August 3, 2001
8:45 am PST Bellingham WA
Picked up Jay. Jay Steger, local Bellingham superstar, (and the only person I know with nothing better to do for a week) is insurance in case no one in the Midwest knows how to skateboard. At least I’ll be able to take pictures of him.
Jay thought the Spokane pyramid was sweet. Frontside flip.
2:30 pm PST Spokane, WA Skateboard Park
Like its great predecessors Burnside and FDR, Spokane’s skate park lies under a bridge. It was especially easy find, especially thanks to my 16 page pre-prepared Mapquest itinerary, which may have made me look like a dork, but was very useful.
The park consisted of some benches, a few Jersey barriers, some smaller ledges, a pyramid, a flat bar and another obstacle which can only be referred to as an anomaly. 10 feet tall with vert quarterpipes all around, it served no purpose!
Jay instantly became park superstar with his backside smith grinds and Red Bull fueled consistency. Little kids wanted to know what WWS was, and if he skated for them. Another guy, who admitted himself to be 26, eagerly ran up to Jay and told him if he was ever back in town he should come skate some box, blah, blah, blah.
Since we’d only driven 300 miles, and had 3000 more to go, an hour later we left for Coeur D’Alene, ID.
Jay’s shirt comes off to give all the ladies a show in Idaho. K grind.
4:00 pm PST Coeur D’Alene, ID skatepark
Coeur D’Alene is the KKK capital of the country, so we were a little concerned that Jay, who has pigment in his skin, might have to watch his back. Indeed, after a little while of skating around, some kid tried to step to him (or kick him board at him, or something). It turned out though; that he thought Jay was someone else. Crisis averted.
This place was one of a kind. The park itself wasn’t bad–a bowled corner, quarterpipe, two boxes, a pyramid a flat bar and a 4-foot mini ramp — but everything felt like it had about 6 inches of wax on it (everything! Even the middle of the miniramp). The ground on the other hand was rough concrete, a wonderful combination.
The kids there were a diverse bunch — from a mustached white-trash guy with mountain board wheels, to a Hessian/skull tattooed shred dog, to mini-Muskas to a little kid who barely looked old enough to eat solid food that would drop in on the ramp — but they can all be summed up with one quote:
“Dude, it’s hard to set back up mongo after you roll in!”
August 4, 2001
9:00 am PST Somewhere in South Dakota
South Dakota proves itself to be surprisingly pretty:
The Missouri River
Red Bull’s effects diminished and I let Jay take the wheel. I had aspirations to make it to South Dakota, but in Aladdin, WY (5 minutes from the border) I gave up.
A motorcycle rally in Sturgis and a very enticing sign for Wonderland Cave boasting “fun for the whole family” suckered us in. The bikes were there, but not in the road packing form I had envisioned, so we followed signs to the cave.
Through the Black Hills National Forest they led us, and finally down a sandy dirt road. Jay showed off his skills extended beyond skateboard and drove with no fear. The cave was indeed spectacular (and at least cold), even though our tour guide didn’t seem that excited about the bikers cracking blond jokes.
On the way out we followed some bikers who led us to a sign that said Mt. Rushmore, 47. Encouraged, we drove on switchbacks that wrapped around the black hills and were all UNDER CONSTRUCTION. 73 (give or take a few) miles later, we hit pavement to the sound of metal dragging. Upon closer inspection, it was determined that the muffler had detached itself and was hanging precariously from a hook, dragging along the ground.
I thanked myself for having AAA and picked up my phone to call. “All circuits are busy now. Please try your call again later,” the robotic man told me.
DAMN SOUTH DAKOTA.
Eventually I got through and they said someone would be out in 45 minutes. At this point I should mention it was 103 degrees.
We sat in the car and waited, and waited, and waited. An hour later, I called back and was told to be patient — the bike rally was tying things up.
Now I’m pretty smart, so it only took me that whole hour to figure out it would be cooler in the shade. We sat in someone’s front yard for a few minutes, and then they pulled up. It was the same car that we had seen leave awhile earlier.
“Do you need any help,” asked the woman, whom I’d later learn was named Bobby Jo. She invited us in for a drink. There, I pet her cat and tried to absorb as much AC as possible.
Bobby Jo’s husband informed us that Midas was only 1 Â½ miles away and after some deliberation, we decided to remove the fallen muffler and risk it.
The lady led our way and offered to hang around and make sure everything worked out all right. She was the nicest lady alive.
The guys at Midas had alluded to the fact that they had the part I needed, so I was hopeful, but when they had problems opening the hood, I knew I was in for it. They came back with verdict, but positive news that the car would run fine and as long as we kept the windows open, we wouldn’t be asphyxiated.
We crossed our fingers and pressed on. Did I mention in was now 108 degrees!
Go South Dakota!
8:00 pm CST Mitchell, SD
Amazingly enough, we made it to the other side of South Dakota sans muffler. Being a far cry from a skateboarding Mecca, two of the enormous state’s three parks lay about an hour apart on the eastern side of I-90. The muffler incident had been a slight setback, so our Mitchell ETA was a little off. We pulled into the bright lights of the (truck stops) town right before sunset.
Finding the park was out next quest, and at out second gas station/directions stop, a man offered to lead us there, further proving that people in SD are the nicest people in the world.
