Well, we had a GREAT time at the 2013 Tandems East Tandem Expo. As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, “Tandems East Open House & The Tandem Geek Show“, this was our second tandem expo — the first time was in 2008 at their 20th Anniversary — and once again our hosts, Mel & Barbara Kornbluh, truly went over and above to put on a wonderful and unique event.
The Trip Up:
Unlike all of our previous trips to Pennsylvania over the 22 years that I’ve lived in Georgia, this time we opted to catch a flight so we could make the journey in only 7 hours door-to-door instead of the usual 11-12 hour drive. It was my first flight since 2006 and Debbie’s first since 2004… not because we’re afraid of flying; it was only because I’ve been so put-off by how absurd airport security screening had become. But, for this quick trip air travel seemed to make sense and it was probably time to re-test the waters for air travel as there are some other trips we’d like to make where getting there by air would be the only practical mode of travel.
Of course, that also required us to re-lean the current rules associated with air travel, including carry-on bag size and content restrictions. The latter required a trip to the Luggage Depot in Atlanta for some new TravelPro Crew 9 carry-on bags and to the drug store for some 3oz toiletries. Despite all of the anxiety, and also having to navigate the nearly paperless ticketing & check-in processes, we made it to and from the airports, through security and the like without any issues. I still struggle with the shoe removal and some other aspects of the security screening, which was expecially true at Philadelphia’s airport: ugg! However, and overall, it wasn’t an awful experience so we’re probably good to go for future air travel. But I digress.
Saturday at Pittsgrove Middle School:
We arrived at the Ramada Inn around 10:30pm on Friday after a 45-minute drive down from the Philadelphia Int’l airport and didn’t get up until 8:00am on Saturday morning, which gave us plenty of time to get over to the Tandem Expo venue at Pittsgrove Middle School by 10:30am.
When we arrived at the school the first order of business after finding and greeting our hosts, Mel & Barbara, was getting my laptop hooked up to the digital projector and audio system to make sure we’d be good-to-go for my “Geek Show” at 1:00pm. Walt was our IT guy for the day and within about 20 minutes we had everything sorted-out with the laptop so that I could put that behind me and start to focus on visiting with some of the other folks supporting the Tandem Expo
We’d met Brian Davis at the 2008 Expo, so for us it was just a matter of saying hello and catching back up on how business was at daVinci Designs and how Brian and his family as well as Todd Shusterman, his wife Susan and their son Max were doing… which was good on all fronts. I was impressed with the selection of da Vinci tandems that Mel had on hand at the show; he had the range covered with everything from the entry-level Grand Junction to a composite Joint Venture.
One of the folks I was really looking forward to meeting for the first time was Charlie Buchalter, owner of Atoc out of Lynnwood, Washington. Atoc is the home of the Tandem Topper, roof-top tandem mounting system — also sold under license to Thule as their tandem rack system — and the Draftmaster bicycle rack system. I’ve known and shared correspondence with Charlie for over 12-years and he’s been my decal supplier since 2004. However, in all of those years we never had a chance to meet so getting to spend some time visiting with him was a real treat.
We also had a chance to catch back up with Ric & Marcia Becker from the House of Tandems in Spring, Texas whom we’d had the pleasure of meeting for the first time at the 2012 Southern Tandem Rally in St. Augustine, Florida this past October. Ric has become one of the most popular guys in the tandem business over the 18 months or so as he partnered with Spinergy Wheels to bring the high-tech, lightweight PBO wheels to the tandem market with their tandem-tailored Tx2 wheelsets. We had the pleasure of riding on a set of the PBO wheels back in May of 2011 and were very impressed with how they performed. Judging by the number of wheelsets that they’d just delivered to Mel at Tandems East in time for the show I’d say that the success of the Tx2 wheelsets is pretty obvious.
