in places. Here and there, trees were starting to look a bit threadbare and some barely hung on to any leaves at all, though those were rare for the moment.

Hungry as I was, I knew I’d be getting a headache if I didn’t do something about it. So, I stopped in at Subway to get one of their low-fat options and a small bottle of juice. I took it go with the plan to eat it at the city garden. Much nicer atmosphere than sitting next to a busy road at a small, lopsided table, on a busy sidewalk. And, as I rode to the garden, I also decided that I’d ride the River Path backwards, south on the east side and north on the west instead of the way I’ve been doing it.

Nice view and the trike is a comfortable lunch chair too!

I found a nice spot off the paths, parking on a bit of the garden’s lawn, so thick with leaves, there was scarcely a blade of grass to be seen. I pulled out my sandwich and started devouring it, hardly taking a moment to breathe between bites. A couple of people grinned at me and one guy offered a thumbs-up with his smile.

Hunger put to rest, I pedaled on and realized I should have eaten only half of the 6 inch sub. It wasn’t settling well with my exertions. Still, I scuttled back across the downtown pedestrian drawbridge to the east bank of the river.

The road way along the boat storage was quite busy. People hurried putting boats away for the end of the season. I dodged through cars and the few pedestrians. I really would have expected it to be quiet there, but I guess the rush to end the summer boating season changes the rules. One guy leaving, slowed down and rolled down his window to give me a thumbs up and, “Nice machine” though his expression remained stoic with no smile. One of those gruff types, I guess.

It felt a little weird, but refreshing to ride the loop ‘backwards’ as it were. I have ridden the east bank path southward, but that was back when the working dog shop had moved to Kungsängen area and before it had closed for good. *sniff*

Not a great launching point, but I wanted off the road.

Other than removing Loke’s running bar, another thing I remembered to do was grab the drone. I had some hope of maybe finding somewhere that wasn’t so crammed with around the area to fly it a bit. So, when I reached the new bridge, I turned down the old road instead of crossing the river. There’s a small building in the middle of the northern pasture there and I remembered there being a way to it from the road side.

It was right where I remembered it though narrower than I thought, especially with a small boulder blocking part of it to keep cars from squeezing across the ditch.

As I was pulling the drone out, a woman came walking down the path between the fence lines from somewhere across the pasture. I almost put the drone away, but since she just looked to be passing through and gave me a pleasant smile even with the giant hornet in my hand, I continued.

I found myself quite nervous as I got it up and buzzing around a bit. When it was flying on the opposite sides of the fence, I had images of it crashing down and I’d have to go pasture tromping to retrieve it. I only took one photo. Even sitting in the shadow of a small tree and hunched over the phone to shade it, it was hard to make out what was going on with the camera. It looked too dark, but I couldn’t tell if that was because the settings were overexposed or it just looked that way on the phone’s screen in the daylight.

Drone Shot – brightened a lot thanks to Photoshop.

It turned out it was seriously over-exposed, but here it is with some altering with Photoshop to change that issue… imperfectly. Looks weird.

Oh, and to be absolutely clear, I made sure the cows were far off across the pasture and kept the drone close to me and well way from them. Bad enough I’ve freaked horses out with my trike and husky, I’m not about to start antagonizing animals with my drone too.

Other than that one single photo, I mostly just zoomed the drone around in circles and figure-8s, practicing the controls. I want it to feel natural, but need quite a bit more practice. While there’s a simulation function on the app and drone, but’s not quite perfect because it doesn’t really give a ‘camera’ perspective’ to practice from. Flying with a drone’s-eye-view is quite a bit different than flying with a view from over the top and behind the craft which you would never see.. unless you have a drone following your drone. Like that wouldn’t be a confusing headache.

The battery only had about half a charge, so about 12 minutes later, the remote started it’s hellish screaming with a low-battery alert every 2 seconds or so. I hate that. There’s no way to acknowledge that, yes you know the battery is low – thank your for warning me, but now SHUT UP.

The grass there was a bit too deep for landing. Actually, it wasn’t good for taking off either, but I’d done so any way. For coming down, I got up from the trike and walked to the roadway. I felt pretty pleased with the experience. Real practice flying and I don’t think it bothered anyone. Or, at least I didn’t get yelled at, which suits me just as well.

Everything packed up, I spun back to the bridge and over.

More leaves on the ground than trees and no gravel to be seen.

On the west side of the river through there, the trees are more dense and older. It made it so much clearer just how fast the leaves were coming down. It wasn’t what I would have called windy, but the air did move from time to time. When it did, a cascade of amber and orange would come tumbling out of the trees in a swirl to the ground. There were stretches of path so densely covered that the sound of my wheels was muted to near silence since the leaves hadn’t had time to dry out and crunch.

It made for pretty images. The trees still having enough leaves that they didn’t look skeletal, the leaves on the ground still vibrantly hued, and the spinning, dancing descent of color in between. Made me a bit sad though. The trees will go bare in just a few days and the colors fade soon after. It will be the kind of murky time, which may last clear through to April if we don’t get snow. Everything brown, black and gray with short daylight hours.

It’s already happening. I was walking around yesterday and looked down the street where just 2 days before trees were so very bright and beautiful and just… gone except for an orange splash on the pavement. Seems surreal how quick it can go.

A Tug Boat with it’s new-born.

I kept a good pace back to the older pedestrian bridge and crossed back to take the straight shot down the cycle way back home. This time, I managed to not shoot any Americans (or Swedes) in the shins with random chestnuts.

Finished the way with over 10 miles and felt pretty fine except for my stomach still feeling acidic.

I also went for a short ride yesterday, again along the river toward downtown, but instead of going to Kungsängen pedestrian bridge, I only went to the first one near downtown. The one that had almost 1,000,000 crossings last year. It’s about 5 miles, but with the very slow 3 miles I did with Loke, it was about 8 for the day.

Fairly miserable ride really. A light blowing mist of rain and a high of 52 F. The golden days we’ve been having have finally broken and something resembling proper October weather is starting to muscle in. Yesterday was the first day of this autumn where all of Sweden stayed under 20 C (68 F). This month was already going for the ‘warmest October on record’ award. Why not? Why should May and July have all the fun? Maybe even June and August. I’ve lost track to be honest. Just leave it to say that since April, it’s been warmer than usual here in Sweden even when not breaking records.

No photos. There’ve been so many of that stretch and if I’m not careful, that loop is going to become a ‘tedious hamster track’ in very short order as much as the ‘old’ River Loop. Also, I really didn’t want to stop generating that extra body heat to stave off the chill. Brrr.

So, now the days are in the low 50’s F instead of mid-60’s F. We’re supposed to get some sunshine again tomorrow (October 19th) and I’ve got a plan to go for a ride that isn’t HERE. Here being the immediate area of Uppsala that I have counted as hamster-tracks at some point. I’m going to pack up the car tomorrow and ride somewhere that’s a combination of new and ‘I’ve seen it once before’. I’m almost dizzy with anticipation. I can’t remember the last time I actually did that. There will even be a new church to add to my collection. Maybe two!



Don’tcha Just Love…
October 15, 2018, 8:40 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Glorious days? I do. And just… wow. October 12th was one for the recent record books. And you know, I can’t recall the last time I wrote a post for just one ride.

