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Well, week actually, but never let reality get in the way of a title.

This week was supposed to be one of being generally relaxed and pottering about, catching up on all the annoying jobs that get forgotten while revising. Of course it hasn’t worked out like that because of the demands of different offices that we fill in the correct form and/or turn up for an interview Right Now because my change of status to not-really-unemployed to not-really-employed had sent their systems into a hissy fit.

This is not very exciting to blog about.

Fortunately, once the forms were gone we could do all the things that were neglected in the last few months.

One of the most important of these as far as Beautiful daughter was concerned was going out for adventures on the Bakfiets, so we’ve been exploring.

We went to see some horses,

…and found out how useful dock leaves are after stumbling through some nettles on the edge of the forest.

Beautiful daughter found a warm space with some interesting shaped seeds and nice soft soil…

And of course we had to visit a river to throw Great Big Rocks into

While not finding interesting new places we had time being creative, and made a poster for Grandpa’s birthday.

Meanwhile a pile of revision notes has been sitting forlornly in the corner waiting for me to decide what to do with them…

 

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fixingabak

The Bakfiets had a puncture. This usually means Saturday will be spent fixing it, as the back wheel is quite tricky to get out of the bike, and more to the point, very fiddly to get back on again, or at least to put it on again so the bike moves in a straight line and the brakes work.

It was therefore very annoying that when I had wrestled the wheel of the bike, repaired the puncture, fought the wheel until it went back onto the bike, and then put the brakes and gears beck together so we could use it, the tyre went down again.

Twice.

I was planning to replace this tyre at some undefined point in the future as it was worn down from seven years of carrying children, shopping, party supplies, scrap, exam projects, luggage, and furniture, to the point that the tyre was so loose it didn’t even need tyre levers to take it off the wheel any more. I decided to take the drastic step of actually spending money, went online and ordered a puncture proof-ish tyre, a new inner tube and extra wide rim tape, in the hope of sorting out the problem permanently. Then it dawned on me that I also needed to replace the gear shifter, as the bikes eight gears were now down to seven on a good day, and those were not always predictable due to the twist grip shifters habit of shredding cables, so I also ordered a proper trigger shifter, on the basis that I may as well just fight this battle once and deal with both problems at the same time.

All this came to about fifty euros, which is probably the most I’ve spent on the Bakfiets in one go since I bought it.

I also managed to persuade the Elder Son that as he is now riding the bakfiets several times a week, he should learn how to fix it by helping me, and se surprised ourselves by managing the whole repair in an hour and a half. Elder Son says this is his influence.

Annoyingly, he’s is probably right.

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At first glance this may look like yet another random picture of the Xtracycle on its travels, but allow me to draw your attention to the orange bike in the background.

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That is a Yuba Mundo, a longbike similar to an Xtracycle, and clearly used as a family transport bike judging by the setup and presence on a tram stop bike rack on a cold and damp October morning, when ‘normal’ people would have used a car.

Despite having a reputation for being a stroppy rebel who goes out of their way to do everything differently to other people, it is very encouraging to know I’m not the only person trying to get around like this…

Bed onna Bakfiets

Once again, I am aiming for a niche audience here.

A while ago, the boys managed to break Youngest Son’s bed, which caused much consternation at the time, but I did finally manage to make a new side piece to replace the one that was broken. Because the bed uses mortise and tenon Joins, I had to transport the rest of the bed about five hundred metres up to the workshop during this process to fit the new section to the existing joins, then haul the lot down to the apartment.

As usual I spent some time massively over-thinking things before realising that all I needed was climbing ropes, blankets and wood clamps. The whole operation went pretty smoothly, so smoothly on fact that I forgot all about it until last night when I found the picture while desperately seeking a blog subject at the end of a quiet week…

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Bakfiets being a skip for the day. One of the jobs I’d been planning to do for some time was clearing out the cellar, in particular the smaller sized bikes which are lurking in every corner. Of course the appearance of Beautiful Daughter means the bikes need to remain in place for a while longer; not that I’m complaining, I hasten to add.

There’s still plenty of other stuff down there of course because as we all know cellars are breeding grounds for random and miscellaneous things with no obvious purpose, so last week I made a start on shifting some of the more obviously useless things like a broken bike frame and two large bags full of papers which have been there so long they may well be considered historical artifacts.

Expatriate life is full of glamour.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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The secret exit out of the top of the housing estate into fields.
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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.

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Eldest Son tried out the Bakfiets for size on one of the last warm days this year. He’s almost big enough to ride it himself.

The logistics of getting this workbench into this room required half a dozen elements to be in the right place at the right time, including, but not limited to a van, a good friend willing to haul a forty kilo lump of beechwood and steel into the van and put up with my driving, in return for having his bike fixed…

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…a patient previous owner who was willing for me to scrape together the money and get my backside into gear to collect, instead of just putting the workbench on Ebay (where he could have got a much higher price), and some very kind people who have allowed me to make a mess in their former bakery until the end of the apprenticeship without demanding rent.

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Bakfiets demonstrating yet another advantage of bicycles for those of a lazy disposition: no need to carry stuff from the door to the workbench.

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In theory this is a practice space to get ready for exams. Except that with three boys, there are far more interesting things to do than just make dovetail joins, especially when mum has a birthday coming up, and there is the possibility of making presents.

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I can always do the dovetails after the present is finished.

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Hopefully. If I’m allowed to.

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We get our seed potatoes from a small farm shop in the next town which is 2.5 kilometres away as the crow flies, rather smugly in this case because crows don’t have to go down into the valley and up out the other side like we do. Or carry twenty kilos of spuddies back for that matter.

Eldest Son rode with me for the first time on this route, having discovered that with a grown-up bike that has better quality parts, hills are a lot easier to climb. He’s now of an age where he legally has to use the road, so I’m taking him out as much as I can to get some traffic experience, and as the next town was recently rebuilt to make sure cars had even more space to go as fast as they wanted, including a section of one way system, where better to learn?

I carefully navigated a way through back streets which brought us out right next to the farm shop without touching the main road at all, except that the shop had moved, meaning we had to ride the length of the town on the recently rebuilt road, but Eldest Son dealt with the situation very well, and I’m sure the large SUV behind us on the very narrow one way system was tooting encouragement.

Potatoes loaded at the farm shop with an explanation of the reason for the move (Someone bought the premises and they’re making a high-end office furniture showroom: “Just what a small community needs” as the person measuring our potatoes remarked.) and we were off back home, with Eldest Son happily negotiating the rest of the one way system.

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In the valley with Xtracycle full of potatoes.

The real challenge came on the way to our village which is at the top of a 1-in-4 (25%) hill (You can see the hill in the top picture although even that frankly doesn’t do it justice). The Xtracycle went up it very well, my legs less so. Eldest Son was kind enough to wait for me by a bench so I could collapse for a bit, before continuing home for tea and medals, or in my case, to transfer the potatoes into the Bakfiets to shift them to the garden.

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