Our trips aren’t like other trips you are going to read about in magazines. We aren’t doing this because we need to make a 3 min montage to sell some shoes to some remote section of the country. We don’t have to put on demos for 2 dozen pre-teens. Weedmaps didn’t put us up in a tropical paradise. We aren’t out here on a mission for a certain trick and we didn’t drive 15 hours just to realize the spot was too big. We just want to skate new stuff. It is the combination of seeing new things and getting out of the old.
So with no plan greater than a hotel room booked, we headed out to Arizona for a weekend. We left San Diego on a weekday evening and while everyone was driving home work we were headed out the other direction. A list of probably 20 parks got pared down into about 8 ones that we really wanted to skate and by the time we got there it had already been totally changed up to a separate set of parks.
We called Shaun Gregoire and asked for cool spots to skate. He gave us an English food restaurant and told us to call him on a non-work day when he wasn’t building motorcycles or doing something else cooler than us. So back to the list of parks.
First day we hit a fun looking plaza called Ceaser Chavez park and it looked fantastic, but we were way too dead from sitting in the car. Legs had a lot of jelly to work out. So, we scratched that and headed to desert west park, where they have Phoenix Am and built some transition, the legs needed transition. It was fun, but the old coping was round, the old quarters were mellow and lumpy, while the new additions built seemed to come right out of street league. This contrast was only second to the contrasting images at a memorial on the southside of the park for a fallen skater. There were flowers nik naks, all next to a confederate flag half covered up by a Bob Marley banner. Finally, our legs started to come around and were ready to go somewhere else.
We needed to get some bearing lube to resist this Arizona dust and we forgot a razorblade, so boards needed gripping. On the way out there, we decided to stop at a transition park just because it was so close. Maybe it was spending all day warming up, but this is where things finally started to come around and our legs were working. Goodyear park is far from the type of park we would normally skate, I don’t even think it was on my list of original 8 I wanted to skate, but that tiny tight quarterpipe got some loving and Matt boosted a crazy high frontside ollie out of such a tiny little launch.
We still needed to get some supplies so of course we are going to hit up Cowtown. We were able to get in, check out a rad shop, buy some cool shirts as souvenirs and even grabbed some local videos. Support your local shop and videographers!
On the way back, we ate at glorious Whataburger, which we discovered on a trip to Texas a few years ago. People in California claim in-n-out but Whataburger has a menu where I literally want to eat every item on the menu. Arizona seems to sit in that magical middle ground where it gets all the best restaurants. I really think some of the good eastern and southern restaurants avoid going to California because its expensive and pretentious. Our hotel was next to a Waffle House and down the street was in n out, next to a Mexican joint as authentic as any you’ll find in San Diego County. For the fast-food-aficionado, Phoenix is the spot.
Stomachs full we decided to look at one more park instead of sitting in traffic all the way back to the hotel. I was full of grease and every ollie brought me one step closer to that dreaded side ache. Every half attempt was followed by a min of sitting down. We decided to call it a day and move on to the next one.
I forgot to mention how bad our hotel room was. Instead of it being a cheap worn-down hotel, it was so brand new that it wasn’t even finished. Our original room was torn apart, the builder’s tools and ladder still strewn across the room. So, the new room we are given has a doorknob that doesn’t work right, and you must sit and fiddle with it to get it open. Normally not that big of a deal but having to coordinate it with the green light of an access key was a pain. The front desk clerk insisted that he open it for us the first time. I accidently told him the room was 306 instead of 309 and he sat there and pulled and tugged at the doorknob to someone else’s room at 2 in the morning. I felt bad but oh well, oopes. The room was clean but still needed finishing touches. The bathroom door was a closet door, not a traditional door, and it was set so badly in the frame that it hardly shut. I guess that is minor complaints when we didn’t get robbed or have to deal with any loud people.
On the second day we decided to start out at Tempe park. Even though the legs weren’t out of the box yet, the skating felt good. The Euro gap with the flatbar on top of it is every bit as fun as it looks. The rest of the park has seen better days, every crack and seem was bursting so the park was full of holes and uneven spots. The marble ledge was missing over 2 feet of marble and the city had replaced it with concrete; not quite the same guys.
