1.19 - 1.29.04

DAY ONE - Monday, January 19, 2004

What a day to leave NY and start my trip. Along with freezing rain, it was snowing and sleeting and the snow plows weren't doing too well clearing the roads. It was Sunday actually, and I had committed to judging a contest at the Hackettstown Skatepark in Hackettstown, NJ so off I went. Two hours later (it usually takes me maybe an hour and fifteen minutes) I arrived but with the comp starting late it didn't matter. What did surprise me though was the turnout for the event, only the second annual. Thirty-five beginners, forty intermediates, and twenty experts, not to mention all the people AND riders spectating. There must have been a good 300-400 people out in force. These days there seem to be mostly regular Joes coming to watch contests but this one reminded me of the original Bike Stunt Series contests back when it was pretty much riders only… if you weren't competing, you were watching. It was good to see a combination of people come out in the awful weather to support the amazing amount of young talent that was destroying the street course. There were a LOT of good youngbloods out there! I left New Jersey trying not to crash my car on the iced up roads and headed to Virginia where I would rest up until Monday morning...

LYFIZGD. 2EMNCP8. FALESHA. GHOST SS. 3 OAKZ. KEITHIE. I lived in Virginia for five years and I'm convinced it's the place where there are the most vanity license plates. Are people in Virginia more vain than most, or do the cars look so much alike down there that they need something to help them find their way back in the Wal-mart parking lot? Along with that curiosity, Thomas Jefferson's home also boasts being one of the only states in the Union to disallow radar detectors. Along with the "Welcome to Virginia" sign that adorns all entrance roads into, the other sign they make sure you see when you cross the border is the "Radar Detectors Illegal." I own a radar detector. Shit…my whole car is practically illegal in Virginia. You see, my car is still registered there (for financial reasons I won't get into) but since I'm hardly ever there I can get away with things that other "resident" Virginians can't. Super-dark tint. No front license plate. And of course, my trusty Radar Detector. Since I was passing through briefly and didn't want any encounters with Johnny Law I decided to try and blend in with the rest of traffic…so I slowed down just a bit. Only 15 mph over the speed limit instead of the normal 30. Why is everyone passing me? It made my trip during this time quite boring actually. There was an 80s flashback lunch on the radio and I heard Kaja Googoo's "Too Shy Shy." Porn Star Ron Jeremy was on Loveline though, talking about Vanilla Ice and Madonna…together (wink, wink). Wow. Nothing surprises me anymore.

41degrees and 70 mile per hour speed limits. I never thought I'd say this, but today, North Carolina is my style! Thankfully, the farther south I went the warmer it got. About 100 miles outside of Atlanta, my car's outside temperature gauge hit the big 5-0. Nirvana, I tell you. Except for the multitude of country music and Christian radio stations - there must have been fifteen of them from the beginning to the end of the dial. But it didn't seem to faze me too badly thanks to my 6-disc changer. I love my Audi.

Soon after I got into Georgia, my good friend and host for this part of the trip, Steve Nowak, called and told me the boxes of W Helmets and Tioga product had shown up at the shop he runs, Mama's Board and Bike. A little more than an hour later, I reach the highway exit for the shop but as I stop at the light at the top of the off-ramp, I glance down at my outside temp gauge again and to my dismay and horror, it reads…39 degrees and falling! Ugh.

By the time I had gotten to the X Games park it was in the low 30s and pretty windy. Everyone was complaining that I brought the cold weather with me. I was beginning to believe them. But as we started riding, thoughts of the outside faded away and it turned out to be a good session despite the cooling temperatures. I mean, it is the Frigid Temps Tour after all… Besides being slick as ice, the park is well built and has some fun ramps and lines. There was a good turnout and I even had a few guys on the deck of the vert ramp to ride with. The locals were stoked with all the stickers they got and some unsuspecting ones even walked away with some free stuff (today's recipients were Adam Corcoran, Alex Lepak, Tim Cook, and Ben Diaz…congrats guys!). Tomorrow, we hit up The Factory skatepark which from what I've heard, has an awesome vert ramp with high ceilings. Yeah boy!


