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It's been way, and I mean way too long that I have procrastinated and put off writing this post up and putting this amazing experience together. So as I sit here getting ready to go to Physical Therapy for Tendinitis in my shoulders, I realize that right here and now that it's finally time...
Although, at the peak of my military career I led close to 65 people during times of war, deep deep down I really think I am at the very least socially awkward and at the very worst socially broken and unrepairable. Some days I embrace this fact, and some days I loathe it. In the end, the very end of the line, at heart I really am a LONER, and ultimately I think I do best with people one on one.
One activity that has kept me sane has been skateboarding which I have been into since the first issue of skateboarder magazine came out. In 2007 after some serious major surgery and the loss of a very significant part of my anatomy and which subsequently led to the discovery of a substernal goiter my health was less than optimal, but I started seeing people rocking these newer incarnations of skateboards called longboards. So I went and bought myself a 46" Gravity double kick longboard, at first it was slow going because I ventured out the first time while I was still recovering from carpal tunnel surgery to boot, and was hopped up on my pain meds. But I endured, and here we are... some 8 years after this fact.
All through the pursuit of my Bachelors degree at Rutgers, I skated longboard or regular streetdecks. My main focus though was mainly on a niche scene within skateboarding and longboarding that was all about long distance pushing or pumping. To see how far I could travel and see new things on my deck.
It's really hard once you get past 18 years old, to keep skating in a way. Especially when your girlfriends, and coworkers are talking shit about how skating is so fucking immature of an activity to pursue now that we have entered the real world as adults. Well, I'm still here, still standing, still free, still doing it. My way. How about you? Where are those people now, I know they are in there self-imposed prisons. I'm free and I am moving on. SHINE.
Now at the age of 51 I am proud to say that I am actually a better skater at this age than back in grade school. But it's lonely when your 51 and still skate...
You can be Neal "The Dude" if you want to.
So one day when wasting time on the intertubes I ran into this cool kat named Joey Curry (a great human being) and his little scene called Thats a Tripp. So this guy basically was working in "da city" aka: New Yawk City as a delivery man for a deli, and he told his boss that he wanted to just deliver the food using his regular old street deck. His employer was totally down with this mindset, and the customers he served really loved it.
Then Joey and his coworker decided that they wanted to venture out of the 5 boros and do some serious long distance adventures. For example he skated from New York City all the way to Atlantic City, with zero support or SAG wagons in tow. This shit is a truly authentic epic adventure. Make no mistake. Joey, can't even ollie just like me. But he can push bro.
I am not sure but I am fairly certain he didn't even have any formal sponsors except some informal affiliations, one I think was Homage Skate Shop. He has also coordinated and carried out skate missions that traversed all of the boro of the Bronx, my birthplace as well as mega trips across "Strong Island". By the way this dude again, was on a street deck not even a long board.
Now I have myself since 2007 carried out some fairly decent long distance excursions by myself through NYC, NJ, but nothing that came close to this. I had skated for like 5-6 miles on the Henry Hudson trail, I had also skated from the Village all the to Penn Station in the City, and did some 12-20 circuits at Dorcy Park as well. But it had always been my dream, and my calling to find some people that were genuine and nice enough to embark on something like this with, but you know... you never know when the douchiness or frenemy factor might arrive. Fortunately for me it never happened with ThatsATripp or Joey and his fiancee Kate.
So I decided to register/sign-up for ThatsATripp's email feed, and I immediately started to bug out the more I found out about these guys adventures, constantly bombarding Joey with emails saying how fucking stoked I was. But for some reason I missed out on the Long Island and Bronx trip, and I saw that in August (it was now July 2015), that they were gearing up for a mission to skate the entire circumference of good ol' Staten Island. I could not and would not miss this. I was incensed and obssessed, MAN ON FIRE.
So I finally got my shit together and got the 411 on the Staten Island adventure, so the night before I was like a kid on Christmas eve that could barely contain himself. The next morning I got up drove over the Driscoll and Outer bridges into SI and parked at the Muni Lot right off of Amboy Road in Great Kills, and paid it up for long term parking, hit an ATM to get cash and then walked around the block to the Great Kills train station of the Staten Island railroad. Another thing is, that when you are as old as me and doing what most of my peers would consider insane, safety must be paramount so I had my knee pads, elbow pads and helmet as well as my slide gloves. Ultimately the rendezvous point was the South Street ferry terminal so I was going to get off the SI RR at the Stapleton station and skate from there over to the ferry. While I was riding the train there was a guy with a mountain bike all geared up and ready to go somewhere, and he was eyeing my deck etc. We both got off at Stapleton station and I told him I was skating to the ferry terminal and he looked at me warily as if skating vs riding a bike would be a handicap. So we both set out on our individual jaunts over to the terminal, I started pushing and weaving and grooving down the street. This was what it was all about... What I had been waiting for.
So it was kind of backwards, but I just decided to meet everyone on the NYC side and take the ferry back over with my new comrades once we all were accounted for and ready to roll. So I am on the ferry, heading towards Manhattan and just enjoying the breeze and the sights when I run into the Bike dude, and he was stoked that I had gotten there, and he was telling about his plans to ride around the city. Good vide, good looking out. Adventure Time!
