Terii’s Cycling Babble


Merry Christmas Or Whatever You Celebrate!
December 25, 2018, 8:37 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

I hope these last weeks of the year have been full of joy and love to all who glance this way.

Even as I make this wish, I find I’ve been a bit down. Not surprising. Christmas has always come with a sense of melancholy with a cloud of those past years when they seemed fraught with disaster and misfortune. I like to think that each successive one, the mood is not as dark as the one before.

The day after my last post, amazingly, I made it out for another ride. 4 days and 4 rides. A new recent record. The snowfall mentioned at the end of the December 10th post thickened. Enough came down that the damp stuff clung to the winter bare branches and clumped on the grass. Pavement and cars only got wet, not white. Still, fluffy flakes will always be magical to someone who grew up on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. where frost was rare, never mind snow.

The main reason I went for another ride was my feet. They’ve started splitting and cracking with a vengeance which makes walkies with Loke painful and very short affairs. Admittedly, my feet have been on the painful side of uncomfortable even when I ride, but at least it’s not like getting lemon juice in giant paper cuts level of painful.

There was no trace of snow on the morning of the 11th as I started to drag on layers of wool. The sun was no where to be seen with heavy gray clouds across the sky, but very little wind and it was 33 F. Loke was at least intrigued as I readied.

His interest peaked a bit more as I took us off toward downtown Uppsala, avoiding any part of the ol’ standby of the River Loop. The plan was to aim for old pedestrian drawbridge at the city park for a total of roughly 4 to 5 miles.

There was some wobble to the old furball’s legs, but he was content to shuffle along at 4 mph with the occasional stumble. I’m sticking to the ‘quality of life’ rather than quantity of days. Better he be happy for for a shorter time than miserable for longer. As long as I’m convinced it’s just miscommunication in the nerves and not pain, we keep going though slowing down is in order if he stumbles too much. Limping is another story. If he limps, I read that as pain and get him home as quick as I can.

Loke wasn’t impressed with our roll through town, but he perked up when we reached the parkland. Of course, that’s right where the old pedestrian bridge over the river happens to be. I felt bad depriving Loke of a wander along the gravel paths and tree lines of the park to turn right back around to plod through the city heart again. Though slow, he was ticking along pretty well and interested in his surroundings. I’d push on to the big drawbridge that is a major traffic artery over the river. I could jump on a ramp to go up and over, then back down to take the riverside path on the opposite bank. That would get us another mile or more while letting the old one sniff and enjoy grass and trees.

Naturally, as I reached the big bridge, the lovely gravel path wound on along the open pasture and fields toward Kungsängen (The King’s Meadow). Loke was going a little slower, but still happy. Going to the new pedestrian drawbridge would be another mile, putting us over 7 miles by time we returned home. Jens was in Stockholm, so getting Loke wasn’t going to be an option. Did I dare?

Yeah, I dared. Loke was happy and it would make him more content if he had more of an outing. Quality of life. As we rolled southward, meadow on one side and river on the other, his pace picked up to over 4 mph again. Naturally, that’s about the time the cold finally started sucking the warmth out of my feet. Snuggly wool socks and chunky boots be damned. It occurred to me it would perhaps be wise to get the sock batteries charged.

Cold or not, gloomy or not, I enjoyed being out, off the old River Loop and having my cycle partner beside me, slow or otherwise. I let a sense of contentment sink into me as I relaxed to let Loke take lots of pauses to sniff. It wasn’t a bad way to spend 3 hours. Still, curling up under an electric blanket felt downright dreamy.

Sadly, I didn’t push on to make it 5 rides in 5 days. Distractions came up.

For one thing, the temperature dropped which triggered something in me. It’s funny how something, while annoying, is just endured as part of an activity. The something I mention was my constant argument with gloves/mittens. While it’s never been as bad (read agonizingly painful and close to frostbite) as my feet, I’ve struggled with keeping my hands warm enough. Gloves are a disaster. I have wide palms with short fingers. If I get gloves that fit the palms, I have an excess of fabric flapping at the end of my fingertips which makes me insane. Mittens, while they can have the same issue, it never bothered me quite so much, but it did make shifting gears challenging. Not to mention, gloves or mittens, I still had trouble keeping my fingers warm and often had to shove them under my jacket. I also tried glove liners.

Throw into this argument with glove/mitten sizes and finger lengths, my frequent photo stops. With the over-long mittens or gloves, I couldn’t fumble with the controls very well on the phone or camera. That meant, pulling off the handcovers with my teeth, taking the picture and spending the time to pull the glove liner back on and then wrestle the outer layer over that. 5 minutes later, doing it all over again. Sometimes, it could feel like I spent more time doing the handcovers on and off than I did rolling along.

