Wednesday, June 21, 2023

A "New Normal" Plus a Trip to and Around the Olympic Peninsula

 Welcome new readers, and welcome back to our regulars.  It has been 2 1/2 years since we've written a blog post.  That one broke from our earlier focus on descriptions of our various adventures, mostly on our tandem bike.  But the pandemic changed life for all of us, and we took the opportunity in our last blog to illustrate how we stayed active in the first year of the pandemic by walking, cycling and canoeing in and around our home in Seattle.

Things have changed in those 2 1/2 years.  Six months after that last blog our collective age hit 150, and a year later we could both say we were 75+.  Our minds keep forgetting that we're getting older, but our bodies keep reminding us.  That was Problem #1.

Nonetheless, we kept going.  In early 2021 our stuffed animals alerted us to snow at our sea-level home on Puget Sound, and we got in a walk past snowmen and snowmonsters.  On cold days we took walks that stopped at cafes for lunch, and on any day that was dry and over 50 (10C) we would bring sandwiches and thermoses of hot soup and coffee, plus a foam pad to put on a possibly wet bench seat.  We kept going like the Eveready Bunny.    

And we kept biking.  On one trip in April we drove our tandem up to the Skagit Valley for the annual Tulip Festival, where entire fields become blocks of brilliant color and one of the visitors captured this equally bright photo of us.
In May, we took Amtrak to LA to visit Louise's son Brian and his family, and got everybody hiking up into the hills at Will Rogers State Park, something we try to hike every time we're in the LA area.

And then there was canoeing.  We became active with the Paddle Trails Canoe Club, plus also often paddled on our own.  On the right, Louise is holding one of our pricey but invaluable lightweight paddles as we check out some of the cruise ships taking an extended pandemic break on the Seattle waterfront, a 5 mile paddle from our condo.  In the second photo below, we're with the Cobbs, friends from the canoe club, enjoying a "floating lunch" on a side channel of the tidal Snohomish River.

We kept up the cycling, of course, and on August 28 we joined some 40 members of our local Evergreen Tandem Club for a picnic and ride in Carnation, a town abutting the foothills of the Cascades.  Louise is the 8th person from the left, unfortunately looking down because no one has said the obligatory "cheese" just yet.

Two days later, on August 30, Problem #2 occurred.  And it was a doozie.  

We were on what was to be a 20-mile bike ride from home, with a picnic lunch along the Interurban Trail.  On the way back the bicycle computer noted that we had just ridden our 1,000th mile of the year on the tandem.  Our lowest total for late August ever, but there was still time to perhaps hit 2,000 for the year.  But that was not to be.

While coasting at 20 mph down a long but gentle grade 2 miles from home, our front tire had a blowout.  When your rear tire blows out, you have perhaps a 75% chance of a tolerable landing.  When it's the front tire, that drops below 1%,  as the front tire almost always flops so much that you lose steering and fall.  And fall we did.

Jeff mostly skidded, cracking his helmet and getting a palm-sized patch of "road rash" on his thigh, but nothing worse.  Louise was not so lucky.  
She landed hard, also cracking her helmet and having a dozen or more spots of bleeding on her brain, though these turned out to be relatively minor and resolved quickly.  But she also broke her left hip, her left collarbone, two parts of her pelvic bone and five ribs.  Neighbors called 911 and she was being cared for by medics within 5 minutes.  An ambulance took her to the nearest hospital, which took x-rays and CAT scans and said she needed to take another ambulance ride to Harborview Medical Center, the regional trauma center for Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

Louise arrived at Harborview at 9 pm, and by 9 am the next morning they were wheeling her from the ER to the OR.  After a 5 1/2 hour surgery, Louise had two steel pins in her pelvis and a brand new hip of titanium, ceramic and high-impact plastic.  The photo to the right is Louise as you've never seen her before -- well, part of her, anyway.

She ended up spending 11 days at Harborview.  The photo to the left is Louise on the move to a skilled nursing facility/rehab center, where she worked on getting well for 32 days more.  Because of the broken collarbone, she could not put any weight on her left arm, so could not use a walker or even pull herself up for a month.  But her care was fantastic, with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy almost every single day, and the day before she was discharged we were able to take a 5-block walk in the neighborhood next to the rehab center.  The next photo was on day 29 post-accident, when Louise took her first steps.  The following one was taken on the roof deck of the rehab center, a tall building on First Hill overlooking downtown Seattle, shortly before she left on day 43, and the one after that is Louise arriving home to some decorations put up by our condo neighbors.  So sweet!

