Ok, Germany, alles klar

by Peggy on September 22, 2018

The kids and I just finished a week of bicycling in the Bodensee region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland Saturday, arriving home Sunday night.

We had a wonderful time. There was good wine, great cheese, and lots of beer, too. This is the second time I’ve explored another country by pedaling the backroads with a small cycling tour. I cannot recommend the experience enough. Paige and I got to know Ireland while cycling the “Wild Atlantic Way” last year. Michael and Sam joined us this year cycling through Alpine farming villages and along the shores of Lake Constance.

We did our best to speak German to the locals, respect the rules of the road and be all-around good representatives of our country. We tried not to be obnoxious Americans, but that’s harder than you think. We each had our moment (well, except maybe Paige) where we stepped in it at least once.

My chance came the second day of riding. It didn’t take long to realize that bicycling is king in Germany. So many people in Germany ride themselves that they see and respect cyclists when they are driving. But they also are efficient people. Leave a gap in your cycling group and they will fill it in the roundabout. Our first big run through a traffic-filled roundabout, I left a gap but kept going trying to catch up to the group. A driver took my hesitation as his turn to enter, but braked at the last second (thank goodness). As I pedaled on through, he yelled at me in German. I tried to give him “I’m sorry, I’m from out of town” smile, but I don’t know if those are universally understood.

Michael’s turn came the third day of riding. We parked our bikes at the bottom of the hill and hiked up to Meersburg Castle. We bought admission tickets for a self-guided tour and managed to enter the first room just as a special guided tour began. We stood politely for several minutes as the tour guide spoke much German very fast. We felt it would be rude to move through before the group was ready to move. But when we did, one of the ladies on the tour stepped in front of Michael and eagerly spoke even more German to him. We were flattered she thought we were so fluent. I again tried to flash that “I’m sorry, we’re from out of town” smile. The tour guide took pity and said the woman wanted us to know that they had paid extra for the guided tour and we didn’t. Could we please hang back for just a bit? After they moved to the third room, we were able to push on past, which was fine, we wanted to get to the room with all the armor displays anyways.

Sam’s turn came the fourth day. It scared me a little bit. We rode to Reichenau Island and stopped for lunch at a popular roadside restaurant (for what did turn out to be the best fish we ever had). Many other cyclists had the same notion. It was hard to find a place to park your bike out of the way.

Sam had come so far on this tour, taking charge of his gear and following the rules of group rides and the road. He was trying to park his bike tight in, the way a good German cyclist would. He didn’t notice that he was maneuvering in a way that kept another fellow waiting as he was trying to extract his bike and leave. I pointed it out, and Sam got out of the way, but apparently not fast enough. The man decided we were annoying tourists and made a move that would have gotten him punched in the face in the U.S. – he got in front of Sam and stood quite close without moving, expecting Sam to return his reproving eye contact. I held my breath. Sam was tired from our ride. He was fiddling with his helmet and looking at the ground, completely unaware of the confrontational stance in front of him. The guy didn’t know what to do, so he left, muttering German curse words the whole way.

God bless autism.


Paige helping me hold photo of Mark and me on Lake Constance from summer 1997, when the Dallas Symphony launched its European tour at the festival in Bregenz.


Gentlemen, start your engines

by Peggy on June 10, 2018

Sam has had a lot of car trouble lately. He has been driving a 2001 Toyota Corolla that he bought used 10 years ago.

This little car’s early life was in Corpus Christi, which probably means some hard miles in salt air. (We made sure it wasn’t ever flooded before we bought it.) The plastic parts have gotten so brittle, it’s just a matter of time.

Our first big tap on the shoulder was on the way to State Special Olympics a month ago. We blew a tire. Now, that’s no big deal, as long as you can keep your wits about you as you put that little donut of a wheel on your car along the highway in a strange city long after dark. But after we got two new front tires at the tire shop, the car wouldn’t start. For whatever reason, the bushing to the shifter cable broke while the car was up on the rack. We may have hobbled to the tire shop, but we had to be towed to the dealer for that repair.

Fun times.

On Friday, we got another big tap on the shoulder when Sam headed out to work. Turn the key and nothing, nada, zilch. He’d already changed the battery in January. From the problem in Bryan, I knew it wasn’t the shifter cable. And from my own truck’s problem last month, I knew it wasn’t the starter.

Since we would have had to pay for a tow, it was worth the gamble on replacing the ignition switch. Sam inherited his father’s talent for fixing things and, for whatever reason, I’m a fair troubleshooter. It took a few hours, but we knew we’d identified the problem when we compared the old and new switches. The old one had the telltale signs of an electrical short. And one of its three plastic brackets had broken off, likely setting off the slow chain reaction that jostled its way into oblivion.

I have been coaching Sam for months about planning to buy a new, or new-to-him, vehicle. Some of the plastic parts he’s had to replace on the car don’t have anything to do with its overall reliability, but many others do.

People without reliable transportation risk losing their jobs. Our local transit authority, DCTA, stunningly, has zero bus service to Denton’s industrial park where Sam and thousands of other Denton residents work.

I do not know why this is, but I’ll put that on my to-do list at work. (I’m a reporter for the Denton Record-Chronicle.)

Sam is reluctant to retire his car yet, and I can respect that. It still runs well overall. He hasn’t had a repair that’s cost as much as a new car payment.

After Sam finished replacing the ignition switch, the car cranked its Toyota self. He got a big grin on his face. For about $75 he bought himself more time.

For now.



Overheard in the Wolfe House #313

April 6, 2018

Peggy: You’ve got to keep your boundaries. Sam (talking about girl trouble): I have really strong boundaries, but she’s put a chink in all of them.

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Overheard in the Wolfe House #312

March 17, 2018

Sam (admiring the new dishwasher): It counts down the time left on the cycle. Peggy: Yes, that’s a nice feature. Sam: It’s a good thing it doesn’t have a spin cycle. (pauses) Because that would break all your dishes.

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Overheard in the Wolfe House #311

November 8, 2017

County clerk (assisting with passport application): Raise your right hand. Sam (raises right hand) Clerk: Do you swear, attest and affirm that everything contained on this application is true and correct to the best of your knowledge? Sam (grinning): I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.  

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What we did on our Irish vacation

July 16, 2017

Paige put together a series of short videos that, as a good friend says, takes you with us to Ireland. We signed up for a bicycle tour with VBT.com, which kept us cycling for several hours a day most days. We spent most of our time along the Wild Atlantic Way: County Clare, the Aran […]

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Overheard on the Wolfe House #310

July 3, 2017

Peggy (seeing the clock read 9 a.m.): Well, good morning! How’s the change to afternoon shift? Sam: Good. I’m getting all my sleep back.

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Be the Bumper Guard

May 29, 2017

After my family moved from the Midwest to Colorado, we started a new Christmas tradition. My grandmother, who lived in Rockford, would send a little cash instead of gifts for Christmas. She forbid my parents to use the money to pay bills. It was to have fun, she said. So, Christmas Day, we’d all go bowling. As we grandkids had […]

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Love people. Cook them tasty food.

May 5, 2017

Penzey’s Spices started in my home state of Wisconsin. I’m pretty sure I’ve been a customer for decades, because I remember reaching for a Penzey’s jar the first time I made so many recipes that I’ve been making for decades … Roast chicken with lemon and rosemary … Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon … Pasta with ginger and garlic […]

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March 5, 2017

Sam was spared the agony a lot of us get in the home stretch for a new job: the long wait between a successful interview and the offer. On Friday, one rolled right after the other for him. He had the best smile when he announced over dinner that WinCo hired him to work in the warehouse. Sam sacked groceries at Albertsons for […]

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