The First Post-Retirement / Mid-Week Tandem Ride

July has proven to be a really busy month for us. In fact, the first chance we had to get in a tandem ride from the house was on Wednesday, 11 July.  It was a mind-week ride where we were out of the house and on the road at 8:20am and I’ve got to tell you, I think I’m going to like this!  It was your typical warm, humid Georgia morning in July but no school traffic to deal with.  Sure there were some motorists who don’t get it, but still just a great time on the bike.We also had a chance to try out the latest edition to our Voler collection of Jerseys; see below the links for front & back images.  It’s the house jersey for the former “The Garage Bike Shop” in Guadalupe, Arizona which closed its doors in February 2017.  We’re beginning to create a collection of great jerseys from the old brick & mortar bike shops that have been done-in by the Internet and big chain bike shops.  So sad, but I get it.

Anyway, I hope to get some tandem cycling content up once things settle down and we spend some time at home in August.  If you’re interested in what we’ve been up to, the following are some select extracts from entries at my other blog that cover the last weeks at work, my retirement thoughts, the retirement party and our trip to Key West last week.

We’re headed to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate our 25th anniversary over a long weekend and will be back at home work a few days before we drive up to Pennsylvania to visit with my folks for a week.  So, at least at this point I don’t think I’m at risk of getting bored in retirement.  After all, free time means more time to ride bicycles!  With great road and off-road riding right here at home, I’m good!!!


Weekly Journal: Three Days Until My Last Day of Work; Pinch Me!

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Retirement Not a lot of epic news to report for this week, other than being a mere 3 wake-ups away from my last day at work. Wow, hardly seems possible.  I’ll out-process at 11:00am on Thursday, handing in my badge … Continue reading 


And A New Chapter Begins…

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Believe it or not, today was my last day as a member of the workforce.  I began working full-time 5 days after graduating from high school back in May 0f 1978 when I headed off to Air Force basic training … Continue reading 


Weekly Journal: A Life Event & Major Milestone

Regular readers have no doubt read my post entitled, “A New Chapter Begins” when I officially retired from Lockheed Martin on 28 June, some 34-years after joining the company out in California. The last few weeks have been busy, as … Continue reading 


Motorcycling: Post Retirement / Pre-Anniversary Trip to Key West

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Monday: Getting Ready For Our Journey Technically, Monday was my first day of retirement.  No need to get up, shower, dress and drive to the office…  it was a stay at home day. However, I was up at 5:30am anyway … Continue reading 


The Garage Bike Shop (TGBS):  Sadly, TGBS closed its doors in Guadalupe, Arizona in February 2017.  We wear these jerseys along with our Blacktop Bike Shop jerseys as an homage to the brick and motor bike shops that have closed their doors over the past few years.  A sad end to 100+ years of having family-run, small bike shops that took care of the local cycling community and that were more than just bike shops.


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And A New Chapter Begins…

 

And, yes we have a retirement plan, we plan to ride our tandem a lot more!!

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Roger & Eve: Tandem Rally All-Stars

While there are many tandem teams that have attended more tandem rallies than Debbie and me, having just attended our 70th rally since our first back in 1998, I still believe I’m somewhat qualified to offer an observation on a few folks whom I would  characterize as Tandem Rally All-Stars.

Roger Strauss & Eve Kofsky, Co-Directors of The Georgia Tandem Rally

At the top of the list would have to be Roger & Eve.  Yes, this is our home-state tandem rally and yes, we’ve been friends with Roger & Eve since we first met at our first tandem club ride back in August 1997.  But, I think I’m a pretty objective person even when confronted with potential conflicts of interest and I really do think I’m on pretty solid ground here given I have hard data and anecdotal data to back me up.

The Very Unofficial GTR By The Numbers since 1999:

  • 3 commemorative jersey designs
  • 10 different cities from Athens to Valdosta
  • 2o tandem rallies, all exceptional
  • 20 tandem rally T-shirt designs & Websites created
  • 58 days of riding (only 2 complete rain-outs)
  • 73 lunch, dinner & social events, not including unplanned and incidental ones
  • 200+ different routes mapped, meticulously checked, re-checked & marked
  • 483 different tandem teams participated
  • 1,830+ “Registration Bags” stuffed
  • 3,663 total attendees & T-shirts produced
  • 22,000 sheets of colored paper (about 2 tree’s worth) consumed
  • 240,000+ collective miles ridden (very conservative average of 60 miles/team/rally)


Mind you, when Roger & Eve started this in 1999 they were simply a couple who purchased their first tandem in 1996, had been to a few tandem rallies and similar events and who wanted to see what they could do to raise the bar by hosting a tandem rally in their home state of Georgia, a place where they had ridden extensively during the annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia.  They were not “players” in the cycling or tandem industry looking for ways to expand the market or reach out to potential customers.  And, above all else, they pretty much did it all on their own while working full-time for 18 of those 20 years and while raising a young son, Elliott, who spent most of his free time on the back of a bicycle for at least 10 of those years.

Frankly, while there are a few really big rallies, and rallies that are celebrating 45 & 40-year anniversaries, I don’t believe too many of those have been put together by just two people, back-to-back for 20 years, never mind even a handful of years.  No, most rallies are hosted by anywhere from a handful of friends to a regional tandem club or perhaps a chamber of commerce and few if any sign-up to host back-to-back events.

