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Grand Island | Omaha | Kearney | Hastings | Lincoln | Sumner 2015 North Broadwell Avenue 3111West Stolley Park Road 2009 North Diers Avenue 518 North Eddy Street 5pointsbank.com LIED CENTER - LINCOLN, NE • Deluxe round trip motor coach from Grand Island • Brunch buffet at Chances R Restaurant • Main level ticket to the show • Escorted www.theindependent.com The Grand Island Independent THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019 6A senior LIVING By Kit Grode firstname.lastname@example.org Mick and Donna O’Brien consider themselves a lucky couple. Over the decades of their marriage, they’ve joined each other in the workplace —Mick retired from dentistry, and Donna from the front office, in 2012 after 42 years; as business partners — the O’Briens ran a piano tuning and repair business for 35 years; and traveled both across the country and the world. They also happen to have done some of that traveling as a tandem bicycling pair. “We just hear people say ‘When I retire, I’m gonna do this,’” Mick said. “Well, do it now.” It takes two to pedal Bicycling. Cross-country. On a tandem bike. “When you’re first married, you don’t have a lot of money,” Donna said. “And we decided that the cheapest form of transportation to take a trip would be on the bicycle.” They jumped right in, too. Their first ride was 400 miles or so. “I had raced (bicycling) before,” Mick said, “and we’d been on some races before — with Greg LeMond and Eric Heiden and all those people — so we just got into the touring thing and that was a lot more fun.” The O’Briens rode both single and tandem (although only one style at a time, mind you), cruising along highways for day trips and touring trips that took weeks. “We did a fair amount of biking,” Mick said. “We’ve always traveled,” Donna said. “We’ve been to Europe how many times, and did a home exchange in Denmark.” “We took the tandem (bicycle) to Denmark too,” Mick added. “We turned the handle- bars and turned the pedals in, and wrapped it up in insulating tape. We got to the airport (in Denmark), took it all off, and rode out from there.” And when it came to tandem riding, the couple joked that at least one of them pulled their weight. “She pedaled uphill, and I pedaled down,” Mick said. “We liked (tandem biking) so much, after that we started going to tandem rallies,” Donna said. “There would be 600 to 700 people on tandems. And they would have things going on in the evening — square-dancing, after riding all day.” One of the more memorable tandem rides started in Omaha, and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four months before that particular ride, Mick had gone in for a triple-bypass heart surgery. “(The ride) was part of the recuperation,” Mick insisted. “The only hard part as far as that was — on my part — just worrying about him,” Donna said. “But when we got into the mountains, we rode from really warm sunshine up into the snowbanks.” “It snowed the Fourth of July,” Mick added. “It actually did, in South Pass, Wyo. There are two seasons in Wyoming — winter and Fourth of July — and we just scratched one.” The O’Briens traveled up to 70 miles a day some trips, camping on football fields or county parks, or once, a golf course, at night. One night, in Columbus, Neb., their cycling group was abruptly adopted by a local for the night in advance of a tornado hitting the area. “The tornado went through, and there was a lady driving by, and she said ‘You people are coming to my house,’ so we all piled into her car,” Donna said. “She made a couple trips, because there were quite a few of us. So we went to her house and watched her windows rattle.” When the group returned to their planned camping site, their tents had flipped over, gear tossed about. But their bicycles were unharmed, having been secured beneath a pavilion overnight. The couple packed up their runaway tent and gear, soaked but otherwise none the worse for wear, and continued on their ride. “But you run into that,” Donna said. “It was good; it was fun. Do it now? No.” They admit that the cycling phase of their lives has come to an end, but they still enjoy occasionally meeting up with friends from past trips, and reminiscing about those days. “So biking’s been one of our things,” Mick said. “We don’t have (hobbies) that we started after (retirement). Almost all of the things we do we’ve done for a long time.” A quilt for every occasion The basement of the O’Briens’ house is home to one of the few pastimes the couple does not do together: Donna’s quilting. A longarm quilting machine sits in front of two hanging quilts, with a counter separat- ing the quilting station from the rest of the basement family room. One of the hanging quilts, Donna said, is a gift from her quilting group back in Michigan. Across the top and down the sides, “It has ‘Quilters Are Friends Forever’ and it has all their names,” Donna said. “I really like that one.” Donna is part of a quilting group here in Grand Island too. They get together at Central Community College the third week of every month, quilting from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A lot gets done, Donna said, “once we get finished talking.” Behind the machine sits a second sewing room, where Donna keeps her materials and smaller sewing machines. In that room, she pointed out three quilts in progress, waiting to go on the long-arm for the quilting process, in addition to the four in the main room currently waiting for their binding to be added to the edges. HOBBIES & HANDICRAFTS A life spent in tandem: O’Briens explore hobbies as a pair Independent/Barrett Stinson Donna O’Brien stands with some of the quilts she has made in the quilting area of the Grand Island home she shares with her husband, Mick O’Brien. Donna’s quilting space extends into a separate back room, where she stores her fabric, thread and smaller sewing machines. The O’Briens used their egress window wells as personal dioramas, and the one in Donna’s sewing room shows off her love of Paris. Independent/Barrett Stinson For Mick O'Brien (left) and his wife, Donna O'Brien, doing things together is a way of life. Whether it was running a business, raising a family or taking long rides on a tandem bicycle, they have done it together. The O'Briens are standing in their Grand Island home next to maps showing their bicycle excursions. Continued on page 7A Retiree checks to rise modestly amid push to expand benefits WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of retirees will get amodest 1.6%cost-of-living increase from Social Secu- rity in 2020, an uptick with potential political conse- quences in an election year when Democrats are push- ingmore generous inflation protection. The increase amounts to $24 amonth for the average retiredworker, according to estimates released Thurs- day by the Social Security Administration. Following a significant boost this year, the cost-of-living adjust- ment, or COLA, for 2020 re- verts to its pattern of mod- erate gains. But seniors and advo- cates complain that the in- flation yardstick used to de- termine the annual adjustment doesn’t ade- quately reflect their costs, mainly for health care. TheCOLAaffects house- hold budgets for about 1 in 5 Americans, nearly 70 mil- lion people, and that in- cludes Social Security recip- ients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. Criticism of the COLA formula has been amplified by Democratic presidential candidates and congressio- nal Democrats. That’s helped to shift the Social Se- curitydebate fromanear-ex- clusiveconcernwiththepro- gram’s solvency to a focus on expanding benefits, in- cluding but not limited to the cost-of-living adjustment. With the COLA, the es- timatedaveragemonthlySo- cial Security payment for a retiredworkerwill be $1,503 a month starting in January.