Germay - Radelthon

by Kimp 9. May 2013 22:57

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My history:
I grew up in a small mid-western town. There was about a square mile (4 square km) of dairy cattle pasture in my backyard, a square mile (4 square km) of woods in my front yard and only about 10 houses within close walking distance. Other then the farm in my backyard, the town was mostly residential. Adjacent to our township was a large manufacturing plant, that produced wiring harnesses, mostly for General Motors cars, but also for a few of their competitors. Adjacent in another direction was a large steel mill. Many of the people living there, worked in one of the two local industries or something that supported them. The town was exceptionally supportive of its school systems and took great pride in anything that had to do with the schools.

Close by, were several auto industry related manufacturing facilities, in support of General Motors, including an assembly plant for vans and another that assembled cars.
My parents house was situated in a sleepy corner of the township. A mile (2 km) in one direction was a different township and a mile (2 km) in another was a yet another, different township. All of the above left me isolated from the rest of our township, which was made up of a few housing developments, one medium sized and one fairly a large sized, full of 1970's era blue collar houses. I had friends in several developments, so I got to see what development life that was all about as well. There were not any apartment complexes that I could remember, everybody owned their dwellings and property.

The religious side, was a mixed bag of denominations. I attended the Lutheran church, of which my parents were founding members. My mom played the organ every other Sunday and from the time I was about 3, until I was around 6, I could be found sitting on the Organ bench next to her, while she played. She also played piano and chimes. Mother had a full time job, but after work, she would often spend two or more long nights each week, practicing. Off and on, I'd hang out at the church while she was practicing. I've always been good at finding something to occupy my time, in just about any environment. Sometimes I would go down and fiddle with one of the church pianos, in a remote location, from where my mom was. A church becomes an entirely different place when nobody else is around. It's odd how it cycles from being full of life to being lifeless in a mere few minutes, with most of it's time spent in the lifeless zone.

Someone from our church donated an old upright piano, so mom could practice at home, but we didn't have any place to keep it, because my parents were raising a family of four children in a two bedroom house.  So, the piano was put in the basement, where the humidity eventually destroyed it.

On off weeks, mom would sometimes fill in, for organists from other churches. They'd offer to pay her, but she would often turn down the money. She is the most benevolent and most righteous person, I've ever known. I had not seen her drink alcohol, until she was in her seventies and tried some wine at a family gathering.
My father, was an exceptional bowler. He could have gone Pro, but he choose to stay in town and be around his family. Bowling is huge in Northeastern Ohio. Dad was always in at least 2 bowling leagues. He was in three once or twice,  and I think he would have preferred to be in three all of the time. Mom always supported dad's bowling, cause that was the only money he spent on himself, but three was too much for her.

I would often go to the bowling alley to hang out. Everybody there knew me. They had a playroom that had some really cool toys in it, and when I wasn't in the play room, myself and a few kids would be tearing up and down the bowling alley walkway. The only rule we had to abide by, was not to go outside.

My father was a career electrician and he would often volunteer to perform free electrical work for his friends, the church, and for anyone who attended church. I always went with him, and I learned a lot about that trade, from a very young age. I've kept that knowledge my whole life and I still enjoy working with it, when I get the chance.

Crime in our township was pretty minimal for the most part. I remember someone stealing an old bike out of our garage, but they left another one in its place that had a broken tire. And once our 5 gallon gas can was stolen. For most of my life, none of our doors were locked and we left the car keys in the cars ignition when we got home.

Most of my close neighbors, for the entire time I was growing up were boys and we played hard. For the longest time, I was the youngest by several years, out of about a dozen neighborhood boys. I played whatever they played. We all lived simple lives where there wasn't much to do inside of the house, so we played outside. We climbed anything that could be climbed, built multi-level tree houses, built forts, built handmade model boats and floated them down the ditches. By the time I was ten, I knew how to use about every hand tool that there was. One of my neighbors owned any oxy-acetelene torch that could cut and fuse steel. I always thought that was the coolest tool that there ever was.

