Work, my final dissertation, and family needs are combining to make sure I don’t have a lot of time for anything else at the moment, but looking at the weather forecast for this weekend I don’t think I’ll be planning any tours for a bit. They’re promising 88km/h (54 mph) winds and rain at 7.7 litres per m²

And typically, on the weekend when I’m working, so I have to cycle to the tram stop.

More news on the slow Ranndoneur conversion next week, if I’m spared.

Of the many problems the ugly bike had when we bought it, I felt being called a ‘Didgeridoo’ was probably one of the most serious, so with parts on order and making their way slowly from Romania,of all places, we decided to do something about the matter. As usual in our projects, “do something” generally meant “attack the problem with whatever seemed like a good idea at the time.”


We were pretty sure that the letters were stickers, rather than transfers, so we turned on the hairdrier and put it close against the frame.

Fifteen seconds later it overheated and tripped the circuit breakers.

A couple of minutes later we tried again, this time with the hairdryer a more prudent distance away and after what seemed a decent amount of time, I scratched at the sticker with a fingernail. This worked, but ten minutes later only two letters had been removed and so had most of my fingernails. Either we were going to have to work at a rate of two letters a week and allow fingernails to grow back in between or we needed another scraper.


We Started searching for a scraper, and found a Japanese 10 yen coin that I’ve kept for reasons far too boring to go on about here. This proved to be the ideal scraper: sharper corners than European coins, but soft metal so it didn’t damage the frame.

A few minutes getting rid of the sticky remains with a cloth and some cleaning alcohol, and we had:


Next step, sanding the frame and talking someone at work into adding the braze-ons for the gear levers. Of course that means getting the frame into Stuttgart and back, but I’ll think of something…

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Elder Son is now an apprentice bike mechanic. In Germany this is a two year course, mostly working in a bike shop with college one or two days a week. The college makes sure he has extra practical and theory lessons, and also theory, social studies, how and why the German government is built as it is, law and business studies: he’s not just being trained to be a bike wrench: he’s being trained to run a business.

And yes I am envious, even more so because it turns out he’s pretty good at it.

Take this week for example. As mentioned previously, we’d pulled most of the extra components off the bike frame ready for painting, but the cranks and bottom bracket (where the pedals go through the frame) needed some needed some tools I hadn’t got, so we arranged that Elder Son would ask his boss to lend us a couple. He was a bit unsure about this for fear of making a mistake (thanks schools system) but agreed to give it a go.

Yesterday evening he rang the bell and reported that he did have the tools, so I went downstairs to lend moral support. He’d already started, and waved the Mother Of All Spanners at me, saying “Hi dad, I thought you might like to see how this works”. He took hold of the bike, instructed me to hold it “Like that, no, a bit over here. That’s it…”
He waved the crank remover, fitted it, turned the lever and removed the crank.
I was instructed to rotate the bike. Next time I looked the other crank was neatly placed on the floor.
Then came the Mother Of All spanners. “This engages inside the ring here, look, my boss showed me this trick…”
The first screw loosened without protest
“Dad?”
“Yes?”
“Can you tun the bike around?”
“Oh, sorry.”
Spanner was applied again, Bottom bracket removed.
“Okay, so we can pack those up and sand the frame down.” He’d only taken the tools out of the bag three minutes earlier.
“Okay,” I said, “just one thing.”
“What?”
“Next time,let me have a go, okay?”
“I’ll think about it.”

You can’t buy that…

RND_10With Elder Son becoming more confident that he won’t break something vital while fixing stuff, we pulled the Ugly Bike out of the cellar to begin turning it into a beautiful randonneur/adax bicycle.

We’d decided to pull off everything we could with the tools we had in the drawer, up to and including a big hammer if the mood took us. For anything else we had an agreement of Elder Son’s employer and trainer that we could use some of the more specialised tools. Of course we could have waited until we had everything on hand but this bike really was just too ugly to be left any longer.

RND_09

Elder Son began at the back end with chain and dérailleurs while I got to grips, ha, ha, with with the handlebars. The grips themselves proved immune to persuasion, WD40 and bad language, and I ended up taking a knife to them before dealing with the combined brake and gear units. Normally this would be an opportunity to whine about the evils of capitalism as evidenced by the practice of combining gear and brake levers, and forcing users to replace the lot every time one element failed, but on this occasion we were changing to V-Brakes and drops and the gear shifters were worn out anyway, so I just dumped them in the bin without comment.

RND_12

We discovered that our tools aren’t the right ones to remove the crank and bottom bracket, but we changed the handlebars anyway, even though we’ll need a different stem, This was as much a statement of intent and a morale booster as anything.

Any suggestions we then coasted up and down the drive making ‘woosh woosh’ noises are pure fiction…

Rebuilding the Ugly Bike has stalled a bit while Elder Son decided what he was going to do having graduated from high school. Elder Son  had had quite enough sitting in a classroom for a few years, so the wanted to find a vocational qualification. This is complicated in Germany, mainly because there are so many options with literally thousands of 2-3 year vocational courses to choose from, most of which are not only free, but start paying a small wage from the first day.

Fortunately part of my job is helping to get people apprenticeship places, so I dug out the Big Book of apprenticeships at work, where it was being used as a door stop, & we made a list of possibilities and Elder Son started applying. After a few weeks working in a Hotel and then as a vets assistant, Elder Son landed himself a place as a bike mechanic, making me both proud and frankly rather envious.

I told him it would only be three months before he started telling me how to fix things.

I was wrong, it took three weeks.

Time to dig the Ugly Bike out of the cellar methinks…

Beautiful Daughter is growing to the size where she can ride on the back of the Xtracycle. I’m all for this because although a Bakfiets is an undoubtedly fantastic and classy way to get around, it isn’t especially light, so an Xtracycle means we can go further and see xciting new things.

