Friday, December 31, 2010

Seven Minutes in Heaven: Mt. Bohemia 2010



This article was intended to be a comprehensive and adventure-filled snowboarding article about another week-long pilgrimage to Michigan's Mt. Bohemia, and their "sister" mountain, The Porcupines (aka, "The Porkies"). However, due to a collusion of hopelessly unfortunate circumstances, what you guys actually get here is basically a driving-tour of the area, with some funny and sad stories about misadventures with rocks and such that were mischievously hidden in an entirely inadequate snowpack during my one-day stay at Bohemia. If it sounds like a total blow-it, well, you're not alone. After all, you're just getting a small taste of what I already got. But at least you don't end up with a bum leg at the end of the story like I did, so consider yourself lucky.

We do have another trip to Bohemia planned for late February if all goes well and right. Hopefully, they'll actually have something resembling an "adequate snow base" built up by then, so that we can do some snowboarding on some actual snow this time. And even better: We might have a buddy coming along for that ride, too. Finally...! So keep your fingers crossed (ours certainly are), go ahead, get reading, and stay tuned for more (and hopefully, better) Bohemia coverage later in the season.

(The following are excerpts from my personal journal, which I tirelessly compiled before and during my ill-fated trip:)

Two months before departure...

I've started hitting the gym in preparation for my Bohemia trip this year. It's not too depressing this time around: I only have to lose about 14 lbs to get down to "fighting weight" for my trip. "Fighting weight" is around 320 for me, as I've learned through experience. It's lean enough to not be a total fatass, but bulked up about 10 to 20 lbs over my "ideal" weight... knowing damn good and well that I'll easily lose that during my week-long trip up there. Bohemia is no joke, man. And it's a ton of work to just get down the hill. Let alone, get your ass around the mountain to do tedious little things like eat, pee, shower, fetch Cokes, get hammered, and smoke cigarettes. So preparations- especially physical ones- are really, really important.

One month before departure...

The weight loss went better than I thought. I dropped the Coke habit (the drink, people... not the blow), and immediately lost 6 lbs. That's actually not altogether good: I might well end up quite a bit under my 320 "target" weight, and that could be a very real problem. I also finished fitting out my "survival pack" with a brand-new hand axe, some more fire starters, and a spiffy new knife. These things aren't so much for "survival", per se... at least, not as far as Bohemia is concerned... but rather, they're more for "luxury". The fire starters, hand axes, and knives are very handy for cutting up snowy firewood for the common-room fireplace. The last time I went up, I brought about 50 lbs of dry kindling along with me for this purpose (that some jackass fucking kid burned in one day while I was out riding). Well, that's 50 lbs of weight (and about 5 cubic feet of precious space) that I don't have to drag to Bohemia this year. In a small economy car, no less. And so, there ya go: Consistently dry wood that is also blissfully knucklehead-proof. That's the "luxury" of a small handaxe, a knife, and a few firestarters.

At the end of the day, the real survival test at Bohemia is all about you, your board, and your skills. And not a damn thing that you could ever buy is gonna help you there, bucko.


The survival pack, and its various contents. Don't laugh: The hand axe [in center] came out within ten minutes of my arrival at Bohemia, and those bottles of painkillers [middle top] ended up being well worth their weight in gold. Even though I only spent one full day there, about half of this stuff ended up getting used. So that was definitely money well spent.



The handaxe came in super handy right off the bat, as there wasn't a lick of kindling anywhere in sight to start a fire with in the common room fireplace. As usual. But what there were, were a couple of these very large (and extremely dry) hardwood hunks of 6x6"that, chopped up, made some very volatile kindling. Within ten minutes of my arrival at Bohemia, I already had dinner cooked and a blazing fire going to dry out my gear.

One week before departure...

I was at Perfect North today, waxing up a ski patrollers' set of skis outside on a convenient handrail when I heard a familiar-sounding "Hey, Bud!" being yelled at me from the lower level. I peeked over, and it was fellow Good Vibe Triber Heidi (and her brother, Dan) getting ready to skate over to the lifts. She was all, "I recognized you by the block of wax in your hand!" Apparently, I'm such a habitual waxer that I have a PermaBlock of the stuff in my palm at all times. Her next question cracked my ass up even more: "Do you remember me from last year...?!" That's Heidi, man. All humility, all the time. Blissfully unaware that she rules so damn hard, that she's totally and completely unforgettable.

Anyway, I gave her and Dan's boards the quick wax rub-down, and off we went. It was a great idea for Dan, because he absolutely loved his newfound speed and control. But not so for Heidi, because that relegated me to chasing her ass all over Perfect's slopes for the rest of the day. I swear, that girl must've had a rocket pack crammed up her butt sometime over the summer, because she's just blazingly fast everywhere she goes, with no fear-gear whatsoever. She's getting really, really good. And it's only her second weekend of the season. On one hand, it's great to see a woman ride a snowboard with that much skill, grace, recklessness, and control. On the other hand, trying to even keep up with her kinda sucks.

Mental note number one: I've gotta give her the slow wax next time, and keep the racing shit for Dan and I.

Mental note number two: I've got some real catching up to do before I take off for Bohemia. And it's not just behind Heidi's ass, either. Maybe I should get a little more board-time in before I leave for my trip, just to keep my reflexes on the up and up.

Later in the day, we're all tailgating at Dan's pickup... with the Good Vibe Tribe, the tailgating program is pretty serious business, almost as big of a deal as the riding itself... when Heidi asks me where I'm going this year besides Perfect. I say that I'm headed to Bohemia next week, and she longingly states that she'd love to be able to go sometime. Which again, was totally funny. Here, I've been trying to drag dudes up there for what, the last four years now...? And the only person that has ever expressed half a serious interest in the place ends up being a girl. Once again, I make a third mental note of that, and carefully file it away under "Unforgettable Heidi-isms".

