170818-Cultural Differences Part 2

Another day of wind and sun. Today I decided to head north along the coast up towards Ramsey. My neighbor suggested it might be a bit windy. He was (again) 100% correct. I fought heavy winds all day; it’s really depressing to have to work to cycle downhill.

Today was also another day of steep climbs and descents. I encountered five long 17% grades today. I only walked up two, but then the other three were downhill! Arriving at about the halfway point in Laxey, I stopped to visit “the world’s biggest water wheel.” Almost always those statements have qualifiers, things like “in the southeast,” or “built in the 1900s,” or “the largest Anglican church built in the 1500s in the southeast of Germany.” But in this case, maybe they were correct. The Great Laxey Wheel was built as a water pump to pump the water from the mines below.

From Laxey, I had a long uphill climb before crossing the ridge and descending to Ramsey. As I slowly ground my way up hill, a small historic electric tram running along the coast on rails kept passing me. Normally following a rail line guarantees a nice steady grade, but in this case the tram kept routing away and coming back, leaving me with the steeper climbs, and keeping me away from some of the better vantage points. When I reached the ridge, I stopped and considered the long descent ahead of me, the same descent I would have to retrace. The GPS suggested multiple cases of a grade >14%, and returning I would have a strong headwind.

Instead, I turned around. I rode back down to Laxey, and took the electric tram to Ramsey (and back). I got a relaxing afternoon on the tram, and some great pictures of the coastline. Returning to Laxey, I picked up groceries and cycled back up to my campsite.

In the last couple of kilometers my toe clip failed again (which in this case means the bolt set up by the bicycle shop in Newcastle slipped through and the clip detached). When I returned to camp I spent a while reassembling it using tire patches as washers. Let’s see if that works. I’m running out of zip ties!

Back in camp, I went to take a shower, and heard an animated discussion coming from the camp kitchen. I couldn’t quite make out the conversation (in deep Irish brogue) but it had something to do with the microwave.

When I checked in two days ago the camp host told me that their microwave was broken, but it should be repaired by tomorrow. Given that I normally cook on my camp stove, I hadn’t paid much attention, but yesterday morning there was a shiny new stainless steel microwave in the kitchen, now the topic of discussion.

Grabbing my own dinner, I headed over to the kitchen, and asked the person now departing if they’d figured out the microwave. That was perhaps not the best of questions. He dragged me back into the kitchen and started to detail his problems with the microwave. He pulled out the manual, and animatedly started to demonstrate how the instructions didn’t work.

Some background is in order. In much of Europe, power outlets come with switches that turn the outlet on and off, a function combining the power-saving more eco-centric focus of Europe, and protection from power surges. In the US, people plug things in and then forget about them. In Europe, they often turn them off at the wall.

I realized the gentleman was trying to microwave things by interpreting the instructions for setting the clock as the instructions for setting the timer and, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t working the way he expected. Ever been frustrated by the clock on every electric device in your house blinking when the power goes out?  That effect would occur when many people turn off their device at the switch! I finally talked the gentleman off the ledge, but he wandered off saying, “I’ve never seen such a damnfool thing, a clock on a microwave. Who would want that?”


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