The Why Are We Doing This Tour
Posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 by Rob Meronek
Story by Ryan Clements
Photos and captions by Rob Meronek
Sunday, August 22, 2004 – 9:15am at Suntan Hotel in Biloxi, MississippiSo many things happened yesterday that I think I could write a page for each hour that was spent with the crew. First of all, let me tell you why we’re doing this: We were given some funding and told, “Take a trip. Have a good time.” If that isn’t reason enough, then I don’t know what is. Before I go any further, I would like to introduce the players…
We collectively skated the free, public Tallahassee cement park. It was my third time there and I really enjoy skating that place. Peterson and Berard were absolutely destroying the joint, with some great doubles lines on the big qp. Props once again to the City of Tallahassee for having a great place to skate, with no pads rules or fees. The brutally hot session ended when it started to rain.
From there we went to some high school with this gigantic 10-stair hubba. Peterson proceeded to do a tailslide-to-fakie in between short spurts of rain, while the rest of us tried to manual down this long sidewalk. The hubba was so high that you really had to ollie pretty far out to hit it – Peterson was flying when he came out of that tailslide.
Let me tell you…when you’re rolling as deep as we are, the simplest tasks become major productions. 12 dudes eating at Sonic takes an extended amount of time. We hit the road at about 4pm and ended up in Biloxi, Mississippi later that evening, with a quick drive through downtown Mobile, where we saw absolutely nothing to skate.
With the exception of the casinos, which are absolutely amazing, Biloxi looks like a total dump. There are ghetto houses and hotels (like the one we’re staying in) right across the street from huge, Vegas-style resorts. This is the type of town that John Melloncamp sings about.
Okay, I have a confession to make: I lost $500 at the blackjack tables at Beau Rivage. I saw Meronek and Schaefer still playing when I walked out of that joint at 1am, ‘kissing the Poor Man’s ass.’ Sorry about that, Lori. I swear, I completely know all of the ‘rules’ and I religiously play by them, but I lose damn near every time I play blackjack. Damn!
Right now Berard and I are just waiting for the rest of the crew to get up and motivated. I’m going to look for somewhere to get some bacon and eggs.
Monday, August 23, 2004 – 9:43am at Wonderland in New Orleans, LouisianaYep, that’s the name of the place we’re staying at...Wonderland. It’s some retro-style hotel just off of Bourbon Street. By the looks of it, it must be pretty expensive. I think that the down pillows and comforters are the dead giveaway.
Just after breakfast at Waffle House yesterday morning I went and gave five more dollars to the beautiful Beau Rivage Casino. I couldn’t win for losing in that joint. The drive from Biloxi to Baton Rouge was a few hours, but it went by quick with Berard riding shotgun. For some reason, he and I get into the long, ‘what’s up with my life,’ talks about anything and everything. We talked about our parents, money, mortgages, real estate, drugs, and you name it.
As we got off I-12 into Baton Rouge, we were joking that Derewenko was taking us on a wild goose chase as we went from street to street. But BLAM! As we crossed one intersection, there were these gigantic transition brick quarter-pipes that went up to a steep bank like 15 feet tall. They were smoother than the brick qp’s in Orlando, but it was literally impossible to hit the lip. Regardless, another architect’s dream resulted in an amazing skate spot. Too bad when they actually try to build skate parks on purpose in other cities that they can’t get it right even when you tell them what to build.
Peterson and Berard absolutely destroyed that place with ollie grabs from the tranny that landed way up on the bank. And Schaefer came in with another banger – dropping in on the lower part of the wall. Dray and Lehman followed suit. We skated for over an hour and then finally got kicked out by security. I was ready to go anyway.
The next spot was what I referred to as “the Love Park of Baton Rouge.” I think it was some government plaza or something, but it had ledges and three-stairs everywhere and really smooth, brick ground. It was one of the most fun street spots that I can ever remember skating. Scott Dray took the session when he did a backside 180 flip up the handicap ramp and then switch ollied over this huge block down about 7’ on the other side. Everyone was floored.
Believe it or not, we hit a third spot in BR, these banks under the interstate. Although they were a bit rough, it still proved for a good time. You could kind of use them as a step-up type obstacle, but the landing pad was the actual interstate exit ramp. It reminded me of Brooklyn Banks back-in-the-day. The cop that kicked us out was absolutely freaking out. He screamed, “This is suicide! Get the ‘f’ out of here! Not out of here, the ‘f’ out of Baton Rouge!” He was so out of control that I though he was joking, but he certainly wasn’t. He was the Jocko Biffarelli of the BRPD...too funny.