And lastly, mental note number four: A little bit of motivational mojo from unexpected quarters never hurt anybody. Armed with my Heidi-provided reality-check and instant-inspiration, I'm feeling almost ready to go.

Less than a week before departure...

... and I miss a surprise call from Bohemia's land line while I'm at work. "How strange" I think to myself, because I can't for the life of me figure out what they could possibly be calling me about. As soon as I can, I call right back. Lonnie (the owner of the place) picks up, and tells me that they're calling because they're delaying their opening until the 26th, but I'm booked to be there on the 23rd. So clearly, this is a cause for concern on Lonnie's end. Thus, the impromptu phone call.

This does two things: One, it cuts my trip short right off the bat. On the other hand: It gives me a couple extra days at Perfect to get my setup, and my skills, dialed in a little bit tighter before I head off to tackle the real thing.

Lonnie also tells me that they've cleaned out some new glades on the west face of the mountain, so I'll have some new challenges to chew on when I get there. I almost didn't have the heart to tell him that I've barely gotten the old challenges put to bed yet... Goldilocks is after all a perpetual handful, and I've only taken a few runs total through the Extreme Backcountry over the years... but I do have to appreciate Lonnie's enthusiasm and drive. He's always poking around to see how he can add a brand-new twist to what is already a great experience. Which is really, pretty admirable.


This is an old trail map of Mt. Bohemia, but it shows most of the current runs to good effect. The green area just under the "Mount Bohemia" logo are the new glades that Lonnie had cleared out last year. As if 80+ gladed runs weren't enough...!

4:26 am, December 25th, 2010

Departure from Indianapolis, for Bohemia. It's usually a 12-hour drive, but I'm anticipating a 16-hour bender this year due to the fact that I'm taking a circular route around the east side of the peninsula, and along Lakes Michigan and Superior. I've been making this trip for eons now, and I'm long overdue for a change of scenery.


Here's the general layout of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, showing the major highways and byways, along with my circular route up to Bohemia and back (in purple). Bohemia is at the very end of the point, just a few miles away from Copper Harbor.

5:42 am, December 25th

I'm coming out of a dense fog bank somewhere just north of Lafayette on I-65 when all of a sudden, something weirdly foreign and alien occurs: What seems like hundreds of bright red lights suddenly turn on all around me for miles in every direction. And just as I start to get my bearings, and begin to determine their relative positions in the night sky... they all turn off. Then a few seconds later, they're all on again. Then off. They seem to be positioned a couple hundred feet in the air, and maybe about 200 yards apart, and blinking in some sort of strangely synchronized sequence.

A few minutes later, I drive by one that's so close to the interstate that I actually thought I was gonna drive straight into it, when I realize that these unusually synched lights are actually coming from the tops of new-technology windmills. I've driven straight into the middle of a huge new "wind farm"... and those newfangled windmills have warning lights on them to alert low-flying aircraft of their presence. I drive through at least ten miles of these fields of blinking red lights, fascinated the whole time by their precision and mankind's ability to finally invent (and install) a sustainable form of power generation on such a vast scale, and so quickly. So maybe there's still hope for our planet yet.

6:59 am, December 25th

Chicagoland! And, the first snowfall of the trip. Just in time to make a totally crazy driving situation, that much crazier. Chicago drivers are certifiable nutjobs that love nothing more than to play bumper-cars at breakneck speeds through The Loop. I lay off the gas and play "old geezer" through downtown as the locals whiz by all around me, and crash into everything in sight.

10:45-11:15 am, December 25th

Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I'm at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum downtown, right on the lakefront, and standing next to a World War 2 submarine. Apparently, Manitowoc shipbuilders made a pretty big contribution to the submarine effort in The War, and the preserved sub that's anchored just a few feet away in the frigid water is a testament to this contribution. It's only 20 degrees, and there's a blustery wind coming in off the lake. Taking pictures is hard to pull off with frozen fingers, and as I'm looking through the digital viewfinder, I stumble in a suddenly deep snowdrift, and almost fall right into the lake. Given that there's a slippery, ice-covered, ten-foot steel retaining wall holding the lake at bay, I realize that my survival chances in the water would be less than zero, and that getting out of it would be pretty much impossible... so I hurriedly hike my ass back to a small bluff that overlooks the harbor entrance and shoot my tourist testament from there, instead.


The submarine anchored aweigh in front of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Note that I'm standing in uncomfortably close proximity to that retaining wall, and the freezing cold of Lake Michigan to get this shot for my readers. Come to think of it, we do a lot of crazy shit around here "for the readers". It must've really sucked back in the day, when we did crazy shit just because we're total dumbasses. But thankfully, those days are behind us now.

High noon, December 25th

I decided to go all-in, and take my "long way around" up US 41 through Marinette, WI, and on to Michigan 35 to Escanaba, even though it probably means that the Econobubble's gonna be huffing fumes by the time I get back to Indianapolis. The gas budget is pretty tight, but I figured what the hey, I've certainly gotten out of bigger pickles just fine in the past. I put my last twenty in "reserve cash" in the tank, and roll out of Green Bay, heading straight into the unknown...


Abandoned Americana. Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

2:20 pm, December 25th

... and boy, am I ever glad I did. A scenic drive along the lake is a far cry from the miles of depressing and desolate woods that you have to endure going straight up 141. Being the adventurer that I am, I drove right out to the end of Portage Point... as far into the lake as I could get the Econobubble... and took a super-quick stroll out the rest of the way to the very end of the earth. I say "super quick" because I didn't stay long... the frigid cold and the whipping winds were a little too much for The Intrepid Budster to handle. Plus, it was hard to discern where "land" ended and "lake" began with all the ice, and the last thing that I wanted to be was one of those stupid goofs that ends up a bloated corpse on somebody's beach come springtime.

