Monday, July 10, 2006

Up the alley, round the corner...

I couldn't not post about the trike now I've got it. It arrived last Thursday, and after an anxious evening supervising Mr F putting it together, and a few inevitable teething problems, it is up and running.

For the first time in 10 or more years I have been able to go outdoors and explore where I am living. It has seemed almost churlish, over the years to mind about that, when I have been able to drive places. But there is a difference. Going from house to car to accessible building and back again negates the experience of being outdoors. The places I could not drive to before have now opened up to me - my immediate neighbourhood, it's streets and houses, the alleyway that runs past the bottom of the garden - these are now places I am beginning to know. That I have the ability to know. Since last September when we moved here, I have been looking at the alley, wondering where it went and what was on the other side... It's a big posh estate, a darn sight posher than our 'side'. But now I know, and now I can get there too.

For the first 4-6 outings I'm only able to go about a mile or so, then I have to return home to recharge the batteries. I know sod-all about batteries, but the paperwork says they only have a preliminary charge and the battery capacity must be built up slowly before they are able to be used over longer distances. I've been out 3 times so far. The first time I was scared about tipping over, so I only went up and down our little bumpy road until I'd done a mile. Mr Fang stood there grinning like a proud parent. The second time I went down the alley and discovered Poshland. The third time, I went the opposite way down the alley to the main road, and had a staring match with the big smelly cows who glare at the passing traffic from their farm across the road. Surprisingly for beasts of such huge bulk they were quite shy and reluctant to meet my gaze, so I turned around and went back down the alley to the smooth tarmacked surfaces of Poshland to practice opening the throttle.

Up to the point of my third outing, I'd thought part of the battery procedure meant I could only go slowly. The trike has two speed settings - slow for pavements and pedestrian areas, and fast for everywhere else. Fast hadn't seemed a good idea on my road, with its lumps and bumps and slow-moving pensioners visiting each other for tea. But Poshland's smooth roads are an invitation - especially as most end in little cul-de-sacs and are very quiet.

The first time I opened up the throttle, it was a revelation. I'd never ever gone this fast outside of a car independently. I tried a few swerves. Yes! I turned round and did it all over again. Yes! I kept expecting the batteries to lose power, or for something to go horribly wrong, because I didn't feel like I could possibly do this and get away with it. But apart from the speedometer telling me it was nearly time to go home and recharge the batteries, nothing did. On my final lap I realised I had a spectator. A kid, on what looked like his first bike - complete with stabilisers, had come to the end of his road and was staring at me. With a look of definite jealousy. And I could see this kid thinking 'why doesn't my bike go that fast?'

I suddenly wondered what it was this kid was actually seeing - an older girl on a fast bike? A wheelchair user with a strange bike-thing on the front of her chair? Just as suddenly I realised it didn't matter what he thought, except he could see it was fast, and that was good. I also felt there was nothing to say to him about the hows and whys of the situation, so with one last rev I disappeared back up the alleyway back home to put the batteries on charge.

It looks like rain today. I suppose that means I shall get wet on today's trip out. How novel!


Sally's Life said...

Yes, isn't speed wonderful ! So glad you are now exploring. Regarding batteries, they are weird, not like electricity that is on or off, or ordinary batteries in things which either work or are dead. Wheelchair batteries I have finally mastered -not by looking at the battery meter thingy, but thanks to Mark the Wheelchair Junkie, who works for Pride in USA, but has lots of info on wheelchair practicalities. His page on batteries is helpful. Sorry not to get my head round direct link here, but he is listed on my blog's links, at the bottom.
Hope it helps.

Agent Fang said...

Thanks Sally. I am treating them with love and attention! Wheelchairjunkie is a cool site. It took your post for me to go back to there to explore for battery advice. Mark E sure has calmed down a lot these days. :)