Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rollerblading to work? Yep, it happened

“The first time Dad tried Rollerblades he had a bad wipeout on the sidewalk in front of our house- his feet went flying out from under him and he bruised his tailbone. "If God had ment us to have wheels on our feet he would have put them there," he said a few minutes later, searching the linen closet for the heating pad." -- Evan Kuhlman, The Last Invisible Boy

Sometimes, the best way to keep life interesting is to make normally simple actions as difficult as possible.

I know that sounds weird, but bear with me for a second.  Anyone who's ever had a regular job with regular hours knows what it's like to get stuck in the rut of routine. Days blend together, activities seem bland and life gets boring. After awhile, you find yourself drifting through life and possibly having this conversation with a therapist.

Weekend getaways and the occasional vacation can help remedy this, but I've found that an easier way to deal with it on a day-to-day basis is to add little quirks to your routine, even if it means adding a slight degree of difficulty. That way, even the most trivial of activities can seem like an accomplishment or adventure.

It's the reason why I wrote a column last year about my experience of grocery shopping on a bike. It's also the reason why, on a recent sunny day, I decided to put away my car keys AND leave my bike at home when it came to go to work. Instead, I resorted to another form of wheeled transportation: rollerblades.

I have a confession: Despite growing up in the "State of Hockey," I've never really been big on skating, whether it be on wheels or blades. As a matter of fact, until recently, the quote at the top of this post would have summed up thoughts on rollerblading pretty well. 

This is probably how I looked
rollerblading as a kid.
I took a few too many falls at the local roller rink as a kid, got frustrated and eventually decided that activities without skates were less embarrassing. Consequently, whenever my school did field trips to the rink, while other classmates skated around to bad 90's music, I kept myself busy playing air hockey and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in the adjacent arcade area (beating that game was one of my highlights of fifth grade, even if it took 2 weeks of allowance money to do so).

I only really got into rollerblading this year. I bought a pair of used rollerblades after college (the classic "I'm bored and need more hobbies" purchase), but after a few initial uses, they pretty much never came out of my closet. Rollerblading became the odd-man-out for my exercise-oriented activities. It didn't come naturally to me like running, nor did it offer the camaraderie of team sports or the traveling/adventure aspects of cycling. I couldn't blade more than a couple miles without my feet and hips getting sore and it always felt like more of a chore to use them than it was enjoyable, never a good sign.

In the last couple of months though, I've had a change of heart. I bought new wheels, watched a few YouTube videos on proper form (paying extra close attention on how to stop) and started doing regular blade sessions around the neighborhood.

So where did this new-found rollerblade ambition come from? It might have been my desire to reverse the embarrassing memories of rollerblading as a child. Or it could have been an attempt to validate my ownership of the skates and turn them into something more that dust-collecting wall decor.

More than likely though, it can be attributed to the aforementioned boredom. Ever since finishing the Falls Duathlon last month, life's been a bit mundane. I'm not really training for any event at present (taking some of the incentive out of doing hard workouts) and the days seem to be following routine around work, bike rides and the occasional trips to the gym. Even weekends started to feel formulaic: Visiting family, visiting friends and embarking on the occasional downtown night life excursion. Those activities are all fine and good, but when done in repetition, life can start to get a little bland.

I needed a new challenge to spice things up, eventually deciding that rollerblading to work would be cool to try. So after getting comfortable with rollerblading on residential roads, I decided to give the work commute a shot. I already knew a low-traffic route to work via biking, so I figured as long as I took it slow and watched for cars, I would be fine.

I won't lie and say it was a glorious triumph. Crossing the railroad tracks on the way to work was an challenge, as was trying to come to a complete stop on a downward slope. I also came to find out that the roads around town have a lot more cracks and potholes in them than anyone could ever notice in a car (you pretty much feeling EVERYTHING in rollerblades). 

The rollerblading home from the office was even more of an adventure. I couldn't get my work done before dark, so in an effort to keep my clumsy rollerblading as far away from nighttime traffic as possible, I changed my return route to use the city recreational path that follows the Straight River downtown and eventually winds around the southern edge of town by the middle school. The path crosses with Prairie Avenue after the middle school, a road that runs right past my apartment. It's a much better route for avoiding traffic, but it adds an extra couple of miles to the trip (my complete rollerblade route can be viewed here).

As I would come to find out on the trail, cars not being able to see me wasn't the only thing I had to worry about. Even with my headlamp, I had trouble seeing objects in front of me (rocks, small branches, dirt/sand) that I normally would've been able to avoid. Consequently, I took a couple of stumbles along the way and ended up with an all-too-familiar scrape on my knee (it's like being 11 years old all over again).

A few blocks from home, I also had the added excitement of having to speed away from a barking dog that was chasing me. It wasn't a huge dog by any means, but considering the fact that the it was unleashed at 10:30 at night, I was pretty terrified (this movie scene comes to mind). Note to whoever owns a dog near the corner of Mitchell of Prairie: Please keep a more watchful eye on your pet.

However, once I got past the angry dog and finally made it to my apartment. That old feeling of gratification and accomplishment came back to me. Even though my day only consisted of going to work, watching a movie and reading a few chapters out of a book, it felt exciting.

Maybe the next time I go to a roller rink (Do those still exist, or am I too old?), I'll do some actual rollerblading. Unless they still have the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" arcade. Then all bets are off.

1 comment:

  1. Do you still rollerblade? Do your friends and family give you trouble for it?