Thursday, May 15, 2008

GET IN THE VAN: Denver to Portland '04 (or '05...I forget)

...I started writing this about a month or so after the trip so this is a few years old. I got to Colorado and gave up. Don't worry, there are silly pictures at the end.

This skate trip, which will go down in history as one of, if not the most memorable in my life thus far, literally started as a sketch on a napkin. Jim and I had been tossing around trip ideas for awhile and we both wanted to do another no holds barred, take no prisoners type deal like we pulled off in Europe. We had been reading about all the new parks that were going up in Colorado and Idaho (Carbondale, Hailey, Buhl) so Denver was decided upon as our starting point without too much discussion. Jim usually does all the organizing (i.e. booking tickets, rental, driving) on our excursions and I usually find out where the parks are and which ones are worth hitting and how to get from one to another. Our little system had always worked out well for us. Jim had only one request this time and it was along the lines of "I'm not driving". Fair enough. I volunteered for the Captain's chair and knew that if Chris came he would be an able bodied copilot. The crew for this mission came together relatively easily considering all the schedules that had to be coordinated. Jim and I were obviously down since day one. Tim was in Portland and since he's always down to hit the road and had a pretty flexible schedule he basically got an assigned seat before the tickets were even purchased. Both of us really wanted Chris to come along since not only is he a great friend but he hadn't gone anywhere recently since he got married and bought a house and all that stuff. I knew he'd have a blast with all the skating, camping, sightseeing and just plain tomfoolery that was sure to take place over the miles and miles of blacktop and concrete we'd be covering. Not to mention his mind was made for reading maps, getting directions, finding shortcuts and approaching locals with no reserve to obtain such information. In other words he was born to ride shotgun. Russell had been on extended holiday in the SF area for quite sometime already so he would just fly out and meet us in Denver as well. Adam cleared his schedule and flew from England to SF for a couple days and then would also fly out to Denver 1 day later to meet us. (If you read my European Vacation zine you might remember Russell and Adam from some of those stories and adventures and if you haven't, simply put they're two great friends from the UK) It was shaping up to be a super tight crew for this beast of a trip. Jim and I kept going through various itineraries, checking maps, mileage, skatepark locations and touristy junk. Obviously we wanted to skate & see as much as possible and preferably with the least amount of driving possible. We kept going back and forth through three rough itineraries that we thought we could pull off. If we wanted to skate this park we couldn't see this thing, if we wanted to camp there we would have to backtrack to skate here, etc. etc. As long as we were in Portland, Oregon 10 days after we touched down in Denver, we'd be in good shape. As it turns out a lot of decisions were literally made on the road which always makes it that much more exciting anyway. So here we go.

Chris, Jim and I get dropped off at Philly International and enjoy a relatively uneventful flight which is fine by me. Jim switched from our row to an empty seat a couple rows ahead of us cuz he said he smelled something but Chris and I didn't notice it. Not to mention I'll take 2 people in an airline row over 3 anyday. Luckily I'm able to pass out pretty easily on flights. Once the earplugs are in I can just shut my eyes and zone out. It wasn't until we landed that I found out Chris can't sleep on flights. He also can't sleep in cars which is part of the reason he is essential for the shotgun position to keep the driver company and entertained. Oh, I also found out he can't sleep "outside" which I found odd because we had gone camping on many occasions over the years. I of course asked him what he did on those many nights in the wilderness to which he simply replied, "I didn't sleep". Chris is a true enigma that I am continually learning more about each day. Anyway, we get off the plane and make our way through the terminal and up the escalator towards the baggage claim. Through the swarms of travelers one individual catches my eye. He is sitting on the floor sporting black pants, a black shirt , black beanie and headphones with a black bag with skateboards taped to it. It's the Weasel! Russell arrived a couple hours before us and had been milling about the airport until we got there. Handshakes and hugs are exchanged as we catch up on some stories and decide what to do until Tim's flight gets in later that night. I'm usually okay with jet lag except for the first night after landing. I always get fucked up when after a flight my body is telling me it's 2 in the morning back home and we still have to wait a few more hours before we can even think about catching some Z's. While we're waiting for Tim to arrive we go out and pick up the rental van which will, like it or not, be our home on wheels for the next 10 days. She's nothing too spectacular too look at but the captain's chair is comfortable so that's all I really care about. "Oh, your legs are cramped in the back? Sucks to be you. What's that? You're not getting the AC back there? It's working fine up front. I wish I could do something/care about how you feel." Over the next few days the van's seating areas would be assigned classifications. Driver and shotgun = 1st class. 2nd row = coach. Back row = steerage. Supposedly in the back row you could barely move and were forced to, as Tim would put it, "shutdown". I only had the pleasure of being seated in coach on one stretch in Idaho when we gave Russell shotgun for a bit on his birthday. More on that later. Anyway, Tim's flight comes in and after getting situated we're faced with our first decision. Adam's flight wouldn't be in until the following morning around 11 so did we want to head north, sleep somewhere up by Fort Collins and then hit that park first thing in the morning followed by Boulder on the way back south to Denver? Or just stay in the Denver area, hit Denver's park bright and early, then just pick up Adam and roll out. Lightning in the distance while we headed north on the highway towards Fort Collins made up our minds for us. We turned the van around and started looking for a place to spend the night in Denver. Now you have to understand "a place to spend the night" with this crew probably means something different than what you're used to. While most people are looking at the hotel listings in telephone books, we're looking at maps for wooded areas and public parks. While some people look for vacancy signs, we look for hedgerows. After about 15 minutes of scouting a stretch of road for our beds a thick row of hedges by a gas station started to look descent enough. No street lights, well secluded, a place to park the van in back, etc. However upon closer inspection of the Denver area city map we noticed a big green section which usually means (especially when it's right by a big city) a park. Sure enough just a couple miles down the road we saw signs for Cherry Creek Lake State Park with campsites right off the highway. By now it's about 3 in the morning. (6 in the morning back home which is why I always say it's the first night of travel that's the worst) We enter the park, drive through the gate where you're supposed to "pay"! and start looking for empty sites. We find one easily and Tim is on top of a picnic table in his sleeping bag before I have the key out of the ignition. Tim is a self proclaimed "Viking" when it comes to trips like this. One small book bag with all his stuff. Keep in mind his sleeping bag is in there too so that takes up about 80% of the bag right there. To say he travels lightly would be an understatement. Jim and Russell find their spots under a tree and Chris and I stay in his tent. I have definitely learned on trips like this you want to travel lightly but since we had a whole mini-van at our disposal we figured a tent couldn't hurt. Plus Chris had his video and digital camera he wanted to keep safe and dry if we ever needed to stay far from the van. I've sworn by my Therma-Rest camping mattress for years now. (Editor's note: If you read my first zine you'd know I lost my Therma-Rest to a campfire in Oregon so I've since purchased a new one) Inflates in a minute, deflates just as easily and it's 1 inch cushion makes all the difference in the world, especially with my back. Russell would start to refer to it as "the alarm clock" throughout the trip because of it's distinctive hiss when it's being deflated. "Uh oh, Barto's deflating, time to get up." Morning comes as it always does and we notice on a post by our site that it was actually reserved for some family the previous night. So thanks to whoever you are, wherever you are. We appreciate you not showing up. Your site worked great and we enjoyed the adjacent bathroom and water pump in the morning. Adam's flight doesn't come in for a couple hours so we're back in the van headed for the Denver park in a matter of minutes. This is where the trip really begins. Endless concrete awaits!

We make the short trip back to Denver in no time. I break out the directions to the park I grabbed off the internet some time ago and within minutes our Spitfires are rolling on the distinctive red (and slippery) concrete of the Denver public skatepark. We probably got there around 7:00 in the morning so the only other people there were the grounds crew. Holy shit, this place is fun, and huge. Now first off, I can see why some of the diehard Pacific Northwest Bowl Barnies may not be into this park as much as some of their Dreamland and Grindline creations but it suited my taste just fine. There are so many wacky lines to be found there it's ridiculous. So many random obstacles to test out and screw around on. I'm always bitching about how all I want in the city of Philadelphia is a big smooth bank with a curb on top to skate. No ledges, no hubbas, no 3 flat 3's, just a bank with a curb on top. Well this park had not 1 but 2, 30 foot wide, 6 or 7 foot high banks with perfect curbs on top. Do you have any idea how good the simple act of hauling ass up the bank and doing a long boardslide on the curb felt? The "slant" snake run was fun as hell too. Lots of hips of increasing heights and steepness are lined up nicely for you to explore. Tim found the line that takes you all the way through over the hips into a wallie/wallride that sets you up to go back through the whole thing and end where you started. Chris found his line through "the ponds" which is one of the most random areas I've ever seen at any skatepark. We moved to the back to the bowl section of the park and started testing out the first transitions of the trip. A "task" was soon called out. (Again, if you read my European Vacation zine you'd know that if someone calls out a "task", everyone in the group must complete the chosen trick/maneuver) This time it was carving around the smaller bowl, pumping back up the little waterfall and ollieing up/out of the bowl over the steps in the shallow. The actual bump you have to ollie off of is probably under 1 foot high but it's so smooth and at just the right angle that as long as you suck up your knees when you "take off" you'll clear it. Not long after our bowl contest, Chris and I witnessed some drunk Mexican dude face plant into the 5 foot bowl. There's a section kicked up like a mini extension that just looks like a curb if you're at the right vantage point or in this guy's case, state of intoxication. He must have been taking a short cut through the park after an all night bender cuz he stepped over the "curb" so nonchalantly and just dropped like a rock to the flat bottom. It was probably hard to sense my concern for this individual seeing as I was doubled over in laughter and rolling around on the ground. After a couple more laps to see if we missed any hidden obstacles on which to shred we decided to hit the next park before heading to the airport to pick up Adam. On our way out they were setting up some booths for some contest that was happening later that day and one of the sponsors was Mountain Dew. As it turns out Jim knew one of the dudes or at least knew somebody back east that knew one of them and we end up with a free case of the 'Dew for the van. Before this trip was over we would all develop strong, mixed emotions towards the many cans of piss warm Mountain Dews we would consume.

