Thank You, One and All!

These days, we live in a society that seems to be lacking (among other things) a strong sense of gratitude. Far too many have become spoiled, and assuming. But not here.

On Saturday October 29th, I will have the honor of competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah. Though I had to individually qualify for the event, it has been FAR from an individual journey that put me there. Thank you for taking a moment to read through my humble words of sincere appreciation for those who made this completely unanticipated series of events possible.

First and foremost to my Wife Shari, a decade ago You encouraged me to come out of 25 years of bike racing retirement, and the immediate result was back-to-back Cherry Roubaix victories, including a 2012 State Road Race Championship, and the 2013 Red Jersey as the overall winner. You are my Biggest Fan, my Perfect Partner, and I love my life with You.

To my Mom and Dad, and my grandparents, thank you for this extraordinary genetic profile that has benefited me in more ways than I can count. And thank you for putting up with my infinite list of idiosyncrasies, challenges and tribulations. I may not have been easy, but I am absolutely grateful. And specifically to my Dad, who gave me endless opportunities to participate in every conceivable sport, pushing none yet encouraging all. You, above all others, are the primary reason that even today at my advanced age, no matter the sport, I’d rather be playing than watching. I wish you could have seen all of this, but you will be with me on Saturday.

To my children Kyle and Danielle, and their spouses Kayti and Samuel, Ironman Michigan was obviously a good day, but having all of you there along with Shari and Carl made it a great day! We were Team Ironman, and your faces and voices absolutely helped to put me on the podium. I am very proud and grateful to be your Father.

To the city of Flint MI – In addition to the annual Olympian Games and CANUSA Games, the Community School Directors program gave us open gyms in all of our neighborhood schools four nights a week plus Saturdays. Your commitment to us created an entire generation of kids who enthusiastically embraced virtually every possible physical activity, resulting in a long list of outstanding athletes from Flint who went out to take on the world in practically every sport imaginable. Those youth sport and open gym days may be long past, but they are not forgotten.

To Jack Marlette, my Flint Northern HS Swim Coach. You took a lost, insecure sophomore, and over the course of three years turned me into a swimmer. I hope my letter to you last year adequately conveyed just how much You and Your Team changed my life.

To my late stepfather Elie Moynet, you embraced my Mom, saved our family, and along the way introduced me to the community of French cycling. My motivation and my fitness (and wardrobe) were never the same after that. I miss you.

To the MSU Human Performance Lab – The tortuous (often to complete physical exhaustion) regimen of testing, filming, analysis, prodding and even poking, provided a scientific basis and plan for my then and future endeavors as a cyclist. I’ll never know whether your selection of me for all of that special attention was truly due to my being “elite,” or simply because I was willing to engage in serious suffering so you could collect sweat, respiratory gases, urine, blood and even muscle tissue. I still have the trocar scar on my thigh.

To Lee Frantz, my cycling Brother from Flint. You have had more to do with my cycling knowledge and success than any other individual. You gave me my nickname “Monstergear” that I still proudly embody today. You have always been, and will always be my favorite individual with whom to ride, and though we have been physically separated by circumstances and geography, you remain my most trusted cycling advisor.

To my first wife Leslie who gave us two amazing children. From the day we met, through all of our years together, you were always supportive of my time and efforts in the gym, in the water and especially on the bike. I’m so glad that you were there for the wins at the Cereal City Classic and Thunder Thighs Thirty.

To the Wisconsin Rapids Boys – Tim, Charlie and Tom. Though I was a complete outsider, you immediately welcomed me as one of your own. Never has so much suffering been so much fun, and you guys made me a better man in more ways than one. You have been, and will always be, my favorite Group Ride.

To Scott and Steve – Our friendship has lasted many decades and you have come to be my two closest friends. Though your knowledge and understanding of my endeavors is often limited, your support and encouragement has always been limitless. Thank you Gentlemen!

To Mark Gerlando of Ride Science, several decades of successful cycling led me to believe my position was perfectly fine… and man was I wrong! Your fitting expertise launched me into a whole new phase of fast time on my bike. Your attention to detail and routine “tweaks” not only helped me to qualify (which you predicted!), but is also sending me to St. George with confidence, even though I’ll be riding a bike I’ve never raced on a course I’ve never ridden. Our entire TC cycling community is fortunate to have you here.

