How it got to be Kevin Puryear’s Bench at Pompano Airpark

For me, the story starts well after things were in play.

You see, I restarted a regular habit of my own, then took it on the road.

I have started skating on a regular basis this year, and that meant I was going to Pompano Airpark.  I’d go, skate, fall down, and generally beat myself into a pulp while thoroughly enjoying the exercise.

I’m going twice a week, as early in the day as I can get out there, to skate a 9 mile workout. It is a great way to burn upwards of 1500 calories, and get some beta endorphins.

I guess being as big as I am, almost 7 feet on skates with helmet, the beta endorphins would soften my own appearance.

Going along on the trail, I’d have a big goofy grin on my face, while I am in my cocoon of music on the headphones.

I became a regular. People would recognize me, smile and wave.

There was one person in specific who hung out at the 1.5 mile water stop.  It’s a small stand of shade trees surrounding a water fountain and three green metal benches.  Since the park really needs more water stops, this stop became a bit of a hangout.

I noticed as I was skating by, heading past the big Goodyear blimp hangar, there was one person curiously asking me the time.

Frequently.

“What Time You Got? Is it 9 O’Clock yet?” I’d hear.

“Um sure!” Glancing at my watch.

“Have a great morning!”

I’d be confused as he was generally very friendly even if his outward appearance was on the rather scruffy side and led me to believe that he might be homeless.

As I’m going through this year, I’m testing out old equipment to prove that I can continue to use it, or that I should “retire” it.  Trust me, skates don’t age well, and my newest pair is over 15 years old.

One of those test workouts, I had to stop at that water stop.  By that I meant I was in desperate need of a rest since the skates being tested had me burning almost twice my usual “burn rate” in calories.  I was exhausted.

He was there.  Still pleasant as usual.

I got my drink and he waited.  As soon as I had finished “Is it 9 o’clock yet? You enjoying yourself?”

“Oh yes, I am!”  I fibbed, but people never want to hear bad news.  After all my third wheel had swollen and was forcing me to take way too many rests than usual.

I guess I had made a new friend.  Every time in the future, I’d hear him cheer me on or shout a loud Hello! as I passed.

This was what he did.  He would hang out with the people working out at the park.  Some more athletic than others, always greeted by him.

I grew to expect to see him there, then grew to look forward to him.  He just was there, being pleasant, sitting under the trees, never threatening, just enjoying being there as everyone would come and go.

Later, usually late morning, he’d wander off.  I never saw where he went to but I figured he had another place to go and more people to see.

Local Color is what I call something like this.  Someone who does something unexpected that brings a bit of character to the area.

I realized after a while that he had gone missing and I didn’t know why.  My mid lap greeting was gone.  Since I tended not to stop often at that water stop, I never learned why.

Except one day a small memorial cropped up on his bench.  Right where he always sat, closest to the trail on the southernmost bench.

The story explained that he had been struck by the Brightline train on June 10, 2019.  His family had invited everyone to his service and his funeral to say goodbye.

It turns out that he was an uncle, a brother, and a friend to his family and they said he will be missed.

I was telling this story to my own family the other day and realized that yes, he would be missed.  I missed seeing him there on what I had taken to calling Kevin’s Bench.

It is now two months after he died.  The little memorial is still there.  I still look every time I pass there.

Kevin has gone, we at the park still remember.

You never really know who you touch in life or how you effect others by your actions.

Sometimes those effected don’t realize that they were until you’ve gone.

 

Skating with the Goodyear Blimp at the Pompano Airpark

A couple miles north of me, a couple miles in from the ocean in Pompano Beach, FL is the Pompano Airpark.

When they carved up the flat swampy ground and drained the soon to be populated area of South Florida, there was this large plot of land that was once out where nobody lived.

People eventually back-filled their lives into the area, there are homes surrounding the park in the large sprawl that is what is the metropolitan area.

Goodyear got there first and bought that plot before we all moved in.  They put in an airport, landing strip and the hangar for the Goodyear Blimp.  There are two that I know of, the other being in California.  San Diego I believe but I could be wrong.

