Last Friday

A bit more reminiscing on 2012 tonight, but in a different vein.

A few comments amongst online friends led me to watch the recap of this year’s edition of the Paris-Roubaix professional bicycle race.

“So what?” you ask?

Read here.

It’s very exciting to watch and see Tom Boonen pull off the victory that he did, even eight months later.  The moment he gradually pulls away from an unbelieving peloton is just a few moments into the video above when he’s still 55km from the finish.

I’ve still got an hour left in the coverage.  I’m keeping an eye out for a glimpse of Goddess, who’s standing on the outer edge of one of the corners immediately after the Le Carrefour de l’Arbre secteur, which won’t be for another 20 minutes or so.

And when he flew past us, his lead was commanding.  Only disaster would have prevented him from winning.

And while it’s a great memory from 2012, I’ll tell you that it was all Goddess pulling off the financing and planning for what ended up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I know that every year I can watch the race coverage and remember what each secteur was like and what it felt like.

Just not fast like the pros.

Aerial Lines

The weather was beautiful here in southwestern Germany today.  Nice and clear, with temps around 5ºC (41ºF) and nary a puff of wind.

Perfect for taking a break from the book and getting a nice 50km (30 mile) bike ride in before getting back to the book (bleh).

And perfect for taking the camera along for any nice B&W opportunities.

Aerial Lines

Lots going on there.  The power lines, the contrails (which I didn’t notice until I had taken the first shot) and steam from the Philipsburger Nuclear Power Plant off in the distance.

I just wish the Flickr/Wordpress image compression wouldn’t jack up the details so much.  Click on the pic to be taken to a much clearer, crisper version.

Taken at 2:30pm.  But it sure looks like it’s late afternoon, close to sunset.  But that’s part of the joy of living here, where the sun didn’t even reach 20º above the horizon at noon.  And it’s only getting lower.

For those that live here, Germany is a wealth of bike trails and paths, criss-crossing the entire country.  With proper planning, you can ride from one side of country to the other without having to hit major traffic areas.  Not a bad thing.  It’s a goal that organizations likes Rails to Trails are striving for.

But while the trails criss-cross the entire country, it’s not like they’re in a straight line or anything.  Here in the Rhine River valley, where there aren’t any geographic features (other than the river) to work around, the paths just don’t make much sense.  It’s pretty easy to get twisted around and ride in a circle if you don’t use a map.

Heck, I have a map and still ended up doing circles and having to backtrack.

But it’s part of the fun.

Grunting and Groaning

Sorry, nothing exciting here.

Just a chance to illustrate the joy that is commuting in winter on the German trail system.

Imagine pushing a 22lb bike (and a substantially heavier carcass) through 5-6″ of soft snow, with drifts of 10-12″.  And occasionally deep ruts from cross country skiers and walkers that grab the front wheel and launch it in random directions.  Just imagine.

Honestly, this is the nice stuff.

It’s the roads where they refuse to plow, but dump salt on top of the 4-6″ of snow, turning it into a slushy, chunky mess, that I can do without.

Regardless.  It’s beautiful.

And when I reach a section that launches me off the bike, I make sure to stop and absorb the surroundings.

And enjoy the peacefulness of an empty, dark forest.

Still finding a groove

Wow!  This is the longest that we’ve taken to finding our groove after a move.  We’ve been in Germany for four months now and we’ve been on the go.  Constantly.

We’re OK with that, but now that winter is fast approaching, we’re learning to slow it down a bit.  We’re still without TV, but we’re going to keep it that way.  We’ve found that we’re just fine without it.  And every time I go on a trip somewhere and I have TV in the room, I’m quickly reminded of how much of a waste of time programming really is.  Even when we do have it, I usually just keep it on a news station.  Well, I can do that over the internet when I want.

The last post was a month ago?  Wow, the time has flown.  That was right after our trip to Amsterdam, where Goddess and I spent my birthday enjoying Belgian beers and watching the wildlife.

Soon after, I was off to Bavaria for a week of work.  Long days those were.

And the week after we were off to Italy for a quick work visit, then back in time to head back out to Bavaria for another work visit.

Lots of miles in vehicles lately.

Here are some of the pics from these trips:

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Lunch View

That last view was from a lunch stop in Tyrol, right before we crossed the border into Austria.  Quite an interesting day of contrasts as we left home with temps in the 60’s, got snowed on at lunchtime, then ate dinner in Italy in 70-degree weather.

