Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 3 (or is it 4?)

Backtracking, apparently we were not the only people who had issues with the Colorline.

Today we took a short drive from Bremen to our friend's house in the Netherlands. We took our time getting out of Bremen. Of course our brief sightseeing was interrupted by rain. Lise tells me I MUST bike daily, since I dragged that thing along. Of course I have no cold weather or rain gear. Who brings clothing to bike in nasty weather on vacation? I'd rather just drink cheap Heineken and eat cheese all day.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back In Bremen

Our adventure continues. Today we drove from Aalborg, Denmark to Bremen, Germany, where I stayed a week for work a year and a half ago. Denmark has a fine freeway system, which led us into Germany. My hopes for redlining our car on the autobahn were dashed by a combination of rain and heavy traffic. It appears every camping trailer in Europe was heading home-- the last Sunday before August. We made great time before the weather turned, but mostly it was rain. The temporary speed limit signs were lit up. Or are they merely recommendations? It didn't matter. Traffic was jammed up in the middle of nowhere. Julian was a bit restless. If you consider that he he is basically restrained in his car seat, he is quite accommodating for even bothering to travel with us.

You can literally drive north to south through all of Denmark without even taking a potty break. I don't exactly have a truck driver's bladder, so you can do the math. Granted we had maybe an hour's headstart, but it was nothing to make it to the border at Flensburg- or rather Flensborg as the Danes would have it spelled. They have a garish last ditch Scandinavian stop there- the last outpost for buying excessive quantities of cheap beer, cheep candy, cases of Coke, all matter of liquor, and a bunch of items that scream "Dollar Store." Oddly, they had a very fine cafe that was literally giving away food and beverages. I expected much less from a tourist trap.

The rest of the trip was dictated by Julian's travel needs. We would have driven all the way to our friends in the Netherlands had our timing been more in synch with his. We were running late from the ferry fiasco, and with the heavy traffic-- and I am talking stop and go autobahn traffic- cruising at 130 kph, stopping, 130kph, stopping, over and over. It was not condusive to making the trip in the estimated seven hours. We needed more time. We would have arrive well after Julian's bedtime. After much discussion, we opted to stop in Bremen for the night. We stayed very near the hotel that I spent a week last time I was here.

A note about traveling in Germany: not everyone speaks English. We stopped at a rest area, and Lise wanted French fries. I asked for pommes frites, which should be the universal word for fries if you are not American. I ended up with a meal of sorts--- that included the fries. It was some sort of sausage smothered in a barbecue sauce. Hey- it was food. On the other end of the food spectrum, we stopped at La Dolce Vita in Bremen- the same restaurant I ate in almost nightly when I was staying here. The food was excellent. They were playing some recording that sounded like Leonard Cohen singing in Italian. Julian tolerated his parents with grace, as usual. We had an excellent meal, and I drank two large beers- for under 30 Euros. The beer alone would have cost that much back in Norway.

The beautiful thing about living in Norway is everything is so expensive, that is seems like petty cash to spend 88 Euros to fill a gas tank, or €109 for a hotel room. It makes travel seem dirt cheap.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It Only Gets Better

Last night Lise and I had sexy pillow talk discussing how ferries actually make up a lost five or six hours. She was doing the calculations, and had determined that our 8:15am ferry simply had to be late. It was mathematically impossible for it to be on time if the night ferry ran. I was convinced they simply canceled enough ferries until they actually were on time again--- but my mathematical impossibility was that if all ferries were sold out, how do passengers find room on future ferries to rebook? It made no sense no matter how it was sliced. There were no messages on the website. We set the alarm for 6:15 and planned to be at the ferry an hour in advance, exactly as directed.

We woke up tired. Lise checked the website-- there were no messages about late ferries. We loaded up Julian and hurried to the landing. A half mile from the loading area we encountered a massive traffic jam. It was like driving to the Renaissance Festival. Eventually we made it up to the ticketing booth. We were told the ferry was late- that it would be leaving at 1:30pm. We were given a food voucher for 75nok each-- including Julian, our son with one tooth. We were offered a breakfast voucher at McDonalds, but declined. It was around 7:30. We lined up our car and immediately were entirely boxed in. There was no hope for escape. We trekked to downtown Kristiansand and searched for an open cafe. I found a hotel in Denmark. I really wanted to have a reservation, especially with a baby, so we planned to drive to Aalborg and stay at a Radison. We had a light breakfast, wandered around, shopped, ate lunch, shopped, had coffee, and headed back to the landing at noon. We finally saw the ferry pull in. After an endless wait for unloading, we finally saw cars starting to enter. Eventually we filtered into the line.

