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.