When I got to NYC side I was kind of bugging because I had no idea where my peoples were, so I just started to look around for kooks with longboards. Finally, I spied upon these three guys sitting on a bench with their boards, and they started waving, signalling to me, but as if they were not sure as well. Because Mr. Curry had not shown up yet. Finally along came Joey and his girl Kate who is an Opera singer. Kate had never been on any of Joey's adventures, but this time, Joey had talked her into it somehow, but she wanted to ride a bike, so he had to procure a rental bike from nearby, and he didn't get a CITI Bike:)
So as our crew was assembling we became very diverse, we had people that were Caucasian, African American, Korean as well as Latino/Hispanic. We had people from New York, New Jersey, as well as people that from Mexico and South America. We had people that as young as 14 and people as old as 51. There were two women in our group and they were riding bicycles, heavy duty utilitarin suckers not some svelte road racing bikes, but the ladies owned all of us and to be quite honest they were truly invaluable and mission critical and outpaced most if not all of us during many junctures of the mission. Then when we got to the SI side we waited up for 2 or 3 cats that were the young turks! These guys were mainly from the local SI scene Brandon and Manny as well as another dude from the Bronx. Some of these people knew Joey from the previous missions but most of us were totally new and had never ever met each other. It was beatiful and I felt good. Really good. This is real true diversity not some bullshit you read about at school, 100 percent very differing personas meeting with a common goal. With true respect and grace to boot. I am sorry if anyone gets the wrong vibe here, but I have to show the differing races, backgrounds, and other details to truly paint the picture of where we were coming from and going to. And it was a good place, and end state of mind to serve us well during the goal of the mission's successful completion.
So mainly for much of the navigation and route's judgement calls Joey passed this role over to Mr. Brandon and Mr. Manny whom since they were local who dudes knew the score better than the rest of us. So after every one was finally accounted for we started off, and let me tell you my dear readers, that Staten Island is a very unique place, like Jersey it catches a lot of shit and has been repeatedly the brunt of many jokes but like everywhere a true nomad wanders there is much to take in, appreciate and respect. After 1-3 miles along SI streets and roads you start to realize this is going to be INTENSE, and I was the oldest and mainly the slow turtle, so immediately was somewhat concerned that I might have bitten off more than I could deal with, but Kate was pacing me on her bicycle and keeping me upbeat with conversation, and the father and the 14 year old were with me for most of it.
The young Turks were killing it, just ripping down the road and it was hard to not feel somehwhat ashamed compared to them. Our first stop was at a Skatepark nestled in this neighborhood right next to the water, that had a really suave scene and vibe to it, they even had a swimming pool there, and one of our crew even took a dip in. As luck would have it,my google hacking skills panned out and this place is known as Faber Pool and Park. We actually hung out here quite a good while maybe like an hour or so and it was here I began to see just how fucking hot it was this day, I was trying to stay hydrated but I just could not keep enough H20 in my body, much more on this later. This would be ultimately be my demise.
Staten Island is crazy and I don't know for sure, but I personally feel that the quality of the roads there rivals that of Brooklyn and not in a good way. No shoulders, traffic, hateful drivers, mad road rage attitudes all the while we are pushing and trying to keep our wits about us. It's pretty serious, and although it fun as hell, it is pretty serious, you are taking your life in your hands. One thing at FABER park that was really nice, was that the "regular" skaters and "longboarders" were totally chill and had much respect for each other, because in many locales there is a schism/divide between the two groups or sub-sub-cultures if you will. Which sucks if you ask me.
Further down the road on Richmond Terrace we ended up by the Bayonne Bridge almost right underneath it, and we spied upon a smal Deli knee deep in a rather hardcore neighborhood but everybody was totally chill with us, and there was mutual respect lest some seriously real drama might have been had. But it was all good. We all re-upped on food and drink, which is so so beyond necessary when doing trips like this, just like when you do bicycle touring etc.
We had reached a point in our mission where we had nowhere else to go, and there was a road behind a locked/chained fence, and right next to it, was some really polutted canal where two woman were fishing, they were quite friendly and even volunteered to take pictures of the ThatsATripp crew. We tried to find more information and decided what we would do collectively when Kate took the initiative to climb over the fence and basically led us into the great unknown, now some adventure time was to begin. Then we came upon the abandoned 'New York Terminal' which was awesome. I was speechless and truly into it. I have spent hours trying to find out more information about this place but we could not find anything else about it. Afer tripping out and exploring this complex we started to walk and walk or skate over these hard packed unmarked dirt roads, and there was no shade at all out here, we were getting roasted. We also were lucky enough to find an Osprey nest perched atop a pole. We must have walked for over 2-3 miles and finally realized we were locked in/trapped within more fences, topped with barbed wire. Again Kate's daringness and adventure skills paid off and we all found a way out. Kate really is great and a badass.