To Allison, my LLM Massage Therapist, no matter how badly my fiercely intense workouts manage to tear my body completely down, you always manage to somehow put me back together. You are an angel.

To my Tri Again Fitness family/team – You took an aging cyclist who was a committed “One and Done,” just wanting to see what doing a triathlon was like… and turned me into a triathlete! As a result, the TAF kit will be on the course Saturday at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds. We are headed to St. George people, and I’m taking each and every one of you with me in mind, body and spirit.

Finally, again to my wife Shari, I have to open and close with You. Mere words cannot adequately convey my appreciation for the support, intellect, encouragement, passion, patience and commitment You have demonstrated every single day for over 11 years. Next Saturday is but one of the innumerable things I could never have accomplished without You. Through Your efforts involving our friends, families, and each other, we have achieved genuine Oneness, and little else matters beyond that. Regardless of what happens at Worlds, afterwards we will return home and continue on with our life together. That is Victory!

Again, thank you one and all for being such a huge part of my blessed life. Your time and attention has been incomparable, and you have my deepest and most sincere gratitude.



Michigan Drivers on a Snowy Day

Another blustery, wintry day here in Michigan, reminding us once again that we are blessed to have (for the most part) three kinds of drivers: DWI, DWN and DWT.

DWI – This person owns either an SUV, or full cab pickup with all-wheel drive.  They’re zipping along at least 10 mph over the speed limit, zigzagging in and out of traffic like it’s a beautiful sunny day, obviously in a race to beat everyone else to wherever they’re going.  More often than not they end up in a snowbank or a ditch, which makes life safer for the rest of us because by doing so they’ve effectively taken themselves “out of play.”  However, right up until that moment just before they go off the road, their attitude is that as long as they have their big vehicle with all-wheel drive, they are DWI, Driving While Invincible.

DWN are people like you and me.  We’ve brushed the all of the snow off the windows and are driving at a reasonably safe speed.  Our gloved hands are at 10 and 2, and our phone is safely stowed away with the ringer turned off.  We maintain the right amount of space between us and the car in front, and because of the conditions, we even left a little early in order to allow for a few extra minutes to get where we’re going.  We are DWN, Driving With Normalcy.

DWT – These poor people are woefully misguided, and… incredibly dangerous!  Regardless of whether they’re in your neighborhood, on Main Street, or on the expressway, they’re driving along at 11 miles an hour with their emergency flashers on.  They’re also flashing they’re bright lights, and are likely to come to a complete stop at any moment for no apparent reason.  They have one square foot of space cleared on their windshield, and are leaning forward to peer out of it because all the rest of their windows are completely covered with eight inches of snow.  Obviously they should not be on the road, in fact, they probably shouldn’t even own a car.  And yet there they are, keeping everyone safe by keeping us all guessing as to just what in the world they might do next.  They are DWT, Driving While Terrified.

I patiently await the return of temperate weather, longing for the simpler time of only having to deal with those who are DWSEDT – Driving While Singing, Eating, Drinking and Texting, or better yet, DWO – Driving While Oblivious.

Losing My Jimmy Buffett Virginity

In just a few days, Jimmy Buffett kicks off his 2017 summer tour in Vegas.  So, it seems like a perfect time for a light-hearted piece about my first (and so far only) Jimmy Buffett concert a few years ago at Comerica Park.

Top Ten Reflections on our First Jimmy Buffett Saturday:

10) Morning – Most of you know that I am a cyclist, and one of my all-time favorite places to road ride is Belle Isle in Detroit.  It’s 5.4 miles (or so) per counter-clockwise lap, a one way road with a great surface that varies from two to four lanes wide.  The chance to group ride, motor pace, compete against the locals, and weave in and out of the vehicle traffic limited to 25 mph makes it a great challenge, and absolutely fun.  Given that, spending Saturday morning doing 13 laps (70 miles) on Belle Isle is the perfect way to not only start the day, but also give yourself permission to eat and drink whatever you want for the next several hours during the tailgate and concert.

