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So last night I was riding the Bakfiets along the main road in the village, in the dark, and noticed I was being followed by something with a lot more lights than I had. Looking back this turned out to be a Big Black Truck.

About a thousand trucks drive through the village every day, which causes much harrumphing from the locals while they wait to pull out from side streets in their 4 x 4’s. This one had just squeezed around the sharp corner at the top of the hill and was rolling  about fifty metres behind my back wheel. I looked again to signal for a left turn, to find it was still there, but noted with surprise that he was hanging well back, giving me space and allowing himself a generous braking distance. Gratified that he was doing his best not to glue me to his massive bull bars, I signalled, pulled across the road and waved to acknowledge that I had seen the fifty tonnes of black and chrome just behind me. I was rewarded by a short flash of headlights with enough candlepower to safely guide ships, which projected my shadow on the buildings opposite.

It being rather late, there was no traffic in the opposite direction, so I could pull into our street easily enough. I stopped to wave again and got a quick honk on the horn and a wave from the shadowy figure in the cab as the behemoth rumbled out of the village into the darkness.

Why can’t it be like this more often?

(And let’s not ask why cyclists are sharing space with such massive vehicles on narrow roads in a small village, that’d spoil the story…)



A few weeks back, Tony from The Rock, who writes a very entertaining blog about the smallholding his family shares with several dozen assorted animals, posted a photo of a new mug which expressed his love of cycling. I made a positive comment, and thought no more about it.

Then a couple of days ago, a parcel arrived in the post, which turned out to be a cycling magazine, and my own mug…




And to avoid it ‘wandering’ in our rather large family, he even got me a personalised version…

Many thanks Tony, that cheered me up no end…


Xtracycle outside trade guild office


In my last post, I mentioned that I was collecting certificates for the carpentry apprenticeship. these are the ‘other’ certificates issued for the practical exams by the trade guild, as opposed to the theory certificates from the state. I’d explain more but it really isn’t interesting.

For readers who haven’t been following the blog for the last three years -or have for some reason neglected to take notes- a local company took me onin 2012 as an apprentice carpenter –to my rather great surprise, and sent me to college for a year making different small projects before graduating to my first piece of furniture. Once the trade guild (and more importantly, the insurance company) were convinced that we could be trusted with sharp and fast moving objects, we were allowed to work in our companies.

Dissilusionment set in at this point: I’d joined the course to learn a creative job where I could make things like this (preferably with tools like this), the system wanted me to spend the next thirty to forty years making semi-disposable shelving units out of formaldehyde-filled industrial woods with ridiculously complex machines. Attempts to use hand tools whenever I could met with consternation.

I managed to pick up a work related injury, and the college suggested I take my exams six months early. They suggested this three weeks before the exam. Much revision ended in three days of exams and then making my final project in February -using hand tools most of the time: I am nothing if not stubborn- and suddenly I was finished.

The summer graduates will have an exhibition of their work hosted by the college and then be invited to a grand handout of certificates. As there were only three of us graduating now, there won’t be any exhibition and we were invited to tag on to the next awards ceremony, which incidentally would have finished late at night, some distance from our apartment and the nearest station, but then it was for the car mechanics so I guess they assumed everyone would drive there.

Which is why my apprenticeship ended on Friday, with me cycling down to the local trade guild office*, and picking up the final certificates from a bored secretary.

An odd way to finish two and a half years, but at least I finished.

*Which had a car park, but no cycle parking. A pattern emerges…

Due to some monumentally bad planning on my part, I managed to have four appointments in our local big town on different days last week. The town in question is only a bit over five kilometres away, which comes in at a mere 3.2 miles, but before you serious transport cycling types scoff, it is also almost 200m lower, or a rather more respectable 620 feet, most of which is crammed in a relatively short part of the ride.

The quickest way (down) is the busy, but straight main road.


 but if I have the time, it is far more pleasant to use the old road…


…which meanders without any urgency through the vineyards…


…especially as this route is closed to motorised traffic, so I can stop and take pictures.


