Wednesday, February 21

Jailbird! or The Continuing Saga of the Girl and Her Bicycle

I went to Paris on Monday to pick up the rented Renault, which I will have until the end of April when Joe, Carrie and I will graduate to a 2007 Eurovan for our travels post-school. Pictures will follow in a few days of this Renault supercar. In the meantime, more adventures with two-wheels:

I rode my bicycle to the train station at 6am Monday to catch the train to Paris. The square by the station, a very large square frequently filled with shoppers, travelers, people selling from carts, etc., was, at 6am, totally deserted save for several lonely bicycles.

Now I have described in previous posts the vast numbers of bicycles in Utrecht, locked to anything that won't move: signposts, fences, guardrails by the canals, any piece of metal protruding from a building. And there doesn't seem to be any problem with this.

There are no bike racks at all on this side of the station, and indeed throughout the city there are not nearly enough racks to hold the bike population. No worries right?

Well after riding the train 4 hours to Paris, staying for a painfully-short 30 minutes, and driving back a somewhat-more-painful 6 hours (the trains out haul cars significantly!), I was in no mood to retrieve the bicycle Monday night. Instead I waited until Tuesday morn. I was concerned that my new seat might be taken, but it was a risk I took nonetheless.

On arrival Tuesday to the location where said bicycle had been dutifully triple-locked, no bicycle in sight! Not even a splinter remained of my yellow locks. Never mind the seat that was such a concern, NO BIKE.

Then, a man appeared waving a yellow sheet of paper at me and speaking in Dutch. My Dutch ever-improving (no, that is a lie, I just sort of guessed at what the hell he was saying) I realized the yellow sheet had the number for the police station. Not just any police station, mind you, The Bicycle Jail.

It had been a long morning already, because when one has a car in Europe the first thing to do when trying to park close to the train station is become helplessly, and embarrassingly trapped driving said auto on a pedestrian walkway. A walkway lined with cafe tables and chairs, tons of people giving one American girl and her dogs the evil eye. Once trapped, and discovering no exit in front, I had to hit reverse and shamefully backtrace my steps, at one point getting too close to a building and forcing a person walking her bicycle to make herself as skinny as possible. Not good for my blood pressure. And excruciatingly embarrassing.

So once home again, and recovered from the pedestrian/Renault adventure, I telephoned the Bicycle Jail.

On arrival at the Jailhouse, the outside literally says "Fiet" something or other, which means bike, with police insignia, inside it is a very large warehouse filled with all the little criminals. I provided the date of the offense and was led to the row of offenders on that date. Finding the little guy, I paid the 12.50 Euro bail fee, provided my identification and escaped.

Apparently it is only the area around the station, and only once a week, that these "police raids" occur. My luck with the little bicycle continues; at least now the little crapper has a name: Jailbird. Perhaps that will endear the two-wheeler to me and I will take better precaution.


Anonymous said...

I'm very excited to see photos of the Renault! A 1984 Renault Fuego was my first car at age 16. My friends had many nicknames for it, including "the spaceship" and "opossum." On 80 degree+ days, I had to turn the heater fan on full blast so that the engine wouldn't overheat. here's a link to a photo so you can see just how cool I was at 16.

~Suzanne L.

monkey's uncle e said...

I too am quite excited to see pics of the Frenchy-mobile. Next time you are on a pedestrian street like that, make sure you honk the horn a lot and give the pedestrians and coffee-shop patrons the evil eye!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried skating yet?

Abigail said...

Global warming, my loyal fan, prevents skating on the canals!

Anonymous said...

Next time you drive on a pedestrian street, make sure to get out and take a photo of the car! You've gotta act like you intended to be there, like you own the place! Isn't that the American way? I'd expect nothing less from an American... anywhere in the world.

Kevin said...

Hey Abigail. EM keeps telling me about these cool things you are doing, so I thought I'd check the blog.

While it would suck to have your bike locked up in a bike jail, I will be so happy if our fat American cities ever get to the point of needing bike jails! I can only hope...