5724 km so far.
I woke up on the ground. My sleeping mat had become completely deflated through the night, so instead of a comfy air mattress, my body was digging into the roots and pinecones of the forest floor beneath us. Both of our air mattresses have been sprouting random leaks for months now, and though we’ve been diligently patching them and taking good care of them, they seem to get a new hole every day.
They are the Big Agnes Q-Core mattresses, which we bought because they were supposed to be the most comfortable and the least prone to failure. They are amazingly comfortable when they’re working, but the durability could use some work. The company is sending us replacement mattresses to Berlin, no questions asked, so hopefully they’ve fixed this particular problem.
Meanwhile, we are suffering a little from uncomfortable and sometimes cold sleeps.
Walking It Off
Our lakeside breakfast and coffee was followed by a slow pack up of camp. We find that when we have a short distance planned (today was 60 km) we are especially slow at getting our act together. So instead of taking advantage of the extra time to see the sights, or ride a bit more slowly, or work a little longer, we waste the time packing up camp.
This inefficiency is particularly frustrating to me. I’m still working on trying to chill out.
As we were riding away from our campsite, we met a group of morning walkers out with their Nordic walking sticks. Six or seven women and one man, all retirees, stopped for a chat about our trip. We love talking with Swedes about what we’re doing, because instead of the usual “Are you crazy?” reaction, they just say “Oh, that sounds like fun!”. They are an adventurous and physically fit nation, so our trip is easily comprehensible to them.
This group of walkers meets every morning in varying beautiful locations to get out, get their exercise, and go for coffee (and cake, I hope) afterwards. They persist through any kind of weather, right through the winter months, which I think is especially impressive. We wanted to tell them about the mall walking groups in America, but thought they probably wouldn’t believe us.
Hush Little Children
We said goodbye to them and then we rode 60 km. I know that sounds simplistic, but some days that’s really what it’s like. Nothing of note happens on the ride, and before we know it we are there.
There was one irritating tortuous dirt road made up of pointless hills. Pointless hills are the ones that go quickly up and quickly down over a short distance (like 500 m). They sap your energy, but leave you exactly at the altitude you started. I sometimes think Pocket Earth likes to send us roads like this just to mess with us. Since I don’t have the map, I’m always sure there is a flat, paved road nearby that would have taken us to exactly the same place using a tenth of the energy.
Usually when I get too whiny in my head, we come to a view like this, which makes everything seem a little less pointless.
After our first 50 km or so, we stopped for lunch in a small town not far from Gothenburg. Tonight we are staying with Warm Showers hosts, and they won’t be home until later, so we have a little time to spare.
We sat in the well equipped town library that every small town around here seems to have. It is comfortable, warm, and has free internet, so that’s all we need. This particular library also seems to be the place small children come to run around, yell, and play video games. Not exactly quiet, and no one is shushing them, so I guess that’s just how things are here.
After sitting with the sun streaming through the windows for a few hours, it was tough to rouse ourselves and get back on the bikes for the final 15 km of the day.
And So To Bed
I think Stephen’s brain was not fully charged because, as he navigated us through the busy roads out of town we had more than the usual, “oops, missed the turn, go back” incidents. We also had to circle around one busy roundabout twice. This is particularly taxing for me, since I have no idea where or when we’re about to turn, and the cars on my tail are also utterly clueless. Times like this, I’d rather be the one in front.
We made it safely to our home for the night, and it was indescribably great to be welcomed inside, given a clean towel, and be pointed towards the shower. After making ourselves smellable, we were treated to a great dinner of homemade veggie burgers, roasted potatoes (which Stephen has been craving for weeks), and salad. We also drank beer and cider, our first alcohol for more than two weeks!
The people we are staying with, Staffan, Maria, and their baby Jesper, cycled across Canada a few years ago. Since we have no idea what cycling across Canada is like, and they don’t really know much about cycling in Europe, we have had lots to discuss.
Though the conversation and the food are lovely, secretly, the best part about this whole night will be sleeping in a bed for the first time since St. Petersburg, with no air mattress to deflate, and no surprise midnight visitors to waken us.
Soundtrack: Beck, Odelay | Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee pt.2 | Various Artists on Jane’s iPhone ♥