Tuesday, July 3, 2012


The convoy cruising through the park...
...and bombing down neighborhood streets.
It's the time of year for the annual visit by my sister-in-law Jennie and her two girls. They are usually here for a week or two during the hottest part of the year. The present heat wave has ensured that this year will be no exception. I'm not typically involved with the activities during the day as I'm at work, but every evening we have a ride followed by cocktails. However, sometimes the events of the evening do not necessarily occur in that order.

Our evening rides are usually a bit of a rolling party, with the Big Dummy hauling a pile of revelers. Tonight, in my charge were about 110 pounds worth of girls (three in total), roughly 80 pounds of bike and trailer, a 40 pound dog, and 180-ish pounds of me. Those on my vehicle who were capable of singing regaled all in the vicinity with a variety of tunes. For whatever reason, Jingle Bells was featured prominently.
Big rig carrying a pink-laden, girlish cargo.
Sisters Jennie on the Pugsley and Julie on her beloved Breezer.
We usually have some sort of destination while riding, whether it is the community garden, a park or a dirt trail. Sometimes we have snack breaks or find activities to do along the way. The heat has been oppressive as of late, so we always appreciate chancing upon a water feature.
Meredith and Scout check out the fountain.
New to swimming, Scout heavily considered taking the plunge, but the slopeless, four-foot depth spooked her.
Out of the four daughters between the two adult sisters, three are old enough to play and do so almost ceaselessly. Any four kids can make an impressive amount of noise, but I'm finding that girls seem to have a particular knack for sustained volume, interspersed with shrill spikes.

Because I'm the only male in the household, and because I'm an obvious Daddy figure, Julie and Jennie occasionally give me grief about appearing to be the head of a polygamist family when we're all out together. It is likely a bit of a spectacle to see a somewhat bedraggled, middle-aged guy with a couple of Mommy-ish women (are they his wives?) and a flock of kids in tow. The fact that all the girls are blond-haired, blue-eyed and unmistakably appear related doesn't do much to dissuade any misguided perceptions.
Girls climbing a tree.
Girls on top of a rock.
Butterfly spotted.
I'm proud to have played the role of de facto bike godfather to my nieces. I've refurbished or rebuilt several bikes of varying sizes that have been passed around between them as each girl grows in size or progresses in bicycling skill. It began about six years ago when I refurbished Chloe's first bike, a 16-inch wheeled Schwinn Trixie that she currently rides. Now at 10, over the past few days Chloe made the leap from a single-speed, coaster-brake bike to a mountain bike with front and rear derailleurs and v-brakes. The transition has gone quite smoothly and her skills are on the rise with each ride. 

The bike she's riding is one that I built up expressly for the purpose of helping big kids learn how to shift and brake on a scaled-down classic mountain bike. The bike is a circa late '90s Kona Hahanna with a small 14-inch frame, but equipped with 26 inch wheels. The frame and fork are nice examples of thoughtfully assembled 4130 chromoly steel, appropriately light in gauge for correctly sized riders, and featuring 1-inch diameter top and down tubes for a compliant ride. I assembled it with top mount thumbshifters, friction front and indexed rear, so that shifting can be learned the right way. The bike is finished off with some 26x1.6 inch knobbies with just the right amount of grip. It ends up being quite light and nimble for budding singletrackers. This will definitely be a bike that stays in the family for use by all the girls.
Chloe rides with confidence on the Kona Hahanna.
She invites you to the gun show with the Schwinn Trixie hanging in the background.
Mother and daughter are all smiles after a few circuits on the dirt track in the park.
In addition to our evening rides, I have plenty of eager assistance with dogwalking duties. Meredith is a talented animal whisperer, who has quickly and completely enchanted our ordinarily shy dog Scout.
These girls are sometimes mistaken for each other or as twins.
Walking in the late evening sun.
Most fireworks have long been illegal in Colorado, but this year, even most of the public fireworks displays in the state have been cancelled due to extreme fire danger. That's no problem for me as I've had an aversion to fireworks for years, and I can't understand what is patriotic about literally burning money in the form of litter-producing, toxic-material-dispersing, Chinese-made explosives. However, tradition is propelled by strong inertia, and kids of all ages expect certain elements in a holiday. 

I'm sure we'll figure out something festive and fun to do. After all, what could be more patriotic than expending a little American muscle power as a rider in a bike convoy?
Four people, four wheels, and four paws.

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