What would Jesus do? It seems Jesus would ride a longboard. And it seems Joe Gerin has found his groove. My guess it’s a pretty slow news day over there in Akron Come to think of it, if we’re featuring this story, it must be because we’re going out skating! Joe Gerin, a student at the University of Akron decided to take his $9 costume and get out there and ride Joe rides a Neversummer longboard. He’s taking time off from his studies in mechanical engineering to skate.
While Concrete Wave was at the Freestyle Roundup Contest in Vancouver we had a chance to meet up with Levi Conlow. His company, Lectric Longboards is starting to gain quite a following.Their new Lectric LS, has a top speed of 26 mph and a range of 15 miles. The top speed makes it the fastest manufactured board in the market. Levi has also kept the price extra-ordinary low. Lectric started in a college dorm room and sold boards right from the comfort of their confined space. The company brought in over $130,000 in revenue in their first 7 weeks of selling and quickly realized they had something special. Their school in Phoenix took notice and sponsored a facility to build their boards on campus. In the electric skateboard market, the majority of the boards come from China. Lectric are producing and making their boards at the same place they began – Phoenix. They are now hiring fellow college students to help with production, design, and service – allowing them to gain the same great knowledge and experience the founders have gained through working on Lectric Longboards. Here are few more points about Lectric:o the board has regenerative braking (charging the battery when the brakes are engaged)o there are two motors, both being placed inside the wheels thus eliminating user maintenance. o on the controller you can switch between two riding modes; eco mode and ludicrous mode. Also on the controller you can choose to go forward or reverse.o Lightweight (13 lbs) As the electric skateboard explodes, Concrete Wave will be here to showcase a wide variety of product that is hitting the market.
A lot of people seem to be questioning authority these days. The left wingers, the right wingers….the Alt Right…Alex Jones…Bill Maher…Michael Moore. Fox vs CNN…choose your poison. I’d say a fair number of skaters have been questioning authority since the 1920’s. But it wasn’t until the 1960’s when gangs of skaters took over the streets! Oh the horror!As skater’s we’ve had to deal with disruption for quite some time. Take a look at 1965’s Skater Dater. Here’s a screen shot of “authority” trying to clamp down on fun by sabotaging the ride with pebbles.Then again, maybe it’s time for this?
As I was scrolling through Facebook one day, I caught a glimpse of a pleasant surprise amidst the barrage of cat videos, politically-charged upheavals and “New Year, New Me” status updates. In the depths of all the other virtual noise, I found a rider blazing downhill with a different stance and with more control than any other downhill footage I have seen.Evolution of the product.Call it effective social media marketing or call it fate but I knew I had to reach out to President and CEO of Freebord Mfg. Steven Bianco to find out more about their San Francisco roots, their worldwide expansion and the individualistic niche they have quite literally carved out of the board sports world.Freebord is about “snowboarding the streets.”As mentioned, the movement started in creator Steen Strand’s SF garage under mountains of credit card debt and prototypes. Introducing Freebord to the world was, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” Strand summed up bluntly.Steen Strand (circa 1997) sweated blood and tears making Freebord a reality. With the production help from some friends and the same humanizing word of mouth promotion, the Freebord community began to grow. Then, by aligning themselves with the snowboarding community, the brand thrived in Summer months as wholesalers sought out new products to sell.In demand and out the door! Bianco notes that this early success came at the point where digital video production was improving in quality and encouraging riders to go out and document their runs. By connecting through online forums, dedicated Freebord riders turned 8 hour trips to meet up and ride into a casual routine. The influx of footage that derived from these trips culminated in a series of Best User Submitted Video contests in 2005. To date, hundreds of amateur and professional film makes have took to the streets and shown the world what Freebord riders are capable of. To this end, riders like Caleb Casey have taken on snowboard-inspired pillow lines, while riders like Jordi Puig keep their sights on conquering mind-numbing lines down the Alps and stomping perfect frontside 360s for enders. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, those like Mike Hoppe, stick to the San Fransisco terrain where he helped Freebord rise to fruition in its early days. Here in street skateboarding’s capital of hill bombs, Hoppe makes snaking down “the most crooked street in the world” look trivial with effortless frontside to backside transitions. Also here in the Bay Area, the the many members of the prominent local community have transformed the city into their own personal resort. As Bianco puts it, “Freebording has created it’s own irreverent sub-culture that resembles other board sports but is also not like other board sports.”Skyhooks meet Freebords and this allows Caleb Casey to take flight.The difference between the Freebords and cruisers, downhill boards or any fusion of the two is in the fundamental design and performance. From the bottom up, the Freebord was designed to simulate snowboarding on pavement, not to take the skill out of the longboarding or skateboarding. By designing the center castor wheels to act as a similar base to snow, the wide trucks were subsequently designed to keep riders flowing from heelside to toeside edge, like snowboarders would on the slopes. From there, the bindings allow riders more torque as would snowboard bindings, only they allow riders to easily hook in and out to add the ability to push and to step out. This completely reimagined way of taking the sensation of bringing snowboarding to the streets influences riding styles in a way that allows Freebord riders to size up a hill unlike the way any other boarder would approach one. Visit freeboard here.
