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APO Residents Shopping Online:
Has today's technology
really made shopping easier? If you live at an APO or FPO address, the answer may be no. A couple of years ago, after buying a new computer, I found that my, already paid for virus protection software would not work on my new system.. In order to buy on line, I had to select a state from the drop down menu. I don't live in a state; I live in Germany.
After hours of trying to make heads or sense on this company's website, I finally sent for it by snail mail. I told them that if they did not rectify the problem, I would not update with them the next year. Needless to say, I changed companies the next year, simply because Norton was not concerned enough to add APO to their drop down menu.
Did you ever try to contact a company that has a machine at the other end that tells you to push this button to get this department and another to get that department, and a different one to get something else? By the time I got to the department I wanted and got the recording that they were closed, I had forgotten why I had called anyway.
Well, it came to pass that I was looking for a simple wire desk organizer so that I could place files on my desk and clear the clutter. When I asked where others bought theirs I was told the PX or in the States. After driving hundreds of miles and asking the Wuerzburg representative to email me and not getting anywhere, I decided to look online.
Again what did I find? You got it. The largest and most known office stores could care less if they did business with APO residents. Office Depot even wanted to charge me $25.00 handling charges just for the privilege of buying their product. Office Max was not much better with all the high prices they want for their products.
Then there it was. A company who actually has an APO dropdown selection. Not only do they have a dropdown selection for APO, they also put their money where their mouth is with regards to customer service. Got a question? Right on the same page you are trying to make your order you can enter their chat room and get a real person on the other end to help. The three times I used it, I waited no longer than a minute before someone was online talking to me. This company is Quill. Their prices are reasonable as well. Handling charges? NOTHING!!!. Tax? NOTHING!!! Thanks, Quill, I'll be back; just call me Arnold.
Kira's Cycling Expedition for Charities.
Click her picture to visit her site.
March 2006 Volume 3 Issue 7
For the entire month of January, I've been looking for a decent ride about which to write for February and March. I've refrained from doing old rides that I'm familiar with because I don't want to bore our readers. However, once I was out on the trails, I realized that I could take all the pictures that I want and write about the very same ride I did back last spring and no one would know the difference because nothing looks the same when covered with snow as it does in the sunny spring time of the year.
But I was determined to ride where Tweety's wheels had never turned. So, I went to-- where else but-- my site to recon some routes. I looked at the Altmul River route that Michael and I rode before. I knew there were a couple of sections along there that I had not yet ridden. I did a map recon from a site to which 'Bent Miles is linked. I did a mileage study with my biking program; not the new almost worthless one that I did a review of above, but "And Rad Route". "Ok it's a done deal. I'll ride a section along the Altmul", I thought.
A day of so later I got to thinking about the distance I'd have to travel just to get to the Altmul and scrapped that idea. Well, it was back to the planning table. I went back online. I researched one route after the other. I just couldn't get comfortable with any one route. If it wasn't too far away, I'd done it. I decided I would once again ride to Marktheidenfeld. I researched it, then decided against it.
Where would I ride? I kept coming across the Tauber River ride that Michael and I did a couple of years ago. Then I noticed it, a leg of the Tauber route that I had not ridden. That was it. I'd ride the southern leg of that journey.
On the morning of Saturday January 28, 2006, Dolores fixed me a breakfast of biscuits, eggs, beacon, orange juice, and coffee. By 1000 hours I was on my way to Freudenberg, Germany by way of Wertheim. Having been to Wertheim several times it was not hard to find. By 1100 hours, I was in Wertheim looking for signs to Freudenberg. Looking at my map and my print out, I decided, since there were no signs to Freudenberg, I'd look for signs to Fulbach. After going in and out of Wertheim a couple of times in different directions, I saw a sign to Fulbach frie. I headed in that direction and was soon seeing signs to Miltenberg/Freudenberg. By now it was already 1130.
At twelve o'clock, I was pushing on the door of a bike shop in Freudenberg. But, guess who was closed for lunch. The gaul of a fellow to close for lunch at 1200 hours. Walking up the street, I stopped in at a bakery to ask where the trail was. The lady had no clue and was not interested. Looking back toward my unlocked truck and bike, I saw a lady looking into the window of the bike store.
"Looking into the window may mean she is a biker. If she is a biker, she may know where the trail starts:", I surmised. When I approached her, she said her husband would know. So, he was the biker. He informed me that I didn't want to start in Freudenberg because there was a huge hill that was both steep and went for about two KM. This fellow, in freezing cold weather, pulled out his map and began to explain to me how to get to Kulsheim where it would be better to start my ride.
