Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Youngest Stoker

This year, err... last year, 2011, Dora reached the age of 10 and grew within proximity of being able to ride on the tandem.  My daughter has been riding bike most of her life but making the transition to tandem had been sort of a Holy Grail for her.  For her it is an opportunity to spend more time with Mary and I and explore the world beyond her normal bicycle range.

The tag-along bike trailer had been used infrequently.  It is a good trainer for future stokers.  She rode it all the way from Bonderant to baxter and back on the Chichaqua Trail once.  We fondly remember this ride for her being sound asleep on the Fisher "Free Loader" when we pulled into Baxter.  I also pulled her up the dam on the Neal Smith Trail.  So the next time you bitch about how steep that hill is remember that yours truly pulled a tag-along bike up it with  90s vintage Cannondale road bike--no triple, no compact gearing.  42 tooth ring and standard Hyperglide 7-speed cassette.

I probably should have invested in a set of kid crank adjusters for the tandem.  Perhaps I will when grandchildren visit in say 20 to 30 years from now.  But my philosophy is that if the child wants to ride with me they should be able to do it without a handicap.  As the children aged they became my stoker.

So 2011 became Dora's year.  Her first ride was to Graham Johnston's home in Drakeland.  Graham installed a front rack on our touring tandem and trued the rear wheel.  I don't remember the circumstances behind Dora riding the bike with me, I ride tandems solo often enough that a lack of a stoker is no big deal, but it probably had something to do with the fact that if I left her alone with her siblings someone would start a fight.  She asked to go.  Best always to take your child with you.  It was a 10 mile round trip.  We stopped at Joe and Tammy Bridgeman's house on the way back to pick up a wheel.  Dora likes to visit their children.

July saw her on the tandem several times.  We went to Mel's house in Valley Junction to watch the West Des Moines 4th of July parade.  Many friends brought their children.  The next day we rode to Urbandale for their parade.  Dora scored mass quantities of candy at both parades.  A few days later we rode to Joe and Tammy's again to visit with JoDee and Todd Rundall and their son Elijah who were visiting from Oregon.

In August we attached the Burley trailer, loaded our camping gear and headed out to the Scout area near Easter Lake to spend the weekend with the Girl Scouts.  Easier to through everything in the Burley since we were carrying for 3 people, Mary would join us.

September was tandem free for us but October had Dora stoking once again to a picnic at Easter Lake.  14 miles.  A week later we rode to Anders and Laura Olson's house to watch the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern.  Dora enjoys spending time with their sons especially Adam their youngest child.  Back in February we watched the Super Bowl there but Mary, Dora and I rode singles.  hate to tell Dora this but if it is icy and snowy on Super Bowl Sunday, she will ride her own bike if she wants to go with us.  Che don't ride tandem in the snow, yet.

Dora did not ride on the tandem in November.  But on December 30th she was my stoker when we rode to Anders and Laura's to watch the Insight Bowl.  The tandem did not even cross my mind as the bike of choice.  Her Trek 220 has made the journey before and the tandems are locked away for the winter.  Any winter tandeming is usually on the first Saturday of February, BRR.  So I was surprised when she asked if we could take it.  It made sense.  One less set of lights to fuss with.  Easier to keep tabs on her.  Good father daughter bonding.

The Fisher was almost ready to roll when I pulled it out of its winter lair.  Tires did not need additional air.  Rear flasher was still attached and in working order.  A quick installation of front lights and reset its computer, lower the seat and away we rolled.

I do not have high expectations for young stokers.  Here are the rules that apply only to small children and perhaps extremely short adults who are stokers.  NOTE these are not the same as mentioned in an earlier blog but many of those rules apply i.e. no bitching ect

Rule #1  Do not fall off the bike
Rule #2  Do not put your shoes on the bicycle frame
Rule #3  No screwing around

I do not expect them to contribute much to the pedalling effort.  Dora can barely keep her feet on the pedals.  I view such riding as better exercise for me, training for them.  Yep it sucks on hills, an extra 20 lbs or so of bicycle plus the weight of the stoker.  Better workout for me.

But Dora knows what is going on.  When her shoe lace got caught in the pedal she knew that she needed to stuff it in her shoe as soon as it was free.  I did not have to tell her this.  She also is an excellent look out for cars that are behind us.  I love this service.

The trip to the Olsons takes us to Mullets, then on the Meredith Trail, Bill Riley Trail and Walnut Creek Trail.  We turn north after the "new" section and climb the hill on 56th Street.  The Olsons live on 56th South of Grand.  This is a steep bastard of a hill. 

On the way back she asked at one point how much further and then said that she was going back to sleep.  I told her to stay awake.  We spotted deer in the trees along the river and that kept her awake.  The Holly Jolly Lights were now off but she did not express any disappointment.  She saw them on the beginning trip and her aunt took her through them during Christmas.  It was a nice night ride despite Iowa losing the game.

Dora will continue to grow, God willing, and probably in 3 or 4 years ask to join Mary and I on Ragbrai.  The tandem will be ready.  She knows the rules.  And she will undoubtedly have more than the 108 tandem miles that she worked for this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment