Thursday, June 21

Rides and Rain

June 16th weekend turned out to be mostly local riding. My total: around 125 miles tops. For the most part, the weather was gorgeous. It was my luck that the two times it rained—and it really rained—I was riding in it.

I attended a “Rocker” bike show on the near north side of Chicago. Johnny, the owner of Motorworks, invited me to the Saturday event. Attending a bike show got my attention immediately. Bikes of all periods, manufactured and homemade, and a diverse assortment of riders promised to make this a worthwhile event. The group ride feature, gave me pause. At the end of the show, the bikers would assemble and ride back to Motorworks for a complimentary Fish & Chips dinner. If you know nothing about me, know this: I have no conscious desire to ride with a group. The one and only time I’ve ridden with anyone, doesn’t really count because, we never had a chance, due to heavy traffic, to ride side-by-side. I’m truly solo.

For those who are in a club or who enjoy social riding, I say “Godspeed and more power to you.” I’ve tried to get into a group mindset once or twice before, imagining the group rumbling through the city or some small town. Let me tell you, just envisioning it elevates my blood pressure.

The bike show was fabulous! Motorcycles and scooters galore! Vintage bikes and new and experimental machines lined the streets. One could observe the evolution of motorcycle manufacturing and design. With many of the bikes segregated into country of origin, one could visually appreciate how the German, British, and Italian, for example, developed throughout their history.

A diverse crowd strolled along Lincoln Avenue for blocks to drool over the ‘cycles. The crowd ranged from rather conservative looking riders to some way out, free sprits donning tight black jeans and matching tee-shirts, chains, tattoos, and piercings, all co-existing for their shared motorcycle passion.

The day was hot and bright. By 3:30, however, the rains came. I hid under an awning until it subsided. At 4pm, the time the group ride was scheduled to begin, yet nothing appeared to be moving on that front. I left and once again avoided a group ride. The rainy ride home was cooling and the wait before riding prevented motoring on overly slippery streets. I was able to anticipate the few slick spots. Rain-riding demands a change in riding style and pace. The space cushion should be larger, stopping should be even more carefully controlled, and footing must be monitored. Stepping down on an slick spot can be unsettling (don’t ask me how I know this).

I arrived home with only enough time to change jackets. I needed to be 90 minutes south of where I was and it looked like I’d be lake. One golden rule I have for myself: No rushing on a motorcycle for it is far better to arrive late than not at all. I switched jackets four times, thinking that the rain was over and I didn’t need to ride with a multipurpose jacket. Alternatively, I could ride with a mesh jacket and take my rain over-jacket in case I needed it. I bet on the rain being over (I was wrong) and took a jacket that was only so-so when it comes to rain.
When I left, the sky seemed brighter and the rain clouds appeared to be swiftly moving away—actually they were but in the direction I was heading. With high humidity and barely a breeze, my mesh-leather jacket with perforation seemed perfect. Getting out of the city required extreme patience and I ignored what appeared to be epidemic rudeness in drivers. The snail’s pace was just long enough for the weather to change again. Forty minutes into the trip, the sky darkened considerably. The bumper-to-bumper traffic followed me out of the city. Not until I reached the Interstate did the traffic ease some. Ten miles from my destination, the sky opened. Within minutes, the interstate turned into a very ugly place.

Not only is a stretch of interstate under construction, with the usual construction hazards, people tend to ride on the Bishop Ford Expressway as if it is their personal Indy 500! Rain does not appear to deter bad driving behavior. It is one thing to exercise extreme caution when weather conditions are favorable, doing so when the weather is not, will make you a true believer if you’re not.

The rain was not normal. It whipped horizontally. I know they say it’s not good to ride in the rain those first 15 minutes or so. The rain needs time to wash away the oils and grease that have built up on the road. But I do not see a safe place to pull off. I keep the throttle steady but could feel the back tire wiggle a bit, indicating a momentary lost of traction now and again. Now I’m riding without the rain jacket on. My windshield needs to be wiped off every few seconds. As cars pass, I’m being splashed. Fortunately, I have on waterproof pants and the jacket, while decent, is only water resistant—that makes a difference.

