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Last week found your correspondent in a small village in the middle of south Germany looking at a map, and getting excited enough to startle the locals. I am easily amused (I studied Geography, for goodness sake) but there was a good reason for this: really.

Readers with long memories and an improbably high boredom threshold may remember one new years resolution to ride an imperial century: 100 miles, which translates into metric as 161 kilometres. I hadn’t been getting very far with this: admittedly this year had involved job hunting, exams, and an annoyingly long bout of flu, but on the other hand, it’s been a resolution for five years now.

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The previous ride to Tübingen had been a confidence boost because we’d broken the 100km barrier without collapsing, so I hatched a new plan. While on holiday this week I could ride to Tübingen again, then follow up the gently sloping valley until the next town of Rottenburg, and possibly go and see what was on the other side. Then I’d try a full century a week after.

I completely failed to pack my bag the evening before the ride and as a result ended up wandering about at 5am looking for bottles, maps, food and other bits and pieces. Despite this I managed to leave the house early enough to reach Tübingen (50k / 31 miles) before any self-respecting student had got up, and a good hour before expected.

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Rottenburg is about ten kilometres beyond Tübingen and I’d last cycled there a decade earlier. Most people would use a GPS navigator at this point, but being a Luddite I dug a map out of my bag instead. Unfortunately the map in question turned out to be of Freiburg, meaning the map for Tübingen which I had carefully laid on the table last night, was in fact still on the table in our apartment.

This is why you shouldn’t pack at 5am.

Fortunately the valley between Tübingen and Rottenburg is wide and flat, so much so that it’s possible to see Rottenburg in the distance from the edge of Tübingen, so I figured I couldn’t miss it. Hopefully.

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Rottenburg started with a rather down at heel industrial estate, but after a while I landed in the old walled city, which had the sort of buildings that would be famous in any other country. Even better I was feeling pretty fit, and the church clock said it was still only eleven in the morning, the time I planned to reach Tübingen. Confidence stirred. So did dormant memories of beautiful rocky gorges and empty cycleways beyond Rottenburg. So what if I was only 60k into a 160k trip and hadn’t got a map. I could do this. Sure I could.

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I left the old city, completely missed the turning and came to an abrupt halt in a loading bay for a textile factory.

I couldn’t turn around now, I’d have to admit I’d cycled into a factory and given up. A few hundred metres back towards Rottenburg, I found a lamppost with a sign pointing along the valley and followed same.

I decided I’d just go to the first village. Then I could turn around and come back, no problem. Except that in the first village there was a sign to the next village. And it was only 3 to 5 km away. And then there would be another sign to the next village… you get the idea.

This is how I ended up looking at a map, and finding that Eyach, the village I’d marked as the turning point for an imperial century was three easy kilometres away.
Those 3 kilometres turned into a few more on the main valley road while I skirted a golf club. This is in fact the only vaguely heavily used road I had to follow for the entire route so I probably shouldn’t complain.

Still did though.

After a fast descent a sign directed me onto a cycleway, which then became another factory, then a piece of overgrown singletrack. I was about to give up when suddenly I was back on a road, and there was a descent, and the station at Eyach.

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Immediate thought was “I’ve made it”.

Shortly followed by: “I need to get all the way back now”

Fortunately it was mostly downhill. And there was very nearly a tailwind. This was nearly my undoing: I got too excited that I could go fast and nearly clobbered myself climbing the last two hills to our village.

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Where the map of Tübingen was still on the table where I’d left it.

Still. 102 miles / 165km is a century. Even if I did it by accident.

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This week I persuaded Elder Son to cycle with me to Tübingen. He wasn’t entirely convinced, possibly remembering my small topographical error on our last ride, where I managed to entirely forget a large hill, but agreed anyway on the basis someone should probably keep an eye on me.

We wriggled through the outer suburbs of Stuttgart until we got to the end of the Siebenmühlental cycleway, an old railway line that would take us through the valleys, and from which a dog-leg would bring us to a dip in the hills we could use to cross to the Neckar valley, which we could follow to Tübingen.

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This cunning plan meant we could cover the first 20 kilometres before hitting any nasty steep hills. Elder Son was less convinced, but once on the cycle route he proceeded to disappear into the distance leaving the aged one trundling in his wake.

It was the Xtracycle: they’re heavy bikes you know.

At the end of the valley we ignored the signs to Tübingen because we knew them to be a cruel trick to make us cross several deep valleys, and instead followed the Aich valley until we got to the dip in the hills that we could use to reach the Neckar river.

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This was decision time: turn left and we’d be going back towards our village, with a very respectable 60k in the bag, go right and we would be heading to Tübingen and a metric ton.

After a few minutes eating chocolate and looking at the view, Elder Son decided for Tübingen. We set off before he could change his mind and I completely missed the turning and had to bluff it out until I found the cycleway again. I don’t think he noticed.