Just before being swallowed whole by the ferry, the agent asked for our ticket. We had the wrong ticket. Lise had to sprint a 100m dash to the ticket booth. As she sprang from the car, some woman in the car next to us yelled her name. Lise made it back to the car in world record time, and we were on the ramp into the ferry. I have been on many ferries, but nothing like this. I have never seen so many cars packed into just this one section-- and there were several sections, kept watertight from each other.

We scrambled for seats, but it seemed there was nowhere to sit. Eventually we found a spot across from some elevators. As the ferry finally left, the captain apologized for being late, and said there were 4m waves. Lise said that was nothing- she had been out in 9m waves. I wandered around to look outside, and was greeted by the sight of a pool of vomit-- presumably from the return trip. We hadn't even left the fjord yet.

I wandered around the ferry with Julian. The ferry had at least nine levels-- with slot machines everywhere, tax free shopping, bars, restaurants, a movie theater--- and people everywhere. After maybe two hours, we were still in sight of land. I thought about the fact that we paid for the express ferry, and were on the slow boat--- at the same price. When I shared my thoughts with Lise, she mentioned the fact that there is nothing you can do about the weather. I told her the Chinese were planning to control the weather during the Olympics, but she wasn't interested in hearing much about it. She reminded me that we have always had smooth travels. We have never contended with canceled flights, or other travel misfortunes. She said we could have been reimbursed for our unexpected stay in Kristiansand. I reminded her that we would have stayed in Denmark, so it was no extra expense. All in all, nothing was lost--- other that a bit of time in a well-cushioned trip.

I took Julian for much of the trip. He magically acquired a tooth overnight. I find it amusing to joke that he needs to brush his tooth-- but I guess he really should. He has been an amazingly easy travel companion, considering his routine has been completely disrupted, and he is suddenly sprouting teeth where there had been none. The ferry ride itself was rather uneventful. Those 4m waves never really materialized as promised. We finally made it to Denmark after around five hours. There was a massive crush of people trying to make it to their cars. It is moments like that when I fear for what might happen if there were truly an emergency at sea. There would be hopeless bottlenecks, widespread panic, mass chaos. We practically experienced it in finding our car.

We summarily drove off the boat and were back on E39-- the same road we took from Stavanger. It quickly turned into a freeway, and I had no clue what the speed limit was. Europe has these cryptic signs that says what the speed limit is NOT-- in this case, I noted that it was not 110 kph. I then assumed it as 120. Most other driver appeared to agree. I settled in, content with finally letting our car open up- unbound by the slowish 90kph limits of Norway. I cannot wait to hit Germany- although, unfortunately, as of this writing, Lise has just finished reading the Harry Potter book. I am sure she will be attentive of my speed. Of course there is Julian to consider, as well as issues of self-preservation and sanity. Actually, I never liked being a passenger on the autobahn when we were cruising at 160+.

In no time we arrived in Aalborg, although Julian was rather discontent. We settled in. No more ferries this trip, until we return.

Friday, July 27, 2007

European Vacation

Yesterday I picked our car up at the shop. It needed a new computer for the ABS system-- which costs much more than a home PC, by the way. It also needed a little other work, since a few days ago it started randomly stalling. I don't know if this has anything to do with BMW reliability issues, or whether we were spoiled back in our Toyota days. All I know is that I have purchased used cars for less than the price of these repairs. I was a little nervous about leaving on a road trip to the Netherlands the next day, but the speedometer seems to be working, and the car runs great.

Today we set out today about 40 minutes late, after loading the car in wind and rain. There was room for a bike that I had disassembled-- in the car. During the drive down I suggested we purchase a roof rack. That idea was rounded supported by my wife. I might actually buy it in the Netherlands. Our drive down was mostly rain-- except when we took tours of Norway's countless tunnels. Seriously, they are everywhere. I have no concept how many there are. We stopped and met some friends in Flekkefjord half way to Kristiansand-- where we were to meet our ferry to Denmark.