It’s more than a square mile of land serving light aircraft and the worlds largest flying billboard, the Goodyear Blimp.

When I was growing up in South Jersey, we only ever saw it once or twice so it was a curiosity.

Moving here, I have put that plot of land to my own uses, skating on the “black ice” trail that encircles the Hangar and the civil airport.

It is 4.6 miles around, if you are needing a place to skate here that you won’t get hunted down by the ferocious drivers.

If Boston has the reputation where driving is a contact sport, they need to come down here and see how hunting down others is really done.

That is why I went back to the Airpark.  I had some moron from Townhouse Isles in Wilton Manors pass me on NE 7th Avenue more than once in an all fired rush to get out to whatever their lives had in store for them, and as a result nearly take my own life with them.

Trust me, don’t skate or bike on the roads in South Florida, it’s dangerous.  This coming from someone who has ridden a motorcycle in Manhattan, drives a Jeep Wrangler, and skates a lot.

But, the Airpark and its trail is safer.  Even if it is a bit short at 4.6 miles, and totally flat, you can get miles in.

I needed to get back skating because, while it is not fashionable, inline skating is probably the best sport for me that I can come up with.  You might have a different one, go and enjoy, but after skating 21,000 miles since 1992, this is mine.

I did notice that when I started that workout, the blimp was practicing maneuvers, and that can be entertaining.  Once sitting on a bench near the end of the landing strip, I watched that giant cigar coming in for a landing at what looked close to a 45 degree angle.  In the wind.

Snapping a picture, I started skating around the trail.   The hangar sits at the midway point, 2 miles in, and there’s a shaded portion at mile marker 1.  When I came out of the shaded portion, I noticed the blimp hanging overhead coming into the approach for landing, along with a small civil fixed aircraft.  At that same time, there was a bird heading into the view.  Most likely flushed out by the fans that push that blimp around, no doubt.

This was not going to be a fast workout.  I had for all intents and purposes, stopped skating a few years ago, rolled to a stop.  It was much more fun to skate with the team, and there just weren’t any people around.

Life moved on and, Life is better on 8 or 10 wheels.  Someone else in the neighborhood knows that too because slowly more people started dusting off their skates and are skating around town.

By the time I got to where I wanted to turn around, after all this was a “Get Reacquainted” workout, I got to the back of the hangar.  I’m right around 2 to 2.5 miles anyway, and I wanted to see what was going on.

Well really, I was trying to skate at my old competition speeds and my fitness levels weren’t up to cruising at 16 mph (4 minute mile) so I slowed to stop at the back of the Hangar.

Sitting there on the ground, visible through the fence and the back door of the hangar was the blimp being stowed after a landing.

Cool!  Firing off a couple more pictures, I left with a grin.

I needed that pause.  While I did finish the lap plus a half mile, this workout told me I slacked too much, too long.

So Instead of doing my usual training workouts of 33 miles at a shot, yes, three times a week, I am doing a 5 mile loop, and starting over.

After all, you can’t skate 100 miles in a week if you don’t skate 5 first.  I’m back at a steady pace, skating the airpark and wearing out my wheels.

We all need a sport, this is mine.

A View From The Trail at Pompano Airpark

I’m at that point in the workout when everything falls together and I stop thinking about what I’m doing.

That may sound counter-intuitive but what happens is exactly that.

You get going and you fall into the zone.  The Groove.  That whole “Zen” thing of the workout.

No matter what workout it is, you cease thinking about where you put your feet or your arms, and just go with it.

I was rolling along at the Pompano Airpark, looking at what they’re trying to do with the trail, and wondering why people plant Crepe Myrtles.  Everywhere I have seen them, they look like they’re struggling to get a foothold.

Then I rounded the corner onto the West side of the trail.  I found myself lined by twin columns of pink flowers, being accompanied by Dragon Flies, and generally impressed at the fact that it managed to hide the rather industrial looking airport just over my right shoulder.

The airport has its own charm, but beautiful it isn’t.  Having the Goodyear Blimp come and go from time to time is fascinating, but the General Aviation airport isn’t exactly what I’d call home about.  Looks like a collection of squat boxes flanked by someone’s toy airplanes.