At the next town we came across a “diversion for cyclists” sign pointing away from the cycleway and the nice shiny new bridge over the river. Lulled into a false sense of security by cyclists coming the other way, we followed this.

I know, this never works. As usual the diversion had been planned and marked out by someone in a car, and as usual by the time we’d realised this we’d climbed out of the valley and into the hills and the person-in-a-car had got bored and left us to work it out ourselves.

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Very pretty: where are we?

We followed trails largely by instinct, with some commentary from Elder Son on the general subject of old men and their supposed inability to read a map. I took this as a good sign: if he’s being rude, he’s probably okay.

Finally we found a sign, then a road, village, fast descent and the cycleway.

At this point Elder Son was struggling with cramps in one leg. We hatched a plan that he could catch a train back from Tübingen, having ridden a very respectable 55 kilometres. He wasn’t keen, pointing out that the return route is mainly downhill and we’d had a slight headwind along the Neckar, so we’d have the wind behind us.

We arrived in Tübingen to find that half of Germany and a large chunk of the Japanese population had had the same idea that day. So we went with the flow and became tourists for a bit.

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We also may have eaten some ice cream.
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Possibly buoyed up by the atmosphere and extra sugar, or possibly because of sheer stubbornness, Elder Son decided to ride back.

As we left Tübingen we found that the wind had turned in the last half an hour.

We did find the cause of the monster diversion we’d taken earlier…
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Notice the barrier on this end of the bridge, the barrier on the other end of the bridge, and the entirely empty and flat road in between. This had become a temporary pedestrian zone.

I’ll leave you, dear reader, to guess which route we took next.2019_06_03_Tübingen_with_Stephan_10

We also found a cast iron Post Box from the time of Edward VII.

The rest of the ride was uneventful until Elder Son’s leg went on strike again and he has to make a very dramatic dismount into a field.

He recovered, and by now determined to beat the cramp, ignored an opportunity to take the tram for the final few kilometres.

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I checked the map again when we arrived. Including our unscheduled diversion into the hills we’d ridden 109km, with 350m climbing.

I creaked a bit at work the next day.

Elder Son on the other hand was annoyingly unaffected…

 

“What do you do when you need something you can’t get locally?” is a question we get occasionally, as if anyone without personal motorised transport is somehow trapped within an area within 500m of their own home.

Generally having an Xtracycle, Bakfiets and reasonably good local transport means we can get most places.

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On this occasion the bike rebuilding project had stalled due to a lack of spray varnish, so Beautiful Daughter and I set off to get some, via a forest..

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Yet another diversion*…

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…and a small park with a memorial to the first time a Zeppelin landed without a mast. It was apparently a good landing ie: they could take off again.

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Arrived at the art shop, notable for a complete lack of cycle parking. Beautiful Daughter approved because it had flowers.

She was less impressed that when confronted with about a hundred exciting colours including several shades of pink, Boring Dad just got two cans of clear varnish.

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Bernhausen railway station. According to the sign next to the Xtracycle, Bernhausen is twinned with Selby, which is 1200km away.

Quite what Bernhausen did to deserve this the sign did not say.

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Dinner and a show. Picnic under a tree (Beautiful Daughter’s idea of the perfect adventure). Plane apparently taking off from potato field.

We finished with a loop back around the end of the airport and to our side of the valley and back to the apartment, with a quick stop to explore an orchard on the way for reasons which escape me but apparently were very important.

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About 30km all told. Daughter happy.

Time to get some varnishing done…

*Which I wouldn’t mind except that I was already making a detour because the local government has decided cycleways are only important when they don’t need parking spaces for their road maintenance vehicles…

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So, as I said last week, I was being interviewed.

Whoever designed the local station obviously didn’t get the memo saying it was a pretty small village, and went for the XXL model.

Ground floor would make an awesome bike cafe.

Notice that I’ve already managed to make a mess of the luggage bags a mere two hours into the journey. Darn Hippie.

The ride to my interview went past some interesting scenery.

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The interview was in the evening, and the next day I was having breakfast and realised my train was due in twelve minutes. Some serious riding later* and I just managed to catch it.

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Notice generous space for bicycles, very helpful for smug car-free treehuggers.

Ten applications sent this week, more travelling looks likely…

*For a general trundler like me anyway…

 

I’m off at an interview…

It looks a nice part of the country, so I’ll take some pictures.

 

May day was supposed to be the day I broke the 100k mark, but due to a combination of poor organisation and a small person pouncing on me early in the morning, this became a visiting-the-local-farms morning instead, which is one of Beautiful Daughters favourite things to do, even more now she can ride on her own bike.

So first we went to the cow farm, where I typically forgot to take a picture of all the cows, but we did see a horse and trap:

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Then we went to the Rabbit Farm a few hundred metres away, and so called because they have a large rabbit pen next to the road. We stayed a while here and had a picnic…

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We saw tractors with big interesting things on the back:

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And then we went to visit the horses, and saw more tractors:

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And of course, found some interesting bugs in the field…

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It took just over two hours to do about three kilometres, but we had fun.

