Bicycling for 12,000 miles is no honeymoon — unless you are Adam and Christy Coppola.
Married last October, the Connecticut couple saddled up in January for a year-long, 50-state charity ride from San Diego.
Nineteen states, 29 flat tires and 4,600 miles later, they remain married. If you don’t believe it, you can see for yourself on April 18, when they roll into Marty’s Reliable Cycle in Morristown for a talk at 7 p.m.
Would they recommend a steady diet of 65-mile days to other newlyweds?
The question elicited nervous chuckles on the other end of the phone.
“Yes and no,” Adam, 29, bravely volunteered from a stop in Washington, D.C. “It’s a challenge. But that challenge makes you stronger because we constantly rely on each other. When something goes wrong, you’re totally leaning on each other. If you’re not there for each other, it doesn’t work.”
That kind of support started before they stuffed 90 pounds of gear into their bicycle panniers. Christy, 28, remembers hitting the “send” button together when it was time to e-mail her resignation as a middle school teacher.
“It was really scary leaving health benefits and a salary and a job I really loved,” she said. “But we’ve been thinking about this for a long time and knew we had to do it.”
They’re calling their adventure the Give a Bike 50 State Tour. They aim to raise $25,000 for two charities, World Bicycle Relief and Achilles International’s Freedom Team of Wounded Vets.
World Bicycle Relief provides bikes to people in developing countries. Christy’s brother, a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, told the couple that cheap transportation could make a huge difference in improving people’s quality of life.
For Achilles International, the Coppolas intend to provide hand-powered cycles for military veterans who have lost their legs. That idea was inspired by Adam’s brother, an Air Force surgeon who has served two tours in Iraq.
So far the couple has raised $8,000. If they achieve their goal, they will supply 125 bikes to Third World countries and two hand-cycles to U.S. vets.
Christy has been blogging about the journey, pecking out stories on her iPad and iPhone and uploading them from coffee shops. Adam, an accomplished photographer, handles the multimedia chores, which include videos of their zany dances at each border crossing.
One constant has been the kindness of strangers.
Around Baton Rouge, La., they encountered Stephen Mirsky, a cyclist from Whippany. Steve pointed them to Marty Epstein of Marty’s Reliable Cycle for the April 18 event.
On an arduous climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a speedy cyclist slowed down to chat with the Coppolas. The next morning he delivered breakfast to their campsite.
Slowing down was something the couple had to learn. Their obsession with daily mileage–106 miles is their record–was costing them valuable face time with folks along the way.
“We have to remind ourselves to sit back and enjoy the miles a little more,” Christy said.
They also remind themselves to say “I love you” at strategic intervals.
“Usually you say that when you’re leaving, or when you come home,” Christy said. “We were with each other 24-7, so we were never saying, ‘I love you.'”
“We’ve worked it into our tent pack-up routine,” Adam said with a laugh.
Although Adam and Christy grew up together in Madison, Ct., endless hours of pedaling have taken intimacy to a new level.
Christy has discovered that her husband, though grumpy in the morning, has an amazing knack for lifting her spirits when the miles threaten to overwhelm her.
Adam marvels at Christy’s writing skill and her ability to charm audiences wherever they give talks.
They also have learned their limitations. This ride would never work on a tandem bike.
“Adam likes chili way too much,” Christy said.
Their trek also has cued them into a secret of marital bliss that many couples struggle for decades to grasp. In those rare moments when Adam and Christy disagree, they default to a time-tested tiebreaker:
“We usually do whatever I want!” Christy said.