I deal with conditions until the left and right hand lanes become flooded. I have only about ten miles to my destination. But things begin to deteriorate quickly. I see an overpass and hope that the underpass has a wide shoulder for me to pull over. As I approach it, I see that the shoulder leading to the underpass is flooded and littered with construction debris. I ease off the throttle and try to get into the right hand lane. Cars, obviously driven by people with a death wish, zoom by as if they do not notice the rain. I make my way to the underpass and leave the bike in neutral with the engine running. I become worried that someone will get target fixation, see me and crash into me. I sit there imagining being killed while sitting on a motorcycle NOT riding on a motorcycle. I weigh the dangers and decide that I will try to wait until the rain subsides. I turn my head to watch the traffic. I figure if I see a car aiming in my direction, I can move out of the way before impact.

I call the family to say I’m caught in the rain. The connection goes through but I can’t tell if I’m heard. I only hear a voice say, “Hello” a few times. My wait lasts 10 minutes. The rain does not appear to be stopping any time soon. I wipe off my visor, adjust my clothing and still forget to put on the rain jacket! I carefully pull out into the traffic and out of nowhere someone changes lanes and he is dang near hugging my rear tire. I try to forget about that and motor on.

The next ten miles are wet, uncomfortable and humbling. I arrive safely and enjoy great company and great food—both of which calm my frayed nerves and help me shelve the memory of the “adventurous” rainy ride.

Rain update: On Monday, I was caught in another rainstorm! I left the suburbs around 6pm, heading for the city. Huge rain difference. This was a gentle, steady rain—no blowing and whipping; also, I had on rain gear. Consequently, I was comfortable the entire 1 hour 15 minute ride. I settled in, relaxed and enjoyed the trip. The temperature was pleasant, the heavy traffic was going in the opposite direction and those traveling in my direction seemed saner than the weekend crowd did. I enjoyed the ride because I felt safe and snuggly inside my protective gear. I don’t like rain riding and I certainly don’t seek it out. But I need to be comfortable in it. Rain riding is one of those things that you can read about, but the only way truly to handle riding in it is to ride in it. I’m grateful for these recent opportunities to practice. Now, go away, rain. Please!

Saturday, June 16

(Late) Ride Report: Sunday, June 10, 2007—Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Sheffield, IL

Picture-perfect weather on Sunday made the 130 mile trek to Sheffield pure pleasure even though I followed the interstate most of the way... At least this time, I started out early. The new Givi top case exceeded my expectations. I used it to tote my hiking clothes and boots, a book, a SLR camera and several bottles of water. Although it is tricky to open, like the Givi side cases, it’ll loosen up with use.

By late Saturday night, I still had no definite travel plans for Sunday. I decided to head southwest for Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park because it jumped out at me from the atlas. I figured I’d tour the state park and visit the locks. The park is located in the town of Sheffield, IL. It is festival time in Chicago and every weekend is guaranteed to be replete with people and vehicles. I had to wage war to get out of the city. I followed LSD (US 41) south for a brief moment to pick up I-55, which I followed approximately 43 miles to pick up I-80, which took me the next 85 or so miles. I passed through the town of Hennepin, which had I planned better, I would have known to exit there to visit the locks in Hennepin.

I-80 was littered with an extraordinary amount of fresh road kill—big animals-- several deer and huge raccoons that all appeared to have been killed recently. I tried not to focus on the carcasses but I kept my peripheral vision on high alert for animals darting across the highway. Thank goodness, none did. That’s one of the down sides of leaving early--you’re motoring at the breakfast time of four-legged creatures. I made a mental note to leave the park long before their dinnertime.

Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park is a “104.5 mile linear park that spans five counties.” Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the canal connects the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. The place has lots of impressive history about canal construction, politics, and funding. While construction began in 1890, the canal wasn’t completed until 1907. Today, 32 of its 33 locks are still viewable and six of its original aqueducts exist. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of this! I had to be content with reading about it in the park’s literature. Hennepin is where I would have gotten a better look at the lock system. I saw the park on the map and headed there. A bicycle would have gotten me to the locks easily from the park. (Note to self: This is what happens with eleventh hour decisions about where to ride.) Oh, well... I made the best of my visit to Sheffield and it turned out to be a nice solitary experience. Few people were in and around the park, which became a little spooky after a mile of hiking along one of the unpaved trails that paralleled the river. While out there, I had one of those moments that freaked me. With nothing but trees on one side and the river on the next, I thought of some half-man half-beast leaping from the thick trees attacking me and leaving behind only my head and my camera.

I spent several hours hanging around the park and probably saw a dozen people total. The quiet and serenity of the place was punctuated only by the melodious singing of birds. Bright red cardinals, beautiful blue jays and gold-colored birds swooped across the sky, squawking to alert others of their kind to the presence of a two-footed creature. The most striking sound was the steady “knock-knock” of woodpeckers that I heard all along the trail but never spotted. Their hullabaloo was hearty and consistent. Those new binoculars I purchased—and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds—would have been put to great use on this trip! (Note to self: toss those items into the cases so that they are always on hand!)

I hung around a few hours, experiencing the park’s magnificence on foot and on two wheels, riding its paved roads. Queenie received her share of attention. When I first entered the park, three men and one woman were eating lunch at a picnic table. I parked the bike and headed for the Visitor’s Center—it wasn’t open. So I read the literature they thoughtfully put out. Returning to the bike, one of the men said they were wondering what kind of bike I had. I told them and he walked over. He seemed surprised and said, “We were thinking it was an Italian bike or something because it was so quiet. Yeah, I placed it as a Ducati or the Moto Guzzi.” When I told him it was a Suzuki, his head raised and he looked at me in disbelief. He eyeballed the bike as if trying to verify its roots. “Really, it’s Japanese, a Suzuki? Wow, it’s so quiet.” Later, as I was preparing to leave the park, another man loading his family’s bicycles onto their vehicle, eyed Queenie. “What kind of bike is that?” I told him and he said he’d never seen one like that. “Pretty bike.” I’ve said it before: I like people who like my bike! Queenie’s aftermarket accessories make her difficult to label at a glance. I like that. Keep ‘em guessing.

My idea to run by Hennepin was quelled when I realized it was getting late, I hadn’t had lunch or dinner and was starving. I ate a granola bar before leaving but it didn’t hit the spot.

Jumped on I-80 east and road about 25 uneventful miles until hunger nearly slapped me upside the head. Stopped at a Steak ‘n Shake and had a really good grilled cheese sandwich and a raspberry yoghurt shake. Either that was the best grilled cheese sandwich (with cheddar cheese) that I’ve had or being famished makes even mundane food taste fabulous. At the first bite, I felt my blood sugar level perk up! Such a small thing like stopping to eat can make a huge difference in ride enjoyment—duh!

After that meal, I thoroughly enjoyed riding the next 105 miles back to Chicago. Before the riding season ends, I’m making a trip to Hennepin to see those dang locks and to rollerblade along the many paved trails that follow the river.

Total distance: 260 miles

Sunday, June 10

Test riding the new Givi MonoKey top case...

Well, I am forced to take to the road this morning to test ride the new top case. It sure looks great! Given my total satisfication with the Givi 36 liter side bags, I went with the top seller in the monokey Givi top case too.

Saturday's family obligations reduced my riding to a shortie--only about 60 miles on a day that only a higher power could have made! It was absolutely amazing, hot but not scorching--perfect for my summer perforated leather jacket. Only a gentle breeze to contend with and a sparkling sun high in an azure sky. One could not ask for more! I left the family gala late and enjoyed a wonderful night ride back into the city. Everyone seemed out and about and sane.