From Baton Rouge we went to New Orleans. New Orleans is supposedly 15 feet below sea level – that seems a bit odd to me. We hit up some Cajun restaurant for dinner and the spicy jambalaya was pretty damn good. There are some cool bars up and down Bourbon Street, but there are definitely a bunch of tourist traps, too. Here’s a bit of advice: If there is “NO COVER” to get in a strip bar, then don’t go in. Lame strip bars or not, everyone still got their drink on. Berard, Meronek, and I are up and productive, but I bet the rest of the crew is sound asleep. The plan is to get out of here and drive to Birmingham.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 – 9:10am @ Red Roof Inn in Birmingham, AlabamaIt took an extended amount of time to get the crew motivated yesterday morning. From what I heard throughout the day, some of them watched the sunrise on Bourbon Street. While we were waiting, Meronek, Berard, and I found a killer little place to eat right across the street from Wonderland. They went for breakfast while I opted for the shrimp and okra gumbo. If there’s anything good in New Orleans, it sure is the food. If you like that Creole style, then make a stop there.
Apparently there isn’t too much street stuff to skate in New Orleans, but we did get to skate those step/gap/platform things under the interstate. They’ve been in a lot of videos – most recently in Static II where John Igei does a line. The first gap is about 6’ with a three step drop, the second gap is a flat 4’, and the third is a regular three stair. Some great footage was taken of Gow with a fs flip/switch pop-shuv combo and Berard busted out a bs flip/switch flip combo, too.
It was nearly 5pm when we finally left New Orleans and headed for Birmingham. Meronek, Peterson, and Evans decided to call it quits for the day and just drank beer in the back of the F-350. I would like to take this time to apologize to the State of Alabama for the case of Red Bull, helmets, and random clothing that is scattered along 59N. Other damages include a broken screen in the topper along with a window that will no longer shut.
We arrived in Alabama around 11pm and headed straight downtown to spot search. We came up on a marble ledge with the most photogenic backdrop - a lit up waterfall. Ian’s bs 5-0 and Milligan’s bs tailslide that Derewenko shot are going to look great on that on piece. Around the corner from that spot was some crazy, skateable art structure right in front of the Courthouse. It was basically a very steep, thin, marble bank that you could either ride up and down or wallie off of, but if you’re Lehman you just drop in on it.
That was about all DT Birmingham had to offer, with exception of the large population of homeless people. We boarded up just outside town and had a mellow evening drinking and discussing The Road Less Traveled.
The past two days have consisted of more back-to-back street skating than I’ve done in years, but we’ve been hitting the best spots, so it’s cool with me. Supposedly we have some cement parks on the itinerary today. I informed everyone last night that I wanted to get busy by 10am. Now it's time to go wake everyone up.
Thursday, August 26, 2004 – 7:56am in my office at Skatepark of TampaDamn, it really sucks to be back. The entire trip seems like a big blur to me right now, but at least it’s cool to be able to write this in my own comfortable office as opposed to a cramped hotel room. Where did I leave off? Oh yeah, we were just outside of Birmingham and then drove up to Decatur to look for some crazy cement park that Derewenko was telling us about. He may have done a great job on picking the street spots, but I don’t know how we ended up at High Wheels.
It doesn’t matter where you’re at when you’re with the right crew. There was a bit of culture shock, but everyone had a great time on the various mini-ramps at High Wheels. The photos of Berard and Peterson don’t do them justice – those guys just destroyed that ramp. Thanks to the guy there for letting us skate. They still had a board on the wall with Milligan’s signature from a Balance tour.
The next stop was Madison – only about a 20-minute drive. From the looks of the place, when we pulled up we just figured that there was no way that they were going to let us ride padless. Its name was “Insanity” and it was the uber-suburban skate park. Everything was perfect…from the arcade to the snack bar to the fences to the picnic tables to the painted coping. We weren’t hating though, because they treated us so well, let us ride padless for free, and even closed the park to regular customers while we shredded. Thank you so much to Insanity and the City of Madison for making us feel so welcome.
By the time the session ended I was completely skated out. My right thigh felt like someone hit it 17 times with a baseball bat, but there was still one more park to skate before the night came upon us. It was only about a 20-minute drive to Huntsville and it was totally worth it. The park was mellow, free, and outside with no rules at all. Honestly, it wasn’t the most well-designed park, but it was fun enough to skate and the locals ripped right along with our crew. Berard nailed a 360 flip over the weird pyramid and Evans got a kf melon over it, too. The sun went away and we finished the last beers while saying our goodbyes. Schaefer, Berard, Meronek, and I hit the road back to Tampa and the rest of the crew drove towards Atlanta.
We could only make it a couple of hours before hunger and fatigue completely hit us. I know we ate at some Ruby Tuesday restaurant, but I have no idea what town the HoJo’s that we stayed at was in. Wednesday morning we were about two hours outside of Atlanta and on the road by 8:30am. The drive went quickly with entertaining conversation and good music, along with the viewing of Very Bad Things. I hadn’t seen that flick in a few years – it’s crazy.
Thanks to all of the pros other rippers that went with us, Derewenko for organizing, and Kyle and Aaron from Red Bull for making this mission a success. Also, we were so impressed with Peterson’s and Berard’s skating that they officially made the Skatepark of Tampa Team.