WASTED DAYS EUROPEAN VACATION 2004
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. - Helen Keller
Where do I start? OK, originally, Jim and I had planned to go to the UK for just one week over Halloween of 2003 to attend some bowl bash party type thing at one of the older concrete parks. Then we started thinking how by the end of October the weather across the pond could be pretty wet and our skate mission ran the risk of being washed out so we said fuck it and decided to hold out for a full 2 weeks in spring of the next year. This would give us time to hit the majority of the parks and street spots as well as all the big cities in England. Finally upon even further discussion we just said “FUCK IT!” (note emphasis) and planned on taking a full three weeks to barge Europe to skate and see as much as we possibly could before the few remaining embers of our youth were snuffed out forever.
On our way to a business meeting in early November, my boss asked me if I planned to travel anywhere over the holidays. (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) I thought to myself, “Well, it’s now or never.” “Actually”, I said, “I was hoping to take some time off next spring to go to Europe...maybe three weeks?” “Europe huh, that would be great. You gotta do this stuff while you're young.”, he said. “I’m sure we can work around it.” Fuck yeah, it was a go for me. I called Jim as soon as I got back to the office and found out his boss shared the same viewpoint as mine did when it came to travelling while you’re still young. “Let’s book this bitch pronto before the suits have a change of heart.” I could go on for pages just covering the preparation for this beast of a trip but that would be boring so I’ll jump ahead to the fun stuff.
Instead of me racking my brain trying to remember exactly what days we spent where I’ll just tell you this. We left Philadelphia at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, May, 26th 2004 and we returned to Philadelphia at 3:15 PM on Wednesday, June 16th 2004. That’s 3 weeks yo. We hit up England, Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. 3 nights was the most we spent in any city and I think we just did that once in Rome. It was a whirlwind tour to say the least seeing as most travellers spend 3 weeks in just one city. Then again, we weren’t “most travellers”. We were skateboarders who wanted to skate as much as possible in as many different places as possible. Sure we wanted to see the sights and experience the cultures but this was no chaperoned class trip or family vacation. This was a mission. This was our mission. Let’s begin.
We landed in Manchester, England at 8:15 in the morning “their time”. I'd like to take this time to thank god for inflight movies complete with fast forward, rewind and pause capabilities. Sure enough once we cleared Customs and snaked our way out the exit we were greeted by a smiling Frosty who eagerly informed us of a new park only a half hour away from the airport that was on the way to Liverpool which is where we were headed anyway. We get to his car and Jim walks around to assume the “shotgun” position. “What? You think you’re driving there Jim?” asks Frosty. Yes, the driver being on the right side was weird. I never got used to it and felt my pulse quicken on more than one instance when I stared into opposing driver’s eyes who were seemingly headed right for us since they were essentially driving on the “wrong side”. I even found myself inhaling preparing to shout “Look out!” a few times before I remembered that our English chauffeurs had a complete handle on the situation and I could just sit back and enjoy the countryside. Jim and Frosty discussed sewage treatment plants while I stared out the window and tried to look for anything “Englishesque” that might trigger my brain to confirm the fact that I was 1,000’s of miles away from my home/work/dog.
We pull up at the Warrington park and I try to figure out if I’m jetlagged or not as I grab my board out of the trunk. My Spitfires touch foreign ‘crete for the very first time. (Canada doesn’t count.) I roll around a bit, eventually hit a lip and then test my legs on a frontside ollie. I loosen up and attempt some liptricks but find I’m content with cruising and do just that until the focus turns to the spine. Note to any filmers/photographers. The Warrington spine has officially been “blown out”. No need to drag out the generator or waste any film, it’s already been done. Total shutdown...just kidding. Just over an hour off the plane after a 7 hour flight and we had one park checked off the list. Back in the car and off to Adam’s in Liverpool. Liz (Adam’s girlfriend) lets us in and we drop our bags and head downtown for some breakfast. I hit up the ATM for my first of many withdrawals. Foreign currency. Wow. It’s everything I ever hoped it would be and more. Except for the coins. I make a conscientious effort to change up coins to paper whenever possible. I learn to live by Frosty’s advice. “If it’s brown, it’s shit.” Anything resembling copper is discarded in the street. Fuck the coins. That’s just my two pence though...get it? Nevermind. We grab some breakfast at Sayer’s. Jim has been waiting for breakfast at Sayer’s since he left the UK on his last trip. Frosty is vegetarian too so I copy his order and find myself treated to a warm, crusty, tube filled with a paste that is supposedly vegetables. Whatever it was it was good and my fear of eating abroad is postponed at least until the next meal. We walk around downtown Liverpool until Jim comes across a Hair Cuttery where he can get his head shaved and correct the damage left by my beard trimmer's battery dying and leaving his head 87% buzzed before we left our house for the airport some 12 hours earlier. The image of Jim staring at his reflection in our bathroom mirror as if to will the battery back to full charge is priceless. I found sheer bliss in his misfortune and had to hold my gut once it began to ache from laughing so hard. “Fuck you dude, it’s not funny.”, he said. “Yeah right,” I said “If it happened to me you’d be laughing your ass off too.” Anyway, Jim gets his fade on while Frosty and I shoot the shit outside and look at the girls. We start heading back to Adam’s place and meet up with Russel “Weasel” outside a second hand shop. He has to finish something up at the University but says he’ll catch up with us later. We go back to Adam’s and Liz makes some tea. Jim wants to crash out for a bit but I'm feeling fine so I grab some couch and me, Frosty and Liz start to watch Sexy Beast. All I remember is the huge boulder falling into the pool at the very beginning because I suddenly find myself fading in and out of consciousness and barely able to keep my eyes open. I give in and nod off for a few minutes only to hear a fully refreshed Jim bounding up the steps. By now it’s time for dinner and Frosty takes us to a vegetarian restaurant a little ways down the hill towards town. It’s all downhill but the roads are rough and by the time we step off our boards our feet are numb from the chatter. The meal is excellent and Frosty makes the necessary introductions as different people stop by to say yo. Adam meets us there and we catch up and fill up on hot food. After eating, me, Jim, Adam, Frosty and Russell pile into Adam’s car and head over to the Police bank on our way to the skatepark. The Police bank is a classic Liverpool spot and is fun as hell. It can best be described as a 2’-3’ high, 25’-30’ foot wide concrete lip trick ramp with a block of “coping” rising up to 12” off the right side. The lip has been rounded off from countless trucks and BMX pegs over the years. Hear me now City of Philadelphia, you can have Love Park, give me a Police bank replica. I don’t know what the hell it was supposed to be but it was perfect for skateboarding. Russell informs me all those new to the bank must do a frontside rock ‘n roll as their first trick. Done. I’m just so stoked to be skating something new. Next stop, Rampwerks skatepark. The bowl is fun as hell. It’s huge (long) and is broken up into three “sections” best described as deep, mid and shallow. The shallow end has a huge wallride that follows the curve of the bowl. After a few attempts I get the feel of it. Jim and the English guys rip as usual. Once again, everything on this trip is new to me so I’m able to find amusement in even the bunkest of spots. (Not saying the park is bunk but, well you know what I'm saying) I could have easily been content with pumping around the bowl all night. Fatigue begins to set in and we head back and make a plan for the night.
We end up at some bar that I think was called the Everyman. Don’t ask me how but I ended up ordering a Waldorf salad (insert Faulty Towers reference here). I’m hungry or at least I think I’m hungry (damn time difference) but since it’s after midnight, they only have limited items available. I hear “...salad with apples and walnuts” and I'm sold. To my dismay, there is no lettuce just thick chunks of celery, the walnuts are bitter, the whole “salad” is swimming in more mayonnaise than I have ever seen on one dish before in my life and there are olives which I despise. The Waldorf is now 4 up on me so I just pick out the apples and begin to understand why Adam cocked his head and raised his eyebrow when I ordered. Apples drenched in mayo go perfectly with my Southern Comfort and Coke. Yum. Mental note, “When in doubt, go hungry.” We head back and make plans to get an early start the next day. Jim, Adam and I would be in Adam’s car and we would meet Frosty, Russell and Hicky at the skatepark up in New Castle.
