The Yo Beat Straight Across the Middle Skateboard Tour

By • Jun 4th, 2002 • Category: Features, Old stuff, Random

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The This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Three of Us Tour

The three of us.

Several cross-country trips have taught me one thing: No matter whom you go with, they are the most annoying person in the world. But I thought maybe if there were three of us things would be different. So the three of us included:

Orion Stewart. An interesting choice for a skateboard park tour, Orion hates skateparks more than anyone else I’ve ever met. This probably springs from a kid at the Oak Harbor park thinking he was 40, but I told him to suck it up. He decided the purpose of the trip for him would be to prove he was the skateboarder who fell the most out of every skateboarder.

A few days before we left, I realized that even using journalism math Orion and I didn’t equal three, so I started asking every person I saw to go with us. I didn’t have much luck until I ran into Malcolm Benskin at the skatepark. Malcolm was the most unlikely third person for the trip, what with not having a license, but he claims he had a dream about going on the trip and called permanent backseat window.

And then there’s me, so we had the perfect crew to roll up to skateparks and wow the locals – a girl, a kid who falls hard and entertains everyone and the good kid. Well, that was the idea.

Two days, 475 miles out of the way.

Making good time is, in my opinion, the most fun thing to do on a road trip. Some might disagree, but showing up before you said you would makes it all worthwhile. This in mind, you could imagine my distaste in going to (not on the way to anywhere) Bend, Ore. so that Orion could visit his parents. But I’m tough, and he did agree to accompany me across the country, so I made an exception to my rule. To justify it, we started in Portland, where my friends were all celebrating their cool new jobs at Savier and Mark Hagerty’s birthday. Orion disappeared in Portland to collect some belated birthday booze from his sister and brother and Malcolm and I made our first skate stop at the Savier office park. The office park kicks some serious ass, and to this day, I’ve never gone there without learning a new trick. In fact, I learned all three of my tricks there. Malcolm found the highest thing to drop off (a Benskin staple) and a good time was had by all.

The next day we took Hagerty out to a new nice birthday lunch then departed in the pouring rain for Government Camp. Gov’y was supposed to be a stop on the tour since the Blue Lodge crew has taken over High Cascade and turned the town into a must stop for any road trip. But a solid downpour was enough to change our plans to a drive by of the Gov’y loop and an early arrival in Bend.


Malcolm. Bend

I told Orion that it was no problem to stop at his parents’ house, but I justified it to myself with the Bend skatepark. It might not be good, but at least I could count it as part of the tour. When we arrived in Oregon’s high desert however, it looked like our tour might not be getting off on the right foot. Big drops of rain splashed on the new concrete the town had installed that day to fill in the giant holes all over the disproportioned skatepark. We decided this park wasn’t worth ruined bearings and headed to the Stewart household. Orion’s dad gave us some warm beer and tried to convince us to take the scenic route on our tour. The painted hills sounded sweet and all, but there was no way I was going another 50 miles out of the way. After a night of parental bonding, we were really on our way. Two days of less than four hours of driving and it was time to make cover some miles.

Since the Oregon sun had decided to come up that morning, we started the day at the Bend Park, which was every bit as crappy when it was dry as when it was wet. The best thing here was running into Jay Mitchell, one of the original Firehouse crew from the glory days of Killington. My far-reaching social ties to east coasters across the country would definitely prove to impress Orion and Malcolm.

Orion took the first step towards his goal by scraping off his fingertip; an impairment he claimed changed his style for the rest of the trip. With blood donated to this park, we had some ass to haul to make up for the Bend detour.

On a map, it may not look like Bend is really out of the way, but that doesn’t take into account winding desert highways which add several hours to the trip. My bitterness over driving 60 would diminish, however, when we pulled into the town of Hines. I spotted a cool old building housing car parts and refrigerators on the side of the road and stopped to take a picture. I figured the town couldn’t get any better, but then, right next to the highway, was a super sweet skatepark. The concrete slab with mediocre wooden obstacles had a big sign reading “Helmet’s required—Citations will be issued.”


