Saturday, August 17, 2013

No man's land

Simlångsdalen is a valley; Martin's never been there but word is it's beautiful. In fact none of us has been here before.

Simlångsdalen is also a town, where the grey sky opens up and becomes a waterfall. We duck into a snack bar, laughing. Time for late morning coffee and pastries. With the downpour still going, everyone follows that with a hot dog. It tastes heavenly. We're catching up on food and fluids.

The Danes joke about how you can tell you're in Sweden because it's raining. In this case the joke is kind of on them. After all this part of Sweden once belonged to Denmark. Everyone is surprised that I know this.

Even for the tourist who can visit a country, oblivious to signs and evidence that it was once the regional powerhouse, this topic was covered up front in A History of Denmark. True, I gave up on page 54 and went in search of pastries. Even so, the book honed in on how Denmark lost this territory in the 17th century. How the new Swedish Vasa state got tired of being picked on by its older sibling. How Karl Gustav crossed the ice between the two countries during the winter of 1658. And how this struggle basically enabled the political balance that exists between Denmark and Sweden today.

Why the heck does it matter what happened over 350 years ago, in the middle of a brevet, when we are at least two hours behind...?

Yes I'm riding with 3 Danes and a Swede for company, and that part is working well. I'm also riding with them to stay on track, in territory that (from an outsider's perspective) should be familiar. Yet none of them has any idea where we are.

We are in no man's land. The Danes don't know about it because they don't come here because it's not Denmark any more. Kind of a sore spot. After they lost these provinces the Swedes started a campaign to make the inhabitants more Swedish. Such campaigns don't usually end well. Now the Swedes don't come here because it's not really Sweden!

The confused American with the flawed route sheet starts to put the pieces together.

There are other reasons, of course. Management training has kicked in and I can't stop analyzing the group dynamics and various personal styles of the riders. The obvious differences in cultural styles. In Scandinavia, avoid conflict and go with the flow. In North America, take control and shake things up.

Also, it has gradually emerged that the GPS unit is a recent purchase. This morning it was hooked up to a hub generator, charging. During which process it is my understanding that the GPS unit goes to sleep.

As the rain lets up and morning turns to afternoon, intellectually I will remember scenic, rural beauty on the ride from Simlångsdalen through Femsjö, Hyltebruk, Kinnared, Fegen, Ätran, and Mårdaklev, all on our way to the control in Svenljunga. Sweden or Denmark, who cares? Forests, lakes, fields. Excellent company. Free lessons in pronouncing Swedish place names.

On a visceral level I'm trying to figure out how to make this work, how to trust the people I'm with. There will be many more opportunities to lose our way. Today, tomorrow, the day after. Are we up to the task?

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