But it's time to ride! Whereabouts still unknown. I'm going to pick a place and head in that direction. Here are some pics of Queenie's new look. The top case fits the helmet, and it will tote a pair of Rollerblades with its gear--but not with the motorcycle helmet. For long day rides, I'm going to love being able to take only the top case and leave the side cases at home.

I have myself a real tourer!

Ride safe!

Thursday, June 7

In Provisional Praise of the GPS

Few things get me through a frigid Midwest winter’s night like curling up with an atlas and dreaming about fun roads to travel come springtime. Many afternoons I’ve napped on the sofa with my arms embracing an atlas with a regional map keeping company nearby. I love maps and the sensory experience maps generate while tracing my fingers along the tiny colored dots that symbolize a scenic route. For me, this tactile experience is dynamic, interactive and often directs me to research a place or a quirky city name I come across. Also, atlases and maps are additive, one leads to the purchase of another one.

So why did I purchase a GPS last year? And, why did it take me a full year to decide finally to try the contraption?

I used the GPS a couple of times last year--mostly as an expensive compass. I never mounted the GPS--out of sight, out of mind. When I did take it with me, I stuffed in my tank bag. The GPS set up looked tedious and required more attention than I cared to give it. The extra and costly topo map I purchased lacked the turn-by-turn direct route that I later regretted not purchasing. I learned to fiddle with the buttons and settings in the most basic way. The mapping software—at first-- seemed unnecessarily complicated. The wealth of free mapping tool available made dealing with the GPS software an unpleasant experience to say the least. This lack of immediate access to the GPS’s features created a barrier between the device and me. Turn to any page of an atlas and in a flash, parts of the world open before your eyes—instantly you are transported to place after place.

Touching and perusing a map gives me the same feeling as writing in longhand (versus drafting on the computer). Sliding my hand along paper as I craft words makes me feel alive, connected and engaged. It’s similar too to reading a book, turning its pages, and smelling its age--all impossible experiences when reading on a handheld computer or an eBook. Cradling a handheld or punching word into a computer creates a distance that prevents that connection I derive from reading a great book. It’s a clash between the old and the new.

But a trip late last season changed things and made me rethink the GPS. I became lost on some back roads. After riding around without much progress, I had to pull over several times on narrow, sandy shoulders to study the map. Eventually, I had to dig out the GPS, turn it on, and wait for the satellite tracking to locate me. At that point, I didn’t know how to work the “GoTo” or “Track” features—or even how to “Mark” my position. Yet, the compass saved me. Towns that don’t fit the grid model of my beloved Chicago can sometimes throw me off. For a good chunk of time, I felt trapped along the back roads of the town. I imagined being lost late into the night in a blackness that not even my headlight could illuminate well.

Another experience was scarier. While on the Lake Michigan trip, I encountered a detour. I thought I had followed the signs carefully. But after riding for far too many miles without seeing another sign, I turned around. And turned around again. Finally, I discovered that one of the signs had fallen down in spite of the sand-filled bags at the base to prevent this very thing. A most frustrating experience! In some communities, I’m not entirely comfortable roaming around and around. Men who may feel similarly have at least some assurance, I think, that they will be overlooked by the average jerk who may think twice about going against another man. As a lone female, I pose no threat, physical or otherwise to jerks. Eventually, I stopped at a gas station and received excellent guidance; by then I’d already done a slew of yelling inside my helmet. Detours shouldn’t, but some do, assume an insider’s knowledge of the roads and the signage is not always outsider-friendly. Usually, I can retrace my steps to see where I’ve become lost. That is not always possible. No matter how much freedom riding allows, as a woman and a black woman, I must keep my radar on alert at all times. After riding around a block a few times, my gut will begin to keep score, that sitting duck feeling is activated, and I am forced to ask someone for help or stop to study the map while judging if it’s is a good or bad idea to do so. As long as I’m moving, I feel safe(er). I’ve passed through some places where my gut tells me to keep moving.

