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Skateboarders face tall task: Appalachians
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff

Mike Kosciesza, 20, left, and Arthur Swidzinski, 20, both of Niles, have gone more than 400 miles in their 850-mile trip from Chicago to New York, skateboarding all the way.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/16/2008 12:11 AM | Updated: 6/16/2008 7:48 AM

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The two local filmmakers who are skateboarding from Chicago to New York City have made it to eastern Ohio, and after stopping to take care of some mechanical problems, were back on the road Sunday.

On Sunday night, they had made it to Zanesville, Ohio and were heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Arthur Swidzinski and Mike Kosciesza spent the weekend in New Albany, Ohio following "major bike trouble," (both of their cameramen are riding bicycles rather than skateboards).

Swidzinski said the bikes have been more problematic than the skateboards, and they've had to buy one new bike and get a tune-up for the other.

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It was two weeks ago today that the duo left their homes in Niles for this 850-mile skateboarding trip, which they're filming and making into a documentary titled, "Shred America."

So far, they've traveled more than 400 miles (the mileage is unusually high because they must zig-zag on side roads rather than use the highways).

Mother Nature has not been kind, as blistering heat and powerful storms have prompted them to stop frequently.

Cameraman James Lagen of Des Plaines spent a few hours in the hospital with thermal burns on his legs, caused by the sun reflecting off the asphalt. Swidzinski had sun poisoning and all four of them suffer from occasional leg cramps.

"You're never not sore," Swidzinski said.

Swidzinski's dropped 10 pounds and says his right calf is noticeably bigger than his left, from pushing the pavement. He and Kosciesza have also trashed their shoes, which are their only form of brakes.

So far on their trip, the crew has been pulled over by police at least 10 times (one officer had them get in the squad and drove them to a local bike path), but they've not been arrested or ticketed. They've also been yelled at by numerous motorists, some of whom don't appreciate Chicago shredders on their rural roads.

The group stopped in Warsaw, Ind., because they're Polish and thought it would be fun. But they didn't find any fellow Poles there, Swidzinski said.

While going down a tall hill in Ohio last week, Kosciesza wiped out and was then run over by Lagen's bicycle, which was going approximately 14 mph. Both hit the pavement hard, and even though they got pretty scraped up, they managed to roll on.

Despite their physical pain and mechanical problems, the Shred team is traveling about 40 miles per day.

Over the weekend, Swidzinski and Kosciesza purchased helmets -- not a bad idea given that they're heading toward the Appalachian Mountains.

"I'm feeling pretty strong … but we're going to go through some massive, massive hills," Swidzinski said. "We've gone this far, we can't turn back. Mike and I made a pact that we're going to do this. We're very committed."

Read more about their trip on their blog, at shredamericafilm.com.