From August 15, 2007:

2.5 Exciting weeks through Sweden, Estonia and Latvia

Hi everyone,
Wow! Where do I start. So much has happened that I have decided to
categorize the information to make it easier for you to read.

We finished going through Norway, then through Sweden. Took the
ferry from Stockholm to Tallin Estonia. We are now in Latvia. We
will head to Lithuania tomorrow and then to Poland. That will
complete the Baltic countries.

Norway - very expensive, especially the alcohol, pop and sugary
items. We were told that is because the govt. taxes them heavily
because they are not good for you.
Sweden - not as expensive...more affordable.
Estonia/Latvia - inexpensive. The average person makes $400 U.S.
equivalent dollars per month. Since 1991, when the Russians no longer
had them under communist rule, they have made some improvements on
their buildings and continue to. You can still see and sense the
strong Russian influence. Many gray, run down concrete buildings still
remain. One woman explained how it was when the Russians controlled
them. She explained that people were indifferent. There wasn't an
incentive to work or improve things/buildings. Everyone got the same
pay. She also told how she would have to get up early in the morning
to get in line to get milk and butter and sometimes they would run out
and not receive any. Also, the store shelves were frequently empty.
She has seen great improvements since that time. Many of the people
still seem guarded and it is difficult to get a smile out of them.
Some other views we received from people is that the Euro is
where the power is. They state the dollar is losing importance.

Well, our learning curve is still straight up. One night in
Sweden we were free camping along a path. We let our guard down and
identified ourselves as Americans. The man said he was from Iraq.
Later that night (~9:00 p.m.) He returned to our campsite and was
angry and yelling at us mentioning words like English, U.S. He came
back 3 different times. Ward slept through most of it but I laid
still hoping he thought no one was in the tent. I then laid awake
most of that night hearing every sound...ready to protect my sleeping
beauty. We then decided we needed to be more careful when identifying
Another night we were free camping behind a middle school that
wasn't in session. We went way back behind the schools so we wouldn't
bother anyone. At 4:00 a.m. I heard a car being revved up like somone
was going to drag race. I thought it was up on the hill behind us but
suddenly we saw the headlights coming straight at us. The car quickly
turned, sqealing through the rest of the school grounds. Wow, was
that close. The next morning we assessed what happened by the tire
tracks. The car (small) sped up a pretty steep hill on the left side
of the school, saw our tent and quickly swerved (it didn't expect us
to be there) and missed us by ~3ft. It then went through a small
opening in a hedge, barely missed a tree (in fact we can't figure out
how it missed the low branch), made its way to a parking lot where it
apparently broke something on the bottom of the car so they parked and
left it. We strongly think it was stolen.
We then traveled to the Baltic countries where we inquired
extensively regarding their safety. We were told that violent acts
are not a concern, its mostly petty theft and to watch your stuff. So
far no problems with that.
In a small town in Latvia I stopped at a cafe. A woman jumped
up. Ī explained we were camping and I was checkin out the coffee and
pastries for the morning. She waved me off angrily with her hand and
said, "you go down the road". That same day we were checking into our
campsite and the owner asked us where we were from. We said the U.S.
He asked again, we again responded U.S. He then said, "no, you are
from Germany."
Last night we pulled into a very nice family owned campground.
The owner asked us where we were from. When we said the U.S. he said,
"you are welcome here" and took great interest in our trip.

Roads and Biking:
Norway and Sweden - the roads were pretty bike friendly and they
had many bike paths. The vehicles were good about stopping for bikes.
Fellow bikers never told you when they were passing on the left which
created some harry moments when they were trying to pass and we were
trying to avoid pot holes. Not many bikers where helmets.
Estonia and Latvia - they are not used to people biking on the
roads so you must be aware at all times. They drive pretty crazy
also. The roads are in ill repair. Lots of bumps, holes, etc. with
no or little shoulder to ride on. We were fortunate to be on a few of
the newer roads that had a 5 ft shoulder, however, they frequently
drive down the shoulder to allow cars to pass each other down the
middle of the road. As for other bikers, we haven't seen many at all.
We passed a few groups that were self-contained but that was it.

Norway: hills/mountains, bluffs, natural springs and waterfulls.
No wonder the Norwegians settled in Decorah. One hill was 15 km (9+
miles) long.
Sweden: also mountanous. It had 20 mile stretches of up and
down. Some grades up were 9%. Eastern Sweden was much flatter.
Estonia/Latvia: pretty darn flat and woodsy.

Norway/Sweden- off and on rain and sun. Not many days when we
didn't get wet. Temps in teh 60-70s. The Swedes said this has been a
bad summer so far.
Estonia/Lativia - sunny every day and mostly in teh 90s.

Hopitality (since Norway):
1. Sweden- Stayed with Karl and Karin Edlund in Munksfors. This
was a very spontaneous invitation as Ward met Karl at a Rotary
meeting. We had such a nice visit. We had bruschetta with fresh
picked mushrooms, cheese and meat for a p.m. snack and they brought
out all the foods/spreads that were new to us the next a.m. Karl has
been the general manager of 2 different corporations, a pilot (has
flown from the U.S. to Sweden with both a one engine and a two engine
plane), and a sailor. So you can just imagine how interesting our
conversation was. Karin was a "hoot". Clever, crazy and fun-loving.
she just had to take my loaded bike for a spin.

2. Sweden - Stayed with Ralph and Louise in Hallestahammar. We
met this couple at a campground in Germany. They treatyed us to their
spa, an outstanding traditional meal (including Akivit, beer, wine,
etc) and learnt their skoll song. It was super. The next day they
took us on an extensive tour of their area which included all the
historical areas, miniature golf, fresh fish lunch and later their
really good creamy ice cream (big in all the Scandiniavian countries).

3. Estonia - Stayed at Kaljo and Lehte Kokuta. We asked them if
we could camp in their yard and they welcomed us...even though they
did not know English. They stoked up the sauna and showers and let us
camp in their flower/pond area which was beautiful. They sent us off
the next day with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, apples and carrots.

4. Latvia - Madera, a teenage girl noticed that we had no where
to camp and were going to camp on the beach which was prohibited so
she took us to her home and had us camp in her yard. Her parents only
spoke Russian but gave us a good welcome. We had a good time
listening to their Russian music.

Ward is Thirsty page. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored a drink
for Ward. He has had so much fun with it and is posting the pictures
on his page. Many more of you have also sponsored drinks that he has
not purchased yet. Please keep checking the website for a special
thankyou to you.

Bye for now.
Jacky and Ward