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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mark Dobson

Here in my Car, I feel safest of all !

Ajmal Samuel pauses for a break besides the beautiful lake Stensele, some 20km before rest camp at Storuman.

'Here in my car, I feel safest of all

I can lock all my doors, it's the only way to live

In cars'

Gary Numan. Cars

The Ajmal Samuel Car-Cycle. Vasterbachen hotel lobby. Holmsund. Sweden.

The Ajmal Samuel Car-Cycle amongst cars. Road to Storuman. Sweden.

In the heart of Sweden, amid landscapes where the untamed wild mingles with modernity, there's a common refrain: when in Sweden, do as the Swedes do—own a Volvo, old or new.

Classic Volvo 740's stand guard.

As the official photographer for Ajmal Samuel's remarkable journey, I find myself pondering the allure of Volvo. Even as a young lad, I was drawn to these vehicles. They exuded an aura of dependability that felt almost tangible. Now, as I gaze at the three fog lamps in a neat row on the front of every Volvo we pass, I can't help but think that if I were to drive in this part of the world, where the darkness, snow, ice, and moose country present real challenges, a Volvo would be my vehicle of choice.

Three foglamps seen against the enduring northern European twilight, where moose territory meets the realm of powerful headlamps, forging a critical alliance to safeguard drivers and, ideally, grant ample notice to the wandering moose.

Our hotel manager shared a fascinating tidbit last night—an insight into what makes a Volvo truly Swedish in spirit. He mentioned that the windscreen and roof of a Volvo are specially designed to withstand the impact of a 300kg moose. These massive creatures are a common sight on the roads here, and due to their height and long legs, they'd essentially land on your head if it weren't for Volvo's almost tank-like structure.

In the words of Gary Numan's iconic 1979 song, "Cars, I feel safest of all," it seems that for most Swedes, the sentiment holds true when it comes to Volvo. Beyond the "buy Swedish" patriotism, Volvo embodies a deeper spirit of reliability and protection, especially on some of the wildest routes in Europe. These seemingly endless roads cut through forests that stretch into infinity, where brown bears, reindeer, lynx, wolves, and moose roam.

Now, let's shift gears for a moment, inspired by the classic road book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. Pirsig passionately describes the profound difference between experiencing the road and the landscape from the seat of a motorbike or bicycle versus a car:

A speck on a road to infinity. Ajmal Samuel dwarfed by the scale of his endevour.

“In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it, you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer, and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle, the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

With the sun down, evening mists rise and the mercury plummets, Ajmal Samuel pedals on and braves the road for the remaining 20km into Storuman, Lappland, Sweden. No car comforts for him. But does he car? No! This is all part of the cycle experience that Robert Persig talks about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Ajmal Samuel, a lover of this book, would undoubtedly agree that as we traverse this captivating land, we all seek a more visceral experience with the terrain we cross. The cold and rain may nip at our senses, but we wholeheartedly embrace the elements. We yearn to be outside, to feel the cold, and to prepare for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Returning to Sweden and its affection for Volvos, it's clear that cars, in general, hold a special place in the hearts of Swedes. However, it's the Volvo that stands out as their safety vault.

Lakeside and a Volvo S80 caught in the golden glow of a Nordic sunset. Road to Storuman.

As we journey through Sweden, we can't help but notice the scattered remnants of the automobile world—the flotsam and jetsam of cars, some perched on bricks, others silently fading into the landscape. These forgotten vehicles, with Volvo among them, serve as a captivating symbol of human nature's resilience and our tenacity to repair and revive.

Volvo 200 Series Estate produced by Volvo Cars Corp from 1974 -1993.

Shapes s of Volvo vintage; 70's 80's 90's.

Great authors have used abandoned vehicles as powerful symbols and settings to convey various themes and moods in their literary works;

John Steinbeck: Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath" portrays the Joad family's journey during the Great Depression, and it includes descriptions of abandoned cars along the roadside as symbols of economic hardship.

Cormac McCarthy: McCarthy's novel "The Road" takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, and the author describes numerous abandoned vehicles on the road, highlighting the desolation and decay of society.

Opel put out to pasture.

The Citroen Pallas was renowned for its distinctive style and exceptional performance, seamlessly blending elegance with power on the road.

1976 Chevrolet Caprice Estate. Road to Vindeln.

Sweden, however, paints a different picture. Tidy towns and villages exude an air of prosperity. Swedes, it seems, live well. This is utopia, not dystopia. So, why do these half-abandoned Volvos and cars dot the landscape, waiting patiently to be revived or turned into yard art?

