Day 633 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Game on!

Today’s distance / ???????: 22 miles / 36km
Average speed / ????: 12.8mph / 20.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 1h 43m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4161mi plus 280mi (?) / 6697km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a

Hold me back. The world of solo long distance skateboarding (albeit a small world at present) is going to change forever. Behold the longboard touring trailer.

The longboard trailer in action in Redondo Beach, California, USA

The thing works a charm. Uphill, downhill, on the flat, rough pavement, urban skating, the whole lot. All my concerns regarding hauling a loaded trailer behind my longboard have been thoroughly blown into pieces after a 20 mile skate from Redondo Beach to Los Angeles Airport and back.

My average speed on the short skate was 20.7km/h (12.8mph). For this test ride, I was pulling about 30 pounds (16kg). That’s faster than I’ve ever gone loaded down with gear.  This is very, very exciting. In fact, when I was on my loaded touring bicycle, I never recorded a full day of cycling where I averaged more than 20km/h. Granted, today’s ride was more than 50% on super smooth boardwalk, but I was dodging pedestrians and slow bicycles, and it was a headwind on the way home.

The only drawback for my setup is that essentially I am pulling a US$570 trailer. The Rollsrolls deck works a treat (low to the ground, lightweight), but to buy one just for the purpose of a trailer would be a little extravagant, I feel.

The longboard trailer in action in Redondo Beach, California, USA The longboard trailer in action in Redondo Beach, California, USA

So…if you read yesterday’s blog post, you’ll know that I had some serious issues with load stability on the trailer. The trailer wheels at the back were spaced too close together, making the whole setup too unstable. On corners and with sharp carving on the board, the trailer would fall over. Superstar Kirk drove me all over town this afternoon on a quest to find the perfect super-wide truck to aleviate the problem.

Getting some advice from a skate shop in Redondo Beach, California, USA

We visited many speciality skateboard shops on the quest. Shop after shop, we got the same answer. The widest available is 215mm wide. That’s only 30mm wider than the one I had. We were not giving up however, and at last, the last local skateboard shop in Redondo Beach, Surf Skate Smoke, we found what we were looking for. From the first step in the door, it was evident that this was the most unlikely place for us to find what we were looking for.

Various drug paraphenalia lined the glass cabinets and shelves. The air smelt of incense. A couple of blurry eyed guys were in the store dusting the livid couloured glass bongs. Or are they called dongs…I don’t know. Anyway, the closest guy, dark shadows under his eyes, asked what we were after. “A really wide skateboard truck,” I answered.

He showed us a couple of Carve Boards that certainly had wide trucks on them, but the mounting pattern didn’t fit wth my longboard. Then I saw what I was after. A simple, cheap kids’ mountain board. The trucks would fit my board. Massive, wide, thumping great big trucks.

The owner of the store was nearby. I asked if he had any spare trucks hanging about.

“Nope, but you can have the board for $100. That’s cost. The price I paid for it. No one is going to buy the thing anyway.” he replied.

“But all I need is one truck,” I said.

“What would I do with a board with only one truck?” was his reply.

Fair enough, I figured. But I wasn’t going to pay $100 for one skateboard truck that online would have only cost $20. But I was in a dilema. Walk away, and I would still have an unstable trailer. Plans for skateboarding across China with a trailer would be ruined.

“OK, I’ll give you $80 for it.” I offered. $80 for a skateboard truck was not even in the realm of reasonable, but I really needed it.

“I usually sell the board for $190, and I’m giving it to you at cost at $100. So $100 it is, take it or leave it.” he replied.

Time to pull out the big guns, I thought. I gave him the low-down. Give me the trucks for a lower price, and get some exposure on my website, I offered. Guinness World Record, blah blah.

“You see what this shop is? You understand what we sell here, right? Are you sure you want to link to our website?” he warned.

To be honest, I wasn’t keen at all for any association with his website or store. But I really needed the trucks. “Yeah, no problem,” I lied. I wasn’t feeling good about it, but we had exhausted all of our other options for finding what we needed to make the trailer work.

In the end, he gave me both trucks on the board for $60. Thank you to Surf Skate Smoke for your wonderful assistance in making my dream a reality.

