Steve Solves Sidecar Steering Situation

Thanks to Steve in Nova Scotia, the side car now maneuvers like a dream! The key was, as he suspected, removing the "inside" wheel of the car. My theory is that the side car will offer some added safety while riding, as the increased width and mass will make us far more visible, and force motorists to shove over. Luckily for us, Oregon law grants cyclists the full lane (absent bike lanes), and I have found I am (or at least feel) safer when I take the lane.

I had thought seriously about comming up with some kind of pivoting system, as another contributor suggested, but a)couldn't quite figure out how to do it, b)had been given an equally persuasive argument to NOT have pivots c) removing the middle wheel was quick, easy, and worked like a charm.

The day dawned gorgous, all sunshine and blue skies, and having been loligagin around the house for the past several days I couldnt wait to get out for a ride. I was trying to coax The Boy into coming with me when he shocked my socks off by asking if we could try the sidecar! Well why not? (it's hard to see in the photo, but he is cuddling his cat, who came up to see what the heck the kid was doing)

It worked like a dream, even with all 60+ pounds of boy in it ~and boy, did we attract attention! With it being such a nice day, many folks were out on their bikes, and several folks actually stopped us to ask about the rig, many more smiled and waved, or gave us thumbs up. We felt like celebrities!

We made a stop at Goodwill, and as I was locking up the bike, I had a wonderful chat with a German fellow who began the conversation with "Hey, can I have a ride in that?" If he had not been traveling with a lovely young lady, and I with my son, I might have picked him up. In stead, The Boy and I went in and found ~wait for it~ a bean bag chair! in his favorite color blue and the works! Yes, we did pop it on the side car and road home with him, quite literally, in the lap of luxury.

The beanbag has pockets on either side for The Boy to stash snacks, in this case, a soft pretzel. I dont know what the waight capacity for the sidecar is, I'm a little concerned though, the kid is lookin mighty comfortible there, he may never want to ride his own bike again!

In this shot you can see that the rail on the right side of the bean bag is a bit wabbly, tending to lean in a bit. The Burley flatbed is designed to disassemble and fold flat easily, which is great if your main concern is storage space. I have bolted the left rail ridgedly into possition, and plan to do the same to that limp right side rail this weekend, when I will also begin working on the "box"

tune in next time for the amazing adventures of "Biofuel* Mamma & The Boy" . . .

(*cyclists are the ultimate biofule vehicle, and the only sustainable one)


Sidecar Update

Having gotten the important pieces bolted down, I couldn't resist taking the sidecar out for a test drive.
The Boy took one look at it and declared "I am NOT getting in that!" Not sure if it was the fact that it is still a flatbed shell of a thing, just a bit more substance than idea at this point; or if it is that he has always been the "grown up" in the family. Anyway, I tossed a bag of compost on the side car for balast, and took it out for a spin. Heres where we are at:

* It has the turning radius of a tank

* The side car has a tendency to "push" the bike towards the curb (away from the side car)

* The outside wheel of the sidecar has a tendency to lift up off the pavement

I am not an engineering genius, and am hoping someone out there is and can offer some feedback.
I wonder if, in my concern about attaching the sidecar securely, that I have made the connection too ridged? Right now the front of the side car attaches to the bike frame with a standard Burley trailer hitch, the back attaches to the back of the Xtracycle frame through a pipe inserted into the Xtracycle frame, with the other end bolted to the back of the sidecar.
The sidecar is on the left side of the bike, and turning right is difficult.

Mover's Lament

Spring is altogether the worst time for me to consider moving from this place. Granted, there are a dozen good reasons, and several flimsy ones, for me to do so; but all those reason existed over the winter, and that would have been the time to make the leap. Now everything is budding up and blooming: the apple tree, grafted with three different varieties of apples, has that certain complexion that it gets this time of year, whispering promises of bumper crops that will last from lat spring to early winter. I always have both the earliest and latest apple crops of anyone I know. The asian pear is filling out so nicely this year, and coming into it's own. Thr fig tree in front yard is already making noises about the first of the two crops of sweet, decadent fruit it will produce this year; if I move on schedule, I will miss both harvests. The raspberry canes, which had their first crop just last year, are bursting forth with new growth and spring leaves, all fresh and new and brimming with both the memories of last years crop, and hints of an even better one this year, the grape vines are just beginning to stir and shake off the winters dormancy, like the raspberries, they had their first harvest last season, after years of tender nurturing, how can I leave now when I am literally just beginning to see the fruits of my labor?

The wide expanse of sunny garden space beckons, mocking the postage stamp yards I have seen in the co-housing group's real estate search. Even in it's naked, unplanted state, it rivals anything I have seen elsewhere in the city.

Sure, the neighbors suck, the location is too far away from everything else I do, and the rooms are haunted by years of lies, deceptions, and betrayal; my marriages is buried here, along with a number of beloved pets. But here, too, is the herb garden, bursting with medicinal plants, that I put in when I was first learning to make salves and remedies. The fledging native plants edging the Northern side of the house, planted to support local wild life, here too is the soil, black and teeming with furtility forged by my two hands. The walls my son and I painted together. Here is the place I came to believing it to be the place I would grow old. It is just waking up from it's long sleep, to find me thinking of being on my way.

Sure, there are a dozen good reasons, and several flimsy ones, for me to go, but it would be much easier to considier doing so if it wernt spring.


Spring Time & The Mother of Invention

Well, spring has sprung here at our little urban homestead, bringing with it all manner of projects, activities and refections on the meaning of it all.

I went out to check for eggs this morning, having not done so for a while, and found that the girls have at last started laying! There was, in fact, a bumper crop of eggs, guess they are making up for lost time. At this point it appears that it may just our duck who is laying at the moment, with luck Henrietta hen will join her soon.