Now, it’s probably fair to say that the fledging effort has grown in complexity to the point where it likely does qualify as a small business. However, any residual funds from these events probably wouldn’t cover a wage of $0.50 an hour (if that) for the time Roger & Eve have invested in researching locations, developing their plans, coordinating with local government officials, law enforcement, hotels, caterers, other small businesses at home and in the host communities, State Parks and the list goes on, never mind developing and maintaining websites, managing registrations, dealing with registration and lodging challenges, etc.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying Thank You to Roger & Eve.  You’re a class act and you always work hard to ensure your guests at GTR have the greatest possible chance of enjoying a first class tandem rally experience, from the first Email announcing the event until the last goodbye’s to old and new friends on Sundays. More importantly, you are amazing ambassadors for the tandem lifestyle.  GTR has probably done as much to keep the tandem cycling pulse beating strong here in the Southeast as anything else I can think of.  Tandem cyclists per capita here in the Southeast pale in comparison to our sister regions in the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest, yet GTR continues to draw a strong, loyal following year-after-year by our seasoned cycling friends while also attracting many new teams to tandem rallies and the tandem lifestyle.

Note: All of these photos were poached from Roger & Eve’s albums.  Sorry about that. 

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Georgia Tandem Rally 2018

As mentioned in my 13 May blog entry  — the one just before this — and in my weekly journal on 21 May over at Riding Two Up, this past weekend was all about heading off to the 20th edition of The Georgia Tandem Rally in Athens, Georgia.

We were in countdown mode for the past two and half weeks only because we were out of practice when it comes to getting ready for tandem rallies.  We attended just two in 2017: the 19th edition of The Georgia Tandem Rally in Valdosta, Georgia, during mid-May and the Tandems East “Tour de Chocolate” in Manheim, PA, in mid-July.

2017 Rally in the Valley Pre-Ride Photo

Moreover, unlike the prior five years, we didn’t take the triplet to The Georgia Tandem Rally as our “tail gunner” Lisa D. was attending her daughter, Anna’s, graduation from college over that weekend.  We made up for it by taking a special trip up to Walhalla, South Carolina at the end of May with the triplet where Lisa D. hosted us at her  home on Friday night ahead of The Rally in the Valley, a one day fund-raiser ride.

Normally we’d attend the Southern Tandem Rally in October and also ride that with Lisa on the triplet, but couldn’t find a way to fit STR 2017 at Salisbury, North Carolina, into our June calendar. So, the sum total of our triplet outings in 2017 was one: The Rally in the Valley.

Therefore, as GTR 2018 approached it had been 12 months since we’d ridden the triplet and 10 months since we’d gone off for a multi-day cycling event.  When we were doing four and five tandem rallies every year packing up our gear and getting the triplet and tandem ready to go — because you never know when you might have one of the two stoker’s needing to sit out for a day — was pretty much intuitive, if not something I did by rote.  However, not-so after that long break.  The reason I mention this will become clear in my Friday entry.  And with that, here’s the run down on our 2018 GTR experience.

Spoiler Alert: we had a great time!

Pre-Rally Preparations

The only real concern we had with our upcoming trip to Athens, Georgia on Thursday afternoon was getting our truck back from the shop in time as it was the only vehicle we have that can carry the 10-foot long bicycle.  I’d dropped it over for routine service on Friday and while doing that service they discovered an issue that pushed the vehicle’s return to us out until Tuesday.  If they ran into any more problems with what was a warranty issue on a prior rear wheel seal replacement, we’d have only one day of margin before we had to figure out an alternative transportation plan, i.e., renting a Honda Odyssey or similar vehicle into which we could stuff the very-long, three-seat bicycle.

I’d gotten our triplet down from the garage ceiling storage hooks on Monday night while the middle bay was empty and had it pretty much ready to go.  There’s really not a lot involved in getting the triplet ready other than installing the quick release wheels, moving Debbie’s saddle over from our Calfee tandem and putting a set of Speedplay Frog pedals on the front crank arms, borrowed from our mountain tandem. The rest of the saddles and pedals stay on the triplet.  A few test rides confirmed the shifting was still dialed-in nicely so we’d have a relatively problem-free weekend of riding, noting you do A LOT of shifting on a big bike like this to keep the pedal cadence consistent.

Thankfully, the call to come and pick up our truck came on Tuesday afternoon; at least that was no longer a concern.  I’d be able to pack all of our gear and tandem in the truck on Wednesday night and then load the triplet up on the roof just before heading off to Athens on Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday evening was all about getting our cycling apparel packed for the three-days of riding, putting the tandem in the truck along with my tool box, spare parts bag and a few other things that would allow me to deal with most any mechanical issue that I or friends might have during the three-day event. Given the horrible weather outlook for the three days we’d be riding, I decided I’d do well by installing mud guards on the triplet so if it did rain while we were riding we’d be spared the extra dousing from water thrown up by the tires: it’s often times worse than just the rain falling from the sky!

Of course, as bad as the weather was, my bigger concern was now a likely case of Bronchitis I’d developed as a result of last week’s explosion in grass pollens.  Both Debbie and I began to get scratchy throats on Tuesday and it had now moved down into my lungs, bringing with it coughing spells, labored breathing and the production of that lovely, orange-colored crud that comes up with deep coughs. Uggg.

