I sometimes feel I have the obligation to educate. Rather than go on about my views regarding healthcare reform or the military surge in Afghanistan I’d rather inform you all about a social phenomenon, The Champ Stance.
This simple expression has changed my life and it can change yours. What is the champ stance you ask?
Think Brett Favre after a touchdown pass:
or American Icon: Rocky (pretty much 24/7)
Wouldn’t you like this to be you? It can be.
Whether it be celebrating a victory, recovering after a fall or embarrassing moment, waking up in the morning, entering any room anywhere, or just for for the hell of it, you can instantly feel like a champion.
The steps are simple:
1) make fists with both hands
2) raise them above your head with authority
3) shift your gaze up 30-40 degrees from parallel
4) bend arms at the elbow 10-15 degrees
5) hold for 2-3 seconds (or longer if you prefer)
There you go. The champ stance is yours.
You can even use it when your tired after a long flight like I did when I arrived in Barcelona after 14 hours of flying.
I even replicated this pose today after I found a great deal on a Christmas gift. It’s versatile and universal.
For you tech saavy folks, you can even use the champ stance while texting your friends:
There you have it. Now you can say you learned something today!
Disclaimer: Using this inappropriately at bars, police stations, or when confronted by a dozen gang members may result in less than favorable situations.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be on many sweet trips this year. Whether it be a neighboring city, state, country or continent, trips are always a good time. My most recent trip to Guadalajara, Mexico was one of the most fun for many reasons. I couldn’t list them all but here are 5 reasons why Guadalajara is super neat and awesomely dialed… dude.
1) La Comida (the food)-
“Wanna do tacos again?” This saying was used just about every time I got hungry. The tacos, quesadillas, salsa, horchata and everything else wonderful about mexican food was top notch in Guadalajara. The pastor was my favorite. May I also mention that it’s cheap? A plate of 5 tacos will cost you around 30-35 pesos which is a little over $2 in the U.S.A. Keep em’ coming…
The guy making the sugarcane juice may have questioned my spanish and my sillyhat but he still made a tasty drink.
2) El Calle (the street)
Riding around Guadalajara was awesome. There were tons of good spots, rarely sweated by security, and plenty of crazy s@$t going on at all times, much like you’d expect in any big city. Good times!
3) Las Personas (the people)-
Most people we met in Guadalajara were extremely kind, helpful and welcoming. I compared this to the U.S. in a few ways. Traffic: In the U.S. if there is a slight traffic jam or if you need to cross the street, people honk, yell and give the finger. In Guadalajara people would keep their cool and wait the extra 5 seconds until they could go. It seemed to work out. Language: I speak a bit of spanish but most people with us didn’t. This isn’t a problem in Mexico as they would try as hard as they could to communicate despite the language barrier. At home in the U.S. people would get frustrated and say “Why can’t you speak english? … Get out of our country ! ..etc. etc…” Thanks to everyone who was patient with us and everyone who helped me improve mi espanol! The riders were especially friendly and fun to hang out with. Alex from Mutante is perhaps the best host I’ve ever had while traveling. Thanks man!
4) La arquitectura (the architecture)
Like many large cities there were buildings new and old in Guadalajara. I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked to but here are a couple. On a smaller scale, some of the houses were cool as well. Even while some of the homes may be quite traditional in their layout, they aren’t afraid to use bright/bold colors on the exterior and it makes the city/neighborhoods a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
5) La cultura y actitud (the culture/attitude):
The vibe of this city (especially our friends) was really relaxed and fun loving. That being said they didn’t stress too much about what other people were doing, wearing, eating, flaunting, etc. The rules and laws are a bit more relaxed but still sensible. All in all it made for a fun week. Keep in eye on the web for footage coming soon!
Gracias a todo mis amigos de Guadalajara, Mutante, y BMX en Mexico! Veo tu Pronto!
Our last day in Basrah marked our last day on Iraqi soil. We had a few last meet and greets and even got to pay one more visit to our friends at the EOD before departing for Kuwait. One last C130, one last military base, one last large dish of free Baskin Robbins and one last moment in the intense desert sun. We were given a bit of time to enjoy the pool on the Kuwait base. At the pool I laid back in the chair, put on my sunglasses, ipod, and took a deep breath of what seemed like calmer air compared to Iraq. It was at that time that I started to reflect on what I had witnessed over the past 9 days.
We had been on many bases. We met many awesome people. We saw things varying from relics of past regimes to technologies of the future. We saw and heard things that are confidential. We had been mauled by dogs. We laughed. We gave gifts. We received gifts. We shook hands of men and women who risk their greatest gift every single day. We wandered around a land that was once headquarters to one of the strictest and ruthless dictators of our time. We were accepted into a new family we had never thought would accept us. We saw top secret control rooms that rivaled those of NASA. We met generals, gunners, doctors, secretaries, pilots, and janitors. We flew in crazy aircrafts of all types. We were surrounded by millions of deadly weapons of all types. We were awarded. We blew shit up. We perspired. We learned new lingo. We were humbled. We were scared, excited, curious, happy, tired, intrigued, safe, and a million other feelings in between. We learned. We had fun. We explored. We pioneered. We made people smile in an environment littered with tragedy. We saw the benefits of rebuilding, teamwork and democracy. We rode BMX in the Iraq.
More important than all of that:
We made a difference in lives of people who have already made a difference in ours.
Thanks to Christian Schauf and Kyle Camerer of Trovata Entertainment for this opportunity and for being amazing tour guides. Nate Wessel, Judd Heald, Dave Osato, Rooftop, Catfish, Walter Pieringer and Chad Kagy. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew of guys to spend the best trip of my life with. Thanks for all the laughs, good times, shredding, adventures and casual professionalism. Most of all a huge THANK YOU to all the soldiers we met and took the time to show us what part each of them play in keeping us protected. You are missed here at home and come back safe.
As you can tell from the past few blogs our trip had been action packed and we had seen and done more in a week than I could have possibly imagined. We were already receiving Thank You emails from soldiers we had met along the way. It had already been an adventure and we were still in Basrah.
By now we were all quite used to the military way of life. We became a bit more accustomed to the intense heat and dusty air. Carrying out passports, identification and U.S. military orders everywhere we went became as second nature as did the site of M-4s, MRAPS, M-16s, desert camo day in and day out.
Our first morning demo went off without a hitch and more crazy tricks went down. At first we thought riding during the day would be impossible but when you look out at a crowd of hard working men and women you can’t help but get fired up and do the best you can. More DK’s were given away, more posters were signed and more guns were held. Basrah was the first place in the world I have ever hopped over 6 soldiers who were locked and loaded. Shortly after the last show we were notified that our choppers were ready to pick us up to take us to the next base. Helicopters? Bikes? Yup. Here we go…
With body armor on and bikes in hand we loaded onto two Blackhawk helicopters and headed north to FOB Hunter.
The choppers were loud, windy, powerful and heavily armed. We sat down, buckled up, gunners got in position and we were off.
(My bike sat right aside the left gunner and my wheel spun in the swift wind as the gunner surveyed the land for any sort of disturbance. They were locked and loaded and ready for anything. I shook my head for the entire flight in disbelief. It was incredible.)
This was the first time I really got a great view of Iraq from “outside the wire”. We flew with the windows open and nothing separating us from a war zone but pure, hot, Iraqi air.
Despite Nate’s dreads whipping me in the face every few minutes it was a pretty enjoyable and exciting ride. The maneuverability of those choppers is amazing and the pilots are extremely talented and precise (and I’m sure the gunners are too).
Along the flight I also learned that while Iraq is mostly desert there is also some marshy wetlands in a certain region we were flying over. This was the first time all week I had seen a tiny bit of green. A tiny bit.
We landed at a remote base of FOB Hunter. This base had about 500 soldiers and was far away from many of the larger bases. The soldiers had no notification of our arrival and frankly we didn’t really know where we were headed before we had arrived. Like I mentioned before it was a “need to know” basis.
