On September 26, three women left from Paris for a skate trip across the United States’ famed Route 66. They skated across the country’s diverse terrain for a month, only occasionally renting a car when skating was absolutely impossible. Here’s what happened:
Happy Future for Broken Girls
The 2448 (s)miles project, from Chicago to Los Angeles
With Florence Viala, Angèle Debuire & Elisa Routa
Where did you go on the trip and for how long were you gone?
We left in September from Paris. We took a flight for Chicago where the adventure began. We took our first steps in Illinois. We fell in love with the windy city and with its unique light that pours into the streets differently at every moment of the day. Over the course of one month, we traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles riding on the historic old Route 66. We wanted to discover a new face of this famous road. And actually, we discovered much more.
What exactly is a skate trip? How come you decided to go on one?
A skate trip is not only a very physical trip but a spiritual one. It asks yourself to be strong, to wake up with the smile and the same passion everyday. It gives you very strong calves at the end of the day and reminds you to open your eyes. You have to wink very quickly so that you don’t miss a thing, cause every day will provide you an unexpected beauty from an unexpected place with unexpected people.
Before leaving, I saw this trip as a way to go beyond my limits, to know myself a bit more, to see how I’d react in places in which I wouldn’t have any landmark. I wanted to find myself in unknown situations where I’d have to find enough resources to get up. And I truly found much more: freedom. We often had the impression of living in a movie. We sometimes had to tell ourselves ‘Okay, this is really happening to us right now!’
One night, we stopped in Lebanon, Missouri, at the Munger Moss Motel. We met Ramona, the boss of the motel, a charismatic character of the Route 66. She allowed us to go into the swimming pool even though it hadn’t been cleaned up for weeks. Neon lights gave fluorescent effects to the blue-green water. It was like swimming into a very quiet Las Vegas, in a parallel and friendly world.
We were swimming for an hour or so and suddenly heard police sirens. Three cars came in with a roar. The policemen were apparently looking for someone, knocking at every door. A helicopter was flying very low over our heads. We felt scared, stuck in the middle of this unreal scene in bikinis, waiting for something to happen. Before leaving the motel, one of the policemen reassured us with a deep voice saying “You don’t have to worry ladies.” They left, smiling, leaving us alone with the quiet “Las Vegas” lights. This is probably one of the times we told ourselves: ‘Okay, this is really happening to us right now!’ Haha!
What was the planning process like? Did you make sure that places were “skate friendly” before you went there? Were you looking to explore certain skate landmarks?
To be honest, we didn’t have any plan except knowing the departure point and the destination. We had booked our return flight from Los Angeles so that was the only time landmark we had during this trip.
Most of the time, we tried to go West. That was the only indication we had, trying to follow the Route 66 signs on the side of the road.
We just had a map, notebooks, watercolors and some pens. We wrote directly on the map just to write down where we were, what we’d seen and who we met.
The roads in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma are very broad. They allowed us to have fun and enjoy the space as much as we could. Green and yellow fields surrounded us for miles.
In Texas and Kansas, there are endless roads. Once there, you can easily imagine dark roads that never stop and that lead you to the other side of the world. You feel like you’re riding on a huge rainbow where you can travel during years across every city, every state and every country without ever stopping. With a few exceptions, we heard coyotes and saw tarantulas. That was a special rainbow actually!
In New Mexico, Arizona and California, roads look like huge waddling snakes. It is nearly impossible to skate there. I mean, we had fun trying to go down these hills for few seconds or minutes, working on our bends. But most of the time, we had to stop before falling from a hill 100 meters high.
I remember before arriving in Oatman, Arizona, we traveled across the Black Mountains. There are thousands and thousands of cacti, trees and yuccas looking at you. The landscape looks like the unique sweet atmosphere from Lord of the Rings. There are wonderful mountains as far as the eye can see. But over there, we didn’t want to play, risking our life on four-wheels where yuccas seemed to challenge from above.
Where were you and your crew from? How many of you were there?
We come from France. Florence lives in Paris, Angèle and I live in Biarritz, in the Basque country (South West of France).
We left with three and we came back with three, which is not an insignificant success!
Florence is a journalist-producer for an international financial TV channel in Paris. Angèle is a nurse and I’m a journalist-photographer for surfing magazines.
How long have you been skating?
It’s always a hard question because I don’t really know. I’ve been skating since I was a teenager. I remember spending my Wednesday afternoons in front of the high school. There was a cool skatepark there where we could write on the walls and pretend we were cool.
Did you have a favorite location?
For skateboarding, my favourite location is always wherever there’s no cars, whenever there’s no noise. We have the chance here in the Basque country to have millions of “secret spots,” secret roads where civilization seems an odd word. Every week, we drive our old van and find a new place to stay during two days at least. It generally ends up with us riding a perfect spot, surrounded with forests or ocean, whether it’s in Spain or in France.
I remember one morning on the trip, in Chandler. We woke up at 6 a.m., had a shower and went out. The sun was rising up on this small town of Oklahoma. It was one of the most beautiful lights you can face on a morning. We rode for 30 minutes on this empty road just in front of the Lincoln Motel. This is a wonderful memory I keep in mind. I still can see this unique light if I close my eyes.
Did you notice any differences between the skate scenes in each location?
I’m maybe not a specialist to detect differences between the various skate scenes. But what struck me when we arrived in California was this impression that we truly walked into the birthplace of skateboarding.
Indeed, during our trip, we sometimes felt that people never saw a girl riding a skateboard. People could see we were strangers because of that, you know. I’m sure they probably thought we were even very strange people. They kept asking“But why are you doing this?” Haha. It was sometimes hard to explain and hard for them to understand but it was funny to share our experiences.
I remember in Missouri, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, in Bourbon. People were very nice, very polite and not intrusive at all but clients in the restaurant were still staring at us as if we came from another planet. A man told us“It is not a place to take pictures. It is a restaurant.” This place in Bourbon came out directly from another planet to us because we were not used to seeing such a place, as much as we came from a complete different planet for this guy. That’s the magic of traveling!
On the contrary, when we arrived in California, especially in Los Angeles, we felt this natural passion for skateboarding. As if everybody had a skateboard at home! We finally felt like we were taking part in a movement.
Traveling across USA made us realize Earth is full of contrasts and differences. And that’s why we are richer than anything.
How do you pack for a trip like that? Do you have any travel tips you can share?
Every girl had a backpack with the skateboard on it and the minimum in it. We had more film cameras than panties. So you can imagine how laundry time meant party time!
We learned that wearing the same socks everyday is not a big deal unless you travel with your boy/girlfriend. Haha
There’d be so much more to say, so much to share with you guys. I remember Gary Turner, our very favourite person who made us cry telling us his story. I remember the hundreds of bras hanging from the ceiling in the Elbow Inn Bar. I remember Mark Twain Forest where we found a lost school bus and a wonderful river. I remember those thousands of details that probably made this road trip the trip of our lives.
And we’d like to truly thank Foot Loose Skateboards for their amazing skateboards that were a big part of this trip. And we’d like to truly thank you Korduroy for giving us the opportunity to share our memories and pictures with you.
For more from the trip, check out their Tumblr: http://happyfutureforbrokengirls.tumblr.com
To keep up with Elisa Routa, check out her personal Tumblr: http://elisarouta.tumblr.com