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Saturday, 3 July 2021

Book IV ~ Final Chapter ~ Catty Company

27-Sep-2020 - 3-Jul-2021

It's been an exciting journey around all of Germany, but now, I have once again returned to...

For me, this is a time of change, both past and future. For one, I have since made a few adjustments to the Fox Loft, and for another, I should live here alone no more, but more about both of these things in time.

Actually... screw that! More about that right now, starting with...

The Place

It's been about a year since I moved into the Fox Loft now, and in that time, I've made quite a few changes to the place. Some of them are subtle, others not so much. So let me take you on another tour of the place and you can see how many differences you can spot (for the last place tour see Book III ~ Final Chapter ~ New Home).

So, the most important changes, quickly summed up: First off, the vacancy beneath my sink has finally been filled by Ocean Breeze, an industrious little dishwasher who saves me just so much time every week...

...and Autumn Blaze has occupied the place in the Kitsune Room that has since time immemorial belonged to a long succession of clothes-driers. I grew up in this room, often having the drier running, which is why I find the presence of a drier in my work room instinctively soothing.

So much for the large rectangular appliances named after ponies. And now, the weather! With me having been absent for the winter months of several years, this one turns out to be the most snowy winter for me since 2015, when the snow lasted through every single last day of February. However, this winter, we should still have a long-time record in total snow days, with 69 snow days total, starting in December and lasting all the way into April.

Now, the good news is. I have snow boots for such occasions. I haven't used them for years, but I have them. However, the bad news is that apparently snow boots go bad when they are not being used, and the very bad news is that this naturally happened during one of my more daring cycling tours through the snow in... March actually (ironically, I was counting on a warm, sunny day, but the weather went: "NO! SNOOOW!!!"). On the upside, I should learn that soles are actually quite overrated while in snow, and even without snows you can still walk through snow comfortably. It only gets unpleasant when you step somewhere where the snow has melted and the boots get wet.

Eventually, however, the winter should end, skip spring, and go straight into summer, with the temperatures climbing from "It's so cold I want to die" to "It's so hot I want to day" in the space of one month. This at least allows outdoor jobs to be done again, one of which turns out to be the long overdue renovation of Heaven's Gate, that small old stone arch in the woods nearby. Turns out they finally found the time and money to keep it from falling apart altogether. By now, it looks almost like new again, and sits on a bed of white pebbles.

Apart from that, nothing much has changed about the place. The food is largely the same, as is my job (which I still perform from home). So instead of repeating all that, let me tell you about some of the rides I went on. Generally, I try to fit in a ride each month, and while those in the inhospitable weather of the winter months tend to be a bit short, I should still be able to fit in some longer ones, such as the one taking me...

Interlude: Around Amperpettenbach

Distance: 61km
Ascents: 240m
Duration: 6.25h

This almost perfectly circular ride (well, at least as circular as it gets if I want to be using roads and paths) takes me first northeast to G├╝nding ("Genthing"), then northeast to Unterweilbach ("Lower Because Stream"), then east to Amperpettenbach ("Amper Beds Stream"), then south to Lohhof ("Copse Farm") further south to Neuherberg ("New Come Mountain"), and finally southwest back to the Fox Loft again. Since I don't have any vacation this month, I just do it as a quick afternoon ride... and kinda sorta end up biting off a bit more than I can chew.

It starts harmless enough. A simply ride under an overcast sky in the cool late November air, no snow or rain in sight.

Though apparently, there is some light couch deluge...

...with a slight chance for bombers.

Okay, so apparently I have died and gone to heaven, which would certainly explain this ("Neuhimmelreich" = "New Heavenly Kingdom"). Turns out the place was a lot closer than expected.

And of course it's rather cold and chilly up there. Not cold enough for snow, but definitely cold enough for frost on the trees and freezing mist. In German, this is known as Raureif ("Rough Ripe").

Incidentally, I also pass by an X-Mas tree yard, where this year everything is a bit different on account of the Green Shnolz (but more to that later).

