Travel: Noni Cragg’s American summer


You may recall we interviewed ridiculously talented Australian artist/model Noni Cragg a while ago. Well, ever-keen to keep up to date with what she’s got going on, we asked her to document her recent travels around the United States. Here’s what she experienced:

As long as I can remember, the United States of America has been a country I have wanted to travel, so that I may experience what it has to offer. And boy, does it have A LOT to offer!

My partner Trent and I arrived in June to LAX and jumped straight on another plane to Oakland to stay with our beautiful friends Tiah, Patrick and their charming daughter Finely Delaney in Berkley, California. Tiah taught us the rule of thumb on tipping (double your tax) and the best places to eat healthily on a budget (Trader Joes is king and, if you can’t find one of those, a Whole Foods is good too but a tad pricier).

Berkley has some killer vintage and if you’re into finding some one-off gems, you’re going to dig a vintage store called ‘Buffalo Exchange’. Here you can trade in old clothes and get either money or store credit with which to buy new/old winners for your wardrobe. You can find anything from the 50’s to the 90’s. They have an amazing collection of leather jackets from greaser biker to aviator to tassel wing jackets, which make you feel like Ozzy Osbourne, needless to say I purchased the latter. 
It was here Trent discovered beer is cheaper than water and a pouch of tobacco is about $6 Australian. Also, unlike Sydney, no one will abuse you for riding your bike on the road, this was a shock when, back home, just being on a bike can equal some form of abuse… even if you’re in a bike lane!

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I really dug my time here, people are very friendly and genuinely concerned about the world around them and looking after the environment. Another fun fact about California: it is estimated that there are over 2,100 Marijuana dispensaries. People are super relaxed and will light a blunt as soon as they step off a bus, you can smell it virtually everywhere on a main street.

After spending just over a week in Berkley we flew to LA and, by accident, ended up staying at the ‘Alta Cienega Motel’. It was here Jim Morrison of The Doors lived during the late 60’s for a year or so. We had originally chosen it due to it being the cheapest place to stay in West Hollywood, but were pleasantly surprised to be told of its connections to a band both my partner and I have listened to since we were little grommits. We hooked up with some Australian mates, Adam and Hayley, who showed us some awesome nights on the town.

If you’re an Australian and are for some reason missing the accent, look no further than ‘The Darkroom’ on Melrose Ave. There are almost always 10+ Aussies out the front using cuss words Americans don’t even dare to use, but are super friendly and will show you a good time. We bumped into Chima Ferguson among a long list of other Australian skaters killing it Stateside. It was rad seeing familiar faces so far from home. After a week of chilling out, doing touristy stuff like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, seeing Beverly Hills and going to parties we headed to Denver, Colorado.

Colorado is a beautiful state with an abundance of National Parks and amazing locations to camp and has over 120 skate parks to enjoy. After spending some time in downtown Denver and getting a feel for the State, we purchased new decks from 303 Skateboards on Colfax and bought a bunch of gear from Walmart for camping. We purchased a baby trailer to put all our camping gear in and a Mountain bike to tow it. Trent set up his BMX and we set out towards Reverends Ridge Camp Ground. This was an ambitious feat to say the least. We rode most of Colfax Avenue; oblivious to the fact it is the “longest and wickedest street in America”. It is 26 miles (42km) of Gun stores, Liquor Stores, Pawn Shops, vagrants and hookers. Two Australian kids towing a baby trailer with a mountain bike and the other one of us on a BMX isn’t exactly subtle transport and we copped some entertaining verbal abuse. Ranging from criticism of our transport, my partner having long hair to my choice of headwear (an Akubra). My favourites include “HEY LONE RANGER, WHERES YA HORSE?”, “HEY, LOOK, JIM MORRISON LIVES”, “YO, YOU GOT A BABY SQUISHED IN THAT TRAILER?” and “IT’S THE MOTHER F***ING TEXAS RANGER!”.

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After reaching the end of Colfax we got to Golden, rested and bought some supplies in Golden at Whole Foods and continued till Golden Gate Canyon Road. By dusk we had only ridden a 5th of the steep windy road, which has virtually no shoulder and we reached a section of National Park known for Coyotes, Bears and Mountain Lions. Both nervous and exhausted having completed just less than 50 miles (80km) nearly all of which was uphill, a man in Chevrolet Pick-Up Truck slowed down and assessed our situation. This is how we came to meet Geno. He asked as what the hell we were doing and we explained where we wanted to go and he chuckled a bit and let us know that where we thought we needed to get to we would need to travel further 20 miles from there till we reached the Camp ground. Geno told us to go further up the road and wait for him at a safe shoulder section and he would give us a lift to the Visitors Centre.