As I hustled off of Portage Point and resumed my drive into Escanaba, I suddenly spotted what looked like a camouflaged F-84F Thunderstreak sticking out of the ground to my immediate left. So here I am, freezing cold and probably already dying from exposure, and now I'm suddenly cranking the Yaris around in a highly illegal u-turn to go hike to yet another plane-on-a-pedestal. It's like I'm addicted to these things, although I'm constantly coming across them through my numerous midwest skate/snow tours. But no matter how many I see, the next one always catches my attention all the same...


F-84F Thunderstreak. Delta County Airport, just outside Escanaba, Michigan.

Escanaba was a real trip. A quaint little harbor town, Escanaba seems like a major off-loading point for coal barges and ghost ships, because the port was lined with coal piles and a collection of creepy ships out-of-water. I strolled over to the ship boneyard, and immediately spotted what looked to be an old City of Chicago fire boat propped up on its keel. Why in the hell a Chicago fire boat would end up taking up rusting space all the way up here on Escanaba's waterfront is entirely beyond me, but I'm fascinated by this ghost-fleet that's seemingly sailing through this grassy field to some slow, sad, and staggering ultimate demise somewhere. But where that could be, and when it might happen, remains an unforgone conclusion. Until then, they're just hulks out there on the horizon, delicately divided from the living and waking world by a barbed-wire-topped chain-link fence.


The dark clouds start to roll in. Delta County Historical Society lighthouse museum, Escanaba, Michigan.


Just one of Escanaba's eerie "Ghost Fleet", Escanaba, Michigan.

3:30 pm, December 25th

The "cute and quaint little port towns" up here are approximately a dime a dozen, and I'm thoroughly enjoying my trip when I'm suddenly slammed by a string of very intense lake-effect snow bands that bring visibility down to nothing, and my progress to a crawl. During a break in the beating, I slowly descend into Marquette, Michigan when I spot this... "thing", I guess... dominating the scenery in the middle of the harbor. This "thing" is fucking gigantic... like at least five stories tall, and maybe a quarter of a mile long. It looks sort of like a tunnel to the lake just standing out there in the middle of the harbor, but it's completely beyond me why you would ever need a tunnel out to the lake in the first place. Intrigued, I drive practically on top of it... it's very close to shore, whatever this "thing" is... and take in its uber-mysterious grandeur. If there was anyone around to query, I'd probably be doing a ton of querying right about now. But it's Chrismas day, and Marquette is a ghost town, totally devoid of even a single soul to be found. And the ghosts of maritime's past aren't saying a thing, so I decide to high-tail it out of there.


After some research, I finally realized that the "thing" that I stumbled upon in Marquette is an old ore-loading dock complex (circa 1931). Trains loaded with iron ore would back onto the top of the docks, and the ore would free-fall down chutes (still visible on the sides of the docks) into waiting freighters moored alongside. The tracks, of course, are long gone... all that remains is the sandstone support structure. Photo swooped off the internet somewhere.


Lake Superior, from the bluffs above the dry docks at Marquette, Michigan.

4:45 pm, December 25th

L'Anse, Michigan. I stop for gas at the first sign of an open storefront, because I haven't seen a single soul since Escanaba. I don't stay long though, because it's already getting quite dark, and it's a solid two hours to Bohemia still. The last thing I wanted to do was to get there in the pitch black of the night... but alas, that looks like it's going to end up being the game plan for the day today. L'Anse is usually a great place to stop and take in the panoramic beauty of Lake Superior, but it's just not in the cards for this go-round. Sorry, readers.


The long and lonely road between Marquette and L'Anse, Michigan.

5:15 pm, December 25th

I speed-line it up to Houghton/Hancock, Michigan, where I'm suddenly confronted by a slightly horrifying realization: Minus a few squall bands in Marquette, this has been by far the easiest drive north that I've ever taken in my life. What's even worse: The roads are actually clear enough to see that Houghton's main street is actually paved in bricks, not concrete or asphalt as I'd formerly assumed. The town is lit up bright with Christmas lights, and I can see Hancock across the channel in all its mining-town beauty and character. Getting around is actually terrifyingly simple and straightforward... so why all this worry, you ask?! Here's the answer: There's practically no snow here, on the ground. Which is totally awesome for driving to Bohemia! But, maybe not so awesome for actually boarding down it.

Now, you can see why I'm worried. Sixteen hours of driving to a snow-less mountain just might end up being a whole lotta gas burned and time spent for naught. I floor it out of Hancock, and get my ass to Bohemia as fast as I can.

6:30 pm, December 25th

I finally arrive at Bohemia's hostel to find the good, the bad, and the ugly staring me down, front and center. "The Good" is a small bag of Christmas cookies that Lindsey thoughtfully left for me in the hostel... which was really, a touching touch. Lonnie and Lindsey are seriously the awesomest people around. "The Bad" is the fact that I have a ton of shit to unpack from the car, and it's freezing hell and blindingly dark up there, which makes finding door knobs... heck, even finding "doors"... pretty damned challenging. While I'm struggling around in the dark... this part is pointed out to me a an hour or so later by my fellow hostel dweller, which was way after the fact... I'm all the while being tracked and followed about by a coyote, and there's even tracks in the snow following mine all over the place to prove it. So, I've apparently been on some wild animal's dinner menu all this time, and yet I managed to stay entirely unaware of its presence the whole time. Great Going there, Sherlock Shithead. Maybe I should make a mental note to keep that hatchet and knife a little closer at hand next time, and try keeping my eyes open for a change.

As for "The Ugly"... well, walking the grounds isn't the usual "hell" that it's always been in the past. Instead of being the usual knee-deep in dense and impassible snow, I'm about ankle deep in light powder and tennis shoes. Friends and enemies, this is not a good sign of things to come. Not at all.

