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Jack Sisson at the Pacific Ocean

Jack Sisson at Ocean Beach in San Diego

The Highs and Lows of a Cross-country Skater
Jack Sisson talks about his 71 day journey across America

By Planet staff
Aug. 25, 2008

Last week, after 71 and a half days of skating, college student Jack Sisson took off his skates and waded triumphantly into the Pacific Ocean.

He had made it, completing his transcontinental skate across America.

A senior at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, Sisson had started in Yorktown, VA, on June 10, without a support vehicle, his gear carried in a backpack .

After 3100 miles of skating, he arrived in San Diego on Aug. 20.

Along the way, he raised $4300 for Action Against Hunger, a humanitarian group, and attracted the interest of a sponsor, Rollerblade, which offered to match his fundraising dollar for dollar.


Q&A with Jack Sisson:

What was the hardest part of your trip?

The hardest stretch was a 60 mile day between Guymon and Boise City, OK. For about 50 of those miles, the road was a 40 year old chip-seal surface that allowed about two feet of roll per stride on a good patch, hence allowing a painful max speed of about 5 to 6 mph. In addition, I had a 20 to 25 mph headwind, a 1000-foot climb, and 95 degree heat. But hey, at least it wasn't raining!

What was the scariest part?

There really weren't too many scary parts. The two occasions on which I ran out of water with about 10 miles to go on hot days made me a bit nervous. And then there was the 2000-foot drop in elevation over four miles coming out of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a moderately rough road featuring sharp cutbacks and lots of sand.

How did you control your speed on the downhills?

I really didn't encounter too many instances where I had to slow down a lot — thanks, in part, to the usual headwind, grade, and the road quality, but when I did, the heel brake worked just fine.

What was the best part of your trip?

It's hard to choose a best part. In terms of scenery, it's a tie between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico and the 25 miles of skating along the Grand Canyon.

In terms of the experience, the best part was the wonderful people I met along the way.

What would you do differently if you did it again?

I'm not sure I'd change too much. I did hit lots of bad roads, but those seem to be unavoidable in the West

If I were to do another cross-country trip (which I could see myself doing), I'd choose a more northerly route, just to get some different scenery. If I were fundraising on that trip, I'd try to find a way to better reach out to strangers for donations.

Tell us about your skates?

I was wearing a pair of off-the-shelf, 90mm fitness skates, which held up pretty well and did not give me any major problems.

I mostly used Green Matter wheels, which worked wonderfully, though the rubber detached from the hub on multiple occasions on some of the rougher roads. I went through 5 sets of wheels fully, plus half of another and about 4 heel brakes.

Would you ever do something like this again?

I'm going to say, yes. This trip was the highlight of my life so far, and though there are many frustrating things about inline skating across the country, it's something I would definitely consider doing again.

What did you learn on your trip?

I learned that the best way to accomplish things is to take them on in chunks and focus on completing the task immediately at hand without dwelling on the difficulty of the ultimate goal.

I also learned that despite what the news may imply, America is full of kind, generous, giving people who are genuinely interested in contributing to the greater good.

 

Jack's Skate for Hunger web site

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