I’m not a moron… But I’ve had some bad ideas in my day.
We’re talking real stinkers.
For example: I planned our honeymoon to include two nights in the jungle in Borneo, forgetting my crippling fear of nature, which extends all the way to very large flowers. And which definitely includes poisonous snakes. I spent 48 hours in near panic, frequently yelling through nervous sobs, “Who planned this shit?!” Perhaps a story for another post. It’s a fun one; there were aggressive monkeys and everything.
So, it was probably not hugely surprising to my husband when, last week in Seville, I exclaimed with glee, “Let’s rent a bicycle built for two!”
To freeze-frame that moment, Zach Morris style, I was standing in the bike rental shop, fists clenched and eyebrows raised with anticipation. My husband responded with the mother of all eye rolls and told the guy we would be back tomorrow.
Maybe to some spouses, the mother of all eye rolls would indicate absolute rejection from their partner. But not to me, fair sir/madam. Not to me.
I hold out hope until there is nary a morsel left to which to cling. In my mind, my husband had just left me in suspense that maybe he would be willing to make my dream of riding off into the sunset on a bicycle built for two a reality. The suspense made it more thrilling. How romantic!
A smidge of background: I always thought I hated biking until I impulse-purchased a red hybrid bike with a basket a few years ago, invented 9 helmet-compatible hairstyles so I could ride to work and still look fly AF (maybe also a story for another post), and ended up riding that sucker everywhere. I became a ~cyclist~. BIKE LANES! FLOURESCENT TAPE! One of those assholes. Except hills. I don’t do hills. Dope my blood and then we’ll talk.
But I had never been on a bicycle built for two. And had always wanted to. And here, in beautiful, bike-friendly, flat Seville, we had our chance. Somehow, my husband agreed. Maybe he had sunstroke. Maybe we were inadvertently playing a game of marital chicken. Maybe it was an intervention by THE DEVIL HIMSELF. Because, spoiler alert, that two-seated contraption was sent from hell to destroy relationships.
My dad came with us to the bike shop in case his Spanish skills could prevent us from pantomiming “tandem bike”. My fear was that this would have looked like we wanted to rent a place in which to have sex.
Looking back, that would have been a better idea.
When the guy saw my dad taking a photo of us mounting the bike, he said, “One last photo of them alive?”
The last photo of us alive? Ah ha ha. We laughed him off. What a jokester!
NO! Not funny. Because a part of me died on that thing.
We asked the guy which one of us should sit in the back. “Whoever wants the bad view!” he said. His English was clearly fine. And he was a bit of a dick. He laughed at us again when I insisted on helmets.
We launched ourselves off in front of the bike rental place. I thought this would be a moment of bliss. Our two bodies working together to propel ourselves forward on one machine, gliding off together into the wonders of Seville.
It was approximately 0% like that.
The bike rental shop was on a narrow cobblestone one-way street with a delivery truck barrelling toward us. Also, <<this just in>> tandem bikes are hella difficult to steer. My husband was up front, looking like he was wrestling a bear. I was behind him, which left all my faculties free to concentrate on screaming at the top of my lungs as we headed straight for the curb with all four feet dragging on the ground until we stopped unceremoniously. Right in front of my dad, who took several more photos. Thankssssss, Dad.
Sidebar: the photos of us actually riding the thing will never see the light of day because it is impossible not to look like a hippo sitting on a tennis ball while one is riding a tandem bike. Any picture you see that counters this assertion is heavily photoshopped… Is what I will tell myself forevermore.
For the sake of my husband’s eardrums, and our lives, we dismounted and walked the bike to the riverside bike path. Things got even more romantic when my husband said, “The only thing dorkier than riding a tandem bike is walking a tandem bike. On the sidewalk. While wearing a helmet.” Legit.
We launched in a slightly more forward direction on the bike path. My screaming continued. My husband got the hang of the steering, and I taught myself to close my damn eyes whenever I felt in imminent danger of death. Apparently, my preemptive leaning made steering more difficult. And the leaning made me forget to pedal, which made us teeter more and prompted me to lean harder. It was a classic positive feedback loop. Of negativity.
I began to realize that €20 to rent the bike was a bargain compared to the cost of the extensive relationship counselling we would now be needing.
A little while later, some guilt crept in. I began to feel that I had hijacked our precious baby-free time to fulfil a dream of mine that had turned into somewhat of a nightmare. We were hot as balls, our butts were bruised, my hands were cramping from my fearful death grip, we couldn’t really talk because he was ahead of me, and we were going soooooo slowly.
I called ahead to him, “Are you hating this? Did I ruin our day? Or… Are you up there making happy memories?”
He tilted his head to the side, smiled a bit and said, “I’m making happy memories of something we’ll never do again.” Also legit.
Then we rode into the Plaza de España and could see couples smooching in row boats through the little waterway surrounding the plaza. I got all giddy and inhaled, ready to propose a tag-on to our current adventure, but he saw me coming a mile away and said, “Oh look! Another stupid thing for us to rent! Nope!”
Instead, we found a restaurant and inhaled an entire squid ink paella.
It’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I love my spouse eternally and I trust them with my life.” But unless you have bloody scratches from pedals hitting your calves as you brake with your feet, Fred Flintstone style, to prove you’ve trusted them to steer you through weaving cars on a highway (oh yes, we accidentally went on a highway!), then you can sit down now.
But I suppose my point is that it’s not whether you die on the tandem bike or not. We happened not to die, but that’s neither here nor there.
My point is that I’m glad to be spending my days with someone who will rent the damn tandem bike. Someone who will make the damn memories. I like to think I’m a little bit of an adventurer. Who hates nature… But an adventurer in my own (mild) way. And I love being with someone who is generally willing to do stupid shit for fun.
Among my horrendous ideas, there have been some diamonds in the rough. Like taking scuba lessons… In Ottawa… In the winter. And doing our advanced diver training in a lake that was 4-degrees Celsius. We had to warm up between dives by building a fire on the shore of the lake and by pouring hot water on our bodies between dives. Did I mention this was at 11pm on a Wednesday? I could never be married to me.
Maybe that sounds redic (the dudes at the scuba shop certainly thought it was). But it allowed us to experience the wonders of being unda da sea in Borneo, and to dive very deeply, and at night. It was f*cking crazy. And insanely romantic.
In my experience, if something seems a little thrilling and romantic, it probably is. Tandem bikes are an exception. But hindsight is 20/20. Unlike the view from the back seat of a tandem bike. Which is terrible.
I’m writing this from Cadiz, a beach town in southwestern Spain. We are here with my in-laws and they are enjoying spending time with the baby. My husband and I are enjoying spending time away from the baby. Today, we were heading to the beach and it looked like it might rain. I really, really wanted to read my book on the beach; it is one of my most favourite things to do.
My husband said he was going to stay home. Which is a normal human reaction to rain at the beach. I told him I was going anyway and that I’d like him to come because I’d feel a bit isolated, hiding under the remains of the old beach spa, and what if someone attacked me? He said, “No one is going to attack you. You look like the unibomber.”
But he came, because his mom told him to.
And rain it did!
We hunkered down with some homeless men and I read that book. And it got wet and so did we.
He sat beside me with my pashmina wrapped around his shoulders to help keep off the salty wind and near-horizontal rain. We were for sure the only people there by choice.
When the rain stopped and the sun pushed out, I said, “Aren’t you glad to be out here, making memories with me?”
“Yes,” he said. “This is way better than your bike idea. Still not great, though.”