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Days 331 and 332 – SWITZERLAND: Galavanting in Fribourg
6�� 30th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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This weekend involved more cycling than it did skateboarding. On Sunday I had the pleasure of joining the Fribourg ProVelo group for a cycling tour around the area, checking out some of the ancient Roman remains near Lake Murten.

On a ride with ProVelo in Fribourg, Switzerland

A friend of Mirjam kindly lent me a bike for the day. It was one of those funny ones that most people ride. You know, the ones with the little seat that makes your bum go numb? But it was a great day out despite the saddle sores and thunderstorm that pelted down rain and electric bolts from the heavens just as Mirjam and I were beginning the 17km ride back to Fribourg.

Saturday was a great day outside also. Mirjam knows the area well, and we went for a walk through the amazing sandstone gorge that Fribourg has built itself around.

Near the river in Fribourg, Switzerland

Fribourg is a relatively small city. 30,000 inhabitants live in and around the area surrouding the old city. About 10,000 of those are university students.

Old town Fribourg, Switzerland

It was a great weekend spent with Mirjam (a great CouchSurfing.org host). A big massive huge thankyou!

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Day 330 – SWITZERLAND: Resting in Fribourg
6�� 29th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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I spent the majority of today sleeping on the grass in parks around Fribourg.

Fribourg skyscape (Fribourg, Switzerland)

It was a good opportunity for a rest, as I was waiting for my wonderful CouchSurfing.org host, Mirjam, to arrive back from work at 6:30pm. After yesterday’s big effort I was suitibly knackered. My muscles weren’t sore, but I was feeling understandibly stiff. I am much more committed to stretching now; if I didn’t, I think I’d tense up completely.

Energy in Fribourg, Switzerland

So I ate peanuts and watched children expertly dodge each other as they rode bicycles and scooters around the park. At 7pm I met Mirjam – an enthusiastic, open, and well-travelled woman who loves bicycles. Along with some other cycle enthusiasts in the city, she is involved in a new organisation called ‘Pro Velo’. Her organisation promotes the use of bicycles as part of one’s lifestyle.

“Forget the lycra and speedy fasionable bikes,” she says. “Ride your bike to work, to the grocery store. We like to encourage Fribourg to become a more bicycle-friendly place.”

My sentiments precicely. I was more than a little gutted that I wasn’t still riding my bike…

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Day 329 – SWITZERLAND: Lausanne to Fribourg
6�� 28th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories
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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 55.52km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.26km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 4h 32m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 55km
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: +825m
Descent / 下り: -865m

(data above is data from reset approx. 30km into ride)

Well, I thought I’d never make it. Fribourg is 83 kilometers from Lausanne, along the route that I took. It was a tough day, but I made it.

My really big success for today was becoming proficient in pushing with both legs. I do seven pushes with each leg that goes something like this:

push, push, push, push, push, push, push, step, forwards, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, step, backwards, push…

When I have this rythym going, I can skateboard at a faster pace uphill than I could comfortably cycle at on my loaded bicycle; I passed two fully loaded cycle tourists today while going uphill. On the flat, a bicycle can cruise at a much faster pace.

Cardiovascular-wise, skateboarding is much more demanding. If I am switching legs well, then my muscles do not get too tired, but I am breathing much more heavily than I ever did on my bike (with perhaps the exception of the high altitudes in Tajikistan). I do enjoy it though; I am looking forward to my body adjusting to the extra load, and to be able to skate for longer up hill without getting too ‘puffed’.

Hilly terrain for a skateboard (near Oron la Ville, Switzerland)

Typical topography of the lowlands of Switzerland

The downhills are plenty of fun also. With my ‘sail’ out, I maintain a comfortable speed of about 35km/h. Any faster than that and my speedometer doesn’t register the actual speed. I guess the speed sensing unit cannot handle the high revs of the small skateboard wheel. Above 35km/h it just stays at 35km/h. In practise this just means that my recorded average speed and distance will be slightly less than the actual speed and distance.

Another thing I have discovered is that I need to be really careful of bumps and dips in the footpath.

The board bottoms out easily (near Oron la Ville, Switzerland)

This seemingly innocent rise threw me off the board. I instinctively looked around afterwards to make sure noone saw me. Kind of embarrassing…

Due to the fact that I arrived in Fribourg much earlier than I had anticipated, I couldn’t get a hold of my CouchSurfing.org host. I found a nice little barn in a secluded area of Fribourg, near a dam, and slept soundly for the night.

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Day 327 – SWITZERLAND: Lausanne
6�� 26th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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I was a guest speaker at the International School of Lausanne today. Heidi arranged for me to come in at lunch time to speak to students interested in my journey. The small room was packed with about 50 students, many of whom had come to know of me from the reports of other students who had been part of the Village Camps week in Leysin. The presentation was well received.
I left them with this quote:

If you had one shot, one opportunity, to sieze everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or let it slip. – Eminem

I had a very productive day logistics wise also. I figured out a shoe-saving strategy for the big hills, and connected up a speedo to measure my speed, average speed, max speed, distance etc.

