Tandem, An American Love Story

From Moorefield, we headed north over lightly traveled but hilly roads to a private bridge over the Potomac River. The toll bridge was recently closed to vehicle traffic, but we were able to push Zippy past the barricades into Maryland, so we could follow the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath trail. We rode beside the canal and locks on the towpath and camped 10 miles down the trail, near Paw Paw, barely getting the tent up by dark.

The next morning presented an interesting challenge in the form of a mile long tunnel. The narrow path beside the canal, just wide enough for the mules that towed the barges, was dark and damp, rough and pitch black. So we pushed.

We rode all day on the trail in the cool shade of oaks wrapped in poison ivy. The trail is nicely packed and the 15 mph speed-limit is easily maintained on most of the trail. Unfortunately the limestone has a habit of creating sharp sharks-teeth, and one of them made it through the Kevlar of the front tire and a rare rock pinch-flatted the rear, putting a non-lethal dent in the rear rim.

August is almost gone, and Claire is getting anxious to see her father, David who has been ill all summer. So, we left the trail at Williamsport, Maryland and turned toward Westminster, through the Cotoctin Mountains, our last big hills for awhile, and through historic Union Town, beautifully kept homes, big porches graced with American flags.

The farther east we went, the thicker the traffic became and the drivers became less accommodating. Coming into Westminster we were given the middle finger for the first time in Maryland. Welcome home Claire.

Claire’s dad is looking good after his difficult summer in and out of the hospital. Claire is very happy to see him, and the joy at seeing his little girl brightens his eyes.

It probably didn’t make his summer any better to have to worry about his baby girl bicycling nearly 5,000 miles. Though he seems a bit baffled by the whole thing, he seems to understand the importance of our adventure to her, and supports us.

After a week of looking, we had no luck finding the right size of tent pole sections, so we broke down and ordered a Sierra Designs tent we’ve been lusting after for a long time. REI was very helpful in tracking one down for us. The new one has much more ventilation, something we have needed in this humidity. It’s now easing somewhat and there is a cooling trend, but I suspect it will still be high in the Mississippi Delta region and the Gulf Coast, and the ventilation will be appreciated even in more moderate temperatures. The old tent will be shipped home to do continued service as a snow tent. It’s still pretty good and will look better when we get a chance to get all of the squished/bloody mosquitoes washed out of the fabric.

We went to a Maryland state park Labor Day and the main attraction, an almost dried-up waterfall, was swarming with people; there must have been a couple hundred on the rocks around it. Maryland has some nice rural-looking areas, but the massive coastal population is filling in the countryside rapidly.

One morning we went for a nice ride and managed to get lost up into Pennsylvania. Should we count that as one of our states visited? Guess not. We found our way back before a family get-together. We enjoyed the hilly ride; a good workout, first in over a week.

Claire’s brother Michael is having a birthday and that was the excuse for Claire’s stepmother, Lynn to have a party. Her three brothers and their wives, nephews and nieces, her grandmother and an aunt were all here.

Lots of wonderful food, children playing in the orchard, throwing apples to the goats, running everywhere. Claire is a new playmate for them, and they kept her busy.

She has been sending nephew, Michael a rock from each state we have visited. He particularly liked the piece of slate she mailed him from Indiana. She put his name address and stamps on the slate itself and mailed it unpackaged. It arrived intact.

It is fun for me to see Claire enjoying her family. My sisters are close to us in the Northwest, but we seldom get to Maryland. It is so good for her to see her dad getting stronger every day.

We got some stuff in the mail from our friend Sue Taylor at Pedal and Paddle today and got most of the work we wanted to do on Zippy. New chains, cassette, and chainrings. Bottom brackets and hubs still smooth as new and everything else still works great. This is too easy. The timing chain probably has another 5,000 miles in it. I smoothed the chainrings with a bastard file, and will leave them boxed up here for David to send ahead to us somewhere in the Southwest.

We heard from one couple on a tandem doing a cross-country, and someone who did a long tour with a couple on a tandem, that there are quite a few breakdowns with tandems. We haven’t had significant problems so far. Normal wear and tear is all I can see. Good pre-trip preparation and some luck probably. We’ll be back into the steep Appalachian and Smoky mountains soon, putting a lot of stress on him, hope Zippy continues to amaze us.

Claire went with her dad and brother Mat to Annapolis yesterday. I wanted her to have some family time, and needed to repack our clipless pedals and do a few other things on Zippy.

A clear day, the temperature and humidity was moderate. The farm where Claire grew up, is tucked down in a small valley, surrounded by trees, very quiet. When I took a break from Zippy work, there were apples to eat and the goats to watch, bees in the clover…

We are coming into my favorite time of year here. Autumn. Warm days, cool nights, the bugs and humidity moderate. The rains are a couple of weeks away; sunshine and blue skies will be the norm for awhile.


Tandem, An American Love Story — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the memories, and the update on your own adventures. That last few days back to Sequim was bitter-sweet after more than a year on the road. We’ve never been the same; a good thing.

  2. What a marvelous and beautifully descriptive article about a simply amazing woman – Karen Landis. I’ve had had the serendipitous experience to create and nurture a friendship with Karen after I underwent a hip replacement and three hip fractures and realized I needed to request the local “Meals on Wheels” service. And of course, if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Karen serves the Chino Valley community two days a week by delivering meals to people in my circumstance.
    I loved Karen the first moment I met her. And when we started chatting I knew I had met a soul mate. I’ve been looking all my life for a role model, a hero, an amazing example of humankind. I don’t know if she realizes what an outstanding example she is of a strong, independent, intelligent, talented woman. Sometimes as women, we have a dentency to undervalue ourselves. But Karen, I want you to know you are the real deal. You are just so beautiful in your authenticity. And I a so appreciative of the value you have added to our environment by caring for the land and the animals under your watchful care. Your abilities and strength simply boggle my mind. And thank you for your loving service to me these past four months. You rock girl!

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