Sign your work

It took me 19 years to find it.

In 1999, I drove to St. Joseph, Mo. It was roughly the halfway point between Springfield and Lincoln, Neb., where I and Gerry, respectively, lived.

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Gerry brought a Santana tandem and his stoker and I brought a check and my stoker. After a brief test ride, we swapped and returned from whence we came. (Just to be clear: We each kept the stokers we came with, it was the bike and check that changed hands.)

Gerry was meticulous. Gerry was generous. Gerry was, I find out now, a member of the English Department faculty at the University of Nebraska.

The Santana is such a great machine. It was to begin with. Then Gerry sent it off to California, upgraded all the components and got a custom paint job. Then, a couple years later, he wanted an even better Santana and was ready to move up in class. He needed to sell his current bike. We found each other by an online classified ad on a tandem listserv.

I’ve done maintenance on the Santana, but I’ve never torn it all the way down. I have now. Today, loading up the grease and new Campy bearings in a retention ring to rebuild the headset, I slathered degreaser on the fork’s crown race and steerer tube. The etched name appeared as the degreaser worked to pop the contrast out and reveal letters like a candle backlighting a page written upon with lemon juice. It’s possible his name was scribed into the steel by the custom paint shop, a sort of stitching in Gerry’s tandem’s clothes while it was away at summer camp. Or, more likely (or, anyway, more to my taste), it was Gerry’s own signature on a machine he lovingly maintained. These marks were Gerry’s own Kilroy was Here.

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It worked.

Beyond the miles I’ve put on the tandem myself, aided by a series of stokers, the Choctawhatchee Chariot will now belong to me and Gerry as I build it back up, with my own upgrades and customization.

Where will I put my own signature and who will find it in 2035?