9) Park and Tailgate – Pick a football powerhouse…  ANY powerhouse…  and I’m telling you, compared to Parrot Heads, all football fans (no matter the team) are rank amateurs when it comes to tailgating.  Jimmy Buffett fans are without question the most enthusiastic, creative, dedicated, happy, friendly and partying tailgaters in the world!  We pulled into a typical ugly, urban, abandoned-property, broken-surface parking lot.  And THEN… Out of the back of SUV’s and Minivans came the typical barbecue grills, stereo systems and nine course meals.  HOWEVER, within no time there were also beaches, complete with actual sand AND palm trees, pools filled with water AND people in bathing suits, Tiki bars with functioning beer and margarita taps, and women (and men) in grass skirts and sea shell/coconut bikini tops…  and this was just what we could see from where we were tailgating.  All this and there’s also a concert!!

8) General Atmosphere – Making new friends while tailgating was a blast!  As I said, Parrot Heads are the most friendly, most relaxed, most welcoming and happy collection of pre-event partygoers I’ve ever seen.  In addition to that, I ran into Big Ed, an old MSU friend that I’d not seen in way too many years, what a priceless moment!

7) Well, Let’s Head In – Our dear friend Kari arranged for us to get a VIP/Police escort into Comerica Park through the Tigers Executive Offices, and then ride their elevator up to the 4th level right to our seats.  It was amazing, all of these totally wonderful things happening to us, and the concert is still an hour away.  At the end of the night, we got to go back out pretty much the same way we came in.  Thanks again to Kari for making all the arrangements, putting us up in style, and loving us like Family!  She is the BEST!

6) Opening Act – Even at age 64, Jackson Browne has still got it!  Hit after hit after hit.  Tight sound, full vocal range, and every tune sounded just as fresh as they did decades ago.  And to think, this is all still “pre-game!”

5) Showtime – When it comes to live music, my friends know that I am NOT easily impressed, and Jimmy and the Coral Reefer Band were even better than I’d anticipated.  However, throughout the course of the show I couldn’t decide which was more impressive, what was coming from the stage, or what was happening out in the seats.  JB Parrot Heads seem to have an almost spiritual commitment to enjoy the evening, and they do indeed know how to party.  No posturing or pretentiousness or sitting on their ass and texting, everyone is family, interacting casually with their friends and neighbors.  They dance, sing, laugh, smile, hug and do everything they can to have (and share) as much fun as possible.  Big Ed has been to something like 60 or 70 Buffett shows, and seeing all of this I began to understand why.

4) Favorite Song of the Night – Fins!  Practically every song is a blast, but this one was especially fun for me, suddenly everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in Comerica was a choreographed part of the show.  Even the Cops were doing “fins” to the left and right.  On the stage, great interplay between the horns, guitars, keys and drums, with everyone in sight laughing all the way.  How can this not be fun?!?!

3) Favorite Moment – From the beginning of the day until the end of the evening, there were simply too many to list.  It left me feeling a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the life that I have and the delightful things I get to do.  I’m pretty lucky.

2) Saving the Best for Last – It was a great day all around, for all of the reasons stated, and one in particular: I firmly believe that when it all comes down to the pure essence of the moment, it’s not about where you are or what you’re doing…  It’s truly ALL about the PEOPLE with whom you are sharing that experience…

1) I was with My Wife Shari.


Ballenger Park Ice Rink – 1969-1973


Every winter, Ballenger Park was the place to be, so much so that our anticipation and excitement would start building just after Halloween. In our neighborhood, Thanksgiving Day had dual significance; Northern and Central squared off down at Atwood Stadium, and there was ice at Ballenger Park. As an adult I’m overwhelmed with the strong memories of all the things that took place on that simple sheet of ice spread across three tennis courts.

The memories are as diverse as they are endless. I was actually in Flint a couple of years ago and drove to the Park. I immediately saw that the tennis courts, the fence, the buildings, the sidewalk… they are all gone, the entire area now covered with grass. No matter, getting out of the car and venturing onto the grass was like stepping into a time machine. Closing my eyes, I “saw” the green boxes near the street, I heard the music, I smelled the popcorn. Looking through the fence I saw (and even heard) the hundreds of kids, young and old, circling the rink, laughing, playing tag, standing in the middle. I recalled the smiling face of a beautiful young blond girl named Brenda whom I absolutely adored, yet to whom I probably never spoke more than a single word in four years. I think I might have stammered out “Hi” to her a couple of times (we fellas learn young that some girls are simply unapproachable because they are just too pretty, or more accurately, we are just too nervous).

