There was a group of bicycling couples in our local club who rode tandem bicycles. We called ourselves the “Greater Rochester Eating and Tandeming Society”.
And not your ordinary Schwinn Bicycle-Built-For-Two with a basket of flowers up front. Oh no … THIS group of tandeming couples had to be ahead of their time (and possibly out of their minds) and rode Mountain Bike tandems. Yes, it’s a thing.
And this group of crazy tandem cyclists got together in some combination to go Party-In-The-Park (Allegany State Park, to be exact) every fall season. That party, affectionately known as “FART” (Fall Allegany Rally for Tandems) went on for 25 YEARS! It was a great run of rides, food, fun, laughter and togetherness among our Tribe. Alas, the 25 year party had run it’s course, and so too did the excitement of looking forward to next year’s fall, and seeing all these beautiful people.
We may not be seeing the Allegany trails and night rides in the woods again anytime soon, but we DO still enjoy seeing each other and catching up when we can, and the opportunity presented itself this weekend when Mark and Lynn invited the local core of the G.R.E.A.T.S. to their lakeside cottage. I say “local” because over 25 years, our tribe of tandem mountain bikers grew to include plenty of out-of-state and Canadian members.
I took it as a special invite / opportunity. With the plan of gathering late afternoon at M&L’s place, which is 1/2 way to the Niagara River from my home, I figured I’d take advantage of the early afternoon and get in a ride … 52 miles to the cottage. Not exactly “no sweat”, but no problem.
Even with Karen driving out, the decision would be how to get home. I’m not fond of one-way rides, driving at night, and I hate wasting a beautiful clear, windless night, so with lights on and leaving right at sundown, I hopped back on the bike at 8:25pm and headed south to Albion where I could pick up the canal trail and hot-foot it back to Rochester.
The back roads between the lakeshore and the canal trail were going dark fast before I got to Albion and in 11 miles to Albion, I think I saw ONE car. Albion, at 9:30pm, was dark too. Saturday night, and Main St. Albion has rolled up the sidewalks. No stopping for a coke here. (However, Brockport at 10:30pm was alive and kicking! I exercised extreme discipline and did not stop.)
On the trail, I disconnected the GPS to send full generator power to the light system, kicked it into high gear, and was on my way. Out of town, the canal trail is blacker than black. There’s no moon up, so the clear black sky is bright with stars and I can make out the Milky Way when I stop for a drink. I don’t try reaching for a water bottle while moving, on a narrow trail, next to the canal only 6 feet to my right ... in the dark. Paranoid? No. But when my fellow tour guide Paul told me about one of his Erie Canal Tour participants actually, really, honestly … RODE HIS BIKE INTO THE CANAL in BROAD DAYLIGHT! … I realized yeah, I guess that CAN happen. It could be hard to explain, so I’ll be safe and stop for a drink and enjoy the view of the sky, frequently. It's worth it. There's something really Spooky-Cool about riding in the dark, following your headlight beam, and watching things (including critters) come in and out of the light.
I made it home by 12:30am. I took 5:15 hours to get out there (slight headwinds, warmer, and took a lunch break) and only 4 hours (cooler, no wind, and only stopping for water in / water out) to get back.
So, I finally got in a really nice night ride this year, got to see old friends, and scored a century ride all in one shot.