We’re on the road at 8:00 after a good night’s sleep in a real bed. We grab breakfast at a coffee shop where the pretty English girls get a kick out of us asking for “jelly” instead of jam. I’m in the back so I just take in the scenery. The lush green hills are just as I pictured them. Stone walls instead of wire fences are a nice touch too. Adam does a great job as tour guide whether it’s pointing out landmarks and sights or just telling stories (skate related and non). It’s so fucking nice not to have to worry about operating a motor vehicle for the next 3 weeks. Of course there will be thousands of miles and countless hours of travel time logged before this trip is through but the only thing we’ll be responsible for is finding a seat We pull off at the Angel of the North which I think is the largest statue of an angel in the world. Needless to say it’s huge. (It’s in the GIRL ad where Biebel is holding Rogers above his head) After a couple of pics we’re back on the road. We get to the park and meet up with the rest of the crew. I haven't really skated concrete parks since Oregon last spring and after a few runs I can literally feel certain muscles in my back start to spasm, not in a bad way but almost like they’re waking up after actually being put to use. It felt good to say the least. I try to figure out all the inside jokes and nicknames between the English bloaks. I realize that they’re just like my friends and I back home. We kind of have our own little “language” in which certain key words automatically trigger laughter. I can’t differentiate between what’s actual conversation and what’s just “blabber”. I’m laughing out loud with no idea what’s actually being discussed. I’m basically clueless to what’s going on unless someone addresses me directly. It’s all good though. Those guys are seriously some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. They just wanna skate and have a good time and that’s definitely something I can understand. We break out and hit up a super market for some grub. Veggie chicken slices, cheese, fresh bread, a bottle of Coke and a pack of strawberries and I’m good to go. We make our way north to Holy Island and Lindesfarnne castle. Even though Adam tells us it’s where some monks first put the English language on paper, when I ask him later just to get the story straight, he asks me where I heard that. I tell him he told me and he tells me that he didn’t. I’ve been telling everyone back home that we went to the place where the English language was first put on paper and that’s the story I’m sticking with. Either way, it was an awesome sight. The landscape is straight out of a movie. A long winding road over marshy sand and the whole way you can see the castle off in the distance. Real historic like, get it? You're supposed to watch the tide charts ‘cuz when the tide comes in the access road gets totally submerged. Not like a few inches submerged, we're talking a few feet submerged. Adam tells us how the first time they went there they camped on the island with no idea of the tide factor. They went to leave in the morning and the road was gone. The tide has just started to come in so if they didn’t go for it right then and there they’d be stuck on the island for the next 10 hours. Basically Adam had to drive his car about 5 mph while waves were literally breaking onto his windows. He white knuckled it the whole way out ready at any moment to bail out, swim for dry land and watch his car literally get washed out to sea. We head north to check out some castles in Scotland. Drove through the tunnels at the beginning of Trainspotting and skate Scotland’s version of LOVE Park. Hit up a stripclub where we knocked a few back and Frosty and I enjoyed some dances from the girls. Roll north towards the Livingston park and by the time we arrive it’s already dark. I take some runs in the bowl and then make my way up to the “street section”. “Livi” is an old concrete park but it’s still relatively smooth. The simple act of pumping down into the big dish, crouching and grabbing my board through the carve reminds me of why I love skateboarding. I'm on the other side of the Atlantic with no concept of time, skating with friends and I don’t have to be back at work for 3 weeks. Beyonce’s voice travels outside the confines of the dancehall located right next to the park as club goers find their own kind of peace. It’s quiet (except for Beyonce), empty and perfect. The Brits go to set up the tents while Jim and I find our lines. We call it a night after a few more runs and head to Tent City. Me, Jim and Adam are in Adam’s tent that has been thoughtfully pitched on a hill. It’s a 2 man tent and it takes a while for the 3 of us to get settled in. The temperature inside hits the upper 90’s due to the close confines. Adam accepts the fact that it will be hell on earth with all 3 of us trying to sleep in there so he bails to the grass just outside the tent. The next sound I hear after he gets situated outside is rain hitting the roof of our stately hillside manor. Adam swears he’ll be OK and before he can finish his sentence it starts to pour. With nothing but a hooded sweatshirt, he retreats to the car while I try to render myself unconscious by smashing my head with the tent stake hammer before the rain keeps me up all night and leaves suicide as the only alternative to an absolutely miserable evening. Factoring in the slope on which our dwelling resides, the rain and the jungle like conditions inside the tent, I actually manage to get a pretty descent night’s sleep. We wake up, break camp and head to the adjacent super market for breakfast. I try to fill up on bread and potatoes and skip the traditional blood pudding and blood sausage. Nature calls so I hit the head. Of course it’s already been blown out by some early bird shopper so I duck into the handicap one. I go to turn the light on and the only thing I see is long red string next to the shitter. My politically incorrect mind tells me that the long red string is to make it easier for handicapped people to turn the light on. I give it a tug and an alarm goes off. Turns out the long red string is in case someone needs assistance. Who knew? I break out and head back to the table with the alarm clearly audible throughout the whole super market. After the laughter died down we set out for the next park.
We arrive at Blantyre, our third park, and I roll in with confidence. It’s set up as a long symmetrical bowl with a spine in the middle of the shallow and two wide extensions in the deep. I locate my frontside hips and I’m good to go. (I find the simple pleasures in skating the most satisfying so to me a frontside ollie over a hip is pure bliss) It starts to drizzle so we seek shelter under a canopy and wait it out. 15 minutes and a flat bar session later we’re back in the dishes. We move over to the street area where the first “task” of the day is called out. Whenever a “task” is declared, everyone has to make whatever trick it is that has been landed. It’s usually more of physical challenge than a trick per say. In this case it’s a wallie from a steep 3 foot bank up a 2’-3’ vert wall onto the deck. After my first attempt in which I didn’t even make it up the bank because of it’s sheer steepness and poor foot placement I’m heckled with chants of “Let's see it East Coast!” and “C’mon East!’ So of course now I have to make and after 2 more tries I leave with my ego in check. Adam wants us to see the park in Kilbride (?, I think) just to see how bad it turned out. He was right. It could have been sick but the transitions are beyond shitty and there are chips missing all over the place from a either a poor concrete mix or disgruntled locals who want a refund. Russ and I set up for a “poser of the month” pic with me krooking a 4 foot high ledge with no kicker up to it and he back tailing in the opposite direction on a lower level. We’re mid hi-five in the pic with a disposed maxi-pad inches from my front truck. We make our way to James’ house in Birmingham. I had heard all of Jim’s stories about James from when he went to Oregon with the English guys in 2002 and he was dead on. James is one of the funniest kids I’ve ever met. It’s not even like he tries to be though, he just is. He rips too. We meet him and his girlfriend downtown and then head to his parent’s house. We’re able to shower and are treated to a much appreciated curry dinner delivered from the local lndian restaurant. I catch up on some emails before I hit the sack. I wake up to 10 different cereals, a stack of bowls and a pile of spoons set out in the kitchen. I felt like I was at a sleep over party in 5th grade. I go for what seems like the most nutritious cereal and a banana while James’ bowl is filled to the brim with chocolate puffs. Ahhh, youth. Now our crew is 8 deep with the addition of James and Chris. Chris is 13 years young and he will be joining us as we make our way down to London. He and James skate for the same board company and he, like James, rips. We set off and one of Adam’s front tires blows out 30 minutes into the journey. The flat is changed and 10 minutes later the other one blows. Now we’re stuck until Adam can go into the closest town and get 2 new tires. We break out the sleeping bags and lounge in the grass for well over an hour and just enjoy the weather. At least we broke down overlooking a river and a park instead of right on the highway. Adam finally returns and we skate to the LBP ditch. This ditch was pretty fucking gnarly. It was super long with about a 10 foot roll in lip that went right up to a 3-4 foot transition. The kicker is that there is no flat. You have to roll in on a harsh angle and suck up the carve on the low side. Just rolling in was the task for today. I just skated it as a super quick mini ramp and had a blast. Just carving the length of it was fun as hell. Blunts to axle stall and frontside ollies were the order of the day for me. After a good run at the ditch we headed off for Stevenage park. Stevenage is another old concrete park consisting of a big slanted half pipe with very little flat and rounded off lips. There was also an unskateable clover bowl and a flat bank area. We didn’t stay at Stevenage for too long though because there’s really only so much you can do there. It was one of those things that was just cool to try out. We continued south down towards London. As we’re driving I’m just taking in the sights while Adam keeps muttering to himself, “Where the fuck are they going?” glancing in the rearview every few seconds to try to locate the “smoking car”. We end up taking the long way around London but we get to see a bunch of the sights from the car window. I can already tell that I’m gonna enjoy my time in London. Just from the back seat it gave me that feeling of being a cool city with a lot to see and do and of course skate. It’s like when you think of England, you think of London and now we were here. Blah, blah, blah. We head to Joel’s house who’s going to be our tour guide/host for the next two days. He’s not home so we grab some bags of chips and bottles of Coke and chill on a corner stoop. So now we’re 8 heads deep hanging on a corner in London with nothing to do until Joel gets home. Chips were thrown, street signs were climbed, walls were pissed on and sidewalks were spit on for almost an hour. Joel finally gets back and after introductions and some tea we head out to skate. We head to Stockwell park first. Stockwell is an old red concrete park with lots of rollers, lumps, dishes and transfers. It’s really smooth considering how old it is. There is a “pyramid” in the far corner that everyone drops in on. It’s the kind of place where you do more “laps” than “lines”. It’s kinda weird ‘cuz it’s right on the corner of a block. You just skate through the city streets and all of a sudden there she is. Stockwell was really fun. We ran multiple trains on her many times and had a blast. At the end of our “laps” there was a perfect transfer that you could blast over if you hit it just right. It was fun to have a bunch of us all within 2 feet of eachother transferring it. Stockwell was a gas to say the least. Joel take us up some hills on the outskirts of the city to show us the first concrete poured in London for the purpose of skateboarding. I was stoked ‘cuz I had seen this picture multiple times over the years in different magazines of a shitty concrete quarter pipe that goes right into the grass in a field. I never knew where the hell it was though. Now I was looking at it face to face. This was the city’s concept of a skatepark in the ‘70’s and it is exactly how I described it, a shitty concrete quarter pipe that goes right into the grass in a field. It’s kind of like a pilgrimage you have to make when you’re in London. Just don’t leave your car windows down ‘cuz it’s in the cut. There’s a concrete path that leads up the field from the quarter pipe to another English oddity...the Bloblands. This place is straight up weird. I never got the full history from any of the English guys but apparently it’s another old skatepark. It sits up on this hill behind a church overlooking London and it’s very picturesque in kind of a apocalyptic kind of way. It’s this plot of concrete with all these different levels and bumps and platforms. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. It’s not big at all and the tallest obstacle in the center is a volcano maybe 4 and a half to 5 feet high. Jason Dill does a pivot (or something) on it on the cover of some video or magazine. I forget. There are ledges but they all have rounded edges and the slightest bit of tranny on the sides so you can easily wally up them. This is a place you come to just cruise around on and try stupid stuff. I’m sure the picture in your head after reading my description is probably nothing like what it really looks like so fuck it anyway. Go to London and skate it for yourself. I guess there’s a reason they call it the Bloblands. Joel took us to yet another weird spot at some other park next. It was a big square with maybe a foot and a half high slants all around it. Every 4 feet or so there was another foot or so high vert section. Picture a really low slant to wall but the wall isn’t even high enough to do a proper wall ride. There are hips on the corners and Joel was blasting at least 3 foot actually probably 4 foot wallys off the corner walls. This is another spot that’s hard to describe so sorry about that. Both Bloblands and especially the square are places that if you lived by them you’d probably be bored after a couple of years but for brand new never before seen skatespots they were great. It was dark by this time so we headed back to Joel’s to crash. His living room floor was packed with all of us sprawled out but I had no problem catching Z’s. We woke up early to blue skies and sunshine so we left immediately to start skating. We skated to Stockwell from Joel’s house and our first session of the day got underway. We met up with Fos at the park who runs Heroin skateboards out of London and does some filming as well. So now we had Joel and Fos acting as tour guides. There’s a chest high wall that surrounds Stockwell on two sides that Jim wanted to ollie. The only thing is it’s literally on a corner of a block so you have pedestrians and bikes and then just the sidewalk to land on before you drop into the busy street. Frosty volunteered to stand guard and give the all clear sign. After a few attempts and some heckles of, “C’mon, Bam kickflipped it!” Jim cleared it. On one failed attempt he shot his board right into Frosty which ultimately took him out for the rest of the day. He actually had to make a sling out of his shirt to keep his arm from swinging. We left Stockwell and headed to Meanwhile I or II. (The one with the bowls) This place was 3 different levels of 3 different bowls and probably would have been fun if we had it all to ourselves but it was packed so we didn’t skate there long at all. There’s a set of 7 when you leave the park and I started egging Chris on about how if he wants to come to America and get noticed he better be able to skate some steps. He put me in my place by pulling switch kickflips (first try) and switch bigspins (3rd try). Fos broke out the camera to document it. He started each attempt with a switch kickflip off a 2 foot ledge which he stuck every time. I’ve been skating for over 15 years and I still can’t do a regular kickflip as smoothly and as consistently as this kid was doing switch flips down a 2 foot drop. Yes, there was a time where I would hurl myself down steps with reckless abandon without thinking twice. I think the most stairs I ever flipped was 5 and I’ve pulled pop shuvs down 6 and I don’t see myself outdoing either of those feats before I die (be it a harder trick or more stairs). I guess I’ll just have to be content to live out the rest of my days with carves and grinds. Fuck it. After some superb falafel served by the hottest girl I’ve ever seen in my life it was off to the other Meanwhile. This is “the” Meanwhile. The one with the gap. Gonz ollied it back in the day to make it famous and now kids are switch flipping and nollieing it. The park is just two oval dishes separated by a gap with the “takeoff” dish being a foot or so higher than the one you land in. It was a big gap but I think the hardest thing is that you only get one or two walls (depending on whether you’re regular or goofy) to set up. You have to drop in and nail the approach and take off at just the right spot or you’re not gonna make it. That and if you bail and don’t land in the other dish you’ll bash your legs on the side and won’t be getting up to try it again. Hicky and James did it backside. (James did it while smoking a cigarette and was so nonchalant it looked like he was ollieing up a curb). Adam, Jim and, after some encouragement, Chris did it frontside. On his first time at the park that little fucker did the Meanwhile gap on his 4th try. Fuck. I quit. Needless to say I didn’t do it, hell I didn’t even try it. We had over 2 weeks left on this trip and there was no way I was taking myself out before I got to skate Marseille and Barcelona. We jump on the tube and hit some street spots on the way back to Joel’s. We chilled in the living room for awhile and pretty soon the English heads had to roll up north back home to Liverpool.
Jim and I would stay at Joel’s one more night and then fly to Paris early in the morning. Joel and his girlfriend took us out for our last night in London. It was time for some sightseeing after 2 days of nonstop skating. We took our first double decker bus ride to the London Eye which is a HUGE ferris wheel type thing on the river. It’s cars hold like 20 people and are made of super thick plexiglass so you get a 360 degree of London at all times. It takes 40 minutes to do a complete rotation and it’s super high so the views are dope the whole way around. After the Eye we walked to Trafalgar square, Parliament, Big Ben and all the other places Clark Griswold went to. It was dark by the time we got to Buckingham Palace. We got our picture in front of the gates with the armed guards behind us. The palace is seriously huge and there was only one light on in the whole upper floor so it was probably the Queen staying up late watching Benny Hill reruns or something. Back to Joel’s house for 3 hours of sleep before we have to get up and go to the airport. Before I know it Jim and I are on a plane to Paris and on our own. From here on out it’s foreign languages, foreign cuisines and living out of a backpack with no idea what the next day holds. It’s only a 50 minute flight to Paris but they lose the bag with our boards in it so we have to wait until it turns up or until the next flight arrives from London which isn’t for another 3 hours. (You can’t carry boards on flights in Europe. They’re considered “weapons”.) The first thing I do in Paris is get a haircut in the salon in the airport. Say what you want but I wasn’t happy with the one I got before I left the states and I knew I’d be miserable the whole trip unless I took immediate action. I tackle my first language barrier by trying to describe to a French lady how I want my haircut. My hand signals and over annunciated syllables fail miserably but she gets the jist of it and I come out with a dandy of fade for only 3 times what I would have paid back home. Damn exchange rate. Our bag eventually turns up and it’s off to the hostel. After some wrong turns and an expensive ass pair of insoles for me (more on that later) we finally find it and get checked in. Jim claims the bed first so I’m on the “meat rack” for the next two nights. We ditch our bags, clean up, scope the map and head out to see the sights. I know you don’t want to read about all the places we went so I’ll spare you all the details. I WILL tell you that the very first person that we talked to and asked to take our picture in Paris ended up living about 3 blocks away from us in Philly. I guess you’re never really THAT far from home. The rest of the day was spent sightseeing and we ended up having a very romantic evening on top of the Eiffel Tower and capped it off with wine and cheese in the Latin Quarter. I vow that if I ever return to Paris it will be with someone that sits down to piss.
The next day we saw some more sights in the morning and then decided to check what the city had to offer skatewise. We had heard that in France (as well as other parts of Europe) if you have tattoos it meant that you got them in prison and if you are a skateboarder you are lumped into the same social class as the homeless beggar. So now we had 2 things working in our favor. We came across another ex-con, homeless beggar who told us of the new hot spot in town. I think it was called Bercy. It’s this huge new stadium with like 4 different levels and each level is completely surrounded by about a billion ledges and steps. This is the type of spot that skaters dream about. It was fun but we didn’t fly to Europe to skate ledges. We ollied some big steps as practice for Barcelona’s Big 4 and rolled out. The scariest moment of the whole trip happened next. We were trying to come up from a train stop and it was either punch your ticket and take the steps or take the elevator. The gates aren't taking our tickets so we say screw it and get in the elevator. We’re the first ones in so we step to the back. This group of guys start piling in next. And when I say guys I mean BIG guys. There couldn’t have been one under 6 feet and 200 pounds. They keep piling in and laughing ‘cuz they want to keep filling it up and get as many people in as possible. Jim and I look at eachother, roll our eyes and I know we’re thinking the same thing...“meatheads”. By the time the doors shut there are at least 16 people in the elevator (all dudes except for 1 girl) I’m able to glance through the back of heads and see the sign that reads “Do Not Exceed 10 Occupants”...great. The elevator starts the ascent, gets about half way up and stalls out. Fuck. It takes about 2 seconds for the temperature to rise about 20 degrees inside the elevator. You literally cannot lift an arm. Fuck. It hits me. Are we gonna drop? Am I gonna pass out? Am I gonna puke? I immediately recall all those news stories of how people were stuck in elevators for hours. Panic sets in for a split second until I shake it out of my head and tell myself I CANNOT let myself bug out. It’s just NOT an option. You couldn’t even really lift your arms to push people away from you to make room ‘cuz there wasn’t an inch to spare. It wasn’t like one of those sitcom episodes where people get stuck in a big elevator and talk about their life’s ambitions and end up bangin’ on the floor. We were flat out stuck and it flat out sucked. I guess Jim found out he was clausterphobic that day ‘cuz he just turned white and rolled his eyes back and looked like he was gonna pass out. Of course THAT lucky bastard had the cute girl next to him so she was trying to console him and fan him with our map. Bullshit. Then I start thinking, it’s an elevator, it HAS to have an escape hatch. I crane my neck up and sure enough there’s a door. The ONLY saving grace we had was that it was a clear plexiglass roof so you could see daylight and even some people walking around. I think I might have lost it if we couldn’t see the outside. Of course there’s a metal latch preventing the escape hatch from being totally opened. Brilliant. I’m like fuck it, let’s just smash it, anything to get some air circulating. At this point I’m willing to scale the cables if it means getting out of there. I’m able to push the hatch open with the nose of my board once I maneuver it above my head. The bar is blocking the door but at least it’s cracked and is letting some air in. I was dripping in sweat trying to hold the hatch open on my tip toes. One of the taller guys saw me straining and took over the board for awhile so I could rest my arms. I refused to let the thought slip in to my head that we could be stuck in here for hours. It’s weird how your mind works in a crisis situation that you have absolutely no control over. About 10 minutes later a voice comes over the intercom and luckily one of the guys understands French so he lets them know what's up. About another 10 minutes (5 years) later the elevator starts up again and finishes its ascent. A security guard is there and she wants to call an ambulance for Jim which is the last thing we want to deal with so he assures them he’s alright and we cut out and try to get back to our vacation. Needless to say it sucked. Anyway, enough with the sob story right? Right! The next spot which was just a short jaunt from Hell’s Elevator was the famed Paris Sundial. If you’ve ever seen the old Santa Cruz vid where Jason Jessee is in jail you've seen the sundial. It’s called the sundial ‘cuz that's just what it is. A long, curved concrete wave that goes from about 1 foot to 4 feet high, mellow to over vert with the numbers 1-24 marked off every 2 feet or so with a big post in front of it to cast the shadow. A perfect skate spot. Perfect tranny. Perfect setting (a garden to the right, an old ass church behind it and a courtyard filled with pretty girls walking dogs to the left) The task for the day was to frontside rock at the high noon mark just as the wave went to over vert. Done and done. We checked the map and saw that we were behind the famous Louvre museum which meant we were right by the Sienne River which divides Paris. We skate up to the back of the Louvre and over to the river. The sun is out, the sky is blue so we just start pushing along the river. This was one of the few, cheesey, heart warming moments that I’ve experienced on a skateboard. (Although, before this trip was over I would have many more) Here we were in Paris skating with the god damn Sienne River to our left and the god damn Louvre to our right. It was a smooth, long, flat skate and neither of us said a word the whole way. We skated onto one of the bridges that spans the river and started doing flatground tricks. I mean how many opportunities do you get to do a heelflip or a 360 slider on top of the Sienne River? We decided to head up to La Defense which is the Paris equivalent to our Wall Street. Big buildings mean lots of skatespots. It was starting to get dark by the time we got there. There was no one on the train and the businesses were all closed so the whole place was practically abandoned. Picture two LONG rows (5 blocks or so) of modern office buildings separated with a paved “common/walking area” instead of a street so you don’t have to deal with any cars. The whole strip was on a slight downhill which meant 3 pushes and off you go. I honestly couldn’t contain my smile. Every building was different and each one had ledges, steps, drops, rails, flat bars and crazy obstacles to hit. You could just criss cross back and forth and choose you own adventure. Jim and I would yell back and forth “Yo, check this out over here!” or “Dude, did you see that crazy wall ride thing back there?” Crazy planters, sculptures and drops were everywhere you looked. Damn, I’m smiling as I type this. We leave La Defense in total darkness and head to the Arch de Triumphe at the top of Champs de Triumphe which is like Paris’ Rodeo Drive filled with shops, restaurants and hot girls. Here again the whole street is on a downhill slope with super wide, super smooth sidewalks on both sides. Time for some good old fashion pedestrian slalom. Throw in some random bench slides and planter ollies and I was having the time of my life. One of the things that made this trip so fun was that we didn’t know a single god damn person. We could kind of get lost in our own little frame of mind and just zone out. We didn’t speak any French so we didn’t understand any of the 500 mundane conversations that were probably going on within earshot at any given time. It kind of became like white noise that you could just tune out. We stopped midway down (the strip is super long) and grabbed some sandwiches, chilled on a bench, stepped back on our boards and just cruised the rest of the way down. FUN! By this time it’s late so we head back to the hostel. (For future reference anytime I say “head back” or something like that, it just means we hopped on a train. Public transportation in Europe RULES. You can get around any city really quickly and really easily.) We decided to check out some bars around our hostel for our last night in Paris. I macked on some French birds to no avail and we end up talking to some guy who wants to visit America and ride a Harley down Route 66. We did some whacky house shots with him that tasted like fire with a hint of ginger and call it a night. The next day we get up early because we have a lot of sightseeing to do. We have to carry our bags with us since we won’t be returning to the hostel. We sight see all day, skate the sundial again, eat some shitty pizza and end up at the train station hours before our overnight train to Berlin leaves. The one thing that sucks in Europe is that you have to pay to use the bathroom. Even in most McDonald’s you have to pay. It’s not a lot but it’s a pain in the ass. The train stations do have these dope bathrooms though where you can shit, shower and shave in privacy which was much appreciated. Our train to Berlin was our first experience on an overnight train and we had no idea what to expect. The cars can sleep 6 but luckily we only had an older German couple in ours so we had a little bit of extra room. I talked to the husband for hours that night. He told me all this historical stuff about Germany from a real “German” point of view. He used to work in the Secret Service with the American or Canadian Military as a German translator in the years after WWII. This dude sat in jail cells and translated for Hitler’s top henchmen to the American military. I tried to get him to tell me some crazy stories but he didn’t want to go into any of it. I hit the rack pretty late at night and was able to sleep relatively soundly the rest of the way to Berlin.
