Our Bike Shuttle Tale of Woe (or was that Woo?)

author: Mary Gibson
date: July 1991

After 10 years of on-again-off-again relationship Harlequin would have been proud that (Another tale altogether!) my true love and I were finally united when he asked me to join him in Central Pennsylvania to help manage his paddlesports shop. Wanting to sweep me off my feet first (or perhaps to delay my understanding of exactly what "helping to manage a paddlesports shop" entailed) he announced we would leave in two days for a combination business/pleasure trip to Maine. We loaded our kayaks and one mountain bike (for back road shuttles, remember, he was trying to impress me) on top of his new pickup truck and, gazing lovingly into his eyes, I backed said truck straight into his shop Van. After staring for several agonizingly long minutes at the severely dented, (and in my opinion, flimsy) truck bumper, he pulled himself together and told me, almost convincingly, that it was okay. In fact, 600 miles later he was almost able to look at me again without a telltale flash of hurt incomprehension. I took that to be a good sign.

We were treated royally at The Forks in Maine by Doug's friend Kenny, owner of the Dead River Bed & Breakfast. It may not have technically been a honeymoon (I think you have to get married to do that), but it was close enough for me. I felt like a River Princess ... incredible food, a warm, soft bed, great new friends, and the Dead, Kennebec, and Penobscot Rivers surrounding me. I was in heaven!

The next morning, feeling froggy and ambitious, we decided to set off across the old logging roads of Maine to the Kennebec. Doug hardly even glanced at the bumper! We checked our tiedowns, tightened the bolts on the rack holding our boats and bike, and set off. The roads were every bit as bumpy as promised, but we were in love and didn't Notice. Nor did we notice a little ping-a-de-ping-ping-ping coming from the rooftop. It wasn't until we heard another little ping-a-de-ping-ping-ping, followed by a big thump-a- de-thump-thump-thump that we decided to pullover and investigate. Sure enough, the ping-a-de-ping-ping-ping's were the two little bolts (metric, mind you ...) in backwoods Maine!) holding the wheel tray to the rack. No problem, a short camlock strap later we were back on the road, congratulating ourselves on our cleverness. It wasn't until we reached our destination, however, that we discovered that somewhere along the way we had failed to notice what must have been a very loud crash-a-de-crash-crash-crash when the bike seat parted ways with the bike. It was nowhere to be seen.

After contemplating the possibility of riding the entire shuttle standing up, then factoring in the consequences of forgetting to do so (Doug still maintains that I was the logical choice for this endeavor, since, in this case, I was more anatomically correct. In fact, I vaguely remember him suggesting that I might even "enjoy it") we resignedly walked down to look at the river, no longer congratulating ourselves on our cleverness. It was at this point that Doug explained that he cared far too much for me to take a chance on my running a river solo that I was unfamiliar with, and that since he, on the other hand, had run it several times before and, besides, had a higher degree of skillability (more on that later), perhaps I would enjoy (there's that word again!) a nice, leasurely drive along the riverside taking in the scenery... i.e. play shuttle bunny. It was upon watching him pull into the takeout, with a big boyish grin on his face, that it dawned on me why he had suggested I meet him at the bottom of Carry Brook rather than guard the truck at the top as any respectable shuttle bunny would have done. But it was okay ... after all, I was in love ( wasn't I?) and that seemed to lighten my half of his load considerably.

The rest of our vacation was relatively uneventful, notwithstanding a short stop at LL. Bean where Doug ranted that he would be @*#&! if he would pay for a bike seat with stem ("I'm telling you, I don't need the whole thing!"). We returned to Pennsylvania carrying the embarrassingly naked bike on top of the truck ... until we hit the overhanging tree limb 112 mile from our house ("Never noticed it to be quite that low before"), driving the rack tray, with bike attached, through the top of the truck cap accompanied by a sound much like that of a pop-top ripping off a particularly tough Yeungling beer can. (And, yes, we did hear that one!)

I guess the bottom line is that we ran a 1400 mile shuttle with a now masochistic bike we didn't use (but did manage to abuse), and a truck with a signature bumper (mine) and cap (his). On the bright side, however, we're still together 6 years later despite working incessantly and paddling far too little. That must say something about the tenacity (or is that naïveté?) of paddlers these days! Doug just says that, like everything else in life, surviving rocky shuttles and rocky relationships simply requires large doses of water and a healthy degree of skillability (that's from my next writing endeavor ... a dictionary of Dougism's!) Until then!

Mary Gibson

Copyright © 2000 Mary Gibson. All rights reserved.