"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

1,000 miles on in-line skates

By on April 23, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Ken and Marsha Neher: A gift that rolled on and on.

by Ken Neher

It started off innocently enough… our 21st wedding anniversary.

There was an overnight stay at Sun Mountain Lodge, where we had spent part of our honeymoon. There was an awesome dinner with an awesome view of the valley below. And then, there was our usually awesome anniversary gift exchange.

I don’t want to brag, but I thought my gift to my wife Marsha that year was absolutely amazing. I had collected 21 rings, one for each of the 21 years of marriage, and hid them in little ring boxes all around the well-appointed hotel room. Each ring was carefully chosen by shape, color stone, or design element to represent a momentous event from each of the last 21 years, and each box contained a little note that told why this ring was chosen.

Her hunt for them was wonderful fun. Her delight in remembering each year’s special event was exactly what I had hoped for. Her gratitude was appropriate for the event.

But it was her gift to me, or should I say us, it turned out, that led down the slippery slope to… dun, dun, dun, daily exercise!

She had gotten us in-line skates, Rollerblades. And, Wenatchee by golly, had a trail, a paved loop trail that beckoned.

We started skating on weekends and stayed many months on the west side of the loop where it was relatively flat and, if something went wrong, you could just dive into the grass along the trail.

We then began to venture across the river to the east side of the loop where we learned to jump snakes crossing the trail and to avoid gravel in summer and leaves in the fall.

We learned where roots had made speed bumps on the trail, and which bridges you had to “step” onto to avoid the lip created by the settling earth.

Eventually, the whole 10-mile loop took us one hour to navigate.

Marsha works nights as an RN at the hospital. In those days I was working from home for an office in Illinois, so work slowed down for me around 3 o’clock here in the West.

My wife and I soon developed a routine. Marsha would get home and go to bed about 8 in the morning. I would wake her up at three and we’d be on the trail by 3:30. We’d skate the entire loop and be home before 5 p.m.

I’d cook dinner while she cleaned up. We’d eat my delicious meal, and she’d head off to work about 6:30 pm. Then I’d go back into my office and finish up for the day. It was a well-oiled machine. But there were rules too.

To skate when it’s below 50 degrees was a no-no. The wind chill was way too cold. To skate when it was over 100 was just crazy. And there had to be cold diet coke waiting at the end or we just might as well not go at all. These were all very important and rarely violated.

Our odyssey climaxed in 2001. February was unusually warm and we actually made our first loop trip that month. March and April were not too wet so we skated often. Of course the wind blew quite a bit like it always does here in the spring, but we were unusually tenacious even when the west winds blew right in our faces.

In June we realized we were skating almost every day. We were wearing out wheels and brakes at a rapid pace.

Summer arrived and it wasn’t too hot that year so, on we skated. Then, sometime in July, Marsha tallied up the 10-mile daily trips. We had covered over 850 miles. What if we could make 100 loops this year? That would be 1000 miles.

That was when we relaxed our strict standards about temperatures and cokes. It was on.

Now every day the skates carried us swiftly through the parks on the west side, past the busy wetlands, over the bridges, and through the wilds of the east side.

Every day we met and enjoyed the smiling faces of other loop users, experienced the glory of the changing seasons, admired the trail art and PUD flower gardens all along the way.

It was a wonder “full” experience. Oh, and the 1,000 miles… no sweat.

So, now that you’ve heard the story, can you settle something? Whose present was better, mine or hers?

Ken Neher and his wife Marsha have lived in a morphing Sunnyslope farmhouse for their entire 40 years of marriage.

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