For some reason, after 12+ winters arguing with it, I decided I’m fed up with it this winter. I wanted pogies which are also called bar end mitts. Imagine a giant, mitten with two openings. One in the normal place a mitten would have it and another out beside the ‘finger’ area. You slip the second opening over the end of your handlebar and there’s generally a way to cinch it snug so wind won’t get in so easily. Ta-da! Your grip, gear controls, and brake handles are all wrapped up in a wind and weather proof muff of various materials, often lined with insulation. I wanted THOSE. Giant mittens that say on the handlebars.

That decided, I went to the cycle shop. A quick look around and there were none to be found. When I asked Neil about them, he said he could order them, but it would take a week or so. Rather ironic, that every winter since I started going to that shop, they’ve had the mitts. The year I decided I want them? No mitts. Murphy is laughing at me again.

So, I threw myself into a frenzy to find something. No cycle shops seemed to have them. Finally I found one kind.

There’s a shop here, called Biltema. It’s a strange kind of place that has a bit of everything. Stuff for horses, camping, sports, bikes, cars, boats, tools, gardening, minor electronics, office supplies, kitchen, laundry room, toys, dogs stuff, small building supplies. It’s all dirt cheap and every single bit is labeled as the Biltema brand. Well, in the motorcycle section, they carried one kind of bar end mitts. A sort of plastic like, weather resistant fabric with a thin insulation that’s not quite cheap fleece and not quite cheap felt. Huge in size as they’re made for, you guessed it, motorcycles or ATVs. Still, the price was right and I could get them right away while deciding if I wanted something better.

So, I picked them up on the 12th. On the 13th of December, I had laundry, so I didn’t get to ride with my new mitts.

Mitts
The cheap mitts.

Finally, December 14th, I started dragging on layers of wool to ride in 29 F temps. I also argued with the wires of my electric socks in between the light and medium layers of wool leggings. It was slow going to get everything on since I’d done a long and hard workout at the gym earlier that morning.

Then it was off to the storage. As I unpacked them, I was taken aback by how huge the mitts were. Seriously, there is enough space in them for the Hulk to use them and still have space to wiggle his fingers. I mounted them up.

They aren’t completely ideal. They get in the way of my opening and closing the handlebar bag as well as restrict the movement of the handlebars near the wheels which makes my turning radius even larger. But they also have plenty of room for my hands even with chunky mittens if I decide to go that way. I even tucked my phone in the mitt instead of leaving it in the bag so my hands can help keep the cold from sucking the battery dead.

There was another complication. Where to put my Garmin? The GPS has always ridden on the small rear view mirror mounted into the end of my steering bar. Well, the giant mitt covers both of them. Engulfs them is probably a more proper term. I wound up flipping open my handlebar bag and letting my Garmin ride around in the lid. It works just fine, provided it’s not raining or snowing too much.

Well, it was snowing, but not too much.

Almost right away, something was wrong. Loke was limping. I examined his feet, finding nothing, and sat for a few minutes to ponder that. The furry one needed walkies. I reasoned that he wasn’t likely to limp less if I was walking with him than with the trike. So, rolling walk it was. I’d just take it slow and keep it under 2 miles for distance which is probably a bit less than what Jens walks him even when he’s limping. We crept along at 1.5 mph as Loke limped and wobbled. There were plenty of stops to let him sniff hedges and trees.

The temp display on my Garmin dipped to 26 F, but my socks on level 1 and bare hands snug in the bar mitts, I felt almost over dressed. If I hadn’t felt so worn and weary from the morning’s strenuous workout, it would have been a pleasant even if ridiculously slow ride. It was just bits of the old River Loop, but thanks to the thin snow, it felt fresh and new. I wouldn’t have minded going longer, but I couldn’t shake the anxiety over Loke’s limping. Finished up with about 1.7 mile.

The riding stalled over various little health issues for a few days. About the 17th of December, I felt better, but had too much to do for a ride. At last, on the 18th, I had a plan to ride. A glorious plan. Not just my woefully overdone River Loop again, but a real ride out in the countryside.

Still, I went to Starbucks for my hubby’s daily addiction and while there, it started snowing. Lovely, feathery flakes drifting around on a soft wind into gorgeous swirls and spirals. It reinforced my determination to ride away from Uppsala’s heart and the river.

Back home, things just seemed to start to go wrong as I began to get ready. My energy fled. My muscles seemed to fatigue ridiculously quick and I started to feel irritable with a side helping of annoyed and frustrated. As I wrestled the layers on my legs for 26 F, I felt overheated in our 65 F apartment and then I felt the wire connector between my battery wire and my right electric sock pop loose. I had to get everything off again, plug it back in and retape the sucker before dressing once more. The only way to keep the connection is to wrap the two parts in duck tape… and even that can slip, clearly.

Loke didn’t seem to be doing to well. Wobbly and weak. He was still interested enough in going out that he came over to get harnessed, but then promptly flopped on his pillow and didn’t move again until I picked up his leash. Instead of having my hubby drop us off at the garage, I told him I’d take the car and just ride back home with Loke before taking off across the countryside.

