Our last day in the States was picture-perfect (and thus fits in well with the rest of the trip). We began by skating up and down the Hermosa Beach board walk: On top of the fact that it follows a lovely Pacific Ocean beach, it's super-smooth and really fun and easy to skate. We must've made very high squeeky noises of delight because we walked up to the ocean to discover two dolphins playing in the surf right in front of us. We're thinking that we went super-sonar and attracted them. After splashing around in the waves ourselves for a bit, we went to check out Square Cat Skates. And yes, the fact that Rage runs a skate shop basically ON the beach made us re-evaluate our life choices a little... Today was the perfect end to a perfect trip and if there weren't our loved ones and a very beloved roller derby team waiting for us in Vienna, we might just stay.
Have you ever wished you knew the people who live in refurbished lofts in LA's Fashion District? We certainly have and it turns out we actually do know someone: Malice Munro skated with us for a bit in Vienna before she went on to greater things and the Angel City Derby Girls. Thanks to her (and Herr Zac!), we got to spend our one night in LA with wonderful people and a very friendly cat in a prime location. We made our LA experience complete by hitting rush hour traffic on the way to Sta Ana where we were heading to practice with the Orange County Roller Girls. Our great friend Tease, who visited us in Vienna, had put this great team on the map for us and the notion of skating on a banked track into our heads. So, guess what, the world isn't flat! We were initially somewhat intimidated by the fact that the upper rim on the banked track was higher than we expected. Luckily, though, things were a little easier than they had looked once we got up on the track. The OC Roller Girls "Fresh Squeeze" (that name alone would make us want to be a new skater there!) were very patient in walking us through the basics of life on the banks and it only took about 10 minutes before we felt like we really never wanted to get off the track again. Skating "with" the track was as fun as skating against it was tough on our muscles. So, if anyone in Europe feels like building a banked track, please know that we'd definitely be in line to be allowed to skate on it!
So, life was already pretty much a beach before we hit the beach towns of Southern California: The gigantic Pacific Ocean, white sand, palm trees, and surfboard-under-arm pedestrians instantly put us in a hang-loose state of mind. We headed south to San Diego where some of Anktion's fondest childhood memories are rooted and got to stay in that same neighborhood with Judy who instantly became a great friend to all of us. She guided us around San Diego and was even able to recommend Doyle Park for a sunset round of skating on the first night. As the SoCal Roller Girls themselves phrased it, we "saved the best for last" and joined their practice on our last night in the States. It turns out that playing roller derby outside with a great group of women in southern San Diego really is a great way to finish off our kind of road trip.
We arrived in Las Vegas well-rested after two days of no skating and light hiking in Zion and Grand Canyon national parks. We dropped our rental car off at the airport, met the first skaters there, and even the shuttle chauffeur was already well-informed about roller derby since he had been driving RollerCon participants to the Riviera all day. The dry desert heat and the crazy hotels-gone-amusement-park architecture of Vegas stunned us - so much life in such a dry environment is amazing. We spent an average of 9 hours per day on skates and most of the rest of our waking days watching bouts and talking derby, little time was left for eating and sleeping but the excitement of it all carried us through 5 intense days. We'll spare you the details, instead, here are our top RollerCon moments:
1. All of Smarty Pants' classes (we took three of them) and her unique and very productive coaching style.
2. Stephanie Mainey's eye vision class in which we learned to have eyes at the back of our head and her blocking class in which we learned to hold back someone we could see with those secret eyes.
3. We've never felt as graceful on skates as we did in Dirty Deb Harry's classes; she revived the basics for us by being an excellent and down-right hilarious teacher.
4. We're not quite sure how she does it, but Juke Boxx can take you from barely getting your feet off the ground to jumping three people on the apex in two hours. She also teaches a mean Skatercize class in a can-totally-pull-it-off bodysuit whilst eating pizza.
5. Hurricane Heather makes jam-skating so fun that you don't realize how much you've learned for your derby skating until the class is over.
6. We found out that there are lots of almost magical ways to block that we'd never thought of in The Rev's classes.
7. After midnight, weird white foam begins to form on the Riviera pool and after two days your hotel room will "smell" of derby gear even when that gear is not in the room.
8. Demanda Riot uses the F-word very effectively to describe crotch weight (!), blocking technique, skating styles, and sneaky jammers and you've never really snow-plowed until you've done it Scald-Eagle-style with a lot of chatter and burning muscles. There is no particular reason why we mention these two together ;)
9. 8mean Wheeler's classes are bound to make your head spin: So much useful stuff that we'd never even remotely thought of before and just when you wish you could forget some of it again, you realize how important it all is.
10. Suzy Hotrod is the Justin Bieber of roller derby. She has the better hair and teaches in.an extremely insightful manner with so much dedication to demonstrating skills that she'll drag the mic across the track behind her for half a lap without the insane noise distracting her.
That's it. That's our list. That was RollerCon 2013 minus all of the great people we met, the volunteers who amazed us with their ability to good-naturedly deal with their jobs each and every day, the occasional fatigue, the derby crushes, and the overwhelming sense of community.
Our arrival in Salt Lake City took Hansa's and Zandy's breath away: When a bunch of topless skater boys opened the door to our host's home, they couldn't stop giggling. It took the stench of the Great Salt Lake to bring them down to Earth again: The lake turned out not to be a float-in-the-water paradise but a beautiful yet foul-smelling place where birds go to die. One of the main sources of the salt compounds so highly concentrated here seems to be agricultural run-off. We fled back to the city and were sitting on Colonel's porch watching the sunset when our lovely host came home. By the time Bruiser came over with an air mattress for us and whisked us away to a barbecue (yummy vegan stuff was served by two very cool refs with two very cute dogs), we started to figure out what a nice team Wasatch Roller Derby must be. The next morning (=9 a.m.!) at practice, we were thoroughly impressed by the sheer number of skaters present. Colonel taught an advanced blocking class that was fun and challenging and accessible for all the different skill-levels amongst the 40 skaters present. The practice was co-ed and the dudes were both talented and nice, so we enjoyed that change of routine. We were also really excited to notice that all our skating with different teams is starting to pay off and it's getting easier for us to adapt to skating with new people. After practice, we refueled our batteries at Frisch, a vegan restaurant with a German name (the family's Oma is German) and luckily only had to say goodbye for a little while since we'll be seeing many of the Wasatchs again at RollerCon.
Denver made us feel a mile high and we're not sure whether it was because of the altitude, the prevailing smell of pot or the awesome training with the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls. On top of that, our host Frak Attak made us feel right at home. Not only did she take us to practice and introduce us to the team, she was also our tour guide to St. Mary's glacier in the Rocky Mountains. At 10000 ft, however, after only a 20 minute hike, we were wheazing like chain smokers... And the practice with RMRG that followed was no piece of cake, either. There are some scary (in the best of ways) skaters on that team! So, if you're ever looking to combine altitude training and roller derby, we can recommend Denver wholeheartedly. And the city even features the country's largest brick and mortar roller derby shop "Derbyville" run by Pretty But Ruthless.
After miles and miles of impressive but uneventful driving through prairie landscapes, arriving in Denver was a breath of fresh air. Literally so, because the air is definitely less muggy a mile up and figuratively because by entering this lovely city we had exited the country-and-bible-talk-only radio zone. We headed straight for the Denver Roller Dolls' Glitter Dome for, you guessed it, roller derby practice. We quickly found out that DRD practice has a way of going where it hurts (or of repeating something until it hurts): All the stops, all the directions, and sprints in between. All three of us usually try to avoid that nasty hockey stop to the right, this time, there was no getting around it. Joint suffering was a good basis for team work and we had a lot of fun scrimmaging during the last half hour of practice. Although compared to the fast-skating, hard-hitting silver heads that took to the track afterwards, we did feel a little like we were skating with a learner's permit. And they don't care which direction they have to turn...
Because we liked Nebraska so much we went right back, this time to Omaha. We rolled into the city together with the impressive clouds of a thunderstorm. Thanks to the good directions the Omaha Roller Girls had given us, we were able to easily find their top-secret, underground training location. It's an old roller skating rink which closed 10 years ago and is used now by the whole leage: women's, men's and junior derby. Coach Daisy Mayhem had just returned from a boot camp in Minnesota and brought back some cool drills. We started working on effective speed skating; combined with a lot of small plow stops, this gave us a good workout for our thighs. Thanks to the awesome skater trading cards we got from them, we will always be able to remember this great team!