The filth was inescapable. Still, the cement was shady and cool, so this underpass was the location of choice for a brief break from skating, despite the deafening roar of passing trucks. Snacking on potato chips, crackers and days-old cheese, candy bars, and trail mix, the States on Skates skaters had to laugh; this 78-day experience was anything but glamorous.
Some online followers of their 2,800-mile roller skating journey from Florida to California seemed to glamorize the nature of the trip, their impressions influenced by photos of successful milestones, sponsors, and plentiful media coverage, not to mention the glow of neon spandex. To intentionally portray this journey as glamorous would be deceptive, but finding the right words to relate their often ugly reality sometimes seemed the most elusive goal of all.
Journeys of this nature are full of blood, sweat and tears. Any given day is chock full of a wide spectrum of emotions, a broad range of temperatures, and perpetually unpredictable road surfaces: all facets demanding constant adaptation. The motivation for the skaters to push through each day ranged from chasing the next meal to remembering stories of survivors of violence and abuse. The wide variety of unforeseen challenges in this cross-country experience required a wellspring of motivation from which to draw.
The States on Skates team was honored to skate to benefit the Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit that helps survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Survivors shared stories with them of their own abusive experiences, and provided encouragement for the skaters to continue fighting the good fight; their unglamorous journey—all the nitty gritty—provided reciprocal motivation for survivors facing the tumultuous, painful, long-suffering road of healing. So, we kept skating.
With daily challenges aplenty, the States on Skates women sought to find gratitude in the face of each challenge: “At least the road surface is skateable,” “At least the rain keeps the desert cool,” “At least we live in a country where we are free as women to go skate in relative safety.” Relentless positivity was the only way. When one person was down, another was up, and we used the collective efforts to fuel our motivation. Together, we made sure to savor the fun times, pursuing them whenever possible: joking about the hardships, buying ice cream for someone if they fell, reflecting with laughter on ways in which our expectations of the journey had been so far from present reality. We even went so far as to barter our efforts in exchange for “valuables”: “I’ll push your sleeping bag in my stroller for two days if you give me that avocado.” Circumstances were often comical, and we giggled frequently over the fact that our reality was so far from “normal,” and so far from what it might ever be again.
On May 21, 2015, we three women of the States on Skates team who had skated all the way from Cocoa Beach, FL, through eight states, enduring dust storms and extensive exposure to the elements, jumped into the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA. Elated and relieved, we could hardly believe it: by simply choosing to get up each day and skate, we had connected two spots on the globe and made a huge impact for a cause so close to our hearts. Panama Jack served us well as the top sponsor; despite our fair skin, none of the skaters ever had any problems with sunburns, and this incredible sun protection kept us from what would have been a breaking point in the vast, exposed landscapes. We are so grateful for the far-reaching support.
Our goals included fundraising for the Joyful Heart Foundation, raising awareness, and catalyzing the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault. The conversation is happening, and the donations have poured in. The States on Skates efforts have raised over $26,000 for the foundation, and the supportive following of this cause has been immense. If you are inclined to donate, it’s not too late: visit StatesOnSkates.com to give a tax-deductible donation and learn more about this journey of a few roller derby teammates from Colorado who decided to take on the adventure of a lifetime.