We get to Berlin at around 7:00 in the morning and are met by a very tired looking Susanne. (I met Susanne almost 2 years ago when she was living outside of Philly working as an Au Pair for an American family. She’s really nice, super chill and easy on the eyes to boot and we had some “history” during the short time she spent in the US.) Anyway, I hadn’t seen her forever but we kept in touch via email and when I wrote that we were coming to Europe she said if we came through Berlin we could stay with her and she’d take us around. As we’re making our way back to her place on the other side of Berlin she and I are catching up while Jim is trying to see all the sites he can through the bus window and then locating them as quickly as possible on his map. We finally get to her place and she just wants to go to bed ‘cuz she was out at a party all last night. We make plans to meet back at her place later on in the evening and Jim and I set out to see what Berlin has to offer. Germany is our 4th country and I’m really starting to notice the differences between them all. The differences in the architecture, foods, styles and personalities are all becoming apparent. I had been told by more than one person that Berlin is “boring and depressing”. Although I didn’t see it like that, I do understand why people might feel that way. In the older buildings you can see where all the bullet holes were patched over and walls were rebuilt after WWII. The patches of “new” brick stand out dramatically against the faded “old” brick. The weather was sort of dreary too. Not raining but overcast, damp skies. Susanne kept swearing on the bus ride that we had to see Berlin in the sunshine. She didn’t want us to remember her city as old and gray. Our first stop of the day was the the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. On this section of the remaining wall artists come in every couple of months and paint huge, colorful, murals. Almost all of the pieces deal with hope, peace, and goodwill type shit. There were some really cool colorful ones with crazy figures and designs. One of the first things we notice when we see the wall is that there is a steep, little foot high slant that runs along the bottom of the whole length. Another golden opportunity. How many people can say they did a wall ride on the Berlin Wall? We can. We kept moving since there was a lot more to see. We got all the depressing WWII sights out of the way for the remainder of the day. We were standing on the same ground where some of the most fucked up shit in history went down just over 60 years ago. It was pretty humbling and definitely depressing at some points. We head back to Susanne’s and get showered up for a night on the town. We hit up an Indian restaurant where we meet Susanne’s friend Alex who says she’s embarrassed because she can’t speak English and meanwhile she speaks it perfectly. We spend dinner trying to learn offensive German words from the girls and then hit the bar scene. Many obnoxiously fruity cocktails and a bowl full of olives later we say Guten Nacht to Alex, roll back to Susanne’s in the rain and call it a night. After a wet tent packed with dudes, a meat rack and a jittery train car filled with white haired Krauts it was nice to sleep in a real bed with a pretty girl. Jim was on the floor about 3 feet away so we decided to leave the paddle in the closet but it was still a fun night. The next morning we awake to rain and then go meet Alex at a local market. The two girls served as our tour guides for the morning and took us to all the important buildings and sights. Susanne, Alex and I went back to Susanne’s place to crash out and do laundry and Jim headed back out to see some more sights solo. I ended up going for a walk by myself and found some crazy little 3 bowled skate park in the woods. There were just a bunch of kids sitting around smoking but I didn’t have my board with me so I just bought some beers at the corner store and headed back. The girls took us out again that night and after a few beers on the street and some veggie hot dogs we ended up at a house party at one of Susanne’s friend’s places. My first “International” party. It was pretty fun. Insane amounts of booze and girls from all over Europe. The music fucking sucked though. Euro/house/dance/bass/drum/shit but at least the scene was pretty cool. Our goal was to stay up the whole night since we had an 8 hour train ride to Munich leaving at 5:45 in the morning and we wanted to be able to be cash out the whole way there. Stay up we did. I talked to drunk heads from all over the place. They dug our tattoos and accents and told us how they’ve been to NYC, New Orleans and Chicago. Almost every person I talked to went to either NYC, New Orleans or Chicago when they were in the states. One girl from Prague kept getting in my face asking me if I knew a guy named “Bill” from “Pennsylvania”. “Oh Bill, yeah we hang out all the time. Me and Bill go way back. In fact he grew up right down the street from me in Pennsylvania.”, was my response. She walked away to go get her friend who also knew “Bill”. I walked away too but in the other direction. Hot drunk girls in Germany can be just as annoying as hot drunk girls in Philly. Go figure. We peaced the party around 4 in the AM ‘cuz it was a hike back to Susanne’s. My mind and body are fried at this point from exhaustion, alcohol and a Veggie hot dog with fried onions sitting on top of a plate of Indian food in my gut. By the time we get to Susanne’s place we have like 30 minutes before we have to leave again to get to the train station. Jim takes a shower so Susanne and I work out our goodbyes since we honestly don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again. I find myself getting bummed out. I’ve only had one girl that really meant something to me in my life and I can’t help but think that if Susanne didn’t live across the Atlantic Ocean, I could have had two. I know...BORING! Sorry. Jim and I leave Susanne’s place and drag our asses back on the subway to the main train station. Of course as we pull out of the station at a quarter to six in the morning, a full sun is rising against a blue orange sky silhouetting the buildings and I finally understand what Susanne was saying. You really do have to see Berlin “in the sunshine.” Did I really just write that?...yes, I did.
