Since the very start, our relationship has been intertwined with bikes. We met on an OBS ride. We had both recently joined and it was our first ride with the club.
Mary caught my eye as she rode up on her Ferrari Red Scatante road bike. There was irresistible warmth in her brilliant smile. Mary and I rode together that day and quickly learned we had many things in common such as cycling, camping, and hiking.
Soon we found ourselves riding together on all the OBS rides. As we became more acquainted we often added additional mileage to the route so that we could ride alone together. On weekends we rode road rides with the OBS and other friends. During the week, at night after work we rode our mountain bikes by headlight on the trails with our friends. It wasn’t long before we conveniently forgot to invite our friends so that it was just the two of us on the trail, in the moonlight.
Mary got her first taste of self-contained bike touring in the spring of 2005 when we rode from my home in Norman to Chickasha, camped for the night, and rode back the next day. Our tour took us past golden wheat fields where hawks circled lazily above. She was hooked and I was happy to have her as my touring companion. That summer riding Oklahoma Freewheel made us even more eager to travel together by bike.
We didn’t have many conventional dates as we spent nearly all our time together on our bikes and camping. We called them bike dates. So in the spring of 2006 it didn’t seem that unusual to Mary that we’d be embarking on a weekend self-contained bike tour. Unbeknownst to her I had planned a surprise.
On a cool spring morning Mary and I rode our loaded touring bikes to the train station in Norman where we boarded a southbound train. In Ardmore we rolled our bikes off the train and began our two-day journey back home. Our route on Highway 77 took us over Turner Falls Pass in the Arbuckle Mountains. A short break at the top allowed us an unspoiled view of the water cascading down the granite rock into the large pool of green water absent the throngs of swimmers normally there in summer.
We then wound our way northeast over scenic back roads. After passing through the sleepy town of Dougherty we climbed the steep hills of Chickasaw Trail Road where we were rewarded with views of the nearby Arbuckle Mountains. A chorus of frogs and crickets sang us to sleep as we camped that night in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
The next morning while we ate our breakfast in camp I waited until Mary was distracted. I pulled out the box containing an engagement ring from one of my packs and placed it on the picnic table. When Mary found it she looked at me as though she could hardly believe her eyes. She opened it and looked at the ring, then looked at me and smiled her beautiful smile. I asked, “Will you marry me?” She looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes, smiled even bigger and said, “Yes!”
We were all smiles as we rode the 75 miles toward home. When we reached Norman we turned west and rode the final few miles facing a brilliant orange sunset.
After riding together for many thousands of miles it only made sense that our wedding should represent our love for one another and our passion for bikes.
When Mary and I began discussing plans for our wedding in 2009 we quickly agreed our dream wedding would somehow include our passion for bikes and bike travel. At first we discussed a self-contained bike tour in Canada but quickly realized it would be expensive and hard to get our elderly parents, our families, and our friends there. Then it occurred to us that if we had our wedding during Oklahoma Freewheel nearly all our cyclist friends would already be there and it would only be a small task to get or families there as well.
As we made our plans we were amazed at how things seemed to just fall into place. We wanted to include a tandem, and only a day after we began our search we found one for sale, used and in excellent condition. We wanted our wedding to be near the middle of the week on Freewheel and somehow have a central place near camp for the ceremony. It so happened that on Tuesday evening the host town of Cheyenne had an old fashioned chapel in their historic museum park, the park where everyone would camp that evening. It also worked out that Tuesday on Freewheel was Crazy Daze; the day that everyone is encouraged to ride dressed in a crazy costume. How perfect, we’d ride all day Tuesday dressed as bride and groom and then get married that evening in camp!
The week before Freewheel two local newspapers interviewed us. Our story made the front pages including our photo riding our tandem dressed as bride and groom. We also wound up on Tulsa TV news and on Oklahoma City’s Channel 9’s website in a video interview.
On Saturday we started at the Texas border with our single bikes and began riding north toward Duncan. In camp that evening, Ellen, the Freewheel director, announced that we would have our wedding on Tuesday in Cheyenne. Sunday afternoon when we reached Apache word had already spread and many people excitedly asked us about our wedding.