We arrived at the ferry landing an hour before departure, and were queued up, waiting for it to arrive. We were told that it was running late-- two hours late. There were cars everywhere waiting for ferries. A massive ferry was moored nearby. We were scheduled on an express boat--only 2.5 hours to Denmark. The plan was to spend the night in Denmark, head south through Germany, find a place to spend the night, then roll in to visit our friends in the northern Netherlands sometime on Sunday. It was the perfect plan.

Since the ferry was running late, I suggested we grab a bite downtown Kristiansand, an easy walk within sight of the ferry landing. We checked with the ferry staff, who suggested we return by 18:00- when it was scheduled to arrive (three hours late). We grabbed a bite at a decent restaurant. I was not feeling particularly relaxed, since we had to return to our car by 18:00. Lise was uneasy. She told me she had a bad feeling about the ferry, and wanted to reschedule. I was quite annoyed. I don't get seasick, but I don't do particularly well in big seas. I know that out in the open ocean, waves can easily be larger than houses. I have a system for dealing with it, but it is not something I look forward to. I had been anticipating nasty seas all afternoon, and was ready for them. Waiting until tomorrow was unacceptable. Lise's concerns were compounded by her father, who phoned to voice his worries. He could not have called at a worse time. My reasoning was based on the fact that ferries would not put passengers in danger-- that if it was too rough, the ferries would not be running. My larger concern was that it would be impossible to find a hotel tonight, in the height on tourist season, in southern Norway, on a Friday night. Lise's concerns were about Julian, that if the ferry was already late, it would arrive even later--- would definitely not be some express 2.5 hour trip, but could easily be twice that. That could put us in Denmark at midnight.

As we walked back toward the ferry landing, essentially arguing about what to do, Lise said she just wanted to drop in and ask about the delays. It turned out to be the best thing she could have done. We found out that our ferry was canceled. It had been decided for us. The next ferry was scheduled for 10pm- but there was no guarantee that would depart. She rebooked on a morning ferry. When we arrived at the landing, I realized that all the cars queued up for the other ferry line were still there--- they had canceled all ships. As we approached our car, we saw our Color Line ferry pull in. Everyone in our queue entered their cars, anticipating they would leave soon. We knew better. I managed to wiggle out of our parking spot. We were in one of the few spots where it was even possible to escape, since most lines allowed no such room. I managed to drive against a one-way street and leave the endless wait behind. No one was updating any of the drivers waiting to leave. We were free.

We pulled into a nearby parking lot, and Lise immediately started phoning hotels. There were no vacancies anywhere, except a few single bed rooms. After extinguishing our list, I offered to sleep on the floor-- as long as we had somewhere to spend the night. When Lise attempted to recall the hotels, she couldn't even get through. We expanded our quest for shelter to include cabin at campgrounds, and accommodations in neighboring towns. Nothing was available. Julian was upset. I was stressed. Lise phoned a number to a vacation apartment in a nearby town, and found no vacancy. The proprietor mentioned that he had an apartment in Kristiansand that was available. As a coincidence, we were in Kristiansand. We took it. We were given directions as we drove. It was a little strange, it it was our only real option.

We ended up with a very nice apartment-- at a price cheaper than a fancy hotel room. We leave tomorrow at 8:15am. I later found out that the wind around here was 18m/s-- which is very near storm velocities. We are rebooked on a regular massive ferry-- not one of the smaller, express ferries. It will take twice the time--- and I would imagine four times the time to load and unload all the vehicles. At least we have no real timelines. It does raise concerns for our return-- I have work meetings the Monday after we return to Norway. I wonder how all the other passengers have coped with the ferry "irregularities." I guess we ended up with good bad luck. Our landlord told us that he received about 20 calls right after we phoned.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


picture 101, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Yesterday we attended the "happy food festival." There were only about one billion people downtown. Miraculously we found a parking place. Julian was a real trooper. Unlike the US, there was no food available on a stick, unless it was meant to be (like on a skewer). Gladmat is a festival like Taste of Minnesota-- only it is actually done with good taste.

