Our 3 weeks of cycling the length of Sweden has been, aside from the gnats, superb. The camping has been some of the best we've had on this trip, partly because we're allowed to camp anywhere and partly because there are endless established sites with fire pits, picnic tables and beautiful views of the rivers and lakes. It is not necessarily a country with breathtaking vistas but instead is a place of serenity, a calming natural landscape whose deafening stillness makes you feel relaxed and at peace. The riding has not been difficult, only pleasantly challenging but we've begun to see some snow speckled mountains on the horizon and I think Norway is going to be a different story.
There are several things that we've found to be prevalent throughout Sweden and someday when we think back to our time here, in addition to the gnats, mosquitoes and abundant forests, these are the things we'll remember. The Swedes love red, or else it's just the cheapest color of house and vehicle paint available. Nearly every house is dark red and the majority of the cars that pass us on the roads are red as well. Sweden is the land of Volvo's. They are by far the most common make of vehicle throughout this country and a huge percentage of them are, of course, red. We've also seen an abundance of classic American cars, far more than we've seen in any country we've cycled through thus far, quite possibly even more than in the U.S. Me, I don't know a thing about cars and when I'm on my bike view them as nothing more than a speedy distraction to my slow-moving and peaceful world. Mike, on the other hand, enjoys old cars and has one back home, so it's kind of a treat for him to be in a place with so many muscle cars to tell me about and admire. And last but not least, Sweden appears to have an unbelievable love for gummy candies. There is an extensive display and vibrant selection of nearly every gummy candy you can imagine in every single supermarket. It's Mike's dream come true as he loves to snack on them throughout the day and a resupply location is never more than a day away.
Today was our final day in Sweden and one of my favorite things about riding here has been the endless daylight. Even though the summer solstice has come and gone and therefore the hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere are decreasing daily, our days have continued to lengthen as we're moving north faster than the point on the globe that receives 24 hours of sunlight. Though we'll be riding north for a while longer in Norway, I don't think we'll ever actually reach the point where the sun never drops below the horizon, which would be a pretty cool thing to see.
Many people have asked us if the endless light has messed up our schedule or made it difficult to sleep and the answer is no, not really. It's a little more difficult to get to bed early since the sun is still high in the sky at 9PM and we usually find ourselves putting off dinner until close to 10, but once we get to bed, falling asleep is not an issue at all. It's like taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon. If you're tired, you can sleep. The strangest part, however, is when you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the watch and find that it's as bright outside as an overcast afternoon but it's only 1AM or that the sun is rising giving you the sense that it's time to wake up yet it's only 3AM. It can be a bit confusing during those groggy hours when you're half asleep and half awake but all in all I'm a huge fan of these long, long days.
Yesterday was another big milestone for us. We hit the 12,450.8 mile mark. That number probably doesn't have any significance to most people, but it turns out to be half the circumference of our planet. Suddenly Earth doesn't seem so big...