Image: Live from the SPEZI Special Bikes Convention 2009
Writing for TreeHugger is its own reward. But some days are just more rewarding than others.
Yesterday was such a day. I met Mandy and Benny in person at the SPEZI specialized bikes convention in Germersheim, Germany. It seems that an awful lot of TreeHuggers clicked on Mandy and Benny's weblog, after I shared their fantastic voyage on these pages.
So I say "thank you" to everyone who clicked and made it possible for me to meet my heroes, only to be met in return with Mandy's animated, face-lighting-up response: "Christine, from TreeHugger??! We couldn't figure out why we got so much traffic, until we found your article!"
Of course, there is a reason so many of you clicked, so first an apology was due: I have followed Mandy and Benny's journey on Globecyclers for three years as they have traveled on the same tandem I ride, a Hase Pino, attempting to break the world record for the longest journey by tandem bicycle.
I published their story under the shameless title Arrested in Tibet, Naked Photos: World Record Tandem Pair Tell All. And I hope a lot of you who got lured in stayed for the tale. Because Mandy and Benny are a couple who are living their dream and sharing it. The dream will take a twist now, we learned in our exclusive interview.
Benny Shows the GPS
The GPS doesn't lie: 31,149.99 km. What strikes him most about coming home after traveling so far?
"The luxury of living in the 'land of milk and honey.' Here we have everything available, a place to sleep, we can get anything we want very easily. We simply appreciate everything more."
If they had it to do over again, would they still take a Hase Pino?
A short pause from Benny before the reply: "Well, there were times when we wished that we had two bikes, just to be able to ride apart from each other. But considering everything, the ease of communication and the immediate exchange when sighting the various wondrous sites, yes, this was the right bike. We would take it again."
Mandy notes: "This bike does draw a lot of attention and it could become tiring at times, especially when we just needed to be left alone for a bit of recovery. But everyone loves this bike."
How did being so tied together for such a long trip affect their relationship?
Benny admits that after "so many experiences together, sharing so much hospitality," the bond has grown extremely strong. On the quality of hospitality, Benny starts to say that they were treated better by the poorest people they met, but breaks himself off to formulate the thought differently: "We were hosted equally graciously by both the poor and the very rich and this makes our own desire to be good hosts much stronger."
And with a shy grin, he points to Mandy's belly. The world record attempt will stand at not much over 31,000km, not enough to break into the Guinness Book. Mandy is expecting.
Do they regret breaking off the record attempt?
Again, that smile, slightly abashed. No, there are higher priorities now. Both are looking forward to taking care of the new addition to the family.
We congratulate them on the wonderful news, and let them return to the crowd swarming to meet them. As we walk away, one gentleman argues with Mandy about the weight of their load: no, that's not possible, he calculates, adding the weight of the load with his guesses on Mandy and Benny's weights. The fully loaded tandem with the GPS once again mounted on the handlebar sits silently, offering its evidence to the contrary. It is possible. And they did it.
More on the Tandem World Record Attempt
Arrested in Tibet, Naked Photos: World Record Tandem Pair Tell All
Hase Pino, Tandem with a View
Tips on how to plan your own bike trip:
Tips for Bicycle Trips, part I
Tips for Bicycle Trips, part II
Warm Showers: Couch Surfing for Bicyclists