Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 7 of my 1-week, 500 km trike trip

Day 7 - Last leg

Monday 18 June dawned clear and bright, and just after 8.00 a.m. I was having a leisurely breakfast of cornflakes and dark bread sandwiches - Finnish style - with coffee etc. I was also once again able to fill my thermos with hot water for (instant) coffee on the road later.

My gear had pretty much dried out overnight in my spacious three-bed room, and I managed to pack everything back the way it was. I got going just before 9.30, and was passing the turn to our friends' cottage around 10.00 a.m. I had no idea if they were back there, but I didn't want to spend time finding out! I just wanted to get home!

To avoid gravel roads as much as possible I intended to take a left turn soon after the big bridge, and though itself a gravel road, it was only about 6 km to a tarmac road that would lead to the main no. 12 highway (Lahti-Tampere) which bypasses Hauho, and that was my destination for a break and a snack before the final push of 12 km to Mustila.

The gravel road came to an end where it joined road 307 (Pälkäneentie), where I was to turn right, but less than 100 yards to the left I noticed a convenient bus stop, where I decided I'd stop for a coffee break. Another cause for celebration was the separate cycle or light traffic path (for bikers, - and trikers! - mopeds, joggers and pedestrians) beside the road.

Fields and forest are typical of Finnish scenery, as well as lakes!

They don't call it "the land of a thousand lakes" for nothing! By some estimates there are around 50,000 lakes in Finland! Wikipedia actually says: "187,888 lakes (lakes larger than 500 m2/0.12 acre)". My route didn't exactly go through the 'lake district' of Finland, but of course I occasionally had good lake scenery, like when I went over the big bridge I mentioned earlier (above). There was not much that I really felt was worthy of a picture on this last day of the trip, until I saw a certain row of post boxes. They are usually the typical green, red, brown or sometimes blue plastic box, but one in the row caught my eye, and you can clearly see a lot of work has been put into making it.

Eventually I joined highway no. 12 (Lahti to Tampere), and a little while after that I stopped at a roadside cafe, a nice log cabin overlooking a lake, beside the road. It was at Parvoonranta (means Parvoo's shore) just before the Hämeenlinna road no. 57 joins highway 12.

This highway 12 can be quite busy on weekdays, with many lorries going in both directions. Although I had a reasonable amount of asphalted hard shoulder most of the time, just enough to get both front wheels to the right of the white line, I must admit I was a little apprehensive when there were lorries in both directions at the same time. In fact it became a reflex to check my mirrors whenever I saw a lorry coming towards me, in case there was also one coming up behind. In those cases I often pulled over to get completely off the road. Otherwise the traffic would mostly give me a wide berth, sometimes driving completely on the other side of the middle line, which I thanked them for with a wave of my hand. Sometimes they acknowledged it with a wave themselves or some back light signal, from which I could deduce that they were checking their rear view mirror!

Having said all that about the traffic, I didn't really feel unsafe, throughout the whole trip! Even when larger vehicles passed quite close, I didn't notice any 'suction' effect, perhaps because of having three wheels compared to two on a standard bike, where wobble can be a problem, and because of the low profile.

I moved on after my coffee break at that nice roadside cafe, and eventually reached Hauho around 3.00 p.m. Feeling quite hungry I decided to treat myself to a pizza from the pizza-kebab kiosk in the centre. After that there was just 6 km of tarmac followed by 6 of gravel road to Mustila and the farm. I no longer remember what the time was when I got there, but it must have been tea time and I was thirsty, as I had three or was it four cups of tea (they were small cups!) kindly supplied by my sister-in-law Leena, and I was so tired I could hardly move! I hadn't realised how tired I was until I'd completed my trip! I had my daily goal to drive me on. Now it was over, finished, done, almost 500 km behind me, and no need to pedal another inch! Otherwise I wasn't at all in bad shape; surprisingly my legs weren't feeling too tired or my knees too sore.

All in all it was a great experience, thanks in part to the fact that there is usually very little traffic on Finnish country roads, and thanks to good weather which I was lucky to get! I couldn't imagine doing this kind of trip on British roads, nor it being as enjoyable! My next challenge is to plan a similar trip for next summer!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 6 of my 1-week, 500 km trike trip

Sunday 17 June:

Today was the earliest I got going! I think I was on the road after 6.30! I was in Vammala by 7.15 and I went round a few caches there (three it was). Markku had checked the weather for me the night before, so I knew I was likely to be cycling in some rain, but I couldn't yet know how much, or how bad it would be. Before I reached Vammala I finally gave in to the cooler temperature of the early morning and dug out a long-sleeved shirt and put it on, after which I felt more comfortable!