BEHOLD THE MIGHTY THRASHER T- SHIRT! By now you have probably seen this on a t shirt. It’s from fast fashion behemoth H & M.Here’s the story behind it. What is astounding is H & M’s response to Thrasher’s request to cease and desist. No wonder people detest lawyers. Just read that last paragraph once again. “While both words start with the letter “T”….” Talk about a stretch. So what is this story about? Here’s what this Tippin logo is NOT.This logo is not about a tribute to Thrasher. A tribute to Thrasher would have meant acknowledging the 36 years this logo has been around. Lawyers from H & M would have contacted the lawyers of Thrasher and they would have figured out a deal…or not. My sense is that Thrasher would not have agreed to a tribute to their logo from H & M. Note: Tribute bands are something else entirely. While I am not one to judge a book by its cover, I’d say neither of these tribute bands would be mistaken for the real thing. This is not a story about an homage to Thrasher.Homage is respect paid to a person or idea. The word comes from feudal times. Suffice to say, I don’t see any respect being paid to Thrasher. So if it’s not a tribute or an homage what exactly would you call what H & M has done? Perhaps the best way to answer this is to highlight a comment from Thrasher’s Instagram account. While I can’t verify sladerobinson, it does seem rather telling that there is a pattern here. And here.So, for what I can tell, H & M borrows, in the heaviest of ways, other people’s ideas and images. To put it another way, the pattern is ripping off other people’s images and ideas. It’s not like this doesn’t happen all the time – it does. Check out logothief. But there is something truly egregious about ripping off Thrasher that just makes my blood boil. I’ve looked at that logo longer than I’ve known my wife! If you’re as pissed off as I am, why not contact H & M and tell them?
Having settled into my new job as Concrete Wave’s Executive Whatever for the last month (or so), I decided that it was high time to start the process of answering everybody’s various questions. It’s something that I have consciously and deliberately avoided doing, for the simplest and most practical of reasons: my job, as I see it… first and foremost… is to listen. To listen to the advertisers. To listen to The Brain Trust, the staff, and the contributors. To listen to the readers. That, my frenemies, is where my focus has been for the past month: listening more, and talking much, much less. And I’ve learned huge big bunches about the magazine, and the people involved with it in the process. In retrospect, it might have been the wisest thing that I could have ever done. I think I might even make a point of sticking with that strategy for a while. It can really work wonders sometimes. I’m even starting to think that if more people would just shut the hell up and listen a little bit more often, the world could end up being a much better place than it is right now. One can always daydream a bit, right…? Let’s talk about the future of media. Skateboard media, specifically. But really, I could probably be talking about any print media right now. Here’s the bottom line: the job of the magazine is no longer to deliver news. Granted, that used to be our job. But, no more. Those days are long gone, never to return. We might as well accept the reality, and just deal with it. Because whether you like reality or not, at the end of the day, reality still happens. And dealing with it, ultimately, is the only sensible and logical option on the table. Denial, is not. News delivery happens these days on the internet. Namely, via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and content websites. “Content websites” basically being, online magazines. Of course, every skateboard company on the planet is trying with all their might to be “content media websites” in their own right… and that’s cool, as far as it goes. But the magic of a legitimate skateboard magazine is our staunch and determined independence from the money-grubbing machine of American Business. After all, I’m not here to sell you a spiffy skateboard; that’s our advertisers’ jobs, not mine. My job is to sell you skateboarding. While selling you the bare minimum of bloated bullshit along the way. You will start to see some key changes in how we utilize our Facebook and website presence. Those need to be fine-tuned for speedy news-delivery efficiency, and quite quickly. Honestly, it’s probably a bit overdue. But give it a minute folks, and be patient. Quality