Last week Beautiful Wife had to go to an seminar in the next town and I was on Small Person duty. I arranged for Beautiful Wife to Take Beautiful Daughter down to the town by bus because although V-Brakes work well, they aren’t really built for stopping two people and the route involves some pretty murderous hills.

We met at the bus stop, and the Tinybug and I went off along the river with a slight detour through the town and another one up a corkscrew ramp to a footbridge because who wouldn’t want to ride up and down a corkscrew ramp?

After an hour we decided to stop for a picnic. Picnic’s being the ultimate adventure as far as Beautiful daughter is concerned. After surveying the landscape for suitable locations she plonked herself down right into the middle of the Feldweg/bridleway to watch the view. I didn’t argue.

On the way back Beautiful Daughter remembered that this is a bike, not a bus, and we could stop on request, such as when she found some interesting place to explore, or a nice house, or a cow or an unusual tree, or another cow, or in this case some nice stones she wanted to make a pattern from.

Of course I agreed to this because it is very good for Beautiful Daughter, and so we could have some shared activities et c. the fact that they generally took place at the top of a steep hill is pure coincidence.

Earlier this year I seemed to rather suddenly lose my motivation for cycling: suddenly the daily commute went from being a highlight of the day to a chore. I think this was because my new workplace has a more direct connection to the local tram stop, so even though riding all the way to the edge of Stuttgart was undoubtedly keeping me youthful, fit and good looking,* it was a bit of a drag after being on my feet all day, especially as I have a 15 minute walk after I get off the tram.

So over summer I have generally got into the habit of abandoning the commuter bike at the local tram stop, which is only about 15 minutes from the village. This wakes me up and also saves about 24€ a month in bus fares.

Anyway, I had a few days of this week and used them up sorting out paperwork and running errands, this being as exciting as life gets these days, and the local parcel company informed me that they couldn’t deliver my package and had therefore abandoned it at a post office 2 towns away. I decided to take the Xtracycle down the scenic route and reminded myself that this isn’t such a bad place to live really. I even found myself wanting to go further when I had planned to turn around and come back, and the parcel that had been the reason for the ride was now a minor concern.

Which was a good thing because it wasn’t at the post office, and nor has it resurfaced since…

*It’s my reality, don’t mess with it…

This box represents an big step forward in the InGermany household.

We’ve bought a new microwave.

Our previous Microwave was given to us by some friends with a slightly apologetic comment of “My Granny was throwing it out: It’s a bit old.” and it was, in fact it was ancient, but we needed a microwave and we figured we could replace it later.

That was about seventeen years ago.

People have commented at times at the age of the microwave, but we’d always had other things to do and it still worked, after a fashion. It was noisy and the light packed up several years ago, but we got used to that.

Then someone pointed out that the power consumption on the thing must be pretty high: I believe their actual words were “I can see the lights dimming whenever you cook something” so we started looking around for a replacement -until something came up, and then something else… you get the idea.

Anyway, Beautiful wife got fed up and went online last month. It took ten minutes to order a new one, and finally we have a microwave made in this century.

If things go on like this we may all have a smart phone by 2050…

Every now and again Beautiful Wife expresses the opinion that German food, while certainly filling, lacks a certain gastronomic variety, and that it’s time the boys experienced a little more of their maternal heritage. So last week we went of to visit the Asian supermarket in Stuttgart.

The catch-all Asian supermarket, like the informative bus stop, is a fairly new development in Stuttgart. Despite being an engineering centre the city doesn’t have an east Asian community anything like as big as the cities to the north, and it’s only recently begun to have a cosmopolitan feel. Last time I bought some Marmite I even had to order it from Cologne.

Possibly a bad example there.

The supermarket is on the main shopping street in the centre but hidden inside a large sportswear shop, of all things. Once  got past the piles of 2018 German football strips being sold off at reduced prices, we go down into the basement and landed in East Asia. Beautiful Wife went off in search of Green Tea ice cream and I went for a slightly nostalgic wander through shelves of “Healthy Boy Brand Chilly Sauce”, packed in what looks like glass lemonade bottles and source of some epic endurance contests amongst some colleagues in Thailand.

There were also assorted items I was quite glad to leave behind in Japan like the unfortunately named ‘Calpis’ sports drink, sold in concentrate, with the English boast that “with 1.5l you can make 7.5l of Calpis”, which never failed to amuse our boys. Not far away is the dreaded Natou (“Na-chow”) sticky beans, made -let’s be honest here- by allowing beans to ferment, ie, rot, packaging the result up and selling it as a delicacy.

But then being British means you can never be too cocky about other people’s tastes in food. As I was wandering about the cooking section which has the largest collection of woks I’ve ever seen, Beautiful Wife came around the corner waving a pot of Marmite.

The theatre I work at is currently closed because it’s summer and nobody wants to sit in a stuffy theatre all evening when they could be out having a nice barbecue. The sound and lighting technician is away and to keep me out of trouble I’ve been given the job of making sure both stages are sanded down and repainted.

This involves removing all 72 flip up seats from the tiny downstairs theatre & hauling them up the narrow stairs into the bar. As the seats are normal theatre flip up seats with stainless steel frames this job takes a considerable amount of time and foul language to accomplish.

Then we realised we needed the fridges in the bar for an outside catering booking. So all the chairs needed to go into the basement, which due to the strange geography of the place is higher than the theatre (and universally known as “the chicken shed” but that’s another story).

Then two days later we needed to use the basement for something else, so all the chairs had to be moved back to the bar.

Of course this meant that the people who were supposed to be sanding and painting were in fact hauling chairs back and forth and swearing, so after a week the painting still isn’t finished and the theatre is an empty shell with ladders across the stage.

We’ve got a week until the next show…

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