Hines, Or

Luckily, I had everyone buy helmets for the trip cause I didn’t want to risk injury on the gnarliness of this place. We clipped our chinstraps and got out the video camera to get some footy. Malcolm did a sick line on the tiny concrete slab next to the park. We moved one of the two highest flat bars ever and put it over a tiny dirt gap. Although the only other person we saw was a rollerblader kid who made me tell him he was pretty good for a fourteen year old, I’d imagine this revolutionary obstacle placement would eventually wow the residents of Hines. After shutting down this park, it was on to the giant slide in the playground next to the park. I was glad to be wearing a helmet as I smacked my head on the bar at the top.

But as rad as Hines was, we were still about seven hours from Salt Lake City, where my schedule had us arriving at midnight. We continued on without any more distractions until Ontario, Ore. The small town near the border of Idaho conveniently placed its skatepark next to the highway. Sketchy blue sheet metal obstacles interspersed with puddles and watched over by a gang called the Rough Riderz (or something like that) almost measured up to the high standard set in Hines. As I write this though, I realize this story is starting to be as drawn out as the first couple days of the trip, so I’ll spare you the details. When we crossed the border of Idaho, we finally hit the highway we would have been on all along had we bypassed central Oregon, so I was forced to stop complaining about the detour.

State capitols, and lots of them.

The first scheduled skate stop on the trip was Boise, state capitol number one. Before we went to the skatepark though, it had become very apparent that we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It was now about 7:00. We assumed like most cities, downtown Boise would be a plethora of cheap and delicious eateries. Instead, there were a lot of spendy restaurants. We walked around for a while scoped out the swastika-like designs in the middle of the roads and then finally spotted a neon open sign. There we got the best pita sandwiches ever (of course, we were very hungry.) The park was less exciting than our food. Underneath an I-15 overpass, it had its own parking lot, right in the middle of the park. There was a steep BMX mini ramp and about 15 different twists on the flat bar. Most exciting was the super cool locals who wore bandanas and wife beaters. Since puddles polluted the run-ins to everything I wanted to skate, and watching Malcolm ollie over colored parts of the sidewalk wasn’t that exciting, we left the Boise park pretty quickly. Besides, we still had five more hours to go.

I booted Malcolm out of the backseat and tried to get some sleep, something I find impossible when someone else is driving my car. I must have dozed off until about an hour out of Salt Lake, state capitol number two, I was awakened by the very loud hum of my car. I convinced myself we were just going really fast, and didn’t mention the noise. When we got off the highway in Salt Lake though, I had to ask, “How long has my car sounded like this?”

“Since we got off the highway,” Orion answered.

Okay.


Salt Lake City.

The next day I got up early to deal with my car, and assuming it needed a new exhaust system, I was relieved that it was just a pipe that had fallen out. With my car quiet again, we stopped by Milo Sport to get directions to the skatepark. Legendary snowboard guy Noah Brandon took time out of his busy schedule to draw us a map to four of the best skateparks. Orion was very excited to figure out what Milo Sport actually was.

The first park was near the mountains, but that didn’t make it any cooler (literally or figuratively.) It was labeled as the town’s “beginner to intermediate” park, and would have been sweet if I liked to long board. There was very little coping, and it was fun to do speed lines, but it was crowded and had more rules than any other park I’d ever seen, i.e. skateboards must be less than 34 inches long, rollerblades can only have 4 wheels etc. Something else was odd about the park, but I couldn’t put my finger on it there. We decided to go check out the temple and give skateboarding a little break. We stopped at a 711 on our way, where the boys tried to find non-3.2 beer. They discovered some of the ice forties were 4.0 and that was enough for them.

I thought it would be funny to sign up everyone I knew for their own Mormon missionaries, but then I realized the effort that would entail. Instead we just walked around, took pictures of the spiky building and tried to swear as much as possible. Malcolm checked out all the hot Mormon chicks, obviously not realizing that he’d have to have sex with them through a hole in a sheet.