There was also an ancient abandoned saw mill in the far corner of the woods with some of the equipment and buildings still in place. And the cow pasture was once a dirt landing strip, so it was kind of flat and well maintained. Sometimes we would ride our bike through the cow pasture, cause it was rough and we could go pretty fast through it. There was a very small building at the end, that had the airport call signs embedded in its roof shingles in a sharply contrasting color. A very tiny house, that used to be the airport building. In later years, we built model rockets and launched them in the cow pasture. It was a great place for that. I became accustom to the feeling of stepping in a cow pie while running and not paying attention to where I was stepping. Most of the time, they were hard, but every once in a while I would wander upon a fresh one.

I also had a neighbor who built and flew radio controlled aircraft. Some of them were pretty big. He used the paved road in front of my house as a take off and landing strip for his model planes. He actually built them for other people, but would fly them for a while before he sold them. He always had dozens of aircraft in his garage. I would hang around him and watch, I wasn't allow to touch anything, but from time to time he would enthusiastically who me something, that was way over my knowledge base. I think he just liked to have someone hanging around while he tweaked a plane to get it just right. It was fascinating to me and sometimes the planes would get far enough away that he lost radio contact. That is when we would jump in his car, and I had the duty of plane spotter, while he was the driver. One of two things would happen, either we would get close enough that he could regain control, or it would go down and we would have to set out on foot to search for it.

One time, he was flying a really expensive plane upside down, just off of the ground. Since it was upside down, he needed to push down on the control to make it go up. It got too close to the ground, he got excited and pulled up on the control by mistake, driving it straight into the ground. It was completely destroyed. Another time, he was flying a large plane towards his house and lost radio control of it. It crashed into his roof. Destroyed the plane the put a big hole in his roof. His wife was pretty upset over that mishap.

Also on my side of town about 1/4 mile (0.4 km) away was a small nine hole, par 3 golf course. I never played golf, but from the time I was about 10, until I graduated high school and left town, I could always be found at the golf course when Pete was there. There were two owners, Pete and one of his friends. Pete was a very well off businessman. He owned and rented out three very large stores. He said, that when he retired, his wife got tired of hm being around the house all of the time and told him to find something to occupy his time. He bought this golf course and he and his partner divided the task of maintaining it. I would often work on the golf courses motorized equipment. I learned small engine repair (by watching my dad disassemble a lawn mower once and teaching me how it worked), from a very early age (around 8 years old) and I just loved doing it. I did it for free and really got to know Pete very well.

Pete had a lot of money and a good college education, but the Pete that I knew was extremely frugal. His clothes were very old and worn out, he always wore an old golf cap that had about 10 years of wear and tear on it, he drove an ancient station wagon that burnt oil and I saw him proudly pinch every penny. I only saw his wife one time. She was extremely well dressed, manicured, and drove a brand new luxury car. I never saw his house either, but he brought me the blue prints and we would discuss some of the construction and repair projects he had going on. It was a fairly large brick house on about an acre of land in a fairly upscale development.

There were rocking chairs in the lobby of the golf club house, and most of the time, Pete and I would sit and rock, and talk for hours at a time. He taught me a lot about people and life. He wanted to teach me how to run a small business, but I had no interest in learning those skills. He would get the golf courses books out and try to teach me accounting. I'd tell him, Pete, put the damn numbers books away, I'd rather learn how to hand sharpen a reel mower, then learn how to work with numbers. Now I'm kind of wishing, I'd have just shut the hell up and learned what he was trying to teach me. He also tried to teach me about investing and he always told me to buy gold. Thirty five years later, I'm wishing I'd have listened to him about the gold and I also wish, I'd tried to learning investing from him. He would have been a great mentor.

Pete was crying pretty hard went I went off to college, cause he knew he wouldn't ever see me again. A year later he sold the golf course and I haven't see him since. I've never been one for keeping up with people.

The dairy farm:
The dairy farm house and barn for the pasture that was behind my house, was not far away from my house. I worked on the farm when I was twelve, just long enough (less then one summer) to learn that business wasn't one that I wanted to be involved with.

Back then, Ohio had a child labor law that stated, that a children could not be employed at a farm until they were twelve. Ohio was also kind enough to waiver the minimum wage law for farmers. Here is what the application process was like:
"Does your mom know that you want to work here?"
"Yes sir, and she's behind me 100 percent. She is all for it!!!"
He looks at my arms and says, "You look like a good strong boy. But follow me, cause I'd like to test your strength."
He had a wagon that he was working on. I had to bench press the back axle, with the tire still on it, so he could put a bolt into it.
This was followed by moving and stacking a bunch of bales of hay. Rearranging the tools in his shop. Sweeping the floors. shoveling and moving a bunch of stuff around in a wheel barrow, and stacking a bunch of bricks. About 6 hours later, he says. Yea, you'll do fine. You can stat tomorrow.

Now that I am old and wise. I think he just wanted to get a free day of work out of me.

Being exposed to that life, I really have a lot of respect for any small farmer. During the summer, the farm owner (I called him old man Donald, cause he also has a son named Donald) would pick me up at 6:00 A.M. in an old beat-up pickup truck. Rain or shine, I'd jump in the back (now that's against the law in Ohio), and off we would go. At around 10:00 P.M. he'd drop me back off.  I'd have to disrobe outside the door of the house, cause my mom didn't want me bringing any cow excrement into the house.  The pay was 50 cents an hour, so I made $8 a day and got paid every two weeks. Over time, it would accumulate and it seemed to me, like I had a lot of money, cause I never had any time to spend any of it. I left that money in the bank (cause that is what my mom taught me),  and drew out just enough to buy some model rocket parts and a few plastic models, and some modeling tools.

Mrs. Philips:
The next summer, I mowed lawns to make some money. One of the neighbors was named Mrs. Philips. Beside's the lot her house was on, she owned three more lots on our street without any houses on them. She lived all by herself and next to my mother, she was the absolute nicest person to kids, that I've ever known. Besides being kind, she was very generous. She paid me $5 to mow those three lots, plus her house and she supplied both the push mower and the gas. At that time, that was unheard of in the lawn mowing business. I was at her house, every Saturday morning, asking her if she wanted her lawn's mowed.

If I pulled the weeds and cared for her flowers, I got an extra $3. It took me a while to learn that trade, but once she taught me, her flower beds were well maintain at that price.

At the end of that summer. I took all of the money I had made from farming and landscaping and bought an old riding lawn mower. It was at the side of a friends house and his dad never used it anymore. It was very old and rusted out and didn't run, but I could tell it was very well made and it had a really cool look to it. I asked his dad if he wanted to sell it. His dad said, "You know that mower hasn't ran in years." I said, "I 'm sure I can fix it". Then told him how much money I had and he sold it to me for about half of what I had in the bank.

I took it home, tore it completely apart and refurbished it (sort of). When I got done, mechanically it was perfect, but after sanding all of the multiple layers of rust off of it, I decided to paint it bright purple with a very coarse metal flake. The engine was bright Chevy Orange (the color all vintage Chevrolet small blocks). It really glittered in the bright sun. If you didn't have sun glasses on, it hurt your eyes.

Funny think is, I seldom mowed any lawns with it. Most of the time, I had the mower attachment off of it and used it as a tractor for all of the projects I had going on in the woods. Part of the reason I wanted that lawn mower, was because it had lots of ground clearance without the mower on it. It had big tires that didn't sink into soft soil and it had a very unique suspension system that allowed me to get into places where other lawn mowers would have been stuck.

The old, small town, credit system:
I grew up in an era before small towns had credit card systems. It was a cash based economy. At the grocery store and at the gas stations, they just had a book with a line item that had your name on it. You would get whatever you needed, and after totaling it all up, you would just tell the clerk. My name's Kimpel, just put it on my tab. They didn't check an ID nor anything, and just said OK. Once a month, my dad would stop by and either pay them in cash, or make arrangements to pay them some now and some in the future. No interest, no fuss, no hassle, just trust and faith.

In those days, grocery service was full service. The owner would see us come in, and get out of his office to greet us with a big grin, "Ah, Mrs. Kimpel, it is so nice to see you again, wow your boy is getting big and strond", then when we were done, he'd would come out of his office and take our groceries to our car and load them into our car with a big smile.

In those day's we didn't buy milk from the grocery store, it was delivered twice a week directly to our house. They didn't care if we bought any milk, and would stop and ask us, if we wanted any. We bought all of our meat directly from the butcher, a half of a cow at a time. We would split it with two of three other family's. They delivered it and stocked it in our chest freezer for us.

