After many months of planning, Rooftop's first Samurai trip was about to hit the road. On May 1, the crew--consisting of etnies' Mike Escamilla and Edwin Delarosa, as well as riders from other teams like Colin Winkelmann, Adam Banton, "Tweaker" Joe Riley and Heath Pinter--were there to represent. Besides these guys, there were also filmer Bob Scerbo, a photographer for the first half of the trip, Mark Losey, and myself (John Povah) along to take care of driving duties, break up fights, get guys out of jail and basically get the crew home alive.
After we picked up Heath and Tweaker Joe, we all piled into the thirty-six foot RV with bikes hanging out the back as we headed out to sin city--Las Vegas, Nevada. In a period of about two years, Vegas has managed to accumulate about eight really decent concrete parks. It would have been cool to be able to hit every one, but it is next to impossible on a trip like this, so we just tried to hit the cream of the crop. First up, we went to the YMCA park. I'm surprised that we haven't heard more about it, because this park was pretty awesome. Our first stop being this good was a blessing, because later on, as you will find out, we ran into all kinds of hassles. The whole crew shredded this place right out of the RV. Winkelmann was blasting flips and 360 whips all over the place. Rooftop was hitting the hips with style and height and was also killing this one step-up hip / island thing on top of one of the decks.
From there, we headed over to what everyone calls Pro Park. This place is huge--not only in square footage, but also in depth and sheer size of the bowls. It was really slick and dusty, too.
The only guy to really teach this place a lesson was Tweaker Joe, who was going about eight feet out of this one halfpipe section. After we had our fill of Pro Park, we drove to St .George Utah to spend the night.
In St. George, Mike was on a mission to find this natural quarterpipe one of his skate friends told him about. It was in Zion National Park near a place called Fred Flintstone rock. After a good long while of hiking with bikes, cameras, spare parts, etc., we found it. Yabba-dabba-doo! The whole place was so beautiful and scenic, all the effort was definitely worth it. I don't think the park rangers would have taken too kindly to a group of BMX dirtbags riding their national treasures. After the session, we drove to Sandy, Utah and camped for the night--which was awesome, I might add.
Morning came around and we drove to Tim "Fuzzy" Hall's house on the North side of Salt Lake City. The weather appeared to be getting a little shady, to say the least. By the time we left Fuzzy's house to head to the bike / skate store he owns (called 50/50), the rain had started and was putting a damper on any plans of riding that day. It did stop for a while though--just long enough to let us get at least forty minutes in a very windy Sandy Skatepark. All the guys thought that this park was pretty bad-ass, but didn't get to ride it to it's fullest due to the wind.
After figuring the outdoor sessions weren't going to happen, Mike Aitken took us to an indoor park called Proving Grounds just south of Sandy. As it is his home park, Mikey Aitken literally kills this place. He goes higher, faster and longer than anyone around--and smooth to boot. Adam Banton was pulling whip to double pegs on the sub-box, as well as having plenty of fun on the street course. Heath was trying to chase Mikey around the park and was doing quite a good job, considering it was his first time there. Edwin was shredding the rails and ledges, teaching them a good lesson. Rooftop figured this place out pretty quickly and had a good time on everything he rode--especially the hips.
We stayed in Salt Lake that night so that we could ride Mat Beringer's the next day. The rain hadn't quit yet, so the only thing rideable was Mat's garage, which is one of the tightest set-ups you have ever seen. He has his whole garage bowled-in from floor to ceiling. It kinda looks unrideable, but believe me, Mat kills this place. Rooftop shredded and had a great time and says he wants to build a similar set-up somewhere. Banton and Tweaker Joe also both had a great time figuring out lines in the garage. Mat also has trails and a six-foot mini in his backyard, but it was just to wet to ride.
We had seen and heard of a park in Haley, Idaho that had a fullpipe that you could ride up and over the top of. It was quite a long drive to get there, but we rolled in at around 1:00 a.m. The park is right next to the main street in town, so we figured it would be good to get up as early as possible to go ride it. 6:00 a.m. rolls around pretty quickly when you've only had a few hours sleep. It was frosty out, so we just waited for the sun to warm things up a little, as it was pedaling distance over to the park. Haley has a population of only 6,200 people, so it was crazy to see a park with fourteen foot deep bowls. It just didn't seem like a park that was meant for kids. I couldn't see a ten year-old kid riding that thing.
There was no one there when we rolled up. The fullpipe was awesome. All the guys had it set in their minds that they were going to get riding over the pipe done and out of the way as quickly as possible. It was a good thing they did, because it wasn't long before the po-po rolled up to kick us out. You know the scoop, "This park isn't built for bikes." We lasted about thirty minutes, tops. They were cool about it, but not cool enough to let us stay, so on we moved.
From Haley, we drove to Boise, where Heath had lived for a while when he was into snowboarding. He said there used to be this park underneath the highway there, and sure enough, the park was still there just the way Heath remembered it from about five years ago. It boasted some shady-ass wooden ramps with a metal riding surface on them. We rode there for while. Edwin rolled his ankle semi-bad doing super-long ice-pick grinds on this ledge (at least he got one on film).