Walking my bike off the runway was surreal. Here I was in remote Iraq with my BMX bike and my great friends. WTF? As we walked further into the base we saw bombed out bunkers, airplane hangers, and many soldiers in full battle gear heading out on missions. While this felt like we were really at war, further in the base felt like a family get-together.
It was Sunday and the dining hall was shut down. BBQ’s were a blazing, footballs were being tossed, soccer games were going on and many soldiers were enjoying some well deserved time off. A bit apprehensive to us walking up in civilian clothes the soldiers quickly adopted us into their family. We walked around the base from grill to grill and the familiar smell of tailgating filled the air (minus the beer of course).
I was at the base no more than 20 minutes when I heard “Kachinsky! What the hell are you doing here?” I looked behind me expecting to see a friend from school or perhaps the heat was making my hallucinate? I looked back and saw Dan “Evil” Hylton from Davenport, Iowa. Dan is a well-known shredder from Rampage skatepark. I have always been a fan of his riding and known of him for a long time as being that kid who killed it whenever I went to Rampage. He even won a Local Exposure Tour stop there back in 2005. Little did I know that he had joined the Army and had been stationed in Iraq for many months now. The chances that we ran into him is about 1 in 300 since there are about that many bases in Iraq. I was in disbelief and overjoyed to see him. We walked around the base some more as he told me more about his many experiences in Iraq. The sun began to set and we continued hanging out with more people on base and climbing around different tanks, bunkers and other cool stuff.
Meanwhile, Nate and Judd proved once again that they are miracle workers. We had no anticipation of riding ramps at this base but within an hour or so soldiers had brought Nate tools, wood, nails and screws. It was one. In record time Nate built a take-off, landing and a quarter pipe. It took no more than an hour we had a fully ridable set-up. Complete with a hummer in the middle for us to jump over. It felt like I was on the set up extreme home makeover or something. Extreme Base Makeover? Now that would make a god TV show.
The show started just after sunset and the only lights on base were those mounted on MRAPS. They pulled a few up and that would be our only lights for this impromptu demo. Hummers got jumped, T-walls were ridden and Dan even took a few runs on my bike. The soldiers were so stoked and this had been their only entertainment in months. They screamed as Dan jumped the box, they had no idea that their fellow soldier had crazy BMX skills! Dan came away with a brand new DK and some wessel-built ramps to ride. He’s gotta be stoked. When he woke up that day he probably never thought his day would shape up like it did.
It was time to head back to Basrah after an amazing day at FOB Hunter. We took helicopters once again but this time it was a Chinook. These dual-blade helicopters are huge, blacked out, and only fly at night.
The runway was pitch black as we got the word that the choppers were 2 minutes away. Before we know it we looked up to see this massive helicopter coming down on top of use. It was about 50 feet away and it looked like Batman had come to get us or something. The wind from the blades was so intense that we were all blown back about 10-20 feet. Luggage was flying everywhere and we could barely stand as we got into formation to board. We boarded through the back cargo door and shortly after being seated the cabin turned pitch black for take off. I couldn’t even see the people sitting across from me.
It was completely dark but you could feel the power of that massive thing taking off and we headed back over the desert to Basrah. The only time I could see was as we passed over the flame from oil fields. I looked back to the rear of the chopper and could only see the flame and the sillioute of the gunner perched and ready with his night vision goggles on and finger on the trigger. I felt like I was in a movie.
We returned to Basrah safe and sound after a peacefully intense (oxymoron?) ride in one of the world’s largest helicopters.
To be continued….
Boarding all passengers for Basrah…
(precious cargo on board)
(…even more precious cargo on board)
The Bikes Over Baghdad tour now turned into Bikes Over Basrah. Basrah is in the southern portion of Iraq and nestled very close to Iran and Kuwait. As I said earlier Kuwait was like a 5-star resort compared to Baghdad but Basrah makes Baghdad seem like a safe haven. Upon landing in Basrah we were informed by many soldiers that there have been a number of missile attacks on base recently. Apparently the attacks had been happening every thursday for a number of weeks. We arrived on a Friday and there had been no missile attacks the day before. They said they were anticipating an attack on base could happen in the coming days. Seeing as we would be there for the next 3-4 days made us all a bit uneasy.