work, after all, does take quality time. While we’re rebuilding our web presence, we’ll also be troubleshooting the whole concept of offering ads on the web. We’ll be working with a few key, longtime advertisers to figure out what will get the very best bang for the bare minimum of advertising bucks. “Affordability” is a key concern in my world. With all these little micro-brands popping up everywhere (that are doing some really neat and novel new things along the way), we want to be the mag that supports these movements with very real, very concrete tactics and strategies. Offering affordable advertising on one of our web platforms is a big step in the right direction. That brings us back to the magazine. If the print magazine is no longer in the news delivery business, having ceded that core mission to the internet… then, the obvious question becomes, “Well, what in the world is the magazine for, then…?!” I hear that one a lot, actually. Not just in terms of our mag. But rather, print media in general. Here’s what the mission of The Magazine has become: engagement, enlightenment, and inspiration. In short: the magazine no longer delivers the daily news. The new mission of the magazine is to deliver timeless stories. I no longer think of it as a “magazine” at all, actually. I prefer to think of it as a small, periodical book. In a perfect world, The Magazine that we create today will be just as entertaining, just as enlightening, just as informative, and just as inspiring twenty-five years from now, as it will be next month when it hits the newsstand. Facebook posts are quick-hit news bits; here today, lived tomorrow, but largely forgotten next week. Our website content will probably be a little bit harder-hitting and memorable; my old blog, Everything Skateboarding, is serving as the functional and ideological template for this, for the time being. But, The Mag…? The print-paper plumper? That shit’s classic. Or rather, it should be. If I have my way, it will be. And in 25 years, somebody (hopefully) will walk up to my limping, haggard, broken body, and say “You know what? That mag was a damn good read!” That’s what I’m working toward over here. That’s the ultimate mission of The Mag. That’s when it’ll be worth its weight in gold. That’s when print will be relevant again. That means there will be some changes. One thing that I listened to this month, was having Stacy Lowery tell me that we need to drill down more, and dig deeper into our stories. So whereas Mikey really likes to put word and page limits on articles, I’ll probably be that guy that says, “Y’know what?! Give me another 200 words, dammit! I want to know everything there is to know about this subject…!” Especially on The Web, where space is literally limitless; in that case, why not drill down a bit, dig deeper, ask the hard-hitting questions, and demand some f’n answers? After all, isn’t that what “journalism” is supposed to be all about…? The other big thing that I’ve heard in the last month, is that The Mag needs more “Umpf”. I hear that one a lot, actually. That can mean several things, naturally enough. More passion? More feeling? More emotion? More badassery? More gusto? More mojo? Pick your poison… but at the end of the day, they’re all roughly synonymous anyway. Umpf, dude! We need more of that…! So now, we’re not just telling encouraging and enlightening stories anymore. Now, we’re telling them like we actually mean that shit. Thankfully, I’ve got a knack for that sort of storytelling. So I’m told, at least. My job, as I see it, is to bring that “Umpf” out of our staff as well. Let them get fired up about stuff, and then let the flames f’n fly. That’s my mantra these days, and I’m stickin’ to it. With all of the changes afoot, there is one thing that will remain steadfastly and determinedly constant. That constant is Mike’s original vision of the magazine. A magazine that covers, encourages, and supports all the various types, forms, and disciplines of skateboarding. We will still carry that vision forward, and we will continue to be the very last word in diversity, acceptance, inclusion, and personal empowerment. If anything, we’ll probably double down on that one. That pretty much sums it up, I think. Like I said before, I’m going to spend a lot of my time going forward, simply listening. If you’ve got something to say, hit me up. Don’t be scared. Stand up, stand tall, and for the love of God, speak your damn mind. Because now you know that, if all else fails, at least I’ve got an ear for ya. And I’m not above letting you yak at it ’til your heart’s content. Bests, as always- Bud StratfordExecutive WhateverConcrete Wave Magazinebudstratford@aol.com