After Tempe we realized this unplanned aimlessness was going to be unproductive. Instead of hitting a bunch of parks to say hi, we decided to go back to the hotel, watch a Pyramid Country video that we copped while stopping at another one of the Cowtown locations. This one was bigger and had some cool boards on the ceiling. They had a full run of the unmade “Populist” company that changed its name and became Popwar. Josh’s inner skate nerd was stoked.
We had a few parks that we felt were “top tier” and even though it was over an hour and a half away across all of Phoenix thru traffic, we settled on going to Surprise park and then El Mirage if that was a bust the short lunch break was all we needed to make this the most productive day of the trip.
After a long drive where I had a bit too much water we had to do an emergency pit stop so I could pee. Of course, we pull off in the hood, and of course the bathroom is closed where we stop (It’s the hood, isn’t the bathroom always closed?) but the floodgates are opening at this point, so I take off on the 100-meter dash away from the main road to find anywhere to avoid a public urination charge. On our way back to the road we watched a car pass stopped traffic on the sidewalk of a school that had barbed wire at the top and bottom. So at least we got to see a bit of the dirty phoenix and not just what was built in the last 5 years.
Surprise park looks amazing, and if you aren’t sliding or turning it is fantastic. Tons of ledge and small hubbas it really is a dream. Until you try to skate it and realize it is as slippery as a bar of soap in the shower. I know we used to always joke syndrome for how slick it was, but this took wax to a new more dangerous level. Even with a perfect lock in it was possible to slip out very quickly in any number of directions. When you fall, you end up like Jeron Wilson half way across the park. Even being packed by scoots wasn’t worse than how slick it was. After Matt threw down a couple of great ones up a long euro we cut our losses and went to Mirage park, no point in hurting ourselves on the ice rink for scooters.
Luckily El Mirage is much closer, and the traffic had lessened so we were able to get there mostly still warmed up. It is another cool park with many objects that are only one minor detail away from being good. There is a manual pad that is deceivingly dish shaped which is dangerous as hell. Part of me thinks this park use to look completely different and they built a new park on top of it, but that is just a hunch from one down rail, so I can’t be sure.
This park is at a big public park, matt even ollied a nice gap from the skatepark into the basketball courts, but its pretty crowded with little kids. There is a snack store right next to the park which is probably nice in the summertime for getting corn dogs and ices on a skate sesh. This was the park where we interacted with the kids the most. They were stacking up boards and ollieing over as many as they could screaming and running around the way kids do, but without being rude which we would soon learn was a good thing.
Pretty burnt out we decided to hit one more park on the way home. Peoria park used to host the Phoenix Am contest before it got moved back to the hood. This park is big and even the street course is deep. The euro gaps are tall and there is a big 12 stair standing guard over the whole thing. It was starting to get cold when we got there so warming up was not as easy, and surprisingly for us we warmed up in the bowl. Its not much for my transition opposed feet but hitting a scratch on pool coping is special.
We skated a tiny bit more exploring the place, but it was too cold a filled with scooters to get anything going. We messed around on a metal curb and some bangers got thrown down. I was able to practice my backtails and nollie front crooks and it really reinforced to both Matt and I that small ledges are our shiiiiit. One the way out Matt decided he wanted to get super tech and do some manual-flip—manual combos and it was the only real battle we had on the trip for any tricks. He did them both first or second try without the camera so it was probably really frustrating to have to work for both. But he came through like a champ, as always. We made friends with a self-proclaimed old local there, who kept saying he had been skating since 92. He brought the hype though, and even filmed a trick for our montage, and talked with us about what parks we liked skating, so it was good to interact with the locals at least some.
When we got home it was past 10 and we were hilariously beat. Matt and Josh went to go eat and I said I was too tired, but I immediately realized I would regret it the following morning if I didn’t refuel. So, I walked down to Del Taco while the guys feasted on waffle house. I was jealous. It took me over an hour to finish that tiny burrito because I was just fried. I was asleep quick.
On the last day I think we were feeling a little beat, but it was the last day so might as well just push through and try to make something happen. The skies looked a little grey and the hotel manager even apologized for the poor weather. I guess a light sprinkle that doesn’t stick to the ground is harsh weather in Arizona.
