Monday, April 05, 2010

Pinewood Derby: Not a Fiasco

Rob was mentioning that my blog languished without new posts while he was away in Berlin. I reminded him that I was single parenting in Provo with a broken camera while he was going solo in Berlin with a digital SLR. I was expecting some posts from him! I don't have any pictures here, but we may go back and have him show you where he was and what he did with his time.

Which reminds me that I need to here express my gratitude for Skype. We talked to Rob most days, as long as we wanted, for free. Kids were able to show him homework and spelling tests and boo-boos. He watched Joss have a meltdown and I felt so much less alone having shared that with Rob across thousands of miles. One day he even supervised Will's violin practice on Skype. It really made a huge difference.
The only thing Skype couldn't help me out with was the pinewood derby. Rob had scheduled it for the day after he got back, and he'd left Will with a car that was shaped and painted, but had done no tinkering to improve the speed. Sebastian had a kit, but that was all.
So I did what single mothers everywhere do for their boys. I asked all the men I could find what to do. Thank you to Jeff, Matt, Curtis, Mark and others who gave me their best secrets. Then I did what I could do best: I went out and bought stuff. We got BSA official weights, an axle kit and wheel truing kit and some decals which I thought might go a long way toward covering up our lack of usable tools.
Will and I spent some quality time at the tailgate of the truck, smoothing the axles and wheels. Then he trotted off to a friend's house and I felt silly working on a pinewood car by myself in the driveway.
[click to enlarge] This shows the track, the trackmaster, the awards, the treats, the group of scouts huddling, and most important, this shows Will after the derby. His car wasn't a winner, but it did respectably, and he placed in several heats. He came in smack in the middle of the pack, which I told Rob is exactly what you would wish for the son of the cubmaster. Since last year his car didn't even finish most heats, this was a big improvement, but it also leaves plenty to work for next year.
This year we learned how to work on the axles and that it really does help to weigh your car. Next year we'll just buy the preformed cars and work on the alignment. I have no idea how one does this, only that it's essential.
I have to say here too, that our ward is fantastic about the pinewood derby. They are a rare combination -- everyone takes it seriously, but also charitably. The den mothers put up balloons, had pit passes, car-shaped treats, certificates and goodies for each boy. And there was also free-flowing graphite and help with weighing for all. This is the second year that the trackmaster has remarked on how well-behaved everyone was. I've never seen it any other way, but I don't want to.
This dear boy got only my help on the shaping of his car. Since there were no decent saws, this was done entirely with a belt sander. I was grateful for the decals to spiff it up.
Here Will sits with two cub colleagues: the one of the left got the award for best design with his pile of Geico cash. The one on the right had his grandfather helping him now that his father is gone, and he did really well. It was a great building year and we know even more for next time. By the time Joss is in scouts, we'll know what we're doing, but for now we are happy that it was a good experience for Will.
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