y “Ive been too long its good to be back.”- AC/DC Back in Black
I bailed on skateboarding the past 5 years or so. I was soured on the way a very few people treated me. I forgot why I started skateboarding and became a skateboard advocate and member of the tribe. Shoot 50 years brah! Well in any case it is great to literally come out of the woods and be back in the mix.
The giant white windmills stand silent watch under a brilliant blue sky as the urethane wheeled thrill seekers test their skills on one of the most challenging, beautiful and pleasant downhill skateboard courses on earth.
To begin the Maryhill Loops like most (all?) downhill skateboard courses course was not even built for downhill skateboarding but rather vehicular transportation. The Maryhill Loops Road was an experimental road in south central Washington, United States, built by Good Roads promoter Samuel Hill with the help of engineer and landscape architect Samuel C. Lancaster. Climbing the Columbia Hills from the Columbia River and Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway to his planned Quaker utopian community at Maryhill, Washington. Built in 1911 as the first asphalt road in the state. Theis being said the twisting decent is a downhill skateboarders small slice of asphalt heaven.
I hit the road in several ways this weekend beginning with “hitting” the road early from a fishing outing several hundred miles away in Bumping lake with a few Job Corps students and staff members. By noonish I was heading down Interstate 97 down the golden hills of the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side. It is no wonder the closest town is called Goldendale. Goldfinger or King Midas should set up shop here. The contrast of blue sky and golden hillsides is strikingly breathtaking. Making a left at WA state highway 14 and another left just after Stonehenge War Memorial I am greeted with the sound, sights, smells and yes, vibrations of the MaryHill Ratz skateboard gathering.
Parking the trusty yet battered Toyota Matrix under an oak tree, I walked up a road taking in the festivities. Oh yes, back with the tribe. skateboarders which ever variety are a unique and freewheeling bunch. Pungent clouds of M.J greet me as do delicious BBQ, dry and hot dusty pollen, the sound of joyful and excited voices, the P.A squawking , skaters boasting and recalling the last run down the famed Maryhill Loops. Checking in I am greeted by Dean and family. I am really late, asking if they offer a Veteran discount. Much to my happy surprise, Dean flows me a full ride! No charge. Super grateful I catch the U-Hall cattle truck loading up with skaters to the top of the run.
The ride up in the cattle car is hot sweaty and filled with excitement, banter and for me a more than a bit of anxiety. Reaching the top of the run, we all pile out. Don our equipment and in groups or in my case solo begin our descent. The heavies and crazies group together and encourage each other heading pell-mell towards the bottom just about 3 miles . I straggle behind happy to just be on the hill and feeling the wind, sun and the ultimate elixir of speed and exhilaration. Moving at 25 or so miles an hour on a custom plank surfing the asphalt curves and banks built for cars is a unique and quite beautiful experience. Unsure of what is ahead and just barley aware of what I have mili-seconds ago left behind I race through asset of hairpin and S turns heading into a short flat before another left hand curve . I see the chute of hay bales set up and negotiate the obstacle as put my hand out surfer style dragging the wall of hay. AWWOOOOOO I yell as I exit the cowboy tube and enter the left hand bank. Greeting me next are a double chute and I choose the right side. Entering the chute my board wavers and mmy rear wheels cath just a corner of the hay bale. I am launched into the 87 degree asphalt. Walloping my head and arm something fierce I find myself scraping along the roadway to a stop as I watch my board disappear over the edge of the road 65 ft or so down a cliff .FRIST BLOOD! Grateful for the safety gear shaking from pain, adrenalin and excitement, I dust myself off noticing the white forming then turning blood red on a nice half dollar sized raspberry on my arm. Climbing down the cliff and retrieving my board I am still shaking as I make my way to the roadway. I cruse the rest of the course and head into the first aid tent. The tech fixes me up real nice like and says, “don’t forget to sign the board!” The board is an old style;e wood stretcher with hundreds of signatures already all over it. I hit it up Ger-I VBWL VENICE.CA
Back up for another run I am very impressed at the cooperation and the smooth operation of the staff. Descending I take it slow and easy making it down with out wrecking. Dean the contest organizer is asking for volunteers. I man up and get quick flagging instructions and catch a ride up to turn #3. I sit with the fellow who is working the station. As we chat I find out he is Racer Zak Maytum who won the coveted first ever Pikes Peak Downhill Race. Really cool kid. I watched the curve and learned the ropes from Zack and the last riders past our station a side by side roared up with H20 and Zack was gone and I was on my own to flag the corner.
I was very impressed with the 50 and up skaters who ranged from myself a first timer fair to middling (clocking in at 28-30 mph ) at Maryhill to the full leather speed demons bombing the course shaming the younger skaters with their skills and daring. Equally impressive are the older ladies and the younger girls. They are remarkable racers!
Sitting in my little hootch between hay bales and an umbrella for shade, all is very quiet suddenly chatter of the radio and I respond all clear. I have a clear view of the top of the course and watch riders dropping in. They vanish from view hittinmg turn #2 Just as suddenly they appear and round my turn. The wheels make a sound very similar the Star Wars space ships as they pass by. Again radio chatter and I respond, “All Clear.” A group of naked riders fly by junk in the wind. As they round into the next turn. I watch a barrage of eggs fly hitting the riders! Well skaters have always been known to be a loose bunch that is for sure. I am struck by the similarity of guard duty in the army. All quiet. Radio chatter, several minutes of hell braking loose as an arty barrage strikes and the all quiet again. It is even hot as the Iraq desert. I guess that sort of memory never leaves a soldier no matter what. Well in any case these memories are much more pleasant for sure. A big thank you to MaryHill Ratz, BullDog Skates, Carver SkateBoards, S-One Helmets, Arbor Skateboards, Lost Surfboards, Sticky Bumps Wax and Jesus Christ. Not necessarily in any order here.