Straight Down

picture 076, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Some insane guy is sitting on the ledge. You can literally walk right off the rock if you want--- there are no railings. This is Norway--- your safety is dependent on your own sense of self-preservation.

Long Way Down

picture 078, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Pulpit Rock is just outside Stavanger. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Norway. I finally visited with some American friends last week.

The walk up was less strenous than I had anticipated, and took about 90 minutes. It was rather crowded, so there was no point in hurrying.

The View

picture 082, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

It was a little cloudy, but not foggy- fortunately.

Pulpit Rock- The Top

picture 084, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

It was a bit crowded at the top. It was the first day in almost a week without heavy rain.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Most Millionaires Per Capita?

Norway boasts the most millionaires per capita. Somehow, that really doesn't make me feel any better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


picture 025, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Today is cute kid photo day-- likely at the annoyance of the anti-kid crowd.

Clothes Basket

bath (16), originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Cute photo

picture 050, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Brain Donor

I purchased a 36 hole high flange track hub in Boston. Last night I disassembled a high flange Record/Fir rim, shined the used spokes and rim, and prepared to relace the wheel today. The flange and width were nearly identical, and I had a very nice set of double-butted DT spokes.

Tonight I started lacing up the wheel. I was through one side of the hub when I realized I had more spoke holes in the rim. I was sold a 32 hole hub. This would not work with a 36 hole rim!

I quickly disassembled a trashed old 105 hub laced to a nice Wobler rim. It was 32 holes- almost the same size as the Fir. I laced up a few rounds, and when I switched from lacing leading to trailing (or is that the other way around) some of the spokes magically were too short, while others were too long. I was completely baffled. I relaced it, in the event I started with the wrong key spoke. Same problem. I checked all the spokes to make sure they were the same length. They were. I tried other lacing options, but nothing worked. It was late. I was vexed.

As I was cleaning up the work area, it occurred to me. These are for a 36 hole hub/rim. There is no way they would work on a 32 hole rim. It was almost too obvious. Now I don't know what I will do. I if need to buy new spokes, I'd rather lace them to a better rim.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Time Trial

We were headed to Kvitsøy today. I wanted to get a ride in, so I decided to ride out to the ferry landing. Lise would drive Julian. The ferry was scheduled to leave at 10:45am. I had a late start today-- my target departure by bike was 9:30. I really had no idea how long it would take to ride there. Last weekend it took 40 minutes to ride out to Randaberg, so I estimated it could take 75 minutes.

I ended up leaving a few minutes late. I was on my fixed gear, and I took the long way around the big hill we live on. It took ten minutes just to reach the football stadium. I was feeling rushed. As I was riding in Mariero, the rear tire felt strange. I pulled over and of course it was flat. I was just thinking how long it had been since I had last flatted. I phoned Lise to tell her that I might miss the ferry. The good news was that the next one left about an hour later. I quickly found the source of the flat- a hole in the tire so large that I could see light through it. I rummaged through a nearby garbage can and used a plastic ice cream bar wrapper to boot it, changed the tube, and was on my way. I was fortunate that I had the Continentals-- I could remove and reinstall the tire without needing any tools- fast and easy.

I was quickly on my way. I spotted a road biker ahead who offered me some motivation to step it up a notch. I chased him down like a rabbit. I quickly threaded my way out of downtown, unsure how far I had to go. It was 10:30- fifteen minutes from departure. It would suck to wait an hour at the ferry landing with nothing to do. If I would miss the ferry, it would be by mere minutes. With seven minutes to go, I noticed that I had 4.6 km to the ferry. If the ferry were late at all, I could make it. I grabbed for my cellphone to call Lise and have her ask if the ferry could wait a minute. People in cars do it all the time-- why not bikes? Then I realized my phone was in the bag- not on the strap. It hardly mattered. As I pulled onto the main road heading to the landing, I suddenly saw Lise in our car. At that point, I realized that I had an extra five minutes- that the ferry actually left at 10:50. She started off by motorpacing me, but on a fixed gear, I quickly spun out. She took off-- if she made it on time, at least she could ask them to wait a minute for me. As I pulled around the corner, the ferry was still visible. I had plenty of time.

