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Etnies Does Austin (Travelogue, December 2002)

Jun 13 2003 / Friday

Perks Of The Job
or Etnies Does Austin
By John Povah

It's been a while since I was in Austin. I think the last time I was there was for the first MTV sports and music festival back around 1997 or '98. It's always been my intention to return, but for one reason or another, it never happened. Austin is always a good time--that place definitely leaves an impression!

Day 1--December 4, 2002
All of my travel plans came together really well. I met Joe Rich and Garrett Byrnes at Austin International Airport at around 4:00 pm with Etnies staff BMX photographer Jared Souney in tow. We came to town to clock some photos for ads, web stuff, etc. There was no real game plan, just take it as it comes. The weather wasn't being too friendly. When we stepped outside the airport, it was a chilly forty degrees. We jumped in Joe's truck and took off to the T1 offices about twenty minutes away. We arrived and did the usual meet and greet with everyone. There were a couple of other superstars in town just for the heck of it--Dom Mack, who rides for MacNeil bikes, and T1's Paul Buchanan. They were trying to dry the T1 ramp off to get a session in for the day, but it was just to cold to be cooperative.

We hung out at the offices for a couple of hours, checked out the place, put our bikes together and let Taj and Joe get some work done. Jared and myself checked into our hotel. We had no real plans for the evening, other than getting some food and going to the bar. We ate at some veggie hippie place that actually turned out to be pretty good. The challenge was laid down that I should be a vegetarian for the duration of my stay in Austin. Always up for a bet, I accepted. We took off to The Ritz to get in some games of pool. Consequently, Garrett and myself kicked Joe and Taj's asses time after time and did some drinking, as well.

Day 2--December 5, 2002
Jared and myself got some breakfast and the plan was to meet up at T1 and then head off to the Skatepark of Austin, which I heard had one of the best wooden bowls around. We were not disappointed. The folks who run that place were super cool. Taj hooked them up with a bunch of Skatelite a while back, so whenever he shows up, he pretty much has free run of the place, thus they let us all in for free. The crew included Joe, Taj Sandy, Garrett, Dom Mack (Etnies England), Brian something or other, Ryan Corrigan (honorary Etnies team member), Jared and myself. Taj had a messed-up ankle a while back and wasn't sure if he could ride, which, after one or two runs, was confirmed. So, he took off early back to the office to get some work done.

This left the rest of the crew alone in the place, which was awesome. They have a real well laid-out street course that is very bike-friendly with some unique obstacles that were put to good use by a few of the guys--especially Garrett and Sandy. They shredded! This was Joe's first time actually riding his bike at this park. He had previously skated there, so it was a treat to hit this stuff on his bike. Joe made quick work of the bowl, getting some really fast lines going, but still being a little tentative with his thumb. You could see he wanted to push it, but he held back for fear of pushing it too hard. Jared fired off shots of all the guys and everyone enjoyed the freedom of the park. Good times!

The evening's festivities started as we headed out to get some food at a place called, appropriately, Veggie Heaven. I stuck to my guns on the vegetarian thing. Then it was on downtown, where every first Thursday of the month, Austin blocks off a street to party...which I wasn't complaining about. Some places were actually giving away free beer. Sandy's wife had a booth set-up where she sold handmade purses at one of the small street markets that were dotted around town. After we were done with the festivities in the streets, we were off to go check out a friend of Joe's art show, where we found some weird guy with a dead possum in a box (maybe it was playing possum) and making up crazy songs that made no sense. No one knew who this guy was--not even the guy putting on the art show. The art was cool, then we took off to go see some bands play at The Ritz, where T1 puts on a rock show every other Thursday. A band by the name of Lucero were playing there and definitely rocked. Everyone one hung out there till the wee hours and then went their separate ways. Joe was M.I.A.

Day 3--December 6, 2002
After getting some food with the guys, we took off to T1 to hang-out and get some kind of a game plan going. We all rode the ramp for a while, which took me out. When my hand slipped off of my grip, I drove myself into the flat bottom of the ramp and then shot off the side into a pile of wood and rubble. I was done. It was quite late in the day as we finally made a decision on where we were going, but we ended up at a place called the M&M Skatepark on the outskirts of Austin that was riddled with little grommets on razor scooters and fruit boots. There were parents actually holding their kids up from falling over on their rollerblades--that's what kind of scene it was. Plus, we didn't get in for free, so we knew that the owners didn't know exactly who they had in their park.