Of course the new normal for quite some time was getting Louise back to her old normal, or as close as we could.  Four weeks after getting home Louise was getting in a few 3-mile "rides" on the exercise bike in the condo workout room.  By the end of December she was able to pedal up to 6 miles at one sitting on the exercise bike.  All this time she was also working with her trainer, starting with 3 pound weights, about an eighth of what she used to use.  But she was dogged in her pursuit of recovery.  And the pounds of weights went up as the weeks went by. 
Soon after getting home we started walking along the marina next to our condo, going maybe a tenth of a mile to a bench and resting, then another tenth, then back.  Next time, a little further, with fewer stops.  Day after, further and steadier, and so on.  By early December we walked 3 miles to the end of Golden Gardens Park and back, and in January 2022 we were up to 4 and then 5 miles, with rest stops of course.Our next goal was to get back into the canoe, which happened the first week of March, just over 6 months after the accident.  Canoeing became in fact our favorite activity in 2022.  Here's a sampling.  First, the two of us on the Snohomish River.  You can't tell from the photo, but we're moving at about 5 mph, thanks to a 2 mph current as we ride the ebb tide toward Puget Sound.  Then a photo of us next to a log ship at the mouth of the Snohomish.

On McAllister Creek our club friend Sam used his fisheye camera on a pole high above his canoe to get this shot he calls "Small World."  Don't ask us how, but his camera somehow removes the pole from the image.  Nearby was a group of harbor seals, a common sight on our trips in salt water.  That's the top of Mt Rainier in the distance, about 45 miles away.

And two more -- Sam and his canoe dog Lucy in the mist of a cold November morning on Lake Whatcom, halfway between Seattle and the Canadian border; and Louise on a paddle with Jeff in Elliott Bay, enjoying the setting sun reflecting off downtown Seattle.

And biking?  Well, there were some psychological hurdles to get over, as well as the obvious physical ones.  We finally decided that we would get back on the tandem but try to ride as much as possible only on trails, not roadways.  Since most trails around Puget Sound are railtrails, there are never hills, but there can be gentle gradients.  We agreed that we would not be zipping down the few that came along.  

With these matters settled, we did get out and rode 450 tandem miles between our first ride in late April (8 months post-accident) and late October.  We've long felt that walking and canoeing are easier to do in cold weather than biking, and sunset comes remarkably early up here on the 47th parallel once daylight savings time is over.  Since virtually all our riding was in places we've ridden many, many times, we never felt the need to take any photos, so sorry, no illustrations for this part of the blog.  Take that back -- we have one photo to show you us in a rare moment of wearing non-athletic clothing, when we attended a garden party for donors to the University of Washington, taken on "Rainier Vista" on the UW campus.

Starting in mid-2022 Jeff went through training to become an official trip leader for the Paddle Trails Canoe Club, and all the photos above except the one of downtown Seattle were on trips we led.  We led trips right through the winter, and the next two photos were trips we led in January.  In the  one to the right, our club friend Damian is proving that his canoe is also an icebreaker.  In the photo below taken by our friend Sam, we're kind of bundled up but loving this trip down the Sammamish River because the current is strong thanks to a few wet weeks that preceded the trip.  It's not white water, which we don't choose to do, but a good current definitely makes it more fun.  And we do fine with picnics at 40 degrees, thanks to those thermoses of hot soup and coffee and thermal cushions for cold park picnic table seats.

So what's the "New Normal" we mention in the title of this blog post?  Well, it started with a chance encounter with Dan and Marcie Towle, owners of R&E Cycles, the fabulous shop that custom-built all three of our tandems (one after another, as we kept upgrading over the 28 years we've been tandeming).  They mentioned that they were going to attend the annual Northwest Tandem Rally (hereafter NWTR) over Memorial Day Weekend, and persuaded us to attend.  We went to a few rallies before we retired in 2007, but we've been out of town every summer since until the pandemic, when the tandem rally went into hibernation like so much else. 

We joined a group of 240 tandem teams at this year's NWTR, then tagged on another several days of adventures on the Olympic Peninsula, and the rest of today's blog will describe these along with the tandem rally, and explain at the end how they have led us to embark on a journey to what we hope will be a New Normal.

