A TO B ROLLERSKI
For most of us, rollerskiing would not be the most obvious choice of sport equipment for crossing the North American continent from north to south. For biathlete Raimonds Dombrovskis, it was the perfect thing to do in the summer of 1988, and it was the longest training run of his career.
Every day, Raimonds updated the number of kilometres he covered on the side door of his VW Bulli. He wasn’t out to set a speed record, and there were no coaches or sponsors who expected a certain level of performance from him. In fact, he and his team were self-sufficient and rather short of cash throughout the entire trip. They kept their heads above water by selling sponsored sunglasses and T-shirts.
Although a 6759-kilometre journey is more a matter of endurance than speed, incredibly high speeds were inevitable on Raimonds’ long downhill runs. On the 1988 trip, after his wheels had been comfortably broken-in, he was able to reach speeds of up to 120 km/h! In 2014, his top speed was just 70 km/h— and even that felt dangerous!
In winter, one of the keys to success in cross-country skiing is choosing the right wax; for training in summer, it’s the right wheels. The wheels Raimonds Dombrovskis used weren’t on the market for long, but they made it possible to complete the trip that consisted of mostly unpaved roads. Unlike in 1988, off-road rollerskis now have brakes. This would have made many some descents 30 years ago much more relaxed.
Today, it’s (almost) unimaginable, but there was a time when it was possible to find your way to your destination without GPS and Google Maps. Before the Internet and smartphones, route planning was,
for the most part, still based on map reading. And thank God, there weren’t too many junctions on the North American highways.
When people asked him why he was going on this journey, Raimonds would always say, ‘When I left, I had no reason. But now I have 100.’ In addition to discovering the captivating landscape of the American West, he became aware of new sides of himself. For the documentary, he repeated the journey again in 2014. ‘Why’ is an actual place, by the way; it’s located on Arizona State Highway 85, not far from the Mexican border.
When his girlfriend’s father bought a video camera in 1988 and suggested that Raimonds document his crazy adventure, nobody knew that the material would be on the shelf for almost 30 years before it would actually be made into a film. After two directors had already dropped the project, Arnis Aspers (lower picture, middle), who had known Raimonds since childhood, finally took the matter into his own hands and put his friend’s story on the big screen.