Wheels Put a New Spin on a Favorite Walk
October 12, 2014

There are many ways to get from Morningside Heights where we live to the Upper West Side where we do some regular shopping, and historically, we had varied the approach: walking down one of the signature avenues, cut through Morningside Park and over to Central Park, or strolling through Riverside Park. But with the purchase of some new wheels—specifically Halina’s inline skates—we find ourselves gravitating to Riverside for this journey, and what’s more, making excuses to find reasons to go.  There’s nothing like an 8-year-old on wheels!

Getting Started: If At First You Don’t Succeed

Halina’s interest in trying inline skating came fast and furious when she saw it listed on this fall’s afterschool schedule.  It seemed like a big investment for what could turn out to be a whim, but with the scooter era firmly—and sadly—behind us, we decided to plunge in. Skates that adjust for sizes 1-4, along with the requisite knee, elbow, and wrist pads, cost about $65.  Of course children must wear a helmet as they do with cycling or scootering. 

We got Halina kitted out prior to the onset of the school year, and hauled all the gear up to the General Grant National Memorial to give it a try.  Affectionately known as Grant’s Tomb, the monument has an enormous, tree-lined slate yard out front where we have tried out new wheels (scooters, bikes) in the past. We anticipated a learning curve, but suffice to say that the knee pads immediately earned their keep!  There were some truly rough moments filled with genuine tears of frustration (though fortunately not injury!) but we have to hand it to her, Halina kept trying, and by the end of the afternoon, she could stay upright and roll splay-legged down a gentle slope and into a parent (or, failing that, a garbage can) to stop. At this, she was thrilled, and so were we!  She recanted her vow to drop the inline skate class before it even began, and asked every night if we could go back for more.

Meanwhile, Riley had brought a football and soccer ball and reveled in his favorite activity: trying to kick a ball higher than the highest tree branch he reached last time. 

You Have to Fall Before You Can Soar

Halina began the afterschool class eager to learn tricks such as skating backwards and jumping, but first and foremost, the instructors taught the students how to fall: when you falter and feel unable to recover, drop to your padded knees and put your wrist-guarded hands out front! It was amazing what a difference just one lesson made, in terms of both skill and confidence. Based on what we saw at Grant’s Tomb, we thought it might be weeks (if ever…) before Halina could skate as a means of transportation, but the day after her first class, she felt ready for her first three-mile trek! 

And it was awesome!  With parents and brother all on foot either jogging or urban hiking along, Halina led the charge from the 116th Street entrance of Riverside Park to the River Run Playground at West 83rd and Riverside Drive. She would get way ahead of the laggards who were walking (and pulling the “granny cart” for grocery shopping), then circle back to reconnect.  In this way, she probably covered nearly twice the distance that we did!  And now, with a few of these adventures behind us, we realized that are planning our weekend shopping needs to fit in this trip through Riverside Park.

Maneuvering the city streets on skates—especially in our area of Manhattan, which is named for its hills—is still a challenge, so we bring the skates to the park with us so Halina can kit up there—and so she has her shoes for the stores. We also prefer Riverside to Central Park because cyclists mostly use the lowest level of the park, down by the water.  We stick to the middle level which is largely paved rather than cobbled, like the uppermost level is, because skating on bricks can be treacherous even for now-expert skaters. 

Have your children ever helped you rejuvenate an old favorite walking route?

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