Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bike Season

Spring is happening. I mean, it happened. Everything is blindingly green and the greens range from black-green all the way to white-green. So, we're riding our bikes. We got home from a trip to the US and found a number of bike-related ads and newspaper inserts in our mailbox. 'Ah,' we thought, 'they've got our number.' Actually, it's not about us. Bike season has begun. There was a big mountain bike race in the area at the beginning of May and the seasonal stuff in the supermarkets as well as window displays in department stores are all bike lights, locks, helmets, baskets, smartphone and beverage holders, and bike-friendly clothing - as well as bikes and beer. We moved to a country where there's a bike season! And it's in full effect on the streets, too. It's no Netherlands or Denmark here, but bikes go by the house all day long.

One of our bike rides was more ambitious than the others; we took the train out towards the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) and then rode home. It wasn't a very long ride, just unfamiliar and unpredictable. Of course there was nothing to worry about. Bike routes are bike friendly.

Bike route signs! Later on there was one with our town on it, but it was just before a big uphill so I did not attempt a photo.

the biggest road we were on all day
Pfaffenwinkel is a place and this is the Pfaffenwinkelweg (road to).

oh, how nice, a picnic table
Joshua: "A mower-conditioner! It's not gonna rain for a couple of days."

 And the obligatory bike selfie. No. Big. Deal.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Happy Home

You guys! We're renting a home! I know, I can't believe it either. It hasn't sunk in yet. I keep telling myself that we're not leaving in order to force myself to get it. This post is just that - a quick update for anyone keeping track as well as confirmation to myself. But I know it's going to take time to get used to living somewhere again.

So far, so good. New friends, new routines, and whoa - new stuff.

Four years of bicycle touring and house sitting have taught us a lot about what we do and don't like in a home, so now we get to put that knowledge to the test. We know what's important to us for day to day comfort. We also know how little we truly need. As we gather (I hate to say amass) the stuff that's normal for a home, I hope we can keep that in mind. It's also a lot of fun to go buy the things we like. Balance, don't fail me now!

Fortunately, we're still only able to bring home what we can carry on our bikes.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fixing the Brakes

Ha! Lots of punishment due here. Not only did my bike get new brake pads, cable, and housing, but a bunch of other stuff is/was broken on my bike. So I had to fix all the breaks. Wah wah.

First! Don't worry, Roy made a full recovery. We later had a dog emergency when Pelops went tearing down a hillside after some deer - pulled tendon or ligament or something. He also had to wear a cast and he was not happy about it. Thankfully, he also made a fully recovery, just in time for the family to come home. We miss our small town Germany life, but we're also basking in some SW France sun right now and it's alright.

So the bikes are getting some love. Some desperately needed love. My front derailleur broke.

Can you tell what's wrong? Initially, I thought the cable had broken, but it was just really loose in a new way. So I checked the ends of the cable, both in the brifters and at the derailleur. Everything looked fine. Weird, right?

A hint? The whole derailleur will have to be replaced. That remains unfixed since I haven't found the right one (9-speed, triple, Shimano 105 - hard to find here). But my new Racktime rear rack arrived so I got started on that. I had one of those bike working days when one thing leads to the next to the next. I ordered a new rear rack because:

The first arm broke during the first summer. Fixed with tape and a zip tie. Second arm? Nope.
Some cracking? Nope, no thank you.
Oh and that's supposed to be attached. Nope.
And, you know, when you've got the rack off the bike, you might as well replace the brake pads which desperately need replacing. And since the brakes aren't attached, you should just put the new brake cable and housing in, since that cable's been sticking for months. Check, check. Now the new rack aaaand oh look, the real tire is flat. Fix it while the brakes aren't attached, also. Phew! Now the new rack.
So solid. So lightweight. So pretty. Now my Ortliebs are actually attached the way they should be. It's a wonder the other rack made it as long as it did. I thank it for it's time and sacrifice.

