Way, way back when I bought Beedoo! her computer and set her on a slow decent into isolation from me, I also ordered a printer/scanner which I picked up the next week. Now, I don't actually own a car. I own an underground parking space, but that is as far as I will go in the field of owning automotive equipment for now. I use a bicycle. And when I tried to put the big printer box on the back of my bicycle I made a mistake: I let it lean on the kickstand, which promptly bent.
Now, even before that moment my kickstand would from time to time try to assassinate me by rattling up against my spokes, threatening gleefully to trip me one day, but after this became outright hostile (and perhaps understandably so). It so hazardously threatened to stick itself in my spokes that I would only dare ride at the slowest speed, and when used to hold my bicycle up, well... It didn't.
So, we tried to fix it. We spent an hour looking over the mechanism. We tried bending it back, but it just wasn't sturdy enough anymore. We tried holding it in place with tie wraps. Have you ever seen a tie wrap just blink out of existance entirely? We did, when we rested the bike on our newly 'repaired' stand for more than a few seconds. PTOING! We never found it. Finally, I figured out how to remove the thing and at least managed to stave off death by kickstand for the time being.
Of course, now I had no kickstand. This was a huge annoyance; you never realise how few decent places there are to lean your bike up against until you lose your kick stand. The problem was only manageable because I rarely used my bicycle anymore. I walked everywhere, with Beedoo!. But when we finally bought a bicycle for her, the problem became unmanageable. Whenever we stopped somewhere she parked her bike, and I went off deperately looking for a place to leave mine where it would not crash to the ground.
That's when I realised that I still had a spare bike that Beedoo! never wanted to use (hence the new bike). And that it had a kick stand which looked just like mine! Another half hour of fiddling, fidgeting and failing later my hands were adorned with grease and my bicycle with a kick stand. Man, I am not a handyman...
Okay, that's a bit of an anticlimactic story, but just wait till Beedoo! tells you all about her new bike!!!
We happened one day, after shopping for a dozen other things, to stop by the used cycles shop in the train station. People in the Netherlands have a lot of bikes, about 12.2 million, according to the stats given us by Madurodam... that's more than 2 bikes per person. A lot of this is probably because people lose a lot of bikes, be it inability to remember where you parked it, forgetting the code to your lock or losing the keys, or vandals throwing it in the canals or otherwise messing it up. The shop by the station takes abandoned bike at the stationplain and refurbishes them. Some of them are really in bad condition, very rusty, split seats, and so on. But if you're looking for a cheap secondhand bike, this is the place to find one. Mine has hardly any rust on it, and a wonderfully padded wide seat, for my wide seat. It's a three-speed with handbrakes. It has a dynamo system to power its own lights (head- and taillights are required by law here). And it has a bell, which, when I need it, I can never find the trigger to operate it. >.<
All in all, I'm very satisfied with it. We've increased our area of operations a bit (enough to ride to the new theater) and take less time getting to places, as well as use Arno's bike to get the groceries home. (I try to carry some at times, but he's got it worked out to a science, and the bags tend to swing into my tires or are just irritatingly in the way of pedaling.) It was a little awkward riding at first, and "saddlepain" had me on the ropes for a few weeks. For the most part now that's gone, though I still get a bit winded if Arno is pedaling hard and I'm trying to catch up. Arno would like to take me riding to the dunes someday, though as it is, I can't make it very far, and more practice (like we ever get it) is needed.
I'm also having to get use to the locks... I'd never had a bike with a key before. The first couple of times I tried to use it, I didn't understand the mechanism, and Arno said, "Ah, it's blocked by the spokes again. How do you have the luck to keep doing that? It's almost impossible to!" Turns out, it's a little curved metal bar that comes out between the spokes to prevent the back tire from moving. We also picked up a fancy lock at another bike shop, which I have to thread through the frame, the front tire, and the anchored stand (if there is one). It's a coil chain, basically, which makes pulling it through one thing or another a bit of a hassle... you would think it would just pull through, but it's not that easy when the coils pull back. Anyway, getting used to that too.
You may be thinking, why not a car anyway? Well, for one thing, all the places we go to are relatively close. Arno's parents' house and the library and theater are basically the extent of our operating radius... we haven't needed to or wanted to go farther than that. Anything further, we can take public transportation to. On top of that, gas prices here are horrendous. Remember that 4L is roughly a gallon... right now prices are around 1.65 euros per liter. That makes it 6.6 euro/gal. Right now, the euro conversion is about $1.25, and that gives us $8.25 per gallon. Think about that next time you want to whine about high prices at the pump, America.
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