We stopped at the park for a little swinging and sliding, and a lot of shocks--the plastic slides were positively electrified! After 20 minutes or so, I loaded Allyson back into the trailer with a minimum of whining (her, not me).
As we were pulling away, another family arrived, and the mom and dad smiled broadly. I imagined they were thinking, "What an adorable little girl, and what a cool bike trailer. I wish we had one!" I smiled warmly and called over my shoulder, "Hi!"
Less than a minute later, I huffed and grunted as I tried to pull the trailer up a steep incline. I stood up and put my muscles into it, but the bike almost seemed to be sliding backward! Near the crest of the hill, my thighs burning as I forced the pedals around one more revolution, I heard a strange thunk. I jumped off and braced myself against the handlebars; the weight of the trailer wrenched my back a bit, but I managed to stop the bike from sliding back.
I walked the bike up the rest of the way and then tried to figure out what had happened. I figured that the chain had fallen off, but it was still intact. The pedals would barely turn, and there was a rhythmic swish-clunk sound when I tried to ride away. It turned out that the back wheel was brushing against the bike frame. How could that be?
It probably took me a full minute to notice that the back wheel had actually come off! The chain assembly seemed to be keeping it loosely together, and the trailer hitch was dangling uselessly. My heart pounded as I realized that Allyson had narrowly missed careening backward down the hill!
I tried to force the wheel back into place, but that was hopeless. I fervently wished that Bill were with me, but he was at work. For a moment, I considered running to get the man in the park, whom I could still see, but I thought that would be weird. Plus, there was nothing he could do without tools. I finally decided to detach the trailer from the hitch and just pull it home. I would call Bill and have him pick up the bike on his way home from work. I was proud of myself for remaining calm.
I was halfway down the hill when a Frisbee-playing man gave me an odd look. That's when I realized I was still wearing my helmet. I must have looked so ridiculous walking with a helmet and pulling the trailer at a rakish angle. Poor Allyson was leaning back as if she were popping a wheelie. I took the helmet off and carried it in my free hand.
I was even more embarrassed when I walked past the family in the park. So much for my cool bike trailer now! The man looked at me quizzically when I gave them a sheepish grin. He looked like he was trying to decide whether to ask me what happened, but he didn't say anything.
We were about a mile from home, and the walk wasn't too bad. If I stooped just a little, Allyson was nearly upright in the trailer. I was really wishing I'd bought the more expensive model that converts to a jogging stroller, but of course, I'd gone the cheap route.
It was almost fun. I imagined I was a rickshaw driver pulling tourists. The only problem was that I kept getting distracted whenever the arm of the frame clubbed me in the back of the knees.
We made it home at last, and I drove my car to the store after all. A couple of hours later, Allyson excitedly told her Daddy the whole story over the phone: "We went to the park. And the store. The bike broke!"
Bill thought it was a cute story until I told him the details. "You did what?" he asked incredulously. "You just left the bike there? On the side of the road?"
"It was in a cul-de-sac," I clarified.
"That's an expensive bike! And it was a gift. You just left it there?"
"Yes," I admitted. "Please don't be mad. Are you mad?"
"You're the one who will be suffering when you have to pull the trailer with your crappy blue bike. No, wait a minute. You probably left the hitch on the bike, didn't you?"
"Yes," I repeated meekly. "Maybe it's still there."
"No it isn't," Bill lectured. "It's an expensive bike. Someone will have taken it."
"Maybe they can't tell it's expensive. It just looks like an old, broken bike," I said hopefully.
He advised me to go right away and, if by some miracle it was still there, to try to cram it in the trunk of my little Sentra. On the way there, Allyson picked up where Bill had left off with the lecturing. "Somebody took our bike, Mama. Our bike is gone. We can't get it back."
Well, it was our day for small miracles. The bike was right where I had left it. I wrestled the back half into the trunk while the front wheel hung out and put a few more scratches into the bumper. I drove under 20mph all the way home, much to the annoyance of my fellow drivers. The trunk popped up and down, but we made it home without incident.
So now, I just have a few more reasons to be thankful:
- Neither of us got hurt.
- I still got my exercise.
- I still have my bike--and my trailer hitch.