<< Back to Main page

For the past couple months, I've been working at a research lab on top of a mountain (at least by Florida standards) south of San Jose. The climb to the top is about a half mile of steep grade; driving down, you can easily reach 80 without once using the gas (assuming you don't break for the myriad hairpin turns). Since the first day I arrived, I've looked at this hill and thought about how much fun it would be to skate down. So the day before the final presentation, I strapped on my skates and started off down the hill.

After some quick mental calculations I decided that this was a profoundly stupid thing to do. Once I reached 10 or 15mph, I would no longer be able to slow down without dropping and rolling for 50 meters, so the only choice left to me then would be to accelerate precipitously until I hit the speed abatement strip at the bottom of the hill. The road was flanked on both sides by barbed wire and then sharp cliffs, so there was no chance of stopping by flinging myself into soft grass. Since it was rush hour, there was a steady flow of cars going down as well as the occasional nut going up; this made it rather difficult to zig-zag to drop speed. For whatever reason, livestock frequently wander across the road; the three little pigs I hit earlier didn't do much to my car, but I'm sure they would have a profound effect on my skates. Periodic gravel from the crumbling rockfaces could also ruin my day if I were to hit it at 30mph.

In the end, I decided that even though this sport would be an incredible adrenaline rush for the first 30 seconds, the excrutiating death to follow would likely damper the fun, so I took a very conservative approach and went through an entire footbrake on the way down; the sport of mountain skating appeals to me, but I'd prefer it if I could find a mountain covered in astroturf and lined with soft pillows to start.