MEMORIES OF NORDEN Part 3: Midsummer in Dalarna

 VH == Vandrarhem (or Vandrerhjem or Vandrarheim) == youth hostel
 SL == Sverige Leden a marked bicycle route through Sweden
 VR == Vättern Rundan

  
 ---A 25 day bicycle tour of Sweden and Norway near midsummer 1994--

 Sunday 19-june 1994 Motala to Askersund
  
  I had planned to rest today and only ride a little.  There didn't seem
like much to do in Motala so I headed back north on Rt 50, the same road
the VR had finished on.  This morning the weather was cloudy and cool with
some showers.  I remembered seeing a grocery store in Medevi with a sign
indicating it was open on Sunday.  On the way there I bought some
jordgubbar (strawberries) at a roadside stand.  The store was open. 
  It was still early and I didn't feel like stopping yet .  At a tourist
info sign there was a good map of the county which had the Sverige Leden
cycle route marked, so I turned off on a nice gravel road through the
woods towards Godegård.  I had a late lunch in a clearing as the sun
tried to shine. 
  I turned on to the SL route which was paved.  The signs pointed out a
diversion around the village of Godegård so I followed them.  These
diversions often lead to interesting spots. If I had the maps and
guidebooks I probably would know what to see.  There was an historical
iron works here.
   I turned off the SL route and took a short cut to Askersund via
Zinkgruvan, a zinc mining town .  From there it was mostly downhill to
Askersund , which a port at the north end of Vättern.  I went to the
Vandrarhem which was in a school, right by the water. 
  There were some heavier showers in the evening but as I was having
supper a magnificent rainbow appeared. I rushed outside and took some
pictures, which to my surprise turned out good.
  I figured out how to use the the Swedish telephones and the hi-tech
telefonkort and called my mother, 8 time zones away.
      The direct distance from Motala to Askersund is only 45 km but
somehow I managed to ride 75 km today. So much for a rest day!
However I seemed to have picked up a flu or cold virus in Motala and
my throat was getting sore.
   Distance 75 km climb 400 m 
  
  Monday 20-july Askersund to Nora
  This morning I felt I was definitely coming down with a cold or flu. 
At breakfast I had a chat with a nice lady who was on a 3 day cycle
tour.  She wished me "God Tur". 
   I got a tourist pamphlet of Örebro county which had a good map (
scale 300000)
    I had to wait for the post office to open so I could mail newspaper
clippings to my mother.  It was after 1000 before I left town, heading
north into a headwind. 
   About 10 km north of town several branches of the Sverige Leden join,
I will follow one section north for the next several days. 
    At Vretstorp I cross the E3 highway.  Across the fields I see giant
wind-turbines , their blades spinning very fast.  This is not a good
sign for cyclists heading into the wind.  Fortunately most of the route
was more sheltered by trees. 
    I stopped for a lunch break in a nature reserve near Viby.  It was a
magical place with a grove of large, ancient oak trees and the sounds of
many birds.  It invoked images of elves, ents etc. There was a wood
platform in the woods which I assume was for outdoor concerts. 
   Past Flagestra and I stop in for another lunch break in a National
Park near Garphyttan.  A major hiking trail, the Berlagsleden, passes
through  the Kilsberg hills. 
   The SL takes a short cut into the hills.  Soon after I pass Kil the
pavement ends and there are some steep climbs.  I cross the Bergslags
Hiking trail several times.  The road runs along the side of a nice lake
and I see a sign describing the large network of ski trails in the area. 
  My map had a  "shoot field" marked on it and I was wondering what that was
until I heard distant explosions and saw some army trucks pass.
  Then the road decends to Nora, one the prettiest towns in Sweden.  The
VH here is in  old train cars next to the lakeshore.  The manager assures
me that the train wont move overnight.  That night I am lulled to sleep
by the lake water lapping outside my window. 
  Distance 101 km climb 500m

  Tues 21-June: Nora- Smedjebacken
 This morning started out sunny, and was warming up quickly.  But it
didn't last. 
    I cook my breakfast in the train kitchen but eat it on the dock at
the lake in the bright morning sunshine.  There is a summer camp on a
island in the lake, and children start arriving at the dock to take the
boat across. The ferry man rode up on a very ancient bicycle, from its
colour I assume it was an old Swedish Army bike. 
   I went to the tourist bureau in the train station to look for some
maps.  They didn't have any for the Sverige Leden but had some booklets
on county bike routes, which weren't really going in my direction but
included good maps. 

 On to Born, Storå and Ramsberg and up the hills and through the woods
to Kloten.  The early morning turned out to be the warmest part of the
day, it turned cloudy and cooler.  I had a headwind of course.  My cold
is getting worse.  At lunch I used my gas stove to heat up some water
for blueberry soup. 
    I arrive in Smedjebacken and have a little difficulty finding the
hostel (VH), when I get to it , the caretaker has gone home for the
evening.  Some local kids, who speak very little English, rescue me. 
The mother of one of them is the caretaker.  The VH is in a modern
apartment building.  This is a rather industrial looking town, not as
quaint as Nora, but much cleaner than any Canadian industrial towns I've
seen. 
  
  Distance 119 km Climb 840m

 Wed 22-June Smedjebacken - Lecksan
  This day it was cool, there was some rain and more headwinds.  The
route was fairly hilly and the dirt roads turned muddy after the rain. 
I was still feeling a bit sick too.  However it was a very enjoyable
day, the countryside seemed to have some magic in it. 
    I was now north of Latitude 60 and in the province of Dalarna.  I
continued following the Sverige Leden signs north, to Gustafs and
Torsång on the River Dal ( Dalälven).  Then some more back roads
through little villages where the "maypoles" ( are they really called
may-poles in June) have been put up for the midsummer festival.  The
notice boards list local special events happening on Midsummers Eve.  I
hope I'm in some nice village on Friday to experience some of this. 
  There is a bit of cool rain so I stop to warm up in a rustic cafe in
Smedsbo - log construction with big wood stove etc. 
  The route then goes along the north side of Lake Insjön , this is a
very scenic road winding through typical Dalarna farms and villages,
leading to Leksand at the south end of Siljan Lake. 
     The Vandrarhem in Leksand was in a very nice setting with lilac
bushes surrounding several cabins.  In the evening it turned clear and
there was a nice full moon rising.  Maybe summer is finally here??
  After the World Cup football coverage on TV the weather forcast came
on. I didn't need to know much Swedish to understand that tommorrow
would be cool, but no rain.  But then the winds! 10 to 20 , not km/hr or
knots but meters/sec.!  That's up to 72 km/hr or 40 knots! Surely that
can't be right ???
Distance 107km climb 712m

 Thurs 23-Jun Leksan - Oxberg
   The wind forcast was true! A headwind of course!
  THe first section of the route was in the trees which provided some
shelter.  The view was rather boring, which was also a bit of relief
from the visual bombardment I had been receiving for the past few days. 
  Things soon got less boring.  Ahead of me I saw a large tree fall
over, away from the road.  But the trees on the upwind side of me were
bending menacingly.  Later in the day I did see where trees had fallen
across the road. 
  I took a lunch break by an old Norse water mill, a type that that
predates the waterwheel mill. 
  The Sverige Leden route makes a scenic diversion to the island of
Sollerön.  There is an annual bike race here and the Siljan Rundt is a
popular bike tour.  I saw a few racers coming off the bridge so I
thought it must be OK. 
  There was a wicked cross wind as I crossed the narrow bridge.  I was
very afraid of being blown off.  This is one time I'm glad my bike was
loaded down.  At the end of the bridge the ordeal still wasn't over
since the road continues along a narrow causeway across the lake.  At
the end I stopped to warn a group of touring cyclists of the dangerous
winds - they were Swedish but understood English.  In the village of
Sollerön I stopped for a snack. 
   I thought that I had experienced just about all forms of bad weather
in the last few days but there was one more trick - a sandstorm, something
I did not expect to be riding through in the middle of Sweden!
   But then I entered Mora and the sun was shining on a sheltered cove of
Lake Siljan.  I found a sheltered spot and had a second lunch by the
lake.  I noticed quite a few people on roller skis ( classical
technique, not skates) on the bike path along the lake. 
  Then I went to the end of Vasa Gatan -  the most famous street
in Sweden, at least on the first Sunday in March when over 10000 skiers
come down this street to the finish line of Vasaloppet,  the world's
biggest ski race.  There is a museum here with exhibits of old skis,
trophies and authentic looking "Blueberry Soup" stains.  I watched a
movie about the race, they even had film clips from the first race in
1922. 
   For those interested, the 1995 race will be on March 5, but Feb 26-28
they have a "open track" event over the whole 90 km course, with full
facilities.  The trail is also there all winter, it is easily accessable
from the highway.  It is also a hiking trail with huts along the route. 
  I was on my own Vasaloppet to Sälen, going in reverse direction by
bicycle - the road parallels the trail.  I would take longer to bike it
that the fastest ski times (4 hr)! It was ironic that now in late June I
was wearing my down ski vest! It was that cool!
   I was planning ahead enough to search for maps of Norway in a
bookstore, but I didn't buy groceries.  I thought I might find a grocery
store out of town.  The next store had closed for the day by the time I
reached it. 
   Ahead on the road I saw another sandstorm.  This time I wrapped a
towel around my face, more for show than practical use! 
   I found a nice spot to camp by a babbling brook near an access trail
to the Vasa Trail.  Upstream there was an old grist mill and a nice
hikers hut.  I did have enough food left for supper.  It was quite
strange to be camping and not have it get dark in the evening!
 