Tales of violence and missile attacks became more apparent as we were taken to our sleeping quarters. A big canvas tent with a wood floor. I don’t know much but I know that canvas is no match for a missile. It did have A/C though.
We were no longer protected by T-walls either but there was a concrete bunker outside incase things got crazy. This base was definitely more raw than the last but the people were just as awesome. Soldiers helped us unload the ramps and got us acquainted with the base.
We had questioned the possible attendance at our first show because the word hadn’t spread around base that we were coming. We were wrong. The first demo in Basrah was amazing. We had another large and energetic crowd. I distinctly remember one soldier being so pumped that he jumped up and down and screamed the entire hour that we were riding. It turned out he used to skateboard and walked away from the demo with a brand new board courtesy of Woodward. The soldiers on this base were especially thankful/helpful and willing to show us all of the badass toys they get to play with on a daily basis. This helicopter was no exception. For the record, that gun you see under the body shoots 600 rounds per minute.
We then saw them take off…
Helicopters always fly in pairs for safety reasons.
Random three-man slingshot session with some troops:
This base was packed with interesting divisions. This next division has what I would consider to be one of the most stressful jobs in the military. The Med Evac team.
This team responds to most catastrophic medical emergencies. They have probably seen more tragedy and been in more crazy situations in their time in Iraq than most of us will in our whole lives…times 10. For as heroic as these people are they were extremely humble and even joked around with us a bit. Their living quarters is right on the runway and they are trained to be suited up, packed up and airborne in less than 15 minutes from the time they get the call. These people aren’t just responding to emergencies and have to have great medical knowledge but also have to have great courage. They fly into areas of conflict and battle the sand/wind/heat at the same time. They respond to the worst of the worst and that makes them the best of the best in my book.
Amidst all of this learning, exploring, talking and picture taking I would occasionally look off into the distance and see a blackish grey tint on the horizon. It was smoke from the many massive refineries in this area.
Back to BMX. Like I said earlier the attendance and energy at our demos in Basrah was unprecedented. We left our tire marks on yet another T-wall and gave away tons of free stuff. We gave away more DK’s which is always a highlight.
Like I said, it’s always nice to run into guys who ride even when you’re halfway across the world. Bryan Carrier got his hands on a new DK and instantly started shredding the ramps.
It always makes me nervous when someone from the crowd grabs a bike and starts pedaling for the box jump. I held my breathe and then let out a solid “hell yeah” once I saw brian sail over the box.
The adventures with Bryan didn’t end there. He was part of the EOD (aka: bombs and explosives). These guys were awesome. My kind of dudes, they didn’t sugar coat anything. They simply asked “you guys wanna blow some shit up?” Of course we do. There we went, off into the middle of the desert where they test their explosives.
The next things I knew I had a good sized chunk of highly explosive material in my hand.
Ever hear the cliche ” a snowball’s chance in Hell?” Well this really is the snowball’s chance in my left hand…
Then more C4 came out…
Soon there would be 20lbs of C4 all packed together and rigged up and ready to be detonated.
We hung out for a little bit while we waited for clearance from the base for the controlled detonation. They have to let everyone on base know the explosion is on purpose to avoid any misunderstandings. In front of me was an MRAP, My new friends from the EOD and 20lbs of C4 ready to explode.
Behind me was nothing but desert and oil fields.
(the steady flame from oil fields are the only thing preventing pitch black darkness out in the middle of the desert)
Then BOOM! I witnessed the explosion of 20lbs of C4 which seriously made my heart skip a beat. We were at least a football field or 2 away from the explosion and we were inside an MRAP yet felt the hair on my arms blow in the wind. It was insane. We then surveyed the damage. It blew a good sized hole in the earth.We climbed in it as we were still amazed at how intense the explosion was.
