Day 7, Thursday July 16th, Växjö – Vetlanda
Distance: 83.5 km (3 of which I walked, with the bike)
Weather: sunny, hot
Own route, Sverigeleden
Växjö, Rottne, Drev, Ramkvilla, Södra, Solberga, Korsberga, Vetlanda
I’ve only just started, when I get a flat tyre. I am then cycling on the road to Rottne, a motorway with, luckily, a separate cycle-path next to it, as it is a busy road. It takes me a while to find the hole, but not its cause, neither in the tyre nor on the road. As, up to now, my bike has been causing all the problems (I still have to hoist my luggage carrier up several times a day, as otherwise it leans on the wheel), I blame it on the bike again.
Swalbe anti-puncture tyres don’t get punctures. Except mine.
Since I bought the bike last December, I’ve had more than ten flat tyres. It’s time for a new back tyre. However, I haven’t got much faith in my bike any more. Maybe a whole new back wheel. Or better still: a new bike!
An old farm in Drev
Småland is hilly. The hills aren’t high but there are many of them, some of them with gradients of 10%. Today’s trip is tough and the heat doesn’t make it any easier. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it, as Småland is very beautiful. Many woods with moss on the ground, rocks and stones everywhere, lovely roads with hardly any traffic, and now and again a (little) red house.
At the end of the day, I’m tired. After Korsberga, I can choose between two roads to Vetlanda. I have already noticed that it is best to avoid roads that are marked in thick red lines on the map. They are very busy, though not in comparison with Dutch motorways, and cycling on them is no fun. Either you’re dragging yourself uphill with a great deal of effort, or going downhill at a terrific pace. In both cases, you have to be extra alert for the traffic rushing past. In contrast, the thinner red lines on the map are almost without exception beautiful country roads, twisting through nature or small villages.
I am now cycling along one of the thick red lines, the 31, and see on the map that there is a little road off to the left shortly, which eventually joins the 31 again. It is some three or four kilometres longer but, in spite of being tired, I think it is worthwhile.
Pff, another good fifteen kilometres till I reach the camp site. I still have the feeling that my back tyre is deflating, but I’ve had this feeling all day and every time I felt it, my suspicions were unfounded. I hate not being able to cycle carefree and without worrying.
But then my suspicion becomes fact: my tyre really is gradually deflating. No, please, don’t let it be true! But it is all too true and a little later I am on the side of the road with my bike upside down again. I don’t have another spare tube, I put that on this morning. So it’ll be a repair job, but that’s easier said than done: I can’t find the hole anywhere, the tyre remains full when I pump it up, I hear nothing, I see nothing. I also try with this morning’s flat – same result. How come? A tyre can’t just deflate without a hole in it. I check the valves but they seem to be O.K. I put one of the tubes back in, pump up the tyre, load all the luggage and ride on. Half a minute later, the tyre is flat again. I throw all the luggage on the ground, turn the bike upside down and put the other tube back in. This, too, deflates as soon as I start off. Now I’m really at my wits’ end.
To me, it makes a difference where you get a flat. A flat is a flat, you could say, but truly, it does make a difference where you get it! Having one near a picnic table with a tap nearby, in a nice spot, is far preferable to one on the edge of a busy motorway, with no shelter, and where your life is in danger. This road has no picnic table and no water anywhere, but it’s not life-threatening either. In fact, up to now, not a single car has passed me. I’m alone in the middle of nowhere.
Alright, I’m at my wits’ end. And very cross. Had I been near a bus-stop or a station, I would probably have left my bike behind and gone straight home.
But there is no train or bus in the vicinity, not even people. Only trees, trees and more trees. And even they are too far from the road to provide a bit of shelter from the burning sun.
I swallow a few times and get moving. I’m tired and see on the map that I have another twelve kilometres to go. And they’re not even flat kilometres. I now have all the time to be worried and defeatist, especially when I get an sms from Ghislaine: “How are things? Philine says she is going to sell Gea, with a rum-tum-tiddly-um”.
Goodness, you think you’ve had it all, and then the little girl you child-mind wants to sell you. Only four years old and she thinks of such a variation on a song!
Then suddenly, a small red house appears on the right and another, a little further on, on the left. Let’s try this one. The front door is open and I call, “Hallo!” No response. Once more. A cat comes and starts meowing loudly, but otherwise all remains silent. Hm... well, the Swedes are not renowned for their hospitality, although I have already experienced the opposite in this short time.
I walk towards the next house and see an elderly man in casual clothes walking to his shed. He doesn’t look dangerous, although I must admit that the present situation has had an influence on my perceptions.
“Hallo, talar ni engelska (do you speak English)?”
“Yes, a bit.”
“Is there a Bed and Breakfast place nearby? My bike needs mending.”
