UKRAINE OR BUST! I'll start from the beginning because this entire trip was nothing less than an adventure. A select few received an e-mail concerning some demo event in the Ukraine. They needed an extra mountainboarder or two to come to the event and show these kids what mountainboarding is all about. I immediately replied to the e-mail totally stoked to jump on this opportunity. My only problem was I didn’t have a passport in my possession yet. After I confirmed my status I went straight to the post office and had one expidited. So I was ready to go and super pumped for the day I could get on my 15-hour plane flight to the Ukraine. Everything about the flight went well except the headphone the airlines gave me didn’t work. So I had to figure out a way to deal because I couldn’t watch the movies they played for the passengers. I'm so glad I brought my PSP and Skullcandys!! During the plane transfers I met up with this red headed ginger of a man who struck my interest. He told me he was on his way to the Ukraine to meet his potentially new wife. This blew my mind; I asked him what was it like that mail order bride stuff. Not so much I guess, it's a lot more organized and official now a days. We sat down and had a Guinness over it at the bar in JFK. When we arrived in Kiev and was standing in line to have my passport checked I ran into that man along with a new guy on the same mission. This second guy looked Russian, but I guess he was just some old guy looking for a wife to do his bidding. I guess the laws state you can petition two times before they deny you forever. That is just some crazy stuff all together. So after waiting an hour for my bags to show up I wandered through the Kiev airport like a damn fool until I found Serge wearing an old school MBS jersey yelling my name. We loaded up his 4runner and went straight to the factory where they were building the ramp set-up. On the way there I got a taste of how the Ukrainians like to drive.....NASCAR style! So while we are screaming down the 2lane highway we are weaving in and out of traffic driving against traffic when needed. I realized I would have to get used to this. Good thing we were in a lifted truck instead of a small ass car. So with the “oh shit” handle gripped tight we finally got to the factory where the ramps were. Everything was looking very good, all metal and welded together with pride. At this point in time I was focused on getting some sleep, I was exhausted from being up for almost a full day. Serge took me back to the flat where I unpacked a little and crashed out on the couch. After a few hours of sleep Serge and Dave busted through the door waking me up and getting me all stoked for this event. The next day we woke up early to go to the Ukrainian MTV called M1tv. Waiting for us was a strawberry and a banana with a microphone. I was surprised how professional the whole thing was; the building it was in was very sketchy. The elevator up to the set was carpeted wall to wall in red matt and clunked every other second all the way up. I was stoked to walk out of that thing alive...I think we all were. So after taking pictures and interviews with the fruit we were on our way to have some Ukrainian brunch. Before we made our way to food Dave had to bust down the ledge in front of M1TV, super sick like always. So then we went to a "home cooking a la carte" kinda place downtown. I am pretty picky when it comes to my food, so I tried to pick out the most appealing foods. The one thing I knew for sure on was the Chicken Kiev. That stuff is so good no matter where you go. Mine and Dave’s only complaint was the juice we drank. I guess it was smoked and dried fruit made into juice.... very interesting flavor going down, the after-taste not being so good. After that we went down to Serge’s and Mykola’s workplace and got a taste of the city.
We saw the Arc of Friendship and walked down some ancient cobblestone streets. Saw a bunch of street venders and beautiful women EVERYWHERE! We tried some crazy juice made from fermented bread. I would say that was more appealing than the juice. It tasted a lot better all-together. While we were refreshing ourselves a very homely woman asked Dave to go drink some beers with her. Thankfully the communication barrier prevented that from happening, haha. So after that we went to see the Ukrainian military tanks, planes, and rockets. They had a lot of stuff from WW1 and WW2. The coolest part had to be the giant silver statue of the Lady of Freedom. I guess she protects the Ukraine with her sword and shield...it was very epic...very cool. After walking through the park a few miles and through a wedding we hopped in a taxi and went to the Knepper River. We re-upped on some beer and took a stroll down to the dock where we jumped on a boat and took a look at the largest river in Kiev. After a few hours of talking and drinking we made our way back to the office. Once we were there we grabbed our boards and hit the streets for some urban action. So we went cruising, throwing bomb plants off curbs, grinding stairs and planters. They actually have angle iron on most stair sets.....amazing. All of this was done on our way to dinner at another a la carte style restaurant. I had Borscht for the first time, which out of all the food on my plate was the best I ate. I'm going to keep that in mind next time someone offers me a bowl of tomato and beet soup. I honestly felt like I was gonna pass out the entire time we were at the restaurant. Due to the fact that we had been drinking beers and just got out of 100 degree weather with 30% humidity or so. Dave kept telling me to eat the potatoes