Skating down a dream

I had an idea to do a video of all the great places there are to inline skate in Salt Lake City.

If you do a bit of looking, you can find many bike paths, neighborhoods, and skate friendly city parks, (Liberty Park & Sugarhouse park especially).

Of course, creative notions deform with their impact upon reality, and I only got to a handful of the places I like to skate with video camera in hand. .

Then the clips took on a life of their own, especially since it’s been REALLY HOT recently, and HYDRATE OR DIE has been an essential habit to practice.

As a lifelong winter sports athlete, I used to hate summer heat, but this year I’ve been “rolling” in it pretty well.

Click here for a high quality quicktime, or start the youtube below.


The music to this is Tom Petty’s rock anthem “Running down a dream“, its lyrics have always moved me, especially the chorus:

Yeah running down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin on a mystery, going wherever it leads
I’m running down a dream

From Spring, Texas

Another inline skater from the Spring, Texas inline club is in Salt Lake to make the transition from Inline to Ice.

Stephanie Combs certainly has the power, coordination, & raw aerobic firepower to do very well. She holds the junior women’s 42k USA record, won the Texas road rash marathon at 15, and has been on the Junior World marathon team.

But as many inliners who dream of success on the ice have found, being good on wheels is only a part of what you need.

You need to have another quality, an odd meticulous fury that kicks in when you find something that you ARE REALLY BAD AT.

Instead of being discouraged, you identify what you need to technically or physically change, and then obsessively work at it.

What you can’t see from these static images, is that Steph is now skating inline with “ice” style technique.

No more double push, its just glide & power, glide & power, glide & power.

She has a very challenging road ahead of her. Inline to ice is hard. But I think she’ll do just fine.

Night Skating International

Often serious athletes turn skating into a monastic, excruciating, solitary activity; just you & whirring of wheels or hiss of blade.

Maybe the only company being a workout plan, HR monitor, stopwatch, and the hum of heart, breathing & ambition (if you are lucky, you can find a group to suffer with)!

This is a kind of skating I honestly do enjoy; however—

Skating can also be a rolling goofball party on wheels with a bunch of buddies, with no real destination but company & exploring.

For example:

This was the crowd at a Salt Lake City Friday night skate last month. We skated all over town, with the final destination being a local bakery with excellent cookies!! My friends Kim & Eric are the architects of this.

This past Friday, I took my nice camera along, and got these images of urban fun.

After a 100 degree day bakes Salt Lake, it’s wonderful to wander in the cool breeze, gliding above bands of heat rising from sun-baked asphalt, chatting with folks from diverse backgrounds about everything & nothing.

Oh yeah, the cookies at the end are wonderful too, (why have I published so many pictures of food recently?)

I talk about the “skate-tribe” every now and then; often I’m referring to the usually friendly/sometimes carnivorous tiny fishbowl of the ice racing world.

But if you open the definition slightly, and do a bit of internet-trekking, one sees an INCREDIBLE worldwide gathering of skaters for fun night inline skates.

This is when I see the international skate-tribe really in evidence.

For example:

(they have “flying nurses” & blockers)

London (here is a good article about it)

Los Angeles

The famous San Francisco Skate




Helsinki (due to the “midnight sun” they don’t call it night skating).


St Petersburg (here is a report in English, warning, Beautiful Russian skaters!! This skate seems amazing)


5,000 People every Monday in Geneva, Switzerland!
(they even have a skate game, but you can play only in French & German, I couldn’t figure it out).
here is an image they grant useage for, wow, that’s amazing numbers of people.

my gosh, some German guy even put up the NIGHT SKATE SEARCH ENGINE!!

Do I sense a huge underground movement, a cross-cultural phenomenon? Something so media-reclusive, it thrives on the internet & in the smiles of the folks who do it?

Almost all of these websites very creative photos attached, of happy people skating through canyons of concrete & neon. Group hugs full of grins, Russians greeting the morning (they skate midnight to 5am) Japanese skating with light sabers in their hands, every kind of skate equipment & skater imaginable…

Makes me want to hop on a random plane with skates in my carry on, & find like minded (or is it wheeled?) souls.

Different languages, unique cultures, different cities, but all gliding along….

4 circles

I don’t know what this picture means or why I took it, but as I was cleaning out my parts bin, this came together on the kitchen counter.

These circles are:

A Bont SINS inline bearing

My titanium wedding ring (made by this guy, the co-founder of Merlin Bicycles)

A worn out pivot axle for a Viking Speedskate ice clap blade. I skated for years on this bit ‘O metal.

An ILQ-9 inline bearing, it’s my fastest set right now.

I did not order this still life consciously, any interpretations of this out there?

For you must change-

I’ve been on the road & out of blog-mode, forgive me…..