Superwide truck for the longboard trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA

We got back to Kirk’s place and fitted the superwide trucks. They worked a treat. Even with hard sharp carving, the loaded touring trailer stays upright.

(Thanks to Kirk Crawford for the pic)

Day 632 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Great idea but…

Nothing quite like leaving everything to the very last minute. We are experiencing some major issues with the trailer at present, and I’m leaving tomorrow night. Ouch. This is going to be a cliff hanger.

Kirk and I made an early start on getting the longboard trailer into shape. We spent most of the morning driving around aquiring the various required parts. U-bolts, nylon webbing, nuts, bolts, washers…once all was together, the construction began.

I couldn’t help but think that the likes of Peter Sanftenburg (Rollsrolls owner and creator) and Dave Cornthwaite (UK Rollsrolls distributor) would be having kittens if they saw us ripping into a Rollsrolls deck, making it into, of all things, a trailer:

The Rollsrolls deck becomes a trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA The Rollsrolls deck becomes a trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA

The Rollsrolls deck becomes a trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA The Rollsrolls deck becomes a trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA

The Rollsrolls deck becomes a trailer in Redondo Beach, California, USA

The reality is, the Rollsrolls deck makes a fantastic trailer. It’s nice and stiff, really lightweight, and being so narrow, it doesn’t get in the way of my foot as I push the front board.

Once we got the whole thing together, I strapped on all my gear. The first impression was not good. As soon as I turned, the trailer flopped over on its side. Even at relatively slow speeds, the trailer was very unstable. The culprit? The rear truck is too narrow. Not wide enough. It’s narrower than the load itself, so naturally even the slightest amount of sideways force is enough to push the trailer off balance. A moderate side wind would even be enough.

Kirk and I decide that what we need is a really wide truck at the back. Like a mountain board truck. If we had a week worth of time to order one of the internet, we’d be fine. Problem is, it is Sunday tomorrow. And I leave in the evening. How to find a shop that sells mountain boards, that has spare parts? It is not going to be easy.

Day 631 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Let the madness begin…

Longboard Larry

Testing the new skateboard and trailer setup in Redondo Beach, California, USA

OK, um…uh oh…what have I gotten myself into…?! Will this really work?!

So, after a long day of chasing visas, buying travel gear, and around-city driving (thanks Donna!), the new board and trailer coupling from Longboard Larry arrived today. It arrived nicely protected in bubble wrap and a tough cardboard box.

New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA

New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA

A wonderfully made board despite the very short time span that Larry had to put it together. This custom project included some very experimental additions. The drop-through truck attachments, and some carbon fibre mudguards essential to long distance skateboard travel; you never know when you’re going to be caught out in the rain.

New Longboard Larry deck unveiled in Redondo Beach, California, USA

“The trailer coupling looks pretty good,” Kirk said as I eyed it up.

Skateboard trailer coupling (Redondo Beach, California, USA)

We both worked slowly, contemplating the potential and possible issues with the whole situation. I mean, a skateboard with a trailer? Who has ever heard of anyone doing that before on a long trip?

Kirk helping with assembly of the new Longboard Larry deck in Redondo Beach, California, USA

“You look concerned,” Donna observed as she came into the room and looked at my face.

“Yeah. I am. There are so, so, so many unknowns here,” was all I could reply. “So many questions.”

One thing was for sure. The coupling setup, a brainchild of Cory Poole and refined by Larry, is a wonderfully solid unit. It has definite potential. Using an industrial nylon ball joint, it can pivot side to side and up and down up to about 30 degrees in angle. It can also rotate, of course. Will it be able to hold up to up to four months of constant vibration, up to 40lbs of weight, all manner of weather conditions etc etc? Only time will tell.

Trailer coupling setup (Redondo Beach, California, USA)

Longboard Larry’s board is phenomenal. An amazingly smooth, comfortable ride. A wonderfully maneuverable board, it was a massive breath of fresh air after being on the very stiff Rollsrolls board for the last four months. It turns tight, has some very nice flex (much more than I’m used to). I noticed the slightly extra weight compared to the RollsRolls, but what the board may lack in its weight, it more than makes up for in being just so much more of a joy to ride. I noticed no difference in ride height, which was a relief, as I had really appreciated the low-to-the ground ride of the RollsRolls. This is going to be a great board.

