Back

That Which Does Not Kill You, Makes You Stronger
Like Sweden

It seems to me that at least 1/3 of every trip is the planning. Then, 1/3, is the doing and the final 1/3 is the boring of other people telling them about it. The perimeter of Sweden was carefully planned including the long suffering travel agent putting “bike box required” on the computerized plane reservations. A running friend, two years older than me, wanted to come with me and even did several 51 mile perimeters of Palm Bay with me for training.

Her husband dutifully took us to the airport, with Matt having to make sure the bike rack was on their securely. Both of us like to get to airports early and it’s a good thing that we did because there were no bike boxes. I have learned to be politely assertive and applied it. Bike boxes were found after I waved the trip itinerary complete with bike box needed printed on it. There was so much commotion, they forgot to charge us for the bikes.

The trip to New York and then across the Atlantic was blessfully boring. The Stockholm airport seemed to be a sleepy rural one on a Sunday morning. The bicycles were put together, we changed clothes, and asked directions north. We had not biked very far when a police car stopped Barbara. I had parked my bike and walked ahead to read road signs. The police gave us directions and we headed north biking on hilly terrain looking at rocks and boulders, a great change from Florida.

Barbara needed air for her bike tires and we stopped at a gas station. A man was washing his buggy on a trailer. We never saw the horse. He completely ignored Barbara pumping up her bike tires and gave her a shower. Barbara quickly got worried about not having a place to stay for the night.. My youth hostel directory did not show any youth hostels in the area but I have learned not to worry, following road signs north. Osthammar road signs kept showing up and I told Barbara that towns on road signs are usually large enough to have inexpensive accommodations.

Sure enough Osthammar had a camping that is, cabins for rent. cabins are just simple buildings with bunk beds and nothing else. Sometimes, there can be a refrigerator, stove, but nothing but brooms, mops, etc. to remind one to clean. This is not a thrill as I have to clean at home, too, and this is supposed to be a vacation.. Showers and toilets are always miles away. This time when I tried to use the shower, the key wouldn’t work so I had to go back to the manager’s cabin. They had given us the wrong key to the wrong shower. Then, a Swede graciously offered to give me a ride back to our cabin and couldn’t shift his manual transmission clipping a boulder strategically placed to keep cars in their proper places.

The next day, May 8, the traffic was very heavy as it continued to be almost without exception throughout the trip. But I was getting nervous. Barbara didn’t like me stopping to eat while biking as she felt so uneasy about not having a place to stay. She always wanted to hurry and I love taking it easy trying to get a feeling for Sweden. We stayed at the youth hostel in Gavle and continued biking each day.

Barbara kept complaining about the cold but I couldn’t comprehend what she was talking about it. Throughout the trip, I wore my priceless Gore Tex light blue jacket over a yellow cycling jersey that was muted gray at the end of 6 weeks. When I felt warm I took it off packing it in the right pannier or saddle bag. I allowed the right pannier to bulge out as the left one was kept as thin as possible as it could have been hit by a car. When I felt cold, I put the hood on under my helmet and tied it at the neck. When it became colder, I used a head band to insulate my neck.

Barbara and I kept riding. She was much stronger than me and usually rode ahead. On May 9, she biked further than she had ever biked before, 80 miles to Hudikvall Youth Hostel. However, I becoming more and more upset. In the evenings, she complained about me eating chocolate, reading paperbacks, etc. In the mornings, it seemed that I couldn’t clean the room properly. Besides, I just can’t travel with anyone. My ever-suffering husband had been blamed but I was quickly learning that I must travel alone.

We bicycled 61 miles to Sundsvall with the hostel located, as usual, on a high hill. We had to push our bicycles up and Barbara demanded a cabin with one key. When I tried to read at night and then would go to sleep with the light on, Barbara insisted that men could see in our windows that we were women alone and then would come in and rape us. the dark. This did not settle nicely with me a twice rape victim.. The next day, I was very upset and used the head winds as an excuse to have a rest day. I went to the library where I could get free Internet time and e-mailed an Arizona friend in AA as I was about to return to active alcoholism. I just couldn’t stand it anymore!!! My friend quickly e-mailed me to “dump” Barbara. The youth hostel made us move out of the blasted cabin into a room inside a building. I was happier but still very worried about my sobriety.

