Day 9: Helmstad to Göteburg

Previous Day

Nothing amusing or scary happened today but it was very tiring. 

  • Distance: 158km 😐 — Shorter day than recently but felt amazingly long
  • Climbing: 797m ☹️ — The Garmin said 350m of climbing before I left.  Ugh.
  • Route: 😕 — Variable. Some majestic beauty, some long stretches on busy scary roads.
  • Body: 😔 — Ankle has responded to just cycling on it by not getting much worse which is a win for the “stubborn middle aged man” approach to injury.  A surprise new appearance for “a gash in the calf” due to operator error.
  • Bike: 🙂 — Faultless performance by the Bat Bike™ today.

I saw this sign on the journey today and although it’s just a meaningless collection of syllables like Walthamstow or Cumbernauld, it felt onomatopoeic.

Yeah, I feel like this.

I felt skäggered all day.  

The weather looked like it might not rain which is, in the long distance cyclists book, a massive win.  The wind was more of a problem since it was whistling in from the Kattegat in the west at a good 30km/h clip. Since I was supposed to be heading broadly north, I thought this might not be too much of a problem but most of the early part of the day actually involved going west into the teeth of the wind.  My average speed for the first hour was less than 16 kph.  I was skäggered.

Helmstad did have a surprise on the way out.  Here was the saddest water park on Earth.  Called “Pirates of the Caribbean” — presumably Disney’s lawyers haven’t been to Helmstad yet — it was windswept and soulless.  Admittedly, all water parks suffer from the sneaking suspicion that you’re sliding down the slides lubricated by other people’s urine but I suppose one could overlook that in the bright Mediterranean sun.  On a wild windswept 10 degrees day in Helmstad, it must be hard to suspend one’s revulsion.

Hey kids, lets go the freezing cold wee slide.

I was following (for some of this journey) the Kattegattleden so here is a picture of the sign.

This way

The route is well-signed but a bit rambly.  In places it’s beautiful and it’s well designed but in many cases it takes you 20km out of your way and there’s no way that a skäggered cyclist is going to cycle an extra 20km.  

You can’t see this but this beautiful road goes west.  Into the wind.

I bailed out for the first coffee of the day at 20km.  That’s how skäggered I was.

Then the route veered north and the wind slowly backed towards the south.  For the very few boat people who read this, I got the directions or veering and backing correct…

Sweden, like Denmark appears to be shut a lot of the time.  Towns would come and go without coffee stops or even garages which had shops attached.  The next 50km were a lot of this.

Mmm nice tarmac with the wind behind

Mmm…wooded paths

In a previous post, I had mused about the Danish “pennant” style flags and my good friend Lee had sent me some research he had done while he was bored.  But…it’s a Swedish thing too.
  
This is a “flaggy” shaped Swedish flag
But most of the houses have these “pennanty” shaped flags

When you’re hungry and skäggared, you muse on this and do some research while you’re cowering from the wind in the traditional bus shelter.  And…it turns out it really is a proper Nordic “thing”.  Check out this article from Wikipedia about Household Pennants. You’ll be a lot more bored than I was but when you’ve seen hundreds of these things, it sticks in your mind.

For what it’s worth, those pennants above are actually wrong because household pennants in Sweden are actually regulated — I can almost hear my American readers having a stroke…

This is the government approved pennant.

And there I was thinking that the Swedish were showing an extreme amount of solidarity with Ukraine.

80km came and went.  I was 🎶woah woah, more than half way there🎶 but I hadn’t eaten for a long time and my caffeine levels were dangerously low.  Then, as I was rolling through another medium sized town in Sweden without coffee shops or snack bars, I spied this.

Doesn’t look like much?  Let me zoom in.

Easy ordering of bland and familiar calories ahead

Ok, I hadn’t had my McDonalds yesterday but today was going to be a Big Mac lunch.  I was skäggered enough that I didn’t really care.

I’m lovin’ it…don’t judge me

The road continued to be (mostly) north and the wind continued to be (mostly) behind me.  Unfortunately, the Kattegattleden started to wiggle wildly and pointlessly so I ended up on the roads.  While it is true that almost all Swedish drivers are pretty considerate and so most of the time spent on the fast cycle-path-free A roads wasn’t too scary, there are always a few drivers who go past at 100kph a few centimetres from you and your bean.  Some of the scenery was worth it though.

Wild cycling

And really it was just another 75km of cycling from there.  Sometimes on roads but increasingly as I got closer to Göteburg on pretty decent (if poorly connected) cycling paths. 

I normally like to stop with about 30km to go to load up on a bit of caffeine and some sugar to get through the last 30km.  But, as I may have already mentioned, Sweden is shut and there was nothing to do but continue to grind on.  

Strangely, there wasn’t really any sign of Göteburg actually existing until I was about 5km from the centre.  Almost without warning, I was thrown into the scary killing ground of major city traffic while extremely skäggered. 

Maximum effort

There was a lot of this
This is only about 2km from the centre

Then the sun came out and the Göteborgare (as they are known) emerged as one from their apartments and started parading in the parks and hanging out in the bars on the streets.  It certainly looked a lot more fun than a Urine Slide Park in Helmstad.

A combination of the Garmin and the Google Maps lady in my headphones directed to the other side of the road from my hotel.  Unfortunately my joy at completing today’s route was somewhat dampened by forgetting about things like kerbs, balance and sharp pedals.  So I have a gash in my calf to add to my woes.

I’m sure it’ll fix itself over the next couple of days.

My hotel is literally the best hotel in Göteburg on booking.com.  It’s quite expensive and it’s quite fancy in the lobby area.  However, as I have now discovered, fancyness and expense don’t guarantee you a great deal in Swedish hotels.  I have a minuscule room and a minuscule bathroom (without heated towel rail).  There was a moment when I had to put on my “angry eyes” with the reception because they said that they couldn’t do laundry on a Saturday…but, after looking deep into the angry eyes of a man who really really needs his cycle wear deep cleaned, they relented.

I’m writing this in the very swanky hotel bar.  The waitress has shown me to a quiet table in a dark corner of the bar since I don’t think wrinkly t-shirt, stained polyester Angela Merkel pants, 9 days worth of stubble and a slight hint of madness is really the vibe she’s hoping for for her swanky bar.

Early night tonight and then a day exploring Göteburg and working out the final few days of cycling routes.  Hopefully less skäggered after the rest day.



 

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