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Old 10-26-2009, 01:37 PM   #1
Uncle Mike OP
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Gotland Sweden - quick dash to the backroad island

After successfully bonding with my “new” bike (see sig), me and the rat needed to go on some sort of excursion.

The weather forecast for Sweden last week was what you would expect for this time of the year: cloudy, rain, some wind and temps 6-7 C, or low forties F. Waiting for some sun would make for a more comfortable experience and nicer pics but I manage a shop and free time is dictated by moments between deliveries. With a couple of days available and some pretty good rain gear I packed my stuff and set off for the island of Gotland outside Sweden´s east coast (google map) with easy access by ferry from a couple of Swedish cities.

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Gotland has about 60000 inhabitants with a third living in the city Visby which is a medieval town with large remains of the fortified walls and other historic landmarks. Gotland has a rich history as a commercial and strategic stronghold and has been fought over and controlled by many powers. It is considered to be the home of the Goths that migrated to southern Europe in the first century AD and has had a strong Viking presence. Teutonic Knights conquered it in 1398 and after being sold to Eric of Pomerania ( who was was King Eric III of Norway 1389–1442 Norwegian Eirik, King Eric VII of Denmark 1396–1439, and King of Sweden 1396–1439 ) Gotland has remained under Swedish rule.

In short: if you are interested in Scandinavian history and medieval culture, Gotland will fit the bill, specially if you visit during the Medieval Festival week August 8 – 15. For everything else, check out www.gotland.net/en
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We stopped off at the bikeshop Örby MC for a health check on the bouncy rear suspension that can make you seasick.


“It ain´t broke...”
Ah, good!
“..but it ain´t good for nothing either..”
I could live with that so we were clear to go!

From Stockholm, the port of Nynäshamn is closest and the ferry crossing takes about 3 hrs. The cost for 1 person with bike, trip and return, is just under 900 crowns or about 130 dollars.

When you go from Nynäshamn, the ship loads from the rear. The bikes go in the front so be sure to be there in time as you will board first. When leaving Gotland, the ship loads from the front so you can be last in and still access the bike area with the dedicated strap downs. Seas can be high so strap it down good with front wheel against the stop, in gear, and pressure on the sidestand. Other side can be looser, just to prevent topple.


Late October cuts the number of riders in Sandinavia bigtime. For the 60 kilometer trip from Stockholm to the port we hadn't seen another bike. We were the only ride on the ferry out and back and we didn´t meet any other bikes during the 2 day ride. The scenario will be different late this week as the island is invaded by offroaders when it hosts the annual Gotland Grand National on October 31


GGN is the world´s largest enduro race with about 2000 riders battling it out in pretty wet terrain. The track quickly becomes a mud trap and the race is locally referred to as “the goo”. The most laps in 3 hrs wins you the trophy. Each lap is about 22 kilometers.

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If mud is your game and you want to join 2010 here is the 2009 GGN application that gives you an idea of the rules that should be the same for 2010. Fastbikes will be sending live from the event.

My ferry arrived at Visby after midnight so I stayed at Best Western Solhem that have a 75 buck room in town.


The room has a kitchen which is pretty good value for longer stays considering you get sheets and towels, and can totally stuff yourself with breakfast to hold you up until your cheap homemade dinner.


Breakfast room was pretty empty, food was fresh and plenty though.

I had arrived wednessday night and would be going home friday afternoon which would give me a day and a half for touring. We left Visby town and headed south to Tofta to check out the area that will host the GGN mud party but the area was closed due to military training of our troops soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. Tofta is also a huge camping ground but at this time of the year deserted. Gave up on the "all weather" suit and used their parkinglot to puton the raingear.



At the first chance we headed off the main route and travelled through country roads that crosssed pastures and small crop farms. Gotland has 3 main industries: tourism, small-crop farms and cement. Small sheep farms are abundant and the agrarian landscape feels naturally rural and not industrialized.



We continued east inland toward the town of Roma and passed through more perfect roads that kept going from dirt to paved to dirt all the way to the east coast.







There are few stretches where you can speed but as Gotland has "officially" illegalized stress we abided by that and took our time checking out the landscape. We soon realized that apart from town centres, you can do do the whole island up and down and back and forth as much as you like on backroads only. At this time of the year there was almost no traffic and during a couple of hours crossing from west to east coast on these smaller roads I think we met a total of 4 cars and a tractor.