On May 12, Barbara and I kept arguing about our route. I was sticking to the route previously approved by the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America ( PBAA.)/ Finally, she said she was not going with me anymore and we separated.. I rode on alone without Barbara but we did wish each other good luck. The traffic thinned out and I biked 72 miles to Docksta where the tourist bureau in Sundsvall had made reservations for me in an isolated youth hostel. I had to stop at a camping trailer where I paid and was given a key to a beautiful place complete with a perfect view of a lake. Fortunately, I was blissfully alone! I have learned beyond a shadow of doubt that I can’t travel with anyone because I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I must careful to follow . AA’s HALT. Don’t get too hungry, too angry, too lonely, or too tired. My enjoyment of my own company could be genetic as a child my parents continually complained that I didn’t like to play with other children. Only when I was drinking did I feel lonely. Along with sobriety came an appreciation of my own company. It is said that two are safer than one when traveling but going back to drinking could be my death sentence.

My body reacted, too, by my vomiting, the first time when doing a perimeter but soon my continual diarrhea was over. I enjoyed the view and began late in the morning only biking 26 miles. The next day. May 14, Sunday, I biked 68 miles to the Umea youth hostel.,

The next day the head winds were worse than usual but I fought 85 miles to Skelleftra where the youth hostel was closed and the inexpensive hotel had no vacancies. The only lodging was a $125 hotel where I was not allowed to bring my bike up into my room. The bike was locked in the luggage storage beside the main desk. However, I loved the luxury!!! When I asked where I could find Internet, a computer for guests was pointed out to me.

All Swedish hotels have buffet breakfasts included in the price or can be purchased separately if I just happen to be biking by a hotel that is serving breakfast. Usually, these cost from $4 - 6 US. The greatest buffet I have ever seen was at this Hotel Rica in Skelleftra... There was a table for bacon, eggs, sausage, etc. A table for cold cuts, cheeses, pickled herring, etc. Another table had nothing but beverages including coffee, an assortment of all kinds of teas, orange juice, rose hip juice, apple juice, milk, yogurt, etc. Still another table contained cereals of all kinds I enjoy corn flakes as I can’t afford to eat them at home. No, I refuse oat meal as this is one of my micro wave cheap staples. There was always an often friendly woman who kept the tables filled with food and fresh beverages. I usually ate for an hour and strangely didn’t get hungry the rest of the day,.

The traffic continued to bother me and probably has affected the hearing in my left ear due to the almost continuous “swish” of all the vehicles but almost always there was space on the road for a bicycle. Sometimes it was just a foot wide but other times it was a complete lane used by slow traffic. Disabled cars in Sweden have special places labeled “P” a paved space to pull off the road. These are located about every kilometer and are widely utilized for people using their cellular phones, eating, etc. The US should have them, too These were in addition to the standard rest areas complete with toilets, sometimes water, and always picnic tables. One even had a vision test which opticians could use for public service and advertising in the US.

But I had to continue biking north to Lulea, a distance of 68 miles on May 14.. There were dirty piles of old snow beside the road. Here I stayed in a youth hostel located off the road in rustic type buildings. .Once in a while I feel that I need to chat with someone so I talked to a young Swede who was debating whether to finish his Ph.D. or continue to work. Yes, I’m free with advice!!!

Along with free advice, something draws me to Finland which is one of the few perimeters I would ever like to do again. There maybe something in our DNA that makes us want to return to our roots like the salmon or sea turtles. I just couldn’t wait to get to Finland!!! Bicycling hard for 80 miles, I found the youth hostel in Haparanda, Sweden, just across the river from Tornia, Finland. Haparanda was disappointing in that it was a drab town but the youth hostel was very nice and conveniently located across the street from the ever-necessary library with free Internet connections. Also, the youth hostel had a restaurant with a salad buffet. These were popular in Sweden, at least for lunch and I could eat slaw, a unique corn salad, cooked peas, etc. sometimes for as low as $2. I made it a habit to hunt for these luncheon specials. The Swedes were surprised when I wanted the salad only as the Swedes love their Swedish meat balls, hamburgers, etc.