DAY TWO - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Today started off S-L-O-W. I was in a little bit of a fog from the night before because I stayed up late, 3:30am in fact, to write the Day One story. All for you readers, I say…all for you. And without the heating vents in my room open and the electric blanket not turned on, it was a cold sleep. It reminded me of camping in the woods...all that was missing were the crickets.

We finally left the house in the morning and here I was, following Steve in my car through the local streets, like a mouse through a maze. I find it interesting how the suburbs in different states look the same to me. I swore for a minute I was in Greenville, NC and instead of following Steve to the bike shop, I was leaving Dave Mirra's old house, driving down the road back towards the JayCee park. Strange. I thought it might just be my sleep deprivation but later on in the day when I was more coherent, it felt like I was in Orlando driving to the laundry to wash my clothes (I had spent two weeks in Florida in 2000 doing shows at Universal Studios). Could it be my subconscious hinting to get the heck down to warmer climates already? Who knows, but whatever it was Steve and I got back to the shop eventually, which housed a skatepark in the other part of the building called Deuce. Anxiously I went in, to find a pretty fun looking setup with mostly smaller ramps and a bunch of tech stuff. I also noticed some nice graffiti that was in the process of being finished up…which made me think of home…awwww. Anyway, I still hadn't posted any of Day One stories or photos yet, nor had breakfast, so riding would have to wait.

A greasy Waffle House breakfast and Asiago chicken salad sandwich at Borders Books later, I got onto T-Mobile wi-fi and posted the story and updated the gallery section with photos. It was around 5 pm by this time though and the Deuce park would have to wait some more. Better late than never, we finally got on the road to go check out Factory Skatepark. Steve brought along Devon Smillie, a local ripper. As I walked in, I definitely wasn't expecting the Park to be as large of a place as it was. There were tons of ramps of all sizes and shapes. Local vert skaters Ray Fennessey and Chris O'Reilly were on the deck of the vert ramp so I had someone to ride with. It's nice to see that vert riding is taken seriously in other parts of the country besides where I normally ride. The owner, Dean, lets some of the bike riders and skaters ride there whenever they want, even after closing or before opening. I mean, you don't build a 13-foot tall, 40-foot wide halfpipe unless you're going to ride it…a lot. This aint your grandfather's vert ramp, if you know what I mean! We rode some of the street course for some time before heading over to the big U-ramp. A little dusty and mostly masonite covered (there was steel only on the lower part of the tranny), it was fun to ride a big tranny ramp and just mess around. Young Chris was trying backside airs, Ray was hand-planting every corner, and I was flowing around attempting my best skateboarder imitation with opposite and alley-oop airs. Unfortunately, that part of the warehouse was pretty dark and I quickly learned the limitations of my digital still camera.

In the last twenty minutes of our session, Steve, Devon and I went over to the mini-ramp and took some more photos. It was steep and hard to get used to and I was tired so my riding there didn't last long. We ventured over to the rhythm section where Steve encouraged Devon to try barpins over the second box jump since he had learned suicide no-handers so well earlier in the day. It's great how you can tell a little kid to do something and they'll just do it; sort of like having your own personal little android or something. A couple feeler spins landing on the deck and Steve saying "You got it. Why don't you go ahead and jump the first jump to get enough speed to clear the second…" was all it took. On his first launch with enough speed to clear the box he slipped his catch and landed with his elbow on the bar and slid out. That was close…but he was okay. "You got it. You can do it!" works every time. Without hesitation, on his second try he launched again, spun the bars and pulled it perfectly! Pretty damn good for an 11-year old…

I totally lost track of time and when we were done riding and taking photos, I realized there was hardly anyone left riding and the skatepark was closed. Funny how time flies when you're having fun.

Today's free goodies were had by Chris O'Reilly, Brian Schraeder, and Devon Smillie.


DAY THREE - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Maybe it was not warming up enough in a cold warehouse but after jumping the box for the sixth time or so, I tweaked my back something good at The Factory yesterday. Waking up today with a sore, stiff back I decided to take it a little easy. Today I mostly watched videos while I hung out at Board and Bike. Props "Best of 50," which is a recap of the first 49 videos Props produced, and the Vancouver Metro Jam footage in Props "Issue #50," to be exact. I don't think I've even bought a video over the last six or seven years let alone watched too many but after watching these, I highly recommend going out and picking yourself up a copy. I definitely am. Many times I get down after watching videos, hence my reasons for shying away from them but after seeing this I was amped to ride! I think I just needed a little pick me up and some new ideas for some different things to do. After watching, I had a head full of new things to try and learn. I need to buy videos more often. In between being blown away by what guys have been doing on twenty inch bikes for the past ten years, I worked on the Tour daily updates.