Then there are those times when my pre-planning doesn’t include a road that I later decide to take. Spontaneity can be fun but it has it limits. Sometimes getting off the beaten path is a good thing, especially if one can get back on track. Some people seem born with an internal navigation system; they look into the sky, stick up a finger in the air and sense where they are and the direction in which to travel. Sadly, I’m not among that group.

For the GPS to resolve these challenges and add an additional layer for safety, I needed to learn how to use it. So, this past winter I re-read the 90 page manual, highlighting the important parts. I played with the software until I could select, mark, save and transfer routes to the device. I read some forums dedicated to the Magellan eXplorist XL and I tried to wrap my brain around the new language and information. Mine is not an “out-the-box” GPS. I had to install additional software to get exactly what I wanted—this was not cheap. Additional software ended up costing nearly as much as the GPS! That’s a whole bunch of atlases/maps I could have purchased! Although I’d read on forums that Magellan’s tech support “sucks,” my one experience proved otherwise. My one phone call hooked me to a patient woman who gave me clear instructions. Her unequivocal knowledge of the eXplorist XL had me running out of reasons not to like the unit.

Recently, I purchased the mounting ram and now the GPS is in easy eye view. The eXplorist has the largest screen of any handheld GPS. It is clearly readable in bright sunlight. I love that I can use it in the many state parks and trails I like to visit. It’s now loaded with both topo and direct route software. Although it will never replace my maps, I’ve now used it many times—along with a map visible in my tank bag, as a lone female traveler, it provides an added layer of security that a map never can. Turn-by-turn directions can prevent me from losing my way because of poor detour signage. Traipsing down unplanned roads is no problem for the GPS as it can re-calculate routes amazingly fast and steer me in the right direction. Yet, I don’t have to follow to the unit’s directions; I can go my own way and not feel constrained. Then it cleans up any bad judgment on my part. In addition, if I go somewhere and would like to get back to that place later or want to remember how I even got to this unplanned place, a couple of button clicks and I’m put back on track. This ability to drop “electronic bread crumbs” and the re-routing feature eliminate the need to stop, which can be the biggest security boon.

The GPS makes venturing off the beaten path a breeze for anyone, which is especially beneficial if you are female and traveling alone. Maps cannot compare to this built-in safety feature. If lost, I can follow the dropped “electronic bread crumbs” or use my back track feature to get back to where I came from. Those times when I felt like a sitting target, along some isolated road, stopping to check the map can be a daunting experience. While men can and may feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar places too, they are less likely to be pestered by another man and if so, they can at least put up a good physical fight It’s going to take me some time to dig out my hammer to fight back against someone who going to be bigger and stronger.

Yet, I don’t think GPS navigation will detract from my love of maps or ever become a device I’m learn to depend on. Gadgets fail. I will always sit down, pour over my maps, salivate over an atlas and trace roads with my finger. If you ever see me, you’ll also see a crumpled, folded map in the clear plastic window of my tank bag. At best, the GPS is a necessary supplement to a map—an added layer of safety. The Magellan eXplorist XL is a great GPS for hiking, boating, fishing and motorcycling.

However, I can never see myself falling to sleep on a cold winter’s night with my arms wrapped around my eXplorist XL, dreaming of a spring ride on an early Saturday morning.

Monday, June 4

"Feet don't fail me now!" Eight-wheeling it at Camp Rollerblade

I opted out of my long Saturday and Sunday day rides or weekend get away with Queenie to reconnect with another wheelie sport, one that I had avoided the last two years. Sunday was the culmination of Camp Rollerblade, a two-day intensive inline instruction course that ran June 2-3. The first day started and ended without a hitch. I cannot say the same for Sunday (more on that later). My previously shattered wrist, now held in place with a titanium implant, made me timid about anything that might cause re-injury. Yet, I continued to think about ‘blading. I enjoyed rollerblading but knew I was doing it incorrectly. So, I decided to get some instructions. Even when I allowed myself to think about what a bad fall would mean for my summer of motorcycle riding, I felt I needed to stop dreaming and start doing. This old mare really “ain’t” what she used to be but I'm not going out without one heck of a good fight! My 60-70 miles of running through my 20s, 30s, and well into my 40s, has left me with temperamental knees, a whining lower back, and a muscular skeletal system prone to rigor mortis if I don’t keep it pliable. For a long time, I’ve desired something to replace the euphoria running used to provide and Tai Chi just doesn’t do it—at least it hasn’t thus far.