But those Crepe Myrtles did exactly what they intended.  Block the view. 

I dropped into a racing posture, and flew through that particular mile.  Winds low, it felt like everything moved fast,  even if I was only going about 15 miles per hour at best.

For a distance inline skater, this is probably the best trail I have found in South Florida.  I did the Broadwalk at Hollywood Beach and found the people on bicycles too arrogant and too ready to attempt to crowd you out. 

Typical.

Pompano doesn’t have any other real attraction at the park.  You could sit by the fire station in the shade and watch planes come and go, but that can quickly get tired.  There are only two water stops, at the fire station and at mile 1.5.  But what it does have to offer is 4.5 miles of “Black Ice”. 

For the most part, it’s skating rink smooth, and no interruptions of streets to get in your way.

On the other hand, for a sport that has just about vanished, you get to use it all by yourself, practically.  Just you, a few well behaved people on bikes, and the self absorbed people who insist on walking on the “wrong” side of the trail and don’t yield to “On Yer Left!” warnings when someone is approaching.

Then again, that sounds more like society these days than a workout.

At least the flowers are in bloom, and it’s a good place to adjust the bindings.

New Nut, New Skates – Fixing my K2 227G Skates For Another Couple Thousand Miles

I am the kind of person who can repair the inside of a switch.

No, I don’t mean go to the parts store and buy a new one, then solder it in.  Of course I can do that.

I mean actually disassemble the switch and most of the time I can actually remanufacture the switch.

I’ve always been creative at reusing things, my first repair was dad’s 8-Track player way back in the day.  He hated that I did it, but was shocked that I could.

I’ve got this massive box of parts for electronics, a cabinet of parts for my own odds and ends, and deep in the closet under my dress shirts and my running shoes is the Skate Box.

I think it is probably true that I have the most number of inline skate bearings in Wilton Manors under one roof.  It isn’t that I run a skate shop, although I easily could, it is that I have been refurbishing bearings for decades at this point.

Literally two decades.  I got into the sport in 1993.  I have skated every year since.  I have skated 21,100 miles total.

Yes, I count.

When I was competing, I skated as much as 2,500 miles a year and 200 miles a week.

Wanna come?

I didn’t think so.  Inline skating as a sport collapsed in the early 2000s.  It’s now That Kid Down The Block or the trick skaters.  The rest of us do it because we really enjoy the activity.

I mean really.

Given the parts, I am able to keep my sport going.  I can tear down a pair of skates down to the component parts and tighten them back again so that the wheels roll free with no binding and no crunching due to crap in the bearings.

I have also trained people in how to actually skate without breaking their fool necks on a number of occasions. 

After all, if you skate, you will fall.

But all that mechanical stuff sometimes goes awry.  I’ve thrown bearings and bolts in the past.  What I mean is that I’m skating along and all the sudden something feels a bit “wrong”.  Looking down, I notice I’ve lost a wheel or my brake is wobbly.

Slow to a crawl and retrace the last mile.  See if you can find that nut.  If you can’t you probably won’t find an exact replacement.

Why?  They stopped manufacturing that skate back in 2003 and you are stuck.  I contacted K2 and that was their answer.  Too bad.  Amazing skate.

That was what happened with my favorite pair of “Cruising Skates”.  They’re a pair of K2 227G Softboot skates.  I could strap those things on and do a 50 mile workout in comfort gliding from Philadelphia to Valley Forge and beyond not thinking twice other than how far is it to the next Water Stop.

Five Wheels Good, Four Wheels Meh. 
Bigger Wheels Fast, Smaller Wheels More Maneuverability.
I’d kill for a proper pair of cruising skates with five 100MM or greater wheels on it…

The problem with all skates, not K2 alone, is that those soft boots wear down due to your foot sliding against the fabric.  Eventually they get to the point where your heel has worn the fabric lining down and you’re against the padding.  My skates are all at that point, and I have lined them with, you guessed it, Duct Tape.

