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.