May 18 was a blessed rest day spent in Finland. It was just a short walk over the bridge to Finland where there was a conveniently located tourist bureau. Customs ignored me and everyone else. I spent the day buying gifts for my Finnish friends here in Melbourne and taking photos. When I got tired, I walked back across the bridge to the youth hostel. That night, I heard singing and thought “Oh No, no sleep for me.”. There were 2 Swedish men singing with one playing a guitar. I got my knitting and enjoyed the free concert. Unfortunately, I was noticed and asked questions. Many Swedes asked why I was biking around Sweden. Do you have relatives here? I was often asked. The hardest questions of all was what kind of music do you like. I love symphonies but they rarely sing this type of music. They did know the Messiah and drifted into Negro spirituals explaining that Swedish music had been influenced by American music. They had a pitcher of orange juice and vodka so they didn’t notice my lack of musical ability when I attempted to sing with them. It’s strange that during every perimeter music actually seeks me out including the woman in Iceland, the Dutchman and son with their violin in Denmark, etc. Why perimeters and music come together I’ll never know but it does enhance the trip.

They sang several of Stephen Foster’s songs including Swannee River which I had sung when I ran 242 miles in 8 days from Tampa of Tallahassee in 1978 to escape an abusive husband. I had crossed the Swannee River then. On this trip, I was inoculated with a love for the serenity of the open roads.

Also, I do see strange things. When I do a walkabout or explore a town (small towns, please, as I can’t handle large ones), I go inside any unlocked door. So far, people have very nice asking if they can help me if it is a shop, or explaining that it is an advertising agency, design studio firm, etc. In Haparanda, I found an international school with very decorated bathrooms but the photos did not come out as it was too dark. That’s what I love about perimeter riding, the artistic surprises!! Priceless gifts!

On May 19, I biked in Finland with tail winds and very little traffic but for once but some light rain. With my faithful Gore Tex jacket, Gore Tex pants, Gore Tex socks, I was as snug as a bug in a rug. I stopped to buy some handmade cards for my mother-in-law + a cat wall hanging for me. But I had the Arctic Circle to cross for the second time!!! The last time 2 years ago, it had been so cold that I had to purchase an extra head band but this time I was able to take off my long pants and pose at the Arctic Circle sign in just my shorts. No, the same people were not working at the large souvenir shop that marks the circle but I celebrated a small pizza, apple juice, and a Geisha candy bar made in Finland. It’s the best candy bar in the world!! But I had to get moving as I still had miles to go before I sleep which is a quote from my favorite poet Robert Frost.

That night I spent in Pello, Finland, in a hotel room attached to a gas station. There is no place like area above the Arctic Circle in Finland! I had to get back into Sweden to continue my perimeter. Again, the border was unattended and unguarded and I was ignored or so I think. But the Arctic is unforgiving and one needs shelter.

Admittedly, it is scary to look at a map and not see any towns. I did check at a small town and asked about lodging. Usually, local people know about available accommodations and this was no exception. At a video store where they described they had had customers when it was 35 degrees minus Celsius last winter, the very kind owners telephoned around the area for possible accommodations for me. They found a cabin for me in Junosuando, a very small town. The cabin was on a river and I spent one of the most peaceful nights of my life. There is something about the Arctic!

People kept calling me tough but they are the touch ones living with snow on the ground and on the roads for 8 months of the year. Sweden’s roads all have large containers labeled sand so that people can help themselves when the roads are slippery.

The lock was slippery in the bathroom in Yellow House Hostel in Kiruna. Getting locked in a bathroom in an almost empty hostel is no fun. Besides, the manager wasn’t much interested in renting a room and was the worst in the entire trip. Other people had complained about him, too. Eighty miles of hard riding does make me irritable, though.

Another very isolated stretch of road was waiting for me on May 22. Again, the tourist bureau found me accommodations at the Abisko Tourist Center complete with e-mail and a group of Finns traveling with some developmentally disabled students. I shall never forget the ride to Abisko. The rail road ran beside the road and trains tooted at me when I waved. Only above the Arctic Circle! This was the most beautiful ride of my life beside a frozen lake guarded by snow splattered mountains and no traffic or wind. My heart sang and I was happier than I have ever been before.

The snow beside the road kept getting higher and higher as I crossed into Norway. I did stop and inquire about Norway’s tunnels and biking. The Norwegians kindly gave me a map of the tunnels and warned me not to bike through them as they were very dangerous and I could be killed. The road had been made one lane by an avalanche. The photo of it is very good. The reindeer never photograph well as I can’t get close enough to them.