Interestingly, I also end up passing an enclosure of rarely seen Damhirsche ("Dam Stags", also know as Fallow Deer), which can easily be recognized by their distinctive moose-like antlers yet otherwise deer-like build and size. Originally native to western Asia, it was brought to Europe by the Romans and has ever since flourished in these fields and forests.

One of my objectives for today is reaching the pilgrimage church Mariabrunn ("Mary Well"), which is one of those special places for my family. In the past, we'd sometimes come here on special occasions to eat in the restaurant here, and if the weather is nice you have an amazing view on Munich and possibly even the Alps from here. Thus far, I always rode the car with my grandfather or my father to get here, but today I've come here under my own power, and despite the cold that I now notice is making cycling considerably harder than I would have anticipated.

That should also be the more or less highest point of my ride. On the way down I pass by a farm of geese, which I'm afraid will not live to see the new year.

From there, it's only a little bit further until I reach my next goal of Amperpettenbach. The sun dial is regrettably out of order, but fortunately I belong to those lucky people owning a digital watch, and can thus say with confidence that it's about 15:30 now.

Moving on, I come by an automated stall selling local Quinoa (whatever in Lerra that is)...

...and soon thereafter run into a little astronomical problem. You see, at this time of the year, daylight only lasts until about 16:30, and with that time rapidly approaching, the remainder of my ride quickly ends up looking approximately like this:

Well, of course it's not quite that bad, but it would at least explain why I don't have pictures for the rest of the ride. Maybe I was just so battered and beaten that I just wanted to get home, or maybe the evil vampiric photo ghosts of the Hartelholz ("Harding Wood") ate them. Anyway, I still vividly remember making my way across the spectacularly unlit Panzerwiese ("Tank Meadow") - which once used to be a military training area - and back home into the warm, resolving not to do any more long rides until, say, March, when the weather is nice and reasonably warm again.

Meanwhile, however, we have another problem, because naturally politics all over the world managed to mess up in preventing the spread of the Green Shnolz, so now we are facing...

The Dreaded Wave

Just in time for fall, it's time for...

Incredulously, just in time with the weather getting cooler and wetter again, the people getting infected with the Green Shnolz are getting more numerous again. As in: considerably more numerous. The reasons for this are many, though I suspect the fact that some people are still not taking the threat seriously ranks somewhere up there among the top reasons. This post for example offers a fake reward for a virologist who can provide conclusive proof for the existence of the Corona Virus. Easy money, I'd say, but then again these sort of people are not known for letting themselves be impressed by scientific evidence.

And then, there's also the problem with the local trains, and while people do wear masks in there, I still figure it must be like Virus Disneyland or something. For that reason, I try to avoid public transport whenever possible these days.

More reasonable places, meanwhile go so far as to reserve not only seats but also parking lots for Corona these days.

Also, the crisis has not only killed people, but also businesses. For example, there used to be a supermarket here...

...and a worryingly large number of stores in the newly opened local mall have been shut down. Some are only closed for the duration, but most have suffered a more terminal fate.

On the other hand, there are also a number of choice businesses that come out as clear winners of the pandemic.

Going to the supermarket also becomes more interesting, especially for someone like me who can draw certain parallels to a sheep run from experience.

However, in the end, this too passes. Come June, the 2nd and 3rd waves are over, and I finally get to see all of my local friends again after an 8-month lockdown.

But before that, I should still have some opportunities for sunny solo rides, such as...

