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WE FLEW INTO MIAMI IN HIGH SPIRITS. Our rental van was big and red (a good sign), but without a tape deck (bad omen?). Everyone was badgering me about details of the contest as we loaded up to drive to South Beach.

"It will all become clear very soon," I said in my best soothsayer voice.

After checking into our rooms at the South Beach hotel, I went up the street and got a case of El Presidente for the toast. When I returned it was time to let the cat out of the bag.

I was a little nervous that I'd be met with blank stares or moans but the dudes were noticeably excited as I explained the rules and challenges.

"We're winning this thing!" Diego announced.

The dudes immediately huddled around the book to see which tricks they wanted to try and Ethan opened the envelope with our Miami City Challenges: 1. Wear a banana hammock on South Beach. 2. Skate MLK with FORE 3. Do doubles at the white hubba/red rail spot.

"Let's fucking do it!" Diego yelled, and he led everyone across the street to start working on the flatground tricks.

They came back all sweaty, four tricks on tape, and then we all went to get dinner and buy a banana hammock. Being the closest to a European, Diego agreed to take one for the team and rock the marble bag. We picked out a nice multi-colored job then went and ate at Jerry's Famous Dell That night we swam in the ocean while lightning struck on the horizon. It was a good first day.

Our crew was a solid, though not super-star packed, assortment. In addition to easily-recognizable pros Ethan Fowler and Diego Bucchieri, we had Kiwi powerhouse Gareth Stehr and two relatively unknown arms, Adrian Mallory and Johnny Layton.

Rounding out the squad was team manager and former pro Josh Beagle and filmer Jeff Morris. Beagle looked slimmed down and ready for action while Jeff had the serious eye of a veteran lensman. We seemed like a fully competent crew. I'd shot with Adrian once before, when he rode for Natural Koncepts. He backside lipslid a 10-stair rail with knobs on it, the photos of which I sent to NK just as he switched to Pig Wood. 1 almost didn't recognize him, as he'd gained a little height and a whole lot of hair since we last met. Adrian is from San Diego and has a real loose, flowy style a little like Tony Trujillo. Like Tony, he's a wiz on tranny as well as the streets and was our ace-in-the-hole for pool and air-catching duties.

Johnny Layton was only on flow for Toy Machine when we left for the trip, but from what I'd seen of and heard about him, he would be our go-to rail chomper. Johnny is 17 and totally consumed by skating--and spots and videos and who did what where and all that stuff. We'd need his enthusiasm to make it through the tough times.

Gareth Stehr is the Foundation kid from New Zealand you've probably seen jumping down the monster gaps. Gareth is really, really nice and I was glad he was coming. I imagined him taking care of all the big drops and double sets on the trip, and was curious to see what else he'd bust out with.

Ethan is a critic's choice and can rip a variety of terrain with his trademark power approach. The only thing 1 was worried about with Ethan was his reputation for cruelty. Seriously, I'd heard more than one story of him making his teammates cry on tour. The last thing I needed was to have the guys see me weeping in my Moons Over My Hammy.

The Butcher is my good friend and I felt better about the whole trip knowing he'd be in the van. Diego's a self-motivator with one of those 110-percent attitudes that coaches and drill sergeants love. Not only can he go Large Marge, he's a flatground maniac and occasional rail wrangler. I knew that, no matter the challenge, Diego would be down.

"I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm down!" he often says.

THE NEXT MORNING we all woke up extra-early for no good reason and after a quick trip to the beach (and an impromptu pose-down by a festive-looking Diego), we were on the streets. Everyone was still amped up and the dudes were skating a local seven-stair rail by 10:30am. Johnny got the back Smith, Diego the blunt, and Adrian the frontside crooks before kicking off his shoes and snagging a barefoot 50-50 for 50 points. Not to be outdone, Gareth gave new meaning to flash 'n' roll with a naked front board and 50 more. And this was all before breakfast!

We met FORE at the new MIA skate shop and were off to the Martin Luther King ledges. After getting kicked out, we headed to the nearby slant ledges where Forrest gave us a lesson on ripping harsh Southern spots. Next up--the blue hubbas.

