I’ve Had Way Too Many Hobbies Over the Years

I love hobbies. After all, traveling and mountain biking are the reason I created this blog. Sure, I sometimes write about other things (especially electric cars with increased regularity in recent years).

I’ve largely stuck to my main topics. Now, I’d like to drop something in here to frame who’s writing all this stuff. The overall content here will remain focused — this is just a little something to shake it up. I plan to do this more, while still retaining my original focus.

Today, I’ll tell you about the other stuff that’s interested me over the years … how I started, how far I took it, why I don’t do it anymore, that sort of stuff.

If any of these activities make you say “wow, I’d really like to try that!”, feel free to hit me up to learn more about it. It might turn into a future post.

A Hockey Kid in 80s Arizona

Growing up, I was non-athletic. I had no instincts for any of the typical American kid sports. Then some acquaintance of my mom’s brought a bunch of old hockey equipment over. We’re talking old-school wooden sticks, real rubber pucks, even goalie gear — all the ancient Cooper stuff that you’d recognize if you ever watched Slapshot.

For some reason, my hands knew exactly what to do with every bit of this equipment. Snapping a wrist shot was as natural as breathing. The catch glove and blocker made complete sense to me.

I could go on about this at length. But I’ll keep it short. I wanted to play hockey, but that was in short supply in Arizona. And I knew my parents wouldn’t be up for the effort required to put me on the ice. So I just had floor hockey at school, which was the one time in PE classes when I got picked first for anything.

The ASU Blade Devils circa 1993. Check out my old deer hair-stuffed goalie pads. Old school!

Well, I started playing floor hockey during my freshman year of college as a goalie. I caught the attention of the Arizona State University Blade Devils in-line hockey club, which meant I needed to learn how to use in-line skates. An intense boot camp with a classmate got me ready. And I just got it. I had help from more experienced teammates to help me fill in the gaps formed by growing up in Arizona instead of Michigan, but I caught up quickly.

For a period of about 10 years, I was The Guy in goal. Local teams bribed me with free equipment and PowerBars to fill in for their goalies and play in tournaments. Other goalies would groan “oh, no” when I showed up to play their team.

The later days of my time as an ASU Blade Devils goalie.

I still love hockey. But it conflicted with a lot of other things I like doing. And good lord, being a goalie makes you smell TERRIBLE! Roller hockey also fell out of fashion — and ice hockey is even more expensive and has ridiculous game times. So I eventually retired, if you will.

But damn, I still miss the feeling of making a save look effortless or robbing someone of a certain, can’t-miss goal.

A Displaced Curler in the Southwest

Whenever I’ve traveled, people have asked me if I’m Canadian. This includes other Americans.

Well, it’s starting to seem like I just might be. I mean, hockey came to me naturally. And now you’re finding out that I used to curl.

My rink (that’s what they call a curling team) from a beginner bonspiel (that’s what they call a curling tournament).

It all started with a movie called Men With Brooms. Of course, I knew about curling from the Olympics. But Men with Brooms brought curling to a new level for me. My wife found a curling club at one of the local hockey rinks, and we took a learn to curl class.

Eventually, the Coyotes Curling Club moved to its own facility. It became one of the biggest clubs in the western US. I curled for a few seasons straddling the birth of my daughter. She was actually one of the first little people born to the club, if not THE first!

A baby and mom among the curling rocks.

If I ever came into a bunch of free time, I’d go straight back to curling. But crunched for time as I am now, I need to burn more calories with my spare time.

BONUS: My worst injury from my hobbies came while curling on hockey ice. My feet went out from under me, and I came down hard on my side. I’m pretty sure I cracked some ribs.

Cranking Up the Volume

Playing the guitar is a part of my identity. I first started when I was 15 years old after hearing The Scorpions album “Savage Amusement.”

My cousin was my first guitar teacher, and he helped me find a cool used sparkly white Charvel Model 2 and a solid-state Randall halfstack — totally 80s! I jammed in many a garage, but never gigged.

That changed in my 30s, long after I’d slid my last guitar — a red Charvel Model 4 — under my bed. A friend of a friend became my friend, then my bandmate, then a co-best man at my wedding (someday, I’ll tell you about how his pants fell off while giving a toast at the wedding).

My old band, Hung Dynasty, rocking a venue that’s long since closed.

Our band, Hung Dynasty, played close to 200 gigs over 10 years — everywhere from places a karate dojo to the Marquee Theater. And we went from a slightly harder-rocking version of The Refreshments to a band that someone said sounded like “Arizona’s Iron Maiden.”

Hung Dynasty disbanded when our much-loved drummer/flatulence aficionado moved to Colorado. I played in another band, but eventually parted ways with them. I came close to putting another band together, only for the drummer and singer to move out of state shortly before we were gig ready.

This venue? Also closed.

Now, one of the members of that project is working with me to drag some former members of Hung Dynasty back into the fray.

I’d be really excited for my daughter (now 6) to be able to see me play a few of her favorite tunes. CUTE BONUS OBSERVATION: For awhile, she was convinced that I was the guitarist for a Finnish band called Nightwish. The guitarist doesn’t look a foot shorter than me in videos, but he is!

Living by the Sword

I’ve always wanted to take up fencing. It just looks cool. There is a fencing club in my city, but it’s neither close nor convenient.

Well, one night while pushing my daughter through the park in her stroller, saw a bunch of brightly colored lights. As I got closer, I discovered a bunch of people swinging LED-powered sabers at each other. I hesitate to call them “lightsabers” just to avoid the wrath of Disney.

It’s hard to take good photos of people dueling at night. So here’s a little girl with a lightsaber.

As it turns out, there’s a local club for this sort of thing. Some of the people are mostly interested in choreography, while others are more interested in combat (and still others are there for the social aspects).

They had loaner sabers, and I took some basic instruction before trying my hand at dueling.

Pretty soon, I was dueling regularly, though it was nothing like fencing. I favor a two-handed style of combat based on kendo and kenjutsu. The stabbing motion associated with fencing isn’t allowed for safety reasons; groups that wear protective gear allow it.

I’ve had an enormous number of insights about swordplay thanks to club members who have studied various sword-related arts for a long time.

As another bonus, I also got into the “build your own saber” aspect. Now I know way too much about momentary switches, sound boards, LEDs, and wiring gauges! I’m also far better at soldering now than I ever have been, which comes in handy for Halloween decorations and costumes.

I’ve been on hiatus since COVID lockdowns began. But I’ve had my first vaccination, so I fully expect to be dueling again soon.

The Hobbies I Haven’t Mentioned (Yet)

These are just a few of the hobbies I’ve enjoyed over the years. I also played tennis for quite awhile. I’ve practiced yoga since 1999 and have dabbled in various types of weightlifting from CrossFit to HIIT. There’s also the usual reading and cooking stuff that many of us get into as a necessity.

I’m probably leaving some out. And there’s probably a hobby aimed at me that I don’t even see coming right now.

This post just might contain affiliate links. Fear not, they’re non-spammy and benign. Hey, I have to keep this thing running somehow!

By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.

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