I have a lot of memories of working on brakes and racks and things at the Kitchen, and all of my memories are of working on things and it not going well. This goes wrong, that goes wrong, we have to start again. I remember being a novice, learning to do it right but not actually doing it well. I guess all that practice paid off because this entire process, flat fixing included, was enjoyable and went smoothly. I like working on bikes.

Front brake pads and cable can wait, though, because they're looking alright for now.

We've done some fun biking with the family here. The house is baby-full with two kids under 2. All of us (2 kids, their parents, the two of us) went for a bike ride to the river and their row boat. It was dreamy. We floated down the river a bit then rode the bikes home. It's going to be a fun summer. Next time, we'll jump in the water for a swim. Oh yeah.

Our bikes are in France! So are we! Things are good! Happy summer you guys!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our First Pet Emergency

In three years of house sitting, we've never once had an honest-to-goodness pet emergency. Once a cat that was having skin problems and seemed very old disappeared and we thought perhaps that was the end. Turns out she had been scared under a neighbor's house by a dog and wouldn't come out when the neighbor tried to lure her. She recovered.

But last weekend Roy the cat spent all Sunday on the couch, which we didn't think much about until we noticed this.

Now, if you're wondering, no, those aren't my Crocs. I took this at the vet's office.

If you're wondering why that claw seems to be pointed straight at you, that's because his cat toe is very broken. It's not the toe that's supposed to be pointed outwards. It's twisted and wrapped up and over the top of his paw. That he wasn't yowling and freaking out was impressive. But he didn't seem bothered. Until I touched it. Which I did while Roy was on Joshua's lap. Roy's reaction was to use the rest of his claws on Joshua. Whoops!

No idea how it happened. He can go outside, so perhaps he had a run-in with the one-eyed, giant grey fluff ball of a cat named Salem (although we're told she's friendly). Or perhaps it was messing around in the house with the dog that did it.

Anyway, I called the vet first thing Monday morning and they said we could bring him right in. I strapped his carrier onto a baby stroller and wheeled him over.

I thought it was impressive. Roy? Not so impressed.
The doctor was quite amazed at the angle of Roy's toe and she said they'd keep him all day. I had to call around 5pm to see if he'd come home that night or stay overnight there. The vet said the worst that would happen is they'd need to re-break it, but most likely they would just put it back in place, after an x-ray and some strong medication.

They didn't re-break it and we went to pick him up around 5pm. He was woozy and growly. The vet assistant said that he needed to stay in his crate for the night. She said he was still effected by the narcotics and that he could have a bit of water, but no food until morning. And that I should bring him back on Friday for a check-up.

He was noisy. And I tried letting him out, but he was all doped up and wobbly, and he just wanted food, so he'd try to run downstairs. Nope.

In the morning he got his food, finally, and we let him out. We moved all his stuff upstairs so he didn't have to go thumping his cast up and down three times a day. He tries to shake the cast off and sometimes tries to lick it off. But he can walk on it.

But for the most part he seems to be just fine. He can't go outside, which he doesn't really like. He gets noisy when we take the dog for walks and leave him behind. On Friday the vet changed his "cast", which is actually just cotton fluff wrapped in orange tape.

And he spends his days like this, for the most part.

Or like this:

Next new tape job is on Friday. Not sure how long he'll have to wear it, but I'll ask at this next visit. I can really sympathize, seeing as I had to wear an orange cast when I broke my foot. In the meantime, the couch next to the wood stove is all his.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Bit of Oslo, A Bit of Amsterdam

Before our flight to Amsterdam we had a few hours to play in Oslo. For the first time, we had trouble with the local transport system. The trams. Usually, we just roll into a city, look at the maps, figure out a route, and end up where we want to go. Not in Oslo. We tried to take the tram, but ended up looping back in the wrong direction. Okay. So we got off and consulted again... the map was unclear. But we figured we should go back the other way, so we did. Before it turned back to where we'd come from, we got off again and decided we'd better walk. Then we figured out why it was so confusing: an entire street was torn up and the tram simply wasn't going where it usually goes. Any mention of that on the maps and signs on the tram? Nope. Grrrr.

