Todd and Lori at Bikeout: New Hope in 2019.
Credit: Emily P. Townsend
As the years roll along, I've learned husband and wife age independently. The marriage matures with the calendar but people change—mentally, emotionally and physically—in different ways and at different paces. Those differences amplify over time and they’ll grow larger than similarities unless you deliberately make conscious, consistent efforts to connect.
So it was as my wife Lori and I begrudgingly embraced the clichéd label of empty nesters. After 30 years of cohabitation and raising up two super active kids, we were presented with a new reality.
Fortunately, we’re two adventurous souls with a considerable network of friends who are mostly not empty nesters, mostly younger and mostly cyclists.
Until recently, I’ve been drawn to many endurance-focused aspects of cycling, like racing cyclocross or pushing myself on 100-plus mile odysseys. Lori is one of the Schuylkill River Trail’s frequent flyers, drawn to the experience of the activity, the scenery and the way a ride can improve a mood.
So we come at cycling from different directions but in bike packing we find common ground. Being outside and pedaling toward amazing scenery is something for both of us. We love camping, sleeping under the stars and waking up to the morning dew and beautiful sunrises. Very little else compares to those moments.
But bike travel was one discipline with which neither of us had much experience.
Bikeout was the perfect introduction to touring together for Lori and I. I had done some primitive bike packing on my own, but Bikeout was the first touring adventure we did together. We both felt at home among a variety of skill levels, whether other participants were new to cycling or new to camping, or experts at both. Everyone came with a different experience. The locally-sourced menu and post-ride beers are remarkable but, for us, the incredible array of colorful cyclists that attended were the most memorable part.
Of course, we all ride our own speed. Lori and I find ways to balance, and push one another out of our comfort zones, something we’ve learned well from our time together. Sometimes, one of us pulls ahead, while the other falls back. We trade the lead, but we always manage to find each other at the next break point.
Being reflective, those differences could negatively affect a bike touring experience. I think fast and move quickly. Lori plans more and measures the steps ahead. But what I’ve learned is that these qualities make us who we are and bring us together.
I am thankful that we decided to embrace this adventure and make bike touring something that gives us even more opportunities to learn about each other, whether on other Bikeout journeys or, alone together, as a couple of empty nesters.
Writer and artist Todd Palmer lives and works in Chester County, PA where he is the creative director for brand management firm Virtual Farm Creative. He and his wife Lori own a small farm and have two adult children, two dogs and a flock of chickens. When he isn’t riding bikes on the roads and trails in the Philadelphia region, Todd enjoys trail running, music, art, reading and people.