Turning, I heard the announcement to clear the ice, and saw many of the “regulars” lining up at the gate by the small brick building and grabbing snow shovels to help clear the snow from the surface of the rink. Then came the Ice Monitors using special shovels, the “fine-scrapers” to remove the last bits of ice shavings. Of course now the REAL show would begin. All of us kids watched with rapt amazement as a man wearing unbuckled goulashes pushed the small, red “Zamboni” with steam coming out of the front around the rink, resurfacing the ice to a brand new shine. We were never able to figure out just how in the heck did hot water make cold ice??? So many powerful memories.

Never did you get to know so many people so well. It was almost like going to a junior high dance every night for four months. Though I don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt, I do remember experiencing just about every emotion possible: joy, fear, happiness, anguish, elation, grief, rejoicing, sorrow, euphoria, torment, relief, exuberance, tension, love, hate, lust, sorrow, confusion and delight, often all on the same day.

Ballenger Park during this time holds an almost magical place in my memory. As a teenager it was the premier social experience, complicated by the fact that too much of our time was devoted to the pursuit of two of the most important adolescent objectives; look cool and avoid embarrassment. Spare no expense, and go to any lengths necessary. I sincerely believe that if teenagers back then were asked to rewrite the Ten Commandments, we would have shortened them to just those two, look cool and avoid embarrassment, that’s it. And yet, being teenagers, we could never understand why something that seemed so simple would be so incredibly difficult.

All day long we skated, and laughed, and chased each other around the ice. The Park regulars were there almost every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the entire winter. And though the temperature occasionally dropped below zero, I don’t remember ever being terribly cold. That is, until the end of the night when it came time to venture out onto the Dupont sidewalk for the long walk home, with my sister Nancy either two steps in front, or two steps behind me.

At that time in her life, my sister wasn’t much of an athlete, but she sure could skate. Looking back, I recall secretly admiring the way that it seemed to come to her so naturally. She had long hair then, and I remember it flowing behind her as she skated around in her windbreaker. Regardless of the temperature conditions, it seemed like she always wore a windbreaker. Windbreakers were cool, and she was cool. In my big heavy winter coat, I was not. Every winter at the Park we made lots of new friends, fell in and out of love a few dozen times (not with each other of course), had lots of fun, and learned absolutely nothing that might someday benefit us as adults. Given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I would imagine that everyone from that time has their own collection of special memories about Ballenger Park. In addition, I also believe that the Park I remember may be quite different from the one many others remember, and that’s absolutely fine. These are my memories, and I have very much enjoyed exploring and sharing them after more than 45 years. It is my sincere hope that by publishing this collection of memories, I will help others to re-visit their own special (hopefully good) memories about Ballenger Park during that time in THEIR lives.

I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoy!

This is dedicated to Mom & Dad, Benji, Hobbie, Brenda, Clifford, Danny, Danny Ray, Donnie, Jeff, Kathy, Nancy, and Sue. My deepest thanks to all of you for helping to shape that period of my life.

Brown Skates

Ballenger Park was surrounded by traditional blue-collar neighborhoods, and practically everyone who learned to skate at the Park started out by renting skates. Figure skates. 75 cents for brown, $1.00 for black or white. For an additional 25 cents, you could be spared the ridicule that was common to the wearers of the horrible brown skates. Before I earned my own skates, I remember spending the first 10 minutes of many days looking around the clubhouse hoping that nobody cool was there that day so I could save a quarter. Of course then you spent the entire day worrying that somebody cool might show up, and you’d be standing there looking stupid in your brown skates. This in fact happened every day.

HOT Chocolate

At the Concession Stand hot chocolate was 15 cents. Even during the most trying economic times, most kids would try to make sure to always arrive at the Park with at least an extra 30 cents in their pockets. Sadly, since our parents never really explained to us that just because your hands are cold, and your face is cold, and your feet are cold, that doesn’t mean the inside of your mouth is cold. As a result, by arriving at the park with 30 cents, you effectively doubled your chances of scalding your tongue. The burns usually healed by Wednesday.


No matter who you were (even the cool people) you spent the month of December with blisters on your heels. To avoid embarrassment, some of us would put on our Band-Aids at home, only to find them nicely pressed flat in the bottom of our shoes after the walk to the Park. Otherwise, your only option was to put them on while balancing on one foot in the Clubhouse bathroom. For some unknown reason, if your blisters became public knowledge you were not cool. However, there was one exception to this: If your blisters got really bad and started to bleed and you continued to skate as though nothing was wrong, even shrugging your shoulders like “Hey, no big deal” well… you were really cool. Except of course if the blisters became infected and you had to go to the school nurse on Tuesday, then you were just plain stupid.