But we made it to our goal: Vigelandsparken. Fall colors were stunning and so were the people.

a bit of beard envy 

If you go to Oslo, go see Vigeland's statue park.


That evening we hopped on a plane and in just a couple of hours were in Amsterdam where we spent a little less than three weeks. 

During the stay we treated ourselves to a luxurious dinner at a Dutch fine dining place that looked ready to fall right on its face. De Silveren Spiegel (The Silver Mirror, watch out the website has the longest intro imaginable). Pictures do not describe it well enough, and my pictures of it are crap. But it's an incredible restaurant and we spoiled ourselves for the first time in a long time.

For the most part, the weather was beautiful, except for the huge storm towards the end of our stay. The storm did tons of damage to the south of England, so that got a lot of attention in the news. A number of trees fell and on TV we saw footage of two people actually falling over because the wind was blowing them away. We stayed indoors and watched people struggling on the bike path below the windows.

No joke. 

Tons of fun in the big city, great times with our Amsterdam buddies, a visit with Arie, who we met cycling in Scotland and England two years ago, a quick trip to Berlin for an MRI for me (Ramona). And now we're out in the middle of nowhere, Czech Republic with two giant American bulldogs, two ponies, and a few cats. Quiet times for us, at least for two weeks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

This Crazy Life

Yeah, it's been crazy. We're in a state of financial recovery, but we're also bouncing around as if traveling was our job. Traveling is our rent, actually, and our jobs just keep traveling with us - thank goodness. We're getting back into the swing of things, you could say. Much of the summer was spent in Zurich, with a couple of interludes.

For two weeks at the end of July we went to Vienna to cat and house sit for friends. The train was fast and they even showed us how fast. Might be our favorite long-distance train in Europe.

It was so hot in Vienna I can't describe anything else about the city. I can't wait to go back, though. Good friends, old and new, live there and it took us too long to get there.
Stephansdom, Vienna
Anker clock, Vienna, with its moving people
And then at the end of August we had a house sit for about 10 days in the French Alps, not far from Geneva, on a farm. The French Alps... well, mountains are stunning.
French Alps farm sitting is good
Le Bargy, Mont-Saxonnex
Mont Blanc from the train. Now we know how it got it's name - Sept and the only white thing around...
Then we went back to Zurich for the first 10 days of September, staying with friends, and I went on a camping trip to another stunning mountain setting.

Klöntal - photos don't do this place justice
Some very muddy kiddos. It was a good trip.
We are currently in Norway back where we were after that first summer of bicycle touring. Talk about stunning. When we're here it feels like everything else is far away and only the here and now is relevant. Two weeks fjord-side eating way too healthily, playing with kids who still love us (even though they haven't seen us for two years), and catching up with old friends.

it was Christmas / the king's birthday and they made a feast
apple season
Joshua adjusts the brakes with a little help
fjord view
Give a kid a camera... and they'll get a hilarious photo of Ramona and Joshua together.
And now a 10 day house sit outside of Lillehammer, on the side of a huge valley. The scale in Norway is just bigger. The weather, chillier. I've picked up the knitting again. We light fires in the wood stove to keep warm.

Well, early fall
Our charge, Bryan, who has to be tempted into a walk up the hill with treats every 10m or so.
Next stop will be more fun with friends in Amsterdam (with a side-trip to Berlin for my first round of check-ups). Then a house sit in Czech Republic. Then back to Vienna and surrounds for about ten days. We're alternating visits with friends with the house sits we could gather during Sept-Nov.

But at the beginning of December things will calm down again - 4 months in one place! We're really looking forward to that. Yes traveling is good, visiting friends is fun and filled with love, seeing new places is refreshing. But it's also expensive to bounce around and we didn't exactly have the cheapest winter and spring this year.

This is the life. Like any other life it has its ups and downs. Like any other life, I am currently procrastinating because I have work to do, but plenty of time, and I don't feel like working. A normal case of the Mondays. Maybe Bryan needs a walk.
View from this week's "office", top outdoor temps in the range of 10C.