Off Road Tandem Rally 94

It happened! We became a statistic!

Not exactly what we wanted, but we had a good time anyway. I'm talking about the '94 off road tandem rally held in the Pine Barrens of NJ mid March. We had done this ride last year for the first time after hearing tales about pretzeled front wheels and snow and ice. We did find snow and ice, but not one folded wheel. That was last year!

Maybe it was an omen, but we left home Thursday morning with about 3 inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. No problem, we have 4 wheel drive and we're heading further south! The weather report sounded great for central Jersey! It was a rather uneventful trip (I'm not complaining.) No snow here, and there was a real nice sunset. Red at night sailors delight... right???? Guess what gang! We're not sailors! We woke Fri morning to snow! Not what the weatherman had originally predicted, but never mind, we did this last year, remember? We were prepared! We had our mittens, booties and winter clothes (several sets so we could change them when they got wet). Now what?

There was an optional ride Friday afternoon at 2pm. Was it still on? We decided to hit the local library for a county map and a copy of the yellow pages (bike shops of course!) just in case there was no ride. My fiance suggested we drive to Atlantic City and get married as it was only on hour away! Hmmm, tempting ....but plans have been made.

When we arrived at Judy and Malcolm's for the ride start, we seemed to be the only ones there. There was only one car in the garage and we were very surprised to see Malcolm answer the doorbell when the vacuum cleaner stopped. Sure he'd go out riding with us, just let him put the vacuum cleaner away. Rather than drive all night, as we had the year before, we came down Thursday just so we wouldn't be exhausted for todays ride. Practically in their back yard are acres of old cranberry bogs and wooded areas. Here it was! Snow and frozen puddles, just like last year! The key word here is "bogs". An east coast storm a couple of weeks earlier didn't help dry things out and it looked like we were going to get wet again this year. My plastic bags inside biking shoes worked well on the first puddle. Up over the ankles, down in the boot, cold for a few minutes, then nice and warm! Squishy, but warm!

Actually, it's a good thing we went out Friday, because we were experiencing derailleur/shifting problems. We were getting real good at back peddling to release the chain when it jammed, but not what we were looking forward to doing all day Saturday and Sunday. We had a great dinner at the local Italian restaurant, pasta of course, then went over to Malcolm and Judy's for a get together. Due to work schedules and illnesses, only a few couples showed up. It was great to see familiar faces again and be able to put names with them as well. The entertainment for the evening was the new kitten, Toccata. Judy thanked us for tiring him out so well that he slept all night.

Saturday morning the sun was shining, and although there was frost on the ground, it was going to be a great day! Breakfast for most was at the Lite Bite restaurant, then meet in the parking lot where we saw more familiar faces along with some new ones. Then it's off to the Barrens! A convoy of either vans or roof racks rolling down the road. Once at the ride start and lunches passed out, thirteen teams headed for the woods. Where's all the puddles? No snow, no ice. They said it would be drier than last year, but after Friday I had my doubts. Good thing we were in the woods, coz the wind was really blowing. As we were leaving lunch, the McWaters noticed their front derailleur had broken where it attaches to the seat tube. That's an easy fix. Soooo.. they only had one speed to work with now. We had already climbed the one hill (optional) in NJ at Jemima Mount. Nobody made it up, try as we might. It wasn't the height that made it impossible, but the loose sand. After about 15 miles of riding, it was time to hit the showers and head back to Malcolm and Judys for the feeding frenzy.

Orders were taken for pizza. I'm still not sure why anchovies managed to get ordered while I had all I could do to get black olives yet alone artichokes on just one vegetarian pizza! Never mind, Pizza Hut doesn't have artichokes anyway! Oh well, during the evening eight or ten pizzas disappeared, not the mention the wonderful appetizers of assorted cheese and crackers, and veggies and dip. Oh yeah, don't forget the ice cream and toppings! By the way, the entertainment again was provided by the cat. Judy wanted to make sure they got a good nights sleep! Actually, we managed to entertain ourselves quite well with stories of both this year and last years events. We wanted to make sure the newcomers knew just how lucky they were to not have knee deep puddles which needed the ice broken first before you could ride through them, IF you could ride all the way through them!

As usual, the party broke up early, not because the cat disappeared, but because everyone was pretty tired after riding all day and we were going to do this again tomorrow! Sunday dawned another great day with sun shining, and temperatures forecasted to be even better than Saturday. The high Sat was around 50! Back to the Lite Bite for breakfast. When they asked us how many, we just said we'd take all the tables in the sunroom! Another convoy to the Barrens, lunches passed out and we're off! For some reason, about one half mile into the ride Tom and Teresa Bruni rode through the only puddle we found all weekend while the rest of us rode around it. The last anyone saw of them was when they stopped to wring out their shoes and socks. At least that was the last we saw them til the end of the ride when they rode into the parking lot VERY tired after being lost for several hours. We were all greatly relieved and VERY glad to see them again and know they were safe and not out wandering around in nowhere land. Luckily they had lunch with them. Seems they took a wrong turn and wound up back at a spot where we were the day before. Guess they wanted one more shot at Jemima Mount! They were good sports about it, but will we see them next year?

Meanwhile we were having problems of our own. We were headed back to the start after lunch cruising along minding our own business when suddenly we were on the ground. This wasn't unusual, we had been there before, and we weren't hurt. The problem was when someone pointed out that our front wheel was pretzeled! This just can't be! We have our 2.5 inch ground controls on! What a sinking feeling to see an injured bike and know that the only way out would be to hoof it. We had to be at least 5 miles into the woods and had no idea which way was out. Never mind we were returning the same way we went in. It all looks the same to me! Actually I do think I remember seeing that pine tree over there earlier! Maybe I should have taken Brian up on that offer to drive to Atlantic City Friday or maybe its a good thing I didn't!.. Two of the guys who came up behind us managed to strap the wheel up with sticks and duct tape so it was somewhat round and at least we could roll the bike instead of carrying it, well sort of! They rode off to tell Malcolm and Judy of our dilemma.

It was a nice day for a hike, so off we went. I wasn't much help pushing the bike and the uneven ground was doing nothing for my ankle which was recovering from an earlier sprain. We probably walked about a mile when Judy and Malcolm came riding back to us. What a welcome sight! We decided seeing how Judy kind of knew where she was, and my ankle was bothering me, I would ride back with Malcolm while she and Brian started walking to the nearest jeep trail at High Crossing not too far away, wherever that was. That way they could cover miles as the crow flies rather than following the twisting route we were taking. Back at the parking lot, Malcolm and a friend took a jeep back to pick up Judy and Brian. This jeep was pulling a boat trailer which had been adapted to carry a tandem. Had they done this before?

When we got home and looked at the computer, Judy must have reset it when they started walking. It said the total miles was 2.2 and the maximum speed was 4mph! Now to get the bike back home. Without the front wheel, there was no way it would fit on the roof rack. Anthony to the rescue with a spare wheel. We could have used this about 5 miles back! Oops! It doesn't fit our dropouts. Anthony to the rescue again...this time with a fork mount for a yakima rack. Thanks Anthony, that sure beat fighting with the bike inside the car along with luggage and tons of other assorted "stuff". It also was a lot easier to mail back. Despite our mishap, we had a great time! Everyone was a lot of fun, the hosts as usual were terrific, the food was great, and you can bet we'll be back next year! Thanks Mal and Judy!

By the way, the wedding is still on. We'll be honeymooning on our new road tandem by the time you read this article.

Karen Alling
(spring 1994)

[Back to "Rally Stories"] [Back to "Stoker's View"]