Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two kinds of fika

On a postcard, (now) sunny afternoon we approach Svenljunga. A small town that sits at the center of a gorgeous farming area. Normally photos would definitely be called for, but today other priorities are in play. We are not tourists on vacation but randonneurs with a goal.

The control is at a restaurant, Dallas Pizzaria. One of the riders says the name in a joking way. I have to point out that Dallas (Texas) is in no way famous for pizza. Or food of any kind, for that matter. Nor is Dallas (the TV show) an accurate portrayal of life for most Americans. It can be hilarious to travel thousands of miles only to find strange tropes from your own culture that have escaped their contextual cages. Taken flight and landed in... Västra Götaland, southwestern Sweden. 

Across Scandinavia you'll find American-themed steakhouses (pizza restaurants, classic cars, Harley Davidsons, you name it). People still wonder if we live the lifestyle made famous by Sue Ellen and JR. Maybe they even hope that we do....

It's just a minor sideshow. The smell of pizza with savory toppings, now THAT's intoxicating.

The five of us have now spent the entire day together. Since Laholm we have not seen a single rider. It's nearly 4pm, technically 2 hours past the control closing time. At the pre-ride meeting we got instructions on what to do in this case. If we missed a control window, just keep riding and try to make up the time. None of us thought we would need to actually do that. 

Cards get stamped but apparently we are not stopping for pizza. "Time for coffee and cake", says Soren. "Local recommendation."

Choking back protests I roll with the group to a lovely little establishment with a friendly proprietor. We sit at a table in front, in the sun. Coffee and cake and conversation. A completely natural and established pattern for the other 4 riders. There is even a name for it, fika

I'm way in the minority, out of my element and it's a strange feeling, like a dream. My North American instincts are absolutely screaming for the others to wake up. The clock is ticking, the sun is moving across the sky, we're way behind the curve. Patience and teamwork and communication, it's all giving way to panic. This is not the time to enjoy life and build relationships. It's time to crack the whip, people.

To be fair soon the coffee break is over, cake demolished, dishes on their way back inside. We survive a few wrong cues near Boras to land finally at the Vårgårda McDonald's. There against the bright plastic play structures, a most welcome sight: other cyclists. There is happy chatter. It's 8:15pm, dusk. 

Cake long gone! Time for a BigMac and fries and Coke, followed by a sundae. Long silences are punctuated by munching and slurping sounds. The hot food and warm room lift everyone's spirits. We linger under the Golden Arches for 45 minutes before setting out for Trollhättan in the dark.

Listen up fellow Americans, if there is one valid use case for the Big Mac Value Meal it is the 1200K brevet. Tastes heavenly, takes hours to burn off. Protein, carbs, fat, sugar, salt. Mmmm. Food to ride on.

If you're not on a 1200K brevet just leave that Big Mac right where it is, on the warming tray.

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