Johnny took an instant liking to the big blue beauties and dished out backside Smiths, backside tail grinds and even the back tail shove. We were joined by some cool locals including Ian Rosenburg, a ripper I'd met on a past trip to Miami. It was he who had to take the brunt of one of the more controversial challenges in the book: Focus a Stranger's Board.

While it sounded funny in theory, Ian's reaction to getting his stick stomped by Johnny was solidly grim.

"Hey! That's my board!" he yelped.

He was bummed. And offering him a board an inch wider than the one we just smashed didn't seem to help much. He looked at us like we'd just kicked his cat. "It was nothing personal," I kept telling him.

We finished the day at the red rail/white hubba spot where the dudes not only did doubles, but triples, after which Johnny mowed through a half a dozen more tricks. The guys were on fire, and this was only the first full day. We laughed and cheered all the way back to the hotel.

ATLANTA WAS OUR NEXT TOWN, but to get there we had to cross the whole of Florida. A quick stop at the Fort Lauderdale double set got us a few photos, but no points. Then we got the boot and bolted.

We rolled into Jacksonville too late to skate the famous Kona Skatepark, so we ended up milling around downtown looking for spots. While I called Mike Peterson for tips, the dudes found a hydrant which they excitedly lit up and began sessioning. It was small; not Lib Layraman-early-'90s small but still a nice manageable size, hydrant-wise. Everyone started going for it. It was funny, the viciousness with which the dudes attacked the small plug. After over half the tricks had been racked up, Adrian decided to go for the most dreaded stunt on the page (and possibly in the entire book), the Natas Spin!

Few tricks in the late '80s captured the skateboarding world's imagination as Natas' seemingly nonchalant helicoptering onto and off of a fire plug in the Streets on Fire video. For a generation just past street plants but not yet fully figuring out the kickflip, the Natas spin was pretty much the closest thing to the McTwist street skating had ever seen. God only knows the untold thousands who were forever fucked up in pursuit of this holy grail--but you can imagine the number makes all those fingers broken in failing-board ho-ho accidents seem piddling.

As can clearly be seen in Streets on Fire, Natas not only grabs a neighboring street sign to get onto the hydrant and start the spin, he grabs it a second time on the dismount. Therefore, we didn't think it was outside the bounds of fairness for Diego to stand near the hydrant to act as the sign.

Adrian ollied up a couple of times and even managed about 80 degrees worth of spin on one of 'em before a final ill-fated go where he slipped out forward and pretty much sacked himself on the top bolt. Undaunted, Gareth jumped on that steel bronco and got a few short rides before taking one all the way around and down. We whooped all the way to the local convenience store where we bought two cases of Natural Ice through a bullet-proof glass drawer. Natas spelled backwards is Pussy!


WE GOT TO ATLANTA the next afternoon and opened our envelope. 1. Piss at Piss Hubba. 2. Find the big rock ledge/rail that Jamie Thomas skated at the end of Dying to Live. 3. Skate with Fred Reeves.

For those who don't know, Fred Reeves was pretty much one of the first black street skaters, especially outside California. From the '80s on, Fred's been ripping it up in Atlanta--making occasional appearances in the mags and videos, but always being one of those guys you had to talk about after you saw him skate. I'd never met Fred, but tracked down his number from Ion at Ruin Skateshop. Though he sounded a little suspicious at first, Fred was cool as shit and met us for a mini-ramp sesh at the EXPN Skatepark out in the suburbs.

Our friend Joel, a filmer I know from the days when I used to shoot with the kids on Warner Ave, lives in Atlanta and played tour guide. Gareth peed at Piss Hubba (no offense Atlanta!), then we went to the big rock ledge.

That thing is a behemoth! Imagine a 12-stair rail placed on the top of a small hill. It's probably 12-feet high from top to bottom with a six-and-a-half-foot drop off the end of the rail. Before we could even get the lights on, Adrian went native and jumped on a wildly sketchy boardslide. Next thing you know, Gareth caught the spark and went for the big ollie, kicking it out and severely stomping his heel. We pulled him to the side and Adrian kept on jumping. A few minutes later he plowed through with a monster crooked grind while our eyeballs melted into our skulls like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Johnny set off a bunch of celebratory bottle rockets and sky screamers and we were out. Thank you, Atlanta Thank you!

Little did we know, Gareth would be out for the rest of the trip.


ON OUR WAY OUT OF ATLANTA, conversation focused on the Misc. Challenges--most noticeably the three involving making out with someone of the opposite sex. You got 10 points for making out with a woman five years older than you, 20 for a woman over 30 and 50 big ones for (gasp!) locking lips with a woman over 40. We speculated on our chances as we drove through the night to our next city: Louisville, Kentucky.

"Don't worry, fellas," I told them, "I have a feeling our ship's about to come in."

As we cruised along the dark interstate I told them the legend of the Sleep Chamber--a skate hostel a block from the Louisville park where it was rumored road-weary skaters could find comfort and maybe even the sweet affections of the fairer sex. We spoke of this, and other such things, late into the night.

The next day we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky and opened our challenges: 1. Become Best Buddies with Buddy Best 2. Have a Sticker Pasting Contest in the Pipe and 3. The Woodstock Challenge--Build a Wacky Board.

We headed to the thrift store to get materials to build our wacky boards and stopped at Home Skateshop to set them up. I kind of knew Buddy Best from past road trips and gave him a call to tell him we wanted to meet up. To help solidify our best-buddy goal, I went to K-Mart where I built him a gift bag complete with balloons, ribbons, a personalized pinata and a bunch of other lovely little presents. He told me he'd meet us in Louisville that night.

We got to the park and almost immediately met the proprietors of the Sleep Chamber, two lovely ladies who also manage the extreme snack bar They seemed happy to help and advised us to check in later that night.

We rode our Woodstock Boards until they either broke (as was the case with Diego's ironing board), or they broke us (Gareth's boom-box), and then cooked like hot dogs trying to get a bunch of the ledge and manual tricks. By the time it got to 102 degrees, we decided to go back to the hotel and swim.

The sticker-pasting contest in the full pipe that night was a hit. A crowd gathered around to see who could stick their decal the highest and after some practice rounds it was pretty much between Johnny, Adrian, and Diego. A local gnarler named Tyrone also got in there, representing Louisville with a wild frontside thruster.

But if it's a challenge, it's best not to go against Diego. He lives for that shit. Like a William Wallace on wheels, he slashed up frontside, smacked his sticker and did a sketchy stall-fall before gliding back down triumphantly. It was a good foot over all the others. Valor!


WE GOT INVITED TO A "PRIVATE PARTY" at the Sleep Chamber, an old house lovingly converted into a hostel. The party pretty much entailed us dancing around the game room like goofballs with 50 Cent booming through the jukebox. We got a quick tour of the premises before getting down to business.

High off his pipe victory, Diego went for it and sucked face with the foxy morn (43 years young!) while Johnny scored five points with a smooch from the lovely daughter. It was all very civil and as unsketchy as this sort of thing could have been, considering, and the gals were very generous to help us out with our most difficult challenge. But a little spit swapping was hardly the limit of their benevolence.

Amateur rapping (like tap dancing or barbershop quartet) is something that shames not only the performer, but anyone who happens to bear witness to it. Which is why it was so exquisitely painful when Morn, after successfully necking with The Butcher, emerged from seclusion to not only show us the rap she had written (and typed and printed out), but to perform it for us and for our cameras. Incredible.

After that, the rest of the evening was just icing on the cake--a blur of spankings, chug-a-lugging and co-ed billiards wrestling. Apparently, at one point, Ethan and Josh even went down into the supposedly-haunted root cellar to badger the undead.

"Hey ghosts, I'm drunk?' Beagle offered.

I don't remember exactly how I got home, but I fell asleep with swirling giddiness as the night's highlights looped through my head. If the van crashed the next day, the trip was already a success.


