Running on Empty

by | July 30, 2014, 1:58am 0

I’m in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by barren plains and small mountains beyond. The fuel indicator on my white scooter is halfway between the last line and the dreaded red empty bar. After barreling down highways at 90km per hour and following windy roads through towns barely deserving of names considering the minimal amount of freestanding structures, I have no idea where I am. It’s raining and I’m wearing a light sweater and a pair of short blue swim trunks. It’s almost laughable now that, just yesterday, I was wearing those very trunks on a beach with beautiful azure water. I’m starting to get cold and despite relying on my phone’s 4G and trying to navigate with google maps, I keep making wrong turns and find myself further and further away from my accommodation in Monte Petrosu, for the few days of my brief vacation in Sardinia.

Remain calm, I keep telling myself. I start going over scenarios in my head in which I knock on a door asking for fuel and being met with blank stares because I don’t speak Italian. Maybe the woman at the small bed and breakfast eventually understands when I say “diesel finito!” She takes me in her small fiat to fill up at the nearest gas station. Maybe it won’t be so bad, I think: after all, I’ve met so many great people on my travels, sometimes even the most nefarious of circumstances can lead to a good story.

Just a couple weeks earlier, I had touched down in Denmark for the first time. I had spent the previous 2 months after the first leg of my Ultimate Globe Trotter journey to enjoy Seattle, work on editing the first episode, and prepare for Skyd’s coverage of the World Championships in Lecco. I would be competing with Copenhagen’s Ragnarok at the same tournament, but first I was to train with them in Copenhagen for a couple weeks. After arriving at Københavns Lufthavn and struggling with a ticket machine (note to self: get a pin code credit card for Europe travels), I was soon on a train and reunited with cameraman David Picon. Soon we met Jørgen, our first host for our stay in Denmark.

I'm surprised they didn't kill me for talking this photo.

I’m surprised they didn’t kill me for talking this photo.

“That’s the free town,” Jørgen pointed out as we walked along the path of a small park lining a nearby canal. He went on to explain that there was a small walled-off village in Copenhagen known as Christiania in which hash, marijuana and other drugs are sold in a “green district” despite it being illegal. The way Jørgen explained it was that authorities just don’t bother residents and have accepted the self-regulation of the town. Picon and I would later explore the free town in which I would enjoy a delicious organic meal and he would be threatened with physical violence for filming near the green district. It may be a “free” town, but they are remain very paranoid about images that could be used against them.

As soon as we were settled (and after a quick nap) we headed to our first practice with Ragnarok. The Ragnarok practice field is hard and surrounded by windmills and long grass. A hard wind crashed through the field constantly and, as I would find out, is a regular feature of the space. Futbal is the reigning sport in Copenhagen, and finding better field space is difficult.

Ragnarok is a hucking team even in the wind. They like to run fast, throw long, and jump high. It’s the type of team that enjoys working hard and relishes the thrill of battling for a disc. From their play style, it was easy to discern that they were the type of team that makes you work everywhere on the field.

Getting ready for practice with Ragnarok.

Getting ready for practice with Ragnarok.

With the first practice in the books, we were treated to a bicycle tour of the city by teammate Mads Lindskrog. We were lent bikes by teammates and David would curse a loose bike chain for the rest of our stay.

Biking is the way to get around in Copenhagen. Bike lanes are simply everywhere and biking is by far the easiest way to get from place to place.

Touring the city on bike was phenomenal, and we were treated to a visit to the meat packing district where trendy restaurants occupy old industrial buildings. When it’s sunny in Copenhagen, residents fill the streets and canals, often jumping-in to the city’s notably clean water. Most students have the summer off as well, as Mads explained. This allows them to travel or just hang out by the canals or beaches during the day. Students in Copenhagen are often afforded an education stipend by the Danish government, so there’s plenty of incentive to enjoy the summer.

The first half of our stay included watching a World Cup game on a big screen in the middle of the city with thousands of Danish fans, visiting a Viking museum, and checking out Trivoli (one of the world’s first theme parks). A broken bike chain one night forced me to walk back a few kilometers to Jørgen’s place, but also allowed me to see a beautiful Copenhagen in twilight. I remember walking through a small shopping center with twinkling lights in the floor. Despite the late hour after the World Cup final, everyone was out and about and seemed to be smiling.

World Cup on the big screen.

World Cup on the big screen.

For the second half of our trip in Denmark, we would stay with Faissoil, his wife Louise and his two little girls. It quickly became like family with Fais, bonding over late night pizza, and FIFA on Xbox.

Another excursion saw David and I taking a train out to Hillerød to visit the Fredericksburg castle. Unfortunately, as soon as the ticket taker saw our video equipment she alerted security who informed us that we could not walk into the castle with such a big microphone. Security informed us that the mic might knock down one of the very expensive paintings: somehow we found that hard to believe considering we had managed to control the microphone’s trajectory in the moments of our interaction. Nevertheless, we asked for a refund and went on our way. Complete with video and audio gear, we would later visit Hamlet’s Castle in Helsingør to get our castle fix.

The summer scene in Copenhagen.

The summer scene in Copenhagen.

Our stay in Copenhagen wrapped before we knew it, and we finished our last practice running some offensive handler sets, scrimmaging and doing some fitness-focused shuttle runs. The team bid me farewell until we would meet again at the World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) in Lecco, Italy. I departed for Lecco to first help Skyd Magazine run a live stream of the World Junior Ultimate Championships which took place a week ahead of WUCC, after which I left for Sardinia to get some R&R before competing.

So here I am, looking at my fuel indicator, which is now just micro-centimeters away from empty. I had hoped the town I just passed through would have a gas station, but I’m not so lucky. I debate whether to stop now and ask for help or to press forward onto the next town. I think I’m now heading in the right direction, but my scooter could run out of gas at any moment, potentially leaving me on a stretch of road without any doors to knock on. I decide to keep going, starting to accept the fact that I may be starting another unique chapter in this trip. I reach the edge of an outlook and locate the highway I’m supposed to take back to Monte Petrosu, but I’m still 15 minutes away and there’s no way my scooter can make it. But then, just as soon as I spot the highway, I see it: a tall Petrol sign that sticks out like a lighthouse beacon.

Here goes nothing, I say to myself as I curve my scooter down onto the highway and sprint towards the gas station.

Follow Elliot’s travels at Watch Episode 1 of his web series here!

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at]