Shortly after we covered the Collegiate Skate Tour’s New York stop, the crew set off to Carlsbad, California for their second stop of the season. There, they teamed up with Lume Cube to help put on a heavy afternoon of shredding that prompted us to reach out. Thus, we got a chance to speak with Marketing & PR Coordinator, Trevor Farrow and CEO, Mornee Sherry to discuss Lume Cube’s Kickstarter beginnings and their pocket sized beacon of light that makes redefines the possibilities of skateboarding at night.Lume Cube started their journey via Kickstarter but began seeding the concept with their target audience months in advance. Through a process of reaching out to the press, stretching their goals and constantly updating their backers with product development updates, the team found the success they set out for. In the end, their $56,000 goal was blown away with a total amount of $229,517 pledged. With that, Lume Cube was born. Though the team behind Lume Cube boasts backgrounds heavily influenced by surfing, the mini ramp in the center of their headquarters speaks to the company’s devotion to skateboarding. With this, the crew recognized that the best time to approach skate spots without the burden of traffic, security guards or cops is in the black of night. However, skateboarders have long been plagued by the hassle of relying on the natural street lights of their surroundings or carrying and rigging up bulky lighting setups as their only solutions. Through use of the Lume Cube, skateboarders can now, as Sherry describes it, “carry a virtual light studio in your pocket, quickly set up around your spot and nail the trick.” No generators, cords or strings attached. The cubes can attach to light stands, smart phones, DSLRs, GoPros and action cameras and even drones. A standard Single Lume Cube gives off 150 lux at a distance of 9 feet and maintains 2 hours of battery life at 50%. As the first ever off-camera flash for mobile photo and video, the Lume Cube can be controlled through a free app for iOS and Android that allows you to control the brightness of multiple cubes either individually or all at once. This added level of convenient utility allows skateboarders to pick-up, pack-up, and get out in a flash. Though Lume Cubes are relatively new, they have already been around the block by being used in some interesting projects beyond skateboarding. These projects have included everything from presidential interviews to ride inspections at Disney Land to breathtaking drone images of lightning storms. Next up, Lume Cube plans to expand their lifestyle offerings by launching the Līfe Līte. Dubbed the little brother of the Lume Cube, Sherry explains, this newest creation “brings 2/3rds of the light of a Lume Cube, but half the size and a third the weight at a more affordable price point.” You can check out the latest update on the release, set for March 2017, by signing up for Lume Cube’s newsletter on their website. lumecube.com
TEXAS COLD FUSION SIZZLER
The 14th annual Texas Sizzler Skateboard Slalom and Down Hill Speed trap is being held in Hockley, TX. Racers are traveling from around the world and this race is sanction by the International Slalom Skateboard Association and International Gravity Sports Association.
For more info visit their Facebook page.
ITHICA SKATE JAM, New YorkMay 6-7
Real Action Sports and Comet Skateboards would like to invite the entire community to the 6th Annual Ithaca Skate Jam. After 5 years of Shredding the Hills of Ithaca they have decided to add a second day with a new element, a regional Amateur Skateboard Contest at the Ithaca Skate Park.
Day One Saturday:
Last year 300 skaters from all over the western hemisphere took over Buffalo Street. With fresh pavement at a consistent 15% grade and skate park terrain on Quarry Street (running perpendicular to Buffalo street) is sure to draw even more skaters. There will be some ramps on Buffalo Street to hit as you go down or you can just bomb away. Quarry Street will have several skatepark features and the vendor and food truck area.
The format is a “nontest” style jam. Skate hard all day and we’ll give out prizes however the Comet team sees fit. There are no specific contests or divisions. There will be a session for younger and beginner adult skaters from 1-2PM. Comet are sponsoring 20 young people ages 14 and under to skate at this time with the generous support of a local foundation -TBJ.
