Terii’s Cycling Babble


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltic ice reflecting blue skies.

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

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

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

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

Botanical Gardens & Natural History Museum across the way.

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

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

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

*squee of glee!* Barnacle Geese!!!

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

Across the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand mystery gate to nothing?

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

Oh yeah. Stockholm…

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

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

Haga’s south gate and a squinting husky

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

An old mausoleum. I think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resting place of Alfred Nobel.

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

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

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

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

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

The Turkish Pavilion at ‘Old Haga’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Approaching the End of an Age
April 10, 2018, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

So, as I’ve stated before in the recent posts, Loke’s having issues.

With said issues, I spoke with a vet again about what might help the fuzzy stay comfortable and sane. She suggested the series of shots again, that might ease some of Loke’s joint pain. I agreed and so, he’ll be getting the 3rd of the 4 weekly shots tomorrow.

Between shots 1 and 2, Loke’s ‘wobble’ issue had gotten a bit worse, so when we went in for shot 2, I spoke to the vet about it. She gently looked Loke over and came to the conclusion that there’s some kind of back issue. He’s lost some reflexes in his back legs and occasionally didn’t notice when she’d ‘knuckled’ his foot over, both indicating some loss of nerve response. The problem is, she’s not sure if it’s an injury or degeneration from age.

Injury is completely possible as he was acting like a 3 year old for those couple weeks before the testosterone levels started going down after the chemical castration, but also a chance it might be degeneration and injury. There’s no real way to be certain except for like CAT scan or MRI. That would perhaps give us answers as to exactly what was happening, but unlikely to change the prognosis or outcome. So, it would mean sedating Loke for no change in what we do.

She said that if he were a younger dog, she would recommend strict rest for a month. Honestly though, she didn’t think it would improve things at his age, only serve to make him (and us) miserable. So, she advised limiting his jumping and stairs, but otherwise, let him do what he wants. If he seems to want long walkies, go for it. If he wants to go out with the trike, do it, though maybe don’t let him run. Stick to walking and jogging.

She also found that his front ‘ankles’ are in quite a bit of discomfort. She came to that conclusion when she wanted to look at one of his front paws. He stubbornly resisted her efforts to lift a foot though once she had it up, he didn’t really care what she did with the toes, only objecting when she flexed the ankle. It was mostly that he really didn’t want to put extra weight on one foot. I’ve known his ankles have been sensitive for a few years now because he couldn’t walk with the socks on, but now I know they’re quite a bit worse.

Hopefully though, the series of shots will help both problems.

Since the 2nd shot, Loke has had some good days and others that dipped into the realm of ‘bad’. He’s gotten even slower. Yesterday, after coming back from his morning walkies with Jens, my husband actually said he didn’t think that I should take Loke when I went to the cycle shop because he had struggled so much. That completely floored me. I’ve always thought Jens would be encouraging me to take Loke out with the trike as long as he was with us.

Tomorrow, we go to the vet for the 3rd shot, but I’m going to talk to her about how he’s been heading downhill even with the treatment. He’s had more incidents of his back legs just buckling. He limps most of the time when we’re out and his shoulders are bothering him more. An additional burden of worry is the tumor.

Initially, the size of the tumor went down about the time that Loke’s hyperactive behavior slacked off. The wound even closed up. The past 3-4 days though, that’s reversed. The tumor has grown to almost its biggest size and the sore has not only reopened, but is larger than ever. So, going to have to try and figure out what to do about that.

Any way…

Between March 25th and April 3rd, my rides were non-existent. Yes, part of it was the way age is slamming into my husky with the weight and speed of an avalanche. But I could have endured the hyper slow rides if I didn’t have to play revolving layers with the weather.

It was such pretty weather. Clear blue skies, but in the mornings it was 24 F and about 1 pm, it was 55 F. I wanted to ride, but for staying out all day, it was just too much to deal with. Dress for 24 F and die of heat stroke before noon. Dress for 55 F and be found frozen along the side of the road before noon. The torso layers are no problem to deal with, but legs. That’s the sticking point. I’m not going to put on a show by kicking off my shoes and dancing around on gravel covered pavement to wrestle off layers of thermal tights. No, just not going to happen. At least, not until I’m smaller and more agile.

On April 3rd though, it finally came together that it was warm fairly early that I wasn’t going to be dealing with Arctic temps at 9 am and tropics at 11 am. I could pull on modest layers and be able to endure them through the ride. Not to mention, it would also help Jens with Loke and my feet.

For about a week, I just had the worst time with the soles of my feet feeling down right bruised. Reluctant to ride with Loke, but could barely walk. So, I was glad when, at least the weather wasn’t conspiring against me.

At the time of the ride, though Loke was struggling with some things, as long as he was going in a straight line, he was fairly okay. Sharper turns are when he’d sorta trip over his own feet or have a leg crumple.

He was definitely interested as I dressed and held up his harness. We started out at about 3.8 mph thanks to the Svartbäcken cycle path being mostly gravel free. Sadly, the back cycle paths were quite gravel choked so our speed dropped to about 2 mph and slower in some stretches. Even with little rocks making Loke’s feet unhappy, he was still clearly enjoying the outing.

I was fairly bored with it to be honest. Not even vigorous enough to offer exercise and already like the 18th (of 20 rides) River Loops of the year. I amused myself by scanning for sprouting flowers. Alas, no joy.

We were passing then swim hall, when a pair of women waved me down to gush over the trike. One of them remarked that they’ve seen me before and wanted to ask questions, but I had been too far away for them to get my attention. It’s highly unusual when someone talking to me doesn’t at least ask or comment even briefly on Loke, but he might as well have not been there to that pair. I answered their questions and we parted ways with smiles and waves.

As I pushed on, I decided that since Loke wasn’t acting too bad given the circumstances, I’d pedal on to the grocery store a couple hundred yards past our apartment to pick up something for lunch. Loke, as ever, waited outside like a good boy as I dashed in and then we did a slow, creeping coast back down to the apartment.

Not an exciting ride, but at least it was pretty with blue skies instead of the forecasted overcast we were supposed to have.

Over the 4th and 5th, the weather did a dramatic shift from mid-20’s in the mornings with 55 F highs and gloriously clear skies, to above freezing even at night though still in the mid-50’s during the day. The other change was gray skies and rain. The first rain we’ve had in a long while. Combined with a pokey, elderly husky, I just stayed in.

On April 6th, it was snowing of all things when I woke up. Paved surfaces stayed clear with the white stuff only gathering on grass, dirt, and cars. About lunch time, the white falling flakes disappeared in favor of rain.

I would have loved to just stay in, but Jens worked from home and was pushy about ‘Walk Loke, walk Loke, walk Loke.’ Still dealing with my feet, I decided to spare them with a slow crawl with the trike.

Naturally, as I started dressing, it was beautifully sunny out. Once Loke and I stepped out the door to go to the trike, the clouds ambushed us as did the wind and a sharp drop in temperatures. 38 F. Brr. Even better 200 yards into the ride, spitting rain came slinging in on the wind gusts. I started shivering immediately.

Inclement weather or no, Loke was quite happy to be out. Not happy enough to be faster than 3 mph, but still happy.

The rain didn’t last long, but the damage was done. It had rained enough to get through my thermal layers and the addition of the wind with the end of daylight temp drop was too much. I still managed to push on for a total of 2.45 miles. Oddly, Loke’s pace picked up for the last three-quarters of a mile or so. We cruised at almost 6 mph to get back to the garage. Pity he doesn’t do that more often.

Once we were back at the apartment, Loke was predictably a crazed, bouncing, 3 year old husky.

I didn’t ride again until April 9th. The weather was above freezing and still raining on occasion. The wind couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to blast around or just stand there.

I had to push out the door any way though for an appointment to get the tires and pedals swapped to my summer arrangement. Yay! SPD shoes and pedals again! Not to mention sleek tires free of chunky tread and studs.

The shop didn’t open until 9 am, so Jens took Loke for a morning walkie. Upon his return, he told me that he thought I should leave Loke at home when I rode to the shop because the furball was really struggling during the walk.

I about had a heart-attack. Jens, suggesting I leave the husky home. Never thought that would happen.

About 5 minutes before we were going to leave for Jens to drop me off at the storage, I went out with the garbage. No rain. As we walked to the car to drive to the trike, it was sprinkling and I saw a single snow flake.

Arriving at the storage, it was a full on rain. The good news was, with Loke staying home, at least I could roll a little faster.

I took one of the most direct ways I could to the cycle shop. Just 1.2 mile and it took me less than 15 minutes. I arrived at the shop early as I’d hoped to take a longer route there with a chance to get some exercise finally. Probably should have done that any way since all I did with my early arrival was sit, trying to squeeze up under my Da Brim as the rain fell.

I was so happy when ‘The Beard’ (yes, that’s what he’s called) arrived and kindly let us stand in the shop as he shuffled all the bikes out. Brr.

Trike checked in, I dashed off with the car directly to Starbucks and the desperately needed hot chocolate with hazelnut flavor. Oh, and there wasn’t a hint of a single raindrop as I left the cycle shop.

The text that my trike was done came a couple hours later. By then, Loke had a bit more spring in his step, so I decided that he’d go with me and the trike from the shop back to storage.

There was no rain as we rolled out from the shop, my trike now sporting summer tires and SPD pedals once again. While VERY slow (1.5 – 2.1 mph), Loke was interested in the outing. His head was up with a busy nose and ears and quick gaze noting the flitting of birds in a breeding frenzy of spring.

There were some issues. He would give a halting step at times and others, his back end would wobble. He was still happy. His favourite place in the world is beside the trike and moving.

I didn’t wan to push him too much though, so I kept it short. 1.7 miles. Took a smidge longer than an hour.

It truly breaks my heart, this sudden decline. Back in January, I would have said my husky was unstoppable. Now, I’m bracing for the end as we keep him happy with a decent quality of life for however long we can.

It’s been a good run and so much more than I ever could have imagined when I brought home an 11 pound, white and grey fluff-ball with a pink nose. I’m grateful for the years we’ve had and especially the last 5. When he was 8 years old, I didn’t think we’d be able to keep him going to 10. He was strong and fast, but so many issues. I used to joke he was the fittest, strongest, fastest, sick dog in all of Sweden. When he was 10, I just hoped we could keep him going strong to 12 years old which would make it the minimum average life span of a husky (12-14 years). He blasted through his 12th birthday like he was going to go forever.

I just want him happy for however long we will still have him. Even if it means my rides with him are at 1 mph. He still loves to move beside HIS trike.

So, tomorrow, April 11th, the plan is to put the trike in the car and drive to Haga Park which is where the butterfly ‘zoo’ is. There are a few miles of nicely groomed gravel paths bordered with soft, trimmed grass which should be easy on old feet. I’ll have food packed for us both and water of course. We’ll just poke around and see if there’s any paths we’ve not found yet that a trike and elderly husky can go. Somewhere we’ve never cycled before though we’ve walked a few miles of paths several times.

Hopefully, we can make a day of it, even if we only do 5 miles for the entire time. As long as it makes him happy.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think, Loke? Is it snowing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! That! We’ll do that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide open and still not a breath of wind!

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

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

Yes! Save it please!

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

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

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

Oof! A lot more snow than anticipated!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounded like a good plan. Right?

And it worked… until it turned into a fiasco.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Balance of Good and Bad.
February 19, 2018, 8:33 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Murphy keeps tweaking my nose, I swear. Let me stick to chronological order though as the good and bad happened just over this past weekend.

So, after my last post, the weather did its bounce again. We had the snow for almost a week when went from the freezing to temps rocketing up into the 40’s F and a hard rain.

At 5 am on February 2nd, I stepped out to let Loke tend business and it was a pouring down. I stepped out at 7 am and what a change. The temperature had plummeted to below freezing and huge drifting flakes like feathers were swirling thickly through the air. It was piling up on the inch or more of water left by the rain to turn into an instant slush. I had too much to do for a ride in it.

The next morning, that mess had frozen solid. I thought about taking an early ride, but decided I didn’t want to wrestle with the layers for 3 miles of jarring my teeth loose on all the deeply rutted ice.

But the snow kept coming. About lunch time we had almost another 2 inches and with Loke having been a world class bully for 2 days, I decided the extra padding of snow was probably enough that my teeth and the trike would survive the ruts.

As I wrestled with the layers and electric socks, Loke was in the way the entire time. When he wasn’t physically hindering me, he was woofing and stomping his paws at me.

The furball was as hyper as i’ve seen him in years. I think the 28 F temp with 21 F windchill and plenty of ice and snow was a siren call to his husky soul. He was all vim and vigor (or ‘piss and vinegar’ as my dad would say). I’m pretty sure he could have run for 10+ miles and still wanted more.

Really?! Oh come ON!

Of course, that first burst of enthusiasm was snapped less than 100 yards (or meters, take your pick) from the apartment door when I heard a metallic ‘thawang’ pop. I recognized it. One of the clamps holding his running bar to the seat breaking. I swerved in behind a car, in case a random traffic came down the tiny street, to check and ponder. Yep. Broken hose clamp. The bar was loose, barely held on by the remaining clamp. It wasn’t going to hold up if Loke was going to be hyper.

I considered walking the trike back home, but that wasn’t going to make for a pleasant day with Loke. But wait! There should be a spare clamp at the storage my undependable memory told me. I decided to risk it. With a tight grip on Loke’s harness, we made our slow way there.

Thankfully my arm was still attached to my shoulder when we got there. One advantage to Loke getting older. His yanking might have enthusiasm, but he’s not as strong as he used to be.

Sure enough! My memory was right. There were actually TWO extra clamps at the storage. Awesome!

Would have destroyed the derailleur if I’d had a 20″ back wheel.

The ride was not as rough as I had feared, though getting through the park to the storage showed the perfect example of what would have destroyed a derailleur on my Trice with 20″ wheel. Made me glad again to have my Sprint 26. Mostly though, the ice on the cycle paths was somewhat smooth except for a slight rut here or there. There were a few patches of slippy ice where even my studs didn’t want to grip, but Loke had me covered.

With Loke’s cheerful enthusiasm, I would have added more distance than the 5.14 miles we covered, but during the attempt, I discovered that my legs desperately needed an extra layer to take the winds that were blowing across the open fields by the garrison, but in under 2 minutes, I had to turn back around and rush for areas more sheltered as my legs started to turn ice.

There were a few spots where I added a bit more distance. A total of about a mile. Mostly those turns, which took me on strips I’ve not ridden in some months, were because of other dogs on the path. I simply didn’t feel like trying to pass them, so turned to go in different directions.

It felt good to get back home and warm up. As for Loke? Completely unaffected by the outing. He immediately started harassing Jens and Jens’ sister who was here for lunch. Such a bully!

There was a 5 days stretch between that ride and the next. My heavy thermal tights have worn out and the weather was much too cold to tackle with just my medium and light weight layers, even if I piled them up over each other. Not to mention that makes it difficult to flex the hips and knees. So, I stared mournfully out the windows at the bitterly cold but beautiful days and settled for what walks I could manage with the furry one.

And Loke. OMG! LOKE! He was a complete pain in the rump. He was doing things completely out of character for him. Destroying things he had never shown an interest in even as a puppy. I actually couldn’t remember him being this huge a hassle when he was a puppy. I’m sure he was as bad or even worse, but I can’t remember it. So bad he couldn’t be left loose in the apartment. Every time I had to go somewhere, I now pull everything out of the bathroom that he might destroy and covert into a sort of kennel with his bed, some chew toys, and water dish. Better that then taking him to the vet AGAIN to get crap he shouldn’t have swallowed out of his stomach. I’m not talking food. I’m talking cardboard, plastic, and who knows what else.

So, on the 9th when it warmed up to right about the freezing mark and I started getting dressed and harnessed him, he was excited.

With blue skies above the snowy glory of the landscape, it was very pretty. Just so hard to dress for! Between sun and shadow, sheltered areas and wide open spots with windchill, the temperature swung drastically between 50 to 33 F.

With the snow taking its time to melt, I decided to go enjoy the grave mounds before it started to disappear. It was a bit of a risk, to comfort at least. The last time I rode the mounds during a snowy time, it was brutally rutted and required rattling, bumping, and bouncing along at 2 mph.

Especially pretty mantled with snow under blue skies.

This time, it was much nicer! Snow, firmly packed without having gone to ice, good traction. The mounds had a good cover of snow, very little winter browned grass peeking through. Lovely against the blue sky. Loke was thrilled, he pulled us along the trail with a spark of his old spunk. I was quite surprised when I was able to ride right up the two little steep climbs of the mound path. There was some tire slippage, but enough grip I didn’t have to get up and push.

After we cleared the mound path, I decided to add a little more distance. Try to get Loke to settle and stop being so destructive.

The sun was getting pretty low as I finished up the last mile. The temp dropped to about 25 F and it started getting to my toes as well as fingers and legs. That definitely put a stop to any addition distance as my electric socks had stayed home. 6.68 miles.

Our next outing was February 12th.

I was feeling a bit low during and after that ride. Cabin fever sort of mentality going on. Desperate for a change of scenery beyond the superficial of ‘snow or no-snow’. Pretty sure that out of the past 210 rides, 205 of them have been on the river loop with the occasional addition of a mile or two. Still all very much on the same length of paths.

I miss exploring. I miss new medieval churches, rune stones, burial grounds. All those things that made blogging so much more fascinating. My trike used to be wings. The past 2 years or more it’s been reduced to a treadmill. I ride because I should exercise the dog or I need exercise. Getting harder to find even small pleasures in what is becoming a chore.

I was somewhat hopeful for some kind of enjoyment though as I started wrestling layers on. It was just right about 32 F and snowing. Loke certainly was excited and not just because I threw open the balcony to let the winter chill in as I pulled on wool and, just in case, electric socks. Maybe I’d even make an errand of the ride by going to Loke’s groomer to book an appointment to get him all pretty and fluffy.

I really didn’t want to remove the mud-guard…

The entire ride was about nixed as soon as I started dragging the trike to the street. There was about an inch and a half of fresh, wet, dense snow over the stuff we’ve had for over a week. It packed hard around the wheels with every turn, and squeezed hard between the mudguard and tire until it didn’t want to turn at all. I would have put the trike right back in its place, but Loke went all cute and pitiful on me. Yeah, turning back wasn’t a good idea or I’d have a mutiny.

Hoping for the best on the paths and roads, I put all my weight on the running bar and slid the frozen tires across the snow to the sidewalk. Then it was about 15 minutes of work to chip and scrape the wheels loose. Loke huffed and woofed at me the whole time.

None of the snow had been plowed. I don’t know if it was because the forecast said it should be melting fast or it just caught them unprepared. Even on the little streets it was hard work, though Loke, excited to be out in the cold and snow, did his elderly best to help. He pulled hard as he could and I appreciated the assistance.

*gasp* He lifted his head!!!

It was some hard work, but tolerable. Until we reached the cycle paths. With just some feet and a few bike tires to churn, rather than pack it, the snow was harder to deal with. Nor did it help that Loke stopped pulling, becoming determined instead to sniff EVERY inch of the way. That’s the problem with being on the paths. The constant parade of dogs lay down scent that Loke is determined to examine minutely. For the next 2 miles, I swear he only lifted his head once and I got a picture of it and the snow on his nose. Sometimes he hack and cough certainly because he was about to choke to death on all the snow he was inhaling as he crammed his nose right down to the ground underneath.

It all just left me frustrated and exhausted. Took over an hour to do less than 3 miles. The same scenery as the past 100 times, marked and scored deep into my memory with every variation of daylight and weather. I needed something new! Or at least something not so recent. *grumble*

Also, preferably somewhere with fewer dogs to leave scents for Loke to sniff…

The weight of frustration and apathy kept me in for a few days. My last ride was Friday, February 16th. It was a combination of things that came together. Annoyance with the harassing husky. The tedium of the River Loop. Jens being home.

Jens’ working from the convenience of our apartment was the crucial thing. I’ve not had much confidence in myself or Loke. My hip, his feet, that kind of thing. But if the hubby was in Uppsala instead of Stockholm, he could come rescue Loke or both of us if something went wrong. I double checked and yep, he said.

Though the temperature was about 36 F, instead of rain, thick fluffy flakes of snow were coming down and swirling through the air with only a slight amount of wind.

Loke, of course, was intrigued as I started pulling on the layers and electric socks.

The snow was very pretty, little bits of pure white feathers drifting through the air, but such a pain to ride in. It went up the nose when I’d inhale and not even the Da Brim could keep it out of my eyes. Contact lenses don’t like it when the salinity of the moisture in the eyes gets too low. It makes them pucker.

You know what? I didn’t care if I was choking on snow flakes or trying to keep my warped contact lenses from leaping out of my eyes. Just the thought I had the chance to go beyond the River Loop by more than just the Grave Mounds made me giddy. I loved what the swirling snow was doing to the landscape as well.

As we pushed on the same cycle highway I take to do the Grave Mound path, the temperature started to drop and the snowfall thickened. I’d begun the ride with just a thin layer under a mid-layer of wool under my cycle shirt, and completely without gloves. About the time we were approaching the turn off for the Mounds, I stopped to pull out my heavy wool top, dragging over my cycle shirt, and gloves as well.

As I reached the turn, I decided things were going well. My hip felt amazingly good. No pain in the feet. I wasn’t cold and Loke was doing just fine. I was practically giddy as we passed the turn that would have taken us back to the River Loop paths.

The cycle path going north, parallel to the Vattholma Road, has a nice decent down from the turn off of the Grave Mounds. Loke went completely bonkers as we went straight. He threw his weight into the harness and pulled us down the hill at over 12 mph. I was grinning and giggling with snowflakes flying into my eyes, nose, and teeth and Loke squinted as he loped along with a flop-tongued husky smile. We’ve not gone cruising down that hill since October.

As we reached the bottom of the hill and started backup where the old tracks used to cross path and road, I took a moment to bump up the sock setting from 1 to 2. There’s not much there to stop even the slightest wind. Like Loke and I down the hill, it just picks up speed. Brrr. Also the temp continued to drop. By the time we crossed Vattholma Road for the small, icy country roads, my Garmin displayed 28 F.

It felt so good to be off the River Loop. Words can’t describe it. 90% of my riding of late has been, ‘I should ride to get some exercise’ or ‘Loke needs to run a bit.’ No want, no desire, no real enthusiasm. About as much fun as hitting a treadmill in a white, windowless room with a TV playing the same episode of a show as the previous 20 times you walked on it. I haven’t felt capable of getting off that treadmill though. My hip uncomfortable or me being uncertain if Loke might have a seizure or problems with his feet because of the angry skin between his toes.

So, the Gamla Uppsala/Vaksala Loop of old was a good test. The shortest of my loops when 10-15 mile rides were short and not a challenge. The days where rides on what is now the River Loop weren’t even worth pulling on my cycle shoes, let alone wrestling on full winter gear.

But you know what? We nailed that loop! Okay, so we were out for almost 4 hours to do 10.2. 30 minutes of that was hanging out at Starbucks for hot chocolate as the women working there took turns to come out and chat while loving on Loke. It was still incredibly freeing.

And Loke. Oh, Loke. He channeled his younger self at times on that run, even more than he had coming down the hill between Gamla Uppsala and the old railbed. It’s obvious he remembers those early years of his fiery youth when this was one of this favorite loops to run. There’s one stretch with a series of little hills that I call ‘the roller coaster’ stretch. Loke used to take it at full tilt, hitting over 20 mph on that first hill and pulling like a freight train on full throttle to keep the speed up the next incline to go speeding down the other side. I smile remembering those times, the joyous husky, wind in my hair, laughing gleefully.

Well, he did that same thing this time. The top speed was only 12 mph and we slowed to about 5 mph on the climbs, but his spirit and joy was the same.

My enjoyment was a bit more muted as one section of that jaunt has been butchered. It used to be lined with thick marches of trees to either side and a gorgeous traditional Swedish country style wood rail fence that caught snow so beautifully in the winters. So green and cool in the summers. Well, it’s been knocked flat on both side and just obliterated and scarred. Turned ugly all in the name of progress I’m sure.

Even with that ruined section of landscape and the fact that the rest of it is a loop I’ve ridden dozens of times over the years, it wasn’t the River Loop. And there was the snow. The lovely, fluffy, drifting snow.

I had a nervous moment just beyond the roller coaster stretch. We were coming down the final hill, a long gentle drop that goes by a stable area. I’ve never had any trouble with the horses there, so thought nothing of it as I let Loke stretch his legs again.

Then there was a thunder of hooves. Startled, I looked to see a group of about 6 horses galloping through the snow over the flank of a small hill in their pasture, covered with rocks and birch trees. They were racing along the fence-line in a mad charge for the far end of the pasture away from us. Running horses are poetry in motion. Add snow, hills and birch trees, it borders on magical, when it doesn’t send me into a panic.

I swore and stopped as they bunched up and milled at the far corner of the fence. I still feel horrible about that time I spooked one horse so badly she charged through an electric fence and led the rest of her companions galloping across open fields toward the roar of a distant highway. I really didn’t want a repeat of that incident.

It’s the first time I’ve seen so many horses in that particular pasture. Generally there’ve been only 2 or 3 at most. Two of them had always been curious and quickly became used to us. It appears they’re not kept there any more though.

20 minutes to inch over 200 yards. I called out to them, trying to calm them down and get them curious instead of frightened. I think if there’d been fewer of them, it would have worked, but with 6 or so, a few would start to settle, then another would set them off and they’d get wound up again. Settle, then still another would spook… round and round. They wouldn’t have twitched even an ear at someone walking by with a dog or someone on a bike with or without a dog. But my freaky looking trike with Loke can be a bit much for some horses.

I had to settle for moving a few yards and then talking at them until they started to calm again.

Shortly beyond that was the boring stretch by the busy road. It was still snowing as I crept up the hill, approaching the mall and Vaksala church.

By the time I reached the mall and Starbucks, it had stopped snowing. The hot chocolate was so very welcome.

As I left the mall, riding along the paths through the 4H pastures, an old man with trekking poles called out a greeting. I stopped to chat as he asked about the trike some and mentioned how calm Loke was for a husky. He was especially impressed when I told him it was because Loke was almost 13 years old. He was shocked when the answer to ‘How far will you have gone when you’re done’ was 17 or so kilometers. The idea of an old dog running so far was boggling to him. He also seemed impressed again when he warned me of ice on the path and I said I had studded tires. ‘They make those for bikes?!’

It was a nice meeting.

We made it back to the storage with 10.2 miles. Loke was quite disappointed as I put the trike away and we waited for Jens to come get us. He paced around and tried to bully me to keep going.

