swedish snapshots

It’s been a while since we left Sweden. Slow internet connections come and go, and time passes me by. But it would be wrong to not revisit the time we spent traversing Sweden. It would also be wrong to tell you how long it took me to upload all of these photos. But I will. Three and a half hours, give or take a year. 

While we were in Sweden, it seemed as if we would never make it to Germany. Our stay in the Schengen region of Europe visa-free is limited to 90 days. As such, our goal was to make it out of Scandinavia within 30 of those days, and we pert near made it.

The plan was to take a train from a randomly chosen city which we knew nothing about (Mora) to a destination further south, near the coast (whether east or west side, it didn’t matter much to us). We luckily came to find out ahead of time that very few of the multiple train companies in Sweden allow bicycles. Even luckier, the one possible company we could utilize operates on a line running south from Mora. So while we were not able to make it to the coast, or as far south as we had hoped, we were able to shave a few hundred kilometers off of our cycling itinerary, allowing us to meet our self-imposed deadline.

Pippi Longstocking riding a giant felted twinflower! How Sweden!

Sweden is Norway’s less showy, less prosperous sibling, at least to a casual observer. The houses were not as meticulously clean nor freshly-painted, there weren’t as many roadside tourist-friendly amenities (whether necessary or frivolous), there most definitely were not as many bike paths, and a visit did not break the bank. While still expensive as compared to mainland Europe, Sweden was much cheaper for us to travel through than Norway. We began allowing ourselves more treats, in the forms of coffee and pastry stops, meals out, and occasional bottles of wine.

DALA HORSE FEVER! A fever that could only be interrupted by waffles. Waffles were the theme of our vacation in Sweden. They were also, come to think of it, the theme of our time in Norway. And through to the present day, they continue to be the theme of our trip. These days we can be found frequently indulging in gaufres de liège, sugar waffles. From the supermarket. They come in packs of five or eight. We’re on our fifth or sixth pack in just a few weeks. Life is good.

Mora turned out to be a delightful surprise. We were able to take in crew races on the lake in town, pose with several different dala horses, choose from hundreds more to purchase, and we even stayed in an adorable hut at the local campground. Camping in tiny huts seemed to be a very Scandinavian thing to do, and I am not one to oppose getting more in tune with the Motherland vibes, so a hut it was. While in Mora, we were also able to watch a Euro Cup semifinal (a clue to anyway else who watched the game just how long ago we were there). We watched at a restaurant, outside, on a giant screen. Everyone was really into the game and there were fans from both sides, which made for a very Euro atmosphere. When the game ended near midnight, it was disconcerting how light the sky still was; it made walking through the sleepy deserted town an eerie experience.

The forestry in Sweden was quite different from in Norway. In Norway, they apparently adhered to the same regulated thinning treatment, at least in the areas we saw. In Sweden, there were larger clearcuts, but trees in general seemed to be allowed to grow older, and to a larger size. They looked nicer. There were also varied treatments, which was refreshing after seeing the same identical type of harvest throughout Norway. I appreciated the variability and diversity, and while we didn’t see much for wildlife in either country, hopefully the critters appreciate it too.

The cracker selection in Scandinavia was phenomenal. They also loved pickled herring of all flavors, and various cheeses and meats squeezed into colorful tubes.

Before we left Sweden, we stayed for two nights in a campground adjacent to the above bridge, in Malmö. For one day, we took a train across the bridge to see Copenhagen, and it was well worth the trip. Denmark is the only country that I’ve been unprepared for currency-wise, but since we were traveling directly into the heart of a city, finding an ATM to withdraw some Danish kroner for the day wasn’t a problem.

And then, very close to our self-imposed 30 day mark, we took a ferry from Malmö to Travemunde, Germany. It took seven hours, and we paid for two buffet meals, at which we proceeded to pig out so much that I don’t believe I should say any more.


hi hi from trondheim

We arrived in Oslo, Norway at the start of last week after a surprisingly pleasant red eye flight from JFK. Things got a little less pleasant when one of our bags failed to show up in the baggage claim. While we had our two bikes and half of our stuff, we were missing four bike bags that had all been shoved into two layers of heavy duty garbage bags. Within that missing bag was a sleeping bag, our cook set, our stoves, a mattress pad, and our tent, along with anything else that would allow us to successfully camp. We were told it could be one day, or maybe two, and that they didn’t have a clue where our bag was, but to check back the following day.

Initially we weren’t planning to bike into Oslo proper, as it was 25 miles or so south of the airport and in the opposite direction from where we were planning to head. It was a blessing in disguise though, as I’m glad we were able to see the city. We made it to Lillestrøm the first night, and slept in a tiny hotel room with a bed that the clerk didn’t believe we’d both be able to fit into. We showed him. Breakfast the next morning was an exciting dive into the world of Norwegian processed meats.

