Tach It Up, Tach It Up, Buddy Gonna Shut You Down

I realized that since posting about my birthday gift to myself–my 26″ Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle–I have not posted in this blog about it (or anything else!).  I vowed to wait until I had racked up some miles, and then report to those readers who have been waiting impatiently for news about my new vehicle.

The trike, sitting in my living room, before adding the front fender.

When last you tuned in, my neighbors D’Lyn and Luca had assembled the trike on my front porch, which was when we discovered it was minus the large bolt and washers necessary for holding on the front fender.  I sent an email to the bike company that night, and by the end of the week, there was a small padded envelope in my mailbox containing the missing hardware.

On the Saturday after my birthday, Susie was in Akron at a Unitarian Universalist youth conference, and I took advantage of the empty house for a day trip to Athens on GoBus, $21 round trip.  So, until the fender was on the front of the trike, I knew it would’t get any mileage.

Sunday morning, my co-worker Jeff came in from Reynoldsburg with an impressive tool kit, and he was at work on the fender as Susie’s ride dropped her off after returning from Akron.  (I knew my bike was in skilled hands.  Jeff’s late father owned a hardware store, and Jeff earned his allowance as a kid and teenager by assembling bikes.)

Once the fender was on, I took the trike for its maiden voyage.  I think the Wright Brothers stayed in motion longer than I did.  They managed a 12-second, 120-foot flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and I think my first trip on the trike was less than that.  I got on, wobbled a little bit, and almost capsized it because of my old habits from my limited bike-riding experience.  As I got to the end of the block, I tried to lean into a turn.  I haven’t been on a bicycle since high school, but I haven’t been on a tricycle for over 45 years, so I had forgotten all I had to do was turn the wheel.

I was still a little wobbly on my first ride.  In Two Years Before the Mast, Moby-Dick, and the Horatio Hornblower novels, they always talk about getting your sea legs, and Mr. Scott on Star Trek has mentioned getting your space legs.  I had yet to get my trike legs, because on my first trip back, I very narrowly missed hitting a tree.  I was only going a few miles an hour, so I would not have been injured if I had hit the tree, but it was very close.  As Dan Rather would have said, “Look at that!  Can’t get a cigarette paper between ’em!”

A day or two later, after work, I went down to the Olentangy Trail and embarked on several trips back and forth.  I am still not ready for riding alongside heavy traffic, so my on-street riding has been mostly on the narrow one-way east-west streets in Olde North.  The trail is asphalt, with several turns and small rises.  I rode back and forth from Dodridge to Lane Ave. four or five times, turning around when I could see the curved roof of St. John Arena.  I would have gone further north than Dodridge, but the bridge over the Olentangy River is out, and my trike is too wide to get around all the sawhorses, barriers, and fences the City has erected to block the path at that point.

Until yesterday, I had to restrict myself to daytime riding.  Last night, my friend Scott called and told me he was buying me a set of lights for the trike, and giving me a helmet.  I had been riding minus a helmet, although I knew on some level that a bicycle enthusiast I knew in Marietta was right when he said he always wore a helmet “whether I’m going around the block or around the world.”  Commander William Riker said that Fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.  I must fall in the first category.  Scott and I went to Target last night and he bought me the lights (I paid for the batteries, a 12-pack of AAAs).

Tonight I did not hit the Olentangy Trail, but went biking on the sidewalks in Olde North.  I did get some stares, but the trike handled well, and I got my second wind pretty quickly.  As a proud pedestrian, I had mounted my cyber soapbox in the past about bicyclists using the sidewalk.  I had even ended a post on Columbus Underground with “Ride your bikes in the street, assclowns!”  On paper at least, riding bicycles on the sidewalks is forbidden, but no one in the city (including bicycle cops) obeys that rule.  I would be petrified riding in traffic, so I have elected to ride on the sidewalks, at least for the foreseeable future.

Not that the sidewalks are 100% safe.  I have not had any run-ins (literally or otherwise) with pedestrians or parked cars, but the sidewalks in Olde North are often jagged, uneven, and cracked in many places, so I’ve taken some pretty hard bounces.  It is only after tonight’s ride that I’ve stopped sweating blood about whether I blew a tire.  (I had considered practicing in the alleys, but cars usually roar through those at high speeds, and they are strewn with gravel, broken glass, nails, and other hazards.)

Pedestrians have been courteous to me, and have stepped aside without any complaint, and I’ve resolved to be more respectful about riding on the sidewalks than many of the bicyclists I’ve encountered.  I think that an adult tricycle is such an anomaly that many people give me a wide berth just so they can get a better look at it.  (“Cargo bike” and “freight bike” are the other conventional phrases to describe my vehicle, although I overheard a kid on the Olentangy Trail call it a “geezer bike.”)

