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As a Downhill Racer, This Fellow Proves a Speedster on His Roller Skates

At one point, James T. LaFave said, he was speeding downhill at 55 m.p.h., which is nothing terrific, except that he was roller-skating in a 50-mile bicycle race from Rosarito to Ensenada.

“I wanted to do something that was a major achievement, something to go beyond my own limitations,” the Laguna Beach resident said of last month’s race. “A lot of people said I would be crazy to do it.”

He was the only skater in the pack. “Is that crazy?” he asked.

Despite the high speeds on downhill stretches, LaFave averaged 15 m.p.h. and went considerably slower on uphill stretches. “I once passed a couple of guys walking their bikes on a uphill grade,” he said.

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LaFave finished his race in 4 1/2 hours, two hours longer than it took most of the estimated 13,000 bicycle riders. “But I beat about 3,000 riders who apparently weren’t in very good shape,” he said.

Part of the race was over rough highway terrain, which ruined his custom-made $400 pair of skates and brought up blisters on his feet.

He carried nutritional supplements in a belt pack and entertained himself with a cassette player and headphones. He wore tights, T-shirt and a helmet.

LaFave hasn’t set a date for his next big test, but he wants to break another racer’s 145-mile roller-skating achievement, which averaged 12 m.p.h. “I know I can do better than that,” he said.

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LaFave left Iron Mountain, Mich., at age 18 with stars in his eyes to become a stunt man. Given his physical conditioning from such activities as snow-ski flying, cliff diving and stunt water-skiing, he figured he would be a prime candidate to be a stunt man. “I’ve always done things bordering on danger. I thought Hollywood was waiting for me.”

He never got a job as a stunt man, noting, “I didn’t realize how hard it was to link up with the right people in the movie industry.”

Instead, he took a job as janitor in a grocery store. “I had to eat,” he explained.

Later, he bought a pair of roller skates and sometimes skated the 7 miles from his apartment to work, an easy run compared to the 30-mile runs he made to train for the Ensenada race.

That purchase and other jobs in skate shops, as well as selling skateboard parts at Orange County swap meets, set him up in his own Galaxy Sports store in South Laguna.

“We don’t sell normal sports equipment, like footballs and baseballs,” he said. “I’m more into selling outrageous sports equipment, like skateboards and roller skates.”

Every so often, Kevin Palmquist of Fountain Valley takes a long bike ride. His current trip may last 5 years and cover the world, according to his mother, Helen Palmquist.

“He’s been gone on bicycle trips that lasted a year,” she said. “But he’s always planned them and has a good time. He’s met some interesting people, and I think that’s why he takes those rides.”

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Kevin, 30, the oldest of five brothers, took his bicycle and flew last week to the Fiji Islands, where he started the ride that will continue in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

“Sometimes, if he likes the place he’s bicycling in, he stays there for a long period of time,” his mother said. “But he

always sticks to his guns and finishes his rides. He’s a good boy.”

She added: “I really miss him when he’s gone.”

The bride and groom were dressed in identical shirts, pants and bowling shoes.

And after Charlene Blakely, 38, and J.R. Rose, 36, both of Costa Mesa, exchanged wedding vows under a canopy straddling lanes 19 and 20 at Kona Lanes in Costa Mesa, both rolled their bowling balls down the lanes.

He left two pins and she left five.

Then they bowled in their regular Sunday night league.

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The Westminster Fire Fighters Assn. looked for a way to get fire safety messages across to youngsters and settled on rulers, which they personally distribute to fifth-graders in public and private schools in Westminster.

“We had 10 fire prevention slogans printed on the back side of the rulers,” said fireman-paramedic Craig Campbell, who was among the firefighters to deliver nearly 1,000 rulers.

“We were told the fifth grade was the age when students started studying measurements,” he noted.

Besides promoting fire prevention, Campbell said, the program was undertaken because firefighters heard that a lack of school funding was forcing some teachers to pay for rulers out of their own pockets. The program will last five years and distribute 5,000 rulers.

The rulers cost a total of $2,000.


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