We made it to Oslo the second day, after calling the airport and hearing that nope, they had no clue where our stuff was. And then I had my first whoops of the trip when my bike tire was caught in a tram track and I skidded along the pavement and skinned my arm and twisted one of my shifters. As the sticker on my bike warns, “My life is a cautionary tale.” Everything is good.

Found a cheapish place to spend the night. And then it started to rain, and Eli’s rain jacket was sitting in our forgotten bag, likely somewhere back at JFK.

So he bought a stylish poncho and looked really dapper while drinking coffee. Early on day two someone had told him over the phone that our bag was *maybe* on its way and to check back, but when we called back their internet was down and turns out the call center isn’t actually at the airport and so they couldn’t tell us anything. We waited around a while, calling various numbers and likely racking up quite the phone bill, not wanting to go see the sights in town because it was pouring out and I was still working on a mystery illness that promised to turn into pneumonia (again) if I wasn’t careful. Eventually we decided to just chance it and take a train back to the airport. 

The baggage claims dude said that no, our bag was nowhere in the system. Eli worked his magic and the guy let him back into the baggage area, and after checking every carousel they found our sad bag abandoned near the side of Baggage Carousel 5, where it had apparently been for hours, unnoticed. Thankfully.

So that was the changing of our luck, and things have only gotten better from there.

We were able to start camping. We found a very neat wooden troll perched on a large rock in a recent clearcut. We have seen endless forest management, though none actually at work at the present. We’ve eaten some lefse and some shrimp salad.

Things are so beautiful and it is so weird having sunlight so much of the day. I don’t think our bodies have quite known what to make of it, and between all the sun and all of the biking we’ve been sleeping 12 solid hours, pretty much every night. Such is the decadence of vacation and having no destination.

We’ve only been spending around four hours per day on the bike, but after 11 days of it, that’s a lot of effort. We started off following Norwegian Cycle Route 7, which for some time was signed really well. Biking straight from the airport, with nicely paved bike trails and clear signage is not something we would have found back home. The route was lovely, and took us onto some gravel roads and paths about as far from any towns as we could get. We lost the route once we entered Lillehammer, unfortunately. But! We’ve been fortunate enough to speak to some locals who have recommended routes for us to take, which has paid off tremendously.

Leaving the town of Ringebu [apparently Ringebu has one of the largest remaining stave (wooden) churches in Norway, and sadly we missed it. Such is a life without constant Internet], we spent two hours climbing five miles. We made it above tree line and into the beautiful Rondane high mountain area. There was snow, and it was quite cold. After plateauing for part of the day, we descended a steep and winding 12% grade and stopped for cake and coffee at an enticing lodge. It was pouring rain again, and the host recommended a lean-to he knew of a few kilometers down the road. It pays to talk to those locals. The rain stopped long enough for us to take our first bath in days, in the freezing cold stream adjacent to the lean-to.

We left one mountain range, only to come within sight of another: the Dovrefjell range, crowned with the mountain Snøhetta. It was visible and glorious on our slow ascent to it, but upon our arrival to the viewpoint it promptly clouded over. Apparently you can go on a muskox safari nearby. We chose to bike on the freeway instead.
E6, which in Oslo was the busiest stretch of road around, was actually enjoyable to bike on so far north. It was made even better by at least 30 km (and probably closer to 50) of sweet sweet downhill. After all that climbing, my legs needed it. We made it to the town of Oppdal, a mountain village with not one but two bakeries, side by side. We frequented both. In a row. And then went back this morning.

And then we took the train to Trondheim. We’ve biked 560 difficult kilometers in a week and a half, and our legs are begging us for a rest. So with the help of Eli’s mom’s cell phone, we hooked ourselves up with Airbnb and have a place to stay for the next three nights to rest up — thanks Elaine!

More to come soon.

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prepping for schlepping on our six-month bike trip: everything else

We’re just about ready to do this thing. I’ve slowly been ordering everything we need off the internet for our 6-month bike trip across Europe. Since we live hours from a major city, everything we’ve accumulated has had to come from Amazon for the most part.

I’ve had to continuously put in what I thought to be my last Amazon order, only to realize I’d forgotten something else that we’re pretty sure we might need. We plan to make this as frugal a trip as we can, so we’ve done our best to set ourselves up ahead of time to be as comfy on the road as possible. If we can tent the majority of nights, our finances should stretch out nicely, and allow us the chance to splurge if we’re visiting a large city or we have 7 days in a row of rain.

The two above images represent most of what we’re bringing, without representing a few duplicates that we’ll both be carrying, such as sleeping bags, towels, and cups. I’ll list out everything we plan on taking. Starting with the top image —

  • Two Trangia Spirit burners, small, lightweight, able to travel with fuel inside them
  • Two Trangia windshields, of two different sizes so they’ll will nest in our packs
  • A plush cookset, with a few pans and lids, and a teapot
  • A pan handle for our cookset
  • A lighter
  • Two or three knives
  • Windproof gloves (Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Soft Shell Thermo for me)
  • A highly packable folding Continental Gatorskin tire
  • New Helly Hansen rain pants (without the crotch ripped out!)

