Code and the art of bicycle maintenance
The idea was Benjamin Trenkle’s during the early covid lockdowns of Spring 2020: a cycle tour of Germany running from south to north. Him with, at the time, a dodgy knee and me having no bike!
My response of “yes” did not do it justice, as “yes” does not cover all the planning and work needed to make a two-week expedition possible. It was more “yes but”, the but part negating the yes and containing the caveats that I was sure the idea would fizzle out. It didn't.
Planning the trip
So first, I needed a bike, my last having just died at the hands-on of an incompetent Gravesend bike shop repair team. They had “serviced” my bike and, in the process, broke several points welded to the frame.
Getting a bike during a pandemic when China had just closed its doors, and I was late to the get-fit party that the start of the pandemic ushered, was an issue.
I called many shops, but all quoted lead times of six to nine months at least; then one in Canterbury rang me back: they had my preferred bike, a Trek Marlin 7 in battleship grey and my frame size, and it was due in just a month. “Yes, I would like to reserve it,” was my immediate answer, but when I asked if I needed to pay the £50 deposit straight away, they said no, as the person who had initially ordered it had paid the deposit. Confused, I questioned. “Well, they died of covid, and their estate is locked so we couldn't get the deposit back to them.”
I was buying a dead man's bike! When I told a few people the purchasing tale, they all said, “it will be an unlucky bike.”
I now had a bike. Benjamin and I worked on the tour plan over the next year; it evolved into a ride from where he lives, Munich, to Berlin in a pattern that looked more like a C than a straight line, to avoid mountainous regions and to take in a code sprint halfway through.
As time drew closer, Shivam Rajput became a new member of the crazy gang, agreeing to join, but with travel issues caused by the shutting of embassies and consulates, travel bans and visa restrictions.
Then Samantha, my partner, joined the merry band and became chief B&B / hotel booker. Samantha is mostly wheelchair-bound when it comes to long days out, getting away with a single crutch if just a few hundred metres - that's on a good day; on bad days, it may be too much to leave the property, so this was going to need some luck and careful management of energy.
With all planned and the day of the ferry crossing from the UK to France closing in, the final details came together. Wartime-looking travel permits for passing through France and European countries, literally grey paper booklets with our photos stuck in and official stamps all over them. Cool box for the car. Bike racks for the car roof. Samantha's car with me on the insurance just in case and all the requirements that different countries insist on, two triangles, first aid kit, breathalyser, high visibility jackets x2 and a jar of marmite. Well, perhaps the marmite was not an official requirement.
We boarded the ferry on Friday afternoon and saw the white cliffs of Dover shrinking away from us, and then the lights of Calais came into focus.
Eleven hours later and we are arriving in the suburbs of Munich, it's hot and we are very tired as we have had no sleep. We meet Benjamin and are invited into his apartment, then off to a BBQ with his colleague a few blocks away, and after that, sleep and rest are generously provided by Christiane Maier-Stadtherr at her apartment in the city. The next day we return to Benjamins' place, where we do our final packing and prepare the bikes. There is a photo of the starting group, and we then hit the road.
I use my phone and a cycling app to guide us, and I quickly realise that although I know the theory that I am now in a foreign land where they do things differently, the reality has not actually sunk in. Benjamin points out that although I have got the side of the road I am travelling on correct, I am still looking the wrong way at junctions. At least I literally won't see what hit me!
You can read the details of the actual days cycling in the blog we made during the trip. We alternated with the writing, each bashing out the day's travel highlights in the evening and getting them posted asap: https://cyclingwith.benjamintrenkle.de/
But I must mention the people who are in those blogs and joined us on the way, Elisa Foltyn, who not only showed us her hometown but joined us for a day of cycling as well!
Timo and another Philip (sensible name), both friends of Benjamin, joined us for a great meal at a Korean restaurant with an American waitress who spoke all the languages needed.
Darmstadt sees us meet up with Christiane, Viviana Menzel and Mike Brandner. We meet as we leave the station, and Mike leads us through the town to the venue, a Best Western hotel where we can set up our laptops and then meet online with Harald and Shivam.
Shivam had still hoped to join at some point, but by now, the Visa is not looking likely, so the spare helmet and other things we brought just in case he could join now become extra luggage and packed at the bottom of the car's storage area.
Harald and Benjamin go through how to set docusaurus up. It is the new platform that we are putting all the developer documentation on.
A big community effort is needed, but it's hoped it will help developers to write their extensions. It will have clear examples of best practices and document depreciation changes, giving code examples of what to use now; that's the part that's often missing.
It has been a long day but a good session and so lovely to catch up with Christiane and properly meet Viviana and Mike. In Joomla, we do so much over the internet. Apart from one meeting many years ago, my entire knowledge and interactions with Benjamin have been through Skype and Google Meet. Meeting in person really does help to cement friendships; it lowers the communication barrier and allows more information and culture to flow between the individuals.
I know how Samantha would sum up the days coding, the same way she describes mornings in bed when I'm coding on my laptop while she rests. “You're doing your tap, tappitty tap work,” She would say, so Darmstadt has been a synchronised “tap tappity tap” day.
Week two and the weather behaves
The first week of our trip sees record temperatures in my home country and spontaneous fires throughout Europe. The heat left me very dehydrated. The second is much cooler, and Benjamins' knee is responding so well to the exercise that its pain and stiffness almost completely vanish. Daily averages increase, and we whizz through the German countryside. We set into a routine of catching a train in the morning to bring the cycling down to around the 60km + a day mark as the unprecedented heat has made it very difficult, especially for me, to avoid dehydration.
Then we cycle through the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon. If together on one of Germany's amazingly good cycle paths (nothing similar in size and extent in the UK), we talk politics and the environment, but inevitably, in our roles as Production and Outreach, we talk Joomla, ways to motivate and improve. We put a lot of time into Joomla 5 and the ways it can be developed, and I work on the Joomla 5 article in the evenings.
Most evenings, one or both of us has a call with other members of the Joomla community, either a team call, production, marketing or a GSOC mentor call or meeting. Yes, even on holiday, we don't escape, even doing an OSM board meeting one evening.
We enter Berlin two weeks after I have left Dover and meet with Jules and Kristin, two friends of Benjamin who also use Joomla. They live in the south of the city and take the time to show us the sites we had asked to see. The Holocaust museum, the Brandenburger Tor, the Holocaust memorial and parts of the wall, including Checkpoint Charlie.
We are amazed to see how thin the wall is; just a hands span of concrete can keep nations apart.
We finally settle at a venue with a lovely beer garden and some street acts, fire juggling and alike. We chill and chat Joomla, sometimes quite passionately.
We meet with Jules and Kristin one last time as Benjamin and I pack the car. Samantha Benjamin and I say our goodbyes; more mad adventures are being spoken of, but I must thank my friend Benjamin for suggesting the mad idea all that time ago.
Friendship through Joomla
So what does this whole madcap bike ride have at its heart? Joomla! We met through Joomla; we chat daily in our work to improve Joomla, and all the people we met on the way were to do with Joomla.
Joomla is more than tapitty tap code, and it's more than a Content Management System. It's about people and relationships. It is about the things it creates.
It's about building something that changes lives. Building sites that reach across nations, building friendships that span continents.
Through Joomla, we can, if we grasp the opportunities, understand others' cultures and other people's ways of life. It can change our perspective and bring us closer to friendship and understanding.
Joomla truly has the power to bring us all together.