Thursday – Day One of GTR

My goal when I headed to work at 5:30am was to leave by noon.  Per Murphy’s Law, I was slammed all morning and before I knew it I was still hard at work as the hands of the clock moved past 12:00pm.  I was able to finish up and head for the door by 12:15 and, after a quick stop to gas up the truck, I was home shortly before 1:00pm.  After a quick change of clothes I put the triplet up on the roof of the truck, loaded up our last few bags and by 1:20pm we were off.  Well, sort of. I had to run back to the house for my hat: gotta have my hat if I’m going to be in the sun walking around and God willing, we’d have some sun while we were in Athens, weather forecasters be damned!

The drive to Athens was fairly uneventful, notwithstanding heavier traffic than I would have expected on a Thursday early afternoon on the four-lane GA 316 highway that connects Atlanta to Athens.  Once we arrived at the Athens Holiday Inn it didn’t take long to get checked and all of our luggage moved up to our room on the 6th floor of Tower #1.  Most of the tandem rally folks we were running into when we arrived had participated in the GTR pre-tour that Roger & Eve had hosted in nearby Covington, Georgia on Monday through Wednesday.  Even still, there was plenty of room in the bike storage room for our triplet, which was a welcome thing. In prior years I’d found myself loading the triplet back on top of our truck each day and that’s a bit of a pain in the you know what!

We socialized a bit with friends at the hotel and found our tailgunner for the rally, Lisa D, down in the main lobby area along with Denny and Stephanie, who have become part of our regular riding entourage at GTR each year.  We wandered over to the Creature Comforts Brewery located a few blocks from the hotel where registration was being held in the midst of happy hour. Athens has become a hot bed for craft beer brewing and this was apparently one of the more recently established labels.  While I’m not a big beer drinker, our hosts and a lot of the folks who are tandem cycling enthusiasts also seem to be craft beer enthusiasts, so it’s become commonplace to find a lot of the GTR social events being hosted at small micro-breweries or bars that specialize in serving craft beers and/or wines.

From Creature Comforts we went in search of food. My suggestion for dinner was The Last Resort, one of the best restaurants in Athens. We were introduced to it when GTR first visited Athens, Georgia, back in 2001 by our well-travelled friends Rich & Ina Thompson.  We were not disappointed.  Debbie and I split a nice Caesar salad and the caramelized scallops, which was just what we needed.  Lisa D and Denny & Stephanie were our dining companions for the evening.

From dinner, we headed back to the hotel and made an early evening of it. I wasn’t feeling all that well and was fading.

Friday 

I didn’t sleep much, kept awake by a nagging cough as my lungs tried to expel the crud that was collecting in my bronchias; yup, I definitely had a mild case of Brochitis so that wasn’t good.  However, we came to ride so ride we would!  We wandered down to breakfast around 7:15am, which was plenty of time given the riders meeting wasn’t until 8:30am.  After breakfast I pulled the triplet out of the storage room and had it outside and nearly ready to go: it just needed to have the three Garmin computers attached, some water bottles and three riders.  Or, so I thought.

Back up in the room as Debbie and I got dressed for the ride I made a terrifying discovery: I’d packed the wrong cycling shoes!  Yup, sure enough I’d grabbed the shoes I wear on my single road bike which have a very rigid, slick sole and a large base plate that mounts to a clip-in pedal system which is completely incompatible with the mountain bike pedals and shoes I wear on the tandem.  As to how I grabbed the wrong pair of shoes, well… with as many black Sidi cycling shoes as there were sitting in the rack, and not having taken a moment to flip them over to be sure, there’s always a risk of getting it wrong, and boy did I get it wrong.

I thought I might actually have a spare set of racing pedals in my tool boxes, but alas… those were the only kind of pedals that I didn’t have.  Seeing Ric from House of Tandems walking through the parking lot I asked him if he happened to have any spare pedals that might be compatible with a set of Campy Ergo / Look cleats.  ‘Old style or new” he asked: sadly, old…  Not good.

Having pulled the cleats off of my road shoes, I confirmed the pre-drilled sole did not have the right hole pattern for the two other types of cleats and pedals systems that I had parts for. However, I was pretty sure I could use my cordless drill to add the holes I needed and could  farm-boy engineer a way to attach the mountain bike cleats to my road biking shoes.  Thankfully, as I was digging my drill out Ric walked up and handed me a set of gently-used Shimano 105 SPD-SL pedals and a new set of SPD-SL three-bolt cleats that were fully compatible with my shoes!  What a lifesaver!

It didn’t take me long to swap out the pedals on the bike and cleats from my shoes, such that we were able to mount up and arrive at the 8:30am riders meeting just as it began in the adjacent parking lot of our hotel.

Our original plan was to ride the 48-mile route with 2,500′ of climbing. However, based on how I was feeling we opted to change our plans mid-ride and rode the 37-mile route with just 2,000′ of climbing.  Bear in mind, our longest ride of the year had been the 25-mile loops we ride from our home.  And, remembering we hadn’t attended a rally since July of 2017, that was probably the last time we’d ridden 40+ miles in a single ride.  So, not a lot of endurance base miles coupled with me hacking up crud suggested the shorter route on the first day was the prudent choice.

The route was a familiar one, as this was the fifth visit to Athens by GTR during its 20 year history.   Like all rides from Athens, the first several miles are deceptively easy since Athens sits on something of a plateau.  That exhilarating departure through the very urban area is off-set by the climb back into town at the end of the ride.   However, once outside of Athens proper, the ebb and tide of the hills through the rural communities around Athens provide some of the best riding you can find in North Georgia.  It’s hilly, but not too hilly, at least to our tastes.  I’m sure our friends from Florida might have a different take.

