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We’ve finally succeeded in finding a bike. It is thoroughly ugly, but we can deal with that bit as the idea was always to repaint and convert the bike into a hybrid with drop handlebars and bottom bar shifters.

The over ambitious conversion plans are partly simply because we want to try it, but as Elder Son pointed out, he doesn’t want to ride an ugly bike so it doesn’t get stolen. Making a bike with drops and friction shifters hopefully will mean that it is hard to sell, and therefore not worth stealing, so we can make a bike that looks attractive and that he can enjoy commuting on, especially as it will combine the whole ‘forget it it’s not worth nicking’ vibe with solid bike locks.

Having got nowhere with the bike shop I decided to try online adverts. I wasn’t very hopeful, and as expected spent the first few minutes having a hearty laugh at attempts to sell cheapo supermarket bikes for three figure prices.

After some more searching I found something that looked like it might work. It was a foul colour, but the frame was clearly steel and didn’t have any obviously large rust holes. I called Eldest Son over and warned him to wear sunglasses. His response of “Woah, welcome to the nineties” was expected, but once he got past that he saw the frame shapes and agreed to make an approach.

After a rather cautious discussion with the seller -on my side because I thought he’d want a couple of hundred for it, from his side I later discovered because the last possible buyer offered a fiver- we agreed a ballpark figure and I took the Elder Son to have a look. I checked that there were no obvious cracks, and even found it was chromoly steel, which was a nice surprise, and Elder son took it for a test ride and came back happy.

So now it’s in the garage, giving the spiders headaches while we wait for the money tree to recover enough to make the next step.

Eldest Son is pricing up paint…

The Elder Son -who made his debut on this blog riding a bike with stabilisers- needs a new bike to go to work. This it a matter of some urgency because at the moment he’s using the commuter bike, and it is only a matter of time before ‘my’ commuter bike becomes ‘his’ commuter bike unless I find an alternative.

So we’re going on a bike hunt.

The charitable organisation I work for runs several local bike shops as a way to help people gain skills and get back into work. They also recycle bikes and at this time of year there are usually a dozen or so refurbished items in unfortunate colour schemes in front of the shop, perfect for the rebuild/repainting we had in mind.

So we went to see what we could find. There are two such shops on the other side of the city, so we’d have plenty to choose from. The weather report threatened storms from mid afternoon., but there was no sign of them after lunch, and anyway, we were following a tram route the whole way, so we could always leap on the tram and come back in the dry. We snorted in derision at the weather report and set off.

Of course, after we’d been riding about half an hour -ie, we were far enough away from the apartment that it would take a soaking to get back- it started NAR. This, UK readers will know is ‘Not Actually Raining’; a very gentle drizzle or spit of rain that makes it clear that a good soaking is entirely possible.

We arrived at the first bike shop. instead of the line of bikes I was expecting, there were three: a mahoosive upright town bike, a tricycle, and a pink bike with stabilisers and plastic flowers. I suggested to Elder Son that the pink bike would suit him, but he’s fussy about things like that and wouldn’t even try it out. Young people these days.

The second shop had no bikes at all unless you counted a pile of bent scrap frames out the back.

Then the rain finally came. Not the British style of spring rain, that falls solidly but gently for hours: this was a German ‘auditioning to be a monsoon’ rainstorm, which hits the ground so hard it bounces twice and cracks flagstones.

Thank goodness we were at the tram stop, we agreed smugly.

Then we found that the station was closed for repairs and there were no trams running for the weekend…

 

Exams are kicking in at the moment, hence the lack of posts here. The coming week is a practical exam, where I go off to a workshop for people with disabilities and train someone to do something, which is more fun but unfortunately less photographically interesting than my last exam.

I’ve been allocated somewhere way over yonder on the north side of the city (while people living there have to commute to a workshop just down the road from here, which seems a bit silly) It is also on a greenfield site and I’m not sure how many buses run past the door so I’ve borrowed a folding bike for the week just in case.

This of course involved a logistical exercise because the tram stop is in the next village, which meant a slightly complicated multimodal journey involving the Bakfiets, folding bike, and tram, but I made it in the end.

Tomorrow we’ll see if I need it.

Recently I’ve been noticing a change in the morning ride to the tram stop. The sky is becoming brighter, and occasionally there is blue visible. On some rather exciting days several people reported seeing the sun for several seconds at a time.

Spring is happening. And about time too.

A proper tree hugging hippy isn’t supposed to worry about things like winter of course, we’re supposed to, as it were, chill. However, a combination of exams and spending days in a concrete fridge in central Stuttgart have left your correspondent with a severe vitamin D deficiency and a strong desire to hibernate, so when we were greeted by the sunrise above on Friday, we went into the weekend ready to welcome Spring.

And then Saturday dawned…

Towards the end of the holiday the weather got bored with being wet and windy, and went to just being cold for a couple of days, leaving your correspondent with the usual dilemma: Should I take advantage of the sudden blue skies to clean wash about three months of accumulated crud off the bikes, or should I just ride a bike?

No contest really.

Having made it through the unfortunate mess that is Stuttgart Airport, I broke out into fields again, and past this monument to a more civilised form of flying. Apparently this is where one of the first Zeppelins made an emergency landing in a field with the great man on himself on board.

After making repairs they took off again and flew to Friedrichshafen. Try that with a 747.

Off to the next village…

And on, through the fields. These hills are the same as those seen from our balcony. I really should stop whining about where I live.


This was my goal: Hardthausen church. Churches in the region are very distinctive so I tend to use them as markers on a ride.

As I approached Stuttgart again things began to unravel. a mix of poor signage and poor guesswork landed me riding uphill on a busy road with drivers honking their horns at me. I’m going to assume they and the motorcyclist who shouted something indistinct and waved a boot in my direction were simply trying to be encouraging.

Then after following the route around the airport for several kilometres, I found this:

There was a small piece of paper taped to this showing a ‘diversion’ that went back along the way I’d come, then through another village and into a valley, using another busy road and adding about 3 hilly miles to the journey.

The other side of the roadworks, the crane is the same one as in the other image.

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I could have gone around the fence and cycled the hundred yards or so straight through the roadworks, as it was a Sunday and they were empty of construction workers.

Of course, I was very good and didn’t do this.

This isn’t far from our town, just a short ride down into the valley…

And up the Hill Of Doom on the other side, which is the unfortunate end of every ride around here and never gets photographed because that would require me to stand up straight and be able to focus after the climb.

I managed 32km in total. Not much but it wasn’t meant to be a serious ride. Anything more adventurous will have to wait until after exams.

It’s cold and slippery, and as usual I’ve put off fitting the magic snow tyres, and nearly slithered off into a field on the morning commute. The weather report predicts foul conditions and sub zero temperatures for the next week so I’ll have to try and fit the tyres over the weekend.

On past experience this will cause sudden freak warm weather from Monday.

Days have got so short here now that I rarely see the place in daylight, but yesterday I’d decided to skip the scheduled “team building games workshop” as I wasn’t about to spend six hours running about in a smelly room when I could hang out with my daughter on her 3rd birthday. I also had some revision to do.

I felt a bit guilty about this, until the college called to say the workshop was cancelled because the trainer was off sick.

So yesterday was about building presents and building cushion houses instead.

 

 

 

Sunrise a couple of days ago, when the weather report was forecasting wind and rain in industrial quantities.

The rain came later, about five minutes after I set of for college on my bike…

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.

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.

 

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