Youngsters ride high in bicycle rodeo


To me, summertime wouldn't be summertime without watching kids at play.

My 2-year-old, Alex, loves to play in the sandbox. Give him some trucks and a shovel and bucket, and he's occupied for hours.

When Alex invites the neighborhood tykes over to play in the pool, we break out the boats and anything that will hold water. Pool time becomes a splashing good time for all.

My husband and I have found that no matter how "grown up" we are, we can't help but join in the fun.

Everywhere I look, it seems the older children have discovered bicycles. As soon as the training wheels are removed, children become speed demons and daredevils. No obstacle is tough enough that a child will not attempto conquer it.

That may have been what Carla McCarron had in mind when she organized a community bike rodeo that took place July 20.

The rodeo was at Taneytown High School Park on Roberts Mill Road, and was sponsored by the Taneytown recreation department and Pizza Hut.

Six elementary school-age children participated in the hourlong series of races and obstacle courses: Caitrin McCarron, 10; Barbara McCarron, 7; Samantha McCarron, 5; Justin Oliver, 8; Neal Haines, 9; and Kimberly Haines, 7.

I am a supporter of psychiatrists who say that children have no fear. Although no obstacle was dangerous, each rider was willing to try whatever Mrs. McCarron suggested. She came up with somereative ideas, which looked like fun.

The spectators couldn't help but cheer on the participants.

First of all, there was the coasting race. Lined up at the start, the kids looked ready to pedal to New Windsor and back. But they were allowed to pedal only about halfway up the inclined, paved parking lot to the "coasting line."

That's when pedaling had to yield to coasting.

The slow poke, or snail race, had the speed racers befuddled. The object was to pedal as slowly as possible from start to finish. If a foot was placed on the ground for support, the owner of the limb was disqualified.

Their ruddy faces and grunts and groans showed how the strain of such hard work took its toll on otherwise able, nimble children.

With a heavy unanimous sigh of relief, it was back to a speed race for the peppy pack. This time the bikers had to sprint from start to finish lines and stop without skidding.

The next event gave grace a whole new meaning.

Many of us, especially the women, remember our grandmothers at some point balancing a book on our heads and telling us that walking around with this bulky, flat object on our round -- or sometimes pointy -- noggins would impart style and grace to our movements.

Now try that book-balancing act while pedaling a bicycle from start to finish. To those of you who say, "no problem," the kids say, "try it."

When the first two riders were unsuccessful using a big book (which they thought would balance better), the others were quick to catch on that the smaller book, with no overhang on either side of the head, would stay on better.

If a snake had participated in the obstacle course that followed, it could not have done any better than the twisting, zig-zagging, sharp-turning daredevils did to stay on course.

Mrs. McCarron knew that the chalk-drawn track was narrower than the bike tires. Some acute twists and a less than 90-degree angle at the far end of the course were of some concern, but she told the kids that, in this case, finishing was more important than perfection.

As each rider circled the course, he or she had to knock over a series of small cans using only the bicycle. It was tough even to watch it, but the bicyclists were valiant as they hugged as many turns as possible and ran over the cans.

One of the toughest challenges was the slalom marble drop. In fact, Neal and Kim proclaimed it was THE hardest obstacle of all.

Beside each cone was a small box, wastebasket or can. As each participant rode through the downhill slalom, he or she had to drop a marble in each container. To make it harder, the containers were placed on alternating sides of every cone, forcing each rider to drive to that side of the cone to deposit the marble.

The fastest rider with the most marbles in containers won the game.

Since the course ran downhill, the players had no problem with speed. But placing a marble into a tiny can or box at a high rate of speed, while weaving in and out of the cones, was another story. There were marbles everywhere.

The final scores for all events were: Neal, 15 points; Caitrin, 9; Justin, 8; Barbara, 8; Kimberly, 7; and Samantha, 5.

Each rodeo rider was a winner for being part of the event, said Mrs. McCarron, who gave Pizza Hut gift certificates to all.

For level of difficulty, Caitrin, Samantha and Barb agreed that the snake-winding obstacle course was the worst. Justin declared, "Every single one was hard," as he packed his bike in the back of the truck he rode in. He looked like he was ready for bed.

The rest of the youngsters wanted to ride their bikes home.

I think that if we could just corral that energy and put it to good use, we could train our children to clean their own rooms.

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