The Why Are We Doing This Tour

Posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 by Ryan

Story by Ryan Clements
Photos and captions by Rob Meronek

Sunday, August 22, 2004 – 9:15am at Suntan Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi
So 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…

The Skateboarders

  • Kyle Berard – if you don’t know who he is, let me remind you that he’s the only person to ever have won both Tampa Am and Tampa Pro, and if you’ve never seen him skate a cement park, you’re missing out.
  • Matt Milligan – Six Newell represent, Baby. Straight out of Ft. Myers and all the way to SF fame, Matt’s a class act all the way around.
  • Mike Peterson – I particularly like Mike because he used to mow lawns for a living, which truly gives him the appreciation for the professional skateboarding lifestyle. He’s a hard worker and one helluva’ ATV.
  • George Evans – Mike’s quiet buddy from Jax and I know that he rips. He told me yesterday that he’s just coming off an injury and that he needs three days before he’s back 100%.
  • Ian Gow – Tampa local and rail shredder. Ian shows up to spots with his mission already in mind and then diligently executes. I’m also very proud of him because he just started smoking cigarettes.
  • Chris Lehman – Skatepark bowl shredder and my current honorary stepson. Chris comes along because I like him. Plus, the kid got ran over by a tractor trailer a couple years back, resulting in mutilation of his leg – now he’s back stronger than ever.
  • Scott Dray – quiet street underground ripper from Tampa. Scott is the mellow guy until it’s beer o’clock.


The Workers

  • Micheal Derewenko – organizer and planner of this entire deal. Mike makes the arrangements, reads maps, drives, budgets, and shoots photos. He’s already stressing.
  • Rob Meronek – easier to get along with than anyone I know in the world. If anyone ever says a single bad word about Rob, I’ll personally fight them. He’s the website master as well as photographer.
  • Rob Hoovis – funny old dude with the video camera. You may have seen some of his flicks – FM and FM2. Six Newell is going to be amazing.
  • Ryan Clements – the guy writing this. I’m old and have more grey hair than your grandfather.
Executive/Honorary “Talent”

  • Brian Schaefer – would have been labeled just “Executive,” but since he gracefully ollied a 10-stair on the first day out, he’s an honorary skateboarder, too.
Meronek, Schaefer, Lehman, and I met the rest of the crew in Tallahassee on Saturday. Our mission was to hang with the tour for five days. They were already two days into the 10-day trek and claimed to have accomplished a ton on the first outing.

