July has once again become a busy travel month for us, as it was last year. Having just returned from our annual motorcycle trip down to Key West, Florida, last Sunday we began the week by taking care of things that needed to be done before we headed off to Pennsylvania on Wednesday morning for yet another 7-day trip that included a 3-day stay in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the 2019 Tandems East Tandem Weekend. We typically try to find a tandem cycling rally or event in late spring or early summer that’s not too far from Reading, PA, so we can combine a family visit with the event. Tandems East’s Tandem Weekends have been “fitting the bill” quite nicely since we attended our 1st Tandem Weekend back in July of 2011.
So, it was on Wednesday, July 11th that we made the 780-mile drive to Pennsylvania which, thankfully, was a fairly easy drive without any major on-road delays. We had a great visit with my folks on Wednesday night and Thursday before heading an hour East to Bethlehem, PA, for the 3-day Tandems East Tandem Weekend on July 12-14, where the Springhill Suites was home base. We had a great time riding and visiting with friends on Friday and Saturday, but opted to skip Sunday’s ride so we could get back to my folks home and visit with my uncle and aunt who had popped-in for a visit over the weekend. We’d not seen them in over a year so we were anxious to have that time together. Alas, that is one of the risks when you combine pleasure trips with family visits and, well, we love our friends but family always takes priority… and good friends get that.
Getting Ready for Our Trip
On Tuesday July 10th, ahead of our drive to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, I began to get things together. In that we were combining a visit with my folks with the Tandems East Tandem Weekend (TETW) I needed to take along a few extra hand tools for any projects my mother might come up with during the visit and she specifically asked me bring along my chainsaw; I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve taken a chainsaw to a road cycling event! Next up was getting my home-made tandem transportation fixture down and the tandem loaded on to the fixture so it could go in the back of the truck. There were, of course, my cycling toolbox, spare parts bag and the other “equipment” I like to take along when we go to cycling events so I can be self-sufficient if we have a problem with our own tandem, and offer up help to other folks who have minor issues. It’s a lot more stuff to haul around, but that’s one of the reasons I have a truck with a full-length bed. So, with everything staged and ready to go into the truck, I was able to get on with my day… packing our riding apparel and street clothes for the 7-day trip would wait until the afternoon.
Wednesday: The Drive to Pennsylvania
I was able to get about 2 hours of sleep between 11:00pm and 1:00am and then did my best to stay in bed in the hope I’d drift in and out of at least a light sleep… but no such luck. Around 5:00am Debbie’s alarm went off ending my failed attempt at getting sleep.
After a little breakfast and putting our last bags of street clothes in the truck we were out of the driveway and on the road at 6:00am, per plan. On the bright side, it was a very easy drive with light traffic all the way into Pennsylvania, which is where we encountered our first heavy traffic. That’s not to say the drive north on Interstate 81 wasn’t without its issues, as it’s still a major artery for over-the-road trucking and, God love the truckers, they’re doing their best to get where they’ve got to be. As a motorist, I get that we’re truly a lower-priority in the big scheme of things, but it does get frustrating when you see trucks stacked-up side-by-side on a steep grade trying to pass each other where even the trucks in the passing lane aren’t able to run at the speed limit unless they’re running empty loads. Cest la Vie.
We arrived at my folks home in Bernville, PA, around 5:40pm, got ourselves unpacked and settled-in and then sat down for a lovely dinner. As you might image, I was fading a bit given the long drive on very little sleep but did manage to stay awake until 11:00pm in the hopes going to bed at a semi-normal time would afford me a full-night’s rest.
Thursday: A Day with my Folks & a Few Small Projects
We both slept really well overnight and after taking care of my daily home finance activities and updating my various blogs and journals, I turned my attention to a “to do” list I always ask my mother to work up so that I’ll have things to keep me busy during our visit. I’m just not one to sit still for more than an hour or so:
- Attending to an ailing, fairly new Singer Featherweight sewing machine.
- Recommending a repair method for six rotting boards on the upper front porch.
- Getting measurements to replace a rotted side garage door threshold.
- Taking care of getting a problematic window screen.
- Dealing with a millipede problem.
- Beginning a Window 10 update on my folks laptop.
- Refining the balance of my to-do list with tree removal, tree trimming, bench & pergola rebuilding, etc. for when we finished our tandem weekend and returned for a few days.
We had heavy rain all afternoon which gave me time to do some homework on the TETW as well as downloading the GPS ride routes to my laptop and, in turn, uploading them to our cycling computers. We had a delicious dinner in and then a quiet night at the house.
Friday: Day 1 of the Tandems East Tandem Weekend: Velodrome Night
I was happy to see the Windows 10 update on my parent’s laptop computer had finished running so I could reboot and get the final updates taken care. After that I downloaded an updated the “cleaner” program they already had on their computer to clean out the “junk” that Windows 10 found so their computer would run as efficiently as possible.