Interlude: Hopping over Hof

Distance: 73km
Ascents: 300m
Duration: 9h

The inspiration for this particular ride should come from a friend of mine who used to live in the area behind Dachau, en route to Altom├╝nster. In fact, I passed close by on my ride back from Aresing during the Boar Petal (see Interlude ~ Project Petal Part 5 ~ The Tri-day Two-hundred Tour). And since that area is generally nice, I figured this might be as good a reason as any for a ride there. My route should take me first north past Dachau, then to Schwabhausen ("Swab Housing"), past Hirtlbach ("Shepherd Brook") and from there to my destination of Hof ("Farmyard"). The way back should take me past Eisenhofen ("Iron Yarding"), Erdweg ("Earth Path"), Walkerstshofen ("Wall Sweep Yarding"), Sulzemoos ("Aspic Moss"), Einsbach ("One Brook"), ├ťberacker ("Across Acre"), Fu├čbergmoos ("Foot Mountain Moss"), Gernlinden ("Glad Lime Trees"), Gra├člfing ("Grass-let Caught"), and from there back to Munich across familiar terrain.

Since this is a reasonably long ride, I start out early, just as the sun peeks across the eastern roofs.

There's two things to be said for the season. One is that it's Hanami season (though that's naturally not as big a thing over here as it would be in Japan, where the annual cherry blossom is a major public event on scale with soccer leagues in these parts)...

...and secondly, it's Easter season, as becomes apparent by the occasional colorful egg-decorations at the roadside and in front of houses.

The weather as I depart is "very interesting". It is somehow at the same time sunny and cloudy - that is, the sun is obscured by clouds, but the cloud cover is exactly thick enough that the sun can be seen shining through the clouds with a relative brightness approximating that of the moon at night, so I can actually look right into the sun without discomfort.

It's actually quite perfect cycling weather: Not too warm, not too cold, not too rainy not too sunny and not too windy. In fact, it feels like the whole world is still asleep, and while it is, I am on my way over lonely roads across fields that have not yet awoken from this year's long winter either.

And yet I am not the only one up and about this early: A lone pheasant shares these fields with me. You can often find them in the fields around these parts, but only early in the morning.

At the border of Dachau, I take a left and venture into a little forest, which, too, has not yet awoken from the long winter. Normally the first trees start re-growing their leaves sometime in March, but now it's already April and it's only just Hanami (Hanami, the blossom of the Cherry Trees, is celebrated as the portend of spring in Japan since the cherry trees are among the very first to bloom).

I pass by the Stadtweiher ("City Pond") of Dachau, which is as close as I should get today. Since I've already cycled through Dachau quite a few times I figured I'd skirt the outskirts and go around this time around.

At Mitterndorf ("Middle Village"), I cross the Amper...

...and with that leave the Munich Gravel Plains behind. From here on out, the terrain should get considerably more hilly.

I am also entering the area of age-poles again, which I first noticed during the Boar Petal in Aresing. Apparently, this seems to be a tradition in this area, though I have yet to figure out the exact borders. The one in Stetten ("Places") near Schwabhausen is thus far the southernmost I have encountered, and during the Boar Petal I didn't even find any south of Altom├╝nster, so this is way of a new record (as this entire ride is south of Altom├╝nster).

Anyway, by now I'm already pretty high up in the hills, and I'm sure if the weather was right I would be able to see all the way to the Alps from up here.

In Arnbach ("Arn Brook"), I come across an interesting hill road that is aggressively laterally "dented in" by the foundation of the nearby church's graveyard. Seriously, as the road passes by the church, it shrinks to half its original width, and since the road is not that wide in the first place, I think some trucks and tractors would have a hard time passing through.

By now, I'm almost at my destination. Pretty much all that's left is cycling past a field that is all but empty, save for a few happy cows...

...and then I arrive in Hof...

...where I soon pass by the house where my friend used to live. He should later comment on how the new residents apparently changed it quite a bit since he moved out, but it's still recognizable as his childhood home.

Soon thereafter, I reach a point where the paths diverge and I have to make a decision: Should I take the easy way back, or venture out a bit further?

I eventually decide to venture out just a bit further, but not much. However, before long I realize that I've apparently gone decidedly too far, since I suddenly find myself only 150m away from the sun. That is probably bad.

So, I decide to turn back and head downhill before I end up getting burned. It's a good thing the sun is still behind the clouds, otherwise I would probably be in trouble now.