7:00 am, December 26th; Opening Day at Mount Bohemia

Considering that I was lucky enough to plan my trip around Bohemia's un-plannable opening day, I decided to get my tired ass out of bed all kinds of early to get ready to snatch some fresh powder runs! Woo-hoo...! And boy, was I giddy to get going! For us snowboarding Jews, first tracks at Bohemia are just like Christmas, only faster.

But as I got up, shook off the night's slumber, and began to document my surroundings, I began to notice things that indicated that my worries from the night before might have actually been a little bit understated. Everywhere I looked, I saw grasses and small saplings sticking up from the snow. These are things that, ordinarily, would be covered up by several feet of snow by now. What's worse: I was having a hell of a time walking around, because I kept tripping on shit hidden just under the snowpack. It seemed to my eyes that there was just enough snow on the ground to cover and camouflage the hazards, but not nearly enough of it to ensure safe passage through them. And that's when I started to get pretty nervous about all of this.

10:15 am, December 26th: First Chair Up

I was second in line to catch the first chair, which meant that I got my pick of perfectly virgin terrain to go plow my fat ass through. Unfortunately, the pickings were slim: Vast tracts of Bohemia were completely verboten for this first day of their season, which put the choicest of Bohemia's terrain "off limits" for the moment. Only the west-facing open runs are there for the taking, so I chose Claim Jumper (the gnarliest drop on that side of the mountain), and dropped in.

First turn: Epic!

Second turn: Hit some rocks. Uh-oh...

Third turn: More rocks...

Fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth turns (you get the picture): Even more rocks.

And still, more rocks...

And by the time I'm back at the lift, I'm feeling a little beaten down and dejected. And I'm thinking that even looking at my base is probably, a pretty bad idea. I head up for another go, this time at Copper Plunge. Same story there. Finally, the liftie on duty tells me that Prospector's probably the safest bet, because it's a grass-covered run on the balance of a rocky mountain, so the chances of hitting rocks over there- even on a negligible base cover- are pretty slim to none. Which is truly, a vast improvement.

But still, I didn't come to Bohemia to ride intermediate open runs the whole time, either. I could have just as easily camped out at Perfect North all week if I wanted to do that.


The trail map again, showing the available terrain on opening day. As you can see, everything east (toward the right on the map) was off limits, while the Haunted Valley (which is to the left on the map, around the back side of the mountain) opened around midday after a little bit of poaching by those in the know, and the local hardcores.

Noon, December 26th

I retire to the common room to burn a couple cancer sticks, and to re-group and re-plan my attack. Looking at the trail map, I start thinking that the trees might be the best place to be. First of all, stumps are a hell of a lot softer and safer than rocks are (although, not by much). Secondly, Lonnie gave me the heads-up on some recently cleared lines just right of Widowmaker that sounded pretty choice. And lastly: When all else fails, the west-facing trees usually have the deepest base, and hold out the longest. I decide that poaching the Haunted Valley is the go-to runner-up plan, because I'm hearing through the rumor mill that they might be opening it later anyway. So if its opening is imminent, is it really "poaching"? And will anyone be able to find me out there to give me hell for it if it is...? Deciding that the answers are "not really" and "probably not", I decide to head for the lifts.

On the way out the door, someone tells me that the weather update is calling for rain later in the week, and that already "they" are thinking of shutting Bohemia down midweek due to the lack of adequate base. This is not looking good at all.


Here's a facsimile of the board I brought with me to Bohemia. This happens to be a 5150 Stroke 161 that we got for product review this year, mounted up with Forum Recons (to stay true to the Strokes' pricepoint nature). For Bohemia, I brought the nearly-identical-in-every-way 164. The new rocker (I hoped) would compliment the Strokes' inherent turn-ability (thanks to its progressive sidecut) and no-bullshit durability, while being a lot less demanding (and a lot more catch-free) than the old Strokes were. The rocker worked just great, even better than advertised, while its durability was tested pretty harshly during my short stay.


There's not really much to do during off-hours at Bohemia, besides getting totally sloshed and stumbling to bed. So, I tend to opt for the healthy-livin' time-killer: Waxing the crap out of your (and everybody else's) shred sled. As you can see, I've got the whole tool kit and wax quiver right at hand at all times, and the hostel chairs make great on-the-fly tuning vises.

You see that slick, smooth, shiny, wax-impregnated base right there?! Yeah... less than seventeen hours later, that thing was a pockmarked and gouged hodgepodge of all sorts of nasty dings and dents. I didn't even want to look at it to assess all the damage it collected: I just tossed it in the Econobubble, and drove the corpse home. It took some super-serious and smart repair work by our resident snowboard tech (Ron at Rusted Moon Outfitters) to ultimately save this board from the scrap pile... but somehow, he managed to pull it off and bring it back from the brink.

The completely reworked 164 is now fully ready to get out there for Round Two At Bohemia... which is pretty impressive for what is supposedly a "pricepoint" product. There's a lot of "premium" boards that simply didn't make it off the mountain that day, and their owners were pretty damned pissed off about it.

2:00 pm, December 26th

Widowmaker ended up being a good call. This is exactly the kind of situation where previous experience playing around Mt. Bohemia pays off: You get to know the weak points in the defense, so you can plan a way better offense. I take a breath of fresh air courtesy of The Marlboro Man, and re-group again. Widowmaker kinda tired me out, and what was once a brand-new Stroke is looking a whole lotta worse for the wear. But the rumor mill is saying that the Haunted Valley is holding up great, and that the snow over there is pretty damn deep. Which I know to be fact, because I snuck in a few runs just right of Prospector before taking my cancer break.

