Spring Roll!

The Corvallis Bike Collective really outdid themselves this year with their adorably (and aptly) named Spring Roll, a cycling event just for kids. Okay, so grown-ups are allowed too, but make no mistake, this raucous event is ALL about kids being awesome on their bikes.

And awesome they were...

Photo Credit: PicTish Photography

Photo Credit: PicTish Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Photo Credit: Kirstin Carroll Photography

Now, of course, I have to geek out about those last two photos. The one with the water cannons, sadly, I didn't get a chance to scope out in person. But, from the photos I'm guessing that some sort of off-the-shelf motorized water pump was adapted to accept a bicycle cog. It looks like there is a second chain running from the cassette of the rear wheel of each bike to the cog on the water pump. Each pump appears to have it's own dedicated clear hose (so you can see the water moving!) pulling from the barrel, and a standard garden hose with which to squirt on the front end. Not pictured are all of the screaming children, excitedly running under the jets of water. It was a hot day, so this was a big hit!

The next picture is of a pedal-powered carousel built by Trevor Heald, of the legendary Flanger. The carousel was commissioned by the CBC for their various and sundry kid-centric events. Trevor drew his inspiration for the carousel (and the Flanger) from pedal-powered-amusement-ride-all-stars, Cyclecide down in San Francisco. The carousel is a simple and clever machine: a series of kids' bikes fixed in a circle, all tied to a central axis mounted in a couple of old car wheels. Only needing to pedal, and not having to worry about balance, the kiddos are free to pedal (or coast) their hearts out regardless of height, age, or skill level. Inclusive and smart! 

So what was I doing there? 

Well, a few months prior I connected with the quick-witted Project Director of the CBC, Ilene McClelland, at a Sustainability Fair on OSU's campus. We became fast friends, or at least mutual admirer's of the other's efforts. Upon hearing of my pedal-powered rocket launching capabilities, Ilene's eyes lit right up and she invited me to provide entertainment at the 2018 Spring Roll. And, of course, I agreed (after checking my calendar).

The Spring Roll was incredibly well attended. There were hundreds of children. Hundreds. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. It didn't help that I was under slept, an hour late, and hadn't finished building all of the rockets. For better or worse, two tiny —and very eager— volunteers emerged immediately to "help" me build rockets. I honestly hadn't planned on having the kids build their own rockets, I wasn't prepared to instruct them, and I didn't have what I would consider kid-safe tools. But, what the heck, it's just two of them, I can keep an eye on things.


Two became six, became twenty. Suddenly, there were children rooting through all of my things, asking lots of questions, generally failing at building functioning rockets and demanding that launching commence. And I still wasn't all the way set up. Shit. 

Thirty five minutes in, and with much anticipation, we began launching rockets. 

Now, it's worth saying that the last time I did this, the rockets... all... failed. There was some unknown design flaw that caused them to just, blow up. I took great effort to reinforce them for this public event, since I wanted the kids to have fun (and I didn't want to play the fool). Thankfully, it worked.

girl launches paper rocket.jpg

First rocket sailed hundreds of feet, maybe reaching 125' in height. It went above some tall trees and landed behind the batting cage. Oh right, I didn't mention that I was positioned on the second base of a small baseball diamond. A small team of kids formed to catch the falling rockets, watching them bumble around was pretty entertaining.

kids catching paper rockets

After that first launch I let the kids try out their own rockets. I knew their fates were grim. 

As expected, the first few blew up, launching perhaps just the nose cone a handful of feet, and leaving the decapitated body on the launcher to bursts of laughter from the attendant parents. But the kids' spirits were decidedly tougher than the rockets. Frankly, I was expecting some percentage of the kids to cry at their botched launches, but none of them did. Zero crying. A small miracle. For me anyway. 

What really surprised me was how absolutely unfazed most of them were. Furthermore, there were a couple of kids who were just determined to make a great rocket, I mean they were relentless. It was actually incredibly inspiring. Two boys, each around 8, and a little girl about 4. The boys kept going back to the drawing board, every time their rockets would fail, they'd look a little disappointed, but grab some more masking tape and keep going. The little girl was so determined that she enlisted her mother to make sure that her rocket would work. The pair patiently sat for about 45 minutes painstakingly constructing a launchable vessel. The boys each had their own method, one was clearly pretty brainy and knew a surprising amount about physics. The other seemed like more of an observational and experiential learner, I'm imagining that he watched others and kept making improvements based on what seemed like solid ideas. In the end, all three kids produced beautifully functional rockets that sailed just as well as the ones I had built. (Okay, almost as well). 

The thing that really touched me the most, like I get a little teary just writing about it, was that one of the boys kept saying that he wanted his rocket to be worthy. Of course, I was encouraging, but secretly I was thinking "yeah, whatever kid." I was so happy to be proved wrong. I didn't get to tell him, but, to my amazement, when his rocket finally launched, I was so proud of him. So proud at his determination, so proud of his success. So proud of all three of those kids, what an inspiration... I know that they'll never read this, but I am just as determined that the work that I do be worthy of them.

Thanks for helping to melt some modicum of my stupid grown-up cynicism. Thanks for an important lesson and a great day. 

Bicimakina launches pedal powered rockets