Stockholm!

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That’s it! I reached my destination around 1pm today. It’s been a very wet day, but it didn’t really matter at this stage 🙂

  
I knew it would be raining most of the day, but there was supposed to be a calmer time around mid day. So I waited and waited, and when it seemed the rain had stopped over Södertälje, I took off. The gps once again drove me into secondary dirt roads, but I expected it, and that remained bike tracks – mostly. I went around lakes and visited secluded country homes, then went back into civilization, which I never left after that.

  
That’s also the time when it started drizzling, and it never stopped. Never a really strong rain, but I was again feeling like in the millennium falcon, with raindrops whizzing past me. In urban areas, the gps is usually more efficient, and with bike lanes now commonplace, I soon saw Stockholm as a destination. I couldn’t grab a picture with the city sign, but with the weather, it wasn’t a good idea anyway.

And so, at one point, when I entered Södermalm, which is the southern part of the city, I started recognizing the area. This is a very special feeling when you realize you reached a very distant place on your own 🙂 I had this same feeling when I saw Los Angeles, or New York. You start grinning like a maniac 🙂

After this exuberant phase, I changed quickly in the toilets of a burger king, to avoid catching a cold, and I even went to buy a long sleeve shirt and some pants. It’s still a pretty chilly day here. Now I’ve got a couple days to recover before I start working 🙂

That was a almost-30 days ride, almost-2000kms. I paused three times, in Antwerp, Bremen and Copenhagen. It took ten days to cross Sweden (only the southern bit really), eight for Germany (the northern part). I had a few days of sunshine, but really the weather has not been helpful. No technical or physical issue (ah yeah except my back brake was out today). I didn’t really get lost, except the second day in Sweden, in that forest after the chemical plant. The quality of bike lanes vary wildly, even in the same country, but i doubt you can beat Belgium. I’ll do another post for cultural surprises along the way, and maybe a few learnings 🙂

   
 

Södertälje

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What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was a pleasant ride under the sun, today has been a grueling effort in the cold.

I’m now a stone’s throw away from the finish line, and this has been a great motivation to reach the end of the ride. That, and the fact there was no other place to stop before the city. I started the day feeling good, but that quickly turned around.

  
I suppose I’m mostly feeling the need for the break I didn’t have since I left Copenhagen. The effort is building up faster during the day. My legs have really been paying a dear price today, I can still feel it in the evening. The second factor was the terrain itself. I’ve been going east then north from Nyköping, on what was the best course certainly (no dirt road or strange detours), but I went through ups and down all the way – so it was far from nice and flat. Small hills actually, but I’ve  quickly resorted to walking them up when needed. No shame in surviving the distance.

  
On top of that, the weather went from a sunny 30+ two days ago, with a helping back wind, to less than 15 today, overcast again – I didn’t see the sun today – and a wind coming from the east. Not strong enough to be a nuisance, but it didn’t help. Mostly the muscles never got warm, and I had to push harder than needed.

Oh well, it’s this kind of day where you have to stay focused, manage yourself and keep going. Four hours on the bike is doable, as long as you move forward, and it doesn’t become ten or twelve hours walking. It’s what happened that fateful day in Utah, when I couldn’t go on. But the circumstances didn’t add up as much today, so after hours circling the fjords, passing a farm here and there, and even during a time seeing groups of cyclists in a race, I reached Södertälje. I haven’t really being looking around the city to be honest. I’m looking at the weather for tomorrow, which should be awful apparently. That won’t prevent me from concluding this trip and be happy I did it!

Nyköping

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Still going on, not much left now. It’s been a very nice day to ride in Sweden. I don’t even have something to complain about 🙂

  
The trip today was rather short, the weather was great, temperature was back to being nice and not oppressive. And most of the ride was with a strong back wind. It makes everything much much easier, especially when reaching the top of the hill and the wind pushes you for the final effort.

  
It’s also being a very nice mix of going in the countryside, with many large fields and farmers working them, small and large forests, even with a bit along the Bräviken, which probably registers as a fjord, given the size of it. The road was pretty narrow around there, but it didn’t last too long. I was happy leaving it and going back up on the plateau, with much less traffic. Plus a few small towns along the way to allow for short breaks. The second bit of the day was going up and down small hills, until I saw the city. Not a big one this time, as all shops were closed by 3 or 4pm, on a Saturday! Is this some sort of Nordic Shabbath? Thou shall not work on the sacred day after teatime?

  
I’m still going side by side with the E4, sometimes a few meters, sometimes a few kilometers, but it’s rare when I don’t hear it in the distance. It helps knowing I’m not lost or going in the wrong direction. I’ve also gone across quite a few cyclists going the other way, and I was feeling the pain for them. Although, as seems to be the norm here, almost none would nod or wave. The US feels like half a world away. I’m missing the hordes of Hell’s Angels waving at me.