I am making slow progress on my latest bike related project: Around the first of the year I got it in my head to create some sort of trailer or other kid/cargo enclosing device that would allow me to ferry the Boy through foul weather, and also allow me to transport large bulky items that I don't want to have get wet. So, a while back, I picked up a Burley flatbed trailer as a base from which to work. At the time I was thinking of something tow-able, but as I began tinkering and researching, the project morphed (on paper) through a number of incarnations, finally evolving into a sidecar arrangement.

Some of my “bikey” associates think I am coddling the Boy, that he should pedal like the rest of us, rather than getting a free ride. Maybe he should, but the Boy has a liver condition, which I have not discussed much, here or in life, because it is rather depressing. He is less robust than most 12 year olds, and very sensitive to temperature drops and the like. He HATES getting wet or cold, and his kvetching really detracts from my enjoyment of our rides. I figure that going by bike (in any form) is better for him than traveling in a smog-mobile, even if I were willing to operate one, and by making cycling pleasant for him I may be instilling longterm habits.

One reason for a sidecar, rather than a trailer, is it will allow the Boy and I to chat while riding, I love being able to do this when he rides behind me on the Xtracycle's snap deck. The main deterent to the sidecar idea was the puzzle of how to attach it securely without permanently altering or damaging the bike. But after tinkering with the Burly a bit, I found that the hitch and arm are easily detached from each other, and from the trailer body, by removing a couple of bolts; meaning I could alter how the trailer attached to the bike without damaging or permanently altering it . This was a fabulous discovery, as I am reluctant to make permanent changes before knowing that the sidecar will work.

With the hitch removed from the arm of the trailer, it was possible to attach a piece of EMT tubing on to the hitch, and attach the other end to the trailer. A second piece of tubing connects the back of the trailer to the Xtracycle frame. The final puzzle will be putting together the "box", which will hold the Boy/cargo. Not so much a challenge from an engineering or carpentry stand point, but simply in terms of finding the time and energy.

The Boy is hoping to have a bean bag as a seat, although unconventional and -I think- decandent, this arrangement would make switching between passenger and cargo use a snap. I will be making bike-powered smoothies at this years Earth Day celebration, and hope to have the sidecar done in time to use for that ~I figure, if I am going to loose a load, or have the trailer malfunction, better to have it happen with an inanimate load on board.


Thoughts on Transformation

After spending the better part of the past decade in pursuit of the credentials to be an Art Therapist, now that I am closing in on the goal I find myself loosing faith in the whole notion of therapy. Well, not therapy itself, because I know it can be a powerful tool for change; nor do I doubt the potential people have to change, grow and evolve. But heres the thing: in my experience, they just don't want to.

We all develop defense and coping mechanism that, almost invariably, turn against us. We have all seen it, in our own lives and in others: we all know people who grew up being hassled by bullies and thugs, and are still doing battle with them today ~except, the perpetrators are decades gone. Today the innocent folks who trip their hair triggers are mystified and confused by their defensiveness. Far from protection, this pattern of behavior serves to alienate potential allies and friends. I know so many people who, rather than seeking to evolve, insist that others except them exactly as they are, anger issues and all. They want everyone else to change, so that they dont have to. I have been such a person. This seems to be the possition taken by the majority of folk. Like the man I know who is so scared and debilitated by being abandoned, first by his mother and then by a girlfriend, that he is unable to commit to any woman. He makes any woman who wants that commitment feel wrong. These issues are by no means insurmountable ~unless one refuses to change; and that is what most people choose to do.

Far be it from me to foist transformation on anybody. Though I believe that humans are not only capable of change, but that these transformations are an essential part of what makes us human, I am not interested in forcing anybody to be fully human. I don't want to play the heavy, and I don't want to be useless. There is precious little I can imagine worse than being useless ~being a serial killer perhaps, or a fascist, but not much else. My skills as a therapist would seem to be exactly that. The cure only helps if you take it.

Into this tangle of darkness and doubt, a fair-haired young man ~or he was a young man~ has appeared, like a beacon. He is not a young man now, but he was, and a wild one at that. He was the Kurt Cobain of my high school, our very own Drug Store Cowboy; the boy most likely to crash and burn, a boy who had experienced more tragedy and loss in the first decade and a half of his life than most people experience in a lifetime. He was a boy who struck fear and sadness in the hearts of the staff, not because they feared him, but they were afraid for him; as he was hell bent and single-minded on his path to self-destruction. There was literally every reason in the book for him to fail, and no reasonable hope of him living to adulthood.

But live he did. He lived, he grew up, he spent time in the desert. I don't know if he got therapy, art or otherwise, but I do know that he chose transformation, and in doing so chose life.

Twenty years after high school, through a strange and complicated series of events, he and I found ourselves in a local coffee shop, with our kids. The out of control 'bad boy' who used to bring orange juice laced with vodka (given the relative proportions, one might better describe it as vodka laced with orange juice) to school, now cradled his youngest son in his lap, with an tenderness and presence that nearly moved me to tears. While his older son played Yu-gi-oh cards with my son, we caught each other up on the past two decades.

He is happily married; he is in collage, and almost as passionate about his studies as he is about his family. He could have insisted that the rest of the world work around his issues and change to accommodate his wounds, but, if he had, he wouldnt have this amazing life, and he and I wouldn't have been sitting in that coffee shop, sharing insights about school, parenting, and creating one's best life. He has owned, and changed, his “stuff”; and in doing so has found wholeness and happiness in this personal transformation. I believe doing so has saved his life.

If it could happen once, in a life as unlikely as his, it could happen again, and next time I want to be there when it does.