The June outing for the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 was canceled due to a lack of transportation, so the Scouts came up with a Plan B. They would go on a one day bicycle ride on the Lake Wobegon Trail which happens to run through Melrose. The Scouts would bike to Albany, which is about 13 miles from Melrose, have a treat at the Dairy Queen, and then bike back. The trip went well, with almost no problems.
So when the troop planned a ten mile bike trip to complete a part of a requirement for the Cycling merit badge to take place during a troop meeting, I did not expect any problems. You would think that after all these years of being a scoutmaster I would know better. You know, like “Be Prepared”.
The problems began as the Scouts arrived for the meeting. Only half of them had brought a speed bike. Oh well, I thought, it is only five miles out and five miles back on an easy level trail, so I did not say much about it.
We noticed that the chain on one of the “one speed” bikes was loose, and that the bike did not have any brakes on it. It was the only bicycle the Scout could bring to the meeting so we tried to make the best of it. We tried to move the tire back to tighten the chain, but only had partial success. Well, he would have to make the best of it.
Before we left town we already had two incidents of the boys not following safe cycling rules. The first came at the first stop sign a block from where we started when a couple of the boys rode across the intersection without stopping. We stopped the troop and had a short talk about safety. Five minutes later some boys were talking to each other and not paying attention to the trail when they almost ran into a cyclist coming from the other direction. It was time for another talk. I told them that if there was one more offense we would turn around and everyone would be sent home.
Things went fine until the chain began coming off the sprocket of that one bike. After it happened a second time I told the Scouts to only peddle forward, do not peddle in reverse. He followed those directions and did not have any more problems.
Near the half way point of the trip the other adult, a mother, and I noticed that one boy seemed to be putting more effort in peddling his bike then he should be. We called for a stop and discovered that the rear brake was rubbing against his tire. An older Scout disconnected the brake line and we rode until…
We discovered that same Scout actually had a loose rear tire that was now rubbing against the frame of the bike. And guess what? We did not have any tools along to fix the problem. We called back to town to our assistant scoutmaster who was waiting on stand by to come out with the tools needed to fix the problem. The mother exchanged bikes with the Scout and waited for the pickup to arrive as we headed on down the trail. We would hit the five mile mark, turn around, and come back. By then the bike should fixed.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, but the boys and the adults were reminded of an important lesson. Even on a small trip we all need to Be Prepared!