Make A Wish Road Trip a.k.a. Budget Hotel tour

It was about a week ago when I got the call–I was sitting in the car watching the ocean and eating some rice, “King! What up kid?”

“Nothing, just chillin, what up with you?

“Well, I got this tour with World planned next week for the Make A Wish demo in Houston, and I wanted to see what you had goin’ on?”

“When do we leave?”

“Sunday at 11:00 a.m.”

Rodney Johnson (the World Industries team manager), Bill Weiss (the filmer), Dave Malefant (the photographer), Jason Hernandez (the other filmer), Carlos Deandrade, Neal Mims, Chris Cole, Chad Tim Tim, Jason “walkie talkie” Wakazau, and I made up the Make A Wish tour. We landed in Phoenix around 11:00 p.m.–the standard six-hour drive across the first part of desert was what we had to look forward to. Because this was Rodney’s first tour with World, he had to show them how cost effective he is, so we spent 45 minutes looking for the cheapest hotel in the city–we had one towel, half a roll of toilet paper, and a 9:00 a.m. check out time.

The first place we went to was called Crackhead Park—there were ledges, stairs and flatgrouund. “No skateboarding” signs were posted everywhere, but I couldn’t see any other reason for a person to go there—architecture’s funny like that.

Everything was going great until I had to take a piss super bad. I’ve been drinking a lot of water lately and that, coupled with being in a strange place, set me off. Before I knew what was going on, I was skating frantically towards a row of port-a-potties on the grass, 50 yards away from the spot. I popped my board to my hand, jogged through the grass, and when I got in front of them, I exhaled completely and took a deep breath in–I can’t stand breathing in those things. That’s when I noticed the big padlocks on each of the doors–I exhaled again slowly. It always seems like the need to piss gets twice as bad with the knowledge of a piss hole nearby. Sure enough, every one of them had a lock on it. There must have been a school close by because there were little kids everywhere. My stomach was starting to burn as I skated around the nearest building. It happened to be the restrooms—they were locked. Why was this happening to me? There was nothing I could do, so I took a piss right on the wire door, looking over my shoulder the whole time to make sure no one was watching.

Right as I finished and was skating back to the spot, a maintenance guy drove by my stream. I heard the brakes and then the quick U-turn. I could tell by the sound of his gas pedal that he wasn’t happy. I made it back to everyone and he came up right behind me. “Hey, next time you piss there, I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Well, I probably won’t have to piss again, so don’t stress yourself out about it,” I said with my skateboarder attitude turned up high.

I think he was expecting some kind of apology, but I couldn’t give him one. How could I start the tour off cowering to the maintenance guy of a skate spot? Two minutes later, we were all walking back to the van, with everyone’s eyes on me–so much for Phoenix.

It was still too early into the trip to really know what everyone was about–I couldn’t tell if they were bummed at me, or if they were bummed at the maintenance guy. I didn’t say anything, and this set the mood of the trip. We skated a few more spots in Phoenix after that, but the reality of another twenty hours of driving started to set in, and we set out on the road.

Aside from the few spots we managed to scrape together, the rest wasn’t worth the wear and tear on the rentals. Houston was our main target, and it was calling out to us like a sweet old lady in the middle of the night.

All we did was drive–all day and into the night. We drove to El Paso, and then to San Antonio–another eight hours away. The tour name changed from the Make A Wish Tour to the Busted-Ass Van Tour, marking the beginning of name changes that came up every couple hours. When there’s nothing else to agree on, the smallest things can bring people together.

On Tuesday, Neal flew home because his face swelled up like a cantaloupe due to a wisdom tooth infection. The team was fading away. Jason Wakazau flew home on Friday to attend his girlfriend’s homecoming dance–it’s important to prioritize–World Industries tour or high school dance? That’s a tough decision to make. I don’t think any of us will forget about that one for a while. Pussy.

Denny’s! If I never eat there again, it will be too soon. We ate at Denny’s every day on this tour. Everytime I walked out of there, I swore I would never inflict that kind of pain and suffering on myself again. There’s nothing like tour food–for some reason all the things we were taught growing up, like eating vegetables, are thrown out the window. I’ve eaten dinner at a gas station more times than I’d like to admit, and being vegetarian doesn’t help either. Today I had a bag of chips, two peanut butter cookies, and a red Gatorade for lunch. For dinner, I had cheese pizza and iceberg lettuce–I almost puked. I feel like a real American.

The next person to leave was Walkie Talkie. He had to fly home early because he missed his little girlfriend. He talked to her on his cell phone 95 percent of the time, and the other five percent was spent talking to her on the hotel phone. It was crazy.

We lost Dave “Malfunction” Malefant also. His last words were, “I feel sorry for the person who has to write about this stupid trip. This is the worst tour I’ve ever been on.” With that, he got in a cab and went to the airport. The tour name changed once again–it became the “Survivor Tour.”

