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Chapter 11

The Noodles Tours

     On most of our skate safaris nobody got shot. We got out the map of Southern California to chart our expeditions. A tangle of red and blue arteries depicted the endless maze of freeways. Chris referred to them as "noodles". That sort of stuck; we began to refer to our weekend safaris as "Noodles Tours."

     We could take one-day forays to the San Fernando Valley, and on east to San Bernardino. Also known as San Berdoo. Southern California is basically a desert that comes down to the ocean. It pipes a lot of its water down from the Sierras in giant aqueducts. Most of the year it is arid, but when rain comes, it can easily become a deluge. To deal with that cyclical predictable disaster, the whole landscape of these inland valleys is criss-crossed with flood channels. The massive concrete flood control projects have no purpose whatsoever when it's not raining. Or do they? Like the Mt Baldy dam, Puddingstone Dam, various diversion dams, and innumerable ditches and urban creeks, they are bone dry 95% of the time, smoothly troweled and skateable.

     Within our one-day range we could make it out to Baldy and the nearby Uplands Skatepark. Uplands was one of the few skateparks to survive during this era of liability concerns. It was a quite an elaborate complex of outdoor concrete elements, a long slowly sloping halfpipe, several deep pools, and a full pipe. Concrete skating surfaces are obviously less forgiving when a skater falls, and skaters would prefer plywood and Masonite to land on if they had their druthers. The advantages are economic. First of all, concrete is far more durable, and can be built outside where it can survive in the rain and sun. Ramps made of wood inside or out are in a constant state of decline and will need maintenance. At minimum they will need to be periodically re-skinned with Masonite.

     At one point we made a noodles road trip to Northern California. That trip it was Chris Iverson, Ves, George Totten, JW and me. We hit what spots we had heard about; the drained Casting Ponds in Golden Gate Park, Derby Park in Santa Cruz, a well-known concrete snake run in a public park, a glimpse of the future.

     By then, my old buds Dick and Carol had moved back to the mainland also, and parted ways. They had both found jobs in the Grateful Dead organization. We looked in on Dick, at home in Albany with his second wife, Christie, picked up some tickets and made it to a Grateful Dead concert at the Oakland Coliseum, where we raged to the early morning hours, and got back to SB about dawn.

     But the best Noodles tour ever was our Grand Tour of Southern California. This particular trip touched most of the bases in Southern California. That trip it was Chris Iverson, George Totten, JW and me.

     The first stop was at Eric Sanderson's house, where he had a six-foot high spine ramp in his backyard. At first it was just Eric and we noodlers. After awhile Lance Mountain showed up with his son, Lance Jr., about 4 years old. I admired the clean carpentry of the ramps. Somebody with high standards had put this together.

     After we left there we drove down to Tony Hawk's house in the northern part of San Diego County. Tony was home, but was laid up with a knee injury. We went in to visit him a little bit in the living room where he was propped up with his leg packed in ice. After that we had his backyard spine ramp to ourselves. It was my good fortune that Tony's Dad, Frank Hawk showed up. We had a little conversation about ramp construction and in particular, bowl corners.

     Next morning we showed up at Mike McGill's skatepark in Carlsbad, north of San Diego, before it opened and the boys again had a skatepark to themselves. Mike"s place had an array of wood ramps with two vert ramps at right angles to each other and a gentler halfpipe, all built outdoors. It's dry enough down there for them to survive outside five years or so. Like everywhere else, Mike's park helped pay the bills with a skateshop and refreshments.

     Later we drove down to Tijuana for the last destination on our road trip. We parked on the US side and walked across the border. I wasn't taking Midnight down there. We got in a cab with our skateboards and the driver already knew where we wanted to go. Just up the hill from the center of town there was an outdoor set of concrete bowls and snake runs that took up a quarter acre vacant lot, street to street. An enterprising kid by the street asked for a dollar or two to let you in, and sold sodas too. Mike McGill said he might join us there, and sure enough he did. That was our most memorable Noodles Tour, like living in the movie.

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