I turned with a smile to ponder 11-year old Matthew’s question. For months he had been asking if we could begin this project, but my attempts to describe the challenges involved did not seem to dampen his enthusiasm. I had tried to explain that this kind of project would be a lot easier to do up at our farm, where we have old bicycle parts, hardware, a full set of tools, and a welder. While I enjoy these kinds of creative projects, I just wasn’t sure how we could pull it off in Oak Brook, where our home doesn’t even have a garage to work in.
Well,.. Matthew persisted. Returning from a visit to the farm some weeks later, he triumphantly produced a set of four bicycle tires, (which I presume came off of old bikes in our shed.) Well, what could I say. We sat down and I explained that we should start by putting together some plans for how to build this car. A few evenings later, we had completed our sketch of a two seat pedal-powered car. Matthew, Lydia and Rebecca were ecstatic, and could hardly wait to assemble the materials and get started.
By this time Rachelle’s wedding was just a couple months away, and my assistance was needed for some of the logistical and technical preparations. Dad wisely suggested that we hold off on the pedal-car project until after the wedding, so we could focus on the tasks at hand. The time flew by as our family pulled together in this happy but new experience, and on August 1st, 2009, Rachelle and Joseph Afarian were married.
But the smaller Wallers had not forgotten our project… “Do you think we could work on the pedal-car now?” The question came from eager eyes several weeks after the wedding. “Yes,” I said with a smile, “Thank you for honoring Mom and Dad’s council to wait till after the wedding.” -And how we saw God bless the project! I didn’t just want this to be a fun project together, but a way that we could see God’s hand working in very practical ways.
One Saturday morning I left our home, praying that God would prosper our way and provide the items we needed as I drove to my workplace to see what they might have as scraps from the wood shop and mechanic’s garage. To my great delight I found a rollaway bed frame that was being thrown away, which when unfolded, was almost the exact dimensions that we had outlined on our plans! It was like God had just provided the entire frame of the car, with almost no modifications needed!
Noticing the head of our construction department, who just “happened” to be there that morning, I wanted to confirm that it would be okay to use these materials. Not only did he give his full blessing, but when he heard what we were building, he welcomed us to use any of the miscellaneous hardware from the shop that we needed for the project! This turned out to be such a blessing, and allowed us to build the entire project with materials and hardware on hand.
The frame came together well. We built the steering system from a dust mop handle and tractor steering wheel, using some cable from a garage door and a closet door track as the crosspiece. Sturdy brass door hinges fastened the front wheels to the frame, while the back wheels were supported by a wood frame attached to the metal bed frame.
Of all the different aspects of the project, I expected that the drive train was going to be the greatest mechanical challenge. I would need to run a chain from the pedals to a drive axle under the seat, and then run a second chain to one of the back wheels. Here again we saw the Lord’s clear hand of blessing. On the very day we needed to find additional chains and gears, we found that another family had just thrown away three children’s bicyles!
Not only did this provide the needed chains and gears, but it also provided the parts to add a second pedal assembly, so two people could pedal the car! As little as we anticipated it at the time, the Lord also used these additional bicycle to provide a new set of strong front wheels when the original design strained under load.
I had to smile as I saw Rebecca and Lydia whizzing by on the newly completed pedal-car. With its bare frame construction, it looked like one of those horseless carriages that my great grandmother Blom would have ridden on.
Life is busy, work demands our time and energy, but may we never get so busy that we miss the opportunity to build memories with family. Twenty years from now, all the software programming I am working on now will be gone, but I think my siblings and I will still recall with fond memories our times working on the pedal-car, and remember the blessing of the Lord and the kindness of others that made it all possible.