Thursday, June 29, 2017

Engine Lights and Long Drives

What a whirlwind the past few days have been. 

We began Tuesday in Kansas City, and traversed the entire state in a single day, arriving in Denver late in the day. We stopped in Topeka along the way, visiting a skatepark which was empty, but still offered insight into the community. Driving across Kansas was a memory in and of itself. Flat land stretched to the horizon and beyond with a few meandering cows occasionally breaking the plane of green. But just after we bid the Sunflower State goodbye and entered Colorado, we were graced by the presence of the soft yet ominous check engine light of our intrepid Prius. 

Going across Denver and up into the mountains where we would stay for the next two days, we prepared to both make sure our dear vehicle was fit for more long distance driving and to ensure that we could go to all the places that we wanted to in our one full day in Denver on Wednesday. As luck would have it, we managed to do so, and the car returned healthy, all checked out and cleared. During the day we visited skateparks in Arvada and downtown Denver. They were both incredible places, with people of all ages enjoying the day. The contrast between the parks was also notable. The more suburban Arvada park was removed and isolated, which gave it a more laid-back feel, while the Denver park was in the middle of a bustling city, next to apartment buildings, and a block from a major sports stadium. The downtown park also had a more racially diverse clientele, seemingly at more of a crossroads of identities. 

After another beautiful night up in the Rockies, we began the drive to our next destination, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Starting at an elevation of ~8,500 outside Denver, we climbed up to over 10,000 feet in Leadville, Colorado before slowly descending from the mountains and into the desert. Gorgeous views were everywhere, and there was not enough time to stop for each vista. Settling into Albuquerque now with our trip odometer almost at 3,000 miles, we will start to slow down and spend more and more time in each unique location. 

Arvada Skatepark              

Route 40 outside Denver    

Monday, June 26, 2017

First Steps and Stops

The beginning has been a sprint. Almost 1,500 miles in and half-way across the country, the odometer and I have seen much. The first leg of travel I accomplished alone, with the first stop at a skatepark in Cleveland, the Crooked River skatepark. The park is small and simple with a white bridge above and is nestled in a bend of the Cuyahoga River just before it enters Lake Erie. The park shined with smooth concrete construction and reflected the quiet atmosphere of the mid-day, mid-week setting. 

There I met a man, I'll call him Matt. 

When I arrived, he was speaking to two young kids, both wielding scooters. He engaged them as equals, talking about their decks, bars, and trick arsenals, but also of their ambitions, their passions, and their desires. He took them seriously when others may not have. 

Matt is a listener and a talker. He said he has been on the road for two years, stopping in Cleveland most recently to visit his mother. He has been to Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, Albuquerque, Denver, Phoenix. He meets people and stays with them for a day or for weeks, until he decides it is time to move on. He puts his skateboard on his backpack and walks down the highway, looking for a ride. I learned this from him after uttering just a few sentences. 

Matt seemed to feed off the energy of those around him. When new people filtered into the park, he made their acquaintance, and celebrated the skills and tricks they brought to the park. He rode the bowl with two new guys who came fifteen minutes after me, and they mutually enjoyed the thrill of pumping and carving around the high concrete walls, trying to lock into a grind on the steep coping. 

Those same high walls dealt me a blow, and I had to leave early, but the image of Matt's hand in the air  putting up a peace sign as I rolled down the hill away from the skatepark remains in my mind. I headed off to Chicago from there to pick up Mira. 

With another traveler in the car the time flew by, pushed along with help from alternating driving shifts. Leaving Monday morning, I witnessed the thick forests of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana give way to the rolling hills of Illinois and Missouri. We headed South and passed through Springfield, then West to Missouri where we stopped on the far bank of the Mississippi for lunch in Hannibal, the home of Mark Twain. From there we continued on to Kansas City, where we stay the night. 

On to Denver tomorrow, with stops at more skateparks, and undoubtedly pictures and memories of another state crossed. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Road Ahead

This is the beginning of the journey, and I welcome you all to it. Over the next five or so weeks, I will be traveling, along with my companion Mira Horwitz, to over twenty states and as many cities across the country. In between long drives from place to place we will spend one or two days in cities small and large, primarily going to skateparks.

I have been skateboarding for five years, and while I have not dedicated myself to the craft in the way that those who become skilled in the wizardry of footwork and balance that make an extraordinary skateboarder have, I have found love for the skills and values that skating has taught me. From the personal, incremental achievement of landing a new trick to the communal support and tutelage found at every single skatepark, skating has given me a community to love, goals to commit to, and courage to overcome challenges that seem as if they will forever be just beyond the grip of my grasping fingertips. It is for these reasons that I decided to pursue a writing project about skateboarding this summer. I aim to share the stories of skateboarders throughout the country and their reasons that skating keeps them coming back. These reasons will undoubtedly be similar yet so different to mine, as the world of skating spans every background and life experience. I invite you to follow along as I learn from my fellow skaters, sisters and brothers united in pushing the limits of what can be done with a seven-ply piece of wood.