Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 4 of my 1-week, 500 km trike trip

Friday 15 June:

After breakfast we went into town (Kankaanpää) a few kms away, as M&K had some bank business to do.

They were curious to see a cache so I showed them what geocaching is all about by looking for the one by the church. It was a basic one in the stone wall that surrounds the church grounds, so it was a good one to illustrate how geocaching works.
On the way back from town we stopped at the local military base, where there's a cafe that's open to the general public. Matti offered us coffee with doughnuts, which are famous throughout the land! They were good!

After lunch I gave Matti a hand for a while on his building site. They're building a house/cottage on their plot for their son Jukka and family, and it was at the stage where the wooden frame is standing with the roof on it, and they were adding insulation boards to the outside, before the outer boards could be put on.

M&K's house through the window of the new one
After coffee I suggested it was high time Matti tried the trike, so we went to get it out of the garage. He pedalled out to the road and turned right. I went to the road to watch, and somewhere on the long straight he turned right and disappeared. Kaija and I were ready to take pictures when he came back, but he didn't! "He's got stuck talking to the neighbours'" said Kaija. "Let's go and join them." So we walked down there and met them. One by one they all had a go on the trike, the parents, their grown-up son and then Kaija.

The rest of the day was spent just taking it easy, with sauna again in the evening.
Tomorrow I head back!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 3 of my 1 week, 500 km trike trip

Day 3, Thursday 14 June:

I got off to an even earlier start today! 8.45! Still feeling good, knees not too sore at the end of each day, and they feel fine in the mornings!

Now was the acid test of my route planning! Soon afer leaving Karkku there was one short stretch of the way that internet route planners just would not cover (see big circle on the map).

There's clearly some kind of track, but you couldn't call it a road (the dark blue is my addition, showing my intended route). A route planner would send me northeast to Iirola, then left on route 11. But I wanted to keep my route as short as possible, and do only one side of a triangle instead of two. When I arrived at the "edge of the unknown" I could see that certain vehicles have used that track in the past, but it was just a dirt track with wheel ruts where it's soft, and where there are ruts there are pools after rain, and we hadn't long had some rain!

The heading into the inknown started well, but after a few dozen metres it was too soft and wet and muddy to even attempt to pedal through it on a trike; it (and I!) would have just got plastered with mud, and I would have ground to a halt!

Sorry about the fuzziness!

So I had to unload all my bags and carry them 50 metres to the other side of the wet stretch, then go back for the trike, which I also carried (it's only 16 kilos unloaded).

And that was that! The rest of that unknown section was trouble-free, and I soon came out onto a gravel road again. It was the turnaround loop of a forest road. Not far from that loop I came upon habitation, in the form of a reindeer smallholding - right here, in the middle of Southern Finland! There was some kind of paddock, and on the other side of it through the trees I could make out a building or two. In the paddock near the fence on the far side there were three or four reindeer.

It didn't take long to get to Eskola (see map again) and the tarmac surface of route 11! It had been quite an adventure! I guess it wasn't long after that that I texted home: "Too much gravel road but back on tarmac again, 22 kms behind me already!".

Eventually I reached Lavia (a place that always makes me think of Latvia with a spelling mistake!) and started looking for a place for lunch. I didn't fancy the bar/pizzeria, but then I spotted Apusiskot's Kitchen! They specialise in home cooking, and at reasonable prices. Again I should have made notes on the way, as I no longer remember what I ate, but it was good and it filled me up!

When I planned the route I also checked what geocaches might be do-able and not too far from the road. Luckily summer days in Finland are very long, which allowed me time to digress and spend some time looking for caches. So a 10-hour day cycling included 2 to 3 hours looking for caches. I found 5 caches on the first day, 11 on the second, and 7 today. This third day was also the longest so far, 81 kms by the time I arrived at Matti and Kaija's towards 6 pm! You can't imagine the feeling of elation when I got there! After three days on the road, along a route that I'd planned myself, and found my way with the aid of the GPS of course! Now I could relax and rest, amongst friends, whom I hadn't seen for quite many years!

We had a lot of catching up to do, some of it in the sauna, and some over supper.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 2 of the 500 km 1 week trip

Wednesday 13 June:

Good weather again when I got up for breakfast, around 8 a.m., an hour earlier than the first day, according to the txt I sent home. I headed into Toijala or Akaa (don't know why the place has two names!) the next town on my way, to pick up something as a gift for Marko at my next overnight stop, and for Matti and Kaija at my final destination. I had to reorganise my luggage to get the things to fit, and had to a shop that sold 'luggage elastics' to strap my sleeping bag on the back behind my headrest. After all that hunting and shopping, time was getting on, and I still had most of my day's ride ahead of me!

I found a couple of caches in the town, one being near the railway station. This cache had been muggled (stolen by a non-geocacher) last time I was there just under a year earlier, but now it was no trouble to find!

I got out of town, and was enjoying the good road surface and weather! I soon came to my next stop, a cache I'd heard about and wondered when I'd get round to looking for, called "Casillero del Diablo", which apart from being the name of a wine, could mean 'Devil's Locker' or Devil's cell. Lucky for me the location was quite close to my route, down a bank and among trees, where there was a pile of big boulders, with holes and cavities under them. You had to find the right hole, crawl in and find the cache, not far from the entrance. I was lucky to find it quickly, signed the log and was on my way. I didn't spend much time admiring the boulders (which I regret now) as I was concerned about my trike and gear up on the roadside (couldn't remember if I'd locked it up - I hadn't!) but luckily it was a quiet stretch of road, far from houses and people, so it was unlikely anyone would pass by other than by car.

