At the hot tub, there is a young family. Four young daughters are pretty much running the place, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying our beverages and our own company. Darnell, Chris, and I are straight chilling, unwinding. Shortly, friends of Chris will arrive and join us for the hot tub session. Life is good. They arrive, and we are immediately kicked out of the hot tub area. Nice try, but we quickly retreat to our room to kick it. Our hotel room’s window is right next to a separate rooftop, and we take out the screen to climb out on the roof and enjoy the breezy summer night from atop the parking lot.
Many smokes and beers later, we are having a micro dance party being jolly and not really worrying about anything. Chris’ friends that visit are a couple of cute females, and they provide some great company. Fun night, no trouble, only good vibes. So glad to have had the great times in Michigan that we did. The next day, we all go to breakfast/brunch and start planning our trip onward to Chicago. On the interstate, Darnell and I decide to stop in Ann Arbor (home of University of Michigan), because we heard there was a pretty sick skatepark there. The park did NOT disappoint. There are few skateparks that are on the level of the public skatepark in Ann Arbor. I’m actually not sure who built the park, but the concrete was poured well, every type of obstacle was there, and the whole place flowed (like a river of pure stoke). Aside from a bad fall in the deep pool, it was a great session. We grab some pizza and head further west on the road to Chicago, another city I’d yet to visit.
We wake up, eat some food, drive into downtown to near where we have an AirBnB set up for us to stay that night. With a killer rooftop view of the skyline and a short ride to the train, we’re stoked. We get on the metro and are in downtown in 20 minutes. So amped to walk up to ground level from the subway and start pushing a brand new city! Some of the first things we do are see “the bean” and some other touristy shit. Got that out of the way. We push along the water and take our time finding Grant Park skatepark. The new (less than a year old) plaza is so nice! But it’s a hot day in Chicago (in the 90s), so we don’t last long. After heading back toward the water and skating a historic natural quarter pipe on Lake Michigan, we find a city beach to try and cool off. There’s a quaint taco stand right on the beach, so we grab some tacos and change into our suits. We were shocked to feel how cold the waters were in the midst of mid-August temperatures upwards of 90°F. So so cold, it was a challenge to get completely under to relieve yourself from the heat. So glad we got some beach time in though! Necessarily refreshing is the best way I could have put it.
Leaving the beach, still in our swim trunks, we return to pushing the streets of downtown Chicago. Spots are common but not usually skateable. Lots of security and pedestrian traffic cramps our efforts, but we still get some great skating in and get to see the city in a great way. We stop again for a coffee and wi-fi (gotta post to Insta…), and then start planning to get back to the crash spot. So many Cubs jerseys on the rail - Cubs vs. Reds in Chicago is that night. We finally arrive at out AirBnB-provided pad.
Michael is our host and a great one at that. Good person with some good life experiences and really nice place for visitors to spend time. After showers and a beer on the roof, we make moves for dinner. Deep. Dish. Pizza. At Pequod's to be exact. Weird name, dope food. Following a great meal and decent buzz, we get a drink at another place just down the street. Then skate back to “the view”. I’ll skip the details of broing down, but Darnell and I chilled for a bit longer and had a great night on the roof in Chicago. The next morning, we’re each burning up from the sunlight pouring into our room, but that’s okay because we both want to go skate. I spend a bit of time typing and drinking coffee before we head out.
Our AirBnB pad vacation turned back into grandma’s house’ stay, which was still great. Loaded up the car for my drive the next day. Darnell was going to fly back to the east coast, and I was road bound once again. That evening, I met up with a friend I made at a conference. We had coffee and caught up, and it was really nice to have just a conversation at a coffee shop for the sake of having a fucking conversation at a coffee shop. Thanks Jason.
So fast forward to the next morning. It was once again time to check the oil, tire pressure, and other vitals… Whatever. McDonald’s breakfast got me in the mood to grunge it out in the car all day. This was the first day alone on the trip after Pittsburgh, and it was bitter sweet. Traveling with Darnell was a real treat. He’s chill, patient, independent, all qualities you need have in a road trip companion. Yet, at the same time, it became so much easier to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, the only human in the vehicle. Thanks Darnell, for the great times, but it was solo at that point.