Testing the new skateboard and trailer setup in Redondo Beach, California, USA

With the trailer (the old RollsRolls board with the skateboard trailer coupling attached), I noticed the extra weight when accelerating. Once up to speed, the whole setup rolled smoothly. The trailer coupling is ingeniously designed to be quick-release by way of a retaining clip. The clevis pin and retaining clip rattle noisily, so Kirk suggested a couple of rubber washers on either side of the coupling to stop the rattling. We’ll sort that out tomorrow.

Testing the new skateboard and trailer setup in Redondo Beach, California, USA

The setup was a head-turner. As I rode the setup up and down the street in front of Kirk and Donna’s apartment, people around stopped and stared. A particularly interested neighbor added his two cents to the situation.

Testing the new skateboard and trailer setup in Redondo Beach, California, USA

I’m excited. Very excited. This just might work. Thank you over and over again to Longboard Larry for taking on this ambitious project. Larry’s commitment to exploring solutions and potential for longboards is impressive.

Kirk and I will work on luggage attachment solutions for the trailer tomorrow.

Day 629 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Video Update!

Here’s the latest video update. Personally, my favourite so far. Shows some of the toughest terrain I’ve experienced so far on the board. Including of course the Guinness World Record breaking moment, and the moment I reached the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy. Those with weak stomachs beware: You will see me naked :-)

Guinness World Record journey video update

(Click on the image above, and the video will begin in a new window in Youtube)

UPDATE: I just uploaded another copy of this video to Vimeo. Much better quality, and you can download the original video. See it here.

Day 628 – USA (CALIFORNIA): A trailer? On a skateboard?

Mmmmmmmm. Fruit. Went to the farmer’s market with Donna today. Mmmmm. Fruit.

Fruit at farmer's Market in Redondo Beach, California, USA Fruit at farmer's Market in Redondo Beach, California, USA Fruit at farmer's Market in Redondo Beach, California, USA

But in more important matters…I’ll be blowed if I’m going to haul 20kg of gear and food and water across China on my back. So I’m going to use a trailer. Let me tell you how this is all going to work…

About four weeks ago, I had the wonderful fortune to meet Karen and John Poole, a wonderful long distance cycling couple. That was on day 581 waaaaaaay back in Texas (shudder). John and Karen’s son, Cory, is a longboarder from way back, and is very active in the long distance skating scene in Oregon, a state here in the US. Cory called me out of the blue one day in the middle of the desert in Texas, and I enjoyed chatting with him. I mentioned that I was considering opening up an invitation to board builders in the US to make a board for my skate across China.

To cut a long story short, Cory mentioned this to Longboard Larry from up in Oregon, and a month later, he is putting the final touches on a new board for me as you read. Also in the works is a coupling device that will attach a trailer to the new board.

The trailer at this stage will be very simple. I will be using my old Rollsrolls deck (the one I have been skating on for the last 7,000km). Haven’t quite worked out yet how I will attach my gear to the trailer. Perhaps attach some u-bolt-like steel hoops to the deck and then use bungee cords…

In any case, this is all very experimental. Cory mentioned someone he knew who used a trailer behind his longboard skateboard, but apart from that I have not heard of anyone else even contemplating this. It is hard to know whether this will improve efficiency or hinder it, but I am fairly sure that with less weight on my back, my body will not have to work as hard.

So, within the next few days I hope to receive the board and coupling in the post, and have a chance to give the whole setup a few practice runs along the beach cycle paths here in LA before setting off to China.

Jolly exciting.

Oh and the Chinese visa. I have no answers. Gonna have to play that one by ear.

Day 627 – USA (CALIFORNIA): And the Chinese Visa Woes Continue…

Nope. Stiff bickies. No 90-day visa application option for you, foreigner boy.

I typed out a full and detailed itinerary of my planned travels in China, included a brief employment summary, a formal letter of request to the Consulate General, and even attached photocopies of newspaper clippings of my journey across the USA. Gave this all to the friendly woman behind the glass at the consulate, and she tried her best to request that I be considered to be allowed to apply for a 90 day visa.

No luck.

Kinda puts me in a pickle.