Day Two Sunday:
The fun moves to the Ithaca Skate Park. All Ages are welcome to compete. Divisions will be broken down as follows. 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16 & over unsponsored, Sponsored Team Riders, Womens and Masters 30 and over. The park contest will be run with a Jam format, skate till you bail with a first trick rebate. Heats will run in groups of 15 with a 20 minute practice heat and then a 20 minute judged jam session. Judges will be looking for style, use of park, consistency and difficulty of tricks.
Title Sponsors this year are Comet Skateboards, Vans Shoes, Element Skateboards, Klean Kanteen, Clif Bar, Guayaki Beverages, Greenstar Co-op and Media Sponsor Wheelbase Magazine.
Time: Registration 9am, Skating 10 – 5pm Skaters Registration Fee:
Day One Online Pre-Reg: $30, Onsite Reg $40 Day Two Online Pre-Reg: $15, Onsite Reg $20 Spectators: This is a free event
Register at www.ithacaskatejam.com
Annual Ditch Slap, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Now in its 11th year, skaters get to explore some of ABQ`s most famous ditches and session spots and navigate up to 60 miles of shuttled ditch skating. “Quiver Counts” so bring some board options for multiple terrains or be prepared to sit and watch.
May 9th: Timed Bank Slalom:
May 10th: Chinese Ditch Race: This unique race has been held in a few different ditches of varying lengths since 2007. Expect unpredictable terrain, unforgiving competitors and unruly spectators.
May 11th-12th: Shuttles are provided for Registered Riders only. A shuttle pass will allow you to get on any Shuttle, into any Game, Session, Food Line, Video Party, Troll Bridge or Safety Meeting. Riders may leave personal items like extra boards and backpacks on the shuttles if they want to.
This event has a cap of 70 riders and sells out every year. Riders will be assigned numbers that correspond to the order in which they signed up, and will be rewarded with sponsorship swag and goodies proportionately.
Priority Registration is now open at www.ditchslap.com. Use the PayPal button to choose which options you prefer. After registering you will be e-mailed detailed information with lodging info, schedule of events and where to check in for your riders packet and shuttle pass. Paying your entry fee is the ONLY way to confirm your spot in any event.
I’m not too sure if there’s ever been a skateboard tour that has featured, of all the crazy things in the world, a homebuilt micro-camper. But, this one will! If you’re not familiar yet with my micro-camper, I’ll give you a brief synopsis to get you caught up to speed: I designed, and built, my little camper about three years ago now. It’s built on a Harbor Freight utility trailer, and is made of wood… much like a skateboard ramp would be. It weighs about 700 lbs (or so), features a queen-size mattress (with a memory-foam pillow top), and tows easily behind my little Toyota Yaris. The same Yaris, by the way, that I took out on my 2008 Tour. Back then, the Yaris was brand spankin’ new. Today, it has a compiled a lovingly reliable 187,000 miles. I just realized that, by the way, as I was writing this paragraph. My, how the time flies. The camper has been through a few revisions, and has had some press over at Tiny House Listings… Google “Bud Stratford camper” to find the articles, and they’ll pop right up, three articles in total. Since I built it, the camper’s probably racked up well over 30,000 miles, and has been all over the western United States. You could probably build one for about $2500 or so; of course, I have a bit more than that invested in mine, with all the various revisions and rebuilds over the last three (or so) years. But even then, I’d be shocked if I had more than $3500 invested in the whole project. Given that the Yaris still gets about 28 mpg while towing the camper, this is probably the most fun, functional, relaxing, and enjoyable way to experience the vast, wide-open wilds of America, on a threadbare budget. Whatever “vast, wide-open wilds” that remain, at least. And trust me, there aren’t that many left. I know, because I’ve been looking. The camper was originally designed and built with long-distance snowboard expeditions in mind. Like, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my annual pilgrimages to Mt. Bohemia. It didn’t dawn on me until quite some time later that this thing might actually work pretty well for summer camping, too. I can be a really short-sighted idiot like that, sometimes. At first, I was a little disinclined to agree to, and follow through with, yet another overly-ambitious summer tour. I really didn’t think that I had it in me, and in any rate I suspected that the ‘ol knees would immediately protest and/or veto the whole shenanigans. But once I remembered the camper… all of a sudden, I was all about it. How much better could it really get, than to combine two of my favorite lifelong loves… skateboarding, and camping… into one big, epic adventure…? I turned it over in my head a few times, and quickly realized that it cannot possibly ever get any better than that. The Tour was a go, and I was off like a herd of turtles.
