This would be the last trip the Persuader (My 1977 Motor-home) was to take. It is simply too expensive to take anywhere these days of high priced gas. I purchased the Persuader in '03 and went to California that year. Since then I've made one trip each year. The last couple of years I've taken trips to Hailey and back on Memorial Day weekend. Well, this time we decided to break it up a bit and head to Montana instead. In case you haven't heard. Montana has a quite a number of good skateparks these days. It was a go. We planned to hit about 8 parks in 3 days, so no slouching around would be allowed. The other thing that happened, was the popularity of the Memorial day weekend trip. So, by the time we left. Rob Skala (with Allison and Anthony), George (driving solo), Liberty (and his wife), Dave, Dean and Ron (in Dave's Wagon), and Doug and Ping in the rent a car, and Mike Muir from Hailey were all wanting to meet us out there and hit some of the best skateparks that Montana has to offer. Plus we had 8 guys in the Persuader.
3 from Milton (Sam, Chris, and Josh),
1 from Seattle (Tony),
2 from Renton (Doug and myself),
1 from Kirkland (Nick), and
1 from Redmond (Jesse).

Friday May 25th 2007
We planned on leaving at 5pm, and low and behold, we left pretty much right on time. This particular crew was motivated, and ready to go. I had worked on the Persuader to get her ready for the trip. In addition to the usual oil change and check-up, I patched up a leaky roof, and added some killer lights that allowed for reading while it was dark.

We loaded up and motored down the road. Going up and over the pass on I-90 is always the first hurdle, and as we approached Cle Elum, I noticed smoke was billowing out the back of the rig.
At first I tried to deny it. It wasn't me, it was someone else. But, the smoke was so intense, that after two seconds of looking around, it was clear, it was the Persuader (and the people passing me were pointing intensely at me...).

We pulled over onto the off ramp - shoulder to check out the situation.

It didn't appear that anything was on fire. That was my first fear. But, where there's smoke there's fire. We kept looking. Finally Doug spotted the problem. The tire was melting for some reason. Then he noticed that the inside wheel was getting scraped by the "helper" leaf spring bracket that wasn't attached to the helper leaf spring anymore....Great. You might wonder as I did, what the heck is a "helper" leaf spring? Well, it's an additional flat piece of metal that is designed to help stabilize the vehicle. Apparently it had been broken for some time, because the spot where it was broken was rusty. And only now was it loose enough to cause any problem.
The tire was so hot that it was melting, and it even dripped on my arm when I was reaching around it.

So, once again, going up the pass the Persuader breaks down (I was hoping this wouldn't be an indicator of the rest of our trip). We pulled the bracket off, and limped our way to the small town of Cle Elum just about a mile or so away. We were lucky to find a gas station that allowed us to use their tools, and vice to rig up a coat-hanger that would hold the floppy helper leaf spring off the tire. Two things that shouldn't hang together, floppy helper leaf springs, and tires.

In the course of two hours, it doesn't take long for skateboarders to get into trouble. While Doug and I worked on the fix, Jesse and other riders were chatting up some young ladies from Canada, who were also stranded. They were on their way to some concert (something called a Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge or something?) when their brake calipers pretty much came off. I'd have to agree that's not a good thing either.

After we were confident that things wouldn't fall apart or together as the case maybe, we said thanks, and moved on down the road. Now at least 2 hours behind our previous plans.
I had planned on being in Montana at around 1 or 2 am, then taking a nap of about 4 or 5 hours and be ready to skate. But, that didn't quite work out how I planned, so I just kept driving.

Saturday May 26th, 2007
I got tired at around 3 am, and Tony said he'd take over. We were heading into difficult terrain, the Rocky Mountains. In addition to that, there was road construction.
The road became one lane, and then it transferred over to the opposite side, and all you could see were reflectors on each side of the road. It reminded me of an old Atari video game (Night Driver) that I used to play.

Tony said that he didn't need any help because the adrenalin of trying to keep the Persuader on the road was enough to keep him awake. He said he had a quick power nap while I drove, so he was good. With that, I collapsed in my sleeping bag on the floor.