Rain in the forecast prompted a change in the camp location. It was switched to a place behind Soldier Field, near the Museum Campus. Yippee! Many activities going on near the lakefront at the same time, such as the Gospel Fest, Breast Cancer Survivors’ Walk, and an antique car show, to mention a few. Although I had planned to ride Queenie to the original site in Hyde Park (the University of Chicago’s Midway Plaisance — hail, hail my alma mater), the new location was an easy bicycle ride from my downtown digs. Loaded up with my gear, I headed out and eventually found the tucked away meeting space that proved tricky to find and invisible from Lake Shore Drive, its closest main road. This below ground space is a pedestrian and non-motorized vehicle passageway for locals and visitors to the museum campus.

Three instructors led the class, which ran Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We split into two groups: those with skating experience and those without. Even though it had been two years since I skated, I fit well in the former group. Tom, our colorful instructor, clearly is a master skater. I like the fact that Tom had a few years on him and wasn’t some young whipper-snapper with whom I might not be able to identify. He was a middle-aged whipper-snapper who gave us boomers hope and made learning fun and challenging. Still, sometimes his approach felt a little jambalaya-like—where everything is thrown into the mix—great stuff comes out but you can’t help wonder what all went into it. I would have liked more structure and deconstruction of the skills presented. Thankfully, there was enough time and ample space to tuck yourself away from the group to go off and practice. Still, sometimes I felt that the skills were thrown at us pretty quickly. On Day 1, Tom complimented us by saying we were a “fast” group and that we were sailing through the skill sets he had planned for the two day course. In hindsight, I’m now thinking we paid a price in appearing more advanced. After all, looks can be deceiving. Then again, perhaps we were expected to extract quality in our subsequent, post-camp practices. We had been given the tools, now it was up to us to hone the skills. Still, I felt I needed more practice there. Whenever I pulled away from the group for solo practice, I returned feeling more confident. However, I would also miss what had transpired in my absence. Catching up, I discovered, presented no major problems.
The class was diverse not only in skill levels, but also in age and ethnic makeup, which always makes for an intriguing gathering. I am sometimes easily annoyed by groups I’m forced to interact with (I know this is TMI about me) but I must say, this was a friendly lot. Lots of laughter, lots of falling--but lots of concern for the fallen. People were amazingly kind to one another. Only one person got on my nerves. When she did, I just skated away.

On a couple of mini breaks, I had an opportunity to work with the other two instructions, both of whom were excellent. In fact, a turning technique that Tom explained to me, just wasn’t sticking--mainly because I had previously learned it incorrectly. Now I was trying to break a bad habit while simultaneously learning a new skill. Chris D., our lone female instructor, showed me her way and I got it right away. Just having other voices and perspectives made all the difference. Carl, a less freewheeling teacher than Tom, proffered clear, systematic instructions that resonated with me.

Although we shared our ample practice space with bicyclists, joggers, and walkers, I never felt constrained by their comings and goings. For me, the traffic control issues occurred mostly among the skaters. In the end, we managed well. Like the participants, there was diversity on the practice grounds we used. We had flat areas, hills, obstacles (e.g., tall yellow poles at one end of the underground walkway) and a long, narrow ramp with some surface challenges that some of us thought would be fun to try. I was breathless climbing that ramp. To descend, we needed to exercise considerable restraint along its entire length while staying in control. And, did I say, it had real-world events happening on that ramp (i.e., bikes, joggers, walkers, baby carriages and pets). For a brief time, some of us were abandoned on that ramp when our instructor was called away on an emergency.