Onward to Madison, WI, where a friend of mine from undergrad at NCSU is now in grad school of U of Wisconsin, studying engines and creating awesome shit. I was so stoked to go to Madison and have a long (Labor Day) weekend in a small (but super fun) town! Leaving Chicago, I decided to take the non-toll roads and cruise through the slow-speed country corn fields. This was a great idea, so chill cruising through fields.. Hitting rush hour traffic (on a Friday) coming into Madison was the only thing that cramped the style of the day. Had to stop the car once to let it cool off, but sure enough, I made it to George’s house, where he had a cold brew ready for my awaiting hand.
Madison is a really unique town. Everyone there (most are university-affiliated) are proud as shit of their city. It’s a really nice place. Sure, they get some gnarly winters, but the landscape is great, they have great summers, lakes, safe neighborhoods, and a thriving young culture, not to mention they have the state capitol building right at the end of State Street. (State Street is like Fayetteville St. in Raleigh but better.)
Arriving in Madison was great. I was there safely and SO glad for that. The car survived, and I was there for a long weekend of fun and new experiences. That night, George (my friend from NCSU) had his hour on the radio station at WSUM, the college station at U of W. In college at NC State, he also DJ’ed for the local radio station, and he’s a hip hop guy. Fuck yeah. An afternoon of skating around campus, having a beer on the lake, and meeting his roommates, we head to the studio. Apparently, at NC State they wouldn’t allow cursing on the radio, but at Wisconsin, they don’t give a shit. So we played some really trappy stuff and had a blast. I was high and chillin’ on that studio life in Wisconsin.
We hit up the farmer’s market near the state capitol. So many cool things to see, and the crowd for this farmers’ market each weekend is unreal. A really large community. We then grab a coffee and ride over to the skate park (the new skatepark had technically not opened, so we hopped a fence and skated for about 15 minutes before pressing our luck too much). The park was super nice and new; smooth and crispy (if you’re down with the lingo). So nice; I’m very happy for skaters in and around Madison, WI.
Directly after skating home from the park, we get on bicycles to go to a local keg ball game with some of George’s friends. Now, keg ball is fucking awesome. There are other ways to describe it, but I’m sticking with “fucking awesome.” Basically, it consists of a game of kickball but with a keg at 2nd base. When you arrive at 2nd base, you have to fill up your cup with delicious beer. You have to finish your cup before you’re allowed to leave 2nd base. So each time you have a decent run: BEER. There were small teams, so you needed to chug your beer and get HOME so that there was someone else to kick in the line-up. We eventually teamed up with another game of keg ball, which made for a better drinking experience but MUCH more beer. I could go on, but I’ll skip to the end of the game where we convince some foreign exchange students to accompany us back to George’s place where his roommates were throwing a “6th grade” theme party.
It was a hell of a task pedaling back from the field to the house party, but as soon as we arrive we see a SLIP ’N SLIDE. I’m drunk at that point and LOVE that type of stuff, so I go straight for the slip n slide, fully clothed. "Can’t wait to tear it up” type of thing. The next day, I found smelly, musty wet clothes (the ones I left outside after drunkenly slip n sliding in the backyard). I’m not going to tell the full story of the party, because:
1) I don’t remember all of it.
2) It was too much to tell.
It was typical yet awesome college party. Met some great people. Drank some beer. Learned a lot about the mid-west.
So there’s that. The next day, everyone is VERY hungover. We all went to breakfast and then back to the house, where all of us just chilled ALL DAY. Watched “Straight Outta Compton” and highly enjoyed it. That night, we grilled burgers and pineapples and had a grand old time. The following day, we ate special cookies and vegged out a bit more after skating a more full session at the brand new skatepark.
The people and the experiences I had in WI was so much fun. I will always remember them fondly. I had such an amazing weekend in Madison but was also ready to leave for more adventure in the Rockies.
And with that, I will leave you with another intermission. Until the next chapter, I bid you all adieu.