Skateboarding Across America — Part 2

Jack and Cathy in front of van on the road across America. (Contributed photo)

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series on Morro Bay Skateboard Museum owner Jack Smith and his skateboarding treks.

MORRO BAY They did it in 1976 and again in 1984 prompted on by Morro Bay Skateboard Museum owner, Jack Smith who just last month, to celebrate his 62nd birthday, staked out 62 good miles and off he went once again — skateboarding the byways of Central California.

The 1976 trip across the country was the first and resulted in getting the skateboard Smith used a permanent spot at the Smithsonian Institute, but I get ahead of myself with the story. You can catch up if you missed last month’s installment by going to www.morro-baylife.com.

It is 1984 with a van donated by Chrysler and a goal of raising money for Multiple Sclerosis, Smith and his pals are on the road again on the same northern route taken in 1976.

“We started on the eastern side of Yellowstone, one guy skating and three guys in the van,” Smith explained, “and we are just about approaching Cody, Wyoming when we come to a bridge over a creek and there is a woman on the side of the road waving and yelling hysterically. She asks if we are the ambulance. Seems her daughter went in the creek and she thinks she has drowned. Right then a guy comes out of the creek bed carrying the child, a 2-year-old, who is blue.”

The guys put the girl in their van and race down the road toward Cody, Wyo. Then they see a sheriff’s car approaching from the other direction, so they stop.

“The officer starts doing CPR,” Smith said, “and then another car comes and stops and it’s a doctor on his way to Yellowstone and he starts working on her. Finally, the ambulance shows up and they whisk her away.”

The group continues skateboarding into town and they locate the hospital. Just as they walk up, they see the woman coming out and ask about the little girl. She tells them that it is touch and go and that she has been transported to Salt Lake City, Utah. The next day there are two articles in the local paper; one about the guys skateboarding across America and another about the little girl and how these skateboarders came upon the problem.

“When we finished the trip and got home, we wondered about her,” Smith said. Five years ago, Smith’s buddy Gary, who was involved with that trip, was cleaning out his basement and came across the old articles. Noticing the last name of the family involved, he looked online and found a woman with the same last name. He sent her an email, but four or five months went by without an answer. Then finally he got one. Seems that was an old email account and the woman rarely looked at it. She was closing it out when she found Gary’s email.

“She was that girl that we helped in 1984,” Smith said. “She told Gary she had no after effects from the incident and that she works for a newspaper and is just finishing her first novel. It was great to find out how everything turned out!”

Maybe it is adventures like this that make something like skateboarding something more than just a kid’s entertainment. One never knows how a life adventure is going to go or just when you might be the right person at the right time.

Smith’s life changed, too, when in 1988 his son was born with a rare condition called Lowe Syndrome. There are only about 350 cases of it in the world. Only boys get this disease. They are born with cataracts and glaucoma and don’t grow very big. Smith’s son, Jack, suffered seizures and renal problems that in 2003 took his life due to kidney failure. Jack couldn’t skateboard by himself, so Smith would hold him and together they skated in events to raise awareness for this rare condition. In 2003, Smith left in July with four friends to raise money for Lowe Syndrome.

“We took that same northern route,” Smith said, “across the top of the country, this time starting in Oregon and finishing in Williamsburg, Virginia, and we raised a fair amount of money for research into this disease.”

To be continued...

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