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I started my second training placement this week, which has been busy, with lots of new people, new workplace and new responsibilities, so I’m not really in the right state of mind to write a finely honed blog post. Instead, here’s a set of pictures from another ride I went on using my sister in law’s borrowed bike.

Corner shop.

 


Back street.

 


Local shop seen from under a small arcade.

 


Railway station, so small it doesn’t have a ticket barrier, but not so isolated that it lacks a drinks machine.

 


Old house, still inhabited despite appearances.

 


Railway crossing the Miyagawa river

 


Roadside business, Miyagawa village.

 


Rice harvester unloading in the countryside. Passing rice harvesters on the narrow roads was a minor hazard.

 

“Wind Clan”, apparently the place Cadillacs go to die.

 


Tamaru (“Tama-Loo”)  Station complete with hand painted sign over the door.

 


Very optimistic taxi waiting for the next train at Tamaru.

 

Cycle lane. In the manner of cycle lanes the world over it lasted for all of half a kilometre and vanished into a road Island.

Grateful as I was for the use of this bike, it lacked certain things I’m used to, like 25 other gears. I’d cycled about 9km in an hour and it felt like a lot further, so this is as far as I got.

I am not working out schemes with Eldest Son to take bikes with us next time and go on a tour. Not at all.

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Just before the start of the summer break, our college group went out on an end of year outing, and some bright spark decided we could go to an art gallery.

It could have been worse: they were talking about an ‘interactive’ tour which I’ve been on before and didn’t very much want to go on again, or some kind of ‘fun and games’ silliness where the extroverts have a great time and the introverts just put up with it. Instead we went to an art gallery, which was showing an ‘exciting new’ exhibition called ‘soul sickness’ by someone who thinks it is cool to be anonymous, “about how our senses work, and how some people (Which may include the artist, or may not, because no-one knows who he is, isn’t this cool?) have trouble relating to seeing the world”.

I’ve worked in theatre so my expectations were pretty damn low, but this still managed to be worse.

There was the ‘exciting video installation’ that turned out to be a lot of letters mixed up, ‘representing confusion and difficulty seeing the world’ until the ‘aha moment’ where they all switched off and came on a word at a time forming a single sentence repeated dozens of times. While we were getting over this excitement, we were ushered into another room  with  ‘exciting’ ‘sculptures’ of card that were so badly made I could have knocked one up while waiting for the tour to finish with a knife and steel rule (€35 each, value expected to rise into the upper thousands as long as the artist becomes more famous).

There was also rooms to ‘experience’ things like ‘sensory overload’ which I didn’t go into because I have High Sensory Perception Sensitivity, and spend lot of the time avoiding ‘sensory overload’ so I didn’t need to have lots of noise blasted at me in a dark room thank you very much. As one of my colleagues said on coming out, we could have blown the whole budget for the outing on getting drunk, and the results would have looked about the same.

The main (ie: Biggest) sculpture was an ‘exciting’ installation consisting of several large flat slabs of chipboard with varnish applied in a way that would send my carpentry master into fits, with a bit white lump in the middle.representing a tree of dreams, or possibly an ice floe.  Or possibly a computer game environment.* Either way it was really cool…

This was followed by several hours of small talk around a barbecue on a canoe club launching ramp under a motorway overpass, with loud music. providing another session of sensory overload. But that wasn’t art, so it was free.

*Or possibly, as one person suggested, a giant pillar of Pigeon guano…

Last week I was left to my own devices for an afternoon, so I went exploring up into the hills, an interesting experience on a three speed heavyweight like this which is built to go trundling a couple of kilometres to the shops and back.

After following a couple of promising routes which turned out like this:

 

I managed to get out of the city and into the hills, where the rice harvest hadn’t quite started.

I could have gone further but that meant going downhill, which would have meant coming back uphill, so I turned around and headed back towards the coast.

I passed a couple of these on the way. I thought they were just unfinished buildings, but seen close up they are Tsunami Shelters, built after the massive wave that hit Japan in 2001. This one is 9.5m (31ft) tall. You could fit all the surrounding buildings underneath it. This region wasn’t affected so badly by the Tsunami but they seem to have taken the attitude there’s no point taking chances.

A bit awkward for wheelchair users though.

Writing signs on Japanese roads must be quite a skilled job.

Eventually I found a way to the sea. I don’t speak Japanese so for all I know the sign could say “No bikes beyond this point” but nobody scowled at me when I cycled past it.