In the earlier couple weeks, the weather had a bit of bite in the air, especially in the mornings. Many didn’t get cold enough for frost, but still quite chill and there were 2 days where there frost silvered the grass in more exposed places. That, of course, is what gave me an additional kick in the butt to get the pedal situation settled.

The past week though, the weather underwent a shift. Instead of cool days with nights and early mornings bordering on frosty, the nights have been cool and the days became unseasonably warm for October. I’m talking summer temperatures. Nice, mild, glorious Swedish summer temps. Not summer from the lower rings of hell… or Mississippi. I’ve not gotten as many rides in as I would have liked.

The story of the ride on October 12th actually begins the day before on the 11th. I had to drive Jens to work to keep the car for fetching Loke’s ear meds. Such a pretty morning. The sky was softly masked by a high fog, turned into pastel shades of peach, gold, and orange.  There were wisps and streamers of mist here and there across the fields as we sped down the E4 toward Stockholm. Mornings like that, it’s an absolute pleasure to drive my hubby to work just for the scenery. It would have been so incredible to get back home and ride after that, but no. There was the errand to the drug store and then the dreaded laundry. How many beautiful days that would have made incredible rides, ruined by that evil, day-consuming task? Countless it feels like. That’s not even touching on the fact, I would have had to deal with the guilt of leaving Loke alone for however long I was out for.

October 12th though, the weather woman on the news promised it was going to be a gorgeous day; temperatures in the 60’s and sunny. As I scurried to Starbucks for our daily dose of hot chocolate (me) and a latte with 5 shots (Jens), it almost looked as if that promise was to be fulfilled. There was more of that mist and fog as had made the previous morning so pretty. There was one problem though. It was 42 F. Tricky dressing.

Not to be deterred, I rushed home and started getting dressed. I kept going back and forth about how to clad my legs. The upper body is no problem. Shucking and adding layers is as simple as removing my helmet and doing it. Legs though. I’m not a big fan of the idea of kicking off my shoes, dancing around in my socks on the pebble-strewn side of the road, entertaining the locals while trying to add or remove a layer. So, when there’s going to be a 20 degree temp swing, do I dress for the high and freeze until it warms up? Do I dress for the cold and roast like a turkey when it finally gets warm? This time, I opted to dress for the warm and just piled the layers on my torso. I had hopes that even my pitiful circulation would get the heat down to my legs enough they’d not turn to blocks of ice.

I asked Jens if he’d be able to come get Loke if I took him out across the countryside with me. Yes, but he wouldn’t be able to do it until 11:30 because work calls were going to keep him tied to the computer until then. So, practically twitching out of my skin, I waited until it was a bit after 10 am before heading out the door. I was pretty sure, Loke would go for that long.

Awww. Come on! Where’s the promised sun?

We stepped out into… disappointment. Where were the blue skies? The sunshine?! It was about 42 F and lead gray skies. Really?

It gave me pause. If the sun didn’t come out and it was windy across the fields, that could be unpleasant with very little option of changing. I decided it didn’t matter. If it was cold, and stayed cold, I’d cut the ride short. That simple. Loke seemed less than enthusiastic about the outing. Enough so that I considered just doing a 1 mile loop with him. Once we were on the cycle path along the main street, he perked up and started his consistent 4.3 mph amble. That was better.

Barely half a mile out from the start of the ride. MUCH better!

It was amazing how quick the weather did an about face. Seriously. Less than half a mile, the sun found chinks in the clouds. Abruptly, it began to look less like cloud and more like a high fog. That was a relief. It did look as if it was going to get pretty and warmer as predicted.

I wasn’t doing anything ‘fancy’ for the start of the ride to add extra distance. Just jumped onto the cycle path along side Svartbäcken Street which is pretty much the most direct way to Old Börje Road.

I don’t mind admitting, I was glad when the sun came out. Even with extra layers on my top, my arms felt a bit chilled until the sun hit them and the air began to warm some.

With the first big hill behind us.

Loke seemed content enough as we climbed that first steep hill on Old Börje, but not excited, if you know what I mean. For once, it wasn’t me holding the speed back as I cranked up it. The furry one just kinda plodded. Given that it wasn’t even yet 10:30, I felt a bit guilty that I’d not just done a short 1 mile loop for Loke’s business walk and left him at home. That eased a tiny bit when we crested the hill and he almost hit 5 mph on the descent. Just so hard to read him sometimes.

Fog bank across some kind of crop field.

The clouds continued to clear away, except for a faint gray smudging on the horizon about 3 fingers wide as well as the soft haze of a barely visible, lingering fog. It didn’t diminish the colors, but softened them. It was shaping up into an absolutely perfect, if warm, autumn day.

In a random aside: Since the drought stunted the wheat and triggered an early harvest of what little grew, there’s been a different kind of crop spreading out across many fields. Low growing with broad leaves that just screams, ‘root vegetable’ to me. Lately they’ve started sending flowers up. I almost want to say it’s something like turnips. *shrug* I mentioned it because this is as much a diary about all things cycling as it is a blog and I wanted to remember it in case I figure out what these plants are.

Barely visible fog enhancing the autumn scenery.

There was a little wind out through the fields, not surprising. It’s more of a shock when I ride that stretch of road and there isn’t a wind. Huge swathes of clear land with nothing to hinder a breeze and keep it from getting overgrown and playful. The temp was rising, but at 55 F, it was still a bit too brisk for what I was wearing for it to be comfortable at the pace we were doing. It did give me plenty of time to admire the colors.

And the vibrant shades of autumnal trees has left me in awe. It’s kinda like a vision of deep, fresh snow. I just don’t seem to get weary of it or jaded. Growing up where the seasons were nothing more than ‘Hot’ or ‘Not-So-Hot’ with perhaps a bit of browning of grass and trees, honest-to-goodness seasons remain magical to me even after 14 years in Sweden.

Our pace was one of the slowest it’s been in weeks, perhaps months. Clearly, my poor old man was having a time of it. There was the paw dragging, of course, which I kept an eye on. A few stumbles when a hind leg didn’t want to move when it was supposed to. True to my conviction of ‘quality of life’, I just slowed down to make it easier for the fuzzy so he could still be out doing what he’s loved for all these years. On the flats, he was still determined to try for his consistent 4.3 mph, but any little incline slowed him down. Even just going up a grade of 1% or 2%, dropped his pace to under 3 mph. I kept an eye on the clock, stopped often, putting him on the leash and getting up to let him go sniff in the tall grass along the ditch. I didn’t want to send him back, but I also didn’t want him struggling so much even knowing he was going to be dismayed when the car drove off without me and the trike in it with him.

My view as I waited for Jens

Limping though, that was where I drew the line. One of his front paws knuckled and his weight came down on it pretty harsh. I stopped, checked the foot, he didn’t react, but when we moved again, he limped some more. That was it.

I called my husband and told him where he could find us, then started coaxing Loke the quarter mile or so where we could get off the bigger road and wait. I felt a bit more justified in the decision when Loke didn’t make much of a fuss. Even with him on the leash so he could move toward some trees and grass to sniff while we waited, he stayed right by me without harassment.

