Saturday, July 22, 2017


Our time in Portland went by quickly. We spent our second day getting some much needed errands done, having the car serviced as we hit another mile marker that required an oil change and cleaning the car as well. We then had a restful afternoon and headed back into Portland to have dinner and play board games with my cousin Becky who lives in the area. She will also be getting married in less than a week, congratulations to her and her fiance Andy!

Tuesday was beach day for us, and after hearing about the natural and culinary wonders of Cannon Beach we decided to make that our destination. We ate salmon fish and chips at Ecola seafood, a delicious place to eat that despite the vaguely unnerving name. We then walked along the shore and admired Haystack rock, an incredible natural phenomenon sticking out of the water. We then returned to Portland, stopping at Tigard skatepark on the way back. I took a few runs, testing out my back to see how it was recovering from the injury I sustained the previous week. Meanwhile, other skaters were tearing the place to shreds, landing incredible tricks that had me and Mira staring at each other in disbelief from across the skatepark. These skaters were wonderful people, one who gave me an enthusiastic "sweet!" after ending an incredibly mundane run, showing the best of skateboarders and their appreciation for the talents of all.

On Wednesday we took the opportunity to sleep in and then started a working day. We went to a cute coffee shop and I wrote (and played some much missed League of Legends) while Mira edited pictures. We then met up with a few people that Mira had connected with on a photographers' online forum, and went to Cooper Mountain Nature Park and had a little photo shoot, a welcome opportunity for Mira to ply her craft while I napped in a meadow.

We said goodbye to Portland on Thursday and continued on to Seattle. We spent a relaxing night in, and played a lot of Ticket to Ride, a tense and competitive board game. Friday was not as relaxing. With a carefully planned itinerary and a delicious breakfast provided by my ultimate frisbee team mate Harrison we spent a full day touring the skateparks of Seattle. We warmed up at a skatepark with plenty of different terrain, and witnessed a couple Brazilian skateboarders ripping in their signature style. We then continued on to Marginal Way skatepark, an iconic DIY style skatepark, similar to Burnside skatepark in Portland and FDR skatepark in Philadelphia. We had a great session there, both landing fun transition tricks while struggling to not be punished by the steep walls and banks of the challenging park. Marginal Way is a sight to see, with massive yet cramped features and deep bowls, all with the signature crusty and familiar feel of a park that was built by hand, by skaters , for skaters. We then went to Tacos Chukis in Capitol Hill for a life-changing food experience, and then continued on to the Mercer Island skatepark, a much smaller skatepark that let us hone our skills a bit more. For our last stop we went to the Bellevue skatepark where we witnesses an interesting scene. A uni-cycling competition had rented out about half of the park, and the top talents in the sport were warming up for the competition. It was a sight like no other, teenagers on unicycles performing incredible tricks in a style none of us had seen before. The skateboarding talent was also beyond belief, along with great personalities and a wonderful community feel. All in all it was a great day for skateboarding in Seattle, and I'm excited to possibly return to a couple of these spots in the days to come.

I named this blog post "Hospitality" because for the past week and a half we have been the blessed recipients of an incredibly amount of hospitality. In San Jose, Portland, and now in Seattle we have been amazed by the people who have opened their homes to us, and I could not be more grateful. Thank you to Darien who hosted us in San Jose even as he was moving out of his apartment, to Carole and Paul who hosted us in their beautiful home outside of Portland, to Bryce and Owen who are hosting us here in Seattle, and to Harrison for showing us around Seattle with excitement and great vibes. All my thanks to all of you, this trip would not be possible without you.

Top to bottom: Me striking a pose at Haystack rock on Cannon Beach, Tigard skatepark, Marginal Way skatepark

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bays and Ports

The days spent in the bay area were wonderful and relaxing. Having spent our first day in Santa Cruz, we took one day each to check out San Francisco and San Jose. Our day in San Francisco began with a trip to the Presidio district and a working session at a coffee shop, followed by a meetup with a fellow Appel fellow. Afterwards we hit skateparks for the rest of the afternoon, going to Under the Bridge Skatepark on the northern part of the Mission and Portrero skatepark on the south side of the Mission. 

