Summer bike tour 2012

Here’s a much belated write-up on our bike tour from last summer. The bike tour has been a yearly tradition for 6 years now, except for one year when big M was too big to ride in the trailer but too small to ride his own bike. This year (2013) we’ll face the same problem, but now with little M who has outgrown the Funtrailer tag-along-bike. Or maybe she can ride her own bike, after all? We’ll see, but in that case she’ll need to lay down some decent mileage before summer. Big M has been riding his own bike for the last 3 years. The first year he kept a good enough pace, so that none of us grownups felt we had to slow down beyond our comfort level. The second year he pushed us all to ride 140 km on the last day, eager as he was to get out of the rain and back to the wired world. And last year, he was pretty much outperforming all of us adults throughout the trip even though he carried some of his own gear for the first time. Anyways, on with the trip report…

We were lucky to time our trip with the best weather of all summer. Day 1 brought us to an established campground with shelters on ‘Skåneleden‘ close to lake Snogeholmssjön. We stopped on the way for a swim in lake Sövdesjön, followed by ice cream, and then for some fishing in Snogeholmssjön. M had a few perch nibbling on his lure, but he didn’t succeed in landing any, so for dinner that night we had to do with the goodies we emptied from the fridge before leaving. Later that evening we were joined by our friends from Copenhagen, making our party almost complete with a head count of 8. The next morning we rolled down south, past a chain of pretty lakes (Snogeholmssjön, Ellestadssjön, Krageholmssjön) to the coast east of Ystad, where aunt T joined us and made our party complete. T saved us by running some errands in Ystad before riding out to meet us. As it happened, both our stove and G’s stove malfunctioned when we tried to fire them up to cook breakfast at Snogeholmssjön. Note to self: always check the equipment before taking off on a trip! The pump of our MSR Whisperlite International had cracked and G’s classic old Coleman had a leaking gasket, or so we thought. It turned out that the gasket worked fine, once the weird Danish low-viscosity substitute ‘fuel’ had been drained out and replaced by honest-to-goodness white gas. T managed to get hold of a heavy-duty Primus Jan stove (the lightest stove to be found in Ystad) and a few gas canisters that served us well for the rest of the trip. We met up with T at Kåseberga harbor, where we stocked up on smoked whitefish, potatoes and veggies, all locally sourced. Dinner secured, most of us then hiked up the hill to ‘Ales stenar (Ale’s stones)‘, while dad kindly offered to stay put and take care of the bikes and a tall cup of coffee. On the way out to Kåseberga, we had scouted a really nice location to stay for the night; mission accomplished at Ale’s, we now headed back to that spot.


G’s wheels parked by the coast guard HQ in Kåseberga harbor.

This was an amazing place for a wild camp, right on the beach on a carpet of wild thyme. We dumped our gear and stripped from our sweaty clothes and ran into the sea. Refreshing! The south coast of Sweden is known for its cold waters, caused by upwells from deeper currents. But on a warm and sunny day like today, we didn’t mind at all. Besides, the water temperature was unusually warm, easily around 17C or so.


Arrival in the early evening at our luxurious wild camp. Now, where do we pitch the tents and tarps? Tough decision. Let’s mull it over while we go for a swim…

We had this beautiful place all to ourselves… well, actually, we shared it with a herd of cattle who moved down across the fields towards the beach later at night. This prompted us to arrange the bikes in a circle around our tents in an attempt to discourage any hoofs from coming too close to our guy lines. As it turned out, we didn’t need to worry about the cows, but a herd of sheep (which we hadn’t seen the night before) woke us up early in the morning with their incessant ‘baaaaah’. This triggered a synchronized turnout for the obligatory morning swim, at an unusually early hour. The early start allowed us a leisurely breakfast: oatmeal, oat “milk”, superspackle, coffee or tea. Got to feed that engine!


Sunset over the Baltic (11 pm). Cows on the horizon.