The Transition Area

The Park is located at the corner of Dupont and Flushing, two busy streets, potentially a dangerous place. However, the MOST dangerous place in the entire Park wasn’t near the street, it wasn’t even out on the ice. It was the Transition Area, where the rubber runners from the Clubhouse met the ice. In order to get on or off the ice you had to navigate the dreaded Transition Area. This was often complicated by the fact that there were usually anywhere from five to fifteen people (most wearing brown skates) either standing around or moving about on a dark wet rubber surface which sloped downhill away from the edge of the rink. I think more people fell in the Transition Area than fell on the ice. The worst part was that no matter what happened, whether anyone was around or not, whether you totally wiped out and fell on your face, or just slipped a little and grabbed onto the railing or the fencepost, by the time you made it into the Clubhouse, everyone inside had somehow already heard about it and was laughing at you.

Falling Down

Though falling down was bad, falling down in front of someone that you had hoped to make out with someday was even worse. However, the embarrassment of falling down was inversely proportional to whatever it was you were doing that led to you falling down. Fall during a double axle toe loop, no problem (except that NOBODY ever even tried that in all the years there was ice at the Park). Fall while walking around in the clubhouse carrying a full box of popcorn, big problem! Fall while skating around trying to impress your idiot friends, small problem. BUT… as a guy, falling down while skating, holding hands with the girl of your dreams… right, HUGE PROBLEM. In fact, if that happened you should just call it a year and wait until next winter to come skating again. Who knows, maybe you’ll change a lot in nine months and nobody will recognize you. Better yet, maybe over the summer your family will move to another state where they don’t have skating, like Brazil.

Tricks – Jokes – Fool Your Friends

As previously mentioned, like all adolescents we spent great amounts of energy trying to “look good.” Of course, as enterprising young Park Kids we quickly discovered that the most expedient way to look good was to make somebody else nearby look… bad. After all, if anyone else around you looked really stupid, you could just stand there doing absolutely nothing, and by comparison, look great!

The Music

Inside the Clubhouse near the fireplace there was a door. Behind the door was the “secret” office. Inside (a place were only royalty ventured) there was a reel-to-reel tape player that played the same music every day and every night, a mixture of 60’s rock and Motown. The same tapes, in the same sequence, over and over and over again. Nowadays they call this mind control. You could always tell who the serious skaters were, because by Christmas, they knew all of the words to all of the songs all day long. You even got to know their order and it became sort of a way of telling time: “Hey man, we’re gonna leave around Sugar Pie Honey Bunch or Cherry Hill Park, but don’t worry, we’ll be back by Incense and Peppermints.”

The Sidewalk

There was often as much action on the sidewalk between the Clubhouse and Dupont Street as there was on the ice. People coming and going, throwing snowballs, checking out who was there, and saying hi and bye. The sidewalk also tested one’s ability early on in life to make tough choices. Suppose your “girlfriend” had to leave early, would you go in to take off your skates and put on your shoes just to walk her from the Clubhouse to the street? Or would you settle for a goodbye through the fence? (Of course goodbye through the fence meant risking being seen in the Beginner Area – more on that later.) For a thirteen-year-old these are tough choices! I mean, you came to skate, not to walk. And besides, usually her parents were waiting for her, and you had to sort of try to sneak in a quick kiss about halfway there, hoping they wouldn’t see you. This was especially a problem if you were glad she was leaving. However, the nightmare really spun out of control if the person that maybe you were hoping to skate with later on (or her friends) just happened to be on the ice and looking toward the sidewalk at that time. Your night came to an end in more ways than one.

The Beginner Area

Along one side of the ice rink was an area separated from the main rink by a rope tied to metal poles set inside metal rims mounted with tires. (Sidenote: this set-up would not exist today since it would generate an OSHA fine equivalent to the entire city operating budget.) This area was the Beginner Skater Area. One was simply not seen in the Beginner Area for any reason! Heaven forbid you should fall while skating near or toward the Beginner Area. Regardless of how you twisted, turned and clawed at the slippery ice, your own momentum carried you underneath the rope and into the Beginner Area. Moments ago you were the fastest, coolest, most styling guy around. Now you’re just a pitiful dork, laying on the ice, in the Beginner Area. Standing over you is some goofy seven-year-old kid wearing 30 pounds of mismatched winter clothing (and brown skates) looking down at you and saying “What’s the matter, can’t you skate?”

