We brought our first tandem home on May 13th of 2016.
To tell you the truth, it doesn’t look much different today. We’ve got a nice saddle bag on the seatpost and we’ve got fenders on it, but other than that, it’s the same bike we brought home.
I was excited to start riding with my wife and kids right away. My wife and I struggled mildly with a power/control issues too numerous to bother with. We started off graciously enough, but over time I think it’s fair to say we both allowed some off the bike resentments to get in the way of our enjoyment of the new tandem. As the resentments built up over time, they made our time on the tandem tougher. Even through all of that, I’d catch a glimpse of how excellent we could be on the bike and that made me love it.
I wanted for us to flourish on our tandem.
After that, though, call it 2018, we shelved the tandem except on the rare occasion. It was in the spring of 2020, the pandemic, that a friend suggested we should ride the tandem more. With an unknown amount of time off for CovidPanic, we decided to give it another go. We fared much better through the pandemic. I’d like to think I softened a little bit and my wife got stronger. We also started a “Sunday Funday” where we’d drop the pace from an expected 20-ish-mph down to 17 to 18-mph. This meant we didn’t have to struggle so much to keep the pace and our friends got a break from the hammer-fests.
We flourished, even choosing to ride the tandem on successive weekend days – even on weekdays now and again. I was really enjoying riding the tandem at the end of the 2021 season and we were both looking forward to 2022’s spring session as the snow started to melt in late February.
Then, in March, through a series of seemingly fluke events (that we choose to see as God helping us do what we couldn’t for ourselves), I came to realize that, while I was a decent man and a good husband, I was woefully self-centered and I could do a lot better. Once I saw the full extent of my transgressions, I broke down. I called my wife and asked her to meet me so we could talk about a few things I’d come to realize. I was in tears by the end of the call.
Early March was the beginning of a complete transformation of our marriage. With those changes, my wife and I went from tolerating each other to wanting to be together. We fixed almost all of what had been keeping us at arm’s length from one another… and that translated to riding the tandem.
March turned into April and April into May and we were on the tandem more days a week than on the single bikes. We even started taking the tandem to the Tuesday night hammer-fest in Lennon.
As May turned to June, Jess and I were starting to fire on all cylinders off the bike and that translated into fantastic times on the bike. We were 100% in love again. We renewed our vows a few days after our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and after ordering a new top-of-the-line gravel bike tandem with a spare set of road wheels to mark the occasion. Our Silver Anniversary present to each other is a new super-lightweight tandem.
The real kick to cement our relationship and our love of tandem riding came at a mid-June tour. A tour we went on alone, not knowing or having ridden with anyone else that was riding. We volunteered as well (as it turned out, to handle registration). This was the trip that showed us both that things were going to be different, and vastly better, for the rest of our lives together. We also took the tandem for our first solo road trip… and I knew we were going to have to ride the medium routes so we didn’t wear ourselves out to bring the tandem.
My wife checked the navigation and there were two ways up, one a little slower than the other but far more beautiful of a journey. I asked if we could take the back way, up the coast through Au Gres, Tawas and Oscoda, Michigan toward our final destination of Alpena. My parents rented a cottage on Lake Huron in Oscoda every summer for several years running and my grandmother used to live in Alpena where our parents would send us for a week or two every summer to get a break from us. I imagine my wife almost fainted when I asked for the scenic route!
Then, on the way up, we passed a beautiful park beach heading through Oscoda and my wife asked if we could turn around to walk on the beach for a minute. I can’t remember what I said specifically, but it was resoundingly affirmative. Let’s say, “Heck yeah”! And we whipped around at the first gas station we came to and headed back to the park.
We took a few selfies on the beach and went for a ten minute walk, and even did a little wading before heading back to the car. As we headed up the road, my wife asked what I’d done with her husband that I was willing to take the scenic route and stop along the way to take a look at the scenery. She asked where my get-there-itis went.
I took a minute to gather my thoughts and put it simply that the change was real and I was just happy to be with her, that we could take as long as she wanted. We both got misty over the exchange.
When we arrived, we set up the camper and headed over to pick up a few subs for lunch – one each for us and one for the ride coordinator.
We headed over to start with our volunteer work. My wife asked to do the registration and I asked to work alongside her. I said as long as we could work together, I would work as long as they needed us. We worked from 1 in the afternoon till almost 8:30 in the evening and we absolutely rocked registration out. It was astonishingly smooth.
My wife started crying as we drove to dinner after I spoke to a local to find a great place to eat. She couldn’t believe I would work beside her, for that long, without even a complaint about how long we were working – she was sure I’d have wanted to work at something else. I welled up and the floodgates opened. I explained that I was not the same guy anymore. Working with her on the registration, was a blast. Even though we were working, we were side-by-side, working together, so there was a connection that made it good enough just to be together. We ate dinner at a fine restaurant, choosing a booth, sitting next to each other so we could hold hands… and we shared our appetizer and entrees.
I don’t know what time we got back to the camper, but it was late. We turned in and cuddled tight. You couldn’t fit a piece of paper betwixt us…
Originally, this was going to be a one part post but it’s already getting long. I’m going to split it here and say, “Stay tuned for Part Two” due out Friday.