Regardless, even though I was tired afterwards, it was a great ride.  Debbie, who was also tired, agreed.  Now, I will confess we did get rained on for what was probably 5-10 minutes during the last 1/3rd of the ride.  It was a steady rain, but not a deluge which made it very manageable, especially since we had the mud guards on the triplet which spared us from the typical secondary dousing that comes off the road when you don’t have mud guards!  And, best of all, that was the only real rain that fell on us during our three rides on GTR.

Once we were back at the hotel, the first order of business was getting the triplet put back in the storage room, showering and heading out to find some lunch: we definitely earned a good meal!  Our same trio from Thursday night — Lisa, Denny & Stephanie and us — got a recommendation or two and opted to give the Trappeze Pub a try: we were not disappointed.  Debbie and I split a nice salad and a pair of fish taco’s. It was just what we needed.  But, I will say I was a pretty worn-out puppy… as you can see by the staged photo: Debbie’s laughing gave it away: yeah, I was faking. The camera was in my left hand. But, really… I was beat!

We all went our separate ways after lunch, as I needed to grab some cash from the Wells Fargo ATM.  That gave us a chance to wander by several blocks worth of store fronts in downtown Athens and I will say, the overall impression I had was lack-luster.  Lots of empty real estate, recently closed-up businesses and not exactly a neat and tidy look even in front of the stores on the main drag. On the bright side, Debbie saw a denim skirt in the window of Fab ‘Rik that looked like it was what she’d spent years searching for…   Yes, there would be a return trip.

Once we were back at the hotel I spent a few minutes visiting with Ric and Marcia, which I guess I always do after every ride and just about any time I’m passing the hospitality suite where they set-up shop. To their credit and my amazement, Ric & Marcia spend all three days of these tandem rallies fixing the things that people need fixed on their tandems, but don’t have the ability to fix themselves or have local bike shops that can or will work on tandems.

I kidded our friend Rick B. who had his tandem in the workstand with Ric when I walked in that it seemed like he always had his tandem in Ric’s rack at GTR!  Turns out, Rick and Debbie had a newer tandem with just a double chainring set-up vs. triple and their Florida gearing was just a bit too tall for the hills around Athens.  My timing was pretty good in that Ric needed a chain-whip to remove Rick B’s cassette from his rear wheel and I just happened to have one in my tool box.  So, good that I stopped in and pestered Rick B. in a twisted-fate kind of way.

After visiting with Ric & Marcia and returning to our hotel room, I put on my suit and head down to the pool to relax for about an hour in the sunshine… yes, we had blue skies and sun!  I’m not sure I fell asleep but I sure did find it relaxing.  About the time I got back to our hotel room Debbie was getting ready for the 4:30pm social mixer at the Blue Sky Lounge.  As with all of the event venues, they were within fairly easy walking distance of the hotel.

As much as we wanted to make a return trip to Trappeze for dinner, the weather finally intervened to change our plans and landed us in the Taco Stand, which shared a street entrance with the Blue Sky Lounge.  In retrospect, we should have either more carefully considered our meal choice or just waited for the rain to stop instead of having deep-friend fish taco’s and burrito’s: ugg.  It just was way the heck off of our eating plan and didn’t set well. Oh well, live and learn.

We made a bee-line to the hotel after dinner and skipped the “make your own Apple Pie” dessert social in the hopes that I might be able to get some much-needed sleep, remembering that I was still dealing with that mild case of Bronchitis,

Saturday 

Well, Saturday morning was a good news / bad news kind of morning. The good news was I was able to get about 8 hours of sleep which is a lot for me.  Sadly, Debbie wasn’t able to sleep much at all and, well, I still woke up coughing up bits and pieces of my lungs.  But, at least I didn’t have to deal with a mini-crisis like Friday’s wrong shoe debacle!   We headed down to breakfast and slowly but surely got our act together such that we’d be ready to ride.

Unlike Friday, there wasn’t a lot of fuzz on the ball with regard to what route we’d be riding: 44 miles would be just fine, thank you very much.  And, thankfully, that’s what our friends had in mind.

As with Friday’s ride, Saturday’s route was also very familiar from the previous three visits to Athens. And, again, just fantastic riding on very rural roads with light traffic and motorists who were tolerant and respectful of our presence.

We were actually feeling pretty good on this ride, better than Friday.  We were still way off our riding form from years gone by, but Debbie was very encouraged to find that we did quite well on the hills while riding the triplet with Lisa.  Debbie had always been afraid that we’d really struggle on hilly terrain with the 3-seater and she didn’t want to burden Lisa with having to “push us up the hills” but that didn’t seem to be the case.  We climbed just a few ticks off the pace that we’d been climbing on our tandem back at home, so that was reassuring… and this is while Lisa and Debbie were still carrying on a conversation.  Yeah, well… that’s a subject for another blog entry.

After yet another great day in the saddle without rain on a day when the forecast called for 90% chance of Thundershowers, we were back at the hotel and in good shape.  Although we weren’t right with most of our friends, all of us arrived back at the hotel within a 5 minutes of each other.  After grabbing a quick shower, we met everyone back in the hotel’s main floor and headed on foot to the post-ride lunch at Saucehouse BBQ, about 1/2 a mile from the hotel.  I will say, that was probably the 2nd best lunch at GTR, with the first being a white linen country club buffet down in Americus, Georgia.  The food choices allowed a lot of tailoring for diet, as Debbie and I pretty much stuck to the wonderful spring mixed salad with nuts, berries and cheese and the pulled pork.  The ambiance was wonderful, with nice music playing, all kinds of seating options, a full bar at our disposal and of course lots of tandem cyclists.  Debbie and I gravitated to the breezeway, as we’re kind of partial to those and were missing our alone time on our own breezeway by this time as well.   We really are home-bodies, when push comes to shove.

