Day 06, Tour09, Verberod, Sweden to Ahus, Sweden

Something I thought I'd never see, Grain Elevators behind fancy sailboat masts
Ahus is like western Kansas town merged with a Baltic seaport!

It was a big day today. I rode to Kristianstad from Verberod and then rode back down, in a bad wind, to Ahus. I hadn't planned to ride that far - just to Ahus - and I wouldn't have been able to ride back in that bad wind with bad road construction - if I hadn't, at least for a while, come out of A-Fib today! I think I'm back in A-Fib now. but it was great to have some time where my body worked, and felt, normal. Hopefully I'll get more of this as this tour goes on.

A classic Swedish home with the traditional - and bad fire hazard - straw roof
That red thing out front is the mail box and there was a large Volvo station wagon parked
on the other side. The house is less that twice as long as the car

I left Verberod, reluctantly, at about 7:45 this morning. I had a great time with my relatives there. Now I've I acquired another must visit place in Europe ;-}. My must visit places, both in Europe and the US, now determine most of my routing, and are the highlights of each tour. Next year, I will be delighting in seeing friends all across the US that I haven't seen since my tour in 2007. In 2011, I will be delighting in seeing my friends and their kids (Most of my US friends have mostly grown up kids, like I do, but most of my European friends have young kids) that I visited, some for the first time, this year.

I rode north from Verberod to and around the north side of this big lake

The area north of the lake, on highway 104, is big time horse country

Riding would have been, except for A-Fib, easy for most of the day today. I remember when someone on the touring email list said he suddenly went from feeling like he was in his 50s to feeling like he was 20 years older. For me, A-Fib means I feel like I'm in my 80s instead of my 60s. It doesn't have much negative impact on flat ground with good wind conditions - I just average 10 mph instead of 12.5 mph, but that isn't really a big deal. However, even a sustained 1 % grade now wipes me out. It isn't just shortness of breath, it also an exhaustion that is quite different from the exhaustion I feel after pushing my healthy body hard. It is not fun, like climbing normally is for me, but rather something to get through. I actually skipped one town today because it was on the top of a modest hill. It wasn't worth the unpleasantness of getting up that hill in order to check out the town.

The first half of my ride today was fairly flat with a few long sustained hills
The second part of the ride was rolling hills with a continuous, but gradual, climb.

Then this happened and I lost several hundred feet at about a 5% grade gong down to Degeberga

It started raining lightly after I had been riding for about three hours. At the time I was riding in rolling hills through a long section - 15 miles? - of forest. Suddenly I realized that, when the rain picked up, my speed had also picked up. Instead of limping up hill at 5 mph or less in my granny, I was sometimes able to stay in my middle ring. It seemed like my heart was going in and out of A-Fib. It took a while for me to convince myself this was really happening, but by the time I got to the downhill into Degeberga - several hundred feet of vertical at 5% grade going down - I was no longer worried about being able to climb back out of the valley. The rain lasted for less than an hour and I never put on my rain gear, although I did stop and put rain covers on my non-waterproof bag.

In Degeberga, I stopped for lunch at a 'hamburger' place. It was the first place I'd seen to eat since I left Veberod and it was very popular with truckers and workmen. My hamburger was not a US hamburger, but it was good and filling. I noticed a rail trail to Kristianstad - 25 km - just before I spotted the restaurant and decided, since my body was working well, to add that to my route. As it turned out, that eliminated any major hill climbing from the rest of my riding today, but the wind and construction riding from Kristianstad to Ahus more than made up for that!

The rail trail was a mix of paved and gravelled surfaces, but it was always quite rideable. I met more walkers and runners than I did bicyclists, but mostly I just had it to myself. It was a good way to test my non A-Fib state and I cruised on it at 12 to 13 mph.

When the rail trail ended, I saw that I was 4 km from the center of Kristianstad and 16 km from Ahus. I checked my maps and saw that I was on the route I would need to use to bicycle to Ahus, then I bicycled into Kristianstad. It was a tourism zoo and the tourist information center was not at all bicycle friendly. I decided to take my chances on the tourist info center in Ahus. That worked out well.

The route to Ahus wasn't bicycle friendly either. Its bike path ended at the city limits, it had a narrow shoulder and it had a moderate amount of traffic including big trucks. I also had a really strong crosswind and several miles of construction. It was still the best way to get to Ahus, so I rode it.

Just riding in that cross wind - I estimated it at 15 mph - was a good test of my a-Fib status. If I hadn't been out of A-Fib, I simply couldn't have ridden in it. I was lucky to be on the upwind side of the road so that I didn't have to deal with wind blasts from the vehicles passing me at 100 kph, but it still required a lot of work to keep my bike on the, often bumpy, shoulder and moving at a reasonable - mostly around 9 mph - rate.

I saw one other bicyclist, a local, riding the other way near Kristianstad. When I got into the construction areas, I got another major test of my cardio-vascular system. I ended up in group of vehicles behind a large construction vehicle. That vehicle started out going about 12 mph and peaked at about 15 mph over a mile or two while I was behind it. Passing me wasn't possible for most of that distance, so I tried, and mostly succeeded, to keep up with the vehicles ahead of me. That wouldn't have been too hard to do if I were in great shape, but it was a major challenge today. There was no way I could have done it in A-fib.

When I got to Ahus, I was delighted to see grain elevators! Then, when I found my way to the touristy part of town - and it is very touristy indeed - I found a channel with lots of fancy sailboats in it and saw that the big grain elevators were also on the channel, near where it meets the Baltic sea.

I went looking for the tourist info place, found it after a bit, and found it was already busy with several groups of bike tourists. They found me a reasonable room in a down scale little B+B and, after stopping at the supermarket to buy my supper supplies, I rode here - into that strong wind - and checked in. The bathroom/shower is shared and down steep stairs. My room is very pleasant and the bed is large and comfortable, but the door to the room won't latch, there is no closet - but it does have a balcony so my laundry dried out there, and the sound isolation is non existent. If my next door neighbors aren't too bad, I should get a good nights sleep. The landlady knows the bike trail I want to use tomorrow and is very friendly. She also has a big dog - loud but friendly, and an old cat that I haven't been able to pet yet ;-{.

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