Hap owned the full service gas station that was about 2 miles (3 km) from my house. This was back when someone pumped your gas for you, they cleaned your windshield and checked your oil. Hap also performed auto repairs and his passion was restoring vintage Ford Model A's and Model T's. They were in pristine condition. Hap did all of the maintenance work on my dad's car's and while he was working on them, my dad and I would hang out with him. Hap saw me take an interest in everything that he was doing, so he started explaining everything to me as he worked. What he was looking for, what he was listening for, mechanical theory, fluid dynamics, auto electrical, how to find parts, why he choose some parts over others. I was like a sponge and got to know Hap very well.

One day, Hap needed to keep my dad's car overnight. So he told my dad, just to pick out any of his vintage antique cars and drive it home, free of charge. My dad choose a Model A that had a rumple seat. A rumble seat, is one that is inside of the trunk. You open the trunk lid and it becomes the back of the seat. The trunk is outside of the car, so it is kind of like riding in a convertible, except the driver is inside of the car, under the roof. My dad always called that the Mother-in-Law seat, but I didn't understand that joke until I much older. My dad, picked up some of my friends and took us all to the ice cream shop (a common small town hang out). That was an awesome day.

When Pete wasn't around, sometimes I would ride my bike up to Hap's gas station and hang out with Hap. Hap had a really cool vintage coke dispenser (the kind that didn't take money) and he would always let me have a bottle for free. When he was taking a break, I would sit around and talk to him in the waiting area and when he was working, I would hang out and learn from him. Normally Hap didn't want to talk business, he just wanted to talk mechanic's, so we got along great. Hap didn't have a college education and he saw the world through completely different glasses then Pete did.

A few years went by and someone built a new self service gas station across the street from Hap's full service station. Hap spent countless hours observing their business and worrying. I could tell he was worried, but didn't know what he was worried about. One day, he gives me a job and said it was extremely important for me to concentrate and not make a mistake. He had me count the number of cars that pulled in and got gas at the new gas station. The system he wanted me to use, had time slots on it, (Like 12 to 1, 1 to 2, etc. I had to keep tallies of the cars getting gas at those times. This went on for weeks.

After a few weeks he tallies them all up and say's. "God D***  It, they are purposely under cutting prices just to put me out of business." In other words, they were taking a three month loss in profits and going deeper in debit to shut him down and take all of this business. He was right, cause three months later, he closed his doors for good, and right after that, they raised their prices significantly.

After that, Hap sold all of this vintage cars and took a job working in the school bus garage. I would see him from time to time, but I wasn't allowed to hang out or watch him there, so our relationship faded away fairly quickly. I asked Hap why he sold all of his old cars and he told me that he just lost the passion. After working on cars all day long, he didn't want to go home and work on them. That was a great lesson for me to learn and one I have tried to carry into my own live. Leave work at work and be something else when you aren't working.

I had the best of a lot of worlds. Lived in a very low crime area, received a good education, had a blend of heavy industry, mass manufacturing, farming, wildlife, lots of local community commerce, a few small businesses, and lots of people devoted to good causes. I had parents who were very good role models and who were very well respected within the community for their humbleness, simplicity, benevolence, support of the community and support of religion.
From a very early age, my parents raised me to be a very independent thinker. For the most part, they let me make my own decisions with minimal guidance. I'm not sure why, but most of the time, they would support me, even if their opinion differed from mine.
But my favorite thing to do was riding bicycles. I taught myself how to ride a bike then I was four years old. One of the older kids and I were running around my house. He was chasing me, and I jumped on his bike and took off. He gave chase, but I managed to keep out in front of him, mostly because I didn't know how to stop. I eventually crashed when I hit a ditch. It was one of his old bikes that he had outgrown, so he gave it to me for free, right there on the spot. That was the first time, I realized, that friends took care of friends.
Over the years we were always riding our bikes through the woods, in the pasture, and building all kinds of ramps to jump them over things. The best was when the county engineers came down our road to put in a water system. They dug a huge trenched ditch, then left it for about a year, before they came back to finish the project. Over that year, we had a zillion different obstacle courses set up in that long trench. The best part was that it was down hill, so anything that you created was exaggerated by the additional speed. We would have big rocks in the middle, ramps all over the place. Places where you had to climb the wall and get out, then come flying back in again. It was awesome and we were really bummed out when the engineers showed back up to finish the project.
I ended up with about a half dozen different bikes, of different sizes and in different states of repair. Seemed like I was always busting something or other. I broke pedals, rims, bent wheels over, broke lots of welds, busted seats, bent handle bars, busted bolts, had front ends completely disintegrate, snapped chain links and burnt through lots of tires. Hurling head first over the handle bars seemed like a weekly experience for me. Yet, somehow I always managed to escape serious injury.