Under the Bridge skatepark reminded me of the skatepark I go to most often at home, FDR skatepark in South Philly. With a DIY vibe and a busy crowd going back and forth, the place was bursting with energy and a vibrant community of people who were enjoying the day. Earlier that morning an incident had occurred nearby during an annual hill-bomb, where many skateboarders go down a hill all together, with prizes given out and the spirit of the community renewed. That morning the police had gotten involved and a tense exchange broke out, largely due to the injury of a skateboarder trying to avoid police at top speed being clipped off his board by an officer, sparking outrage. The tension of the event could be felt at the park, one man talking about how he had seen his friend knocked off his board by the officer, and the frustration of having a tradition vilified and polluted with by the fear and misunderstanding of the police and the community in the area. But the day went on. People skated, bought beers for each other and kept pushing on. 

At Potrero skatepark I had a glimpse at a skateboarding legend, Andy Roy, who left just a few minutes after I arrived. A true skater's skater, Andy Roy is an embodiment of skateboarding's punk origins with his wild personality and an affinity for the ridiculous. He is well known for hosting Thrasher magazine's King of the Road, encouraging and facilitating debauchery and incredible skateboarding alike. My impression of him was more tame, seeing him end a run and stand quietly to the side, leaving without ceremony soon after, picking up trash on his way out. I met a few people around my age at the park a little bit later, who came through to remember their days as skaters, and I played one of them in a game of skate. I lost badly but learned new tricks along the way, even landing a trick on the first try which I had never landed before. On my last try to land a trick at the park before leaving, I split my pants completely down the middle, from crotch to backside, and had to carefully make my way back to the car without being too indecent. We headed back to San Jose laughing, and shared a pleasant meal with our host before getting a long night of sleep. 

Our day in San Jose was slower, getting brunch in the adjacent city of Los Gatos and then going shopping to replace my ripped pants and deal with a minor phone issue. We then went to the San Jose skatepark where we learned that the park had an entrance fee. Learning that the park required payment was disappointing to me for a few reasons, most importantly that it is not accessible to all. Kids or teenagers or even adults who skate for the love of it but do not have the ability to pay a few dollars to go to a skatepark will not be able to go, and this takes away from the personality of the park, making it exclusive and insulated. Many places that require payment are indoors, sheltering the skaters of the area from the elements of cold winter or rainy summers, however this skatepark was completely outside, and therefore was solely aimed at creating a controlled environment out of a sport that is inherently full of risk and danger. Much of the ethos and pride of skateboarding comes from braving the dangerous elements, experiencing failure and success, obtaining the ability to brave those dangerous elements and come out damaged but not broken. 

Leaving the paid facility behind we drove to another nearby skatepark, and Mira left me to go work nearby. However, just a few minutes after starting I fell going down the side of steep bank which would have not normally challenged me, but with a combination of legs that were not warmed up and my diagonal trajectory down the bank I was thrown off my board and onto my back. After a couple moments of shock from the impact I limped away and surveyed the damage, having reopened a cut obtained two weeks earlier and obtained a new, swelling bump on the right side of my lower back. Calling Mira, I asked for a speedy pick up. We returned back to our lodging and I applied ice and ingested ibuprofen, hoping for a speedy recovery. I have since made some improvement, but the latter part of this trip may be of limited skateboarding ability for me. 

The next morning we took what will be one of our last long, eight hour drives on our trip for a while, making our way up to Eugene, Oregon. We spent a fun evening there, and I popped into the WJ skatepark there for a bit, but we left quickly. The next morning we drove up to the Portland area and got settled with our new hosts in Cornelius, Oregon. We visited Multnomah Falls and a delicious area of food trucks called Cartlandia, and we even stopped at the Burnside Skatepark, one of the oldest and most revered DIY skateparks in the world, an ongoing building project by the community of that park. 