Speed Skates

For months I suffered through brown skate anxiety. I didn’t want to be a committed figure-skater, learning jumps and spins (and I really didn’t want to wear pastels and sequins). I had hockey skates for a while, and those were pretty cool, but a hockey skater who isn’t a hockey player is a hockey poser (poser = not cool). So… I decided I just had to have speed skates. Fast, sleek, distinctive… cool! My Dad and I went downtown to All Sports and bought a new pair of Planert Winners for $21. Of course then I had to have skaverts, and a skate sharpening jig. If you’ve ever seen a speed skate sharpening jig then you know it was designed by the same guy who later invented Rubik’s Cube. However, the jig puzzle was only the beginning. I also needed two sharpening stones, and a burr stone, and Three-in-One oil. And rags, lots of rags. Then I needed a gym bag in which to carry around all of this stuff. You’ll recall the original objective of looking cool? Well… while anyone who showed up at the Park with speed skates was sort of cool, if you showed up with speed skates and a jig, AND could put it together right there in front of everyone, well, you instantly became the Teen Idol of that era. Sadly, I have to admit that for some reason it never quite worked out that way for me – I think maybe it was the Longfellow gym bag. Anyway, I thought all this equipment would result in me going faster, which was partially correct. This also enabled me to spend hundreds of hours at home, alone in the basement, sharpening my speed skates.


There eventually came a time when everybody, and I mean everybody who was anybody (even the macho hockey guys) had fluffy colored balls (with bells in the center) tied to their skates. I think then they were called pom-poms. Now they’re called cat toys, and mine were orange and black. Each Ice Monitor had their own distinct color combination, and all of us minions demonstrated allegiance by wearing our idols’ “colors.” Back then our proud parents were happy that we were “fitting in.” However, I’m reasonably confident that today local social services workers would express their alarm at this, calling it “ritual gang behavior.”

“Its Race Time at Ballenger Park Race Track!!”

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, it was Race Time.  The music would abruptly stop, Mrs. Benjamin would make the announcement over the PA and four things would simultaneously unfold:  The regular race “fans” would head for the green boxes; the non-fans would collectively groan and head inside for popcorn and hot chocolate; the ice monitors would start setting up the “track;” and the “racers” would instantly start warming up by tearing around the rink as fast as they could while everyone else was screaming and trying to get the hell out of the way.  This “warming-up” was really just posturing and showing off, but the immediate result was basically an on-ice Chinese Fire Drill.  Fortunately, after a minute or two of dangerous pre-race chaos, things calmed down and you ended up with a bunch of people standing around waiting for Mrs. B to call the first race.

There were all manner of races, beginner’s race, boy’s race, girl’s race, different age groups, etc., and races were anywhere from 1-6 laps.  However, be advised this was NOT the sleek pace-line racing we see today on TV.  No, this was more like roller derby on ice, without the helmets.  I think the sports term “full-contact” was originally coined at the Ballenger Park Race Track.  There was even a backwards skating race, and to the best of my memory, that category was OWNED by a guy named Mark, who eventually left the ice to go onto liquid water fame and fortune.

Anyway, after a while the hockey skaters got tired of always losing to the speed skaters.  Since most of the Ice Monitors were hockey skaters, they changed the race course from the typical 4-cornered oval to the 6-cornered “Christmas Tree.”  For a while, no speed skater won a race, but that was ok because we got to stand around and watch all the hockey skaters crash head-on into each other trying to negotiate around the inside cones.  Once the number of hockey skate racers declined due to bruised knees and concussions, the 4 corner oval returned.  All this effort for the hope of winning so you could proudly swagger inside the Clubhouse to collect your Grand Prize: A free small box of popcorn (with extra salt).

Footnote:  Even though no race “participation ribbons” were EVER given, we all somehow managed to cope with our psyches no worse off than before.  I guess we were just a lot tougher than kids nowadays, which, as Park Kids, we already knew!

