On the road to 1 divorce, 2 marriages, 3 bikes, 4 seats, 1,800 miles

In response to our post about getting rid of the car, Danish friend Ernst Poulsen noted: “The European solution: Bicycles?”

Two other friends, Mark and Jutta Brayne, have taken Ernst’s two-wheeler notion to a whole other level: An 1,800 mile ride on a bicycle built for two — from the top of New Zealand’s northern island to the bottom of the southern one — in part to raise money for freelance journalists who encounter trouble (or worse) on the job.  After pedaling on their own for nearly six weeks, Mark and Jutta were joined for the journey’s final few days by their daughter, Katie, and her partner, Mela. Katie and Mela covered the same ground (and then some) but the advantage of individual bikes (and younger legs) made for fewer days on the road.

brayne arrival

Mark, Jutta, Katie and Mela celebrate their arrival at New Zealand’s southernmost shore

We were taken with this Brayne family adventure for all sorts of reasons. I first encountered Mark and his bike 35 years ago in Vienna, where he cycled to work at the old Bankgasse press center where we occupied side-by-side offices. Although in sporadic touch over the years, it wasn’t until last summer — during our final days at Beacon Hill Friends House — that the four of us re-connected in person. Mark and Jutta were visiting the U.S. from their home in Sheringham, on England’s east coast, and there was a lot to catch up on.

In Vienna, we were parents of young children and new babies. Last summer in Boston, we were 60-somethings comparing notes about new stages of life.

Jutta and Mark following their 1977 wedding

Jutta and Mark following their 1977 wedding

Mark had become a psychotherapist (what better training in diagnostics than a few decades in journalism?), as had Jutta. But Carol and I were especially interested in hearing about a more personal Brayne family transition: their re-marriage in 2013 after what they refer to as their “break of 13 years.”

As Mark and Jutta recounted their marital journey on the back deck at the Friends House, it was striking how quickly we were able to rekindle our friendship after so many years. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that a previously married couple would end up together again.

Mark and Jutta following their 2013 wedding

Mark and Jutta following their 2013 wedding

I was glad Mark and Jutta were able to get a glimpse of life at BHFH. Among my most important take-aways from our two years in the house is heightened appreciation of lifestyles, orientations and aspirations quite different from my own. And there’s something about blogging about the way we live that intensifies our interest in discoveries along roads not taken.

But back to the bikes. Among the frontiers we’ve explored on our blogs is the sometimes too-much-of-a-good-thing dimension of togetherness. If it sounds challenging to cohabit a house with 19 other people as we did at BHFH — or to live across the hall from parents and in-laws, as Kate and Marton do now — what’s it like sharing two wheels for six weeks? Especially from the back seat, as Jutta recounts in this post from their Psychlotherapists blog:

…From my tandem back-view, New Zealand presents itself differently to Mark’s 180 degree full frontal panorama of endless roads stretching or winding along, up and downhill.

I look either left or right, and when I get tired of it, and especially puffing uphill, I just look down on eternal tarmac of varying quality. So, at times New Zealand feels like an open air gym with gloriously fresh air.

Occasionally, Mark ducks to share his dress circle view. Mostly, I trust blindly, trust being the most important quality for a tandem back rider. (With so many of our psychotherapy clients having trust and control issues, tandem back seat riding would make the perfect Cognitive Behavioural therapy intervention!)

Jutta posted that a couple of weeks after celebrating her 65th birthday in that seat, and it got me thinking about the issues of trust and control in this so-called Third Age we share.

After decades of having only the haziest notions of our financial health, Carol and I now have a pretty clear accounting of enough dough to survive (and enjoy) life without full-time work. Unless, of course, catastrophe strikes, in which case all bets are off!

With no way of seeing (much less controlling) the future, we’re left with a choice of life guided by fear or trust, each of them inevitably blind.

Like Jutta on the back of the bike, we’re going with the trust, blind as it is. Seems like a pretty good ride.

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Your view from the bike?

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