so I would stay awake, thanks bro! After the food we went down to the event center where the jumps were being set up and people were practicing and drinking MORE BEER! This is where we initially met the Russians and found out how cool they are. After more beers with the Russians we went back to the flat to get some rest for the demo in the morning. At this time the German BMXers were supposed to be at the flat waiting for us to get there. When we arrived the door was locked and we had no phone to call anyone. Our ride had left already so we were pretty much screwed at that point. Dave sat and rang the doorbell for at least an hour just in case the Germans were asleep. We were both way too tired to really care at that point. Dave took his post at the door to make sure no one went in or out of the flat without him knowing. I went and layed down in the corner of some hall that smelled like someone had pissed all over it...oh well. We spent about 3 hours in the halls until a neighbor invited us into his home where we drank coffee and watched European soap operas. About another hour or so later the Germans came home from the Caribbean Club and finally let us in. Dave and I were pretty pissed at the point and time, but more tired. We went to bed FINALLY, pretty much stoked to lie down on something soft that didn’t smell like piss. After a couple hours of sleep we were woken up to Ukrainian McDonalds and coffee. It was pita bread with two hamburger patties layed out in it, and instead of fries they were potato wedges. Different but very much the same, it was an experience. After breakfast we went down to the event center to get ready for the demo. So we waited around a few hours before everyone showed up and they were ready to launch the show. Once it started there were cameras everywhere and at least 3000 spectators or more. There were parkor guys jumping off everything, bmxers rolling around, MTBers jumping, roller bladers, and the Russian freeboarders. On the stage were two rock climbing walls and 4 huge sheets of wood for the graffiti artists. All and all it
was set up very cool and there were a lot of things going on. Dave and I finally got a few runs in, NO PRACTICE, but we made it happen. After about an hour of riding the rollerbladers and the bikers took over the course and made it near impossible for us to sesh the kicker. It was so hot out there that I nearly passed out from heat exhaustion, so I probably wouldn’t have hit the set up anymore. I know Dave was itching to ride; we were just getting warmed up before we stopped riding. Either way it gave us time to get to know the Russians a little more. We compared cultures and politics and found out corruption is a WORLD WIDE epidemic....hmmm. The X-Fest lasted all day until it was late night. So many people wanted to drink beer with us, they were very persistent! I know Dave met with a couple dudes and practiced talking English with them. The people were very interesting. So after a cool down and watching Dave show the German BMXers his moves on a bike we went back to the flat to clean up and go out on the town. First thing we did was head out to the countryside where freedom was in the air. We ended up at an illegal Drum and Bass street race/rave in the woods. That was pretty amazing to see in the middle of nowhere in a strange country I've never been to. "Party like a rockstar, pa-party like a rockstar." After a few races we were told there was an after party for the X-Fest at a local disco-tech, so we packed up and drove back into town. Did I mention it was a full moon that night? I guess that would explain some of the craziness... When we got to the club with beer in hand we found out there was no afterparty and that we were mis-informed. The Germans were pretty eager to find some girls at the point, because every girl in Kiev had to be 90% hotter than most girls we had seen in our home countries. Nick saw a couple of girls standing by a beer booth and ran over and asked if he could take a picture with them. They were kind enough to do so. He asked very eagerly "do you speak English?" and she said to him "50 dollars" and walked away with her friend. We were all pretty astonished with her response. Serge then told us that about 50% of the girls at all the clubs were prostitutes and that it was a very common thing. After that the Germans were very cautious about what girls they spoke with. So we ended up going back to the flat while the Germans went to the Caribbean to party it up some more. The next day I woke up with a massive hangover and just all around feeling like crap. That day our main goal was to get gifts for the family and take in some of the Kiev scenery. We did just that and got some pretty epic shots. We took a stroll through a local government owned park and saw some outdoor ping-pong tables, people in cages, and air-soft shoot out games. We stopped and skated the local ledge with some of the bikers then went to a park restaurant and ate some of the juiciest beef and pork nuggets I've had in an incredibly long time. After our tasty dinner we went back for some more sleep. The day after that was more sight seeing, you can see from the pictures they LOVE to gold plate EVERYTHING! There is a lot of history in Kiev and if you ever get a chance to go....GO, you wont regret it! The last day there was pretty mellow, we hung out around the flat and made sure everything was ready to go for the plane rides home. If you ask Dave I'm sure he will fill you in on what I haven’t. All and all it was an epic trip and I really want to go back again. We both made it home in one piece and got some great pictures.