Many country roads of this central area are less gravel and more tighlty packed sandstone / limestone mud. With the drizzle lube these hard and shiny roads are very slippery in patches. Note the lack of treadmarks.



I often chickened out and chose the sideline with more traction.


More later

Uncle Mike screwed with this post 10-26-2009 at 01:42 PM
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Old 10-26-2009, 04:58 PM   #2
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Very nice!

Its always interesting seeing rural & less known parts of Europe.
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Old 10-27-2009, 01:52 PM   #3
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Informative writing, I've only been at Gotland in the summer. I long for to visit the island again.

I'm in and waiting for more...


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Old 10-27-2009, 03:59 PM   #4
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Let's hope it's drier later

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Old 10-27-2009, 07:18 PM   #5
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The rain continued on and off but that is normal for this time of the year.

Gotland is a pretty flat island and wherever you go you will be seeing church towers. Gotland has over 90 preserved medieval churches from around 1100 - 1300 AD that still see active use. I´m not religious but I think the churches are great historic landmarks and well worth a visit, for the architecture and for the culture.

A couple got their pics taken








Here´s a ride idea: map out a trip to visit each one of the 90+ churches. I am confident 90% of the travel could be routed onto backroads.
Click the image below for more details on the churches of Gotland with pics and descriptions.


We were on a 1.5 day trip though so no time for standing still. Except for pics of course there must always be time for that. The rat and me sometimes disagreed and quarreled, but mostly accepted each other´s limitations and did ok. Here´s me being clumsy and the rat being clunky.


All in all though, the bike worked ok and we headed on from the central area to the eastern coast moving up towards the town Slite. Landscape was much the same as before with small farms

The roads were here sometimes crossed by grid rails that keep the sheep from wandering off. In other areas, gates were more common.


The roads varied from the slippery limestone stuff to loose gravel, specially on the connecting roads that led down to the eastern coastline. Sometimes they went down to the coast, sometimes they ended in private properties and sometimes they sent you on a maze trip through the shrubbery landscape...

landing you right back where you began






I had no complaints though as gravel is fun and we found our way out of there eventually. Some fishing sheds by the coast.


I think these may be from the north/west coast



Nice material to bike on


From time to time we had to connect through paved roads, but they were very nice too.


More later

Uncle Mike screwed with this post 10-27-2009 at 07:34 PM
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Old 10-28-2009, 03:15 PM   #6
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As mentioned, Gotland has 3 principal industries, in order of importance: tourism, small crop farming and cement. On the east coast the town of Slite sits beside one of the larger limestone quarries, an ugly open dig that really feels out of place after all the rural landscape.

Pic is taken from near the top blue 147 marker

View Larger Map

The processing is located in the middle of town


The mud highway between the quarry and what seemed like slush deposits.


The good news is that the little heavy industry that exists on Gotland is concentrated to a few areas. However, Slite is also a major tourist location with popular beaches and camping sites... Maybe I am missing something but I don´t get why people go to this mining area for recreation as there are much nicer places on Gotland to spend your summer vacation on... Took some pics and continued up towards my final destination for the day, a small island off the northern tip of Gotland called Fårö.

Gotland has a few main roads, some two lane, mostly single, no highways and from these just take the next junction onto smaller roads and see where they take you. Most oftenly to some nice place. I was trying out the Garmin Etrex for this trip but didn´t use it much. A GPS of this size is pretty useless for mapping on a bike in my opinion. I just had the compass heading up most of the time.




This time of the year, it was easy to get the impression you had the playground to yourself which is cool.
Some snippets from different parts of the island.




More places from different areas around middle / north Gotland






Gotland is popular with campers. Even the locals seem to be a bit nomadic


I had hoped to check out the racetrack Gotland Ring but it was closed and I couldn´t find any other "entrances" and as the day was almost over so we went to check out more industrial sights.. This area is near the north western town Klintehamn and is another of the few locations that has cement related industry. As it is already industrialized it made sense to place the racetrack here. There are also plenty of wind turbines.


View Larger Map

Since the Ring was closed I compensated by fooling around on the industrial lot.