The next park was Aurora which is right outside Denver. (Editor's note: When I lay this whole thing out I'm sure I'll include way more "lifestyle" pics than park pics. At this point you should know you can go on the internet and find nice color photos of pretty much any skatepark in the US as well as ratings, directions, etc. etc. Thank you.) Back to Aurora. Fun little park will lots of things to ollie and grind and manual and carve and slide. Perfect time killer. Jim, Tim and I noted it had a lot of obstacles similar to some of the parks we skated in Arizona. Actually a lot of them seemed to be identical just arranged differently. No big deal, just something that stuck out. Probably the same designer found his formula and stuck to it. The one thing that did stick out at the Aurora park was how fucking hot it was. Holy shit we were baking. Luckily there was a water fountain where we could drench our heads and cool off. From Aurora it was back to the airport to pick up Adam.

I hadn't seen Adam since Jim and I were in England the year before so it was really good to meet up again. It was kind of funny cuz the rest of us had a full day head start (including 2 parks) of getting our bodies and minds into full "trip" mode by the time we met Adam. I think he was a little taken back as he was immediately ushered into the van and on the road within 30 minutes of touching down. With our crew at full strength and our van at maximum capacity we headed north towards the Fort Collins park. (This trip almost laid itself out with our longest actual stretch of driving being just over 3 hours.) The next park or tourist trap always seemed to lay just around the corner and made actual "van time" that much more bearable, well at least in the captain's seat. Fort Collins was a kind of weird park. Sun bleached white concrete with a little grit to it that included a big bowl with pool coping, a little snake run area, banks, hips, ledges and lots of BMX-icans. It was hot as hell up there as well and we had to retreat to a nearby community pool for the closest water fountain. We contemplated swimming but there looked to be an actual swim meet of some sort going on at the time. Jim and Tim had a mini session in the big bowl while the rest of us tooled around in the hip/streetesque area. This park definitely had an odd flow to it and I think you'd need more than one hour to really figure it all out. Someone located the backside of an extension that made a steep slant and an impromptu wallride session was soon in full swing. Skating new places with good friends is a feeling that in my book really can't be beat. (Fuck I must be getting soft in my old age. Fear not dear readers, were still only on the morning of the first full day.)

The Boulder park is on the way south back south Denver where we will decide which highway and route we want to take around the state. This place was pretty packed and definitely had a "Locals Only" kind of vibe about it. Snowboard bro/brahs in wrap-around shades and jean shorts had their lines dialed and little kids were EVERYWHERE. The park had a pretty sick layout and a wide variety of terrain but the crowd made it hard to schralp it to it's full potential. I got yelled at by a fully padded skate-mom for rolling into a bowl while her equally as padded prodigy son was making his way into the same bowl. The ├╝ber padded father/hubby gave me a staredown to boot. Tony Hawk was there too. Well at least his Rocky Mountain doppelganger was. The park is right next to the town pool and there's nothing worse than the local visor wearing, hemp necklace sporting, hometown hero lifeguard swapping his Teva's for his 4 year old/discontinued model DC's when his shift is over. The bro-ness was way high in Boulder that day and as storm clouds gathered in the distance we decided to vacate the premises and grab some Mexican slop. We continued down south towards Denver and clearer skies.

We did a little detour to check out the Red Rocks Ampitheater which is just 15 miles west of Denver. All the hippies with their hands out and their "Need 1 Ticket" cardboard signs were a dead give-a-away that there was some sort of concert going on there. We got by security in the van by assuring them that we were just gonna find a place to turn around and be on our way out. Once we pulled out of their view however we figured "Fuck it" and tried to get as close to the action as possible to see what all the hippies were gathered for. Turns out there was a Wide Spread Panic (or as Russell would put it Wide Spread Legs) show going on. We kept meandering through the different levels of parking lots making fun of all the hippies with their ponytails, sunburns and frisbees until we realized none of us had any actual interest in being around that many hippies anymore. We picked up 2 hippiettes who were trying to bum a ride back into town since the show was sold out and they were unsuccessful in their quest for tickets. Our mission was to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible in the shortest amount of time as possible after climbing into a van with 6 strange guys. Mission accomplished. We dropped them off and even though we grilled them nonstop about everything "Wide Spread Legs" related on the ride to town I still felt we did our good deed for the day.

We set out westward and reached Silverthorne's park a little while before dusk. As I rolled in I felt suddenly "off". I took a couple more runs and started to feel worse and worse. I could barely catch my breath when I was on the decks which bummed me out cuz the park was really well laid out and we were literally the only people there. It had a spines, hips, pyramids, slants and had a perfectly worn in surface. It soon dawned on me that what I was feeling was my first bout of altitude sickness. Well maybe not "sickness" but "uncomfortableness". (Silverthorne was almost 9,000 feet above sea level which is a big jump from any altitude I've ever had to exert myself at.) It was harder and harder to get a full breath and I soon retreated to the adjacent fitness center to hit the head. I thought I might just have to shit but as I assumed the position on the bowl my legs just started to shake. I closed my eyes which helped a little but also made me dizzy. I chilled there for a hot minute, pulled my pants up, splashed some water on my face and when I went outside everyone else was already at the van ready to call it a day. So for those who are counting that's 5 concrete parks in a little over 10 hours. Think about that for a bit. It was safe to say the first day of this trip was a success and the night was still young.

