I declined. The reason I didn't buy knee/elbow pads or a helmet when I got my skates 10 years ago is that, at the sporting store where I got the skates, a full assortment of protective gear ran about $80-$100. At the time, I bought wrist/hand protectors for $20 or so, and figured I'd be careful. Well, last few times I'd looked, I hadn't even been able to find those, so I figured it was time for me to address the whole safety issue. Preferably, cheaply. "Wal-Mart sells bikes and skates. I'm sure they sell safety gear for 'em, too."
We roam the length of Wal-Mart, looking for the sporting goods section, and then the breadth of sporting goods, looking for skates, though I figured they might be with skateboard or bikes, too. Turned out they stocked just one item that was anything like what I was like for, and they only had package of it.
This package contained a pair of knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards, in black and tasteful neon green. (No, neon green is not, given a universe fo colors to choose from, my idea of tasteful. However, of bright, highly-reflective colors, it does rank above the other choices, those being neon pink, orange, and yellow. Think about it.)
It cost $10.00.
Ka-CHING! The only thing that really gave me pause on it was the label: "for ages 6 and up." I am upwards of 6, yes, but perhaps more upwards than a size chart would generally consider. On the other hand, I am small for an adult, so, what the heck. It was only $10.
We looked at helmets after that. The one helmet in the skating section looked warm, so we checked out the bike helmets. These were sized "child" (too small) "adult" (too large) and "youth" (also on the large size, but closer). They were ranged from about $20 to $40. I decided not to get one, mostly because I knew we had a bike helmet at home. Lut and I thought it was Lut's bike helmet, and it would be large on me, but none of these fit well either. (Several years ago, Lut bought inline skates, wrist pads, and a helmet on the theory that we could skate together. But it turned out, after a few tries, that Lut did not enjoy skating, and his gear has been collecting dust in the closet ever since.) I rather regretted not fetching the helmet out and trying it on before we left the apartment. For that matter, I regretted not hunting around to see if I could find my helmet, because I vaguely recalled that I got one at the same time Lut did.
As it turned out, I had gotten a helmet at the same time Lut did. It was the one sitting in the closet. We've no idea where Lut's helmet is.
So I now have a full set of safety gear. (In case you are wondering about shin guards -- most inline skates, mine included, go well up on the shin). I'll now be much less safe when I go out skating!
I actually expect that's literally the case. Not that having protective gear will make me reckless, but I've been really risk-adverse when skating so far. Now that I've got a decent chance of being able to take a fall without sustaining serious injury, I'm feeling a lot bolder about taking risks.
To this end, I made plans to do something different when I went out skating this morning.
I live near the top of a slope, next to a big open area that's got a soccer field/tennis court/playground and basketball court in it. It's also got a paved walking track running the perimeter. While the soccer field and the cours are pretty level, there's a lot of sloping grassy spaces between them, and probably about half the paved track is on a downward incline, ranging from 2 to 30 degrees, I'd say, with most of the incline in the 5-10 range. (The really steep inclines are rare.)
But even a slight incline is difficult to slow on when you're skating. Moreover, my typical method of slowing down on a steep slope is to weave back and forth over a wide area. This works fine on an empty road, but it hardly works at all on a narrow track. (The track is maybe 5-6' wide).
In the past, I've stood at the top of this track, looked down at the steep incline, and thought, No way am I skating down that.
Today, I strapped on my pads and my wrist protectors and my helmet, stood at the top of this track, looked down, and thought, No way am I skating down that.
But, I did not turn back to my familiar parking lot. No, I had a new plan.
See, going up a slope in skates is not tricky. It's hard work, but it's safe and easily controlled. It's the down part that's risky.
So I walked down the slope until I got to a nice level section of track, just above the soccer field. (The track, it turns out, loops all the way around the whole area, but it also has a cut-across below the courts and above the soccer field.) Then I put on my skates, and rolled back and forth the level part a couple of times, just to make sure that it was, indeed, flat (on skates, even a tiny slope can make a big difference in momentum).
Then I skated a little ways up the slope, towards the courts, on the south side, before turning around and letting myself roll back down. I skated across the level part to the north side, climbed the slope on that end, and slid back down.
Then I did it again, going a bit higher this time.
On the south end, I felt somewhat less confident about this process. Where the southern slope turns onto the east-west flat track, there're two lines of grass growing up between cracks in the tar paving. The grass had almost no effect on my ability to roll over that section, which surprised me a little. But "almost no effect" is not the same as "no effect". I didn't feel entirely safe coming down the grade at speed, when I had to make an abrupt turn at the bottom and go across this slight hazard.
The north end was better, though even on that side were minor hazards -- a gouge in the tar at one part, and a difference in the paving -- slightly rougher -- over a several-yard stretch. Still, I felt as though I was getting the hang of it, gradually. On the north side, I made it perhaps half-way, or two-thirds of the way, to the top, and past the point of the steepest incline.
Eventually, I might feel like my control is good enough to do a comple circuit.
But that'll be ... quite a while.
One thing I did notice: normally, I don't consider skating good exercise. Skating over a flat area is almost effortless, much easier than either walking or biking.
However, going up a slope in skates is definitely work. After perhaps 20-30 mintues, I was thirsty. And I'd forgotten to bring a drink with me. Again. I gotta remember to bring water when I do this. Plus, I was tired, so I went inside and wrote all this down.
Now I'm hungry. Lut wanted to go to Powell Gardens some time while I was on vacation; it's a nice day now, so I think I'll try waking him up. Maybe he'll make me a fried egg sandwich (mmm) before we go. Or we can get food on the way.