Wednesday April 30, 2003 11:56 PM
Big Wheel

Ruth got Isaiah a Big Wheel (actually, a cheaper generic version but you know what I mean) for his birthday and last night I put it together. Tomorrow his preschool is having a "bike-a-thon" to raise money for a children's hospital and he needs a set of wheels. They aren't taking pledges or anything like that, they're simply riding around and around and the teachers are accepting donations.

When I got home last night, we all went for a walk first then I assembled the Isaiah's new vehicle. Isaiah found a stick on our walk (imagine that) and turned it into his 'pointer' which meant he used it to point at things- usually houses and ask "Isn't that one pretty? Isn't that one pretty?". We kept the pace up and got home from our regular route a little sooner than usual because I wanted to capitalize on the light of the setting sun.

Back at home, I hauled the box with all the parts out to the back porch and then rounded up a hammer, a utility knife, a wooden block, and a screw driver. Then I looked at the screws and realized the screwdriver I'd come up with was the wrong kind and went on another scrounge for a Phillips screwdriver. Once that was accomplished I tuned the radio to the jazz station from the University where Dimmy teaches, unfolded the instructions, and went to work.

Of course, before I'd located all the parts for step #1, I had a young helper offering his assistance.

"Hi, Daddo!"

"Hi, Son. What do you want?"

"I want to sit out here with you and watch."

"OK, but sit right there in the chair and don't fool around, Ok?"

"OK, but can I play with one of the wheels?"

"I guess so- here's the front wheel."

"Oh thanks!"

Though, he didn't remain in the seat and he did fool around, I got the job done. It took longer than I expected partly because the head of the first hammer I found was too big to fit down into a depression in the fork to pound a shaft-cap home and I had to look for a second hammer, and partly due to the distraction and questionings of my 'helper'. The fact that the sun was going down for real didn't help either and I was in the dark, working in the light spilling out through the back door to finish the last step.

Isaiah was excited when he saw the finished big wheel. He hopped in the seat and I showed him how to put his feet on the pedals. I explained to him that there'd be none of the pulling himself around with his feet monkey-business. That was for babies. If he was going to ride this big wheel he would have to pedal it properly or not ride it. He accepted this requirement and we took the big wheel around front for a shakedown cruise on the sidewalk.

Riding a big wheel proved to be a little more tricky than Isaiah initially suspected. Since his weight was balanced in front on the single wheel, and since the steering of that wheel had such a high degree of caster (as you look at the side of the wheel, the angle that the fork is rotated away from vertical around the axis of the wheel is called caster), he quickly learned that he had to carefully control the handlebars or the wheel would flip to the side and he'd come to a stop.

We made several practice runs up the sidewalk to the next driveway where I'd help him turn around and back, and a couple riding the gentle slope of our driveway from the sidewalk to the side of the house. He got the hang of going straight-ish, but he'll probably do much better in the wide open space of the roped off parking lot he'll be riding on (barring rain) tomorrow. He will have to work on keeping his momentum up though because his legs are just barely long enough to reach the pedals when they're on the farthest side of the wheel and if he's not going fast enough for momentum to carry him through, he can get into trouble when his knees are fully extended.

He'll get the hang of it soon enough. I just hope they have nice weather and a good time tomorrow morning.