Moving on, it was getting close to lunchtime, or I was starting to feel hungry, or a suitable place turned up where I could get lunch, I'm not sure which happened first! Anyway I stopped at a roadside cafe in something of a built-up area (village or whatever). Although I hadn't had any problems with my knees or muscles, it always does good to stop for a break on a longer trip like this.

The rest of day 2 was rather uneventful, if you don't count the caches I looked for (and I was counting them!) but the scenery and quiet roads were nice, despite being gravel roads half the time!

Nokia is not just a company, but also a municipality in Finland!

According to a txt I sent home just before 7 pm I was 5 kms from my destination, Marko's house. He has a walk-in cache on the side of his garage, with a normal-sized door. You just go in, and inside it's like the size of a phone booth, same width but a bit deeper or longer, so there's room to sit on a stool at a desk and sign the logbook. It's probably the biggest cache in Finland! His cache page for that cache welcomes people to stay overnight if they need/would like, so that's why I asked him if I could include his place as one of my stopovers on this trip.

I suggested I could cook us some supper, if that was ok with him, and it was! So we checked what he had for my recipe, then went by car to the nearest shop for the rest of the ingredients. I did a simple pasta sauce and it wasn't bad (although I say so myself!)!

He'd warmed the sauna enough for me (and him later) to have a wash before going to bed, showed me where the kettle was etc. for the morning, and wished me goodnight and a good trip tomorrow, as he wouldn't be up as early as me.

Total kilometres cycled today: 76.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Man's Lowride in the Finnish Countryside - 1

The plan: I aimed to cycle from Mustila (Hauho) to Kankaanpää in three days, a journey of around 220 km. Each day's distance was suitably short enough to allow for a flexible timetable, with time to look for a few selected geocaches along the way. I didn't take a tent with me, as the intention was to stay overnight with friends.

The day before my departure I heard that the friends at my first overnight stop would not at their summer cottage, so I had to quickly come up with something! Thanks to the internet, I found a B&B a bit further down the road from my friends' cottage, where I could spend the first night.

Tuesday 12 June:

The weather was warm and dry, shorts and T-shirt weather for sure, and a pleasure to be cycling! I'm not sure now what time I actually started pedalling, but I must have left Mustila village around or just after 10 a.m. (I should have made notes!) Anyway, I had recently put new tyres on the front wheels, and was a bit concerned how they were sitting. They seemed bigger somehow than the old ones, and only just fit under the mudguards. In fact they didn't, or at least the right hand one didn't fit without me adding a couple of spacer washers under the mudguard bracket to raise it a little. That helped, but still it was rubbing against the somewhat broken rubber mudflap on the bottom end of the mudguard, unless I lined it up precisely. Problem was I couldn't get it tight enough and with the vibrations on the road it tended to drift one way or the other and start rubbing again, so I was constantly tapping the mudguard to line it up. Anyway that was a minor problem, and if I had nothing worse than that to worry about, then I'd be doing ok.

I was still concerned that I should have a spare inner tube though, and decided to stop in Hauho (12 kms away) to look for one. That was my first stop, where the hardware store didn't have the size I needed, but another store down the road did, so I took one with me. According to the text message I sent home I left Hauho at 11.40.

I joined the main Lahti - Tampere highway (No 12 on maps) and had a few nice kilometres of tarmac all the way to Alvettula village which is abt 1 km down a left turn (but still tarmac though a much smaller road with no hard shoulder - on No 12 there was almost enough room for the whole trike to be on tarmac on the outside of the white line down the side of the road).

So a little after midday I was having lunch at Alvettula village shop and cafe - the last chance that I knew of for miles! I had no idea when I would find another place where I could get hot food on my route so I thought it best to eat there.

I was soon on the road again, but not for long! It started raining, but luckily I spotted a bus shelter up ahead, so I pulled in there and sat it out. It didn't last long, less than half an hour so on I went again. When I reached road No 57 I stopped for a couple of caches (there weren't many on my route on this first day). One of them was by a large erratic boulder (cache name "- KING OF THE ROAD -": I really felt like the king of the road on these smaller country roads, as there was so little traffic!). There are hundreds of erratic boulders scattered all over Finland by the retreating ice sheet some 10,000 years ago. See attached photo.

This cache meant a short hike through under-growth to get to it, but nothing too thick, even in cycling shorts! And it didn't take me long either! Nice to see yet another of these impressive rocks!

It was soon after crossing route 57 that the tarmac ran out! I now faced some 18 kms of gravel road, which in places was quite reasonable, but sometimes difficult to avoid potholes or loose gravel, with two front wheels! I stopped somewhere on the way for a break and coffee (I had a thermos of hot water and instant coffee with me, and a good selection of biscuits etc). I couldn't know it beforehand, but my chosen route, being the shortest I could do, would include quite many kilometres of gravel roads, so it wasn't as nice as it could have been.

At 3.15 pm I texted home: "A few more spots of rain, but only 22 kms to go to Kievari! (Sun’s shining too!)". Kievari was the place where I'd stay overnight. (See Guesthouse photo) At 35 euros per night B&B it wasn't bad!

There was one more thing of interest I saw on the way, that was worthy of a photo (or 2!) and worth mentioning here: seems the correct term for it is "burl" or birch burl, a kind of growth on the trunk of the tree (photo attached). They're amazing things when you see them, and I've seen a few in my time here in Finland!

I arrived at the B&B around early evening and was welcomed by a big alsation and a much less intimidating hostess/owner, who showed me to my room. After unloading the trike and getting my things up to my room and having another coffee with muesli and biscuits, I went out for a walk towards the town, and to look for the nearest cache. It was called "The Hidden Treasure of Hinkka" (Hinkka being the place nearby) and it was an easy find in the forest not far from the road. And the 3-km walk did me good, after 66 kms cycling!