TRYING OUT THE NEW NORMAL

When we hit up Kris Fox to write a story on their most recent Demolition trip, we’re always expecting some good writing about their riding and adventures.  We never expect a short story about it but this is awesome.  Dive into the mind of Kris Fox while on his lastest Demolition trip. 

The times are difficult, there’s no denying that. If you were to ask 1,000,000 people how the times are difficult you would get 1,000,000 unique and intricate details of adversities, defeats, victories, heartbreaks, confusions, and everything else in between and everything else unknown; let alone the 7.8-ish billion intricate stories in total those 1,000,000 are already submerged in. It’s truly hard to comprehend. So what is there to do? How can you take it on the chin? How can you fight off the sadness and anxiety buried in the cyclone of confusion? How can you give people their deserved space while getting your deserved space and still handle what you need to handle? How can you live in peace at the moment?

“The times are difficult, there’s no denying that.”

Those were a few questions I was asking myself perched on the summit of a colossal mound of staggered rounded granite embedded into the ground of Alabama Hills, which is a large area that nature decided to paint a mosaic of rock for the tiny town of Lone Pine to admire and the eastern slopes of the Sierras to guard. At least I think it was granite. I’m a BMXer not a Geologist, but a couple weeks prior I was a sketchy rock climber clawing up the gritty mounds of granite one-handed with a bottle of beer in the other. When I reached the summit I relaxed and nipped the bottle while I took in the jagged beauty of Mount Whitney’s crown. The sun was dropping behind the razors of the ridge that in turn sliced the dwindling light into perfect rays that pierced into the earth. The times were indeed difficult; there wasn’t any denying of that, but that particular moment wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it was a fragment of time as peaceful as any I had ever experienced up to that point. Then it hit me. That’s all there was to do: Nothing. There was nothing going on anyways. No contests, no trips, no jams, no work, no gatherings, no after parties, no distractions. Hell, there wasn’t even anything to look forward to, nothing stable at least. But that’s how life has always been. Life is going to be life and the future won’t hesitate to ghost us on our little plans we think are important. These times are simply reminding us of that reality and that’s not meant to be viewed negatively. We’re all a part of something unfathomably large and day after day complete trivialities distract us. So why not use these times of nothing, these hard times that illuminate how idiotic those trivialities really are, to make something within ourselves? And once we’re good within ourselves and the times start to rip again we’ll be able to offer our best to whoever and whatever because we took the time to clean up our internal hygiene.

I didn’t fall off the granite summit and that was good. I sauntered my way down and a few days later I still felt a burn inside of me to continue my quest in making something out of nothing, only I hoped to share the experience. After a little more thought I hit the Demolition group chat up about a trip along the Eastern Sierras. Ya know: untapped bowls, limited crowds, and gorgeous National Forest camping. The dudes that took the bait were three of the best riders on the planet: Matt Cordova, Tyler Fernengel, and Dennis Enarson. A couple days before the date we set to jump in the van Dennis let us know that his dad Kenny was joining in too, and that ruled. Kenny had been on a few previous Demolition missions, one a camping trip through Colorado as well as some legendary Markit trips that will go down in BMX folklore, so we knew he could adapt to any surprises the road threw at him. Plus he was our hype man. He had already lived it, already seen it, and had an abundance of mild-mannered wisdom that he would dish out in the form of funny-as-shit wit. In short, we loved having him on every mission.
We met up at my house in Huntington Beach on a Monday and loaded up. Bikes, tents, sleeping bags, pillows, clothes, yoga mats, back rollers, jugs of water, a few bottles of beer, buckets of hand sanitizer, bandanas and masks, the poop shovel, then hooked in. We were officially back on the road: destination mountain and concrete. We didn’t even make a solid plan to avoid crowds because we were going to be avoiding them anyways. We were on our own trip. We were dwelling in our own world: Planet Demo Van – Population 5. We were bothering no one and no one was bothering us, just the way we preferred it.
Our first night was spent in Alabama Hills and I sat alone on another granite summit admiring Whitney again thinking to myself, “I hope this works.” I really didn’t know what was open or closed, friendly or hostile. I was overthinking my recommendation of the entire trip, feeling like I was just dragging some of the best bike riders on the planet up the 395 during a time of crisis hoping for the best. “Well, it is what it is,” I reassured myself then, again, made my way down the granite pile without plummeting into a hospital bed. Plus the clearing we found to sleep was sick so that was slightly reassuring too. We staggered the van down a narrow two-track dirt road to a hollowed out blob of granite. It looked like a giant bean resting on its side with a rounded hole in its mid section. We lit a fire in the little cave then Matt and I cooked up a slop of a dinner. I personally thought it tasted like a can of Pedigree but the boys seemed to not mind it, or were simply lying. After dinner I ambled off for a piss and when I came back the scene was something out of the movie Tombstone. The cave was illuminated with a vibrant orange glow from the fire, four cowboys huddled around it, and the plump purple moon was clawing up the cosmos above silhouetting Whitney’s crown courtesy of its reflective glow beyond. The silence was another luxury. No swooshing automobiles, no text tones, just the fire gnawing at the wood and the thoughts tapping on the inside of the skull. Even if nothing worked out the next couple days, that moment made everything worth it already.

From there the next few days were spent in the Mammoth area. Mammoth was high on the list because I selfishly wanted to hit that legendary bowl. After stretching the legs at the new Lake Crowley bowl and stocking up on some supplies in the town’s little general store where I saw a old saloon style sign reading, “Don’t worry about the mask, hun, it makes your eyes pop”, I was finally staring at the Grindline masterpiece. The concrete swayed and rolled, jutted and peaked, all in such a way when put together rode like a wave that never broke. Everything was poured and placed carefully by hand and was topped off as a monument to one of their lost brothers, so anyone showing up should show up with respect. I’ve always heard rumblings of some real horror stories of skate – BMX conflict at that bowl but at the same time our crew has never really felt any hate elsewhere. We do our research and know our history. We know our running order, understand coping concerns, and don’t flaunt an ego as we selfie film a YouTube vlog. If the selfie thing is what one wants to do, cool, but there’s a time and place and those works of concrete art in the isolated small towns built on blue-collar labor during hard winters where the evening sessions are sacred parts of a day to decompress from a hard day’s work are not those times or places. Those cherished fragments of life are built upon the tranquility of a simple moment within a tight familiar circle and don’t need anything else in the slightest. I guess in BMX terms, bring some trail etiquette if you decide to show up. There are areas in life where one simply has to pay a due or two. Ask if there’s anything that needs to be swept or bring a carton of beer. Put on a friendly face and don’t try to be a hero. As for our Mammoth experience, we had two days of good full sessions. The locals were jovial and welcoming. I even had one local pushing me in the deep bowl, a girl no older than twelve who would adjust her glasses before slashing the coping a good fourteen feet above the flat bottom. On the second day a first-generation local stopped by to check in on us. He got out of his truck boardless and kept a watchful eye on us for a good fifteen minutes or so. Then after a while he approached me for a chat, which to my surprise was friendly and basically informed me that because of our respect and knowledge on the bowl’s history we had been granted access. So for that, thanks to the Mammoth locals for the sessions.

Before leaving Mammoth for good we had one last stop at our local coffee joint. We would stop there each morning to discuss the news of bears clomping through the campsite we had been sleeping in every night. Those particular bears are after human waste more than the human itself, sniffing and grunting for bags of Doritos and hot dog buns, so it was all good with us. I’m more horrified of big cats anyways, but of course, that’s coming from someone who hasn’t been mauled by a bear yet. The coffee shop ripped too, good mud with some good vegan food. Another thing I noticed was how dialed in the town was at the new social distance norm. Whatever one’s belief happens to be is their belief and everyone deserves to have them, but I have social anxiety anyways so wearing a bandana over my face for now is kind of comforting. Everyone gave space yet was still able to laugh, catch up with one another, and move along in an orderly manner. It didn’t seem forced or smothering in the slightest and was a refreshing change from the Huntington Beach vibe of screaming at the poor employee for not having a pickup order cooked after five minutes of showing up all while threatening to cram a mask up their ass if they didn’t speed it up.

“He’s a vivid thinker internally wearing a cloak of calmness externally and that even holds firm as he’s clamped to his bars ready to drop off a building, either onto a rail strung down a set of stairs or into the ghosts of the Silverdome.”