After lunch, Debbie and I walked back towards town and made a short detour back to the Fab ‘Rik store so Debbie could try on the denim skirt we saw in the window on Friday.  Yup, it was exactly what she’d been looking for and it was a cute as could be.  With our purchase in hand, we wandered back to the hotel and Debbie joined me for yet another hour sitting by the pool and resting our eyes on a lovely,  sunny afternoon. Again, we couldn’t have asked for better weather!  If it had been anything less than partly to mostly cloudy the heat would have gotten the better of us.  But, with the party cloudy skies, the temperature was just fine as was the humidity.

After relaxing at the pool we headed up to the room and got ready for a pre-dinner cocktail party at Allgood’s and then dinner in the great atrium of the Georgia Classic Center: wow, what a spectacular space that was!  And the meal was equally delicious. While we always expect a spectacular banquet at GTR, what we didn’t expect was a special presentation by Roger & Eve.  Given this was the 20th Georgia Tandem Rally and given that there were just six remaining “GTR Originals” — which is to say, three couples who have attended all 20 GTRs, including the co-directors and hosts, Roger & Eve — they honored Al & Heidi as well as Debbie and me with two customized photo albums that chronicled all 20 years of GTR with photos that just happened to include us!  We were left speechless and deeply humbled by their amazing consideration and thoughtfulness.  I guess that’s part of the reason GTR is the only rally we’ve attended religiously for the past 20 years!

Photo by Elliott Strauss

I should note, all of these events really gave us a lot of time to mix and mingle with many of our old friends whom we don’t get to see that often, as well as to connect with either folks we’ve only come to know via the Internet or by reputation: that’s also a very big part of GTR’s attraction and staying power.

Following dinner, we opted to pass on stopping at The Boar’s Head Lounge — one of Athens’ top dive bars — and headed on back to the hotel so we could try to get caught up on our sleep. Or, more to the point, to put Debbie to bed: she was really tired, not having slept on Friday night.

All-in-all, it was a great day!

Sunday

Unlike a lot of Sunday’s when we’ll skip the 3rd day of riding and head home early, we decided early-on that we’d ride all three days with Lisa D., so long as the weather held out.  And, Sunday was almost a carbon copy of Saturday and Friday… so Sunday’s ride was a Go.

Almost the opposite of Saturday morning, Debbie had slept quite well last night whereas I had been up since around 1:30am.  Between my coughing and just not being tired after getting 4 hours of sleep from 9:30pm until 1:30am, I ended up tossing and turning for the balance of the night, trying to find just the right way to lay without causing the fluid in my lungs to settle where it generated a coughing spasm.

We made it to breakfast and were out at the bikes and ready to ride by 8:30am, but just as on Saturday morning we missed the pre-ride photo-shoot.  As you can see from the photo below taken on Saturday morning by Eve, 100 tandems = 200+ people and that’s a pretty good-sized crowd to manage.  Again, how Roger & Eve have done these events for 20 years is just amazing.

Photo by Eve Kofsky

Anyway, today’s ride would be just 26-miles long for us, as we needed to be back by 10:30am so we could be cleared out of our room by 11:00am, noting we neglected to request a late check-out when we booked our room and/or when we checked-in.

However, 26-miles was also just about what we had left in our legs and butts, as we just didn’t have the base miles to do the longer routes, never mind doing them at a proper clip vs. slugging along at an average of 16.5 mph as we’d been doing most of the weekend.

We felt good as we pedaled out of the parking lot and, rather than trying to over-correct our speed to ride with a larger group, we opted to simply ride tempo for the morning ride instead of trying to match speed with other tandems. Again, the goal for today was to get in the short 26-mile ride and still be back in time to shower and check-out before 11:00am.

Photo by Eve Kofsky

Riding tempo put us in no-man’s land for a portion of the ride, but we did roll up alongside Jeff & Joyce S. for a while (always a pleasure to be with) and somehow “caught up” to a group with our GTR hosts, Roger & Eve, and their entourage even though they left after us and never rode past us: we’re guessing they knew of a shortcut!  We rode with them briefly, but the steady 1% grade, three days of riding and my Bronchitis was taking a toll on me, so we drifted back a bit and followed them into the lone store stop at 19 miles.  Debbie and I shared a Gatorade – something we need to drink more often vs. just water – and then mounted up and headed off so we could knock out the final 7 miles and get back to the hotel for check-out at 11:00am.

We rolled into the hotel parking lot just before 10:30, about what we expected for the hilly, 26-mile route plus store stop.  I dropped Debbie and Lisa off at the hotel’s rear portico, so they could return to their rooms and begin to get cleaned up while I loaded the triplet back on top of our truck for the drive home.  Our friends Ric and Marcia were busy loading their van and trailer for the 13-hour drive back to “House of Tandems Central” north of Houston, Texas, as headed to the hotel which gave me an opportunity to return the Shimano 105 SPD-SL pedals they so graciously loaned me for the weekend and to thank them for everything they do: there will be more on that in a separate blog entry. I also had a chance to say goodbye to our friends Eric & Linda who we didn’t see a whole lot of aside from being together for most of Saturday’s ride: so many friends, so little time.