This didn't stop Garrett from zipping around the park at a 100 miles an hour. Some of the kids were whining at Garrett to "quit trying to run us over," which I thought was pretty funny. Garrett was doing fast lines and hitting every obstacle in his path. There was this one channel he aired over that was really impressive. Joe pretty much stayed on the mini-ramp all night and was riding smooth and looked like he hadn't been off of his bike at all--even though it had been five months. He was doing airs where he buzzed his front tire on the ceiling. He was also doing top-side handplants on the ceiling that looked really cool. Sandy was taking time to ride as well as take pictures. He did this one trick where he hit the vert wall and did an icepick on the I beam in the ceiling that looked completely crazy. He also had some fast lines around the park that were really pissing the kids and their parents off. After the session, we took off back to the hotel and just hung out until everyone decided it was time to go home. I iced my now quite swollen knee and took some painkillers.

Day 4--December 7, 2002
After the usual eats in the morning, we headed over to T1 to meet everyone and get some kind of game plan together. We had loosely said the day before that we should go up to Houston to check out this new biker park called Dirtwood, owned and run by bike riders. As it seemed like that was actually what we were going to do that day, we loaded-up and took off. After getting some gas and nibbles, we spent about two-and-a-half or three hours in the car. We arrived at the park where we were greeted with open arms by the owners, who were really cool. The guys obviously knew who Joe, Sandy and Garrett were, so we got to ride for free.

The park was really fun and laid-out pretty well, but there were some kids there who just didn't know park etiquette, so Joe had to have some words with them. They would drop in on a ramp even while you were taking a run. The kids were good riders, but just weren't getting it. Joe said "If one of these kids crashes into me and I have to be off my bike for another six or seven months, I will kill someone!" Garrett had more fast lines in this place--he always finds something that no one else sees. He's so exciting to watch. Sandy was tearing the mini spine apart, airing the crap out of it. The park was good and the people were cool. Good times! We then jumped back in the car for the trip home, but not after hitting Chili's for good food to end a fun day.

Day 5--December 8, 2002
Today started with us looking out the window of the hotel and seeing nothing but rain. It looked like today was going to be a complete bust. Jared and myself headed over to T1 to meet Joe, Taj and Garrett. Jared took some chilling and working shots of Taj. We basically spent the whole day whining about the weather and just hanging-out. Joe showed me a bunch of cool pipe photos he had from other trips he had been on and some other cool riding shots--as well as some artsy-fartsy photos. We were just hoping that the weather would get better for the pipe trip we had planned a couple of days from now. After getting some dinner at a nice Italian veggie place, it was off to The Ritz for the evening festivities: drinks and billiards. Upstairs on a Sunday night at the Ritz, they have a craft fair, where Sandy's wife had her purses on sale again and one of Joe's good friends--a super cool guy by the name of Tommy--works behind the bar. The night was kind of a blur, but I think I got some digital photos to remind myself how dumb I am (as a side note, booze helps ease the pain!)

Day 6--December 9, 2002
The previous two days had been wet from constant rain, so there was no riding outdoors today. Taj gave Jared a ride to the airport, cuz he was leaving in the early afternoon. I was still bummed I hadn't got to ride the T1 ramp for real--it may never happen. Joe took me to check out this one street gap that everyone who comes to Austin drools over. It's called the Death Gap--and for good reason. This thing is full-speed, head-down, balls out insane! It's about thirty-five to forty feet long and ten feet high. Basically, you are hitting the lip blind, because you can't see where you're going to land until you take off. Crazy.

After spending the day mostly chilling at T1 and watching those guys get work done, we all decided to go to The Ramp Ranch of Texas. It's a park that used to be in a different location and run by this one lady who was super cool. Now it's run by different people who are still pretty cool, but have changed the ramps and made weird layouts for the park. The roof was leaking and made some of the ramps pretty wet--especially the mini-ramp, which is what Joe mainly rode, goofing around the lake in the flat bottom. Once again, I decided it might be a good idea to hurt myself, so I did a grind, came off a little squirrelly, hit my face on the ground, split my lip and got a nose bleed. Joe took pictures of some other kids riding, as well as Garrett--who had previously got a good size knot right beneath his kneecap from hitting a pothole on his skateboard and eating shit.