The accessory that I have yet to purchase is some kind of signalling device.  I have heard a lot on the merits of a bell versus a horn.  I thought about buying a standard ooga horn, although another person suggested I get a bell (for “thank you” and for greeting people) and a marine air horn, the type of signalling device that boats carry as distress signals.  (Anyone who has been to a professional hockey game has heard them.)  The air horn is very high on the decibel scale, but I am not sure that any pedestrian, with earbuds in and volume cranked, would hear anything less.

Hopefully, the sarcasm shines through in the title of this blog post.  I am hardly Marlon Brando when I am riding this trike.  (I definitely don’t look like any of the bikers in Scorpio Rising.)  It’s a single speed, which means I have to get out and push for a lot of inclines, although with time and experience, I’ll build up more strength in my legs.  When I was shopping online for a trike, I flirted with the idea of getting a trike with a magnesium frame (much lighter), but the cost was prohibitive, and I am well aware that the more aerobic the bike ride, the more it will benefit me in the long run.

More progress reports to come.  The trike is enough of a novelty that my landlord and my next-door neighbor both wanted to ride it up and down the block last Saturday when they saw me arrive on it.  Maybe I should charge for that.
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Birthday Milestone: I Bought Beer for the First Time in at Least 12 Years

I turned 49 last Sunday.  Next year, I will be eligible to join AARP (although retirement will, it seems, be about 22 years in my future), when I hit the big five-oh.  It was a good celebration, and the high point of it was the 21st-century equivalent of a barn-raising.

I had a bike-raising.  Or, to be more precise, a trike-raising.

During the winter, I decided that maybe I should supplement walking with another form of aerobic exercise.  Several people had suggested I take up bike-riding, but I was reluctant to do this.  I had many ear infections as a child (they lessened in frequency after my tonsillectomy in kindergarten), and a lasting effect is that my balance is not perfect.  I have always been rather wobbly when riding a two-wheeler, so I have not owned or ridden a bike since high school.

While doing some reading and Web-surfing this winter, I saw articles and pictures about cargo bikes (in some areas, people call them freight bikes).  This is an adult tricycle.  When the weather started getting warmer, I started looking online for an adult tricycle, talked to many people (online and in person) who were in the know about bicycling, and about two weeks ago, I went to Wal-Mart’s Website and bought a cherry-colored 26″ Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle.

About a week after I received their email confirming the purchase, I came home from work and saw the huge cardboard Schwinn box sitting on my front porch.  There was a stick-em on it from FedEx that said We delivered your package.  Thanks, guys.  So the trike had arrived, but, as I knew, it was not pre-assembled.

I had that covered even before I ordered it.  On Easter Sunday, a couple on my block invited me to a potluck. I went, and described the trike that I was ordering.  The couple who live diagonally across Maynard from me told me to let them know when the trike arrived, and they would help me put it together.

This was indeed good news.  I would not want to ride anything that I had assembled myself.  Probably the most hellish Christmas Eve I ever experienced involved putting together the Radio Flyer wagon that was one of Susie’s gifts that year.  I offered to return the favor by speaking up for some beer for the two of them.

That’s the allusion in my title.  On my birthday, Susie and I both slept a little later than usual, had brunch at the Blue Danube (a first for both of us), and while she was online with her friend in Medina (they’re writing a book together), I walked to Giant Eagle and picked up a six-pack of Burning River Pale Ale, a product of the Great Lakes Brewing Company.  (Something funny: I typed Burning River into Wikipedia’s search engine, and it redirected to Cuyahoga River.)

Luca and D’Lyn came over in mid-afternoon, bearing plenty of tools.  They did a very good job, and I reminded them that, should they have children, they will spend many a Christmas Eve doing this very thing.  Luca was prepared for any eventuality.  When I presented them with the beer, I was surprised (and a little embarrassed) to see I had no bottle opener.  (I had taken it to work for a potluck, since someone was bringing in Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C, which required a church key to open.  The bottle opener was–and still is–in my desk at work.)  I knew a kid in high school who prided himself on being able to open bottles with his front teeth, but Luca used one of his tools to do the job.

I was hoping to wind this entry up with dazzling prose describing my maiden voyage on this trike, but that is an entry for another day.  As the project neared completion, Luca and D’Lyn discovered that several screws and washers meant to hold on the front fender were missing.  My initial thought was that a front fender is not essential to riding the bike, but it seems that they may have packed the wrong rear fenders.  When the rear wheels turn, they rub against the fenders, which will eventually ruin the tires.  So, I’ve had several emails back and forth with the company, and the small parts, and two rear fenders, should be in my hands in seven to 10 business days.

Luca and D’Lyn putting together the rear of the tricycle.

Susie and I went to Lowe’s later in the afternoon and bought a bike chain and lock, and both of us wanted to be in and out of Lowe’s as quickly as we could.  I got the chain, paid for it, and we made a beeline to the front door.  (I know there are people who can spend entire Saturday afternoons in Lowe’s or Home Quarters, but their reasons baffle me.  However, I understand there are people who cannot understand how I can be entranced by a visit to OfficeMax or Staples, even when I’m only there to buy a notebook or a ream of paper.)