Using all of my map reading skills and ranger training, I finally arrived in Kulsheim at about 1300. I immediately fell back onto my ranger training; I headed for the first gas station I saw. This fellow tried to talk me out of getting on the trail. Now, just what kind of ranger would let a little snow keep him from his appointed rounds? Now, I ask you, what kind? He indicated it was covered in two inches of snow by now. I pointed out to my truck and indicated that I'd be riding on three wheels instead of two; and the snow would not be too much of a factor for me. He gets down a map and trys to explain the route I must take. Now, I have told those of you who are regular readers about how maps tend to get broken once entrusted to my keeping. They seem to work very well for the fellow who is showing me. But once I take the very same map and try to use it by myself, it just some how quits working.
He told me I must go back to the next street and turn left and turn on the first street to the right just after I passed a sign on the left saying Eiersheim. Then I'd enter a forest and the trail would be obvious. I thanked him and it was back into the Dakota and on the road. Mind you, I've been on the road since 1000 hours and have not gotten on my trike once yet.
Speeding down the secondary road, I soon spot the sign. Then there is the first road to the right. I would have been lucky to traverse it with a weighted four-wheel drive vehicle. I certainly had no intentions of negotiating it with a two wheel rear-end drive empty bed truck. So, on down the road I pointed the Dakota. A car passed only to stop at an intersection in front of me. We both turned right and passed a tractor hauling wood. There it was on my left, another sign marking the turn to the town of Eiersheim, and the next road to the right was clear and smooth. "Ah, this is more like it", I thought as I felt this was the way he had intended for me to go.
A ways up and I see signs to Tauberbischofsheim. Oh well, so much for putting in at Kulsheim. Proceeding into Tauberbishchofsheim, I stopped at a car rental place where they tried to direct me back to Wertheim. It's about this time that I have to will myself to laugh rather than succumbing to feelings I'd be sorry for later. When I made it clear that I wanted to ride my bike on the bike path, I was directed back across the bridge. When I indicated that I'd be driving my bike on my truck, then it was another set of directions
I just thanked them and proceeded back across the bridge and parked in the first large parking lot I came upon. Seeing a man and his family walking my way, I stopped them and inquired as to where I might find the bike path to Rothenberg. It is amazing how body language, with the bike present, changes how one gets directions and sends messages. I was instructed to go down the street, turn right, then left. By this time it was two o'clock. I figured I could ride one hour out and one back and be home by five for dinner.
And, that is just what I did. I took careful consideration of all my turns so as not to be confused upon my return. I thought how frustrating it would be to get back to the town where I had parked and not be able to find the parking lot or tell anyone where it was. So, I did the next best thing. I took pictures of the parking lot and each turn.
The trail was thriving with walkers. But, I had very few bikers challenging me for space in the snow. I passed several walkers before I hit the hill. While it was not too challenging of a climb, the snow was almost like riding in sand. However, it was nice and crunchy and not too much slippage was encountered. Shifting down a couple of gears, I passed an old couple and negotiated a left at the intersection with a more major secondary road.
Now it was time to take a rest down hill. I started shifting up until I was on high at each end and in the cassette. At the bottom my hour ran out and it was a turnaround and back up the hill. Making the right, I met a younger lady with an older gent. He was fixed on Tweety. I just had to show out. I started swapping gears and soon was shooting down hill at thirty miles an hour through the snow. There were no slick spots. I started breaking before my 90 degree turn to the left and just had to stop and meet nature's call. While leaving yellow stains in the snow, I heard the train coming. I looked up and it was headed in full frontal view. I swung left, there was an older lady and gentleman coming down the hill that had been to my back. Oh well, when you gotta go you gotta.
I was soon back in the seat taking a healthy swig on my bottle. All the turns were well marked in my mind, and I was soon, a bit sooner--about thirty minutes--sooner than I had thought back to my starting point. Oh well, I had not stopped as much on the way back to take pictures I figured. Then I spotted it, one of my favorite objects to investigate, an operable water wheel.
"Ok, now how did the fellow tell me to come? It was a right then a left"? I saw the tower that I had took due notice of on my way out. I turned. The road ran out. "Must have turned too soon. There is the tower, I should be going toward it." Things just were not looking right. Had I missed a turn. It was late evening. I couldn't afford to wait till dark to find my truck. This could get serious; then, I saw it. I was just one little village up from where I wanted to be. Ooops. I didn't have to tell on myself. But, that, like the pee stop, was a part of the ride. And you would have known about it had you been with me; and I want my readers right there where I go.
Once back to the truck, I heard the church clock striking 1600. I called Dolores; and, she said she had fixed chili. I told her I'd be home by 1700 for supper. And I was. Once home, Dolores called a friend and made arrangements for us to drop some of Nolan's clothes off for her younger son.
