OK boys and girls, I've finally got my diary typed up from our SSWC tour of Sweden. I'll try to follow up with a more detailed race report if I can and I'll get some more pictures up as I sort through them. I've got riding to do, so be patient. Thanks for reading.
Day One: Arrive at the airport. Despite there being some lunatic on a plane that was headed for Dulles (our take off spot) just prior to us getting checked in, check-in and security were a breeze. Of course, after we are checked in and being handed back our passports the clerk tells us we are delayed 5 hours. Great. There is obviously only one course of action, we head to the bar. Five hours could be expensive, but so it goes. We are stoked to find an Old Dominion Brewing restaurant serving up fine beers. We are less stoked that the staff doesn't know how to do their jobs. I send an email to the place we are staying telling them we will be late to pick up the key and make a guess at what time we might arrive. After killing several hours and practically having to pour our own beers we move locations. Despite the name, Harry's Taproom only has 3 taps and only one of them is pouring decent beer. At least the food is better and we have actual service. The plane ride is long and uneventful but of course I can barely sleep, it's not like we are in first class or anything.
The Copenhagen airport is filled with smoke and the toilets have these neat little steel boxes mounted on the wall for depositing your syringes, razor blades and safety pins. No lie, those were the pictures printed on them. I resisted opening any of them to check the contents. We eat danishes (very good) and have coffee on the airline's dime. They gave us each about $15 US for the delay. That means my time is worth about $3/hour. Well, actually less since we've missed our connection to Stockholm and have a 3 hour delay here. Spirits are still high but the delays are getting to us and it's looking like we won't be hitting the trail as hoped on Thursday. I telephone the place we stay to change our key pick up time again and hope the guy shows up so we aren't sleeping on the street.
Day Two: Stockholm, finally. Feels good to be here. We lug our gear and bike boxes to the basement - pretty humorous really, as we try to stuff 3 giant boxes plus duffle bags and the three of us in the elevator. We get to the "left luggage" area and proceed to build our bikes, then leave the boxes in storage for a small fee. Back in the elevator and purchase tickets for the train. Twenty minutes later we are in the center of Stockholm. Bikes everywhere! Moving to the rhythm of traffic. Eric heads out to get his bearings since he's mapped out a route to where were are staying. We load our big duffels on our backs and head out to find our digs. We meet a guy outside who takes us up to our cracker box room (12'x12' plus a bathroom and "kitchen"). We hand him a pile of Kronor and we are set. Seems vaguely like a drug deal but hey, maybe that's just the way it's done in this country. It's now been 24 hours of traveling to get here. We head out in search of "Street", which is serving as race HQ. Seems to be a mysterious place and the bike shop right down the street from it is clueless about what's going on. Guess they aren't the sponsoring shop and I guess they aren't into single speeds. Their loss.
We locate Street, get some info on rides going on tomorrow and head to search for food. We go for an Asian place around the corner so we can carbo load. It's the most crowded place on the block so we figure the food is good. Food is good, beer is mediocre. We go back to Street to hang out with like minded folks and drink better beer. Once it gets late we hop back on the bikes and do some wandering, cruising one of the thousands of bike paths in the city. This one follows the water and we figure it will lead back via the long way. We are soon off the map we have and continue on instinct. We find a Thai ship docked in the harbor and stop for more beer because it looks interesting. Back on the bikes we continue to try to find our way back through the late, dark night.
Jackalopes! Two rabbits that are bigger than beagles go tearing across our path. Wild shit here in Stockholm I tell you, and that's not the beer talking. The city sparkles at night but it's late on a Thursday and things are pretty quiet and everything is shutting down. Time for shut eye. Tomorrow's ride will be here soon and I am already overdrawn from the sleep bank.
