Shedding the Overlay by Matt Sellars

Comin’ down on a sunny day

Comin’ down on a sunny day

   Big spaces lead to big ideas. Another two hundred pound log is foisted on the fire, a shower of orange swirls up, banging into the stars. The vision is bigger here because it is a land unimpeded. Every fire burns and every river carves boulders. Our minds were made for this.

   The white sand hues to pink in the firelight as a dog wallows into its relative softness. Spikes in his fur stick up, for it is wet. As the sun dipped below the horizon, he shook out the deep green still water and the aerated gin clear water that slid effortlessly over channels of granite. His proximity to firelight and humans is an incredibly old and durable bargain. We’re in it together until our mutual end.

   It takes an effort to look through the urgency of work in front of you and choose to break away to drive and hike the long journey up a river where your friends will be. It is not the endless toils that you remember; they merely pay for the things that you do remember. These friends are situated in the bosom of wilderness; shedding the accustomed overlay of contemporary life for that of simply being human. Moving along in a band of fellow creatures. Our Pleistocene selves are down in there somewhere, along with all of the vulnerabilities, fears, heightened senses and free time that accompany such a pure status. 

   The gulf between ourselves and wilderness can be swapped out for the gulf between the ceaselessly sliding river and your back against a log, staring into a campfire. In the daylight, the spectrum of color moves from cream colored sand underfoot, clear water flowing over white metamorphose, green deep water eddying about continual mysteries, dark green wall of forest opposite bank and Bitteroot blue sky washing up out of Ponderosa treetops. In the night- in the moonlight, the mystery is all that matters. The definition of the landscape is at once nostalgic and unanswerable. 

   I nearly step on a juvenile rattlesnake as it slides from under my clumsy feet and rolls down the bank, its small rattle buzzing indignantly. This is what we take from wilderness. Sometimes it reminds you that there are threats out there. Sometimes it just bangs you up. But every time, it gives you a true measure of what it means to be a human walking the earth. We are not a species that thrives in an environment free from danger. We are a species that is meant to pushed against all of the contours of the planet.

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Build and Ride Series, 1 by Matt Sellars

Gettin’ glue between the layers

Gettin’ glue between the layers

Every once in a while I want to show the viewer the bridge between building decks and getting to ride them- the Build and Ride Series is an attempt to do that. Not every board is a successful ride- but I learn things from each that lends itself to the next one. Maybe a deck might feel sluggish through corners and I need to change the ratio of truck to outline. Maybe a tail is too long or short or the flex pattern is wrong. Other times, I’ll arrive at a finished product and then have a nagging Princess and the Pea moment about the wheelbase being too long.

Sometimes when going to a new place, I get a hair about designing a board to fit a landscape I wish to ride through. It gives me a chance to imagine what that place is like and then reflect upon my conception of place versus the perception in situ. For me, making the boards I then ride, is the full expression of my small place in the gigantic world of skateboarding.

The One and Done by Matt Sellars

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Lame can carry the day; at least midweek.

There’s a set of parking lots that are kind of on the way home. We used to live really close by, and I skated them all the time. An upper parking lot connected by a downhill drive to a wide open sloping lot below. At some point, it became a bust- which is sort of funny, I suppose. There was nothing special about the spot and I certainly was not maximizing all the features. In short- what I’ve always done there, is lame. But it carries just enough speed to dig deep turns all the way down. The wide open aspect of the lower lot feels a lot like snowboarding; a flowing speed with lots of room to think. And maybe room to think is what it’s all about. 

     Lately, I’ve incorporated one and done. Almost more of an exercise than a session. Way more akin to a sketch than the final piece. There’s something conceptual about it. It is so brief, that it feels more like an idea. The entire premise, is that the work day is long and usually has an unhealthy amount of focus and decision making. And afterwards, there is an impetus to keep moving, drive home and get ready for the next work day before the sun comes crashing back around the sphere. This is where the one and done comes in; a highly regarded punctuation. Skate down through the run, lay out the turns without thinking too far ahead, and hop back in the truck at the bottom. Don’t walk back up for another. Be the soft flutter of a passing bird’s wings, a ghost. 

     To say that a tiny nugget of flow time is cleansing totally sounds cliche, and maybe even privileged. But flow time can be anything. And it’ll probably change over time. It can be watering your favorite plant. Taking one photo a day of the same location to see a pattern over time. Strumming fifty five power chords with your Marshall stack at eleven. Even dreaming of an idyllic place free of the confusion of mankind while sitting on the toilet. What is important is that your chosen activity is a predetermined waypoint at which you stop and retune your strings. A choice to which you are committed that releases you out of the back eddy and into the stream.

     I am an aging skater and snowboarder. My mission these days in these regards is to always be thinking about ways to age gracefully while still enjoying these activities. I’ve done them for so long, they make up part of who I am. Part of my identity is woven into that mix. I suppose to the layman, this sounds ridiculous. The skateboard is so obviously the realm of unbreakable teens. It’s a wooden toy with rubber wheels. But fuck how others see this. The same assholes who see it this way, see it from the morass of their sedentary ways.