The classic VW Beetle: A timeless symbol of design simplicity and automotive charm.

This author believes these vacated Volvos and semi-forgotten vehicles are part of a unique Swedish tradition—an ode to the past, an appreciation of the craftsmanship that went into creating them, and a celebration of the enduring spirit that makes them timeless works of art in their own right.

A classic Volvo P130 lost in the bushes. Road to Storuman.

As we celebrate the enduring legacy of Swedish automobiles, it's impossible to overlook the intriguing tale of SAAB.

Used as an advertising attention grabber for Michelin tyres, a 1967, SAAB 93, stands above a garage in Storuman, Central Western Sweden.

Once a shining star in the constellation of automotive innovation, SAAB's journey was a testament to Sweden's commitment to pushing the boundaries of design and engineering. Though the road for SAAB took an unexpected turn, its spirit lives on in the hearts of enthusiasts, forever a symbol of Sweden's unwavering passion for innovation and the open road.

A 1985, SAAB 99. Slussfors, Sweden.

So, as we admire the Volvos on the streets of this vast and beautiful land, let us also tip our hats to the memory of SAAB, an icon that will forever hold a cherished place in the annals of automotive history.

An exterior and interior view of a 2 cylinder, 1963, SAAB 93. Slussfors, Sweden.

Swedes, too, adore their caravans, towing them across the land, often trailing a trusty Volvo; occasionally, these wanderers pause, perhaps seasonally, adorned with pine needles or hosting unexpected guests like brown bears and cubs, in this expansive wilderness of a country.

Car-a-Van capers. Vindeln camp. Vindeln.

As we make our way into Swedish Lappland, we venture deep into Sami country, where reindeer roam freely and the mercury takes a nosedive. The air grows colder, a chill that makes you feel alive. The sky, painted in a deep azure blue an hour after sunset, sets the stage for our entry into Volvo territory—the land of three headlamps. As the early winter evening descends, mist and freezing rain embrace us in a chilly, welcoming hug.

In this enchanting land, our hearts are light, and our spirits are high. We find solace in the gathering darkness, for there's a unique beauty in the starkness of this northern landscape.

As the designated photographer on this journey, I keep my senses alert, eagerly anticipating the next encounter with a Volvo perched on bricks—a work of high art in its own right. 📸😊

TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: 1,410.47km KM (16 September 2023)

Day 27 -Storuman to Slussfors. 62.00km

Day 26 -Lycksele to Storuman 102.9km

Day 25 -Vindeln to Lycksele 75.75 km

Day 24 -Holmsund to Vindeln 75.7km

Day 23 -Vaasa to Holmsund (Ferry Ride)

Day 22 -Rest Day Vaasa

Day 21- Rest Day Vaasa

Day 20 -Narpes to Vaasa 79.8km

Day 19- Merikarvia to Närpes 93.76 km

Day 18 -Pori to Merikarvia 52.8km

Day 17- Rauma to Pori 57.9km

Day 16 -Uusikaupunki to Rauma 47.4km

Day 15 -Turku to Uusikaupunki 73.5km

Day 14 -Helsinki to Turku (Car)

Day 13 -Tallin to Helsinki (Ferry ride)

Day 12- Tallin Rest & Recharge

Day 11- Märjamaa to Tallin 72.17

Day 10 - Pärnu linn to Märjamaa 64.1km

Day 9- Pärnu Rest & Recharge

Day 8 - Salacgriva to Pärnu 75km

Day 7 - Riga to Salacgriva 104.4km

Day 6 - Riga Rest and Recharge

Day 5 - Plieņciema kāpa to Riga 60.14Km

Day 4 - Kuldiga to Plieņciema kāpa 108.59Km

Day 3 - Liepāja to Kuldīga 97.34Km

Day 2 - Sventājato Liepāja 62.11Km

Day 1 - Klaipeda to Sventāja 42.89Km

Join the expedition, follow updates, and tag along on this inspiring adventure."

ASF has carefully chosen Resolve to be the beneficiary for 2023: Resolve is a charity founded in 2017 that helps create change makers in our community to drive a more inclusive city. Their signature program is a Fellowship that has so far supported over 70 emerging community leaders from diverse walks of life. There have been five cohorts of the fellowship on racial equality, ending gender-based violence, disABILITIES and empowerment, wellbeing and health and (E)quality Education for all.

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