The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland

The big shoe saving idea was inspired by a fellow Village Camps colleague, Julian. He suggested I duct-tape a bit of bicycle tyre to my shoe. That would work also, but using a car tyre inner tube seems to be the way to go at the moment. Easy to put on and take off, and doesn’t require any major taping up.

The obvious drawback is that it looks rediculous. No, I won’t be wearing it all the time. It’ll only make an appearance if I am doing any really long downhill stretches. Plus, the ‘parachute’ works very well in keeping my speed down enough that I can jump off the board if neccessary.

Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Now this is the thing I’m most excited about. I have hooked up a standard cycle computer to read the speed of my skateboard. The wheel size is accurately set to 305mm – the circumfrence of my skateboard wheels. I will update this size regularly as the wheel wears down. The magnet that is usually attached to the spokes on a bicycle wheel is screwed into the solid rubber wheel. The sensor which is usually attached to the forks of a bike is attached to the axle of the skateboard. My trucks (the name for the axle part of a skateboard) has very convenient holes in them, which allows me to easily attach the sensor in just the right spot.

I had to buy a new speedo for this. The US$5 one that I bought in Uzbekistan was going strong, but the mount didn’t hold up to the vibrations of the skateboard.

Last but not least today is some exciting news on the sponsor front. Skateboarding protective equipment manufacturer TSG, who are based in Switzerland, have agreed to supply me with a superlight skateboarding specific helmet and some lightweight knee pads. Big thanks to TSG , and I look forward to wearing their gear.

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Day 326 – SWITZERLAND: From Montreux to Lausanne
6�� 25th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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It was a fitful sleep last night. The construction site echoed, bits of plastic flapping and sounding like footsteps in the dark. I woke at one point and saw the silloutte of a small dog sniffing cautiously about an arm’s lenth away. At first light, about 5:50am I made my departure into the day, still tired from the bad sleep.

Moving near Cully, Switzerland

I certainly hadn’t overdone it yesterday, but today my legs were hurting. Perhaps it was due to the large amount of cycling I have done over the last few months, but my calves and thighs were OK. It were those small balancing muscles at my hips and groin that were sore. I figure that they’ll toughen up with time though.

Yummy boysenberries from the side of the road near Vevey, Switzerland

After 30 minutes of pushing, I spied some big fat blackberries on the side of the road, growing wild. They were high up on an embankment, so I only managed to get some of the lower hanging ones. They would tide me through until I got to Lausanne, where I intented to buy some breakfast.

Lausanne is a very hilly city. Not condusive to skateboarding at all. Especially when your groin muscles hurt. I walked up the hills in the rain that had started to fall. No point in pushing too hard yet.

I stopped in at a Migros shopping centre and bought oats, ground coconut, pasta, raisins and peanuts. I have never considered ground coconut as an option before, but it is super cheap, with almost 650 kcal per 100g. Easily digested, and it weighs less than olive oil. Adding a couple of tablespoons of coconut to my oatmeal really bumps up the energy value, and it tastes great.

As I was nearing Lausanne, showers of rain were coming in 20 minutes apart. I would cower under a tree for 10 minutes waiting for the rain to stop before carrying on. Find me a manufaturer of fully sealed bearings for skateboards that are watertight, and you’ll be my hero.

The plan for today was to visit some skateboard shops in Lausanne to find a skate tool (adjusts the various bolts on a skateboard), and to get in contact with Heidi, a teacher from the International School of Lausanne. Heidi had been a teacher with the last group of students at the Village Camps camp in Leysin. Her and her huband live in Lausanne and had offered to let me stay when I arrived.

I found the skateshops (dismally stocked when it came to practical stuff like tools – more about fashion than anything esle), found the tool I was looking for, and got in touch with Heidi.

Heidi and her husband, Alex, took me in and fed me and gave me a bed for the night. A great end to a somewhat tiring day.

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Day 325 – SWITZERLAND: Departure day continued
6�� 24th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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Well that was some good fun!

Slowing myself down in the Swiss Alps near Leysin, Switzerland

I had only got about 15 minutes out of Leysin before I got bored with walking. I got the thin nylon hammock I had bought in anticipation of making some sort of parachute with, attached it to the ski poles I had scrounged off a local ski shop, and put together a makeshift parachute. It worked like a charm. A gentle head-on breeze helped matters, and the extra frontal area kept me at a nice fast running pace much of the way down the hill from Leysin to Aigle.

I was so estatic that I forgot to put my helmet on. I almost regretted that oversight too. At one point the wind blew me off balance. I managed to jump off the board ok, but the board rolled off the road and down a steep embankment. I trespassed into the orchard below and retrieved the board with no other hiccups.

