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Surviving an Encounter with The Rack

There has always been an air of mystery surrounding Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Whenever a new tour of the grounds of the 2700 acre estate owned by the wealthy Duke family was offered, we seized the opportunity to see what was behind the stone walls and guarded gates. The strict security and limited access during those tours have always left us wanting to be able to linger and explore more of the natural beauty of the estate. So when the Duke Farms Foundation revised its interpretation of the wishes Doris Duke left in her will and opened 1,000 acres of the estate to the public, Oregano and I were excited to visit. Accessing the 12 miles of biking trails would be a great way to see the gardens and woodland areas while getting some exercise. Little did we know that before we could begin our aerobic exercise, we’d need to warm up with an exercise in frustration by trying to install a trunk- mounted bike rack to our car. During medieval times, the rack was used to torture people. While the use of that particular type of rack fell out of favor hundreds of years ago, Oregano and I have discovered that the modern-day trunk-mounted bike rack could be classified as an instrument of torture.

With the hope of sparing someone from the same torture we experienced, I offer you this user-friendly guide to surviving an encounter with a trunk-mounted bike rack.

**Photos are re-enactments for illustrative purposes. We were unable to find the humor in the situation during the 3 hours it took us to prepare to leave for our bike riding adventure at Duke Farms.**

  1. Purchase bike rack to make traveling to new and exciting bike trails easier.
  2. Attempt to attach the bike rack to your trunk by yourself.
  3.  Untangle the straps you’ve managed to wrap around your body during multiple failed installation attempts.
  4. Place your new bike rack in the garage preferably in a place where the numerous straps attached to it will not trip you every time you walk past it.
  5. Ask your spouse or a friend to help you install the bike rack because your poor visual-spatial skills have led to confusion and frustration.  NOTE: You may need to ask your spouse more than once. In my case, this single step took an entire year.
  6. Hunt through the garage for the installation manual which was right next to the bike rack, but must have been moved over the course of the year it sat unused.
  7. Decide to install bike rack without using the manual that you weren’t able to find.
  8. Return to the garage to search for the instruction manual with renewed vigor after several failed attempts at installing the bike rack to the trunk.
  9. Locate instruction manual after an exhaustive search.
  10. Read instruction manual.
  11. Begin installing bike rack to trunk.
  12. Curse.
  13. Repeat steps 10 through 12 as needed.
  14. Call the bike shop to see if someone can install the bike rack for you.
  15. Accept the fact that the bike shop personnel are too busy on a Saturday morning to assist you.
  16. Repeat steps 10 through 12 as needed.
  17. Celebrate the successful attachment of the bike rack to your car by chugging a vat of ice water and wiping the sweat from your forehead.
  18. Stop celebrating because you realize that you aren’t done yet. The bikes still need to be attached to the rack.

    Step 18: The rack is finally attached to the trunk. Now we just need to figure out how to attach the bicycles.

  19. Attempt to attach the largest, heaviest bike to the rack without reading that section of the manual because it looks self-explanatory.
  20. Consult instruction manual because attaching the bike is not as easy as it looks.
  21. Attach the man’s bike to the rack.
  22. Marvel at your success and give thanks that you are almost done.
  23. Attempt to attach the woman’s bike to the rack.
  24. Remove the man’s bike from the rack because you think it is interfering with your ability to attach the woman’s bike.
  25. Turn the woman’s bike in different directions as you try to attach it. Be careful not to get tangled in the brake cables or jam a handlebar into your ear.
  26. Scratch your head as you begin to realize there is no way to attach the woman’s bike because of its configuration.
  27. Google how to attach a woman’s bike and learn that you need a special adapter which you do not have.
  28. Break the news to your sweat-covered spouse/friend who is desperately trying to make the woman’s bike fit onto the rack.
  29. Relegate yourself to the idea that you have to go buy a $50 adapter because we live in a male dominated society.
  30. Drive to bike shop to purchase adapter.
  31. Celebrate the fact that the bike rack, albeit empty, remained affixed to the car for the duration of the trip to the bike shop.
  32. Drive home.
  33. Reattach the man’s bike to the rack.
  34. Place adapter on woman’s bike then attach it to the rack.

    Step 34: After a trip to the bike store and $50, the woman’s bike is ready to be mounted onto the rack.

  35. Step back to admire what you were able to accomplish with hard work and persistence.
  36. Realize that the front tire of the woman’s bike is dangerously close to the ground.

    Step 36: The jubilation of step 35 was short lived when we realized that the front tire of the woman’s bike was nearly touching the ground.

  37. Remove the woman’s bike from the rack.
  38. Remove the front tire of the woman’s bike. NOTE: Don’t forget to place the front tire inside the car or all of this work will have been for nothing when you reach your destination and have a bicycle with only one tire.
  39. Re-attach the woman’s bike to the rack. By now, you’re a pro at this. Practice makes perfect.
  40. Back out of the driveway to embark on your bike riding adventure.
  41. Pull back into the driveway when you feel the front tire of the man’s bike brush against the road.
  42. Remove the woman’s bike from the rack to gain access to the man’s bike.
  43. Remove the man’s bike from the rack then remove its front tire. (See note at step 38.)
  44. Re-attach the man’s bike to the rack. You should be really good at this by now.
  45. Re-attach the woman’s bike to the rack.
  46. Forget how sweaty, exhausted and cranky you are and hit the bike trails for some exercise.