It was only a 52 mile ride to Narvik, a very bustling city, which came as a cultural shock to me. I had had no traffic and few people for several days. Wham! Narrow roads, and heavy traffic were not my idea of pleasure. As there was no youth hostel there and I couldn’t find the tourist bureau as Norwegians seem to like to hide these places, the first problem was that I was hungry and needed a cheap place to eat. I asked a young woman who told me about a hotel that served food but no salad buffets in Norway and no cheap chocolate, either. The lady at the hotel desk allowed me to bring my loaded bike into the lobby via the handicapped person ramp. I’m not past trying to get a room price down and so the negotiations began. She did give me a hotel room for $30 + the breakfast buffet. Money had to be changed from Swedish to Norwegian and of course the computer in the bank was down. I was to find that Norway is much more backward than Sweden with regard to computers.

After breakfast on May 24, I biked 62 miles to Ukaavag, Norway, where I stayed in a guest house that I saw advertised by a road sign. The day had begun badly when I was asked for my receipt when I tried to leave the Victoria Hotel in Narvik. I couldn’t find it so the woman who had rented the room to me for cash had to telephoned.

The scenery was incredible. Unending fjords as the road wound around them all as if they had come from the picture book. But then there was a tunnel through which I could see daylight. I asked a car driver to turn on his blinking lights and follow me through but so did a huge truck. I did get a speed workout! I did have to take a ferry which was very nice although I argued with one of the ferry workers that I had read the sky and felt that bad weather was coming He insisted that the beautiful weather would continue.

The next day I was correct about my weather prediction and faced terrible problems with long tunnels. I had to hitch a ride through one in the rain as I had read the weather correctly . I had much trouble getting a ride for my bike in the pouring rain so I got out my knitting, ate chocolates and did some weeping. Matt teases me that when I get into trouble on my trips, I just cry. Richard, the director of PBAA insists that I should imagine doing what he would do. No, he wouldn’t knit, eat chocolates, and cry.

When I arrived in Fauske it was still raining and the hotels were too expensive, no youth hostels, but there was camping. The cabin was cold and I am mechanically deficient, but I still got a heater to work. The bathrooms, naturally 100 miles away in the cold rain or so it seemed, lacked hot water even with the token required to operate them. This was the first and last time that I got very shivery cold. Fortunately, I have a priceless down sleeping bag + the heat on as high it would go, my shivering went away. I hate cabins!

I was very glad to leave Fauske and bike 83 miles to Mo i Rana my favorite city in Norway. I had to cross the Arctic Circle again and the souvenir shop was surrounded by deep snow. There was a nasty navy blue sky chasing me and I didn’t want to ride in a storm near the Arctic Circle so I didn’t waste any time. My cat sitter had put in a request for a puffin bird ornament and here at the Circle I found one for her carefully carried in my bicycle pannier for the rest of the trip.

The ride contained hills, but some flat terrain, head wind harassed, of course. I kept trying to call the youth hostel to make certain I had lodging but couldn’t reach them. When I finally arrived after about 10 roundabouts a popular problem in Norway, I found the best youth hostel in Norway run by a New Zealander who was a native speaker of English., Wow!!! He was married to a woman from Peru. Both of them seemed to enjoy talking to me. I badly needed a rest day so I rested in Mo i Rana on May 27 and found the finish line of a race in downtown in the rain in almost freezing rainy weather. The first person to cross the finish line was a woman dressed in a strange robe with a Viking helmet and swim flippers on her feet. It seems that this the Norwegian way of handling women about to be married. In Finland, I had witnessed a young man cross country skiing across a parking lot and was able to take his photo but this time I didn’t have my camera. He was about to be married, too! The winner of the race looked good but I had trouble finding out the exact distance of the race. There were also relays who were a rope like a hangman’s noose around their neck. It was just like the finish line of a US race except everything was in Norwegian.

Naturally, I found the library and spent one hour on the computer e-mailing. Matt had e-mailed me that my friend Barbara had come back home and called him explaining that she couldn’t take the cold and didn’t like all the traffic. She had had trouble at the Stockholm Airport getting a bike box and had to spend an extra night there. I was so surprised that she had come home. When I got home she telephoned me with her telling me how she did not want to travel alone. We are still friends and she will continue to run faster than me at local races.

It’s always hard to leave a place that one likes and this was especially so with Mo i Rana, the small city all dressed with flower beds, new shiny buildings, bakeries, etc. At a bakery while eating, a man sitting at a table asked if I were English and I told him that I was from the US. He proceeded to describe his bitterness against the Germans who had burned his father’s fishing boat when he was a 6 years old. You can forgive but you can’t forget he repeated in excellent English. We chatted and finally he confessed that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Knowing the research about the healing power of prayer, I suggested that he pray but he refused in that he hated religion. I just wish that I knew who had planted that hate. Apparently, he had had some trouble with a preacher.

