Tandem, An American Love Story

At a restaurant where we stopped for an afternoon ice cream fix, a poster with a list of rules for living seemed to speak to us, particularly these lines:

“Don’t confuse wealth with success.

Don’t confuse comfort with happiness.”

We have met many people along the road who understand these lines, and live them. And, we have seen the reverse in many severely stressed people, chasing wealth instead of success, chasing comfort instead of happiness. Or just chasing their tails, not understanding why.

At breakfast, we overheard two men talking about cattle, so I asked them about the woolly worm (my name) cows we’d seen near Beatty, Oregon. They said they were Dutch Belted cows. Now I know. I still prefer woolly worm cows.

The next morning we left Curtin on a county road and began serious climbing through timber and clearcuts. Goats beard lichen hung from the oaks, and daisies blanketed the clearcuts; we’re really back in the Pacific Northwest. After a few miles of 10 percent grades, the bottom dropped out, snaking us down Coyote Creek and easing us out into the upper Willamette valley. By Cheshire, we were in the flats and cruising in the sunshine.

We rolled into Corvallis before rush hour and were looking for a Hospitality Home (League of American Bicyclists), when a local bike shop owner pedaled up to tell us that Corvallis was celebrating Bike To Work Week and invite us to a party later at a city park.

While we were talking, Claire remembered that someone she’d worked with in bicycle advocacy in Port Townsend, Washington, was moving to Eugene or Corvallis at about the time we left last spring. “Do you know Greg Bennett?” He did. They’re friends, and he said we would find Greg at the city park helping to set up for the party.

We rode to the park and found Greg right away. He invited us to stay with he and his wife Margaret that night. We got settled in and went back for the party with Margaret while he got his bike ready for a race the next day.

The park was filled with people, bikes, and an infectious rhythm of African percussion music. We were just lamenting that the African beat, while nice, didn’t lend itself to swing dancing, when they broke into a Glen Miller medley!

Of course we danced, and danced and danced. Soon people who had been dancing a sort of hippie/new-age dance, flailing away alone, began finding partners and doing a hippie swing, actually touching each other. Dancing as couples. What a concept! Maybe it will catch on.

We met lots of people and learned just how popular bike commuting is in Corvallis. It apparently rivals Davis, California in per-capita bike commuting. As many years as I did business with the Hewlett Packard division here, I never knew Corvallis was so bike friendly. No wonder Greg and Margaret moved here.

After a flat 35, the next morning, we were met on Route 99W by Dick Turner and Caroline Milbank on their tandem, Gutte Farht. They escorted us to their condo in Salem.

Caroline admits to being 69 and I don’t know how old Dick is, probably about the same. They damn near killed us as we tried to keep up with them up the long hill to their condo. I was trying to draft and get some rest, and Dick thought we were wanting them to go faster! I don’t expect us to be that fast, even unloaded, at that age. Keep it up guys, gives us something to shoot for.

We really appreciated hearing how much they enjoyed following us through our email newsletters. Apparently they would print out each one, get a glass of wine and sit by the fire and read them together aloud. I like that. Good to know our life is entertaining. (I know the word “lives” would be correct, but when two people are joined at the hip for a year, it is one life).

Caroline had printed out a Creole recipe Claire had included in our newsletter from Louisiana, and she had collected all the ingredients. We all pitched in to cook it and enjoyed an evening of tandem and touring conversation.

They invited another tandem couple, Tim and Elaine, who have on two different occasions taken a year off from working to travel, much of it bike touring. They are now tied firmly to jobs and real estate for a few years, but expect to be back on the road again someday.

We stayed up late talking, but were on the road early the next morning with Dick and Caroline back to 99W. Warm hugs and good-byes were exchanged before we headed for McMinnville. I have no doubt we will ride with them again someday.

The farmland between Salem and McMinnville, Oregon is as lovely as any in the country. Vineyards and wineries, an abbey hidden down a tree-tunneled lane, broad newly planted fields bounded by wildflowers, country roads, meandering maple lined creeks. The Portland metro area’s southward growth is not seen here; held off by the high value of the rich-black Willamette flood plain soil.

We stopped for snacks at the Amity town park. Amid huge firs and oaks we enjoyed the warm day and families playing. I noticed a young man with his shy wife and two small boys watching us. They ‘d probably never seen a Zippy before.

“Buenos Dias!” I said.

Saul Hernandez and Eva Herrera (she wore a wedding ring) work seasonally in the valley. Our best tejana was not too helpful, but we did manage a conversation of sorts, punctuated by lots of smiles, shoulder shrugs, and scratching of heads. Their sons are Jesus and Leo.

Saul knows where Santa Elena, Mexico is, the village across the Rio Grande we visited while in Big Bend National Park. He’s from Durango, Mexico but likes it in Amity. They seemed to want to speak English, but their English was even more limited than our Spanish. We showed the boys how we ride our big long Zippy and rolled out of the park with waves all around.


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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