After breakfast we packed up and rolled onwards along the coast, eastbound. The coastal road isn’t the best option due to the heavy traffic and narrow shoulders. But it gets better after Skillinge, so we put our noses down and ground away for some 20 km, trying to enjoy the nice scenery despite the stupid RVs. We stopped for lunch at Skillinge and then for smoked fish (can’t get enough of this!) and smoked cod roe in Simrishamn, before we continued to Kivik where we stopped for gourmet gelato and excellent espresso at Café Strand of the Kivikstrand Hotel/’Hostel’. This magnificent place has been renovated with great taste and minute attention to detail, keeping true to traditional building techniques. It is inarguably the most stylish (in the best sense of the word!) STF hostel in all of Sweden. More superlatives? OK, the owner couple, Anna and Micael, are simply the best and happen to be very dear friends of ours. Mom and little M even appear on their web site.


Right, very well, time to hit the road again…

On we rolled towards another amazing wild camp at Ravlunda. We followed the protocol from the day before: swam in the sea, had a superb dinner (you-know-what), and enjoyed an absolutely still night with the air full of scents from wild herbs, the soft sound of gentle waves lapping the shoreline and swarms of buzzing scarab beetles (Geotrupes sp.). Magic!


Room with a view: Sunrise over the Baltic (3:40 am), as viewed from inside the Trailstar.

The next morning we celebrated big M’s 12-year birthday. He managed to sleep in while dad fixed his birthday cake and everybody else got out of their tents to assemble an impromptu choir that woke him up with birthday songs.


Not bad! Dad proudly documented the result of his ‘baking’ skills. 12 candles!

Here’s the recipe for M’s wild-camp birthday cake: 3-layered sponge cake, 1 jar of blueberry jam, 1 jar of Nutella. Layers 1-2: blueberry jam; layer 3 (top and sides): Nutella. Spread the layers really thick and rich (there’s no point carrying a half-empty jar around in your panniers). Done!


Hey, what’s this? Where’s my oatmeal?

This breakfast really hit the spot. Especially since it was accompanied by a nice cup or two of freshly brewed coffee. Aunt T’s french press coffee pot and carefully sourced gourmet beans sure made for a killer cup. There really is something to be said for bike touring: while we try to keep the loads rather light, we can very easily allow ourselves the luxury of a relatively heavy coffee pot — especially since T is carrying it! It sure is worth it.


Near-complete damage done. But remember: one slice for the baker!

We rolled out shortly after breakfast and continued along the coast on fun dirt trails through the pine forest, up towards Åhus, where we got supplies for the next few days. We stopped by the Åhus beach pier for a swim and humongous ice creams; you order 3 scoops and actually get 9, and they give you two cones (cone-in-cone), just to be able support the structural integrity of the veritable ice cream mountain.


Half-eaten already.
“People ask me what I’m on. I’m on my bike, 8 hours a day.” (famous cyclist, in TV commercial) So are we. And then we’re on ice cream!

‘Slightly’ bloated, fueled to the max, and firmly dedicated to focus on nutrition for the remainder of the trip, we then forked off inland and headed up north towards lake Immeln. We were in for a pretty hard ride in order to make it to the lake before night. Here we grunted away along some really fun and hilly dirtroads. Mom suffered badly in the hills even though little M put in an heroic effort to help out by pedaling hard on the tag-along-bike. It was obvious that she has outgrown the Funtrailer, it is really time to pass this beloved wheel on to someone else. We even hit some short stretches of single-track — yes!! It was really nice to finally get away from civilization, even if it meant that we needed to haul food and supplies up and down the hills for some 80 km. No more ice creams for a while…


Dad’s wheels: a trusty old Giant Sedona anno 1992 with its original Shimano Exage 400LX rear derailleur. The bottom bracket, crankset, and front derailleur have been replaced with generic parts. The cassette is a 13-30 7-speed. The bike is further pimped with Selle Italia Trans-Am saddle, Ergon GT1 handles, Tubus rear rack, Shimano SPD/standard pedals, Vaude Aqua panniers with roll-down tops (no zippers to brake), Vaude Aqua box + handle-bar bag (simply an old stuff bag + pack straps), tool bottle + Topeak saddle bag (for tools), Burley Nomad trailer. (Gear geekery to follow in an upcoming post.)