It was around 10:45am when we had the truck packed up again and headed off to the Tandem East Tandem Weekend (TETW) in Bethlehem, PA, and it was a very easy, hour-long drive. Once there we were able to check-in to our hotel room, get registered for the event and headed off to find a Subway for lunch at the nearby Promenade Shopping Center. Well, we struck out on the Subway but did find a really bar & grille called ‘Bar Louie” where we grabbed a delicious burger and salad for lunch.
It was around 1:00pm when we got dressed in our cycling gear and headed off to the Velodrome over in Trexlertown, aka., the Lehigh Valley Preferred Cycling Center. The plan for the afternoon was to do a 27-mile ride from the velodrome, change clothes, grab dinner and then return to the velodrome by 6:30pm for the 7:00pm track racing, to include the “Tandemonimum,” the annual track tandem event with which the TETW was scheduled to coincide. The route meandered out of the lightly urbanized area surrounding the velodrome, through suburban neighborhoods and then into more rural and then eventually farm lands. I’m not sure we were ever riding on a “flat road” for more than an 1/8th of a mile, which is fine by us: we truly enjoy rolling terrain with a few climbs. However, given the ride didn’t start until 2:30pm on a sunny afternoon, it was a bit on the warm side and we had a steady headwind as we rode east. Quite frankly, I missed that steady breeze once it became a tailwind: it’s truly a mixed blessing.
I’m not sure what it is about the Tandem East Weekends, but I always seem to make wrong turns whenever I end up out on the front of a group. In the past it was because we weren’t really good about keeping up with the cue sheet so this year I figured I’d nailed it by downloading the ride into my Garmin Edge 705. Well, son-of-a-gun, for some reason my Garmin wanted to make we ride the route backwards by sending me the wrong way at three different intersections where the out bound route over laid the return route. Thankfully, we didn’t pull other riders along with us, but those miscues did cause us to lose the wheels of the teams we were trying to follow and put us in no-mans land for a while. While we considered trying to bridge back up to the teams we’d been trying to pace, I had to be mindful that Debbie is still getting sorted-out on some new medications for her hereditary hypertension that has given rise to elevated blood pressure and endurance issues which has us riding a more moderate pace on many rides. Thankfully, we ended up riding the back-half of the ride with Bill and Ann from Ontario, Canada, who are long-time friends of our hosts, Mel & Barbara Kornbluh, and folks whom we’ve met at previous TETWs. And, honestly, that’s one of the things we’ve come to appreciate about the TETWs: we always meet the most friendly and interesting folks when we attend!
We finished early enough that we were able to make the 20-minute drive back to our hotel where we grabbed a shower and change of clothes before heading back to the velodrome for the Friday night races. We decided dinner could wait until the “elegant hour” as neither of us were feeling all that hungry after our afternoon ride.
We had a lovely time visiting with a variety of new and old friends in the parking lot outside the velodrome, some of whom we knew by reputation such as the folks who are now running Pennywise Cycle Tours — Steve & Karen — as well as some folks who have followed my writing at Tandem@Hobbes, on my blogs and elsewhere. Just wonderful folks and a joy to be around. As for the races, it was a great evening with a full slate of both single bike and tandem track racing. Sadly, there was a crash during the final men’s “gold medal” race. The Affinity Team riding the 25-year old, Team EDS Corima Composite tandem with a checkered history crashed hard when the sync chain broke and wrapped itself around the 4-bladed Corima front wheel which, in turn, collapsed the composite front fork. The captain and stoker both hit the track hard and we’re pretty sure the stoker ended up being transported to the local hospital with what we suspect was a collar bone injury. Not the finish we or anyone else wanted to see.
As the medic was walking the stoker off the track, we decided it would be a good time to head out and find some dinner. We returned to Bar Louie around 9:30pm where we split a chicken club sandwich and fries, then retired to our hotel room and called it a night as Debbie was exhausted by the ride in the heat of the day.
Saturday: Great Day with Friends at TETW
Having gotten to bed relatively early for us, we both slept well and were up at 6:00am for breakfast. As expected, the hotel’s lounge area was packed with cyclists when we came down at 6:20am. Thankfully, the hotel staff was on the ball and had plenty of food out so we were able to make our way through the serving line quickly and finished up breakfast with more than enough time to make the 8:00am remote start rider’s meeting that was about a 15-minute drive from the hotel.
I should note, our hosts Mel & Barbara Kornbluh and their local route planners had to rework the Saturday ride routes and lunch location as recent rains washed out several bridges as well as the park where lunch was going to be held. So, instead of heading out for a 55-mile ride from the hotel, all 65 teams attending TETW left from the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit parking lot in Emmaus, PA.
It was a somewhat disjointed start as the 8:00am riders meeting at the church never materialized, so individual riders and smaller groups began heading off between 8:00am and the 8:30am official “start time” to include us when we saw a semi-large group begin to leave.