Mel also introduced us to Zack Strahley from Co-Motion Cycles out of Eugene, Oregon. I was able to visit with Zack several times throughout the day and really enjoyed our time together. It’s always nice to meet the great people who Dwan & Dan have been able to bring in to the fold at Co-Motion Cycles and in this case, to see how the next generation of tandem guys are beginning to fill the ranks. Zack was exactly what you’d expect to find at Co-Motion: a bike guy who you’d really enjoy riding and hanging out with… well-rounded, engaging and just as nice as can be.
Although he wasn’t on the agenda, Bill Speckmann from Your Cycling Italia was also on hand for Saturday’s Open House and we had a chance to talk with him for a while towards the end of the day. Bill and his wife Anna run a very neat cycle-vacation business in Northern Italy that operates out of Bassano del Grappa, with loop tours that bring riders back to the same hotel every day instead of the more nomadic approach that many tour operators use. Definitely worth a look for anyone looking for a great value in a European cycling vacation in one of the most beautiful regions you’ll find.
As a very extra-special added bonus for us, we also were able to visit with our dear friends Cheryl Feather & Tom Ghan from the Philadelphia area. They made a special trip down to the Expo so that we’d have a chance to catch-up since the last time we’d been together was September of 2011 at the Tandems East Tandem Weekend in Pennsville, NJ after first meeting at a Santana Rally in Chattanooga the previous May. We were able to spend quite a bit of time visiting in between the various seminars, checking out the amazing collection of what I’d guess were over 80 tandems in the adjacent gymnasium while enjoying gourmet sandwiches and sides provided to their guests by Tandems East.
There were also quite a few members of New Jersey’s Tandem Club, the Doubles of the Garden State (aka, DOGS) with whom we’ve shared both road and off-road adventures, such as Larry & his wife Brenda, Dave & Susan, Malcolm, and well, a bunch of other folks whom we’ve met through either Tandems East events or ETR: Dave & Debby, Dave & Lisa and many others. Sadly, I’m horrible when it comes to names so my apologies if I got a few wrong or did not mention some of the folks with whom we visited. We also had the pleasure of Meeting Paul Meixner whom I collaborated with on a Multi-seat tandem cycling article back in 2003 and that was a real treat. And, geez-o-pete, several other folks who have been either blog readers or members of the discussion forums to which I contribute and I was deeply humbled by many of the kind words that were offered. Again, it’s the people who gravitate to tandem cycling that make tandem cycling such a passion for us and events like this simply drive that home.
The Tandem Geek Show:
As mentioned, Mel & Barbara had invited yours truly to be a presenter during their seminar session. It took me a little while to come up with something that I thought might be interesting to Expo guests who were new to tandem cycling as well as entertaining to the veteran tandem teams who frequently attend the Expo, so I’m hopeful my 40-minute Tandem Geek Show accomplished that. It include a 24-slide PowerPoint journey through our introduction to tandems and my path to tandem-geekness that I’ve captured in a slide sorter snapshot below. There was also an updated version of my Tandem Lifestyle video slideshow with some background music by Blues Traveler thrown in for good measure that I’ve also linked to below. Sadly, the YouTube version isn’t quite as ‘crisp’ as the iPhoto version as the photos seem to be cropped differently, etc. I think my only “shoulda” was not using my last 20 minutes to engage the audience by drawing them into the dialog, as it would have been interesting to see what I could have gotten them to share.
Mel and Barbara ended the day by hosting their out-of-town guests and close friends for dinner a nearby favorite restaurant where we had a the good fortune of sitting across from Mel & Barbara. This was a major coup as it gave us a couple of hours to visit with them without the distraction of the Expo, although still sharing them with the other guests. It made for a great finale to an exceptional day for us. After all, what could be better than spending an entire day immersed in tandem cycling with folks who make their living in the tandem cycling business and tandem enthusiasts!!
We finally hit the road around 9:30 for our 2-hour drive up to the Reading, PA area where we’d spend the next day and a half visiting with my parents. On Monday morning we awoke to a steady snowfall that provided a lovely white blanket over all of the trees and ground… but that will hopefully not delay our flight home later this afternoon from what has been a wonderful long-weekend with friends and family.