1979: The Inspiration for Sk8 the St8s

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7 8 2011 006 1979: The Inspiration for Sk8 the St8s


By Neal

In the summer of 1979, my parents took my brother and me on a cross-country road trip in an old army ambulance that my dad had converted into a boxy-green camper. The drab beast was slow and noisy. It smelled of burning oil and grinding gears. It was oven-hot in the back. (Did soldiers die back here, my brother wondered aloud.) People gawked as our M*A*S*H-style vehicle shuddered into nightly campsites. My brother and I fought constantly. The ambulance broke down twice, once on the side of a West Texas two-lane.

It was the best vacation ever.

And it was the inspiration for the road trip I’m about to take with my sons and their friends and my friends, starting today.

Instead of an army vehicle, our chariot will be an old school bus called Bustaride. And instead of visiting America’s national parks, we’re touring her skate parks. Joining us will be my longtime buddy Lou and his skate-rat son Niall, plus two of Sean and Leo’s skate friends, Willem and Nathan. (Niall, Sean and Leo, ages 14, 14 and 13, have known each other since birth but now live on opposite coasts: DC & Seattle. Other dad-and-son teams plan to meet up with us and join segments of the trip.)

Our adventure begins today, with a 6 a.m. flight from Seattle to Charleston, SC, where we’ll soon board the Bustaride, joined by its owner/driver Shelby and my friend Reid (Sean’s former kindergarten teacher). Our first stop will be tomorrow in Charlotte, NC, followed by a blur of fast food, gas station, campground, and skate park stops in DC, Baltimore and Philly before we hang a left turn and head west. We’re hoping to reach L.A. by Aug. 1 and Portland by Aug. 6, to deliver Sean, Leo and Willem to Windells Skateboard Camp.

Between now and then, we’ll tour scores of smaller cities and towns, interviewing skaters and chronicling the skate scenes of middle America. We’ll also explore how soccer dads are becoming, like me, “skate dads.” And, as per the challenge my sons laid down: I’ll re-learn skateboarding (it’s been decades) and grow a mustache (more on that later).

This blog will include daily reports from the road – one from the dads’ POV, one from the kids’ – plus photos and videos. Lou’s already written a Sk8 the St8s theme song, and intends to write a few more tunes along the way. You can follow our progress on the interactive map on the homepage. As we get closer to each city, we’ll update the day and time of arrival, as well as specify which skateparks we’ll be visiting. Please stop by and skate with us if you’re in the area.

Our goal is to expose the boys to new people and places at this crucial, transitional moment in their lives. Sean and Leo are the same age my brother and I were in ’79, and Sean is just weeks away from high school, as I was then. Beyond providing a memorable road-trip adventure, we hope to coach these aspiring filmmakers and help them create something lasting – this blog, a collection of videos, a documentary – before they embark on the next phase of life in public high school. We intend for the trip to give them new perspectives on geography and urban America, on teamwork and collaborative creativity. And, since we’ll be spending many long, dull hours driving in a school bus, on patience.

Now let’s just hope our Bustaride bus doesn’t break down as often as my dad’s ambulance did.

7 8 2011 002 1979: The Inspiration for Sk8 the St8s

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