This was another one of those mornings when I was reminded there are far worse places to live and ride a bike.

You really aren’t supposed to have this much fun on the way to an appointment, especially when the reason was to pick up my results for my carpentry apprenticeship…

After living in a car focused town for so long, it comes as a shock to find genuine, well designed bike lanes just a few kilometres away.


Bike lanes, no less, which go all the way along this side of the main road, inside of the parked cars and in to the centre of the town. I’m not sure why they look so shabby, in particular why someone decided to spend time and money scraping the red surface off at this point, as it was very much present further along (where I naturally forgot to take a photo). The blocked area is so drivers pulling out of side streets can see oncoming traffic without blocking the pavement and cycle lanes.


Riding along it was a novel experience of knowing it was going where I needed to go, and not having to watch cars everywhere. It was also a shock not to have to dig out a map every five minutes to see where I was being taken next and how to avoid it.


It also made a nice change not being the only wierdo on a bike.


And thanks to the driver of this vehicle (under contract to the German Automobile Club, no less)* We can see that the cycle ways are not only direct, they are wide enough for two bikes to ride side by side, or for one truck to park.

*The nice people who sent us free Hi-vis vests a few years back.

There are days when I ride somewhere because it is the fastest way to get somewhere…


…and days when I grit my teeth and tell myself over and over that it is good for me and the environment in the hope my smug green glow somehow has mystical weather-protecting qualities, and get home with a beard full of ice and shoes full of water.

And there are days when everything comes together and the sun shines and the air is clear, and even though it is a long way to go and the temperatures are below freezing you couldn’t pay me enough to travel any other way…

…so if you came here  for the ususal grumpiness, it has been delayed by good weather. Normal service will be resumed. Eventually…

Things normal people carry by bike: Books, laptops, shopping, small children…



Things I end up carrying by bike: swede saws.

 There is a good reason for this, honest.

I was given a large piece of lime wood (D: Lindenholz) to hopefully convert into carved spoons and other items. The wood has to be split or it will be damaged as it dries, which meant hauling it to the garden and attacking it with an axe and heavy hammer, and hauling it back to the workshop to cut into smaller pieces for carving.

The problem with this plan was that it required your truly not to leave the swede saw in the garden. Which I promptly did, and had to collect it with the Xtracycle.

Mind you, I noticed that drivers gave me plenty of space…

(I’m still open to suggestions for garden planting…)

Look: Blue sky...

Much excitement today: not only was the early morning ride actually conducted in daylight, but under blue sky and on a dry road. There were snowdrops, a lack of mud, and a red kite flying overhead.

Of course, as soon as I’d got over this, I remembered that this means the growing season will be upon us soon, and I don’t have the vegetable beds ready, or the seeds ordered, and I need to sort out the compost bin, and…


The long silence was not due to my having gone out on the lash to celebrate the end of the apprenticeship. That would be unlikely because 1: I am ‘somewhat’ older than the average apprentice and I don’t need any help to do more silly things in public, 2: An extreme introvert who tends to hide during parties, and most importantly 3: I really dislike the taste of alcohol. I appreciate this puts me in the running for the Most Boring Person on the Planet competition, but regular readers knew that anyway.

The last two weeks were mainly spent doing a translation job for a documentary (I now know enough about heart disease to make me seriously paranoid), getting my CV up to date, playing with the boys and Beautiful Daughter, and cycling through snowstorms to pick up ‘important’ pieces of paper from various offices.


Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad organisation and poor time management.

Oh, and I now have the paperwork to prove that I’m a Real Carpenter, at least as far as the state of Baden-Württemberg is concerned. Still working in what we do next though…


The sliding tray last seen heavily clamped a couple of days ago.

Despite the ironmongery, the tray still managed to move out of shape again, and unfortunately it has to be exactly square or it won’t slide smoothly when the examiners play with it on Friday. The only thing for it was to pull two sides off and reset them.

I think I got it right this time.

I’ll let you know tomorrow…

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