When we had completed that little chore, she wanted to go for a ride. We decided on a ride to investigate a route Michael and I had taken a couple of years ago. Passing a McDonalds Nolan wanted a burger; and Dolores, of course, had to pee. By the time we completed the trip and got back home it was past all of our bed times. And we had to get up for Sunday school the next day.
Sunday morning arrived all too early, and we were slow getting around. We were going to be late. Then Nolan wanted breakfast. We stopped at Burger King. It was gong to be way too late for Sunday school.
Dolores wanted to go to Schweinfurt PX to shop. So, that left me with riding around post then down town. The morning was crisp but sunny. First, I rode around where I used to be stationed. The battalion three shop is now a driver's training section. Headquarters and line companies are all fairly much in the same buildings they were in when I was stationed there. The mess hall would be difficult to move.
Heading out the gate, I stopped and snapped a picture of both front gates; then I proceeded on down the street to where I used to pull GIs from the bars. Most of the places are now restaurants where I stopped and snapped more pictures. As I said, the morning was brisk; it was also sunny. Unlike the States, the Europeans know to make hay while the sun shines. In the middle of winter, there were open sidewalk cafes. One actually had a customer sitting at an outside table drinking coffee.
After a short distance into town, it was back to some more of memory lane. I called Dolores and told her I was heading to Niedervern to snap some pictures, and then on to Con post. While stationed here and again as an insurance salesman, a very near and dear friend of mine lived in Niedervern and worked on Con.
If you have ever had a friend who you've held above all else except God and your family, you know the memories that cascade down upon me each time I visit the area where he used to live. Reaching the city limits of Niedervern, I continued on the street that runs next to the main highway. The longer I pedaled and the closer I should have been but still not seeing the familiar store across the street from his former apartment, the more I started to realize that I must be on the wrong street.
Dolores called, and we established she would meet me on Con post to have Popeye chicken. On I pedaled. I was sure I needed to go up one street parallel to the one I was on. Stopping a man and his family, I was assured that the store for which I was searching was on the next street up. On I pedaled. After about another half mile, I found a street to the right. It was all up hill. Finally after pedaling the full length of the street, I found the store for which I was looking and my friend's former apartment house. Again, more pictures, and around I turned.
This time it was pell-mell down the hill I had just busted a gut coming up. The downhill trip was much more accommodating than the up hill trip. Leaning to the far left I showed off for some kids as I made a sharp and fast turn to the left. Then it was a lean to the right and through an intersection. A car that had beaten me through the intersection threw on its brakes as a dog bounced into its path. I hit my brakes. The car moved on. I started swapping gears and threw the lady wrestling with another dog on a leash a killing stare. She should have had both on a leash.
Arriving at the next intersection, I had to guess which direction would be the shortest. I swung right. Meeting a lady walking toward me, I established that, as usual, I had made the wrong decision. Turning around, I was soon back upon 303 headed to Con Barracks. Again it was all uphill. I snapped a few pictures of the communications repair shop on my right. Then I pumped some more. Getting close to the left turn taking me toward Con gate, I swung into the left lane. Getting to the left turn signal just in time for it to turn red, I shifted to first in my cassette, dropped one ring on my front and lowered to mid range on my rear. Then it was a full stop with cars forming behind me. I was the leader, just where I love being.
The instant the light turned red, I hard pedaled, shifting up in the rear to my top cog. Then it was top ring in front and second in my cassette. I shot through the turn and swung wide to my right to allow the cars behind to pass. At the same time, I was snapping pictures, knowing that one of the vehicle drivers would be reporting this strange fellow on a strange bike taking pictures of a military installation.
Sure enough, as I approached the front gate, I see two guards approaching me. I dig for my wallet. One of the guards, in German, asked me if I had been taking pictures. When they saw my ID they laughed and waved me on though.
I come back to Schweinfurt quite frequently; and we visit Con, though less occasionally, and it has not changed a great deal over the years. The Popeye's chicken has moved. There is now a gas station on post. But, you will still recognize it if you have been gone twenty or thirty years. Pulling up to Popeye's, I snap a picture of my trike next to our truck, load Tweety and close the tailgate. I joined Dolores and Nolan in partaking of some festival bird, and we then took our first drive on the new stretch of autobahn that, in the last few months, has joined Schweinfurt to the autobahn seven.
Now, you get out and ride. Write us about it. If you like, we will try to post it.
Archie L. Tucker
Archie L. Tucker
publisher 'Bent Miles
Discover: Route Planner
Interactive Biking Map Austria and Germany
An on-line map source at InfoHub.com - Maps of worldwide destinations.
An on-line map source at InfoHub.com - Maps of worldwide destinations.