Moving to the second image —

  • Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 superlight tent + extra footprint
  • NEMO Equipment Cosmo Insulated 20R sleeping pad
  • NEMO Equipment 2P slipcover, which connects both pads into one large mattress
  • NEMO Equipment Fillo, inflatable/memory foam pillow (which is amazing!)
  • Sea to Summit Tek towels for bathing and dishes
  • An L.L. Bean sleeping bag stuffed into an Odyssey dry bag (Eli stuffed his differently)
  • 2 GSI Outdoors stainless steel plates
  • 2 Toaks titanium sporks
  • Sea to Summit 4L Pack Tap
  • 2 stainless steel cups
  • Nalgene travel kit with various spices, oil, vinegar
  • Potable Aqua water purification tablets
  • Bug net
  • Small roll of Gorilla tape
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Day Pack (super packable – see bottom right of photo)
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener and/or Swiss Army multi-tool knife
  • 50′ of kevlar sport line
  • Wallet with many pockets for all those currencies
  • New prescription sunglasses! Wheeeeeee!
  • Baseball cap
  • 1-2 bandanas
  • Five Ten Freerider shoes for wearing on/off the bike
  • Chaco sandals
  • Taiga helmet rain cover
  • Multi-country travel adapter with 2 USB ports
  • Sea to Summit dry bags
  • My iPhone! and charging cable
  • A beautiful handmade leather-bound book (with a deer shed!) for journaling…. not my strong suit, but I’ll do my best
  • Pen and pencil
  • A new head lamp, since mine was weak and feeble
  • Bright headlight for my bike, plus USB charging cable
  • Contacts and contact solution
  • Toiletry bag
  • Hairbrush
  • Razor
  • Well-stocked first aid kit, with scissors
  • A couple maps
  • Two biking books with great routes that will come with only if we have room to spare, or if I can’t find electronic versions
  • The big kahuna: a new iPad Pro, with integrated keyboard
  • Dry bag for the iPad
  • Charging cable and adapter for the iPad, plus converters for Europe and the UK
  • 1 trowel (that didn’t make it into either picture)

This is a lot of fricking stuff. But between all our panniers, I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem. We’ll be bringing various bike tools as well, but that’s Eli’s domain. I’ll leave that for him to discuss if he can bring himself to decide on a WordPress username.

I would like to take a minute to rave about this pillow, the NEMO Fillo. Pretty incredible what you can do with four breaths of air. Insert air, and should you wish, something like a sweatshirt in the stuff sack on the back side of the pillow. I like it only about half inflated, gives a feeling more like my regular pillow at home.DSC06646

I bought this beautiful handmade leather book from a girl on Instagram. Check out the hashtag Ortlieb Leather Books on IG if you’re looking for a lovely special something. I purchased this because of the deer shed, but also because it’s an Ortlieb Leather Book that will be stored in my Ortlieb bike pannier. Too coincidental to not buy it, really.DSC06648

We’ll have a few of these dry bags with us, for electronics, for phones, for wallets, for whatevah.DSC06663

These are my new honeys. Warby Parker Cecily prescription sunglasses. My last pair of prescription sunnies were bought, geez, must have been around ten years ago now. I’ve used them for work forever, and the lenses are scratched to shit, covered in blue paint, orange paint, you name it, it’s on there. Plus the prescription is out of date. So a new pair was warranted. These things are fly.DSC06636

I’ll be taking a little bit of northern Maine with me on the road. Dead Eye Trucking was my trucking contractor in 2015, and I dropped not-so-subtle hints about their bomb ass baseball caps until they brought me one. Something to remember our time in Aroostook County by. In the background, my glorious Five Ten Freerider shoes. These things will be perfect for biking, hiking, anything and everything.DSC06633

Titanium sporks. I’m undecided yet if I’ll like these. I was pretty picky about which sporks I got; I tried to find ones with relatively deep tines. And I didn’t like the ones with a serrated edge on the side – I could just see myself slicing my tongue in half while enthusiastically chowing down on something delicious.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Lastly, we decided to try something new, and purchased these 40 ounce stainless steel Klean Kanteen water bottles. Regular bike bottles are something like 20 or 21 ounces, plus they’re plastic. While I don’t get too crazy about not eating and drinking out of plastics, I guess I’m trying to avoid it when possible, especially when said containers are going to be used all day every day, and beaten down by the sun and the elements. Hence the steel plates, cups, and sporks, and these new water bottles. Fitting 40 ounces of water into one bottle, while still having a second backup regular water bottle, will be fantastic. We had to purchase these TwoFish Quick Cage bottle holders, which have adjustable Velcro straps to be used on a wide variety of frame tube sizes. The rubber footers between the strap and the bottle cage make for a snug, secure fit.

I’m excited to try this stuff out. Let’s get this show on the road!

Previous trip-related post, detailing the clothes I’ll be bringing– Prepping for Schlepping on our Six-Month Bike Trip: Clothes