It didn't take much for me to get to sleep. I was tired. But, I woke up when Tony was slowing down as we arrived and got close to our destination.

We didn't really make it on time. What with delays and breaking down, but we were stoked. Our first stop was a private facility, that was by invitation only. I must emphasize that we all felt extremely lucky to have such an invite, and in no way do I want to imply that this is a public facility, because it is not.
At 6:15am we arrived (Yawn...). I intended to just check it out and then take a nap until everyone woke up. I got out and heard the back door slam. Nearly everyone got out. They were all so stoked, with boards in hand saying, "uh...we just wanted to check it out too.." (Typical skateboarders!). They were a little worried that the Persuader might have let them down. But, once again, we were watching the sun come up in probably the most beautiful country our eyes have seen, next to an equally beautifully built bowl. So, Nick and Sam were the first to jump out, along with Jesse and Chris and Josh. Tony and I were standing around in awe. We were simply struck by the absolute gorgeous views as the sun was just coming up.

I had planned on taking a nap, like I said, but the session was on and it wasn't to be missed. So, I got my gear. Doug was still sound asleep inside, so I had to wake him with my freezing cold hands, because I knew he'd regret missing out on the session. Later, he joked that I wasn't even human, but a machine... "Just touch him", he said ... ha ha ha! (something about driving all night and riding all day...)

We all skated hard for two to three hours. At one point I counted over 25 people at the bowl, it was already an epic adventure for us. The session was good, but there was a lot of Montana concrete to cover, so we pressed on.

Next stop, Missoula Skatepark.

The Missoula skatepark has quite a bit of variety and a great community surrounding it. There's almost something for everyone, even a cradle. Last time I was through here, I didn't get to skate this park, so I was stoked to get to ride it this time. I should mention, if you plan on heading to Montana, be sure and check out Skate lots of good information there.

The Persuader was humming along without any more hic ups, and at our second stop we were already quite tired. Skate trips are like that though. You sort of have to pace yourself, even though that's next to impossible. It's similar to telling a chocolate lover to slow down and take it easy on the chocolate while being surrounded by the highest quality chocolate available.

Well, if you're keeping track, I hadn't had much more than 2 hours of sleep and was a little tired. Tony had even less. After skating for a little while, it was time for a nap. I noticed Tony crashed out under a tree, and not being above copying a good idea I found another tree to nap under until it was time to move on to the next skatepark. Sleeping under a tree in a public park might look like a good idea, but it has its drawbacks. I noticed at least one dog come up and give me a sniff...

After a couple hours, we all were ready to move on to our next destination. Butte, Montana.

We hit Butte about dinnertime. As we arrived, there were already some guys ripping up the park. Rob Skala and crew were nice enough to start cooking up some good food, while the rest of us were finding lines in that 12 foot deep monster of a bowl.

We met three guys Rick, Marshal and Andy, from Park City, Utah who were pulling some huge airs, and nice lines. We had a great time exchanging stories and skating the Butte, MT park.

Personally, this is one of the reasons I come to Montana. This particular bowl makes it worth the trip (at least for me). It's deep, round and fast and it reminds me of the old Kennewick bowl. Last time I was here (Oct.06) it had water in the bottom, making it a tad bit difficult to get some good lines in. This time, with no water, I was able to open up the throttle and let her fly! And it's probably a universal feeling among board sports. That rush of speed and sensation of centrifugal force as you carve the wall at high speed. Then add to that the feeling of weightlessness on the wall, and as you get in the air.

Anyway, Butte was a blast, good food, friends, great park...what more can you want? Maybe a little less strip mining? Oh, that.

So, after some barbequed food, and refreshments, we packed up and were back on the road by the time it was dark. Well, sitting at home planning this trip, I thought we should be able to hit Dillon today as well. But that turned out to be too ambitious of a plan.
We stayed the night in Missoula, and found a nice quite spot to park the Persuader. This was the first night of sleep I had gotten in a while (2 days). Tony commented, that it felt like we've been in Montana a week already. I nodded, uh huh...I agree. And it's been a great week so far!

