Tandem, An American Love Story


A couple of Zippy days up the road, and we’re in the middle of America’s greatest love affair. Five hundred hot-rods are in Moab for the weekend, to see and be seen. Yellow flames bleed to red and purple and feather off to orange over sculpted fenders; tailpipes blat and roar, flash and explode blue flames until this small town’s main street is locked in blue smoke.

From several states they come to talk paint and cubic inches and the newest in car cleanliness and body modification techniques; how to get a compact disc player into a 30’s dashboard and a 400 horsepower engine into a 40’s engine compartment.

Most of them have gray hair and most are men (the women cheerlead). They are not puttering grease monkeys anymore. They are business leaders and tradesmen and they make good money; they have to, a paint job alone can cost $7,000.

All have one thing in common. The love of automobiles. Adoration is more like it. As the parade passes endlessly before us, they yell out make and model-year of cars that bear little resemblance to the originals I remember from my childhood. The camaraderie is great, born of a shared passion.

The scent of unburned gas excites them like no woman’s perfume; the sound of a Ford flathead sends them into ecstasy.

You’ve heard me complain about our culture’s obsession with the automobile, but let me see a Model A Ford coupe with a rumble seat, big old flathead rumbling the music of American power and arrogance, and my knees go a little weak too. It’s in our blood now. Gasoline. Little explosions of gasoline and air propelling us into an uncertain future.

Of course I still prefer bicycles. There are plenty of those in town too, to ride the famous Slickrock Trail near town, and others nearby. It’s safe to say that most all of them came on the tops of vehicles. No purists here. Bicycles are toys for most, and toys must be transported to the site of play. Bicycles could very well cause more miles to be driven to recreation sites than is saved by bicycle commuters.

The world is full of contradictions, and so am I. I wrote that to a friend who chastised me for being too hard on technology (cars and aircraft) at Grand Canyon, and yet professing a human like love for my computer.

Technology has always been love/hate with humans. The first sharpened stick was used to procure food, the next was used to kill another human. Technology is never inherently negative; how we use it often is.

We rode out to watch the start of a mountain bike race this morning. Seeing all those guys punishing themselves on the trails made me miss racing — just a little bit.

Later we went to the city park to look at the best of the 500 rods in town for the weekend. Many of the cars dated from the 30’s and 40’s and the modifications were very creative and aesthetically pleasing. We enjoyed talking to some of the car enthusiasts and dancing to 50’s music.

After lunch we went to give Zippy a shot at the famous Slickrock Trail just outside Moab. (Without our usual load of possessions strapped on his frame.)

Tandems are a rarity on the steep and highly technical trail, and we soon figured out why. It was almost impossible to avoid hitting one of our four pedals. When we did it usually caused one of us to come unclipped from the offending pedal and nearly fall. Falling is not fun on slickrock. It’s not only very hard, it isn’t slick at all, but like a very course sandpaper. Sliding down a slope on it takes off lots of skin.

At the very beginning, we almost quit and walked Zippy off the trail, but he would have none of that and refused to turn around. Soon we began to get the hang of it and managed to complete most of the short loop with only one slow-speed fall. We got lots of amazed looks and questions from other bikers, surprised that we would even try slickrock on a tandem.

They don’t know Zippy like we know Zippy!


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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