It was a good ride. I enjoyed it, even with almost drowning on snow. Best of all, Loke was the most settled he’d been in over a month! Apparently 10 miles was the magic distance. 6 miles too little. 10 miles, just right. It might have taken hours and hours, but I can definitely think of worse ways to spend the day. Like inching along the River Loop, dragging a husky who’s determined to smell every inch to the last molecule.

In hindsight, I was even a bit careless on the ride. Going down some of those hills, I acted as if I were wearing my SPDs and clipped in. That could have ended badly. I need to watch that and keep my feet properly braced when getting some speed.

I felt the ride in my legs on Saturday. So, I took a break.

I had a revelation on that day though. Coming back from grocery shopping, I took a back way home, which coincidentally is one of my old cycle loops. 13-14 mile range if I remember correctly. For over 2 weeks now, we had been having something like proper winter weather. The snow had been around for a good while and while we had started to enter short periods of above freezing, the snow was still lingering in a gentle thaw, with the occasional covering of a fresh layer. Typical, proper behavior for the subtle shift between winter and spring. None of this crap with 2 feet of snow gone in 3 hours when getting hit with torrential rain and 45 F temps in January.

It’s been years since we’ve had snow stick around so long. YEARS. These past 2+ weeks have been something like the winters from when I first came here when it would arrive in November and disappear sometime after March. Those are the winters I miss and this reminder has been so very nice.

Sunday, February 18th, I didn’t ride again. I’m not sure why. The day just kinda slipped by. About 2 pm, I decided to still get out and enjoy the winter, but by taking a walk out at Wiks with Loke.

It didn’t happen. We were walking out toward the car and Loke pulled out the leash to go mark the bushes. He trots everywhere with his tail raised like a banner. Well, as he walked away, something didn’t look right about the uglier part of a husky (or any dog). I took a quick, closer look and saw blood. Not a lot of it, but since Loke has had a tumor there that ruptured back in October 2015, turning our apartment and car into a scene reminiscent of a slasher horror movie, I wasn’t going to play any ‘wait and see’.

I put him in the car and drove directly to ‘our’ vet clinic. Fortunately, it was quiet there so they were able to see him right away. Well, kinda. It was a new vet there, so she took some time to look over Loke’s chart. She was a bit dazed by the length of it to be honest.

Well, she took a look at the fuzzy and asked, ‘How long has he had this swelling?’ I responded by asking, ‘What swelling?’

I felt like such a horrible doggie mom when she showed me. I just don’t spend that much time looking at Loke’s exposed rump parts when he jogs along. I tend to prefer to look at other things than that part of my dog. It’s kinda like looking at road kill. Just don’t wanna do it.

So, I cuddled Loke while she lanced and aspirated to send samples to the lab. Hopefully we’ll have the results this week. I just need to keep an eye on on it (yay) and make sure it doesn’t get bigger or look somehow worse.

Poor Jens. Hearing me say, “I’m taking Loke to Wiks”, only to get a phone call 15 minutes later with, “We’re at the vet.”

So, a really good day cycling off the River Loop balanced with an unexpected trip to the vet. Yeah. Murphy just has a blast with us Montgomery-s.



Every Now And Again –
January 30, 2018, 6:56 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Well, I’m not exactly tearing up the roads, but I am getting out every now and again. 4 rides for the month so far for a whopping total of 13.48 miles. So, 3 rides since my last post. Might get out again today.

Loke has had some improvements and a setback since the last post.

After my first ride in 2018, the weather did that thing again where it got silly warm (for Swedish January), bringing rain with it. Naturally, the snow we had was washed away and not by the manageable soft misty drizzle. Nope. Full on rain that would have punched right through the wool to let cold water trickle over skin.

Then it happened! WINTER!! Properly cold temps for Sweden, though ironically southern Mississippi colder still, and an honest to goodness snowfall! I was gleeful! Never mind the snow came with gale force winds, so it left some places practically snow free while piling up in other places. It was _snow_ and the forecast said it was going to be cold enough for it to stick around for days. Not hours or a day at most.

Part of me really wanted to get out and ride in it straight away, insane blasting winds or not. One thing kept me from doing just that. Loke.

Every year for the past few, between the months of December and February, the skin infection breaks out between Loke’s toes. With the crazy resistance to antibiotics, bordering on becoming a super-bug, it needs careful handling in a desperate attempt to avoid said antibiotics. It seemed each time he went out into the snow, the infection became worse. So, I had to keep his outings short, which meant, no riding with him. Unfortunately, he’s been so crazy full of energy and excitement with the appearance of a proper Swedish winter, that there was no way I could go out without him unless I wanted to come back home to a lynch mob outside the door with a howling husky in the apartment.

So, we stuck with walkies. Not even proper ‘get out and enjoy the snow’ walkies, but short things to get Loke out to do his business.

The hard work looked as if it was paying off and Loke’s skin started to look better, so on January 19th I decided to head out for a ride especially with Jens home if something went wrong.

It was kinda cloudy as I started the arduous task of pulling on the layers needed for sub-20’s F. It was complicated by this big white furball that kept getting in my way no matter which direction I turned. My poor Jens had to freeze a bit as I threw open the balcony door while pulling on the layers so I didn’t keel over from heat-stroke before getting out the door.

I was amazed when we stepped out to see bits of blue in between puffs of clouds. As we rolled out from the apartment, it was obvious the skies were clearing! Snow AND sun?! It made my hamster track almost magical! Loke was absolutely crazed with glee, his elderly self dragging at the trike as best he could, tongue flopping in a happy husky grin. The skies were almost flawlessly clear before we even finished the first half mile.

It wasn’t a long ride. Just 2.33 miles. The shortest of my ‘loops’ really. I was stressing about Loke’s paw and a bit worried he might have another seizure since he’d had one the previous night. I’ve lost SO much fitness and gained weight while fighting this cold and the weather which makes riding harder, combined with the chunky studded tires and the tense effort of keeping my feet on the platform pedals.

In spite of that laundry list of ‘ugh’, it did feel good to get out and ride. The sunshine, the tracks of hares and squirrels in the snow. The wondrous transformation of the humdrum landscape of my hamster tracks. Loke was the most settled he’d been in days and the feet didn’t look any worse for the wear! Whew. A win all around.

Even with such a short ride, I was happy with it and planned to start riding more often.

Nope! Multiple wrenches went into the works of those plans. First was the weather. The forecast for our below freezing (and lingering snow) days took an abrupt change. A pleasant one if you can believe it!

First, another load of snow came through. 33 F and 4 inches dropped and was amazingly fluffy instead of wet at those temperatures. With the clouds holding back the sun, it didn’t have a chance to melt and overnight, it got cold. Seriously cold. Instead of temps in the mid-upper 20’s F in the forecast, we had a true Arctic blast come through. I’m talking single-digits-during-the-day cold. The altered forecast claimed that it was going to stay cold for about a week. A taste of real winter like those first 4 or so when I made Sweden my new home.

The icing on that snowy cake? Every morning, a freezing fog would creep through, adding layers and layers of delicate hoarfrost to every bare tree limb. Even the edges of random things. With the air so still, that frosting was never shaken loose so it kept layering up.

I wasn’t even going to attempt riding in those conditions. My rides are so short it would have taken me longer to pull on the necessary layers. Ridiculous. 4 layers for 3 miles?

Still, Loke’s feet were looking better so I whimsically decided to go out and enjoy it. Walking requires far less layers than riding the trike, so I dressed as I would to ride in 30 F and stepped out into 10 F weather. We hopped into the car for a quick trip to Wiks castle.

Freezing fog on the way to Wiks.

As pretty as the frost and snow were around the neighborhood, it was unparalleled to what awaited out in the countryside to the west. Firstly, the fog in town tended to disappear about an hour after sunrise. About 5 miles out, the fog still lingered in patches, drifting across the snowy fields and threading through the wooded patches.

Wow. Just… wow.

Snowy, frosty, delight!

I was kicking myself for not bringing my Canon, but I knew walking with Loke and juggling the phone camera was going to be enough of a nightmare. Trying to manage the big camera with him hyper and excited to be away from home? A broken camera waiting to happen.

I took the drive easy once we were on the smaller roads. I wanted to enjoy the scenery. I even pulled over to let cars coming up behind us pass rather than deal with them crawling up the tailpipe and trying to push us.

I know I generally try to post rides and Loke updates, but this is not the first time I’ve shared something spectacular that had even less to do with cycling than Wiks draped in the magical cloak of winter. I have ridden here a number of times after all.

I wasn’t sure how much of the walk I was going to be able to pull off. Much to my surprise, even in 5 F temps, I did the 1.6 mile loop and didn’t feel too bad. Color me shocked. Loke was the crazed 4 year old husky who kited around at the end of his leash I had completely expected.

The drive back to the apartment left me with a heavy disappointment. There was a little nature reserve Loke and I discovered on a ride around Hammarskog manor years ago. Just a pond of a few acres with a bit of land surrounding it. Old trees, gorgeous mossy rocks, and a reedy little plot of water where ducks and other birds who need pools or rivers would gather. Many a happy summer day we spent there with Jens and sometimes his family, grilling and enjoying the peace and wildlife.