We head towards Breckenridge where we figured we'd grab some food and then figure out where we were gonna crash. Since there were woods all around us we really weren't that concerned about finding a place to spend the night. Breckenridge also had a park which we planned on hitting first thing in the morning. A request to stop at a post office got passed up from the back of the van to the cockpit. With absolutely no fucking clue where the Breckenridge post office was located I steered into the closest mini mart to ask directions. Who would've thought a 5 minute stop over at a mini mart would end up with us having a floor to sleep on that night? I sure as hell wouldn't have but that's one of the great things about being on a roadtrip 1,000's of miles from home. You never know where you're gonna end up next. It should be noted that we found out the next morning our hostesses were all goofed up on exctasy so we didn't feel too bad about leaving without saying goodbye. Jim left them a thank you note in the form of a pile of vomit off their front porch which I'm sure they appreciated. We piled back in the van and headed out for breakfast and then to find the Breckenridge park. Jim's stomach still wasn't cooperating so when he finally managed to get inside the diner and place an order he quickly retreated to the bathroom. His order of dry toast came and Russell being the scavenger that he his helped himself to the toast much to the dismay of Jim when he emerged from the head. "Who the fuck bit my toast?" Russ apologized and said he thought he was done with it even though Jim hadn't taken a single bite much less been at the table since he ordered. We all enjoyed a laugh since good friends always find amusement in other friend's suffering. We were soon out the door and at the park. This park isn't anything too spectacular but it's free, concrete, and has bowls so it was mandatory to at least check it out and check it off the list. The deep end was painted this weird aqua blue that made the tranny near impossible to make out when it was in the sun. Tim found out the hard way by dropping in fresh out the van without even pumping around first. After he peeled himself off the bottom of the bowl we screwed around a little more before heading out of town.The only other thing worth mentioning about this park was that it was where Russell's "flair finding mission" began. By the time this trip was over he would acquire all types of clothes and accesories and somehow manage to pull off wearing each piece with style.

After some discussion on where we want to head next we finally decide to check out a possible fullpipe hit not too far off the beaten path. The scenery on our little detour was beautiful and we enjoyed it uninterrupted until a request from Jim came up to the cockpit. His request was simple, "dudepulloverIgottapuke." Luckily there was a scenic overlook type place just ahead so there was plenty of room to pull off the road. Everyone piled out and while Jim was hurling into grass we were enjoying the view. I think it was some kind of enormous dried up lake bed that seemed to stretch to the horizon. There was a monument erected with a plaque about how it was the site of the highest or oldest Masonic Lodge in the country or state or something to that effect. A few other groups of people were there taking pictures so it was kind of funny when they were snapping away and posing for pics with Jim vomiting in the grass just out of frame. We soon got back on track and found the town that had the lake where the pipe supposedly was. We quickly realized that the lake was huge and we could drive around forever trying to find our access road. We pulled over to ask directions for "fishing spots" or something like that and it turns out the guy that offered up the needed info was a priest/minister/pastor/shaman on his way to church. So Chris and I are talking to the guy while Tim and Russ are in the back chanting "Satan Lives, Hail Satan, God is dead" and things of that nature. Let's just say it was a really fun conversation to be involved with. We get the info we need and after stocking up on snacks we're on our way. We find the spot relatively easily but by this time it's mid morning and ideally for this mission we would've liked to be there at the crack of dawn. We walk down the path and sure enough there she is. We were kidding ourselves if we thought we were gonna ride it though. We would've needed rope, rafts, hours to spare and probably climbing gear. This was no hit and run mission. Whatevs. We know where it is if we're ever in the neighborhood again.

Back in the van we head south toward Salida. Tim had hit this park already and said it wasn't terrible but that the bowl was kind of whacky. In fact he was said the entire town was pretty whacky and was a sort of haven for UFO enthusiasts. I guess there were a bunch of sightings there awhile back and supposedly even the mayor was semi caught up in this stuff. The skies opened up as soon as we pulled into town and it POURED. We ended up just doing a lap around town after finding the park and headed out towards Gunnison and clearer skies. There's some amazing scenery on the next stretch of driving and we pull over and make our way down to some huge lake or river type thing with views of huge rock cliffs on the distant shore. (Basically this entire trip had insane scenery which made the drives that much more enjoyable and had me questioning on more than one occasion why I continue to drive almost an hour's commute from Philly to Wilmington everyday of my life. Yes it's only 28 miles but a little thing called rush hour tends to fuck everything up) Russell is scared of rattlesnakes so he takes forever to get down to the water and Adam and Jim end up taking a dip while the rest of us just chill for a bit. Back in the van and off we go. Supposedly there are two parks in Gunnison and we made the mistake of stopping at the worst of the two. The Love Bowl aka the Clit Bowl is a heart shaped bowl that is small and not smooth. A couple frontside rocks and ollies was all that was required to check it off our list so we were back in the van in about 10 minutes. I don't think Tim even dropped in but he has the pleasure of living in Portland where sick parks are a dime a dozen. To us park starved Pennsylvanians any free concrete, no matter small or bad it looks, must at the very least be dropped in upon. I think the other park is actually on the campus of some college in town but we all decided just to grab some lunch and be on our way. No sooner than we were seated at the local pizzeria than Teddy entered our lives.