Norrköping

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I’m reaching more populated areas now. I’m in Norrköping, I suppose pronounced Norshöping, after passing Linshöping, and tomorrow I’ll be in Nyshöping. I feel like going shöping, I don’t know why.

  
I have now been for a week in Sweden, and have done more than 90% of the trip. Three days left and less than 200kms between them. I’m starting to think a lot more about what comes next, and how it will work out. Still, I’m enjoying the great weather now, and the easy journey. I even remember now why I used to start as early as possible during the US trip : it gets hotter by noon. Today was over 30 degrees. And I thought this country was closer to the North Pole! Thanks Obama.

  
Right before going through Linköping, I saw fighter planes doing either a training or a show, more probably the later one. I went all around the Malmen airbase, which has a museum attached, and witnessed what seemed like F15s landing right on top of me. F15s are American planes right? It seems the European army is not yet ready to become a reality. Besides cheese and wine, we do produce planes and tanks in France you know? That’s even our first export in value. Would be better selling them in Europe than in the Middle East.

  
Anyway, going through the town, there was actually a European fair, with booths from various countries offering – selling really – food or items. France, in this case, was well represented. There were even a couple British booths, but of course that wasn’t food in their case. You can’t export fish and chips, anyone can cook that anywhere.

  
Ever since I left the Vättern lake, I’m now mostly going through fields, nor forests anymore. And I guess for the remaining days it’ll be a mix, remembering the forest surrounding Stockholm, but also more urban areas than before.

  
Norrköping seems like a large, really nice town, I approached the center following the river, which felt like following a canal into Paris.

  
For a few days now, I’ve been going back more and more to a normal diet, in terms of volume. Two years ago in the US, I made two major mistakes in this area, that I’m trying to avoid. The first one was keeping a regular diet while riding the first few weeks. After a month, I was really tired : when you do 4 or 5 hours of biking every day, you consume at least twice the amount of calories. This time I ate a lot more right from the start. The second mistake was not going back quickly to a more balanced intake : after returning to France I continued eating quite a lot, and especially chocolate (US chocolate is really crap). So I quickly regained the 7 or 8kgs I’d lost over the trip. This time I’ll try to keep this benefit 🙂

Mjölby

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I have reached the town of Mjölby, which is much much smaller than I thought. If I had not stopped for a minute to check my phone, I would have missed it.

  
It’s almost what the people of Delaware say about the state : if you’re on the highway to Washington and sneezed, then you just missed Delaware. It probably helps them staying a fiscal paradise too. Even on a bike it felt small.
 
So I did a rather short day and did in two days what I wanted to do… in two days. Except I didn’t rest. Today was ok, I’ll see how it goes further down the road. But there’s only four days left now. On Monday morning I’ll be in Stockholm. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything in Paris, or I will have to turn back.

  
Escaping Gränna and the Vättern lake was easier than I thought. The road followed the lake for 20kms, then gradually turned west, going slowly up all the time, until it was a plateau more or less all the way. The wind remains light, and coming from the south. I much prefer seeing the wind turnbines facing me than showing me their metallic butts. On the other hand, no bike lanes of any kind. But the traffic remains low, as there’s still the highway close by.

  
It was a beautiful day, still quite warm, and three hours pass by very fast in these conditions. I’ve also been passed again by a very fast cyclist – it happens about once a day now. I go ok, maybe 20-22k, and a guy (a gal once), whizz by, just as if I was stopped. They certainly have better and lighter bikes, that’s not hard to find, still, it requires a strength and stamina I don’t have. That reminds me of the race around the lake, when people do 300kms in less than 10 hours. I could probably reach this average for 30 or 40 minutes, but then I’d be dead. You got to push hard constantly to maintain such a speed. I’m really not here for that – although I could have done this trip in two weeks instead of four – I want to enjoy it as well.

  
When going through Väderstad, which means Vader’s town, of course, I saw a very nice touch of welcoming any passing French visitor, with both flags raised. Merci pour ce moment !

  

Gränna

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Today was a mix between a rest and a ride. I did a very short distance, 40kms, and stopped there. I’m still along the Vättern lake, with a much better view than yesterday.

  
It’s also been the very first day with an almost continuous sun! It was almost hot too, up to 25 degrees, which is very nice. I’m clearly not missing the current weather in Paris, ten degrees more, especially working without air conditioning. Being on the road with fresh air cannot be beaten.

  
On the other hand, it’s not flat anymore. When I arrived in Jönköping (pronounced yonshopin apparently) yesterday, I went on a very steep downhill, maybe 10%, for more than a kilometer. Logically I had to go up that again when wondering off the lake. I thought maybe the lane would follow the lake, but it doesn’t. So there’s been a few ups and downs, but it was okay. I suppose it will be more or less like this for the remaining days. It’s not Holland anymore. Still, I was riding along nice fields and small villages up to my target.

