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  • After a good night's sleep in Mike and Sara's garden (in spite of the heavy overnight rain) they helped get us going with a coffee in their warm, dry kitchen before heading to work. We were treated to the sight of a woodpecker picking nuts from their bird feeder while we took in the caffeine.

    After that, we stuck around for a bit to wait for the rain to settle, then broke camp and set off in full waterproof gear, expecting the rain to hit us again on the ride.

    Pretty soon afterwards, I was stripping all those layers off, as it is now a lot warmer than it was in the North (double figures, even!). It didn't seem to matter anyway, as the day remained cloudy but mostly dry.

    Based on Mike's good advice, we took a slightly longer route that guaranteed sealed roads while also avoiding a return to the E4. It was hilly, but proved a nice ride between small towns with shops and services. Along the way we stopped to watch (and hear) a pair of migrating cranes as the milled around a front garden before flying off into the distance.

    Eventually we came out onto the 84, which was our road to Bergso. Unfortunately it was a lot more similar to the E4 than we had hoped and included multiple steep climbs. So the last part of our ride was back alongside lorries and fast-moving cars, cycling nose to tail for safety. Still, we were rolling into Bergso before too long.

    Bergso is a town with plenty of campsites, and with a thunderstorm predicted overnight, we had planned to hire a cabin for shelter and a chance to hand-wash clothes. Unfortunately, unlike all our previous stops, none of the campsites in Bergso are open until June. So, faced with the possibility of wild camping and waking up wet with no dry/clean clothes, we opted to stay in a B&B for the night. So it's an evening of clothes washing, hot showers and comfort before a proper breakfast; all to set us up for more wet weather cycling tomorrow.
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  • As we were in a B&B and there was a window of relatively dry weather in the afternoon, we opted to take our time enjoying the spoils. It gave time for a proper breakfast, allowed for hand-washed clothes to dry and gave us chance to be cheeky in asking for all other clothing to be washed and dried by the owners.

    They were happy to oblige, but the downside was it was no priority for them, so by the time we got the clothes back and everything onto the bike it was 2pm. We now had only 2 hours before heavy rain was scheduled, on a bike trip that would take at least 5.

    Those first 2 hours were a lot of fun. The rain was falling, and building, but we had a fairly relaxed climb followed by a nice, long downhill ride on a winding Road that overlooked a beautiful large lake.

    Not long after, the rain really got going and we spent the next couple of hours getting progressively soaked - a particular problem for Simon, whose water-resistant trouser completely soaked through.

    We made it to a grill house in the nearest town and bought a burger to fill up and justify taking over their business with drip-drying clothes. Happily, like in most places in Sweden, coffee was free, so we were able to change, dry off and get fed and watered before our last push.

    With the rain staying strong, and the wind picking up, we decided it was the time to go, riding in the fading light with wet gloves, coats and shoes (Simon was also down to shorts).

    I quite enjoyed the ride - it felt a bit more adventurous - but we were both glad to reach our campsite, with sodden shoes, damp clothes and waterproof gloves holding small pools of water, and access our 'dolls house' of a cabin for drying and resting.
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  • Wow, what a wonderful city Stockholm is! We have both really enjoyed experiencing what this place has to offer, even if only for a couple days. First, to wrap up Norway...

    When we last wrote we were preparing to head to Flam via ferry. We got to see the area of the Sognefjord upon which Arrendelle from Disney's Frozen was based. You can definitely see the resemblence between this area of the fjord and the artistry in the movie, though there wasn't much snow at the time. Notably, the animators really did something right with the imagining of the trolls in the movie by combining the look of the traditional troll character in Norway with the distinct colors of the moss and rockface in the fjord. Rachel was waiting for the boulders to break out in song at times. Anyway, we spent a nice afternoon in Flam. However, we discovered that there are limited options for affordable activities there. We were interested in kayaking but it turns out that without a Norwegian kayak license, you are required to hire a guide, which made the cost prohibitive. We searched the (very small) town for other boat rentals and eventually found the one canoe that is for rent in town; none of the motor boats in the marina were rentable, apparently (though we would've loved to explore the fjord in one of those). The canoe was on the smaller side, so the group consensus was for Cindy and Nick to have some mother-son time and go out on the canoe together while Scott and Rachel stayed on dry land. Nick had a great time exploring the fjord with his mom and getting back to nature. They returned just in time to see the giant cruise ship leaving the small harbor; it was possibly bigger than the town itself.