The problem is, the snow over there was far from consistent. And those hazards in the snowpack have a way of sneaking up on ya at the worst of times, even in the best of times. And this is far from the best of times, I can tell you that for damned sure.

So, the question is: How much of a man am I, and how much of a moron does that make me? Do I wanna call it a day, cut my few losses, chill with my dozen-or-so pretty good runs, and get on getting sloshed on Strawberry Daiquiris? Or do I wanna double down, go for the gusto, and fly tackle this bitch this late in the day, and a little less on top of my game? Well, the rumor mill is still telling me that that rain is definitely coming, and that a "temporary closing" is becoming a very real consideration. I boot up, grab the board, and get to the lift as fast as I can.

3:45 or so, December 26th

I'm lying on my back in the middle of The Haunted Valley somewhere. It's majestically gorgeous up here. The trees are rising up all around me as far as the eye can see, and there's a few beautiful blue breaks in the clouds. It's relatively comforting and calming, which is perfectly juxtaposed over the fact that my chronically fortuitous good luck seems to have finally run entirely off the rails. Somehow, I've managed to thigh-check a boulder at breakleg speeds just a few moments ago, and now my leg is fucking killing me. And I'm still quite a ways from the base. Which means, I'm pretty much screwed. But at least the scenery's a perfect picture of peaceful tranquility. Even if my leg is staging a quiet riot inside my snow pants.

My day is over. My trip is over. My life might even be over, if I can't get off this goddamned rock by nightfall. My hatchet's safe and sound in the hostel, and I'm thinking that the coyotes might be even hungrier tonight than they were last night. I finally find the strength... it's called "fear", people... to stand up, push off of a tree, and slowly grapple my way down the face of the mountain, pushing off from one tree to the next to keep my speed up, yet safely in check at the same time. At least nothing's broken. Not that I know of, at least.

7:00 pm, December 26th

I wake up from a lengthy nap in the Common Room to find my leg throbbing, but not particularly swollen. Which means that it's probably not broken. But what it is, is probably the World's Gnarliest Charlie Horse ever. Which doesn't feel great at all. I limp around the base collecting some dinner and smokes, and start planning my trip home. I send Heidi a text, asking her if The Tribe's planning at being at Perfect North next weekend, as I'm all gimped up and definitely coming home early.

10:00 am, December 27th

I'm up bright, early, and strung out on fistfuls of painkillers culled from my Bohemia mountainmates... and it's some pretty good shit, too, because I'm actually feeling pretty chipper, and can even walk about without dying on every step. I manage to get to the Bear Belly for tee shirts... money does burn a hole in my pocket at all times... and pack the Yaris up all by myself. My plan is to make a run over to The Porkies for a scenic drive and a few more tees before making my way home. Heidi texts me to drive safely, and to try not killing myself on the way back. It's damn good advice that I probably should have taken yesterday, but at least I survived my misadventures to finally take it today.


Quincy Mine, which overlooks Hancock, Michigan.


Downtown Houghton, Michigan. Notice the brick pavers that cover the streets.


The beautiful Houghton County Bridge, which connects Hancock and Houghton, Michigan.

11:30 am, December 27th

The drive to The Porkies is one of the most beautiful legs of my entire trip, as it involves a string of cute little harbor towns set against a backdrop of an uncharacteristically bluebird Lake Superior day. I stop a few times to text-and-torture Heidi with beautiful cellphone-scenery pictures, hoping to butter her up a little bit, and maybe work on convincing her to come up with me next time. Deep down, I'm realizing that riding Bohemia all by lonesome year in and year out might not be the smartest of things to do. And besides, it'd be a hell of a lot more fun to share the expereince with somebody else for a change.


Twin Lakes State Park, Toivola, Michigan.

The texts back tell me that it might actually be working; I can sense a little bit of excitement mounting, even in this entirely impersonal interchange. See that?! Even in the face of blatant idiocy, I can still eke out a sliver of genius here and there. And it only adds to the marvelous day that I'm having, lazily driving around the peninsula.
Because if nothing else, text-torturing Heidi at least gives me something kinda fun and creative to do along the way, and a minor mission to accomplish.


Roadway view of Lake Superior, just a few miles east of The Porkies.


And finally, my destination: The Porcupine Mountains. You see that little puddle of water off to the right there...? Yeah, dude. That's Lake Superior.

12:50 pm, December 27th

I'm amazed at the sights to be seen, once you get off the major thoroughfares in the Upper Peninsula. I've only stopped about fifty times now to watch deer grazing along the roadsides, to check out ancient Upper Peninsula architecture, or to stop in turnouts to take in this or that scenic overlook. I see a sign for Agate Falls, and I meander over to find a pristine sitting spot high atop a wrought-iron bridge, looking over the falls at a railroad trestle perched precariously above the five-to-ten-story pines. I click one last pic for Heidi, and head on into Crystal Falls for my long and lonely drive home


The last of the text-torture cellphone pics: Route 28 bridge overlook, Agate Falls State Park, Michigan.


Paynesville relics near Agate Falls, Michigan.


This could be any one of a million lakeside villages that I drove by in my travels... but I think this might be Mud Lake, just outside of Crystal Falls, Michigan.


Crystal Falls, Michigan.

As I mentioned, this isn't going to be the last that Bohemia sees of me this year, nosiree. First of all, I've earned an epic snowboarding trip this year, and dammit, I'm dead set and determined to get it! But when it comes to backcountry freeriding, you've got to take in stride what Mother Nature hands you and make the very best that you can of it. Injuries are temporary speed bumps in my permanent journey to ride interesting and challenging terrain... and as far as the midwest goes, Mt. Bohemia is by far the best game in town. Even if the experience is less-than-perfect, it's still quite an experience nevertheless. Many thanks to Lonnie and Lindsey for their hospitality, and thanks to Heidi for even showing a half an interest in coming up next time.

