2019 began with great expectations. We mapped out trips to Boise for the Tandem Rally and Northern California for a week of riding in the wine country. But then life happened.

We got our first rides in early April. Then the weather turned and became unpleasantly cool and wet. Plus, we got increasingly caught up in planning the National Cohousing Conference in Portland. We had only racked up 49 miles by the end of May! Then came the conference and Camp UKANDU in the lead-up to the rally. We left for the rally with only 100 miles on the odometer. We figured we could do a couple of 40 mile trips if we paced ourselves.

It was not meant to be. About 1.5 hours east of Seattle on I-90, our tandem flew off the top of the car. Fortunately, the traffic was light, the tandem skidded straight down the middle lane behind us and a vehicle stopped short of running over the bike and protecting it from traffic until we returned.

Stunned, we pulled to the right shoulder and backed toward the scene. Traffic continued to drive around the bike. I ran out during a big lull and the driver of the truck helped me manhandle the bike to the shoulder. Without a word, he took off. Thanks to you, whoever you are. The kindness of strangers.

We were left on the side of the road to decide how bad it was. The bike evidently had landed on its left side. The handlebars and pedals were severely damaged. It’s impressive how much a plastic pedal can wear down sliding at 70 mph. The bars were toast because they were carbon fiber. But there didn’t seem to be any other major damage.

While we were assessing the damage, a WA Department of Transportation truck pulled in behind us, lights flashing. They kept us safe while I took off the parts which would come off, and they helped me get the bike securely back on top of the car. We took the next exit so we could figure out what to do. Buying duct tape was high on the list.

Now you are probably wondering why the bike came off. After all, we’ve driven thousands of miles with the tandem on top and never had a problem. The short answer is human error. It was only the second time we’d put the tandem up on this car. We moved the tandem rack from the driver’s side to the passenger side for easier loading. In doing so, we failed to re-position the lock lever so it was still on the outside. So I had to pull it closed instead of pushing it. I think I misjudged how well I had secured it. My bad.

We decided there was no point in driving to the rally since we clearly wouldn’t be able to ride, Sheila began cancelling our Boise plans. She also contacted tandem friends to see if we could salvage anything from our rally registration which we’d paid for in January. We continued on to Richland where we planned on spending the night with my brother Phil and his wife Greta. We enjoyed a nice dinner together and visited for hours with them, their kids and grand kids until the next day around 4. We even got to do a puzzle and play some pinochle, both favorite activities. Then we headed home to see what repairs were going to cost.

We actually talked about whether or not we wanted to fix the bike. Maybe we’re done with tandems. We may be done with rallies as this is the second in 4 years which we skipped after paying for it. We’ve been considering where our lives are going for some time now. How long do we keep riding? Is it OK with us to let our “tandem identity” go? Is this more hassle and money than it is worth?

By the end of our journey home we were pretty clear that being together on the tandem still brings us great joy. It gets us out of the house and into the back-roads. It gets us exercise. It opens ways for us to explore. It just is our happy place.

We took the bike to R&E Cycles who built our first bike back in 2000. The good news was that the frame and all the main components were in good shape. Apparently the handlebars and pedals acted as bumpers and protected the structural integrity of the bike. The wheels were even undamaged. But those bars cost $300 each and the pedals are another $200 for both sets, so we are looking at about $2000 once all the little broken things are purchased and installed. Things like the computer, the horn, the mirrors, etc. Still that is significantly less than a whole new tandem!

We’re hoping we’ll get some good riding in from mid-July to September. But our September has filled up with activities and it looks like the trip to California is not going to happen. It’s too bad because the couple we were going to stay with rides a tandem and lives in cohousing. We’d hosted them here earlier and they were planning on returning the favor. Hopefully we’ll reschedule with them next year.

All in all, everything’s good. As our EMT friend says, “Nobody’s bleeding and everybody’s breathing.” It could have been a lot worse for us and those around us. Thank goodness for everyone’s attention and quick reactions.