Planet Interview:

Taking it to the Streets, the Hills and the Pit Bulls

Urban Adventurer Talks About his 25-Year Skate Through the Urban Wilderness of Oakland

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

The annals of inline skating are brimming with fantastic accomplishments.

There's Eddy Matzger's ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro; Chad Hedrick's record time of 57 minutes and 18 seconds in the Northshore Inline Marathon; Sandy Snakenberg's mark of 315 miles for the most miles covered in 24 hours; and Joe Rehana's fresh record of 2900 miles for the longest inline skate.

And then there's TRISTO, Tim's Radical Inline Skate Tour of Oakland.

The Tim of TRISTO is Tim Monroe, an Apple software engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif.

Twenty five years ago, he started skating the streets of Oakland, a sprawling city of 400,000 across the bay from San Francisco.

At first, it was just a way to stay in shape. But eventually, it became a meticulous urban skating adventure with a defined goal: to skate every block of every street of the city, no matter how steep (and there are lots of steep hills in Oakland) and no matter how dangerous (and there are lots of homicides and dog attacks).

A few weeks ago, after many spills and "too many" pit bulls, Tim finally finished his adventure.

We asked him to tell us his story. Here's what he had to say:

Inline Planet [IP]: Tim, can you briefly describe what you have accomplished?

Tim Monroe [TM]: Sure. In a nutshell, I have inline skated the entire length of every street in Oakland, California. That’s officially 831 miles. I’ve also skated all of Alameda, an island town located just to the west of Oakland; that’s another 120 miles. I’ve also done Piedmont, which is a small town entirely surrounded by Oakland (42 miles of streets) and Emeryville, which lies along the San Francisco Bay, just to the west of Oakland (17 miles of streets).

IP: That’s a lot of miles. But why do you say “officially”?

TM: Well, those numbers are the actual combined lengths of all the streets in each city, but of course getting to and covering any particular street is going to require some additional skating. It’s simply not possible to skate only 831 miles and cover all of Oakland. Any dead-end street, for instance, will need to be skated twice (once to get to the dead end, and again to get back out of the street). I would guess that if you added up all the miles I’ve skated in the past 25 years, it would add up to well over 2,000 miles, maybe closer to 3,000.

IP: This quest has taken 25 years? Wow.

TM: Well, not exactly. The idea of complete coverage of Oakland (or the other smaller cities) took a very long time to develop fully in my mind. I originally began skating purely for exercise reasons. (I used to run track and cross-country in high school, but eventually developed some pain in one knee whenever I would go jogging. Skating was a less jarring way to burn some calories.) At first I would suit up at home, go for a spin, and then return home. So every skate began and ended at my home. Eventually I began to set myself particular destinations. Emeryville marina and back. Around Lake Merritt and back. To the top of some hill and back. That sort of thing.

Then it occurred to me to keep track of where I was going. I bought a street map and started marking off the roads I’d covered with a yellow marker. When I say 25 years, I mean that some of the yellow marks on that map represent skating done as long ago as 25 years.


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Tim Monroe Interview


Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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