Day Three: Up early, gear up and head over to Street for the 10am ride. Grab coffee and muffins for breakfast, surely not enough but we are in a hurry. A bunch of riders have gathered, two rides are going out, one for 2 hours, the other for 4 hours. We jump onto the 4 hour tour and roll out with a good group of people. About 15 minutes or so and we are at the trails. Woods riding, it's full of roots and rocks, lots of large slick rock type formations and smaller stuff that's similar to our local trails. We are right at home while others have never experienced anything like it before. Some comment they don't know how they'll be able to do the race while others struggle to get a groove but are grinning from ear to ear at the challenge. There aren't many hills which means you can just keep hammering. Eric, our trail guide, is a mellow guy who knows the trails well and leads us on a fantastic route. A few times various riders bail out and head back. Several hours in we stop and refuel with ice cream and sodas. Then back on the trail for more of the good stuff. We planned for 4 hours and wind up with 6 before we get back to the city. A burger joint calls our name and we chow down. A few people head across the street and grab us beers to go with the food. The sun is shining, I've got a full belly, a beer in my hand and a full day of riding in the legs. Doesn't get much better.
On the way back to Street we slip in a bike shop since Jay tweaked his front wheel good out on the ride. They get it back into somewhat usable shape and we head back. Time for more beer. Race registration is started but we are thirsty and the line is long. After a few hours of drinking we are getting hungry and figure we better get registered. Two hours later and we are registered, as well as famished and parched. Off for more food and drink, then night night before race day.
Day Four: Another early morning as we once again get geared up for the bike over to Street. Legs are feeling good from yesterday's ride. Coffee and muffins again at the place we hit yesterday, good to know these things when you are in a rush. When we arrive there are single speed freaks everywhere and we roll out in a big mob. The course has been kept secret until the last minute, but we wind up over at the trailhead where we started yesterday.
Bikes are hauled halfway up a massive hill and then we are sent down to the bottom. To spread us out we have to run to our bikes, then continue to run up the grassy hill, then bomb a fire road to the bottom, climb a section of the fire road and enter the singletrack. The run sucks since I hate running and it seems like it sucks energy out of me like a Hoover vacuum. I manage OK and off we go. The first bit of course is stuff we rode yesterday but we quickly hit new stuff. Passing is difficult in the beginning since the trail is tight but easier when the fields spreads out. Logs give many people issues and I wonder how they deal with any sort of obstacles. By the time I pass through the start/finish I'm definitely feeling yesterday's ride in the legs. Near the halfway point a beer stop has been set up and I'm handed half a tall boy as I pass through. I stop, slam it, then continue on. As I near the 3/4 mark of the second lap the legs are feeling tight but I know I need to push on through. A quick dismount makes them tighter and I know I need to pedal to make it better. I crank on through the rest of the race and roll over the finish. Best guess is I finished between 20 and 30 out of 200. Hard to say since they weren't keeping track of places, but there weren't many people who were done when I got there. Had some more beer waiting for Jay and Eric. When Jay arrived we drank until the beer ran out and Eric still wasn't back. Seems he was taking an extended stay at the beer stop. And here we were worried he had a mechanical.
Roll back to our place and get cleaned up, then back over to Street for more beer and the awards. Lots of swag given out, mostly for strange things like the oldest person to complete the course (pretty old), who did the worst thing over the weekend (Rich from Ohio taking an emergency shit behind a knee high bush while women and children passed by) and the person who drank the most beers during the race and still completed it (I think it was eight). Surly gave out a frame set for the best volunteer. A good way to give out prizes if you ask me. Lots more beer was drank and at some point we got back on the bikes and found our beds.
Day Five: A hang over ride is scheduled for this post race day and of course we want to ride. We find some good breakfast food (the first real breakfast on the trip) and head back over to race HQ running late and manage to latch onto the ride as it's rolling down the street. Pretty big group but a few people are clueless about riding in a crowd or in traffic and behave erratically. And for some reason they like to bust out long skids on the trail in a tight pack. Yeah, that's cool, tear up the host's trail because you've got sooooo many skills grabbing that rear brake and locking it up. I recall something I saw in Crested Butte that said "Skidders grease bottom brackets in Hell". Guess they thought they were off the hook with the cartridge bearing BB revolution.
The ride was a mix of road, cinder bike paths and single track, mostly along the water with one of the organizers, Daner, leading the way and filling us in on the history of the area and the various sights. Cool to have the tour guide ride to soak in a little culture. Could have had more single track but it was all good. Stopped for ice cream and a pit bull leapt a picket fence and attacked Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Jacquie Phelan, sinking his teeth in her thigh and going ballistic. Luckily the dog was called off immediately but Jacquie was flipping out and shortly after an ambulance and the police arrived. Major buzz kill. We eventually roll back late for the boat race that will determine next year SSWC location.