After getting our fill there, some guys took us over to a small concrete park across town that ended up being a lot of fun for all the guys. We got some pictures taken and some filming done. On we drove. Somewhere in my driving session, I almost ran down a 150 pound deer. It was really close--everyone in the RV was screaming like little girls. It was that deer's lucky night. We spent the night camping under the stars at some hot springs.
Day six was kind of a waste. We drove to Burns, Oregon, where Mike had heard of a park. We got there and it ended up being this really small and crappy rundown wooden park that was basically a joke. But, we did drive by an empty pool that we went back to sesh. We got some pictures and a little film there before the cops showed up to shut the show down once again. We drove about an hour to Klamath Falls to check out a brand-new park we heard about that turned out to be probably one of the best ones we have ever seen.
Pools and bowls galore--some with pool coping, some without--good transfers, and it even had what looked like a rhythm section down one side and a path around the outside of the park so that instead of crossing the park and getting in people's way, you could go around the outside to get to other parts of the park.
We could tell when we rolled up that the skaters weren't down with us being there. A couple of the skaters were pretty bad-ass and we acknowledged to them that we thought they were good, but they didn't even flinch. There was a bad vibe and we didn't even pull our bikes out at all--they knew we rode bikes. Apparently, this park was built by a company from Oregon called Dreamland Skateparks, which are strictly anti-bike. They tell cities not to let bikes in the parks they build in exchange for a cheaper price on the construction. Screw these guys! We moved on and drove to Redding, California.
Woke up in Redding and headed to an old school-style snake run park in town and rode there for a good few hours without any hassles. We met some cool kids and had a good time. After eating, we drove to Yuba City, where there was this park that Mike had been to before that has this taco-style halfpipe that he wanted to grind up and around. After countless tries, Mike left empty-handed. Colin Winkelmann tried the same thing and, after numerous attempts, left the park with a coping enema. This park was built pretty crappy, obviously with no real knowledgeable input.
Day eight was reserved for some extra-curricular activities. We were scheduled to go white water river rafting near Lake Tahoe, but due to lots of rain, the river was running extra high--about twice the norm--and the guys who ran the company that were taking us were worried that it may bit a little too crazy for us, considering we were all rookies. Mike had been rafting before, but I don't think going one time before makes you pro. Having never rafted before made it that much more scary. We all had to wear life jackets with wet suits beneath them, as well as helmets. If you didn't have the little waterproof booties, you were hating it. Scerbo went without but survived. Tweaker Joe almost caught hypothermia, but with clothes donations from our guides, he was good to go.
The water was f-f-f-freezing. For the most part, it was running at a decent pace, but every once in a while, we would come across some rapids and have to overcome them. On one occasion, Heath almost got ejected from the boat, but was caught by one of the instructors. Like I said before, there had been more rain than usual, so the rapids were extra crunchy. At one point, we had to take the boats out of the river and carry them about a hundred yards around these one rapids because they were too gnarly. The whole river excursion lasted about five hours and near the end, Rooftop jumped in the river to put his underwater video camera case to good use by letting us run over him with our boat.
After warming up, we drove to Ripon. Once again, this was a "no bike" park, but this one came with an added twist--it was smack dab next to the local police station. To add insult to injury, the park was amazing. It looked like it was designed for bikes. Screw this! We drove to Modesto. This wasn't the best-built park, but it was fun and we didn't get the boot. In fact, we stayed there for around two hours and got some pictures, shot some film then moved on to Visalia. We knew we could ride there, even though it says "no bikes". The cops in Visalia don't really care to much. I'm sure they understand that there are worse things kids could be doing rather than riding their bikes and skateboards at the skatepark. We rode here for a good two or three hours. There were a lot of kids here, and a lot of them were out of control, but it was a fun time nonetheless.
Last stop on the trip was Woodward West, located in the hills above Tehachapi at a place called Stallion Springs. It's an old vacation resort that never really did very well. That's all about to change, though, as the little town there and it's inhabitants aren't going to know what hit them--what with hordes of screaming kids and rowdy counselors invading on a daily basis. They were having an open day just to give industry people a sneak peak at what this Woodward is going to be all about. I think it was everyone's consensus that it's going to blow Woodward East out of the water. There were lots of people riding and skating. Colin jumped out of the concrete park onto the roof of a building. He also tried this one transfer from one quarterpipe to another--about thirty-five feet apart. Rooftop nose-picked a huge trannie banked quartepipe and carved around the whole park super-fast. Adam had fun on the mini-ramp section of the bowl doing all kinds of tech stuff.
With exception of the weather and the parks we couldn't ride, the trip was super-fun. Everyone got along really good (and you really get to know people when you are cooped up in tight quarters with them for any period of time). You should be able to see portions of the trip on 54321 as well as in Ride BMX magazine. Thanks to all the kids we met for making every stop a good one. Oh yeah, and if you ever get the chance to go white water river rafting, take it--you won't be disappointed. One more thing: to all the parks that don't let bikes in...YOU SUCK!
Check out more photos in The Gallery