I’ll try to catch up on the many posts rattling around in my laptop & mind-

To start with, here is the sunset across one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever known, highway 287 running from Laramie, Wyoming to Fort Collins, Colorado.

And this is looking in the other direction at the same moment:

Why are we such a road trip culture? Is there somehow a massive concentration of “traveler” genetics on this continent distilled from layers of migration upon migration?

But the road trip oozes technology now, it’s not a dangerous Atlantic crossing in a leaky wooden bathtub anymore, it’s not “go west young man” for endless months in a rattly wagon.

Perfect maps, rest stops, and the 200+ foot high windmills rising from remote bluffs on the Utah/Colorado border.

Not just one, but hundreds. In my book, thoughtful Patriotism IS alternative energy like this.

A vast proportion of our media seems devoted to the road trip. What is the “Wizard of Oz” but a road trip movie? Everything surrounding the yellow brick road is in color, and Kansas is dull black and white.

Feeling the diesel roar down the highway, and at the rest stop, a 10 year old sits behind the wheel of a yellow truck as dad and Grandpa talk about the next turn. Does he dream of driving a 30 foot yellow Ryder, hurtling down the highway at 70mph, filled with everything he owns?

Forgive me if my mental radar is set on wide-scan, and is picking up a bit more than just speedkating. A few days ago I had a multi-hour conversation with one of my mentors from the MFA program at Colorado State University.

Bill Tremblay went to Columbia on a football scholarship just like Jack Kerouac did. After a knee injury ended his football days, he turned his considerable intensity to literature & ended up as a widely published writer & English Professor at Colorado State. I’m so lucky our paths crossed, he’s been a huge influence. Not many poets “get” the competitive physical world.

Bill recently retired from decades of teaching at CSU. Just before we parted, he told me he had a dream where a massive football stadium arose in the middle of Fort Collins.

He went in, found a team practicing. He strode up to the coach, said, “put me in, I can still go”

The coach handed him a set of pads, a uniform, & said;

“You can do it, but you must change.”

Changing on many levels. Into a uniform and into a new determination. It’s part of the promise of all competitive sports, and road trips. Experience & change, internal & external, the unavoidable constant.

Maybe that is one of the attractions of doing a small sport like speedskating, road trips are MANDATORY to get to major competitions.. (it’s also the handicap, as it gets nasty expensive).

Sit down with any athlete; ask about memorable road trips, the stories will usually pour out.


Even though you “are what you eat” to a great extent, I don’t recommend chowing down on inline bearings for breakfast.

What would you call that? Bearing-O’s? ABEC-5 crunch? Ultimate Fibre?

Actually, there is a reason I am boiling my bearings.

In 2000, I raced the Casino-Niagara inline marathon during a biblical rainstorm. While skating 26 miles through occasionally ankle deep water, the bearings I had used for 5 years of racing caked up with goo, crud, mud, slop.

It was so bad that after the race, the wheels were impossible to turn with hands.

I dismantled my wheels, & put the bearings in a Gatorade bottle & filled it with water. When I got home that night, I replaced the water with solvent & let them sit for a week.

Still no go, they were cruddy, crusty, & barely turning.

Most normal people would have thrown them away, but because I’ve inherited the pack-rat gene (it’s genetic, along with the ability to wrap Christmas presents), I’ve never tossed these rusty-goobered-mementoes into the trash.

Yesterday as I told this story, my friend Kim Kraan recommended:

“Just boil the crap out of them, I mean really crazy boil, so the bearings are just hopping along. Then dry them out in an oven. You would be surprised at what you can save.”

My gosh, IT WORKED!!!

Now they are not “race fast” anymore, but they turn very nicely, and after a few training sessions, I think will be respectably fast.

So here is the first recipe I have ever published in this blog-

Take one pile of abused bearings & remove bearing shields if you can

Scrub rust off with citri-solv & a stiff toothbrush if you are motivated (I wasn’t)

Add bearings to a pot of ferociously boiling water while preheating stove to between 300 & 400 degrees F

Stir bearings frequently, noting the nasty color the water gets

After 15+ minutes, remove from stove,

Run cold water into the pot, cooling the bearings, spin them under running water, removing more crap

smack bearings hard onto a paper towel, tapping out lots of water

Place bearings onto cookie sheet

Immediately bake until ALL water evaporates & remove from oven (it took 10 min)

Once bearings are cool enough to handle, replace bearing shields & relube


Final important step: Clean kitchen & grubby/greasy/sandy pot VERY WELL so your wife/housemates don’t flip.

p.s. Kim & Eric are running 4 inline races in Salt Lake city this summer, more details & prize list here.

Humbled in Kennecot

Doesn’t it look like I am meditating serenely in the mountains?

Nothing could be further from the truth! Actually, I had collapsed onto my knees, trying to stretch out painfully spasming & cramping quadriceps.

