Playing The Cards We’re Dealt

By Jane Mountain | August 14, 2013

5296 km so far.

Today, we were dealt a relatively poor hand, but we did the best we could with what we were given. We spent a lovely morning on the dock where we camped, getting clean and getting fooled by the hot, sunny weather.

early morning swim skenas sweden

Clean and refreshed, early morning at our free camp.

Two Things You Should Know About Riding In This Part Of Sweden

One, there are a lot of hills.

You never just go straight along. It’s always up down up down up down. After the flats of Poland and the Baltics, we are both a little out of practice on hills. My legs hurt more now than I can remember at the beginning of this trip, but I’m getting better at just accepting the fact of the hills and getting on with it.

Two, you will get rained on.

At least that’s our experience over the last few days. One minute, it’s a bright sunshiny morning, and the next, a bank of vicious looking storm clouds has gathered and the rain starts coming down. This morning, it seemed we were chasing the storm, always getting to places that had clearly just been soaked, but not getting soaked ourselves. A lot of good luck. Still, the threat of rain makes me as anxious as rain itself.

I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine

Our weather luck held as we rode into Nyköping and the clouds dispersed to reveal a hot sun up in the sky. We took the opportunity to shop and eat our lunch in the town square as a drunken minstrel performed outside the tourist office. Then we decided we should head to a cafe with WiFi for an hour or so. We sat outside, but soon it was too hot, so we fled into the cool of the cafe interior.

We did our work quickly and after about an hour, got all packed up to head out.

That’s when the first clap of thunder tore through town, shaking windows and startling small animals. Aw crap. By the time we were outside on our bikes, the rain had started to pelt down.

We took shelter under an awning with three of the town’s afternoon drunks. They, like all Swedish people, spoke perfect English, so they passed the time asking us the usual cycle tourist questions and usually not waiting to hear the answers. They were in awe of Stephen’s iPad, and one of them decided he wanted to take it home with him. But they were friendly, not threatening, so we played along.

After 10 minutes or so, I noticed that my bike, which was sitting out in the middle of the pedestrian street, was now in the middle of a small lake. I ran to get it, and over the next few minutes, we watched the lake grow almost to the width of the street. And still the rain came.

The Waiting Game

The gentlemen sharing our shelter told us about the hostel at the train station just down the road. It’s really cheap, they said, just 200 Kroner. That is about €26, so not cheap to us at all. It just goes to show how expensive things are in Sweden when the possibly homeless citizens of a town think €26 per night is cheap.

We really didn’t want to stay at the hostel, but neither did we want to ride in this deluge, so we headed back inside the cafe. After ordering $15 worth of coffee and a chocolate ball (which is a popular Swedish treat), we sat and did a little more work. Finally the rain cleared, and we decided to move before it could come back.

At first we were kicking ourselves for lingering so long in town. Why did we spend the sunny part of the day shopping and sitting in a cafe? Then we realised that if we hadn’t done that, we’d have been somewhere in some wide open farmland during the downpour, soaked to the skin.

Ten points to us for playing the right cards.

Go Soak Your Head

Unfortunately, as the afternoon progressed, it became clear that the hills would persist, and so would the rain. Stephen was also feeling ill, as he has been since we left Stockholm. I wonder if he’s become allergic to cycling? This combo made our progress incredibly slow. Luckily, we were headed towards a ferry Stephen had discovered that shaves 30 km off of our route. So it sort of balances out.

Getting wetter by the minute, we finally came to the last hill above the ferry dock. We sped down it and took refuge under a thoughtfully placed awning while we watched the ferry come in. This is one of those 5-minute ferries that runs continually back and forth, so we soon had to leave the shelter of our awning to board. We found the only small overhang on the otherwise open ferry and were soon joined by the only walk-on passenger. He was possibly the only Swede in Sweden who doesn’t speak English, but we shared our Marabou Dime bar with him nonetheless.

On the other side, we found another little overhang to hide under. Across the road were another cyclist and two backpackers, also hiding from the rain. We stood in our spot for about 20 minutes and then the sun came pounding out again.

After a quick dinner we set up our tent on a little bit of green space right next to the road where the cars line up for the ferry. Not an ideal spot in my mind. Since the ferry runs continually between 5:30am and 11pm, I have my reservations about trying to sleep here. Ah well, at least there’s a good six hours in the middle where we should be able to get some rest.

sunset over a ferry dock skenas sweden

Sunset at our ferry dock.

We could have wished for better cards today. Better weather, flatter roads, a more secluded camping spot. But playing what we were dealt, we ended up OK, which is really not so bad at all.

Soundtrack: Elke Nash’s Losing My Mind playlist on Spotify | Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here Playlist 1 on Spotify | Chris T-T and The Hoodrats, The Bear  

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