Across the street from the coffee shop was a spot that didn’t seem real. It was a perfect ten-ish foot quarter pipe built into the side of a building purposely. It was covered in roof shingles and had a giant sheet metal overhang that made it almost un-airable. It also sat a good two-feet above the ground so you had to give it a decent hop to get onto it. Surely it had a snowboard purpose during the winter months but for a twenty-minute period a few weeks ago Dennis was Dennis on it, one of the only riders that could make it work in a way that was worth filming. The employees didn’t seem too stoked but they also turned their heads. I always get pumped when Dennis finds something and I think any real BMXer would say the same thing. I geek out on others digging into their craft at a high level and the boys usually give me a bit of humorous hell for my over-complimenting in the moment when that happens but I don’t give much of a damn about that. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s Bukowski writing, Joplin singing, or Enarson riding, it just all hits my guts in a way that inspires me to throw a leg over my top tube and drop the hammer down my own lane. Anyway, after Dennis dropped off the roof he drug a rusty bike rack over and butted it up to the two-foot drop creating a giant roof quarter-pipe to flat-rail setup. The flat-rail was rusted to hell so he looked at me and asked, “Do we have any wax?”
Me being a pegless bowl rider at heart replied, “Man, I’ve honestly never owned a brick of wax in my life.”
Matt just shrugged his shoulders in the same world as myself.
Then the attention turned to Tyler. He sat on the ground cross-legged submerged in his own tranquil world. “You have any wax?” I interrupted.
“No,” he replied calmly, “I’ve never owned any wax either.”
So Dennis pulled out a tiny triangle of wax about the size of a cockroach, doctored the rail up and handled his business. As we were packing up I turned to Tyler, “You’ve really never owned any wax?”
“No,” he replied calmly again, “I just go faster.”
His response was pure to him and that little “wax” scenario symbolized his no bullshit approach to riding. I’m sure if wax was around the session he would use it from time to time but he wasn’t the type that would worry too much about the tiny details because he’s so gnarly. Tyler is one of my favorite riders and I dig being on the road with him. From time to time we’ll find each other in the middle seat sipping on roadies while swimming to the depths of deep conversations about spirituality and other self-transformative type topics. He’s a vivid thinker internally wearing a cloak of calmness externally and that even holds firm as he’s clamped to his bars ready to drop off a building, either onto a rail strung down a set of stairs or into the ghosts of the Silverdome.

From there Matt put the accelerator to the floor and the van continued its claw up the 395. Our initial plans were to cut through the Sierras via the Tioga Pass near Mono Lake, gawking at sections of Yosemite along the way, but the road had other ideas. Because of the times we needed to apply for a reservation just to pass through and we never made one, so just like that we were stranded on the eastern side of the Sierras. The only way out? Either back the way we came or up and around through Lake Tahoe. By this point in the trip we already had a bit of a casual theme going. Dennis, within the free-spirited and humble depths of his soul, kept repeating his saying of: “Quit making plans and let it give us what it will give us.” The saying had already proved itself by the jovial Mammoth sessions we were gifted so we trusted in that and powered on to Tahoe.
We arrived on the eastern side of the lake just as the sun was diving in with no place to sleep. Slightly dehydrated and buzzing from a few roadies I jumped on a map while Matt sauntered the van along the swaying road that melded to the shoreline. As we got to the north end of the lake I found a tiny square of National Forest land on the map and told Matt to duck off the main road relying on nothing more than a hunch. After a crawl up a narrow rain-rutted dirt road into the mountains looming above the placid blue lake we found a clearing and pitched our tents. There was no one or nothing around. It felt like we had the entire mountain to ourselves. That was the first time in the trip we had to adapt to the uncertainties of the road, and in hindsight, made the trip even better than what was initially planned because now we were on route to the beautiful California coast at sunrise, which wasn’t mapped out at all in the plans weeks prior. Like Dennis suggested, we threw our plans to the wind and were gifted Santa Cruz in return.
That night we were gifted another treasure in the stars, billions upon billions of stars glimmering in the blackness of the sky as placid as the lake below. They all watched on as we explored our nighttime surroundings. We traversed fallen trees, bushes, and soggy land with nothing more than a couple headlamps only to find a small gargling creek where we were able to wash our faces and hands. From there I kept my eye on the star Brachium and held a steady line that led me back to camp through more soggy ground. I set my shoes and socks out to dry for the night and dozed off under a billion other worlds beyond the spotlight of the moon as the breeze combed the hair of the trees into the early morning hours.