It was horribly transformed. The parking area had been doubled in size and there were cars crammed along the narrow little road making it hazardous. That tiny nature reserve had over 150 people packed into it. The reeds were gone and the pond had been dredged to make a big circular ring around the central area, all of which had been plowed clear of snow. It had been turned into an outdoor skating rink! Just broke my heart to see a place of such beauty and fond memories degraded and ruined for the nature that is there. There are plenty of lakes and man-made rinks that they really didn’t need to wreck the pond.

The photo I used to frame the title of the blog was actually taken at that nature reserve.

The next day after that outing, came the setback to Loke’s feet. Instead of plodding around the local streets for his walkies, I took him to Gamla Uppsala.

It turned into a wrestling match of epic proportions. In a spot where one would never expect a chunk of bread, Loke found just that. He had his jaws locked tight, tongue working to swallow what he could without letting me get the upper hand to get his mouth open. He tried wriggling away and we wound up on the ground. Anyone seeing us would have thought I was trying to kill him. I managed to get his teeth apart and scooped out as much as I could, but I could feel a few bits slipping down his throat.

The only thing I can figure is someone pitched out big bits of baguettes to feed the birds and a crow or jackdaw had been making off with one of them, only to drop and lose it in the snow.

I was so furious! His feet had been looking almost normal and I knew what this was going to do to them. Another obstacle to riding or long walks with him which would make him crazy. Worse, perhaps even a hospital visit if it distressed his intestines too much.

Apparently, I got enough of it away from him that the impact to his gut was minimal. Just a bit of upset. The next day, his feet looked like raw meat again though. I had reduced the number of treatments to his foot from 3 times a day to 1. We went back to 3 times.

The gorgeous weather broke on the night of the 24th, heading back to above freezing temps and dropped another 4-6 inches of snow. Sometime after about 2 am, snow became rain and all that white stuff just disappeared within hours of it coming down, taking the previous snow with it.

Thanks to the warmer temps and some slight improvement in Loke’s foot, I decided to take him for a trike run the next morning. Most of it was out of pity for the fact he was bouncing off the walls. I hoped that the fact much of the snow was already gone and that it wasn’t so cold would be more tolerable to his feet.

It was 45 F when Jens dropped us off for a short 3 mile jaunt in the cloudy, windy, pre-dawn. I didn’t dare risk more. It would gut me if I did that and found it had turned Loke’s paws into raw meat.

The improvement to his feet remained minimal, so I made an appointment with the vet. Part of me wondered if I should have been making an appointment with the dermatology clinic in Stockholm, but it can take months.

Then Facebook actually did me a favor. It reminded me of the visit with the dermatologist last year and her diagnosis that what other vets had called and treated as a simple infection was more subtle and complicated. His main issue was actually a rash or skin irritation like hives which broke the skin barrier and infections were a secondary problem. Deal with the skin irritation while keeping the skin clean and it should clear up.

I had completely forgotten that diagnosis. So, when I saw Franz later that morning, I mentioned that. After a quick look, he decided it was probably the same exact thing as the dermatologist had said in January 2017. He gave me some topical cortisone to deal with the inflammation and told me to just wash his feet with the antiseptic every other day. You know. It’s working! With less frequent treatments. Amazing what a little cortisone spray can accomplish.

So, thank you Facebook for the, ‘On this Day – X years ago’ function! Maybe, if Loke is still with us, it will remind me of this in January 2019 if the pattern of outbreak continues. It’s probably hazel pollen that caused the initial outbreak at the beginning of January. Thanks to the freakishly warm weather the hazel bushes/trees apparently began blooming on January 5th, same as the last few years. The bread incident just set it back.

*sigh* I have a dog allergic to HAZEL pollen and live in Sweden. Admittedly, he’s allergic to a lot more than that, but still.

The next ride was on January 29th, and Weather Word for that day – Miserable.

 

Frost Wiks walk and a slushy Wiks Walk. Just a few days difference.

All the walking I’d been doing of late, my body at last told me in no uncertain terms that I needed a break. Especially after the walk with Jens which about broke me down completely. Here I’d been feeling pretty proud about my Wiks walks and then I about dropped into a puddle of slush on one.

It was almost balmy, mid 30’s yesterday. Misty drizzle giving a haze to the neighborhood. So very dark though. Even as it came up on lunch, it still had an almost twilight murk. After I had lunch, I gave up on the hope it would get brighter and started dressing for mid-20’s F. “At least it’s not raining,” I told myself. Loke was a bit excited as I clipped the leash and stepped out –

Only to find myself in a bizarre deluge of big clumps of slush. It looked a lot like snow flakes, but they fell like anvils and landed with soggy ‘splats’. Now I can deal with snow. A light misty drizzle, I can handle. Splatting slush? I was a breath away from turning back inside. Only Loke’s pitiful eyes and hopeful tail wag pushed me out.

I had plenty of wool on my top, but my legs were woefully under layered for that level of wet. Still, I humored the elderly husky and got ready to roll out. Thankfully the slushfall only lasted about 5 minutes. Just enough to get me shivering with cold legs. Most of the rest of the ride was precipitation free or spates of the misty drizzle I don’t mind. The 33 F ambient temp dropped to a windchill between 27.5 and 28.5. I didn’t really even need gloves for it, oddly.

Had a bit of a spook with a highly aggressive Irish Setter. His owner, a wisp of a woman in her 60’s almost lost her footing and went down which would have been a disaster. The dog was almost too much for her to control.

I briefly toyed with the idea of adding the out-n-back along the northern stretch of the river, but the cold and just the ‘meh’ of pushing on in such dreariness on a hamster track sapped any motivation. I found it rather fitting as I rode back toward home, that even the ducks looked miserable at the river side by the wet, gray weather.

Loke seemed happy though with a tad under 4 miles. I like keeping the old guy happy as I can.

So, that’s everything caught up. I’ll probably ride again today as it snowed overnight. It’s too warm to stick for long, but maybe I can still get a few miles in it. Even a soggy dusting of snow brightens the landscape!



The Cold That Wouldn’t Die
January 14, 2018, 6:29 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The plans of mice and men. I seem to throw that phrase out quite a bit it feels.

So, after my 6 mile ride on December 18th, I held on to my glorious plans of getting enough miles to bump 2017 from ‘Worst Mileage Year’ to ‘Second Worst Mileage Year’ at least. Just needed 15 miles or so for that. I could do that in 12 days. Surely. Right?

Oh, how the world conspired against me. First of course was the weather. It either hit bitterly cold while I had tasks and chores to do or it was warm enough to rain and not the tolerable misty sort. I watched the days ticked down, convinced I’d get a break. I remained fairly optimistic when Jens called to cheerfully say that he’d done it! He had apparently escaped Las Vegas without a cold and would be home on schedule.

Then came the frenzy of activity once he was back with matinee movies and lunch with his parents, both of which meant I didn’t have time to squeeze in extra miles. As we were at the mall with the movie theater, Jens complained about his throat hurting just 16 hours or so after his flight had touched down. Roughly 24 hours after he spoke those ill-fated words, my throat started to hurt as we were having lunch with his parents.

I went through the phase of where the throat feels as if a ball of needles had gotten stuck and coated with battery acid. Then the sneezing with sinus aches. Then the coughing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cold with such horrible, unrelenting, debilitating coughs. Railroad spikes through my skull. Fits of it left me curled into miserable little balls, gasping and whimpering. A few times, I honestly wondered if I was going to cough my way into another stroke.

Jens was pretty miserable with the cold too, but he didn’t have the brutal cough I did. He was very sweet and took care of me and even all the walkies with Loke right through his own illness. The days kept marching on as days will and the cough lingered and lingered. I’ve been known to ride even with a hacking cold, but the fever that kept popping up stopped any ideas of me doing that. Well, that and the image of me having one of the bad fits that felt like my head was going to implode or explode, forcing me to curl up on the ground beside my trike. A week.. and still I coughed.

The vague hope that I could finish 2017 with a ride, even if it would still leave me 15 miles short, and start 2018 with another, was crushed as the cough went on and on.

Finally, I started to feel a bit better and we had a brutal cold snap. Almost a week of temps in the low teens during the day and single digits at night. Every time I went out in it, the cough, manageable in warm rooms, wracked me every time I went out in the bitter chill and took a few breaths of that frigid, dry air. Sad really and not just because it kept me from rolling, but because it kept me from doing anything except the absolute shortest walks with Loke on the absolutely most GORGEOUS days we’ve had in MONTHS.

This is just right outside the apartment. Birches and blue sky.

The mornings during those days of Arctic temps would start off with sub-freezing fog before the sunrise. Then it would blow away to flawless blue skies and every single limb of the winter-bare trees were sheathed in gleaming, pure white ice.  Those trees, made so beautiful by pre-dawn freezing mist, completely made up for the utter lack of snow. I itched to drive out of Wiks castle with Loke and my camera to take pictures of it in all its glory. But, no. The cough.

Then the weather made a bounce back to the warmer range, hovering right at the threshhold of freezing and thawing. We even had a bit of snow. The beauty of the frosted trees actually survived it for a bit, even made more stunning when soft, light snow fell and was snared by the delicate ice crystals. It added ‘lift’ to the amount of white on the limbs.