The challenge with descents is speed and maintaining control. Fortunately, falling properly was one of the early skills we learned. Over the two days, I slammed pavement at least seven times. Only two of those falls hurt but only on fleshy parts. The thing about the falling instructions is that it assumes that your survival mechanism, that instinct that tells you to brace yourself and try NOT to fall, won’t take over. It presupposes that your brain will do the opposite of what it wants to do. In reality, when you feel you are going to fall and you are on wheels, you forget about the “ready stance” (i.e., knees bent, body settled down and slightly forward in a seating position), you forget the rule about not straightening up. Eventually, survival mode kicks in and overrides the instructions you’ve been given, which is: fall forward, preferably to your knees. It takes time to learn not to follow your instincts. You tell yourself, forget logic, forget your life flashing before your eyes, don’t straighten up your body, don’t stand tall. But you do stand tall. “Kaboom!” You go down. Hard. When those skates skate out from you, you get real intimate with pavement!

Thus, managing speed on hills is critical. Despite one’s best effort, once control is lost on a hill it is difficult to regain it. Sunday, while I was struggling to advance up that long ramp, another part of the class was off practicing on another hill. Before my turn to descend, we received word that a classmate had taken a nasty spill. It didn’t sound good. He was alert but motionless and in considerable pain. Scott, with whom several of us ate lunch, speculated that our classmate, Tom, had descended the hill too fast and things went out of control, he probably straightened up and fell backward, landing on his side. By the end of class, we learned that Tom would need surgery to repair his broken hip or leg. Thanks go to Chris D., for accompanying Tom in the ambulance and staying by his side.
Two people I met and clicked with are Jen and Jeff. I ate lunch with them both days at Café Society, a neat little south loop café in the Prairie District that bustled with activity; they serve generous portions of scrumptious food. It was a hoot spending some off-skate time with them. On Sunday, Jen’s beau (I’m assuming that from the hand holding) accompanied her to lunch. I had to laugh inwardly when our chatty friend Jeff “invited” them to our lunch table (I kind of felt that couple wanted that brief lunch time together—but that’s just my thinking). Jeff and I could have entertained ourselves with our new lunch mate, Scott. But nooo…Jeff seemed to want us all eating at the same table.

I’m glad I'm an alum of Camp Rollerblade. I learned many new things (how to get up and down curbs—Yes!) and corrected (sort of) a significant turning error. I now feel comfortable taking my skating to the next level. Team Rainbo is planning a marathon (26.2 miles) and a half marathon for late July that I just might try. If so, I’m likely to see Jen and Jeff again. Other than a bruised hip, I came out well.
Finally, I was amazed at the parallels between rollerblading and motorcycling, particularly sport riding. Looking where you want to go; turning your head in that direction; leaning into turns; incorporating the lower body to aid in movement and keeping one’s center of gravity as low as possible to maximize efficiency. I had some moments when I asked myself, “What are you doing, what if you injure yourself and as a result can’t ride the rest of the summer?” You know…that’s a scary thought that crossed my mind both days, several times when trying something challenging. But it’s just another way of not living, of trying to avoid life fully. Allowing fears hold one back is not a good thing. I can do nothing and play it safe and still get hit by a manical cab driver or killed in a car accident. It’s life-zapping to live by fears rather than by faith.

I’ve now read this same statement in various articles: the injury rate in rollerblading is lower than that in bicycling and baseball. Rollerblading is also like motorcycling in that it is a sport many people like to tell others NOT to do. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has been seriouly injuried or worse. Like motorcycle riding, rollerblading is about risk management. This camp required full gear (head, elbows, wrist, and knees). Just as I am AT-GATT (all the gear, all the time) on my bike, I am AT-GATT on blades. Whatever your wheel preference, happy rolling!