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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…
Coming back to our village this week, I came across a new bit of shared use pedestrian/cycle route that hadn’t looked like this two days earlier.
The previous surface had been getting rougher by the year, but even so I couldn’t help feeling there were other places they where this could have been more useful.
Cynical people would of course suggest that this wasn’t the point: it is March, and the surfacing budget must be spent before April the first.
Obviously there wasn’t that much left in the budget, as this is the other end, just at the bottom of a hill where a nice flat surface would be really welcome. If you are wondering how long the largesse lasted, the barn above is the same as the one in the previous picture.
Still, this is the second year running that the tarmac leftovers were used on this route, and at the current rate the whole way to the next village should be nice and smooth in about six years or so…
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…
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…)
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…
Eldest son’s school seems to carefully plan parents’ evenings to be on the wettest day of the term, so as usual I arrived after a good invigorating shower. And, as usual, the evening went on… and on… powered by a group of competitive parents who wanted to know every way their child could get the best possible grades in maths and science (but who were notably silent when the art teacher asked for questions). By the end, it was nearly tomorrow morning and pretty dark. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the hours in an overheated classroom had dried off my clothes nicely.
I probably should have thought about the route back a little more, perhaps considering that as it was dark, the forest would be better avoided, and the surfaced route by a well lit road would be more sensible, but I was tired and cold, and the ‘begging buttons’ don’t work after ten, so I decided to take the short cut. What could go possibly wrong?
I know, I never learn. Things began badly when I was dive bombed by a bat*, then turned off the road into darkness and realised the crucial difference between this route and the other forest trail is that other one is straight, wide, and flat, and has the lights of the next town at the end as a guide. The ‘short cut’ has none of these advantages and is a winding, twisting strip of potholed gravel. For added fun there is a fork in the woods at the darkest point and a deep drainage ditch which could easily double as a tank trap if Stuttgart were ever attacked from the north.
In daylight this is a pleasant winding trail you can ride along thinking happy thoughts about squirrels**, whereas at night thoughts run thus: “This is dark… ouch… where’s the turning?… was that it? oof… no it isn’t… yes it is, brakes… tree stump… must avoid tree stump… and the ditch… ouch… hang on, it isn’t that steep in the day is it? pothole… oof… corner… is that a lurking shadow creature hiding by the trail ready to attack unwitting cyclists… oh, no, it’s a bush… ow… with roots… Hat blowing off… must hold… oof, pothole… hat… corner… getting steeeeper…“
And then as usual, just as I was starting to get the hang of things, the trail widened and I was able to see the lights of the next town.
Then it started raining again…
[Update: It seems I’ve been here before…]
*Either we have our own version of the ASBO Buzzard of Scotland or I sound like a bug on sonar. I’m not sure which is worse.
** When it isn’t raining, of course…
…one Tiny Person. Beautiful Wife and myself had a lift to the local hospital* this afternoon, and we are now waiting for the smaller person to make their mind up about coming, or not. From past experience, there will be a long wait until the baby decides they want to come now and then things happen very quickly, so although I’ve been sent off home, the phone is staying close by.
I’ve been offered lifts by various kind people, but I reckon that by the time I get to their home, wake them up, they get ready and we can drive off, I’d be halfway to the hospital, so it will be a nighttime Xtracycle ride at some point probably early in the morning.
*Beautiful Wife having rejected suggestions that she ride herself or be carried by Bakfiets: I can’t think why…
People who hear I cycle to college often react with surprise and imply that I’m incredibly hardcore but I honestly don’t see it as a big deal: the ride is only 20 kilometres (12 miles) one way, and I get to sit down in a warm classroom all day before pootling back: essentially I get to have two short bike tours with a day at college inbetween. Besides, so far I’ve seen deer, rabbits, kestrels, red kites, buzzards, lots of smaller birds I’m gradually getting to know, and last week a fox ambled across the road as I went through a forest.
It helps that I only have to do it once or twice a week: I think I’d see it differently if I was riding every day.
The photo is on a new section of the route: I had to change because one of the towns I went through has closed a main road to lay a new sewage pipe and decided the cycle way is much more useful as a diversion for the Very Important Drivers rushing to the autobahn, and I don’t feel like dealing with stressed drivers trying to control their car and use their navigator while drinking coffee at half past six in the morning.
I did wonder about writing to the council and pointing out that by pushing cyclists like me out of the town, it means we can’t stop and spend money in their supermarkets as we pass, but then I remembered I’m too miserly to do that anyway, and besides the new route has views like this and no traffic whatsoever, so I didn’t bother.