It's been taking longer and longer to update the site so I might have to start updating every couple days. I'm leaving for Florida tomorrow so I think on Friday I may have to just go to the beach and take photos of girls in bikinis…err, I mean, the water, the scenery and the lovely views. It's much easier to just post photos. So maybe I'll have to make one day soon a "photo journal" day.

I've been trying to get a seatpost from Thomson Components for the longest time and today was my lucky day - they hooked me up with a seat post. They're located in Georgia and Steve has connects with the owner so he worked it out. Thanks (again) Steve. These things are so light and I am stoked to finally get one.

I was sort of on the "9 to 5" schedule today and so after hanging out at the bike shop all day with Steve, we went back to his place where his girlfriend Mandy was cooking up some spaghetti with meat sauce. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I eat a lot and I am always up for a good meal. I was not complaining about hanging out for a little while in front of the TV and chilling at "home" for a bit. Besides, it's at the most impromptu times like this that one learns something new. Like, did you know that the original Blues Brothers movie script was 324 pages long, and that after Dan Akroyd wrote it he had it delivered wrapped in a phone book cover from a different state to each of the executives at Universal Studios? Bet you didn't. That's what I learned watching "Unseen, Untold" about the making of the Blues Brothers movie. I also learned that Steve Nowak can recite practically every single line from said movie…he has a cornucopia of film quote knowledge.

Now I like the Blues Brothers just as much as the next guy but I hadn't ridden the Deuce Skatepark yet and it seemed like just as good a time as any. Luckily, Steve has the keys to the park since he runs the shop inside. Sleep deprived but fueled by pasta, I convinced him to drive us out there at 9:30 pm. It was 40 degrees out but I didn't care 'cause N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" was in the CD player and I wanted to ride!

Maybe it was the pasta, maybe because I hadn't ridden all day, or maybe it was the Blues Brothers but it was a great session, albeit short. Normally I feel kind of freaked out riding places with low ceiling height but here it didn't seem to affect me. It didn't matter if I was inches from the ceiling or overhanging lights, or even that I hit my elbow on a pipe on a walltap, it was just fun to ride this place. We didn't leave until almost eleven but I could have ridden for two more hours. It's probably good though because I had a long drive to Orlando, Florida tomorrow.


DAY FOUR - Thursday, January 22, 2004

I left Atlanta in the Rocket, which was still dirty, but I felt confident about my riding and the temperatures that awaited me. Here are some random observations from my day four journey…

*If you see me coming up behind you on the highway in the left lane and I flash you, please move over…I drive faster than most people. I'm not trying to be a dick and I don't tailgate, I'm only trying to get to my destination…just like you. If you decide not to move over and I pass you on the right, don't get insulted and wave your hands in the air, flip me off, try to follow, throw things, or run me off the road. You're wasting valuable time and energy…I am not intimidated by you and never will be. I realize I am not on the Autobahn but you're not supposed to fall asleep at the wheel either! Just drive in the right lane unless you need to pass and use your mirrors like you're supposed to. Sometimes it's hard to believe there are so many morons on the road…but I guess that's why George Bush is in the White House.

*I passed by a sign for the Crime and Punishment Museum. I would have liked to stop in but I think I missed the exit…so I decided to look it up on the Internet. It's one of those websites which has a disclaimer before you enter. It reads as follows: "This website contains materials that may be considered offensive by some people." Inside are lots of interesting tidbits about chain gangs, former means of capital punishment, and little known facts regarding the history of the prison system in Georgia. You should check it out. It's too bad though that more people don't find capital punishment as offensive as they do some internet content.

*Besides the normal Gas, Food, Lodging, there are a lot of billboards and signs on the road that one normally would not see in the Northeast. Lots of anti-abortion signs, and signs advertising NASCAR, antiques centers, and Ron Jon's surf shops. Ron Jon's must do a pretty brisk business because I saw road signs advertising them as far as a couple hundred miles away.

