Click here for an introduction tangentially related to episode 6:
When we arrived in Nyköping and opened the koffert with all the car paraphernalia I thought to myself, “My dad is gonna love this episode!” He has been tinkering with cars for as long as I can remember, and is a member of our local classic car club the Gig Harbor Cruisers. His daily driver is a 1956 Ford Ranchwagon that he found abandoned in a field on a hunting trip in Nebraska. Putting fuel injection in the ’56 was a big project and he dropped more than a few swear words along the way, but it was worth it. His real “hot rod” is a suped-up aluminum block 1932 Chevy that belonged to my morfar for decades. My mom lovingly nicknamed it ‘Perthie’ when she drove it in college and the name stuck. Perthie was always special to my Granddad and when it no longer ran, he entrusted my Dad to fix up the mechanics while preserving its character. Restoring both vehicles has been a labor of love for him, and they are fantastic cars. When I got married, my husband didn’t know much about cars so his “trial of fear” was building a car with my Dad. Suffice it to say, we’re a car family. So I knew Dad would get a kick out of the folkrace and seeing his daughter in the “pit crew challenge.” And as luck would have it, it was my Dad’s birthday last week so watching this episode was a timely birthday treat. Happy birthday, Dad!
Nyköping: Cars, Castles, & Camaraderie
On to episode 6 in Nyköping, where old Sweden meets new Sweden. With Nyköping’s “Christmas Banquet” being an important part of Swedish history I would have expected our time there to center on the old Sweden, so imagine my surprise as we started digging things out of the koffert and found so many thoroughly modern items! We put on our blue overalls and noticed that George was wearing long pants for the first time. He quickly fixed that by rolling up the cuffs so that they would be like shorts! Once that was done, we played the customary CD of music. A Swedish rap song about “rollin’ in my Volvo” was particularly noteworthy. I think I need to download that song so I can play it while I am rollin’ in my actual Volvo.
Nate and I were simulating rollin’ in our Volvos as the rallycross bus pulled up and we were invited to get on. At that point, it started to sink in that we were actually going to NEED the blue overalls and weren’t just putting them on for show. Jörgen and My introduced themselves and we hopped on to the bus. As he drove Jörgen explained that he used to race, but now his daughter My did the racing and he did everything he could to keep her cars running and teach her what he knew. That bus ride started out a little crazy! I’m not sure entirely how it happened, but for some reason we and the crew all ended up crammed like sardines in the back of the bus for a few minutes as we were going over potholes or something. We all became good friends very quickly.
When we arrived at the racetrack we had no idea what was in store. We walked around with My and she told us a bit about the folkrace and what it was like. The cars at the track had obviously had a long and storied life – you could walk down the line and point out “Volvo, Volvo, Saab, Volvo…” but many of them had been bent back into shape so many times that you couldn’t even tell what kind of cars they originally were.
When we walked into the registration area with My and we saw all those trophies lined up it make me think of all the archery tournaments I went to with my Dad when I was growing up. It was something that we could always do together and I have great memories of tromping through the woods in the mud as we walked from target to target. There seldom were any other girls competing so I often would jump classes and compete against the boys, or the adult women. I remember the first time I legitimately beat my dad on an even playing field, and how proud he was of me. With their shared love of racing I think that Jorgen and My probably have a similar relationship. She even falls asleep in the car on the way home like I used to.
Jörgen’s friend Gunnar was a fun guy, and though I didn’t try the snus myself it was really funny watching the others try it. John in particular was hilarious – he might kill me for admitting this but he became something of a snus aficionado after his first experience at the folkrace. After the snus, we found out that it was Gunnar’s birthday and he had a few presents to open. One of them was a bottle of good vodka and he shared it with us. We did shots and I am such a lightweight, it was lights out and straight to bed for me!
The folkraces themselves were crazy and unpredictable. Loud, dusty, and a kick in the pants to watch. We all gasped when we saw one of the green and white cars from “our” group being lifted back to the tent. Thankfully nobody was hurt. Gunnar, bless him, said that they would be working through the night to get the car ready for another race the next day, so the TV show was going to have to take a backseat. Gotta love a guy who prioritizes his kids over a TV appearance!
The car challenge
Jennette, John and I made a great team. We had a good strategy and were good at listening to each other. We agreed beforehand that if anybody got snappy in the heat of the moment, which can happen when you’re under pressure like that, we would not take it personally. We gave Jennette full permission to use “Mom voice” with us if necessary. Having been around my Dad’s cars so much I was pretty comfortable with a lot of the tasks but John and Jennette were physically stronger, so we agreed that I’d be gopher/consultant on the tire changing tasks but that I’d take on some of the more fine detail work like the steering wheel and screwing and unscrewing the nuts on the door hinges.
Our strategy worked really well and we were great about handing off tasks and asking for help. When Jennette’s hands were too shaky to get the bolts off the wheels she asked me to help, so we switched to her loosening them and then I’d follow along behind to take them out. Then when Jennette and I were both going to get tools John reminded us that he needed someone on the brake so he could tighten the bolts. And when John couldn’t find the socket that he needed to get the bolts off it turned out that it had come off on the ground and I handed it to him.
