A long time ago in a boyhood far, far away my parents taught me to skate. The scene would have looked a bit like the one above, only somewhat less idyllic. We got together with a friend of my mother’s (the Fishman’s) and in that classic arms forward stance (to keep your weight on your toes), I’m sure I stumbled all over the ice. Maybe one of the advantages of learning to skate on a lake rather than a rink, is it eliminates that awful starters parade of kids hanging onto the sideboards for dear life, shuffling slowly around the perimeter of the rink. There was no choice out there… if you wanted to move you had to figure out the skating thing. The skates were no doubt a Chanuka gift from my parents, and must have been just good enough. And while I have no specific recollection, I’m sure the swoopy, flying, gliding effect—that effortless forward motion caught me. From my current vantage point, it is easy to see why biking caught and stuck as well.
Jump forward a few years to a family friend (Stacie!) who had studied figure skating. Since I enjoyed skating, a party was planned that included going skating some Saturday night. As is common, halfway through the session the ice is cleared and the infamous Zamboni reset the ice. All slick, smooth, and wet. This being the 70’s I’m dressed head to toe in light blue (just don’t, OK?). Just after the ice is reopened it’s “couples” time. Stacie grabs my hand and says “Let’s go!” and before I could say a thing, I’m out on the ice being pulled along by the hand. I knew it was a mistake, but I was afraid to start skating, and I couldn’t shake her loose. As our crowd of friends sees the two of us out there an “oooh” rises as a collective commentary on our holding hands, skating “together” (as if) and general tween teasing. Sure enough seconds later one of my blades catches on something, and I’ve now mopped up a nice swath of ice with the aforementioned light blue clothing that turned an instant navy blue… no hiding that error, either in that few of us were on the ice, or the darkened clinginess of my soaked clothing for quite some time after that. You’d think that would of have been it for me and skating… but the gliding speed always pulls me back.
In high school there was a small park and rink down the block. Skating sessions were one of the few nighttime activities that fit into the schedule, and where we could get permission to go. Combine that with the on again off again nature of the small ponds freezing and we had a winter’s delight. A touch of freedom from oversight, a touch of freedom from gravity, and the odd whack at a puck with a stick… kinda playin’ pick up hockey on the little ponds behind the rink. I can clearly remember hearing the booming cracks one January morning during the thaw.
After high school skating sessions became far and few between. I was busy learning to be a musician and going to school. And while there might have been the occasional Saturday night skating deal, it certainly had no regularity. Kind of like my skiing “career”, it all kinda went and died out with the focus on music and the lack of funds that went with that. But then… some friends were working at a bike shop and the winter keep busy deal there was hockey gear, skates, sharpening and the like. That winter they started playing pickup hockey over at Playland and before you know it they dragged me out, although I wasn’t in a hockey mood. It was quite a show though. Sadly, I learned that my skates no longer fit me (they *really* hurt that last time…) so I stuffed them away, and the next time my sister asked I gave her my skates (she asked for one of her growing kids). I’m sure they’re stored there somewhere (and worn on occasion I’d guess).
Since Noah been old enough we’ve tried to have him try all sorts of sports. He’s been swimming, karate classes, obviously has been around bikes, trikes, etc., and now ice skating. And he really wants me out on the ice. And, of course, it appeals to me as well… so I went and found me some skates. Skates have changed quite a bit with lots of new tech, and even some changes in how people seem to approach wearing skates (thin socks now, not so much back then). Skates are often made of moldable material and are “baked” (200 degrees F for 4 minutes in my case) to soften them so that they mold themselves to your foot. And they are of course, lighter as you go up in price (and man can you get stratospheric if you care to). now I’m looking forward to playing with him on the ice. His teacher suggested a couple more weeks, which is cool, because it gives me a chance to get to a rink and glide off some cobwebs before that moment. One of the cool things about his teacher is that she was one of Lisa’s babysitters and taught her how to skate as well. My chore will be getting her back out there. It would be nice to turn this into a family thing. Makes it far more fun…
A designer I’ve worked with in a couple of places plays hockey in a league. I wrote him note to see whether we can get together for some some getting started again tips, and help me clean up my technique a bit before I case harden some new bad habits. It would be fun just to hang with him… but skating would be really great.
Updates, as I get back to it… I wonder if Chris still skates?
You’d think that the start of the 2010 Five Boro Bike Tour with it’s 32,000 entrants would look grandiose and wonderous. And you’d be mostly correct. But in actuality, for those of us who worked as marshalls (the helpful folks who line and ride the course) it actually looked like this:
But I’ve already gotten ahead of myself. The day really started the night before, maybe not technically, but for me it certainly is the “night before” when I have to get up at 4:15am. And waking would’ve been harder if I ever fell asleep in the first place. But I got into one of those obsession cycles about various details of my planning and never got there.