Lots of people waiting for things to happen but nothing is going on. We grub out and it starts to rain so we seek shelter under a bridge. Done eating and the rain lets up so I wander to the bar. The boat race is about to begin. Each team has four players from their country. First country to finish gets the race next year. Beers are raised, down the hatch, glasses are place on top of heads when they are empty. Scotland wins! Not many people were surprised by this outcome. More beers are poured and drinking commences. When things start to mellow we head out in search of good beer and a good dinner. We end up in the old town section at the Glenfiddich Warehouse, where there was a big selection of Swedish Micros. This was our best beer stop on the trip. We finally ate some Swedish food like Elk tenderloin and Reindeer sausage. It was goooood. Drank lots of high octane beers and then had to try the 15 year old Glenfiddich Scotch that was served straight out of the barrel. Wow. The place closed at 1 a.m. so we hoped on the bikes to do some exploring.
Cruising through the old town we hear some heavy rock so we follow our ears. It starts getting a lot louder so we know we are on the right track. We arrive at some very old building where a band is rocking out hard with their backs to us. Everyone is sitting on steps like they are bleachers. We pay the cover and go in but only manage to catch the last couple of songs. We are hoping for another band but no dice. We wander to the bar upstairs on the outside balcony when suddenly we are blasted with "Welcome to the Jungle". American rock and roll, I feel right at home. This is a heavy metal dance party like I've never seen. The beer selection is slim, so I move on to Budweiser and feel like I'm back at Hammerjacks in the early 90s. The Swedes are going nuts and dancing to some good, hard rock. The scene is great people watching from the sidelines and I'm digging most of the music until they play Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" and I'm transported to some alternate reality. The crowd loves it and even more people pile onto the dance floor, something must be lost in the translation because I'm baffled. Fortunately things improve with Motorhead, Nirvana, etc. and only the occasional cheese metal like Twisted Sister. We close things out at 3 a.m. and have a very wobbly bike ride home.
Day Six: The boys seem more hung over than me (amazing considering last nights consumption), I'm mostly just tired. It's definitely a slow morning. Down the street to the same place we ate breakfast yesterday and we pile on some calories. As we leave a slight drizzle rolls in and our hopes of missing the forecasted rain are looking slim. We start making our way out to the trail via the city and run into Jacquie who is out solo riding her bike. She's in good spirits and says she's recovering al right. Good to see her back on the bike. We continue on towards the trail and seek cover when the rain picks up. After waiting it out it slacks a bit and we set out for the trail again until the rain really starts to pick up. Our destination is sitting under heavy, dark clouds and we are already in a steady rain that isn't going to let up. We throw some layers on and double back towards our flat. As soon as we roll in the sky opens up and it rains hard for a couple of hours. Eventually hunger gets the best of us and we hoof it in the monsoon to the local market where we gaze at skinned rabbits and strange fish in the butchers case. Sandwiches plus some beer and wine set us right and we continue on our feet to old town to take pictures and play tourist. Eventually we head to another good beer bar and settle in for the afternoon/evening. A few beers in and a bunch of other SSers show up. Apparently while we were at Janet Reno's dance party last night some other racers were practicing their wrestling moves and went through a plate glass window. At the same location some one was riding a Brit bike with moto style brake levers (right side front) and face-planted hard sans helmet when trying to lay down a fat skid. If we don't leave this town soon they'll run us out on a train.
Day Seven: Time to check out of this town. We are in bed after 2 a.m. and up at 4:15 a.m. so we can catch the early train to the airport. Pack the bikes and then we fly back to the good ol' USA. Sweden was bicycle heaven. Flight goes smooth, land at Dulles then jump in my coffin with the windows down and the sun shining, blasting the Supersuckers as I speed up Rt. 15 with the Catoctin mountains to my west. My home trails are up there, much like the sweet rocky, rooty goodies in Sweden but with a lot more elevation. My baby's making me a crab cake dinner when I arrive. It was a good time but it's good to be home.
A Little Snack to Hold You Over //
Monday - August 28, 2006
Words are in the works. In the meantime, here are a few SSWC photos to hold you over.