Catfish drove us back to the the EOD headquarter in the MRAP using night vision….
We returned to the EOD Headquarters and were shooting the shit. Meanwhile Kyle snuck off with a few of the guys and came back out in this bomb suit…
We were all laughing but he was stoked, he had A/C in that thing! We made him roll around a bit and try to maneuver in the suit. We were anticipating him being like a turtle on it’s back but he pulled through and was quite agile.
These guys are awesome. Don’t believe me yet? Check out their unit’s coins:
We listened to a few more stories and shared a few more laughs and called it a night.
The very next day one of the guys in the EOD squad went out on a mission. An explosive detonated taking with it his hand and leaving him with a grapefruit sized hole is his leg as well. We were told he was med evac flighted to Germany where he would be treated and survive despite his catastrophic injuries. I was again reminded how real this shit is and the risks these guys take. I hope he’s home and with his family by now.
To be continued…..
Our first day in Baghdad we hit the ground running…litterally.
The first stop was the military working dogs (aka: attack dogs) These dogs are intensely trained to not only attack enemies but also detect explosives, drugs, bodies, and much more.
After a brief introduction we got to suit up and meet the dogs…
Don’t let my facial expression fool you. I was scared out of my mind and those dogs are strong. So strong that we all got taken down, well, all except Osato. Dave’s has superhuman strength so he doesn’t count.
These dogs are so well trained, they can go from savage beast to calm as a kitten in seconds using the right commands by their trainers.
Our next stop was insane. We got to visit Saddam’s palaces and headquarters. All of these palaces and crazy buildings were surrounded by a huge lake that was manmade. We were told that many of the water came from rivers that were rerouted to fill this manufactured body of water. This left the water supply and resources to be very limited to the rest of the city and the people who lived in it. Pretty sad.
The cranes and construction was abandoned after the palace was bombed and this particular palace was never finished. The cranes and everything were left and remain there to this day. This is the “victory over America palace”. Ironic.
Across the water from that palace was one of the most bizzare structures i’ve ever seen. Saddam hated everything American and didn’t allow anything American into the country. Except the Flinstones cartoon. He was such a fan that he built his own version of Bedrock which was intended for his grandkids to live in.
Yabba Dabba Do!
This place was in a bit of disrepair but I could still see all the amenities that it had including many bedrooms, bathrooms, fireplaces, servant’s quarters, etc. Climbing around in there was crazy. I don’t know who actually designed the layout but it was nuts and definitely would make for a good episode of Cribs.
I did my best Barney Rubble impression and then we headed out to our first Meet and Greet with some troops. It was the first of many meet and greets. These were perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip because we got to interact with the troops, talk with them about their specific duties and learn all about life in Iraq first hand. Since the majority of troops are armed at all times, they let us see what it was like to carry those big guns around for a bit. They are heavy, powerful and dangerous.
Amidst this crazy action packed day the hardest working members of our crew were Nate and Judd. They were back near the center of the base building our ramps for the demos. These two were serious miracle workers. They battled the intense heat, dusty air, and many equipment/material malfunctions and still came out on top. They built two quarter pipes and a box jump in record time and had it up and running just in time for the first demo to start that night. I still don’t know how they did it but they were solid, smooth and perfect. I mean, this is Nate we’re talking about.
The demo that night was epic. Without going into detail about the tricks that went down, i’ll tell you about the more important stuff. The atmosphere was like out of a movie. We had a concrete pad where the ramps sat and were surrounded by bright floodlights and hundreds of troops. We even used a T-wall as a subbox out of the 6ft. quarterpipe.
When looked into the crowd before the show I saw anticipation and machine guns. It was rather calm actually. When the show got underway the crowd erupted. Soldiers who were straight faced minutes prior where now smiling, yelling, clapping and having a blast. The show went on for an hour and was action packed from start to finish.