Did it stop him from giving me the most heartbroken stare through the car window when Jens drove off? Not one bit. It was like he was dragging my heart out of my chest with that look. Dogs and small children can undo you with just their eyes.

Loke had made it just shy of 4 miles. As I reset the Garmin to count my solo miles, I looked down the hill, across the fields. My mind churned about what route to take. 3 choices awaited me at the bottom of that slope where the cross-roads waited. Left, would take me to Läby and through Stenhagen and back home. Generally about 12 miles for that loop, so 8 miles more. Right, would be the short way for Ulva Mill and back to Gamla Uppsala which would give me another 9-10 miles or so. Straight, well, that’s Börje Church, The Old Farm, then Ulva, Gamla Uppsala, and home for a total of 18 miles, give or take. I’ve done it a couple times this year.

Yep! I was gonna do it! Besides, it would be a good test of the new pedals. The rides I’d done hadn’t really been very long, or with much variability to the road conditions.

These colors! I. Can’t. Stop. Photographing.

In a completely weird turn of events, once I was solo riding, my feet stopped hurting. My right foot especially had that fiery discomfort through the arch of the foot while toodling along with the furball though not nearly as much as with the SPD cycle shoes. It’s like there’s some magic combination of tempo and pressure with the flat pedals achievable only at the faster pace possible without Loke. I was moving pretty briskly too. Between 9-10 mph on the flats as I admired the scenery. Of course, that’s my general speed… when I was moving.

I’ve photographed this building and trees several times, but can’t resist with the colors!

The stunning pallet of autumn colors painted across the landscape just wouldn’t let me pass by without stopping for photos. LOTS of photos. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even roll more than 100-200 yards from the previous photo stop before I’d pause again to haul out the Canon or/and the phone. Even subtle shifts of perspective seemed to open whole new vistas of orange, gold, and red in the distance. It’s like when I ride during the snowy winter days. The colors took the old and familiar places I’ve been photographing and riding past since 2006 and made them amazing, shiny, and new all over again. Magical in some cases. For some 8 miles, the camera or phone scarcely left my hands.

Glorious Autumn Panorama!

I was kicking myself for not bringing the drone. It also occurred to me that I really should figure out why I can’t get my Canon to recognize my phone though my phone will say it’s connected to the camera. I would love to be able to share some of the great camera shots on the fly with my friends and family on FB.

Amazed this old little building is still standing every time I pass. 😛

Most of the photos don’t seem to have picked up the soft misty veil over the landscape. The settings I kept choosing for the light and what-not kept contrasting the fog out of the images. It was there. The gray smudge on the horizon was also persistent and if one looks closely, you can see it. It was like there was was a bank of fog hovering around Uppsala in a 10 mile circle. A distant, misty wall.

I wasn’t the only out to enjoy the pretty (and warm!) day. Two roller skiers passed me as I sat fiddling with my camera at various times. By then, it was about 63 F and I was perfectly dressed for it. One of them, coming toward me on the road grinned and called out, “Isn’t this weather great!?” as he powered up a hill.

As I passed Börje Church, swinging through the right turn that follows the churchyard wall, I came to quick stop. Hunger called. Breakfast had been at 5 am and Starbucks hot-chocolate at 8 am. It was after 1 pm and I was ravenous.

A bit over-ripe for my taste, but still something to eat!

Random Loveliness

While not my absolute favorite of fruits, the apples hanging over the fence set my mouth to watering. Hunger makes most things taste great and there’s something to be said about eating fruit straight off the vine. Well, the tree in this case. It was on the church property and with other trees as heavily laden as this one and the ground practically carpeted with fallen apples, the fate of three small ones wouldn’t be taken amiss.

To be fair, there are so many apple trees all over Uppsala, or Uppland, for that matter, people often set out baskets and bushels of them with signs saying, ‘PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TAKE SOME APPLES!’

I took a short break from photography as I sped along a bit, munching my make-shift lunch. As I enjoyed the day and followed the curving road, I happened to see something tiny on the road. Before my consciousness completely registered what it was, I swerved to be sure of missing it. A black wooly caterpillar of all things. A few yards on, another one.

I have never in all my life seen so many woolies in one day. Heck, there have been entire years I’ve not seen a single one and other years where I maybe saw 3. Over a dozen in less than 2 miles. That’s how many cute, fuzzy little ‘pillars I dodged. Must have been a hotspot for them or something though I’ve never seen them there before over the years.

Gammlagården (The Old Farm)

See the fog smudging the horizon?

There’s a long downhill dash on that road between the church and The Old Farm. I managed to enjoy it without stopping and clicking with my camera every few yards. The colors were a bit more muted there and it just felt good to let gravity do the work.

What goes down must also go up and I set to work climbing past a few houses and some trees before the road flattened briefly. Then it was another downhill race with pastures before me and cows looking up curiously as I blasted by. Then finally another stiff climb up to the Old Farm.

I discovered they have a new sign! Old post, but the paint on the actual pointy bit of the sign is fresh.

I made a stop to answer a call of nature. As such things are ranked, the outhouse there is top notch. Doesn’t smell, the ‘seat’ isn’t up ridiculously high, always plenty of paper, as well as a bucket of water (which is always fresh) with a large ladle, a tin bowl, and bottle of hand soap.

A splash of color among the Iron Age burials

As I was leaving, a bunch of men in a car beeped and waved at me. I think it’s some of the people who live in the houses and farms around the Old Farm. The self-appointed caretakers as it were. If that’s the case, then they probably remember me from the time when they came along to do maintenance while I was eating lunch there once. That was a fun time. Chatting with them about the buildings and even getting to go into the house to look. The entire attic area is just crammed with smaller items of farm equipment. Scythes, sickles, butter churns, ox yokes, harness bits, spinning wheels. Wish I knew where those pictures went off to.

Also as I was leaving, I noticed an odd sort of vine growing on a fence post by the corner of the gate ‘house’. I’d stopped to take a photo of the ripening hops (yes, as in beer hops). As I looked at it and posted it to tweak the noses of all my FB who drink beer, I heard this weird kinda beeping trill from over my right shoulder. It didn’t sound quite like a bird and I glanced over my shoulder to see if someone was goofing with me. No one there. 3 more times that happened.

I suppose it could have been a bird, hiding in eaves of the gate house. Magpies make sounds that are more electronic in nature than bird like. So, who knows.

I pushed up the tiny little climb off the gravel road, back onto the paved surface, hanging a right and preparing for The Big Drop down to the little river below.

Chipseal. The Devil’s pavement.

The last time I rode here, the road was in a sad state. Crumbling pavement where entire chunks, some the size of my fist, were coming up to leave gaping potholes, some as big around as my trike’s front wheels. The top few hundred yards, the road had been fine. I stopped for a couple photos that caught my eye before getting to really good bit. Then I kicked off.

I abruptly discovered that the road bed had been ‘repaired’. With CHIPSEAL. Evil stuff. The road department seems to have gone crazy with it. That makes two of my country rides that have been tainted with the foul substance.

View across a burial ground just up the hill across the bridge.