"HImynameisTeddyandI'llbeyourserverwouldyoulikeanythingtodrink?" he blurted out as he popped his chubby, rosey cheeked face in front of our table. Picture Jonathan from 'Who's the Boss', Jaime from 'Small Wonder' and Rudy's fat friend from across the street on the 'Cosby Show' all rolled into one and on speed. Even when we changed our orders, spilled our drinks and broke the hanging light he always brought, extra napkins, refills and assurance that he'd have the manager check the light for us with a smile. Teddy ruled. We pulled out of Gunnison and shortly thereafter someone from the back stated what we were all thinking, "We should have thrown that fucker in the van and brought him with us." Oh the fun we could have had with Teddy in steerage. Gunnison was too small a town for a soul like Ted's to be trapped in.

We check the map and see that we're not too far from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison which is one tourist spot we definitely want to hit. It was well worth the stop cuz this place turns out to be insane. The views are ridiculous and you can just park and start walking all over the rocks. As far up or down as you want to go. It's hard to get a sense of scale and distance cuz you're so high up and the canyon reaches so far back. Ansel Adams went there to take a bunch of pictures back in the day and now I know why. Immense chasm views and rock formations rise up from a huge gorge cut out by the river eons ago. There are a handful of places I've been to in my life that have left a lasting visual image implanted in my brain and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has since been added to that list. After we soaked in all the scenery we could we made our way back to the highway and onto the next park.

Next on the hit list was Montrose and it actually turned out to be one of my fave's. It had a really good flow to it. Just the right amount of big and small tranny and some weird stuff in there to boot. A tear drop island that doubled as a manual pad surrounded by transitions, big drop in slant for speed, small spine that was easy to blast or plop over, nice snakerunesque type area and of course the donut. On the directions I got off line the last line said "Don't forget to ollie the donut". Now I don't know how the hell you are supposed to find a line to actually ollie this thing but I'm sure it's been done. The back of it created a really fat bump type hip that was fun as hell to ollie off of though. Russell got worked on the waterfall roll in since it was one of those where the bottom of your board is basically scraping as your rolling into it. I think he pulled it next try though. I think Jim got worked there too with either a collision or a slip out in the snakerun area. I definitely recommend stopping at Montrose if you're ever in town. It's getting late in the day now so we head out of town and stop at a gas station to fill up and grab some snacks. Some of the crew discover some cheap, bucket sized microwaveable meals and decide to chow down. I'm vegetarian but even if I ate meat I don't think I'd chance a 99 cent bucket full of "Seafood D-lite" especially from a gas station in Colorado. Everyone seems stoked on their budget meals while Chris and I place bets on who'll be the first to complain about sudden stomach issues. It came as no big surprise when within an hour of consumption Jim admitted that microwaveable shrimp and lobster in a cream sauce maybe wasn't the best idea.

