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Finally I’ve had a verbal offer of a job in Freiburg im Breisgau, working alongside people with psychological disabilities. The Breisgau region is a very nice part of the world, but it’s a long commute from Stuttgart as the Black Forest is in the way, so the plan was for yours truly to find an apartment and live there during the week; it’s not an ideal solution but better than dragging the boys out of school in the middle of the year.

This was fine except that as usual, all the apartments advertised were either eye-wateringly expensive, or, if they were even vaguely affordable, so far away the commute would take over an hour one way and cost more than the rent.

After a couple of days of this, Beautiful Wife suggested contacting a former member of the youth theatre group I used to lead, as he now lives in Freiburg and may be able to help.

He came back a day later saying his in-laws had a holiday apartment and were looking for a tenant. I visited this week; it turns out the flat was affordable, furnished, and even better, a fifteen minute ride from work.

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Not a bad fifteen minutes either.

Globe-trotting viruses permitting, next week will involve signing contracts and I can start packing.

After four months of badgering, I’ve got my “Certificate of Exemption” from the local Handwerkskammer, or Chamber of Commerce. I’m now officially qualified to train people on the basis of my Occupational Therapist certificate, and it allows me to teach in a technical college or adult learning centre; I want to train people with learning or social issues, so this is a big step forwards.

The Handwerkskammer really don’t like giving these out and I was warned they’d try and “lose” the paperwork in the hope I’d give up, but I can be very stubborn if I want to. It looks like I finally wore them down with extra copies of my certificates.

The main way to get a trainers qualification is to get a “masters letter”, for me that would mean becoming a master cabinet maker on top of my journeyman’s certificate. This would take 2 years, and cost Ca.€20 000. It also involves a lot of maths, so that wasn’t going to fly. The Handwerkskammer also offer a part time course covering about 12 weekends; this costs several thousand Euro, which is why they don’t like giving out exemptions, but they are legally required to because my training covers everything in far greater depth.

They still sent a bill for 25€ for the privilege of getting my exemption, but on balance I reckon I’ve got a bargain there.

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As pointed out last week, I’ve been travelling about seeing interesting places I mean going to interviews to try and get a job over the last two weeks. This has meant lots of interesting journeys on trains like the Karlsruhe “tram trains” above but alas, not a lot of cycling.

Combined with some consistently foul weather and heavy winds, I’ve not been out on the bikes very much, apart from a series of shorter trips to deliver Beautiful Daughter to Kindergarten or deliver paperwork to the next town, which don’t make for fun blogging.

Still, things are looking up: on Monday I’ve been promised a response from an employer who interviewed me last week, and tomorrow is the first day for a while where there hasn’t been a red or yellow gale warning, even if it is going to tip it down again…

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In between interviews I managed to get the Xtracycle working again, so Beautiful daughter and I went off to find some adventure.

We visited the city farm I worked at a few years ago, and explored the self-made playground.

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On the way back we stopped for a picnic, which is still Beautiful Daughters idea of ultimate adventure, and to look at a sculpture…

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Before doing some shopping in a couple of local towns.

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At the city farm we made the important discovery  that Beautiful Daughter can start horse riding lessons when she’s six, so she is now counting down the weeks.

More interviews to come, so it may be a while before there’s any longer posts…

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I was off being interviewed this week, this time in Rottweil, (yes, where the dogs come from) on the Edge of the Black Forest. My cunning plan was to cycle to the edge of Stuttgart, catch the intercity train to Rottweil, cycle to my interview and back, then catch the train to the edge of Stuttgart again, and cycle across to our apartment.

This would save money, avoid the horrors of central Stuttgart, and increase my smug green glow.

Except that the tickets include a “city ticket” at both ends, which are valid on all public transport in Stuttgart and Rottweil for the whole day. This is great, except that I didn’t notice until after I’d paid an extra 10€ for a bike ticket…

On the other hand, I could still avoid central Stuttgart, and I could do some cycling for a bit, so I reckon I’m still ahead.

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Last week we had a much of the foul wind and rain as everyone else so I set to work on the Xtracycle. This has been out of use for a few weeks with a worn bottom bracket, the axle that runs through the frame connecting the pedals. This part of a bike takes a lot of punishment and mine had gone all wobbly, and while I waited for a replacement I decided to take the opportunity to clean the chain wheel (seen above) because I’m exciting like that.

This chainwheel is one of the few parts that was already attached to the bike in 1997 when I bought it from the long-defunct “Shepherd’s Cycles” in Wellington in Somerset. Remarkably for a chainwheel that has seen 20 years of use in all weathers, it is still going well, but it was ever so slightly mucky.

As usual I attacked it with a complete lack of a plan and whatever seemed a good idea at the time. I ended up going at it with an old toothbrush and some cleaning alcohol, and twenty minutes later, it looked like this:

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Notice the second image is taken on the balcony. This is because using the cleaning alcohol indoors for any length of time would mean I wouldn’t care how clean the chainwheel was…

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On a longish ride last week I noticed a creaking sound whenever I pedalled. it was light but constant, on every pedal stroke:

Push, creak… push, creak… push, creak…

I stopped pedalling and coasted for a bit:

Silence.

This didn’t sound good. In fact it sounded like the bottom bracket was loose. This is where the pedals go through the frame and a loose one is just the sort of thing that you don’t want 50-odd kilometres from your destination. I carried on for a bit:

Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Stopped and checked the pedal cranks to see if there was anything noticeably loose. All seemed solid. I started again:

Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Suddenly the penny dropped. I stood up on the pedals…

Silence.

Sat down:

Creak… Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Bounced on the new saddle:

Creakcreakcreak…

Can you oil saddle springs?

2020_01_17_Tübingen_one_way_01

Last Monday I managed to have two appointments: one in a town a few kilometres away, and another job interview, this time in Tübingen, some 50k to the south.

Our public transport system is efficient at taking people from the edges of Stuttgart to the centre; it isn’t so good at carrying people from one part of the outskirts to another. An organised person would solve this by making sure that the two appointments were on separate days.

I am not that person.

I worked out that with an earlyish start I could cycle the 10k to my first appointment, then catch three different trains to Tübingen, ride to my interview with time to change and scrape the worst of the muck off, and then afterwards cycle back. This would also give me a shortish ride to test out the Brooks saddle recently fitted to the bike.

It turned out this was the best possible plan because that morning all the local farmers were protesting some government policy by driving their tractors along all the main roads. Sunrise was accompanied by the sound of hundreds of diesel engines and car horns, with your correspondent passing the whole procession on the bike lane.

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Thankfully the first appointment was right next to the railway station so after it finished I legged it down to the train, and after a moderately epic journey found myself in Tübingen. I rode to the interview venue, and an attempt to look civilised in the privvy, and went to my interview.

After making polite conversation for an hour I reversed the transformation to become a car free hippy again, and joined the cycle route to Stuttgart.

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To my rather great surprise I found myself at the “blue bridge” only 45 minutes after leaving Tübingen. This is about 15k from the city and normally takes at least an hour.

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Some context is needed for this. I’m used to being one of the slowest riders in a group, and I’m usually found at the back or taking a similar role to all those tractors I’d encountered earlier. Either there was a strong tailwind, or this bike was a fair bit faster than I thought.

Right then…

The next waymark is the town of Nürtingen, about fifteen kilometres away and usually another hours riding. It was 3:45pm, If I pushed it a bit and stopped faffing about taking photographs quite as much, I could make Nurtingen in under an hour as well. That was pretty fast. Well, for me anyway.

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Okay, so I took a few photos…

Chain up onto big ring, and off we went, through the next village, over the river on the road bridge, and back onto the cycleway. This zigzagged for no apparent reason through the fields, then back to the road where it gave up and became a footpath before becoming a road in an industrial estate. After this a graceful bridge crossed the river and onto a fairly busy road, so busy in fact that there was a traffic jam, so I was and slipped between two cars for a few seconds before cutting through the village itself.

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Another bridge (Okay, so I took a picture there too, I told you I wouldn’t be that fast) and I was out in fields again. This lasted several more kilometres and there was a strong feeling of Deja-vu as the cycleway gave up in yet another village. This became a park with a curving pedestrian/cycle bridge which once again became an utterly inappropriate cycleway and a dangerous turn to a road which was at least straight, so I pushed a bit to the edge of the houses.

Here the cycleway follows a farm road, and I swung onto this with graceful aplomb, and remembered why this wasn’t a good idea when I hit the first pothole. Some loosened teeth later, the cycleway turned through horse pastures, past a small resort, with the restaurant still closed and shuttered for the winter. Then there was a forest, and I was back alongside the river with rowers charging up and down the now slow flowing water. Ahead of was a road bridge, and then the church tower at Nürtingen came into view, reflected in the water.

Unfortunately it was showing 5:20pm, which meant I was even slower than before.

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Then I cleaned the muck off my glasses, and looked again.

4:20pm.

I’d just cycled 15km in about 35 minutes.

Of course the fundamental rule of cycle touring is that riding as fast as you can for 30km is a bad idea when the next 15km is going to be rather hilly.

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I probably should have thought about that sooner.

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Absolutely worth it though…

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Temperatures in the mornings are currently between -3 to-6°c (ca.26 to 22 °F). Despite this I’ve been riding to interviews and other official appointments quite a lot. This saves time and money and allows this introvert time to unwind. Besides, after the first hill I don’t really notice the cold anyway.

Unfortunately it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

Above is the touring bike on one of those trips. This was on the way back mid-morning, and it was still well below freezing. This is actually an advantage, as the surfaced roads are dry and the cold makes any mud freeze solid so I save on bike cleaning.

 

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In case you think I spend all my time exploring interesting new places and enjoying myself, here’s a “Utility Ride” with the Bakfiets, hauling toys that Beautiful Daughter has grown out of to their next user.

There’s an informal system of passing toys and clothes around between families in the village, so you don’t as much own items as have free loan of them until they fall to bits.

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This, I’d add was a real “utility” ride to get stuff done, so there was no gallivanting about the countryside afterwards…

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Enjoying the sunshine…

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Any evidence to the contrary can safely be ignored.

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I’m glad we’ve sorted that out.

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