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Rolling Along
The world outside

Sunday, August 04, 2002  

Gay Pride Parade report:

We got there a little late, and saw a few floats. Nothing amazing, mostly wigs and flags. Did see a great drag queen wearing a heart-shaped wig made of flowers. How Dutch.

One thing you need to consider, should you decide to throw your own gay pride parade, is that you will have lots and lots of men attending and they will most likely be drinking beer and cocktails (no puns intended). So you will need urinals, lots of them. Amsterdam already has urinals on the streets (they look like a cross between a phone booth and those cages scuba divers use to feed sharks from), but they needed a lot more. So they had these very moderm, chic porta-urinals. They were these silver cylindrical pods divided into four sections with a little, um, receptacle, in the corner of each section. If you saw a picture of one and had nothing to clue you in about the size of it, you'd think it was some kind of orange juicer from the Sharper Image. They were very smooth and futuristic - they almost looked straight out of Star Trek. They're probably made by blow-molding (no puns, again) just like they make kayaks. I didn't get a picture, sadly.

Best pick up line:

1: "Hey Gary, you look wonderful!" (Gives Gary a smooch on the cheek)

2: "But I'm not Gary...."

You had to be there, honest.

Didn't see much else exciting with the type of excitement you'd hope to see (or hope to not see). However, on the way back we say some commotion in a canal. There were two police boats tied up against another small boat, and a couple of police officers were holding someone's head out of the water. Evidentally, this guy had fallen off of his boat and somehow gotten his pants stuck on something (water intake? Propeller?) and couldn't get out of the water. Within the next 10 minutes, the following arrived on the scene:


Fire truck

Canal Reponse Team (with scuba diver)

Command Wagon

More fire tucks

Police car


More police cars

Police motorcycle

Pretty impressive what a 70% income tax rate buys you for security, no? The scuba diver cut his pants loose and they pulled him out of the water.

Later,we went out to look for a place to eat dinner. We decided to try this Cantonese restaraunt, since the Chinese food we get in Redding is so terrible that it could only be better, even in Holland. We looked at the menu in the window, and all the dishes were Indonesian - Nasi Goreng and things like that. At that point we were hungry enough that the exact part of Asia that the food was coming from wasn't that important. Inside, the waiter initially gave us menus in Dutch, but when he heard us speaking English he got us some English menus. The English menu was totally different from the one in the window - in this one all the dishes were actually Cantonese. It was all very strange. So we ordered some dishes and within minutes, and I mean less than 5 minutes, not 15 or 20, food starts arriving at our table. When the first dish arrived, it looked like what we ordered, but it came so fast that we thought it might be a mistake and we had someone else's food. But then the rest of our dishes arrived. And while it wasn't they best Chinese food I'd ever had, it was pretty darn good.

Tomorrow, we head back home. It's been fun but I can't wait to get back.

posted by Marc Pfister | 3:42 AM

This update is old - it was stuck on my great-aunt's computer while we were touring on the tandem.

Tandem Trials

The whole point of this honeymoon was to go to Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam, and borrow an ancient tandem bicycle that belongs to my great-aunt. We were then going to ride the tandem around Holland, stopping for cheese and other tasty treats.

In case you didn't know, the reason for all the cheese references is that Caille used to be a cheesemaker, and if she didn't enjoy teaching so much, she would probably still be making cheese today. So cheese is an important theme to a lot of the things we do.

So our plan was to ride this old tandem, one that my great-uncle used to take his family for rides around Holland on. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? What a great honeymoon - Marc gets his bike-riding, Caille gets her cheese.

Now this tandem is pretty ancient. My great-uncle bought it in the 60's, and he bought it used from another couple. I'd guess it to be from the late 50's, based on the contruction and components, though it looks like it had some work done on it about 10-20 years ago, based on some of the parts that are definitely newer than the rest of the bike. I'll get into more details on the tandem later in this report, to spare you non-bike-geeks out there. But think of the kind of bike Mary Poppins would ride. Black frame, black rims, big black tires. Fenders, racks, skirtguards, full chaincases. It's a tandem version of the classic black bike you see everywhere in Holland.

I had anticipated that it would probably need some work to get it running smoothly. I had brought along all of my specialized bike tools and it would be no problem to buy new tires or chains since there's a bike shop on every major street. And anyway, if it turned out that the bike was unfixable, we could always rent bikes and tour that way. Not as romantic and nostalgic as taking the family tandem, but it would work in a pinch.

I'm going to skip ahead here to spare you the gory bike details, but I got the tandem running, and so far we have gone a few short rides on it. The seats are horrendous. They are your average cushy plastic seats. They are sweaty and chafe and just plain uncomfortable. The tandem originally had nice sprung Lepper leather saddles, but the leather had rotted out years ago. Too bad. But anyway, the bike runs, but unfortunately other than one day trip of two hours out to Nes and back along the Amstel Canal, we haven't been able to ride it more than around town.

Problem number one: I spent Saturday fixing the bike up. Sunday we rode the bike, and realized we needed new seats. Most shops are closed Sundays, so we had to wait until Monday. Well. on Mondays shops open late, so we had to wait until Monday afternoon. We ended up doing other things, and made it to the bike shop just before they closed Monday night. We found some saddles and some nifty saddlebags. But when we went to pay, we found out they didn't take credit cards. So we had to go back today (Tuesday) to get the parts. So four tandem-able days down the drain.

Problem 2: Though the bike hasn't been perfect, it's been rideable, but that's not the crux of this problem. The last four days Holland has had a heat wave. A heat wave in Holland means temperatures in the 80s. Which should be cool weather to us Redding-ites. The week before we left it was 118 in Redding, hottest city in the nation. So 85 should be nice. However, if you know your geography, you know that most of Holland was originally under water and has been pumped dry with a system of dikes and windmills. There are canals everywhere, and with that comes humidity, something we're not used to. Basically, we're wilting in this heat and trying to hide out.