When we arrived, everything was closed. During the drive to said Visitors Centre we discovered how much alike the three of us were, having a very similar outlook on life, music, life style and simple pleasures. Geno, bless his generous heart, took a chance and brought us home to meet his wife Vicki, her sister Paula, her husband Ralph and their daughter in their town called Black Hawk. They were all quite surprised to see two people walk out from behind Geno. We stayed the night and got to know Geno, Vicki and their family better in the morning, swapped details and set out to Reverends Ridge again riding a further 20 miles up the mountain. We stayed there for a week or so hiking, relaxing and taking in the sights. On our way back to Denver we got to experience a fair dinkum 4th of July party at Black Hawk with fireworks and all, played pool with Geno, his work mates, friends and family. During the party it became the running joke/introduction to everyone that we were now Vicki and Geno’s adoptive Australian kids, a title I’m proud to have. They fed us, gave us a place to stay and were incredibly nice as well as plain awesome to hang out with.

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After an all American 4th of July we headed to Denver, the best art being able to bomb Golden Gate Canon Road for nearly an hour, we had some white knuckles after that, fanging so fast for so long. We skated and rode the park downtown then headed to Cherry Creek Camp Ground. Here it was a 14-mile ride to Parker Skatepark where we met Kelsy Hoog, possibly the most multi-talented teenager in Colorado. He boosts BMX bikes, rides Mountain Bikes, Motor Bikes, Snowboards as well as Skateboards and I’m pretty sure he can do a bunch of other stuff as well! He and his Mum Gerri took us in and let us stay with them for three weeks. We got to meet Kelsy’s brother Kyle, someone who should consider a career in stand-up, and Gerri’s sweet man Jason. During our time with Kelsy we got to skate and ride Redstone, Greenwood, Arvada, Denver,  Fair Play, Lafayette, The Hook, Wheels, Parker, Colorado Springs, Boulder and Valmont Bike Park.

If you’re into bowls and big transition like my partner and I, you will love Arvada and Boulder, my two favourite spots in Colorado. It was here we got to meet Kyle Smith one the most dialled BMX riders in Colorado who can boost so high you’ll hurt your neck watching him. Kyle showed us around to some cool spots and we got to see some of the beautiful scenery while driving around. Colorado is so breathtakingly beautiful and is worth checking out for that fact alone. After spending six weeks in there, we headed to the Big Apple.

After landing at JFK and heading straight to our Australian home girls in Bushwick, Zoe and Nina, we got the DL on public transport. Metro cards are the go; you can buy weeklies and monthlies. A weekly will cost you $30, which sounds pricey but that is an unlimited amount of trips so it works out real dope. They save you a lot of cash and you can get around New York really easily with out having to fork out ridiculous amounts of money on cabs, which are actually pretty cheap too anyway. Also, coffee is awful everywhere, even in New York, you’re better off getting instant freeze-dried stuff.

After spending a few nights with Zoe and Nina, Trent and I moved on to stay with our friend Kate Chiplinksy (aka Chip) who we met through another amazing human, Terrence, but to the people of New York its Prince Terrence, bitch. We experienced some crazy clubs like DL and Lit in the city where people will actually twerk and party pretty hard. It was quite fun to cut loose after being total health bosses for six weeks straight in Colorado. There is so much fun to be had in Brooklyn, particularly Bushwick. Places like Mazelles (best vegetarian Summer Sandwich in New York- they have amazing people working in the Kitchen), Pearls and Tutu’s do everything well; Music, food, booze and dancing if the mood should strike you. And a word of wisdom, New York is all about shots, tequila shots mainly, you will participate whether you want to or not, but everywhere has good quality tequila so it’s a good experience… mostly.

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We did some standard tourist stuff like the mandatory ‘Tom’s Restaurant’ (of Seinfeld fame) photo, Central Park, Hudson River, Brooklyn Bridge and Soho shopping but nothing compares to locals showing you around, you will get a much richer experience with someone who knows what is good and what isn’t. And you’ll meet a lot of colourful characters due to the diversity of the city. After being hooked up everyone we met virtually, seeing the lovely lads at ONLY NY, having Julian sorting Trent and I out with some rad apparel (Thank You!) we headed with Chip back to LA to see her family and relax before heading home.

After spending time in the city that never sleeps, it was odd going back to LA seeing as all the bars close at 2am. We went out for one last night on the town to say goodbye to the USA. But not for the last time, that is for sure. There is so much to see and experience in the USA and I feel like I saw such a small percentage of it. There is always something new on offer and so many different people to meet and places to see. Whatever you’re into, the USA will cater for it somewhere, you’ll have a blast and realise there are a lot of genuine, kind and generous people out there. It’s also a great way to escape the Australian Winter and get three Summers in a row!

Trent and I would like to thank everyone we met and spent time with, who showed us a good time, gave us a place to crash, a lift, fed us, helped us out or just hung out.

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Words and pictures by Noni Cragg. Read Noni’s interview here.