But I was getting tired and had to get back to the youth hostel where they told me they were worried about me as I hadn’t taken my clothes off the clothesline in the laundry room. I pay for a washing machine once each trip whether I need to or not. By the time, I returned they were dry and I had to get to bed early for the next day. It was a good thing no one told me about the mountain that I had to climb the next day or I think I would have quit there.

May 28 began quite nice with sunshine, green pastures, very pleasant but the wind was picking up coming at me from all sides. Suddenly, I found myself off the road knocked into the grass instead of the usual gravel on the sides of the roads. Then, I saw a sign 10 kilometers 7-8% with the grade sign. It must be a mistake I thought and asked at a gas station. I was told it was one Norwegian mile which is really 10 k or 6.2 US miles. Climbs seem to always begin gently so that I think is all that there is....but I began walking and walking with the terrain going from green to fall colors and then snow higher and higher beside the road. Yes, it was 6.2 miles up where there was a shop but it was closed or so I was told by several Norwegians dressed in their native costumes. I could smell food cooking but I could not beg well enough. They did pose for photos and took my picture. Now, I had the downhill to do. Since I am very afraid I walk downhill, too. I saw a cyclist pumping up the mountain so we stopped to talk. He sprayed my bike chain and I gave him chocolates at his request. He was from Scotland and going north. I have a problem that when I stop my legs begin tightening up so I had to leave, walking, of course. He yelled something at me which I’m glad I didn’t hear.

I was very thankful to find the town of Mosjoen after 56 miles of struggle. Being very hungry, I grabbed the first sandwich I saw at the gas station and began eating it while standing in line to pay for it The clerk began yelling at me in several different languages. I carefully explained that I was going to pay for it and saved the wrapper with the price tag on it.. That wasn’t the problem. I was eating the waxed paper between the two sandwiches. The Norwegian bread had been very dry so I had been dumping salad dressing on it but it was paper. Nothing ill came from this except I had a very good laugh and so did the Norwegians!!!

The wind was horrible and I needed a place a stay. There were hotels and I found one with the woman clerk helping me carry my bicycle and luggage up to my room. This was common in both Norway and Sweden in that people would see my wrinkles, my tired face, and ask if they could help. I never turn down either help or money.

Norway’s numerous climbs were getting to me. I was aching where I had never ached before. May 29, my brother’s birthday, and I biked 76 miles to Namsakogan and on May 30, I biked to Steinkjer where I had asked for a safe place to stay. The tourist bureau had booked me at the safest place in the world.. It was a police training place and I stayed with 47 of Norway’s police officers planning a training school for their recruits. The police were very nice when I ate breakfast with them. All of them, including the women, were over 6 feet tall, couldn’t carry guns, and were concerned about the US death penalty. This interaction was one of the best things about the trip. I also got on the phone to Richard of PBAA weeping that I hated the Norwegian mountains and couldn’t I find some flatter roads. Wise Richard told me to do a shorter mileage day which I did. The next day I only biked 21.5 miles to Verdasore and I still ached even with an easy day. I was able to buy some fresh fish and sauce and cook it without a microwave, one of the personal records of this trip.

Enroute to Selbu on June 1, I met a Norwegian cyclist going the opposite direction. He admitted that e-mail wasn’t widely used in Norway and he didn’t use it in his grocery business because other people could get his secrets. He kept asking me personal questions like what do you do in the evenings? Not much. He wanted to know if I got massages. How do you explain that you have nerve damage in your thighs and can’t stand the pain caused by massages. He wanted to know how long it would take me to recover from such a long hard bike ride. I had no idea but have found this perimeter to be the worst with regard to recovery. Feeling uncomfortable, I told him I had to leave and bike as far as I could.

In Selbu, I asked a man at a shop where the accommodations were and he described the usually expensive Norwegian hotels and the blasted cabins. His young son was busily kicking my bicycle tires and I did indicate that he should stop immediately. I haven’t lost my dirty looks cultivated when I taught elementary school , 1960-1965.