The next morning we took a plunge in the brisk waters of Lake Tahoe, which shocked our nervous systems and injected us with a fresh energy that can only be supplied by nature. From there the van climbed over Donner Pass, sliced through the city of Sacramento baking in the intense sun, down and back up through Scotts Valley, then dropped into Santa Cruz. During the excursion we were trying to figure out where to stay. We didn’t want to stay in any hotels and the campsites in the area were basically just outdoor hotels where you shared a crapper with everyone else so we wanted to avoid those too. Then Dennis said, “Let me make a call.”
When he hung up he informed us that Ron said we could camp in his backyard. The “Ron” he was referring to was Ron Wilkerson, the OG of BMX OG’s. It was the perfect scenario: we were kept in our own tents, away from crowds, and were able to absorb the wisdom from a BMX legend. A year prior we did a Demolition trip through Santa Cruz where Ron jumped in the van and showed us everything the area had to offer so we were simply on our way to catch up with an old friend. When we arrived Ron was sitting on his porch patiently waiting for us with a tiny list of riding plans marinating in his skull, and that ruled. We quickly set up camp in his backyard. His lawn was thick and lush, which when combined with a yoga mat became a true luxury more comfortable than any mattress.
That night we went on a small ride to the Santa Cruz pier to get eyes on the ocean we hadn’t seen in a while. The Friday night streets were quiet and lonely. Usually they would be crawling with automobiles like an endless trail of ants, excited people with the fresh weekend ahead ready to laugh and love, but not at that moment. That was the first time in the trip I was reminded of the times. We had done well at detaching ourselves from society in the mountains. Instead of the endless sounds of the happy bustle of a busy town were the lonely hums of our own tires and hubs. We zipped by restaurants with outdoor seating and the eyes of the socially distanced tables looked worn thin. My sentimentality began to hit, simply wanting humanity to feel better, but before it dropped in my gut too heavily we heard some beautiful music. Three people stood on a sidewalk spaced accordingly to the times. An older man was on a saxophone, a middle aged man on a cello, and a young beautiful woman on vocals. There was a silent tiny crowd peppered around them letting their sounds soak into their eardrums. The group was a beacon of hope and light in a dark time, and the sounds coated my brain until the next morning.

One day in particular that stands out started at the Buena pool, another historical spot that I was happy to get my hands on. However, after a good thirty minutes I had to stop and watch Dennis again. He was flowing the awkward square layout with complete ease and complete in-control disregard toward how steep and gnarly the transition and pockets were.
After one run that consisted of a pocket air from beyond the light he popped onto the deck and all I could do was shake my head. “You’re the best, man,” I complimented.
He gave some hell over another compliment of mine then replied, “It’s like Gary Young described to me once, I’m just giving the pool a massage.”
From there we hit a graffiti-drenched drainage ditch that was home to one of the thousands of impossible wall rides Ruben Alcantara has pulled. We gawked in awe at that for a while before Tyler and Dennis began destroying a slant-wall setup that felt like two curbs were placed in the sweet-spots of the transition. It was a real treat getting to watch both of those rigs go back-to-back on a session like they were. I’m guilty of dragging people to deep bowls lined with pool coping over and over, so to see them get on something they were both craving got me stoked. I definitely gave them compliments again, and they both gave me hell for it again. I dug that.

Why were we sitting there? We were sitting there because all those years ago Ron Wilkerson placed one of the first bricks in the foundation of BMX thus building the lives that we all get to live now.

We ended the evening riding a subtle set of trails perched on top of a cliff overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean then met Ron back in his yard AKA our Santa Cruz campsite. We cleaned up, being conscious of washing our hands of course, and all found ourselves sitting cross-legged in the lawn peering up at Ron on his porch as he gifted us fragments of his wisdom like a BMX guru. Now Ron is a private guy so out of respect to him I don’t want to dive into too much detail. The deep stuff will be only for those who were there for the experience, but there was one moment where Tyler simply asked, “Ron, why don’t you surf?”
“I’m waiting until I get old.” He replied trotting into his house to tell us another story about one of his treasures he acquired on one of his journeys through Brazil a few years prior. Ron is 54 years old.
Within that moment on our last night I couldn’t help taking everything in. There I was on the lawn watered by an absolute legend of our world sitting cross-legged with Dennis Enarson: one of the most accomplished and successful riders ever; Tyler Fernengel: one of the gnarliest and most recognized riders ever; Matt Cordova: the ultimate rider’s rider; and Kenny: our hype man and protector if anything went sideways. Why were we sitting there? We were sitting there because all those years ago Ron Wilkerson placed one of the first bricks in the foundation of BMX thus building the lives that we all get to live now. In a sense it brought me home. It rooted me and reminded me of the purity of what we do and complexity of life itself as I turn to embrace our new normal way of living.

And the next day as we ripped through central California toward home, the sun burning the sky bronze millimeters above the golden rolling hills, I was in the backseat feeling good. It is what it is, it was what it was, and we did it. The entire trip I never felt sketched out by humanity or a virus, and most importantly, I never felt sketched out that we were harming someone else because we never put ourselves in the position to do so. We kept to ourselves, stayed in our own world, and respected everyone while they respected us. It was a small taste of humanity looking out for humanity, letting humanity be humanity. The times are tough, there’s no denying that, but I now have hope for a good future. We proved to ourselves that there is a way to live peacefully, safely, and most important to our sanity, normally in this new normal way of life.

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