I ended up with interesting heart rate data. I came within a few BPM of my maximum, something I am not normally able to do outside of a race. A little extra motivation helps. It only took 1:05- including the tube change. On the way home at 4:30, it was nothing but rain. The nice thing about riding home in the rain is that I would normally avoid riding in the wet, cold weather. However, when it is my only way to get home, I have to ride. Again-- motivation.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Totally Tubular

Our car was in the shop with a bad speed sensor in the antilock brakes. Normally this would not be a big deal, except the speedometer simply does not work. In true BMW fashion, it is an intermittent problem. I tossed Sjur's tubular tires on fixed gear number two and rode it to the auto shop for a test ride. Before leaving I thought I would top off the air. At first I thought the pump was not working, until I realized that Sjur had already pumped them up to some insane pressure-- likely beyond what my gauge could handle. The other night I replaced the bent chainring with a straight 42T. I ran a 17T cog in the rear. It was very easy to spin out, but riding up hills was noticeably easier. I don't know that this would be an everyday setup, but it is certainly more useful than my 14 that has seen no use since moving--- or even the 15.

I dropped the bike off at home-- it was raining again. I took Julian to the hardware store to return the torch, then stopped by the bike shop with my rough Campy/Fir wheel that I was rebuilding with a proper track hub-- as soon as I could have the cog removed. I explained to the shop what was going on with the wheel, and I am quite sure they had never seen a suicide setup before. They had a torch and heated it thoroughly to free the cog-- although it still required considerable effort. Once removed, I could see that some of the aluminum threads were coming out in the hub. The bearings need to be completely rebuilt anyway, and I don't like the idea of using the suicide setup. I will probably toss the freewheel back on, and it can do light duty on Lise's singlespeed. The shop guy didn't charge me a kroner for his effort. I felt a twinge of guilt, but it didn't last long.

During my errands, the car speedometer was not working-- again-- after spending over 2100nok for its repair. We are leaving town Sunday. I do not need any speeding tickets! At least I can estimate 90kph by RPMs and gearing. I regret paying the shop on site. They handed me an invoice, and I could have paid in online-- or rather NOT paid it until it was actually repaired. They shop guy said the replace the right rear sensor. Lets see--- that leaves the left rear now? I had explained the nature of the problem when I dropped it off-- that it sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.

What could cap off a perfect rainy day other than Pluto Nash being shown on TV? Seriously-- what were they thinking? What other movie has a rating of 6% at OK, Battlefield Earth and Ecks vs. Sever fare even worse.

Still No Go

OK, I ended up purchasing the creme brulee style torch-- but only because there were no alternatives. So I have the BUTANE torch, but there is no place to buy the butane. For some inexplicable reason, they ship them empty. I am ready to hit the bike shop and have them remove the cog--- and I will return this useless torch. It is a mere child's toy.

I discovered this blog- Bike Snob. Despite its name, it is quite excellent and very well written.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Too Much of a Good Thing

I am rebuilding an old fixed gear for a friend to use when he visits in a week or two. I removed the freewheel from an old high flange Record hub, and tossed a 16t cog on. I cannot find red Loctite anywhere in this town. Sjur came to the rescue by offering red DT Spoke Prep. He claimed it was essentially the same as red Loctite. I was skeptical, but tried it anyway.

I built up the rest of the bike and took it out for a ride a few weeks ago-- when there was a very loud "foam party" in the neighborhood. I discovered the rear hub's bearing were destroyed. In the US I picked up the Formula hub. The flange is similar enough to the Campy that I should be able to simply rebuild the wheel. The other night I began the project. I debated whether I should remove the rim tape, and started loosening one of the spokes. Then I remembered: it would be impossible to remove the cog if I removed the spokes first. I grabbed the chain whip and worked on the cog. It would not budge. For the record, red Spoke Prep is as good as welding it on. I will need to use heat--- either a propane torch (the manly man's method)-- or as a friend suggested, using a creme brulee torch.

I think I will hit the hardware store after work. Lise can use the propane torch for creme brulees--- if it ever comes down to that. Besides, she generally disapproves of kitchen gadgets being used as bicycle tools.