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Sunday, November 11, 2012

STOCKHOLM North to NORDKAPP........PT I.




I really enjoyed Stockholm a lot, the architecture, the way the city is laid out, the myriad of winding little alleys and streets in Gamla Stan or 
"Old Town" Stockholm, and of course my visit to the Ice Bar Stockholm in the post before this one here on the blog.Gamla Stan is a "Must See" for visitors to Stockholm, it would be a disservice to miss this wonderful part of the city.
Gamla Stan Stockholm reminds me a lot of Dublin Ireland where I grew up, rich in history of lives past, legend and folklore on every doorstep and down each and every alleyway.







The English pronunciation is different than the Swedish pronunciation. 
Thats all I'm gonna say.








My hat and I stopped in to one of the many charming, dark and moody little cafes in Gamla Stan here in Stockholm. I had a delicious double espresso, my hat wasn't thirsty.


The Royal Palace of Stockholm.















Crystal Plaza Hotel, Stockholm Sweden.











There's so much more to Stockholm than I got to see in the short time I spent there. It would take much more than a few weeks to see even half of all Stockholm has to offer, so I hope to get back here again soon, maybe on the way back from Russia, we'll see.


 Murphy's Law wasn't about to let me leave just yet.
The new Ohlins shock I just put in the day before blew.


Thomas, one of the employees with the longest 
tenure at Ohlins (Employee #3), employee #1 and #2 are retired. 

Thomas got me all sorted out in no time and even brought me upstairs to the Ohlins restaurant and bought me lunch, a Swedish meat soup followed by Swedish pancakes with fresh whipped cream and blueberries . Best pancakes I have EVER had. The Swedish pancake is thin, kind of like a crepe, I guess they're in between a crepe and a regular pancake. I had two plates worth of the stuff. I could have had a third too, they just go down so easy.

The problem turned out to be the height adjuster, they're just not made to take the extremely heavy weight of my sidecar outfit. So he recommended taking it out altogether since I didn't really need it anyway.


Thomas also got the heaviest spring Ohlins make, the red spring was just too light.




 Thomas did a complete rebuild with new internals and I put the shock back on again and was good to go. Or so I thought, but I'm getting ahead of myself.


Patrik and Carina's in Vallentuna, Sweden.


Many many thanks to both Patrik and Carina for all of their help. Patrik probably saved me from freezing to death by sponsoring me with many Swedish Kronor worth of Layer 1 and Layer 2 under thermal gear, and as I was about to find out, even that was barely enough to stave off the negative temperatures the further north I travelled. Patrik also bought for me the oil for a new oil change from the 20W50 I had in the bike to a 5W40 Synthetic. Thanks Patrik. Much easier to start now in the colder temperatures.
And if it were not for my friend Emelie in Stockholm I would not have met these great and wonderful people who have been so generous with their friendship and hospitality to me, so if I didn't say thank to you already Emily, a HUGE thank you for all you've helped me with so far. I really appreciate all that you've done for me.
And if you wouldn't mind could you please ask your Mum would she be so kind as to mail me one of her Apple Pies to Nordkapp so I can have something to look forward to when I get there.....IF I get there.
Thank you in advance.



Driveway repairs can be cold if you don't pick the right time of year.


Even my Water Resistant Wunderlich Pannier Bag was feeling a little frosty.




Sunday night, Nov 4th, 2012.
Packing up to try to leave early in the morning when you feel like crap is no fun.
I've got this cramp in my solar plexus that nearly doubles me over, hard to breathe. I've had this a few times before, last time was at the EGT in Luxembourg last August, I was with some new friends I met there, Bub and Jurgen. Bub had brought with him from his local butcher in Monheim some Lamb steaks, delicious they were. 5 or 10 minutes after eating I started to get this cramp-like indigestion feeling, like someone just punched me right in my gut, but I sat there and tried to smile through it all. I had to get up, talk a walk or something, but it felt like everything I ate was still stuck just below my throat. Not for long. Bub's delicious Lamb steaks came right up and for the next 3 days I was struggling to try to figure out how to breathe. There's nothing in particular that seems to precede this uncomfortable golf ball stuck in my gut, but it certainly ruined my day, or three.

MONDAY Nov 5th.






Every time I look at all my stuff I take with me before packing I always think it'll never fit. Somehow it does, tight, but I seem to be able to cram a lot of stuff in there. The sidecar is full, no room for a passenger. I probably have too much stuff but the outfit is now my home since I lost my house in Florida. Everything I have and own, aside from a few things at a friends house in Florida and a few items at LBS Sidecars in Holland, everything is in that sidecar outfit. Scary at times when I think to 10 years ahead that I'll be living in a sidecar and tent, but I try not to do that, no point in worrying about things that haven't even happened yet.

My goal for this week of Monday Nov 5th was about 400 kms (about 250 mls) per day and try to make it to Kiruna (about 1400 kilometres) by the weekend.
My intentions were good and it seemed like a doable 4-5 day ride, snow or not. Everything seemed to be fine, all systems were green for go. 

But that was about to change.


Taby, Sweden, on a good day.