If everything pans out just right, I think the next article's going to be even better. We'll see ya then.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Public Service Announcement:


Friday, December 17, 2010

Just Taking A Break Everyone...!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Newsworthy: December 11th, 2010


Sorry for the lapse in coverage this week! But snowboarding season is here, and with that we're hitting the mountains for a few weeks. Until we get back, here's a quick-hit update on some of the stuff in our inbox:


We may be the "small company headquarters" around here at The Solitary Life, but there's one "big" company that we'll always respect, and fully support. And that company is Deluxe ( There's many reasons for this, but here's the most recent: The Duane Peters Actions Realized deck. If I were Ed Templeton, I'd be ordering my loyal pawns to go consume this deck immediately. But I'm not Ed, so I don't think I can pull it off. Shit.


News flash from Seismic:

"For 2011 Seismic has updated the hub colors and graphics in many of its high-performance wheels. Most of the Hot Spots (in 4 sizes), Speed Vents (in 3 sizes) and Blast Waves now sport red hubs inside orange urethane, yellow hubs inside blue urethane, blue hubs inside purple urethane, and silver hubs inside “smoke” black urethane. New graphics highlight an updated “Black Ops” logo. A new hub material enhances bearing seat support in the Ripplers, Hot Spots and Avilas."

Of course, we don't buy these for hub colors. We buy these because they're the fastest wheels on the market right now [literally... ask Mischo, he'll tell ya]. But, they are pretty. So we'll be looking pretty good while we're hauling ass everywhere. Bonus.

The Legion Skateboards just dropped a quickie promo video on YouTube that we thought we'd toss your way. There's four words' worth of reasons to peep this: Ron Allen and Frankie Hill. If you don't know who those dudes are? You're excused from class, 'cuz you're an idiot. These two guys were groundbreakers in the street skating world back in the late '80s and early '90s. And by the looks of this vid, neither of them have aged a day since.

I wish I could say the same about my fat old sorry ass.

That's all for now, we're heading to the mountain...!

Stay tuned next week for Perfect North opening-weekend coverage, a few snowboard gear reviews, and our usual skate-related stuff. Lates.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Skateboarding Vs. Skateboarding: Duh


Here at The Solitary Life, we are seeing a disturbing trend playing out that I feel especially compelled to speak out, and speak out clearly about. The trend that I am seeing unfold is best described (in my eyes) as "Skateboarding vs. Skateboarding". And, to be perfectly blunt: It's Not Cool. Not cool at all.

In our world, skateboarding is skateboarding. We are admittedly very simple-minded guys around here. And thus, our philosophy is very simple-minded as well. I suppose that I would add to that that all skateboarding is cool... even though we probably wouldn't know "cool" if it beat us all up around the head.

"Skateboarding" is defined, in our simpleton minds, as rolling around on a skateboard. And a "skateboard" is defined as a plank with two (or more) trucks, and four (or more) wheels. Plus, a whole buncha bearings and screws and shit. I added the "or more", because believe it or not, there are actually skateboards that use more than two trucks, and more than four wheels. As such: Some land luges would fall into this category, as would six-wheeled slalom boards. Some people might argue that land luges aren't "skateboards" because lugers generally lie down to ride (instead of standing up), while some other heads might say that six-wheeled slalom boards are for wussy cheaters that can't race (and win) on only four wheels.

Whatever, man. As far as "skateboarding" goes, we try to be as inclusive as possible with these things. So personal biases aside, we still count these things as "skateboards". Even if they are highly "unconventional" skateboards, at best.


So, here we have a whole bunch of funny photos of people skateboarding. Obviously, I went all-out to find the silliest shit imaginable, right...? But, look at all those faces (except the downhill dudes, because you can't see crap through those full-face helmets). What's the common thread, folks...? They're all smiling, and clearly having fun.

Bottom line? They may seem like morons to you, or rejects from your little cool-club that you've got going on over there... but to me? Those look like a bunch of people that know exactly what skateboarding is all about. And in my book, that makes them the smartest skaters around. (Photos from all over the internet).

A lot of my personal, "All-Inclusive Bias" revolves around the fact that I'm typically, a pretty open-minded guy. Some time ago, I wrote a piece about "What Skateboarding Taught Me". And, that's one of the things that I learned, through skateboarding: To be open-minded. So, if you've got a problem with my "All-Inclusive Bias"? Then I say, "You can blame skateboarding for that, fucko".

But, here's another reason for my "All-Inclusive Bias". In my thirty-or-so-years of skateboarding, I've personally tried- and, for the most part, loved- all types of skateboarding. Take the land luge, for example. I remember way back in 1989 (or so), reading two articles in the skateboard media about land luge. One was in TransWorld, and the other was in Thrasher. And they appeared just a couple of months apart, if memory serves me correctly. So, I sorta got a double-dose of "land luge". And, it looked fun. So, I built one and tried it out. And lo and behold: It was fun. Is it "technically skateboarding"...? Well, I don't know about all that. But, I can tell you with some authority that it was a pretty fuckin' sweet ride. And at the end of the day, I think that's all that really matters, isn't it...?

In skateboarding today, we have a lot of narrow-minded haters out there that will be more than happy to tell you that this-or-that is "gay", "stupid", or "un-cool". Which is fine, as far as it goes. If these knuckleheads want to promote themselves as the experts on what is "gay", "stupid", or "un-cool", then they're not gonna get any arguments from me. I sure as hell don't wanna be the expert on what's gay, stupid, or uncool. So if somebody actually wants to step up and claim that title... then I figure, okay. That's rad. I'll just claim "un-gay, brainy, and cool as hell", instead.

