“I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” —Psalm 54:6b
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” —Psalm 118:6
TeenPact was a great homeschool government course. Hannah and I attended and completed about 25 hours worth of pre-class homework but were in the Indiana State House for about 30 hours. We heard senators and Chief Justice Loretta Rush speak, had mock legislatures, mock court cases (my team won!), interviewed lobbyists, and interviewed assistants in the executive branch. In the evenings we played Bang, the Bullet!, Do you love your neighbor?, signs, and other games.
In early May we neighbor boys chopped and sawed down a dead ash tree. We pulled it down with a rope and then transported it to our fort using a winch, rollers, levers, and a block and tackle. We dug a hole 4½ feet deep. We used the seesaw technique to lift the log, which was 24 feet long and 14 inches in diameter at the base, 7 feet off the ground. Four boys angrily tugged a block and tackle that had a 1:4 mechanical advantage. They were grunting and shouting and had worn-out hands by the end. Eli, John, and I tugged a rope and thin chain to keep the giant log from swinging left and right. Ethan winched as fast as he could to make sure the log would not fall back down if something happened. This final lifting process took only 5-10 minutes, but preparation and getting enough people took much more time. When it dropped into the ground, the tree jetted water out of the hole, and we were all relieved of the anxiety. We probably cheered. The winch kept the log vertical, and we hammered pegs around the base to stabilize it. It is by far the thickest post in our fort. A month later we extended the fourth level to the post. We made it a sturdy platform from which we threw rocks at a boulder named Atlas. Our goal was to break open Atlas because it is a beautiful rock but extremely strong. We even dropped a rock estimated at 250 lbs. on it multiple times. Remember, this platform is 20 feet high, so it took a lot of energy to pull it up even with the block and tackle.
Two years ago I saw an electric moped. Since then Ethan and I have been trying to make an electric bike which has good acceleration. We worked together on multiple versions using an electric lawnmower motor, its battery, and a $15 speed controller. In early spring we finally had a pretty good model. Our problems were poor acceleration, a motor that would overheat, and a fuse that kept burning out when we tried to go fast. I actually got it to 30 mph once with a tailwind after Ethan got me started by pushing with his bike. Discontent with its acceleration, we put these parts on a bike with 16-inch diameter wheels. It was quite finicky but had about twice the acceleration, which was decent. Once when I was riding at full speed, the chain popped off and jammed the back tire. I was going 25-30 mph and skid 62 feet! Fortunately I didn’t fall off. The back tire was worn all the way through the rubber and close to popping. Ethan was stoically frustrated at how finicky it was for the small amount of use we were getting out of it, especially since we shared the bike. He decided to buy parts and build his own with a higher budget. In a month he had an electric bike that worked very well. The next week I ordered the $330 worth of parts. It took about 3-4 weeks for all the parts to arrive. I started to dream about the bike because I was so excited. I bought four 12 volt, 10 amp hour lead-acid batteries which weighed 26 lbs. altogether. We didn’t buy lithium-ion batteries because they are too expensive. My cheap batteries have worked great, but sadly Ethan has one defective battery. We built the bike quickly once the parts finally came in. It’s funny to think now that at first the chain got warm after use because I didn’t think to oil it. One time I rode it 25 miles on one charge with an average speed of 9 mph. Back then, we couldn’t pedal, but two months ago we both jumped through the complicated and simple hoops to get our pedals functioning. We both had to move our motors to the top of our bike frames. I had to move the circuitry box, get the chain to stop rubbing the frame, and straighten the front gear, while Ethan bought more chain, got his shifter to work, and had to add a chain tensioner. Since then we have not had any mechanical problems. We have added cardboard and duct tape to reduce air resistance, which has increased our top speed by about 2 mph. Now we ride together most days after school and have traveled 750 miles. We did the math and found out to make the price difference between buying our electric bikes versus getting a gasoline engine bike will take until we get to 13,500 miles! But we went electric to be quiet and avoid annoying neighbors and for higher acceleration and speed.
I actually believe heat exhaustion is a real thing after experiencing Utah’s midsummer heat. Those hikes exhausted me twice as fast as they did on Mt. LeConte, and I had to drink twice the quantity of water. From the rental house we could see what seemed to be a small hill. One afternoon I snuck out of the house because no one wanted to play, I wanted alone time, and I wanted to find out how to get to the hill. Mom was concerned when she realized that I was outside in the heat alone. In 15 minutes I was 100 yards away from home when Sarah and Dad came searching for me in the van. They picked me up, and we drove around the town on a beautiful pleasure ride. The next evening Sarah, Hannah, Zach, and I took an evening walk. We walked the same direction I had gone the previous day. The hill looked much larger and we had to cross a road. There was a 3¾ ft. barbed wire fence blocking us from the road and the hill. I managed to slip through a gap, but we knew the rest of them couldn’t do it. I tried to convince them they could jump over by getting their hands and feet on the non-prickled spaces. I proved it by jumping over with much confidence. My knee caught a barb, and it sliced a 3 inch cut that started bleeding. We put some water on it, and I licked it. Zach found an opening in the wire some ways off. We crossed the road and then squeezed through a gate. We climbed our way through the desert weeds, burs, and up the approximately 350 ft. hill. It was much like climbing the huge Michigan sand dune. When we reached the top, it was a gorgeous overlook of Hurricane, the nearby mountains, and the sunset.
On Feb. 15 Hannah and I ran the Polar Bear 5k. After a three-quarter mile warm-up jog, we ran the race in the cold weather. I did much better than last year, stopping only once for a short time. I ran the race in 21:24 and got second place in my age division. This summer and fall, Hannah and I ran cross country with Wisdom Builders. I knew most of the kids from school already, which was nice. We practiced on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. We had 7 races in the season. I love running because of the great competition. The races at first were quite hard because of the hot weather, but as the year went on, the temperatures got very nice. The weather at the final race was perfect, 55˚F and sunny. The competition was conveniently held on our home course. I beat my previous record by one minute and finished in 19:28! I improved 2 minutes this season, which is great.