Have you ever charged into a challenge without really thinking it through? Some of the craziest things I did were during my college years, when impulsiveness and immortality often won the battle with my common sense. My dad always used to say “use your better judgment,” but sometimes I didn’t use any judgment at all.
Like the time I rollerskated 38 miles from West Lafayette to West Lebanon, Indiana on a tiny 2-lane country road WITHOUT a paved shoulder, with large trucks blowing air horns as they lumbered around me.
If you’re wondering about the catalyst for this craziness… yeah, it was a girl. I was an 18-year old freshman at Purdue, working my way through school as a DJ at the local Skateaway. I was dating a high school senior named Robin, who I had met at the rink. I would drive the 45 minutes out into the country in my ’71 Monte Carlo to pick her up for dates. One time I jokingly said that if my car broke down I would just skate to her house. She rolled her eyes with a laugh of disbelief and said “Yeah right!”
That’s all it took. Sounded like a dare to me. I picked a hot Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks later and geared up for the trip – black leather skating boots with lemon yellow outdoor wheels, white tank top, gold silk running shorts and matching headband. I strapped on a backpack with a water canteen and a handheld radio for music. I must have looked like a refugee from Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” music video.
I skated outdoors a lot in those days and was in good shape, but I had never skated more than a few miles at a time around campus. But it didn’t matter. All I could think about was the surprised look I would see on Robin’s face when I showed up at her door.
I definitely got some surprised looks along the way, from the cars and trucks who had to pass me, to the small group of locals gathered around the Shell station lobby in Odell where I stopped to fill up my water. They looked at me like an alien had just landed, “Where ya headed son?”
“I’m skating from West Lafayette to West Lebanon and I’m about half way.”
“Uh. OK. I’d say yer half way alright.”
It took me roughly 4 hours to complete the trip. When I finally got there, my thighs were burning from the strain, and sweat was pouring down my reddened face. She opened the door, looked at me and laughed. It took 15 minutes to convince her that it was not a joke, and that I was not hiding my car around the corner somewhere. Instead of offering praise and adulation, she looked a little perplexed and said, “OK… now what?
Now what? Gosh, I don’t know. I had only imagined how surprised and impressed she would be. I had not anticipated the annoyed look on her mom’s face when she realized she would need to drive me home. There was no way I could skate back, and we both had school the next day. Mrs. Andrews and I had a long awkward ride back to West Lafayette while Robin went back to her homework.
So I braved the long, lonely country roads of Indiana, dodging manure trucks and insulting gestures from drivers for what? Had I actually thought it through, I might have thought beyond the “dare” and used my better judgment before I even started. Because I actually did something really dangerous, and all I received in the end… was a short story to tell.
Without a point.