Street skaters like to claim that longboarding is gay, stupid, and uncool. Longboarders are more than happy to tell you that street skaters are gay, stupid, and uncool. Pool skaters are actually smarter than everyone, because they're too busy cleaning and wrecking pools to really give a fuck either way. And freestylers and slalomers are apparently so gay that they don't even claim the right to judge anyone else, or anything else.

Most heads don't know this, but I grew up street skating. Mini-ramps are still my favorite thing to skate. I've skated vert a little bit here and there (it's super hard, but that's what makes it so gnarly and badass). These days, I love concrete bowls. I've never freestyled, per se... but with all that street skating does come a few flatland skills, so you can make the call on that one, I guess. I ran the slalom course at The Buckeye a few times (on a 10" wide pool board with a 17" wheelbase), and I made a few clean runs on it, which made me pretty happy. And, I have a current collection of about nine or so longboards, and a half-dozen cruisers that I like to tool around on for things like walking the dog ("walking" might be great fun for less-evolved species, but not for humans like me), or rolling to the store for Cokes and cigarettes.

So, here's the deal. When somebody, somewhere, says something blatantly stupid about some form of skateboarding...? We're gonna call "bullshit" on it real quick. As "The Media", I believe that it is our solemn duty to the skateboarding public to do just that. To call bullshit on bullshit, and to [try to] enlighten our readership about these issues. Because if you don't want to get an authoritative insight on the true nature of skateboarding, then why in the hell would you be reading "The Media" in the first damned place...? You wouldn't. You'd stay in your own little ignorant shell, and go along being blissfully clueless for the rest of your stupid-ass life. But nobody wants to be "that dude". So [hopefully], they read The Media to get their asses informed.

And informing is what The Media is there to do (when they're doing their jobs well). So deal with it.

Bud Stratford
Professional Asshole
The Solitary Life


Feedback: December 5th, 2010


Yesterday, I wrote an article titled "Why Have All The Skateshops Gone...?". In it, I pointed out some of the errors that today's skateshops are making that are [quite possibly] hastening their demises. One example that I used, was the recent article on The Temple News (written by Stephen Rose) that quoted Steve Miller at Exit Skateshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We also used a few publicly-accessible quotes (things that Steve had written himself, on Temple's website). This morning, we got a swift e-mail reply from Steve Miller, himself. And, this is what it says (we added the boldface yellow type to the stuff that seemed the most important to us... but otherwise, it's totally unedited):

Hello Bud,

I wanted to reach out to you to make something clear. Not only was I misquoted in the recent article posted in the temple news, but was straight up quoted saying something I would never say in a million years. I have made several phone calls to the temple newspaper to clear this up, and hope they will soon. The reason I even talked to the student in the first place was because he was a 19-20 year old skateboarder, not a member of the press, and although I was upset when I saw what he wrote I know he was just a kid doing an school assignment, but after I had read some of the comments from fellow skateboarders I felt the best thing to do was give them my phone number and give them an opportunity to get the facts for themselves.

I am not the kind of guy to slave away on some message board or argue with someone online. This was clearly a mistake on someone else part and I stepped up and gave anyone the ability to go straight to the source and get the facts and just ask me what happened (tons of people did). So you can imagine how upset I was when I checked your blog (I am a fan and read it often) and read your uninformed rant and judgement of myself and my business. The problems you claim to continue to have are wrong, and could have been cleared up in minutes if you had the common courtesy of asking a question before wrongfully throwing another skateboarder under the bus. I NEVER made a comparison of longboards to hummers! I told the kid stocking longboards can be risky in my shop because "i have heard my customers say longboards are a waste of wood and material, big, bulky, and useless like a hummer" (this of course was while staring at the long boards I STOCKED IN MY SHOP!) There is clearly a big difference in what I said and what he wrote!

I know its easy to read things about people on the internet and have a total disconnect and forget they are real people, and I hoped to remove that by immediately posting my contact info for fellow skateboarders or anyone concerned to contact me. I have been running a core shop in a city I love for 10 plus years, and if anyone in this area or anyone in the industry were to read that article they would known something was wrong immediately, and at the end of the day those are the only people who count, they are the ones my shop is here to serve, but after retraction is printed one fact will remain. You are an asshole who ran your mouth about another skateboarder before you even got your facts right. Next time pick up the phone and talk to someone like a man and at least try to act like a skateboarder not some online drama queen.
Steve Miller
Exit Philadelphia
T: 215.425.2450

I highlighted the yellow stuff for very important reasons. One: Steve's contention is that he never said these things in the first place (because he was quoted as saying things that he would "never say in a million years").

Secondly: Apparently, he didn't even know that he was talking to a member of the press, when he was being interviewed (with the "The reason I even talked to the student in the first place was because he was a 19-20 year old skateboarder, not a member of the press" quote).

And thirdly: Apparently, I'm an asshole! Which is actually perfectly cool with me.

Here's my problem with all of this: I did, indeed, have "my facts right". I referenced a verbatim quote, that was directly attributed to Steve Miller, that was written by Stephen Rose, and published by The Temple News [online]. By the standards of the media, when someone is directly quoted as having said something... then you can be assured that they actually said those things. Because they are a direct quote, and attributed directly to a source (in this case, Steve Miller).

I further pointed out to Steve Miller that we here at The Solitary Life go through great pains to insure that we quote our sources accurately at all times. Example: At The Solitary Life, before we quote people or run an interview... we actually send the final draft to the subject for final approval. To be absolutely sure that we have quoted our subject accurately, and that they approve of what we wrote. It's a pain in the ass, but it saves us a lot of "drama".

We did not do that with Steve, because we used a publicly accessible, previously published, verbatim quote reported by another member of the media... along with things that Steve had said online, himself.

By the way Steve tells it, he [apparently] didn't say those things in the first place. As such, we decided to immediately print Steve's [very well-written] response. And, I'm still totally cool with being an asshole. So no worries on that one, Steve.