We have a couple more days in Portland and then we will be off to Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is full of incredible skateparks, passionate people and positive energy. I'm hoping for the health to experience the skateboarding with full gusto, but the people will make it all meaningful regardless. 

If you want to see video roundups of our weeks on the road as well as wonderful photography and more description of our daily activities, check out Mira's blog at

Top to bottom: Fog rolling in over the Santa Cruz mountains into San Jose, Multnomah Falls, Portrero skatepark, Under the Park/Soma West Skatepark.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quick Departures

Eleven miles east of Route 41, three miles north of Oakhurst, California you will find Kelty Meadows Campground, deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Arriving at this quiet and thankfully cool stand of sequoia trees after a long drive from Reno, we made camp and went to bed quickly. In the morning the sun woke us up early along with the calls of moose and the beckon of Yosemite valley. A two hour drive away higher up in the mountains, the valley opened up in front of us as we came out of a tunnel on the east side of the valley. With El Capitan in the foreground and Half-Dome in the background complemented by a picture perfect sky, our day in one of the nation's oldest and most prolific national parks would was off to a magnificent start.

After visiting Brideveil Falls and Yosemite Falls, two waterfalls that have been parched for water for decades but were in full flow for us, we received an unexpected message. For weeks we had been in contact with a man who manages one of skateboarding's most influential brands, Santa Cruz skateboards. Because we would be in the area during time that he was traveling, we learned that we could only meet him early the next morning, four hours away in Santa Cruz. Sitting in the bustling center of the far off Yosemite valley, we decided that we had to leave a day early in order to make this important meeting. Setting off on yet another six hour driving day, we returned to Kelty Meadow, packed up and departed, leaving the quiet trees and dirt roads of the Sierras behind us.

Waking up early the next morning we crossed the Santa Cruz mountains, coming into view of the Pacific Ocean for the first time among the thick morning fog. It dawned upon me then that we had officially driven cross country, a satisfying feeling but with the understanding that there is still much distance and time to go.

Touring NHS distribution was an incredible experience. With so many influential brands of the skateboarding world housed under the same roof, walking through their halls full of creative talent and business acumen was inspiring. These are the trend-setters, the taste-makers, the people who make skateboarding what it is. To see all that in motion was a unique experience, a rare look into the process behind the skateboarding world.

We will spend the next few days in the San Francisco bay area, seeing the skateparks and the nature and whatever else may present itself. The slow-down of the trip has officially commenced, and not for a few weeks will we be jumping from one place to another, rather relaxing and engaging, taking more time to appreciate and reflect.

Top to bottom: Brideveil Falls, Kelty Meadow campground, Yosemite Valley

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hollow Lights and Sweet Sweat

The theme of the core Western states so far has been heat: Hot, heavy, and ubiquitous heat. As perpetual travelers in this vast section of the country we have spent what I hope has been more time exposed to the heat than most people who live and work in the area do. Skateboarding in such conditions is a challenge unto itself, requiring more constant breaks and much more water. Mira hid out from the heat in coffee shops, as she developed a cold in the weather that rarely dipped below 100 degrees between 11 am and 7 pm.

Fairmont skatepark in Salt Lake City is a sixteen year old beauty. A deep ravine is the focus of most people's attention, with a high quarter pipe on one side, a step-up jump on the other, and high rails and concrete boxes in the middle. A local group of teenagers hung out under a tree, relaxing and occasionally taking runs on a shared skateboard. Another group of skaters arrived later, and began tearing the place apart, achieving incredible air and landing ridiculous tricks. I learned that they were too on a skateboarding road trip, starting in Texas and taking a route similar to ours, although in the opposite direction. I spent about an hour skating with them before I had to head out, but it was time well spent with people who were on a similar journey as me.

