Roller Skiing in California

4 Jul

I’m currently sitting at home in Norway, waiting for the sun to get slightly lower in the sky before heading out for a long rollerski trip from the Oslo harbor to the town of Bærum.

My Northern European ancestors left me with pale skin. But sunshine is fickle here, so I shouldn’t complain. In fact there’s little to quibble with. Norway is rollerski paradise. For one thing, while drivers do occasionally honk at you, they are used to sharing the roads with rollerskiers. Nobody gets excited or gawks. Equipment is easy to find. And I’ve found a load of decent routes in the Oslo area, most of which are car-free.

But while Norwegians are a shy lot, they aren’t the sort who can sit quietly and enjoy their terrestrial paradise. Their egalitarian penchant dictates that the less fortunate must be helped to experience as just and harmonious a society as their own. While laudable, manifestations of this tendency can give mixed results. Like last year’s precocious peace prize intended to encourage the U.S. to become a better world citizen.

So, in true Norwegian form, I’ll do my part to help rollerskiers less fortunate than I am. Since I’ve had the opportunity to rollerski in some exotic places (for rollerskiing, that is), I’ll share what I’ve found.

I’m shy about my origins. That is to say I hide my roots like a bleach-blonde. But attentive readers may have figured out that I originally come from Southern California. Last time I was back there I brought my rollerskis along. From my usual landing spot in the City of Cerritos, you can access the San Gabriel River channel that has an rollerskiable bike path alongside it:

Image source: Long Beach Natural Areas

As you can see, it’s anything but beautiful and very flat. However, a nice sea breeze always comes up in the afternoon. That makes skiing cooler and also provides some resistance for better training.

The natives are friendly enough without being a bother. Their reactions varied from “wow that’s really cool” type comments to the standard “on your left”. My normal route is to head southbound to El Dorado Regional Park, which is immediately accessible off the trail. There I would do a few laps around the lakes, benefiting from some tree shade and a tiny bit of uphill.

My other route is to take the Orange County Transit District bus from Cerritos to the Warner avenue terminus at Bolsa Chica State Beach. An ocean front bike path starts there that continues down to Newport Beach. The pavement quality ranges from OK to downright bone jarring, but the novelty of rollerskiing by the sea makes up for that. I didn’t have any issues on the trail itself other than dumb dogs. There’s plenty of those here in Norway. However, rollerskiing to the initial bus stop on suburban Southern California roads drew some incensed reactions from drivers. You can’t really stop to explain that your poles don’t grip on the cement sidewalks. I just tried to hold back from reciprocating finger gestures and so avoid being shot by the violent and well-armed driving population.

Jenex, the makers of V2 rollerskis, lists a few other spots to rollerski in California. It was a shame I didn’t discover rollerskiing earlier because the routes around UC Irvine and West L.A. would have been great during my college days.

Work sent me to Victoria, British Columbia early last winter. The ‘Galloping Goose’ trail on a former rail right of way starts from downtown. The trail has peculiarly glidy asphalt and meanders through a lovely estuary environment.

The natives were friendly and didn’t even seem surprised by rollerskiing. Even though Victoria lies in the snow-free, tropical part of the country, it being Canada probably means anything ski-related can’t be too foreign. Or perhaps they were too polite to say anything.

Work has also recently sent me on two rollerski trips to Granada, Spain. That’s a brave new world for rollerskiing. Even though snow on the summits of the Sierra Nevada was still visible the whole time I was there last May, on rollerskis I stuck out as if I were an extraterrestrial.

The first time I went rollerskiing there, the November before, I stayed in a regrettable tourist hotel located right next to the Alhambra. What a distorted image of Spain I was giving to the busloads of Japanese tourists that saw me climbing the long road up to the Moorish citadel on rollerskis!

In May I stayed in the company apartment. That was on the other side of town. There you’re on a very flat alluvial plain. On the up side there was a small network of car-free cycle paths with high quality pavement.

My normal route was just laps by a river channel:

Image source: Runkeeper

Spain, and particularly Granada, is subject to the dictatorship of the car, making rollerskiing risks even greater than normal. Streets are narrow and full of dense and unpredictable traffic. One exception to this rule was the main road heading up the the Alhambra that I mentioned earlier:

Image source: Google maps

While there was still too much traffic for it to be peaceful, the shoulder was broad and grade was long and mostly straight. Those factors combined made for good training and made me readily visible to the psycho Spanish motorists.

The reactions of the Spaniards were something else. Lost count of how many times I got “Hey cutey pie” / “Hola guapo” as I failed to look adequately manly for their tastes. One the more extreme side, one guy jumped in front of me screaming “Maricon! Maricon! Maricon! ” / “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!” and made a grab for one of my poles. Yes, you’ve got to be brave to rollerski in Spain.

I ended my last trip to Granada with a one night hotel stay in Málaga. While I had my skis with me, I chose to leave them at the hotel as I explored the city. A shame after I found a great route up the ‘Subida a Gibralfaro’ that goes through a wooded park right behind the Roman Theater. Here’s someone’s Segway tour up that road. Turn off the sound to block the annoying whine of the Segway motors and just imagine the pleasant tac-tac-tac of rollerski pole tips:

Málaga is a full Scandinavian ghetto, so I’m sure this route has been done before on rollerskis.

Now that I’ve exposed my secrets, I’ll have to flit off and rollerski in blessed Norway. So to all the intrepid subversives who fly in the face of social pressures to rollerski in weird places I say “good night, and good luck”. Wear a helmet and remember to keep your tips sharp for a good grip on the foreign pavement and for fighting off mad dogs and insaner locals.


One Response to “Roller Skiing in California”

  1. tony bird July 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    built my own rollerskis recently and am enjoying the fresh asphalt on residential streets in the san fernando valley. nothing quite like it–smooth pavement, little or no traffic, lots of elbow room. balboa park also has some decent bike trails, and on hot days i go to santa monica for the long bike trail from sunset boulevard down to venice.

    i’m a carpenter, so i made my skis with a chinese elmwood base, reinforcing the forks with plywood. i’d be happy to send you some pics if you tell me how. the skis are heavier than the commercial/competitive variety, but i like the stability which comes from the weight. i use some old 3-pin bindings and my old leather telemarking boots–also helps with stability.

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