MCBC’s Ice Cream Odyssey by Tandem

Team Purple: Michael and I Pose w/ Tandem

On Saturday, I did my first long tandem ride with my friend, Michael. He has a tandem and I’ve gone out on it with him for a few short rides. At first, the tandem rides were a bit frightening for me. As the stoker (in the back), you give up some of the control and independence you are used to on a regular bicycle — you don’t change the gears, you don’t use the brakes, and you can’t really see what is ahead of you. As I am someone who values control (and struggles for it more ways than just bicycling in my life in general), you can understand why submitting some of my control to trust someone else is a huge commitment of energy and, as I already stated, a bit scary. However, there are some benefits to having an extra set of legs to pedal along, despite the extra weight of the heavier bike: speed, my favorite attribute, being one of them. It’s also kind of fun when you get over the scariness of it.

I never bow down from a challenge. In the back of my mind, I’ve been kind of tempted to do a longer rider for the last month since I first rode the tandem. So when Michael mentioned a desire to do the Medina County Bicycle Club’s Ice Cream Odyssey, I dropped the suggestion that maybe I would be willing to try it on the tandem.

It turned out to be a good decision. Saturday was a beautiful day for riding — not too hot, but a little on the windy side. Somehow the wind seemed a little less disruptive on the tandem. This, however, is coming from the perspective of the person in the back, though… Michael might not quite agree. The route itself, through Medina and Wayne counties, was rolling and challenging at times. I’m told that this is actually the sort of route a tandem excels on.

We, of course, elected to do the longest route — a metric century (62 miles) that actually turned out to be 65 miles. Our completion time was a little over 4 hours with a 15.7 (!!) average speed. If there hadn’t been so much wind, perhaps we could have hit the 16 mark (which I think we did once on a shorter 20 mile ride last month).

The ride started and ended at Buckeye Woods Park in Medina. The first five miles follow a bike path that I never knew existed along a marsh — very nice. From there, we rode into Chippewa-on-the-Lake, which I’d never seen before and didn’t realize was actually a respectable sized lake — also very nice.

The first rest stop was at Hartzler’s Family Dairy & Ice Cream in Wooster. This is the Ice Cream Odyssey, after all! I enjoyed a flavor called “Heiffer Trails” — as described on their placard, “Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Reese’s PB Cup, chocolate chips, and peanut butter swirl.” Yum! Michael enjoyed “Ditch Tea Delight” — mint ice cream with pieces of Oreo cookies. This would have been one of my choices, as my favorite ice cream is and always will be mint chocolate chip, but I decided to go with something different (I had mint chocolate chip the last two times I have had ice cream this summer. Gotta change it up every once in
awhile.)

After our 9:30am ice cream (some people complained about this — it’s never too early in the morning to eat ice cream, in my books!), we continued to ride through West Salem, Burbank, and Westfield Center. The most harrowing part of the ride was the drop into valley. I nearly peed my pants as we spend to a 40 mph drop along a twisty, windy road. I held the handlebars tightly and silently repeated to myself, “Michael knows what he’s doing. He’s familiar with the tandem. It will be all right.” I tried not to think about those random events that can occur, causing you to flip, such as dogs running out into the middle of the road. Or deer.

Hmm… You really need to have faith in your driver when on a tandem. Some of my friends have asked why I haven’t taken the front position. At this point, I understand the responsibility of the person in front and I’m not yet sure I’m ready for that. The tandem has an extra disk brake that I do not have the feel for how to use (since I haven’t tried to ride in front) and, up until yesterday, I didn’t even know how exactly to work it. The weight of the responsibility for not only keeping myself up but also another rider is heavy. I’m also not the best at shifting gears. I’ve tossed myself on my own bike while taking on too high a gear up a hill, and then not having the ability to continue pedaling, and thus, falling over while clipped in. So if we look like the typical “guy-in-front-chick-in-back” tandem team, I am perfectly fine with that. On a tandem, both positions are just as important… Both riders need each other to make it work…

So I’ll stay in the back for now, where my main responsibility is signaling turns, warning the front person of the cars coming from behind, and, of course, pedaling my legs off. One of the nicest things about being in back and not having to watch the road so much is that while you’re pedaling in a stressful spot — say up a hill — you can just keep your eyes focused downwards, watching your legs turn the crank and the road spinning by below the chain. You can get yourself in a zone of pedaling since you don’t need to look out for impending danger. That’s how I got myself up the toughest hill of this ride. It was nice to not have to look ahead where you’re forced to see how far you are from the summit. Instead, I could focus 100% of my power on pushing the pedals and the bike forward. That was kind of nice. It was like being in spin class (which I’ve taken once or twice in the winter).

The ride concluded with a return to the bike trail along the marsh and back at Buckeye Park. The wind seemed to pick up majorly toward the end of the ride. While we enjoyed our wonderful BBQ dinner of hamburgers, the wind tried to whisk away all of our plasticwear, half empty cans of pop, napkins, and plates as they became less full. It was like trying to eat in one of those wind tunnels where I saw Trek testing bikes for Lance Armstrong on the Lance Chronicles.

It was a really nice ride. Kudos to Medina County Bike Club — it was a lot of fun and I definitely would do this ride again next year. I’m having such fun learning all these area rides… The ABC has really gotten me exposed to the bicycling community and all its rides. I’m having a blast. Unfortunately, not much work is getting done on my house this summer (to my neighbor’s chagrin, I am sure, as they watch all the plants in front of my house die… I am sure I am the neighbor who everyone hates because I fail to landscape anything in my yard).

I guess I should also add here that after the ride, I had to rush up to Brooklyn to meet up with my friend, Diane, for her birthday. Of course, I was running late, as I am ALWAYS running late (maybe because I try to jam-pack my day with too many activities). My lucky streak with traffic violations has ended: I was finally pulled over on I-71 and ticketed for going 83 mph in a 65 mph zone (I told you have a need for speed). The last five times I got pulled over for speeding, I was let go with a caution. I think this was mainly because I was pulled over by male cops. Not to overstate my looks or anything, but I suspect I may have been let go because I was female. Not that I should I think get special treatment for being female (and in most cases, I’d fight for equality)… but if it gets you out of a ticket, then, hey, I’m not complaining.

This time, though, I was pulled over by a rather stern chick. And I think she was mad because I didn’t immediately stop when she signaled me. So I own up to my mistakes. However, I was more than a little irked when I realized she also charged me with a seatbelt violation. I had taken it off before she got to the car so that I could root through my glove compartment for my registration. I am so dumb! I could kick myself. When she got there, I didn’t have my seatbelt on. All said and done, the Medina government just got a “donation” of $160 from me (and a donation it is — I know because I used to work for a company that installed court software into local, county, and state courts. I helped them set up their accounts receivables. I know where that money goes… usually into the salary of the Clerk of Courts. But that is a bitch fest for another day). Whoo-hoo. By the way, seatbelt violations are $83 in Medina. My traffic violation was $77. I guess I won’t be buying that Terry seat I wanted for my bike quite yet…

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