For decades, tandem rallies have happened all over America.  We worked the Eastern Tandem Rally into our trip up the East Coast in 2008, and the Midwest Tandem Rally into another trip around Minnesota and Wisconsin, but there are many others in various corners of the country.  The NWTR, like the others, is in a new location each year as local groups come together to sponsor it.  This year's was in Sequim (pronounced 'skwim'), a small city on the Olympic Peninsula midway between Port Angeles and Port Townsend on the map to the left.  The west side of the peninsula below Forks is the wettest part of the lower 48 states, getting over ten feet of rainfall per year in the Hoh Valley and some of its nearby neighboring valleys, but Sequim sits in the "rain shadow" on the back side of the Olympic Mountains and gets only about 20 inches per year, about half what most American cities get.  It turned out to be a dry week throughout the peninsula, even in the rainforest of the Hoh Valley, but more about that later.

The Olympic Peninsula is separated from the Seattle area by Puget Sound, so our trip there began with a ride on one of Washington State's ferries, the largest ferry fleet in the U.S.  The ferry approaching us is paired up with and identical to the one we're on, heading east as we move westward toward the ferry dock in Kingston.  The Olympic Mountains loom ahead, the highest of which (Mount Olympus, of course) is 7,980 feet / 2,432 m.  Global warming might change things, but for now over a dozen of the peaks have snow on top all year.

NWTR had been set for Memorial Day weekend, a 3-day weekend with a Monday holiday.  We set out on Thursday morning to beat the holiday crowds, and had no wait for the ferry.  When we got to Sequim we checked in early and took the tandem off the car for a short ride to see part of the route for the longer rides on Saturday.  Every tandem rally we've been to provides short (25-30 miles), medium and long (50 or more miles) rides for each of the two main days of the rally, and thanks to Problem #1 and Problem #2 discussed above, we're now firmly in the Short Group.  One highlight of this ride is finding that we're basically in shape, but not for the two hills that have 4% grades.  For that our 14-speed bike has a 15th speed, called walking.  At least we don't have hundreds of tandems riding past us as we would if we did this on Saturday.  The far better highlight is a charming wooden trestle, pictured to the right and below.

Sequim is famous for having the country's longest sand spit, Dungeness Spit.  It's 5 1/2 miles from the start to the lighthouse just barely visible in the distance in the second and third photos, and you're still a half mile from the end.  But don't wait too long -- the spit is growing about 14 feet / 4 m longer each year as sand drifts eastward along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the water you see separating the Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island Canada to the north.  By the way, in the closeup of the lighthouse you can see, not clouds, but rather the snow fields near the summit of Mount Baker, 75 miles / 120 km to the northeast, Washington's third-highest volcanic peak.

That's Canada in the photo above, with Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, in haze near the low spot in the middle of the photo.  The white blobs to the left of that are a ship most likely heading to Vancouver, and many other ships go by day and night, dozens per day, headed there and to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. 

Going from a long view to a short one, here is a closeup of some of the kelp and an endless supply of stones rounded by sand and waves that one sees along the shore.

And finally, the rally.  The 8 a.m. Saturday mass start of 240 or so tandems was led out by a chap on a pennyfarthing, as those 19th century large-wheeled bicycles are called.

Not wanting to be caught up in the crowd, Dan, Marcie and the two of us waited for the bunch to ride by, then went instead for coffee.  The payoff was a very peaceful ride, just the four of us on our two bikes, to the rest stop at the halfway point.  While there, the medium and long route riders who had taken a side trip caught up with us and we were no longer at the tail end.  And the one steep hill we came to?  Dan and Marcie joined us in ambulating rather than pedaling up that bugger.

That rest stop was manned by the Sequim Wheelers, a volunteer group that provides bicycle rides to those no longer able to bike on their own.  The first photo below shows Dan discussing one of their vehicles, a quadricycle that can be powered by both riders or by just one.  They use it regularly on the flat Olympic Discovery Railtrail that our rally used for parts of every ride each day.  The photo to the right is of a wheelchair-tricycle-ebike -- note the battery packs and the big round device in the center of the rear wheel, which is the motor.  In the second and third photos below, taken the next morning, you can see these and some of their other bikes waiting for the start signal, at 8 a.m. of course.