We camped amongst the shade trees of the Cordell City Park on Monday evening. It was a hot summer evening and the local one-screen theatre had the coldest air conditioning in town. To our dismay our friends refused to go with us. The featured movie, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” portrayed a guy trying to discourage his brother from being married, and our friends were afraid it would cause one of us to have second thoughts. Undeterred we enjoyed the air conditioning anyway.
On Tuesday morning we dawned our Crazy Daze outfits. I wore a cyclist jersey printed to look like a tuxedo complete with bowtie. Mary wore a veil, a lacy white top, white spandex bike shorts, lacy white gloves, a sash that said “Bride To Be”, and a lacy white garter on her leg.
We began riding at the crack of dawn. Our 68-mile route over the desolate rolling hills of Roger Mills County took us past many windmills, both old and modern. The occasional abandoned ramshackle farmhouse hinted of days gone by. Honeybees gathered pollen from large yellow flowers blooming on the bountiful cacti as cumulus clouds floated lazily across the deep blue summer sky above us.
As we rode everyone recognized us as the bride and groom to be and we were treated like celebrities. Crowds gathered to ask us questions and talk every time we stopped at a water stop. With each stop the crowds became larger and our delays grew longer. Although we were having fun, I worried that much more delay would cause us to be late for our own wedding, so we stocked up on snacks and water and pressed on to Cheyenne without any further stops. When we reached camp in Cheyenne everyone talked about how hot it was and how tough the hills were. All we could think of was how fun it had been to talk to so many wonderful people who were excited for our wedding.
After we had a private dinner with our families and close friends at the Croton Creek Guest Ranch we returned to the chapel in Cheyenne showered and dressed in formal wedding attire. By then the chapel was standing room only packed with fellow cyclists, friends, and family. Outside 200 additional cyclists gathered on the lawn listening on the external PA system. Prior to the ceremony guests were treated to a slide presentation set to music showing our many previous bike adventures.
The ceremony began as I entered the chapel with my single bike. I rolled it down the isle and handed it off to my best man. Mary entered wearing a beautiful white contemporary wedding dress carrying a bouquet of peaches and cream-colored roses. As she pushed her Ferrari-Red road bike down the isle her amazing smile caught my eye once again and I recalled the day I met her. After she handed her bike off to her maid of honor we both stood with our minister and cyclist friend Amy Venable. Our blue tandem road bike stood prominently behind us.
We recited our vows and to everyone’s surprise I dipped Mary as we kissed. The outdoor crowd cheered loudly when Amy pronounced us husband and wife. Together, we rolled our tandem bike up the isle and out the door. Still wearing our wedding attire we rode our tandem through the cheering crowd on a victory lap around the camp. Our tandem was adorned with a “Just Married” flag and trailed a string of bicycle water bottles instead of the traditional cans.
At our wedding reception we served cake and Gatorade. Our cake topper depicted a bride and groom on a bicycle painted blue to match our tandem. To our surprise when it was time to go to our honeymoon suite at the Croton Creek Ranch a limousine arrived to take us, courtesy of the city of Cheyenne.
The next day we left our single bikes with family and continued our ride on Freewheel together on our tandem. We were offered many congratulations and cheered on while riding amongst the other cyclist
As we crested a tall hill our front tire went flat and I joked that it was the first flat of the marriage. While repairing the flat we watched a heavy thunderstorm quickly roll in. Large raindrops begin to hit just as we got back on the bike. Less than ten miles from the town of Thomas we raced through the heavy storm. Mary counted out loud the seconds between the flashes and the thunder as the lightning strikes grew closer. As we sped down a very steep hill my eyes burned and I struggled to keep them open as they filled with sunblock the rain had washed from my forehead. Soon the lightning was behind us and we relaxed as we arrived rain drenched at the town of Thomas. We had survived! Our marriage certainly was off to an exciting start and neither of us would have traded it for anything!
The rain was still pouring down as we reached the school at Thomas where we were to camp. A quick glance indicated already flooded tents. We scouted out the schoolhouse and found a classroom near the back where we could sleep for the night. We hoped we’d be the only one’s there but it wasn’t long before the school officials allowed other campers in. Soon a half dozen of our good friends joined us. Our friend Gary joked that he never thought he’d be spending the night in another couple’s wedding suite.
Several days later we crossed into Kansas and the finish of Oklahoma Freewheel. We were still happy to be riding together on our tandem, still married, and still smiling! Many couples symbolize their new lives together with unity candles. We symbolized ours with bikes.