Is there any end to steep hills and headwinds? And no e-mail. Finally I burst into a tourist bureau and weeping and they found me e-mail. So very wonderful to hear from Matt!! At a shop I found some tiny hand knitted mittens for a Christmas tree. My last night in Norway was June 2 and I stayed alone in a building being dusted with snow. It was very nice but I couldn’t wait to get to Sweden. The manager of the hotel was very nice and talked to me about the US while I ate a solitary buffet breakfast..

Little did I know that I would soon have a profound spiritual experience. Snow was on both sides of the road and I had a sweet slow downhill ride looking at reindeer. It was a feeling of wholeness with the universe and worth every bit of pain and cent the trip had cost me. It was almost as though my Higher Power were speaking to me. That had happened to me once in Finland and I had obeyed my instructions. Now, I am a trained scientist-type but it wasn’t a hallucination, just a great feeling. I decided that I try to be a much better person, forgiving the people I feel who have done me wrong. I know that I am the richest woman in the world in that I have seen so many incredible things, have my sobriety + a very loving e-mail connected husband. I even liked the reindeer droppings on the road and almost hit a reindeer who didn’t hear the bicycle come up to him. These profound experiences are why I do perimeters.

Finally, the Swedish border came with light snow falling but not sticking on the road. At the border, I wanted my tax rebate for puffin sculpture and had to go through both panniers to get all the paper work.. The snow was Christmas card beautiful and I had set my record of biking in snow 3 years in a row. It was a gentle, sweet kissing Joan good bye snow.

After only 52 miles of now flatter roads and more traffic, I stopped at the Funaadalon, Sweden tourist bureau where they warned me that there would be no lodging or shops for about 120 kilometers. They found me a cheap room and I took a museum tour there showing how the people in the early days had struggled. This was one of the things I had come to Sweden to learn how my ancestors had lived. The museum provided me with an English book describing all exhibits.

The tourist bureau was correct in that I had 107 miles of nothing, just like the Australian outback. I had carefully filled my water bottles and had grocery shopped the day before I had plenty of both food and water. The hills were rolling but not a single wild animal, living or dead. Boring.

The tourist bureau had made reservations for me at a youth hostel about 5 miles off the road all uphill. The people had been waiting for me and were able to get CNN on the TV for me. The woman put me in a room telling me that she thought I would enjoy a view of the mountain. How could I tell her I hated mountains? This is one of those unexplainable things that only worn out cyclists can understand.

June 5 was spent biking to Stolle, Sweden. Between Fulma and Stolle, there was Salem, a perfect little town where I ate breakfast at the best bakery in Sweden. I quickly learned in Sweden, to ask for half price or day old bakery items and the Salem bakery had great bargains. Later, as I biked along, I saw several stores promoting fur items. When I tried to get off my bike, I accidentally caught my foot, and smashed down smacking my head hard on the cement parking lot. I don’t like seeing stars in the daylight but it made me very grateful that I always wear a helmet when biking. In Malung, I stopped for a lunch salad buffet and met the woman owner who had been married to a US Marine. She boxed up some extra food for me and gave it to me free. Perhaps I was beginning to look skinny but it was an extremely nice gesture.

The map indicated wiggly lines and I knew I was in for some climbs. On the opposite side of the road, I saw a loaded bicycle complete with a German cyclist. We chatted about the essential cyclist things: road, hills, lodging, weather. He insisted that Norway was s--- and I agreed. Norway’s continual hills were an experience I will never repeat. He wanted to know why I was in Sweden as Sweden is like Montana or Canada. My German wasn’t good enough to explain perimeters..

After 88 miles, I was totally exhausted and arrived in Arjang with the choice of a $65 hotel or a $27 cabin. I hate cabins but I hate wasting money. There was a $2 charge for the shower, too, but the clerk gave me a big hug as I must have looked horrible. This was my first hug in a long time. She also gave me some apples!!!

The next day I biked 117 miles to Kunnfly and had a rest day which I needed so badly as I had to face Goteburg, Sweden’s second largest city. I had considered taking the bus into Goteburg to sight see leaving my bike in Kunnflybut I don’t like cities and didn’t want to waste the fare.

June 9 was on of the worst rides of my life as I had to get through Goteburg on unmarked bike paths. Fortunately, there were many very kind Swedish cyclists who had me follow me them until they got out of the area that they knew. Without the bike paths, it would have been impossible on the roads as I caught glimpses of 6 lane roads filled with traffic. I did bike 94 miles to Varberg and the next day 66 miles to Laholm. I was in a hurry to finish the ride as my plane reservations were for June 20.

