David Wood is not a believer in love at first sight.
Yet, when he first laid eyes on her, there was an immediate, undeniable voice in his head telling him to talk to her.
“She introduced herself, and was like, ‘Hi, I’m Karen,’” Wood said. “And, it was just such an impactful moment, and it was like the crazy Hollywood effects with some extra dazzle to the whole thing.”
On his 10th consecutive ride in Tour de Nebraska, Wood met his wife, Karen Griffin, who was on the tour for the first time with her son, Jason, in 2012.
Jason, who is now 26, was an undergrad student at Nebraska Wesleyan studying computer science. He and Wood instantly bonded, as Wood used to teach computer science there.
“They just hit it off and were talking and riding for hours together about computer science,” Griffin said.
Throughout the trip, Wood and Griffin kept bumping into each other and making conversation. Then, on the last day, they exchanged phone numbers at a lunch stop along the way from Neligh to Madison.
Since Wood is vegan and Griffin is gluten intolerant, they worked out a system and swapped different parts of their meals, he said. Prior to leaving the bar, they wrote their numbers on coasters and then returned to Lincoln, where they both resided.
Upon arriving back home, Wood said he immediately threw his bike shorts in the wash without remembering he had left the coaster in his pocket.
“Suddenly, I just thought, ‘Oh no, my coaster is in there. I just threw away her phone number; it’s in the washing machine,’” Wood said. “So, I ran out and try to fetch it out of the washing machine, and by then, it’s just like pulp.”
Luckily, his disappointment didn’t last long, as he received a call from Griffin the next day saying they should get together.
She said her son was comical about them dating.
“Jason was funny,” she said with a grin. “At one point later that year, I said, ‘Oh, by the way, David and I are dating now.’ He goes, ‘That’s not fair, he was my friend first.’ It was really funny.”
Griffin and Wood returned to the same tour the next year, where they were chosen for the spirit award at the end of the ride.
“They have a spirit award that they give for someone who sort of epitomizes the ride,” Wood said. “So, they gave it to Karen and I the next year because we were sort of notorious for being a couple and, you know, having broad smiles on our faces the whole time.”
For another two years, they continued to date and go on the bike tour. Wood said they decided they wanted to live and spend the rest of their lives together, but they weren’t certain if they wanted to get married yet.
“We weren’t quite sure, you know, marriage – we’ve sort of been there, done that,” he said. “And, we’ve seen the downside of it, too, because we were both divorced, and so it’s like, ‘We don’t need to get married, we’ve had kids, there’s no sort of point in that.’”
However, when Christmas of 2015 rolled around, they changed their minds. Griffin said all of their kids were home for the holiday, including her son, Jason, and her younger son, Victor, 20, as well as Wood’s children, Claire, 27, Evan, 25, and Francis, 23.
“We were thinking about doing it in the summer of 2016, but all of our kids were home for Christmas,” Griffin said. “And so, we realized with five children between us, ‘When are they all going to get together again?’”
She then contacted their friend who also does Tour de Nebraska, Stephanie Stacy, a Supreme Court Justice in Lincoln. Three days later, Stacy married them in the Supreme Court in Lincoln.
According to Griffin, it was such a spontaneous decision that they didn’t have time to get rings, so that section was crossed out of the ceremony and they purchased them later.
Ever since 2012, the couple has gone on the tour every year as an anniversary celebration of how they met, including this year’s tour.
“We sort of say the Tour de Nebraska is our anniversary reunion and we’re like, ‘Oh good, all of our friends made it back here,’” Wood said.
Throughout the years, they have built old and new friendships, he said.
“On a bicycle and on Tour de Nebraska, you kind of get to know someone better because you have all of this downtime to talk and everything’s exposed; you have nothing to hide,” Wood said. “It’s just the best place to catch up and meet people and get to know people.”
Not only do they get to meet friendly faces, but they also take time to appreciate the charm of small towns in Nebraska, according to Wood.
“It’s just great, the small towns and just being intimate with the small towns and just being away from things,” he said. “It’s just nice to be able to interact and get to know the different parts of Nebraska and small town Nebraska.”
Griffin also said she appreciates how the tour allows for people to view parts of the state that they wouldn’t normally recognize.
“The tour is just a great way for anyone to get out and see these parts of Nebraska that you don’t get to see when you’re driving on I-80,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful state.”
In addition to Tour de Nebraska, they also enjoy going on week-long bike tours through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Outdoor Adventures, where they’ve been to Oregon, Maine, Wyoming and other destinations.
Griffin, who works as a geologist for Olsson Associates, and Wood, who is a computer software engineer for Nelnet, have had a zeal for biking years before they went on tours together.
From when he was a child through the beginning years of college, Wood said he was fervent about biking, but fell out of the routine when he was first married and had children. However, he got back into it before going on Tour de Nebraska, as he would ride on increasingly long routes.
Griffin said some of her best childhood memories came from riding her bike, and later on, she enjoyed working as a tour guide in college.
“I have been cycling in Lincoln since I grew up, and I used to work as a tour guide on bicycle tours in college,” she said. “I’d take high school kids on bike tours in Europe; it was a great summer job.”
As for future biking endeavors, the couple plans on continuing their yearly tradition of participating in Tour de Nebraska.
In July, they will go on another Outdoor Adventures bike ride to northern Minnesota, Wood said.
However, next year, they want to travel even further and take their children along with them, Griffin said.
“Next year, I think we want to go to Italy,” she said. “My sister, Jane, and her husband lead historic, art and food tours in Florence and different parts of Italy. We want to go and do a bike ride with them.”