No matter, I got up 15 minutes earlier than I had planned when I went to sleep, and everything promptly took longer than I expected and I wound up leaving 15 minutes later than I planned. I hate that.
I did my standard commute, dragged the bike out of the car, threw my little bag over my shoulder and headed toward Times Square which of course, was recovering from an attempted bombing. I rode down 7th, caught a little pave down by Varick, salmoned past the riders on Church getting to their fixed positions along the course and made my way to the castle in Battery Park. Signed in and found a quiet corner to begin waiting, the key element of the start of any large ride.
After briefings were given and materials handed out, our group headed out to a small park near the start to… wait for it… wait some more. We gave the waiting our full attention. Jamieson disappeared on some marshall related chore, only to reappear just before we started out. That was cool, although it set a pattern that was to repeat the entire day. One second he’d be ridin’ with us, and the next second he’d be gone. After a long disappearance it turned out that he worked on two “medic” stops. He caught up with us as we worked with a Westpoint cadet on a flat tire after she crashed. She called me “Sir”. I suggested she not call me that (“They tell us to”) and added “Cadet, drop and give me 20…” Fortunately she laughed, because had she even begun the process, I would have been embarrassed beyond belief. Shortly after that he disappeared for the final time this ride…
Anyway after waiting so long that folks began to get know each other, the show got on the road. A stripper on a pole biked by and so did the the hoards of cyclists of every kind and stripe. The folks reflected the City—there was a bit of everything.
Two things stood out as bad amidst an extraordinary ride (for someone born and raised here, riding a bike on the FDR Drive, BQE, Gawanus Expr., Verrazano etc. is more than a little strange, and disheartening in that I rode many of the sections faster than I would traverse them in a car on the average trip…). One was the walking of Central Park. Too much congestion led to almost walking the entire park. It was not a pleasant stroll, though Jenni ran into a student from a recent bike class (unfortunately in need of help with a flat which we could not exactly provide due to equipment failures). The second was that onramp inclines led to large backups because people seemed intimidated by the ramps. Without even trying they would bounce off their bikes and start pushing as if there was no other choice. I think some encouragement might help.
Since I rode down from midtown and Jenni decided to join me for the trip home, we chose the West side cycle path to get back to the car. With that and other minor detours I rode a bit over 60 miles including the distance to the ferry in Staten Island. I can’t comment on general food and services as I we didn’t venture into the rest stops, this was not a particularly long ride for us and the sheer number of people at the stops was intimidating (Do you really want to wait that long for a banana?). We also didn’t have to wait for a ferry—there was one there loading up when we got there.
A lot of folks asked me if I would do it again… and the answer is sure, if you give me a reason to do so. The ride is nice, the number of people involved stunning, but there’s nothing so incredible that I would look to do it again. But if the right person asked, or Lisa wanted to do it, I’d happily go again. I’d hope for cooler weather (a decent chance most years) but other than that things were nice.
As you’ll note from the back of this guy’s shirt, traveling with a medium sized parrot has a downside on a trip like this. But he did get style points… I first saw him just before we stopped for a nature call, and then over and over again throughout the day. This happened with a few folks which I didn’t expect because we did stop quite a few times to help folks. I would have thought that we’d be “off the back” of any particular group, but nope. We saw folks over and over again. Fun!
So I talked about waiting? Here’s what it looked like…
And then the start looked like this from the back… that’s looking north toward the park…
I left my camera home because there was a party planned for Noah, but there was amazing juxtapositions of cyclists and the NYC skyline… and the oddness of seeing bikes where there’s usually cars as in this view from off ramp of the Queensboro Bridge…
For those of you who asked… I rode the MootoX, with 27c Challenge Parigi Roubaix tires, its YBB, and pedals for walkable mountain shoes. The walkable shoes were an especially good choice. Early in the morning while it was humid, it was cool and I wore arm warmers (Smartwool), knee warmers and a rain cape (both Rapha) over my jersey (Swobo). All of them were packed into the Carousel Design Works Escape Pod seat bag before we started riding (along with extra rubber gloves, plastic bags, and other “assistive” technology. I love that thing… I carried a tiny messenger style bag as well which was part pain and part joy. Yeah, I had to sling it around quite a bit, but it made access to paperwork, maps, food, etc. organized and easy. I would have preferred a frame bag… but I haven’t ordered one yet, and it might have been overkill (I didn’t have that much to carry) but it would have put it where I wouldn’t have to fuss as much. Toss up. I thought about finding a document bag and clipping it to the Pod, but I couldn’t find anything lying around the house… but it would be something to consider for the next ride where I have that much stuff to carry.