There’s far more to life than skateboarding. That statement probably won’t make me particularly popular among my fellow skateboarders, of course. But being a bit of a punker still, even well into my middle forties, I’m blessed by the curse of not giving too much of a crap about such trivialities. Life is far too short to allow yourself to be pigeonholed or packaged into an inhibiting personal prison. My job, as I see it, is to see, experience, dream, and grow. If that doesn’t suit your pet political penchants, well, so be it. I have also been advised by a few of my mentors and confidantes that kids just can’t be bothered to read too much anymore. That’s too bad. If that’s true, then you’re probably gonna miss out on guys like Jules Verne, Jack London, Jack Kerouac, and Kurt Vonnegut. Not that they were “great” writers or anything, but still… Thankfully, I did take some heed of this awful advice, and decided early on in the planning of this installment to tell my story much more in photographs, and a bit less in words. Some trips can’t be believably articulated, anyway; some things just have to be seen to be trusted. I had a hunch that this Quartzsite expedition might just be one of those extraordinarily eventful excursions. Turns out, I was right. And thankfully so. My road map for this trip was guided by a neat and novel new website that I had stumbled upon, quite by accident, called Roadside America (www.roadsideamerica.com). Inside that web world, you’ll find a full and complete cataloging of every obscure American oddity that the average would-be road adventurer might find fun and fascinating. As it turns out, Roadside America is pretty spot-on, and a great resource for the geekery that defines me. My very first stop in Quartzsite was at a public garden called Freedom Park, where I found two aging examples of one of my all-time favorite airplanes, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Or in this case, more specifically, NRF-4C Phantoms. These particular planes served with overseas tactical reconnaissance squadrons before landing at the AFFTC (Air Force Flight Test Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, where they were used to for on going flight test support; the “ED” tail codes and 6510 Test Wing emblems on the fuselages gave their whole story away to the discriminating dork in me. Whatever else I wanted to find out about these Phabulous Phantoms… which was pretty much, “everything”… I could hastily and efficiently retrieve by simply Googling their serial numbers, a fun little trick that I’ve been employing pretty regularly these days. The ‘Net, after all, is an absolutely amazing resource for certifiable nerds like me. Everything is there, just waiting to be discovered. “Prefab plastic swill. If you do make a pit stop here, just take a funny pic with the goofy skate statue in front of the park and leave. More fun to be had at the various junk shops and flea market booths around.” – Concrete Disciples review of the Quartzsite Skatepark I was advised well beforehand that the Quartzsite Skatepark was going to suck. It really lived up to my lowly expectations. It seems like they might have spent more on the bronze statue dedication to the skatepark, than they might have spent on the skatepark itself. And look at that skateboard; it looks more like a small snowboard mounted up with clay wheels and Chicago trucks, than an actual skateboard. The fact that the kid is tethered to the pedestal is freakishly ominous; this Skatewave skate-place does seem like a jail of sorts, where kids are sentenced to suckiness for the rest of their lives until they either quit skateboarding, or move to The Big City… whichever comes first. I did manage to get my must-do trick here though, the obligatory frontside rock; when you’ve skated as many sucky Skatewave parks as I have in the last ten years (or so), you do start getting used to them. It still wasn’t particularly easy to pull off, though. The only thing worse than the crappy obstacles is the overall setup of the place; here, the skate obstacles themselves become ironic obstacles to enjoyable skateboarding. Celia’s Rainbow Garden was right around the corner from the skatepark. It’s a botanical monument to a local girl that died (at 8 years old) of a rare viral heart infection. The story is heart-wrenching, of course; only a true megalomaniac could avoid being somehow affected by such a tale. But the garden is a study in strikingly solemn beauty, a truly creative and collaborative community effort. It is currently the largest (if not the only) free botanical garden in the state, and it provided me ample opportunities to shoot colorfully saturated photos of extraordinary objects from strange and unusual perspectives. Roadside America had enlightened me to the existence of Naked Paul at Reader’s Oasis Books on Main Street in Quartzsite. Naked Paul is the owner of the place, and