I have a travel buddy now.
Darnell, a friend from NC, had taken a train to Pittsburgh to travel with me for the first leg(s) of the trip. We’re hyped! We head north on I-90 to Buffalo, and shortly thereafter, Niagara Falls. Fuck it, why not go to Niagara Falls?! Darnell and I had never been, and it’s a “wonder of the world”. Fuck yeah. Honestly, it’s what I expected. Big ass waterfall. It was pretty tight - I’m glad we went there to check it out. The power of that thing is very impressive, and to think about how long it’s been going along is pretty mind-blowing. We went to the touristy Hard Rock Café near the parking lot, had a beer, and got a coffee to go. Driving across the border, I thought we were going to get hassled for sure. I mean, here I am with my life in my car. I have a damn man bun like a stereotypical hippie, and I’m on a "road trip” with my black friend just passing through Canada on a cross-country trip to California, moving there for "business". Does that sound like a half-ass cover story for smuggling drugs or what?! No doubt, the border agent lets us right through, and we’re on the Canadian highway.
It was only about twenty minutes of free driving before we were chugging along slowly in traffic headed to Toronto, still about 110 miles (or about 70 kilometers) out of Toronto mind you. We blasted Drake the whole way (thanks Darnell, seriously). *Gotta rep the 416 when you in it doe.* We didn’t have any data/service on our phones in that country, so we lost GPS and found ourselves deep in the city when we realized we were NOT near the suburb we are going to stay in. We get off an exit right near Rogers Centre (where the Maple Leafs play) to find a Starbucks and some Wi-Fi to redirect ourselves. About 45 minutes later, we arrive.
Now, our hosts in Toronto are particularly interesting and awesome as fuck. The Elliotts. My friend from a leadership development conference that I met in NYC is THE man. Clay Elliott is a cool cat, and apparently all of his family are cool cats too. We arrive there with no cell phone service, so we find the address and knock on the door. His mom answers, and we walk in awkwardly, saying "I’m there to meet Clayton." They’re TOTALLY cool of course.
I met Clayton in New York, but the last time I saw him was at Burning Man, where is he was essentially the ring leader for a group of 8-10 people and the master of all things good vibes and burner tips. His brother, Adrian, was also at Burning Man with us that year, and he greets me with a big hug as we get down to the basement. It’s always good to have a genuine loving welcome. Clay arrives later, when we’re out in the back yard enjoying a smoke and catching up. I meet his other two younger brothers who are also cool and inviting. We end up getting stoned and going to a Mediterranean place for a late dinner. Come back to pass out.
We skated the Ashbridge's Bay Skatepark, one of the sicker street-themes plazas I’ve ever skated. So much flow, so many different types of things to skate, and lots of open space and lines. We skated an under-the-bridge park with pre-fab ramps that were pretty fun to skate. We then got poutine (first time for me and Darnell). Poutine is tight! But poutine leftovers are not…
We ate wings: not bad, Canada. We ate ramen downtown: amazing! We ate lots of things and drank lots of Sleemans. Played some video games, bro’d out and had deep conversations about deep things.
Our second skate mission was especially awesome - skated all over downtown Toronto all day long, including two skateparks, the local shop (Blue Tile Lounge), and spots all over. Toronto has some really impressive architecture, unique traffic patterns, and (believe it or not) some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.
After confirming with the Elliotts, I’ve concluded that some of most attractive women (per capita) are in Toronto, Ontario; however, they are very hard to talk to. They (almost all) speak English, so its not that. But women of Toronto know their worth. Pardon my non-PC language, but they know the value of “pussy power” as many locals proclaimed. I was happy to be shot down from attempts at conversations downtown that day. At least I gave it a shot.
After 4-5 days of time in Toronto, we have to get going back into the states, continuing west. We’re on our route to Detroit.
My friend Chris, the president of the Skateboarding Club at Oakland University, has brought his skate club to Collegiate Skate Tour events since our very first one in Kentucky, and they are always down for the cause. That weekend, August 29th, was their own on-campus event, the Grizz Skate Jam (their school mascot is the Grizzlies). I’m more than stoked to come as Collegiate Skate Tour and also see Michigan for the first time. The guys are based up in Rochester, MI, and as soon as we get there it’s time for food and beers. We meet Chris’ brothers and sister, and start planning to go out to the local bar to have a good first night off the road in MI. Mr. B’s is the spot, and tequila is the drink. We play pool, drink alcohol, I catch up with all the dudes I know in Michigan, and it’s a great night. I even make some new friends and extend the night a bit too long… But the next morning, we have an event to run.
The local skate scene in Michigan is tight! Everyone there was ripping and smiling all day. There were all types of hook-ups from sponsors, free food, music from the university radio station and live jams from several local bands (they killed it as well!). There was a brand new A-frame ramp (with rail) built for the event, and everyone was having at it. It was, all in all, an amazing event, and I was ecstatic to be a part of it. That night, we go out for some good food and retire for a night of rest.
The next day, we go into downtown Detroit to skate the city ALL DAY. I was especially excited for this day, because, well, Detroit is a unique fucking place. Whether it be the dilapidated buildings, the renovated areas of central downtown, or the famous Coneys, Detroit has it’s own flavor of civilization. People identify strongly with the city, whether positively or negatively. There is a tight vibe for sure. Our first stop was “The Wig”, the new DIY spot. We come around the corner and observe a group of people (20-somethings) playing keg-ball in the nearby softball field. We walk through the fence opening onto the re-made basketball courts where the skateboarding obstacles are, and there are about three corpses laid out as if they were dead. After 15-20 minutes of skating around, I noticed that those bodies had slightly moved, so no dead guys there. Whew.
And with that, I will leave you until the next installation.