We thought about hanging around and meeting up with some of our tandem friends and family for lunch but decided what we really needed to do was to get back home where we could spend the afternoon catching up on yard work and the like during one of the dry-spells.  Thankfully, this will all change a bit when I retire at the end of June, but at least for the next 31 calendar day I’m still in weekend-warrior mode without the option of deferring “weekend chores” to the mid-week days.

After grabbing a shower and doing the pack-mule thing to haul all our bags down to the truck, we spent a few minutes saying our goodbyes to other friend who were likewise beginning to congregate in the parking lot as they got ready to head for home or their next destinations.  Our friend Laura noted that her husband Duncan and I were both looking pretty Aussie with our shorts and outback hats and felt that needed to be caught with a camera for posterity: not a bad photo!  We finished up saying our goodbyes to Denny & Stephanie and Lisa, Laura & Duncan and a slew of others and then pointed the truck west for the 2-hour drive home.

We made a slight detour and stopped at Loco Willy’s for lunch, as Miss Debbie was craving a “Willenburger” with its plentiful supply of iron.  It hit the spot and we even had a chance to see our friend and Loco Willy himself, Charles… who we hadn’t seen in several months.  It was a short 20-minute drive home from Loco’s where, upon pulling in the driveway, the weekend of fun and games came to a quick finale.

As expected, the front Bermuda grass in the front lawn had gone to seed and needed to be “harvested” pronto.  First things first, I unloaded our luggage and put it in the house, pulled the tandem out of the bed and then go the triplet down from the top of the truck.  They’d both go into the garage along with of the bike tools and various equipment bags and sit until Monday.  Again, the immediate task at hand was cutting the front & back lawn which, given the heat and humidity, would pretty much drain most of my remaining energy: yup, it did.

We finished off our Sunday relaxing at home and eating dinner in.  It was much-needed rest.  As for the evening, I spent it sifting through photos and creating a rough outline of the blog while contemplating a good-night’s rest in our own bed…. Right up and until the coughing settled-in.  Oh well, I’d hoped I’d have left it in Athens but no, the Bronchitis followed me home.

Monday

By mid-afternoon on Monday I had the tandem rally put well behind us. Debbie was busy washing cycling clothes while I put all of my tools and gear from the trip back in its proper place and then washed and hung the triplet up and out of the way until October, when it will once again be called upon to carry our trio at the Southern Tandem Rally in Venice, Florida.

A huge thank you to Roger & Eve for putting on another 1st class tandem cycling event.  How they do what usually takes a team of volunteers to pull off is amazing.  I’d say they really should get a hobby, but I think this is their hobby!

 

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Blogging, Tandeming and Count-Down Clocks.

Why so few postings here at The TandemGeek’s Blog?

I sometimes get notes from long-time readers who wonder why I don’t post more often.  They remember when I wrote about broader topics and then, when I limited my posts to things that were pretty much focused only on cycling and tandems, I’d occasionally post a summary of posts from my other blog.  Checking back, I guess I haven’t posted one of those since July 2017.  We’ll, I’m not going to post a summary of nearly 9 months of posts which is to say I’m still doing a lot of writing on that other blog.

In part, it’s because my other blog serves two purposes: one is providing me an outlet for motorcycling related content, but the other is hosting a weekly journal that I primarily write to share with my mother so she can see photos and learn a bit more than she’d get from our weekly phone calls.  No, at 90, she’s not tech savvy so reading the content on-line doesn’t work: I print out the weekly journal and mail the hard copy to her.   We also gave her and my step-dad a wifi enabled Nixplay digital picture frame where we post photos of our own, as well as those my sisters, my mother’s brother and his kids and Bill’s son share out on Facebook.  Whatever it takes, right?


Riding Two Up

So, if you’re interested in keeping up to date on almost everything that we’re up to, my other blog — Riding Two-Up — has all of the weekly journal content.

Here’s an example of the kind of stuff that you’ll find in the weekly journal, as this is what I’ll most likely print and send off to my mother for this week’s installment.

It was pretty much a typical weekend for us with an occasional Friday night out at a bar for live music and dancing, and a tandem ride on Saturday and/or Sunday if the weather cooperates and we have a free couple of hours.

 

Of late we’re spending more time at home on weekends than we previously did. That’s in part because the weather has improved enough to let us enjoy our outdoor living space. As I move into retirement at the end of June you can bet most of our afternoons will wrap up with cocktails on the breezeway during the spring, summer and fall!

Something else we’re also beginning to embrace is having friends over for dinner rather than meeting at local restaurants and bars. It’s a lot more relaxing, it costs a lot less since we all enjoy a few adult beverages over the course of an evening and if we over-do there are spare bedrooms and no one has to Uber home if they don’t feel like it.  And, since Sunday was mother’s day, we also had the kids and grandkids by for lunch.

So, as you can see, all-in-all it’s probably not that different from what everyone else does once you add in yard work, washing cars, doing laundry, making minor home repairs, doing a little home banking, keeping up with Email and texts on work-related topics and developing plans for future weekends.