*It took a little over 6 hours to get to Orlando from Atlanta and it was 71 degrees by the time I arrived. Finally the warmth!

*After riding at the Vans park, I hung out with a friend from the Bronx, Joe Torres and his cousin who now both live in Kissimmee. We watched the show "Boiling Point," another reality TV show. Reality shows seem to have taken over…it just wasn't enough with "Punk'd." Boiling Point puts people in situations where they are provoked to reach their "boiling point" and gives them $100 if they don't blow up…but they don't know they're being set-up until the end. Sound familiar? All I have to say is that it seems they purposely set people up whom they know will stay somewhat calm…it's not real. Bring that show to some inner city or somewhere like that where people take less shit, and see how long it takes until someone gets punched. Now that's reality TV!

*Joe lives in an area of Florida named BVL, or Buena Ventura Lakes. But since there are so many Puerto Ricans that have moved there, it's now known as Little Puerto Rico, a.k.a. Boriquas Viviendo Libre (this translates to Puerto Ricans Living Free.)

*Recipients for the day's free stuff were Joey Skipper, Ryan Dugan, Brad Mozena, and Chad Mozena.

*The Vans Park in Orlando is REALLY nice. You walk up to the building from the parking lot and, to start, there is a pretty large outdoor concrete park on the side of the building. Something I definitely would not have expected and this on its own would not be too shabby anywhere else. But this was Vans and there is always a park inside, though not always great. Sure enough, there it was,but this one an indoor ramp mecca. Vert ramp, mini with multiple extensions and connections, street course, concrete pools. Pro skateboarders Mike Frazier and Anthony Furlong were skating along with about four or five other vert pros. I took two runs on the vert ramp and had to stop because I didn't want to ruin the feeling I got after such a brief time on the ramp. I can honestly say they house the SMOOTHEST vert ramp I have EVER ridden! I left the park with a huge smile on my face. The only downside of the park is of course, the limited bike-only hours, and the off-limits-to-bikes pool section. I would love to describe the whole park in more detail but I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. Check out the Gallery and see for yourself…


DAY FIVE - Friday, January 23, 2004

I find myself jaded already by the temperatures with only one day in Miami. It's 69 degrees but that's not warm enough. It must be the Ocean breeze but it feels chilly. I must really be tired because I am not appreciating this like I should be. It's a short drive from Kissimmee to Miami, only three hours, but it didn't feel that way. I need sleep but only was able to take a ten-minute nap when I got into Miami and then it was off to the Miami Heat basketball game. The Nets sucked and lost by twenty. The small crowd was TOTALLY into Miami (duh). I hear they don't win much so they must have been psyched to beat the Nets.

Since its taking me longer than expected to update the site I thought I would do a "Photo Journal" day today to give myself some reprieve. Updating the site with mostly photos is not proving to be much less time consuming though.


DAY SIX - Saturday, January 24, 2004

My spirits were high today along with the shining sun and temperature of 74 degrees. The original plan was to ride some backyard trails and mini-ramp. Jesse called the kid whose backyard the trails were in but he was busy doing other stuff so we had a change of plans and decided to ride street later. I decided to take advantage of the free time and try to write some site updates. That was, until I was tempted by Sushi for lunch so I had to stop and continue when I could. It's difficult for me to resist good food, let alone good sushi and it was worth it.

Later on we went to meet up in Ft. Lauderdale to ride street with an old school rider by the name of Pete Bruno. His claim to fame was that he had apparently broken all his toes at once and hadn't ridden in awhile. Having surgically inserted pins sticking out of your foot will have that affect. On the drive up North we listened to Phil Anselmo's new band, Super Joint. I had heard Pantera had broken up and was kind of curious as to how this new stuff would sound. It's no Pantera, or even Down…enough said. I guess when you have high expectations it's easier to be disappointed. But don't take my word for it, buy it yourself and take a listen…it's not horrible.

Speaking of disappointing… We got to the wall ride, first stop on our street session and I was quite a bit underwhelmed. Jess and I were thinking that there would be more of a bank leading to the wall, and well, if you look at the photo you'll understand. While Jesse and Pete played around with the curb-to-wall, I looked for other more exciting avenues but this was all I could find. Jesse got a flat, effectively ending our session, which was fine by me. But since no one had any tools…

A visit to the local Sears would fix that and his flat. Jesse went in and bought some tools and a patch kit - Sears has a great return policy - and we were on our way again. A couple Pete's friends showed up, one being Mike Miller, and they followed us. The next stop was some ledges outside a supermarket. This was cool to start off with because it was long and I could work on my feeble grinds in both directions. That trick would define the evening. Everything we hit seemed to be a feeble grind ledge - not many rails or gaps. Mike was taking the most advantage…he was the feeble grind king. I really think he had some kind of addiction.

We happened by this place called The Auto Toy Store. It was filled with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and all kinds of exotic cars. Sweet. Even Elvis was inside chillin' in a 356 convertible. Who said Elvis is dead? No one sees him anymore only because he drives so fast.

At the beach, there was a party with live entertainment at one of the clubs. But besides the normal run-of-the mill band and DJ, there also was, well, I don't know what you might call it…maybe performance art. A small makeshift castle was set-up with a trampoline next to it and some guys dressed in funny outfits would jump off backwards, land in the trampoline and bounce themselves back up while walking up the wall. Kinda cool…for about five minutes. I get bored easily sometimes and eventually got distracted by the giant green woman.

I hate to admit it but I wasn't having the greatest time. The lame wallride, feeble grind ledge after feeble grind ledge, and pedaling full speed from one location to another all over Ft. Lauderdale…I felt like I was on a training ride for the next big NBL National. Yeah, you could say I didn't have the best attitude. Street riding is awesome but I realized why I don't do it more often every time I missed my back peg and landed on my sprocket. But when Jesse rolled up alongside me and said, "Remember this when you go home. Riding in a sweatshirt at 9 at night," that put everything back in perspective.


DAY SEVEN - Sunday, January 25, 2004

I forgot there isn't much dirt in Florida. This afternoon we went to the backyard trails in Kendall where we had planned to go to yesterday but couldn't. They're located behind the house where Jorel Bermudez lives. Most of his jumps have to be built with clay. He puts a lot of effort into keeping the sets maintained and when we got there he was working - fixing lips, packing, smoothing out takeoffs and landings, and trimming away loose branches from the overhanging palm trees. To build the jumps initially he trucked in clay at $40 per ton and a half which builds maybe one jump. With an eight pack and growing, that's a lot of grass mowing and part-timing…Jorel is 17 years old and motivated.

A couple of Jorel's friends, Alex Diaz and Meinie Smith, had shown up and while we were padding up Jesse brainstormed a new name for the trails. With all the chimes hanging around (I counted 35 sets) and the Nag Champa incense wafting through the air, a fitting name was created…the Zen trails.

I wasn't feeling very Zen-like though. The first jump had about a nine-foot roll-in leading to it and I couldn't find the balls to take the one full crank needed while pedaling down and go for it. Jorel needed to pull out the training wheels for me to feel confident enough to jump the first set. Putting a couple pieces of plywood between the lips was what it took for me to finally commit. I cased a bit at first but by the second try had it down. I hate feeling weak, especially on something that I know will be easy. The rest of the guys were not having the same problems as me and styled through with not too much of a problem. I could have used another day to get used to the jumps but it was cool anyway to get out and hit something I don't normally ride. Plus, it was hot today…I was happy just to be outside!

Someone ordered pizza and I was only too happy to chow down - I think all I had to eat was a bowl of cereal that morning. While we ate, Jorel put on some video dating back to 1994 when they first started getting into jumping. His Dad owned a cruiser and along with the kids in the neighborhood they built a little plywood jump around a foot tall. From that point on the tapes progressed through the years: 1997 - one tabletop dirt jump in the side yard a couple feet tall; 1999 - a berm leading from the first side yard jump, to a few smaller sets in the backyard; circa 2000 - still mostly dirt but much bigger sets than before; circa 2002/2003 - the roll-in was added and clay was being brought in, making the set-up more like the current trails. It was cool also to see the progression of the riding and of course to see how supportive his Dad was. You could hear him on the video hootin' and hollerin' in the background to "go big!"

