The Wisdom Of REO Speedwagon: Keep On Rollin’

April 14, 2015

Laced up and ready to go at Roller Garden. (Even the carpet is as you remember it.)

I am not the most coordinated person in the world, especially when it comes to sports that require sliding. Just last month on a mountain in Jackson, Wyoming, I was thrilled to have graduated beyond the tow-rope ski class to the next-highest bunny hill. And, after a few hours of that, I was content to sit in the Four Seasons lobby and sip a latte and read a book while watching everyone zoom down the mountain.

Roller Garden

Roller Garden in St. Louis Park: The site of my recent roller skating adventure.

My ice skating career was even more short-lived. After spending the better part of an afternoon on my butt on a frozen pond back in high school, I never attempted skating again. I’ve lived in Minnesota for seven years now, and I still have no intention of ever hitting the ice again.

But roller skating, I always told myself, was different. As a kid skating in my driveway with neighbor/best friend, Kim, Olivia Newton-John blaring on my boombox, I felt the wind in my hair and was queen of the world. And at the roller rinks of my childhood in Iowa – places with names like The Fox and SkatePark – I relished circling with a disco ball reflecting lights across the floor and occasionally shooting the duck. On roller skates, I was the (dancing) queen of the world.

Last week, at a birthday party with my daughter at Roller Garden in St. Louis Park, I got to experience it again, decades later. It was exactly as I remembered it: the hits from Hall & Oates, REO Speedwagon and Michael Jackson were blaring. The rented tan skates with the orange stoppers and wheels were rolling.


“The Fox” Roller Rink in Camanche, Iowa — site where I first shot the duck.

But a funny thing happened between my “Xanadu” days and now. I forgot how to roller-skate. Not only was it not like riding a bike in the least, but I also felt something I never felt at The Fox: fear. Fear of wiping out and breaking my leg or hip or ankle or getting a head injury. Fear can be paralyzing, but I had a child to impress and teach, so I sucked it up and got out there. And fell immediately — and more than once. In the immortal words of REO, “you got to roll with the changes, baby.”

And all the muscle soreness the next day was worth it because, for a little while, I was able to remember the joy that roller skating brought me as a kid — and share that with my kid. And it reminded me that every now and then, it is healthy to feel fear and just skate right through it.

Maybe I’ll even try skating on ice again next winter. If only I could find a frozen pond with an ‘80s soundtrack and a disco ball.