Oct 23, 2022 - Bikin' n' Skatin' n' Readin' n' Writin'
One of the riders on the Route 15 from San Simeon to Morro Bay is always getting on the bus with a book in his hand, so I asked him what his current favorite new novel was. He held up the book and said "This one!"
Then he said it was a bit specific for a lot of people, it was about skateboarding. "Are you into skateboarding?"
"I am actually, I was state champion back in Wisconsin when I was younger."
"No way. Then you might really like this book, it's called 'The Best Thing Ever' by Kyle Beachy."
That night I ordered it on the internet for $7 from a discount book website. It took a couple weeks to get to me, but he was right, I really do like it. The author is 15-20 years younger than me and the opening chapter starts in the Jefferson Street Blue Line stop in the Chicago Loop, an el stop I used to ride my skateboard in all the time when I worked in the loop. I couldn't believe it. He has a slightly different perspective than me in that he grew up in skateboarding when the ollie was the starter trick for all future tricks in street skating, and I grew into skating before the ollie had ever been invented. But he's a good writer, and he asks big questions about identity, belonging, and sense of place.
Anyway, inspired, I ordered skate pads a few weeks ago and took the longboard out that I found by a dumpster in Colorado. My first time skating by myself since I was in my early 40s. It felt awkward and weird, for one thing I've never been a long boarder really. The trucks on this board were cranked down really tight, so it was hard to turn, and I found myself off balance more than I wanted to be during that first ride. But I'd started again, and that felt huge. I found out I'd ordered pretty cheapo skate pads so I returned them the following week and ordered nicer ones instead, and I wore those today as I rode my second solo session in the Paso Bowl parking lot. I'd loosened the trucks quite a bit and it definitely felt smoother, less awkward, with the front truck even feeling a half turn too loose, so a bit more wobbly than I preferred as well, but I found my self getting used to it the more I pushed and leaned into power turns. It felt great.
It's a different sensation riding a skateboard now than I remember. I can feel my heart thumping from the cardio workout, and I don't ever remember thinking about that before. Maybe skating through the parks in Jameson in my 40s a little bit, but I definitely don't think I even considered it as a kid, I just skated. I don't ever remember feeling like it was a workout back then, it was just skating.
I started to feel a twinge in the back of my right ankle, my pushing foot, like an achilles tendon twinge, so I shut down the session pretty early and rode my bike the 5 blocks back home to my apartment to put the pads and board away. I ate a late lunch and googled "bike paths in Paso Robles" and then rode my bike about 4 miles to a nearby park called Barney Schwartz Park (which makes me sing Barney Clark's Heart in my head from the Indicator days) to check out the bike path there. It felt skate-able for sure, but it's a wide sidewalk with the resulting sidewalk cracks, not an asphalt bike path, so not necessarily the type of path I had in my head. There's a dead end road nearby that also looks cool, and it has some significant grade, so when I'm feeling solid and frisky I could definitely do some speed runs there.
Am I worried about my 60 year old body? Absolutely. Hey, I bought full pads (and padded skate shorts too) before I even set foot on the board. But I'm excited too. I'd love to have a shorter board like I used to ride in the 70s and 80s, and I've researched them online to see if I could find a traditional flat deck with a kicktail like the old days. No one rides flat decks anymore, they're all concave, it's so weird. My feet feel awkward on them. But I'm going to keep skating on this longboard for awhile before I pull the trigger on sourcing an old school deck which will probably run me north of $250 now, once I get all the deck, trucks, wheels, grip tape, and skid plate.
But here's to riding. Damn it feels good.