  
Gränna is a small town along the lake, with a very big camping, and a ferry to an island. There seem to be quite a few people living in the island, judging by the number of buses coming and going, and the frequency of the ferry. It’s probably gonna be a safe spot when the zombie apocalypse starts.

  
When I arrived here and parked my bike, it started doing a noise like everything was crumbling, and indeed it fell to the ground : the bike leg, which helps it stand, has just finished unscrewing itself! That’s French qualität. Apparently a metal disc below the screw split apart, creating a movement on the screw, which loosened itself for I don’t know how long. Well, nothing the correct Allen key in a garage couldn’t fix. And it’s only gone through three different mechanics a few weeks ago.

  
From the port at Gränna you can almost get to see Jönköping, about 30kms straight south. It’s rare to see that far on the horizon.

Jönköping

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I have reached the immense lake Vättern, whose name probably derives from vatten, Swedish for water. That seems original. Anyway, I’m at the southern tip of the lake today.

  
Tomorrow I’ll be going north along the lake, for a very short session. I had initially planned to stay here for a rest, but I prefer cutting a bit what would otherwise have been a very long day to the next stop. I should be going along the track used for the bike race along the lake.

  
This morning, as is now the hallmark of this trip, I started under a grey overcast sky, but that cleared up after noon. The weather is supposed to be good from now on. The Pokemon arena from Burger King had been reconquered, but I decided not to press charges. There had been no notification of the event, another missing element in the game.

  
The ride was mostly uneventful, still going along beautiful forests, and being extremely careful about paths suggestions now. I have thus avoided what would have been another few hours on a forest track, to gain probably less than a kilometer. ‘Beta’ stage is clearly an understatement for the bike gps.

  
Fifteen kilometers out from Jonkoping, I stumbled on a large construction site. The road was completely blocked, they were tearing down a kilometer of it, to do I don’t know what. Now, I’ve come across road works many times, but there were a few key differences with France or the US. First, no early warning. I only got to see a large sign “road closed in 500m”. No alternative route offered. When I reached the blockage, a couple guys were talking maybe 200m away, but they didn’t wave me off, came to talk or anything. I decided to try to go around, as I couldn’t find any solution on the map. So this time i did go into a farm road on the left, reached the farmer and explained I was searching a path. He opened an access to the field and I moved forward. But I ended up right in the middle of the construction site. I went across the partially rebuilt road, aimed for the nearest houses, figuring they would have some sort of preserved access, but that was not the case. So in the end, I walked along the road works and reached the other side. What I’ve found staggering is that there was half a dozen construction engines working, I stayed clear of them of course. All operators saw me, but none of them did anything. No waving me off, or calling someone, no reaction of any sort. They didn’t give a crap. I was walking directly inside the site and they didn’t care. When I did enter an active construction site in the US, I got called in immediately, admonished by the site manager, warned about security and even legal action, and then he drove me to the exit.

  
After this surprising episode, I reached Jonkoping. It seems to be a pretty rich, nice town, much like Cannes in France. Alongside water, small beachfront, expensive hotels, not a laundry in view, looking like a vacation spot.

Värnamo

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Today was one of those days when you really enjoy going forward on a bike, and almost everything is set for that.

  
I’m moving deeper inside Sweden, mostly going north for now, still going parallel with the E4 highway. I’ll do that for another couple of days, and then head north east again for the last few days. I’m now going along small or large lakes, just like Forrest Gump does at some point. It does provide great views. Plus the advantage of having a parallel highway is that the road has very little traffic.

  
So I’m mostly going along this road now, with gentle slopes up or down – I was expecting a climb until midway through the country, but up to now it’s not an issue. G-maps still tries to trick me into secondary roads, but I’m very careful. Still, at one point, it really wanted me to enter a farm and drive through someone’s lawn, to gain maybe 10 meters on the next crossing. I went back to the main road after that. I can’t go wrong like that.

  
I passed Ljungby on the way, but that took me maybe ten or fifteen minutes, not even a complete stop. It was necessary though at this point, as my legs were starting to cramp. I realized I hadn’t even put a foot on the ground for more than 30kms. A couple minutes rest and all is back to normal. I’m probably also not drinking enough, but it’s not like I can refill very often. Psychologically I can’t ride with no water left, I need to have an emergency gulp left.

 Anyway, the great forests continued to fly around me, as well as a very large flock of cranes or something similar.

  
I reached Värnamo, the planned stop, and once again had strictly no data network, which makes it hard to find a place to rest or actually anything. This started to feel like I was back in the Utah desert, when at some point I had to hide by an Indian museum to steal some wifi – the only network for 50kms. That felt wrong for the country of Ericsson. But resetting the phone settings did the trick and I even now have 4G.