As I do, I take note that the town of Eisenhofen is apparently also still part of the age-pole area... well as a home to a dog so frisky that it needs a warning sign ("Caution Frisky Dog!").

From there on, my path takes me through a combination of villages, fields and forests...

...before taking me across the rare and highly unusual tiled road in the middle of the field, which seems to exist for no reason in particular.

By now, it's already past noon, so I am glad when I finally come across a bench in the middle of a field near a little mini-chapel east of Sulzemoos. Interestingly, this bench is already a pandemic-age bench from 2020, with wishes to good health for all who rest here.

It is also in Sulzemoos that the sun breaks through for the first time today, and though it should stay overall overcast, I still elect to put on some sunscreen, what with my almost vampiric skin and all.

A little bit further down the way, I come across a refreshingly green grove featuring white and pink cherry trees nicely accented by what I think is a big willow. This must be the apex of arboreal colorfulness that I've seen today.

As with most of my ride, my game is to increase my "territory", that is the area I have thus far circumscribed by bike. Today, I left my territory in Erdweg, and now re-enter it in ├ťberacker...

...which is apparently also Viking territory.

Also, it has a very interesting roundabout ,the likes of which I have not seen yet... well as a notable natural monument: the Bartholom├Ąuslinde ("Bartholomew Lime Tree"). This age-old tree surely would look even more imposing with its leaves on, but then again this bare view allows me to see its complete branch structure.

Moving on, the land around me gradually grows more flat, and as I cross a wood row I pass by another rarity: A mobile weather-proof hunter's stand!

Right thereafter, I encounter the clear winner of "Forest Path of the Day". Not only is it narrow, bumpy, and has branches getting in my face left and right, but it also features a choice selection of muddy bits. Long story made short: Even pushing my bike through here is rather painful.

Fortunately, it's only a relatively short stretch, and before long I arrive in the Fu├čbergmoos, which not only has more developed roads...

...but also features a herd of amazing Heckrinder ("Hedge Cattle"), which are an attempt to retrogradely breed back the extinct Aurochs.

Okay, so maybe there are some issues with the first attempts, but I'm sure they'll get there eventually. At any rate, they seem to have a good idea as to what they are going for.

Next, I come across a pole the likes of which I have not seen before. This is not a May Pole, and neither is it an Age Pole. No, this one is a Corona Pole, build together in collaboration by people working together at safe distances outdoors during the lockdown. Here's what it says in finest Bavarian:

De Kloana und de
Grau├čen, de hoitn's nimma
aus. Drum hams gwerglt, bastelt
und a gmoit! Ois ├╝ban Zaun,
des is eh kloa! 1,50m woa des Motto,
Corona kimmt ned nah! Deshoib
hams mi erschaffa mit vui Liab
und a Geduid. Das jeda der vorbei
kimmt si a bissal gfreit!

Which roughly translates to:

Da small 'uns an' da
big 'uns, dey cannit stand it no
more. Thence did they craft, tinker
and also paint! All across the fence,
that's fer sure! 1.50m was the motto,
Corona dinnae get close! Thus did
dey make me, with luts of luv and
patience. So that all who pass by
get a bit of happiness.

By now, I have reached Olching, and with it familiar terrain. From here on out I am entering the part of my territory where it becomes more complicated to travel new paths without making zig-zagging detours, since I already covered the majority of the routes that make nice radial approaches to and from my home.

Shortly thereafter I cross over the Amper again...

...and from there on out proceed upon the path of mixed messages.

In Gr├Âbenzell ("Rough Cell"), I make my way up an incline that is notably unsuitable for biking...

...and shortly thereafter pass by the Russenbr├╝cke again (see Book III ~ Chapter 14 ~ Project Petal Part 3 ~ A Verily Vulpine Voyage), which for some strange reason is also accompanied by a giant clown fish these days.