I am trained as an artist. My mind has become accustomed to seeing the world in shapes, gaining pleasure from making a simple mark on paper. Photography and music found their way into the mix a long time ago as well. I see no definitive difference between rolling my skateboard down a sidewalk, pumping up on banked driveways and reaching for a blank expanse with a mark making tool. Each is set of aesthetic choices, akin to the way a dancer occupies a space with their body. If our life is a river, then each tributary coming in to the main stream flow are our pursuits. To the person that inhabits this river, they are all part and parcel- and when I stopped seeing the difference between all my pursuits, it was a freeing moment.

I slap the board down and give it five hard pushes. It gives me enough momentum to carve out several turns, each one a cosine through a painted parking spot. I know the security guard’s eyes are upon me. To him, am I just passing through, or am I here to slide handrails? Am I a commuter or a potential desecrator of private property? And if we look at the arcing curves that a skateboarder can lay out upon the asphalt, we might as well also look at the board as an erasure - wiping away the thinking and overthinking that the work day has inspired. As I flow into the downhill section between the lots, the increase in speed is very much like the slow meniscus of water at the top of a waterfall before the consolidation of movement. My speed carries me through the lower lot, and out onto the sidewalk. The wide expanse of pavement gives way to the percussive ‘gedunk gedunk gedunk gedunk of my wheels rolling over the expansion joints and the essential line weights to the freehand scribbles that define the easy rule: one and done. 

Chisos Point and the Holy Grail of all around anything by Matt Sellars

Ranch Road, near Valentine, Texas. Looking north towards the Davis Mountains.

Ranch Road, near Valentine, Texas. Looking north towards the Davis Mountains.

Chisos Point detail

Chisos Point detail

As humans, we have many contradictions. The one I hope to speak to here is the one that directs us to adhere to the instinct to collect as much shit as possible while being attracted to things that supposedly simplify life by offering to do all the desired tasks while taking up as little room as possible. How many times have you looked at an object with desire because it gives off an aura of handily executing multiple tasks while somehow retaining its promise of freedom. A Leatherman is one such item. It's as if, within this struggle lies the last 10,000 years of learned behavior. On one hand, we have our migratory selves- fresh from the rigors of the Ice Age, unleashed upon a new land, low hanging fruit everywhere, survival skills well intact and just the bare minimum of necessities to aid our existence while we live a life on the move. On the other, we have the sedentary selves. The side that came along with the agrarian life style. As soon as we learned to create a somewhat year around food supply for ourselves while staying in one place, we began a linear trajectory towards a three car garage packed full of gear. I speak of this here, because I am constantly vacillating between convenience and abundance. Topical to this moment here, I speak of a skateboard I built recently for a trip to Far West Texas (technically, it is a skateboarding blog). But expansively, I speak of the land itself. This is a land that was so steeped in mystery for me, that I just had to go. So recently, my wife and I made plans and set out for Marfa and beyond. It is an area so vast that one feels like the world might spin on its axis around it. It conflates many ideas about perceptions of Texas. Sweeping arid ranch lands are punctuated by volcanic formations and comparatively lush mountains. One has both the sense of the deepest American heartland while being situated next to and heavily influenced by the border with Mexico. One need only to drive Highway 170 along the Rio Grande realize just how laughable Trump's understanding of the geography along the border is. And how gross his misunderstanding of just how intertwined and interdependent our two countries are. He aims to militarize a situation for he has no first hand knowledge of because Fox News told him to do so. This is a land that does not conform easily to the will of humans. The wildlife and humans that roam this topography exude free will and migration to their very core. The panthers and bears that live in these mountains could give two desiccated shits what some toupé wearing, silver spooned, failed businessman sociopath from New York thinks about them.  

Far West Texas critters

Far West Texas critters

  One readily sees what the artist Donald Judd was thinking when he remembered this area of West Texas from his childhood and decided that it would be the perfect antidote to his urban art world habitat. A place to create an entire world within the greater world that would give pilgrims a holistic understanding of how he intended his work to be seen. The sweeping openness of this environment practically demands minimalism. Standing in Judd's 100 Boxes installation at the Chinati Foundation, I was able bend down and sight across the reflective surface of the aluminum sculptures and see both the sky and the distant Chinati Mountains captured there. Shifting the focal plane back and forth between the work and landscape, the viewer is treated to seeing direct connection between the landscape and the work.

Images remembered of Judd's world.

Images remembered of Judd's world.

I always feel that to see an artist's work outside of their studio, is to see only part of the story. I always enjoy and understand the work best when it is surrounded by the materials that led to its making, the environment in which it was thought up and the vibrancy of the life that guided the hand that made it. We toured the majority of everything that the Judd Foundation had on offer in town. Our guide, Jack, was superb at bringing the artist's world to life for us. Judd died at the relatively young age of 64. There is an interesting vibe that remains. One got the sense that he wished to freeze his world in place just as it looked when he last closed shop. All flat surfaces have a carefully laid out selection of objects; each aligned with precision and thought towards the potentiality of efficiently picking right up where he'd left off. Our first stop was the Block Tour- which consists of an old military officer's living compound and two warehouses, two intentionally spaced courtyards complete with a lap pool, outbuildings and outdoor cooking/dining areas. The warehouse buildings housed installations of his two and three dimensional works and a library containing his vast collection of books (he was reported to have read 3 to 5 hours a day). He and his two children also lived here when they were in town. There were two kitchens- one in the main house and one in the building adjacent. The kitchens were well appointed with cookware that Judd had collected around the world. All the furniture that was intended for their everyday use was designed by the artist. Even the children's bedrooms took on a Juddian sense of order, though his son Flavin seemed to have claimed some his space in a placement of stickers and memorabilia that one would find in any teenagers room. 