By this time of course, we were over a week into the New Year. With the warmer temps that didn’t trigger coughing, one would think I could get out for a ride and photos, yes? Nope!

We were getting our refrigerator replaced and apartment heaters fixed, which both became scheduled right when I was physically able to go out and enjoy the gift that winter had finally given us. Even with gray skies, the trees and dusting of snow were so very lovely. Yet, I remained penned up for 3 days, waiting for repair and delivery men.

I kept an eye on the forecast during this ridiculous taunting of fate. It promised that Saturday, January 13th, though gray, would be hovering right around the freezing mark but no rain. Saturday, there would be no deliveries or repairs to wait on.

The weather was just as promised. About 33 F and gray skies like flat, un-reflective lead. After getting Starbucks for the hubby, I came home and started getting ready to ride. It took a while. During the time I was sick, I managed to wash laundry, but not fold it. Clothes are scattered in disarray all over the place, hiding the location of my heavy woolens. I’ve been putting a dent in it, but not enough to find my snuggly layers. After wandering and searching through the various nooks and crannies, I gave up and resorted to… *shudder* cotton. Track pants over my mid-weight (and easy-to-spot bright pink) thermals, a zipper hoodie and a oversized sloppy sweater. I knew if it rained I’d instantly turn into a block of ice with cotton, but I was hoping the forecast was right.

Loke seemed incredulous as I made the final preparations. Phone, check. Garmin, check. Harnessed husky, check.

I felt I was taking a risk on bringing Loke for a run. Back on the 11th, I heard a noise and my heart dropped into my feet. Licking. Loke was licking and before I even looked, I was certain he was licking a foot. He’s been naughty and gotten into a few things he shouldn’t. The most common symptom of his allergies the past few years has actually been intestinal upset rather than skin infections. Well, not this time. I’ve been treating it and it looked like it was working. The skin didn’t look too bad, so I decided to bring him with me. He probably would have chewed through the walls if I tried to leave him at home any way. Poor puppy has been fed up with walkies.

So, out the door we went. While I was relieved to finally be going for the first ride of 2018, it wasn’t without trepidation. I was pretty sure it was going to be a pitiful 2 miles and something I’d struggle over every inch of. So much fitness lost and such.

Loke was raring to go and we rolled out. Much to my surprise, as the first mile rolled away, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as anticipated. I expected to cough quite a bit brought on by the chill air and deeper breaths from the exercise, but no. I actually felt pretty good. We rolled off along the ‘back’ way to come through the wooded patch of the frisbee golf course. Came up to the steep hill on that path with it’s ice and gravel and cranked up it just fine.

My furball was so happy. He tried to run as much as possible.

I did notice one thing though, which I’ve been seeing signs of in other areas of his life. Loke wasn’t as strong as he used to be. Energy? God yes. Buckets of it. Stamina? Oh, yes. Strength? Not so much any more.

I still kept the ride short, not wanting to overdo it and set myself back into a worse state of the cold. It was 4 miles which was still 1 or 2 miles more than I thought it would be. With the last half mile, I really felt the ride in my legs and was actually panting some as I came in, having pushed a bit. It didn’t feel like suffering though. It felt like, exercising toward improvement.

Loke just paced around and harassed Jens. 4 miles? Pfft. Not even a scratch in the surface of his energy.

I immediately treated Loke’s foot again. It didn’t look any worse for wear, so still seemed on the road for improvement. Of course, later in the evening, Jens and I were watching the original Predator. Gun fire and grenade launchers banging through the apartment as Loke was laying in his bed in bedroom, completely out of sight. I suddenly sat up. Jens gave me a baffled look as I flung myself out of the chair, “What’s wrong?”

“Loke’s licking his foot.”

Of course, my hubby looked dubious. Surely I couldn’t have heard the soft, sneaky sounds of our husky licking his foot during a firefight scene from Predator on our surround sound. Somehow, that’s exactly what I did. I slapped more antiseptic on his foot and then taped a sock over it.

This infection really worries me. The last time Loke needed antibiotics, it was some rare, hard to find kind because the bacteria has become resistant to the more common sorts. It’s sort of the ‘last resort’ antibiotics. If we can’t beat this with topical washes and antiseptics, there’s no telling if antibiotics will even work again. That scares me. I’ve often thought it was going to be a race between what would take Loke first. Old age or a super-bug eating his feet to the bone. My bets were leaning toward the super-bug. There have been times I wasn’t even sure if he was going to make it to 12 years old.

I’ve actually been feeling guilty about Loke the past 8-10 months or so. He was doing good back in 2016 when we had our best mileage ever with the trike. He was fit. He was strong. Enter 2017 when my hip finally yanked the frequency of my cycling to almost a standstill. Then there was Lyme Disease and problems with my feet. Days and sometimes weeks would pass without rides and when they did come, they weren’t 8, 10, 20, 30 miles. They were 2 miles. Or 5 miles. Through it all, he’s lost muscle and strength, something which seems to have drastically accelerated since Christmas. Maybe. Just maybe, if I’d cycled more, he’d still be strong as well as energetic and with unstoppable stamina.

I know a lot of my not-cycling last year couldn’t be helped, but it still doesn’t stop me from feeling hard on myself about it for Loke’s sake. Now, he’s older and with his allergy issues, it’s harder for him to bounce back. Hard to get muscle back on him. Just… hard.

Hey! I managed to get him to officially be an ‘old man’. That’s something I wasn’t sure would happen if you’d asked me about it when he was 8 years old.



A Pitiful Year
December 20, 2017, 10:15 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Title says it all. Of course, by sheer, unadulterated luck it’s not going to be my worst year ever. I had my doubts for a bit until I actually looked at previous years on BikeJournal.com. I have 10 days to get another 15 miles or so and I’ll make sure it happens. That way, 2016 will be only the second worst year for documented miles. If I’m feeling really froggy, I could try pushing out another 30 or so and it would be only the 3rd worst, but not sure if I’ve got that much oomph in me.

End of November and beginning of December was very wonky. First was the weather of course. It was hovering above freezing, but raining. So. Much. Rain. We did have one spell of nice weather, but I wound up too sick to take advantage of it. Something bizarre.

The symptoms had crept up on me unnoticed. Or, rather I noticed them but attributed them to other things. I was so very cold. Just felt like I couldn’t get warm for anything. Near constant shivering and bundled up. I didn’t think anything of it beyond annoyance as I’ve been more sensitive to cold and the chills hit during a cold snap. My feet also got a bit puffy, fitting tight in my shoes. I’ve had that happen before though so just counted it toward water retention.

So, on the last day of November, or perhaps the first day of December, the shivering started full on. Not just a deep chill, but actual body shuddering and teeth chattering. I felt abruptly dizzy and sick at the same time. Could hardly move. About lunch time, I took my temp and it was about 101. I took something to help push it back down, but it just kept climbing. It reached 103.8 even when I spent almost 20 minutes sitting under the stream of a cool shower. Took another dose of anti-fever tablets and it broke just about the time I was getting ready to go to the hospital before my brain cooked.

The next day? Felt fine. Good appetite, and energy with clear wits and no more chills. My shoes even fit like they should again. Naturally, the day of the fever it was absolutely beautiful out. The next day? Back to cold, barely-above-freezing rain. Not the light, blowing misty kind of precipitation either, but the ‘get wet to the skin’ kind of rain that would have had my woolens drenched before I’d even gone a mile.

Look! Snow! Well… kinda.

I was about going bonkers when the weather finally gave us another break. It got colder and stopped raining both. There was a tiny bit of an overlap, so we had some dusting of snow in places where the trees didn’t completely shelter the grass. So, out I went.

Loke was raring to go. No matter which way I turned, there was this bright-eyed, eager husky in my way.

It was just a short ride of 3 miles. It was a hard one too as I’d not yet gotten accustomed to the chunky studded tires and much of my fitness levels had tanked.

The furball did his best to speed us up though, which made me a bit nervous. Not only had Bobby done the tire swap for me, but he also did the pedals. While my feet were snuggly warm in my studded Icebug boots on the studded platform pedals, it’s not secure at all. I kept our speed down so that if a foot slipped, the damage from foot-suck would be minimized. There is yet a solution that spares tootsies from frostbite and secures against foot-suck.

The Garmin declared it to be 25 F with windchill. Everything else that doesn’t account for windchill said it was 33 F. Loke was disappointed with such a short run. Of course, the way he was acting, he probably would have been harassing Jens for long walkies after a 30 miler.

My next ride was on the 5th, which made it the closest together I’ve done two rides in ages. I would have ridden on December 4th, but it didn’t work out with errands and such. The 5th was an absolute ‘MUST DO’ though. Jens was trapped for a long day at work for end of quarter stuff, but we had dinner out with the family. It was the 50th wedding anniversary of Jens’ parents, so we took everyone out to our favorite restaurant.

Since Jens needed the car that meant a drop off at the garage to ride the trike for some exercise with the fuzzy one in hopes he would do something (else) uncharacteristic- like gobble down a bunch of  loose weight, mixed ‘nature goodies’.

