I’m writing a 6 part series on my 500 mile bike ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen, which I did in 6 days. So one post for each day of the ride. Get it? 😉 Here’s Part 4. I also wrote this post with ten of my favorite memories from the ride.
Värnamo to Halmstad — 90 Miles
It’s about 80 miles from Värnamo to Halmstad and Google Maps told me the journey would take about six and a half hours by bike. By this point in the trip I had learned two things. One, add ten miles to every day for getting lost. Also, add two hours to the estimated time for arrival due to me getting lost and my stops along the way.
I’d looked at the forecast the night before. It was supposed to rain most of the night and then clear at about 7 AM. Perfect! I woke up at 6 AM and it was raining. I checked the forecast and it now showed rain all day. I checked the forecast in Halmstad. Rain until 2. It looked like I was going to have to ride at least half of the day in rain.
I ate my huge breakfast. There were more people at breakfast at this hotel than there had been at previous places I stayed. I felt like everyone was marveling at me as they watched me go back for my fourth plate of food.
I wasn’t excited about riding in the rain, but as a friend pointed out to me, sometimes you have to “embrace the suck.” Today would be a character building day. I asked the guy at the front desk for trash bags I could use to try to keep my bag dry. I kept futzing with all of my gear, my gloves, this and that. I was really procrastinating getting on the road. I left at 8 AM and when I walked out of the front door of the hotel it was more of a light mist than rain.
For an hour I rode through this light mist. Then it was fog. Then I could even feel the sun trying to break through. By lunch time I was shedding layers. It ended up being a beautiful day. In Ljungby I stopped at a McDonald’s to charge my phone. I hated the idea of eating at McDonald’s but I hated the idea of just sitting there charging my phone. I woofed down a Double Quarter Pounder, fries, and a Coke.
I couldn’t figure out how to get out of Ljungby. Myla (my Google Maps Navigator) was more confused than I was. I found a road to Halmstad — a highway where bikes are not allowed. It looked like I could ride on it for a few miles and then turn off and ride on some back roads toward Angelstad. Any other option was adding at least 5 miles of wandering, and I wasn’t even sure it would work. I took the highway and was very glad to exit after a few miles and take the back roads.
By this point I was tired of getting lost and equally tired of gravel roads. I flagged down a car and showed him my route on Google Maps and asked him if it would get me to Halmstad on relatively smooth roads. He thought it would.
The route worked, for a while. I did make progress and it did keep me off the highway for a spell. It was also a very beautiful section of my ride. I logged some miles back there that I’ll always remember as quite serene. But eventually it took me to gravel that was going to go on for a while. I looked at the map and decided I needed to work my way back to the highway and it looked like there were some side roads right next to the highway that I could take.
After some climbing, I descended into the town of Skeen. It was a gradual decent and really a pleasant ride. The side roads I saw on the map were rough gravel or logging roads, many of them fenced off. I road on the highway for a while. The traffic was not constant, but I had several 18-wheelers pass by within two feet of me. It was so unnerving that I decided to ride on the gravel for a bit just to get a break. I also had a snack. It was stressful riding and I wanted to at least keep my energy up.
The gravel road was a nice break but it only lasted a mile or two. I was back on the highway and decided I needed to dig in and ride as fast as I could. Traffic was not as bad. Usually when trucks passed they were moving into the other lane and giving me plenty of space. Usually.
There was a sign indicating that in a few kilometers the highway would be divided. I wasn’t sure if this would be good or bad for me. Turned out bad. The shoulder was now replaced by a guard rail and there was nowhere to ride except the middle of the lane. I looked at the map and a few kilometers ahead there was a side road I could take. It was slightly downhill and I could see pretty far back on the stretch of highway I had just been riding on. I didn’t see any cars coming so I took the center lane and hauled ass. I made it to the side road. A few kilometers on pavement and then about 6 kilometers on gravel, but hard packed and pretty smooth to ride on. I came back out to the highway and the guardrails were gone and there was a shoulder again.
After riding for a while I could see on the map that I was getting close to Lake Simlångsdalen and there was a decent with a pretty decent downhill pitch to the road. I took the lane again and went fast. That descent was one of my favorite parts of the whole ride. The leaves were so pretty and the sun was shining through the trees in a glorious way. And that smell. There was such a wonderful smell. I wish I could have bottled that smell.
There was a bridge that went over the lake. It was beautiful. And there was something else….. A bike path! It was just 11 more kilometers into town. I arrived in Halmstad and loved the look and feel of it immediately.
When I was on a gravel road next to the highway I also shed my arm warmers. For the first time in Sweden I was riding with just my short sleeve jersey and bib shorts. I felt free.
I rode 90 miles that day. I was also riding fast and strong at the end. I posted on Instagram that night that there comes a point where riding 90 miles just feels like it’s what you do. I felt like I was really in a groove with my ride. 90 miles didn’t feel big, it felt normal. I walked around Halmstad that night and had a few drinks and a normal sized dinner. I only had 60 miles to go the next day to get to Helsingborg, where I’d take the ferry to Denmark.
There comes a point where riding 90 miles a day is just what you do. Today was a good day. I thought I was going to ride in the rain all day. Instead, for the first two hours I was in a bit of mist and fog. Then it was gray. Then after lunch I slowly started shedding clothes. By the time I arrived at my destination I was in a short sleeve jersey and bib shorts. I did have to share the road with some 18-wheelers today that were passing within a few feet of me. And I did ride a bit of the day on gravel to get away from those 18-wheelers. I got lost a few times today and thought I would never get to Halmstad. But here I am. A few easy days ahead of me, assuming I don’t get lost! And the forecast the next few days looks awesome. 😀 #stockholmtocopenhagen #cycling #sweden🇸🇪
Like Family Trek on Facebook.
My book, unWorking, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.