On Wednesday I will be issued with a 30 day tourist visa for China. Skating across China in 30 days just ain’t gonna happen, mate.


So. My only option, I think, at this stage, I think, is to fly to Shanghai as planned. Once I get to Shanghai, hop on a train to Hong Kong, and try applying for the 90 day visa there. Right now I am trying to get a hold of a real person at the Chinese Embassy in Hong Kong. So far the number I call just gets me an automated message.

According to the automated message, and the Hong Kong Chinese Embassy website, anyone is eligible to apply for a 90 day visa. But that’s what the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles‘s website also said, and it was obviously wrong. Outdated by about a week.
I really need to get a hold of someone at the Embassy in Hong Kong before I go trundling off down there…

Basically, it’s just a whole lot of annoying and frustrating time and expense in the works for me for the next two, maybe three weeks. A lot of chasing bits of paper. With New Zealand and China signing a Free Trade Agreement the other day, I thought the Consulate here in Los Angeles might have been a little more lenient regarding their policies…

Anyway…on a lighter note, I enjoyed hanging out with Kirk and Donna yesterday afternoon. Went for a wander in Hermossa Beach.

Hermossa Beach Pier, Hermossa Beach, California, USA

Hermossa Beach Pier, Hermossa Beach, California

Had delicious sushi for dinner.

Sushi restaurant in Hermossa Beach, California, USA

Watched the sun set. All very Baywatch.

Very Baywatch at Hermossa Beach, California, USA

Day 626 – USA (CALIFORNIA): A touch of the Middle East

Thanks to Mike and Anita, friends of Kirk and Donna, I made it to a church service at The King’s Harbour Church in Redondo Beach this morning. It was a great service, that among other things, introduced some amazing individuals and families working to help the not-so-fortunate in countries in various regions of the world. Among those were two couples planning on going to Northern Iraq.

Iraqi Henna session at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA

They had a very interesting display set up, serving tea and giving henna tattoos in a local Iraqi fasion.

Iraqi Henna session at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA

Kids from church were scrambling to get theirs. Not-so-traditional lizard and spider patterns were a favourite amongst the boys, whereas the girls were more interested in the traditional patterns.

Iraqi Henna session at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA

My host for the day, Anita, got her own henna tattoo…

Iraqi Henna session at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA Iraqi Henna session at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA

A great chance to see what Christians are up to around the world these days.

Overseas missions day at The King's Harbour Church, Redondo Beach, California, USA

On the way home Mike and Anita took me for a short drive up to Palos Verdes, an amazing community way up on the cliffs south of Redondo Beach. two to ten million dollar homes overlooked an amazing sea view above the cliffs. Thank you Mike and Anita for a wonderful morning!

Palos Verdes, California, USA

Day 625 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Looking back

Before I arrived in the US, I emailed a few random people I found by on who had cycled the southern part of the US. I was wanting to get an idea of how feasible skateboarding across the US would be. Among the answers, I got the following answer:

Skateboarding across the U.S.????? I see you already traveled 1,000 miles across Europe and I am sure you faced challenges. However, there may be some unforseen challenges here.
1.) Louisiana roads are poorly maintained and extremely bumpy, I got nerve damage in my hands and would never ride that states roads again. I had 1.95″ tires and extra padding on my handlebars and still had issues. I would say these roads could not be traversed on a skateboard. No shoulders and Tractor-Trailer trucks blowing by at 80 miles per hour. I would hitch hike across to bypass altogether.
2.) The maps from Adventure Cycling leave much to be desired, I made my own route.
3.) There are some areas which require that bicyclists get on Interstate Highways. Generally, it is illegal, there are exceptions when there is no other route, but is ONLY for bicyclists. The laws vary from state to state, but I can guarantee the California Highway Patrol (CHP) will not permit your travel on some of these roads with a skateboard even if there is no other way. And if there is a way, the alternate routes have not been maintained for 50 years. I will include a picture of a road I was forced to ride by CHP in lieu of the highway.
4.) We are coming into winter, and even though you are doing the southern tier, you will have cold weather, I experience near freezing temperatures in New Mexico and it was only October. All of the roads are fenced off on both sides and it can be difficult to find shelter or even a place to camp. I don’t know how far you can acceptably travel on skateboard each day, but stops can be 50 miles or more apart.