We decide to gung-ho it to Creste Butte which coming from where we were could only be reached by a mountain pass. Tim did it once before and remembered it being super gnarly to navigate especially at night. We reach the entrance to Kebler Pass a little after nightfall so we get to look forward to some 30 miles of dirt road filled with switchbacks and drop offs to be navigated at about 20 miles per hour before we can get some sleep. We see all kinds of wildlife from porcupines to elk and we watch as our van's outside temperature gauge drops from 60 degrees when we start the pass to 26 degrees when we finally reach Creste Butte. To say it took forever would be the understatement of the year but it was still nothing compared to what we'd do in Idaho. We FINALLY reach the town at almost 1 in the morning and first thing on our agenda is to find some food. We strike out at 3 different places until we go to a bar that has microwaveable pizzas for sale. I was half delirious from staying awake while Chris drove the pass and from lack of food and sleep so the last thing I wanted to deal with was local bar dudes. One guy was wearing shorts (keep in mind it was 26 degrees there) and was just walking around from table to table growling and then laughing at the top of his lungs. Russell started rummaging through a box of coats and was stoked when he pulled out a brand new Northface jacket. The dude who owned it wasn't as stoked when he saw him casually put it on and start walking around in it. What Russ thought was the lost and found turned out to be the bar's idea of a "coat area". We were catching some vibes from the locals and just wanted to get some sleep so we peaced the bar and figured we'd find the park and just crash there. We located the park and by this time it's almost 3 in the morning so we try not to make a lot of noise as we gather our bags since we're parked right behind some houses. As we're getting our stuff we see a silhouette that seems to be pacing in one of the windows. We figure it's just some guy we woke up so we try to be quieter but the guy just stands there and starts peeking through the curtains at us. At this point it's almost funny until we're all outside the van with our sleeping bags and we notice the guy is on his porch and coming down towards us. It's pitch black and all we can see is his silhouette and we still figure it's just some dude bummed that we woke him up. That assumption quickly fades when the dude is almost up to us and we hear him mumble "Let's DO this." to himself as he draws a samurai sword......a fucking...samurai...sword..."Whoa, dude what's up?" was Jim's justified inquiry. "Oh man I thought you guys were someone else" samurai man replies with an air of relief. We told him we were just planning on crashing at the park for the night and he tells us it's totally cool, no problem. I don't who that guy was waiting for but I'm glad it wasn't us. Anyway, someone call Tom Cruise and tell him there's one more (see how long it takes you to get that one) We go on about our business getting situated for the night and Jim, Adam, Russ and Tim settle in the bottom of the deep end for the night while I choose a patch of weeds by a fence. Don't ask me why they chose concrete over ground to sleep on but I guess at 26 degrees there really isn't that much difference. This is definitely one time I was glad I brought my little air mattress. I have a pretty good sleeping bag but Adam and Jim have little more than lightweight bags meant for summer camping. Russ scored a free brand new Northface bag from the Deluxe warehouse when, being the Daggers that they are, all the Anti Hero guys refused to take them to Europe with them. It was still a pretty miserable night since I was on a slope and kept sliding down into a fence every half hour only to try to worm my way back up while still inside my bag. I'd open my eyes every once in awhile and peek my head out praying for some sign of dawn. Finally I caught the faintest glimpse of orange in the sky and I knew I had made it through the night relatively unscathed. Less than 3 hours of sleep mind you but unscathed. I poke my head out of my bag and notice that the entire top is encased in a thin layer of ice. Oh right, it was 26 degrees last night. I forgot. One by one the bodies climb out of the deep end. Adam swears that in just those few hours he lost a couple years off his life in the bottom of that concrete bowl with a summer weight bag, a jean jacket and a shoe for a pillow. We're pretty much all chilled to the bone and running on empty so we decide coffee is first on the agenda for the morning. Words can't describe how good that first sip of chai tea felt hitting the back of my throat. I could literally feel it warming my empty stomach up as I drank it. It took awhile to get our legs moving but the park is actually pretty fun. A little lumpy in the deep end but it has waterfalls from the side decks which are great for picking up speed. The spine in the shallow was really nice too. There's even a "beginner bowl" that Russ and I found some lines in. We spread our sleeping bags out on the bleachers so they could thaw out a bit in the sun. We grabbed some breakfast and took advantage of the spotless and spacious Ladies room before we said goodbye to Creste Butte or as we now called it, "Crusty Butt". On the way out we stopped at what we thought was a yard sale but it turns out whoever was hosting it just left everything up for grabs with a "FREE" sign in the lawn. Adam quickly snatched up a blanket in case we had another below freezing night ahead of us. Russ grabbed a camera that still had some film in it which he would eventually get developed back in the UK and send me some prints. Kebler Pass was much easier to navigate in daylight and, though it still took awhile to get back out to a main road, the scenery and wildlife we saw made it worth it. The switchbacks were still gnarly though and we had to keep our speed pretty low. Once we were back on a paved road it didn't take the coach and steerage sections of the van very long to pass out and catch some much needed Z's. Their loss. The hour and change drive to Carbondale was filled with some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. The Crystal River was on our right for pretty much the whole stretch and it's rapids were in full force. The road was basically cut through the mountain so there were cliffs and crazy rock formations everywhere. If I wasn't behind the wheel I'm sure I would've been passed out too but the scenery kept me wide eyed and before I knew it we reached the Carbondale city limits.