apparently mans his humble bookshop sans clothing. This, I just had to see for myself; I can bring myself to believe a whole lotta horsecrap, but this was just too over the top for my temperamental tastes. Turns out, the tales are totally true… Naked Paul has pictures all over the place of himself being naked, typically with a tourist within an arm’s embrace… but unfortunately, they’re also totally seasonal, and not particularly applicable to the frigid frost of the desert winter. I did manage to shoot a few photos off their offbeat literary offerings, and I made a small donation to Celia’s Garden while I was there with the little bit of cash I was carrying. It was the very least I could do, I thought. Yes, “RV Park Sculptures” are a very real thing in this topsy-turvy world of roadside bemusements. Hassler’s RV Park is a cornucopia of steel structures of the clever and funny variety. Bicycles, bobcats, whales, bears, and many more were all forged from horseshoes and castaway rebar, among other steel tidbits; ah, the clever things we can craft from castaways. After Celia’s Rainbow Garden, I kind of needed a chuckle. Hassler’s didn’t disappoint. Hadji Ali… popularly and affectionately known as “Hi Jolly”… was a Syrian camel driver that was recruited by the United States Army to lead an obscure (and ill-advised) 1856 experiment involving testing camels as pack animals in the arid desert southwest. An American legend… at least, in this far corner of the country… he is memorialized by a pyramid-shaped tomb near downtown Quartzsite. The camel experiment having roundly failed (as far as the U S Government was concerned, at least), the animals were released to the wild, with the last camel sighting occurring as late as 1942. Ironically, I visited this memorial on the very same day that Donald Trump was signing an executive order banning Syrian immigrants from our shores. Hi Jolly might well have been rolling over in his tomb, just as I was standing squarely upon it. The world works in really strange ways, sometimes. Tyson’s Well Stage Station Museum is a former stagecoach stop that currently houses mining artifacts, homesteading displays… and this really strange, display-case-sized diorama of a “typical” 1950s bar scene, complete with miniature bottles of booze, a pint-size cigarette vending machine, and a whole host of creepily entertaining characters socializing on and around the barstools. It seemed extraordinarily out of place in a museum setting. At the same time, it was probably one of the most entertaining exhibits I’ve ever seen. Next on my visit-list was The World’s Largest Belt Buckle (it really is pretty big), the “Wheel Rim Camel” (a camel sculpture made out of… yes, you guessed it… wheel rims)… and then, we stopped at the Quartzsite Airport. Which, like most things in Quartzsite, is not entirely what it was advertised to be. Thinking that it’s a functioning facility with flyable hardware, we actually discovered a strange and decrepit boneyard of archival aircraft components, and a field full of reasonably well-preserved vintage Cadillacs, patiently awaiting some sort of vague and uncertain fate. We liked the area so much that we made it our evening’s campsite, where we got to watch a fireworks display erupting over our camper while we listened to the succulent sounds of a ragtime Christian revival emanating from a nearby yurt. Quartzsite was certainly full of strange surprises. We learned that much the fun way on Saturday.The Southwest is still largely defined by World War II, and the immediate aftermath of the immense war effort. Relics of the mighty military effort still liberally litter the desertscape, close to seventy years after the fact. Blythe, California, hosts not just one, but two abandoned WWII airfields… although this one was “abandoned” only in the semantic sense. In reality, I found a horde of anonymously-dressed “civilians” and blacked-out SUVs cavorting here, along with some impressively foreign military hardware that seemed strictly engaged in some sort of super-secretive maneuvers. I swore my secrecy of the finer details (and the resultant classified photos) in exchange for some suave intelligence on a far more accessible abandoned airfield just across town. Secure in some American officers’ enthusiastic permissiveness, I thus made my way to what would become the score of the day. Blythe Field was subsequently known in it’s WWII heydays as Gary Field. It was the home base for the Morton Air Academy, a contract aviation school that churned out trained flying cadets for the United States Army Air Forces. Today, it remains (barely) standing as an atlas obscurity known as W. R. Byron Airport, named after its apparently absentee owner. Having received surprise permission to do a little bit of urban exploration, I carefully strolled the grounds, climbed the control tower… a heart-stopping exercise in immediate risk, that