Sunday, August 3, 2008

ETR 2008

Well, the 2008 Eastern Tandem Rally is now history, and unlike a lot of history, there were no wars, famines, or regime changes, and half of the people it was about were women. OK, maybe it wasn't really history. It was also photography, and thanks to several other teams, we have a better-than-usual selection of images, including some rare shots of us "in action."

Our rally site was the New England Center at University of New Hampshire, a conference center set in the midst
of a dense forest. Tres cool. About half the 120 teams that were registered arrived Thursday night, and we gladly accepted an offer to join some Maryland tandem friends for dinner that night at Newick's
where Jeff is about to enjoy "tandem" lobsters, two 1-pounders. On Friday about half of the early arrivers joined us for the long-route-option group ride out to the New Hampshire coast.
We did 56 miles, about 10 of which were roads along the Atlantic that we rode a week ago en route to Portsmouth,
but they are so beautiful that there is no problem riding them many times. If we had more time, we'd head back there again! We had mid-70s sunny weather, mostly gentle hills and relatively low-traffic roads. Add in seaside views and several dozen tandems, and what more could you ask for?

By Friday evening all the teams had arrived and many took advantage of the indoor parking (we estimate there's about a quarter million dollars worth of bikes in that room!), and we had an outdoor ice cream social with bicycle-blended milk shakes. Check out the 10-speed mixmaster and the motor on the front of that machine.
Incidentally, she's 9 and the stoker on a tandem with her 12-year-old brother, the youngest tandem team at the rally. At the Saturday banquet they had teams with high combined ages stand, then raised the bar 'til they eliminated all but one team with a combined age of 150! Wow, hope we're still coming to tandem rallies at that age!

During the day Saturday we rode out to the Maine coast on gently rolling back roads, again with fairly light car traffic except for a short stretch where we joined the tourist crowds in York Beach. We had a rest stop at Maine's most-photographed lighthouse at Nubble Point, then a picnic lunch on Gerrish Island at mile 30, where we were well taken care of both in the main course and dessert departments.
As we reached UNH the bike odometer again read 56 miles, with Jeff feeling better than the day before and Louise feeling the combined miles a bit more, but still within acceptable limits. We both needed to do a bit of stretching to recover, and on Sunday morning in fact they had a stretching class that Louise joined and enjoyed.

Sunday's ride was a 50-miler which took wide loops out into the countryside to get 30 miles to the Flag Hill Winery and 20 back, a place that is not quite 10 miles away as the crow flies. But they were wonderfully green roundabout miles through forest and along meadows stretching down to saltwater, almost devoid of cars.
The winery has an outdoor covered eating area where we had another good lunch, but almost as soon as we were on the road again, rain moved in. Once you get over being a little wet, what's a little more rain? And then a bit more, and more, and more... OK, it didn't rain the whole way back, but enough to warrant throwing everything in the washing machine at the conference center as soon as we got back. On the other side of the coin, the roads were so quiet that it was actually enjoyable experiencing the outdoors with the subdued sound and enhanced smells that rain brings.

In the past 7 months we've literally seen only 5 or 6 tandems, so it was quite an experience to be in the company of over a hundred. The tendency in group rides is for the riders to sort out into little clusters of riders who ride a similar pace, and so we did each day. Add to that Jeff's tendency to see other tandems like a greyhound sees a rabbit, and we kept up a good pace with our 40-something and 50-something companions, about 17 mph on the first two days and almost 18 mph on the final day.
That might not seem very different than our usual daily average of about 15, but it feels a lot faster, enhanced by the hypervigilance one needs to ride with 4 or 5 other long bikes barreling down the road at that speed, a few inches away from your front or rear wheels. There is a distinct energy in rides like this that is unlike anything else we've done in the past 8 months, a sporting event not just exercise and transportation and a neat way to see the scenery.

As the "Eastern" Tandem Rally, of course, most of the participants were from an area stretching from Virginia to Maine and from Ohio eastward. However, we met up with one team who are members, like us, of the Evergreen Tandem Club in Seattle: Luis and Trudy from Burnaby BC.
They have family in the Seattle area and come down for rides with our club, though we had not previously met them. ETC President Randall Angell is one of our regular blog readers, and told them to look us up. We hope to see them next year back in our native Northwest, perhaps at the Northwest Tandem Rally in Victoria BC next Fourth of July (which promises to be a terrific ride: check out their website at

We also spent lots of off-bike time talking with folks. We were something of a discussion topic among fellow-riders. "Oh, you're the folks who biked here from Florida!" Our reputation preceded us through the crowd. A few couples looked like they might want to reevaluate their own retirement plans after hearing about our adventure, but perhaps more looked at us with the sort of awe one gives to the first person to skateboard from coast to coast (no joke, we've seen that guy's blog site!) or created the nation's largest bobblehead collection. We also got to hear about other branches of our sport, such as one couple who told us about biking off-road in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where they shrugged off hitting the deck as many as seven times in a ride with the observation that they were only landing in sand.
Ouch, those are rides we think we'll pass on, but it was interesting to hear about them from actual survivors. Speaking of survivors, check out this tough stoker who took a tumble on Friday and wasn't going to let that stop her from riding every day!

Now it's back to our jaunt north. We have a recovery day, with only 11 miles to ride to South Berwick Maine, then we'll head up to Fryeburg ME to do some canoeing on the Saco River, cross New Hampshire via Crawford Notch, and head up through the NE corner of VT to kiss Canada. More about that next time!

No comments: