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One of the joys of having an allotment the other side of town is the summer morning commute to water the plants in the hope of actually successfully growing something this year. This has to be done fairly early at the moment before the sun begins to come over the hills and I have to stop playing and pretend to be a grown up by looking for college courses and doing translations.
Yesterday the report promised rain. The view out of the window said otherwise, so I got the Xtracycle out and rode up the hill to the centre of the village and down the other side, down a bit more on the much steeper gravel track to the allotments.
I unlocked our allotment gate, locked it behind me: one of the neighbours has a large Rottweiler: soft as a warm marshmallow but possessed of an enormous amount of poo and an urgent need to distribute it as widely as possible.
I climbed down the steps, hung up my jacket and took the lid off the water barrel, whereupon the first raindrops fell.
Ah, well, I suppose I asked for it.
And how was your weekend?
So there I was riding along a nice gravel trail towards our village: I turned a corner, saw a bike coming the other way, pulled on the brakes too quickly, the Xtracycle went in a different direction to me and I made sudden and unwelcome contact with the Federal Republic. Considering that I basically dived into the gravel like an olympic swimmer making for gold, I came out rather well: just a couple of bruises on my hands and a rather dramatic graze on my shoulder which made first contact. My face managed to get away with a near-invisible scratch, which is good as people ask awkward questions when you turn up with an obvious facial injuries.
Annoyingly, this is the second time I’ve fallen off my bike in three months. Earlier this spring I went wide on a blind bend and locked handlebars with an oncoming rider. No real damage was done but I was wondering why this would be. Am I getting old? sloppy?
I have a less embarrassing theory: both times I was taken by surprise by oncoming cyclists. All winter I’ve had the cycle ways to myself, and now the hibernating cyclists are returning and I’m not ready for them. On a road, I’m riding defensively, seeing dangers, taking the lane, etc. When I get onto a bike lane I relax. Apparently a bit too much.
We cycle infrastructure advocates will bore the pants off anyone about how cycle lanes make people feel safe, but perhaps we should add a disclaimer that you still have to look where you are going…
*With apologies to Disgruntled.
We discovered another use for an Xtracycle: Bringing Youngest Son back from football practice when we needed him here quicker than a kickboard would allow.
Yesterday was a challenge: I had to go to Eldest Son’s school to help prepare for the summer festival,* then get back to our apartment to take youngest off to the dentist in the next town (and naturally the opposite direction) then bring him back to go to a school party in the afternoon.
Which would have been fine if I’d remembered this before half past seven in the morning, and then remembered to take something to eat, instead of panicking and racing off having eaten four slices of toast early in the morning and then nothing until mid afternoon.
I’m told that some people are organised…
*This is an introvert survival strategy: if I help prepare for the festival I get to decide what I do during the day itself, and making nest boxes is infinitely preferable to playing basketball in a ‘parents vs. children’ match.
I’ve discovered a traffic-free route to the next big town. It even includes this bridge over the river so instead of fighting my way down a steep, traffic filled hill or across a multi-lane junction I can now go straight from my preferred route down the hill and onto the cycleway that takes me into the centre of town and hardly have to deal with cars for the whole route.
Black and white photo an attempt to make ‘where I went on my bike’ shot look artsy.
I call it the Bridge of Irony because it was mainly built to link two sections of the huge Mercedes plant in this part of the valley…
I’ve said before that cycling into the next big town is a simple matter of pootling through vineyards and gardens. Unfortunately riding back out again is rather harder work.
Step one is simple enough: find the shortest traffic free route through the suburbs of the town and avoid being run over by the dustbin lorries that seem to infest these back streets.
The next image was taken about 500 metres behind the church seen above. The weathervane on the tip of the tower is directly behind the camera, which makes this hill seem rather excesive, frankly.
This road is closed to cars, but there are always one or two who decide to take the short cut. Inevitably they decide they want to overtake on this section.
At the top of the climb is a housing estate in a forest built in the days when everyone was going to use cars, and therefore with no infrastructure for bicycles whatsoever. Often when I ride here the local drivers have tooted encouragement, waved enthusiastically out of the window as they pass, and for some reason pointed frantically at the pavement.
I don’t know why this happens often here but almost nowhere else. Perhaps they just aren’t used to seeing cyclists on the road.
And the top of the climb looking back to the north, 20 minutes and about 200 metres after the first photograph. The reward for this climbing is a magnificent view towards the distant hills that mark the watershed between Rhine and Danube. Typically on the day I had my camera, it was too cloudy to see beyond the next plowed field.
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…