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This post is brought to you by a combination of moderately warm spring weather and a complete lack of discipline on my part. as usual.

When the Easter break came and the weather forecast showed sunshine or at least what cyclists refer to as ‘NAR’ (Not Actually Raining), it theoretically meant we could spray the slowly emerging Randonneur bike without worrying about the rain.

Of course in reality the choice between riding a bike and painting a bike generally came down on the option that meant exploring new places. I mean, I’m supposed to be doing a century this year and I need to build up my mileage…

If you say that fast enough it almost sounds convincing.

However, eventually Elder Son and I got ourselves into gear, and finally the Randonneur is dark red.

Now We’re working on wheels, and getting thoroughly ambitious about transfers…

I’ve decided that the trouble with Germany is that Germans think like me. With the weather improving, the cycleways are increasingly busy, and to avoid getting tangled up in the melee I need to leave early as trails within a few kilometres of the city fill up fast, especially if they have a Biergarten at the far end.

This meant getting up at five. On a Saturday for goodness sake…

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After a slightly tedious ride past the airport, again, and through another town, I ended up on a very pleasant, paved and traffic free route which, being on a slight ridge gave an excellent view all around.

One of the things I could see was the cycleway I was supposed to be on.

I probably should have looked at the map first.

Still, after a brief detour I got back on the route which would later be filled with aforementioned throngs…

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As it was about seven in the morning (and two-fleeces-and-a coat level frigid) I had the whole trail to myself….

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as it wound on and on…

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And on and on…

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Until we passed the destination for most people:

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After this the trail went through a few villages: in one I was briefly startled to see a traffic jam at the bakery, before realising it was still eight in the morning.

Eventually I found the pass to cross over to the Neckar Valley, and had a brief pause at the summit for celebratory supermarket brand chocolate bar and photo of distant hills.

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More villages followed:

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Do not adjust your set: the tower really does lean like that.

Now I was on the Neckar cycleway I could concentrate on hammering out the miles plodding along at my usual pace until I reached Nürtingen.

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I went to college in Nürtingen and know the town, so I’m not sure why I took an entirely wrong route to the railway station expecting to find a way under the railway. There are two ways through, and both start from another point in the town, a fact which of course dawned on your correspondent after slogging up a hill and navigating a busy junction…

Still, once on the correct side of the railway I was on my old college commuting route, which includes this covered bridge over the river:

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I then made extensive use of certain ancient Anglo-Saxon terms while climbing some frankly entirely unnecessary hills beyond, before dropping into another valley and through another village with a church big enough to be a cathedral, and which I’m told was once part of a Monastery.

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More use of the Anglo-Saxon vernacular was required for the gradient up to my own town, and then I could relax and take the final trail through the woods to our village:

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Where my family (who, bless them, are not morning people) were just starting a late Breakfast, involving those well known vital food groups, croissants and chocolate spread.

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Well, it’d be rude not to…

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We’ve been working on the most important question for the slowly developing touring bike: what colour should it be?

Unusually for us, we’d decided on red when we first dreamed the project up without spending hours cogitating about it. This was fine until we actually went to get some paint and realised how many shades of red were available.

We got it down to two shades, and to test it dug up my spare set of bicycle forks* to try them out.

It’s going to be the darker red closest to the camera.

Now there will be a race to paint the rest of the bike before one of us has another bright idea or changes our mind….

*Everyone has a spare set of bicycle forks, don’t they?

 

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Last week I needed to get a can of spray paint to make the Ugly Bike acceptable in civilised society. This would mean going to the art wholesalers, so I planned a route to follow after work.

Then my colleague turned up on his carbon hardtail looking for tools to adjust something technical, so I suggested we could ride to the art shop together as he was planning to ride in that direction anyway. As my bike was at a tram stop at the edge of the city we agreed to meet there after work.

He then cycled up the hill to the tram stop, a cool 200m climb. On 2 bar knobbly tyres.

I caught the tram up the hill, and we rode through the inner suburbs which were apparently designed and built at great expense to make everyone feel grateful for living somewhere else, before reaching fields and a short climb to a thoroughly ugly but mercifully small industrial estate, then more fields to another industrial estate where the Most Dangerous Shop In the World is located.

I was very disciplined and only came out with the spray can I went in for. Honest.

Now rattling nicely on bumps, we went back towards Stuttgart and found the traffic free road back around the exhibition centre. The cycleway through the exhibition centre is apparently needed for more important things like parking diggers. Of course they didn’t actually tell us this in advance, just put a fence across it.

Fine, we will take our bikes and lack of spending money elsewhere.

We zigzagged through pretty villages and along the valley that leads to my village, then zigzagged again to avoid the Scary Hill Of Doom up and out of the valley, and rolled back down to my apartment, where my colleague filled his water bottles, and I forced him to do a test ride on the Bakfiets before letting him continue.

He was slightly late for work the next day. I think I may have tired him out a bit…

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