The tandem community has a long history of keeping active those folks whose physical conditions might otherwise have been a bar.  Jeff, for example, learned how to tandem forty years ago by taking the front seat of a tandem owned by his blind friend Peter Dawson.  In the Netherlands we've gotten together frequently with our blind friend Nico and his wife and tandem captain (the person on the front seat), Marga.  At the rally, we enjoyed seeing our friends from the Evergreen Tandem Club Paul and Dianne, who stay active on their bike with Dianne's prostheses keeping the wheels spinning.  And sometimes not, when she has that urge we all fall prone to, to check her cell phone in the middle of a bike ride.

Tandem rallies of course attract all sorts of tandems.  While most are "normal" tandems that look like stretched-out "normal" 1-person bicycles, one also encounters tandems with small wheels, recumbent tandems, and strange hybrids like the one Paul and Dianne are riding, with a recumbent stoker (the non-steering person who is usually on the back seat) sitting in front of the upright captain.  

While some non-tandemers view tandems as "divorce machines," our experience is quite the opposite.  We see them as bringing both couples and families closer together, and we saw all sorts of familial togetherness, included those whose families include fido in the fold.

Perhaps the oddest tandem we saw was this next one.  We're not sure if the rider in the red jacket showed up by himself on a tandem because he thought you had to be on a tandem to ride at a tandem rally, or if he just plumb forgot to check that his partner was on the bike before he left his last stopping point.

Of course there was a lot of scenery out there on our rides, but we'll just share three views.  First, the line of bikes on the Olympic Discovery Railtrail, on which 30-50% of of each day's miles were routed; then an interesting point on the trail, the renovated railroad bridge over the Dungeness River; and finally the river itself from that bridge.  The Dungeness is reportedly the second-steepest river in the U.S., dropping 7,000 feet from its headwaters on the slopes of Mt. Constance to its mouth only 28 miles away next to Dungeness Spit.

We wore our Evergreen Tandem Club jerseys both days (they're there in the second photo, but covered up by our cold weather jackets), but wondered if we should get new jerseys for the mythical team the fellow on the left was honoring.  Their motto is certainly ours as well.  Thanks to some volunteer photographers for the rally, we have two good photos of us along the way (as well as about 50% of the photos of the rally we've woven into this blog account), and we do appear to be enjoying ourselves.  Indeed, we were quite pleased with how we did and with how the rally went. We're very glad we attended.

Incidentally, for those of you who are wondering where Jeff's eyeglasses went -- earlier this year Jeff went in for cataract surgery on each of his eyes, about a month apart, and came out astounded.  Not only was the world brighter and far more colorful than it has been over the past several years, but the surgeon was also able to replace his lenses with ones that improved his astigmatism, so that he now has sharper vision than he had even as a child!  So often at this age, when we try to repair a malfunctioning body part, we can only hope it will get almost back to what it was.  One never expects to get it back better than ever.  But he did.

We stayed on in Sequim the night after the rally was over, and Dan and Marcie joined us the next day for rides from Port Angeles, a 15-minute drive to the west.  First we rode eastward on the Olympic Discovery Trail to the evocative Morris Trestle, seen first in an old photo posted at the bridge, then as it is now.  On the way back we took a shot of Ediz Hook, another sand spit that juts out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It's much shorter but far busier than Dungeness Spit.  Across the strait behind the spit is the pale outline of the mountains that line the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada.

After a cafĂ© lunch in Port Angles, we headed west on yet another portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail until we reached the Elwha River, currently the end of the longest portion of the trail that is open so far.  The hope is that the trail will someday stretch 138 miles, from Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean, but only 2/3 of that is built so far.  Between the rally, today's ride and one more the next day, we will have ridden on about 35 miles of it (much of it more than once, going out and back), all paved and mostly flat or gently sloping.  

The Elwha has been much in the news for the past few decades.  In 1992 Congress authorized removal of two dams on it to allow salmon to once again swim up this major river.  Their construction a century ago devastated salmon populations in this area, and likewise deeply affected human and animal populations that had depended on those salmon.  Thanks to almost endless discussions of the merits and manner of accomplishing this, demolition didn't begin until 2011 and was finally completed in 2014.  It was the largest dam demolition project in the world when it was done, but that title will soon pass to the Klamath River in Oregon and California as it begins a similar process this year, but with four dams.

The bridge over the Elwha is suitably spectacular for this special river.  It opened in 2009, and features a bicycle/pedestrian path suspended from the highway bridge deck.  The Elwha itself was beautiful, its light milky blue color a sign that some of its headwaters contain rock flour from glaciers up in the high reaches of the Olympics.