Given the speeds I used to hit on that hill, the chipseal surface was at least safer. I wasn’t going to plummet into a pothole or have a chunk of broken asphalt smacking me in the face, but talk about a sharp reduction in speed while increasing vibration. I didn’t even break 20 mph. I generally chickened out at about 27 mph when whipping around the curve at the bridge. The brakes never were applied this time.

As I come out of the deep gully the river has cut into the land there, I’ve taken to stopping at the top of the hill and getting off the trike to look back. The view is pretty and there’s an ancient burial ground to one side of it. The vision that greeted me this time was just… wow. A sweep of emerald growth across the field by the road giving way to the oranges and golds of autumn and the soft haze of lingering mists that just clung to the entire day. It was a view I thought I’d seen before, but at that moment, it was something completely new. Not my old stomping grounds, but some place I’d never been. I must have stood there and just looked for a good five minutes. Feeling the history and taking in the colors.

I took another break from the camera, focusing my attention on getting over that chipseal. My speed wasn’t too bad considering, but it was quite a bit of work. It was such a relief when I reached the 272 where the new paving ended. A quick scurry across and I was back on proper, if somewhat patched, pavement where pedaling was much easier.

The colors seemed oddly muted on the other side of that busy road. A lot of it is open fields, but even where the trees beyond were visible there just didn’t seem to be much vibrancy. Maybe it was the haze and distance that dimmed them. It meant that for a mile, it was just me and the trike before another gully drop to the next turn.

Front wheels in the gravel. Couldn’t decide if this direction was worth it…

As I sped along at about 10 mph, getting passed by a man on a racing bike as if sitting still, I noticed a darker smudge with edges more distinct amidst the softer dove-gray of the fogwall. A fire. A rather large one from the look of it. Couldn’t quite make out where, but listening to the news later gave no clues.

Fire has loomed rather large in the news this week. A school here in Uppsala burned to the ground and two teen girls were arrested in suspicion of arson. They were reporting on it the way the news in Mississippi reports on hurricanes.

Speaking of hurricanes, my heart goes out to all those who have been impacted by Michael. I know it doesn’t do much, but my thoughts are with you.

I finally reached the end of that mostly flat mile and took the wild dash down, making sure my gears were ready for the climb backup and my feet set firmly on the pedals. Nifty, clever heel slings or not, I wasn’t going to get careless at over 20 mph. I pushed to the top of the hill where the pavement curves sharply right and a gravel road goes sharply left.

Oh yeah. The scenery was worth the extra work of the gravel.

Gravel roads can be tricky things, especially those that are along my hamster track loops. There aren’t many, but a few. Their conditions are so variable. Sometimes, they’ve absolutely gorgeous, smooth packed dirt that’s better than all but fresh paved asphalt. Then you have that point a few months later where there are the potholes and wash-boarding. Or my all time favorite, freshly grated where it’s nothing but loose stones all over. This road was at that in between stage between smooth packed perfection and recently grated. Smooth double strips flanked by gravel. The packed bits weren’t quite wide enough for all my wheels to fit off the pebbles. I contemplated the unpaved road.

The pastures! A pair of ponies blending in with the trees.

Horses and autumn. Anything better?

Why? Well, distance for one. It would add roughly 3 miles to the ride and it was still 120 miles to keep this year from being the worst year for distance. Also, scenery I’ve not seen for a while. It would be a lot more work with the gravel, but flatter and less hills to climb. I just couldn’t tell if the added rolling resistance of the rocks would be worth the distance and the scenery. Also wasn’t sure how much it would slow me down. The days are getting shorter and it was already well toward 2 pm. Could I do the slow 2 miles on the gravel and still get home before sunset? My lights were at home, so I had to be sure.

I decided to go for it. Oh, it was so worth it. This was where all the colors on the east side of the 272 were hiding! The going was slow and lots of work, but it gave me more time to admire the surroundings. In some spots the road bed turned into a mire of something like loose sand and rocks, but fortunately that was only for a short distance.

Another reason I wanted to ride this way was to see if any of the horses were out in the pasture area that’s down the road. For a couple years, there was a lovely sorrel mare who was always so happy to see us. She’d whinny and come running up to the fence to trot along while kicking up her heels. Once we’d reach the end of the pasture, she’d stand there and call after us. I was pretty sure she was long gone. Horses don’t seem to stay in one place for long. For a couple years at times and even one pony who would go completely silly at the sight of Loke for almost 5 years. Others, if they stay more than a year, it’s rare.

The first I spotted were a couple of ponies that blended almost perfectly with the autumn foliage, with chestnut brown coats and flaxen manes. They weren’t even ruffled by my appearance. Hardly an ear flick as they kept munching away at the grass, not even bothering to look up.

Lovely trio.

Then I came up to another section of pasture/paddock and it was a black mare, thoroughbred type. I slowed down and called out to her, but she seemed more curious than spooked. As she came up to the fence, another two horses, equally curious, came over. A draft type and another thoroughbred though in the more typical brown color. I talked at them and even stopped to gather up handfuls of grass to feed them. I do so love horses.

Finally, I let them get back to their grazing and rolled on.

Cute guys!

There’s always been a lot of fencing for pastures and paddocks since I first found this road years ago. Sometimes dozens of horses out in the grass here. It’s still true, though most of spaces were empty. A lot of the posts were new as were the electric ribbon fencing. Slowing down to let a car by, I heard a bleat. Well, that was a first for this spot. Goats! Two curious goats staring through the wires, watching me with fascination and baaaahhh-ing at me from their tiny little space squeezed in amongst the bigger horse paddocks. They looked fit and well cared for, though perhaps they get a little bored in such a little space with not much to do in it but jump on a tire.

I chattered at them a little, took the photo and bleated back as a way of saying goodbye before heading for the faster bit of road which is a bumpy descent. I like goats.

Again, I made sure my feet were well set on the pedals before gravity took over.

Bälinge Church

As much as I had enjoyed the scenery, it felt good to get back on pavement. I pedaled along the 2 lane road a bit, getting passed by cars every now and again, but feeling safe enough. I relaxed a bit more when I reached the beginning of the cycle path at Bälinge. It runs almost all the way to Ulva. I thought about stopping at the church, but I was so hungry and my legs were feeling a bit worn after the 2 miles of gravel road. Oh, and that mile and a half of chipseal coming up from the The Big Drop all the way to the 272 where gravity wasn’t in my favor.

Somewhere along the cycle path, I came close to a case of foot suck. I must have shifted my left foot in some weird way, but abruptly the pedal twisted as if something yanked the strap down and forward, very nearly dropping my heel on the pavement. Given I was cruising at about 12 mph, that could have been ugly. I immediately stopped and fiddled around, shifting my feet hard against the straps and moving them every which way to recreate what had happened without risking dislocated joints and torn flesh. I wanted to know exactly what I’d done so I could avoid doing it again. For the life of me, the straps kept my feet from going down and no pedal rolling at all. So.. clueless.

Thickening haze.

The wind picked up, chilling the 63 F temps a bit and the haze, which had been with me the entire ride, started to thicken. Or maybe it was just the angles of the light bringing it into clearer view.

By time I was coming to the end of the cycle path and doing the last push to Ulva, I was feeling a bit rough. My legs were tired and I was so hungry a headache pounded at my temples. 3 little apples were long burned off. To add to the discomfort my knees were also becoming very unhappy with me. This was probably the hardest workout they’ve had in months.

