Recently, a new Cadillac commercial hit the local airwaves. In it, an actor is standing near a crowded playground describing how kids can do things that would put an adult in an emergency room, yet all kids really want to do is grow up. Then he mentions that everyone he knows (adults) wishes they could go back and feel younger, shortly before he hops into a sleek new car and drives off.
How many of us wish we could feel younger? I had that exact opportunity this past weekend in San Francisco, if only for a day. What made me feel this way? All it took was a ride on a Big Wheel. You remember those — one of those plastic tricycles with a large front wheel that was so popular in the 1970’s. I had one as a kid and I rode it every chance I could get, whether it was on the sidewalk, on a mountain road behind our home, or in the kitchen. It was a big part of my childhood, and when I found out San Francisco was hosting “BYOBW” (Bring Your Own Big Wheel) on Easter Sunday, I knew it was a race I had to sign up for.
Well, it’s not a competitive race per se. It is all about having fun. That said, I was born with a need for speed, and it was a need I was going to satisfy. The first thing I did was remove the pedals since gravity was going to do all the work for me…and besides, my legs were far too long to actually use them. I installed a low-friction front axle and reinforced the rear. I installed a speedometer, an HD camera mount so I could record the action, and of course streamers. I’ll admit, maybe I did take it all a bit too seriously. After all, it is just a toy. But I’m an engineer and would anyone expect anything less?
I arrived with several hundred of my closest friends, all with the same intent of zooming down Vermont Street, San Francisco’s other “Crookedest Street in the World”. The races were great! For those who have never ridden a Big Wheel, the “tires” are hard plastic and they don’t handle the road as well as rubber tires do. Needless to say, it turned into a big crash fest whenever a sharp turn came up, which is quite often when you’re racing down a winding street like Vermont. There were lots of people tumbling, lots of road rash, lots of bruises, but best of all, it was lots of fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen ear-to-ear grins on so many people. I only had a chance to make three runs down the hill, but according to my speedometer, I was able to reach nearly 23 mph, which made me quite happy.
Like the man in the commercial said, kids make moves that would put adults in the emergency room. As adults acting like kids, I’m sure quite a few of us are waking up and feeling the aches and pains from that day in the sun, but from my perspective, it was all worth it.