Brite Building, Marfa. This building housed Judd's offices and many personal effects.

Brite Building, Marfa. This building housed Judd's offices and many personal effects.

The next spot we toured was the Studio. This was actually a group of buildings in the core of Marfa that housed his studio, office, architecture office, ranch office and mock up shop. Judd was in a sense, post studio. He still created major and minor works that one might consider a continuation of modernist principles, but his hand in the work became less and less as time went on. He undertook work though design and outsourcing. These spaces were where that happened when he was in town. His renovations of these existing buildings was minimal- wishing mostly to reveal the soul or structure of all spaces by removing the artifice. The spaces contained his work, as well as the work of others. They contained drawings for proposals all over the world as well as furniture by Gerrit Reitveld and Alvar Aalto. One sees a replicated desk of Judd's design everywhere. The first thing that you notice about these desks, is that they have no drawers. Judd felt that the user should be able to have visual knowledge of every item the desk held. Drawers became a place where one could simply hide items they felt ambivalent about.

Long way from Spring Street.

Long way from Spring Street.

Our final tour was the Chinati Foundation itself. Both the Chinati and Judd Foundations flow from Judd himself but Judd felt the need to keep the two distinct. The Judd Foundation is concerned with his work and legacy while the Chinati Foundation in my mind, is geared more towards the perpetuation of minimalism and those working in the understanding of space and light. The Chinati consists of a number of large ex military warehouses and barracks. 100 Boxes is here, as is an extensive Dan Flavin installation over several barracks and a very pleasing installation by Roni Horn. Additionally, there is a Ilya Kabakov installation in one of the barracks that he transformed into an abandoned Russian grade school. It was very haunting to me and yet it was interesting to hear our tour guide say that some years back, she'd had some Russians on the tour who were filled with glee at the nostalgia it produced for them. I found this encouraging to helping to shrug off some Cold War preconceptions. Along the east side of the base, are Judd's concrete box sculptures, arranged linearly and are all variations on a theme. There is no photography allowed on any of these properties. As someone obsessed with getting a photo of everything I find remotely interesting, it is frustrating. But it is also freeing. It is a different experience, especially now, to commit things to visual memory. Things cannot be refuted in a photo and that steals some of the poetry away from the experience.  So I paid a buck for the Roni Horn postcard below, because it was one of my favorite aspects of the tour.  And below is a crumby iphone photo of the postcard for you! The last thing we saw at Chinati was Robert Irwin's installation. It was housed in the hospital for the base. The building had been rebuilt, but utilized the same footprint and design. Essentially, the installation was two halves: a long scrim wall of white and a long scrim wall of black. Where the two sides met, the viewer was met with a series of planes through which to pass; three were white, three were black. Like most things Irwin, it was fabulous, sublime and defies description. The basalt placement in the courtyard however, had all the look, feel and sublimity of a vineyard in Eastern Washington. No disrespect to E WA vineyards, but I felt it didn't serve Irwin's work very well here. Another of my other favorite aspects of this large property, was the herd of antelope that moved like clouds about the place. This sentiment grew even fonder, when later that evening, I enjoyed a breaded and fried antelope cutlet at Cochineal.

Roni Horn, Things That Happen Again; For a Here and a There, 1986-1991. Shot off a postcard from the Chinati Foundation gift shop, as I exited.

Roni Horn, Things That Happen Again; For a Here and a There, 1986-1991. Shot off a postcard from the Chinati Foundation gift shop, as I exited.

Being that Donald Judd was such an influential artist whose works and writings seem to become even more relevant with time, an orbit has sort of being created around the tiny town of Marfa. Once a water stop for the railroad, it eventually gained ground as a ranching and farming community- and remains the county seat of Presidio County. The town of Marfa had a war time population of about 8000 because of the nearby military base, Fort DA Russell. Originally the base was built in 1911 to deal with Pancho Villa's raids on Texas, but during WWII, it served as a training facility and housed German POWs, as well as continuing in its border protection capacity. After the base was closed following WWII, the population of Marfa shrank to around what it remains today- about 2000 people. But the presence that Judd created here, morphed the town into an art hub of sorts. It's strange to drive across three hours of expansive desert from El Paso to happen upon this little burg that you can walk across in 15 minutes and yet supports a handful of very contemporary galleries and artists. It feels a little like a Mars expedition were NASA run by the art world. There is an overall sense of hipsterness and cultural understanding that one might find on the streets of Portland or LA. Artists hold open studios and make cool stuff. Artisans sit in their shops making high quality goods. As someone who lives in a city that is considered somewhat in the cultural stream but is being mowed under and purged of all things that gave it flavor by a booming tech economy, I was pretty covetous of the idea that artists here enjoy a high degree of art world attention while maintaining a small town existence. Rush hour consists of a few flatbed trucks and 18 wheelers. I don't wish to minimize their struggle to make ends meet there, for it cannot be easy, but the very friendly artists and residents we talked to seemed relaxed and motivated. And the light. That sweet light. All the capacious sky you can shake a stick at.

