A few months ago Eldest Son decided he wanted to go to the circus school where he can practice dangerous stuff like tightrope walking, trapeze, juggling, and unicycling. As the boys climb up anything to big to throw anyway this seems a natural progression, so we readily agreed. Only one problem: the circus school is 5km away, and starts at 1400 on Thursday afternoon, while Stephan finishes ‘normal’ school at 1305. Of course that’s “Why you need a car”. Or an Xtracycle.

Part one: On a normal day Eldest Son will walk home on his own like most other German children, but that would take too long on Thursdays so he’s Xtracycled across the village. This is already seen as a bit odd by some people, mostly the ones using a 2 tonne SUV to do the same thing. What really annoys them, of course, is that we’re faster.

Part two comes after lunch: Eldest Son on the back of the Xtracycle, Eldest Son’s bike pulled behind at speeds its rear hub probably never managed before. I could haul Eldest Son there and back on the Xtracycle, but the point is that he will be independently mobile, so I prefer him to ride back under his own power.  Besides, he’s heavy. Another point where I get funny looks: my son routinely spends two hours in a circus school, then cycles five kilometres home (with uphill sections) and then completes his homework. Can children really survive such gruelling treatment? I sometimes get looks from drivers when we arrive at the circus school, although that may be more to do with the sheer length of the rig.

With Eldest Son dispatched into the circus school, the Xtracycle is transformed from Tow Truck  to Stylish Commuter Vehicle for  part three: the ride into the centre of town where I catch up on emails and other writing stuff for work in the local library, away from things like telephones and other evil distractions like the internet.

Here’s what Ostfildern considers to be adequate bike parking: five uncovered bike stands outside the town hall, centrepiece of a new town the politicians call a “Showpiece of low impact building” which goes to show that you can generally be sure the truth is about the opposite of what governments tell you. The Town Hall itself is a monolith so surreally and expensively awful it really deserves a blog post of its own. If the Xtracycle looks miffed it’s because it was standing in the cold and rain for two hours while I was in the warm library.

Circus school over, it’s part four: pick up Eldest Son and one of his Friends (Henceforth known as JQ) and ride with them to our village- it saves her mum an extra trip. They ride their own bikes and their bags go on the Xtracycle. As we ride at about 10km/h I don’t notice the difference in weight. I’ve got into trouble in the past for using vehicular cycling when riding with Eldest Son’s friends. Why is this a problem, you ask? Because although vehicular cycling is entirely legal it seems it isn’t well-known in Germany so other parents take a dim view of some of the ways we ride. Especially when I ignore signs like this.

It’s a tough life. JQ and Eldest Son climbing the hill we call ‘the long drag.’ between villages. Some days there’s a vicious headwind here as well. Eldest Son is a speck in the distance, as usual.

Remarkably both did manage to survive the ordeal, and finished their homework.  JQ was even heard to say she really enjoyed the ride, and wants to do it again next week.

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