The first park we went to this day was only walking distance from our hotel, and I booked that hotel in anticipation of skating that part most nights, but we didn’t even get to it until the last day. There is a long-kinked rail that I was claiming before we came. Watch the footage to see if I do it or not. (Spoiler, I don’t) But we did get out the go pro quick after messing around on a tiny little ledge for a while. Man, little ledges are the best thing in skateboarding. Parks build all this crazy stuff but just give me a bunch of ledges and I’m fine. Drove 6 hours to skate a ledge that we pretty much have here. We also skated a steep quarterpipe for a while and got to mess around filming for a bit. The transition was so steep that some unsuspecting little helmet went flying towards it expecting to do a flyout, but he hit it like a wall and dove helmet first into the concrete up top. Of course, being a pre-teen, his bones are made of rubber and even though he folded, he jumped up and was fine.
I decided I should probably try to use my camera at least once on this trip, so I pulled it out so matt could shoot a back disaster. I have gotten better at skating on trips, but I must get better at documenting it. We put the camera away and matt did a long noselide down a Hubba next to the kinked rail I was talking about. Long and solid it was rad.
We had filmed enough that the SD card on the Go Pro was full. When we were filming n the quarterpipe we were counting down the amount of tries that could be done on the 15 seconds left. Instead of taking the time to dump footage and any nonsense that could come with that, matt just decided to buy a new card. We found a Fry’s that was close to the famous Wedge skatepark and headed over to buy a card. This Fry’s made the one in San Marcos look like a Kmart, it had product on all the shelves. On the way to the wedge we saw another waffle house and my jealousy from them eating it the night before had us going again.
Luckily, we didn’t really plan on skating much at the Wedge, more to just see it, because it was full like a birthday party. We sat on the Hubba, we looked at the gap T-Funk just kickflipped, we found a skateboard covered in barnacles that had fallen in the water. It was a cool relaxing moment on the trip. One of those moments where skateboarding doesn’t really involve anything more then just being on a skateboard.
We knew we didn’t have much left but decided to make the most of it, so we headed to one park without lights before the sun went down and had another planned for when it left us. The first park was in the strangest place I have ever seen a skatepark. Josh said he could tell we were in the ghetto because we had to park across the street at a Food Lion. It was right on the corner of a 4-way intersection on a small lot that would only have been big enough to hold a 7/11. It was about the size of Connors, but had a real quarter pipe and a good small quarterpipe. When the quarterpipe is good it’s just tradition to do every trick you can on it.
Right out of the gate I smacked my leg good like a shinner and knew I was out for at least the rest of the day. No problem, it’s the end of last day anyways. Of course, sitting on the ledge while Matt films behind me is pretty much an open offer to homeless people for conversation. While I’m sitting there rubbing on the spot I hit, this guy walks up to me,
“Is this a straight edge park?”
What? No? I mean yes, according to the law isn’t everywhere public straight edge. I don’t know dude I’m not from here. Ramble onward about how some skaters told him not to smoke weed, and he thought skaters were all about weed. Well dude, we are right on a big intersection, I can see wanting to avoid any unwanted attention. Whatever he keeps rambling and I can tell I was tuning him about because I can’t remember anything he said, but then he pulled a small bottle of vodka from his pocket and offered me a drink.
“No, I don’t drink” Straight edge park. As I am recently sober this was the first time I had been offered alcohol and it shook me. Luckily after that he realized he was unwelcome and wandered over to the bus stop to bug some one else. While this had been happening, Matt had been lading close to a dozen tricks and his bag was empty. We loaded back into the car to try and just see one more park before the day was done.
On the way back, we stopped by one more park that I will call Thomas turner park. If you have never seen his Instagram, he somehow manages to make this crappy park with horrifying transition look fun. It was cold, and we took one lap around the park and noped our way back to the hotel. Matt tried a boardslide on the rail on the way out and stuck all the way to the ground, just to put the final nail in the coffin.
We headed back and got some BBQ at a weird place that seemed way too empty for a Saturday night. Sat around and joked about the trip and got ready to leave the next morning. The trip home barely even exists in my memory because my mental storage was so full of new memories that I didn’t have room for the drive. I got sick and could feel the life slipping out of me. When we pulled back into San Diego I fell asleep and it took almost 6 months to write this about it. Great times can’t wait to go again.