While Jennette was in the car waiting to gun it, John and I had some productive and fun back-and-forth as we got the battery installed and filled the gas tank. There was one moment when I was holding the gas cap and John was filling the tank, and he said, “How about you get in the car and I run this back once it’s empty?” To which I replied, “How about you run it back, I put the cap back on, and we meet in the car?” That part didn’t end up in the episode but you can hear his response, “Good idea.” It was a fun challenge with good teamwork and good effort, all around. I was particularly glad for Jennette’s sake that we were able to get a win – she had been in three elimination competitions in a row and needed a break. And I also enjoyed the thought that I’d made my dad proud.
It was great to win but it was hard to see the yellow team lose. George and Nate had both had experience with elimination competitions and had shown great performance under pressure, so of course I was nervous for Courtney. But I also knew that she was intelligent and had a great attitude and that could take her very far.
As I watched the episode, when our group walk across the bridge to the manor I noticed that was the day I decided to “dress up” (meaning, put on makeup and earrings). Seeing myself on TV now I’m wishing I’d done that more during my trip! But personal time during the trip was at a premium and I usually didn’t have a chance to give myself more than a cursory glance in the mirror. Sometimes the places where we stayed didn’t even have mirrors, so it felt good to be able to “nicey up” a little bit for a change.
The tour of the manor house was really interesting. It was built in the late 17th century and was decorated in keeping with that period. The spinning wheels were very much like what my morfar’s farmor Elna (Ellen) would have used – she was a seamstress, knitter, and spinner. Her antique spinning wheel is still in the family, and my mother and I both knit so I was very interested in them. Ellen worked as a seamstress for a wealthy family in Tacoma so in their house she probably worked in a room very much like the one where the looms and spinning wheels were.
Upstairs the sitting room was a cluster of chairs and furniture, everywhere you looked. The room had a button that would play audio of a dinner party to capture the atmosphere of what it would have been like. The room was so full of furniture there hardly room to move and it didn’t seem conducive to relaxing, but that was the style of the period. Scandinavian design wasn’t always about bright white, pops of color and peaceful open spaces! Ssh, don’t tell Troy… 😉
The bedroom suites were both very impressive. The Master’s suite had a big ornate bed, with black and gold embroidered silk curtains across all sides. The Mistress’ suite, which you can see in the episode, had a big flowery canopy. We noticed how short the beds were, and our guide told us the beds weren’t short because the people were short as is commonly believed, but because they slept propped up on pillows! Back in the day it was believed that sleeping lying down was bad for the health (it would cause all the “humors” of the body to run together). We also noticed the big ceramic fireplace heater that extended from the floor to the ceiling. Crucial for heating a room that big on cold winter nights.
There were many other large and beautiful spaces in the mansion. Even the stairwell was beautiful, and resonant! I couldn’t resist humming a few notes in it to hear the sound echoing back.
Courtney, Nate, and I walked out to the garden where vegetables and herbs were grown. We tried to identify the plants. I recognized several herbs that I grow in my own garden but some remained a mystery. Courtney and I picked yellow lilies to put behind our ears as I gave them both hugs and wished them well in the coming challenge. John and I went over to a little bridge above a brook to take some pictures while we waited.
The nettle incident
In that competition I think Courtney felt like she had something to prove. She’s very smart but is also goofy and silly so sometimes people don’t pick up on how intelligent she is. She’s a woman of great character and I hoped she would rise to the challenge. I was not at all surprised when she won. However, I WAS surprised by the ditch that we joyously spun into.
When my feet hit the ditch and I saw Courtney fall my first thought was “Get her out, get her out!” but John was already on the way. My second thought as I felt a familiar stinging on my legs was, “Oh no, those are nettles.” John helped her get the nettles off while I searched for a bracken fern, a folk remedy for stinging nettle that I’d used on a couple of occasions when I unwittingly touched nettles out in the woods back home (including at the aforementioned archery tournaments). I found some and brought them over but Courtney and John looked pretty skeptical so she used a burn ointment instead. Ever scientifically curious, I decided to use the burn ointment on one leg and the ferns on the other. They both still stung for several hours but the stinging went away on the fern leg a little bit sooner. Not a miracle cure but better than nothing.
Journey on, fellow traveler
We were still recovering from the aftermath when Nate and George walked up to tell us who won. Nate’s way of telling us was so classy, “Karla’s gonna have to wait a little longer to see George.”
Nate is really a kind and sensitive guy. He genuinely wants to make other people happy, though his words and his actions, and he takes it really hard if he thinks anything he said or did hurt anybody else. Though I’m primarily a classical singer, my husband is a blues musician and Nate reminds me of my husband and his friends in many ways. I consider him a kindred spirit of sorts.
I will always remember that on one of our days off between episodes when we all scattered to the four winds, he specifically asked me to come with him to lunch so we could get some time to talk. We didn’t get to spend much time together in the first few episodes, and we were always on different teams, so it meant a lot that he sought me out as someone he hadn’t had a chance to get to know yet.
I was happy when he told me a couple of months ago that he’d written some songs inspired by his time in Sweden. I hope he gets to go back to Sweden to meet his family, and soon.
More behind the scenes photos are up on my Facebook page