Won Without Words
winning the marriage you desire through wisdom

Shari Popejoy


January 15, 2011

The WORK of Marriage, Part 2 (The WORK of a Tandem)

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Written by: Shari Popejoy

104.5 km/64.9 miles

I hope you enjoyed the dreamy romantic tandem tale I told earlier about our romantic fall ride.  It was true.  Every word.  And so is the next tale I’ll tell – every word!  Oh, the importance of perspective – from the back of a bicycle built for two!

Let’s rewind a couple months.

Now, it’s the middle of August.  We’d been taking rides together on this tandem for almost a year, and were ready to take our first road trip together, a SAG-supported (SAG = help for those who lag behind — but it does no good for those who sag in the behind)  sixty-mile ride through the flat fields and farmlands of Joplin, Missouri, an oasis of level land in the surrounding hilly Ozarks countryside (or so I assumed).  We arrived just as the mass of cyclists were pulling out, surprised to observe that we were the only tandem bike that day.  We were glad to miss the rush, and breezed through the check-in for this memorial ride.

I was so lucky to have a husband who knew what I liked, and encouraged me to try new things, and was willing to peddle along with me for a Saturday, instead of going off on his own, to race along at thirty miles per hour with the other riders on his ‘half-bike’ as he calls it.  He could have given them some competition, but instead, he chose to ride with me!  Awww, how sweet!

We rode the first twenty miles with ease, before stopping at a restaurant built into the base of a bluff.  The trail diverged, and those who wanted to take the shorter ride went right, and we. . . went left.

Some sadistic course designer had arranged for a tour of the countryside, — by way of the bluffs.  It was a beautiful residential area, with houses clinging for dear life to the sides of the cliffs, and we had to ride up the steepest hill we’d ever attempted.  In fact, for the first time ever, we had to dismount and walk, because there wasn’t a gear low enough on this pleasure bike to handle this hill.  By the fourth hill, I was starting to become annoyed with the designer of this course, and as if sensing my annoyance, in the helpful little directive arrows spray-painted on the asphalt to keep us on the right route, was a cute little question – got hills? — smiley face. I wasn’t smiling.

Marc realized that this course was not what he’d anticipated and sweetly offered to reroute the bike and head back, taking a shorter course.  I thought that surely the worst of the hills were behind us since we were on level ground again.  I suggested we press on and complete the ride.  But, hill after hill after hill loomed ahead of us, and as I panted and groaned as we neared the top of each one, Marc would encourage me, “We’re almost to the top,” and with relief, we crested the hill, and I peeked around his shoulder and saw the next hill over the rise.

Finally we got to the last ten miles.  It was the last pit stop, and our last chance to throw in the towel, and ask for a ride back to the truck.  I just didn’t want to give in.  Marc joked that it might be ‘all downhill’ from here, and I thought surely I could ride the last few miles.  I wasn’t finished yet.  I believed him.

You can imagine my dismay when we were confronted with more hills.  Finally, with just a few miles left to go, I said in frustration, “If there is one more hill, I’m contacting the person who designed this tortuous route, and giving them a piece of my mind.  How can they expect people to donate a sizeable contribution to come out and support this memorial ride, and pay for the privilege of being tortured? Is this an annual event?  Surely no one will return next year.  What kind of people are cyclists anyway?  What have I gotten myself into?” I guess I wasn’t too tired to vent my frustration!

And yet, that wasn’t the last hill, there were at least four more.  By now, I was exhausted, but pedaling with the sheer force of annoyance.  My anger fueled me.  “If they think I’m quitting now, forget it.  I’ll finish just to surprise them,” I complained to myself.   (I’m not sure who ‘them’ was, but ‘them’ was the enemy!)  We made it up one of the final hills, and as I gasped for breath, I not only smelled, but tasted the gagging stench of a pig farm.

A hard-working farmer’s wife was completing chores, on this (from her perspective) perfect sunny day, while I was completing a grueling marathon that I hadn’t expected or trained for.  I could almost hear her thoughts as she looked out from her barnyard, at my red face, heat reflected from the black asphalt of the road, as the sun reached its zenith, thinking to herself, “What idiot rides these hills in the middle of the day in the middle of August?!”  All I wanted to do was shout maniacally, as I pedaled past her property, “Your farm STINKS!”.

My breathing returned to normal, just in time for the next hill, which really was the last one, and as my lungs burned with the need for air, my nostrils were assaulted with an acrid smell.  Did they have to route us past the asphalt plant?  And who works on Saturdays?  But, they were.  I was ready to cry.  In fact, I moved the mouthpiece of the transmitter for the clever little two-way radio that connects us (so we can share the beauties of the ride), so that he wouldn’t hear me sniffle or moan, or complain. . . or worse.

Finally, we were within sight of the truck.  We had to go through a busy intersection, and my normally patient husband commanded sternly, “Don’t pedal.”  He didn’t have the time or energy to explain that I needed to wait for him to clip back into his pedals, after stopping at the red light.  I just wanted to get to the truck as quickly as possible, but he probably kept us from crashing within view of the truck.  I would have really been mad about that!

I can only assume that by this time my brain was seriously oxygen deprived, because I had a strong inclination to obey him literally, remove my feet from the pedals, and let him pedal the last quarter mile by himself.  In fact, there was some malicious person standing at the finish line, snapping pictures of the happy victors, and I wish that I had removed my feet from the pedals, stuck my legs out at right angles, waved my hands in the air, and said, “Look Ma – no hands,” as he clicked the picture.  Instead, I chose to glare at him for the record.  He probably had something to do with designing that course.

We had made it!  We had finished a sixty-mile ride that was actually sixty-four point nine three miles.  Who does that?  Who adds 4.93 miles to the end of a grueling sixty-mile ride?  I was watching my odometer and blessing the sixty-mile mark – only to have to keep pedaling for four point nine three more miles.  That’s 104.5 kilometers for Pete’s sake!  I was too annoyed and exhausted to enjoy the victory.

It took me several months to put on the t-shirt I earned that day.  Now I wear it sorta proudly as a trophy of the accomplishment!  Wow, that was hard WORK.  I think the hardest part of the day though, was trying to retain my cheerful and optimistic attitude. . .not really!

Next time, I’ll tell you what annoyed me the most about that day!


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Won Without Words by Shari Popejoy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at blog.wonwithoutwords.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.injoyinc.com/.

About the Author

Shari Popejoy
Shari Popejoy is the author of the book Won Without Words, and the blog Won Without Words, encouragement to wives. She writes the Livingstone Library, an adventure series for young people, and the blog Oh Joy!, (injoyinc.com/oh/) for busy moms. She is a frequent contributor to Christian print and online magazines, and writes from the quiet country of the Ozarks, where she lives with her husband, Marc, and their three children. You can find out all about her at sharipopejoy.com!


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