I moved on north/east towards Fårösund and the ferry to the island Fårö where I would spend the next day. On the way, we passed "The Blue Lagoon" that is an old waterfilled dig with crystal clear blue water. The water is clean and this is a officially sanctioned bathing place. No thermals though as in the real Blue Lagoon on Iceland

The weather sucked and I was glad to have The Magic Glasses that convert everyting dull into happy summer warmth.




Yellow glasses boost contrast and protect your eyes while not cutting any measurable light. I also use mine at night which helps reduce glare from headlights and accentuates details. Very very recommended.
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Old 10-28-2009, 05:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Mike



The processing is located in the middle of town










.
Very interesting report and great pictures.

In particular, I found these two pictures of interest. The first photo shows the air pollution control equipment on a cement kiln. The tall tower on the left is a wet scrubber for reducing sulfur dioxide emissions. There are very few of these operating now anywhere but pending regulations in the US may make these more common.

The second picture shows a vertical lime kiln - the tall cylindrical vessel on the right with "Maerz" sign. These are very energy-efficient devices for making quick lime which is used for water purification, paper manufacture and in the steel industry.

Thanks for including these pictures.
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Old 10-29-2009, 01:31 AM   #8
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Hi Dane

Yes, the plants operate under Swedish environment regulations which are very strict. As a bonus, it seems the digs convert into great swimmingpools when operations end.
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Old 11-01-2009, 10:09 AM   #9
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To finish off, I had originally planned to spend the night in one of these at Sudersand Camping


Nice cabins with minikitchen and fireplace and 4 beds for about 80 dollars but as it turned out at this time of the year, you can only book them online several days beforehand. With so few guests the camps are not regularily staffed and the caretakers if found would not have been able to take payment. Sites like this one are open year round though, so if you need a base of operations on the island check out Destination Gotland and book ferry and lodging online. Choose packages top right.

The owner of the Fårösund Marina & Hotell saved me from having to go back to Visby and kindly opened a room for me. Dry and comfy, but no fireplace

We took the free ferry to the small island Fårö in the morning.


This was the second day and we would be going back to Stockholm late in the afternoon.

Gotland is packed during summers. If your car is here, the waiting time for the ferry will be about 1.5 hrs... not if you come by bike of course


On Fårö, take a immediate right after the ferry and you will have gravel roads that curve northward leading up onto the main road.

View Larger Map

A recomended stop on the main road is Kutens Bensin & Bar that hosts live concerts. On the other side of the road is the Slow Train Bed & Breakfast Very popular places during season




As soon as you like, just turn off the main road again and enjoy the smaller roads. There are several smaller sheep farms with gates


By now, the rat had aquired a musky smell and fit right in with the local gang.


Time for a drink.


The northern part of Fårö has some bogs but the crossings are easy and not deep.


Nice building material.




I spent some time checking out the roads that skim the coast


Sometimes they lead to dead ends but Fårö is a small island and you might as well try every one of them since the were all nice


I suggest at least a 3 day stay on Gotland if you want to take it all in. I ended up short of time and main-road speeding for the ferry trip back to Stockholm. Areas I would have done on day 2 & 3: the northern part with Stenkusten - the rock beach that you can ride on, going down the middle to the south part of the island, the historic sites such as the Viking burials, and a snap or two of the medieval sights in Visby town.

To sum it up: Gotland is a nice bike ride if you are in Sweden. The roads are easy and you can do them on a normal roadbike with some patience. To get the most out of it, go late spring or fall while establishments are open. Go in October and apart from gas-stations and the capital Visby everything is closed, but you have the playground to yourself :)

Uncle Mike screwed with this post 11-01-2009 at 10:15 AM
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Old 11-01-2009, 10:39 AM   #10
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Great pictures, Mike!

You frequent the GSResources as well, yes?
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Old 11-01-2009, 01:18 PM   #11
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Thanx for the Ride Mike...

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Old 11-01-2009, 01:27 PM   #12
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Old 11-01-2009, 01:47 PM   #13
Uncle Mike OP
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Originally Posted by East Coast Rider
Great pictures, Mike!

You frequent the GSResources as well, yes?
Thanks, must be someone else though. But I have been very close to getting a GS850G wth the shaft drive that seem to be bulletproof tourers.
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Old 11-01-2009, 03:32 PM   #14
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I'm so liking this!

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Old 11-01-2009, 05:45 PM   #15
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Island Riding

Interesting place to ride and not the sort of place that gets many pictures . so it's much appreciated
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