Time To Rebuild My Skates

I’ve done this before. 

I have skated 21,000 miles.  Elite Inline Fitness Skater.  I’ve taken a long break from the sport.  There’s practically nobody doing it any more, except us “hard core” group who do it because we enjoy it.

That and your kids.

But it’s not like it was back around 2000 when there were races and competitions and you would trip over people trying to get into a shop.

For a brief time I was even sponsored, although that could be stretching it a bit.   I had a relationship with a skate shop in Philadelphia who would give me some gear from time to time to try out and report back how it worked out.  Not too much, mind you.  T-Shirts, of course.  Water Bottles, but everyone had those.  Deep discounts on parts like wheels and bearings.  Some free bearings that I liked so much that I kept them clean, lubed, and used them for over a year and well into the second year.

A year then was 2000 miles plus.  My peak week was a week I took vacation to simply skate. 

204 Miles in 7 days.

Seriously.

I’ve introduced people to the sport.  Served as a coach and trainer for others.  Even got paid to train people which was a serious ego boost.  Enjoyed Skating more than just about any physical activity that you can do in public.  Had a resting heart rate of 42 BPM as a result.

But lately I’ve come back.  Skating in Florida is different.   There is no park here like the Schuylkill River Trail.  I’ve skated from the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Valley Forge and back a number of times.  That is 20 to 30 miles of “Black Ice”.  Smooth asphalt complete with regular Water Stops.

There was one trip that I came around a bend in Valley Forge and spotted a Buck.  A Deer.  Pointy things on its head.  He spotted me and trotted beside me for about a half mile at my speed.  We looked back and forth at each other enjoying the workout and parted friends.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen often, does it?

Here I find myself going to Pompano Airpark in Pompano Beach.  Meh.  Better than most, at least it is safe.  4.5 mile loop of table top flat asphalt with a water stop at start and middle.  Not exactly exciting but … well it works.

After a while though, you find yourself thinking it’s time to rework things.  The wheels get flat spotted.  In the 94 degree heat and direct sun, the polystyrene compound breaks down on the black pavement that you could cook an egg on.  Where I got 50 to 200 miles on the wheels in the cooler conditions of Philadelphia, I am lucky to get 10 out of them here.

Swap the wheels out, especially the all important rear wheel – the Push Wheel that wears out on your power stroke faster than all the rest. 

Look at the bearings.  Wipe off the dust and road grit.  Hold the center spindle in your fingers carefully and see if they spin free.

Nope.  I thought so.  I was out with my dog Rack skating around the neighborhood the other day and thought I was being held back by the bearings.  Takes too much effort to move forward, may as well skate with a parachute.

Take a pin to flick the C Spring clip out.  Then spin the shield around that looks like an aluminum pancake with a hole in the middle and pop it out of the bearing.  Flip the bearing and repeat.  Spin the bearing and see if it is free spinning.  Drop it in a plastic container for later.

Repeat for each wheel.  10 wheels for the racing skates.  8 wheels for the cruising skates.  Two bearings per wheel plus a speed kit in the middle to hold it all together.  36 bearings, 72 O Rings and C Clips.

Do a few extra in case there will be a problem.  Throw out all the sealed bearings because they can’t be rebuilt.  It all comes out in the wash.

The Wash is when you pour Citrus Degreaser on all bearings and shake vigorously for about a minute.  The degreaser goes from a pale orange to black.  All those miles melt into the bottom of the plastic cup.

Triple rinse the bearings in water to loosen more grease, grit, and degreaser.  Bang them out on a paper towel to par-dry so they don’t rust.

Then take them to the hair dryer that everyone has hidden in the back of the cabinets.  Don’t have one?  Stop off at the thrift store and get one for this purpose.  It has to have a metal mesh on the air outlet.  The mesh has to be flat.  Put as many bearings on the mesh as fit.  Turn it on full blast and get the bearings as hot as you can.  That will boil off the last of the water.

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Reassemble the bearings.   One shield, one C Clip.

Snap!

Lay it out on a paper towel and drop 3 drops of Tri-Flex Teflon Lube on the bearing. 

Repeat for 36 bearings.

Put the other shield and C Clip back on.  Spin to test. 

Ahhh, silky smooth!

Each wheel gets one bearing per side, and a speed kit.

Slide the wheels in the skate “truck” that holds them to the boot.

Now, you are good.  Another 200 miles per bearing rebuild if the conditions are average.  If you can hear them get loud, rebuild them. 

Two and a half hours of rebuilding, snapping, lubing, and reconstruction.  They’re not doing this sort of thing any more.  Want to know why? 

Skating is still fun.  Even in 94 degree 75% humidity Florida heat.

Gliding over Black Ice at up to 15 MPH.  4 Minute Miles.  Slower when the wind comes in off the ocean.

That makes that afternoon well spent.  The knowledge that I will be able to go out and have the park practically to myself flying free in the sun.