Assed out the whole way to Munich and we only had a two hour stop over there so we just walked around the main drag. More old churches, sculptures, fountains etc. etc. From there it was another 2 hours to our next stop in Austria. Brixlegg bitch. The fucking cradle! I remember seeing this park on some website when they first built it. The world’s first cradle built by Dreamland. I’d study the pictures online thinking to myself, “Christ, how fun does that place look? Oh wait, it’s in Austria. Where is Austria anyway? Isn’t that an island? Is that even on our planet? Gee, I can’t wait to skate the manual pad on 4th and Bainbridge for 5 minutes until we get kicked.” And now all of a sudden I’m sitting in an abandoned train station in the middle of Eurofuckin’nowhere just 30 miles away from the distant planet of Brixlegg, Austria. It was dope to say the least. At this point I definitely felt far from home. Even though I think Berlin was geographically the farthest we were ever away from Philly, Brixlegg felt a million more miles from home. Fuckin’ Austria man! Brixlegg feels more like a village or a truckstop town when you first get there. Our hotel was a just a 5 minute skate from the train stop so our first priority was to drop our bags off. Two beds, a shitter and a shower equals a five star hotel on this trip. Off to the park. Get this, there’s a little concrete path that goes right to the park. Another 5 minute skate and I’m seeing in person what I had up until this point only seen on a computer screen. Admission fee? No. Pads? No. Fun? Fuck yeah. We start cruising around the park watching the locals skate it like a mini ramp. Their lines are dialed and no one does an air below the coping. These kids are blasting. Jim thinks he recognizes one of the guys skating. Sure enough it’s Sage from Dreamland in Oregon. Jim met and skated with him when he lived in Oregon for a year awhile back. The Dreamland crew was 3 hours away in Bologna, Italy building a park with a fullpipe shaped like a macaroni noodle. Small world, yes. We were skating around trying to figure out the deep ends the hips and of course the cradle when there was a lull in the session. Sage drops in and yells, “Fuck man, we’re in the middle of the Alps listening to Metallica skating a god damn cradle. What more do you want?” I suddenly felt closer to home. We skated until dark and dropped our boards off in the room. At this point in the trip I had given up on trying to adjust to the time difference. Dark didn’t mean night and light didn’t mean day. It was just go, go, go until you crash. Recharge and then go again. Now it’s dark and we realize we haven’t eaten since who knows when. The town of Rattenberg is literally a five minute walk past the skate park. We venture over there and the place is a fucking ghost town. All these old stone buildings lined by cobble stone streets with only lights above shop’s doorways to show the way. It felt like we were in another century. We walked around looking for signs of life when we turned a corner and saw bright lights up on these cliffs on the mountain side. We of course started climbing up the path in pitch black which eventually led to a castle that was locked for the night. Foiled! We headed back into town knowing we could return in daylight. We ended up at some pub where I was assured over and over again that what I was getting would be “cheese ravioli with no meat”. I guess my American accent made “cheese ravioli with no meat” sound like “3 boiled hamburgers floating in beef broth” to the cook ‘cuz that’s what I got. This beat out my Waldorf salad in Liverpool as “worst meal of the trip”. I pushed it away, drank my bottle of Coke and watched Jim struggle with his plate of “pork and sauerkraut” a.k.a. “fat and shit”. Called it a night and went to bed hungry. Woke up to a MUCH welcomed breakfast buffet including orange juice, toast with jelly and chocolate cereal. Mom, is that you? Headed back to the castle since the park didn’t open until noon. It was worth going back to. Sick views from the ruins of the Austrian Alps, the skatepark below and a river as far as you could see in both directions. Hung out in the town of Rattenberg and did some shopping and skated up to the park just as the kid is unlocking the gate. First tracks in the cradle?...yes. This day was perfect. Blue skies & bright sun. Shirts came off to catch some rays at the foot of snowcapped peaks. I tried my luck in the cradle and found out quick it’s a lot different than a ramp. I’d set a goal for myself (carve over the sticker) and found myself spread eagled on the flat bottom more than once. It’s not like a ramp where you can just run down the transition. If you bail in the cradle, you drop...straight down...to concrete. I wasn’t even close to Jim’s marks either. He took a couple spills too including one that shot his board straight out of the the top of the cradle like a fucking bullet and flew at around 40 feet before it came crashing down. He managed to get barreled pretty good on a few of his runs. The Cradle Park rips. If you ever find yourself in western Austria be sure to check it out. We scoped the town before we peeled and I bought yet another pair of insoles to sit on top of the ones I bought in Paris. The lady at the shoe store said these were the kind that “...all our Athletes use”. If that’s true then Austrian athletes must blow ‘cuz these things sucked. I flipped them over and I shit you not there was straw poking out of the bottoms. Whatever. Sent some post cards home and hopped the train to Innsbruck which was a very picturesque ride to say the least. Innsbruck is a really cool town in Austria. It has a lot more going on than Brixlegg did. We spent the day walking around and basically chilling out. We ran into Testament too. Fuckin’ Testament. They were walking around looking for the same stupid tourist attraction that we were. Innsbruck’s only real attraction is some golden roof that some old dude built for some chick a long time ago. Chuck Billy and I discussed it’s cultural significance and made some charcoal sketches from a couple different vantage points before we snapped some pics and kept cruising. We had all day in town since our next overnight train to Rome wasn’t leaving until 11 at night. We caught some Z’s in a park surrounded by the Alps and then headed into an internet cafe to kill some time. Caught up on some emails and ended up changing our itinerary. (God bless EasyJet.com) We decided to skip Madrid and head to Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain to skate a park at the end of our trip. More on that later. Our train finally comes in and this ride is a lot worse than our first overnighter. This time we were in a car with all six bunks being occupied which left us with about one square foot more room than we had in the elevator in Paris. The other four guys in our car are already asleep by the time we get on at our stop. The conductor tells us to sleep with our wallets in our pockets and not to open the door for anyone no matter what...hmmm, comforting. I take the top bunk on one side while Jim gets the bottom bunk on the other side. His bunk ends up being busted and somebody pissed on his pillow...LATER! The AC is on the fritz so it’s a sweatbox in there to boot. The other guys are in hooded sweatshirts inside sleeping bags and I’m down to just my boxers in about 30 seconds. I look around and there’s no tent stake hammer so I have to resort to bashing my head against the rail to render myself unconscious this time to try to get some sleep. Luckily I’m wiped out any way so I manage yet another (relatively) full night’s sleep.
Wake up in Rome, Italy. It’s hot as hell. Rome was ALL sightseeing and by the time we left neither of us wanted to look at another tourist map ever again. I won’t bore you with all the shit we saw but trust me, we saw it ALL. Our hostel turned out to be kinda fun. We met some cool people and ended up going out to dinner with these two girls from god damn Ohio. Get this, I had better eggplant parmesan in Delaware than I had in Rome fuckin’ Italy! Anyway, had some wine and ditched the girls to check out the nightlife. (the hot one had a dude stateside anyway) I end up buying yet ANOTHER set of insoles for my kicks. It was as if they had given a child a pair of scissors and a cereal box and said, “Here, cut out what you believe to be the shape of an adult American foot as quickly as possible.” Each pair cost me about 25 American dollars which kills me ‘cuz back home I had like 12 GOOD pairs just laying around my room. Eventually we came across the Trevi Fountain which is where you want to be if you’re looking for beautiful girls in Rome. Met Francesca who was celebrating her 19th with some friends. Shared some champagne, pictures and dance moves and laughed at each other’s foreign accents. We start heading back to the hostel and walk at least a mile underground in the train tunnels trying to find an open station before we figure out the trains have stopped running. By the time we surface we can’t even find our location on the map. So now it’s like 3:30 in the morning, we’ve been walking on cobblestone for the past 8 hours in the blazing sun and we’re faced with the reality of having to WALK back to the hostel (other side of the city, god knows where) or sleeping in the bushes. The bushes started to look pretty inviting but luckily we managed to flag down a cab. Turns out we really weren’t that far from the hostel but streets in Rome (actually most of the cities we visited) don’t make any sense to me. It’s so easy to get around Philly since everything is on a grid with your numbered streets running perpendicular to “name” streets. Rome was nuts in terms of its street layout and traffic. Anyway, back in our racks we ass out and sleep in a bit before heading out for more sightseeing the next day. We saw all the stuff there is to see in Rome and it was all pretty amazing. The stuff I was studying slides of in my college art history class I was now seeing face to face. Ended up meeting some guys from Austria staying in our hostel so we head out with them the next night and just chilled. I buy 2 bags of honey roasted almonds and a beer from a street vendor and all is right with the world. This night was way more low key than the last one. The next day is all travel. We’re heading up the western coast of Italy on our way to Marseille, France. We played some cards, shoot the shit and catch some random Z’s. I think we were on 3 different trains that day.The scenery was amazing though which helped pass the time. Jagged rock cliffs dropping off into clear blue water. Expensive ass beach front mansions with private yachts parked in the drink out front. After many miles on the rails we pull into Nice at about 9:00 at night. We had to get up at 6 the next morning to catch our train to Marseille so that gave us just 9 short hours in Nice. First things first. After Rome, we were done with sightseeing for pretty much the remainder of the trip. From here on out it was skating and chilling. We were finally on the beach now so a dunk in the Mediterranean was mandatory. We check into our hostel and of course the city we’re in for the shortest amount of time (barely one night) is the city with 3 hot, cool as hell girls in our room. We make our introductions but daylight is fading so we bolt to the beach which is only 4 blocks away. The only thing that sucks is there isn’t any sand. It’s literally rocks as far as the eye can see. The aqua socks we’ve been toting around like nerds all trip are FINALLY put to use in the Mediterranean. We skip some rocks just so if anyone asks us if we’ve ever skipped rocks in the Mediterranean we can say yes. Back to the hostel to clean up and hit the strip. 3 girls in our room meant 27 different types of soaps, shampoos, conditioners and body scrubs in the bathroom. I mix and match the various scents and flavors and I emerge a new woman, I mean man. We ditch our old wheels and put on a new set of Spitfires to finish the last leg of the trip on new tires. As soon as we set our boards down we knew it was worth toting around an extra set of wheels on our backs. SMMOOOOTH! Back on their feet the pack attacks the street with reckless abandon. Nice’s boardwalk is a long stretch of ‘crete brimming with insanely beautiful girls, random freaks, bladers, palm trees, skateable metal sculptures and of course endless views of the ocean. There was a ramp that the bladers had set up to show off their high jumps and gaylord twisters for the tourists. We barged it and skated it like a flat bank. Eventually we set up the bar and caught some air. Two drunk American exchange studentettes were taken by our acrobatics and in about 30 seconds we had them flat on their backs...to ollie them you fucking pervert! Geez! (Besides, they were chubby) “Fly over us Brett! Please don't land on us!” “Don't worry sweetheart, I will definitely NOT land on you.” We would ollie the girls and then ollie the bar off the ramp. The thrill of that whole scene lasted about 3 minutes so we kept cruising and let them get back to their studies. Our session on Nice’s boardwalk was another one of those memorable flatground stretches that ranked right up their with our stretch in Paris along the Seinne. After witnessing a bum fight we practice our flatground 360 ollies and flip tricks before calling it a night. We roll back to the room and are in our cots by a little after 2. Back up at 6 to catch the train to Marseille and as we’re leaving the hostel, one of our roommates is just getting out of her taxi from a night she spent putting god knows what/who into her body. Our conversation in the doorway went something like this...
Her: What about us?
Me: (romantically): We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have - we’d - we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Her: When I said I would never leave you...
Me: And you never will. I’ve got a job to do too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of.
...Actually, now that I think about it, it was more like this...
Her: Fuck, you guys are leaving now?
Her: Fuck, later man.
With our tearful goodbyes out of the way, we leave the beautiful women of Nice and let them get back to their cheap bottles, rich men, and short lived memories of last night.