Around the corner from the trails lies Mark Garwood's backyard mini. It's been there for a while and showed its wear with a couple of well placed holes. It needs a new sheet of plywood and some beams in the tranny fixed but it was fun to play around on, especially trying to miss the holes. I've been learning a lot more opposite stuff in the past few months which makes every session that much more interesting. The ramp did take a couple guys down though with myself and Alex being the victims. Old plywood doesn't slide well at all and if it weren't for my pads, I would have had some more ugly scars to show off to my grandchildren. Alex wasn't so lucky though…the weather-beaten ply ripped up his naked elbow like a hunter tearing the meat off a dead animal with a serrated knife. Yeah. That's part of the tradeoff for risking it like some of the guys in the magazines who are too "cool" to wear pads.

Product hookups today went to Jorel Bermudez, Alex Diaz, Meinie Smith, and Mark Garwood.


DAY EIGHT - Monday, January 26, 2004

It's my birthday today…happy birthday to me! Part of the reason I planned the trip was to do something special to celebrate. You see, my philosophy is that one should never be working on their birthday; they should always take that day for themselves. When I used to have a "regular" job, I would always take the day off and go ride. But since that's what I do now anyway, I had to step it up a little. By my own standards, this turned out to be a pretty awesome day, if I don't say so myself.

I started the day working on posting Day Five's story and photos and even though it was a "photo journal" day it was still incredibly time consuming. It was 84 degrees and beautiful outside by the time I left the house at 3pm. I was finally starting to get all the warmth I dreamed about when scheming my trip down here and was feeling strong and in my element. There's something about being surrounded by the warm air and sun that's always given me strength.

I sauntered on over to the Virgin Megastore to meet up with my cousin, Arun, to buy some CDs. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket since Christmas (thanks Kamala! xoxo) and I was eager to blow it all. There's never enough money to buy all the CDs I want but I'm not going to let that stop me!

By the time I got there, Arun already had a huge load of vinyl under his arm, probably 30 records…and he hadn't been there for more than twenty minutes! He's a DJ at a local club called The Purdy Lounge and needs to replenish often. I'm sure he spent all his profits from the weekends gig but he claims they were all on sale. Who said vinyl was dead?! I scoped out a copy of the most recent Radiohead release, "Hail To The Thief." Virgin was a quick stop because if I didn't get out of there soon I would spend WAY more money than I had…there was a lot of stuff on sale actually. I needed to jet! But here are some of the new discs going in the Rocket's 6-disc changer: DJ DB presents "The Higher Education Drum 'N' Bass Session;" Love and Rockets "Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven;" Massive Attack "100th Window;" and the classic Pantera album, "Vulgar Display Of Power." This last one I have on tape but it was in dire need of replacement after being played probably more than any other piece of music I own. I spent more money than was on the gift card but it was worth it.

Onto Control Skatepark in downtown Miami. Everyone told me it was located in a shit area and I had my guard up. As I approached the highway exit, I saw a graffiti wall of fame which was near the park so I decided to stop for some photos. Let's say it was a quick blitz photo shoot! Normally I probably wouldn't stop in such an unfamiliar, unsafe area but this was a great wall. I've always had much respect for graffiti and artists ever since growing up in the Bronx watching the freshly bombed trains pass by.

I finally got to the park and despite much hesitation because of the neighborhood and disappearing sunlight, I went in. I'm glad I did. The park hardly had anyone riding and it was all about me and my imagination. I rode non-stop - wall-tapping the sub on the mini-ramp out back; riding up the concrete wall from the 7-ft tranny up against it; feeble grinding and manualing the multiple ledges inside; and generally just flowing around and trying whatever I could think of. It was a small park but it was fun. The only thing I tried and couldn't was multiple attempts at a rail fufanu at the end of the session. The ceiling was mad low and I just couldn't find my focus. I'm happy though because at least I went for it.

I met some cool locals there too. Barrett Long dominated the 2 ½ foot tranny vert wall. Justin Long rode hard and then took my photo. Angel Perez got a new W helmet.

The last stop that night was to my Aunt Marie's house. I hadn't seen anyone other than Arun the whole time I'd been in Miami and knew if I didn't go then, I never would. Working diligently outside the park to load my stuff in the car - it was dark and way deserted…nowhere I wanted to get caught out alone - I drove the short distance in sweat-drenched clothes to North Miami Beach. Twenty minutes later, I had a clean, dry shirt, delicious pasta with meat sauce, and something totally unexpected…birthday ice cream cake! Damn, it was good!