With winter rapidly approaching, the days are quickly shrinking.  I’ve never lived this far north (50º N) before, which is in line with Vancouver.  I didn’t really think much about it until the other day when we were driving into town and I saw the car’s shadow in the late-afternoon sun, pointing directly in front of us as we were driving northeast.  Then I looked at our sunrise/sunset tables to see what times they would be in the coming week, since we turn back our clocks tomorrow (a week before the US).  Even this early in fall, sunrise will be at 7am and sunset will be just after 5pm.  So that means my commute both ways will be in the dusk/dark hours.

Speaking of commutes, for those who I haven’t told, I’m strictly by bike these days.  When we got here, we looked at cars that I’d be willing to pay for and realized that for the price, I’d rather pick up a good cyclocross bike and ride the 9.1 miles to/from work.  It’s worked out well, since the commute by car is typically 30 minutes and the commute by bike is typically 35 minutes.  I’d definitely rather ride the bike.  Regardless of the weather.

So I’m riding Jake (no, I don’t name my bikes).  That’s the bike’s name.  Jake.

As in “Jake the Snake”.



Jake’s treating me quite well.  My weekly commute comes in just under 100 miles if I hit both morning/evening for all five days.  Some weeks it doesn’t work out that way due to other plans, when Goddess comes to pick me and Jake up at work.

And the commute serves me well.  I’m wide awake when I get in to work in the morning.  In the evening, by the time I get home, I’ve left whatever work issues I have at work, so I’m ready to spend the evening with Goddess.  The best part?  None of that stress of dealing with idiot drivers on the road.  Instead, I get miles of forest and farmland.

Goddess did have to laugh (at least a “I tolerate this” laugh) when I started stocking up on winter riding gear.  By the time all was said and done, between Jake, clothing and lighting, we could have bought a nice car for me to commute with.  But I certainly don’t want it that way.

Speaking of lighting, get rid of those rollers and trainers and get outside!  Yeah, I know it’s easier to hit target heart rates or maintain wattage while riding indoors, but you’re still riding indoors.  So get a good set of lights.  I was using OK lights, but especially after a few close calls in the forest with deer that I never saw darting in front of me, I knew it was time to upgrade.

After years of using halogens and then the new AA-powered LED lights, shell out a bit of money and buy a good set.  I looked at quite a few options out there, considered what I need now (deer avoidance) and what would keep me safe in the dead of winter, I settled on Light & Motion’s Stella 300 Dual’s.  They will sear the retina of any deer that dare stand in front of me.  Seriously.  With these babies, have absolutely no issues seeing anything and everything in front of me.

With the twin headlights, the trails open back up.  Even at 20-25mph, I can’t outrun these lights.  Dense fog is a different story.  But I have no problem seeing.  The left light is a wide flood beam, so there’s plenty of peripheral view.  The right light is focused, so I can aim it right down the trail as far as I can see.  With three different settings (Hi/Med/Lo), plus strobe, I see whatever I need, plus set up a mid-forest disco if I need.  And as far as safety? I’ve had large trucks coming the other way pull over to the side of the road and stop until I passed.

Light & Motion Stella 300 Dual Headlights

How’s them apples?

I typically use them in “race” mode, which means that instead of having to cycle through each of the settings, I can switch directly from Hi to Lo with a quick push of the button.  That’s handy when I meet an oncoming cyclist in the forest.  Hopefully I’m not blinding them.  But now I reach down and cover the flood light so they don’t get too much light; I can still see plenty beyond them with the spot.

Once I’m in town, I switch to low beam and have absolute zero worries about being seen by an oncoming car or the ones sitting at the intersections.

Outside the bike, lights and clothes, I’m ready for winter.  We’ve only dipped below freezing once so far, down to –02C (that’s 29F for you that can’t do metric).  I didn’t even have to break out the heavy gear and I was still sweating when I got to work.

But I’m waiting for the ice to set in.  I’ve already got my studded tires sitting in the garage, waiting to be put on the wheels.  Without a solid freeze cycle forecast, I don’t see the sense in putting them on yet.  But once we see it, they’ll stay on for the winter.

Well, that’s about it for now.  It’s mid-afternoon, the day is nice and Jake needs a serious scrub down to get all that mud, “horse mud” and road grime off.  Plus, braking sounds horrible right now with all the grit in the pads.