Sunday, March 27, 2016

Seid Trips - Sharing the Ride Along the Trail

When I was a teen-ager, living in the tiny western Michigan village of New Era, Michigan, I had an unreciprocated crush on a girl who lived on the other side of the tracks. We went to school together; we went to church together; and together we had in common that our fathers were leaders in the small, independent Bible church. One would be hard-pressed to say who ran the church: Her father, the chair of the board, or mine, the pastor. Perhaps even more influential were our mothers, who were in the basement, molding the minds and hearts of the next generation.
Childhood church, father was pastor
On any given Saturday we would be around the church and parsonage helping our respective fathers. I might be mowing the parsonage lawn or even at the church printing off the Sunday bulletin on the mimeograph machine and neatly folding them to be handed out the next day. I knew that she would be across the street at the church, and I hoped to catch a glimpse of her or even run into her.
High School, Looking Cool
I remember one Saturday in particular. I was getting ready to go ride my new bike around the country roads leading out toward Lake Michigan. My Huffy Independence, as you can imagine, was red, white, and blue-themed. This was before the time of bicycle helmets. I was wearing my brother's cool beret. Red, white, and blue, of course. At the time I was wearing large tear-drop shaped glasses. I suppose I was going for a Peter Fonda, Easy Rider look. I guess I didn't pull it off very well. I rode across the street to stop and talk with my dream-girl. I don't remember what she said, but I know my pride was hurt, and I felt as goofy as I must have looked. Fast-forward about 40 years later and she's now been my partner in life for nearly that long. Suann has been nothing but supportive of my bike riding and my goofy outfits.
For the past year Suann has listened to me talk about bike-riding. Not once has she questioned the purchase of yet another cycling kit. She has never asked me to stay home on a weekend day rather than leave for a three to five hour bike ride. I know when I stumble through the front door, pushing my bike inside and starting to remove the sunglasses, the helmet, and sweat-soaked lycra, she's there to greet me with, "Did you have a good ride?" I try my best to share my experience with her, grateful that she makes me feel so good about the time and expense I spend on my hobby even though it's not something I can really share with her.
It's one of those odd coincidences of life. In a drawer of an end-table sits a college term paper Suann wrote a long time ago. Her topic was Multiple Sclerosis. Many years later she would be diagnosed with that debilitating disease. It's made her a bit forgetful. She doesn't always make the best decisions about what to do or how to do it. I've taken over most of the household chores such as laundry and washing dishes. Suann still walks, though with a wide-stance and a halting gait. After a few blocks her left leg refuses to work properly; a minute's-rest and she can proceed. She loves to be outside. In the fall she wants to pick up leaves for craft projects she can no longer do. In the summer she wants to pick all of our flowers to enjoy inside leaving our flowerbeds bloomless. Before the snow has barely melted in the spring she begs -- and bugs -- to buy plants to pot for the front porch, though in recent years they wilt and die before summer has ended.
I've been trying to find ways to share my bike riding with Suann. Garmin has a Live Event feature that will show on a map on their website the location of the rider with the GPS device. A few times I've taken Suann for a ride in the car and have either retraced my steps or "reccied" a new route. I've taken a few pictures with my iPhone and now have started to create videos I can share with her. But it still hasn't seemed to be enough.
I got the idea to look for some kind of trailer to pull behind the bike. We have a great rail trail nearby. We finally decided to buy a Cycletote special needs adult-sized bike trailer. It came this past week, and I spent the evening figuring out how to put it together: I only had to take it back apart and put it together correctly a few times and only stripped one bolt. Yesterday we went for our first ride.
For the first time, it was a pretty good experience. After a few tries I figured out how to take it apart enough to make it compact. I cleaned out the trunk of the car only to discover it won't fit in the trunk. Suann suggested the back seat; sure enough it did slide in without too much trouble. Other than one of the tires being a little low on air and that we couldn't figure out how to get our expensive Terrano-X bike-to-bike communication device to work, we had a great time.
Cardinal Greenway rail trail, small segment
We had to go out from the city of Richmond to find a trail head where the barriers were wide enough for the trailer to pass through. I hardly felt a difference in pulling the trailer. It actually felt like a good training tool: Chris Froome, 2015 Tour de France winner, describes his early years in South Africa without mountains to climb and training by riding with his brakes depressed creating greater resistance. A few times I got us up to 20 mph. The trail is very nice, though with some recent winds there were small branches strewn along the pavement. The trees and fields are still brown and bare. The sun was trying to get us into the 60s, but the breeze could be cool, especially on the return leg of the trip heading into the ESE wind.
My bike, Suann's "chariot"
We had a great time together; the next time will be even better. We'll figure out a way to make Suann a little more comfortable in the seat. We'll figure out what buttons to press to get our helmet-attached communication devices to work properly so we can talk to each other during the ride. I'll get better at setting-up and taking-down. Once we get to know our local trail, we'll start thinking about trips to explore other trails. New adventures await as we share the ride together.

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