Sunday May 27th, 2007:
8am - We woke up at a much more reasonable time. After much skating we stopped in at the local skate shop and purchased some goods (Gotta support the local scene, ya know!), and a couple of our crewmembers discovered a mini-ramp in the back. And they were on it like white on rice. I was tired, and wanted to head on down the road to Polson. Some rode the mini, some grabbed some Pizza, and others rested.

Once we got on the road, it didn't take long to get to Polson, Montana. However, before we got there, we got word that it was raining (gotta love cell phones?). Well, we rolled in and since most hadn't even seen the park before, they wanted to check it out. The rain stopped for a brief moment, just long enough for The Optimist Club to open up shop and start squeegeing the bowls. As soon as I saw the rain picking up again, I knew it was time to ride. So, I grabbed my gear and rode. I eventually tried riding with the squeegee...but that didn't really work either. However, Sam and I both noticed that you can ride the helmet, even while it's raining (Hey! We found a good use of the helmet!). Of course, even the diehard Northwest Skater that I am, I had to give in to the evil Dr. Rain, once again and pack up my gear and surrender the park to the rain.

Where to go? Wait in Polson? Or head north to Whitefish. That was the question. I pulled a traveling trick out of the bag that I learned from my buddy Steve (who couldn't come on this trip). I called a gas station in Whitefish, and asked them if it was raining. It wasn't. So, we headed north.

We were about to head out of Polson, but a head count revealed that two of our riders were missing. Not really a problem, since we already have their gas money, and more room in the Motor-home is a good thing. Well, because we're all such nice guys, we waited until the two wayward crewmembers came back. Cell phones would have been nice, but neither had them on (something about the battery dying?).

It's only about an hour or so to Whitefish, so it didn't take long. And on the way we got word, once again via cell phones, that whitefish was now dry and ready for the rip ride! That was music to our ears. Getting rained out of Polson was a real downer for us. A couple of us really wanted to skate Polson. So, getting rained out really dampened out spirits.

We pulled into Whitefish around 5:30 pm, and we could see the looming clouds just over the mountains. We all could feel that at any moment, we could be shut down by the rain, just as we were in Polson. So we did what any respecting skater does, we amped the session and skated hard, trying to get it all in.

Whitefish has a large variety of terrain. It was fun to watch the guys explore the new park. One of the greatest joys of mine is riding new and different terrain, and watching other people do the same. And Whitefish certainly offers some different terrain, not found anywhere. The street section has similarities to a large snow terrain park. Which makes since, considering that we are only minutes away from The Big Mountain Ski area.
What I come to Whitefish for, is the deep bowl. And so, I spent most of my time doing the only trick I know, on the biggest wall. Actually, skating today at all, after our experience at Polson was a treat. We all skated hard, and left nothing behind, no regrets! I remember people complaining of having tired legs. And that's a good thing.

When it got dark the rain started up, however we felt mighty lucky to skate at all today.

And I must say, here as elsewhere in Montana, we continued to meet people who were very friendly. We asked where a good place to eat might be, and it was suggested that a certain Pizza place was the place to go. So, we packed up and were on our way.

So after looking for a few minutes, we found the Moose Saloon in Kalispell. And they were right, this was quite a place. As we walked in, I noticed that there was sawdust all over the floor? I guess that's supposed to give one a feeling of being in a barn (I know it did for me). Add to that is the fact that every thing (benches/walls/tables/everything) is made of wood, and has been carved up by someone's pocketknife. The "Persuader was here"... ha ha ha...

Now, a departure from set plans on road trips for me, is well "normal" (My motto is that it's a "skate trip" anyway). And normally, I like to maximize my skate time by traveling at night. I figure we can eat/sleep/and travel at night, maximizing how much time we spend during the day, skateboarding. It kills me sometimes to travel too far during the day, when it's dry and skateable out. It's just a perfectionist tendency I have (twitch, twitch...).
So, it was suggested that we go back to Polson, even though I wanted to travel at night and wake up at Sand Point for the start of our last day. Since, there are 8 of us riding together, some compromises are inevitable, and so my rule is; majority rules. So after some polling and discussion, we headed back to Polson, and decided to skip Sand Point altogether. It turned out that a majority of the crew really wanted to skate Polson. Now, this particular move was going to be tricky. Our skate trip was quickly coming to an end, and I really wanted to get to Kettle Falls the next day, at least by the afternoon. So, I told the crew, that if this is going to work, we'd have to wake up early and skate Polson at the crack of dawn, then motor down the road at 8am.

