Saturday, June 09, 2007

U+2

Were it not for Bruce's extreme generosity, we wouldn't have had the tandem tag-along in the first place. He had mail ordered the British built device to be able to ride with both his daughters in tow. They could pedal along in unison without having to match the pace of the adult rider, the seven speeds of the tag-along giving them range. Two wheels made the trailer more stable and provided room for a large basket in the rear. The device seemed the perfect solution for Rebecca, allowing her to ride with 11-yr-old Keenan and 4-yr-old Shayleena. They did ride that way into Arcata, and it seemed to work well.

We hadn't considered taking the device along until the day we started to ride without a support. Prior to that, Tala had ridden in the RV or on a single bike - Rebecca's or Zoe's - and so had never ridden on her single tag-along behind a fully loaded bike. On the day we first tried that combination, we found it too unstable. Rebecca suggested the tandem tag-along. We tried it and found it workable. So off we rode with the twins in their trailer behind my bike and Tala on the U+2 behind Michele. Thus it was until the hills of Northern California.

Our purpose for stopping at Shekhina was to switch trailers. The high mount on the tag-along, which hitches to the seat-post, made it less stable than the dropout mounting trailer. In addition there were the challenges of coordinating Tala's thrusts with Michele's as they struggled up the steep hills. Michele had fallen three times and was ready to switch. Except for one day in Southern California when we tried the combination again, Tala has ridden behind me since.

Outside San Jose, we started to have a problem with the basket sagging. It was filled with two tents, an oversized sleeping pad, and a bag, with Rui's panniers strapped to the top. Sometimes Tala would lean back, adding her weight to the mix. Apparently, the ties that had held it to the frame were over-stressed. We pulled into a Walgreen's to buy a bundle of wire hangers, kept two, and gave the rest to a friendly shopper. Then we fastened the basket securely to the frame and rode off proud of our resourcefulness. That fix worked for a couple hundred miles.

Luckily, the next time the basket started sagging, we were in a town without a Walmart, because only a local hardware store could have provided the fix. The frame was bent nearly 90 degrees at each of the points where we had wired the basket. We got the store to saw a steel rod in half and used two hose clamps on each half to shore up the straightened frame sections. That fix is still holding.

This morning as we prepared to leave Demming, New Mexico, the hitch broke off the head end of the tag along. Providence led me to Wayne and his coworker, Lonnie Zumwalt, who donated a few hours of their time to solving our problem. Lonnie is an innovative machinist and welder who was able to rebuild the hardened steel part so we could reassemble the hitch. He also has dreamed of riding a bicycle across the country. I hope someday to have an opportunity to ride alongside this good man.

We've discussed replacing the tag along with a tandem or a single bike for Tala and a bob trailer to replace the basket. Either option might be less cumbersome, but neither would attract the attention or provide the stories that the U+2 has.

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