Afterwards, I manage to find a field path which I do not know yet and that also takes me in roughly the right direction...

...and then it's following more familiar paths back home, where I am eagerly greeted by my...

Feline Fellows

Now, you may recall that I always had an ever-grande time with the cats I met on my travels, and that one of my main reasons for moving into the Fox Loft was that I could finally have some feline company. So, over the summer of 2020, I made preparations, which included in cycling to the Animal Shelter of Dachau (which simply is closer than the one of Munich from where I live, plus I get to cycle across fields instead of through the city) and get to know a few of the cats there.

Samy is a Maine Coon mix who is known for playing rough. He's also somewhat overweight, but seems very approachable.

Jamie and Toledo are siblings by adoption who formed an inseparable bond while at the animal clinic as kittens. Toledo is very outgoing, and his sister Jamie is quite shy, though after some patient waiting she should eventually come out of her hidey place and stray around me.

And then there's also a bunch of other cats, but truth to be told, it doesn't matter because Jamie and Toledo have already stolen my heart. I will in particular never forget the feeling of happiness I got when Jamie first came out to tentatively sniff at me back at the shelter, after I had sat perfectly still for several minutes, and began to stray around me. It brought tears to my eyes.

With them being cats from the animal shelter, there are some hoops for me to jump through, I have to cat-proof my windows and balconies, but eventually it all works out, and I can welcome the two teenage-cats into my home.

As was expected, Jamie prefers to hide away in the transport box at first and doesn't dare to leave the Fushimi Room just yet, but Toledo wastes no time in exploring this exciting new home of his, which exceeds the little room that he and his sister shared at the animal shelter by a factor of twenty.

I give them ample of space at first, and soon enough even Jamie dares to explore more of the Fox Loft, while Toledo makes a point of staying ahead of hist sister by getting himself into progressively more interesting places.

Before long, they are ready to eat their food in the kitchen, and as any cat owner will be able to confirm, there's no more satisfying sight than one's cats eagerly eating their food. After all, eating cats are happy cats.

And Dragon are they ever-hungry! I feed them three meals a day, and still Jamie eagerly licks my Fox Food Stash clean if I let her...

...while Toledo trains himself in the ancient feline art of Kan-D┼Ź (š╝ÂÚüô "Way of the Can").

Before long, the two of them have made out a number of favourite spots for themselves. N°1 would be on my desk, where they know they can harvest free units of TLC at will.

Apart from that they also like the cat perch that I prepared for them atop a cupboard...

...but also occasionally make an effort to camouflage themselves in chairs and blankets.

And then... oh, no. No! Don't get in there!

Eventually, however, it becomes clear that they have somewhat polar opposite interests, for while Toledo likes to go to high places...

...Jamie often seeks refuge under my desk, especially when her raucous brother is too intent on playing rough again.

Fortunately both Jamie and Toledo also get along well with the foxes of the loft (though I should have to put little Chen in with the Shrine Foxes to avoid her getting mistaken for a mouse and chewed to pieces).

Also, having cats around naturally means that many everyday activities become more exciting, starting from cooking with cats...

...continuing over sewing with cats....

...and finally reaching its apex at building computers with cats.

At times, both Jamie and Toledo like to live dangerous...

...and at times they like to hide in the most improbable of places...

....though most of the time they are out somewhere in the open, being either sophisticated...

...or exceedingly cute.

I could go on forever about those two and probably easily fill a chapter or two just talking about them, but that would go too far now. If you are interested in seeing more of their antics, you can check out my Cat Vids channel. Meanwhile here on this blog, I am going to continue with a ride into...

Interlude: The High Hills

Distance: 82km
Ascents: 300m
Duration: 9.5h

[To be continued...]

The Flair

Interlude: Woofs of We├čling

Distance: 73km (71.5km ride + 1.5km stray)
Ascents: 430 (400m ride + 30m stray)m
Duration: 8.75h (8.25h ride + 0.5h stray)

The Road Ahead