We are coming downhill through the trees at a pretty fast pace. Moss covered trees in the old growth forest near the Columbia River are whipping by. Or rather, we are whipping by them. It so beautiful here, and peaceful if we just slow down to enjoy it. “How fast?” I shout at Charlie, his ears just about 12 inches from my mouth. “28” he shouts back. Usually I am screaming “FASTER! FASTER!” This time, 100 days away from brain surgery and still recovering, I say “Ok, lets slow it down a bit”.
Day 1 of our Anniversary Adventure found us riding from Mosier to Hood River and back.. There were many hikers and cyclists out on the beautiful day that was Father’s Day. The views were outstanding and the Mosier Tunnels were fascinating. The trail surface itself was well manicured asphalt. We had both hiked and ridden this trail. It was familiar and not too challenging. We didn’t go too fast or too slow. It was a just right kind of day.
Pedaling on the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway 30 was great adventure to add to our anniversary list. Many sections of the old highway have been restored to paved hiking/biking trails. Other sections are directly adjacent to the freeway. Concrete dividers separated us from traffic, but not from the roar of trucks and cars speeding along the interstate. Some portions of the Historic Highway 30 are still used for auto travel, and we rode portions with tourists in their RVs creeping by us on the narrow shoulder less sections.
Day 2 started at Ainsworth Park headed east to Cascade Locks. Not ‘knowing’ this trail we have been surprised by it and by our own abilities. The first surprise occurred shortly after starting out in the morning. I noticed something very peculiar. Our pedals were not synced up. On a downhill glide I gave my request “Right Down”. “Right down, Charlie, Right down!” He shouted back “Well then put YOUR right pedal down!” My right leg was down on my right pedal but his right leg was up on the right pedal. Um, our pedals are supposed to be in the same place. Once discovered it took little convincing we needed to stop and fix it. We found a parking lot and a kindly couple who had ridden their mountain bikes from somewhere to here to hike the trails leaving this trailhead. The gentlemen took the chain apart while the ladies held the bike and saw to the pedals. Within a few minutes we were happily pedaling east and they were hiking west.
The Old Highway has beautiful cement guardrails. Bridges over small creeks lead to views of waterfalls not visible form the freeway. We ride over the car tunnel near Bonneville Dam and its momentarily quiet, traffic sounds encased in the mountain below us, until of course we reach the other side where the noise leaks out and carries on down the interstate. There were hairpin turns. We came up on them rapidly. “Grepeedo’s” disc brakes whirred as Charlie’s strong hands pulled hard to slow us down. Did cars actually make these turns? Our tandem is a bit longer than a regular bike making the tight turns even more challenging. I am not sure I have ever been the “stoker” through these types of steep downhill spirals. Charlie expertly guides us through and I just hold on.
Riding behind Charlie, my view is limited to the sides. I seldom can see over or around his broad back to view what is ahead. He was taken by surprise too when we bounced over the first set of tree roots. WHAM, I hit the seat hard on the way down and the neurogenerator in my chest took a big bounce against my skin. (it hurt the rest of the ride and still hurts). Charlie started calling “bump” when he could see them. Some were marked with a very slim bit of white paint, almost like the line a white felt tip marker. I need to buy the Historic Highway society some bright yellow paint that should be applied with a 12 inch roller to be seen far enough in advance that the captain can warn the stoker. But I don’t think they were thinking “tandem”when they were preparing the old highway for cyclists. We found this to be true after the STOP, STAIRS AHEAD sign appeared on a tree next to the path. We did stop, dismounted and struggled to get the bike’s wheels in the grooves while we held it upright and negotiated the steep set of stairs ourselves. How did the cars driving this segment of the highway get down this steep part? There were no remnants of highway to give us a clue. At several points we rode under the freeway, though small tunnels much like the one that leads to Multnomah Falls from the parking lot. We pedaled under bridges following the creek beds. There were many steep climbs, but unlike Iowa we could not see them ahead so we could build up speed. It was darn hard work. We didn’t think we were going to have to “train” for this ride and neither of us have pedaled much lately. And of course we are not 20 anymore.
Stiff and hurting, I got off the tandem in Cascade Locks and called my friend Tricia. “Can you come get us and give us a ride back to our truck?” And she did. And we were so glad not to ride that trail back to our truck. We will leave that for another day. Maybe.
Our marriage has been an adventure of “ups and downs and all arounds”. Isn’t that how it goes? You hope that that your pedals are always in snyc, but sometimes they are not. Smooth cycling paths with no climbs, bumps, hairpin turns or “bike stairs” would be totally awesome, but realistically are nonexistent. Marriage is about working together, pedaling hard, taking the bumps and tight turns as they come and then relishing those downhill glides.
Hang in there Clupnys. Sometimes its harder than hard. Sometimes you want to get off and walk. Just throw the bike down and walk. Walk in opposite directions. But you don’t. You are committed to work together, for life. Through toddlers and teens and diseases and illnesses and in drought and in plenty. That’s marriage. For life.