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, Louisiana
Yep, 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, Alabama
It 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 Tampa
Damn, 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.
Brian Schaefer got the stigmata from the first slam on the ten set ollie
Chris Lehman - frontside air off the tombstone
Brian Schaefer frontside grinds the tombstone at Tallahasse Skatepark
Holy crap - Brian Schaefer ollied a ten set
Kyle Berard - lein to tail
Kyle Berard - ollie up to smith
Matt Milligan - frontside pop shuv somewhere in Louisiana
Mike Peterson - frontside 360 somewhere in Louisiana
George Evans - kickflip melon somewhere in Louisiana
Ian Gow - shifty flip somewhere in Louisiana
Mike Peterson - kickflip while sweating beer from the night before
Mike Derewenko and the local chicken at Tallahassee Skatepark
Ryan Clements ollies a five set somewhere in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Matt Milligan - half cab somewhere in Baton Rouge, LA
Matt Milligan - ollie over and down somewhere in Baton Rouge, LA
If you're searching for the Baton Rouge brick quarters, look for these buildings
Mike Peterson frontside melons the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Scott Dray drops in on the smaller part of the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Scott Dray sits on a layback carve on the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Mike Peterson kickflips the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Kyle Berard - frontside ollie on the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Kyle Berard 360 flips the three step on the back part of the Baton Rouge brick quarters
Ryan Clements - backside slider wallride
Ian Gow - frontside alley oop carver
Chris Lehman - backside melon over the tight brick quarters hip
Chris Lehman - backside stale over the brick quarter hip
Brian Schaefer drops in on the smaller part of the brick tranny banks
Brian Schaefer was pressuring Chris Lehman so hard to do this drop in that it was kind of scaring me. It's insane. Chris is going to save this one for a later day. Would you drop in on this?
The spot looks pretty fun huh? This is Ryan Clements somewhere in New Orleans, LA
Ian Gow kickflips from pancake to pancake somewhere in New Orleans, LA - this is how the photo turns out when you take the fisheye off and turn it around
Ian Gow frontside flips from pancake to pancake somewhere in New Orleans, LA
Brian Schaefer makes friends instantly everywhere we go - this is him with some bum he bro'd down with
Scott Dray rides up to fakie on the steep bank to bank thing somewhere in Birmingham, Alabama
Ryan Clements transfers on the little steep bank to bank thing
The crew
Rob Hoovis - wallie up and over that thing in the middle
Chris Lehman and a statue of what looks like a Catholic priest or something
Chris Lehman - dropin
The back of the truck is the party spot, but you better be able to hold a piss because Clements never stops on road trips
A sign that seems like it's straight out of a Southpark episode
Insanity Skatepark in Alabama has a little concrete, but it's mostly pre-made type ramps as shown in this wider view of the park
Matt Milligan breakin the law and checking out the questionable artwork at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
Ryan Clements - rock and roll at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
Mike Peterson ollies up to frontside nosepick at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
Kyle Berard tries to get some choke out lessons from Ryan Clements
Mike Peterson frontside 360's the hip at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
Mike Peterson kickflips the hip at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
Insanity Skatepark somewhere in Alabama had a bunch of nice looking girls working there
Kyle Berard - pivot fakie at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama
This is Ross from Alabama - big spin over the hip. Thanks for the hookup, Ross
Matt Milligan - 360 flip over the hip at some Alabama public park
Rob Hoovis - bonless over the hip at some Alabama public park
Ian Gow - switch backside heelflip at some Alabama public park
This is Alex who works at Insanity Skatepark in Alabama. Here, he's doing a nollie down the bank at the public park down the street
Brian Schaefer and some local Alabama public skatepark chicks
A full view of High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama. We thought this was a concrete park after seeing incorrect photos on some skatepark listing website. We still had fun skating the mini ramp, though
Mike Peterson - this is kind of like a blunt fakie, but more like a frontside salad stall to fakie pop in
Ryan Clements - frontside smith at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Mike Peterson - frontside stale at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Mike Peterson - backside boneless at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Mike Peterson - big frontside ollie tail smack at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Kyle Berard's favorite pants ripped, but he ain't skeerd - backside hurricane at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
The front door at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Kyle Berard hops out of a front blunt at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Chris Lehman - frontside air at High Wheels Skatepark in Alabama
Ever try to sneak in a photo at a strip bar? It almost always ends up with you getting your camera taken. Somehow Schaefer got away with this snapshot of a stripper at the Hustler Club in New Orleans who really likes SPoT
Ryan Clements and Brian Schaefer somewhere in Alabama
Mike Peterson was passed out on the streets of New Orleans like this so people started balancing stuff on his head
Rob Meronek and Brian Schaefer take a break somewhere in Louisiana
Here's what I can remember going out of the back of the truck at 80mph: case of Red Bull, a helmet, tons of dirty laundry, beers, and busted window screen. George Evans and Mike Peterson are some fun people to have a drink with
Rob Meronek and Mike Peterson throw double shakka bra's
Ouch - the gash in the back of Rob Meronek's head after some antics in the hotel room
Losing money at the casino in Biloxi, MS - Matt Milligan, Rob Meronek, Mike Derewenko
George Evans only drinks two times - daytime and nighttime
The crew somewhere on the streets of New Orleans - Rob Meronek, Ryan Clements, Matt Milligan, Rob Hoovis, Kyle Berard, Mike Peterson, Ian Gow, Scott Dray
We make new friends everywhere - Brian Schaefer poses with a shotgun and the Cracker Barrel staff that invited us to a toga party
Drunk dudes Rob Meronek, Mike Peterson, and Matt Milligan try to display the fact that it was 2:40 pm in New Orleans, LA, but we got it backwards

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