In this case, Olive Drab, Military Spec, Industrial Strength Duct Tape, but Duct Tape nonetheless.

But back to that bolt thing.

Every time you disassemble a skate, and this is also pretty good to remember for when you repair your car or the back gate, use some “Loctite” on the threads of the screws. 

Loctite is a sort of glue that you put a dot on the threads of the screw or bolt, then tighten up.  That glue will hold a screw in place instead of allowing it to work free under use.  For “light duty”, something you intend to remove later for service, use “Loctite Blue”.  You can remove it and replace it later.  The other strengths like Loctite Red may be too strong for duty, so you need to research that yourself.

For skates, Loctite Blue is perfect, and is even what my skates came with.

But in the case of my favorite skates, I forgot to use it on the nut on my push wheel.  That’s the back wheel on the right foot.  Most of the force from my skating was on the back wheel due to my not skating in racing form lately, but most people tend to push from the heel as a matter of course.   It is incorrect technique, but if you’re just out cruising around the park in loops, nobody will hold that against you.

Fitness Skating vs Racing. 

Somewhere around the Pompano Beach Airpark, near to the Goodyear Blimp base, I threw that nut.  It’s somewhere in the grass, I’ll never find it, and I’ll probably never stop looking for it.  It’s an aluminium nut that looks like a mushroom.  The stem part goes over the bolt that holds the push wheel in, the cap held the brake assembly tight to the skate “truck” where the wheels live.

I took the skate with me to the Home Depot on Sunrise Blvd in Ft Lauderdale.  Instead of going to the local small old line hardware store, I went there only because it is closer.  Standing by the parts bin full of weird fasteners, I was poking around.  The bolt tested to 8MM (Metric) and I knew I could find a standard hex nut, but I wanted a cap on the top. 

I’m looking at it all “cluessly and confused” until this little woman came up.  A former Skater herself, we had a great time talking about The Good Old Days of the 1990s and early 2000s when we could get up dozens of people for a long haul workout.  But she knew exactly what I needed.  A “T-Nut”.  We found one that fit.  All that I had to do was bend the prongs back.

That’s the thing with doing something out there that others have stopped doing.  It’s like keeping a classic car going.  Sometimes you have to machine the part, other times you can rebuild it with Loctite and Duct Tape, and other times you really need a friendly Skater Chick to find a T-Nut to get you back on the road.

Thanks Skater Chick!  You were the Best!  Lets hit the park sometime!

Avanti in Pompano

In the TV Series Sex and the City, it is said that New York City is a place where models run wild on the street and you can actually see them.

In South Florida, Classic Cars run wild on the streets, and you can actually see them.

The other day when I rolled into the parking lot at Pompano Airpark, I saw this cherry beauty.

Avanti.  The last automotive remnant of the old Studebaker Car Company.  There’s still a husk of the

company left doing leasing or some such nonsense, but their cars are long gone.  Their last year was 1966 when the last car rolled off the production line in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  March 16, 1966.

The Avanti was never a common car, although someone near us in New Jersey had a gold one well after the company went away.  5800 roughly were built total.

You or I will probably never drive one, and maybe it should just be that way. To find one on the road these days is the automotive equivalent of the holy grail.

When I rolled my Jeep in next to it, I parked far enough off from the car so as not to spoil the shots.  You just don’t see these things in the wild.

I was That Kid that every neighborhood has even to this day.  I could recognize cars as a wee brat and tell you make and model with the high accuracy that only a child’s OCD could manage. 

When we were older, my sister and I would be taken places by our cousins.  They were the ones responsible

for igniting my own Motorhead spark.  We’d stick our heads inside the cars and ooh and aah at the speedometers that crept well over the more pedestrian 120 MPH of Dad and Mom’s Buick.  Muscle cars of that era had speedometers that were well over 150 MPH. 

Meanwhile I have a Jeep Wrangler.  It’s never been over 80 and I can’t say I’ve ever found the need to go faster than that.  Aerodynamics of a brick but I’ll get there.  You may not, but I will, even if I have to take him off road.