Past relationship:
When I was in my late 30's, I dated a woman by the name of Annie. Annie was my age and was a black belt in some type of karate. At that age, she won every competition that she entered. I used to kid her that was only because there weren't very many women commenting in karate tournaments in her age group. She eventually gave up competing and became a competition judge. She had a number of other hobbies as well. I used to help her train in kick boxing until she kicked once, and I missed her leg with the pads. She knocked me clear across the room. Many of the things we did together involved some type of exercise and I really had a lot of fun with everything that we did together. One day we were in a spinning class and I realized that I could smoke her on a bike. After that, we went to a lot of biking events, cause that was the only thing that I could consistently beat her at, and every once in a while, in a relationship, a man just needs to be the man.

One day Annie says to me, "You know my clocks a ticking and I want to have a baby." . I was really excited, because I thought she wanted to get married. So I said, "Awesome, do you want to marry me?" She say's, "Well, if we had a few more years to make sure it would work, before I had a child, I absolutely would. But I can't afford to take that chance. So I just want to do it alone".

Wow, that was some serious hurt. It made me feel like I was a great person to hang out with, but wasn't good enough to be father material. I sucked up my pride, wholeheartedly supported her decision, and even though that ended our romantic relationship, I continued to help her get her house ready for parenthood. I spent a lot of time at her house, cause she was really nesting. She went through artificial insemination many times, but also went through a few miscarriages. That was a difficult thing to stand by and watch. After about 6 months we kind of faded apart and I headed in another direction. Mostly, the situation was too hard on me emotionally, because I wanted more then just friendship.
My awesome new bike:
Last fall, I enlisted the help of a good friend of mine, who is an avid competition trail bike rider. I only gave him one specification. I needed a bike that was going to be able to take a hard beating from a 250 pound (115 Kg) man, who knows how to punish a bike. He picked me out a bike that was half as much as I had planned on spending and one third of what I would've spent. I was pretty happy, but waited too long to purchase it. The new line of bikes come out on September. I went to buy it in late October. By that time, all of the bikes that the manufacturer planned to make for the entire model year had already been sold. But, I was very lucky, because I went to a huge bike shop and they had one on order that had not yet been sold. It was due to arrive in February, so they put my name on it. That was when I realized that bike must have been a really good price for its value. It came in, in March, and I picked it up in early April.
Reinhold Steinhilb:
Just after WW II ended, Germany was in total ruins, moral was at an all time low, people had nothing, and their future was very uncertain. A twenty year old German athlete by the name of Reinhold Steinhilb, gave them something to be proud of and cling on to. From 1948 - 1952 he was one of the top German professional bicyclists.

German Radel-thon
In 1991 Reinhold Steinhilb designed an 80km (50mi) mountain bike course named the Radel-Thon, that forms a big circle around Stuttgart. I'm not sure where the name come from, but I will give it a good guess.

Before WWII Germany wanted to be able to move tanks quickly through Germany. They couldn't do that on the AutoBahn, because the tanks would tear it up. So they built cobblestone roads, often adjacent to the Autobahn, that were for the express purpose of driving the tanks down them. These were heavily used and as a result of the weight of the tanks, they are the most uneven cobblestone roads in all of Europe. They aren't fit for use by cars, so they were abandoned and are now used as nice walking and bike paths.

The Radel-Thon incorporates about 5 miles of one of those tank roads and much of it is down a steep incline. When you are flying down that road at about 25 mph (40kph), your entire body is rattling all over the place. I am often just one bad hop from a really nasty accident. And when it's pouring down rain, it gets really freaky. For me, that's called having fun.


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