We left and went to get some food at another hippie restaurant, where we saw this guy that they call The Enigma and his wife, who live in Austin. This guy is one huge jigsaw puzzle of tattoos from head to toe. He also has horns permanently imbedded in his forehead. His wife has cat-like features tattooed on her face with permanent whiskers implanted just beneath her nose. Insane--a weird end to the evening. We then went back to Taj's place, where I iced my ailing face and knee.

Day 7--December 10, 2002
We had scheduled to get up early today, just because we knew we were going to have some driving to do. The plan was to go check out a pipe I heard about that was a good few hours away. We loaded-up and picked up Sandy, so it was Sandy, Joe, Garrett and myself--just the right amount of people for a trip like this. Everyone was loaded-down with cameras and Joe brought his dinghy, oars and every other necessary tool, because you never know what you will encounter on a semi-aquatic pipe mission like this. We did the drive and checked out the pipe, which turned out to be a beaut and looked easier to get to than it should have. Meanwhile, we took off to go to a skate park that those guys knew of a little ways away.

We got there to find that a lot of the park had water in it, so we broke out the brooms and started sweeping the water and trying to dry the place up. Joe, Garrett and Sandy skated a little. The only problem was it was almost dark and getting colder, so it didn't look like it was going to dry any time soon. We took off to get food in hopes that it may dry. I had to go get a sleeping bag and another dinghy from Target (who, I must say, has the best return policy ever!) so that we could camp out and be close to the full pipe for the morning. We never went back to the skatepark, even though we swept for a good hour or so. Back by the pipe, we set-up camp, lit a fire, drank beer and laughed a lot. Sandy forgot the poles for his tent, so he and I slept in Joe's truck while Garrett and Joe slept in Joe's tent. Sandy and Garrett fart a lot!

Day 8--December 11, 2002
We woke before sunrise, got all the tools of the trade together and headed of to the pipe, which wasn't too far away. Excitement filled us all. We could almost see the pipe in the darkness of the morning. We went to work inflating the boats and getting our shit together. It was kind of an argument as to who would be the first to get to the pipe, but Joe and Garrett were the first to cross, and Garrett was the first to touch uncharted territory as he walked up and became engulfed by the hugeness of the dark tunnel. It must be stressed that this was no ordinary full pipe, for extending out of it's mouth was a perfect concrete halfpipe complete with decks on top of each lip just like at a skatepark--unbelievable. We all made it across unscathed and undetected and rode there for a good few hours--basically until everyone had their fill. Plenty of pictures were taken and lots of footage clocked. We had to make the return trip now. Luckily, we were able to get back across as easily as we got in there. While Garrett and Joe went to get his truck, Sandy and I deflated the boats and packed the stuff up. Joe pulled up nearby, we loaded-up and were out of there, no problem. We decided on the drive back that we should maybe go check out some other spots for the possibility of more pipes, No such luck!

Driving through one really small hick town, Garrett spotted a good-looking street gap over a couple of handrails with banks either side of them. He hit it a couple of times so that Sandy could take some pictures. When we were done, some wild-looking redneck guy pulled up in a Caprice Classic all primered and beat and explained that he had some ramps in his back yard just a couple of blocks away. We all thought it had to be worth a good laugh, so we went to check it out. We pulled up to discover some of the worst-built ramps of all time. They were all propped-up with whatever scraps and driftwood this guy could find laying around. Garrett went right to work riding everything in sight. He was the only one to brave this threatening junk heap, the rest of us stood in awe.

This place was straight out of Sanford & Son, Texas-style. The windows to the house were all broken and covered in plywood, the back yard was filled with bike parts everywhere. In his garage, the redneck was hiding some of his wild bicycle creations. Apparently, he holds the world's record for the tallest bike, which he offered Garrett to try out. Garrett was like, "Hell, yeah!" and rode an eight-foot tall bike (outfitted with long-ass pipe forks) that he almost ate shit on. To top it all off, redneck was sporting a serious mullet with a deep Texas accent and went by the name of Buster Hicks--no kidding. The drive home was all talk of how insane and unforgettable the day had been. We got back to Austin in time to hang-out with Taj and tell him all about the day's events. We showed him some photos of the pipe and footage of Buster Hicks. Needless to say, he was jealous as hell. And who in their right mind wouldn't be?

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