As I’d surfed every day during the week I felt a day off from the waves was called for, but not wanting to miss out on the weather and fresh air I still wanted to be outside. One of my favourite activities is walking, when at home the phrase “who’s up for fresh air” is one that many who know me will fully recognise; however one of the challenges of American urban life is that because there is so much more available space, things are naturally a lot more spread out. So whilst there may be “local” shops, bars and restaurants, they tend to be a lot further away from residential streets and not necessarily grouped together in the manner which a Brit like me is used to. So this presents a problem, whilst I’m happy to walk half an hour or so to the shops, I’m a little less keen then to walk back weighed down with the groceries – you could perhaps call me a leisure-only walker. The solution to me seemed obvious – get a cheap 2nd or 3rd hand bike and use that while here and then either give it away or leave it for other folk renting the apartment to us once I head back to the UK.
I started with the town bike shop where they had a mountain bike which had been traded in the previous week by a local who wanted something else. It was a great bike, it had something like 21 gears, together with disk brakes, suspension and other fancy whatnots and it was also the right size. However, the price tag at $270, which was fair if intending to keep for a long time, but for just 8 weeks was pretty steep – it did occur to me that at that price I could ditch the bike and get the bus instead, but that would beside the point. I did ask about buying it now and then selling it back to him when I leave, which he was game for and suggested a buy-back price of $150, which was tempting, but in the end I decided to move on and look elsewhere.
The US equivalent of charity shops are called Thrift Stores and there are a few of them here in San Clemente on the main street, so it was there I headed next. These places had all the usual things I expected to find in a charity shop – clothes, books, CDs, pictures, DVDs etc… – but were also a full-on Aladdin’s cave of the truly bizarre, e.g. umbrella stands (in this climate, really???), complete bathroom sets (bath, sink, khazi, even bidet – welcome back to the 70s!), other people’s photo albums (perhaps you want to pretend someone else’s holiday snaps are your own?), a TV remote control, only accessory missing being the TV to use it with. Baffling.
There were a lot of discarded sports equipment (many sets of golf clubs, scuba diving gear, beach tennis sets etc…) as well, but a distinct lack of bikes. However the last one I tried had a few parked outside and I thought my luck was in, so I checked them out. The first one had Easy Rider handlebars, which looked pretty cool (Raleigh Chopper, anyone?), but unfortunately had neither seat nor brakes so that dropped it a few places in the ideal candidate list; the next was an 80s style racer with dropped handlebars, bald tires, lots of rust and no gears and this being quite a hilly area and me being a lazy git meant this was discounted; the final one was in really good condition (seat, gears and brakes all present), but was bright fluorescent pink – even the wheels and tires were pink – and although not usually a colour snob (to which anyone who’s seen my wardrobe can testify) I couldn’t bring myself to purchase an object which might cause other road users to double-take and potentially swerve precipitously at me. So it remained unsold.
So that left me without a bike, but still wanting to get out and about. Hmmm, what to do. As I was considering this a couple of dudes coolly swooshed past me on their skateboards – chatting freely, baseball caps backwards, etc… Bing! Now there’s an idea 😊
I got out my phone and googled “reconditioned skateboards San Clemente” and up came a store called Republik of Kalifornia, which happened to be just a block up the road, so ‘twas there that I headed. I explained my situation and requirement (here for 2 months, want to get out and about easily, don’t need anything too fancy, happy to take a trade-in or whatever he recommended) to the owner (Greg) who was really helpful. Having first established my experience level (did a bit as a kid, did a bit on the children’s boards, used to balancing on a surfboard – i.e. very little) he said he was sure he could sort me out with something. From the storeroom he brought out a 2ft board (aka deck) in the shape of a foot and I was about to interject when he said he’d use the wheels from that one and fit them to another deck; and so that’s what he did. He built me a skateboard while I was there, it’s a 3ft deck, with grooved and softer urban wheels ideal for use on road and paths as it just rolls over any stones rather than coming to a shuddering halt and projecting me onto the ground.
(For ‘Elf and Safety conscious readers, I also bought a helmet and wrist protectors.)
So there you have it, I’m now part of the Skateboard Nation, all I’ve got to do is get out there for some urban surfing.
And, yes, it’s ok, you can laugh.