    The following day we rode on the scenic Flam Railway and then continued back to Oslo. The Flam Railway was really fun and beautiful; we highly recommend it! It connects you to the Oslo-Bergen lines so is easily accessible if you are seeing the country by either train or ferry. We met a pair of Norwegians who were taking the train up and then doing the three day hike back down to Flam. Many visitors also bike down the trail which is a one day trip. This sounded like something that would be fun to do if we can make it back to Flam one day! After arriving back in Oslo, we went to Vigeland Sculpture Park, the largest park in the world where all of the sculptures are created by the same artist. We brought a picnic and joined the Norwegians under the trees (it sprinkled on and off) to enjoy the evening. It was very beautiful and a must-see for anyone going to Oslo.

    The past two days we have been back in Stockholm, Sweden. It has been very cool to actually get to see the city (we were only here for about 8 hours overnight at the beginning of this week). We checked out the Vasa Museum on the day we got back and learned the very interesting story of a formerly lost ship that was eventually found and extracted from the sea floor in the 1960s. It was quite intriguing to learn about the errors made in building this ship and the historical context. As amateur students of art, culture, and archaeology, there were many displays that interested us. The museum included a free guided tour as well as free audio guides if you bring your wifi-enabled device and headphones. Very cool.

    Yesterday was definitely a highlight of the trip. We got to sleep in (which is always nice!) and then went on an adventure with Cindy and Scott on their last day in town. The four of us rented bicycles and rode around the Djurgarden area of Stockholm. There is a ton of green space as well as many trails and marinas to explore. It was a very bike-friendly as well as pedestrian-friendly park with so much to see, including forests, fields, old houses, canals, geese, ducks, cows, and horses. We got ice cream at one of the marinas and talked to some of the Swedes about their dogs (everyone seems to have a small pet dog they bring everywhere!). We really enjoyed the afternoon. For the evening, we found a small pub with decent happy hour prices right on the water in Gamla Stan, in/near the old town area of Stockholm. We snagged some seats on the front patio and watched the sunset over the canal with dinner and drinks. It was really a lovely evening, and we were lucky to have a lot of quality time and conversation with Cindy and Scott. Thanks for a great trip in Scandanavia, you two!
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  • With a shorter day planned that allowed time for us to take advantage of a hotel breakfast and get our bikes re-build and fixed up (as well as more clothes to be hand-washed) we set off in the late afternoon for a 40km ride to Falkoping.

    (This was after stopping in the hotel corridor to have our photos taken by guests and hotel staff - it seems taking on a foolish and ill-planned journey turns you into a local celebrity)

    In spite of the rain, that chased us out of Skovde and drove our pace, this was one of the best rides yet. Most of the journey was gently rolling countryside that strongly resembled rural England (or Wales, even), complete with dry stone walls, ploughed fields and farm houses.

    It was all quite gentle and easy to take in until we reached Falkoping, and realised our campsite was actually a ski resort that takes summer guests. So the final 4km was a steep mountain climb to reach the peak overlooking the town and much of our route for the next day.

    It was nice to have the challenge (no climb has beaten me yet!), and we arrived earlier enough to pitch tents, play some mini golf and enjoy some free drinks from yet another generous camp manager.
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  • After an evening camping in Boras, being bothered by the local crazy cat lady (a feature of all Swedish urban camping sites) we started riding out of the city as the sun rose in a cloudless sky.

    As a 25 degree day, we were in unknown territory. I was particularly struggling with thermal underlayers as my lightest clothing option. So it was a sweaty day of cycling through towns and along country roads, seeking shade and cool drinks where possible.

    We stopped on route in a town cafe, where I was able to get an ice coffee and we both had a proper lunch at a shaded outdoor table. After making heavy use of their complimentary soft drinks and chatting to the chefs, who all had working experience in the UK, we set off for a final push to our destination of Satila - a destination and a campsite reccomended to us by the last camp.

    Unfortunately, when we arrived it became quickly apparent that the Satila camp was a dive - unsupervised and ill-maintained with low quality facilities infested with bugs. So we were effectively wild camping, and only making use of the flat ground for the night.