was… sifted through debris, and photographed the site to my heart’s never-ending content. Yes, it was extremely hazardous hunting… and yes, it was eerie and creepy as hell… but this sort of history simply cannot be experienced (or appreciated) secondhand. It takes getting up close and personal with the ghosts of these places to truly understand, internalize, and empathize with the significance of the homefront war effort, and the mass dismantling and abandonment that followed. An hour’s drive away in Poston, Arizona was a memorialized reminder of a far different sort of struggle on the WWII homefront. Namely, the struggle for Americans to retain their rights in a fearful and insecure world. After Pearl Harbor and the sweeping victories of the Emperors’ Empire all across the Pacific, of course, anti-Japanese sentiment ran amok; Americans (of Japanese descent) were roundly and arbitrarily suspected of anti-American espionage and terrorism, rounded up, stripped of their worldly possessions and property, and trucked away to inhospitable desert internment camps… much against their free will and their civil rights, of course… for the balance of the war. Ironically, these camps were sited on the sovereign lands of another historically oppressed American minority, the reservations of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Poston was the largest of these internment concentration camps, and this memorial represents their dignified struggles to retain their “constitutionally guaranteed” rights and liberties in the face of widespread public propaganda and misguided racial hatred. Not unlike the sort of politically directed disservice that we’re subjecting the Muslims to, today.Before George S. Patton became a celebrated national hero, he was the commanding officer of the sprawling Desert Training Center (DTC), later more widely known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). A massive desert warfare simulation site of epic proportions, the DTC covered virtually all of Southern California and western Arizona (except for the aforementioned Japanese internment camps, which were probably located right in the middle of the battle zone to keep “The Japs” both figuratively, and literally, in their damned place); it ended up being the largest military training ground in the history of military maneuvers (according to Wikipedia). The CAMA eventually covered an area approximately 350 miles wide by 250 miles long, and included eleven camps, five major airfields, five minor airfields, and dozens of auxiliary [emergency] airfields. This Patton tank in Bouse, Arizona, is a way-off-the-beaten-path remembrance of Patton’s single-minded military mission; rumour has it that he even slept on the floor of the A & C Mercantile across the road when he flew into town. The western-themed town of Wickenburg, Arizona was my last stop of the weekend as I made my way back home. Far better than the skatepark of suckiness that I experienced in Quartzsite, this was a concrete mini-marvel of a skatepark, anchored by a midsized bowl that was almost perfect, if only it wasn’t filled to the brim with litter and leaves. Apparently it doesn’t get used all that much by the locals, and they obviously can’t be bothered with sweeping it out from time to time. But just like the rest of the stops on my weekend tour, it was still pleasantly entertaining in its own weird, eccentric sort of way. I just got back two days ago. The camper is already restocked, and the gas tank is full again. I’ve got some money burning a hole in my pocket. I wonder where I’ll go from here?
With the Superbowl coming up this weekend, I am sure some of you have already started to take a peek at the commercials that will be airing. Ironically, some years the ads are better than the game! But I am sure this year will be quite a match up. One ad in particular caught my eye. This ad for Mercedes Benz is too good not to share. As skaters, some of us seem to blend the best of what it means to be part of a tribe (like a motorcycle gang) with the mentality of the lone warrior (in this case Peter Fonda).There a number of pretty hilarious things going on this is ad which is directed by the Coen brothers. But what I find most curious is that a German car manufacturer is using an American icon (and iconic film) to sell the dream of freedom back to Americans. The motorcycle has been replaced by a car…and a German car at that! There are some who will call Peter Fonda a sell out. I say, “nah, I think with almost five decades playing this role, he gets a pass.” Speaking of Germany, I will be heading out to Frankfurt to meet up with my good friend Alex Lenz of 40″ Longboard Magazine. Alex is so connected to skateboarding that he bleeds urethane. We’ll be setting up things on Saturday at Munich for the enormous ISPO Show. Watch this site and our Facebook page for updates. Meanwhile, keep the flame going!