This beautiful meadow of poppies at Duke Farms was the reward for our persistence.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

56 responses »

  1. Pingback: A Rumble in the Park « Good Humored

  2. Oh Dog! I’m afraid Jen would have said alot of naughty words if she’d attempted to do all that.

  3. Hahaha. That’s great. I know what you mean. Every time I have to install my bike rack it’s a bit of a challenge. And when my dad installs his bike rack, he has to use a SLEDGE HAMMER.

    • It’s nice to know that you find installing a bike rack challenging, too. The people at the bike shop and our friends told us how easy it is which is why we bought the rack in the first place. I’m beginning to think they were just messing with us so that they could hide in the bushes and video tape us for YouTube.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. 1. A year is an acceptable response time from a husband.
    2. Those poppies are indeed beautiful. But it looks like a trail of stones. Not a bike path.

    • 1. I’m not goinng to tell Oregano that 1 year is an appropriate response time. God knows how long he’ll take to do something if he thinks there’s a one year grace period.

      2. The stones seemed to be a dry creek bed in the meadow. The bike path went past that and was blissfully flat and paved.

  5. By far my favorite blog! Your step by step manual is just hysterical. I never understood why there are male and female bikes to begin with, the whole bar thing is a mystery to me, no one wants to get “racked” by the bar regardless of gender. I’m sure there’s some engineering reason for the crossbar like making the frame sturdier, but if you ask me, it’s all just a marketing ploy to get us to spend more money on stupid things like female adaptors.

    • Thanks, Babka!

      Oregano agrees with you completely. He would prefer not to have that crossbar on that bike, but isn’t ready to break the biking gender barrier just yet. Besides, that would just mean we’d need to buy a second adapter.

      What we really need is a bike rack designed by women.

  6. I’m exhausted just reading this and am ready to chug a vat of ice water. This is exactly why I don’t ride a bike. By “exactly” I mean because I’m lazy and grasping at possible excuses.

  7. Jeezum Crow (in the words of another blogger). I can’t even imagine how many steps it would take to get that contraption on the back of my minivan AND put six bikes on it (one for each member of my family). Nope, I think we’d we’d be hoofin’ it instead.

    • Actually, our neighbors have a bike rack that fits on a minivan, but their rack is attached to a hitch and it is much easier install. They told us this at the end of the day when they watched us wrestle our bikes off the rack and reassemble them.

  8. LOL! Now does the rack remain on your car permanently or is this something you have to do every year?

    • Your comment made me laugh. Here’s the truly fun part about this bike rack. We have to put it on and take it off every time we use it because we can’t close the garage door with that contraption strapped to my trunk.

  9. AHHHH! We had that bike rack! I swore I would never ever have a car that I couldn’t just take off the front bike wheels and just pitch the whole darn things inside – I’ll hose the dirt out later.
    Funny post!
    (From the title I figured it wasn’t an encounter with the persuasive device – but thought you might have accidentally wandered into Nordstom Rack on a weekend to look for a clothing bargain…a whole different terrifying experience. Glad it was just bikes!)

    • That bike rack should come with a warning! We bought the car long before we got the bikes which is why we opted for the bike rack. I may have to rethink my next car purchase and bring my bike with me to the car dealer.

  10. All’s well that ends well! Sounds like a challenge, but glad it worked out and that the bikes didn’t end up in the middle of the parkway like my friend’s love seat did when it fell off her car roof! Believe it or not, she was able to rescue it and it’s sitting in her living room now, unscathed. (But I wouldn’t trust Home Depot to tie down my sofa).

    • I can’t believe your friend’s loveseat fell off on the Parkway and it didn’t cause an accident or get destroyed. That’s amazing! We kept checking the rear view mirror to make sure the bikes hadn’t fallen off during the drive. Given the ordeal we went through to attach them to the rack, we didn’t trust that they wouldn’t wind up in a heap on the road.

  11. Another post that had me laughing hysterically. Thank you, Paprika, I needed a good laugh!

    This was a brilliantly vivid – and super-accurate – description of the Dreaded Rack. We had similar experiences with our bike-rack too, so I am relieved to discover that other normal people also find this a challenge.

    • Thank you for such a wonderful compliment, Reggie. I’m so happy I could make you laugh 🙂

      It is nice to know that other people found it difficult to connect this bike rack to their cars. When we were contemplating buying the rack everyone kept telling us how easy it was to take on and off the car. Of course, those people were nowhere to be found that Saturday morning as we struggled.

  12. i can only think of one thing to say: lolololololololol
    and for the record, i am laughing with you, and not at you 🙂
    thanks for sharing.

