I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where my backyard was a forest. I lived in a neighborhood, but the houses were separated by huge yards, interesting landscapes, and lots of trees. When I was young, summer nights were spent grilling out with the family and then getting together with all the neighborhood kids and playing night games.
I also remember being a pretty active kid. I got my first pair of roller blades when I was around 7 or 8. We had a gravel driveway, so I would have to run across the driveway in them, roll on the grass for a while to get to the paved road. This road, which also happened to be the road that I learned how to drive on in the winter, is super long and very steep at times, with "S" curves all through it and stretches for miles up the small mountain that I lived on. This is also the road that I learned to roller blade on. Since it was not the traditional flat pavement, I got to be pretty good pretty fast, having to maneuver the curves and watch out for pine cones and other forest debris. My neighbor friends and I would also use the pine cones as training tools. We would start at the bottom of a hill and, using the pine cones as markers, we would gradually work our way to the top measuring how far up we could start and go straight down the whole stretch without using our breaks. That was a rush!
One day, my neighbor friend and I were just having fun rollerblading around her way cool driveway. Unlike mine, it was paved, with a loop around it, on a steep hill with curves on the straight part. We decided that it would be really cool to have a ramp to go off of, so she went into her dad's work shed, grabbed some scrap wood, nails and a hammer, and built a sizable ramp. And it worked! We loved propelling ourselves off that thing. We situated it so that we could land in the grass in the middle of the driveway loop in case we missed the landing and fell. The grass was much nicer to fall on than the concrete. With a little practice, we got to be pretty good at going off this ramp, and we decided that we should create some new tricks. Then, after the other neighborhood kids saw our cool ramp, they all came over to try it out. We were all having a great time and decided that we should create a game in which we use the ramp. The game would be similar to tag and kick-the-can where one person was "It" and had to try to tag the other people. Once you were tagged, you had to go wait by the ramp and could be release only by a person who wasn't tagged who did a successful trick off the ramp. We called this game Ramp Round-Off, and it was so much fun. We played it almost every day all summer long. We played that game for many summers, and each year there were more rules and variations to keep it interesting. Sometimes the ramp broke and we would build a newer, better one. The game just kept evolving! It was so great.
Ever since living in Chicago, I've wanted to get a pair of roller blades. There is a paved pathway that runs along the entire lake shore that is perfect for long roller blades. Then, when one of my friends was planning a visit, she asked if I had any roller blades so that we could explore the lake shore. I got so excited that I promptly went out the next day and bought some!
Now that I'm living in an area of the city where I can pretty much walk wherever I need to go, I usually end up using my roller blades to get from A to B because it is so much faster. However, rollerblading in downtown Chicago is a little bit different than in the Black Hills. The roads and sidewalks are so crappy here that I really need to be careful and watch out for the large cracks that are everywhere along with the huge dips and bumps. Also, there are people every where, which makes it interesting. It was pretty scary at first, when I would blade at unfortunate rush hour times. The intersections get pretty crazy. Also, there are not a lot of other roller bladers in Chicago and I get a lot of funny looks as well as some crazy comments. All I'm thinking is that instead of walking for a half an hour or more like everyone else, I'm blading for 7 minutes or less! There are a few people who appreciate the blades. In fact, my super-nerdy Stats professor gave me a huge thumbs up and a "Niiice!" comment the other day after class when I was gearing up to go back to work on my blades.
After getting used to blading in the city, I now feel pretty comfortable and have gotten used to the many obstacles. My training in the hill has really payed off! The other day, when I was on my way to class, I was coming up to a major intersection, and was going to continue across, since the light was green and the pedestrian light was white. I made sure there were no walkers coming around the corner that I would run into. I saw a cyclist who was about to block the depression in the sidewalk that meets the road, we made eye contact, and being a fellow non-driving-commuter, he saw that I was going to go ahead and he stopped. However, while I was taking the 1.5 seconds to make sure the situation would be okay for me to cross, I did not notice that the sidewalk was uneven in front of me where the first chunk was depressed a few inches and the next chunk was elevated a few inches between the break in the sidewalk. My left blade ran straight into the raised part of the cement and was stopped on contact while the rest of my body was propelled forward, carried by my the momentum of my heavy backpack that flew over my body. My left knee slammed into the cement to stop my fall, and skidded across the pavement to halt my forward movement. I stopped in front of the cyclist whose mouth had dropped open. I got up, saw my bleeding knee through my ripped pants, and decided I was okay to keep going. I proceeded through the intersection and made it to class safely. But, I did have to sit there for 3.5 hours with a bleeding knee and ripped pants.
When you fall as a kid, on the grass, it's all fun and games. When you fall as an adult, near a busy intersection in front of strangers, you just look like an idiot. Luckily, I'll never see those people again!