After our religious experience, we headed over to the 9th and 9th park, which came highly recommended. Tall trees shaded the park and continuous lines of obstacles made it pretty fun. Spare a few dead ends and some hella gnarly snowboard dudes this place was all right. I was finally able to put my finger on what was weird about both parks though. The people were ASSHOLES! This aside, some of them were pretty good. A kid who looked like he belonged in Swingers was doing lines through the entire park that involved airing over everything, there was a girl doing fakie frontside grabs and some little kid doing nollie noseslides. As for the three of us, some little kid said I was good even though it took me thirteen tries to land a board slide (Malcolm has it on film if you don’t believe me,) Malcolm was super psyched on the ledges and Orion even landed a few tricks without getting hurt.

Since it had become 9:00, and again had been hours since we ate, we headed back to the Salt Lake Geery’s house where we were staying. My uncle had left some burgers in a “sack” (Salt Lake for bag) for us, but my cousin Aaron showed up before we got a chance to eat them. Instead he took us to the bar for some food and 3.2 beer. He was able to convince Malcolm and Orion that all beer in Salt Lake does not have normal alcohol content (even the imports) and treated us to some Polygamy Porter, one of Utah’s specialties. Since I’ve been accused of talking about beer too much, I’ll try to refrain from as many references from here on out (no promises.)

After dinner, we subjected out first victim to our kick-ass footage (which got less kick-ass every time we showed it after that) then I fell asleep to the trip’s third showing of “PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life.”

Desert wind and giant dinosaurs.

The next day we were off to Denver, state capitol number three. On the way I planned on stopping at some parks in the middle of the desert, because nothing’s better than skating when it’s intolerably hot. The drive proved to be every bit as uncomfortable as I figured, and our lunch stop in Fruita, Co. was well needed. This town was pretty rad. There was a paper mache dinosaur downtown, and we ate at a highly recommended sports bar where you could get margaritas by the pitcher and 60 different burgers. I delegated the driving to Orion and, damn, that margarita was good.


Grand Junction

Five minutes down the road was Grand Junction. This park is the first on the trip that I’d say wasn’t worth the stop. The park was hidden behind a middle school in the middle of nowhere, and may have been fun if it wasn’t 96 degrees with 40 mph winds. The best thing at the park was the rollerblade track around the outside. Everything else was either too sticky, too slick or not worth skating. I sat in the car while Orion and Malcolm skated and did my best to get us out of there in a timely fashion. At this point I guess I should mention that we were unable to do anything in a timely fashion. Whether someone was trying to land a trick, buy something, get money out of any ATM, get their stuff out of the car, find their camera or whatever, it usually took 30 minutes from when we said we were leaving to when we were actually on the road.

The next park after Grand Junction (not including a detour into Palisades, home of my favorite desert mini ramp) was in the mountains. Orion had eagerly volunteered to drive through the Rockies, obviously not realizing what an awful thing it was, so I told him to step on it.


Silverthorne

The sun was going down and the sky had darkened into an ominous black by the time we hit Summit County, so I made the executive decision to blow off Vail and Breck and head right to Silverthorne. We got there right at dusk, and immediately decided this was the best park yet. Despite the lightning striking in the distance and dark skies, the session lasted for quite awhile, for Malcolm and Orion, actually long after dark. Malcolm would light up one obstacle with his camera and then they’d skate it for a while. I don’t have a death wish, so I found myself sitting in the car again while they finished up. Since Malcolm couldn’t drive, he got to make very few decisions, but he wanted to come back to Silverthorne, and I actually agreed. We bought some beer at a liquor store (cause the grocery stores only sold 3.2) and headed to my friend Dana’s house in Denver for the night.

Okay, just a few more mentions of booze.

Dana is an old friend from high school, so when we get together we basically reminisce about the place we both disliked so vary much. He found it very amusing that I was going back to Vermont for any reason, and I tried to convince him it wasn’t that bad. Some beer was drunk and that was that night.