I couldn't have ended the day on a better note. How I spent my day may not sound like much to most people but sometimes it's the simple things that make life grand. I had planned a lot of stuff for the day and even though I left the house late, it all seemed to work out. I love when that happens…everything fit right into place. All my birthdays should be like this.


DAY NINE -Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The first day of rain on the whole trip. The storms had been threatening all day and it was during my daily Starbucks stop that it finally started. It was a really warm day though, 84 degrees when the rain came. As much as I was hoping it wouldn't, it ruined our planned session at Brian Piccolo Park. I was bummed because this was not the first time my session there would be ruined by precipitation. The first time I went, sometime early last year, I pulled into the parking lot and literally, it started raining that very second. Two attempts, two rain-outs. Sucks too, considering the park is supposed to be really good with a lot of transitioned, larger ramps and a decent halfpipe to boot.

"We need something to do…its Danny's last day down here…it was his birthday yesterday!" This was Jesse's rally cry to his wife as he told her that since the Brian Piccolo Park in Ft. Lauderdale was closed due to rain…we were going to the strip club. "You been in a relationship long enough like me you gotta be quick on your feet!" Jesse and Teresa have been happily married for eight years but all women need SOME kind of justification to "allow" their significant others to go and hang out with beautiful, nude women who want to shower their men with affections.

I won't bore you with the details ("Those who know, don't tell, and those who tell…don't know.") but for the most part, if you've been to one strip club, you've been to them all. Somehow though, one of Jesse's friends disappeared for more than a half an hour. When he finally appeared, to our disbelief he was being led out of the "Champagne Room," hand-in-hand by one of the dancers…straight to the ATM machine. He didn't talk much about it on the way home but what I do know is he was more than four hundred dollars poorer but too drunk to feel any pain.


DAY TEN -Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I got up this morning and still smelled like smoke. I hate going out to clubs for that reason. Don't get me started about the evils of cigarettes

Anyways, on my way back North I had thoughts in my head of Paradise Funplex in Merritt Island. I'd been there twice before but the first two times, in 2000 and 2002, were for CFB contests. Then, I didn't have a whole lot of opportunity to ride anything else but vert. This time though, the last thing on my mind was their vert ramp. Not that there is anything wrong with their vert ramp. An intimidating beast with eleven foot trannies and 2-foot 4-inches of vert, the steel sheeting is a little weathered but its 13'4" of fun! It was just that I really was looking forward to the rest of the park; Wallrides, sub boxes, jump box, pyramids, mini-ramp, street spine - enough ramps and lines to keep you busy for days on end…and that's only the outdoor section. It definitely was the park with the most variety of the whole trip.

There were three Canadians from Ontario riding but at first I thought they were someone else…two looked like Brian Wizmerski and Mike Aitken. Kids read a lot of magazines these days. They were cool (no pun intended) and down on vacation with family. After talking with them for a little bit, I mostly rode by myself getting used to everything and trying stuff I haven't tried in months. Wallrides and double peg stalls on sub boxes can be addicting. Finally, my boy Dave Brumlow showed up and schooled everyone with all the lines around his home park. Big box 360 for his first jump. Near 8-ft airs off the skinny quarterpipe. I was certainly impressed.

We rode for another hour or so before loading up and going back to Dave's house where I'd be staying. Dave's got a pretty interesting place. Imagine a huge living room with all the walls painted bright red, a full size pool table with red table velvet, and a clock on the wall with a cartoon drawing of Satan in it. Oh, and I can't forget the black leather couch with flames on the armrests. Such lovely décor. We didn't stay long because it was about 6pm and time to eat before our next stop - onto the outdoor concrete park in downtown Orlando. Dave suggested I bring my full-face helmet…it's all concrete. I was only too happy to comply as it made me think of an experience I once had. I went to a skatepark in Tijuana, Mexico with no helmet or pads, this was around 1989, and while riding went straight to my face over a concrete spine. I was pretty lucky I didn't knock myself out or break anything, especially considering it was Mexico and the hospitals down there aren't known for having the highest quality care. But I hurt for a LONG time. The other thing Dave tells me is that I may have to take off my pegs. Another park with the "no-peg" rule.

