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She Rides High On “Big Wheel Trike”
Ruth Blackburn has a bicycle date once a month at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) in Hood River, Ore. Perched on a high-wheel tricycle with a 5-ft. tall front wheel, the 88-year-old rides above other participants driving around the museum grounds in old Model T’s and on motorcycles and tractors, while old planes circle above.
  Though there are older, original bicycles in the 2 1/2-acre museum, Blackburn’s is truly unique.
  “My husband (Keith) made it from the ground up. It’s such a treasure to be able to ride it now,” she says.
  The Blackburns collected and displayed old farm equipment and lawn tractors, and Keith was a mechanic for logging and IH farm implements. He used some of his available parts, including a kick-start Maytag washing machine engine, to surprise Blackburn with a high-wheeled tricycle for Christmas in 1986.
  His design was a modification of the English penny-farthing two-wheel bicycle. Keith added a third wheel and powered it with the Maytag engine. When Blackburn asked why he made the wheel 5-ft., he said that was how much steel he had.
  “In 1987 I rode it in 34 parades. It was fun,” Blackburn recalls.
  After Keith died, she continued to kick start the engine and ride the bicycle by herself. She retired it for a few years when the engine wasn’t running quite right. Then acquaintance Dale Nichol offered to fix it up.
  “It runs beautifully,” Blackburn says, and though she could do it by herself – Nichol helps her start the bike for the museum rides held every second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  WAAAM is a “living museum” that likes to “exercise” its flying and driving collection. Treasures include dozens of old airplanes that date back to 1917, automobiles, farm and military equipment and other vehicles such as Blackburn’s tricycle. WAAAM’s reputation is growing, and more than 400 airplanes showed up this year for the annual Hood River Fly-In the weekend after Labor Day.
  Though her tricycle is on loan, Blackburn donated many items to the museum when it opened in 2007. “There’s no show-off like an old one,” laughs the 88-year-old Blackburn.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum, 1600 Air Museum Rd., Hood River, Ore. 97031 (ph 541 308-1600; www.waaamuseum.org).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #6