Claire Rollerblades


Claire Goes for It on Rollerblades:

Deciding recently to become Athletic, Claire decided to try her legs rollerblading.* Finding the only location nearby to still rent blades was in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, near the park, Claire made the trek north to Skates on Haight and strapped on a pair.

* We regret that, as this was a solo venture, there are no pictures to document the event. But read it anyway.

The first challenge: Making my way across the parking lot without damaging cars. Insidiously, this first stretch is downhill towards the street. Having the majority of my hands covered in hard-shelled wrist protectors, I mastered the art of running into cars with the tips of my fingers. This causes only minimal damage while usually not triggering car alarms. I thankfully did not pass any owners.

The second challenge: Crossing the street. This involves rolling down off the bumpy curb and getting to the other side before the light turns, while trying to avoid the mass of people who are crossing at the same time, all of whom assume that I can avoid their small child if necessary.

I made it across and entered Golden Gate park, encouraged along the way by well-wishers screaming useful advice like "Learning how to skate, huh?" and "Bend your knees! Bend your knees!" One thing I noticed immediately: rollerskates are back in. You know, four wheels, brake sensibly in the front where it belongs. This was evident in the park and at the rental store, and not just on gay men. Go figure. I also noticed many brave children who were, like me, just learning to rollerblade. Happily, I realized that the smaller ones were not too much better than I was. Ha! You stinking kids! You skate like 3-year olds! You are 3-year olds!

The third challenge: Stopping.  Rollerblades provide a number of braking methods. The first is a teeny tiny little brake on the back of the right foot, requiring the roller to throw her foot out in front of her to engage (Flintstone style) while maintaining balance and not falling headforward. I did not have great success with this method.

The second option is the perpendicular foot drag, which can be effective but quite painful, especially if you have a trick hip, though you may not realize just how painful until the next day, when you canít walk and spend hours on your back icing it, though that certainly wonít be enough to keep you from limping for about a week afterward, giving you ample time to write about your experience.

The third and most popular option is the wipe out. Having mastered this while skiing, I found myself a natural at this method. I was a little intimidated by the alarming lack of snow as I careened downhill, expertly avoiding a group of small, frightened, Asian children-- but my joints were encased in high-tech, Velcroíd, hard plastic, and I used the wipe-out method to regain control. I listened with gratification to the scraping grind of plastic against asphalt, realizing that that could have been my elbows. I then accepted graciously the assistance of nice-looking men with pretty accents. Therein lies the greatest advantage to the wipe out method: lovely men are standing by to assist whenever they see a female hit the dirt.

The fourth Challenge: Going to the bathroom. First, I avoided the many twigs fallen into the path in the well-treed area. Remember: one stick can be disaster-- a tiny piece of wood to a rollerblade is about equivalent to a brick wall, but a little less obvious. Youíll slam into the ground before you can say, ďHuh?Ē

I then successfully made it into the bathroom and realized that the seats are made to nicely accommodate little girls; in other words, pretty low to the ground. I, however, was extraordinarily high up off the ground, about 4 inches more than normal, actually. Furthermore, my feet weren't staying in one place like I would hope. So, I began my descent-- sloooooowly, sloooooowly, don't fall over...

The rest is, thankfully, not newsworthy.

Some advice for first time bladers: If you are going to a pretty place to skate, hoping to see some lovely flowers or to stop and watch people drumming, forget it. Remember, you will probably be going much too fast to stop at these things. Donít get me wrong, I am not speaking of actual speed, but speed in relation to your ability to stop. You can certainly appreciate the pretty flowers and interesting drummy people as they streak by, but donít expect to be able to slow down and actually visit them. At least the vibration from the asphalt affects your vision so that everything is changed into a nice Monet painting as you careen past.

More advice: If you are going to Golden Gate Park and wish to visit the rose garden, and there is a bridal party there taking pictures, do whatever it takes to avoid the bride.

Lastly: If you donít want a lot of extra exercise, donít get lost on the way back. Luckily, sights of near wipe-outs serve as excellent mental markers of the path taken. And if you get lost anyway, donít leave the park and end up on a tiny little broken up sidewalk that goes around the park along a very busy road and a big iron fence that blocks your re-entrance into the park for a long, long time, until you finally get back in by going down another unwanted big hill but thankfully recognize where you are to cross the street at last and return to the rental store.  Theoretically.