...or are they?
I think it’s important to introduce you to the two other members of the team. Their roles will be at least as important as those of the three puny humans who have chosen to test their mettle against geography, weather, time and the unexpected. Two inanimate objects that will be heavily relied upon to provide us with mechanical advantages beyond our mere flesh and bone offerings, as well as sanctuary and literal “shelter from the storm.”
First, the OREM (this moniker stands for “Ortwatly Random Excursion Module” and any further explanation would require several more pages), a 2005 Toyota Sienna with 170,000 miles on the odometer and stories for days. She’s been a part of the family since 2010, my daily driver, and has hauled grandkids and grandparents on too many trips to remember. Pull the seats out and she’s a cargo van of immense capabilities. She’s a surf wagon and a camper that has spent plenty of time off road as I’ve explored the natural world. In 2014 she kept Odie and I safe and secure on a 13 state, month-long camping trip. In July 2018 she was stuffed to the gills with bikes, gear and humans when Odie, myself, my son Ray and my nephews Chris and Brad participated in RABRAI, a week-long bike ride across Iowa with 35,000 other riders! (RAGBRAI was Odie and I’s first tandem bike ride and the partial inspiration for this trip). She’s nicked and gnarled inside and out, but she’s also fierce, dependable and beautiful in all those ways that matter most. I often pat her cracked and faded dashboard in gratitude for keeping me safe, and I know she knows..
And then there’s Hank the Tank. He was born sometime between 1992-1993, when his model was only offered in the color of forest-green. When Odie and I rode in RAGBRAI 2018, we rented this exact same model, a Trek T-100 Tandem. That bike served us well throughout that ride, so I was stoked when I found Hank in Fallbrook, Ca and only 45 minutes from my home here in San Diego. Hank cost me $500, and I put another $500 into his refurbishment. A new and more updated machine suitable for a cross country trip would easily have cost $5,000 or more, so I feel pretty damn lucky to have found Hank. I’ve ridden him around my neighborhood a couple of times for maybe 15 miles total, (I was solo on these trips, which caused people to stop and stare, perhaps wondering if I was unaware that I’d lost my Stoker), so I don’t as yet know him well, but he seem eager and capable. He’s made of steel, so what we sacrifice in weight we make up for in strength and reliability. There’s three chainrings in front and seven cogs in the rear for twenty-one total gears with plenty of low-end choices to get us through any and all terrain and weather. Odie arrives five days in advance of our departure, so we three will have ample time to get to know each other’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses
Maybe I’m crazy (well of course I am!), but over the span of my too-brief life I’ve often grown attached to objects that serve me well, especially when those objects assist me in the pursuit of my personal wants and desires. These objects become more than just plastic and metal ,and take on their own distinct personalities, and yes, they even become “friends.” I take care of them and they take care of me by keeping me safe and warm and ensuring I return home in one more or less intact piece.
Perhaps this is all nonsense, merely a construct of my aging gray matter, but throughout human history people have practiced ‘anthropomorphism’ by bestowing human attributes upon animals and things. So there must be something to this concept as everything, absolutely EVERYTHING (including us), comes from the natural world. We may alter the ingredients, but the source for everything we know remains constant. I’ve no doubts that the OREM and Hank will have our backs as we throw ourselves into this quest, no doubts at all...