Problem 3: Two hours ago, the weather was hot and muggy. Now it is cold, with thunderstorms and heavy rain. So finally it is cool enough to start our trip, but now it's too wet, and we don't want to tour in the rain. No thanks - we decided that as a honeymoon there would be no "roughing it".

So hopefully the weather will stabilize to something cool. If not, we're taking the bus somewhere instead and we'll save the tandem tour for tulip season.

In the meantime, we are being assaulted with dairy products: young gouda, younger gouda, aged gouda, middle-aged gouda, brie, goat cheese of unknown pedigree, vla, yogurt, qwark, dame blanche, chocolate mousse, halfvolle milk, fresh mozarella, etc.

Gory Bike Details

If you're not into bikes, you might not find this too interesting.

The tandem is from Holland, builder unknown. It does say on the frame in two places but the paint is too faded to make out the letters. The frame is a double-mixte. The front half of the frame has one tube going from the top of the head tube to halfway down the seat tube in traditional mixte fashion, and then a second tube going from the top of the seat tube down to halfway on the down tube, piercing the mixte tube. The stoker half of the frame has two sets of mixte tubes spaced one on top of each other, about four inches apart, and then another tube coming down from halfway up that seat tube to the lower mixte tube. The whole thing is lugged which is crazy that someone would go to the trouble of developing all of these lugs. I can't see any obvious seams on the lugs that would give them away as being stamped, but they don't look cast either. I'll have to take a closer look. The tubing is all woefully undersized, with the top tubes looking like 7/8", the down tube 1" or maybe 1 1/8", and the boom tube maybe 1 1/2". The small tubing and the mixte configuration make the bike extremely whippy. The front bottom bracket rides in a steel eccentric fixed by pinch bolts on a split bottom bracket shell. The fork has oversized blades and way too much rake. In typical dutch fashion, it has chain cases on both the drive side chain and the crossover timing chain, fenders, mudflaps, skirtguards, a rear rack, and a dynamo with head and tail lights. The wheels are 28" (700c, 622 bead seat) steel with 12 or 13 gauge spokes and run some massive Vredestien Transport tires that are about 1.5" wide and have a very industrial knobby tire pattern. The hubs are massive drum brakes. The cranks are steel and cottered. In fact, everything on this bike is steel. I don't think it has a single aluminum part. Originally it had sprung Lepper saddles but the leather had rotted in the wet weather. It has a rear wheel stand that attaches to the rear dropouts and flips down to hold the bike upright. The whole thing could be close to 100lbs. It's unbelievably heavy.

Gettin' Greasy

When I first saw it, the tandem was sitting in the shed. Both tires were flat. I pumped up the tires to see if they still held air, and then extracted the tandem from the shed. A quick once-over of the bike revealed the the rear cranks were twisted so that they were no longer 180 degrees apart and the rear bottom bracket was loose. Everything else seemed to work fairly well.

The first thing I looked at was the twisted cranks. I put the bike on the rear wheel stand, stood up on the stoker pedals, and tried to bounce them into phase. They moved back to straight. I guess the cotter pin was loose and the cranks weren't in the right place. So I went to tighten the cotter pin.

Here things started to get ugly. I tightened the cotter pin and the crank slipped back to about 5 degrees out of parallel. So I guess it wasn't the cotter pin after all. The bottom bracket must be twisted. I figured I might as well tighten the bottom bracket, get the bike rideable, and then take Caille on a ride to see if she could notice the twist in the bottom bracket.

In order to get at the adjustable cup, I had to take off the timing chain case, which was an ordeal in itself. The chaincases are actually a vinyl material that is stretched over a frame, and undoing them is a real pain in the ass. After I removed the chain case, I found a fixed-style cup on the side that should have had an adjustable cup and lockring.

So, maybe they put the bottom bracket in backwards? I then had to take off the other chaincase, which is more inaccessible due to all the other stuff around the rear wheel - fenders, racks, etc. And there on the fixed cup side was another fixed cup. Huh?

Taking a closer look, I noticed that the BB shell had pinch bolts. So on this bike, there is no fixed or adjustable cup, just two adjustable cups that are fixed by pinch bolts. The adjujstable cups are the type that have a single 15mm protrusion for your wrench. Unfortunately, both cups had been screwed in enough that the protrusion was below the rim of the bottom bracket shell, so the wrench could only engage the cup at an angle and slipped off easily. And then, the crank was in the way, so I had to hammer it off. But I had to get some slack in the chain, and the rear wheel was help by chain tensioners hidden under fender stays obscured by rack mounts. Luckily, there was just enough slack that I was able to wiggle the crankarm off. But the chaincase struts were also in the way, so that had to come off too. Finally I was able to get at the bottom bracket, but even with the pinch bolt loose I was barely able to tighten the cup without the wrech slipping. I to hammer a screwdriver into the pinch slot in order to loosen its grip on the cup so that I could turn it. Of course, then the screwdriver was in the way. But I finally got it tight, and reassembled all the other bits and pieces. After that, I fine tuned the tension on the timing chain (which due to the low tolerance involved, was loose enough not to bind, but tight enough to keep the slack chain from rubbing on the chaincase in the loose spots.

The bike was ready to go at this point, save for fine tuning seat heights and little things like that. We took it for a test ride, and Caille didn't notice the BB twist, so I was spared from having to change the rear bottom bracket.

So it looks like we're ready to go, once the weather cooperates!

Pictures coming soon...

posted by Marc Pfister | 3:17 AM