Yeah, Loke decided to do something he’s never really done before and went after a bowl on the table that had some snacks decoratively set out. There were raw cashews, smoked almonds, and dried coconut along with more cashews covered in milk chocolate and cranberries in dark chocolate. Guess what he ate? Yep! Every scrap of chocolate-anything while scattering the non-chocolate stuff all over the livingroom floor while I was gone. What a fun 2 hours that was, rushing to the animal hospital so he could be induced to regurgitate all that. I swear, he’s been acting like an ill-mannered puppy the past few months.

So, I glanced at the window thermometer to estimate what I’d need to wear and shivered. 23 F in the sheltered side of the building, next to the wall which is radiating heat from inside. I started dragging on the layers until I felt like Maggie Simpson in her snow suit.

Moonlight! Feels right!

Loke seemed fairly ‘meh’ about the outing, a sentiment I shared, but once out of the car and walking down to the garage door, I perked up about it. Mostly because the big, full moon was gleaming through the trees. I just love moonlight.

After the trike was up at the top of the ramp and I managed to get the lights and all on it, the furry one seemed more interested. I settled in and off we went. For the first 100 yards or so, going slowly through the park, I kept craning my neck to look over my shoulder at the moon. I did spare a little attention to admire the way the lights glittered off the frosted grass, as if it had been sprinkled with diamond dust.

As we cleared the park and picked up a little bit of speed, I found myself humming Cat Steven’s ‘Moonshadow’ while admiring our celestial company. Whimsically, I decided that all my photos would have the moon in it.

Big moon above a frosted hill

From time to time, I did take my eyes off the moon and the frosted landscape to glance at my Garmin. The temp, of course, always reads quite a bit warmer at the start of a ride, so I watched the numbers dropped. It hit 23 F as indicated by our window thermometer, and it kept going. 22.4 F. 20.9 F. 19.6 F. Finally, it kind of levelled off around 17.2.

About halfway through the 3.33 miles, it was clear I should have done more for my feet. The tips of my toes were feeling a bit uncomfortable. The electric socks would have been nice, but eluded my hurried search so I had hoped they wouldn’t be needed.

No more moon, but still have trike and husky!

I also had a bit of a scare about the time the clouds kidnapped my lunar companion. We were transitioning from a tiny residential street onto the cycle paths which involves a bit of a bump. I hit it and my left foot slipped. It didn’t hit the ground, but instead oddly my leg got crunched between the pedal and the crossbar. I gave quite a yelp, but from scare factor more than pain. It was enough to startle Loke who then gave me an offended look. I REALLY need to figure something out.

Cold sunrise ride.

Since the evil clouds had snatched the moon from my sight, I turned my attention to the southeast in stead. There, sun was making use of the clouds by painting a pretty dawning, so I focused on snapping bunches of pictures of that. It also started to warm up. By time we got home, it was a balmy 22.3 F!

I didn’t get out to ride again though, so Loke had to deal with walkies for the rest of the day. I half expected to come home and find he’d eaten the couch or all of Jens’ shoes. Nope, he was apparently well behaved.

Remarkably, my next ride was on the 7th. I would have gone on the 6th of December, but just had too much to do with errands and chores. I did get out for a walk at Gamla Uppsala though, mostly for Loke. It was pretty. There was still a moon out and, though the snow wasn’t enough to cover the grass, it had been sheathed in hoarfrost which looked even lovelier than snow. Snow just flattens grass under a heavy blanket. Hoarfrost turns tall grass into gorgeous, feathery plumes.

Everything that needed doing on the 6th just about broke me down. I’ve been having problems with my right arm since early spring. It’s improved after many visits with a PT and even a handy little electrocution machine (TENS). Unexpectedly though, the shoulder of my left arm has exploded into an impressive amount of pain, making dealing with, well, pretty much everything difficult, let alone wrestling multiple layers of rough fabric over each other. So, between hitting the ground running from about 7 am and not stopping until after 7 pm and overusing my arms, yeah. Wasn’t sure I could deal with all the layers.

Another deterrent was the forecast declaring it would warm overnight to about 40 F and be raining from about 3 am onward. Yay. Rather sad when southern Mississippi (my childhood stomping grounds) is predicting snow and we’re getting their weather here in Sweden in December.

When I woke to splashy noises from traffic, there was no surprise. Not until I got up to close the window and saw the snow. Not a lot, but enough to make the pitiful, tooth-pick of a Christmas tree in the back lawn of our apartment building look pretty. Between that and the hubby grumbling at me, I endeavored against my right shoulder to get dressed.

A drizzling mist, a Christmas toothpick, a trike, and a husky.

It took a while, but after about 40 minutes, I was getting the GPS turned on and Loke hitched. The furball was quite interested, I think because of the snow or perhaps the unsatisfying walks of the previous day. Naturally, as I was taking the photo with the Christmas tree, the dusting of snowfall became a misty drizzle of rain. Ah well. At least that kind of rain I can ride in with not much trouble, even at a 27 F windchill.

It looks like REAL snow!

Loke pulled us briskly along as I headed out for the River Loop. The cycle paths that aren’t glorified sidewalks at the edges of streets, but rather on their own to connect different areas, had been ploughed. Not an improvement really when there’s this little snow. The weight of the little tractor plow compresses the snow that it doesn’t push off the pavement into ice. Instead of an inch or two of snow to walk though, you’re left slipping on ice. Yes, much better (sarcasm). Quite glad I had the studs both on tires AND shoes.

The plan to do the full river loop was cut quite short. Instead of 3 to 5 miles, just over 2 thanks to the steadily increasing rain. A misty drizzle slowly dampening the wool that still holds warmth? No problem. A rain heavy enough that it starts running over my skin through the various layers of wool? Nope. I’m done ASAP.

Still, got out for a roll which is better than nothing. AND it was my first snow ride of the season.

And would you know it? I went back out for another ride the very next day, December 8th! Can’t for the life of me recall when I’d last squeezed in 3 rides in 4 days.

Naturally, all that lovely snow we’d had the previous morning was gone. Just a few sad little clumps clinging on at the side of the cycle paths and roads. The afternoon temps of about 40 and good stiff rains had just washed it all away. The forecast for the 8th announced clear skies and sun. Well, if it’s going to be unseasonably warm, better sun than rain!

It was a bit of a lie. While there was no rain at least, the skies were far from clear. Such is the angle of the sun at this time of year that no direct light reaches the ground if there’s anything that even resembles ‘cloud cover’

With the misleading promise of sunshine, I put off riding in hopes of getting some wheel time in that glorious golden light. The last 2 rides started in the pre-dawn (7 am) and finished up just before the sun actually cleared the horizon (8:30 am). I gave up a bit after 10 am and started getting dressed.

Getting ready went much easier than yesterday as my shoulder has improved quite a bit. It also helped that being 40 F instead of 27 F, I didn’t need as much in the way of layers.

I couldn’t quite decide what to ride when I first started out. Loke didn’t seem to have a preference as long as the pace was ‘brisk’. Against my better judgement with the threat of foot-suck, I relented… a little.

I decided to stick somewhat close to home. The last 2 rides have been between 2 or 3 miles as my legs have worn out pretty quick from not just peddling, but working to keep the feet firmly on pedals. I did want a bit more distance though. With my arm keeping my computer time to about 5-10 minutes out of every hour, and my limitations for most other physical activities right now, I’ve been watching waaaaayyyyy too much TV as my shoulder takes time to heal and get right. I’ve blown through most series that hold interest so… I’ve been suffering a bit of cabin fever.

Deciding to get at least another mile or two, I struck off to the east for a short distance onto little residential roads I’ve not touched in months as well as the cycle path that goes through the frisbee golf course. Loke liked that. As I rode through the almost spring-like weather with shrubs budding in confusion and even clouds of gnats for pity sake, I decided I was gong to push it for a full on River Loop with all extensions. It’s been AGES since I’ve done that. Months at least. That would finish up with 6 miles, give or take.

The furball seriously perked up as I turned north to follow the river path. I guess it’s been long enough that it felt ‘fresh’ to him. I didn’t anticipate the wind out there though. Once past the industrial portion of it, it turns to wide open fields on the west bank of the river. Nothing to stop the wind for several hundred yards at least. It wasn’t consistent either. It would be kind of mild and then a howling gust would slam out of no-where, whipping the grass and making Loke put his head down and squint. It only intensified as we turned around to head back.

On the southern end of that portion of the river path, it was a relief to get back into the cover of the trees though they creaked and swayed as the wind made that low, roaring growl through the canopy.

As we came up to the swim hall, we over took a class out for a walk. About 30+ kids in the 10-11 age range, shepherded along by 3 adults. They saw us coming from behind and a ripple of noisy amazement and interest spread as they all moved to the left to let us pass. Such were the calls of ‘Beautiful Dog!’ and ‘neat bike!’ I decided to stop. A few of them asked about Loke and finally one of the boys asked if he could come pet Loke. I said yes. Well, the chaperone missed the part where he’d asked and yelled at him to get away from the dog. ‘You do NOT approach a dog without ASKING!’. I immediately defended the boy. When she asked if I was certain it was okay and I assured her, there was a sudden chorus of ‘Can I pet him too?’