Distance 90km Climb 436m

 Fri 24-Jun "Midsommar Afton"  Mora - Rörbäcksnäs 
   The wind calmed down a bit by morning but it was very chilly.  I had
a quick breakfast of what little food I had left, then rode on to
Evertsberg where I found an open grocery store.  Then I went across the
street to a small picnic park and had a full breakfast - porridge,
blueberry soup etc.
    This looked like just a small, ordinary village but a monument
revealed that this was a major feeding station for Vasaloppet( 48 km)
Thousands of skiers are fed in this small park, and there is live TV
coverage from here on that day.
  There is quite a climb  between the east and west branches of the Dal
River.  From the top I can see snow in the hills beyond, I hadn't
expected to see snow until I got to the mountains of Norway!
  At Mångebodarna I stop at the Vasalopp Cafe which is another feed
station on the race (24 km).  The first thing I order is, of course,
Blueberry Soup.  I have a talk with an American artist and his Swedish
friend and the hostess of the cafe. 
  On the road to Sälen I was startled by a strange 4 legged creature
running out of the woods.  It was a young guy running with ski poles!
   Near Sälen I stop for a lunch break on the bank of the West Dal right
near the start of Vasaloppet. The river is rather cold since it is being
fed by snow melt from the hills. In about 2 weeks there will be a big
swim (3000 people swimming 3km ) in this river at Vansbro. I was
told that the water temperature usually runs around 15 C. I think I'll
skip that event ! ( It's part of the Swedish Classic series)
     The village of Sälen was almost deserted but I found a small
convenience store open.  I found a list of Midsummer's Eve activities in
the area and headed for the Hembygs Gard (old farm museum).  It was late
afternoon, the wind had finally stopped and in the bright sunshine the
temperature rose to about 15 C.  There was folk dancing and music under
the traditional "maypole" by the shore of the Dal River.  Nice while it
lasted but the event broke up by 6PM and everybody left. 
  So I continued to the west, climbing my first pass through the
Transtrand Fjäll which are nearly 1000 m high.  The road climbs up
about 400 m from the valley to about 750 m which was close to tree line. 
There was some snow close to the road level.  Fortunately the wind had
died down, yesterday's winds would have been wicked in this treeless
area.  The top wasn't scenic- it is a major Alpine Ski resort with big
hotels, discos etc.  Just about everything was closed for the season.  I
had supper at some picnic tables by a closed gas station/restaurant. 
   Down the other side , I saw a Troll in the woods! 
I camped in the woods , no babbling brook but sounds of cuckoos, not in
clocks! Again it never got dark this night.
  The Norwegian border is just a few K's away so tomorrow I will see a
new country.  I don't remember any dreams on Midsummer Night, but now
the whole trip seems like a dream. 
 Distance 96km Climb 1053m

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