One Diva's Journal of the Skate From San Francisco to San Diego
On November 13, 16 members and friends of San Francisco's women's skating club, the Roller Divas, embarked on an epic skate to San Diego to raise funds and awareness for the victims of domestic violence. As they joyfully departed Justin Herman Plaza to began the long trek, none of the Roller Divas, ranging in age from 25 to 49, had any idea that their commitment to the cause and emotional endurance would be taxed equally as much as their physical powers. Here is one participant's diary of the journey, recorded as one unforeseen event after another unfolded.
Wednesday, November 13
With one RV in front and one behind us, the whole group departed together from Justin Herman Plaza. We were skating on rough surfaces, but traffic wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected, considering we were traveling through the heart of the city. Two slight mishaps occurred right away: one RV's step scraped the side of a parked car, and my teammate Heather bruised her knee on a freak stumble. I figure we have a small quota of such incidents, and I told Heather it's better to get them over with as soon as possible! Energy was high as we all yelled enthusiastically block after block, "Where are we going?--San Diego!--Why?-- Skating against domestic violence!" This became our standard call whenever we passed a visible audience.
Wednesday 5:30pm to 6:30pm
Ann, Heather and I rolled down highway 82, aka El Camino Real, starting in Palo Alto. The hour went by so fast--it's a beautiful night. There were far too many red lights to hold up progress. Skating in our team's first official pace line, Ann got kicked in the shin. Now I'm the only team member not icing an injury.
10:30pm to 11:00pm
The Divas are progressing down state like the little engine that could, each rotation conforming to the one-hour-skate, four-hour-rest plan. Our shift enjoyed an absolutely wonderful skate under the stars. The pavement through Hollister was smooth and then a wide shoulder awaited us outside town. Endorphins were high and we couldn't help bursting into song. Before the hour was up, we'd dubbed ourselves Team Duke of Girls.
Thursday, November 14
3:30am to 4:30am
We had a whole hour of skating with no cars, and we made our best distance yet, 11.1 miles. But these the rough surfaces on Highway 25 would rattle even my RX7, and our feet were tingling the whole way. We encountered some hills, but they are just too bumpy to enjoy. My body is holding up quite well so far considering that I have a full-blown sinus cold and a bruised forefoot from training too hard last week. I'm skating on my old TRS Lightenings because my gorgeous new 5-wheel K2s are still not broken in (I only received them five days ago) and they squeeze my feet painfully. I will give them another chance later this morning.
We just got stopped by the highway patrol because we're tying up traffic on this two-lane section of hilly road. Later: We ended up driving two hours to get to a place where we could skate again without harassment. I hate that we can no longer say we skated the whole way! The good part is that the timing was right for a long and much-needed rest period.
10:00am to 11:00am
In spite of the extra time to rest, I still haven't been able to sleep deep enough to dream--just light dozing. This morning-time roll was a flat but rough ride through orchards, oil fields and pasture land, a tour of the rural territory just south of Coalinga.
We're at the very impressive Buttonwillow truck stop for a fill-up, emptying of RV tanks, snacks and SHOWERS. An overflow accident in the RV toilet sacrificed my towel to the cleanup but I "got sponsored" by the truck stop manager for a replacement. Then, five minutes up the road we had another flood in the head--at least it was clean water! What a fiasco--we lost another half hour. To even out the five teams, Christine from the front RV has joined ours. There was a leadership struggle between the SCRIP guys and our intrepid leader, Anna, and some friction has now emerged between the two RVs.
4:15pm to 5:15pm
We just skated our best leg yet! Team Duke of Girls maintained a tidy pace line past fields of goats and sheep and a pair of chasing dogs--yikes! Should we slow down or speed up? The pavement was so fine, we were almost able to ignore our bruised foot bones and aching backs as we entered the eastern city limits of Bakersfield while twilight fell.
Thursday 10:30 to 11:30
Ann, Christine and I embarked on a climb (who knows where we are!) on smooth pavement. Very soon, we began a long, lovely downslope. I was concerned about haying only one heel brake but decided to take it down to the screw if necessary. When we began ascending a long uphill, we lost Christine who felt too depleted to continue the climb. But Amy and I made an extremely strong showing as we climbed steadily to merge onto Highway 58.