The snow had stopped, my mood was quite sour and it just seemed EVERY LITTLE THING annoyed me. No matter what I did, it just went wrong in petty, ridiculous ways that drove me batty. For example, putting a car key in a pocket shouldn’t take 20 seconds and two hands while breaking a fingernail. Loke would move along fine for a few steps and then plant his feet and want to sniff something for 2 hours. *beats head on desk*

I wound up resigning myself to getting less than half the miles I’d planned and being stuck on the River Loop for all of it. As we were coming up to the bridge over the river, it started snowing again. That had the effect of cheering me. Even though I was feeling slow and fairly weak, Loke was being even slower still, I decided I’d add the out-n-back along the riverbank to the north.

I slipped and spun at the bridge for a few minutes before just giving up and pushing the trike up. Then Loke and I made the right hand turn to follow the cycle path north beside the river. THAT didn’t even happen for more than 200 yards or so, as up around a curve with some trees, I discovered a work crew had completely blocked the cycle path with a huge red truck. Pedestrians could squeak by and bikes could be walked past, but my trike with Loke on his bar weren’t making it by. Muttering, I slipped and skidded in a multi-point turn to go back.

The snow came down thicker and mellowed my mood again, but I’d resigned myself to doing ONLY the river loop. Mother nature was screaming. The time it would take me to get Loke home, answer the call and get all my layers and wires wrestled back on, it would be after 12:00 pm. With thick clouds, sunset is essentially 2:30 and I really didn’t want to ride in the dark, which given how slow I felt even without Loke, would have been too little time for my 11 mile route over snowy roads with chunky studded tires. So, I gritted my teeth and just got us back to the car and then home.

Pity. I really would have loved to been out in the countryside through a feathery swirl of falling snow.

That seemed to announce the full arrival of the Christmas melancholy. I felt low and apathetic with spikes of frustration and just feeling completely trapped. Trapped by my own body. Trapped by Loke’s aged limitations and Jens’ persistent insistence that every time I even THINK about going for a ride, Loke come with me. Trapped by tasks that ate up the morning until the earliest I could ride was 11 am with a 2:30 pm sunset and being incredibly slow and weak, so trapped to the cycle paths of the River Loop. I am so very over the River Loop and it just ticks me off.

On the 23rd of December, I managed to shake off the apathy a bit and decided that I was going to ride my old Gamla Uppsala/Vaksala Church loop. Out in the countryside, but still one of my shorter country loops at roughly 10 miles.

By 7 am, I was dressed to ride. It was the coldest morning we’ve had in weeks, but I still had the grand plan to do that loop. A fresh fall of snow and I wanted to go see the snowy landscape that didn’t involve the city. I desperately needed the miles as well.

It didn’t happen. We set off and I felt fine for about 200 yards or so. Loke was slow, but the sun wasn’t quite up yet and I’d get him home with a bit over a mile and then push on for the wide open, snowy places.

It was a pretty winter day. 15 F, but with no wind, my electric socks, and huge honking mitts, I was dressed for it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. What I did feel was slow. Even old Loke was being held back by me. I wasn’t comfortable in the trike or my own skin. My feet hurt as did my right knee. Every foot the trike moved was pure work, spinning the pedals at roughly 67 RPM and yet hardly faster than a walk. Just getting past the grave mounds was going to take me over an hour with the rest of the ride perhaps taking another 4 hours. I’d still potentially wind up on snowy roads in the dark. Nope. Wasn’t going to do it.

Wound up back at the storage with a whopping 1.7 miles which my Fitbit registered as 37 minutes of exercise. Instead of feeling like my wings to freedom, my trike had felt like a rock I had to drag around. Logically, I know walking that distance would have been worse, but it was still depressing.

And that brings us to the present. The end of the year is rushing up on us and I’m still lacking about 19 miles for the measly 450 I’d hoped to have. Just enough that this won’t be the worst year ever. Well, the worst year for distance any way. I had a bit of upset at the thought that this year would be perhaps the worst year in another way. A year with nothing new. 98% of the rides involving the Fyris River and 80% of those being the old River Loop, the rest down through Uppsala beside the river. The ride just west of Norrtälje was some place I’d ridden before even if I didn’t realize it until I was on it. I thought there were no new runestones or churches. Just… nothing but old circles.

It was come consolation when I looked on my GarminConnect account at the rides this year and found some discoveries that had slipped my mind. A runestone which might be one I’d not seen before. I can’t be sure. But in April, there was a new church. New places I’d not seen on the trike as I coddled sickly Loke around Haga park just outside of Stockholm, wondering if it was his last days. I found Alfred Nobel’s burial site. I found how to get to a lovely old courthouse I’ve admired for years while heading into Stockholm on the E4. A few new things at least. Some exploration that is like food for my soul. More than loops and circles on the River Loop, trapped by circumstances and my body.

I needed that realization.

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