The next day we headed an hour back into the mountains to skate Silverthorne again. On a road trip you never turn back, but this park really was worth back tracking. It didn’t have dead ends like the SLC park, and also had a fun bank to box, good bowled corners and a big ledge Malcolm was all about. This day’s session wasn’t nearly as agro as the day before, but fun all the same. After a few hours, we headed down to Bolder, where we were supposed to meet the legendary Mike Arzt for dinner.


Boulder.

We took the scenic route, running parallel to a river and wrapping through the mountains to arrive in the brick lined streets of Colorado’s answer to Burlington, VT. Once in town, we stopped at a skate shop so Malcolm could buy a board and to ask directions to the park. The guy behind the counter was from Lake George, NY so we talked about Cutting Edge while Malcolm picked out a deck for graphics only and then we headed to the park. This park was my favorite on the trip. Tons of different tranny, good speed lines and fun street obstacles all over the place. It also had the best locals, ever. These guys skated super fast. One dude was doing backside and frontside threes over this pyramid thing. Insane. While I was totally stoked, and ignoring the extreme hunger that had become a standard for evenings of the trip, Orion and Malcolm were over it. They didn’t get interested in the park until it was time to leave, and Orion was trying to land a shove-it tail grab over a hip. I told him he had to land it, so he did, and we were on our way to get Thai food.

It became a theme on the trip that when we went out with other people, we barely paid for our food. This was no exception, the bill came to over $200, and we were each asked to chip in $10. Thanks Mike. After dinner Mike took us to the Rio, a bar he claims, you’re guaranteed to leave drunk. But it was too crowded, so we headed to another Mexican dive bar for some drinks. On our way back to the car, we passed a cop car where you could take a Breathalyzer test to see if you were too


Chris Rapoza. Denver

drunk to drive. Even though I’d had two beers and wasn’t driving, it sounded like fun. I totally won, blowing a .03. I now know I can drink way more beer than that and still drive legally. Mike was claiming he was good to drive, but blew as high as his wife Allison, who’d had more to drink. Light weight. Anyway, I learned that the most important thing to do when driving drunk is chew gum, cause that’s how they nab you. I think this is a very effective government program.

We left Boulder and headed back to Denver where Dana was out at the bar. It took us a while to find him because he was at a hole-in-the-wall martini bar with $8 drinks. Once we got there I forgot I was tired when the fruity shots started flowing. The tab was way more than I’d like to admit spending on drinks, but Dana covered most of it. Thanks Dana.

The next day we reserved for relaxation and the Denver park. I’d heard one review of this park: slippery! And it was very slick, as the red cement was covered with construction dust. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if there weren’t a million little kids to avoid. The park was all right, but could have been laid out better and we were all pretty over it. At this point we’d be on the road long enough that I was ready to be home, but we still had a few days to go.

Blood, sweat and Kansas.


Malcolm. Hays, KS

We decided to leave Denver at 4 a.m. so we’d have plenty of time to make it St. Louis that day. On the way, though, were a few Kansas skateparks. I think I was mostly amused by the idea of skating in Kansas, but the first park, in Hays, was actually pretty fun. The info on Transworld said the park had vert, a mini ramp and a concrete bowl. It had two quarterpipes, a mellow pyramid, a concrete bank and a flat bar. Still everything was fun, and I liked it cause you could go really slow at everything.

While we were skating, a guy who looked like Powder pulled up in a brand new Toyota, got out, tightened his DC’s and proceeded to do super fast nose manuals around the adjacent roller rink. He turned out to be pretty good, but we decided this was the only park he’d ever skated. An hour in Hays and we’d definitely shut down the suburban park.

The next park was in Salina, a few hours away. Of course, it was right off the freeway, but we managed to get completely lost and take a tour of the entire town (not much to see.) When we found the park, there was two rollerbladers, a couple kids on road bikes and, well, that’s it. It was hot, the sheet metal burned when you fell on it and all the rails were about 4 inches off the ground. Maybe it was fun, but I sure didn’t think so. After Salina, I made another executive decision to blow off the third Kansas park, Lawrence, and just go to Missouri.