WE WOKE UP AND DROVE ALL DAY, stopping briefly in downtown St. Louis at a rail with a gap in it we recognized from the Zero video. Hundreds of heavy-set St. Louis Cardinals fans filed past on the way to the stadium while we waited--shooting tourist photos of the Arch and laying around on the slowly cooling concrete. The first pitch emptied the plaza, Jeff lit 'er up and Johnny whipped through a few of his greatest hits before we got back in the van.

Kansas City was our next stop and the kids at Let it Ride graciously took us to some local spots, including a nine-stair rail where the locs matched the California big shots trick for trick. That night we went to Lawrence, the jewel of the Great Plains, where we had a brief reprieve from our diet of jerky and shiny food.

Over dinner, Ethan brought up the Buddy Best situation. With all the excitement of the make-out party, the guys had almost forgotten about Buddy and his unclaimed gift basket He never showed up in Louisville.

"More like Buddy Worst!" Ethan said.

Truth was, Buddy had called me the morning after the make-out party and apologized for his absence. He told me the reason he'd opted out was because, at a past Foundation demo his shop hosted, Ethan had been an asshole. I'd decided to keep it to myself, but as the group started bashing Buddy, I decided to confess.

"What?!" Ethan said.

He was momentarily stung. Then you could see him kind of settle back and absorb the charge. From the look on his face you could kind of tell he knew it was not that far-fetched of an accusation.

"Fuck. Fuck it!" he laughed.

We all laughed and then slowly, one by one, we each told stories about how Ethan had been a dick to us, or to people we knew, before we'd formally met him. Ethan nodded his head and smiled as we went around the table.


DENVER WAS OUR NEXT STOP, and I was excited because I used to live there and because I knew that's where all the teams would be meeting up.

Our first point of business: picking up our mystery guest. Although I knew who all the guests were, I didn't know who we'd be getting so it was still sort of a surprise. Jake, who had flown to Denver for the day, called me that morning.

"You're getting Black Arm!" he announced.

While Gareth went to get his Thrasher tattoo from Beagle's friend Rob Hostetter, Diego made a special Black Arm sign and he and Johnny and I went to the airport. One by one, each of the mystery guests came off the terminal train--first Harold, then Randy Colvin and finally SAD, but no Black Arm. It seems that we were the only team who made the effort to actually park the car and pick our guest up in person. All the others were circling the baggage claim area and I had to play cruise director to get all the guests to their proper rides. Finally Black Arm came up the escalator, all hugs and smiles.

The mood in the van immediately Changed as the stage was cleared for the Scott Bourne show.

"The last I heard you were French--and gay!" I told him.

"Well, Mike, I'll tell ya...."

Scott dove into one of his famous monologues that captivated everyone (and may have even frightened some of our younger teammates). It lasted until we got to the downtown Denver park where we were required to appear by 5pm.

The park was abuzz as all the teams' skaters were thrashing around. You could hear the younger locals chattering with amazement.

"Look, there's Koston! There's Paul Rodriguez! Is that Tony Trujillo?"

A heavy sesh soon blossomed in the big peanut bowl and Remy, Rune, McCrank, Phares, TNT, Bourne, Phelps and even Mark "Munk" Hubbard were tearing it up.

Tony and Paul started working the new "ditch of death" section until Spawn came flying through with a gigantic kickflip frontside air that went six-feet high and probably 16-feet long. Then we all packed up and went to the backyard barbecue jam.


A COUPLE OF DAYS EARLIER I'd gotten in touch with my friend Bruce Adams, the owner of Surf Colorado and an insane backyard ramp/bowl thing, to see if we could get a session going. He was down. When we showed up, the decks were already packed to the coping with little kids, chicks, locals in Fly-Aways and PDs and every other type of ripper. The ramp has avert section, an over-vert extension and one end is completely bowled in with pool coping. Soon the KOTR dudes were mixing it up with the locals in full Texas Death Match style! Tony ollied up to and then rolled into the over vert. Rune tailslid it. Koston sliced Smiths up the escalator. Spawn packed on a kickflip frontside 50-50 attempt up the tombstone and then Remy launched the massive channel from the 3/4 pipe, all the way across the face wall. into the bowled in corner.