By the time we made it to Houston for the Make A Wish demo, everyone had just about had enough of driving. The amount of time we’d spent in the van listening to UNO started to catch up with us, and the shit-talking almost escalated to blows. I recall standing in the middle of the street course, taking photos of all of the chaos happening around me, when Chris Cole skated up to me looking for some kind of friendly encouragement. He was skating well by most people’s standards, but for him, he wasn’t landing enough tricks. He rolled up to me, and asked, “How’s it going bro?” I glanced over in his direction for just a second, and as I looked away I said, “What’d ya say guy?” Before he had a chance to respond, I looked back over at him and said, “Nice hair,” and walked away. He just stood there. I saw him later, fiddling with his hair in the reflection of a piece of glass, stuck to a wall in the corner.

The demo didn’t impress me as much as I was expecting it to. The skating was good, but the crowd turnout wasn’t there. The fact that it was raining the whole time probably didn’t help the cause much either. It was as crazy as ever on the street course. The best spot to be was on top of the vert ramp because so much was happening at once. While I was watching Jesse Paez land a huge frontside flip over the pyramid, Carlos Deandrade was riding away from a kickflip crooked grind across the bank-to-bank flatbar, and Gershon Mosley was doing a backside heelflip revert on the miniramp. I ended up following the crowd cheers around the park for a while, only catching tricks as they were landed. I started to focus just on the pyramid, and block out the cheers. I felt seasick.

The mini ramp was a whole different story. Just like the street course, it was a snake session that kept you on your toes. As I stood on the deck, I watched heads get snaked every time they tried to put their tail on the coping. It was a sad sight for most–except for Carlos Deandrade.

The mini ramp is 40 feet wide, and five and a half feet high, with an extension on the north end that stands six and a half feet high. On the south end there’s a sixteen-foot wide spine that connects to another 40-foot wide, four-foot high mini ramp. Carlos skated the side with the extension the whole time. There isn’t a video part that illustrates the ability Carlos has on a miniramp. Even in the most heated session, with heads like Gershon Mosley, Rob Welsh, C
het Childress and Jesse Paez skating, all would stop and wait when Carlos put his tail on the edge of the coping. Everyone was quiet while he attacked the ramp with face-high frontside ollies, and blunt kickflip fakies every try. Chest-high 360 flip fakies, and frontside flips were his bread and butter tricks. Gershon was skating well–and everyone knows how good he is on a mini ramp–but when Carlos is around, there’s no contest.

The rest of the street demo was pretty much stock, with the best trick contest taking place on a monstrous funbox in the middle of the park. I heard that Mark Appleyard won the 2,500-dollar prize for a nollie heelflip frontside noseslide down a square rail. I saw him trying it for a while, and people were stoked. I’d rather see somebody skate fast and big, and mix it up a little–when you’re playing for money, sometimes you have to put the work in.

The vert demo was on Sunday. It started at two, and was scheduled to go on until six, with the best trick contest from four-thirty until six. I got there at five-thirty. I was in pain from spending the previous night at the bar, and as I stumbled up the stairs to the top of the vert ramp, I knew this was no place for me. I was late, so the only spot for me to stand was on the very corner of the deck, leaning over the edge. My balance was nonexistent, and each time someone walked up the stairs I gripped the rail and prayed they wouldn’t knock me into the transitions. Max Dufour skated well. The first trick I saw when I made it to the top was a head-high double-kickflip Indy to fakie. No one else was making anything, except the Birdman. In the end, Birdman and Max got the best trick prize. Tony did some kind of McTwist with a 720 varial that made me more dizzy than anything. I’m not sure who won. It would be weird if Tony won another contest–I thought he wasn’t going to skate for money anymore.

I made it down to the bottom of the stairs and searched for a place to rest. That half-hour of drama took its toll on me–all I wanted to do was sit in some corner, and try not to vomit on myself. I had one wish–to get myself out of that damn town alive, and as soon as possible.

We left for Albuquerque on Monday morning. Cole wanted to fly home, Weiss wanted to jump Vans and finish the tour with the Think team, and I wanted a big jar of Pepto Bismol. The thought of driving at least another 25 hours back home wasn’t appealing, but there was nothing we could do. In New Mexico we hit a huge snowstorm that forced us to stay in yet another sketchy hotel. We were getting more and more agitated, but when you’re faced with a twenty-hour drive, there’s nothing else you can do except drive. So, after we’d skated Albuquerque’s famed Bank school, we decided to take shifts driving, and get on the road. 4:30 p.m. was our departure time. I was behind the wheel with a couple packs of Vivarin–it was time to make it happen. We made it back at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning–I could barely walk.