Fucking Carbondale. Holy shit. By now you all have seen the pics and videos and heard the stories from the Carbondale Run during whatever KOTR that was so you pretty much know how the park is laid out so I won't bore you with those details. We pull up and I want to roll around asap cuz my legs are tight from driving so the rest of the crew takes the van into town to grab some drinks and snacks. (I guess part of me wanted to claim "1st tracks" at Carbondale too) There are about 5 people in the entire park and 2 of them are girls painting a huge Roskopp eye in one of deep pockets. So I basically have the whole park to myself which is never a bad thing. I drop in and get lost in the endless curves and pockets this park has to offer. The only sound comes from my wheels and the occasional spraypaint can being shaken across the park. This was definitely one of "those" moments where you really need to be a skateboarder to understand. I'm continually dumbfounded by the fact that I have to fly across America to skate anything worthwhile. I realize that may seem like a broad, exaggerated statement but trust me, it's not. The rest of the crew comes back and the session commences. Poor Chris finds out the hard way that dropping in on even just a half foot of vert is a whole different ballgame (especially if you've never done it before) He gets his bell rung and takes it easy for the rest of the day. I felt really bad cuz literally right before he dropped in I was gonna mention something about every single transition in the entire park having vert on it. Sorry C-Rip. My favorite area quickly becomes the shallow/oververt pocket section where you can do endless figure-8 type lines between the two and dump yourself into the cradle whenever you want to mix it up a bit. No pushing at C-dale, that's for sure. Everyone kind of does their own thing and finds their own lines for awhile in between taking breaks under the pavilion type thing. Eventually we meet the Britz girls, Amanda and Olivia. Olivia got permission/commissioned from/by the city or something to paint some murals around the park. They're super cool and give us the heads up on a park in Aspen just under an hour away. We decide to check it out knowing we'll be returning to Carbondale before the day is over. It's a nice drive to Aspen and it goes by kind of uneventfully except for Adam recommending we get "coffee or snacks" every 2 minutes. As soon as you arrive in Aspen it's easy to tell that it's where the money is. It just has that feel about with the all the expensive cars, clothes and coffee shops. I'm not complaining though. In fact I believe the rest of the crew scored free donuts while I was making a phone call. It takes us a little bit to find the park cuz it's kinda tucked in a corner but as soon as we drive by we're psyched on it. We park in a garage and skate across the street and are in the bowls in no time flat. I think Aspen is a prime example of how you don't need a crazy layout or huge space to have a killer park. The main part of the park is basically symmetrical with a shallow end separated by a spine, a snowboard type kicker in the middle and a landing which sends you up a beautiful vert wall extension complete with pool coping and tile. Super simple but super fun. There was a little beginner bowl too and some big bowls in the back. Everyone loved the vert wall and that's where the crew seemed to focus most of their attention. After a good session we're relaxing in the grass on the side of the park, soaking up some sun and realizing that this is what life truly should be about. Traveling to distant states and skating new places with friends is a feeling that just can't compare to anything else. After laying in the grass and staring up at the sky for awhile we roll back to Carbondale for an evening session. Olivia and Amanda are still there so were skating and talking to them about the park and how Olivia worked the beer tent for Thrasher's Carbondale Run the year before and stuff. They had boom box playing while they painted blasting Danzig, Misfits, Metallica and other classic tunes which was perfect. Russell and I would trade off Danzig lyrics while we passed by each other in the depths of the bowls. Olivia works at a pizza joint in town so we decide to head there for dinner. After Russell kindly lets all of us (and everyone in the restaurant for that matter) order first he steps to the counter and asks if they have any "scraps" in the back. Russ is a true magpie. Always scrounging. Whether it's food, thrift or booze, he gets by however he can. After the manager politely lets him know they are not in the practice of handing out their garbage to patrons as free food, he still manages to stuff his beak with all our leftover crusts, sauce and cheese. The Britz's clue us in on a local bar just down the road so we make plans with our hostesses to meet there later on. The Black Nugget (I think that's what it was called) is just your typical, small town American saloon with pool tables and a cardboard cutout of John Wayne. It's also happens to be a "peanut bar". You know, the kind of bar that has bowls of peanuts everywhere for the drunks to snack on and then just discard the shells all over the bar and floor. Now Jim just so happens to be allergic to peanuts so me, Adam and Tim are already bellied up at the bar shooting the shit and up walks Jim. "What's up?" he asks and then slowly does a scan of the bar and floor which is riddled with peanuts and shells and without a word just turns and walks out. It was a priceless moment that you probably had to witness to appreciate but trust me, it was classic. Poor Jim. We took no pity on his ailment and every time we'd stock up on snacks we'd purposely get stuff with peanuts in it just so when we'd be passing stuff around the van to share the wealth, Jim would just have to wave it off or pass it to the next dude without indulging. Yeah, we're dicks like that. It's actually kind of nice to chill in a bar for once on the trip. It was a big place and not very crowded so we could kinda sprawl. Tim was shooting pool with one of Amanda's friend while the rest of us just kinda milled about. Eventually we head outside to meet up with Olivia who has just gotten off work. Guess what she pizza! We split up into the van, Olivia's car and the friend's jeep and head to a campsite. This drive turned out to be scarier than the one on Kebler Pass and the one in Idaho (more on that later). The Jeep's driver (I think her name was Lindsey) was FLYING down these dirt roads, kicking up dust making it damn near impossible to follow or keep up. Keep in mind it was pitch black on these back roads. It got to the point where I was calling Jim and Chris on their phones to see where they were at cuz we fell behind and had no idea if we missed a turn or were even still on the road for that matter. We finally saw tail lights up ahead and pulled over only to have Lindsey peel out and continue down the trail while we were left trying not to get the van stuck in the huge tire ruts we had just pulled into. Soon enough we all meet up and Lindsey apologizes for her "driving". Tim, who was in the jeep with her, just looked at us shaking his head and said, "I thought I was gonna die". We start gathering fire wood which proves to be no easy task since it's beyond pitch black. As soon as we start roaming around looking for wood we notice that every couple steps we'd be stepping in something very soft and slippery. A quick readjustment of the headlamp would soon illuminate the seemingly endless piles of cow shit all around us. Turns out we were camping literally in a pasture. We tried to cover as many piles as we could with pizza boxes but no matter how careful you were, you were still bound to step in some. Thank god I had 2 pairs of shoes. Trust me, cleaning cow shit out of waffle grips is no easy task. Thanks to Olivia's diary we get the fire started and just start shooting the shit about the day's events. Russel pays homage to Danzig by performing some of his tunes using a cow bone as a mic. Silhouetted by the flames of the fire his 'Mother' was killer. Oh by the way, before the night was over he would knowingly and willingly eat cow shit. Since we spent the night in cowshit, the Britz sisters bestowed upon us the fitting moniker, "Team Scumbag". It had a nice ring to it and who were we to argue so it stuck...

...and that's where I stopped writing almost 3 years ago. there's still Utah, Idaho & Oregon to cover but I doubt I'll ever pick this back up again to finish it properly. here's a brief recap of some of the remaining highlights I can still locate inside my skull...

...on the way out of Carbondale we climb up to Doc Holiday's grave. I'm your huckleberry indeed.

...cross the border in Utah. barge another campground and sleep at site #138 (it was robot clean)

meet up with Jim and TIm's friend Chris in Salt Lake after skating a park downtown. he and his fiance take us all out to dinner which is much appreciated

...crash at Chris's house and wake up to donuts and orange juice. (thanks again Chris!)