I admit, I’m talking nonsense. But to ask him straight away whether he can mend my bike or take me to the camp site, or give me a place for the night, seems a bit much to me.
“No, there’s nothing here. But what’s the matter with your bike?”
I tell him the whole story and he looks questioningly at my bike and then at his watch.
“I used to be a cycle repairer. It looks best to me to put in a new tube. A friend of mine in Korsberga has a large bicycle and fishing shop. If we take your tyre out, we’ll go there by car. But we’ll have to hurry, it’s nearly closing time. I’ll just tell my wife I’ll be away for a bit.”
Through this last sentence, the final remains of my suspicions disappear and I quickly take all the luggage off the bike and take off the rear wheel for the umpteenth time.
The woman comes out and says I can leave the luggage by the front door.
A little later we are in the car. “It’s my daughter’s birthday and she is coming with her boy-friend to celebrate it with us. She is also bringing my mother.” I congratulate him and feel guilty for putting him to so much trouble, but he waves this away – not necessary. It was only logical that he should help me.
After quarter of an hour we arrive at the cycle shop. It turns out to be enormous, with not only everything for bikes, but also for fishing, the garden and ‘leisure’.
The man looks thoughtfully at my wheel. “The outer tyre is fine, but I’ll put in a new tube.” He goes to the back and then reappears. I’m scared when I see what he is holding: not only a box with the new tube, but a drill!
“What are you going to do?” I ask.
“Enlarge the hole in the rim. I don’t have any tubes with a French valve like yours, only Dunlop valves, but they don’t fit in that hole.”
I gulp. Alright, carry on, there’s no alternative.
“It’s only a millimetre larger, a French valve will still fit.”
A little later, my wheel looks as it should, with a hard tyre on it. I buy a new spare tube as well.
When we get back, I put the wheel back in. “You’ll be alright now, won’t you? There’s something I still have to do before my daughter comes. I’ll show you where you can wash your hands and where the toilet is.”
When the wheel is on, I take the opportunity to unscrew the carrier, pull it as far up as it will go, and fasten it again. Firmly.
Meanwhile, the daughter, son-in-law and the mother have also arrived. They don’t seem surprised to see me. I introduce myself and congratulate the young lady on her birthday. I feel superfluous and want to get away as soon as possible, but the old mother is very curious and asks me a whole lot about the journey, the bike, the luggage and me. The family translates helpfully.
Then I get back on the bike. I’m glad it turned out well after all, but I still can’t cycle without a care and that is surely what you expect of a holiday.
I arrive in Vetlanda without further adventures. The camp site there is small and lovely. And, like all the camp sites up to now: on a lake.
A camping cyclist’s mess
Day 8, Friday July 17th, Vetlanda – Vimmerby
Distance: 79.5 km
Weather: sunny, hot
Own route, Astrid Lindgrenleden
Vetlanda, Holsby-brunn, Skede, Bellö, Kråkshult, Mariannelund, Vimmerby
Last night I decided to have a nice sleep in and a day of rest next day. I’ve got a nice spot and must do some washing too.
I am woken at half past eight by a noise. It goes plok, plok every few seconds. Rain? Hail? No, but what then? I unzip the tent, put my head out and look up. Just at that moment a red berry falls on my face. Ah ... Once again I didn’t look to see under what sort of tree I put my tent up. I look up again properly and, to my surprise, I see a squirrel sitting in the tree and purposely ( really true! I think ...) throwing berries down. When I come right out of the tent, it runs off quickly. I look at my tent and see some red spots in the cloth. Oh dear ... .
However, it is beautiful weather, a lovely day for cycling. I decide to postpone the day of rest and get on my bike again.
To my horror, I discover that I have lost my little log-book. I cycle a long way back but don’t find anything. Shit! Not only do I write the daily distances, the weather and where I have been in my log-book, but also where I have taken photos. This can’t be reconstructed most of the time. I’ll have to rely on my memory and, although I have only been away a week, so much has happened that I can’t remember where I took many of the photos. So up to day 6, the captions to the photos are by no means complete. A pity, but it can’t be helped.
I do remember the camp sites and the route, which I have also marked on the map. The weather and other information useful to me, are still partly in my head and partly in my diary, which I am keeping this year for the first time.
As for the distances: the final distance today is on my counter. I wrote the distance in my diary on some days. The rest may be a kilometre too few or too many, but in any case, the total is right.
My ideas about the route are now beginning to take shape. The list of places I want to go to is much too long and I have decided to cycle to Stockholm via Vimmerby. I shall then choose whether to go to Götland by boat and then right through Sweden, via Öland, to the west. Or from Stockholm, between the big lakes, to Göteborg. I’ll see.
Now first to Vimmerby, the birthplace of my favourite writer of children’s books, Astrid Lindgren!