How Mil-Spec Duct Tape helped me skate 21,000 miles

I have skated 21,000 miles.  I know the distance because I have always skated on measured courses, or measured the courses and counted laps afterwords. 

My workouts started out normally and extended to at one point a 6 hour marathon that took me 52 miles with breaks and water stops.

One of the problems with inline skates, rollerblading to you, is that with all of that sweeping back and forth, your legs will rub against the inside of the boots.  After all of that rubbing, something is going to give.  If you’re lucky, the friction will be taken up by the socks, but in my case it started creating pressure sores.  I would get raw spots and eventually blisters on my achilles tendon and lower calf on some of these workouts.

Some of the workouts, everything would fall into place.  The tension on the socks would be just right, the boot would be tight but not too tight, the temperature was cool but not cold, the sun was bright, the breezes were coming in from the South or the North.

Since my trail was an East-West trail from the Art Museum in Philadelphia, along the Schuylkill River, all the way out to Valley Forge and extended to the Perkiomen Creek in Oaks, Pennsylvania.  In that case, the breezes would cool rather than slow me down on my 33 mile workout. 

Three times a week.   Boy! Do I miss that trail!

Needless to say that if I were to enjoy the trail, I would have to do something about the friction.  Remembering Football in High School, I thought to tape up my pressure points and it worked until the warmer weather and sweat conspired to dissolve the surgical tape that I used.  The other problem was that the boots themselves would wear down from all of this friction and I’d end up having to replace the boots.   For Competition Class skates, $300 would be cheap and they could range up to 10 times that price.

I got the brain storm one day that if I was wearing the knock about daily wear skates, why not try to tape the boot instead of the foot? 

Problem was solved, at least for now.  I would get around 100 miles out of a repair and that worked because in Peak Season, I would have to tear down the skates, degrease the bearings and re-lubricate them as well as rotate the wheels.   It would be a weekly ritual every Monday or so since Saturday and Sunday were spent out enjoying the trails in Summer.   It was then that I would touch up the tape.

I was using this standard silver duct tape, the same stuff everyone has seen for 60 years since it was invented in World War II.  The tape would wear out spectacularly sometimes during the workouts but for the most part I could rely on it.

One winter we were driving to Florida for our annual snowbird ritual and stopped off in a Barbecue Joint in Virginia.  Parking next to a workman’s pickup truck, we went inside.  Great meal of pulled pork and afterwords when leaving the parking lot, the truck was long gone.  In its place was a large green roll of extremely heavy duty duct tape.  We picked it up and went on our way.

According to this article, I’ve just found out that it is typically called “Gun Tape” in the Military as well as “Hurricane Tape” and 100MPH Tape”… I never knew that until today!

Thinking that this heavy stuff might be better than the regular silver stuff, when I arrived at our destination, I replaced the gummy silver stuff with this beefy green tape.   It was so tight and so stiff that I thought I could use it to build body panels on cars.

The next day I went to the park and tested it out.  Not only did it hold, it was adding some needed rigidity and the super heavy vinyl was smooth and slick.   It wasn’t teflon but it was nice and slick.

This oddball roll of tape was going to do the trick.

Over the years I’ve used it for both conventional and non conventional uses.  I have a wallet that I made out of the green stuff that is actually stiffer than is reasonable for use since it tends to pop the magnetic clasp open.  I’ll work on that, after all who doesn’t need a weirdly shaped green wallet?

The only draw back is that it works a bit too well.  I once was skating out from Philadelphia soon after and went past Valley Forge for a rest at the Perkiomen Creek.  Beautiful trail out there, but the surgical tape failed and it wadded up on my heels.  So sitting on a bridge in the sunshine of a Pennsylvania Spring Morning, with the sun in my face, I pulled out the roll of tape and proceeded to tape my hot spots up.  No problem right?  Sitting with one foot in a boot, another barefoot, the tape forming green rectangles on the open skin, I got myself rested and prepared for the next 15 miles back to the Jeep at the City Line.

The trip home was one of those amazing workouts with no hotspots, the conditions were perfect and all was well.

Until I got back to the house.  You see, all that tape had to come off.  I’m a somewhat hairy guy.  Yes, you guessed it, I was less hairy once I pulled the tape off.  I had at that point a much more healthy respect for what women go through on a regular basis. 

Closing my eyes and gripping hard, the next thing I heard was from downstairs, Kevin shouting “ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!?!?”.  That one square of green plastic with the adhesive of doom was holding onto the skin as well as it could before I pulled it.   It also had around 50 hairs stuck inside of the adhesive.  One tug and it ripped them off, and none too easily.

From that point forward, In Season, below the crew socks, my ankles and lower calfs would be shaved.  I was NOT going to go through that again!

Ladies?  Why do you put yourself through waxing?  I just don’t get it!  On the other hand, no, I will not let you borrow my mil-spec duct tape since I don’t know when I’ll be passing through that particular parking lot in Virginia again.  HOLY jumping HANNA! That hurt!

What to do with a Sunken Yawt

It began with a phone call at 8:30AM.  One of the neighbors called me up on the cell phone and started talking.  I almost hung up, he spoke so fast I couldn’t fathom what he was saying.  When I finally realized who it was, I begun to understand what he was trying to tell me.

At 8:30 on a Monday Morning, I’m usually sipping my second mug of half caff coffee while going through the Job Boards online looking for a Project Management or Business Analysis job.   I’ve normally got on some soft music in the background and I’m going through about 100 web pages, one after another.  It takes me until Mid Morning.  The last thing I’d expect is a phone call at 8:30 but since it was this person, it was pleasant.  Nice guy, he walks his ancient Black Labrador past the house a couple times a day and we’ve chatted a few times about goings on on our quaint little sandbar that is Wilton Manors, Florida, 33305.

