Originally published in our Dec/Jan 2012 issue.
Words & Photos: Jonathan Mehring
There is nothing like going back home to Virginia from NYC. It’s the total opposite of the city. My girl and I built an 18-foot tipi on my place there a couple summers back, and I’ve always thought it would be awesome to bring some bros down to camp there and skate the little towns nearby. So one day, after having a frustrating time finding new spots in NY, I piled into the car with Zered Bassett, Guru Khalsa, Bobby Worrest and my filmer friend Joe Bouillot, and we decided to hit the road south. On the way we met up with Jake Johnson and Gilbert Crocket, who came in from Pittsburgh and Richmond. Eight hours after leaving NYC, we were in the rolling green hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains setting up camp and shooting guns at cans.
I figured skating has changed so much since the mid-’90s that there were probably a lot of spots around the area that no one had ever considered skating 15 years ago. I also remembered a couple gems from my high school days that I thought might still be good skate spots. Plus, there are plenty of random old VA towns that no one has ever heard of that would certainly have a few things to skate.
Everyone was hyped on how redneck we could get, so we stopped at the Bass Pro Shops outlet near DC to get some supplies. We got several pellet guns with plenty of ammo. Zered got some redneck teeth, fishing rods and other country necessities. The kid working the gun section had been drinking hard liquor all morning. He was psyched on how much ammo we were buying and kept bragging about how drunk he was.
Within 30 minutes of arriving at my parents’ place, Gilbert had pulled an award-winning bass out of the pond. My dad stocked it about four or five years ago but never fished it at all. They were practically jumping out of the water into the boat. Even vegetarian Guru had to catch a few for the experience.
As we checked out the small towns around Charlottesville, we (of course) found a bunch of spots that were new or never skated. It seemed like completely new cities without a sign of local skaters. The kickouts were minimal, and the spots were all new to us. When skating the bank spots, the cops even came and watched for a while.
One night we all got hyped and ended up staying up till morning. I’m not going to say there were no beers involved, but we were having a good time. Somehow we ended up at the pond fishing with sardines at 3 a.m. Guru was staring off into the woods, fishing pole in hand with the line going back over his shoulder into the water. We had to tell him where the water was and that he should face it while reeling in. Gilbert was hiding in the bushes acting like a wild animal. The rest of us were laughing uncontrollably. We somehow ended up with a fish back at the tipi and started up the fire. Unfortunately, it had been raining a bit that night and all our wood was wet. We got it going, but it wasn’t too hot, and we just sat there waiting for the damn fish to finish cooking for hours. Also, Zered and I had conflicting ideas of how to prepare a fish for grilling. What started out as a 12- or 14-inch bass was now a 4-inch mutilated mass of white flesh on a makeshift grill. This seemed hilarious to us and we kept checking it to see if it was done every five minutes. Finally, about three hours later, it was getting light outside. The fish was more smoked than done but Zered, delirious and hungry, said, “Give me that thing; it’s done. People eat these things raw anyway.” I began to protest and try to tell him it was still raw and that sushi is only saltwater fish, but he wasn’t having it so I let him go for it. He bit into it ravenously and began gnawing and pulling at the carcass, ribs sticking out every which way. Guru, who had maybe only tried fish once or twice before, said he wanted to try some as well. “I just want to see what the flesh is like,” he said. He took a tough stringy bite and said, “I see it’s flesh, just like all other flesh.” I couldn’t believe this and was trying to explain how it was completely different from beef or chicken. And after another bite, he had a revelation. “I see, all flesh is flesh, but this flesh is fish flesh.” It sounded like something out of Fight Club. Finally we decided to let it cook a little longer, and after another hour it was ready. We all gnawed away at the measly little carcass until it was mostly bones. Our hunger was far from satisfied.
Somehow every night was some similar myriad of antics, and I think I slept less on this trip than any other. There was just so much to do and so much going on. We would stay up late and be up at sunrise to go fishing, have some target practice, maybe try for a couple squirrels, then go skate around 12.
The last day was rainy, and I remembered this old abandoned train tunnel that I had gone through as a Cub Scout. My dad had been the scout leader and taken a bunch of us 8-to-10-year-olds through the tunnel. This included crawling through two 15-foot-long 22-inch culverts that dropped you into 50-degree water about waist deep. I got hypothermia I’m pretty sure. But anyway, this seemed like a good place to go on a rainy day. We went and saw its insane epicness and were very impressed. Bats, beer and graffiti—what more could you want?
After what seemed like our time was cut short, we headed back to the big ol’ city of New York and got back to our usual pace.