A Tandem@Hobbes Moment: My Tandem Rally Blog Entry

So, getting back to cycling, I hope readers enjoyed the “discussion stimulator” that I posted regarding tandem rallies; I found it bringing back fond memories of the great “discussions” I was part of at Tandem@Hobbes for so many years.  As I noted, when we were down in Daytona back in March and then in Panama City Beach last week for “bike week” events I could clearly tell that attendance was off. Moreover, as I looked around at the various different venues I could clearly Debbie and I at 60ish were right in the middle of the bell curve for the average age of the folks at the rallies.  Right on the heels of that I received a couple of Emails regarding the Southern Tandem Rally (STR) and as we checked our schedule for October to make sure we wouldn’t have to choose between our 6th grandchild’s due-date, the fall motorcycle rallies and STR I was reminded the average age of folks who attend tandem rallies has also been creeping up: we can remember when we were the youngsters at our late 30’s some 20 years ago.  And, as I’ve noted before, the growing number of retiree’s who attend rallies have caused organizers to find ways to provide stretch the length of rallies to make long-drives to the rallies easier to swallow, even if it means an extra night or two at the hotel or perhaps spending a night with friends.  The added nights and added events clearly come at an added cost; it’s just the way it works.  And, again… this parallels what we see with motorcycle rallies.  Instead of spending just 2-3 nights in a 3 star hotel for $600 – $900 (yes, you pay a premium during bike weeks), being retired means you can find other folks who can spend a few more nights at the rally and team up to rent a condo or home for a week for the same or less $$.  Yes, we end up eating out a few extra days, so there’s no real net savings.  But, it does make the trip a bit more leisurely and the long ride home easier to deal with: the ride down, those are the best!  Something about the destination and anticipation I suspect.


Tandem Cycling Stuff

While we couldn’t carve out the time needed to make the 1.4 hour drive out to Madison, Georgia, for the May PEACHES (aka, Tandem Club of Georgia) ride, we were able to get out for a nice 1.5 hour-long / 25-mile tandem ride from the house on Saturday afternoon after spending the morning doing yard work.  The weather couldn’t have been nicer with temps in the upper 80’s, low humidity, lots of sun and a light breeze.  Well, OK: to be fair, it felt pretty darn hot!  It’s been a long time since we’ve had temps in the upper 80’s here in Georgia, so our heat resistance was pretty low.  But, again, the low humidity helped the sweat evaporate quickly which helped to keep us cool.  In a few more weeks we’ll have 90° humidity to go with those high 80’s / low 90°F temps and nothing evaporates with that kind of weather, other than any interest in riding any later than noon!!

In one bright spot, my right elbow has remained pain-free since the cortisone shot on 23 April.  Ever since I was rear-ended on my Honda F6B back on 21 November my back and left elbow have remained a bit problematic whereas the big concern at the time of the accident was a possible scaphoid fracture in my left hand.  The left hand got better, but the back and elbow just didn’t want to recover.  My back was simply tight from the trauma and there was some fluid along my lower spine that wasn’t supposed to be there that have given me a lot of discomfort which is just now letting up.  However, my right elbow gained an instant case of Golfer’s elbow in the accident that physical therapy and steroid have not been able to address.  So, I finally gave in and took a cortisone shot that has pretty much worked… so far.   Just this weekend I’ve been getting a bit of discomfort right on my elbow, so this next week will be important.  If the ligaments are still inflamed then we can try two more cortisone shots before minor surgery may be needed. Fingers crossed, I’d really like to avoid that.

As mentioned, we received a note regarding STR last week and this weekend we received a wake-up call from The Georgia Tandem Rally, which is a mere 11 days away.  Guess I’ll need to call the hotel and confirm how many nights we booked for; geez, I do hope we booked a room: couldn’t find the reservation confirmation (yes, we’re booked: just checked).  But, yes… 11 days until we head to Athens for our 20th Georgia Tandem Rally.  Hard to believe Roger and Eve have been doing this for that long. Clearly, setting aside some of the events put on by people in the tandem business, this has to be the longest running privately-organized annual tandem rally.  The only thing that organizers can’t control is the weather, so we’ll look to mother nature to be kind to us and give us warm, dry weather.  We’ll be taking the triplet and teaming up with Lisa Davis for GTR, looking forward to that!  We cherish our time at tandem rallies and really enjoy our time on the triplet with Lisa.


Count Down Clocks

Speaking of count-downs, there are two others that are clearly on my mind.  In one day I’ll be 58 years old and in 46 days — after 34 years — I’ll be retiring from Lockheed.  From a working days standpoint, there are only 29 more get-ups so I’ve already started to clean-out my office just to remove any doubt about my intent to follow-through with this significant milestone.

I’ve never retired before, never mind never taking anything longer than a 2-week vacation, so this is going to be a big change for us.  We plan to do some traveling in July, 1st to celebrate my retirement.  Then, noting we’ll celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in 64 days, we’ll be taking some time to get away from it all.  Once we’re back home, I’ll cut the lawn and then we’ll head off to Pennsylvania to visit my folks for a week or so.

When August rolls around I’ve got a couple of home projects that I’ve been putting off until I’d have enough days-off in a row to knock them out since at least one of them will be really disruptive: tearing out the shower stall in our master bath.  And, in and amongst all of those activities I plan to be hitting the exercise room every morning and getting out on a bicycle as often as possible — mostly with Debbie on the tandem — as we work to rebuild our base miles and get back into proper form for cycling.

We’re also considering a possible change in housing, but that will be one of our big retirement projects, i.e., figuring out where, when, etc.  As much as we love our home, our neighborhood has gotten a bit tired and home values have stagnated.  We probably should have moved about 15 years ago, but as I said… we really do love our home.  So, that decision and related planning will be right at the top of the list.  I doubt we’ll move out of the area, as Debbie likes being close to the kids so they can visit and so she can help out as needed. With a 4th granddaughter on the way in October, you can imagine why.  Ideally, I’d like to find a small patch of land and build a home with a large outbuilding to suit our needs but with all of the urban sprawl around us there’s not much in the way of affordable land left close-in.  So, who knows what we’ll find.  But, as I said, that’s our first big project and who knows, we might just hang-in here a little longer.