That night Dan and Marcie headed back to Seattle while we continued by car around the Olympic Peninsula.  Our first stop, for two nights, was the Log Cabin Resort on Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park.  Our room was spartan but spacious, and the view across the lake was quite up to National Park standards.

That evening we drove to the Crescent Lake Lodge, a much fancier National Park lodge, and the lobby was indeed quite stunning.  Their service was much less so, for they had lost our dinner reservation made a week earlier.  We did get the same food we would have gotten in the dining room, but served in takeout boxes we took to a nearby porch.  Sigh.

The next day we rode what we had come to ride, the Spruce Railroad Trail, which is now part of the Olympic Discovery Trail though disconnected for now from the Port Angeles segment.  A sign on the trail explains its history.  For about three miles it ran close to the shore of Crescent Lake and gave views of the opposite shore.  It then climbed gently but relentlessly, first within peeking distance of the lake, then deep into the forest.


Lunch was sandwiches we had made that morning, and then we enjoyed a 3-mile coast down that gradual slope we had just climbed.  The trail had three more points of interest, two tunnels and a short but challenging walk that bypassed the longer tunnel but brought us to a scenic place they call the Devil's Cauldron.

For the next two days, our focus was on rainforests.  This graphic explains why.

As moist air moves off the Pacific, it hits the Olympics and rises. Air gets cooler
the higher you go, and cool air holds less moisture than warm, so it condenses as rain.  Lots of it.  

Our first stop was a nature walk near the Crescent Lake Lodge.  The yearly rainfall here is over 60 inches, but it's on the north side of a steep part of the Olympic Mountains.  Not a lot of direct sunlight gets here, especially in winter when the sun is low in the sky at our latitude.  All this makes it act as if it's even rainier.  Seattle gets 38-39 inches (despite what the graphic above says), so this is over 50% more.  Louise is standing next to a typical tree, not particularly old, and based on her height it appears to be a little over 100 feet, or the height of a ten-story building.  Nearby trees are draped in moss, both dead trees and live ones.

A tree apparently fell on the trail within the past year and was cut up and moved to the side of the trail, as the cut still looks relatively new.  After taking this photo of the rings of the tree Jeff tried counting them, but was still quite a few from the outer rings when they got too tiny to count anymore.  At that point he was over 150.  There are not many living things that get to be a few centuries old, but the trees around here are some of them.

Spend any time in the Olympics and you will learn about 'nurse logs,' and see hundreds of them.  These are trees that fell some time ago and are now melting back into the forest floor.  As they decompose they become a nursery for new plants, particularly moss at first.  In the second photo you see one sapling has gotten a start in life at the far left end of the moss-covered log, and  in the third you can see at least four trees that got their start from a nurse log that is almost but not quite fully decomposed.

New life is so strong here, trees sprout not only from nurse logs but also from stumps.  Here are two, the first one with the decaying stump still there, the second where the stump has disappeared but left its form behind.
Of course, in plant life as in human, it does matter where one sets down roots.  We do not predict a long and happy life for some of the trees we saw springing up.  In the first photo below, it's going to take some effort to get roots down to the ground from tree trunks that are another 6 feet higher off the ground than 6-foot-plus Jeff.  In the second, it's not a matter of if but when they will crash down for these saplings that are coming up out of a log suspended several feet up.

We next drove to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center.  The visitor center is closed due to budget cuts, a sad commentary on our national priorities of late, but there are two trails that gave us plenty of first-hand information.  It's only 600 feet above sea level, but the annual rainfall is a staggering 129 inches a year.  We were lucky to be there on one of the fairly rare days when there was none coming down.

Of course it had nurse logs in abundance.  Here are shots of one from both sides.  Because trees that spring from nurse logs line up in a straight line, it often looks like they were planted by humans, but the wide roots are an easy clue to their actual origins.

How tall do these trees get?  When they laid out this trail they ran it alongside a downed tree to give folks an idea.  Jeff remembers walking alongside this very tree 45 years ago on his one other visit to the Hoh valley, and the smaller top branches have decomposed enough that it was hard to say where the top once was.  But he walked 150 feet / 45 m alongside it, so it was probably once 200 feet tall, possibly taller still.

They are also quite massive at their base, as these two shots illustrate.