I took a moment to catch my breath and let my knees rest as the trike zipped down to and across the mill race at Ulva. Then as I cranked up the hill on the other side, I tried to decide which way to go. The gravel cycle path beside the river? Or should I take the paved road. The road would have been easier, but the traffic was fairly steady. No, the path’s peace called too strongly.

Second time on the new Ulva Mill bike path.

While the scenery there was nicer and not a single car speeding by, I did come to regret it for a bit. My knees hurt and the gravel was soft enough to really make it more of a work out. I kept reminding myself it was just a few more miles. Four at the most. In my head, I even counted the climbs. The one along the old E4 at the end of the cycle path to where I would turn toward Old Uppsala. Then the steep little hill right just before Disa Farm right by Gamla Uppsala Church. I thought about taking the last stretch home by way of the mound path, but that meant more gravel and two really steep if very short climbs. If I took the cycle path along side Vattholma Road, it would be almost a mile of a gentle descent. Very little pedaling until coming up from the underpass of the train tracks by the cycle shop.

Doing that kind of cycle math in my head distracted me as my weary, aching legs pushed me along.

Back on pavement, I felt almost like I was flying again. Even the half-mile climb along the old E4 felt easier than that gravel.

View at the start of the homestretch!

Making the turn onto Ärna Road for the short push to Old Uppsala felt like the beginning of the home stretch. I was going to make it. Actually, short of foot suck, I knew I was going to make it. On rides like this, very little short of traumatic injury will stop me from getting home under my own power. If I can turn the pedals without screaming, I do it.

Autumn Bliss

Oh, it felt sooooooo good to come down that long descent. I just kinda went flat in the seat and let physics take over. My thoughts turned to food. I was going to need something more substantial than baked salmon and cauliflower.

I had to just kinda stay limp in the trike for a while before I could find the oomph to get up after I parked. It was a wobbly walk into the apartment. My knees seemed to bounce back with surprising vigor though. About 20 minutes after putting the trike away, I was at the local shops to buy the fixings for mashed potatoes and reindeer in sour cream sauce with lingon berry preserves. A very Swedish dish. Extremely tasty too and just what a carbohydrate starved body craved.

It had started out gray and kinda dull looking, but it had turned into an amazing day and I’d done a great ride of it. As for the new pedal arrangement? Well, except for the mystery near disaster, they’d done great! Better than all my other attempts at riding with shoes that don’t have gaping chasms in the soles to accommodate SPD cleats. I’m well satisfied with them. I just have to make sure I don’t get careless.

 



New Pedals and Looking Good!
October 10, 2018, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Goodness. Has it really been so long since I made a post? Seems so.

Well, after again ripping places apart and reassembling them back into some kind of order, the black, spiked mountain bike pedals with the chunky red straps eluded discovery. Other things surfaced though, like the aqua-socks and clear dry bags I used for kayaking which had been missing since they were packed for our failed Norwegian vacation.

Jens helped to look a couple times before he waved the white flag of surrender and told me to go buy new pedals. If the old ones turned up, he could use them on his mountain bike since he’d been debating making a switch from SPD pedals.

It was getting pretty urgent actually. The weather was getting cooler with temps on September 29th forecasted to dip below freezing. I needed a frost-bite/foot suck proof solution and fast.

On the morning of the 27th of September, Loke was being a huge pain. It seemed natural to combine the trip to to the cycle shop for pedals with a roll on the trike with the annoying furball. He was very interested as I pulled on wool beneath my usual cycle garb. He even pranced in a wobbly, but excited circle.

It was dull gray and about 46 F as I rolled the trike out. That was a wonderful change from the previous 3 or 5 days where winds had been brutal and the day before not only with the 20-30 mph winds but driving rain as well.

Not sure how well Loke was going to do, I headed off toward the storage first to check the air in the tires and be sure there was no more drastic flooding from the not-insignificant amount of rain the day before. It was mostly dry, just a small puddle that seemed to have come up from a metal capped hole in the floor near the storage door. Nothing to damage anything at least. Certainly the trike wouldn’t have been submerged if it had been there.

Then we set off down the long, gentle slope toward the swim hall in the most direct path for the cycle shop. Loke did quite well. I was even fairly amazed honestly. He was clipping along at 6 mph at the start before it came to a crawl, but that was because he abruptly decided he wanted to stop and sniff every inch of ground.

Neil, incredibly nice British guy who owns the shop, was very helpful, but they didn’t have much in the way of pedals, not with the season winding down and the 2019 items soon to be on the market. My choices were limited to cheap, vinyl spike pedals or more pricey metal Vault pedals or a really expensive pedal who’s brand I can’t remember with less aggressive spikes than the Vault’s.

Most women like shoes, I’m giddy over my pretty pedals!

I’m just girly enough that I was drawn to the shiny chrome Vault pedals with the lovely blue spikes to accessorize my blue Sprint 26 so very nicely. They were a bit more costly than the mat gold colored pedals with standard steel pins though. Neil then offered to give me a 250 kronor discount on the chrome ones, making them cheaper than the others. DONE! I think he mostly just wanted to get them out of his stock, but I appreciated the gesture all the same.

Loke had been a pest in the shop. Wanting to stick his nose in everything and trying to grab the sheep-skin seat covers to shred. With barely a mile under paws and tires and the furry one with so much energy, I decided to head off toward the burial mounds.

Where I still had chances to make turns to shorten the loop, I watched Loke for signs of flagging, but he just kept chugging along with only the occasional scrape of a dragging paw. So, on we went, aiming to do the full burial ground loop.

We were about halfway to the mounds when I felt the first misty touches of the forecasted rain. The prediction was a bit off though. The rain was an hour early. I could still have cut the loop short, heading across some soccer fields to come out on the path between the apartment and mounds, but Loke still had plenty of bounce and I wanted to take advantage of that.

The rain went from a barely perceptible mist to a significant sprinkle as we came to Old Uppsala church. My tights and shirt started to get damp. The temp also took a 6 degree plunge to 40 F. I had an extra wool shirt in my bags, for which I was extremely grateful. The real problem though were feet, hands, and head. I hadn’t felt the need for wool socks when I started, cotton is just lousy at keeping warm once it gets wet, particularly with chill air coming through holes in the bottom of the shoes. No gloves because it had felt warm enough without them. No wool beanie under my helmet because someone (who shall remain nameless) shredded it (typed while glowering at a fox-curled husky sleeping innocently on his pillow).

Cold or not, I gave a little cheer as the Garmin ticked over 6 miles for the outing and Loke still going strong.

We finished the ride right at 6.5 miles and did it in 1 hour and 51 minutes even with all the stopping and sniffing Loke did during the first half hour. If I hadn’t gotten so cold, I would have cheerfully added distance to make this ride Loke’s longest since March, but my hands and feet were starting to numb, head so cold I was getting a headache. That kind of headache when you dunk your head in a vat of icy water.

After that, without being entirely sure why, it was a week before I rode again. I think it was a combination of waking up and finding it had been at or near freezing over night, more bad weather, and just running around as I tried to figure out what I needed to come up with some idea for a heel catch on the new pedals.

September 30th, I know I spent a few hours running around like a mad woman for the items I needed for a plan that had formed in my head even before I’d gotten the pedals. Metal timber strapping, nuts and bolts, and a little hacksaw to cut the strapping. Of course, it had to be done on a weekend day of pay-day week. The entire country of Sweden gets paid on the 25th or a few days before if the 25th falls on a weekend day. That weekend turns into a nightmare that’s close to the insanity of Christmas Eve shopping. Freshly paid people surging like mad into every shop and mall across Sweden.

Then, I guess a few days were spent with me hunched over clamps and metal strapping and hacksaws to get my plan some-what assembled. There were a few hiccups with it and I went to the cycle shop to talk with Bobby who’s been the main mechanic there to work on my trike. I asked if he’d be willing to help me, above and beyond the usual duties of your average bike mechanic. Sure!

So, I scheduled a time to bring the trike in on October 8th.

Friday, October 5th, was the next ride I did. The mornings for several days had settled into a pattern. After a night of rain, there would be fog or drizzle about the time I woke up. Roughly when the sun rose, the rain would stop or fog start to break up and the weather would improve until it was sunny and pleasant shortly before lunch.

It was no exception on the 5th. After some errands in the morning, I was determined to head out for a ride. First, it was just going to be me, I wanted to get out and ride, enjoy the dramatic skies with clouds that ranged from purest white to silver to pewter. Loke had been too unstable with his neurological issues, so it seemed best to leave him especially since Jens was working for home so he could keep the furry one company.

As I dressed through, Loke was glued to me. When I sat down to put on shoes, he was leaning against my knees. Made it a bit of a challenge. No way I could leave him at home if he was that desperate to go out with the trike. At least with Jens in Uppsala instead of Stockholm, a pickup for Loke was just a phone call away. I decided to do the downtown River Loop v.3.1.

The 10th Chimney – 2015

Loke wasn’t a complete slug, jogging along at 4.2 mph though his hind feet dragged more than I liked. Admittedly, I dislike any dragging, but this was a scraping sound every dozen yards or so.

It got quite chill (51 F) when a chunky cloud blocked the sun for the first mile. When it came back out, the colors popped into vibrance. The temp jumped up about 10 degrees. Much nicer.

We took slightly different streets to stick to the west side of the river. I wound up by a little park with a tall, brick chimney in the middle of it. I wondered if it was some remnant of an old Victorian factory. Nope. A piece of modern art work named “The Tenth Chimney” erected in 2015.

We sort of zig-zagged along, coming out near the castle and botanical gardens where I crossed the road to a bit of cycle path that went down a very steep hill. It came out near the hospital, a stone’s throw from the swan pond and entrance to the city garden. Loke loved it. Streets and paths we’d never been on or it had been so long he didn’t really remember going there.

He perked up more once we reached the proper river path.

It was about mile 4.5 when Loke’s random foot dragging turned into a full on trip that almost sent him crashing face first into the gravel path. I hated to do it, but I called my husband to come get the furry. I’m prepared to overlook the foot dragging to an extent and aim to make Loke happy, but once it starts with the potential of breaking noses or teeth, I want to draw a line.

He wasn’t ready to stop. He kept harassing me to keep going as I waited for my husband to arrive at the parking for the stadium. He woofed. He stomped at me. He pawed at me and rested his head on my knee. Even tried pulling the trike a couple times.

Soon, he was on his way back home, staring mournfully through the car window as it sped away.

My pace picked up once he was gone. Rather, my moving speed did. I kept stopping to take photos or just admire the autumn colors which meant my average didn’t really increase.

Before I knew it, I was at the new pedestrian bridge and heading back toward town on the east side of the river.

The sheer amount of people. It seemed everyone was determined to get out and enjoy the lovely day. A bit unseasonably warm and sunny at the time.

There was a funny moment with a couple walking in the opposite direction. They had a Springer Spaniel with them who had most yellow eyes, I’ve ever seen. Not amber or gold, but pure, full on, wolf-yellow. Quite stunning, but the poor thing was absolutely terrified at the sight of me. At least, until I called out my ‘happy puppy’ voice that I wasn’t anything scary. It was like a switch flipped and he was happy to come say hi. After a couple minutes the man tugged on his leash, “Come on, Loke.” I had to laugh which earned me a puzzled look from the couple.

A little further on, a vole, of all things, scampered across the gravel path. Made me smile.

I wound up back home with a total of roughly 9 miles. Loke had made it just about halfway. It felt good to get out and ride and I was glad Loke had the oomph to come with me, even if he’d been wobbly. I hoped his neurological issues would back off for more fun in the coming days.

Alas, another complication reared its ugly head.

I often bake muffins for people. Lemon/raspberry muffins to be exact. I take some to the guys at the cycle shop a few times a year. Every time someone who works at Starbucks that I’m friendly with has a birthday or is moving on to another job, I bake muffins to share with them. Well, I think it was on October 6th when I was finishing up with a batch of muffins and went to put left over raspberries in the fridge. One fell to the floor.

Before I could move to pick it up, Loke lunged and got his mouth on it. I jumped after him but he showed more agility and speed than he’s had in months in his determination to keep his prize. He ran around, dodging me, while chewing on that little berry furiously before finally swallowing it. He had been determined to keep it and I wasn’t quick enough to stop it. You would have thought it was a chunk of raw beef the way he went at it.

He’s elderly now so I wasn’t inclined to be too rough about it and besides, it was a raspberry. Surely he’d not be allergic to that, right? I mean, he’s never had them before so maybe his body wouldn’t even register it like he does wheat or beef.

Monday, October 8th, Loke still seemed fine with no apparent harm for his hard won berry.

The cycle shop opened at 9, but the morning turned into a bit of a fiasco resulting in me driving Jens to his office on the fringes of Stockholm.  It was gray and kinda miserable looking on the drive to Jens’ work and it only got worse on the way back home. Rain. A fairly heavy kinda of drizzle/sprinkle. Still, I decided to ride the trike rather than wrestle it into the car and drive it there.

I arrived at the cycle shop a bit later than I intended, pannier bag in hand with pedals and all the stuff I had for my idea of the heel catch. Bobby, the awesomest bike mechanic in Sweden, was running late with fiascoes of his own it seemed. Still, with absolute trust, I left the trike and was content that even if my idea flopped, Bobby could probably come up with another.

It had been a chill and miserable ride to the shop just half a mile away, and it was a chill and even more miserable walk back at 48 F and rain. *shiver*

Through the day, I didn’t hear anything from the shop, but I’d told them there was no real rush.

The morning of October 9th started off with more rain. It left about mid-morning, but its departure brought high winds even as the clouds hung on, racing across the sky at impressive speeds. Temperature was about 55 F.

Around lunch, I decided to go check and see if there was anything I could do to help. It wasn’t like this was the usual sort of bike thing, to build a heel catch for pedals. It was above and beyond the call of duty as it were and I wanted to make the favor as easy as possible.

It was funny. I had pulled into the parking lot, found a spot, and just pulled the key out of the ignition when my phone rang. It was Bobby and he had a question. I laughed and said I’d be in right away.