    On the positive side, we were beside a large and beautiful lake, so I got to have a quick dip and we spent the evening on the pontoon cleaning our bikes, reading and generally enjoying the location.
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  • Ross and I had a great weekend in Stockholm! We met up with Klara, our friend that was an exchange student in Austin, and she gave us the grand tour! We went to Old Stockholm City, the Fotografiska museum, and shopped around. They also have delicious cinnamon rolls in Stockholm. Ross probably consumed 5 in 1.5 days 😊

  • [I'm not dead! Long delay due to no internet in Berlin, plus laziness]

    After a rather long night/day of about 11 hours train rides, I arrived in Stockholm!
    First impression is a standard modern city trying to cheat its way up the beauty scale (to some effect) by having water everywhere (#1). Not really the super-picturesque place some people had claimed.

    After the train I still had enough time/energy to take a quick walk to the Stockholms stadshus (Stockholm City Hall, #2,3), a pretty brick building, right on the edge of the water (#4), and notably where the Nobel Prize banquet is held. Actually (I found out the next day) prettier than the building where the prizes are given out!

    Last pic is just a random mini-park / modern art sculpture I happened across.
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  • Did a walking tour in the morning, including downtown areas, some nice gardens, and the rather underwhelming Stockholms Konserthaus, where they give out the Nobel Prizes (statue out front was more interesting, #1).

    I followed up the tour with Sweden's version of Starbucks: Espresso House (#2,3). Mmmmm, cream and sugar :) There are only about 4 Starbucks shops in Sweden despite the Swedes being some of the top coffee-drinkers per capita in the world. They also have a great concept called "fika": a coffee (or tea) break usually with cake or pastries.

    In my wandering I also found a sweet shop with some amazing curly candy. I eventually bought two coconut-covered chocolate things which turned out to be filled with a sorta marshmallow. The shop owner assured me were very traditional but I have forgotten their names so I have no idea if this is true.

    Heading south next (#6), across a bridge to the island of Gamla Stan where the old town and palace are located...
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  • Day 1 in Sweden got off to a rather shakey start,as we left town following our route only to find the only path was a dual carriageway with 110 km speed limits. Worse still, the rain that weather reports warned us about proved to be depressingly accurate. It wasn't long before we were cycling in heavy rain, along the side of a major highway, being frequently overtaken (and sprayed) by dual-carriage lorries.

    We kept our heads down and cycled in close formation, to protect ourselves from traffic, for most of our 30km journey to the first stop in Sangis. Arriving at the Swedish equivalent of a motorway service station, where we ordered a burger and spread our wet clothes across the tables.

    In minimal clothing (practically underwear), we sat eating, taking advantage of free coffee refills and trying to make plans for the rest of the ride. Fortunately the options was still available to catch a bus, so we opted to skip some motorway and once again try to get our bikes on a bus - this time to Lulea.

    It was a great relief to find that not only could we pack our bikes onto the local bus (from a bus stop), but the Swedish busses are extremely well kitted out. They are essentially Coach-Lorry hybrids, with plenty of room for bikes and comfortable seating and even room for male and female toilets on-board.

    2.5 hours later and we were cycling through Lulea, via scenic woodland trails, to a camp ground on the picturesque coastline. Sunny weather tomorrow should mean that we get back to proper riding, on something more satisfying than a highway.
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  • After a quick calculation the night before, we realised that the lightning storm had set us back a bit more than we thought. So today needed to be a big push, with a planned distance of 90km, to keep us on track to reach Denmark by Friday night or Saturday morning.

    Aside from the distance, we also had the 25 degree heat to contend with. But we did a good job of getting out of our camp quickly, being generally well organised with tent-packing and breakfast.

    The day before was also a long ride in the sun, so I was struggling to find the energy this morning for the first time in the trip. I was.more driven by will power than anything else for the first hours - struggling to keep pace against a headwinds even on the flat route.

    By 2pm we were rolling into Halmstad for lunch, having covered 55km already. It was a later lunch than planned, as we were following the winding coastal path, and also got lost finding our way into Halmstad (the biggest city that we have cycled into so far)

    After a long stop at a Subway, we pushed on with the last 35km and managed to do it in one ride - no doubt helped by the food and cooling weather. We were still following the coastal route, but we were led a bit in-land and back across farmland before arriving in the town of Basted and finding our (much better) campsite.
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