...hit parks in Ogden, Layton and Logan which turn out to be some of my faves of the entire trip. blazing hot at last park before we head into Idaho. can't skate for more than 5 minutes at a time. hit up local water park to shower.

...somewhere between Utah and Idaho I bought a porno (Titty Time) at a gas station. about 20 miles down the road we realized it was full of transvestites. (check for adams apples before you buy kids. whatever, the dvd that came with it wasn't half bad)

...head into Idaho. destination Buhl. arrive near sundown. HUGE cradle. sun is brutal as it is setting. eat at local Mexican restaurant. back at park we get directions from the local fire marshall on some places to camp on the way to Hailey. Chris is wary of coyotes. enter Sawtooth National Forest in pitch black and creep our way along dirt "roads" at 20 mph to try to get to the other side of the forest. almost 3 hours later we finally see signs of civilization. pull over at first open area and toss sleeping bags into the grass next to van. wake up to vultures on our sleeping lie. guess they thought we were carcasses...they were probably right.

...we are on the edge of town in Ketchum where Ernest Hemingway took his own life via shotgun blast to the forehead back in 1961. nice little town. Dreamland built a park here so we find it and get our schralp on. TASK for the day, carve the loveseat. done and done. roll out to Hailey just up the road.

...Hailey is sick. roll in over the fullpipe and you're in a pit with 13 foot high walls. fucking ridiculous. locals take us to a swimming hole before we head out.

...Kuna park. it's so fucking hot and we are all beat so we skate for about 5 minutes and then go sit in the river behind the park. we chose wisely. a train goes by. life is good. get changed in the bottom of the bowls before continuing on.

...leg stretcher in Boise at some street park under the highway. kinda fun. not really. next stop Oregon.

...Oregon! Jim and Tim put on their thinking caps and remember where in town the park in Hood River is. weird bowl with a tree growing out of it. street section is pretty fun. Jim takes on the dragon tail ledge. impromptu session on the bank to picnic table is a good time. Russ finds his doppelganger, Black Teddy.

...head south on 35 to Mt. Hood. throw some snowballs before continuing on to Government Camp. skate the park in town and drive by Jim's old apartment. tells us about the little quarter pipe they built to skate in the street.'s where it gets a little foggy...I think we chilled in Portland for a night or so before we headed to Lincoln City. we hit all the parks in the area. not gonna bother naming them. just go and see for yourself. went to a couple strip clubs and crashed at Pete the taxi driver's house. woke up and hit Burnside. to Lincoln City. bought $1 mesh hats in Lincoln City after breakfast and before we skated the park. great session. I love Lincoln City.

...head back to Portland and hit some of the parks we didn't hit the day before. at Newburg we run into Ryan Wilburn who tells us about some bbq type deal at some bar back in town that night. he hooks us up with free drink tickets. Russell has to break into Tim's apartment. while we're leaving Tim's to hit the town Russ is wearing the Batman hat he bought in Lincoln City and holding a beer. cop rolls by and asks "Where you going with that beer Batman?". that was funny. after free tacos and martinis at the bar some of us head to Aumsville to skate one more park before the trip is over. get there well after midnight and skate under the lights. I love Aumsville.

...ditched the van. got on a plane. flew home. the end. blah. I love skateboarding.

yippee now you can look at my pictures! (btw they're in absolutely NO order what-so-ever and I didn't have a scanner so they're pics of pics)

Silverthorne nightlife

Kuna Idaho

the Britz sisters working on the Roskopp eye at Carbondale


there's a full pipe on the other side of that fence

Tim and Russ with the road sodas

Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up at Hood River

their truck was cooler. Donald, OR


Black Canyon of the Gunnison

pulled over to take in the scenery somewhere in CO

Lincoln City. rise and shine

Chris and Snotrag take a load off at Government Camp, OR

dragon tail at Hood River

Hailey, ID

Ketchum, ID where the bell tolled for Hemingway

Buhl, ID

Utah. this park was one of my faves. note how crowded it was.

truck stop somewhere in UT

Carbondale nightlife

Russ contemplates the roll in off the back of the cradle

Creste Butte. coldest night of my life. I slept on the hill behind the fence while everyone else opted for the bowl.

Adam waits for his bone marrow to thaw out in the morning sun

Montrose was fun

Tim is in the donut.

Black Canyon

trail to the fullpipe

the Weasel got hold of my camera in CO

Snotrag says, "pass the bucket...bluuurrgggggh"

Bertleman showed up in Silverthorne

LBP + 3

"dude, seriously pass the bucket....blughghggurrrhg" ps thanks for the floor to sleep on

hellhound dogs

"funny you should ask, this is Chris and he loves to dance"

this is the park where I got sick from the altitude

Wide Spread Legs show. hippies suck, pass the Wham-O


in Carbondale, Pierre says, "don't forget your stretches"

somewhere in Utah. the park sucked so we went to the pool.

Adam's watch always says Titty Time

van life

everybody's tubes got soggy at Lincoln City. that's what early morning campfires are for.

left to right: jihadist, Magpie, Deuce Springsteen, Father Pierre


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