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.

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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.

  

Copenhagen

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I had a very nice resting day, walking around in Copenhagen. I toured the historical center, which is the town proper, the rest of the metropolis, going miles in every direction, can be considered outskirts.


   
 Something that struck me yesterday and even more today, is the unbelievable number of bikes around. They are stored at every corner, left mostly with the small lock on the back wheel, which prevents using them, but not really stealing them. I suppose when someone carries a bike around, everyone take notice. There are maybe more bikes than even in Amsterdam. Plus, here, people actually use them. The lanes are always filled by people at any time – at least in the center. It’s certainly the most convenient way to move around in town, knowing you can just leave it anywhere.

   
 The pedestrian center, the historic center, does not go that far back in time, due to having suffered plague, fires, the English, the German, over the last two centuries. Maybe they can hold it until it’s the Russians turn. Still, it’s an enjoyable walk, with the typical red brick used for most of these buildings. The canal areas seems a bit more modern in general, and also packed with tourists, including the famed little mermaid, a bit bigger than the manneken piss, but not much.

  
The US district : starbucks, hard rock cafe, 7 eleven, burger king, kfc, and there’s a mcdonald just turning left.

  
A few strange pics from the hotel, where apparently lifts are only checked every two years, and this one was even forgotten.

  
And which can hold four persons, or a precise weight of gods.

  
Oh yeah and there’s a spies floor.

FTW – fuck the wind!

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It’s been a grueling day reaching Copenhagen. I wasn’t sure I would go the whole way, but when you persist, you end up somewhere.

It looked so promising early on. A grey sky opened up, and the B&B lady said it would be a nice day, with no wind. I wanted to believe that. I left at about 9, and after the first turn I knew she was wrong. The wind was already blowing strong, from the north, which was where I was going. Suddenly 80kms seemed like an impossible target.

Cycling against the wind is like running through deep snow, or in waist high water. It seems fun to do for a minute, but over hours, it’s more than tiring. You do get tired three or four times faster, but you also lose any spirit quickly, as you can’t think about anything else. And there’s no respite. You have to pedal to get downhill, you fight on flat as if it’s uphill, you have no time to breathe. I was shouting against the wind, again. Although we’re not in Kansas anymore, Tonto.

The lady had told me I could catch a train to the city about half way. I was clinging to that hope as I started walking uphills, to get some time to recover. I was going very slowly. There was very few trees at start, so the wind was going full force. Still, I was moving forward. I was counting the kilometers, or rather the hectometers, then I switched off the gps. I was going to follow the same road all day anyway, and watching the distance remain the same was depressing. Plus there was no bike lane there, just the road shoulder, centimeters away from traffic, French style.

I passed a village, a second one, I made a break at a gas station. I had covered maybe twenty kilometers, then thirty. Forrests started to sprout around, killing a bit of the wind. I stopped at a public map, showing that the Copenhagen urban area was starting less than ten kilometers away. I figured it would help. I got going, it was close to noon. And the sky was closing down fast, temperatures dropping, perhaps with rain on the way.

It got a bit easier within the city, and as the road gradually turned east, the wind wasn’t directly in front anymore. I started moving at a more reasonable pace. It seemed like I would be able to do this. I even reached good speeds after some time. Plus real bike lanes appeared now, first pretty derelict, then gradually in better shape.

As I stopped for lunch, a few kilometers out of the center, still in a rather non descript urban mush of small buildings, I got to check where I would be staying. I was supposed to be hosted, but that didn’t work out. I realized at this point that hotels in this city are twice as expensive as anywhere else. I was too tired to find another solution.

All in all, I did reach Copenhagen, and I will take a rest tomorrow. The next day I’ll leave Denmark and they can keep all the wind turbines for all I care.