The call of the tandem

Ever since the day I acquired a luscious banana seat model as a girl, I’ve loved the freedom that comes with riding a bike. Aboard my sweet train of wheels, I ventured into exotic territories surrounding my home, losing the bonds of civilization. The bike basket contained a snack, usually a Hershey bar and a thermos of cold lemonade. So prepared, I left with the sound of my bicycle bell ringing as my mother waved at me through the window.

Beyond nostalgia, bicycles remain objects of fascination for me. I even ride when I travel, highlighting the bike in family vacation itineraries. In the nation’s capital, it’s a pleasure to pedal around the monuments of Memorial Park, combining a history lesson with the pleasures of two-wheeled transportation. (Only 5 at the time, my daughter Ella ate Fruit Loops and just rode in a trailer attached to my husband’s bike.)

This trailer rack inspired some brainstorming, and in my late 40s, I realized there was still a bike experience to try. At this point in life, I had the idea of ​​riding a bike built for two. While some middle-aged women dream of ocean cruises or meditation mastery, my fantasy centered around a gleaming tandem bike. It was rumored that one could fly faster on a tandem, eclipsing a pulse achieved by conventionally cycling. Obviously, I was craving a super power, and after so many years of riding solo, I was equally intrigued by the dynamics of cooperation and teamwork.

The ride smoothed out and our closeness meant we could chat about the vast oak trees and the passing landscape. As my wife and I pedaled in unison, my spirit soared. This adventure provided a feeling of total unity and was pure pleasure.

Given the midlife crisis, I made arrangements to rent a tandem bike before a vacation in Hilton Head, SC. At the Airbnb, I longedly touched the seats of my new baby as loved ones hastily put on their bathing suits and flip flops. In preparation, I had learned the roles of captain and driver and understood that the captain’s seat was a trophy to be won. My husband, Eric, beat me to this prized spot, giving him the ability to steer and brake the bike. So, I tentatively took the driver’s seat, wondering how this experience would end. As we approached our 20th anniversary, I was convinced that we could rise above the petty power plays.

At the time of the show, any utopian vision has collapsed. During the launch, we fought to balance the bike, and then Eric headed for the town square while I insisted we turn the other way on a shaded trail. “That’s why I won’t do a tandem,” my stepfather said, watching our turbulent departure. Our differences in temperament placed us at opposite poles. While I prefer to pedal fast, my laid-back spouse has slowed down, forcing me to coast. Wait, I tell myself, your chance will come. But the trip continued to go south near the shore. “Don’t run on the sandcastle!” I screamed. Moments later, Eric mowed him down – well, call it corporate guilt. We were in the same boat.

Eventually the ride smoothed out and our closeness meant we could chat about the vast oak trees and passing scenery. As my wife and I pedaled in unison, my spirit soared. This adventure provided a feeling of total unity and was pure pleasure. To my surprise, Eric became a caring captain and honored my request to go back and explore the trail near the rental house. The next morning I claimed the captain’s seat and felt the thrill of turning on the power of the bike. For a short time, before either of us got tired or distracted, we were going as fast as we could on our own.

During my vacation in Vancouver, I was looking forward to renewing the sublime experience. From a downtown bike shop, we rode to Stanley Park with our daughter, Ella, riding a regular bike. While Eric was enjoying the stunning scenery, he was in no mood for tandem riding. My beaming face contrasted with her sour attitude. Maybe I pedaled too fast? Or was it a reward for banning Led Zeppelin from the car? “I want to change my bike,” he said.

Suddenly sad, I braked and turned to see him sliding off the bike. Then I glanced at my watch – with four hours left on our rental, there was no time to waste. For the rest of the afternoon, Ella was a wonderful partner and we established a strong PR tandem. Riding the bike independently, Eric was extremely happy. At certain seasons of life, there is a growth in the re-evaluation of priorities and the release of what is no longer productive or of value. He finds a bouncy joy in rocking on Led Zeppelin, so maybe it would be wise to get out when he gets confused rather than worry about the noise. My opposition to his nirvana can be released. As for what to keep, I definitely keep the pleasure of riding in tandem and I will invite one of my daughters or a friend to join me. Joy can ring out in a rock riff or unfold in a captain’s seat.

In a few years, I will know the retirement community that suits me. The exercise room will be equipped with a tandem of stationery and a screen displaying enticing decorations. I will present myself around me and surely find someone who is looking for adventure. For now, I’m on my way to the bike shop to bring some of that beach idyll home.

Stephanie Painter is a local freelance writer and children’s picture book author Liz tames a dragon (and its wrath).

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