Another large city was Malmo which I by passed and rode 91 miles to Ystad. The winds were tricky and the hills continuously although not as bad as Norway I was totally bored, exhausted, homesick for the first time in my life, and just wanted to go home.

On May 13, I was pestered by the police who didn’t me biking on the main roads. However, they refused to give me an alternate route. This reminded me when I was a child and punished by my parents, I never knew what they were punishing me for. These flash backs were not needed.

It is said that when things can’t any worse, they do. After the police problems somewhat soothed by the first real tail wind of the trip, I stayed in a youth hostel in Bergkvara where my bicycle was not allowed in my room. Instead, it was locked in the basement. Guess what happened the next morning? The key that I had been given did not fit the basement lock and the manager was not available. It is my habit to ride early as in Sweden there was no real sunrise with light enough to ride in all night. I need an early start was I never know how long it will take me to get to the next place. Youth hostels are only open certain hours like 5-7, 4-9, etc. If they are closed, then I’m forced to find more expensive accommodations.

Finally, the manager came and apologized but I still had to ride 78 miles to Oskarshamm where I had stayed in 1997, when I had biked around Gotland Island and needed a place to stay near the ferry. The youth hostel had not changed at all except the bathrooms smelled this year. I found the library and was able to get on the “net” for an hour. The male in charge insisted that I couldn’t e-mail the US.

More miles on June 15 to Overunn Youth Hostel. It was 5 miles off the main road but it was the best youth hostel I have ever stayed in. I had a room filled with priceless antiques and an attached bath, like a luxury hotel!! I hated to leave it.

I biked 57 miles to Norrkoping and arrived soon enough to do some museums and to spend one hour at the tourist bureau trying to find a bike route around Stockholm. The airport is located north of Stockholm which is built on a series of islands.

Armed with the bike route, I biked 80 miles to Eskilstuna where there were no accommodations available. There was a Seventh Day Adventist Conventions & all accommodations were booked. When all else fails, I go to the police. A police car was conveniently sitting downtown so I explained to them my problem. One of them had a sister working at a locked up hotel. He telephoned his sister & she came, took my money, gave me the door code, signed me in, and left. By now, it was getting cold but I needed food. I left the hotel and went to buy groceries but the door code would work Here I am cold, hungry, and locked out. Finally, someone left the hotel & I got in that way. I had been given the wrong door code.

The hotel was very nice, however, with an excellent breakfast buffet, including a hand juicer for the bowl of fresh oranges. But I had miles to go to get as close to the airport as possible as I was leaving Sweden. One more day left before the airport and I was glad as Sweden has not bicycle friendly.

For about 30 miles, I had rolling beautiful green countryside but then suddenly there was terrible traffic with a very narrow bike lane. Mile after mile but with the biking of each mile, I knew that I was getting closer to leaving Sweden. I had to ride 65 miles to get to Uplands Uppsala where the tourist bureau had made reservations for me. The manager of the youth hostel had given me excellent directions: follow the signs to the hospital. I biked out of town and finally saw the international hostelling symbol. My room key was under a stone as promised.

My last night in Sweden had both a sweet and sour feeling. I had only to bike to the airport the next day. As usual, there was getting the bike into my room using the handicapped ramp. I have learned to ask for help which I did, asking a young man from the Ukraine to help me find my room number, hold the doors open, etc. He was very cooperative but quickly disappeared when it was over, never to be seen again.

My next problem to solve was to get directions to the airport. Again, I asked someone who produced a very detailed map. She was studying horse massage and had to take her final exam the next day. She also agreed to pay the hostel for me as I was planning to leave before the hostel opened. Yes, I had saved the correct amount of money so I wouldn’t have change making problems.

It was so wonderful now having to wash out my cycling shorts. If Customs wanted to inspect my luggage they would get a good whiff of stench!

June 19, I left early as I did not know how far it was from the airport. I had heard various estimates from 5 to 20 miles on the back roads which no one ever traveled. However, I found these roads “loaded” with traffic and paralleled the almost bumper-to-bumper motor way. I almost kissed the first airplane symbol that I saw on a sign. I was getting close!!!!