Prada Marfa. A permanent installation by Elmgreen and Dragset.

Prada Marfa. A permanent installation by Elmgreen and Dragset.

Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa. Those are pecan trees.

Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa. Those are pecan trees.

Despite the intrusion of the Art World, Marfa maintains several churches. This one is by the same architect who designed the Brite Building over on Highland Avenue, but I can't seem to find the person's name anywhere. Pretty epic example of Pueblo Revival.

Despite the intrusion of the Art World, Marfa maintains several churches. This one is by the same architect who designed the Brite Building over on Highland Avenue, but I can't seem to find the person's name anywhere. Pretty epic example of Pueblo Revival.

Palace Theater, Marfa

Palace Theater, Marfa

Highway 17 Revisited. Keeping an eye peeled for Anton Shagur.

Highway 17 Revisited. Keeping an eye peeled for Anton Shagur.

Pull it up from the ground and use it sparingly...

Pull it up from the ground and use it sparingly...

We spent an evening out in the Davis Mountains at the McDonald Observatory. The night sky was in a somewhat misbehavin' mood that night. I learned the term "sucker hole", which is an amateur astronomer's term for seeing a hole in the clouds, getting your bulky telescope set up and then watching the clouds move over your quarry. It kind of worked in our favor though, because a shit ton of people show up for these things. The evening began in an outside observatory, with open skies threatened at the edges by clouds and the smell of rain. The guide pointed out several constellations before encroaching weather precipitated a decision to get on to the viewing section of the program. Long lines formed at every viewing station. Then it was announced that they would be switching over to the indoor program and the hordes moved indoors. We had no interest in this and were excited to see that the astronomers were stalwart in the eagerness to show the heavens off the few laypeople still plying the grounds. So we obsessively moved back and forth from small telescope to large observatory to see what we could see. Eventually, we were able to view the gaseous clouds in the Orion Nebula, the punished surface of the moon in detail, bits of the Hyades Constellation and Cassiopeia herself. It was very gratifying. The wind whipped around the smell of rain off the desert while the heavens revealed little secrets to us.

 

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

Big Bend National Park is about 120 miles away from Marfa. We opted to spend two days there, which meant a fair amount of driving. But it's West Texas, and the speed limit is usually about 80 MPH, and that might get pushed a little bit. The sign as you drive into the park says Big Bend National Park and under that says A US Biosphere Reserve. I find myself clutching tightly to phrases like this now days. Our government under this administration has become a clearing house for corporate interests intent racing anyone with an urge towards greed to the bottom. To see this phrase heartens me that there are still institutions that hold the idea of preserving a biosphere sacred. That there are institutions that know what a biosphere is. That we can indeed be a nation of just laws that respects the idea that science, not ideology, is the best chance we have in fighting our greatest existential crisis: climate change. The park has a number of regions: The central mountain district, the canyon areas, the bajadas and the Rio Grande River itself. Each is very distinct and the elevation varies between 1800' and 7800'. And as you might imagine, each zone has vegetation and wildlife specific to it. As time was limited, we opted for dayhikes. The mountain district was of chief interest to us, so we went out for one of the busier ones, the Lost Mine Trail. The shape of the land brought to mind the geology of the Organ Pipe National Monument; uplifted sedimentary rock of various origins (limestone, shale and sandstone), but notably, areas of captured igneous rock. The vegetation however brought to mind that of lower Canyonlands National Park. Lots cactus and pinyon but with a large variety of agaves thrown in. It was at once both familiar and new. The view from the top of the Lost Mine trail looked out towards the Rio Grande and Mexico beyond. 

Lost Mine Trail

Lost Mine Trail

Hat's headed to Mexico

Hat's headed to Mexico

Nopales 

Nopales 

We had time, after satisfying our laminated nature guide fetish at the Chisos Basin Headquarters, to head over to Santa Elena Canyon. Along the way we saw a little sign for a place called Tuff Canyon. Tuff is a type of rock that is made of volcanic ash that after deposition, hardens into rock through a process called consolidation. The canyon itself was carved by water erosion. The trail started out in the lower wider end of the canyon, which is about 80 feet deep with walls made of Tuff and containing all sorts of other types of rock that were captured during ash deposition. The canyon then quickly comes to choke point consisting of what appeared to be basalt with all sorts of calcified intrusions. Whatever the origin of the rock, it was a layer that forced the run off to make a labyrinth of cavernous shapes and basins. This brief section then opened out onto an amphitheater and waterfall made of limestone. Lots geologically going on in this short little section of canyon. Ever hopeful vegetation sprouted up in the sandy floor of the wash, spanning the dry season.

Tuff Canyon

Tuff Canyon

Tuff Canyon

Tuff Canyon

Desert soup

Desert soup

A little before sundown, we made it to Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. The insect hatch had begun and lazy rainbows rose for their dinner. Families hung out on the bank, taking in the pleasantness of the evening as it sank into a cooler temp. The canyon walls carved by the Rio Grande soared up hundreds of feet. Looking at the river at this point, in this season, it's hard to see how it would've carved this mighty channel through all that limestone. But one has to remember that this area gets most of its precipitation in the summer months, as masses of dry air run into sultry humid air from the Gulf. The violence of the lightening storms followed by flash floods must be truly impressive. It's interesting to sit on this bank looking up at the towering cliffs and think about standing on the Gorge Bridge, 600 miles north in Taos, New Mexico, looking down on the little strip of Rio Grande far below.

Santa Elena Canyon. Mexico on the left, the US on the right.

Santa Elena Canyon. Mexico on the left, the US on the right.

The next morning we were back. This time to hike down the Window Trail in the Chisos Basin. This beautiful trail drops down a broad canyon full of prickly pear in the beginning, but as it begins to narrow down, it starts to become full of all sorts of vegetation and wildlife. Pinyons, emory oak trees, mimosas, guayacans, soaptree yuccas, claret cup cactus and century plants to name a few. Though it seemed a bit early in the flyway season, we saw hummingbirds, Mexican jays, cactus wrens, ravens and the ever present black vultures circling far above. About mid way down canyon, before it pressed in enough for the water turbulence to wash all soil away, therein was the vegetation the thickest. Trees and flowers that were just beginning to bloom filled the air with the sweetest perfume. The soil was moist here and gave the air the humid feel of a conservatory. A world of contrast in the desert. The final section of the trail went up and down through a gully of limestone worn to a polish by rushing water and passing feet. Rock fractured off into many tilted layers of opposing sediment but where it was kissed by the torrent, it was like the inside of a drain pipe. The trail terminated at the top of an 80 or so foot drop. This was called the Window. It was where the mountains gave way to the bajada below. One can imagine this fissure spouting runoff out over the desert in a graceful arc at the peak of a rain storm.

Limestone buffed by water

Limestone buffed by water

The Window. Here, the water ejects from the canyon, down to the bajada below.

The Window. Here, the water ejects from the canyon, down to the bajada below.

I decided to follow up this amazing hike with a terrifying skate down the road leading out of Chisos Basin. I had become obsessed with riding this road the moment I saw it, not because it was particularly perfect road for me to ride. In the right hands, my guess is that would be extremely fast and challenging. The top section of it was three steep hairpins, giving way to about 6 miles of not so steep gently curving pavement. I was obsessed with it because it was a road that presented a tricky challenge. I knew there was no fucking way I was going to ride the top section; out of my league. But the lower section looked fun, but quite busy with traffic. The way my mind works though, it just can't let go of the challenge it keeps parading in front of itself. My subconscious was willing to give me a pass on the top section, but the lower section was just fun stuff, so it demanded of me to quit pussing out, keep an eye on the traffic and ride the damn hill! So back and forth it went: do I take the time to film it and risk exposure to the inevitable park ranger? Do I tuck it, or just fun ride on the first run? Do I take more than one run? Do I hold out for a more isolated road somewhere in the park? Do I footbrake when necessary or try to drift to scrub speed? For them that don't know, this distinction is not unlike what climbers talk about when describing a clean route, or doing a route with style. Obviously, there's always many ways to skin a cat, but there's always one right and clean way to do it.  The thing is, drifting sometimes has the affect of committing you more and putting you at a more of a disadvantage with traffic but footbraking is kind of ugly and wears through one of your shoes.  All this line of ridiculous self doubt eventually works me into internal turmoil and kind tamps down on the fun potential. It's pointless, but perhaps it's the lot of an aging skater with lots of other responsibilities. 19 year old me would've had nothing but spite for this old man overthinking his favorite pastime, and would've gotten on with the business of weaving through traffic, getting speed wobbles and collecting road rash like scalps!

So, I drive the rental car down through the Section of Consequence and find a parking place at top of the Section for Old Quibblers and pull my board out of the trunk. The first thing I notice is the brisk tailwind. Hmmm. I backtrack a little ways up the road, wait for a couple cars to go by and drop in. Instantly, I realize the tailwind has turned the funsize section of this road into a ripping fast glaze of pavement. I'm footbraking by the first turn. 19 year old me is spitting chewing tobacco juice on me in disgust. I've already footbraked three times when I pass by Nicole in the rental car. My shoe was starting to get hot. Out in the middle of the road is a man with a GoPro filming me as I go by. Sweet, now Old Man Footbrake is on this guy's hard drive for posterity! So I settle into a rhythm of rolling up to about 35 and then footbraking. I probably go down the road about 2 miles, when I pull over to let some traffic by and the guy who'd been filming me rolls up his car and says "you have the key". Doh! Nicole was going to follow along in the car after a few minutes but I had the proximity key still in my pocket! Okay, so the whole enterprise wasn't a total letdown and I had 120 miles back to Marfa to piece the ride together into a triumph in my mind, but it wasn't all time soul sesh either! Skip is the nice man's name who is now driving me back up the hill. He and his wife were out from San Antonio on vacation and he got excited when he was passing by and saw me walking up the road to my start spot. Turns out he was a former BMXer and street luger. He circumvented what was bound to be loads of confusion and vexation as I waited at the bottom of the hill with the car key in my pocket. 