Going Steady

I will use the word “relationship” with some trepidation. On any given Saturday, it was not unusual to start a relationship at lunchtime, break up later that afternoon, and have a new relationship that night. Well, for me it would’ve been unusual, in fact having any relationship would’ve been unusual, but for the normal kids it wasn’t that unusual at all. But truth be told, we really didn’t have relationships back then. If you were lucky, you were “going with” someone. Again, in many cases, these relationships often lasted mere hours, or at best, days.

“Hi there, I was wondering if you would like to skate with me?”

“I don’t know, aren’t you going with so-and-so?”

“What? That was yesterday!”

A long-term relationship was one that lasted from one weekend to the next. And if, for some miraculous reason, you managed to sustain a relationship for two consecutive weekends, you were no longer going together, you were married.

Even more interesting was the way these relationships began and ended. Early one evening, you’re just skating around minding your own business when out of the corner of your eye you noticed three or four girls huddled together looking at you and giggling (“oh great, they’ve seen my brown skates!”). You try to smile back, but due to your 2nd degree hot chocolate burns, you’re only able to manage a grimace. Finally, one or more of them comes over to you and says “so-and-so likes you.” By simply saying “OK” you and so-and-so were now “going together” and could avail yourself to all of the associated benefits (and anxiety). That is, of course, until later that night when those very same friends came up to you and said “so-and-so doesn’t like you anymore.” I’m quite certain that each of these “friends” grew up to become attorneys.

Out Back

One of the anticipated benefits of “going together” was that maybe, just maybe, the two of you might go out back! Out Back. Two words that set every hormone-laden male teenage heart racing into the triple digits. Sadly, I was never fortunate enough to get out back. Oh I heard a lot about it, and there were many rumors and unconfirmed reports of how so-and-so went out back with so-and-so and what happened. In fact, one of my buddies said his older brother knew a guy who had pictures! It seemed that by the end of January, everyone had been out back at least once. Everyone that is, except me. That’s OK though, because I’m sure that had I ever attempted to take someone out back, I would’ve been the one person that winter who got caught, or even worse, I would have somehow managed to hurt myself.

Battle of the Bands

Next to the ice rink was a small enclosed structure made of plywood with two picture windows facing the ice rink. Occasionally this “room” would house that night’s contestants in Ballenger Park’s “Battle of the Bands.” Two local rock bands jammed into an unheated wooden box the size of your kitchen. The “bands” would take turns playing “songs,” usually trying to see who could commit the least amount of three-chord malpractice. The winner was determined by whichever band collected the most “votes” from that night’s skaters, votes being that evening’s ticket stub. You voted by giving your ticket stub to one of the two girls standing with a coffee can outside the box in front of each band. As such, the quality of music didn’t really matter much. Regardless of which band played the best (or least worst), the band that had the prettiest girl collecting their votes ALWAYS won. This phenomenon continues to occur today, although it’s no longer called “Battle of the Bands,” now it’s called “politics.”


When the sun went down the floodlights came on. Depending upon how many were burned out, there were anywhere from 12 to 18 colored lights spread around the perimeter of the ice rink. Orange, red, green and blue. The result was that at nighttime on the ice it was DARK! Hundreds of crazy kids careening around on ice wearing sharp metal blades on their feet, in the dark. What a great idea. This must’ve been prior to the creation of Child Endangerment laws. Of course, if you stuck around until the end of the night, there was enough light for you to either get a good start on your Spring Break tan or possibly develop cataracts. Directly overhead hung what had to be six or seven hundred thousand watts of bright white lights. When these lights were turned on at the end of the night, everybody screamed, and, the Ballenger Park ice rink could be seen from outer space.

The Worst Possible Thing

As with all good things, we must recognize that no fun endeavor is without risk. Among the Park regulars, it was generally accepted that THE worst possible thing that could possibly happen to any poor, unsuspecting, innocent teenager was… to have one’s parents appear on the ice… wearing skates! OMG! Even now just the thought of it still sends shivers down my spine. You’re only salvation was that, in time (like over the summer) everyone usually forgot about it… and, well… almost everyone.

Finally, at the end of night, you go into clubhouse and while taking off your skates, you make the mistake of putting your foot down onto the clubhouse floor. Congratulations! You now get to experience the joy of walking all the way home wearing a cold wet sock.

See you next weekend, you’ll all be here….right?

David M Wilson, November 17, 1998                                Copyright 1998, 2016, 2017.