Gotland, Sweden – Day 2
I had decided long ago that I’d come to Gotland to bike. The original plan was to take a bus to the eastern side of the island, rent a bike, and ride some sort of loop out there. I had to modify the plan and cut out the bus part after realizing that nothing would be open outside of Visby. Apparently the only place still renting bikes was a hotel just across from the ferry, which thankfully was open 24/7. I left there with one sweet-ass bike, very sturdy and kitted out with all sorts of accessories. Front and back reflectors, a big basket in the front… and best of all, the back wheel locked! I’ve never seen this before, but there’s a sort of caging over part of the back tire which you can slip a key into and lock, making the tire immovable. No need to wrap a chain around the bike and a lamppost – Europeans seem to just lock the back tire and park their bikes wherever and trust that no one will steal them. Riding through the countryside and a dead town, I wasn’t too worried about theft anyway. But to do this in big cities? A little weird, but people do it.
It was pretty much love at first sight with this bike. It fit me perfectly, rode smoothly, and just felt right. I wanted to ride forever on this thing, seriously (until I encountered rain, anyway). I rode all day, following a certain road and occasionally referring to my map to see how far I’d gone. There was a surprising amount of cars on the road, so I didn’t feel too isolated out there. The further north I went, the less I passed. I stopped at a few medieval churches along the way – they’re all small, but very cool to look at (both inside and out).
I kept riding further and further, well beyond my original route, because I was loving it and feeling no fatigue. I failed to notice a massive storm cloud rolling in behind me, though. Soon the blue skies gave way to clouds and wind, and I knew it’d be a matter of minutes before it began to rain. Yet still I kept riding. I figured maybe it’d be a light rain and wouldn’t last too long and I’d be ok to ride. Worst case, I could just seek refuge in a shop or something til it passed.
But there were none. And I had run out of water earlier, figuring I could just stop somewhere along the way to refill. But nope, after August nothing is open in Gotland outside of Visby. So here I was, battling wind and rain while severely dehydrated. Which was far from ideal, seeing as how I suspected dehydration was what had caused my random sick episodes last spring. Bad bad bad. Not to mention I had no idea how long it would be til I reached civilization again and had a very rough map of my route to fall back on. But see, this is what i always do – I convince myself that I can handle anything, regardless of how absurd or dangerous it may be. And then I end up in sticky situations.
In this particular sticky situation, I really had no choice but to keep going. Occasionally I would stop and sit for awhile at bus stop overhangs while the weather did its thing. It was off and on, thankfully, so when it was off I enjoyed riding past churches and cornfields and farms. It was exactly what I wanted for my Swedish countryside experience.
Well, except for how I was so thirsty and weak that I actually stopped at some random house and ask for water. Seriously, I can’t believe I actually had to do that! There was a small shop set up outside of the house with a driveway-turned-parking lot, and I saw a lady get out of her car to check out the shop, so I figured it’d be less absurd if I stopped off here. Of course the shop was closed, but there was a sign that said to call during off-hours to be let in. The lady was trying to call the owner, while I took it upon myself to walk next door to see if he was home. Hey, that’s how much I needed water. I could have gotten sick or hurt if I kept going without it.
Well, thank god he was home. He let us into his shop and refilled my bottle. And then i refilled it twice more after inhaling the first bottle. I don’t know what I would have done if no one had been home. I guess I would have knocked on other doors til i found someone who would give me water. Boy would I have felt like a schmuck, though.
Back on the road I went. At this point, I just wanted to power on back to Visby with minimal stops or diversions. The rain grew more steady and the sun went down, and all I had was my light hoodie… But on I went. I can’t even tell you how relieved I felt when i saw the walls of Visby from afar. All I wanted to do was get there, get rid of my bike, and warm up. I found an almost-empty resaurant, ordered pizza and a glass of wine, and grabbed a table with a radiator right next to it. Mission accomplished.
After I came back to life, I returned my bike and went back to the hostel. The end.