Sometimes, things don’t exactly go your way. Sometimes, things go even better than you could have ever hoped for. Or even, dreamed of. This was one of those rare weekend diversions that memories are made of.
I was not expecting this weekend to be “great”. Being a salary employee at a trucking company means lots of deviations, distractions, and unscheduled working days. Saturday was one of those days. Not that I mind at all… after all, my job is always pretty damn entertaining and enjoyable… but, it did wreak a bit of havoc with my travel plans for the weekend. Which it regularly does.
I was also pretty worn out. I’d been skating, touring, writing, photographing, and yakking a lot over the past month. I did need a bit of a break to rejuvenate and recharge. I decided that a quick trek over to Buckeye was just what the doctor ordered.
Buckeye does not have a “great” skatepark. I knew this already; I’d seen it before. It’s a bunch of steel prefab ramps on a concrete slab. Not that big of a deal at all. But, it does have a great camping facility in Buckeye Regional Park… a free facility with very sparse facilities, and as a result, very few camper-customers. But it does have as featured assets beautiful, wide-open skies; lots of stars; and fantastic panoramic views of the valley. It’s a fairly well-kept pseudo-secret. One that I profit from quite regularly. And it would allow me some downtime this weekend to play the “typical tourist”, to boot. A role I enjoy playing, and playing well, from time to time between skateboarding breaks.
Buckeye is a former farming community that has undergone a bit of a modern movement to become one of Phoenix’s burgeoning “bedroom communities”. Fields that once produced cotton, citrus, flowers, and alfalfa now sprout Middle-Class McMansions at an alarming rate. Many of these middling communities are queued up on either side of the I-10, a few miles north of midtown. But Buckeye Proper still retains the old-school main-street feel of many familiar farming towns; indeed, it reminded me quite a bit of rural Indiana. But in a much more arid, highly irrigated desert environment.
The Buckeye History Museum was fun. Small, but super friendly and informative. The lady manning the front counter was gabby as hell. She was probably just really lonely; it seemed like maybe this museum didn’t see too many visitors. Although it was centrally located on the “main drag”… ie, Maricopa Country Route 85… the reality is that the real “main drag” was the whizzing interstate to the far north of town. Buckeye, in the grand scheme of things, is a tiny diversion that most travelers would probably go well out of their way to avoid in their mad rush to get to Phoenix or Los Angeles. But the tale of the valley’s native Indian and transitory migrant past, and the stories of turn-of-the-century cotton farming (and the hardships and opportunities that came along with increasingly irrigated and industrialized agriculture) were all extremely fascinating. The museum was really well-done, for being such a small little facility. I was glad that I took the time to stop in.
The skatepark, on the other hand, was actually far worse than I expected it to be. There were lots of obstacles between the obstacles. Not like, “Oh look, a fun-to-skate obstacle!” More like, “Holy crap, I could seriously impale myself on that damn thing” sorts of “obstacles”. And then, there were skatewheel-sized expansion joints in the concrete slab that I only survived by bringing 92a 60mm Bullets with me for my outing; anything harder or smaller, and death would have laughed his ass off at my expense. The park was extremely hard to skate, to put it generously. But, y’know, it’s part of the job. I took a few runs to say I skated it, did a couple carves and grinds, and lived to tell y’all about it. I consider that a high achievement worth being pretty proud of.
Not only do I camp out at Buckeye Regional on a fairly regular basis, I’m also a bit of a caretaker when I’m there. By necessity, not necessarily by choice. Fact is, Buckeye Regional isn’t really “maintained” in the same manner as White Tank, Estrella, Lost Dutchman, or any of the other area parks are. The grills are almost never used, so they’re prone to severe rust. And the “landscaping” is completely ignored. My campsite for the evening was the same as they always are at Buckeye Regional: in dire need of a little TLC. So again, I spent my evening burning the dead branches of a Palo Verde tree (they’re great at keeping the flies at bay), and sanding, priming, painting, and seasoning the on-site grill before I made my dinner.
“My Dinner”, by the way, was delicious. You should be openly jealous. It included seasoned burgers with sharp swiss and cheddar cheeses, topped with my garlic and brown sugar BBQ marinade; spiral-cut sweet potatoes sprinkled and baked with butter, paprika, and parmesan cheese (among other secret spices); potato, macaroni, and corn and arugula salads; and a few tasty desserts brought by my friend Brooke, who graciously joined me for the sights and sounds of a brilliant evening out on the high desert. The campfire smelled sweet, the ghost stories were spectacularly spooky, and the stars were burning bold and bright. Camping and skateboarding, as it turns out, complement each other pretty well.
The next morning, I had woken up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to rock and resume my tourist-itinerary, which included exploring various airfields and abandonments in and around Buckeye that I had spotted in my travels the day before when… completely out of the blue wild yonder… I spotted one of those every-skater’s-dream-scenarios: a brand-new, perfectly clean and smooth drainage ditch complex under construction. Along with an isolated, unmanned, and unsecured construction site, complete with an easy-access road and all kinds of ample parking. No security, no hassles, no worries, and not a single problem… just a bunch of fun under the sun. And boy, was it ever the find of the year. Quite possibly, the find of a lifetime. And all because I went to document a crappy skatepark, and do a little bit of impromptu camping out in the middle of nowhere. Who woulda thunk that I’d stumble across my own little slice of heaven in the process…?
Kids everywhere, listen up: Dreams do come true. The adventures are definitely out there. They’re just waiting on somebody… anybody… to get up, get out, initiate the search, and discover them for themselves.
The only missing variable in this equation, is “you”.