Leaving out from Taby in Stockholm on Monday I got a later start than I wanted to because I had to make some sort of front fender for the bike. We never made a front fender at LBS thinking it wouldn't really be necessary, but it turns out it was. The wet weather in Stockholm over the last 2 weeks only highlighted that fact, the water from the front wheel completely soaked the whole front of the bike and me too, I was getting soaked too.
So I went to a Claus Ohlson hardware store, bought a cheap $4 plastic bucket, cut it in half and zip tied it on.




Prototype #1, which didn't work, but thats for the next post.



 I made it to Ljusdal on Monday evening, about 350 kms or 220 miles from Taby in Stockholm, and hurriedly set up camp. I found a parking area with some picnic tables and a small restaurant and cafe adjoining the property, so I figured it was as good an area to camp as any. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to camp next to the cafe, but it was cold, dark and starting to snow a little so I didn't think I would be thrown out.


I was trying to get the tent up as quick as possible and also get out the stove to make some hot tea before it got too cold as it was already -3°.
Not too bad a ride really since I didn't leave Taby until a little after 12 noon. The weather was so-so, raining a bit, a little cold but no snow or ice, yet. It gets dark early up here the further north toward the Arctic Circle you go, and it really plays with your head, at least it started to play with mine. I usually ride until 6 or 7 in the evening under normal conditions, but by 5 pm here it feels like it's 9 or 10 at night, and when the sun goes down this fear north it gets cold.Very very cold. 
Which is not a big deal until you start to set up your tent for the night, then the simple tasks become challenging in -7°. Even making a cup of tea is a challenge because the ceramic coffee cup is freezing cold too, so when I poured the water into the cup it started to cool almost immediately. 
I had about 3 minutes to drink it before it got cold.
So I put the cup on top of the kettle (Eureka) so as when the water boiled the steam coming from the spout would warm up the cup. Yea, I know, smart cookies us Oirish, especially when it comes to making tea.

 Exhibit #1 Your Honor.

I had a cold but decent nights sleep and even though my Mountain Hardware sleeping bag is a -25° rated bag, my nights sleep only at -8° was still cold, and as I'm about to find out, going to get even colder.

Sunrise in Ljusdal, November 5th 2012.





Margareta and Ludde.

The next morning as I'm packing up camp I notice a lady in the distance walking her dog and heading toward me. When she got to where I was camped she stopped, said Hi, I said Hi back and asked if she spoke English. Yes, I do she said. 
On a side note everyone here in Sweden speaks English, and perfect English too, and it's making my journey here in Sweden a much more pleasant one for sure. So far Sweden get's my #1 rating for the best country to go to for an English-only speaking person.Holland comes in second so far, as most of the people I encountered there spoke very good English too.Sweden gets a lot of other very high ratings from me, but again I'm getting ahead of myself.

Her name was Margareta and she started to talk to me and ask about my travels and asked me where and how do I eat?. So I told her I make my own breakfast, coffee of course, I have a little toaster plate that works with my MSR Stove for my toast and in the evening I usually make soup with a sammich. In the middle of the day I have been getting into the habit of stopping at a gas station because here in Sweden they have this delicious Bacon and Egg salad sammich's that I love (anything with eggs or egg salad actually). So Margareta says "Well,would you like some breakfast"?. Why thank you, I would be delighted. "Well you come down to our house"  she says, "down this road, turn right and go down to the mailboxes and it's the big house on the right, I make you breakfast". Ok, wonderful, see you in a half an hour.What a wonderful and heartwarming thing to happen I thought to myself as I was packing up my tent and gear. Even though the temperature was only -5°C, I'm not adjusting to the cold very well yet so Margareta's offer couldn't have come at a better moment for me.


The older I get the bigger the holes in the membrane that holds my brain together get, so of course even though it was only about 1 or 2 kilometers down the road, I could not for the life of me find Margareta's house and promptly got lost. Crawling along in first gear, riding slowly like a stalker I was hoping that she would see me and run out the front door and yell "Yoo Hoo, over here". Nope. Silence but for the purring of my motor and that unique ticking sound that the valves in a BMW Boxer engine make.
By my third time going up and down the street I notice a human come from one of the houses and slowly walk toward me. Friend or foe?. Friend, the human was smiling. So far so good. I tried to explain my lack of direction as best I could and of course I had forgotten Margareta's name, so I tried to describe 'the lady with the dog whom I had met earlier who had invited me for breakfast' without it sounding like I was a criminal casing the place and then remembered that this is Sweden, not America, they really don't think like that up here in these parts.
So with directions in hand, or head as the case may be, I again seemed to have great difficulty in finding Margareta's farmhouse so back to the friendly humans house I went where a visiting friend brought me down and pointed out Margareta's farmhouse. Sometimes I wonder how in the hell I'm going to make it to Nordkapp, let alone around the world if I can't even find a house less than 2 kilometers from where I was camped.

Margareta and Birger's farmhouse with Ludde standing guard.
 Ljusdal Sweden. November 5th 2012.

That's it for this weeks post. Next up on the blog is my breakfast with Margareta and Birger, the friends I met there, and the short lived happiness I experienced there. and my departure as I left Ljusdal for Dorotea for what should have been a cold and maybe a little slippy 380 km ride, but wasn't. 

I didn't make it to Dorotea.


Murph.

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