...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, August 18, 2008

70 kilometers on bike, and scars to show for it

Norrköping is 40 kilometers away from it's neighboring city of Linköping on a straight line. With a commuter train, it takes 26 minutes to travel between cities. By bus, the travel time is 40 minutes. Last Saturday, however, it took us 5 whole hours to get there... by bicycle.

That's my purple bike behind Marcus!

Years ago, it took crazy, athletic Marcus a mere 1 hour 36 minutes to bike from the boundary of Norrköping to a restaurant at the edge of Linköping. He took the old highway (Gamla E4:an) on asphalt roads, pedaling hard all the way and making the most out of his 21 gears. This time however, after getting our hands on a detailed map, we thought we'd avoid the highway and take smaller country roads instead where there weren't so many cars. As an afterthought, we probably should have stuck to the old highway. Our chosen path was not only longer (a total of 70 km – the distance from Manila to Tagaytay or San Fernando), but it was literally the road less traveled apparently, as they didn't even bother to pave the roads. Sometimes these country roads started out as paved but eventually turned into really rocky dirt roads. At one point, we also had to double back and take a detour because the road was closed off so that cows wouldn't escape from a property.

After an hour of biking, we reached the Göta canal, where we had breakfast. The journey here was most comfortable. It was literally and figuratively downhill from then on.

The roads we took weren't flat at all. Whereas the highway might be more or less flat with comfortable ups and downs, these country roads were not meant to drive comfortably on, much less to bike easily on. Sometimes, the hills were so steep that you could really feel your legs stiffen up before you reached the top. It took a lot of effort and willpower just to keep on pedaling against the force of gravity, and If I hadn't been spinning for some years now, I'm sure I wouldn't have managed. The difficulty levels also go up in gravel roads. Climbing up equivalent asphalt hills are easier, but all the small stones on the rough roads really pull you down, and biking there is so much harder and slower. The downhills that awaited us after the hard climbs were also steep, winding, and equally rocky, not to mention that they were sometimes full of potholes. The gravel is slippery and the ride is bumpy and horribly fast. Braking downhill on these shifty gravel roads means that you have got to be ready to slide left or right and quickly regain your balance. At times like these, you could really feel your whole body tense in concentration.

About an hour before we reached Mats and Margareta's house south of Linköping, we climbed really high up on several uphills. As expected, there was a steep downhill that followed, which even by the looks of it, was pretty intimidating. When I tried to avoid a ditch (an extra obstacle, if there weren't enough), I slipped, regained balance on the bike, but slipped again just after I had just regained it – all in quite fast downhill speed. I just had time to say "Fuuuck!" in midair before landing hard on the ground.

Am I so glad to have had my helmet on! Marcus, who was speeding downhill faster than he could hear my mid-air cursing, had no idea yet that I had crashed. After getting up – I had shorts on so my whole left leg was covered in dirt – I tried to shout for him but he was too far ahead, slowly picked up the bike basket and its contents, and well, just continued biking downhill to catch up with him. He stopped and waited by the next hill when he realized I was far behind, and rolling down to meet him, I quickly passed my tongue over my teeth to check if they were all complete. And I spat out some small pebbles from inside my mouth.

Wow, when we looked at what happened to me. My sweater got a a hole from all those gravel things I landed on. I also have a deepish elbow scar which we patched up with plaster after a quick clean-up with wet tissues. I think it will heal as an ugly scar, but things might have been worse if not for the sweater I was wearing.

My left calf is also covered with scratches, and I have a bruise on my leg. My head and face are okay though, thanks to the helmet. I also had gloves on, which probably saved my hands and fingers too.

Of course we took these pictures after arriving at our destination. Didn't really feel for much picture-taking right after the crash.

And after taking care of my wounds, I was in shape again to bike for an hour. I got over the short trauma of gravel-road downhills when we had to do it twice again. No further accidents occurred. It also started to rain, so I also had to get over the short trauma of slipping when breaking. I still think that it's amazing that I dared.

After the weekend at Mats and Margareta, the bikes were driven back to Norrköping so we didn't have to do the whole tour all over again. I wouldn't mind biking there again one day though, but when that time comes I think we'll really stick to the old highway.


Anonymous Esther Garvi said...

Oh you poor thing! Hope you get better soon!

9:02 PM

Blogger Petri said...

Ow! That looks painful. Scars are cool though :)

Still, a nice little trip. You guys are so active!

1:31 AM

Anonymous aaron said...

hi joy!! i love those scars! hehe
would love to bike on the trail you just mentioned.. =)

9:09 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi everyone!

Esther: I know, don't the scars look painful but cool? Haha :-) I can bend my elbow some now, which is good. But I don't dare remove the plasters yet.

Petri: a nice little trip? :-) Kidding!

Aaron: Yeah, I remembered the pictures of your bike tour when you had to carry your bikes across a narrow bridge! I think your trails are much tougher. And I don't even have a mountain bike!

9:24 AM


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