"Give it to her!" Harold kept inexplicably yelling, "Right there! Give it to her!"

Everyone was drinking beer and carrying on--even Scott Pommier, a usual teetotaler, could be seen pounding Keystone Lights in mixed company! I got to see a bunch of my old friends from my college days and heckle and cheer with/hem from the peanut gallery, It was the kind of good time you think of when you think "backyard barbecue blow-out."

Adrian made friends with a local girl skater who, though totally wasted, was at the same time intensely energetic. Her friends chased them around as she rapidly switched back and forth from passed out to running and kicking wildly.


WE EVENTUALLY SPLIT to get a jump on all the street spots Denver has to offer. After a few false starts, we ended up at a new shopping mall which we were told had a perfect 10-stair. It wasn't hard to find as the Volcom dudes were already there with their big motorhome and all the lights set up. Pommier and I briefly raced to set up our gear, until I realized I was probably too drunk to focus and let him have it. Diego and I snuck into the plush Volcom RV and stole some juice boxes out of their built-in refrigerator. Dennis Busenitz yelled at us from the built-in bedroom.

Johnny, Ethan, Caswell and Spawn went to town on the stairs and then a few minutes later Adrian and his drunk/totally energized pal showed up and ran around a little more. You had to be careful, lest she run in the path of a flying skater, The cops even drove by when she was momentarily splayed out on the sidewalk but, miraculously, kept on driving, Luckily a friend took her home soon after.

Just as our session was winding down, the eS dudes showed up and cranked it up all over again.

The next day we finished the rest of the challenges and Johnny and Adrian got to skate the big BA rail, which the latter 5-0'd. Layton smacked his head hard on a front feeble, but bounced back up to get the make. That kid's a manimal.

"Oh, he's so on the team," Diego kept saying.


THE NEXT TWO DAYS WERE HARD as it was nothing but desert between us and our next city, Tahoe. Everyone was feeling pretty tore back and grouchy On that note, let me take this time to complain about our map.

The map we had on this trip was a travesty to all things cartographic. Ever heard that story about the people found stranded in their sailboat off the coast of Cuba because they were using the novelty map printed on a lobster restaurant place mat as their only form of guidance? Well that's what it felt like as we tried to navigate with the piece-of-shit pamphlet-disguised-as-map Beagle hooked us up with.

"Give me the fuckin' place mat!" I'd yell as we flipped bitch after meandering bitch. In Reno I griped so much about it that Josh pulled over and stomped into a grocery store to try and find a map that had Strawberry, CA on it. What he came out with was pretty much an identical version of the place mat--only differing in that it had "fun facts" inserts next to each city page. Seattle, it turns out, is famous for coffee.

Things came to a head the next morning outside the casino where we stayed. Now I don't want to paint Beagle as anything other than a nice guy, 'cause he's a pussycat. It's just that, as any hippie can tell you, there cannot be a yin without an equal and opposite yang. Beagle's yang comes in the form of his melding into a bona-fide shit talker once the booze hits his lips.

Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Ethan and Beagle had gone on an all-night gambling binge which ended only as we were loading up the van.

"Which way are we going again?" Josh asked, as he slung himself behind the wheel.

"I'm not sure," I said, "'Cause we don't have a decent map!"

"Not this map shit again!" Josh moaned, "What kind of map do you want, Mike? What kind of map?!"

I looked over to see him staring at me, all crazy-eyed and glazed.

"Josh." I asked cautiously, "Are you still drunk?"

"Yes I am!" he announced plainly:

We switched seats and I drove us up to Tahoe.


AFTER MAKING A QUICK STOP for Gareth to front flip into the lake (50 points!), we arrived at the pool.

