The Scooter

Yes, I bought a scooter. No, I am not 12 years old. Let me explain.

As I mentioned, I’ve been having some knee problems lately. Weight-bearing isn’t a problem, but bending the knee is. Even riding my bike two short miles to work has been bothering it. The knee kept not getting better and not getting better. It was time to take drastic steps.

I drove to work on Monday. I loathe driving to work. I had to deal with traffic & parking, all while cramped up in a tin can, spewing toxic chemicals into the air. It took the same amount of time as riding my bike. Surely there’s another way.

Walking would take around 40 minutes each way, and it doesn’t really solve the bending-my-knee dilemma. I checked into taking the bus, but there’s not a good way to get there. I would have to go miles out of the way, change buses multiple times, and it would take the better part of an hour.

How could I travel a moderate distance under my own power with minimal bending of my problematic knee? The answer came to me while perusing the Wikipedia page for human powered vehicle: the kick scooter.

Scooty Puff Jr.

The Scooty Puff Jr. (cf. Futurama)

Kick scooters were a fad when I was a kid. This newer type has been popular with kids the past few years, though the kiddy models don’t support the weight of a full grown human male. Fortunately, Razor also makes an adult model with a higher load capacity and larger wheels for a smoother ride. I was so desperate for a solution I bought one.

Rob takes the scooter out for a test ride

It arrived on Monday and it took it for a quick test ride around the block, much to Melissa’s amusement. At first it was remarkably unstable. The platform is almost exactly the size of my right shoe and balancing is a little tricky. It definitely took some getting used to. I found it to be more stable the lower I adjusted the handle bars.

The “tires” on the 7″ wheels do not inflate, they’re a solid rubbery-platic material. The ride is not smooth, it’s much more jarring than riding a bike. I’ve learned to seek out smoother sections of pavement and to prefer concrete over asphalt.

Urbana welcomes you

I rode the scooter to and from work and the swimming pool three days this week, putting about 11 miles on it. I assume most of these cheap little scooters don’t see that much mileage over their entire lifetime. I wonder how long it will hold up. It takes 20 minutes each way, so it’s half the speed of leisurely cycling and twice the speed of walking.

While riding the scooter is somewhat enjoyable, I do get some strange looks. It’s not everyday you see a 30 year old man riding a tiny scooter wearing a backpack and helmet. I do not intend this to be a permanent solution. I just need to take a couple weeks to hopefully let my knee heal completely before starting to ride my bike again.

The Wooden Nickel

I’m hard at work cleaning out my office. Yesterday’s electronics recycling was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had a fairly productive morning.

Anyway, over in the corner of the office I found a bag full of stuff I cleaned out of my first car (a 1986 Chevette) when we got rid of it in 1997. Don’t ask me why I still have this crap. Among many cassette tapes and the vintage chewing gum I found an old Royal Donut wooden nickel.

Royal Donut wooden nickel (front)Royal Donut wooden nickel (back)

Despite the fact that they are labeled wooden nickel, apparently they were good for $0.10 off a dozen donuts at the Danville restaurant chain. I remember using these as a child, but I really don’t remember how we acquired them.

The Natural

One of this week’s $0.99 movie rentals on iTunes is The Natural. This is the movie that introduced me to the word “bastard” as a child. I had no idea what it meant or even that it could be considered a bad word. I just picked up from the movie that it’s something you call someone when you’re mad at them.

Of course, this got me into trouble when I called my brother Travis a bastard at a family gathering. Nobody really heard it, but Travis promptly tattled on me and I got my mouth washed out with soap. The worst part was that I had absolutely no idea what I had done wrong.

I’ll freely admit that there were plenty of times in my childhood when I truly deserved to have my mouth washed out with soap (though my personal preference was for Lux, I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor — heavy with a touch of mellow smoothness), but this wasn’t one of them.

The Keytar

I was in 5th grade in the 1988. Sure, it was the late 80’s, but it was still the 80’s. MTV (which used to actually play music) was all the rage. The music was wild, the hair was wild, the clothes were wild, and even the musical instruments were wild. Nothing was quite as ridiculously excessive as a keytar.

A keytar is just what it sounds like, a cross between a keyboard and a guitar. More specifically, it is a keyboard, but it’s worn on a strap over your shoulder like a guitar. With a keytar in hand a keyboard player could look as cool as a guitarist (though clearly the keyboard player would never actually be as cool as the guitarist). Well, that was the idea at least.

I was channel surfing one day when I flipped past the Home Shopping Network. There on the screen was a beautiful red keytar, a Yamaha SHS-10. I had to have it. It was fairly reasonably priced. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was somewhere between $50-100, perhaps around $70. Regardless, I was a 5th grader and I didn’t have that kind of money. It was also a bit pricey for a random middle-of-the-year non-birthay non-Christmas gift from my parents, so it appeared as if all hope was lost.

Within a matter of days I was sitting in Mr. Gholson’s class at the end of the school day when the principal began some school-wide announcements over the intercom. The announcements were related to the school fundraiser we had just finished. As usual I had big plans to sell the more items than anyone else in the school, and as usual I didn’t. At the very end of the announcements the principal reminded all the students that everyone who sold at least one item had their names entered into a drawing to win $50 cold hard cash. It seems like I never win anything like this, so you can imagine my surprise when he read my name as the recipient of the $50. Jackpot.

With my $50 in hand I was able to convince my parents to use it to order the keytar for me from the Home Shopping Network. I loved that thing. It was so cool I even brought it in to school to show all my classmates what I bought with my $50 prize.

Keytar

I started numerous bands with my friends throughout middle school where I played the keytar (poorly). Someone else would beat some sticks on buckets or something because nobody had a drum set. Everyone else just kind of stood around because they didn’t have any instruments either. But they were my friends and they were in the band. We had big plans.

I didn’t know very many songs, so I usually just hit the Demo button and it played by itself. The demo song was Wham’s Last Christmas, though I had no idea what it was at the time. I don’t recall ever hearing that song until maybe seven or eight years ago, at which point I exclaimed THAT’S THE DEMO SONG FROM MY KEYTAR!

Keytar

The keytar has also has survived many years and many moves to different apartments and houses, much to the chagrin of my wife. I’ve tried to get rid of this thing, but it seems nobody I know seems to want it. I’m not sure why. This keytar is now considered vintage, and they’re going on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Now might be a good time to cash in. Who thinks I have the guts to go through with it?

The Domestic Travels

I enjoy traveling, and I love geography, so I was very excited when a friend of mine recently mentioned this website that allows people to track their travels, county by county, across the country. I spent a couple hours entering my data (thanks to some helpful information from my dad regarding trip routes from my childhood) and now I have this wonderful map.

Click to enlarge

I categorized the counties thusly:

In cyan (light blue) are places where I’ve traveled in an automobile (or other motorized land vehicle). These include:

  • Seattle/Olympic National Park
  • Silicon Valley
  • Grand Canyon
  • El Paso/Juarez
  • Dallas
  • Galveston
  • New Orleans/Baton Rouge
  • Nashville
  • Des Moines
  • Minneapolis
  • Green Bay
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Cedar Point/Sandusky
  • Washington DC
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Hilton Head, SC/Savannah, GA
  • Hawaii & Kauai islands
  • Most of Illinois, Indiana, and central Appalachia
  • Everything along the way to these places

In magenta (light purple) are places where I’ve been bicycling (and probably travelled by auto also). These include:

In dark blue are places where I’ve been, but only in the airport (i.e. I had a layover there). These include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • Salt Lake City
  • Kansas City
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Honolulu

It’s exciting to remember all the great places I’ve been, and just as exciting to think about all the places I have yet to explore. I’ve still never set foot in 19 states:

  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Alabama
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • North Dakota
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • Alaska

I’ve got places to go. Hopefully I will keep the map updated along the way.

The Camel Clutch

Watching TV a bit ago, my story ended and professional wrestling came on next. I haven’t watched pro wrestling in 20 years, but 20 years ago I watched it a lot… mostly with my brothers. There was a lot of un-professional wrestling that took place in my house growing up. Being the youngest, I usually got pounded. I did have a few chances for revenge, though. I recall giving my brother Travis an unusually harsh camel clutch hold one time that he didn’t like too much. The camel clutch involves laying your opponent on their stomach, sitting on their back, and pulling their head back by the chin. If it were real, it might actually hurt.

Camel clutch

While working for ASP 10 years ago I made friends with a boy named Tim, who liked pro wrestling. Here is a photo of the sexy hermit demonstrating the camel clutch on Tim in the summer of 1998. Don’t worry, it was fake. It’s all fake.

The Spiderman Mask

While celebrating Christmas with my mom’s extended family, my cousin Scott noticed this doosey of a photo on the wall at my parent’s house.

Kids in the 1980's

cousin Scott, brother Andy, little Rob, circa 1983-1984

Andy’s cut-off shirt and breezy short shorts can surely be explained by the fact that it was the early 80’s. But why am I wearing gloves and a Spiderman winter mask? Why are Scott & I wearing capes? Why am I wearing no shirt and why is Scott wearing no pants? Why does Andy have a piece of the Death Star on his arm? This photo raises more questions than answers.

The Thanksgiving Dinner

Shortly before stuffing my face at Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Danville, Melissa pointed out this funny picture of me hanging on the wall at my parents’ house. I appear to be very concerned about something (perhaps that there wouldn’t be enough food).

Young Rob at school Thanksgiving

Rob stuffing his face at preschool Thanksgiving celebration