My skateboard dropped off a ledge near Leysin, Switzerland

Cars and cyclists gazed at the fellow on a board. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to skate down that hill. I told myself I wouldn’t be able to skate down that hill.

I skated the heck out of that hill. I can’t wait for my next big downhill…

From Aigle to Montreux it was straight forward enough. I had a head breeze that was sapping my energy for a while, but that soon turned into a nice tailwind just as I was pulling into the beautiful town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. There I slept for a while under a tree and read more of It’s Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong. For the first time on my travels so far I have packed a book with me. It is proving to be essential – getting used to skating again is taking time.

Red Bull can stove going strong on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland

I cooked dinner (pasta with cheese and tomato salsa) on the Red Bull can stove, and watched a storm come up from the end of the valley. By the time I had found a construction site with a dry piece of covered concrete to sleep on, it was belting down with rain.

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Day 325 – SWITZERLAND: Departure Day – towards Lausanne
6�� 24th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: N/A
Average speed / 平均速度: N/A
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: N/A
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: N/A
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: N/A
Descent / 下り: N/A

So today is the big day. Leaving Leysin with a pack on my back and a skateboard under my arm. The first few hours of today will be walking. I am currently at 1,400m in altitude, and the valley floor where the flat cycle paths await is at about 500m. Between here and there is a steep descent. Once I have everything dialed and my ‘air brakes’ fine tuned (stay tuned for details of what they are), I should be able to skateboard down most steep descents. But not today.

I must thank the readers of the 14degrees blog for their honest opinions about the big change in mode of transport.

Thank you.

I will also take the liberty to state how I feel about the ‘validity’ of the change.

For me, this journey from Japan to England is not about the bike. It is not about the skateboard. It is about intentionally putting myself outside of my comfort zone mentally and physically. It is about the freedom of packing up a bag full of stuff, and leaving. It is about exploring. It is about proving right about humanity that which I always hoped to be true – that despite the failings of human nature, humans are intrinsically good. It is about adventure.

I have found all these things and more during my journey. I believe that I will continue to find these things as I continue my journey on a skateboard.

As for the reason behind making the switch, it all began in Uzbekistan about 5 months ago. I was without my bicycle because I had caught a train from where I was staying to the capital in order to visit the Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan embassies (see blog post). I was walking down the street, and it came to me that it would be so much more efficient if I had a skateboard, rather than having to walk. And since a skateboard is small and light, I wouldn’t have to worry about having to leave it outside buildings when I went in.

From those humble beginnings, I started fantasizing about travelling by skateboard. I did some preliminary research, and discovered that a team of three guys had once held the world record for long distance skateboarding, by skateboarding in relay across the US. I then discovered www.boardfree.co.uk. This is the story of Dave Cornthwaite and how he skated the length of the UK and then across Australia from Perth to Brisbane, setting a new world record in the process. These are magnificent achievements of human endurance.

What I wanted to do, however, was combine my love for self-supported travel with the physical challenge and joy of physical exercise. On a bike, you have all you need strapped to the bike. What hasn’t been done before, is ultra-long distance on a skateboard with all one’s gear on one’s back. This is what I have set out to achieve.

I believe that it is possible to skateboard long distances comfortably with a pack on one’s back. I have been inspired by fellow travellers I have met who have been walking for months on end across continents. I look forward to the challenge of travelling by skateboard.

Anyway, I will no doubt expand on my travel philosophies at a later date. For now, I leave you with my luggage.

Skateboarding travel gear laid out in Leysin, Switzerland

Click on the photo to see notes on what each item is, and see the gear overview page for all the nitty gritty, including a nice solid display of gram-counting weight obsessiveness.

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Day 323 – SWITZERLAND: A New Challenge
6�� 22nd, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Switzerland
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I apologise for the lack of posts these past few weeks. Work is on the go, and the last thing I have wanted to do is to type at a computer. My mind has also been occupied with other things…namely the following development in the 14degrees journey:

My bicycle has been sent home.

The past and future of 14degrees Off The Beaten Track in Leysin, Switzerland

That thing on top of my boxed up bike is a skateboard. On it I will skateboard the rest of the way to England. Along the Rhine river it is!

Once in England I will figure out the logistics of skateboarding across North America. If successful, I will be the first person to skateboard across North America solo and unassisted.

I will be carrying all I need to survive on my back in a backpack. It currently weighs about 8kgs without food or water.

Rob has a new mode of transport

For the past week I have been in Leysin, Switzerland. It has been a wonderful end to a great season with Village Camps. I really enjoyed working with the staff, and this week’s students were a definite highlight.

On Monday the 25th of June I will walk down the hill with my skateboard in my hand and my backpack on my back. It will all begin again.

Stay tuned for more info…

To be revealed in further posts:

  • How will I slow myself down on the hills?
  • How will I save my shoes from excessive wear?
  • How will I measure my speed and distance covered?
  • What will I be carrying?
  • What is my route?
  • How did I come up with this new challenge?
  • and much much more…

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