Chisos Point, borrowed from Chisos Basin, borrowed from the Chizo Indians whose range included the Chisos Mountains.

Chisos Point, borrowed from Chisos Basin, borrowed from the Chizo Indians whose range included the Chisos Mountains.

I wanted to pick up briefly where I left off about the tension between seeking out objects that satisfy our need for all in one and the tendency to fill a three car garage with as much shit as you can. This board follows along in the former line of thinking. It certainly does not do everything, it doesn't even have a tail. But it fits inside my duffle bag without sacrificing the sacrosanct wheelbase. I'm of the belief that the longer the wheelbase, the more stable a board is at speed. The wheelbase on the Chisos Point is 22 inches, a touch shy of a full downhill length, but snappy in the turns. The board was fun, but it made me think about what it is I want out of a travel board. The hunt is still on. On one hand, in travel, we encounter the occasional skatepark, for which this board is useless. On the other hand, it's nice to have a board like this when I encounter hills. Druthers thinking demands that I bring along two boards at the sacrifice of other things like visual and audio recording gear. So we're back at the same dilemma. Paul Shepard explains a theory of his in his great book "Coming Home to the Pleistocene". 8000 years ago, the way that humans fundamentally viewed the universe and their place in it depended upon whether they were farmers or pastoralists. The farmer's world is considered towards the ground. The orientation is towards the soil cycle. While the pastoralist's could be imagined as a life on horseback. This orientation puts their predominant view to the sky. The farmer is rooted in place while the pastoralist is always on the move. I feel it is my inclination to think more like the pastoralist. I prefer to always scan the horizon. I feel best when I'm on the move. But I am rooted in place. Like the majority of people, my life is geared more towards the security of sedentism. Though I am not the farmer who provides for the rest of us, I have all my chips invested in the food supply system our lifestyle has created. So within all of us, this struggle exists. Some more than others. I suppose some get to the point and punctuate their sedentism by going into the great beyond on horseback, hunting, gathering and carrying only what they need. I'm punctuating this by fussing over which board will ultimately serve both as my lance and my bow. Okay, not totally, but it's fun to think about. And think I will, for I feel that the pursuit is leading me towards further hybridization in the all around board design category.

a reflective session next to the Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park, Texas

a reflective session next to the Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The road home runs past older real estate. Terlingua, TX

The road home runs past older real estate. Terlingua, TX

Red prickly pear in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Red prickly pear in Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Ocotillo in bloom under the Far West Texas sky.

Ocotillo in bloom under the Far West Texas sky.

 We left Marfa at 7 am to begin the drive back to El Paso. Larry McMurtry's Commanche Moon is entertaining the miles away while the blaze of sun begins to clear the eastern horizon.  Driving at dawn and dusk, the rabbit population (or overpopulation as it may be) out there really reveals itself. They sit by the side of the road and then dash out at the last second. I was able to miss all but one, and this guy was a big dude- I was probably doing about 85 when we hit him. From the front left of the car issued a deep thunk, and then front end of the car bounced up and down as he passed under the wheels. His body (I assumed it was a he, due to his Tom rabbit bulk) broke a big chunk out of the front air dam on the little rental Toyota - and left a bunch of hair and "what not" in the cracked fiberglass.  It's probably a good check on population and a robust food supply for all that scavenge, but still it sucks for any critter to die a violent death like that. It seems to be an all night fracas with them too. In the morning there's just guts all over the place- and big clusters of crows and buzzards all gathered around the viscera rise up and out of the way like a dark cloak when you speed through. By noon, all that's really left is the ears and some fur. Even the bones seem to get drug off; probably by coyotes. Most notably what remains, are the ears, stuck to the pavement. They tend to flap up and down in the wind, showing pink when the angled sunlight passes through them. Low clearance cars are not a good choice in West Texas. But getting the LDW insurance is! But, Adios for now. We never did see the Marfa Lights, but no matter. I feel like we let a bit of that Far West Texas mystery slip in to our psyche and we're far better off for it. Ride Hard, Live Free. MSCST

Celilo by Matt Sellars

This is the Celilo. I came up with the idea for this board at the 2017 RVOD G Ride at Maryhill. I'd been thinking about a dedicated speedboard cut away design that had a shorter wheelbase. I like to ride as short of a wheelbase as I can get away with. It just feels more nimble underfoot. The wheelbase on this board measures 24 3/4".

This is the Celilo. I came up with the idea for this board at the 2017 RVOD G Ride at Maryhill. I'd been thinking about a dedicated speedboard cut away design that had a shorter wheelbase. I like to ride as short of a wheelbase as I can get away with. It just feels more nimble underfoot. The wheelbase on this board measures 24 3/4".

