Although I have lived in California for approximately three years now, I will admit I haven’t seen much of the western United States. So when my good buddy Hayden Ball told me about the adventure he was about to embark upon, I was more than interested. I grew up in northern Michigan, four hours from a decent, professionally-built skatepark, which means that the chance to blade some of the most well-built cement parks for four days straight made this adventure even more exciting.
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The journey began outside my apartment in the 5:00 a.m. darkness of San Diego. A droopy-eyed Hayden Ball, Derek Hall, and very anxious Dusty the BladeDog welcomed me to Hayden’s truck. For this trip, Hayden decided to trick out the covered truck bed with a mattress and blankets. At the request of my fiancé I decided not to indulge in the “sleeper compartment” and instead I rode the navigator seat next to Hayden, with Derek and Dusty in the back on our way to the first stop, Mammoth.
Since being in California, I haven’t seen the classic forest environment I grew up with in the mid-west, but riding through the mountains towards Mammoth was a nice reminder of the forests back home.
The skatepark, located conveniently close to schools and community recreation centers, is one of the most magnificent parks I have ever been to. Imagine if a super eccentric skate architect got the opportunity to build his vision a combination of snowboard park-like hips and wacky bumps, combined with massive, over-powering vert barrel, pool-coping walls — this would be his creation. Even the smaller side of the park had a very engulfing feel. Simply put, it was amazing.
We met up with our good friends Geoff Acers, Logan “2raw” Fowell and Tyler Patel, and they were just as eager as us to shred the gnar in this gigantic pipe dream of a park. Everybody really loved the park, and you could tell by the good times had that the energy and pure enjoyment we shared was priceless.
Soon we were hungry so we packed up our things and made to leave. On the way out Hayden “The Big Puller” buds’d up on some skateboarder chicks that were giving us the envious eye as they looked down at their woodpusher boyfriends in disappointment. They mentioned a local hot spring and we were intrigued. Before taking off they invited us to join the party later at their place, but we had other plans. Like scooping some pizza, adult beverages, and setting up camp next to those hot springs. And they were prime. Imagine being able to set up tent next to your own natural hot tub, and at your leisure do what you will! It was awesome! Beverages, an amazing starry sky, and a magma-fueled hot tub to soak our old bones as we get ready to embark on the next day’s adventures. This was truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
That night was the hardest night many of us have ever endured camping, and most went back to the cars for warmth. A strong few stuck it out — a bitter 27°. With full Under Armor, a heavy jacket and a good sleeping bag, it was rough. Those that could managed to sleep off the alcohol, but once sobered up it was hard not to wake up every 30 minutes for the rest of the night to take a piss, then convince yourself NOT to venture outside the tent. I made the trip once and immediately regretted it. Should have just hopped outside, still in my sleeping bag and everything, and just unzipped. Ha!
As the sun came up I realized I’d never been more excited about a sunrise. Though the change in mood and warmth came slowly with time, the rays energized us to pack things up and head out on our way to Gardnerville, just outside of Reno, Nevada.
Turns out this was the perfect local skatepark, with great fast lines and super smooth concrete. This was the type of skatepark that would have been perfect for a local competition, if any bladers live out there, get on it! After a few hours of shredding we all hopped in the cars for Reno.
We rolled into town and hit up some grub at a local sub/pizza watering hole, I forget the name. Either way, it had a really cool backyard beer garden were we mowed down on our food. Recharged, we decided to hit up local street spots at the University downtown. Good times were had on a classic mellow, chubby down rail where we all got in some tricks. After that the crew still had some energy for another park, so we went to one right outside of Reno. Basically, this park was almost an exact replica of the last park, but a bit shrunken down and with the additions of some bowls. Of course Hayden flowed this like a boss with monster airs and transfers.
As the night drew near we drove to the Ball family Ranch house on the outskirts of Reno. A beautiful property that is constantly being improved upon, Hayden’s dad greeted us with open arms, family, guests, and a BBQ! We all mowed down, told stories, and were merry… till the food coma caught up and we all filled up the den floor where we passed out, warm and comfortable. Well, except for 2 Raw/Logan. He decided the night was young and got lost in the city’s casinos until the wee hours of the morning, making it home safely by some small miracle.
When the sun finally drove us from our slumber, Hayden’s dad was already out working on his property, so we slowly gathered our thoughts and sanity over some coffee. Then we headed west to a unique park outside of Reno that featured countless bowls and a perfect street-style ledge with step-up that slid like butter. Much to our surprise some Nor Cal dudes met up with us, most notably Casey Bagozzi and Sean Keane. The other dudes whose names I can’t remember all killed it too and were super chill dudes. Thanks for showing us a good time duders!
From there we ventured further out to a park in Truckee near Lake Tahoe. This place featured red concrete and virtually no street obstacles of any kind, besides a bank to a-frame ledge, which was impossible to hit and not stop the flow of the park. Even with the mass amount of boarders in such a small park the dudes smashed it with grace, so it was really fun to watch.
After Truckee we said goodbye to our new Bay Area friends and went down the mountain to Sacramento to stay with Hayden’s mom. But not without hitting one last park with some really cool, unique graffiti and lines. It was sick, I really enjoyed it. We even found out that local San Diego resident Rob Cunningham first put on blades at that park, and would grow up to be the cool dude he is because of that spot.
Another great experience, Hayden’s mom was super nice and welcoming — we can’t thank you enough for letting us stay at your place! Everybody was pretty dead that night, and all I remember is thinking it was the last night, and I had all this rum, so I finished it off after everybody went to bed. And considering how sore I was, I guess I needed it to sleep.
That morning we all decided on one last push to check out San Francisco, even if just to be tourists for a bit and walk around. As it sprinkled on and off it seemed like a sign to just explore the city. We even made a stop like a bunch of blade tourists at the famous Bernal Heights collective. A chill shop with a lounge area to socially enjoy your medicine. Go if you can.
After that it was time to hit the road for the long drive back, which thankfully featured zero traffic. Making good time we got home around 1:30am, said goodbye as they dropped me off, and that was it. I had the best sleep of my life in my own bed, dreaming of the road and being consumed by the passion we all share for rolling around… The next road trip can’t come soon enough. — Chris Couture
Photos by Chris Couture. Follow him in Instagram @1chriscouture.