Friday 11/15 7:45am At a Tehachapi Emergency Care facility
The tone of the whole trip is forever altered. Heidi a member of what we've been calling "Team Pocket People," was admitted to the ER during the wee hours this morning after a fall on Tehachapi Summit. There was an icy tailwind and blowing mist as she, Amy, and Pat began to pick up too much speed descending the long hill down the backside of the Tehachapi pass. "Trucks Use Low Gear," the sign at the summit says. First Pat took a controlled fall, then the trailing RV tried to give Heidi a way to grab on and skitch out of trouble while Amy sped by at what must have been close to 40 mph. Screams to stop (Which RV? Front? Back? Both did...) left Amy to ride it out into the darkness ahead. After a brief pause to consider the situation, the lead RV drove up to get her before returning to find Heidi on her back at the roadside, blanketed in sleeping bags and attended by several of the skaters and the SCRIP guys. She had fallen and the RV had rolled over her right leg with both sets of wheels. We backtracked here where the XRAYs showed no broken bones! Amazing! We are now bedded down in the parking lot outside the ER. It is gray and windy outside as nearly everybody snoozes through sunup.
11:30am, Still in Tehachapi
Breakfast was great--eggs and pancakes were never so welcome, and the café gave us a whole banquet room to ourselves. After eating, we discussed last night's events and what we could do to improve RV communications and skater safety. Right now the drivers are having a separate meeting in my RV, but the energy is tense, so Ann and I are browsing in the antique shop across the sidewalk. Bought a little Avon perfume roller skate.
3:45pm, Outskirts of Tehachapi
We're outside town, trying to get the antenna for the new CB radio installed. Basically, we've had a day-long pow-wow to compensate for SCRIP's poor planning: we need cash for gas and food, reliable communication between RVs, and verification that somebody will be able to pick up our airline tickets home before the end of the business day. Anna has taken charge and the women have all grown much closer in spirit. There is more cohesion between the teams in the two RVs now, and likewise, there is more dissatisfaction with SCRIP now that all of us can clearly see the situation. The SCRIP quote of the trip is "It's all taken care of." Yeah, right. We've heard it so often, and so wrongly, we've decided you've gotta laugh or you'll cry.
Later: Due to the mountain range and its threatening weather, we've decided to drive awhile to more friendly geography. Looks like we won't be skating at all today...
6:30pm to 7:30pm, paralleling the Sierra Highway
Yay, we're skating again! The whole team started out just outside of Palmdale and got in our first skate of the day. We all felt a little cautious given last night's events, but soon the endorphins kicked in and we started really enjoying the route through the canyon. I was able to link a half mile of slaloms. We're now skating every four hours due to the reshuffle down to four teams after Heidi's injury.
10:30pm to 12:00am
Forgot to mention earlier, leaving a gas station after The Big Meeting, our RV scraped the fender of a very cherry Mustang, requiring an exchange of auto insurance information. Just one more incident to add to the list. I've stopped counting on the quota system of bad luck to protect us against more. Steve--Mr. Testosterone--has been our driver since then. He entered our RV reluctantly, knowing how we all feel about SCRIP today, but our girl Sam was able to improve his attitude. Later, he did a good job of reporting back to the second RV what the upcoming terrain was like, so they could warn the skaters, a decided communication improvement over last night.
10:30 to 12:00am, Glendale
What a relaxing roll we had on this tour through the outskirts of LA on wide, flat streets, calling out greetings to the Friday night partiers on the street. My team joined Mo, Jana, Wendy and Pat who were having too much fun to stop. It was obvious that everybody felt great. But just as my team got settled into its paceline, Ann and Heather clicked skates and the whole line went tumbling down. I finally had my first (dreaded) pack accident, and though I was unhurt, there were some scraped joints, and both Ann's and Christine's helmets hit the pavement hard. We crashed right in front of a motorist waiting to merge out of a driveway--what a spectacle we must have seemed! Two or three Divas got back in the RVs and the rest of us skated on into the city. It's perfect skating weather and street lights make the visibility great.
