The mood at breakfast in Gothenburg is jovial. We guzzle most of the buffet. I’m so relieved and happy to have Tyrone here.
Massive mossy granite boulders push up through the oats fields. Trees balance the rocky cracks. These hills are perfectly spaced for cyclists to whizz down for 10 seconds and struggle up the next one for 10 minutes. Up and down like that all day. There are black-blue lakes glinting behind the shaking birch leaves. All day we ride through the leafy wilderness expecting to see a troll. A little fawn leaps away into the forest.
Hotels are few and far between. Stenungsund offers us lunch, and to be on the safe side we ask about future accommodation possibilities on our route. A sweet girl at the info office telephones ahead to Henån. She books the only room available within a day’s ride.
After a “sundowner” at Henån port (actually up here near the Arctic circle the sun goes down at about 10 pm and it stays light until the wee hours) we find the one and only hotel where the owner gives us a choice between a hotel room and a bed & breakfast room. We choose the bed & breakfast which is cheaper and the word “breakfast” wins us over. But the mistake becomes obvious when the manager shows us to the low ceilinged converted garage pod. The smell is almost unbearable. Seems our fellow guests have cooked something that was killed too long ago.
However, we survived the night and the breakfast served in the hotel section was flavoursome. The manager gave us a winning smile and came out on the doorstep to wave goodbye.
Last day in Sweden
Another day of ups and downs. Tyrone was doing well on his new bike, although he says the saddle is a torture instrument. It’s one of those off road mountain bikes with a not-for-sitting seat. After eight hours perched on it he announces “there are no hotels on the radar.”
Trepidation grows as we ride the narrow tar road between solid spruce trees towards the Norwegian border. Eighty eight kilometers and considering the thought of an exhausting night avoiding the proliferous wolves and moose.
Around the next corner, up pops a camping ground. There is no such thing as luck and coincidence. It’s called The book of Life unfolding. You get what you need… if you pay proper attention and make the right choices at each intersection. Easy to say, but this is proof. Thank God Tyrone is here, there is no way I would have made it this far without him.
At the camping reception a lady examines her bookings, and finally says “Yes, I do” …’ have a cabin for you!”. She informs us that the restaurant will be closing at 19:00. It is now 17:30 we have time to take a quick swim in the black lake. To be honest, it’s way too cold for me, but Ty takes a swim and I paint in my notebook instead.
At 18:00 we enthusiastically head over to the dining room.
The receptionist has made a mistake. Closing time is at 18:00. Inside there are gaggles of waitresses eating pommes frites. “Sorry we are closed” they say “anyway there was no food left. We had a hectic weekend.”
I beg for a slice of bread for my son.
We all giggle but they say no.
Beer is ok, so we get a beer or three.
The evening did not last long after that. We took our beer-belly grumbles to the narrow bunk-bed of our tiny wooden cabin. Wolves howl.
Marching on to Moss
Sun’s up. We go down to the receptionist with our bikes all packed and ready to go. The lady apologises for the misunderstanding. As compensation she hands us fragrant cinnamon buns straight from the oven with cups of hot coffee. Hunger evaporates and all is forgiven.
The camping ground is on the Swedish side of the Norwegian border. The seventh and final border of the trip. It has been amazing to cross so many countries without a single control check. Freedom to move is one of the greatest gifts the European Union has given us.
I feel happy and surprised to see four thousand kilometers on the clock. There is no real pride in it, after all a solo journey such as this is a wholly selfish endeavour, although I’m pleased to have made it so far. Gratefulness is the only feeling that one can honestly have in this case. The reason why I’m writing to tell you all about this ride is to make sure all the kindness and support experienced along the way is not forgotten.
I’m hoping you might be encouraged to do the same, or something similar. It doesn’t have to be sporty but it should be something you love doing. And remember loving is all about action. Getting around to doing the necessary thing. At the beginning you may fall off, but you’ll learn to shoulder roll and leap up again. You will get into the present moment with such intensely determined focus that you’ll make damn sure you don’t fall.
A spoke in the wheel of life.
Looking back now from the wheat field where Tyrone is capturing the moment on film, I must say the enterprise has been filled with all the emoticons on the list. There were times of euphoria, joy and peace. Balanced with a good dose of humiliation, boredom and feebleness. All of it stirred up with a daily dose of fear, horror and despair. Basically a rainbow of emotions and some I never knew I had.
All day we ride up and down the granite hills under the tall forest trees, along highways and byways, on roads and paths, bridges and ferries until we came to the sea at Moss. The only deviation was an urgent rush for a loo when the lunch in my tummy gurgled dangerously. Three men in green road-work protective clothing sat at a table outside their quarters eating mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches. I rode right up to them in a panic “please – excuse me – hello – can I use your toilet???!!”.
A negative look went around between them like a un-pinned hand grenade. One got the stare from both the others, so he got up and showed me into a dark little shanty room with an unmade bed. The basin was a lot less white than it should have been, but at least there was plenty of loo paper.
Our hotel in Moss has a Rolls Royce parked out front and an elegant seaside garden with a terrace view over the bay. Tyrone is definitely paying for this one!