Marseille was just 2 hours away and I had been anticipating this stop on our trip since before we even left Philly. Jim had been there before and kept saying how it was one of his favorite if not THE favorite park he had ever been to. I knew about it from all the exposure it had gotten from the Bowlriders competitions as well as numerous articles and pics in all the different mags. The train station sits on top of a hill overlooking the city and our first view of the town of Marseille, France is beyond dope. The weather was perfect and we wanted to get to the park ASAP. We hop a bus and go absolutely nowhere ‘cuz of the traffic. We talk to a man on said bus and it doesn’t take him long to figure out that we’re trying to get to the park. He tells us to follow him and he lets us know what stop we have to get off at and what bus to transfer to next. After what seems like an eternity we get on the bus that goes right to the beach where the park is located. There’s another kid with a board and he motions us over with a wave. My world gets a lot smaller when it turns out he’s from Philly too and rolls with some of the same kids we do. Once the bus turns along the water we take it a few more stops and then bail off. This is one of the pinnacles of our trip. Skating along the ocean with all our belongings on our back on our way to meet up with old friends and skate one of the world’s premiere parks. (The English guys were flying down to meet up with us in Marseille) Sure enough, we roll up to the park and see Adam, Frosty, James and Doug chilling on the grass bank behind the park catching some rays. Handshakes, hugs and introductions to Doug are exchanged and we’re stoked to have a crew deeper than 2 for the first time in weeks. Doug instantly becomes one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He straight rips on a board too. He and James together are sheer comic genius. The first thing I notice about the park is how small it is compared to what I was expecting to see. The second thing I notice is that it’s sitting on the god damn Mediterranean with a nude beach behind it and seaside cliffs dotting the horizon as far as the eye can see. Do yourself a favor and go to Marseille before your bucket is kicked. Super smooth ‘crete, ideal transitions, perfectly set coping and quite possibly the best working layout to a park I’ve ever skated. It’s small but everything just flows perfectly. (I read somewhere that it was actually designed by an engineering student as sort of his final design project.) You could divide the park into 2 main areas. The front, shallow bowled section that has a joyous spine and perfect pump in-pump out corners and the back, deeper bowled section with 3 bowls of different depths set up in a cloveresque formation. Each of the back bowls are connected by a set of rollers that dump you out into each one’s basin and can give you any amount of speed you want depending on how hard you pump. You can just keep circling the back bowls for days. Marseille flat out rules. We skated until we could no longer stand the heat and then cooled off with a dip in the ocean. There was a sand beach but we climbed out on the rock peninsula to get away from the crowds. The English guys had been there since yesterday and they all swam out to one of the far buoys for their “task” of the day. This meant it was mandatory for us Yanks to swim it as well. I dive in and alternate between my side, back and breast stroke and use muscles I haven’t used in months. I chill on the buoy for a hot minute and then doggy paddle my way back to the rocks. Doug got the whistle blown at him for getting nude and screaming before he jumped in. It’s really not a trip to the beach unless you get the whistle blown at you anyway right? Back in the bowls for the afternoon session. 6 man trains around the park were the order of this heat. Time to hit the pub which is a mere 2 minute walk from the park. Pints of Stella, Desperados (beer with a hint of Tequila) and peanuts were downed as we talked about life, love and regret. We stayed at the pub for a hot minute before we hit the park up for everyone’s favorite session...“the evening session”. I had a descent buzz going by this point but I didn’t realize it until I rolled in. It was at this moment that I truly “fell in love” with Marseille. Blah. Everything was there. The skating, the friends, the sunset, the purple sky streaked with orange, the ocean breeze off the coast AND I stuck my first layback grind in a foreign country. It wasn’t the smoothest but I rolled away so it goes down in my book as a “Make”. We kept skating nonstop until our knees gave out. Some young female bladers looked into the eyes of James and Doug and found their ideal men so they retreated to the water’s edge to make memories. The rest of us chilled on the sand for a bit before starting the long walk up the hill to our hostel. We found a restaurant that was still open so Frosty and I ordered a pizza while Jim and Adam went back to the room to start making some pasta. The meal that night was one of the best of the whole trip. Adam did a bang up job with the pasta and veggies. Throw in some French bread and we were styling. This was by far the best hostel we stayed in all trip. It felt more like a condo. Cool woodwork, cool layout, and a cool host that had lemonade waiting for us as soon as we walked in the door. Jan, the owner of this hostel, was truly living the life. He split his time between his hostel in southern France and his one in Costa Rica. He was straight chillin’. He hung out in the common area with these big sprawling couches and a bar. His bedroom was directly above it and was separated by a big glass floor. Now a glass floor (or ceiling depending on what floor you’re on) plus attractive young female travellers equals...well, you figure it out. Like I said, he was straight chillin’. I had absolutely no problem falling asleep that night and my first day at Marseille closes with nothing but anticipation of the next. We didn’t make it down to the park until around 11:30 the next day ‘cuz we all slept in a bit and then hit the market for breakfast. Jim and I packed our bags back up since we were gonna leave straight from the park to go to the train station to head over to Barcelona. The sun was blazing during this session but we had to make it count since we weren’t gonna see the bowls of Marseille again for a long time. I concentrated on the frontside hip and Jim wanted to test out his spine skills. We ran a couple more trains and before we knew it we had to start the trek back up the hill to the train station. As we were gathering our gear in the shade the rest of the guys were trying to decide if they wanted to skate some more, go swimming or go eat and hit the pub. Bastards! We said our goodbyes and caught the bus to the station. Marseille was monumental to say the least and we suddenly found ourselves on the tail end of our trip.
We had a pretty good ride to Barcelona. It was probably a 7 or 8 hour trip but by now lengthy train rides were routine to us. (If you ever buy a trainpass in Europe, spend the extra cash and go first class. It’s worth every penny.) We find ourselves in our 7th country on this our trip to end all trips. We take the subway from the main train station and exit on Las Ramblas, the street where all the shit goes down in Barcelona. Las Ramblas is like Philly’s South Street except a million times better. There are extremely attractive, black ladies of the night on every corner. These sweethearts would walk up, grab your arm and just start leading you off into an alley before you could say, “There is a rose in Spanish Harlem.” We found our hostel which was basically like a college dormitory. This place was huge. 6 floors, game room/bar, huge bathrooms and rooms with anywhere from 4 to 20 beds. It was nice ‘cuz it was clean and modern and there were tons of insanely hot girls but at the same time there were tons of meatheads who were all wearing “fashionable” mesh hats, flip flops, cargo shorts, sleeveless shirts to show off there killer barbed wire tats and shell necklaces who would just drink at the bar all day listening to god awful dance music. Whatevs. Jim and I got assigned different rooms since we got there late so we dropped off our bags and met back in the lobby to see what the Barcelona night life had to offer. Las Ramblas is just crazy. Tourists, street performers, hookers, beggars, drunks and low lifes are just everywhere. We walked the strip trying to find someplace to eat and since every restaurant on the street looked the same we just picked one at random. Word of advice, if you’re ever in Barcelona, don’t eat at Mickey’s. (sounds like a real authentic Spanish dining experience right?) I don’t know what we were even thinking sitting down at a place called Mickey’s but I guess we got what we deserved. Shitty food and shitty service. We split goldfish bowl sized beers and a pitcher of Sangria with two American girls and shot the shit for awhile. We didn’t even touch the food. We settled for a sandwich from Subway and called it a night since we were beat. Got up early, grabbed our boards and hit the streets. I’m sure you know this by know but Barcelona is insane for street skating. Within 5 minutes of leaving our hostel we were skating a spot that put any spot I skated in Philly over the past 4 years to shame. Ledges, drops, banks, steps, slants, gaps...you name it, this spot had it. I was so psyched to actually be street skating in Barcelona. For years I’d been seeing all the pics in mags and spots in the videos and now I was here and it fucking ruled. No one cared either. Security guards didn’t even get out of their chairs! It was great. We broke out our spot list that I got off the internet before we left and went to seek out Barca’s more famous spots. First stop, the bump over the bar. There were 3 other kids skating there too so we went up and said “Yo”. They were from Italy and trying to hit basically all the same spots we were so we combined forces to roll through the city 5 deep. The bump to rail was really fun. You just need a couple of tries to get the feel of ollieing out of the last bump and it’s pretty easy. If you hit your tail at the right spot you can just blast over it. We grabbed some drinks and headed off to the next spot which was a mellow, long, super low silver rail with banks on both sides. Unfortunately the rail had been skate stopped so you could only really ollie over it into the banks now but it was still fun. The next spot we tracked down was known as “Fondo”. When we got off the subway and up to the surface there were thick black clouds looming over us. “Fuck, we gotta find this place quick!” We start asking some people who looked like they might have some idea of where the hell we were trying to go and eventually a kid pointed us up a hill in the right direction. The description I printed off the internet (translated from Spanish) said “FONDO is THE spot of epic proportions!” We round a corner with hope in our hearts and find a big bank. Oh, cool, a big bank, not exactly “epic” but still a good spot. We go up a little farther and see a courtyard with a set of six flat seven. Perfect for a step line but again, not really “epic”. I drop the 2 flights in a hurry as the first drops start to fall. Jim skated through the courtyard and up a grass hill. As I’m in mid flight over the second set of steps I hear Jim yell, “BRREETTT! Get the fuck up here! HURRY! Dudes, c’mere!” We run over just as the skies open up and drench the greatest skate spot I have ever seen in my life. We run under a roof and stare in awe at “THE spot of epic proportions!” Fondo is just plain insane. Where do I start? This place has 3 levels. Each level has about a 30 foot wide, 4 foot high bank. Lining the top of each bank for the entire length are perfectly square benches. The right side of the spot has a long slant that starts at the top and has banked sides that start flush and rise up to meet the 3 main “front” banks. This means every level has a perfect hip. Every lip has a thin strip of metal that acts as coping. There are 4 perfect ledges in a square on the top level. There are also steps that separate each level. On the left is almost a 300 (yes 300) foot long bank that starts at ground level and gradually rises up to around 10 feet high with a fountain on top. The ground is super smooth and has that tile that gives you some extra “pop” kinda like LOVE Park’s. Keep in mind we can’t skate it because it’s beyond pouring now. All we can do is stare as sheet after sheet of rain comes down. It was torturous. It poured so damn hard for so damn long. We eventually had to make a break for it to get inside somewhere. There was a pizza joint across the street so that was the obvious choice. We made a dash for it and ended up eating some pies and drinking another pitcher of Sangria as we looked at our perfect skate spot getting drenched. We ended up chilling in the restaurant for awhile just exchanging skate stories with the Italian kids. Here I was sitting in a pizza shop in Barcelona drinking Sangria with my new Italian friends and looking across the street to the perfect skate spot. The rain finally let up and we started to head back to the hostel. There was a girl staying in Jim’s room that he said would take us out to dinner since she had been in Barcelona for a couple weeks and knew the city pretty well. We said peace to our new friends and made plans to meet back up with them at Fondo the next day bright and early to actually skate the place. Back at the hostel we clean up and roll out with Ronnie, a cute little number from Canada that had been travelling around Europe for months. She takes us to this little cafe on some random little side street. We’re treated to one of the few “real” meals on this whole trip complete with warm food (including vegetables) and actual silverware. We’re shootin’ the shit with Ronnie and I do a random glance around the tinyass room we’re dining in. I do a split second double take when I spot a Chocolate skateboards hat. My eyes instinctively go to the shoes and sure enough the dude is rocking some DVS’s. I whisper to Jim (since the guy is literally about 4 feet away since the room is so small), “Yo, is that Chico Brennes?” Jim gives him the quick once over and chuckles a little while nodding his head. We end up talking to him as we’re paying the bill and he says the whole DVS team is in Barcelona for 2 weeks filming for the new video. Nice guy. Moving along...we exit the cafe with full stomachs and try to decide what to do next. Ronnie suggests heavy metal bar. Sounds good to me. We hit up the bar for a couple drinks but it’s kinda dead so we peace. Ronnie asks if we want to go drink on the beach. Uhhhh, let me check my schedule. Let’s see, nothing...nothing...and nothing. Drinking on the beach it is then. We find a little market and I buy the rum, Ronnie buys the Coke and Jim buys a pack of toothbrushes since he left his in Marseille. By the time we get to the beach it’s dark out and it’s pretty empty except for a few people on random blankets. Ronnie lays her shawl/blanket down and we all crowd in on it. My shoes come off and as I bury my feet in the sand of Barcelona I finally realize what a true “vacation” is supposed to be like. We’re getting pretty tossed from the Rum and Cokes so I start getting bolder with my discussion topics as well as my hand placements. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that this isn’t our hostesses’ “first time on the beach”. You only live once right? (Look at me trying to justify my actions on paper) Anyway, once Jim realizes that I’m going for broke he decides to take a walk. He comes back after awhile and we go back to talking and polish off what's left of our bottles. Out of nowhere these 2 sketchers come up and try to run a scam on us. The one dude is kicking it to Ronnie in French while the other one plays drunk and sits on the sand like 8 feet from our blanket. A minute later the guy is like 4 feet from our stuff and before we know it he’s almost on top of us. Jim and I spring up and get in both of their faces and let them know in crystal clear English that they can basically go fuck themselves if they think they’re making off with any of our stuff. They get the picture and go try their luck on a couple about 30 feet down the beach. We decide to call it a night or actually a morning since it was about 5:00 by now and we were supposed to meet the Italian dudes back at Fondo around 8:00. Needless to say we didn’t meet them at 8. We slept in a bit but still made it to the spot by 10 just as the Italian kids are leaving. I apologize for not meeting them there on time but once I explained our situation they just laughed and said they would have done the same thing. We took some quick pics with them before they left since they had to go and catch their train back to Italy. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and Jim and I had “THE spot of epic proportions” all to ourselves. We just attacked it trying every trick, grind, slide, transfer and line we could think of. This spot was ridiculous. It was seriously perfect and we hit it non stop for as long as we could before the heat became unbearable. I’m wasting my time even trying to describe this place in writing. Save your money, go to Barcelona and see it for yourself. Next we went to MACBA which is the spot with the Big 4 and the gap to bank and all the other spots you’ve seen in pics and vids. Unfortunately the Big 4 and the gap to bank were both shut down due to construction. We skated some ledges and hit some drops and decided to hit the beach in the daylight since we would be leaving Barcelona in just 5 hours. Another topless beach with perfect weather and beautiful sand awaited us. It was at this point that I lost all desire to visit the Jersey Shore ever again. When we were walking back to the hostel we saw just skate spot after skate spot after skate spot. And not just good ledges either. There were drop-ins, slants, gaps, rails (flat and down steps), bumps and transitions everywhere you turned. And I’m not just saying this to be like “Oh, I’m cool. I’ve been to Barcelona and you haven’t.” No lie, there were just sick spots all over the place. And we didn’t even really leave the main streets. 2 days is definitely not enough time to skate all that Barca’ has to offer. Back at the hostel we met up with Ronnie who took us to this crazy church that Gaudi started building but never finished. This was yet another piece of absolutely amazing architecture we saw on this trip. All four sides of the church are different and each reflects Gaudi’s state of mind at the time. By the time he got to the “back” side he was losing his faith in religion so it has a totally different feel than the front of the church. There are these huge knights on horses stabbing broadswords through rocks and impaling things on the level above them. All the figures are made up of all these sharp angles so they have like blocks for heads and shit. Under the crucifixion scene there’s one of those “magic squares” where all the numbers in every direction add up to 33 which is how old Christ was supposed to have been when he died. Instead of gargoyles on the corners Gaudi had huge lizards crawling all over the sides of the church. There was no salt, it was just plain nuts......
OK that was probably my worst attempt at a joke this whole story but this is the longest piece I’ve ever written and I’m beginning to lose my mind staring at the screen. Besides, wouldn’t you rather go see and skate all this shit for yourself instead of reading my lame ass recap? Life is too short my friend. To me, sloth is the deadliest of all sins. Do you really think when I was 13 or fuck even 21 I ever thought I’d be going to Europe to skateboard? I know I didn’t. I never even thought I’d leave the East Coast and actually I didn’t until just over 4 years. Now I can’t wait for my next trip. And I know it costs money but so what? There’s a little something called “get a job and save some cash”. When I’m old and grey with just 2 or 3 marbles rolling around upstairs I NEVER want to think back and wonder, “What if?” Fuck man, no regrets! The barbarians are at the fuckin’ gate. It’s time to make a move. On one of the 17,563 train rides we took on this trip Jim started talking to this random girl that was sitting next to him. Turns out she’s from Australia and 10 minutes later we have ourselves a place to stay if we ever go down under. The Italian kids we met at the bump to bar said we can stay at their place if we ever go to Bologna to skate the park that Sage built who we ran into in Austria who Jim met a few years ago in Oregon. Anybody see what I’m trying to say here? You need both hands to seize the day so drop the god damn remote people. Don’t worry, the couch will still be there when you get back so wake up and live or sit home and rot!
OK where were we? Oh yeah the church. We snapped some pics and rolled back to the hostel to pick up our bags and blaze Barcelona as fast as we came in. Ronnie walked us to the subway and gave us one of her poetry books to kill some time on the ride. Back to the main station where we’ll catch our 3rd overnighter to Bilbao which sits on the northern coast of Spain. This train was packed with some kind of field trip or something and there were screaming Spanish kids EVERYWHERE. We had to push our way through the little punks and as soon as we found our car we shut the door tight. We kept our fingers crossed that none of them would be our bunkmates for the evening. There was a knock on the door but it was just some random travelling dude who chose the top bunk and had his lights out within 5 minutes of getting into our car. Luckily he was our only companion so we cranked the AC and sprawled out trying to catch some much needed Z’s for the last leg. This ride was great except for when the conductor threw the door open to collect our passports. I was dead asleep and had my foot propped up on the inside door handle. Follow these quick and easy steps if you want to know what it felt like:
1. Find a doorway
2. Take your shoes and socks off
3. Lie on the floor and position your feet so they are partially in the doorway
4. Fall asleep
5. Have a friend slam the door on your feet
We get to Bilbao at like 6:30 in the morning so the train station is basically empty. After some sink showers we waste no time catching the local train that will take us to the beach where the park is located. The directions I got off of Thrasher’s website just said “Get off the train, skate down to the beach”. Easy enough. We stop at a local market for some fruit and bottles of water and the clerk just points down the hill once he sees our boards. As we’re skating down the hill the ocean slowly comes into view and I start getting one of those “Fuck, this is gonna rule” feelings in my stomach. A minute later we’re staring at a totally empty concrete skatepark complete with a pool that is surrounded by ancient rock wall ruins overlooking the Bay of Biscay. This view gave the one from the Eiffel Tower a run for the money. There is a big grass hill with cliffs on the one side of the park and huge rock cliffs dropping of into the bay on the other side. This was another park that when I first found it on the internet almost 2 years ago the thought of actually being able to skate it was beyond comprehension. I mean it’s on the god damn northern coast of Spain! How often do you call up your homeboys on a Saturday morning to see if they wanna go skate a pool in Spain? We drop our bags, nosh on some bananas and drop in. The pool is the main attraction at La Kanterra but there is also a shallow “dish” with a 5 foot high by about 6 foot wide tombstone extension rising off the back wall. Originally the park only had the dish, the pool and a concrete half/mini ramp. It had been redone and resurfaced in some areas with little lumps and bowled corners but all you really needed was the pool and the dish to have fun. Fuck, who am I kidding, all you REALLY needed was the pool. We loosened our legs up in the dish before we rode the pool. Let me be perfectly clear by saying “I am not a pool skater.” I can carve, scratch some grinds and snap an ollie or two but that’s about the extent of my skills when it comes to the big buckets. I can hold my own when it comes to carves though and that’s really all I need to have fun and I can assure you that I was indeed having fun. Fuck man, again it’s almost pointless to try to explain all this shit. I believe it was Eddie “El Gato” Elguera who said it best, “Carve, Grind, Slash. Very good. Have a drink.” La Kanterra was F-U-N, phun. Some harsh looking older guy showed up after awhile and started checking out the newer concrete sections to see how they set. I remembered reading about some dude that lived in the hill next to the park and would kind of maintain it. I put two and two together and went up and introduced myself and my assumption turned out to be correct. I don’t even remember his name but he literally lived in the hill for the past 7 years in what used to be the old lifeguard house for the beach. He was cool as hell and stoked to meet to guys that came all the way from Philadelphia to skate “his” park. We talked about the park and it’s history and the contests that are held there and all the pros that roll through.This guy is living the life. No electricity, no phone, no computer, no mail, no car. I realize some people might not consider the lack of these amenities as “the life”, but to be able to wake up and have the Bay of Biscay as your front yard and a perfect concrete pool 20 yards from your front door, I’d be willing to cancel my Hotmail account and Verizon plan. He did mention that the winters can be pretty rough and last year he was forced to buy a space heater. He showers in the changing rooms on the beach where he can also get fresh water and use the shitters. He had a lawn chair set up outside his door with a pile of books to pass the time. Wake up, surf, skate, read, skate, surf, read, lights out. Sounds good to me. After Jim and I were done skating we packed our bags and checked out the beach for a spell. We got a pic in front of the water as sort of an “end of the line” snapshot since once we left Bilbao we’d literally be in planes, trains and automobiles until we got back to Philly. We cleaned up in the changing rooms where I said goodbye to my 3 pairs of foreign footbeds that had carried me faithfully over thousands and thousands of miles. We also ditched some socks and underwear to lighten our load for the final day and a half. On our way back up to the park the “dude in the hill” waved us into his humble abode. The walls were totally covered in skate pics and ads ripped out from magazines. It looked like my room at my parent’s house from when I was 15. He had a little desk with a homemade stool and his “bed” was 2 pieces of plywood on top of 4 overturned buckets. He had a couple boards hanging on the walls from some pros that had come through to skate the park as well as various pieces of clothing donated by sponsors of the pool contest that is held there every year. We were hanging out just talking about random skating shit and travelling for awhile until I checked the time and realized that we had to get going soon to catch our train to the airport. He understood and raised his hand in a “wait a minute” gesture”.