We set up camp right on the lake, at one of the maintained campgrounds of Skåneleden (‘Brotorpet’), where there are several fire rings, a lean-to shelter, picnic tables, an outhouse, and water (although the water in the lake is also fit to drink). We inherited a nice fire and bed of glowing embers from two friendly guys, who had pitched their Tarptent Cloudburst not far from where mom and M put up their Double Rainbow. None of us had ever before seen two Tarptents next to each other in Sweden, so we naturally had to compare notes. Our dinner preparations were off to a speedy start as soon as we had cooled off in the lake. On the menu: grilled pork-chop fajitas, home-made salsa and guacamole, tortillas, and a huge salad with G’s secret dressing. We weren’t suffering. Somebody magically pulled a box of red wine out of a pannier. And the kids were treated to a magnum bottle of Pommac, just to keep celebrating M’s birthday in style. Again we enjoyed a superb evening, with the surrounding dark, dense forest standing in contrast to the moonlit silvery lake and light night sky of summer. Pure bliss.

The next day we circled Immeln on twisting and winding dirtroads and then headed down southwest towards another lake, ‘Lursjön’. As you’ve figured out by now, we always aim to set up camp by the sea or a lake. We got some friendly pointers from the locals when we stopped at a farm to purchase a fishing license (which wasn’t needed since kids fish for free, cool!), so we headed out into uncharted terrain along fresh logging ‘roads’ that provided a significant shortcut to the lake, which was very welcome at this late hour. The Burley Nomad dealt with the rough trails surprisingly well. After swimming and a quick appearance at dinner, M made some half-hearted attempts at fishing, but soon gave up and retired to the Trailstar. It had been a tough day.


Sleep system: Trailstar, MLD bug bivy, old raggedy ground cover (Mountain Hardwear), Exped UL sleeping pad, MLD Spirit 48 quilt (airing out, draped over the Trailstar). M sleeps on a Thermarest Prolite, in one half of a 35 year-old ‘Caravan’ down double bag that has seen a lot of use through the years in Lapland, New Zealand, Outer Hebrides, the Rockies, the Sierras, Joshua Tree, and elsewhere; still holding up, excellent quality.

Our original plans included one more wild camp at Söderåsen, but the next morning brought cloudy skies, strong winds, and some light showers. The forecast for the following day was not pretty.  Better end on a positive note, we thought, so we set the controls for home. We stopped for lunch at lake Dagstorpssjön, which we reached after battling some steep hills that primed us well for the refreshing swim. After a long lunch break, including a nap for some of us, we hauled it all the way back home in one long push against a very strong headwind. Six days of biking —some easy coasting, some hard grinding — had taken it out of us. We could look back at a gorgeous bike tour covering some 540 km of great scenery. Now, what’s up for next year?


Outdoor cooking: Favorites from Abisko

Food tends to be important. In our family, this is an understatement. Simplicity, nutrition, and energy content — with an eye for gourmet dining — would be one way of summarizing what we aim for when putting together our food list for the outdoors. Here follows a short description of our feeding strategies. 


M&M’s favorite breakfast is also quite convenient from a cooking point of view. We make blueberry soup and serve it up in each person’s “kåsa” (“guksi” in Sami), then we add about 1 dl of oat flakes directly into the kåsa and stir it up. The end result is blueberry oatmeal. The oatmeal is complemented by a generous dollop of our homemade superspackle. Our superspackle recipe is very simple: we mix honey into peanut butter until we get a manageable spackle-like texture. We keep the superspackle in a zip-lock bag, which works great; at the relatively low temperatures expected in Lapland our spackle is fairly solid, but becomes runny when heated up. We sometimes also like to add a handful of granola or nuts to the oatmeal. This makes for a really good breakfast that gives you both a quick energy spike in the morning and also plenty of slow carbohydrates and fat to keep you going for a good while.


Blueberry oatmeal. This particular batch is actually made with real, freshly picked blueberries during one of our annual summer bike tours, but it’s similar to the one we make with blueberry soup.

Our breakfast procedure goes like this: we bring water to a near-boil, pour hot water into cups for those who would like some coffee or tea, then add the blueberry soup powder to the pot, stir, and pour the soup into our kåsa cups. Alternatively, we sometimes add the blueberry soup powder directy to the cups in order to minimize dishwashing.


Gorp: Mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds. We really like to have some salted nuts in the mix, because there’s something magical about the flavor combination of sweet raisins and salted cashews or almonds.