On the positive side, you are traveling alone and people are likely to lend a hand if you are in need. I wish you the best of luck but would HIGHLY recommend you get back on a bike.

Hmmmm. He put it very well. Indeed the roads in Louisiana were not too good. Indeed the interstates proved troublesome. Indeed I experienced below freezing temperatures, even snow. But I gave it a shot, and it wasn’t all that bad…

So, some statistics from skateboarding across the US:

  • Began: Key West, Florida (GPS: N24° 33′ 41.47″, W81° 48′ 13.75″) on 7th December 2007
  • Ended: Los Angeles International Airport, California (GPS: N33° 56′ 42.57″, W118° 23′ 9.80″) on 13th April 2008
  • Miles skated: 3435 miles / 5529km
  • Time taken: 3 months 29 days
  • Total rest days: 37 days
  • Total skating days: 90 days
  • Overall average miles a day while skating: 36 miles / 58km
  • Total miles walked: Approx. 10 miles / 16km
  • Total miles in a vehicle: 18 miles / 29km*
  • Wheels replaced: One set
  • Bearings replaced: Two sets
  • Shoes worn out: Two pairs
  • Heaviest pack weight on back: 55 lbs / 25kg (Day 584)
  • Longest distance in one day: 62 miles / 101km (Day 614)
  • Shortest distance in one day: 10 miles / 17km (Day 603)
  • Most vertical gain in one day: 3675 feet / 1120m (Day 606)
  • Toughest day on the board: Day 579 – 5 hours and 38 minutes of hell on super rough roads in Kinney County, Texas
  • Worst fall: Day 585 – Fell off the board at 20mph / 32km/h near Marathon, Texas
  • Favourite US States:
    • People: Florida, Louisiana
    • Food: Louisiana
    • Scenery: California, Arizona
  • Hottest temperature: 104°F / 40°C (Californian desert on Day 613)
  • Coldest temperature: 21°F / -6°C at 7am on Day 593 in Texas
  • Sleeping locations (out of 113 recorded locations):
    • Local households / random people’s houses: 44 nights (39%)
    • Stealth camping/sleeping outdoors: 43 nights (38%)
    • Campgrounds: 10 nights (9%)
    • Hotel / Motel: 7 nights (6%)
    • Friends’ places: 6 nights (5%)
    • Couchsurfing ( 3 nights (2.5%)
  • Best outdoor sleep spot: Hall’s Landing Campground next to Lake Talquin, Florida on Day 534; peaceful, dry, relaxing, and free.
  • Worst outdoor sleep spot: Under Indian Key Channel Bridge in the Florida Keys on Day 506; biting ants and cramped, damp concrete spot to sleep (or not sleep, as the case was).
  • Most Amazing Sight: The Glamis Sand Dunes in southern California on Day 614.
  • Most Dangerous Situation: Being only a foot away from an oversize truck traveling at 100km/h (60mph) carrying a house (I-10 Freeway near Deming, New Mexico).
  • Weirdest Request: Asked by a male Florida Department of Transportation employee (he pulled up beside me in a work vehicle) to come home with him that night to engage in questionable activities together.
  • Weirdest Food: Cajun Style Boiled Dove in Mamou, Louisiana on Day 557. Despite the weird-factor, it was very delicious.
  • Most Larger-Than-Life Characters Met: Winston and Jimmy in Chival, Florida on Day 525. Stories of real-life gangsters and the good old days of the liqour trade.
  • Records broken: 4
    • Guinness World Record™ for the Longest Journey By Skateboard (formerly 3,618 miles) †
    • First Person to Skateboard Across the US Solo and Unassisted**
    • Longest Distance Skateboarded Solo and Unassisted (now 4419 miles / 7,111km)**
    • Most Countries Skateboarded Through‡

* On I-10 Limited Access Freeway from B10 Campground in Quartzsite (AZ) to Posten Rd in Ehrenburg (AZ) on Day 613 – March 24th 2008. Does not include non-essential local travel (errands around town etc).

† Only this one is a real record.

** No support vehicles.

‡ Seven countries (Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, England, British Virgin Islands, United States of America).