Tuesday, August 7, 2007

...with the Brakes On

We went with friends to the Marina tonight to shoot Koosh balls & golf balls out of a potato launcher. First launch = 200 ft; second launch = lost.

Vee & Kee's friend built the launcher and since we are friends with the Dad and Jee & Aee have never seen a pototo launcher, we thought we would all tag along. What a great night; what a great show. They were launching from the big dirt piles area by the bridge over 580. Pictures on Flickr soon.

The wind turned cold and Jee & Aee huddled in the chariot (the little trailer thing you pull behind your bike). While everyone was looking for the lost projectile, I realized that I needed to take my shivering little Jee & Aee home. Jee and Aee normally split up with one riding on the tandem and the other in the chariot. But, I needed to get them both home as fast as I could and I can only pull one bike, so they both piled into the chariot.

Note that no one in the family has pulled both kids in the chariot which now adds up to about 140 lbs of kid & trailer. Somehow I thought I could support this on my own wobbly, geeky legs.

As I was leaving, Tom pumped up my tires for good measure -- the chariot tires were completely flat, possibly because I thought that pulling a chariot with non-flat tires would just be too easy.

Nobody thought I could do it, but they didn't want to do it, so they weren't volunteering, just showing doubt. Gee, thanks a lot. My parting comment was meant to be reassuring: "Never underestimate the verocity of a mother caring for her children."

I pulled my not-so-little ones up the bridge. Since I was on Kee's bike-with-bad-brakes, I went down the other side with the brakes on. Once I hit the streets, I slowly realized what I had gotten myself into. Even the little hills were painful, but it was getting dark --fast-- and I wanted to get my babies home. Adrenaline with a boost of momma-power.

After a 1/2 mile, the dark hit like a blanket & I stopped to get the reflective vest out of the chariot. The kick stand didn't hold & bang, the bike hit the pavement. When I picked it back up, the brake was jammed ON.

Now, how am I going to get two freezing little kids home without leaving all my gear (bike, trailer, all the equipment inside)? Walk the bike? I tried pushing it and it barely budged.

What would you do?

What solutions come to mind?

Stuck in a dangerous part of town, dark out, with some expensive gear (expensive camera, obviously cheap bike) and two little kids who would have me carry them. Hum.

M.U.'s talk flashed, "When you are biking, you can always go just one more inch.... endurance... you choose when you stop." There wouldn't be any giving up for me tonight.

But what to do?

I threw the bike back down on the ground to see if that would fix it.

Yeah, I know the rest of you would have tried fidgeting the brake, kicking the tire back into alignment, but you see, I know this bike. I know how screwed up it really is. And I know that it hates me.

So I threw it back down with a, "You won't defeat me" flick of the wrist.

And then I kicked it, "How dare you mess with a mother trying to get her kids home."

And here's the cool part -- when I picked it back up, the tire was back in alignment.


I'll spare you all the gory details of how badly messed up this bike is. At least I could move forward, but the brake was still technically "on". As long as I could move forward.... Now what did M.U. say in her talk? You choose when you stop.

With my legs screaming, "Hey, you set the resistance too high! Back off or we're going to send you some nasty lactic acid!" I started praying pretty hard. As I got close to each intersection, "Oh please, tell the people to stop for me."

They did.

At every light, "Oh please, let it stay green or turn green. I don't care, just let me see green."

They were all green.

I didn't stop once and I was able to get going at a fairly good clip. It was at the razor edge of "...never give you more than you have strength to bear." Never too hard, but I couldn't stop. I knew that if I stopped, I would change my mind and I don't know, ditch the bike? Try to carry the kids home? It sounded so much easier than what I was doing grinding the tires one rotation after the next.

When I pulled onto our street, I could hear J & A cheering for me out of the chariot, "Way to go mom! You made it!" With my legs shaking, I pulled into our driveway and...

...hit our minivan. The brakes didn't work at all. I already knew that the right brake was disconnected, but the left brake handle hung off like some child's nearly-lost tooth hanging on by a thread. I hadn't noticed that the brake wasn't where it was supposed to be because I had never felt for it to use it.

A lesson in endurance? Painfully so. A lesson in gratitude? No doubt.