I had to use my line on him though once he got started talking.  “I’m not a politician and I don’t play one on TV”.  I’m a volunteer here in the city and I’m on a number of boards, but my opinion really only counts when I tick the box next to a name.  I can advise the officials but I would never pretend that I have influence.

My neighbor started talking about the G Resort that was going in on the East Side of town.  The deal had just fallen through and it made it to the Pelican and then to the Sun-Sentinel a week later.  This had been discussed at the Commission Meeting last Tuesday.  The resort was to be a massive hotel and spa complex built on a particularly run down and blighted trailer park, the last of its kind in the City.   The Resort is to be a jewel for Wilton Manors, full of high end accommodations and would help us continue to be a destination for people on vacation.

I say “Is To Be” because while the original deal at the Yawt Property had sunk due to the foot dragging of the four trustees, the G Resorts people found another site at NE 15th Avenue and NE 26th Street on the grounds of the Church there. 

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That leaves what to do with the derelict Yawt Property.

It has many code violations due to improper construction, shoddy landscaping, and trash piles laying around.  The place is a badlands where the crime rate spikes when you cross into it.  It still has downed trees from Hurricane Wilma back in 2006.

On the other hand, if you remove the trailers, the trash, and the trailer trash, it is one of the few open spaces you have left in Wilton Manors.  It also is adjacent to the FEC railroad right of way, Colohatchee park, and near Five Points. 

The neighborhood was so rough looking that the street view camera did not even go in there.  The inset below shows the close up satellite view.  If you zoom out, Colohatchee is due South, Five Points is North and a block West.

My neighbor, Tim, insisting that I had some sort of influence decided to tell me that what he wants for that property is a park.  I want it!  Its the last open space in Wilton Manors!  Its next door to Colohatchee!  Its just a great idea!  Don’t you agree?!?!?

The thing is, I do agree.  I don’t see how it can be paid for. 

Tim got restless and insisted that he and everyone else would want to pay a few dollars more in taxes for the property and so forth.  This is an election year, Tim, you’re not going to get someone to vote for a tax increase.

I do agree though that this should be grabbed by the City.  The only other use for it would be low density housing and in this day and age, nobody will do that sort of thing, its just not economic in this business climate.

We then got onto some good old fashioned blue sky thinking.  What we came up for that property would be the following:

1) Float a 30 year bond at 3% to buy the property to be paid out of an earmarked increase of taxes.  Enough of a term to stretch the payments so that the impact on a single taxpayer per year is “nominal”.

2) Negotiate with the Yawt family to sell the property at a deep discount.  If they get too demanding, send in the code enforcement officers and cite them on any and every violation that they can find within the current settlement for the prior violations and lien the property.  Bring this up to the Court that had heard the situation and ordered that the property be sold immediately.

3) When the city has the property, clear it out.  This cost should have been taken into account on the purchase price.  Remove all the trash and downed trees, the trailers and the trash. 

4) Assess the situation for the best use for the property.  The suggestion is a mostly undeveloped “ecological” park to showcase what we can do for the environment and to mirror what is available at the other parks.  Keep it as simple as possible.  Add a multiuse trail on the property for running and biking and skating.  All the other parks in this city are chock full of things – keep this one as open as you can!

5) Place a surface parking lot at the corner of the property sufficient for visitors but allow for expansion. 

6) Since we’re next to and probably within the Transit Corridor Overlay District, reserve room for a larger parking lot and a train station sufficient for commuter rail.  We’re getting a train station when the new FEC light rail line goes in, we need the space.

7) When you put in lighting, consider making all lighting Solar and add in a Windmill Power Generator.   There are significant discounts and rebates for doing such a thing.  The power generated will help lower Wilton Manors’ electricity bills.  The site can become a showcase for Green Technologies.  It can also become a place where children can be educated on how we will be lighting our homes in the future – Oil will not last forever!

Granted, this is all Blue Sky.  The property will cost between 1 and 2 Million.  There are costs to the County to get them to drop or reduce their Liens for taxes not paid.  There will be a cost to clear out the property of all the trash and bring the property up to code.  There may be pollutants that need to be abated.  I would be surprised if there weren’t years of old motor oil poured into the ground there.

Once all that is done, it might be the best use possible for an eyesore of a property and retain some needed greenspace.

Rollerblading on Schuylkill River Trail Review

Looking at this picture, its not a very pretty scene is it.   To me that is a view of fun.  What you’re looking at is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken PA.   

This trail runs roughly from the Art Museum in Center City Philadelphia at the Rocky Steps for 22 miles out through Conshohocken, Norristown, and Valley Forge to the Perkiomen Creek Trail in Montgomery County, PA.   I skated that trail for about 10 years, and a total of over 20,000 miles to date.   

The trail is continuous through the length and is a jewel for the region.   I was fortunate enough to be close enough to skate a segment of it whenever I wished.  No cars, few intersections to worry about, very few bad spots with gravel.   This was 22 miles of Black Ice.   There were a few rough spots where there was a sharp incline or a curve, and one hill in particular that was at a railroad style incline for about a mile.  That was my definition of fun, skating down that over 15 miles per hour with some Armin van Buuren “A State of Trance” podcast DJ set running on the head phones on a clear crisp day with little wind.

One of the days when I get back to Philadelphia, my plans are to drive back to my old parking area and skate this section again.   The trails here are nowhere near as long and comprehensive as this.   The best one I’ve found in Broward County was at Pompano Airpark and that one is only a 5 mile loop.  Every time I get a chance to speak with someone in command of a Parks and Recreation budget I put my two cents in for a “multipurpose asphalt paved trail of a minimum length of a mile”.   Why not?  It’s worth your life here to try to cross the street on foot let alone on Rollerblades 8 or 10 wheels.