To understand what this was like for the soldiers you have to realize many of their day to day activities on base are strict, monotonous and often times boring. They don’t get a ton of entertainment aside from musical acts and comedians.They certainly have never had anything like this. The show was a hit and after all the autographs, photos, high fives and handshakes I found myself with a more fulfilling feeling than I have ever had in my years of riding BMX. Soldiers are the most appreciative and respectable audience i’ve ever seen.
They didn’t want anything else other than a handshake and to show their thanks. Many of them received giveaways and one lucky Soldier got a brand new DK bike. DK was nice enough to donate 6 bikes to giveaway on this tour and Gary was the first recipient of a new ride. Thanks DK!
I have to talk about Gary for a bit. Gary is a BMXer from North Carolina and has been stationed in Iraq for quite some time. He’s so dedicated to riding that he built a 6ft. mini ramp on base and did so while battling heat, lack of wood and a lot of red tape. His hard worked paid off and “Operation Dust Pipe” was born.
I can’t thank Gary enough for not only letting us ride his ramp but also for inspiration. If he can still find time and energy to ride after long days of PT and other duties of a soldier, we call can. Oh yeah, on top of all that he sacrificed his leave to stay on base and hang out with us and help Nate build. Instead of Rest&Relaxation, Gary chose Remain&Ride. Kick ass.
The rest of the time on this base was filled with more fun stuff like MRAPs (mine resistant vehicles), Hummers, more meet and greets, more BMXers, weapons, etc.
Sidenote: The food in Iraq was actually pretty awesome. The soldiers on these larger bases eat well and rightfully so. Some dining halls were the size of football fields with everything from Hamburgers to Lobster and everything in between. There were 4 meals served per day and of course all the bottled water you could ask for. It’s important for them to stay well fed and hydrated. There was even free Baskin Robbins so you know I wasn’t complaining.
Our first couple days in Baghdad were amazing to say the least and there is plenty more that we got to see and learn about that wasn’t allowed to be photographed but trust me, it was awesome. We said our goodbyes and got one last night of sleep in our contained housing units (CHUs) before heading south to Basrah.
To be continued….
BMX has taken me to some crazy places. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the most beautiful places as well as some of the most depressing. Either way I’ve been lucky to see a good portion of the world but the best thing is, there is always more to see and do. Even with my past experiences NOTHING would prepare me for what I was about to experience in Iraq.
Made possible by Christian Schauf of Trovata Entertainment and Nate Wessel, we were about to have the experience of a lifetime. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s 100% true.
Our Crew consisted of Mike Escamilla, Dave Osato, Nate Wessel, Catfish, Walter, Kagy, and skateboarder Judd Heald. Christian and Kyle from Trovata Entertainment had been many tours over there before and they were our guides. They are both awesome dudes and a pleasure to hang out with.
And so it begins…
We all took commercial airline flights into Kuwait City (12 hour flight) where we were met by our drivers who took us into a major US Military base in Kuwait. The minute the exited the airport was when it really hit me. We were in the desert. The real desert. It was 9pm and it was still scorching hot by my midwest standards. We traveled in a convoy of SUVs to the base. Our formation going down the highway reminded me of a motorcade the president would have. Every car had to stay tight to the one in front of it for our protection. I think it was a bit of overkill but they don’t want to take any chances and I wasn’t about to complain. We passed countless oil fields and refineries on our way to the base. You could see dozens of flames burning across the horizon. After all we are in the oil capital of the world. It was all fun and games until we arrived at the base. All cameras had to be put away, all passports and documents had to out and ready to show to the many stages of security they have in order to enter the base.
We spent the night on base in Kuwait and so far it was uneventful (relative to what was to come) and were bound for Baghdad in the morning. I realized that we were nearing a war zone when I was walking the hall on the way to my room and was passed by 4 soldiers holding machine guns. Despite being slightly on edge I got some rest knowing there was a big day ahead.