Just the other side of Vammala there's an erratic boulder cache I've been wanting to find, and as it was quite close to my route I headed out to it (after a few local caches!). I spent too long there, searching in as many holes under rocks as I could find, even crawling in on my belly almost, and trying to feel round corners and under stones wherever there was space, to no avail! Towards 8.30 am it started drizzling, so I decided to pack it in and head for the Rest Stop cafe back by the crossroads where I would later turn left, or south, only to find it didn't open till 9! Now this is where the story is full of ifs: If I'd skipped the boulder searching, skipped the coffee etc. at the rest stop, I would have been much closer to my destination when the rain started, and wouldn't have needed to cycle in the rain for so long! But we're always wiser in retrospect, aren't we!

So I waited the 10+ minutes for the place to open, had a ham sandwich with coffee, and meanwhile the drizzle stopped. On my way again, the ride was uneventful apart from enjoying the countryside scenery, and seeing some strange place names on the road signs!

I had no more caches lined up for some time, so I don't remember if I stopped for anything, other than for refreshments at a bus stop around 3 pm somewhere between Punkalaidun and Urjala. The bus stop had a bench seat and a roof, so it was nice to be able to spread out my thermos etc. And I soon found out how nice it was to have a roof, as it started raining! I wondered how long it would last, but it looked like it was set to continue for the rest of the day, so I gave up waiting, got out my cape, put the yellow nylon covers (which turned out to be almost useless!) over my side bags, buttoned up and got going.

It wasn't too bad at first, but the longer it went on, the worse it felt. The cape didn't cover my legs and nether regions very well, or the wind/slipstream would just lift it, so I got the idea to put a medium-sized stone on it just between my thighs, and that helped. Every so often though I had to stand up and drain off the pool of rain that formed around the stone! Eventually I reached a major intersection, where I could shelter under a bridge (route 9 and road 230 cross near Urjala). I hung around there for quite a while, trying to get my hands dry, but it proved impossible, and it wasn't very warm either!

I even tried hitching when vans came along, but needless to say nobody stopped! Eventually I realised there was nothing for it but to get back in the saddle, er, driving seat, and press on.

There was one cache up ahead that I particularly wanted to find, at another erratic boulder, just after turning off the main road onto the smaller and quieter 2851 road. When I got there the rain was still coming down as steadily as ever, but I anyway just walked in my cape the 30 metres across a grassy stretch of field to the boulder, and found a bit of shelter from an overhang of the rock. Luckily I found the cache quickly, and with wet hands I opened the container and tried to sign the log without getting it too wet - not easy! I also noticed a geocoin in there, which I decided to move on to another cache.

I guess it was around 5 pm that I reached town and a convenient Rest Stop, where I was able to dry out a little and have some hot food (after some two hours and 35 kms cycling in the rain!). Nowadays so many public toilets have these electric hot air blowers to dry your hands, so no paper towels. Luckily their serviettes were a decent size, so I spread some on the seat when I sat down to eat. I changed them at least twice for dry ones! Even my teeth were chattering at one point! From there on it was only a few kms to the same B&B of the outward leg of the trip.

When I got going again I decided not to bother with the rest stop cache, and headed straight towards my B&B. What a relief to get in the dry, get out of my wet gear and have a warm shower! There was no question of going for a walk after all that, and certainly not in the rain!

Total distance cycled: 108 km, and 4 caches (3 in Vammala and the boulder cache)!

(Author's footnote: Looking back on what a wet summer we had this year, I was very lucky that this was the only day I had rain! Any other week of the summer would have been considerably wetter!)

Day 5 of my 1-week, 500 km trike trip

Saturday 16 June:

I got going just after 9, with Matti and Kaija accompanying me on their bikes for the first kilometre to their post box (actually a newspaper distribution box) to pick up the paper. I texted home just after 9.30 that I was on my way to Kankaanpää town, where I would bypass the centre and head south. At that moment I was pedalling tight up against the right hand verge of an extra wide straight stretch of road which served as an emergency landing strip for planes (mainly military I suppose) to land on in emergencies. It was a strange feeling to have traffic overtaking me on my left but so far away! Felt like I had the road all to myself! You can even see it in Google satellite view! There's a sports track beside it, but I couldn't see it 'cos of the trees!

I kept to tarmac roads on the way back to Marko's, stopping a few times for a cache here and there. One was called Mordor, and the view from there (even without going up the newly built observation tower) is a bit reminiscent of the place of the same name in the Lord of the Rings.

The tower wasn't completed when I was there, but you could climb to the top. One of the flights of steps had no side rail! Going up with nothing to hold onto felt a bit scary! (The cache was an easy find, not far away!)

Further down the road there was another cache I looked for, and found, called Keskimaa which means Middle Earth, and it was located in a museum area of old wooden buildings, so it was a nice setting for it.
An old building near Middle Earth

It was drawing towards evening and I was feeling hungry, so I found a Rest Stop place and had a bite there before doing the last 12 kms or so to Marko's, where I arrived just before 8pm. Total cycled: 82 km.

After unpacking the trike he took me round three of his own caches so he could also check their condition and I could log them as found. A wash again in the sauna and a reasonably early night, so I could get up early for what was to be the longest and toughest ride of the trip, and in some respects the worst!