In light of all of these pretty serious allegations that Steve Miller makes regarding media misquoting, we did send a quick letter to Stephen Rose (the writer of the Temple piece) to outline Steve's arguments, and to get his side of the story.

I guess all we can do from here on out is sit and wait.

As Brooke likes to say, "Welcome to the World Of Media...!"


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanks to our overseas readers...!


Newsworthy: December 4th, 2010


In this week's Big News Section, we have a few tidbits to pass along... so here we go:

First of all, Perfect North Slopes is anticipating opening on Thursday, December 9th, 2010 at Noon Sharp... depending on the weather, the snowmaking potential that comes with the incoming cold front, et cetera. Which is spectacular news to us snowboarders here in Indiana...

Our favorite roaming freestyle editor AJ Kohn has his new online skateshop is up and running at The home of One Skateboards and Formation Skateboards (Lorenzo's company) will soon be "Your more core skate store", with a focus on an ever-expanding selection of small, homegrown, and truly "core" skate brands. Not the passe fluff-filled, ex-skater-owned "core" bullshit that you can buy at Zumiez... but, the real-deal in skater-owned and operated companies.


While we will always support the expansive old-school selection at Socal, and Socal's awesome owner Mike Hirsch... we also like this emerging project for it's grass-roots feel, inclusive nature, boots-on-the-ground activism, and overall positive vibe. And, they have some damn good deals running right now, too. Check it out.


The brand-new Formation "Be Brave" deck, with art by Alessandro Novelli (from Turin, Italy). One of the most beautiful decks that I've seen in quite some time, it comes in 7.8", 8.0", and 8.25" widths, and is only 50 bucks at

In "bummer" news this week comes the word that Mike Vallely has re-joined the Powell-Peralta camp "full time"... which unfortunately means that the virtually brand-new (and hugely inspiring) By The Sword project has been dissolved. From Jason Filipow:

"Mike and I have dissolved By The Sword Skateboards, as he has recently signed with Powell Peralta. Unfortunately, there was no way for us to continue our brand as it was originally envisioned..."

And, in a statement from Kristian Svitak at Regulator Distribution (via

"SWWWWOOOOOSSSSHHHH!! Thats the sound of a toilet flushing. Well after 6 months of working on "By the Sword" with Mike Vallely, it seems that it has come to an end. We recently recieved an email from Mikes partner with BTS telling us that he got an offer to go back to Powell Peralta and that he is taking it. We at Regulator never had a say in any of it. We just got an email and that was that. Of course we are bummed to not be working with Mike anymore but I think I am more bummed for the shops, distributors and skaters that got behind the message of BTS and supported it. In the end I am stoked for Mike. He is my friend and I only want what is best for my friends. In the meantime maybe Ill steal the "DIY Or Die" slogan?! I really liked that!

So there you go. If you still want to find some stupid skater owned bull shit, is still your place to go!

Now take that to your message boards ya queers!

Kristian Svitak
1-800-Get Bent..."

While we wish both Mike and Jason the very best of luck in the future, we're bummed that such a promising project ended up having such a short life span. But while the "DIY or Die" motto might be dead [for the moment], you can be rest assured that the DIY or Die ethic will live on in a hundred truly skater-owned companies, skate shops (both virtual, and brick-and-mortar), and media outlets. And you can take that shit straight to the bank.

"Looks like the big guys can't hang with the little guys..."

- AJ Kohn's reaction to the By The Sword news.

In the world of longboard news, we spoke today at length with Wayne Gallipoli over at Surf-Rodz about a whole bunch of new projects that he's taken under his wing over there, including the new INDeeSZ truck (which is essentially a high-precision, billet-milled fusion of an Indy, a Tracker, and a Bennett), several deck brands (including Uncommon, THN, and Speed Mechanics), and a few additions to their snowboard lineup. The whole deal- from the products, to the presentation, to the photography, to the website- looks really great. Check it all out for yourself at


Wayne Gallipoli doesn't let much moss grow under his ass over there at Surf-Rodz, as evidenced by this collection of projects (above). Apparently, he moves so fast that even the "mainstream longboard media" has a really tough time keeping up with how fast this guy churns out genius. Mental note to self: Call Wayne weekly from here on out, because if you blink, you're totally gonna miss something great...

Lastly (for now), on a happier note, we here at The Solitary Life would like to introduce the world to my good friend Everett, who has a little company called Ebbie that can be found here:


We especially like the style on Ebbie's plain-'ol "logo decks", which are still super-colorful and well-executed. And they're made in the USA, to boot. So you're not only supporting needy skaters, you're also supporting American Manufacturing. You tell me: How fucking awesome is that...!?

We've known Ebbie for a long, long time, and we're stoked on his new website and art direction. But most of all, Ebbie has an awesome charitable-giving project going on that we wanted to tell our readers about. It's called the "Let Every 1 Skate Project", and according to Ebbie's website, it "was put in place to help those kids who can't afford to skate, get that chance. For every two boards sold, one is donated to a kid that couldn't afford one..."


To honor Ebbie's contributions to the skateboard scene, I'd like to dedicate this Be The Scene PSA to Everett, who is a truly inspiring example of one guy taking the initiative, going out there, and busting his ass to make a difference in the lives of skaters everywhere. Everett, our hats are off to you...!

This, people, is an awesome way to run a business. It's also a huge gift to the world of skateboarding. This Holiday Season, we'd encourage everyone, everywhere, to support this program by buying a deck from Everett, and helping to make some needy skaters' dream somewhere come true. Look for an Everett interview coming as soon as Everett has the time to do one, because he's always super busy working his ass off, and helping some kid somewhere.

Happy Holidays from all of us at The Solitary Life.