Him: You smoke? (in broken but easily recognizable English)
Me: No, not really.
Him: C’mon, you smoke. Yes?
Me: Nah. Thanks though.
He asked again and again and even though I kept declining he started to break out his rolling papers. Finally I’m like what the fuck. I’m in a god damn village in Spain after having travelled all over Europe and skating some of the best spots in the world for the past 3 weeks, what’s a couple puffs on a joint in the grand scheme of things? I’ve only smoked like 5 times in my life and every time I was drunk so it did nothing to me. Fuck it. Who am I to be an ungrateful houseguest? This guy was just stoked to have visitors who appreciated his park and wouldn’t look down at what he was doing with his life. Hell, we ENVIED him for what he was doing with his life. Anyway, this guy starts rolling this joint and this thing is a monster. Fat as hell. Again, I am not an experienced pot smoker but I do know that a hit straight from a joint is a hell of lot stronger than a hit from a bowl which is all I’ve ever smoked from. He finished rolling it and I start thinking, “Fuck, this thing is gonna kill me if I hit it.” It was a beast. Then he just hands it to me and goes, “Here, you take. You smoke before plane and you be whoooooo! You be good. You sleep good.” Sleep good? More like comatose good. I thought we were gonna share it but he just hands it over in a gesture of goodwill towards a new friend. I slide it into my pocket and we say our goodbyes and head up the hill back towards the train station. Keep in mind this is all in broad daylight. I’m thinking we should find some park or somewhere chill that I can at least spark this thing and take a toke if for nothing else then just the story. Before I know it we’re on the train and I have my hand in my pocket the whole time cradling the joint. I look at Jim and we both laugh ‘cuz we know we’re thinking the same thing. “What the fuck are we gonna do with this?” Pretty soon we’re on a bus to the airport and I realize that I’m in a foreign country about to board a plane to yet another country and I have a huge joint in my pocket. Now I know this is gonna kill some of you reading this but I decided the best thing to do was just to ditch it in a trash can. The last thing I needed was to get pinched by some guard dog at security and have them pull this thing out of my pocket. I knew I was gonna catch some shit from my “Blazer” friends when I told them the story and all their reactions were pretty much the same. “WHAT? You threw it out? You didn’t smoke it? What were you thinking? Are you insane?” Yes, I was insane for actually contemplating smoking it in the first place in which case I’d probably just now be waking up face down on the beach in Bilbao instead of typing this. Four years ago my edge was razor sharp and now I’m staying up all night drinking at techno parties in Berlin and walking around Spanish train stations clutching a joint in my pocket trying to remember if the Canadian girl I groped on the beach in Barcelona when I was drunk on Rum and Coke ever clarified if she was 3 inputs or just 2. (I never did get a straight answer from her.) So anyway, I board the flight out of Bilbao completely drug free and an hour later we’re back in London.
We get a train to the main station where we have a couple of hours to kill before we take a four hour train ride up to Liverpool where Adam will meet us and take us the airport in Manchester early the next morning to fly home. We annihilate some Indian food and it really starts to sink in that the trip is just about over. I don’t know what to think at this point. Outside the train station are the brick banks that we skated with all the English kids a couple weeks ago. Or was that last year? Wait, was it yesterday? No yesterday we were in Spain and 3 days before that we were on the French Riviera. 2 days before that we were in Rome eating eggplant parmesan and drinking wine with 2 girls from Ohio. It all started to seem very surreal. By now, reading schedules and catching trains was like tieing my shoes. We chilled on the floor in front of the big schedule board and watched news reports on all the new Al Queda threats towards America. Wonderful, back to the real world I guess. I pick up a book about this guy who was in the first Delta Force squad back in the 70’s to pass the time. This is the train ride where we meet the girl from Australia that says we can stay with her if we ever go there. After a couple of poorly delivered Crocodile Dundee jokes on my part we exchange email addresses before she gets off at her stop. The rest of the ride is pretty uneventful and I just bury my nose in my book. It seems to take forever (possibly because we have nothing to look forward to except going home) but we finally get to Liverpool and just like he promised, Adam is there waiting to pick us up. We of course catch up and tell him about all the places we skated and shit we did and he fills us in on what we missed in Marseille since they stayed for one more night after we left. Believe me, we missed A LOT. Let’s just put it this way, if Jim and I had stayed, there simply would not have been enough room for all the shit that went down in the hostel that night. Just go to Marseille and make your own memories alright. We have some tea and toast and crash out around 2 or 3 only to get up at 6 to drive to the airport in Manchester. Adam is a beyond gracious host and is always good for a story or 20 on any car ride. Before this trip I had only met him 2 times but even by the end of the first night I met him he felt like an old friend. A super nice guy to say the least. He drops us off at the airport and we say our thanks and goodbyes and pick up some last minute souvenirs to cram in our bags. Fuck, this is really it. It’s really over. No more sundial in Paris or cradle in Austria. No more Police Banks in Liverpool or wallrides in Berlin. No more hips in Barcelona or spines in Scotland. Goodbye Marseille. I’ll never forget you. We board the plane and I read my book cover to cover passing out every hour or so. No need for a book mark. Just scan the pages for the wettest drool stain and I’m back in the action right where I left off. Before I know it we’re touching down right where we took off 3 weeks ago. Back in Philly we get pulled aside for routine a search. (This really wasn’t a big surprise seeing as we were 2 tattooed guys with skateboards each holding a side of a HUGE black duffel bag.) We drop our bags as he asks us what’s in them.
Us: Just our skateboards and dirty laundry.
Guard: Skateboards huh, where’d you guys go?
Us: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain.
Guard: You guys went to Europe just to skateboard?
Us: Yea, pretty much.
Guard: Are you sponsored?
Guard: Geez. How much did that cost your dads?
Us: Nothing, we paid ourselves.
Guard: How old are you?
Guard: What do you guys do?
Us: Environmental Engineering...Graphic Design.
Guard: Huh, you know they got that place under I-95 since you can’t skate at LOVE anymore.
Us: Yea, we know.
Guard: OK well...welcome home I guess.
Well that’s pretty much it from my end. This trip was epic to say the least. I strongly urge each and every one of you to make the most of what fleeting time you have left above ground and see what there is to see out there. But hey, if you’re content with where you are and all you have experienced then far be it from me to tell you to do otherwise. And trust me, I was back at work the very next day after we got home and within a week I had settled into my previous routine of get up, go to work, go home, feed the dog, watch TV, go to bed. But within that same week I had also begun planning my next trip and started to count the months until I had a brand new set of 2 weeks vacation waiting to be used and abused to their fullest potential. Like I said before, wake up and live or sit home and rot.
I really can’t think of a clever way to end this whole mess so I’ll just post the thanks list and you can get back to your day.
My sincere thanks goes out to:
PHILLY: Jim, Honestly, he did the booking for all the flights and trains. He’d call me at work almost everyday while we were planning this thing with updates on all the prices and time frames. He read the travel books and had the maps in his back pocket the whole trip. I had the footpowder, Febreeze and pain killers and he had the maps, tourists spots and addresses. (I don’t think he would have let me carry the maps anyway though) I thought for sure we’d be at each other’s throats by the time this trip was over seeing as it was just the 2 of us for the majority of it but, unless he kept his hatred towards me bottled up in the pit of his stomach for 3 weeks, we got along just fine.
England/Scotland: Adam, Frosty, Russel, Liz, Hicky, James, Chris, Fos of Heroin skateboards and Joel and his girlfriend for taking us around, putting us up and just being cool (that goes for everybody on the list)
France (Paris): The 1 guy who could speak French in the elevator
Germany (Berlin): Susanne for letting us stay at her place, doing our laundry, taking us all around and just being a rad girl and Alex for being an understanding tour guide and for saying “Shit is whack!” whenever we asked her to.
Austria: All the guys at the Cradle Park, Sage from Dreamland and Testament (they didn’t do anything for us but how often can you list Testament in a thanks list and actually have a story that goes along with it?)
Italy (Rome): Our dinner dates from Ohio, Stefan and Pietro (our Austrian drinking buddies...“Beer is good yes?”), all 19 years of Francesca at the Trevi fountain and the cabby who got us back to the hostel
France (Nice): The girls in our room for their scented lotions and their scented bodies that went along with them, the chubby kid in our room for reminding me of Doug Porter from the Wonder Years, the 2 shit faced exchange students that let us ollie them and the little dog that broke free from its owner and chased us the whole length of boardwalk while we did wheelslides and 180 ollies
France (Marseille): All the English guys plus Doug and the Red Lion
Spain (Barcelona): Subway, Enzo, Marco, and Andrea from Italy for sharing their spotlist and being cool, FONDO (THE spot of epic proportions!) and Ronnie for taking us to dinner, being cool and not letting her better judgement get in the way on the beach
Spain (Bilbao): the guy in the hill
Now go throw some fresh socks and a bottle of Pepto in a bag and hit the road. See ya on the streets punk.
We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot