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!
At sunset we arrived in Holton, Kansas. We learned from the receptionist at our motel that the last foreign visitor came through Holton 5 years ago and came from "a place 1 hour from Denmark". So we're hoping that the people of Holton will remember us for a while, too. Following the good advice of a former Pastor and his wife to avoid American city centers after 10 p.m., we went to the gas station for beer. By observing the locals, we even manged to buy beer in Kansas on a Sunday!
This post is a long-time coming... While Zandy Zunder is all good vibes on the track, technological gadgets generally seem unwilling to follow her guidance... So rewind three days to Tuesday:
It was an unusual day. We didn't skate. Our lovely host and good friend Infinite Justice of the Garden State Rollergirls took us to a beautiful little farm close to Princeton, NJ. We picked blueberries to eat on the road for superpower and Anktion fell in love (see pic of the hottie).
For contrast, we then headed into Manhattan where we finally met our sunshine Hansa so that our traveling group was united at last. We even managed to do what is hard in NYC: We turned heads! On the Staten Island Ferry, a guy approached Hansa to ask whether we play roller derby. We sure do! And our smiles were big when we realized we're now in a country where roller derby is such a big and well-known sport.
Unfortunately, Gotham's co-ed scrimmage that we had planned to attend that night had been cancelled for lack of zebras. But our gear had spent the night in Gotham's warehouse so we got to stop by there one more time and catch a glimpse of the New York Shock Exchange's practice. What can we tell you? Men's roller derby really is stronger than women's; in terms of the smell, that is.
What do you call a large body of water with high waves that you can't see to the other side of? We would normally call it an ocean but in the US it's just a great lake. Lake Michigan offers ocean fun without the danger of salt water or sharks. Flanked by the industry of Chicago on the one side and a powerplant on the other, we put in a beach workout (California style) on our involontary off-skates day. We learned that since every Saturday is bout day, most teams don't practice on fridays. So we headed south on country roads until the sun went down in Kentland, Indiana. The friendly receptionist at our motel informed us that sadly we had just missed country legend Jake Owen who had been there the night before. To console us, she told us that we still had the chance to catch some dirtbike racing, a livestock auction, and the wonderful music of Ashlee T. By the light of the moon and thousands of lightning bugs, we made our way along miles and miles of corn fields to the fairgrounds. Due to the lack of beer and an unanswered desire for a "Mexican potato" we made our stroll around the fairgrounds a brief one. Back at our motel, we feel asleep to the soft sound of rain against the bug screens.
In Cleveland, it turned out that what Glo had said was true, as usual. Burning River is a great team! They allowed us to join their scrimmage practice and between the 3 of us, we skated with ALL THE TEAMS! That was some fast-paced fun!
After a little adventure on the road that Hansa will report on later, we got to scrimmage with the lovely Philly skaters tonight! Next to the great team, we also got really excited about their fun practice space. So excited that we're dead-tired now, so: Good night!
Szilvia and Daryl did us a huge favor by picking us up from practice. We would've probably fallen asleep on the very first train and missed ALL THE STOPS otherwise. On top of that, check out our custom-designed set of wheels!
New York City is hot, people. At Gotham's amazing Brooklyn warehouse with the blue plastic tiles of insanity, someone joked that we were going to do Bikram land drills. We definitely sweated as much as in the hot room and Zandy's comment on Gotham's off-skate training: "Basically, they do the same things we do. Except we don't do them for 2 1/2 minutes."
At this point, it was about 1:30 a.m. according to our inner clocks but luckily the sweat took care of the lingering airplane-cabin smell on us and gearing up gave us a second wind. The latter was devoured by a fantastic practice focused on solid defense with short and effective bursts of offense. During the last half hour of scrimmaging, we swear the blue plastic tiles suddenly transformed from being super-sticky to ice-like slippery... At least, we did get a good up-close look at that floor. A lot. And with the great coaches and skaters and all the things we learned even that was fun! Thank you so much, Gotham Girls Roller Derby for letting this be our first night in the States!
2/3 of the group have made it as far as Penn Station, New York and are getting jacked up on caffeine and sugar in the hopes of making it through Gotham's practice tonight with at least a little bit of dignity ;) In our defense: We're going there directly from the airport...