The West is the best, so says the late Jim Morrison and every rapper from South Central Los Angeles. These fools may be right. After all, the West Coast is full of beautiful people, our weather is mild compared to the blizzards and freezing rain that bombard the East, and it’s never given birth to a rocker as cheesy as Bon Jovi.
Still, tons of people make claims for the East. But hell, even those who love the Right Coast have sold out and moved. Yeah, the West is on fire; we’ve got Baywatch and they’ve got Dawson’s Creek.
Unfortunately, at the start of the 2001 winter it was anything but great—there was probably more snow in ten Sno Cones than in the Sierras, Rockies, Cascades, and Wasatch mountain ranges combined. So as I nursed myself back to health from an excessive New Year’s celebration, I spoke with Ross Steffey (one of Mack Dawg’s filmers) about planning a trip to the Northeast, which was getting hammered by snow.
I’d never traveled back east to go snowboarding, because the mere thought conjured images of hanging myself. But I decided to go, despite the fact that all I knew of the East could be summed up in the following played-out clichés:
“Colder than a witch’s tit.”
“Mountains flatter than molehills.”
“Mullets the size of beaver tails.”I sipped on a tall glass of Cristal as J. Lo peered across the heart-shaped hot tub at me. Sure, breaking up with Puffy had taken its toll on her, but I was here to ease the pain. Her hands emerged from the bubbles and fumbled momentarily with her bathing-suit top. Then, with a smile and a flick of her wrist, she flung the top straight toward me. I opened my mouth and caught it mid flight with my teeth.
J. Lo slowly rose to her feet and walked through the waist-deep water toward me. I chewed on the wet fabric of her top as she sank into the water beside me. Eagerly she slid her hands over my chest, and staring deep into my eyes, she whispered, “Flight attendants, please prepare for landing.”
“Please fasten seat belts, close tray tables, and return your seat backs to their upright and locked positions.”
Damn, I always wake up when J. Lo’s going in for the kill. Adjusting my eyes to the dimly lit cabin, I glanced out the window down onto the snowy runways of Newark’s International Airport.
New JerseyAfter Kurt Wastell, James Ledford, Ian Ruhter, Ross Steffey, and I grabbed our bags, rented a van, and dodged a few souped-up Trans Ams on Route 22, we found ourselves only twenty minutes from Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
There were no ski resorts in Scotch Plains, and there weren’t really any mountains, either, but there was a kid named Junebug who, along with some of his friends, had already scoped out a bunch of rails to show us when we got there.
Junebug was the epitome of a Jersey kid. He wasn’t much bigger than a ten-gallon hat, but he could probably break your face no matter how tough you thought you were. We found out how mental he really was when we were filming a shot of one of his friends pretending to beat up a rider. Junebug took his role a tad too seriously and repeatedly punched his friend full force in the head for the camera. To avoid bloodshed, if you ever run into Junebug, just buy him a Yingling—he’ll have your back.
Players Go-Go Bar
With a name like “Players,” the bar’s gotta be good, right? At first glance you’d think it was a gentlemen’s joint, but despite the scantily clad ladies swinging from the ceiling, there was no nudity. If that wasn’t bad enough, the drinks cost hella. After a girl was done with her routine, she’d prance around the bar trying to trick dudes into thinking they actually had a chance of getting lucky. If the guy was a sucker, he’d easily give up his cash, and the girl would be on her way to the next.
Ledford spotted a couple of ladies at the other end of the bar and began flirting with one of them. Within minutes, the girl had walked over and started a conversation. Yeah, James was for sure gonna hook it up. Too bad when the girls came to his hotel room later that night they brought their dudes with them. Apparently they came over just to ask Ledford questions about snowboarding … bummer.
Secondhand SmokeTo say people smoke like chimneys in Jersey is an understatement—mothers smoke while breast-feeding their babies, gas-station employees smoke while pumping your gas, and people who smoke one pack a day consider themselves nonsmokers.
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania was the spot. This was where the rest of our crew (Jason Murphy, Marc Frank Montoya, Dave Downing, and Jeff Anderson) met up with us. The town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was once one of the largest steel-producing cities in the world, but in the late 80s, Bethlehem Steel went into a downward spiral and fired tens of thousands of employees. Not able to cover its losses, the five-mile-long steel mill closed its doors, but not before building hundreds of slidable rails.
The epicenter for rails is Lehigh University. The college’s campuses are built on hills throughout the city, so there are literally hundreds of rails of every shape, size, and design scattered throughout its grounds. There are only two problems—cops and campus security, so we had to plan our line of attack on these rails carefully.
Rails For Sale
While enjoying a late-night meal at Perkins, an East Coast version of Denny’s, Ian asked the waitress if she knew where he could find some rails. Obviously she had a completely different idea of what kind of rails the crew was looking to do: “Go up the street about two blocks, and you’ll see a guy on the corner. He’ll have what you need.”
Injuries and rails go hand in hand, and this trip was no exception. Marc hit his ass super hard on a rail, James caught some mysterious virus and became deathly ill, but the one who got it worst was Wastell. Kurt was frontside boardsliding an L-shaped rail to mellow drop-off when his heel edge caught the rear of the rail and he was flung violently some twelve or fifteen feet down to his back on the frozen ground.
Everyone winced in horror and rushed to his side. He was having trouble breathing, and we figured he’d broken every bone in his body. After a few minutes, though, he regained composure, and we rushed him to the hospital. There, doctors found blood in his urine and hurried him in for an MRI. After an hour or so of Marc Frank rolling dice on a Kleenex box set on top of Kurt’s chest, the doctors came back with his results. The conclusion: Kurt isn’t human, because any other mortal would be dead.
PennsyltuckyWe had no idea where to go after we left Bethlehem, so we just drove and drove for hours through every city and town we came across. Some rails were too short, some rails had no run-ins, but no rails seemed to be right. After one discouraging night of Dave driving for what had to have been nine hours, we passed through a crazy hick town in the middle of nowhere. Ian asked Downing where in the hell we were, and having no idea himself, Dave replied, “I don’t know, Ruht, somewhere in the middle of Pennsyltucky.”
In spite of excessive research and planning, you never know what to expect when you board that plane, bus, or ’82 Subaru wagon for a far-off location. You’d dreamed for weeks about all the good snow, terrain, and cool people you were gonna meet. Sometimes though, your expectations are too high, and you’re let down by crummy weather or mechanical failures.
Sure, this wasn’t the most eventful or productive trip I’ve ever been on. After all, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not Verbier, Cortina, or anything close. They’re a couple of states littered with rails that Jeffie, Downing, Wastell, Marco, Ledford, and Murphy tore up pretty well. Despite the beatdowns, and searching all over Pennsyltucky for a few good rails, the East proved itself to be a’ight. And that’s likely what I’ll say if someone ever wants me to go back.
If you’re ever in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, be sure to check out Junebug and all t
he bros at Out Of Bounds Skate And Snowboard Shop: (908) 232-4500.