A grey morning greeted us and we rolled out of camp with ambitious plans for a sixty something mile day. First though, we stopped, discovering that Ben was missing a screw on his front rack. This led to a bit of a tuneup session, tightening every screw on both of our rigs, laughing that the things stay together at all. Everything was loose! I couldn’t help but moan a bit about our poor bikes, constantly in disrepair, but Ben smiled and declared that having his handlebar tape flap in the breeze gave the bike character!
Bike repair completed, we rolled into town to solve our second issue of the day. Our food bags were on dead empty. After we stocked up and ate a delicious round of second breakfast, we were on the road for real.
I charged us forward out of town, Ben on my tail, but soon hip pain won out, and he took over pulling us through the Swedish woods. I watched him tackle the rolling terrain and he reminded me strikingly of a sparrow, diving hard on the descent and then smoothly pulling up hard, pumping the pedals with such ease. I followed, feeling more like a red faced chubby kid on a wobbly bike, panting to keep up. And so it is when we ride together, Ben looking powerful and quick and me, hanging on for dear life. I’m thankful he is still willing to adventure with me even though he pulls our little pace line way more than his share of the time.
After a while, we turned off onto a gravel track, this one particularly loose and precarious. The going was slow, while I attempted to keep my bike from skidding out from under me, but at least my legs felt fresh after a restful day off the bike. We had the woods all to ourselves as we bumped along in the blissful morning silence.
About the time we got back to the main road, the rain began. It was a sprinkle at first, giving us at least enough time to stow away our still drying laundry, flying like ragtag flags off the back of our bikes, and to put on our rain jackets. Then, the sky let loose, the rain steadily picking up as we pedaled onward.
It took about twenty minutes, the water running down my legs and filling up my shoes and splattering off the front of my helmet before I was truly soaked, at which point the situation improved a bit. Since I couldn’t really get any more wet, I resigned myself to what was: the day was just going to be freezing and wet. I sped the pace a bit to get warm.
The quiet country roads allowed us to ride side by side a while, chatting as we powered through the drizzle, and keeping my spirits high. Golden fields and farms took the place of the forests we’ve ridden for days, and seemed almost as though we were in Bulgaria.
Unfortunately, our route then turned on to a busy highway, so not only were we getting wet from above, but from every vehicle that came our way. Ben got a mouthful of muddy water and I got a huge spray from a close passing semi truck that nearly rattled me off the road. Still, as long as we kept pedaling, I wasn’t that cold, and we were making good progress. On and on we went, until the familiar stomach ache of hunger won out. There was no way we’d make it another hour on empty stomachs. We had to stop for lunch.
Under the half shelter of some bushes, we downed as many snacks as fast as we could. While I was inhaling my lunch, Ben took a spin out of our spot, twirling under the drizzle. Curious, I asked what he was doing, to which the answer was obviously, “dancing in the rain,” which made us both giggle.
Within minutes, we were back on the road, but as I’d feared, now I was really cold. I pedaled as hard as I could down the highway with trucks thundering past, trying to warm up. I don’t know that we’ve ever ridden for so many hours in the continuous rain.
Forty minutes later, we rolled into our campground, feeling proud of my bravery in the rain, positively drenched. So wet, in fact, that when I wrote my address down for the receptionist, the paper I handed back to her was soaked a dingy brown. We didn’t even bother setting up our tent in the mess. Instead we holed up, still in our wet clothes, in the warm campground restaurant to use the wifi while we waited for a break in the rain before we attempted to make camp.
Three hours later, the rain slowed and we ran outside to set up. The dark clouds slid out of sight, bringing behind it glimpses of gorgeous blue skies. Fed and showered amid a mess of soggy clothes and bags, we collapsed into our trusty tent hoping for better weather tomorrow.