The Strawberry Lodge is a still-functioning hotel whose ancient pool has been skated off and on since at least the '80s. A few years ago the owners decided the pool was a lost cause, swimming-wise, and had the original brick coping replaced with fully-ripable hand-poured bull-nose. Ever since then, the Strawberry Lodge had been open to skaters who need only pay a small fee to fide the generous trannys.

Black Arm and Adrian dove right in, performing the bulk of the tricks on the pool list in their first three runs. Scott grinded over the shallow stairs, with and without hands down, and did some lein-to-tails and backside airs. Semi-recovered, Beagle smacked his head solidly before finally rolling away from the dreaded frontside rock. It was an awesome display of man's resilience. He then vomited by the fence before laying down on the picnic table in a puddle of his own drool. A smile spread across his haggard mug.

Anyone who knows Black Arm is familiar with his love for the rigged set-up and soon he and Diego had something resembling a child's treehouse assembled on the deck of the deep end.

"Fuck it! I'm going for it!" he yelped before divebombing into the depths. Our session ended with everyone cheering for filmer Jeff to make the frontside grind--a challenge we all had to accomplish to get the last of the Reno/Tahoe points. He tried super hard, but couldn't commit to the ride-away. In Jeff's defense, he can do backside bigspins every time, even while blindfolded.


WE HEADED TO COREY DUFFEL'S TOWN of Walnut Creek with hopes of finding a smooth ditch to finish the last untouched category in the book. Instead, Corey took us to what you think of when you picture a ditch--rough, rinked, rock-laden and with grass and weeds growing out of every seam and crack. It's not that it was a bad ditch; just a bad ditch ff you wanted to land a 360 backside nollie heelflip.

It was in the high '80s and motivation was somewhere between taking a nap and drooling. Still, Ethan, Johnny, and Black Arm went at it. Johnny almost lost his marbles going for the frontside double flip while Ethan dished out the tail block fakie, bastard plant and the hazard. Black Arm showed his roots with the ho-ho, setting a couple down in between head-first plunges. That kid's got some masochism issues! As the sun charred us into jerky, Ethan triumphantly twirled the 360 backside kickflip after about two hundred agonizing tries. We thankfully headed out.

We checked out a few hairy-looking rafts, and finally ended up lighting up a ledge where Adrian and Johnny polished off a few of the ledge tricks. A last-minute sign of hope came when Johnny pulled off the one-and-a-half flip to Primo. We checked into the hotel late.

Pommier called me that night and we compared notes. While the whole time we figured the other teams were way ahead of us, Scott assured me that they were thinking the same thing, it gave me hope that we might have a chance of winning. I told the other guys and we speculated on the odds. We knew the eS team was too cool to do any of the goofy stuff, but we were really scared of what Deluxe might have up their sleeves, not to mention Volcom's gnarly team. Regardless, I don't think our team could have tried any harder.

"This is an appropriate time to insert an Animal Chin message where we learn that the fun we had is our true reward, That's true and all. We did have fun. But on that last night, exhausted from two weeks of skate action, what we really wanted was to win.


* Do doubles at the red jail/white hubbas spot

* Skate MLE with F.O.R.E.

* Rock a banana hammock on South Beach


* Find Jamie Thomas' big rock hubba Ledge rail thing he backside Lipslid in Dying to Live

* Skate with Fred Reeves

* Session and take a piss at the Piss Hubba


* Woodstock Challenge: Build and skate a wacky board made out of something not meant to be ridden

* Have a sticker pasting contest in the fullpipe. Lowest must go without a shirt the entire next day

* Become buddies with Buddy Best


* Pick up Mystery Guest

* Someone ollie over the rail and into the brick bank at the spot across from the Tech Center hubbas

* Rohan Challenge--best trick while blindfolded

* Be at the Downtown Skatepark by 5:00pm on August 25th with your Mystery Guest


* Front flip into Lake Tahoe

* Everyone (including media and management) must grind the Strawberry Lodge pool frontside

* Bet on black

* Skate the world's smallest double set at the University
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Title Annotation:King Of The Road/Second Place
Author:Burnett, Michael
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Running on empty team Volcom.
Next Article:Team DLX.

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