Squatting down in the parking lot I got these few pictures for friends who appreciate the art of automotive design like I do.

I know of someone who will be firing off an email to me any second demanding full sized copies of these, and I’ll just send him here.

Bounty Of Rollerblades – Tuning Up The Inline Skates After 50 Miles

Everyone has a sport.

This one is mine.

It is no longer fashionable, but I truly don’t care.

I’m not doing it for those people who think fashion is the end all of existence, I never do anything for that.

I’m doing it for me.

I was that guy.  I skated 21,000 miles.  I would do 100 miles in a week.  My peak week was one week that I took off from work and skated 204 miles in seven days total.  I was at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia so much on those skates that the park workers asked me if I was training for something.

Nope.  I really do enjoy skating.  In fact, I skated so much that I had to actually limit myself to 100 miles a week normally because I could over-train.  Near the end of the season, October into November, before the time change I would slow my skating down.  I had to distance limit myself to get the metabolism back down to something approaching normal.  Eating a training diet in the winter was never a good thing.

Even now when my fitness level is not at that same peak as it was.  Meh.  Don’t care.  I’ve got my box of parts and tools and know how to use them.

In season, I used to slack.  I would tune the skates up every other week.  That’s 200 miles.  They really needed it weekly but it takes an hour just to tear them down, wipe off the dirt from the bearings, reassemble everything with loctite and call it good.

That was what I did over the weekend.  One of my Weekend Projects.  I’ve been skating these days just enough to go out and enjoy it.  Headphones on playing music to keep me moving, I’d hit the park where the Goodyear blimp lands and do a circuit plus a mile.

Only 5.5 miles?  Yep.  I’m not skating to prove anything.  Just to enjoy a visit with an old friend.

I was all set to do a complete teardown – that was the 200 mile service.  Pull all the bearings from the wheel, the speed kit from the axles, and fully disassemble the bearings.  That meant I’d be de-greasing, drying, re-greasing, and reassembling each of the 16 bearings, then the wheels, and finally inspecting the boots.

Did all of that with a smile on my face.

I will let you in on a secret though.  Duct tape.  I duct taped the inside of the boots.

No, seriously.  It’s like when you wear shoes out.  That spot in the back of the heel where the fabric wears out first. It starts as a small hole or tear.  Put a small square of duct tape over that and you’ll be fine.  Just don’t tell anyone.

Why do I do that?   My racing skates cost $600 per set.  Even this pair of “run of the mill” boots were over $250 back in the day, although I got my competition discount from the shop I went to.

I used to get some bearings tossed at me by the same shop, long since closed in the collapse of the sport.  You just can’t run out to a sporting goods store these days and pick up a serviceable pair of high end touring skates any more.  For that matter I don’t think they’re even being made available.

Philadelphia was a bit of a hotbed for distance and speed skating.  I was into distance.  I’m way too tall and muscular to truly be fast.  So I’d do 30 miles at 12 MPH average.  4 minute miles.  I could do that forever if the winds were at my side.  Even faster if it were at my back.  Then it would be scary-fast.

I’d do the run from Philadelphia to Valley Forge if the Fairmount Park loop was clogged with some sort of “Walk” which was just a disruption more than anything else.  It also helped that I managed to get out there some days before 6AM, park at Falls Bridge, Skate to the Art Museum for a warmup before anyone else was out there.  Then do 4 mile sprints from the Rocky Steps to Falls Bridge and back until I got tired, bored, or the Walk was starting.

Easier to go to the Valley Forge loop, Schuylkill River Trail.  If I needed more distance, it was about 15 miles from Philadelphia parking through Valley Forge, and to the head of the Perkiomen Trail at Oaks, PA.  There’s a bridge over the Perkiomen Creek that I used to sit, drink my water, eat my power bars, and chat with the other skaters.  One of my favorite spots in the world to sit and chill out.

Pretty country out there, West of Norristown.  Actually, even though it ran through some industrial areas, it was generally quite pretty as long as you weren’t in Norristown, PA.  That was a pretty ugly town itself.