We headed out of Kalispell at midnight or something, I don't recall. I found a nice quiet spot in Polson to park for the night (one reason I like traveling with a motor home).

Monday, May 28th 2007:
Up at 6am - Normally we wouldn't hurry and wake up to skate at the crack of dawn, but this was a special situation, where we were planning to drive for almost 7 hours straight, during the day.

Skating Polson early in the morning was cold. It wasn't easy for anyone. Add to that the parking lot was a mud pit due to the rain. I was seriously thinking that I might get stuck in the mud if I didn't watch out. We skated as hard as we could for a hour or more. The unique thing about Polson is the Helmet. I'm convinced that the "overhang" can't really be ridden and I was waiting for Jesse to prove me wrong. He thinks it can be ridden, but not necessarily by him or so he says. After a short, but intense session at Polson, it was on to Kettle Falls, WA...

Now a lot can happen in a weekend like this. Some decided to go to Sand Point after all, some decided to stay in Montana. And some headed back home... We pressed on to Kettle Falls.

The drive went OK, there was plenty of rain along the way, and some questioned whether it would be dry. We arrived in Kettle Falls around 3pm or so and it was completely dry. There was plenty of time for a good session. We pulled up and were treated like celebrities. It was great fun. The little bowl at Kettle Falls has 4 sections, which cover different skill levels of bowl riding. It was also fun watching the snake session ensue as everyone wanted to ride.
After about 2.5 hours of solid skating in the hot sun, we were ready to collapse. We really appreciated the warm welcome, and thanked everyone, but our day was quickly coming to an end, so after saying good-bye to the great local skaters of Kettle Falls, we stopped for some gas and food.

Now normally on a Memorial Day weekend trip by 4pm we should be on the road heading home. But, as we were filling up and getting food, the crew in the Persuader said they wanted to hit one last park. They wanted to stop in and check out Cusick on the way out. Now, I'm always game to hit another park (I'm a nut that way), so it was a go, and on to Cusick we went. It was on the way home, or so we heard. What we failed to understand was the 3 thousand foot vertical climb between here and Cusick, WA. That slowed us down a little, well OK it slowed us down a lot.

And here is where having a little GPS device paid off in spades. We didn't have a lot of time, so we put in "Cusick, Washington" and it took us down these unnamed streets and roads ("Left here...", "Right here..."), and we ended up in this small town that I'd never seen before and to be honest, I didn't know how we got there. And as soon as we saw someone, we asked where the skatepark was, and we were riding in no time. Unfortunately we were also running out of daylight.

We arrived at Cusick at around 7pm, with only about an hour to ride. So, ride we did. Well, I didn't ride. I wasn't feeling so good. So, I took photos. I had acquired a kidney stone a week earlier, and the pain was getting to me, I didn't realize what it was until we were already in Montana. Holding a camera was about all I could do.

Cusick has a lot of mellow walls, banks and rollers. Our crew really liked Cusick, they didn't want to leave. As they were racing around the banked area trying pass each other, I was laughing so hard I forgot all about the fact that I was in pain.

After getting all sweaty and tired out at Cusick, we hightailed it down the road to home. I think we left about 10pm or something crazy like that, we had at least a 6 hour drive ahead of us.
Tony noticed that I was in a lot of pain, and offered to drive home. That was fine by me. I hunkered down and tried to sleep and deal with the pain. Most guys slept. Nick served as Tony's copilot and navigator. I think only Doug had to work the next morning. I don't remember stopping too much, but I do recall pulling in to my house at 4am...

And as we all piled out of the motor home heading our separate ways, I couldn't help but think that this was another epic trip that I'll never forget.

Thanks to all who helped make this happen. Especially those in Montana who let us ride their concrete. We had a great time, Thanks so much!

- Dan Hughes

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