My friend Kirk & I had just climbed roughly 5,000 feet on our bikes from West Jordan to the top of an mountain ridge overlooking the Kennecot copper mine.

I felt fine for the first 2 hours of climbing, including 2 miles of a consistent 20% grade, but during the last half hour of vertical effort, I completely cracked to pieces.

I could have walked faster.

Finally at the top, the view was incredible, but I was a mess. I handed my camera to Kirk, gasped: “take some pictures of the scenery” and pretty much fell knees first into a tuft of grass. I didn’t know he turned the camera on me.

The Kennecott mine is a fascinating place. There are only 2 manmade things clearly visible from orbiting spacecraft- the great wall of China, and this giant earth-zit.

Click to get a larger version of this picture, and see if you can spot the trucks creeping up the side of this 3/4 mile deep pit.

When you have completed this “Where’s Waldo” search, consider that these are monstrous trucks that fill 2 lanes when they travel on normal roads, the roof of an SUV doesn’t even reach the center of their hubcaps. The Kennecot website has images of them.

I like challenging myself, but this time, the mountain truly kicked me to pieces. But when you really need it, people come through.

I had a few dollars with me in my seat pack (always have money in your flat kit!), and when I could walk/stagger again, I hobbled over to several tourists who were up there in 4X4’s, I asked if I could buy some food from them.

No one would take my money, but next thing I knew, my hands were overflowing with garlic-artichoke hummus & ham sandwiches, Gatorade, molasses cookies, yummy sunflower seeds & salty potato chips!!!! My faith in the goodness of humanity is restored….

Also, thanks go to Kirk for this crazy epic ride idea. Next week he is moving away from speedskating, back to Colorado, and he will be deeply missed.

The Inside Story

I always endeavor to bring people the “inside story” of skating culture whenever I can.

Does this include x-rays?

Jim’s Cornell’s collarbone is healing nicely. I wonder if he sets off the metal detectors at an airport?

The thing that fascinates me about this high definition x-ray, is that you can actually see the tissues & pathways of his lungs under his ribcage.

This picture feels like looking under the hood of a very powerful car, while the motor is running!

In my early 20’s, I experienced some heart trouble, and got to watch an ultrasound of my own heart doing its indefatigable, relentless, lifelong stroll.

I could feel it thumping as I watched it pound along. Then the doctor touched their keyboard, and inflowing blood pulsed red, outflowing blood pulsed blue. Incredible.

Why is it that only when we are “damaged” that we get to look “under the hood”?

If it was easier to see “the motor running” of our internal selves, maybe we, societally speaking, would treat ourselves better….

(note: I’m certainly not talking about bad luck sporting injuries like Jim’s!)

Theory & Practice

There are many theories about training, and many ways, in practice, of applying them.

Theory: Train your weakness, race your strengths-
Practice: If you are not a climber, do hilly bike rides with excellent riders who can rip your legs off at will, my heart was raging in the low 190’s as I shot this, Keith was at 160.

Theory: watching the scenery makes climbing feel less painful
Practice: it kind of works… briefly… maybe that’s how racers make it through the Tour & the Giro.

Theory: A brick falls faster than a kite-
Practice: on the downhills, Keith, it’s your turn to chase! ; )

Theory: Make sure your equipment matches the requirements of the activity
Practice: I’m wearing one of my father’s Jerseys that’s probably 30 years old, oozes 70’s vibe, and is made from magical fibers called “wool” shorn from a mythical creature known as a “sheep”.

Theory: Bad, tasty habits are the hardest ones to break.
Practice: My brother bought me daily diet cokes when I was in Texas, now I drink them all the time, damm!!

Listen carefully, & you can hear my brother & John Dimon laughing at/with me, as they welcome me to this foul addiction. I suppose there are worse things to be eating. I do drink the splenda version, not the evil aspartame that is present in most diet sodas.

Theory: When feeling down, watch videos of old races to get psyched up for training hard again.
Practice: YouTube.

Someday the current crop of elite skaters will be retired, & what has been done on pavement & ice will be gone. But video on the internet is forever!

There is so much on Youtube that is amazing, just a search for names like Sven Kramer & it brings up all sorts of beautiful skating!

However, for some reason, my mind is still on the bike:

I had read many accounts about the finish of the 1989 world championships, where Laurent Fingion and Greg Lemond went at it in a horrific rainstorm.

And this morning, I happened across it on YouTube. WOW! This is some of the most exciting, freakishly ballsy crazy road racing I have ever seen. They had already raced over 100 miles by the time this video starts.

Fingion & other riders are desperately trying to get away from Lemond’s well known finishing speed, Lemond chases down everything, & then the pack is joined at the very end by an exhausted Sean Kelly, who was the best road sprinter of that generation. Insane racing.

Greg Lemond once said: “it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”. This finish meant something special to him, as a photo of him coming across this line first is the top right photo on Greg’s own website.