But the skating was fun.  Bring a quart or two of ice water, 600 calories of snacks to keep from hitting The Wall, and tank up at the water fountains at Valley Forge Park.  Plenty of Regulars, and Friends.

Yes, up to 600 calories.  Peak season, I needed 3000 a day on my enforced no-training day, and up to 6000 a day just to get my 30 miles plus weightlifting in.

That scene is long gone.

Pompano Beach Air Park has its own Regulars.  A bunch of leftover Canadian Snowbirds, primarily from Quebec.  A very few on skates, most on bikes.  Some locals getting out there to enjoy the trail.

It’s black ice.  Smooth asphalt.  4.5 mile loop.  You can see the little planes landing at the civil aviation airport.  Sometimes the Goodyear Blimp is out, and if it is landing I swear it comes in at a sharp angle up to 45 degrees.  Never expected to see that when I got there.

It’s not my favorite trail, but it works.  And trust me, after 21,000 miles, I’ve seen many of them.

The servicing worked.  I have a lot of wheels I picked up after skate shops closed up at a dollar or less a piece, some others from skates people threw out that were used once or twice, and I even bought a pair for “backup” at the thrift shop.  The box is a full “Paper box” that would work for shipping reams of paper.  Along with the probably more than 200 bearings in the bucket, all the assorted axles and screws, bolts and speed kits, I’m set.  Good for a couple thousand miles without ever visiting a skate shop.

All of this for a non-fashionable sport that I truly love.

What To Do When Stuck In Traffic

I don’t often leave the quirky little island.  That is, the Island City.  Everything is here, I generally don’t have to go further than I can walk, and if I do, it’s usually only because we have to carry more than is comfortable.

If that sounds like Small Town America, it is.  In this case, I’m smack dab in the middle of the giant sprawl called South Florida, in a little city called Wilton Manors.  Kind of a cross between Mayberry, a Beach Party, and a lot of things.

Idyllic, well not entirely, but I will say that every time I read the police blotter, most of the “Perps” are not residents.  I am not fond of that sort of import.

We’d had a house guest over the weekend, and we also had a number of errands that simply had to get run.  Unfortunately that also meant being in traffic.  This being South Florida, there were a lot of really insane moves on the street.  I have to say I could never be a traffic cop, I’d spend all my free time sitting in court listening to how this case needed a delay for some trumped up reason by a shyster connected with a traffic “school” after having written a ticket to someone who made a right turn from the left lane across four lanes of traffic.

Snowbirds, please don’t forget that the Universal Vehicle Code also is in force here too, just like back in Ohio, or Quebec, or some other colder spot.

After being stuck in traffic at the beach, twice in one day, and on I-95 in a 3 mile tailback, I pulled out the camera.  It started innocently.  I took a picture of the back of a sealed tractor trailer and emailed it to my sister, still infatuated with the newness of having a new phone with an excellent camera, and the 1 GB of wireless data to use it with. 

“Hi Pat, this is what South Florida Looks Like Today”.

I sent her pictures of flowers and so forth later on after I calmed down.

But that is what I tend to do when I am in the Navigator seat.  I’m now fiddling with mapping programs, predicting traffic, making video, and taking pictures.

After the second day of this I now understand why Millennials are constantly fidgeting with their phones when they’re “idling”.  Traffic is never exciting for anyone.

But add a passing eye for a pretty shot, some incredible weather, a good conversation with the driver, and I managed to fill up the chip with lots of shots.

I also learned that I could silence the lens.  Night shots from a moving car with a silent shutter meant that I got about 5 times more pictures than I expected.

Coming back past the mall, I passed by the Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course and even my jaded eye was surprised at the sunset. 

As I got shot three, I heard “Boy that is a beautiful scene!  Did you get any pictures?”

Great minds think alike.

Yes, from a moving car, with a cellphone camera, and night photography.  No tripod needed, the software has gotten that good when coupled with a fast processor.  It’s even easier than the old film days and the ASA 400 nonsense.

Unfortunately, you still get blur from motion.  A Fast Processor helps but it isn’t perfect.

But it does help to keep you from being bored when you are stuck in traffic.