© Norbert Buchholz | Dreamstime.com
Sixteen of my family members enjoyed a vacation together in Hilton Head, South Carolina, this past summer. Each traveled with his or her own vision of seaside bliss. Our kids looked forward to building sandcastles, collecting shells, and catching crabs. The grown-ups looked forward to reading novels and exploring a local lighthouse.
My fantasy beckoned in the driveway. There, propped up against a slender palm tree, was a tandem bicycle that gleamed in the afternoon sun. Since the day I acquired a luscious banana seat model as a girl, I’ve loved the freedom that comes with biking. Now, I could try riding tandem, gaining speed while exploring the dynamics of cooperation.
Rather than slipping on my swimsuit, I laced up my sneakers, ready for adventure. A tandem requires two cyclists, so I had to wait impatiently for someone to join me. At last, my husband finished checking out the media room and ambled outside. Per the usual cycling protocol, the taller partner sits up front, in the captain’s seat. My husband grabbed that prized spot, giving him the ability to steer and brake. I tentatively took the stoker’s seat, wondering how this experiment would end. But the promise of fast speed and teamwork drew me on.
Our first try could only be called graceless. Weaving wildly along the street, we fought to balance the bike.
Then Eric steered toward the city plaza, while I insisted that we turn the other way down a shaded trail. “That’s why I won’t ride tandem,” observed my stepdad as he watched our fractious departure.
I’m a brisk pedaler, but when Eric adjusted the speed and slowed, I was forced to coast. Just wait it out, I thought, the next chance will come. Indeed, our ride began to smooth out. Sitting so close, we could chat about the sweeping oak trees and passing landscape. When we rode on the beach, I gave up trying to see past his large hat. I simply closed my eyes and trusted that his navigational skills would leave the sandcastles to linger another hour.
Facing into the wind, we pedaled in unison.
On the trails, I learned that even petite partners can ride captain. I loved the rush of being up front, opening up the bike’s power. I claimed success.
Our daughters pedaled together, too, giggling as they struggled to balance the bike. But just as quickly they abandoned their effort, more content to explore the beach. More puzzling to me was that the married couples didn’t seize the chance to ride. Guess they viewed their vacation as a chance for personal space and meditation. Important stuff, to be sure, but they missed out on something special.
For a short time, before one of us grew tired or bored, we went faster than we could go by ourselves. It was a strange, almost unworldly togetherness, and pure fun. At home, the neighbors will have to get used to seeing us chat as we spin through the neighborhood. I’m on my way to the bike shop to bring some of this beach idyll home.