Feel like a workout?  I’ll slow down for you.  I’ll even give you some tips.  There was this time where I was at mile 20 when I burned through all my breakfast and needed a rest and there was the most beautiful sunrise over the city of Philadelphia.

You’ll be surprised what you will see on 8 wheels.  10 wheels if you’re lucky.

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!

Olive Oil on Bread, Rollerblading, and Roseanne

Rollerblading.

I still do it.  I have skated over 21,000 miles.  I’m still trying to get a feel for the trails here in South Florida, and I have to say skating here could be better.

When you build a path that is due East/West and due North/South, you’re going to have one direction that you are with the wind on your back, another that it is in your face.  Just the way it is when the winds come off the ocean pretty predictably.

But, it’s here, and I’m in paradise, and I can skate.   So I do.  Push myself with a heart rate that feels like I am slacking if it is only at 160, and I have seen it peak over 200.

Sounds excessive?  Maybe.  If you hear “He went while he was skating” just think “He went doing something he loves”.

It wears through wheels quickly, and since you can’t really find proper racing wheels easily these days since the sport died around 2003…

(Hey!  Where did everyone go?)

The idea of going to My Favorite Skate Shop is done.  I didn’t like paying $6 a wheel when I would have to replace 2 after two workouts and I’d do 4 workouts a week.

I know… blah blah blah.  It’s safe to say that I easily have more skate parts in Wilton Manors than any other place in town.  That box has enough bearings to last into the next millennium and it’s packed solid with replacement wheels of five different sizes.

I had this conversation with myself without realizing I was actually vocalizing it the other night.  I was sitting on the couch half watching Roseanne trying to write in her basement and commiserating with her character that no matter how good it is, sometimes you just can’t do what you love. 

Then I realized I was having that conversation with someone in the house.   Writing can be hard.  You hit a writer’s block and you need a topic.  It’s what others call A Muse, but I am not really good enough for a Muse. 

“Why don’t you write about Olive Oil in restaurants.  You always complain about that and you haven’t had a good Rant in a while”.

Nobody really wants to hear about that.

You see I have a major problem with being presented a small dish of olive oil and sometimes herbs or balsamic vinegar with the implication that I’m expected to put it on a piece of bread. 

First off it looks like something I drained from the crankcase of my Jeep. 

Who ever got the idea that it is oh so very wonderful to dip a piece of bread into a puddle of motor oil and yard sweepings needs to sit over there in the corner with their face pointed into the wall.  Now, just wait, I’ll go get my baseball bat and re-enact a scene from The Godfather.

No.  Just no.  Not ever.  Bring me the butter.  period.  Unsalted if you have it, Salted if you don’t.  If you don’t have butter, take the damn bread away.

I actually said the motor oil comment in a posh restaurant once.

Excuse me, but do you have any butter?
“Sorry, No.”
Then can you take the bread away?
“Sorry, No.”

She sniffed and spun around on her heels and left.

I think she may have had an idea when I insisted on our leaving a pointedly small tip.  I haven’t been back.  I won’t go back.  Rudeness is never an option in business or in clients.

I don’t care if you personally think it’s the best thing on your sliced bread since sliced bread.  I don’t care if it is trendy.  No.  Just, No.

The idea of sticking a piece of bread into a “Fine reduction of balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices, and extra virgin olive oil” leaves me cold and a side order of wanting to lose the last particular meal I was fortunate enough to eat.

Yes, I understand it is a first world problem.  There are people starving, even in the same city I am in.  There are more important things to concern yourself with than someone’s affectations.  But, in a restaurant, I know somewhere there is butter.

Bring it or the waitress’s tip dies.

Is it old school?  Last Millennium?  So very last century?

Who the hell cares, bring it.  It’s called Service.  Not Motor Oil on a plate.  I’d rather eat that push-wheel off the back of the skate than put that glop on a piece of a baguette.

“So why don’t you write about that?  I would love to hear about it!”

No, it would just sound like a rant about how food trends are annoying and distracting from the actual quality of the preparation and the food itself.

“But why not?”.

We will see.  Let the mind roll and see what spills out.  It was exactly what I was saying to the TV.  Write what you know, you will get something better out of that than if you forced yourself to write to someone’s affectations about what you should or shouldn’t do.

That whole controlling thing.  People don’t want to be controlled, especially when they are paying for the privilege of it all.

Just like a little porcelain bowl filled with Fine Herbs, Spices, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a Special Balsamic Reduction.

I’ll take whatever the chef’s got for butter, please.

Thanks.

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.

Bubble Wrap is With The Vodka, in a Logical Place

I ship boxes to good friends from time to time.  Sometimes the good friend is family, sometimes not.

About 4 times a year I make up some “specialties”.  Since I have learned how to can Jam and Jelly, I found that I can make the stuff ahead of time and set it aside.  That makes things much easier, and the next time I hear someone say “I don’t like homemade Jam” will be the first.

You probably pull wings off butterflies and hate puppies and kittens too.

