Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Valley Bike Ride

Feeling Fat
We had a dinner party invitation that evening to eat Raclette at our German teacher's house. Raclette is lots of cheese, and I was feeling the guilt-trip my doctor was going to give me when I got back to the States. The shadow of "Lipitor" looms over me.

So I had to get out and get some exercise. I hopped on the bike and tried to see just how much endurance I have built up since I started biking to work almost daily.

In the coming week, Easter Sunday, to be exact, I have to serve the flying club as "Barakenchef", which means "Barracks Chief" -- This means I get to cook the bread for the sandwiches, make the sandwiches, clean up the crumbs, and generally be available around the club-house while everybody else flies. Back in my flying club in Virginia, I would find myself giving flight instruction. But here, I am but a student. In order for me to know what to do as Barakenchef, I decided to go to the airport and hang out for a while, to see how this week's Barakenchef handles the stress of the job.

Out on the Road
As I headed out on bike, I struck out onto a path that I had wanted to take many times. A look at the map from my house in Rüfenacht to the airport shows a pretty short distance, even though I can not see the airport from my house, as it is blocked by a hill to the south of here. On the way to Belp, I took the direct route across the river. There is a pedestrian bridge crossing the Aare, directly across from Belp. The bridge is a wooden covered bridge, and is quite picturesque, (wish I brought a camera).

The river appears to be tame (today), with nicely managed embankments, allowing you to walk right up to the river and dip your feet in. This will be a great place when the summer comes. The water is mostly clear, and you can see nearly to the bottom of the river where it's not too deep.

I set out to Belp, and hung out in the barracks for a while, finding out where the croissants are kept, where the sandwiches hide, etc. After about an hour of telling people that I was not going to fly, I set back out on my bike. This time heading home. Stacy needed me to get home in time to take Jake out shopping for a new computer.

I got back to the bridge, saw that there was this great gravel path that went upriver, and thought, "where does this go?" I set out on a wonderful journey of this flat, well-maintained bike path that had no interruptions, no traffic lights, no stops, no hills, no valleys, but a few puddles here and there. The path followed the river, with a place to build a lovely picnic every 100 meters or so, right on the river.

I rode along this seemingly endless gravel path, along the riverbank. I stopped once to admire the view of the river and call home. "Jake keeps asking if you have gotten hurt! You're taking so long to get back. Get back soon, the Media Markt closes soon." My original purpose of the call was to get Stacy to drag the kids out here to see the cool place to have a picnic. Oh well. I had gone so far down the river, that it might have been easier to just continue south and get to the place where Viehweidstrasse crosses the river.

While I was so far south, I took a shortcut into Viehweid to pick up a few new upper rotor blades for my Blade CX2. There is a store that specializes in just radio-controlled helicopters, named Helikopter Baumann. I crash my Blade CX2 a lot, and they make big money out of me coming to buy replacement blades on a monthly basis. I often fly the helicopter outdoors (flying indoors has gotten boring); and just the slightest breeze keeps the helicopter from being able to get upwind. Oftentimes the helicopter ends up getting pushed backwards as it tries to fight into the wind. This is usually followed by a crash into the trees behind my patio.

About 30% of the time, my flying ends with a fatal injury to the helicopter, usually in the form of busted blades. I have a large supply of replacement blades, and have become quite adept at replacing them (more into that later).

A short visit, and 15 CHF later, I back on the bike ride home. I made it into Rübigen, and expected the family to start getting impatient with my delayed return. I pass the train station and wonder if there is a convenient train departing soon. Sure enough, the next train leaves at 1259, just a few minutes from when I arrived at the station. I pull my bike into the train, and get back to Gümligen, the next station, within a few minutes.

Here is a map of the day on my bike. Total distance: 5.07 miles to the airport (blue), 7.64 miles to Rübigen (magenta). Not bad for a flabby guy like me! The soreness on the next day was not that bad.

View Larger Map

Blade CX2 Upgrades
I followed the link to the company that makes my RC Helicopter (I have the red one on the upper-left in the picture to the right), and they sell all sorts of upgrades for this model. New fuselage (replaced twice due to landing damage. OK, I'll be honest, it was crash damage). Replacement landing gear that is purported to be "indestructible" (I have already replaced the landing gear only once). Indestructible rotor blades (we'll see about that), better batteries, stronger motors, replacement tail boom (lighter), new battery box. Of course, once I found this, I immediately had to buy them all. I am considering this an investment -- the constant replacement of rotor blades, fuselage, landing gear, batteries is starting to get expensive! I am sure Helikopter-Baumann will miss me.

What is really funny is people say, "well at least R/C helicopters isn't as expensive as soaring" I laugh. I am not so sure about that uneducated statement, that is quite close to being wrong.

The flying experience usually goes like this:
  • Go outside with helicopter
  • Fly for a bit
  • Come back inside because:
    1. batteries ran dry; (I have three); 20%
    2. motor got too hot; 10%
    3. Crash-Damage (30%)
    4. Winds too strong, precautionary retreat to avoid #3 above (40%)

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