After spending the day in rainforests, of course the place to stay was another National Park lodge in the rainforest.  The Lake Quinault Lodge fit the bill.  It's 97 years old and charming inside and out.  We had dinner in the Roosevelt Dining Room, so-called because Franklin D Roosevelt came out here in 1937 and had lunch in this very same room.  While here he heard arguments for and against creating a national park in the Olympics, and at the end announced that he was for it.  He signed a bill creating it 9 months later.

The menu for FDR's lunch is still posted in the dining room, and it was quite elegant.  But so too was our dinner, pot roast for Jeff and salmon for Louise, both with quite the presentation.

The next day was spent walking yet another rain forest trail that starts right at the lodge and ends at the world's largest spruce tree.  The sign has the statistics, but Louise standing at the base of the tree gives a more visceral exposition of how big this tree truly is.  You do see her in that first photo with her blue top and black pants, right?

And with that, we headed by car to Olympia, gateway to the Olympic Peninsula and also the state capital.  But our purpose was to take one more bike ride to help us decide whether it was time for a new normal.

The Chehalis Western Trail was built on an abandoned Weyerhaeuser timber railroad line.  The north end once connected to a pier, the south end to some of the timber company's forests.  We rode it only a few weeks earlier, hoping to make it to where it joins an east-west railtrail, the Yelm-Tenino Trail, and turn around there.  But we stopped for lunch 3 miles before that point, and decided to head back because we both felt we didn't have the fuel in our tanks to go further.

After a good rest at the Holiday Inn Express, we took to the road for the one-block distance it takes to get on the trail.  Not actually the Chehalis Western, but yet another trail that connects to it a half mile away.  The hotel is the tangerine-colored building, and the distance is about the closest a hotel can be to a trail without actually being on it.  Whenever we come down this way, this is where we stay.

We like this trail because it is so much in the trees.  We love being surrounded by all the green, protected somewhat from the wind, and in summer shaded from the sun.  Near the south end of the trail it runs alongside a Burlington Northern spur that always has between one and two miles of oil tanker cars just sitting there.  Don't they need these things to, like, carry oil?  Who knows.  The second photo is a good representation of the tunnel of trees that the trail runs through much of the time.

This time we did make it to the trail junction, making the 32-mile ride our longest so far this year.  But even though we did better than on the earlier ride, it did help us decide to make a big change, to what we're calling the New Normal.  

In part, it was the realization that this was pretty much the longest we could ride even after spending some time getting in shape.  But it was also the confirmation that no amount of getting in shape was helping us get up hills.  Even this rail trail, with its gentle gradient but for a few short climbs where the trail varied from the original railroad bed, posed a challenge.  Between these two realities lay the fact that our cycling options were looking very limited, to rides that were not long and not hilly.  The list of places to ride was looking very short indeed.  And effort, not fun, seemed to be becoming the dominant theme of our bike riding.

At the NWTR there were a handful of merchants selling bike-related items and services.  A Seattle company called Bike Swift had a table and a charming owner/salesman, Henry.  We spent a lot of time talking to Henry, to reading his literature, to looking at his sample bike.  Bike Swift specializes in converting bicycles to e-bikes, including tandems. 

We know two couples who have made that conversion of their tandems, and we wanted time to "sleep on" the decision, and also needed time to get some info from those two couples.  The information they provided and the enthusiasm they had for having made the change went a long way to helping us decide to proceed.  The ride in Olympia moved us the rest of the way toward the decision.  Mind you, we're not about to do any century (100 mile) or metric century (62 miles /100 km) rides, but we also want to be able to do more than 32 miles with maximum effort, to tackle at least moderate hills that currently look like walls to us when we're on our bike, and to enjoy our riding more.

As we write this blog entry, Little Red is in the shop.  It will get a new front wheel that looks just like the one in this photo.  Our current front wheel is the same size and has a 2-pound drum brake in the center.  This new wheel will have the motor in the center, and it will add about 10 pounds.  The 475 kwhr battery will add another 7 pounds.  This sounds like a lot, but the two panniers we have used in Europe weigh about 17 pounds each, so we're used to having that much extra weight on the bike.

Thus the New Normal -- accepting that we don't have the bodies we had a few years ago, even less so the abilities we had when we started tandeming 28 years back, and also accepting that it's OK to use ebike technology to deal with those changes.

Will this New Normal of using assistive technology change our lives?  Will we do more biking than we've done since the accident?  Will we enjoy it much more?  Stay tuned.  We plan to write one more blog entry later this summer to sum up what life with an electrified Little Red has been like.

 'Til then, dear readers, Happy Trails to You!