With the imaginary compass in hand, we set off from a sunny Big Ben on Sunday morning. Oli and Jamie immediately heading in the wrong direction, but after a few minutes we were on track and heading through the busy south London streets, narrowly avoiding buses.Lesson 1: Red means stop.
After a few detours (getting carried away with downhill and missing important turnings) we made it to our first stop, ”Ride the Hill mountain boarding centre”. However, the days skating was not yet over. Shortly after being greeted by Andy Packer there was talk of a sweet spot nearby, so we headed there for an evening session of sweeping downhill.
We awoke the next morning after a cramped and damp nights sleep and began our second leg in the UK towards Newhaven. It was a day of two halves, the first being “one of the greatest days skating of my life” (Jamie), the second being “demoralising” (Oli), with hours of walking to undertake. Our thanks go to the people of Newhaven who are yet to discover speed limits, quiet roads or pavements. Finally reaching the port we headed for much needed pizza, drink and a comfy sofa before rendezvousing with the support crew and setting sail for Dieppe, France. 4am, approximately 15mins sleep (except for Oli and Fi who managed around 3hrs) and 40 miles to skate.
Lesson 2: Do not plan to sleep on a short night crossing.
Thankfully we were greeted by the incredibly smooth French roads which took us to a 35 mile cycle path for the rest of the days skate. We can only describe the path as perfect, smooth as butter, slightly downhill, epic scenery, clear skies and closed to cars, it was so good we made the campsite by 1pm for a much needed kip and ukelele session.
Refreshed by the saving grace of showers, we were ready to push forward for what we hoped would be an easy 25 miles. However with Jamie suffering from heat stroke, leading to some unpleasant projectile vomiting and Fiona’s heels resembling craters on the moon it wasn’t to be the case, throw in 30 degree blue skies, not a breath of wind and you have a day perfect for the pool – not for skating up a whole host of steep hills, but we pushed through with a bit of mental scarring as a result.
Lesson 3: Keep well hydrated and make the most of shade. If possible employ a personal umbrella holder on a segway, failing this, invest in a sombrero.
The 37 miles planned for day five began with a beautiful series of easy rolling hills and some extremely fun pack riding. So we were hopeful that it would be a fairly smooth ride for the rest of the day but soon we hit some mammoth uphills. On the way up a hill you often convince yourself it will be worth it because you know before too long you will be rewarded with a relaxing downhill, allowing your feet a break and your mental state to skyrocket. However around every corner the hill continued to rise and when we finally reached the peak, unfortunately the horrendous pavement still remained. The rough ride down was so slow we had to push, it felt like we were skating a poorly constructed lego hill.
Lesson 4: Learn to kick naturally with both legs (skogging).
Throughout the day we were greeted in the towns by an array of dogs, with most attempting to either maul us or the boards, which one we couldn’t be sure. On the other hand, we did meet ninja dog, an agent of mystery and cunning disguises. He tailed us through the town and when we turned around he would freeze or scurry behind a bush until finally he scarpered once he realised his cover had been blown.
Later, while taking a rest at the side of the road, a man pulled up and began to express his thoughts in French, we can only presume in his angry tone that his words roughly translated into something like “Wow guys you have some sweet boards there and I’m loving the fact you are using them on our roads, good luck with your quest”, and with a polite wave, we parted ways.
On the final day of the push to Paris we once again found ourselves facing an endless amount of snaking uphill, but eventually we came across some sweet flowing forest paths with the occasional cobble speed bump to hippy jump over, leading to an epic view with the first sign of some skyscrapers. The roads and surrounding scenery became more and more reminiscent of a city and using the traffic lights we managed to sneak in some gnarly runs through the Parisian rush hour traffic on steep winding roads, resulting in a considerable amount of shoe being lost. As we went on our tired minds and legs were being pushed forwards by the occasional glimpse of the eiffel tower, as well as free donuts! At last we reached the final approach to the tower, a busy bridge with a nice wide and smooth cycle path which lead us to the end of our journey, lying in a heap below the centre of the tower.
During our weekend in Paris we met up with Lotfi, Loaded’s WoodWalker, along with a few other skaters, who showed us a sweet spot outside the Lourve. We chilled there for the day with rollerbladers, a street pianist and a bubble blower to keep us entertained. There was a fantastic vibe in Paris and it was a great way to wrap up the trip, completing the skate sandwich.
Lesson 5: Skate through the tough times, focus on the good, long distance pushes are hard but for as much as you put it you are rewarded ten fold.
So, go skate that place that takes your fancy, travel with the flow of the roads, don’t let the world pass you by while you sleep on a bus or watch a laptop in the back of a car, destinations are great but the journey is what it’s all about.
Our thanks go to Orangatang, Paris Trucks Co., Skateboard Express, Skate Further, Rolls Rolls, Bastl Boards, Mindless, and Pixeldistort for supporting us, helping us to reach our destination and our target for the charity Canine Partners.