Maryhill Loops Road, as many riders know, is actually an exhibit of the Maryhill Museum. The museum's founder completed the road in 1913 to demonstrate the importance of well built roads and highways, using new techniques and designs that would allow the automobiles of that period to climb the steep grade from the Columbia River to Goldendale. He is quoted on the Maryhill Museum website as saying "Good roads are more than my hobby, they are my religion". So, the man really liked roads. Moving ahead a century, the road now exists for many uses; the most near and dear use to skateboarders of course, is the road's utility in being a prime location for the sport of downhill. We in the downhill skateboarding community have Maryhill Ratz founder Dean Ozuna to thank for becoming involved with the museum and promoting downhill events as a dynamic community builder and economic generator for the region.

Maryhill Loops Road, as many riders know, is actually an exhibit of the Maryhill Museum. The museum's founder completed the road in 1913 to demonstrate the importance of well built roads and highways, using new techniques and designs that would allow the automobiles of that period to climb the steep grade from the Columbia River to Goldendale. He is quoted on the Maryhill Museum website as saying "Good roads are more than my hobby, they are my religion". So, the man really liked roads. Moving ahead a century, the road now exists for many uses; the most near and dear use to skateboarders of course, is the road's utility in being a prime location for the sport of downhill. We in the downhill skateboarding community have Maryhill Ratz founder Dean Ozuna to thank for becoming involved with the museum and promoting downhill events as a dynamic community builder and economic generator for the region.

This shot was from this year's RVOD G RIde. It was taken by Robert McCarty. He took really beautiful photos all weekend long. Of course I'm riding solo because I've been passed by everyone on the hill already! But I love the shot because it makes me feel the fast railing corners. Thanks for letting me use this photo Robert! You can check out his awesome photos: @robrmccarty on Instagram.

This shot was from this year's RVOD G RIde. It was taken by Robert McCarty. He took really beautiful photos all weekend long. Of course I'm riding solo because I've been passed by everyone on the hill already! But I love the shot because it makes me feel the fast railing corners. Thanks for letting me use this photo Robert! You can check out his awesome photos: @robrmccarty on Instagram.

The Columbia River has a vast geologic and cultural history. 15,000 years ago, as the ice sheets receded, an inhabitant of this region might have seen a 400 foot wall of water come down the Gorge. The walls of ice hemming in Lake Missoula periodically gave way, releasing all the water within to carve out across the badlands of what is now Washington and create the deep canyon of the Columbia as we know it today. But the Columbia was once a river that we today would not recognize. It was a fast flowing torrent that moved meltwater out of major Northwest drainages like the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. It was the lifeline for many of the First Nations tribes to grow their vibrant cultures from. Their ingenuity for sustaining life in the Columbia Plateau can be seen in their basketweaving techniques, their fish traps, their hooks, their clothing, their language, their ability to live within the means that the landscape demanded...

The Columbia River has a vast geologic and cultural history. 15,000 years ago, as the ice sheets receded, an inhabitant of this region might have seen a 400 foot wall of water come down the Gorge. The walls of ice hemming in Lake Missoula periodically gave way, releasing all the water within to carve out across the badlands of what is now Washington and create the deep canyon of the Columbia as we know it today. But the Columbia was once a river that we today would not recognize. It was a fast flowing torrent that moved meltwater out of major Northwest drainages like the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. It was the lifeline for many of the First Nations tribes to grow their vibrant cultures from. Their ingenuity for sustaining life in the Columbia Plateau can be seen in their basketweaving techniques, their fish traps, their hooks, their clothing, their language, their ability to live within the means that the landscape demanded...

This is a photo from the Washington State Historical archive that gives a great perspective on a Columbia River waterfall that was just a few miles down river from Maryhill Loops Road. This spot was called Wyam by First Nations peoples. Wyam meant "echo of falling water" or "sound of water upon the rocks". Later it became known as Celilo Falls. The area has known human habitation for 15,000 years. Until 1957, it was the oldest continually inhabited community on the North American continent.  As the photo demonstrates, the reason for this was that it was an ideal, if not challenging, place to catch salmon. The tribes would build scaffolds out over the rapids from which to spear and net salmon as they moved up over the falls. There are some great videos on Youtube showing the falls and the people working them. The roar of the water was said to have been heard over a mile away.  It is hard to overstate how important these falls were to the native peoples who gathered and lived here. Not only as a food source but also as a melting pot for the different cultures that came. The river, as wide as one mile in places, choked down to just 140 feet wide at the falls. In the twelve subsequent miles below Celilo, the river dropped 82 feet. This section of narrows was referred to as the Dalles. Celilo Falls was sixth largest in the world by volume. It is estimated that 15 to 20 million salmon passed over the falls every year. The area also served as a crossroads between two major cultures. From the Northwest came people who spoke Chinookian languages and from further east came those who spoke Sahaptian languages. Both pulling in trade goods from as far afield as the Great Plains, Alaska and the American Southwest. Near the falls, there were two major villages. On the north bank lived the Wishram people and the south bank was populated by the Wasco. The most intense trading apparently occurred at Nix-Luidix, the Wishram village on the north bank. It has been called the Wall Street of the West.

