For the 94th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Steph Falcone. Steph is a 38-year-old inline skater living in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, USA. She work as the Academic Technology Coordinator and Makerspace teacher for a small private school for students who learn differently.

What steps did Pennsylvania take to battle COVID-19 and how are things there now?

I feel like Pennsylvania did a good job shutting down in mid-March. All schools were closed on March 16th and did not reopen for in-person learning the rest of the school year. There’s a total of about 85,988 cases now, but we are trending downwards. A few counties were worse than others, most of those being on the eastern side of PA (closer to NY and NJ, where COVID cases were bad). Things are much better and everyone wears masks in public here. All but one county in PA is in the Green Phase now, which means many restrictions are being lifted. Businesses can operate to 75% occupancy, large gatherings of 250 or more are prohibited, and restaurants and bars are operating at 50% occupancy. We are coming back!

Were you skating during the lockdown?

I was skating during the lockdown, multiple times a week. I mostly did a lot of distance skating. All of the skateparks were closed. I am still skating now. I have actually been able to skate more because my husband has been working from home since February and he can watch the kids (we have two elementary aged children). Sometimes, as a parent, it is tricky to go for a distance skate with the kids. I would go skate in the mornings before work or in the evenings before dusk.

Where were you going out to skate? Where are you skating now?

I was distance skating at the local trail, the Chester Valley Trail, which is about 10 minutes from my house. The trail is about 13 miles in length, so up and back is 26 miles. I didn’t always do 26 miles though. I did wear a mask while skating at first, but then it got too hot. My husband did end up building a nice ledge in our backyard so I could practice my grinds. Now, I’m still skating the local trail and another trail that is further away, called the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). The SRT is more scenic and longer – it is my preferred trail. I’ve been to the skatepark twice since they reopened in June. The local skatepark is called Black Rock in Upper Providence Township.

Is there anything that would make you stop skating?

I would probably stop skating when my body physically couldn’t do it. Skating is such a joy to me and provides peace, almost like a moving meditation practice. I hope I’m still skating when I’m much older, like Slomo! It is great exercise and a beautiful way to see the world. Let’s be honest, it is also just FUN – plain and simple!

Are you doing any cross training?

I’m not really doing any cross training. Do random hikes count? I was training for A2A in Atlanta this October, but that is now cancelled. 

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time?

My kids keep me pretty busy, active mom life over here… We go on walks, hikes, ride dirt bikes, go on bike rides, and swim. I’m also attending online workshops and webinars for the future of education. I usually have off work for the summer, but this summer is different. We really need to prepare for hybrid learning and teaching during COVID-19 in the fall. I’ve managed to finish a book: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. I have three more books on my list to finish this summer too. There is always something going on. I feel like I stay pretty busy. I was able to get away and visit one of my best friends to go for a 9-mile strenuous hike in the Shenandoah Mountains last week. 

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?

COVID-19 has definitely affected my everyday life, without a doubt. I’ve been working from home since mid-March, teaching my students and helping my colleagues navigate remote learning. I’ve also had to juggle making sure my own kids were doing their schoolwork from home and attending all of their Zoom classes. It was very stressful in March and April trying to do my job and help my kids at the same time. Having the entire family home all day has been quite the crazy shift, however, we really do enjoy eating together three times a day. We all adjusted and the dog loved having us home more. We all wear masks every time we go out and I keep hand sanitizer in the car. We have saved a lot of gas money because we are staying home, but I do miss seeing friends and family. We have limited who we see and will probably keep it this way for a bit. I’ve also learned what fancy Scotch whiskey tastes like, where to hide M&Ms in the house so the kids don’t find them, and how well my daughter uses emojis to express her thoughts. 

What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?

My major concern right now is what school will look like for my work and what school will look like for my own kids. We are hoping we don’t go back to remote learning, but I think we will end up back there. I’m concerned about staying safe and not getting sick at school. I’m concerned for my kids and their safety. I’m concerned for our country as a whole with rising COVID-19 cases in various states right now. I don’t think some people are taking it seriously. There have been tremendous health and financial impacts from COVID-19. I’m concerned for my students and the anxiety and stress they are feeling right now. 

How is your local skate community responding?

Where I live, the local skate community is quite small. It consists of our neighbor and a few friends (less than 10). We have skated together in pairs or groups of three, but not often. My not-so-local skate community (in another county) has just recently began meeting up again for their weekly skates. I haven’t attended yet. I still feel a bit apprehensive being with groups of people. 

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” – Alexander Den Heijer.  Skating is my spark and if you are reading this, it is probably yours too. Go skate! Oh, and tell everyone to wear their masks so that WYII can happen!

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