  
While concluding this note, the restaurant radio just plays the main theme of the neverending story 🙂 One of my favorite movies, and one of the first I saw in a theater as a kid – pretty frightening for an 11 year old!

  
And… I finally won a fight in a Pokemon arena 🙂 No real idea what happened, it’s very confusing, all my team was down, but I’m now standing in the local Burger King fortress 🙂

Strömsnäsbruk

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This has been a rather weird day. Also the first day starting and ending in Sweden! Now it’s gonna be pretty hard not doing that. It’s not like I would end up in Norway by accident, or take a shortcut there.


Shortcut might be the word my gps was aiming for, again, today. Everything started rather well, I left the B&B and the small village it was in, rallied the nearby small town, and was set on a very nice bike lane for 5kms. It all seemed good. Except the lane ended on a small road that itself ended on an industrial complex (chemical maybe). There was strictly no way in : fences, barbed wires, signs, alarms etc. but the gps really wanted me to get through, and there was no way I was doubling back. I don’t know what’s the big idea with this long bike lane, maybe it’s for the people working in the complex.

  
So I went all around, on a dirt road, and rejoined the planned path. But it didn’t look so good. I was aiming straight for the heart of the forest. The dirt road was becoming less and less used, then only by horses. Being alone in a forest far from anything, in a different country, is insettling. I mean, what’s the status on wolf population in Sweden? Would my small pepper spray help?

  
The dirt track became an unused grassy path, and from the looks of it, I was still miles from finding a real road. Thanks again google maps! At this point though, there was a clearing on the right, with was looked like a tended lawn. I aimed for that, and reached a group of empty buildings that was probably a refuge for horse riders. I was back on a dirt road, and sure enough, I encountered a couple riders some time later. I even got back on a paved road, went through a golf course, and found the road again.

  
On a couple more occasions later, it seemed clear that g-maps had no knowledge of the bike lanes in Sweden, for the most part. It was offering strange detours from the main road, to gain maybe 200m, while there were nice lanes parallel to the road. So I stopped following the path, and was all the better for it.

  
Strangely, again, I reached Markarid in good time. I thought I would have lost much more time in the forest. I even saw a moose right before the city. The idea was to stop there and check that the hostel I was looking for, 12kms further, was indeed there and open. New issue : there was strictly no data coverage – and maybe there’s none outside of large cities. Hopefully, a bank was projecting a free wifi, so I found the info, called ahead, and it was all good. I made a break in what was perhaps the only eating place opened there (it’s a Sunday), then covered the last bit of the day. When you’re not in the wood for wolves, you can appreciate the great outdoors, which reminded me of Missouri.

  
I have changed my plans a little bit, and added two days in the road, in order to avoid long cycling days mostly, and keep it all under 80kms at most. So I should reach Stockholm on the 29th.

Sweden!

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That’s it! I arrived in Sweden today 🙂 The last part of the trip is now ahead of me, one big week left, to cover a bit less than 600kms. That’s still a third of the way.


The ride from Copenhagen to Helsingor, a bit more than 40kms, was probably payback from the ride two days ago. The wind was mostly coming from the south, so it’s been a fantastic day, I was clocking at 25 average probably. I covered the whole distance in a breeze, with many other cyclists going the same way or the other, mostly racers. The track was very nice, going through a forest at first, then following the coast. I got my first view of Sweden on the way.

  
I arrived at the ferry dock, and missed the noon start by a mere 20 seconds. The bike in front of me, part of a group, 200 meters ahead, got in, and I was stopped. Oh well, the next ferry was fifteen minutes out. By the way, I had been searching on half a dozen websites, including Scandlines, for the schedule or frequency, and could not find anything. So people, your mobile sites suck! That’s really a basic info. I had the same issue to reach Denmark. I had to get to the booths to find the info.

  
So I took the next ferry, and this was it! Next stop, Sweden. I’ll be there either a few short months, or a very long time. I don’t think there’ll be an in between. While searching for a way to reach the top platform of the boat, I heard the speaker explain that you could buy cigarettes only in Danish waters, and alcohol only in Swedish waters (or the other way around). The ferry was really just a big floating shop. Twenty minutes later, I was in Helsingborg.

  
My first task was getting a local sim card to stop paying roaming fees, and especially on data – although I had been careful about that. Next up was, should I stop or should I go? I had done a mere 40kms, and could go on easily, but I had to find a place to stay. There’s not a lot of cities along the E4, the highway I’ll be flirting with up to Stockholm, and changing the planned stops could prove complex.

  
In the end, I found a nice B&B 30kms out, lost in the countryside. That would allow shorter stops in the coming days. The gps took me in places I wouldn’t have imagined, once again, so I got to see some (slightly) poorer parts of the city, rode along fields and did some strange turns. When I saw the ikea complex, I knew I was indeed in Sweden.