All I really knew about the park was that helmets were required, so when we pulled up to a completely empty park, I assumed the gate must be locked. Closer inspection showed that the park was indeed open — and ready for us to skate without our helmets (good, because Jay didn’t have one.) Although the park was approximately the size of a dorm room bed, its 4-foot mini ramp, two quarterpipes, flat bar, pyramid and kinked rails were all perfectly built with skatelite. The park was smooth and fast, but with the combination of no locals to wow and the impending dark, it didn’t take long for us to get bored.
9:30 pm CST Sioux Falls, SD
Our next stop was to be Sioux Falls. Initially I had planned to skate the park, get a hotel and maybe even get my car fixed, but the Saab was running well, it was dark, and the idea of covering more ground was more enticing than the idea of a night in a Dakota. After only a brief and halfhearted attempt to find the park in the dark, we were soon in Minnesota. Another stretch of nothing state, I pounded some Red Bell and hoped to make it to Wisconsin.
August 5, 2001
The Skate Shack team’s youngest member does a switch heelflip at Racine.
12:00 pm CST Racine, WI
After a refreshing four hours of rest-area sleep in WI, we were ready to rock, and I had a big day planned. Drive along the coast of Lake Michigan and stop at each of the row of parks along the way.
In Racine lay the first one. Your typical Midwest, crimped hair, friendship bracelet adorned gas station employee gave us directions and warned us against the evils of Popeye’s chicken (I’m not sure why, I stopped listening.) A few minutes later we were lost again, so I let Jay ask for a second set of direction. He came shuddering out of a gas station, freaking out because the gay attendant he talked to “had totally eyed him over.” I told him it was his own fault for exuding so much gayness and to get over it.
Eventually we spotted the park in the distance. Actually, Jay did because he possesses some sort of skate park radar and can see them from miles away.
The park was pretty big, right on Lake Michigan and had a little bit of everything. And I’m sure that the “everything” was at one point, sick! Now, the wood was old, the cements block the park sat on had huge cracks and the coping seemed to be made of rusted railroad ties with no rollerbladers there to wax it.
Moments after we got there, a group of 10 very hung over guys showed up to “represent.” They were a team from an Illinois shop called Skate Shack and Racine happened to be the last stop on their tour. Despite the fact they were sweating pure alcohol (and some were covered with black permanent marker) they killed the park while Jay and I were decidedly over it.
With the lake so close, and temperatures in the high 90’s, it seemed pointless not to jump in (it had been two days since we showered.) The Skate Shack team joined us in the water marked as “Unsafe for swimming,” and our very unevenly tanned group made our best efforts at not smashing into the rocks.
Our new friends from Chicago were pretty hardcore (even though they were wusses about the cold water) and were soon back at the skatepark. I went over to get some digits (oh yeah!) and soon Jay was skating again. I got back on my board so I could get some footy (sick!).
Jay took about 10 minutes to snap his board, and we were finally ready to move on (five hours later).
7:30 pm CST Chicago
According to the itinerary, Kenosha (home of Happy Days) was the next stop, but we were informed that 31st Street in Chicago was a must see, so we passed on the Podunk towns and went straight to the big city.
Chi Town. Rock on.
We arrive shortly before sunset and were told we couldn’t drive to the park. We drive down 31st Street and parked in the projects. I spent the entire walk cursing. Standing at the intersection waiting to cross the street, a woman drove by and yelled “Girl skater, yeah!” I gave her an unenthusiastic thumbs up, and we kept walking.
31st Street Park was definitely worth the hassle. Sizable and all concrete, it had it all. A couple bowls filled one corner and a big street course surrounded by tranny made up the rest. Finally, prefect ledges a la Love Park lined the edges. The best part was the eager and excitable audience from the projects.
The main problem with parking so far away was that I had to carry my camera and skate with it. Trying to get Jay to stop skating and watch it for even a few minutes proved much more difficult than ollieing with a digicam in my pocket.
So I rolled around until in inevitably fell on it, then cornered Jay and made him take a break.
Some of the transitions in the park were way too steep, and it didn’t take me long to fall dropping in. Actually, I was falling left and right because this park made me think I could do things I couldn’t. When I went back to check on the cameras, Jay was eager to try to rail. A few tries later, he’d done FS and BS lipslides and I decided it was my turn to skate before I turned into a chubby photographer.
Jay hung out in the general area of the cameras and skated the ledges. His kickflip up, Nollie BS flip off caught the attention of an aspiring and very foreign filmographer.
“Can I record you?” He asked. It was funny because Jay didn’t understand him.
Meanwhile, I just tried to ollie on to the damn ledge and eventually succeeded, much to delight of a big black lady who brought her children to the park for some good, cheap entertainment. She asked me if I was just learning, or if “I was good at something.” I told her I skated vert, and as the sun sunk over the city, we left the park to make it out of the projects before dark.
Back on the road, we came to the realization that after logging 2300 miles in the two days before, we’d only made it about 250 today.
August 6, 2001
Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and NY were all pretty exciting, and the only thing notable was a trip to Niagara Falls. They are big and impressive. By now, you have probably figured out that our Midwest skateboard tour was little more than me driving back to Vermont, so hooray! I made it without a muffler.
3465 miles later. Arrival!