Chocolate: Any and various types of solid chocolate. M&M’s absolute favorite from Abisko was Milka’s Triolade, which is a combination of milk, white, and dark bitter chocolate. We do not like candy bars with lots of toffee or sugary goo in them, but sometimes bring one or two as emergency instant energy to combat fatigue if somebody bonks out. 

Lunch and Dinner or Big meal and Little meal

We like to cook something warm for lunch. Depending on our hiking plans, we either have the largest meal of the day for lunch, or later when we have stopped for the night. It all depends on how far we will hike, how strenuous the hike is, and on the weather. So, it makes more sense to talk about ‘big meals’ vs ‘little meals’ rather than lunch vs dinner.

Little meal: soup + bread with salami or cheese, followed by coffee or hot chocolate + a piece of chocolate for dessert. Bread is usually cracker bread (aka ‘crispbread’) or tortillas. The former is bulky, but contains more energy/weight than you’d think. Tortillas are really easy to fit into the pack, and are also energy rich.

Soup (powdered)We usually get the type that comes in a flat envelope. The ideal is instant soup, which can be made directly in our kåsa cups. Most types that call for simmering for 5 minutes or so work just fine without simmering; we simply bring the soup to a quick boil and then wrap the pot in our evazote mat and let it sit there for 10-15 minutes.

Big meal: We make our own dried food. It is very easy and fun and the end result is usually really good! Better than most ready-made outdoor foods and very much cheaper. We don’t use a dehydrator, but simply use our hot-air convection oven. We spread the cooked dish in a thin layer on an oven tray, and dry it at 50-70 C. Every so often we open the oven to let humid air out and stir the food a bit. The food is dry after some 8-12 hours and then we weigh it out into ‘big meal for 4’ portions that go into zip-lock freezer bags and then into the freezer until we leave for out trip. Here are a few of the dishes we like: red lentils, tomatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, herbs; chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, garam masala, curry, coconut milk; green or puy lentils, bacon, red onions, shallots, garlic, herbs; chicken in green curry (thai style); minced meat, tomatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, herbs. We cook these dishes in the normal way, except that we let them go relatively dry before we put them in the oven. These dishes are combined with couscous or noodles, which we add (uncooked) directly to the same zip-lock bag.

The ‘cooking’ procedure on the trail goes like this: heat water to a boil and pour this into the zip-lock bag containing the dried dish + couscous or noodles. Stir thoroughly. Close the zip again, put the bag in the empty pot used to boil water, wrap it all up in the evazote mat, and let it sit for some 15-25 minutes.

Notes to self

Next time we absolutely must not forget to bring butter and shallots so that we can sautee mushrooms and fry fish. Butter is critical and shallots are a proven secret ingredient that enhances just about any dish, perhaps especially mushrooms and fish. A few cloves of garlic wouldn’t hurt either.

Other edibles that mother Nature offered

Cloudberries and cranberries, albeit in very small quantities (it was too early in the season, we think). Mushrooms and artic char, as already reported on this blog.

 Food-prep and eating utensils

Our cook kit for the Abisko trip has been mentioned in a previous post. Here’s a short list of our eating utensils: 4 kåsa cups (one each), 2 plastic sporks (for M&M), 2 plastic spoons (for mom & dad), 1 plastic fork, 1 plastic knife, 1 pair of wooden chopsticks, 2 plastic kid’s tumblers (from IKEA), 2 plastic thermal mugs with lids, small Wenger pocket knife (with knife blade, corkscrew, tweezers, scissors, and can opener).

Mom & dad really like to be able to enjoy warm coffee or tea for longer than 1–2 minutes. Hence the need for thermal mugs. Unfortunately, our current mugs don’t pack down very well because of the big ugly handles. The ideal thermal mug holds some 300 ml, doesn’t have a handle, is lightweight, has a good insulating lid, and just imagine if it would stack… Where can we find this? Please advise!


The greatest challenge for mom & dad on a multi-day trek is to make sure that everyone replenishes their energy stores at the right time, so that we avoid the dire consequences of somebody bonking out. This requires careful monitoring of everybody’s mood and strength. We distribute small ‘rewards’, like a handful of nuts or a piece of chocolate, to celebrate a peak or saddle or new vista that we’ve gained from our efforts during the last half-hour to hour, depending on how strenuous the hike is.