  13. I’d have been too stuck on #10 thru #12 to continue. But, the poppies … and that view. Definitely worth it. Your persistance paid off.

  14. Beautiful poppy pictures! I guess on most bike rides the frustration with getting the bikes to the destination transfers to the lovely scenery and then to your painful behind.

    • Maybe the difficulty of the bike transport is directly proportional to the beauty of the scenery you’ll see once you finally reach your destination. If that is the case, I will certainly beware if putting those bikes on the rack ever goes smoothly. I think the painful behind is inevitable regardless of the scenery.

  15. And here’s the reason why I will never attempt to install a bike rack or any kind of rack for that matter on my car!!!! Forget asking the hubby… he has two left thumbs. 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your bike ride and picnic.

    • I’m grateful that Duke Farms was such a beautiful place to bike ride. The afternoon could have taken a very ugly turn if it hadn’t been.

      Our picnic was simple and peaceful. What was most amazing to us was that we were allowed to sit on the grass in the shade of a beautiful tree. They would have never allowed this just a few years ago. We kept waiting for Duke Farm ninjas to drop from the tree, swipe our sandwiches and throw us out of the park.

  16. Great post, thanks for sharing your misadventure. But you got it right in the end. My husband can do a bike rack (he used to bike cross country) but when he picks up a hammer I panic! He is the worst handyman on the planet.

  17. Hilarious!! I had no idea you went through all that when we were emailing about your fun day at Duke Estates!!! We used to have a bike rack that was no trouble at all…maybe because it was on a station wagon door (straight up and down), not a sedan. Well, kudos for toughing it out and conquering the challenge! You are stronger for the effort….and wiser, to boot! xoxo

  18. That is hilarious! Over spring break, on a whim I told my husband to attach the bike rack to the van so I could take the kids on a bike trail, something we’ve never done. I was going to do it alone and had no idea if I could even get the bikes off the rack. Thank goodness it worked out. I can see now how badly things could have turned out. What if we had ridden and I couldn’t get the bikes back on?

    • Thanks 🙂 We were a bit worried that once we got the bikes off we wouldn’t remember what to do to get them back on, but the ride home went much more smoothly. I’m glad you had a successful experience and that mine served as an amusing cautionary tale.

  19. So you obviously returned home….with the bikes???? Was it any easier the second time?

    • We made it there and back with the bicycles. Thankfully, it only took us about 10 minutes to get the bikes back on the rack for the ride home. Once we knew what we were doing and had the adapter it wasn’t too bad.

      • And the next time you will do it without a hitch and laugh once again at the antics you experienced….but the NEXT time after that…if you delay in its use, you may be back to square one. LOL (speaking, of course, from experience)

      • Thanks for the warning 🙂 Maybe we should video tape ourselves so we don’t forget.

  20. Haveta say I’m impressed – task accomplished in less than 50 steps & it did not end with “Toss bike rack into deep pit” !

  21. Oh my gosh, so funny. I asked my husband to put my bike on the rack this morning. Now I’m kind of glad he didn’t do it.

    • What was even funnier, although the humor was lost on us at the time, was the fact that once we reached our destination, we had to remove the bikes from the rack, remove the adapter from my bike and then put the front tires back on both bikes before we could even begin riding. It was such a production.

  22. I love that you have a red bike! That is so cool and makes it all worthwhile!

  23. Mr. Ferris has met his match. You are indeed the Big Wheel around here. If you are taking off wheels, why not go all the way, take off both of them, put the wheels in the back seat and the remainder of the bikes in the trunk, and forget the rack entirely. You could get a roof mounted rack and not have to worry about wheels hitting the ground. You could rent a van or you could rent a SUV and have enough room inside so as not to worry about a rack. You could have a hitch installed on the car and buy a trailer for the bikes……or if those suggestions don’t make it, you could always drive to the Duke Estate by car and WALK around the gardens!!!!!! Just sayin’ …….

    • Around hour 2 of the bike rack installation fiasco we considered leaving the bikes at home and just walking the hiking paths on the Duke Estate, but we are stubborn and determined. Believe me, before we even purchased “the contraption” we considered every other reasonable method of bike transport. I’m waaaaaaaay too short to even consider a roof rack and the bike doesn’t fit inside my small car even with the front tire removed. The truly ironic part of this is that I bought the rack for my car so that I could transport my bike by myself. Fat chance that’s ever going to happen now.

  24. It’s never as easy as it looks. Did this exercise cause any skinned arms, bumped legs or migraines due to the stress of putting the rack on the car? If not, you’ve got nothing to fret about.

  25. Uncle Sea Salt

    Very humorous, indeed.

    Now you know why Judy and I (Uncle Sea Salt & Aunt Herbs de Provence) go hiking as our main source of exercise. Hiking is not only fun…but your legs and arms are already attached to your body; so no installation instructions necessary.

  26. Hilarious! Should be included with the manual for all bike racks.


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