Loke was suddenly swarmed under by about a dozen kids. He responded more warmly than usual which kind of surprised me. He ‘kissed’ faces and wagged his tail. Usually, he just kinda stands in place like a stuffed animal, indifferent to the attention. They were amazed by the fact he was older than all of them. When another of the kids not petting Loke heard me mention he was a Siberian husky, he ran over to give some attention too. Some of them, hearing my accent even showed off their English, one boy calling out ‘Merry Christmas!’ as he ran to catch up with his friends. When the moment was over, the teacher thanked me for my patience and kindness.

I smiled for the rest of the 6.4 mile ride. That was a surprisingly good ride even if on hamster tracks.

I also rode on December 10th, but it was just 2.1 miles of utter hell. Feet hurt, hip hurt, even something about the way I was sitting in the seat made my arm hurt. Just… ugh. Gray, drizzling weather on trails I’ve left ruts in deep enough to rival the Grand Canyon. Just too unpleasant on so many levels that it wasn’t worth suffering for more time/distance. Perhaps if I’d had fresh ground to distract me, I could have gone further, but loaded the trike in the car at this time isn’t really doable.

I didn’t get out for rides for several days. Mostly it was because it just felt like time was so limited. Our ‘days’ are just 6 hours long (5 hours and 55 minutes actually). I’d wake up in the dark and by time some light came around, I had things to do. When I was finished, I would have been heading out to ride about time the sun set which is a bit after 3 pm. Without the moon, I’m just not interested in ‘streetlight rides’. If I’m going to ride in the snowy dark, I would prefer it to be with clear skies, a full moon, and NO streetlights. I’m just dreamer that way. Few things are more enchanting than moonlight and snow painting a world of midnight blue, pewter, and silver. And we had no snow.

And we had full moon during that time, even if it had been clear enough to see the sky. Oh, right and NO SNOW. Mississippi, land of 100 degree summers and historically mild winters where even frost is a rarity, was getting buried under the stuff while we had the winter that should have been theirs.

Then it finally happened! We got snow! Actual, full on, snow fall. About 6 inches of it just dropped on us like a blanket. The day after it came down, we had temps cold enough that it didn’t start melting. Naturally, those were some of the ‘busy’ days I didn’t have a chance to go out. Then for 2 days, it was melting like crazy, the rain helped by temps back in the 40’s again.

December 16th was the first day in a while I’ve had the morning free enough to get out during some daylight. Much to my surprise, there is still quite a bit of snow and not so cold that my legs needed 3 layers, but would be just fine with my mid-weight wool under the tights.

Loke had a bit of bounce and anticipation as I got ready and his fuzzy tail was waving like a cheerful banner as we walked out to the trike. He also threw himself down in the slushy snow over the muddy grass to wallow around.

It was starting to sprinkle as we rolled out, but thankfully, it didn’t last long. We weren’t even 0.10 mile from home before it stopped. The furball had that husky grin going as we rolled along and for once, I seemed to find the sweet spot with feet and pedals right away. The Garmin showed a temp of 29 F, though that’s probably with wind chill. It’s probably closer to 34 F. I was perfectly dressed, Loke eager as we rolled out.

Not a long ride as my legs started to tire from the strain of being sure they don’t bounce off the pedals into the dreaded foot suck. It still was good to get out for the 3.6 miles we rolled. The studded tires were necessary, though there were spots where even they slipped. Loke clearly appreciated the exercise as well and offered a bit of assistance pretty much the whole way. He’s such a good boy.

December 17th was another warm day that was chipping away at the last of those 6 inches we’d managed to get. The forecast promised it was going to get cold and start snowing that night though. However, upon waking on the 18th, there was not a bit of fresh snow to be found. The weather app then shifted to say it would start about noon.

Actually, it started to snow at about 10 am as I was picking up groceries.

So, there it was. Fresh snow falling and temperatures were about 33 F instead of 23 F. I couldn’t help myself. It was an absolute must to go out the door for a short ride at least since I didn’t need to pull on 3 inch thick layers of wool. It was also good that it was that warm because, though I’d found my sock batteries they take a while to charge and weren’t ready.

Loke was all for it, getting underfoot. He’s a smart dog and with 12 years, you’d think he’d have figured out the way to get out the door faster is to NOT sit on my feet or try to crawl into lap while I’m pulling on the layers.

As we marched out to the trike, there wasn’t yet much accumulation though granular snow doesn’t stack up as quick as flakes. As I dragged the trike out, it rolled a little funny. A huge chunk of dirt/mud had frozen to one of the wheels. It was apparently quite a bit colder than I thought. I kicked it off and sat down to pull out the Garmin and settle the rest of the things, when Loke started singing and woofing at me to get a move on. It’s been ages since he’s done that.

The ‘sandy’ snow was starting to come down a bit more seriously as we rolled out. Even though I had dressed a bit on the light side, I decided to do more than the short river loop. Fresh snow? I was going to do the grave mounds!

As I struck out on the main road toward the grave mounds where the new ‘cycle highway’ has been built along side it, I was surprised with how there was absolutely not snow accumulating it. It almost looked as if it were heated. I was curious enough to stop, pull off my glove, and put fingers on the asphalt. While not what I would call _warm_, the surface wasn’t exactly cold either. Cool, maybe a bit chilly, but above freezing to be sure. Loke wasn’t impressed with my experiment. A waste of time that we could have been moving. No scientific curiosity, that one.

The furball had energy and ‘oomph’ enough to boost our speed a bit. What I would allow any way. I kept things on the slow side to reduce the risk of foot suck if one slipped.

We were tediously headed up a bit of an incline by some soccer fields, on the other side of which are the fields beside the Grave Mound path. On the far side of the fields, probably where the rail tracks drop into the new tunnel, was a small bridge and a pedestrian/bike path sign. First I’ve noticed it. It did perk my curiosity, though not enough to change my planned route. Still, marked and noted for another day.

Loke really turned the effort on when we hit the grave mounds proper. I hated to disappoint him, but I had miscalculated something. The condition of the path. I ALWAYS overestimate how much unpaved surfaces melt compared to paved. Where I had expected somewhat slushy gravel starting to build up a layer of snow, it was all rock-hard, brutally rutted ice. Risk of foot suck shot up into the orange threat level.

It wasn’t enough to turn me back though. I just took it easy, jolting us along at walking speed. It gave the furball plenty of time to sniff along the verge. Two spots, I had to get off the trike to push up the short, but steep climbs because the studded tire couldn’t grip enough to get me up, even with Loke’s help. At the tail end of the mound ridge, were some men with weedwhackers. I can’t imagine how sucky that must be, trying to cut several acres of snow covered grass with those. They stopped to watch us roll by.

Mounds and church hazy in the blowing snow

The wind was howling across the fields in places as the snow went from the grainy, almost sand-like stuff to something more ‘flakey’ and a denser fall of it to boot! At times it was going horizontal and I started to feel the cold as the Garmin went from a windchill temp of 29 F to 24 F. My gloves got wet and the wind with poor circulation in my feet meant the toes started to let me know they were getting unhappy. In spite of that, I was loving the ride. In one spot, sheltered by the worst of the wind by trees, I stopped to just ‘be in the moment’. Listening to the snow tick on the Da Brim of my helmet and admire how beautiful it all looked, coming down against the back-drop of deep green conifers.

“It wasn’t enough. Let’s go again!”

The Grave Mound path is about 1 mile or 1.5 mile (you’d think I’d know after all these years), and it took the better part of 40 minutes to make it. Lovely as it had been, I was so glad to reach pavement again. Nice, smooth-under-the-half-inch-of-new-snow, pavement. I was surprised the trike hadn’t shaken loose.

I would have loved to push on along the river loop extension, but hands and feet were unhappy and making the rest of me chilled in spite of wool, not to mention the temp was going to drop with dark less than 20 minutes away. I was happy though as the Garmin ticked over 4 miles for the ride. That meant 400 miles for a year. Pitiful really. Less than 1/4th of last year’s distance.

Finished up the ride with a total of 6.17 miles. Loke seemed content when we first got home. It didn’t last. After about 20 minutes as I attempted to bake away the chill under the electric blanket, there he was. Nudging and woofing at me. Such a bully!

Yesterday (December 19th) was quite cold, enough so the snow we had was able to stick around. Not that it was much around the apartment. It might have been snowing like mad at the mounds, but just a mile away, we didn’t even get a quarter inch at home.

While the distance might bump up a tad, there won’t be any more churches or runestones. So, the year’s count for those is 1 church. Unless I count the one I rode past on October 1st. While I’ve been by that church once before on my trike, it was before I started blogging. So, okay. I’ll call it 2 churches and 2 runestones then. Oh, and 1 burial ground with a bit over 400 miles for the year.

Aayyee. I hope next year is better. Now, I’m off to do my arm exercises to offset the blog typing…

Merry Christmas to one and all if I don’t post again before that.