Wheel love, true love

Some drivers may find them annoying, but I love to see kids out on skateboards. In fact, I harbor a not-so-secret longing to join them, gliding down the road while just standing there. My skateboard was probably my second vehicle, after my denim-embellished Huffy 10-speed, which I purchased at the old Natick Mall (I hate to say it, but the store might have been Woolworths, is that possible?) and a few years before my ’72 Volkswagen Beetle.

I rode my yellow plastic skateboard for years, particularly on my newspaper route in hilly “uptown” Hopkinton. There are still people alive who like to razz me about it. Yes, I was a skateboarding punk in the 1970s, annoying drivers and scaring old ladies on the sidewalk. Ha.

But that’s not the whole story. This is: I just love wheels, always have. They’ve always symbolized freedom for me, especially (now) the two wheels of my bike or 8 wheels of my Rollerblades, because they allow me to leave the stress and responsibilities of life behind. I enjoy the way wheels allow me to float above the pavement or zip through the woods, to feel the freedom of self-propulsion. Every time I get on a bike I still feel like I did that night I took my brand new Huffy for a spin in the mall parking lot before we loaded it into the back of my mother’s station wagon. My beat up Rollerblades are a particular favorite. I take them with me whenever possible, they’re my way to experience speed and agility and the energy of skating in different environments.

my favorite way to enjoy Manhattan, shoes strapped to my camelbak and blades on my feet

I only wish the blades were as versatile as my mountain bike. If a seagull drops a crab from 15 feet above the Cape Cod Canal bike path and I hit a piece of that shell going 15 mph, it’s a recipe for a good case of road rash. And I’ve tested them in the rain: not so bad on straight flat surfaces like the west side bike path in Manhattan, but hit a puddle on the sidewalk in Times Square and suddenly there are people looking down at you, asking if you need an ambulance.

the beauty of the canal bike path can be distracting, which isn't always good when you're speeding along

I wish there were more places to skate. Do I have to choose between Manhattan and Bourne all of the time? Of course I do plenty of circles around the local high school parking lot, plugged in to my iPod, but I’d rather have the ability to use them as  a means of transportation, like the kids going to their friends’ houses on their skateboards. Getting to the high school annoys drivers and scares old ladies, which is still fun.

Manhattan may be known for shopping and traffic, but I love it for this smooth straight bike path along the Hudson River

Blading is a nice change from biking, which occupies a big part of my free time. Drop me in a place like Florida, where I ended up last month for a few days, and my first impulse is to explore it by bike. But of course I was looking around at all of those nearly perfect roads in gated neighborhoods thinking, damn, I wish I had my blades.


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