Saturday 11/16 8:30 am, Santa Monica, a park
Mmmm. Just had a shower and a bowl of corn flakes with a banana, overlooking a soccer field full of shouting little boys. Some skaters are still sleeping. Late last night, I faintly heard part of a tense discussion about beer and a drug-free trip before things quieted down enough to sleep, about 2 or 2:30am. Was it SCRIP's attempt at making up for the party we missed by not arriving at noon yesterday as promised? Given yesterday's conversations, and the consistent lack of press coverage since we left San Francisco, I sincerely doubt anybody was here to greet us then.
Now it's a gorgeous day and we should be able to attract lots of good attention as we skate down the coast. Being under SCRIP's care is almost over and Dan should be able to meet up with us today. (Later: Yes, Dan's face was a very welcome sight when he showed up just before noon. I gave him a very big hug! It's so great to have a guy in my life who always does what he says he'll do. I'll never take it for granted again!)
The latest chapter in the Divas saga is that the second RV has bad brake shoes. Now we have to find a replacement vehicle, IF that can be arranged, so we've transferred everybody's gear to the one RV.
12:45pm Leaving the park
All able skaters took off together for the roll to the ocean. It was wonderful being able to skate away our tension after another morning wondering how to deal with the latest problems. Just as we pulled out, we heard that our replacement RV was ready to be picked up. Dan is trailing us and filming video to share with the Roller Divas after we get back. After the first skate to the sea, during which I gave the K2's another try, I opted to ride with him to rest my feet for a later shift in my TRS Lightenings. The rental car is a lot less crowded than the RV right now!
3:15pm to 4:30pm
I took an extra shift to skate in the daylight on the Pacific Coast Highway starting from Redondo Beach. It was a juicy cruise with a few tuck and rolls. Took a short break in the crowded RV and then shared another half hour with only Heather because Ann and Christine still have headaches from the pileup last night. I hope never to forget the view of Long Beach Harbor in the twilight as we came around the bend to finish our skate near the shoreline. It was all silhouettes and twinkling lights against an orange sky over an indigo sea. After the day's goal to "just have fun," we're now back to four teams and three-hour rest periods.
Later: The new RV is here. We've been sitting at a gas station awhile getting organized but we still need to find a septic tank emptying location. I rode with Dan once more to watch him get video shots of the Divas as they rolled up PCH into Huntington Beach.
10:00pm to 11:00pm
Due to head injuries and other physical hindrances, none of my team was up for skating when our shift came around, so Jana, who had just finished hers did a double so I wouldn't have to skip a turn or go it alone. The two of us skated side by side on the shoulder from Dana Point through San Clemente. It was a very peaceful night, and people in cars and on the sidewalk called out encouragement as we passed.
Sunday, 11/17 2:00am
When my alarm went off, I got up to a stationary vehicle with even the driver sleeping, so I went back to my bunk and slept in until 6:30. I found out later that all the drivers just ran out of steam. I was sorry to have missed out skating through Camp Pendleton.
7:00am to 8:00am
I skated an early hour that included climbing Torrey Pines hill just north of La Jolla, a personal test I had been looking forward to. What a proud accomplishment! I teamed up with Mo and we stroked steadily all the way up, non-stop. After that, I took a break to change into shorts and my end-of-trip togs, just in case there was anybody to impress at Balboa Park.
Rejoined the long string of skaters in La Jolla and cruised into Mission Beach. We had a glorious roll down the boardwalk, yelling the "Where we going" call all the way. It's a blue-sky day with balmy temperatures in the 70's. We skated on and on, and a few women never took a break since starting with the first group in the morning. Somewhere east of highway 5, I was honored to do a major pull up a long hill on the way to Balboa park, taking over the lead position from Anna, to maintain a climbing pace for the two pro racers and several other powerful women I respect tremendously.
Best of all, before we skated the last mile, all the sick and wounded--including Heidi!--joined the long paceline. We rolled into Balboa Park with absolutely no media fanfare. Thankfully, a handful of SCRIP skaters and family members were on hand to welcome and congratulate us on our efforts. Hugs and tears and more hugs sealed the actuality of the commitment we'd all made so many weeks before. As we all repacked our considerable amount of gear for the trip to the airport, Jana thanked me for the duet cruise we shared last night, saying it was one of the highlights of her trip. Mo gave me another compliment for my pace on the climb to the park. Moments like these and the strength of all the women I skated with touch my heart the most.
These were four days I will never forget and never regret.