After a final excellent breakfast in Mora, we drove north past snow-splattered forests, frozen rivers and lakes, and the occasional desolate farm or hard-bitten little town. We reached the coast and saw scraps of snow even on the shore.
In Harnosand (map) we stopped to walk about the bustling city. I saw stately old government buildings, warren-like apartment buildings, cars with two or three extra headlights, mounds of gray snowplow leavings, and street repair projects that involved heavy machinery. I was glad I’d bought a down jacket in Stockholm and had the foresight to put on long underwear. We visited the small but classy museum, which Lance observed has a little of everything; historic artifacts and crafts, modern art and sculptures, ancient mariners’ tools and instruments, and an accordion collection.
We ordered carryout lunches at a cozy bakery near the Tourism Bureau, so we could drive onward while eating. The owner was out of plastic forks and knives, so she insisted we take a fork and knife of her steel ware, tho how we might share the use of them was a mystery. I thought I’d finessed the problem by ordering a beef baguette topped with potato salad. But it disintegrated into my lap while I was eating it. (And there was little prospect of a Laundromat.)
The rest of the day was a hypnotic repetition of frozen scenes; now even saltwater inlets were covered in ice. I thought of a sign I’d seen in a Stockholm shop window; “Embrace the Swedish gloom.” Now and then we’d stop at a fast-food restaurant or a gas station to stretch and walk around. As darkness fell, Lance cheerfully announced that there were only 80 kilometers to go.
In Pitea (map), we pulled in at the Golf Hotel, a Swedish take on Motel 6. There was no reception area or employees. Plastic bags on our beds contained our linen and towels. The kitchenettes had no cooking supplies, not even salt or oil. The bathrooms had no soap.
Unlike our previous hotels, this one had wholly traditional Swedish showers. The floor is slanted toward a drain in one corner. A curtain can be pulled around this corner, and this is the shower; it has no curb. A squeegee is provided for moving standing water into the drain when you’re done. As usual, the shower had the excellent adjustable, removable showerhead and two-valve control; one for pressure, the other for temperature.
While making my bed I was confronted with a mystery; how do the Swedes put a comforter inside a linen bag? The bag’s seams were visible; so turning it inside out seemed to have something to do with it–like peeling a banana in reverse. I wasn’t able to persuade more than a foot of comforter into my bag, so I gave up and used the bag for a top sheet.