Get The Balance Right

By Jane Mountain | August 18, 2013

5568 km so far.

Balance is the key to successful cycle touring. There’s the obvious kind of balance, of course. When you get that right, you can move swiftly forward at 25 kph or so. When you get it wrong? Well, I have the scars to show what happens then.

Then there’s that other kind of balance, which is much more difficult. When do you camp versus staying in a hostel? When should you eat at a restaurant, when should you cook your own food? Every tourist has slightly different preferences. But if the balance gets out of whack, you could end up running out of money or out of steam. Either way, your tour ends early.

Today we tried to get the balance right, and mostly we were successful.

Sweet Release

After spending the night in a campground outside Ödeshög (pronounced by us as Eau Des Hog), we woke up the smell of burning pig crap. We couldn’t really complain, since the warning was in the name. So, we got out of Dodge as soon as possible. But not before the wind began to howl around us once again. Never mind. It was a bright sunshiny morning, so what’s a bit of wind?

farmland in sweden

Lovely farmland and lakes, near Granna.

We decided that because we’d had a miserable slog across open farmland yesterday, today we’d try to stick to the coastal road, and see if that was a little better. For the first 25 km or so, this proved to be the right decision. The hills were just as annoying, but there were more trees to take a little wind out of the… er… wind’s sails. Still, it was pretty hard going.

The only way to combat bad weather on the bike (for us) is to put a bit of music on as a distraction.

Yeah sure, being aware in every moment of every day might sound good, but in practice, sometimes you need to balance that with switching off and letting instinct take you. Without these moments of release, the world can become overwhelming.

Our first stop of the day was in Gränna, which is known for its red and white striped peppermint candy. Yes, it is the home of candy canes.

peppermint candies sweden

Peppermint caramels? Sounds good!

We bought some, and also a bag of hard sweets that I know as Swedish berries. These didn’t taste at all like what I was expecting. There was a little sweet berry taste in there, but it competed with a salty licorice. In the right amounts, these two flavours can be great together. But to me, the balance was off, and the licorice and salt overpowered the sweet. Yuck. I had to spit it out. Happily, the peppermint candy was much better.

See Saw

We weren’t long in town before the first bank of black clouds blew in. Fortunately this happened while we were in the grocery store buying supplies for lunch, so we had a chance to seek shelter before things got too bad.

We found a little covered porch outside the town boules lawn, and watched the squall come for us across the lake. A bank of dark grey nastiness was headed our way, but before it got to us, the wind picked up. It felt like hurricane weather, or that time there were tornados at Stephen’s cottage in Canada.

It was bad, but we were huddled under a shelter, avoiding the worst of it. We could have chosen to carry on, to make our distance in a timely manner today, but instead we chose to balance out pushing forward with being comfortable and dry.

Since the wind was so ferocious, we didn’t get much reading and relaxing done before the clouds had blown away and the sun came out. We pushed on while the pushing was good.

After another hour, while we meandered our way along twisty country roads, the rain came again. We were lucky enough to spot a golf course with an open garage for golf carts just in time to miss another downpour. While we stood watching the rain, Stephen ventured out to pick a couple of bright green (and slightly tart) apples for us to munch on. It’s almost apple season here, and all the trees are bursting with fruit.

When the rain tapered off and we could see the dark clouds moving away we left our shelter to continue on. It was still a little wet, but we didn’t want to spend all day inside a garage.

A little meandering is OK, but we finally decided the direct route would serve us better. So we balanced out a twisty bike path with some nice fast roads. The wind was still taking its toll. When this happens, we take turns taking the lead, so one person works hard while the other gets a little rest. Once the leader starts going too slowly, the follower takes the lead.

This way we balance out the work of riding, so neither of us becomes completely exhausted and unable to go on.

Off Kilter

So far we’d had a nicely balanced day of weather. A little sun, a little rain, a little wind. By early afternoon, things went seriously awry. It started to rain (again!) so we took shelter under an awning of Comfort System, a bed manufacturer. The wind died down and the sky became completely socked in with dark grey clouds.

It rained. It poured. It deluged.

Just to prove that there was a really lot of rain.

Just to prove that there was a really lot of rain.

At one point it was raining so hard, I was pretty sure the drops were making dents in the pavement. All we could do was stand and watch. We waited, but it didn’t stop.

The town we were in was so small there wasn’t even a cafe to run to. Cars drove by on the road, and we tried to look as pathetic as possible, hoping someone would take pity on us and offer us a dry place to sleep, or at least a cup of tea. After about 45 minutes of shivering under an awning, the rain tapered a little, and I made the executive decision to get back on the bikes. We needed to keep moving as much as we needed to keep dry, or else we’d end up shivering under an awning all night.

Give And Take

The rain dried up again and we made it to Jönköping, a medium size town at the south end of the lake, without getting too wet. It was late, so we decided on a restaurant meal, but we still weren’t sure where we’d stay.

We spent nearly $100 on an OK meal of falafel, hummus, and fattoush. It wasn’t an expensive restaurant – it was actually a bit cheaper than a pub we’d looked at – this is just what things cost in Sweden.

We remember eating the best falafel we’ve ever had just around the corner from the Sphinx in Cairo. They were less than 50 cents each.

The hostel in town was going to be another $100, for a double room with the bathroom down the hall! We couldn’t stomach spending that much, so we balanced our need for comfort with our need to be frugal and headed to the campsite.

The light was fading as we left town. A 7 km ride should take 20 minutes at the outside, leaving us about a half hour of daylight to set up the tent once we arrived. Except this 7 km was seriously out of balance. The first 5 km were all uphill. Where was this lake we were going to? On the side of a mountain? We at least expected this long uphill to be countered by a downhill, but no. It just went up, then flat, and we were there.

Just the right balance of rain and sun and you get a rainbow.

Just the right balance of rain and sun and you get a rainbow.

The campground is underwhelming and a bit soggy. There seems to be no one working here, the women’s bathrooms are locked, and the showers take an unidentified denomination of coin. To be honest, we are hoping to get away with not paying for this one, since they haven’t provided us with anything.

Still, we have our tent all set up so we are home for the night, and feeling pretty good about an almost balanced kind of day.

Soundtrack: Chris T-T and The Hoodrats, The Bear | The Breeders, Last Splash | Brakes, Give Blood | Gordon Downie And The Country Of Miracles, The Grand Bounce | William The Contractor, Tall Stories | Various 90s Artists on Jane’s iPhone  

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  1. Comment by Roxy

    Roxy August 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

    100 USD?!?

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane August 25, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Yup, crazy huh? The same meal in LA would have cost $25 to $35.

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