The next morning we headed off to Boise, Idaho. A relatively short drive for us at four and a half hours, we arrived in time for me to hit Rhodes Skatepark. An impressive and more modern establishment under route 20, the vast park offered a venue protected from the sun and full of skaters, and quite a few scooters. One interaction from this park stood out. A dusty-haired, freckled young teenager pulled up next to me at an area where people were trying out their flatground tricks. He asked if I knew how to hardflip, he said he was trying it and could not get it down. The hardflip, a combination of a kickflip and frontside pop-shuv it, is quite beyond my skill set, and so all I could offer was encouragement. After a couple tries, he was even more agitated in his own quiet, cautious way, and became even more talkative, explaining all the factors that could go into succeeding in this goal. After a couple more tries I decided to help out in my own way, and told him that I had five dollars on the next try. He seemed taken aback, and took his time getting ready for his next attempt, and rolling slowly across the smooth, grey concrete with his feet close together near the tail of his board, landed the trick. Laughing, I skated over to my car, pulled out the five dollars and brought it back to him. The reward seemed to embarrass and excited him, and he skated off to his friends, coming back just before he left for the day to hurriedly say goodbye.

Back on the road again on Saturday, we made our way to Reno, passing through remote eastern Oregon and into northern Nevada. Just a stop on our way to Yosemite National Park, Reno was an odd experience. With a casino strip similar to Las Vegas, Reno was full of the same hollow consumeristic debauchery that defines Sin City. After eating at the Little Nugget Diner, a self described greasy dive inside a small casino, we walked back to our motel, cautiously taking in a type of urban area neither of us were familiar with. Ready to be back in nature, we head off to the Sierra Nevadas with high hopes for scenes of natural indulgences and adventures.

Top to bottom: Fairmont Skatepark in Salt Lake City, the main drag in Reno, Rhodes Skatepark in Boise

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Into the Semi-Wild

The Grand Canyon itself does not disappoint, although the area around it is slightly over-civilized. The silence and serenity of nature which I hold dear is difficult to access when I have to park a mile away because of full parking lots and walk through chaotic traffic to get a glimpse off of the magnificent South Rim. Our more secluded campsite in Kaibab National Forest just a few miles away seemed closer to nature's presence, with Elk sightings, campfires and no Xanterra™️ operated tchotchke stores. 

We returned earlier in the morning on July 4th to attempt a hike part of the way down the Canyon, on the Bright Angel path. It became abundantly clear about 3/4 of a mile and 500 feet of elevation down that it would be foolish to go any farther, for the path was a constant slope down, and any elevation lost must be recovered on the climb up. With the mid-day heat pouring down and our water supplies dwindling we returned up, quite tired even from what could be considered a short hike. The people on the path were of particular interest, all discussing out loud the implications of how much farther down they were going to hike, the conversations surrounding the history and geology and geography of the Canyon, as well as the typical antics that come along with a full family hike. 

Upon returning to the campsite we took a nice nap in our hammock for a couple hours, but soon became frustrated by the desert's unrelenting heat and lack of shade among the sparse pine trees. Leaving our camping integrity out in the forest, we took a short drive to the McDonald's in Tusayan, the small town between our campsite and the entrance to the Grand Canyon, and enjoyed a McFlurry in the air conditioning before returning to our campsite as the sun began to descend. We observed Elk as they walked across the road to our site, and cooked a quick meal of eggs and avocado to finish up our food reserves. The sun mercifully slipped below the horizon and soon the stars were out, their soft brilliance guiding us to sleep. 

With a new city in our sights we left early the next morning, and with that extra time we were able to add a quick venture into Zion National Park as we passed through southern Utah on our way up to Salt Lake City. We saw a herd of buffalo along the way as well as mountain goats, and on the more humbling side a fire raging in the mountains. While the temperature somehow manages to be even hotter here in Salt Lake City and promises to exceed 105 degrees tomorrow, we are excited to be back sleeping in air conditioning, if just for a couple days, and to explore a new city. 

Top to bottom: Our campsite at 10-X Campground in Kaibab National Forest, the view from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Buffalo meandering about, and the stunning canyon view of Zion National Park. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Heating Up and Cooling Down

Picking back up with our full day in Albuquerque, the heat made its presence felt, and quickly. By the time we were out on the town searching for unique concrete and personalities, the heat from the blue sky was beating down on us.