We sat in the pack for the ride through Emmaus but as we made our way out of town and began to hit some of the hills we migrated towards the front of the group and ended up following two of the stronger couples at the event. We did our best to stay with them for a few miles but with Debbie’s BP spiking a bit we fell back and rode at a more moderate tempo, arriving a few minutes behind the other two teams for the “cookie stop” about 14-miles into the ride. The cookie stop iswhere Barbara Kornbluh sets up several tables filled with all kinds of delicious baked goods she prepares at home ahead of the TETW and it is an amazing spread, replete with a wide variety of soft drinks, water and juices.
While we were at the cookie stop we spent some time chatting with our friends Tom & Cheryl whom we’d met at the Santana Chattanooga Tandem Rally way back in May 2011. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and met up a few times at these TETWs. We ended up riding the balance of the 38-mile Saturday ride with Tom & Cheryl and their friends Dennis & Jodie, which was a true delight. We all rode at about the same pace so it was a good ride where no one was running off and pushing the tempo, which gave us the time and energy to carry on a nice dialog during our ride through the lovely outskirts of the Lehigh Valley.
For us, the real gems on this ride were Hassendahl Road along the Hassen Creek, a lovely tree-covered road that meandered along the edge of a ridge line. It was one of those roads that we just didn’t want to end, somewhat reminiscent of River Road near Townsend, Tennessee, which was always a feature of the Tennessee Tandem Rally’s Friday ride. The second gem was riding around the Lehigh Parkway, a large public park along the Little Lehigh River in Allentown. The ride around the Parkway included some limited access roads frequented by walkers, runners and cyclists once again under a lovely canopy of trees. We finished the ride as we started, riding through central Emmaus, PA, and ended up being some of the first teams back at the church where the delicious catered lunch was being served in the lower parking lot.
The following is a collection of photos, a couple of which I took but the vast majority of which were taken by Cheryl, which is why she and Tom are missing from most of them.
After running an errand in Allentown and then relaxing a bit in the afternoon, we made our way over to the Allentown Brew Yard in downtown Allentown where the TETW banquet was to be held beginning at 6:00pm. We arrived an hour early with Cheryl, Tom, Dennis & Jodie so we could enjoy a cocktail at the main bar and had a delightful time with the very attentive barkeepers. It was around 6:15pm when we made our way to the 5th floor of the Brew Yard where the TETW banquet was being held. We had a lovely time visiting with our table mates and I had a chance to say hello to John Schubert, a long-time internet friend from my days on Tandem@Hobbes who I’d shared many written posts with but had never had a chance to meet in person: it was a delight!
Sadly, the folks at the Brew Yard really didn’t have themselves staffed properly to serve 130 people in a timely manner with just a single buffet line and one person serving all of the food in that line. It was around 7:30pm when we decided to call an audible, quietly excused ourselves and made our way back to Bar Louie for dinner. We felt bad for Mel & Barbara as neither the meal nor the service provided at the Brew Yard had been up to their expectations, coming on the heels of all the weather-related, last-minute changes in plans that they’d been working through since arriving on Friday.
However, the really good news coming out of the post dinner announcements is that the 2020 Tandems East Tandem Weekend will be held in Cape May, New Jersey in early May. So, we’ll have that to look forward to and will gladly skip our spring motorcycle rally in Panama City Beach which is held on the same weekend to make our way back north to Cape May.
Sunday: Skipped Day 3’s Ride so we could Spend More Time with Family
Once again, the Springhill Suites delivered a very comfortable night’s rest. However, even though we were awake in plenty of time to grab breakfast and could have made the 8:00am start for Sunday’s 23-mile ride from the hotel parking lot, I remained mindful that Debbie’s blood pressure had been a bit high after both Friday and Saturday’s ride and had not yet dropped to where we’d like it to be. So, with that in mind, we decided we’d rather relax, have breakfast after the riders had departed and then make an early departure for our return trip to my parents home about an hour away in Bernville, PA. Moreover, since my uncle and aunt had decided to pop-in and we hadn’t visited with them in a very long time, there was an added incentive to get back to Bernville a bit earlier.
While having breakfast at the Springhill Suites, we had a very nice chat with Dave & Janet whom we’d met during our first TETW back in July 2011 at Pennsville, New Jersey. They had gone out very early and already finished the 23-mile ride. There was another couple whom we chatted with who, like us, opted to pass on today’s ride so they could get an early start on their 5-hour drive home. After packing up and checking out of the hotel we ran into Cheryl & Tom in front of the hotel and were able to say goodbye to them and told them to give our warm regards to Dennis & Jodie and ended up sharing a few notes with our hosts, Mel & Barbara, as we were driving back to Bernville.
Once again, and despite the challenges associated with having to replan their Saturday and Sunday rides as well as lunch on Saturday, Mel & Barbara pulled-off a 1st class tandem event. The host hotel was lovely and had an outstanding staff, the routes we rode were enjoyable and well-suited to tandems, the night at the velodrome was a special treat to be sure and it was truly a pleasure to visit with all of the wonderful folks who attend the Tandems East weekend each year. As noted, we’ll definitely continue to put this event on our annual planning calendar to coincide with one of our three to four trips a year to visit my folks in lovely Berks County, PA.