Is there any airport in the world that is not surrounded by construction? The Stockholm Airport was not an exception and included a tunnel that was barricaded for bikes. I had to go way around it finally arriving at the terminal where I had the finishing photos made by a woman cab driver. I showed off my Terry cycling shorts that had now done 4 countries. They were somewhat faded!

I was too early to check in so I was stuck with the bike. When I tried to leave it with a clerk in one of the many airport shops, I was warned that anyone could put a bomb in my panniers so I decided to do a “walkabout” with the bike bumping and horrors probably “greasing” some people that got too close.

Finally, check in opened and I was told that the bike could not travel with me without a bike box and there were no bike boxes were available.. “What do you mean? My reservation says with bike. The Swede tried to play games with Swedish and English prepositions insisting that I was traveling “by” bike and that the bicycle would remain in the airport while I left the country.

I haven’t taught for 40 years without learning to be “pleasantly” assertive. “Are you trying to tell me that at this famous international airport there are no bike boxes? How many airlines fly here?

The Swede got on the telephone and found a bike box with KIM, the Dutch airline but I had to go get it and “suggest” that I get help getting it back to Delta. I had to pay for the box but then I blatantly lied when asked if I had paid Delta for the bike.

Since I’m mechanically disinclined I had to find a muscular casually dressed young man to take off the pedals, loosen and twist the handlebars, etc. The one I asked insisted that he was French and couldn’t speak English and my French is almost worthless but he complied. No, I would never ask a man dressed in proper suit to help as one of my bike’s purposes is to grease people. Also, I avoid asking old men, weak looking men, etc. for help I can usually tell if a man lifts weights by staring at his muscle definition. Indeed, my Frenchman did show me he lifted weights. He laughed when I made a fist and showed my muscles.

The man I should have asked for help was the famous racing cyclist Lance Armstrong who I was walking through the terminal. I do know that he hates to be bothered and probably would have lied if I had asked him if he was Lance Armstrong. Cyclists have a particular distinct kind of walk, like a strange lope, which even I have developed as I spend much time on the bike. Different sports give people different types of walk gaits with the skaters “gliding” (I had seen the US skating team once on one of my trips), but the race walkers are the most unusual as they “slow” race walk everywhere.

With the bike checked in, the plain clothes woman (I politely asked her if that was her job & she admitted I was right) in almost constant attendance (I have an uncanny ability to identify plain clothes people due to my experience in anti-war protests, and problems with the police when I was drinking), I was now FREE to do some last minute shopping. I found a wooden cross for my mother-in-law but then remembered she only wanted a “pedal by pedal” description. No more crosses but I did find a miniature carousel horse for one of my collecting triathlete friends. At airports they always want to gift wrap gifts and since I hate gift wrapping, I watched very impressed at her skill.

For the first time in my life, I was happy to board the plane and sit in the sardine section. Unfortunately, my sleeping pill did not work so I was bored across the Atlantic. I could not get classical music and didn’t like the movie but self hypnosis had prevented me from screaming at the take off and landing in New York. Then I had to race through Customs who just waved me through. It’s nice not to fit the profile but I always dress conservatively wearing a wrinkle proof black blouse with dirt defying print culottes, all from the charity shop.

A nice man in an airport cart felt sorry for me running between the planes carrying my heavy saddle bag and an athletic bag so he gave me a ride. I was very afraid I was going to miss my plane but the plane had mechanical problems so they had to “invent” another plane so they lost their place in the take off line and I was quite late getting into Orlando.

On the plane, I saw a man talking on a telephone. I asked him about it and he showed me the phone which fitted into the seat in front of me. I managed to call Matt and tell him that I would be late.

Nevertheless, Matt was late and I didn’t have change to reach his cellular phone. When in trouble, cry, and that is what I did and Delta finally came through calling him for me.

Yes, I was glad to see Matt and we did a tandem Perimeter of Palm Bay, FL, the next morning. Jet lag isn’t one of my problems!!

The Perimeter of Sweden took 42 days, 22 hours, 13 minutes and was 2777.1 miles long. It was approved by PBAA and is a perimeter that I will never do, again. I would like very much to return to Finland, however. This perimeter took me longer to recover from than any perimeter that I have done due to the Norwegian mountains, tunnels, and stress from being prohited on certain roads in Sweden. It definitely proved that which does not kill you makes you stronger and I cannot travel with anyone else. The spiritual experience was especially rewarding and for that I am very thankful. I also very thankful to all of the people who prayed for me. Even AA members prayed for Sweden!!!.