This is a photo from the Washington State Historical archive that gives a great perspective on a Columbia River waterfall that was just a few miles down river from Maryhill Loops Road. This spot was called Wyam by First Nations peoples. Wyam meant "echo of falling water" or "sound of water upon the rocks". Later it became known as Celilo Falls. The area has known human habitation for 15,000 years. Until 1957, it was the oldest continually inhabited community on the North American continent.  As the photo demonstrates, the reason for this was that it was an ideal, if not challenging, place to catch salmon. The tribes would build scaffolds out over the rapids from which to spear and net salmon as they moved up over the falls. There are some great videos on Youtube showing the falls and the people working them. The roar of the water was said to have been heard over a mile away.

It is hard to overstate how important these falls were to the native peoples who gathered and lived here. Not only as a food source but also as a melting pot for the different cultures that came. The river, as wide as one mile in places, choked down to just 140 feet wide at the falls. In the twelve subsequent miles below Celilo, the river dropped 82 feet. This section of narrows was referred to as the Dalles. Celilo Falls was sixth largest in the world by volume. It is estimated that 15 to 20 million salmon passed over the falls every year. The area also served as a crossroads between two major cultures. From the Northwest came people who spoke Chinookian languages and from further east came those who spoke Sahaptian languages. Both pulling in trade goods from as far afield as the Great Plains, Alaska and the American Southwest. Near the falls, there were two major villages. On the north bank lived the Wishram people and the south bank was populated by the Wasco. The most intense trading apparently occurred at Nix-Luidix, the Wishram village on the north bank. It has been called the Wall Street of the West.

The Dalles Dam

The Dalles Dam

In 1957, hundreds of people gathered on the banks to watch as the newly constructed Dalles Dam began filling, inundating Celilo Falls and the villages surrounding them. In just a few hours, fifteen thousand years of culture and commerce were submerged beneath the waves.  Another tragic violation of native rights had occurred. It would be as if the NASDAQ and Anglo American history had been erased in a matter of hours. It left a vast and rich culture, desolate and destitute, and with few choices but to submit further to the powers held over them.

Heading east along I-84 at the former site of Celilo Falls. It is an unanswerable question now. The wildness of this river sits submerged beneath a series of lakes that were once the Columbia River. Here in the Northwest, however, we are not confronted with the ugly specter of coal fired energy generation except by the trains that haul the material to the coast from the Wyoming coal fields. The dams on the Columbia now serve as a valuable waterway upon which goods and raw materials move back and forth. We flip on the lights any time we need it. It is so ubiquitous, it is easy to forget about where it comes from and who the winners and losers are in that equation. Celilo Falls probably are not coming back in the foreseeable future. But I feel it is important to reflect that these actions amounted to a systematic ethnic cleansing brought about by a rapidly expanding nation with a dark history of similar actions towards indigenous peoples.

Heading east along I-84 at the former site of Celilo Falls. It is an unanswerable question now. The wildness of this river sits submerged beneath a series of lakes that were once the Columbia River. Here in the Northwest, however, we are not confronted with the ugly specter of coal fired energy generation except by the trains that haul the material to the coast from the Wyoming coal fields. The dams on the Columbia now serve as a valuable waterway upon which goods and raw materials move back and forth. We flip on the lights any time we need it. It is so ubiquitous, it is easy to forget about where it comes from and who the winners and losers are in that equation. Celilo Falls probably are not coming back in the foreseeable future. But I feel it is important to reflect that these actions amounted to a systematic ethnic cleansing brought about by a rapidly expanding nation with a dark history of similar actions towards indigenous peoples.

The Maryhill Museum is a superb place to get a taste of the native cultures that populated Celilo Falls. Their collection of Columbia Plateau baskets is stunning. The stencil on the bottom of this board is borrowed from this tradition.  It is humbling, wondrous and saddening to stand on the banks of the Columbia north of Peach Beach and try to envision the river flowing rapidly past. To imagine how vastly different it all would look if the bustling villages lay before you and not the scattering of fruit orchards and truck stops that occupy this area now. The intent of this board are two fold: to create a short wheelbase board that I felt would be appropriate for this hallowed grade and to make a thing in the spirit that encourages its rider to envision an overlay upon the present landscape, all that has gone before. Ride on.

The Maryhill Museum is a superb place to get a taste of the native cultures that populated Celilo Falls. Their collection of Columbia Plateau baskets is stunning. The stencil on the bottom of this board is borrowed from this tradition.  It is humbling, wondrous and saddening to stand on the banks of the Columbia north of Peach Beach and try to envision the river flowing rapidly past. To imagine how vastly different it all would look if the bustling villages lay before you and not the scattering of fruit orchards and truck stops that occupy this area now. The intent of this board are two fold: to create a short wheelbase board that I felt would be appropriate for this hallowed grade and to make a thing in the spirit that encourages its rider to envision an overlay upon the present landscape, all that has gone before. Ride on.

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