On the way we went through Topeka, state capitol number four, but didn’t stop. Once you hit the edge of Kansas, things get more interesting. First there are two Kansas City’s in a row, then an increased number of billboards. Right around the middle of Missouri is a town called Columbia. The Transworld site said this park was dope, but after what they said about the Kansas parks, I wasn’t convinced. The park was in the middle of a ton of soccer fields and other athletic areas. And it was sick. It was a huge concrete park with every obstacle you could image, and most things were built pretty well. The tranny was a little wavy, and the flat bar was too high, but all in all, an amazing spectacle for Missouri.


Columbia, MO

Again, we had gone for too long without eating, and it was our first real taste of humidity, so I couldn’t skate for long before I’d have to take a break. I was in the middle of said break when Orion stumbled over with his t-shirt pressed to his head. He had managed to hit his head on the ground from about five feet up and split his eyebrow apart very nicely. Mission accomplished. I told him to sit there while Malcolm and I finished skating (what are friends for?) We finally decided to hunt down a hospital so that Orion wouldn’t die.

The doctor kept him in there for a few hours, doing X-rays, giving him a tetanus shot and pouring stuff in his cut. In the end, he gave Orion a band-aid and sent him on his way. All going to the hospital really accomplished was making it so we couldn’t possibly make it to St. Louis. We got a hotel room in Columbia, and having not eaten in over ten hours, tried to find something to eat. Of course, everything was closed, so we ended up at Taco Bell. Right then, the Zesty Chicken Bowl seemed like the best thing I’d ever eaten.

Columbia to Columbus


Louisville

At one point, this trip was going to be called “Louisville or Bust” because after seeing a picture of the brand new park in Louisville, I knew I had to go there. From Columbia, we hit St. Louis and then drove through the bottom of Illinois and Indiana. I have determined that it is impossible to avoid Indiana on a cross-country trip and I’m willing to say it is the worst state ever. As we neared the Kentucky border, the sky erupted into a violent thunderstorm. I told Orion that it was probably just an Indiana thing, and once we hit Kentucky, it would but sunny and beautiful. But as we crossed the bridge and Louisville came into view, it didn’t seem to be stopping. It seems silly to go look for a skatepark in the rain, but logic wasn’t really working anymore. We drove around Louisville completely lost because all we knew was the park was by the river. Finally we spotted some little kids with skateboards and they pointed us in the right direction.

The rain had stopped, but the ground was still completely wet. When we pulled up to the skatepark though, we saw it was crowded anyway. This place was insane. Huge, with a giant street course and the coolest ledges ever, bowls from 4 to 16 feet, a vert ramp, and most notably, a full pipe. Unfortunately, it was mostly crowded with bikes, and bikes suck. A local told me that when the park was wet was the only time to skate; otherwise it would be so crowded you “wouldn’t be able to see the flat bottom.” I guess there’s a BMX company in Louisville and the park was also called the Louisville “Extreme” Park, which could explain the crowd. Just as we were deciding to go get some food and come back to the park later, it started pouring again, and our six-hour detour was for about 30 minutes of skating (but well worth it.)

We ate downtown, where there were as many horse drawn carriages on the road as cars, and then headed to Columbus, state capitol number five, for the night. The only thing notable on this drive was Cincinnati, which kind of reminded me of Vegas as its lights appeared in the distance. Once in Columbus (well actually Grove City but close enough) we got a hotel and Malcolm and Orion wanted to get drunk. They said they were just “relaxing” but I envisioned then coming back to the room with a case and drinking until they passed out. Luckily, they showed up with a six-pack of the champagne of beers and drank very responsibly.

Home.

The nest day we drove, and drove and drove through Albany, state capitol number six, and finally arrived in Vermont. I guess I could say the trip kept going after that. A few days later we drove through Concord, state capitol number seven, when we took Malcolm to Boston, state capitol number eight, where he was spending the summer. And a few days after that I took Orion to the airport, but it’s all very boring and you don’t want to hear about that.

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