Saturday morning I found myself in Downtown Beaufort wearing a tutu and a sequined Santa hat while sitting on a cherry red tricycle. About forty others were there too, but most of them were not perched on top of trikes sized for toddlers.
Needless to say, I felt a bit silly. At 32, I’m no trike-rider and definitely have no business wearing tulle. But, I did get to be a little bit like Santa that morning.
Myself and eight others were there for the adult tricycle “Race to the North Pole,” the culmination of weeks of fundraising and outreach for Toys for Tots. The annual event is organized by Beth Shepard and Jeanette Holland of the Holland Shepard Group in Morehead City.
The nine of us tricycle racers worked our connections and shook down our friends and families hoping to get as many new children’s bicycles donated as we could.
And, goodness. Some of these folks have a LOT of connections. The group was able to round up 180 brand new bikes for kids in need. 180!
It was very cool to see all those bikes and trikes lined up along Front Street. Looking out over the sea of handlebars, I felt comforted that there was a good reason for me to be in a tutu.
Then, competition time arrived. There would be three qualifying heats of three racers each, followed by a final. Each heat consisted of two laps around a tiny race course.
I began to feel rather confident at this point.
At 5 feet, 6 inches tall I was one of the shortest racers there, outstripped just barely by Beaufort Commissioner Sharon Harker. Plus, women have a lower center of gravity than men do. Surely those must be benefits when riding a four-year-old’s trike, right?
I watched full grown men – hunkered down with knees eclipsing their handlebars -whipping those tiny trikes around the race course. They kept their momentum and balance; knees be damned.
I, on the other hand, could not for the life of me figure out where to put my knees. My legs were just long enough to not fit under the handlebars and too short to get enough clearance around them.
I managed to come in second place in my qualifier after outrunning Sheriff Asa Buck, who had affixed tiny lights and a siren to his trike.
The overall winner was Chris Williford, one of those full grown men I assumed barely had a chance. Never again will I assume a person’s tot-trike-talent.
The entire thing was hilarious. I watched Wendi Oliver of the Beaufort Hotel, dressed as an elf, fight her trike as its wheel sucked in the shoe lace from her bright red Converse sneakers. I watched Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton, who is a literal foot and taller than I am, gracefully maneuver the course.
But looking out over those 180 bicycles was the best part of it all. Each one of those bikes meant a kid would wake up to an unexpected surprise on Christmas morning. Each one of those bikes would spark a smile or a laugh or a shriek of joy.
You remember your first set of wheels, don’t you?
For me, it was Christmas morning, 1989. I was two years old. There was 13 inches of soggy snow on the ground. I was wearing my pink and white footie pajamas. My hair was a bed-heady mess. I had a head cold.
And I couldn’t have been happier, because there under the Christmas tree sat…
…a cherry red tricycle.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Photos: Race to the North Pole