After breakfast at 8am we were notified 0ur 10am flight to Baghdad was cancelled until further notice. This was going to be par for the course for the rest of the trip. Our flights weren’t delayed much but almost every travel detail or destination was on a “need to know basis” meaning that they wouldn’t really tell us where we were going or where we would be staying until the time came. They do this for security reasons and to prevent the unthinkable. I personally didn’t mind this at all and it just added to the adventure of it all.
In the afternoon we were escorted to a military airport a good distance from the base in Kuwait. This is where we would board our C-130 plane bound for the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. When we arrived at the airport we were given heavy body armor, helmets and strict instructions on the workings of a military flight. It was mid afternoon and it was 127 degrees outside.
The commander in charge of the airport took roll call to make sure our crew, as well as 20-30 other soldiers, were all present. We then palletized our gear which consisted of loading all of our luggage and bikes onto a huge pallet to be loaded in the plane. We then went back inside where we sat amongst dozens of soldiers who were going off to fight in Iraq. The mood inside was somber, the dimly lit waiting room was filled with soldiers who are heading straight into a war zone. I couldn’t help but feel a bit depressed and humbled when I saw the looks on the soldiers faces.
The plane was both barebones but also hi-tech at the same time. This thing wasn’t built for comfort but strictly for function. They are loud, uncomfortable, huge and unlike any airplane i’d ever been in before.
We filed in tight and sat facing each other on a row of nets. After buckling in I took a look around and saw I was surrounded by friends and soldiers, no smiles in site. They loaded in the pallets of cargo through the same huge drop-down door that we entered through in the rear of the plane. We were packed in and ready for take off. At this point it’s dark inside the aircraft and all I could see were the soldiers across from me. My ear plugs were so tight I could hear myself think but was still overwhelmed the sounds of the jets blazing for take off. After about an hour and a half of sitting on a net with hot, heavy armor on, we deplaned. As we exited the back of the plane the heat from the jets blasted onto your skin. It was so hot it felt like it seared the hair off my arms. Hot, dusty desert air as well as blazing jet fuel exhaust filled my lungs. Welcome to Baghdad International Airport.
Kuwait was like a 5 star resort compared to Baghdad. We were guided to our rooms which were a cross between a shipping container and a mobile home. These housing units were incased with T-walls which are basically 12 foot tall jersey barriers, two rows deep. These barriers are meant to protect and contain blasts from missile attacks. The idea being that if a missile strikes and destroys one of these units, the unit next door will be protected. It’s as if we were quarantined but replace disease with explosives. Everyone on base lives this way, not just us. It’s a necessity.
After a long day of travel and already eye opening experiences we went to sleep on the eve of what would be an insane first day in Iraq.
To be continued….
As if the summer hasn’t been crazy enough, this is the icing on the cake. Later today I will be joining Wessel, Rooftop, Osato, Kagy, Catfish and more on an 11 day trip to Iraq.
Our main reason for going over there is to meet the troops, do some demos and provide entertainment. I’m extremely proud and fortunate to be doing something like this but I can guarantee we will be the ones being entertained much of the time.
We haven’t been told where we will be or when, I think mainly due to security reasons. We basically haven’t been told much other than when to be at the airport, what to pack and to have our official U.S. Military orders in hand once we arrive.
I have no other solid info on this trip but I do know it will be amazing and will no doubt give me a new perspective on many things.
I will be back in 11 days with some photos and stories but in the meantime I will try to update my twitter when possible.
Follow me at Twitter.com/bkachinsky
The iphone is one of the best purchases i’ve made in the past couple years. I often refer to it as my second brain…or maybe third or fourth. Either way they rule and can do just about everything.
Here is a list of apps I use often, they are all free downloads and all hold a special place in my second brain’s heart:
This app is perfect for traveling. It finds your location automatically and shows you the nearest…everything. From Coffee to hotels to pharmacies to gas stations. It also has the option to search for keywords like “chipotle” or “bike shops”. The other day I was in California and needed a new tube. Within seconds I had directions and phone numbers to the closest bike shop. Perfect. It doesn’t find street spots yet though…give it time.
