Slowly, but surely, the tour is getting underway. There is, after all, a method to my obvious madness. And luckily for me, the madness is paying off.
My biggest concern over this whole “Summer Tour” was, beyond everything else, my knees. My poor, aging, painfully disintegrating knees that my doctors would love nothing more than to slice open, cut out, repair, replace, and bankrupt me over. They’ve wanted to do this since 1995 (or so). Thus far, they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to persuade me that my money is best funnelled into their pockets. As you can see, my stubbornness knows almost no bounds. Twenty-two years I’ve held them at bay. And counting.
That understood, I had to move very, very wisely, lest I do any more permanent damage than I already have. Think big, start small. Begin in your own backyard, and radiate outward from there. My itinerary reflected this cautious approach: the beginning of my tour started right here in Phoenix, where I could “get my feet wet”, so to speak. But which is really code for “breaking my knees in, as slowly and as painlessly as possible.”
“My backyard”, however, is a certifiable concrete oasis. Just look at these pictures…! Can you freaking believe it…?! I can, because I’ve personally skated them. All of them. And I can tell you this: it hurts. Very, very painfully so. But it hurts really, really good. If there’s any kind of pain I can suffer happily, it’s the skateboarding kind.
This weekend was pretty typical of good things to come. There were twenty-two skateparks on my Metro Hit List. Yeah, you read that right: twenty-two skateparks. My God… back in 2008, I had to drive across two-thirds of Indiana to skate twenty-two skateparks; in Phoenix today, I barely have to drive across the damn valley. That’s insane. There was no way in hell I was gonna get to them all; Phoenix Metro’s gonna take me a solid month, all by itself, to fully cover and document. Overly ambitious, it was. I’m always guilty of being bold and brash, if nothing else.
Of the differences that I’ve noted between my 2008 Tour, and my current 2016 Tour thus far, that’s probably the most obvious one that stands out: just how many free, concrete, good-quality skateboard parks have been built in the last decade-or-so. Life is so awesome right now. It’s a great time to be a skateboarder. Even a fat, broken, and aging one.
Everything that’s poured out of concrete around here seems really huge. That’s a little bit startling to the lackluster-skilled old geezer in me. Rio Vista and Litchfield were downright scary; those massive beasts seemed like they were fifteen feet tall in the shallow end, for Pete’s sakes. And the “street” obstacles looked like something out of The Dew Tour, but strung out on steroids. The one thing I haven’t seen much of yet, are smaller terrains geared towards beginners. These skatepark designers and builders just go right for the gusto; I can only infer that their intent is to raise a nation of mini-me Danny Ways out here.
Hermoso Park here in Phoenix, and Hudson Park in Tempe were a little more kid-and-geezer-friendly. Those were fun (and memorable) diversions, because I still had the meager skills required to actually skate them semi-competently. Hudson was one of the very few “prefab” skateparks that I came across… I believe they were Woodward-branded ramps… that were put together so tightly that the resulting skatepark was actually a little bit hard to skate. But, not impossible. I did a frontside rock here that has to be the fastest frontside rock that I’ve ever slapped in my life; the board barely tapped the coping before I was turning out of it. I had to: the next ramp was just a few feet away, and I didn’t want to be caught totally off guard and wilson right onto my fat ‘ol ass.
Hermoso was a concrete mini-oasis that featured an extremely novel embankment that started at about three feet (or so) tall, and tapered all the way down to curb height. It was a slappy heaven on the short end, while the tall end made even stock tricks (like rock ‘n rolls) a real accomplishment. A feat that I did actually accomplish, by the way. And that I’m pretty damn proud of, to boot.
Apparently, the only tricks I can do that are worth writing home about, are rock ‘n rolls. But I’m fine with that. As Andy Mac once famously said, “As long as I’ve got frontside rocks, I’ll be okay”. I guess that means I’m okay, right…?
91 West was a pleasing diversion. That’s a rare, indoor skatepark out on the west side at 91st Avenue (hence, the name). They have a small, wood-and-Skatelite oasis that features… wait for it… air conditioning! And hot damn, it’s cold in there! But they also have a fun-as-hell little 3′-by-12′ mini ramp that’s built like a brick shithouse. You hardly have to pump it at all, it’s so damn quick. Great for dusting off the ‘ol bag of tricks (which I desperately needed to do) without killing yourself (which I desperately needed to avoid).
Ironically, a few of their ramps actually have cut-up little pieces of Skatelite that creates the sensation of skating over (very smooth) bricks. That’s pretty neat. I had to give them a big hand for creative thinking (and flawless construction) on that one. And the owner and the staff of the place were all really, really friendly and accommodating. Everything was super clean, and impeccably executed. I was impressed.
Phoenix is a real skateboarding paradise. Seriously. The skaters here – especially the older guys (which there are zillions of) are super cool. They’re personable, fun-loving enthusiasts. My kind of crowd. The funny thing is, I still don’t see too many skaters out and about in my travels. I’m blaming that on the weather, though, for the moment; it’s still averaging highs well into the 90s on most days here in the valley, even in late September. We can probably thank Global Warming for that; once again, we broke the record for most 100+ degree days here in Phoenix this year. A record we seem to break every single year these days.
I’ve been carefully documenting each of these parks, and sending my diligently-composed panoramics and write-ups over to Jeff at Concrete Disciples on a weekly basis. I think he might just be a little bit surprised at how much I’m getting done out here on the road. At 44 years old. And in “retirement” mode.
As for me and my skate-tour ambitions, well, I’m just getting warmed up. Pun totally intended.