Dave was just gassing my head up though. The guy who ran the place, Kevin Kraas of Action Sports Alliance, was cool, let me in for free, and I didn't have to take my pegs off. True, you could fall and bust your ass big time, but I didn't need the full-face and the session was chill and mellow. In fact, I didn't use my pegs once and it was cool just to carve around the bowls and try and find lines. It was the first time the park had a Wednesday night bike session and even though it was below 45 degrees, around 20 other riders came out to show their support.

The riding and weather during the day were only getting better but my trip was nearing its end and I knew I'd be leaving Florida shortly.


LAST DAY -Thursday, January 29, 2004

One thing I've learned along this journey called life, is that the only thing that stays the same is change. I was not looking forward to the long 15+hour drive home as it was 71 degrees and sunny when I walked out of Dave's house at 11:30 am. Not a great day to leave Florida to go back to the still frigid northeast…but I had to go. I promised someone that I'd take her to a Knicks game on Saturday for her birthday. Can't disappoint. Rob Nolli had gotten me tickets for the game as he was doing a halftime show there for Giant Bikes.

Before I left Florida there was one more stop to make…Merritt Island. Rob and Dave were going to meet me there and I was looking forward to having an even better session than yesterday because there were some more lines I wanted to work on.

Things were going great until Dave called me out on an abubaca on the mini ramp. I said to him, "You go first." It's an easy trick but I was trying to make things interesting. So he rides in and pulls it, no problem. My turn. I ride up the ramp, plant my back wheel on the coping, and then "SNAP!" My wheel lets loose, landing my sprocket with a loud "CLUNK!" on the coping. I thought I had broken my brake cable, that's what it sounded like, but after looking at my lever where the cable normally breaks it turns out that my brake lever had actually snapped. This was strange because in all my years of riding I'd never had that happen before. However much I didn't want this to keep me from riding, after trying to ride brakeless for a bit I determined that it was in my body's best interest to call it a day.

One of the guys we were riding with, Shawn, had brought his camera and Dave and Rob were up for taking some photos. I took out my digital sidekick that I've been using for the trip to take some more photos of my own but the LCD screen wasn't working. Hmmm…it was working great the night before in Orlando? After closer inspection, there seemed to be a small crack in the bottom right corner where all the liquid crystals had pooled- the screen was done. Rob was riding anyway, doing decade jumps, smith-wallstalls, downside footplants, and Canadian nosetaps on the sub-wall. I thought I had gotten some good shots and wanted to show everyone the digitals on my laptop. When I turned on the computer though, my battery was super-low...and quickly dying. I managed to eek out a quick glimpse but they were horrible - way too late on the push button. These were BAD. Rider, good. Photographer, bad.

My brake lever broke, the camera broke, and my computer battery was almost dead. Hoping this wasn't a sign of things to come, I began the trip home. The air chilled quickly as the sun disappeared and by the time I was in South Carolina it was in the 30s. Ah well. I ended up making it back home in time for the game and without further incident too. Well, until my check engine light came on, but that's a whole 'nother story. All in all it was a great trip. The black-snow covered streets of the Bronx were filthy but at least I had missed the storm and record breaking low temperatures. I can't wait until the Frigid Temps again next year...

Final product giveaways went to EJ Cwillin, Zach Paolucci, Dane Sordyl, and Shawn Bilslend.



Rodney at Zoo York, Tim and Dan at W Helmets, and Randy and Dave at Tioga for their Tour support. You guys rock! Steve Nowak and Mandy Shekell, Joe, Joey, Jacy, and Haitza Torres, Tony Diaz and family, Jesse and Teresa Diaz, my Aunt Marie, Uncle Al and cousin Arun, Dave Brumlow, and Rob Nolli for their gracious hospitality. If it wasn't for all these people I wouldn't have had the kick ass trip that I had. Tim Cook at X Games Park Atlanta, Dean O'Reilly at The Factory, Chuck and Katie Smillie at Mama's Board and Bike, Kevin Kraas at the Downtown Orlando concrete park, and the staff at Vans Orlando for the hookup to their skatepark facilities. Jorel Bermudez and Mark Garwood along with their families for access to their backyard playgrounds. Dave Parrett at Thomson Components for the super-light and high tech seatpost. See you all next year!