Exciting times.

 

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Are Tandem Rallies Really Just for Old Folks With Deep Pockets?

Here’s something to chew on: I’ve come to suspect the ever-escalating cost and time requirements for tandem rallies may be a bit of a barrier to new participants who may or may not yet see the value.  More to the point, here’s what I was pondering on the 6-hour long motorcycle ride home yesterday from a motorcycle rally down in Panama City Beach based on what I saw there and similar questions regarding the future of motorcycle rallies: 

What must younger, 30-something, would-be tandem cyclists think when they do the math and discover the cost of attending a tandem rally is something around $500 – $750, or even more for a 2-3 day event.

Put yourself in the shoes of a late 20’s to mid-30’s couple who have just discovered tandem cycling and learned about tandem rallies while surfing the web.  Assuming they decide to give it a go, they arrive to find the average age of the attendees to be something at or close to 60, maybe even 65?  Even more amazing is seeing nearly 1/2 of the riders aboard $8,000 – $10,000 tandem, with a few even costing quite a bit more than the car they drove to get to the event.

And, what did they get for their $200+ and sometimes plus-plus registration fees?  Some cue sheets, snacks that may or may not be anything they like, some kind of limited lunch fare that really doesn’t have much of what they’d normally eat when cycling and a buffet style dinner. So, how does that break down at $100 – $170 per person anyway remembering that we’re still paying our own way for cocktails & dinner-out on Friday and lunch on Sunday?

A free breakfast is included in the hotel cost so that wasn’t part of the rally fee.  That leaves $5 for snacks, a $12 dollar lunch and a $25 dinner?  Wait, that math doesn’t work. What if they double all of that? Nope, still not enough. Porta Potties?  Well, OK. They may assume old folks need those a lot more often than they do. And, there is of course probably insurance but how much can that be per-person? What ARE they missing that adds value to THEIR tandem rally experience?  No, they weren’t able to attend the Thursday social event or Friday ice cream social because they both work for a living and, well, in addition to having  to burn a vacation day or two they’d have to drop another $150 a night for the hotel room, once all of the taxes and other fees get added in.

As for the riding, they’ll just find a few other couples to ride with because, after all, what makes tandem riding special is the social interaction, right?  But wait, most of the couples at the rally already know each other and seem to have their own group ride plans sorted out even before the mass start?  Wait, someone said there’s no mass start at this rally?  Oh, that’s a different rally, but they’ll still need to decide pretty early in the ride which of the various ride options to take. Now, what if they pick a route, distance or have a riding tempo that leaves them riding alone at the rally when they could have done a ride at home for $15 with a stop at Subway for lunch at the turn-around point.


So, I rhetorically ask: Has tandem cycling become an exclusive activity for older couples with a lot of leisure time and disposable income?  To be perfectly candid, it sure looks that way to me, at least when it comes to domestic road tandem events here in the United States.  Again, I fear there may be a cause / effect relationship to why we’re seeing the same people at tandem rallies today as we saw 20 years ago, with very few “youngsters” either showing up or hanging around. We love our tandem friends and family and look forward to seeing them, but where’s the next generation that tandem cycling will need if it’s to thrive and survive beyond the old guard?

Food for thought.

Posted in Editorials & Rants | 21 Comments

I’m Thinking We’ll Be Doing Social Riding at GTR….

Try as we might, we’ve just not been able to get out and build a whole lot of base miles this year due to a variety of things.  So, as we look forward to the Georgia Tandem Rally in late May, we’re thinking that we’ll be hooking up with friends who are more interested in social riding vs. hammering away at the hills around Athens, Georgia.  Mind you, we’ll have our able-bodied Turbo on the back of the triplet, Miss Lisa. So, we’ll have power to spare in certain situations; however, we may be range limited by that lack of base miles.

So, our apologies to Lisa in advance; just know that we’ll endeavor to get in as many miles as you’d like!

With that in mind, I would note that we have been riding… just not lots of long road rides of late.  I’ve been able to get out on our local trails with my mountain bike for a few heart-pounding loops after work and on an off-Friday which really felt good.  One of my retirement goals is to entice Miss Debbie back out on the Ventana for some two-up riding on our local trails.  If I can make that part of our regular routine, perhaps… just perhaps we’ll one day be able to try another group off-road tandem ride.  Not wanting to push my luck, mind you.  I’ll be more than happy to spend the rest of my days getting her out to play in the dirt by our lonesome now and again.

If I fail in my quest to return her to the dirt, rest assured we’ll be getting a lot of base miles on the tandem after June 30th.  Yes, we’ve got a few trips lined up for July and August, but we’ll no longer be constrained to my one or two weekend days-off for riding opportunities.  We had a little bit of a sampler of what lies ahead in retirement on Saturday when we headed off to lunch on the Harley, but returned to the house and got in a nice 20+ mile ride on the tandem.  Sadly, the pollen was pretty darn oppressive on Saturday which is why we opted to cut our ride a bit short.  But, in spite of having watery eyes, raspy throats and sneezing fits throughout our ride, we still had a good time and felt pretty good about our pace.  The tandem even cooperated pretty darn well, with just one over-shift that was clearly of my-doing.

Anyway, just wanted to reassure our readers that tandem cycling is still alive and well in the Livingood household.

 

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