We skated up to a point where I had to cross over the service road for 440 and then we ended up in this giant little league/baseball complex, where they had a rather well stocked refreshment stand, but what was funny is that we had to leave our boards like outside of the actual complex area itself, no worries, we respect it. Then we started skating again through this area that was all lowlands/marshes and we had like I mean no shoulder at all on the road and it was really sketchy. After a while we ended up near one of the Staten Island Bus travel centers/stations, and that area was insanity traffic wise and congestion, we stopped there basically to use the restrooms and take a quick rest. From there sooner or later we ended up by the mall, but a surprise that we found the greenbelt trail and jumped on that sucker, unfortunately after a few miles the young grom that was 14 years old and his father had to call it quits, to be honest I almost bailed at that point as well, but I kept on moving through all the pain. It had gotten really bad for me because I ultimately was seriously dehydrated and if my man Joey and Brandon had not kept forcing me to keep drinking water I was definitely well on my way to heat stroke and/or total dehydration bonk time. I mean I started to pour water all over my head and face and would almost shiver/convulse. I could tell people were starting to worry about me, but I kept on going.
We stopped at another park where there was this little beach and this is where we really relaxed alot and took some pictures, some of the young turks were practicing some suave slides, and colemans etc. Me I was trying to keep it together and not say the final words that I could go no further. After we left the park we got up on one of the more major arteries of Staten Island a road called Victory Blvd which pavement wise was much smoother, but it was quite hilly as well. At this point I was dead fucking last and was on the verge of being said and done. So Joey hung back with me quite a bit, if he would not have had the heart to do this I would have already left, but he kept the slow pace with me on the bicycle and we talked one on one about various things. Things like leadership, management, recovery, addiction and the roads that many of us go down that if we don't get off of will lead to our short demise. Since 2013 things had gotten really low, and rough for me, alot of pain, some of it was just life, the rest was just not coping well with life. Over the course of those miles different pieces of our dialogue led me to some very heavy inpirations and insights that were sorely needed in my life.
At one point on Victory Blvd I pushed too hard and I lost my board and it went careening into serious traffic, Joey didn't give a shit and selflessly put his life in danger to save my deck. I was awe struck, but not amused. Joey works at Eataly and told me how progressive of a company he thought they were, and we chatted about leadership. It's dawned on me that it appeared that Joey really could not see himself as leader, maybe he saw it from the wrong context, but he was/is a genuine leader. Not by thought or words, but by his selfless actions and the way he cares for his people in the social experiences he is compelled to create.
I managed to make it about another couple of miles and I saw a gas station, we got some water, and I poured it over my head, and I had to accept the fact that I was very close to overheating for real, and at 51 you cannot let pride get in the way, when serious injury could potentially be on your radar at any given moment. So, I told Joe what was up, that I had to officially abort the mission, and I really felt so bad. Also, I had no idea or energy to figure out how to get back to my car, so I had to take the bus or hope and pray one was coming by soon. I didn't even have any cash, so this dude had to give me 3 bucks. Joe told me that I can't look at this as a failure, and he knew of nobody at my age that would embark on such a journey. Joe is genuine, and authentic. So we parted ways at this point, each of continuing on alone until we each got back to the safety of some sort of group.
So, I sat there in the hot sun waiting for the bus, it was taking forever, so I walked a few blocks down to the next stop down the line, and it rolled up and I was beyond grateful to get on then I realized it only took metro cards, but the cool bus driver lady let me on anyway, probably because I looked so beaten down or something. The only problem was that this bus ride was gonna be like 45 minutes going all the way back to the ferry terminal and then I would have to take the SIRR back in the opposite direction to Great Kills. Ah well... WTF can you do sometimes, it was all part of the journey and experience of it all.
This experience and the things I saw, people I met on this adventure were beyond priceless and measure. If you want to learn and do the knowledge at the pinnacle, then travel without car on some humanly powered means of conveyance e.g. skateboard, longboard, bicycle, or just your feet. The one thing I learned out of all of this is that I have a serious H20 deficiency in general and must make it a conscious habit to drink as much water as possible without going to far in the wrong direction and become overhydated, also that when going on long journey never just rely on your atm, debit, or credit card. Carry some cash! Another thing, when you see us, please be nice to us, respect us, and we will respect you. The 3rd annual Cruise for Boobs is on the horizon and slated for late October, I want so badly to do this but it's still up in the air with my slightly gimped up shoulders, I may do it, but not on a skateboard but on a bicycle (geared or fixed gear). If not I will offer some services support wise, who knows.
The following week I made some hard and fast personal lifestyle changes, and headed up to the catskills to be with family, and then the following week my dog of 15 years passed over to the other side. In the end no matter what your age, never lose that sense of wonder, and mutual respect. Keep your ear to the ground. You never know whats coming down the tracks. Remember... I'm gonna stay young until I die.
Finally, once the day was done, and we all went back to our separate lives, Joey updated the That's A Tripp fakebook with the images, stats, and video from the Staten Island mission, I felt bad because I don't and won't use facebook, so sometimes I let my wife post somethings on my behalf. Also, it sucks because whenever I have one of those moments that I truly think deserve imagry or video, I blow it off, I don't know wtf is wrong with me in that regards, but I did take some really halfway decent photos. So please by all means take a good look at the Pictures. Courtesy of the SuperDimensional Fortress