My idea for the heel catch hadn’t worked out, but one aspect of it had given Bobby an idea that was absolutely elegant in its utter simplicity. A length of discarded inner tube for a bike tire fastened to the ‘back’ of the pedal. The double layer of rubber from the tube was stiff enough to stand up at 90 degrees from the pedal on its own, but still has enough flex that it will easily shift back and forth with my foot. No falling away and leaving the way clear for my foot to drop off and get dragged or ‘sucked’ under the trike. My contraption had been to keep the heel strap ‘up’, but it turned out it didn’t need the extra bits. I simply hadn’t been familiar enough with inner tubes to know that it would be just stiff enough at smaller lengths. It does tip the pedal a bit forward, but not so much to be unusable-ly awkward. When the rubber wears out it will be dirt cheap to replace.

I was thrilled to pieces.

Bobby’s question was how much should he move the pedal boom in. We decided to try it for half a centimeter. Just as well, there’s really not much more space to move the boom in. Just another half centimeter actually. If it ever comes to needing more than that I’ll have to get an accessory from ICE that moves the seat forward for really short riders.

That settled, he told me he’d give me a text when had had the chain and gearing adjusted for the new boom length.

Finally the call came. The trike was ready. I put on my most comfy, non-cycle shoes and ambled off to the cycle shop with Loke.

I wanted to take the new pedals for a test ride even though Loke’s issues had continued to be a bit of a problem. I settled into the trike’s seat with a combination of nerves and excite, and placed my feet on the pedals. After a bit of a wiggle to figure the most comfortable position, the heel straps moved and shifted perfectly in place, ready to catch my foot if it slipped.

Once he was beside the trike, Loke perked up. He was a tad bit slower than on the last 5 or so jaunts, but he was more stable with the trike than he’s been without it. He was also faster and with significantly more interest in his surroundings as he wobbled along.

To continue the pedal test, I aimed off in the direction of the burial mounds. There were 2 places in that direction where I could turn for shorter loops if Loke wasn’t up to doing the full mound loop.

It wasn’t a great day for riding, but I was happy to be out and for the first 2 miles, it was going very well. The straps were working a treat. My feet felt solid on the pedals with the spikes and the one time a foot slipped a bit when I was trying to adjust on the move, the strap was right there to keep it from going too far. Not that it would have been a disaster at 3 mph, but it was a good trial run.

After 2 miles though, the foot pain was back with a vengeance. My left foot was happy as a clam, but I was practically tap-dancing on the right pedal. Shift it out away from the crank, or snugged the foot close in against the crank still hurt. Move the foot to pedal with the tip toes and then to pedal full on the heel and everything in between. Turn the toe in, turn the toe out. Pain, pain, pain. Fiery burning kind of cramp clean through the foot from sole to instep.

Loke was especially happy when we reached Old Uppsala with the burial mound path. I think it will always be one of his favorite places. Has been since he was a tiny 3 month old puppy. I had a little trouble enjoying the autumn scenery though with my right foot screaming blood murder.

Oddly, the pain vanished for the last mile or so. Just… ‘poof’  and suddenly pain free. I could swear either my body or the trike is gas-lighting me. Just too inconsistent and weird.

As for Loke, while he’d gotten slower for the last mile of 5.5 total miles, he gave every indication that he didn’t want to stop when I rolled to a halt at the apartment.

So, today (October 10th), I had no plans to ride. I went to the gym and had a fairly vigorous, 5 am workout. There was the vet appointment at 10:15 because a couple days after the raspberry incident, Loke was suddenly bouncing off the walls and scratching his ear near bloody because he’d broken out in a kind of rash in the ear and it gave an opening for an infection to try and take root. Yay. Something else to add to the LONG list of things Loke’s allergic to. Raspberries of all things. Following that was laundry. So, yeah. No riding in the cards.

It wasn’t that hard of a choice. Though, unseasonably warm at about 55 F, it was gray and ‘meh’ out. No big sacrifice to stay home and wash clothes.

Went off to the vet under those cloudy skies. She looked at his ears and we decided to try a treatment without antibiotics first since Loke’s so resistant to most of them. I chatted briefly with the wonderful woman who works reception at the desk. She owned two dogs. A lovely Irish Wolfhound who’s 2 now and a much older Standard Poodle. The poodle has had age related issues for a while. Well, she had to say goodbye on Monday.  She admitted it was very hard to be there at work, but told me it really did cheer her to see Loke and give a bit of comfort to hear that he was able to get out and amble with the trike when he’d been so very sick and near death in the spring. I thought that was a sweet thing to say. I think it helped her to talk about the loss too.

As if to alleviate the sadness of someone losing their long time, beloved, four-legged furry, when we stepped out of the clinic it was to stunning blue skies and not a single cloud to be seen. And WARM. It was about 63 F. Except for the intense yellows and oranges of distant trees, there was no sign this was October. This was full on Swedish summer… as it should have been. Not the broiler heat and parched earth. It was the kind of summery weather I wish we’d had instead of what kept me indoor and sitting in front of fans.

No way was I going to waste this glorious turn of weather on something as paltry as laundry. Who knew when we’d see a day as glorious as this again?

I rushed home and dressed. Loke was indifferent about it. He laid on his over-sized pillow and followed me only with his eyes. It wasn’t until I picked up the house key that he got up to get his harness on. The apathy continued as I walked to the trike. Still, he did need a walk. I resolved to take him for a short roll at least.

Maybe he was still a bit worn out from yesterday’s 5+ miles. Or he could just be having one of those days when old age gets the hooks in deep. Perhaps even a combination. He was slow as well. The past couple rides before, I’ve thought to myself, ‘Goodness, Loke’s getting so slow,” but then I look at my Garmin and see we’re chugging along at 4.3 mph, every single time. I guess my 3-4x a week workouts at the gym are paying off and I’m stronger so he just feels slower. But this time it really was a reduction of speed. 2.6 to 3 mph range. He wasn’t terribly interested in his surroundings either. It might have been that his ear was bothering him, I guess.

As we crept along, I kept shuffling my right foot around. It still hurt quite a bit. Left foot good, right one bad. The heel slings stayed up near my heels the entire time, even the one that kept jumping around.

We did 1.5 mile and I tucked Loke back up at home. I pulled his comfy pillow over where he could lay on it while tethered in the entry way and gave him a little snack before darting back out the door.

There was a bit of a guilty twinge as I powered off for downtown, aiming to do the new River Loop again, but the way Loke had laid down to chew on his treat and not even look at me as I went back out, it wasn’t overwhelming.

I didn’t seek to do anything fancy about alternate routes to stay on one side of the river until I got to the new pedestrian bridge. I just took the easiest and most direct way to the city garden.

Oof! The sheer number of people. Clouds were scudding in, but I guess the sudden warm jump in the temp combined with briefly sunny skies had been enough to lure people out in droves and they swarmed that little park. So many pedestrians with a lot of bikes trying to zip around between them, I felt almost claustrophobic. Not to mention with Loke’s running bar sticking way out to one side, there was serious concern someone’s knee cap could accident get taken out. I guess I should start thinking about removing the bar before heading that way.

