Rollerblading is what Allysen and I do for exercise and pleasure, a few times a week if our schedules and the weather cooperate. We live near a wonderful bike/recreational trail (former rail line), which gives us a perfect place to skate and a bit of nature. The trail itself is eleven miles long from beginning to end, though most of the time we stick to a wooded stretch that’s maybe three or four miles long.
Lately we’ve taken to naming some of the landmarks along the way. For some reason, they seem more important on the homebound leg, maybe because it’s usually starting to get dark, and we’re getting tired, and we need some sense of progress. So if we’ve made it, say, almost to the center of Lexington, we might stop at what we call the Lexington Wall (not unlike the Wall of Gondor), marking the beginning of a stretch of dangerous territory (bad pavement) leading toward the center. Turning back, we head eastward toward home, and through some pleasant woods—although we must at one point cross the Trollway, a driveway where stern signs warn against trespassing. (Okay, we won’t. No kill us, please.)
It’s smooth sailing for a while, passing wood and field, and then under the Aqueduct, followed by the Mosquito Bench and Mare Scumtatis (or Sea of Scum, a lovely green pond). Once we’ve passed the Great Meadows (its real name!) and survive Bug Alley (bad only at certain hours, thank heaven), we cross out of the Lexington Gates and on through the Borderland that will bring us into Arlington—and into the Dimwoods, a long stretch that can be pretty tricky at twilight, especially when that Chinese restaurant somewhere out of sight fills the air with mind-altering aromas. The Dimwoods Trestle (a former railroad bridge) marks the approach of the eastern edge of the Dimwoods. But that just means we’re about to enter the Forest Perilous—most dangerous stretch of all—where sticks and stones abound (on the pavement) and light does not. Here we slow, and wonder if it’s safer to glide on two skates for greater stability, or continue stroking right-left to reduce the probability of a strike. No way to know.
We steel our nerves, check our pads, and press on. The homeward edge of the Forest Perilous brings us over the Trestle of Noxious Fumes, a bridge that passes near a natural gas facility that seems to vent in our direction periodically. Hold your breath, it’s quick. Finally we break out into the sun again—freedom! But that does not protect us from having to pass the Field of Mortal Combat (which the lesser mortals think is merely the high school football field). We do this without complaining—we laugh at death!—until we are safely away, and on toward home.
So many dangers, so little time. And I haven’t even mentioned the Legions of Fear—the berserker bicyclists who zoom by without so much as an “On your left!” That tale must await another time, another campfire.
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow