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Published on January 13th, 2012 | by Hurt Reynolds


Vintage Have Derby, Will Travel: January Travelogues

Editor’s Note: Have Derby, Will Travel was Hurt Reynolds’ original derby blog as he travelled across the U. S. and Canada for a year (2006-2007) volunteering for derby leagues and events at a time when derby was spreading like wildfire. January 2007 was the beginning of his journey, so let’s take a look at what was happening in derby in the Western U.S. just 5 years ago!

January Travelogue, Part 1: Seattle

I’ve covered a fair amount of ground since my last detailed post, so I’m going to try to catch up the travelogue over a series of posts. We start with Seattle, covering the time between when I vacated my apartment at the end of December, and when I departed town for good in the middle of the month.

The key lesson for this time period: there is a world of difference between “moving” and “liquidating an apartment”. To keep costs down while I’m on the road, I’d decided early on to move completely out, unload as much property as I could, and put the rest in storage for the duration of my trip. The hard part, ultimately, wasn’t the unloading, so much as it was the deciding. What’s coming with me? What’s more cost-effective to sell, and later replace, than to store? What’s due for straight-out dumpstering? Suffice to say, this took much more time and energy than I’d anticipated.

On Friday the 12th, I attended the Rat City Rollergirls awards party, aka “Derby Prom,” held on board the MV Skansonia on Lake Union. The night was fabulous, the punch was potent, everyone looked stellar, smiles abounded. League and team awards presented that night included some awards based on statistics, others on skater voting.

Another part of the festivities recognized key volunteers and crew who contributed to the league’s success over the course of 2006. In addition to a remarkably enthusiastic round of applause, the scorekeeping crew each received a gift pack including RCRG pint glasses, a league license plate frame, bottle opener keychain (handy!), and the clincher: a skate bag with “RCRG SUPPORT STAFF” monogrammed on the side. How awesome! I’d almost bought a skate bag earlier in the day (you know, for carrying the skates I bought but haven’t really used yet). Definitely felt loved!

Toward the end of the event, RCRG referee Seymore Carnage singled me out for special recognition and a farewell. Aw shucks man. That was too cool. I took the opportunity to present him with the Rat City marshall’s badge I’ve worn throughout my time with the league — I’m confident he’ll wear it honorably!

No, I don’t know why there’s a tiara on my cowboy hat. Some details of the evening remain hazy.


After a full day of recovery, one more Seattle task remained: a final visit to Hangar 27, Rat City Rollergirls’ bout venue. I felt strongly that the miles counter should start there. Besides, my traveling companion Domo-Kun hadn’t yet seen it. We piled into the HaveDerbyWillTravelMobile, tempted fate on the icy grounds of Magnuson Park, and grabbed this picture before we departed town for Tacoma and the Dockyard Derby Dames’ first bout.

Location: Hangar 27, Seattle, WA

Odometer reading: 149,313

Cumulative miles traveled: 0

January Travelogue, Part 2: Tacoma

Location: Skate N Station, Tacoma, WA

Odometer reading: 149,361

Cumulative miles traveled: 48

I departed Seattle on January 14th, heading immediately to Tacoma to help with bout setup for the Dockyard Derby Dames. The league organized this first bout, “Good vs. Evil”, as an invitation-only event to introduce family, friends, and sponsors to the world of modern flat track roller derby.

Like other leagues in western Washington, DyDD has benefitted from substantial assistance provided by skaters and crew from Rat City Rollergirls. During the bout, the Dames specifically recognized DLF skater Ida Slapter and referee Mad Madge, both of whom had been assisting during practices for a period of months, with roses and $100 gas cards. I joined the effort late in the process, in my familiar role: training and coordinating score and penalty trackers.

The bout was held at DyDD’s regular practice space, the Skate N Station. The skaters were nervous about, well, pretty much everything: is there enough time for setup? Will we skate well enough to make a good impression? Will people brave the unseasonal cold and uncommonly slick road conditions? Despite these concerns, the event went off extremely smoothly! As happens at pretty much every league’s inaugural bout, there were a couple of hiccups — the sound system was iffy for music plus announcers at derby levels, for example — these were nothing unexpected, and didn’t detract from the audience’s evident enjoyment.

And the skaters themselves didn’t disappoint. While they haven’t been practicing for terribly long, they’ve definitely seen a fair deal of high-caliber roller derby, and that in itself helps quite a bit. While it may be a few months yet before they’re ready for interleague action, there’s no question that this was roller derby, and it was as exciting to be part of as any bout I’ve attended. Afterward, the league took great care of their volunteers, expressing love via pitchers as a derby league should.


Next stop: Portland, Oregon.

January Travelogue, Part 3: Portland

Next stop: Portland, Oregon, home to the Rose City Rollers — also home to my mother and my sister, and my last real “base” before finally launching into full-fledged road warrior mode. In the two weeks following the Dockyard exhibition, I scrambled to wrap up all the unfinshed business associated with foregoing a real address. My key discovery: “liquidating an apartment” is not the same thing as “moving.” Less obvious than you might think.

I got the main logistics issues settled in time for the event I’d been waiting for: my beloved Rat City Rollergirls’ journey to Portland for a rematch of last July’s local teams exhibition. While Rat City’s teams had performed pretty persuasively in the first matchup, Rose City has kept up an intensive practice schedule through the off-season. When I visited a team practice in their newly acquired dedicated practice facility, they looked extremely sharp, so I knew it was going to be a very interesting night of bouting for these “sister leagues.”

After a busy day of last-minute travel prep tasks, I collected Chica Loca and Dirty Donny (in town from Sacramento) and dashed out to the bout venue, pausing only briefly to catch an incredibly crappy venue picture.

Location: Portland Expo Center, Hall C

Odometer reading: 149,855

Cumulative miles traveled: 542


Wow. That picture really sucks. Domo-Kun wanted me to re-take it, but we we already late, so we moved on. Next time, I’ll listen.

Dashing into the expo hall, we arrived just as the opening ceremonies had started, featuring an amazingly snazzy marching band which included stilt walkers. (I’ve developed a theory that modern roller derby bouts are the 21st century analogue of Vaudeville acts, but that’s a post for another day…) Rose City announcers Rocko Billy and Cat Daddy traded good-natured barbs with Rat City’s Jake the Professor and Randy Pan the Goat Boy, the national anthem was sung a capella, and then came time for the main event.

Rose City gave the hometown fans something to cheer about early, as the Breakneck Betties took an early lead over the Throttle Rockets — and never looked back. The Betties won the first matchup 38 – 34, but this would be the only home victory; Rat City’s teams won each of the three remaining minibouts, resulting in a rematch tally identical to last year’s event: Rat City takes 3, Rose City takes 1.

Score details available in the Recent Scores posting for this bout.

Elwood Bruise offers a very detailed recap on his blog, which I will not attempt to compete with!

Side note: While Rose City has struggled as much as most leagues to secure a suitable practice facility, they’ve had a superb bouting venue since their very first exhibition bout in October 2005. Hall C at the Portland Expo Center offers ample space for the league to set up 15-tier bleachers surrounding their Sport Court surface on three sides, food and beer vending, clean and well-maintained restrooms (though the women’s restroom has capacity problems during breaks), and a massive backstage area.

Transportation is also easy, with good freeway access and light rail direct to the location. The venue accomodates 2800 or more spectators per bout, and Rose City routinely sells out each event. I’ve definitely seen that venue is the biggest hurdle to almost any league’s success. The Rose City Rollers really hit a home run in securing the Expo Center.

Obligatory Expo Center trivia: much of Kansas City Bomber was filmed in this very same hall.

I won’t elaborate much on the after-party, with skaters present from perhaps a dozen leagues representing four states and two provinces; or the after-after-party, at the semi-legendary Jupiter Hotel; or the post-after-after-party food mission, with too many people in a cab compensating the driver by drunkenly double-paying him (or was it triple?). Suffice to say: In the short history of modern roller derby, it was a big-deal night, the biggest flat-track event yet held in the northwest.


And that there, that certainly is a Break Neck Betties tattoo. Anyone wanna try to top Alan’s ink?

January Travelogue, Part 4: Sacramento

The end of January marked the beginning of my real travels afield. On the 30th, I drove what may be the lengthiest single leg of my travels, 580 miles from Portland to Sacramento. While a little long for my tastes, and made rougher by the head cold that I and everyone else who attended the Rat City/Rose City event seem to have picked up, the drive was gorgeous — sunny and warming, with a smattering of snow-capped volcanos lit by sun and moon.

I befriended several skaters from Sacramento at Rollercon last year, though sadly my memories of hanging out with them were not as clear as theirs. Rollercon 2006 spanned two weekends, so by the time I met the Sac City Rollers who attended, it was already Day Eight in Las Vegas for me, and my poor little noggin was definitely struggling to hang on. Despite my fuzziness, I do recall that the Sacramento girls were “my favorite league” from the second weekend (Grand Raggidy won me over the first weekend).

My first day in town, a diner counter offered up some words I found strikingly appropriate, as documented in the photo at right.


I’ve got to take a moment here to rave about rollergirl hospitality. Skaters and support staff from a number of leagues have offered to put me up when I’m in their areas. Without this assistance, there’s no way I’d be able to devote my full, uncompensated time to traveling, working derby events, and writing about my experiences. Chica Loca of the Sacred City Derby Girls hosted me while I was in Sacramento, and she and her family made me feel fantastically welcome! A cozy bed, awesome food, beer and more beer, and plenty of time and space for writing — what more could a derby crusader ask? Prior to that, I’d been generously hosted by my longtime friend and Dockyard Derby Dames skater Tokyo Rose, and I’m currently enjoying my stay with Razorslut of the LA Derby Dolls.

The modern roller derby family knows how to take care of its own!

That’s not to suggest that everything’s all hearts and rainbows in derbyland. Alert readers will have noted I’ve mentioned two different leagues here in Sacramento. The Sac City Rollers, organized early last year, experienced what I’ve taken to euphemistically calling a “traumatic league structure reorganization” several months later, with many skaters splitting to form the Sacred City Derby Girls. Friends I made at Rollercon ended up on both leagues, so I’ve been concerned for their derby welfare.

Such a “split” is far from unique; the mothers of modern roller derby went through a similar break, resulting in the current Texas Rollergirls and TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls leagues. I’ll dedicate some future writing to this general topic. For the time being, I’m glad simply to find that both Sacramento leagues seem determined to coexist in harmony, even if they sometimes struggle to communicate effectively each other. I have some experience with mediation, so I hope I can be helpful with this down the road — for these leagues or others.

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