By time I reached the bandy court, where they’re building a new 10,000 seat stadium btw, the crowds were thinning a bit, but the clouds were thickening. The sun was pretty much masked behind them. Where I’d been overly warm when I started out riding with Loke, I was perfectly dressed once the clouds came back. The extra wool under my cycle clothes was just what was needed.

I couldn’t get over the autumn colors. I find myself smiling and just… in awe of the intensity of the golds and oranges on so many of the trees. Delighted with the more vivid splash of red that leaps out from time to time. I might not be showing them here on the blog, but I can’t stop taking photos even though it’s the same spots over and over again. It’s all so beautiful and I missed it during those 5 or more years when the autumn was a dreary affair because the leaves threw themselves from the trees as soon as they showed a hint of some color other than green. I hope the next autumns in the future continue to be like the last 3. Just glorious.

These COLORS! Just… wow!

Oddly, when I was pedaling briskly, the pain in my right foot eased. It was almost as if there was a perfect combination of frequency and pressure with the pedals that was a happy, pain-free thing for the foot. When I hit that sweet spot, it was just happy rolling. It also helped that I felt fairly fit and strong as well.

I came up to the new pedestrian bridge, but found myself reluctant to cross over and start back. I didn’t really feel I had time to do the full 16 mile loop though. I hated the idea of leaving Loke alone for too long. I feel bad enough if it’s more than 2 hours. I definitely didn’t want to be gone for 4 hours.

At the bridge on the west side though, there’s the gravel path that hugs the river bank all the way from new drawbridge near Nåntuna that I rode a couple weeks ago. From about the rowing club to the new pedestrian bridge, there’s an old paved road that runs parallel to the path, dead-ending at said bridge. It occurred to me, that I could take the road to the rowing club and double back to the bridge on the path. That would give me a little more distance and add only a little time.

Off I went. The ride on the road went pretty briskly. There were quite a few people along it. No less than 3 people with cameras who seemed more interested in autumn colors than birds for a change. One of them even had a tripod as he set up to take photos of brightly colored trees along the road.

Upstream back toward Uppsala.

In no time at all, I was back at the bridge. I took a pause at the top of it to get up for photos on both sides of the bridge.

Toward Lake Mälaren (downstream)

Then it was over to the east bank and back down the path toward Uppsala. Surprisingly, I had the mile stretch of gravel all to myself. Given the sheer number of people on the west bank, it was a bit unexpected. Alas, not even a vole scampered across.

Old Mill turned museum by the Fyris River in Uppsala.

The ride was about to have a weird and, in hindsight, a hilarious event. On the east side of the river through downtown Uppsala, the street there is divided in two. Half is a single, one direction lane for cars. The other is divided into two lanes for two directions of bike traffic. Closer to the river, are large trees offering shade and beauty. They also happen to be chestnut trees and at this time of the year, the street is covered with nuts and hulls varying from entirely whole because they just fell, to those ground into paste from passing tires.

I was coming up to one of the bridges and there were quite a few people along the side walk as I passed. Suddenly there was a loud kinda of ‘POP’ as the trike ran over the side of a chestnut and caused it to launch out from under the tire, undamaged. Immediately, I heard an, “Ow! DAMN!”

The river as it burbles through town.

Appalled, I stopped the trike and twisted around to look at a guy as he took two steps and bent to pick up a chestnut. Then he looked at me. I didn’t have to guess what had happened and I just looked from the nut into his face. Before I could open my mouth to apologize, he started laughing. “Your face!” he said in unaccented American English.

I’m pretty sure I was as red as some of the autumn leaves as I asked where it had hit him. He looked surprised as I spoke. “You’re American?! Where are you from?”

We had a brief chat. The chestnut had ricocheted off his shin. He was from Tennessee and delighted that not only was I American, but also raised in the south. When I tried to apologize, he laughed it off, saying that if it left a bruise it was worth the horrified look on my face not to mention the story to tell friends and family back home. That an American woman in Sweden, from Mississippi, on the weirdest bike he’d ever seen, managed to hit him in the shin with a chestnut without even touching it.

Bemused and still embarrassed, I rolled on after the conversation was done. It was just moments later that I realized I was ravenous! Probably because the only thing I’d had was a small helping of fruit yogurt at 4:20 in the morning and it was coming up on 3 pm. I decided a Subway sandwich would work as both lunch and dinner and there was a shop just a few hundred yards away from where the chestnut incident occurred.

As I paid for the sandwich, to go, I saw an older man standing very close to my trike and looking it over. As I came out, he said something in accented Swedish I couldn’t make out. I apologized and told him, in Swedish, that my Swedish wasn’t very good. He changed to English, “Did you build this wonderful machine?” I told him about ICE in Falmouth. He had other questions which I cheerfully answered as he continued to circle the trike and take photos. One question he asked as he touched the bar across the back of the seat, “What is this for?” He was especially delighted to learn it was for running a dog. He was sorry to have missed meeting the remarkable animal that got to run with a great bike.

He finally thanked me for my patience and time and wandered off with a wave.

My lunch time view shared with birds.

I tucked my sandwich in the side bag and settled in the seat to roll on for a little bit. I’d decided I was going to have my sandwich by the river. At the first dock-like structure overlooking the water, I rolled onto the wooden planks and went to sit on the bench nearby. It offered a lovely view upstream while I ate.

Ah, the birds. They’ve got it down to a science along there. I hadn’t even finished unwrapping the sandwich when I heard a rough ‘caw’. About 50 feet away stood an Eurasian hooded crow. It watched me as I picked up my lunch and took the first bite. It cawed at me again. Amused, I broke off a piece of the bread and tossed it. With an air of dignity, the bird didn’t flap or jump as the bread bounced at it, but rather waited till it came to rest and walked over to regard it carefully. Only then, did it pick it up and flap up into a nearby tree.

I took another bite and then heard ‘CAW!’ as I was chewing. I turned to look up and the crow lowered its head. I could swear it looked at my sandwich, then off to where I’d tossed the first bit bread, before looking at me… pointedly. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the crafty creature had taken lessons from Loke or vice-versa. Still, it’s display of intelligence earned it another bit of bread. It flew down to approach and take that one with the same grave poise as before. Much to my surprise, it didn’t eat it and linger to beg for more, but flew off.

That seemed to be the cue for the swarm of sparrows. The cheeky little critters came in, all standing off at least 5 feet away. I really like sparrows, so I was quite happy to break off tiny bits of sandwich to toss at them. Unexpectedly, they were more wary of the trike than of me. Any piece of bread that bounced too close to it was contemplated and then left alone as they waited for the next one to fly. Some got bolder though. One landed about 3 feet away and watched me. He wasn’t brave enough to take the bread from my fingers, but came closer than the others.

It was a pleasant way to spend lunch, actually.

I was feeling rather cheerful and upbeat as I finished the last mile back to the apartment and Loke. I’d had a lovely ride and some nice experiences to make it stand out more than my usual local ploddings. The pedals worked perfectly and I couldn’t be more delighted about this winter set up. The fact that we’re now quite warm and I would be just fine with my SPDs at these temps is not lost on me.

Got home with just shy of 9 miles. A good day and a few more miles in that pile o’ miles I need to get knocked down before December 31st comes to an end.

And that’s me caught up for this post! More to come, I’m sure!