Day 4, June 20, 2015:
Tri-Cities to Endicott: 100 miles to commemorate World Refugee Day.
“Well, it’s a two person bike, so you must go twice as fast, right?”
Secretly, I hate it when people ask us this. Outwardly, in the interest of seeming nice, I smile and nod and then try to change the subject.
My wife Caitlin and I are riding Sea-Tri-Kan on a tandem bicycle. While it is true that some tandem teams can go noticeably faster than those riding solo, this is not true in our case. Our contraption is heavy, unwieldy, and cheaply made — a low-quality budget bike bought on sale from a big box store.
Even after upgrading every component conceivable, it handles poorly, delivers bumps in the road to its riders with bone-jarring efficiency, and climbs like a broken-down freight train. As my sister Shawna puts it, “it’s like an oil rig masquerading as bicycle.” Our tandem is much better suited for 4-mile trips to the grocery store – not 400-mile tours. It’s why we’ve recently given it a well-deserved nickname: the Struggle Bus.
Four days into Sea-Tri-Kan, struggle has emerged as an overarching theme for us. On day one, an ill-conceived last-minute saddle swap left me blistered and sore. To make matters worse, my muscles are strained from trying to pedal while dancing around a sore butt. Add to this a blowout that rendered one of our tires unrideable. Worst of all, we must deal with all this as we tackle hill after hill – the Achilles’ tendon of the Struggle Bus. As we inch painfully up these soul-crushing climbs, I think: “why on earth are we doing this?”
And then comes the answer. Today (June 20) is World Refugee Day – the day we commemorate those who are threatened because of their race, ethnicity, or beliefs, and must flee their home countries because it’s not safe to stay. My soreness and fatigue is nothing compared to what so many others have gone through. I can move freely around my state, and return to a safe home. I may get funny looks when walking into a convenience store in cycling stretchy-pants, but even if I look a little different, I’m not in danger here.
In this light, riding the Struggle Bus with Caitlin and raising money to help refugees find jobs is a privilege, not a chore. I wear my soreness like a badge of honor, and I struggle happily, knowing that I am doing my own small part to help those whose struggles are much more real than my own.