Evernote solves the “where was that spot again?” problem. Although the last app couldn’t find street spots, this one will at least make sure you won’t forget them. Evernote is a note application that allows you to attach pictures along with notes and link them to a precise GPS location. If you are in a new area and find something you want to ride you can take a photo of it, add a description and then save it’s location. Next time you are in the area you don’t have to remember the cross streets, this remembers it for you. You can also search through notes for key words like “subrail” or “kinked rail”. I love it.
Created by a BMXer (dustin greiss) for BMXers- This is the most useful BMX specific app to date. It’s awesome to keep you in tune with the latest and greatest BMX has to offer. I’m sure it will keep improving as well since it’s still young.
“Follow” me on this one. I’m sure there are tons of Twitter apps out there but this one seems to do the trick. Attach links, photos, videos, etc. If anyone knows a better one let me know!
This will be the next olympic sport, that’s if the X-games doesn’t adopt it first. Papertoss is what happens when the worlds of basketball, golf, testosterone and secretarial duties collide! I can’t wait until people start talking “trash” and making dat “paper” playing this revolutionary sportgame. What’s your top score?
Thanks to skype I never have to buy another phone card again while overseas or while calling someone abroad. I bought 10 Euros worth of skype minutes in February and I’ve spent over a month overseas since then. I’ve called friends and family back home almost every day i’ve been gone and I’m only down to 6 Euros now. Amazing, clear, easy and cheap.
The Weather Channel
This app often dictates how I will spend my day. The weather feature that comes stock on iphones only gives you the general weather for the day, while this app gives you hour by hour weather and live radar. Now you can decide “weather or not” it’s worth driving an hour away to ride that outdoor park. Free once again.
Check these out! Hope this helps all you iphoners ride your bike more and more betterer (<< college really helped my grammar).
Anyone out there have some good ones I don’t know about?
DK has been all over the globe this year. The latest and greatest adventure was Northern Europe and it was nothing short of just that, an adventure.
The crew consisted of catfish, nina, hunt, maddog and myself. We started in Copenhagen, Denmark and ventured through Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany en route to one of the greatest (and rainy) BMX events of the year, The Worlds in Cologne.
Harold was our mascot, leader, GPS navigator, coach, friend and cheerleader on the trip. He always pointed us in the right direction. Although he lacks some hair and limbs, he was always on our side. Here he shows us Denmarks version of Clean Coal Technology. Where are the smokestacks?
When Harold wasn’t using his curling iron, we took time to charge up our gadgets. We could have used your help and expertise on this one Harold.
What better way to cool down after a warm swedish skatepark session than to take a dive into the ocean. Here B Hunt and I break the law as Harold is off getting a cup of coffee and some swedish meatballs.
Gift shops were frequented on the trip but leave it to Amsterdam to have the best ones. This gem was nestled between some wooden shoes and a glass windmill. I don’t know why I chose the wooden shoes…
I’ve always appreciated a good mustache but this guy took it to the next level. I was sitting a table in Cologne and turned around to witness this. A random mustache grower mid-groom. Good style and execution.
This one isn’t so funny but noteworthy. This difficult but unique sculpture took me off my bike and into the hospital. A good number of stitches inside and out was the result. The hospital in the Netherlands was dialed and I was in and out quick with no cost. What’s funny is that I contacted some doctors here in the U.S. when I got home and no one would take them out because of liability. I guess they can’t remove them if they didn’t put them in? Something is wrong here. I guess I have to take matters into my own hands once again.
I dubbed this my “dream car” (is it even a car?). It’s not a Bentley or a Lambo. This 3 wheeled wonder was at the Worlds in Cologne. It’s basically a tuk-tuk that opens up to be a full espresso/coffee bar. What would Henry Ford think of this? Genius.
I have to admit that my camera didn’t capture even half of the laugh-worthy moments on this trip but thanks for reading and thanks to DK and everyone (yes, even you Harold) who made this trip amazingly super awesome. Web videos from the trip coming to a computer near you soon…