The Team We’ve Come To Be – 3

The following evening we set out from our home in rural Oregon. One would think getting down the road would a simple matter of pedaling, but it became considerably more complicated, causing me to reflect on a distant memory.

Some years prior, long before a tandem bicycle was a consideration, I’d read a rare book published in 1885, entitled Cycling To Canterbury. It was written by Elizabeth Pennell and illustrated by her husband, Joseph.

After their marriage in Philadelphia, the couple traveled to the UK to honeymoon in London and embark on an adventure. Armed with a newly purchased Covington tandem tricycle, they set out for Canterbury, following the course set by Chaucer’s characters in The Canterbury Tales, five hundred years after the fact.

Joseph, an experienced cyclist, was physically fit. Elizabeth, however, was not. She struggled the entire trip learning the ropes and getting in shape. Joseph grew so impatient with her that at least once accused her of back pedaling.

We, too, with our new Burley, struggled while learning the ropes.

Our real test, however, was that of conquering Bailey Hill, an ten percent grade lying between our home and town. For weeks, in spite of our best efforts, we were forced to push our steed to the summit.

We did overnighters, pedaled to picnics, and even shopped for groceries. But not until we’d logged more than two-hundred fifty miles were we triumphant.

From that point on we achieved together what neither of us could do alone.

Ahead stands a hill
I know not its name
Only that the incline
Makes our legs flame.

Now we have started
Climbing this steep knoll
And with each down stroke
The slower we roll.

We continue on pressing
With but one common hope
That we can reach the top
Before we reach our rope.

Ahead lay the summit
And I hear a low sigh
From my faithful stoker
The apple of my eye.

Now we have reached the zenith
And I touch my stoker’s knee
Telling her I am thankful for
The team we’ve come to be.

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