But it is a fair amount of effort to get the boxes together.  In fact it’s more grief once the items are selected than it is to ship the things.

Cooking for me is fairly therapeutic.  Yeah, that’s what they call it, Therapeutic.  Calming.  You get in a groove and can forget the grief of the day.

It’s also a bother when you make so much that you have to store the stuff, so may as well share, right?

Just like most of you, I tend to make a lot of online orders.  Here, however we have a hard and fast rule.  Save the bubble wrap, I’m only going to need it later.  Oh and don’t pop it.  That is strictly verboten.  Go pop the Texas Air instead.

Living here in Small House South Florida, there are only so many places to stash things.  Neat and tidy means a place for everything and everything in its place.

Not so fast, cowboy.  Not so fast.

See, that conflicts with the need to shop in bulk that we had discovered.  So instead of going to the supermarket and picking up the handy “big” 8 roll of toilet paper pack in the cheery plastic wrap with the teddy bear on it, we end up with the refrigerator sized 30 pack that lingers in the hallway for a week and a half until the paper towels stored on the same shelf percolate down to a level in the hall closet that I can fit in a few more.

The secret is to double stack things.  If it is good enough for the Chessie System, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific on long haul railroads, I can certainly cram in another 13 rolls of TP in the strange thin shelf under the sink in the bathroom.

But stashing things is my own obsession.  From time to time things go missing.  Why you might ask?  Because being a Logical Person, I put things in a Logical Place.  Have a small nook that a box fits in?  Great!  Put the box in there, and stuff the two 16 packs of soap in there that you got a deal on at Amazon.com that one time until you need it!  Does it matter that you have enough soap to wash yourself, your partner, the dog, and the Jeep until 2026?  No but it was a great deal!

Have a headache?  Oh great!  A deal on “Doctor’s Office Packs of Advil” will fit in the holes of the toilet paper rolls because they are round and there are teeny little gaps that need to be filled!

That even goes to special purpose things.   I have a bottle of Vodka.  It’s lost.  I have no idea where it is.  I was going to use it to make Chocolate Vodka.  Four parts Vodka to 1 part cocoa, stir daily, enjoy it 2 weeks later.

Really?  Yes, and mix it with a drop of vermouth to make a choco-tini.  You can’t live in South Florida without trying one.

Shaken, Not Stirred.

But the vodka went missing about eight and a half months ago and I’m too damn stubborn to get more.  Oh SURE I could try the recipe with Rum but it wouldn’t be the same.  Just because the Rum is clearly available doesn’t mean I can’t wait until I find the Vodka and I haven’t had the stuff in weeks.   Too many calories. 

So looming in the house somewhere is a black hole.  A Slider’s Vortex that goes to a parallel dimension in another Earth.  That Parallel Earth has a great selection of goods.   A single crew sock that I lost in 1995 when I competed in that Inline Skating Marathon the day I did 55 miles in a morning skating the route from Philadelphia to Valley Forge and back and forth and ….

Yeah the sock is there.  Probably still sweaty from the effort.

There’s my car from when I was a kid.  Beautiful grey Cadillac with the tail fins.  I know I put that in a cabinet to hide if from my sister and my father.   My sister would get it sticky with something she was eating and my father had a habit of “throwing away things” that would only end up at my cousin’s house because “You Weren’t Using It”.

Yeah.  You use things like that every day of the week.

But they’re all protected.  They are cushioned with bags of packing peanuts.  The packing peanuts are wrapped in bubble wrap of all sorts.  Pink Anti-Static bubble wrap.  Bags from shipping.  The ones I got in a shipment from Atlanta that had UPS stamped all over them.

And that roll.   Giant roll of bubble wrap.   Kevin took pity on me back about the time that the Vodka bottle went to that parallel Earth where Dinosaurs roam eating sweat-socks and old metal toy cars, but only the grey ones.   The massive plastic roll of bubble wrap has slid there and bounced around and wrapped that bottle so it can be safe.   I’m sure of it.   I can hear the diminutive Heather from Poltergeist saying “They’re Heere…” as they float around the room in a giddy vortex and then in a giant sucking noise are sucked into that world and gone to me forever.


I guess I’ll have to make do.  There’s a manufacturer North of here.  They cut custom foam rubber bits.  That’s what I’ll do.  I’ll wait.  They have bins of scrap that I could use!  Wrap jars of home made Cherry, Key Lime, and Lemon jams and curds in sheets of foam rubber!  That would save me from having to go to some office supply store and buy the crap like a normal person!

Yeah that’s the ticket!  But wait… it will just get sucked into that vortex won’t it?

But that’s not quite right.  The other day?  I found a cache of soap from 2011!  That stuff was good.  I’m just waiting though.  The Vortex.  Sometimes it’s been good.  You know those stories about the hoards of old Roman coins that are found sometimes in the English Midlands?  Great piles of the things?   They’re there because they fell into the same vortex.  Right next to the bubble wrap, the toy car, the bottle of vodka, and my blasted bubble wrap!

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!