We first visited Alamosa skatepark, an impressive location set behind a summer day camp. Containing stairs alternating with banks and thin channels, the park was slightly confusing, lacking the flow and cohesion that many skateparks have. Ledges ran into walls, ditches cut off runs, and steep rails seemed inaccessible. Complementing this disruptive construction was a massive bowl and full pipe. While beautiful, this monster of a transition feature was too formidable for me. I had to slowly lower myself and then slide down the side of the bowl to reach the bottom, and then attempt to gain some speed starting from the flat. With wide areas and slowly rising walls, it was almost impossible to achieve momentum from this position. After a couple minutes of steady pushing and hard work it became clear that it would be a futile endeavor, and I still had to find a way to get out of the high walls of the pit I had voluntarily lowered myself into. Throwing my board up ahead of me, I took a running start and barely made it to the coping of the bowl and breathlessly pushed myself over the edge, to Mira's amusement.

All of this went on under an unrelenting sun, and I had to return to where Mira was sitting underneath a tree quite often, panting for water. There were few people at the park, likely due to the mid-day heat or work because of the relatively early hour, but it was an opportunity to take in the surroundings and explore the park.

The next park was a more social experience. The Los Altos skatepark across town on the I-40 was full of vibrant characters, beautifully designed features and extravagantly painted bowls that reminded me of FDR skatepark in Philadelphia where I learned to push, pump and take pride. I first met a man in his mid-20s talking to two older men in their 40s or 50s, and I quickly was challenged to a game of SKATE, similar to horse or pig in basketball, but with skateboard tricks. Getting lucky with strong execution of my very limited bag of tricks and the inebriation of my opponent, I managed to pull out a victory, to everyone's amusement.

As people began to filter into the park as the afternoon rolled along, the talent present began to noticeably increase. A woman who I later realized was a professional skateboarder who frequents Xgames competitions and graces the bottom of decks was destroying the park, with flawless style and exceptional grace, treating everyone with excitement and enthusiasm as she proceeded to pull off tricks and transitions that broke barriers and confounded convention.

Another guy around my age pushed mongo, pushing with his front foot rather than his back foot, a style often decried in today's skateboarding culture, but one that he executed with skill and casual perfection. An older man with an old-school set-up, tight hair cut, and deeply tanned skin made the rounds, speaking with and mentoring many around the park, even encouraging me as I attempted to land a frontside boneless in a shallow bowl, with no success. The day was just heating up when I attempted to drop into a steeper bowl, and fell straight onto my chest and shoulders. Walking away from the spill, I quickly called an end to the day and we headed on to the Sandia Peak tram, a gorgeous view of the city from over 10,000 feet.

Waking up the next morning with pain still quite present in my right shoulder, we headed off to Flagstaff, Arizona. A shorter ride than we were used to at only four and a half hours, the red landscape with intermittent patches of flat chaparral and impressive rock formations flew by. A quick swim upon arrival helped alleviate the 100 degree heat of the day, and the heavy heat was further diminished by the setting sun.

Our full day in Flagstaff was an off day from skateboarding, with my choice to rest my shoulder out of precaution. This is in fact a marathon of a trip, with reaching the finish line a priority. We took the day to visit a natural phenomenon that captures the imagination. Petrified Forest National Park, an hour and a half East of Flagstaff, is a spectacular sight with fallen trees 200 million years old whose wood has been replaced with solid rock. The history, geography and sheer beauty of the park was humbling, putting our short time on Earth in perspective.

We will be spending the next two days camping close to the Grand Canyon, celebrating and reflecting on the legacy of our country in one of her most beautiful treasures during the time that we remember her birth. I hope to meet and experience some of the greatest, most diverse and most passionate people who call the United States home in the next few weeks, and see the beauty and hard work that they can inject into their lives as a part of this complicated, troubled, yet hopeful nation.

In order: Sandia Peak tram, Petrified Forest National Park, Alamosa Skatepark, Los Altos Skatepark