There was a school directly behind me when I took this picture which is an example of the basic unfairness of the Universe: all you could see from my school was a slag heap.

The two rocks of Meoto-Iwa which are considered to be ‘Married’ symbolised by he rice rope hanging between them. It occurred to me afterwards that I was probably not supposed to take a bicycle here at all, but no-one seemed to mind. Probably they just assumed that as a stupid foreigner I didn’t know any better.

Honestly, they build half a cycleway and then just stop…

By this time it was getting a bit dark so I headed back, got lost, found the coast road and managed to ride about three times further than I needed to in order to get to my in-laws home, narrowly missing a barrier across the road in the way.

I since discovered that on several occasions I was  just a few kilometres from something interesting. Am dreaming up schemes to take a proper bike with me next time.

 

We’re in Japan again, visiting Beautiful Wife’s family and getting slowly oven baked. Hence the seaside picture, taken while pootling about on a borrowed bike.

Elder Son says it’s a “girl’s bike” but I don’t care.

 

Things are busy again for reasons which will be obvious pretty soon, so I haven’t written much. Instead here’s Beautiful Daughter on our regular road trip, which is far more interesting than I am anyway.

Beautiful daughter generally drags me in the direction of the door by about ten in the morning, insistently saying “Ride to cow farm, Ride to Rabbits… so off we go.

First we ride out to the ‘cow farm’, and then walk to the meadows next door to pick dandelion leaves…

Then we ride to the next farm, and feed the rabbits. Those rabbits have a good thing going I reckon; they’re certainly very fat.

We say hello to the two ponies…

Before going a few more kilometres out into the fields, where there is yet another farm, With even more interesting friendly animals…

…and a Pile Of Sticks. Which have to be tested very carefully.

Eventually we find our way back to the apartment. Via the playground. Unless I remember to avoid it.

We could do this by walking of course. But then it would take all day with the distances involved. Thank goodness for Bakfietsen…

 

I’ve been generally lazy about maintenance over winter, and for several weeks (probably months, but never mind) the back gears on the Xtracycle have been playing up, in particular the middle gears seemed to think clicking the lever was a suggestion, to be given some consideration and possibly followed. Eventually. It was one of those gradual problems that you get used to over time, which was why I’d not bothered about it much.

Then came several weeks when I almost exclusively used the commuter bike. For all its faults this has gears which change when I want them to, and the shock when I went back to the Xtracycle was enough that I finally got around to doing something about it.

That something was to remove the rear mech that came with the original Raleigh bike back in 1997, and which has survived all my mistreatment over the last 20 years, but which I was pretty sure had finally given up. Being me, I’d hoarded several replacements, including one from a ‘scrap’ bike a customer brought into our local bike shop many years ago. It took ten minutes to change it, plus about three days faffing about and putting it off.

This made very little difference, so I did what I should have done at first and cleaned out the outer tubing and replaced the brake cable. This got a result. The gears are still a bit iffy, but they usually change when told. Or within a couple of seconds, at least.

I’m wondering if the main issue is the over enthusiastic use of cable ties on the cable, but naturally now the bike is ridable again I’m ignoring the problem.

It’s one of my favourite times of the year again, when the weather department realises it is spring and suddenly we go from freezing cold and rain to sunshine, flowers, and very nearly not a needing a coat. This also means I can ride most of the way to college instead of using the tram, and thus avoid the centre with all its annoyances without getting too muddy.

Most of the route is on routes through the forest and across fields where cars are supposedly not allowed.They are therefore indifferently tarmacked or gravel, and used as a turning circle for tractors ploughing. (The local town once made a big thing about how they employed a sort of park ranger who apart from anything else should keep these roads clean, which gave us all a laugh).

Having mudguards helps of course, as well as an improvised mudflap which is surviving far longer than I dared hope, but it is good to know I can ride through the forest and not hit mud or puddles.

Which made last week just the wrong time for the owners of the local forest to decide to play with their big tractors, and close the routes to Stuttgart so they could mess up all the trails undisturbed. It gave the journey an extra edge of adventure, especially as they only reopened them when they’d made sure there were wheel ruts across the trails wider than some local cycleways.

Just a small reminder that for all the hot air, we don’t really consider bicycles to be a proper form of transport.

Meanwhile, our version of Stuttgart is developing, slowly…

One of the best things about spiked tyres is the feeling you get when you swap back to normal tread again. Ah, the silence.

On the other hand, I discovered that the bell doesn’t work any more. I’m not sure how this happened. I mean, how do you break a bell? I didn’t use it much in winter because sensible people don’t go outside when it is below freezing, and anyway, the spikes sound like a truck driving on gravel so people heard them when I was some distance away.

So now I’m back to riding most of the way to college every day or so instead of sharing a tram with lots of dozy commuters. Of course that means I’m occasionally sharing the road with dozy drivers instead, but that may not happen for much longer because a community group in Stuttgart has brought a private prosecution against the Mayor of Stuttgart for “Körperverletzung mit Todesfolge”, which translates as “Actual bodily harm causing death”. This is on the basis that the pollution is reaching lethal levels and he’s doing stuff all about it.

Apparently fifty years of giving cars as much space as is conceivably possibly need and then some in a city surrounded by hills has resulted in The Mother of All Traffic Jams and a fug of pollution so far above the European Standardised ‘Danger, breathe out only’ levels that when the City Government tried their usual tactic of sticking their finger in their ears and shouting “Cars are safe, Cars are safe, stop talking about this la la la, can’t hear you” they had a coughing fit.

Who’d have thought it?

German law allows for the government to ban motor vehicles in places when pollution gets so thick citizens can surf on the top of it, so our government could legally stop through traffic tomorrow if they wanted, but that may annoy some Very Important Drivers and a certain large car company who like driving big trucks back and forth to deliver to their main factories.

All that happened so far is a rather pathetic advertising campaign to get people to use public transport at half price. This is having as much effect as you’d imagine.

It will be interesting to see what effect the legal proceedings have. So far we’ve been entertained by a number of entitled motorheads having tantrums and demanding that people who don’t like breathing particles ‘just move somewhere else, duh.’ so they can keep driving where they want. Bless.

Meanwhile a rather cleaner version of Stuttgart is emerging on the classroom wall

mural_03

slushy

It’s that time of year when cycling is reduced to the bare minimum, of muck and slush and plans to start dog sledding.Of wrestling with the rain cover because without it Beautiful Daughter would start to lose extremities from the windchill.

And still people say she’s ‘Got it good’ while shovelling kids into their heated cars.

Yesterday the Elder Son and I spent twenty minutes changing the tyres on our shared bike for spikes. He’s discovered a new reason to go the next town and doesn’t want to have to wait for the ice to melt to ge there. I’ll need them next week to commute to college without ending up in a ditch somewhere on the way and many of the cycleways are currently under thick layers of hard packed snow and temperatures are reaching -14°c (Very cold °f).

If last year is anything to go by, expect reports of sudden warm weather in southern Germany for the next few weeks.

GTB_01a

Since working at a local bike shop and maintaining the ever expanding family bicycle fleet (currently at nine bikes for six people, one of whom can’t ride yet, and your point is?) I generally think I’m pretty competent at basic cycle repairs, but there are some days when I wonder if I should be allowed out with as much as a hex key in my hand.

Take Wednesday as an example. After successfully not losing one of the wheels while juggling them between bikes, I’d also fitted Elder Son’s saddle to the commuter bike, as mine apparently wasn’t up to snuff. This done, we toddled off to prepare ourselves for the 80k ride the next day (ie, get lots of chocolate).

In the morning, we were just climbing the first major hill, when The Elder Son mentioned that his saddle had moved. When I tested this by poking it a couple of times, it wobbled and almost fell off.  We flagged down a fellow cyclist and were directed to a shop in a town a few kilometres away, where I shamefacedly confessed to not having fastened the saddle properly. The owner came and had a look, and announced that I had also managed to put the post on backwards. Fortunately he was sufficiently amused by this to not charge us for fixing it properly. I expect that story will go around the regulars for a while…

 

GTB_02

Elder Son thought that his brakes may be snagging as well. I lifted the bike and checked both wheels. They turned freely. I harrumphed at this lack of trust in my maintenance skills.

Despite this we made it to Gutenberg. This is at the end of the valley and going further means climbing about 350m in 3 km (830ft in 2 miles), and I’m much too lazy for that sort of thing. So we took a not at all posed picture of the bikes in front of the church door and set off.

 

GTB_03

After a quick break for lunch…

After our return I found the cause of the ‘dragging brake’. The valley that I’d assured Eldest Son was nice and flat climbs 300 m in 25km. Thats just under a thousand feet in fifteen miles.

Need to work on navigation skills as well as maintenance…

 

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