Adam Abada and Zach Baker zig-zagged through the backroads of New Jersey on their skateboards for 10 days, pushing anywhere from 20-30 miles per day, skating spots along the way, camping and crashing wherever they could. Call it crazy, call it inspiring, but these two proved that you don’t need to travel out of the country (or even your own state) to uncover unique, memorable, and zany people. The road really does go on forever. (And this wasn’t even their first time doing something like this). Both of their philosophies on life are enough to get you off the couch and into the streets, let alone all the footage and photos they stockpiled in those 10 days. So if their story doesn’t encourage you to get out of your house and away from your comfort zone, then you just aren’t paying enough attention! Here’s The Backstreet Atlas Guide To New Jersey--a story of two skaters who set out to get a new taste of life on the old open road.
From Adam & Zach:
The reason I love these trips, besides the fact that I get to skate new spots, see new places, grill, camp, and chill with my best friend for weeks at a time, is that they act to offset an ever-growing distance that we as a society have created between ourselves, our environments, and each other. In a very personal way, these films are a vehicle for engaging with all types of people, and the interactions with the places we pass through are tactile, intimate, and real. Really, the films are an extension of what drew us to skateboarding in the first place. They feel good to make, they are fun, they push us to challenge ourselves physically and creatively. But most importantly, I feel that every time we do this, in a minute way, we are acting to bridge some sort of gap between ourselves and the 7.4 billion individuals who surround us. At this point, Adam and I don't really have a choice but to keep making these things. Having pushed through just a teensy strip of paved humanity only makes us want to get out there and soak in the whole damn thing. --Zach Baker
In some way, the more you know about the world the more likely it is for you to make some kind of sense of it. Keeping things and people you love close is one sweet part of the pie, but expanding your understanding of yourself and others is the other delicious part. We decided to use one of the things we love the most--skateboarding--to learn more about the people, places and things we thought we knew and to make one sweet, delicious pie. And, you know what? We found out we know damn near shit. So I figure we'll keep doing it, and keep learning more, and keep using the things and people we love the most to help each other make sense of it all. Give it a shot. You don't have to skate to do it, but it's fun as hell if you do. --Adam Abada
VIDEO / Adam Abada & Zach Baker
This wasn't the first time you guys have done a trip like this, right? Tell me about your first Backstreet Atlas trip.
AA: The first one was from Boston to New York, so this is kind of a continuation of that – both geographically and in spirit. We had no idea what we were getting into that time and this time we knew exactly what we were getting into.
ZB: The first trip came about as a realization of a long-running joke between us. I used to live in Boston and I'd take the Chinatown bus down to NYC all the time. The joke was that one day I was going to skate. Then we thought about and decided it was something that would be doable and probably a ton of fun. Which it was.
What would you say the main motivation for these trips has been?
AA: The motivation boils down to wanting to see new things, meet new people, learn, and engage with the communities in places that we may look over for any reason.
ZB: The initial motivation was to try to do something fun and create something original together. It has since proven to be an outlet in which we get to know new people and places during the trips, collaborate with many talented friends and creators in the creation of the films, then again travel and collaborate with people as we bring the film around showing it. It is humbling how many people have supported these projects.
When you get back home from something like this, I'm sure it feels good to relax for a few days and get caught back up with everything. But with two of these trips down, are you eager to get back out there and keep pushing? Do you miss the road sometimes?
AA: We’re very, very eager to get back out there. We’d do this anywhere. Seriously. We’re looking for new, interesting places to do it. If anyone wants to suggest a trip, join, anything, let us know. We mean it.
ZB: For like a week after finishing one of these trips, I'll wake up in the morning in almost a panic--"We gotta go!" I love doing this and want to do it as many times as our bodies allow!
Where are some other places you'd like to do something like this?
AA: Places that people think are all figured out. It’d be cool to do one in Southern California and see what’s in the nooks and crannies. Peel back the industry stuff that everyone sees and uncover some lesser-known local scenes. Subvert the car culture a little bit. Places with a lot of history of people living there. Paris to London. Australia? Places no one thinks about. Cincinnati to Cleveland? Milwaukee to Chicago would be a sick quickie. What’s good in Hawaii? I know Zach is keen on Houston to New Orleans. That’d be gnarly.
ZB: Anything. I want to do the length of Puerto Rico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Texas, the length of the Mississippi, New York to LA. All those examples are so gnarly but would be incredible and I think fascinating for the viewer as well. They could also very easily kill us.
Give me some compare and contrast on the ups and downs of your New Jersey trip? What sucks the most and what rules the most?
AA: You know, the whole thing ruled. Even getting tired physically, it’s all totally worth it.
ZB: What sucked was that we didn't take even more time. I would have liked to have gone to Northwest New Jersey as well as the points further south of Philadelphia in New Jersey. Nothing sucked, but yes, skateboarding far in the summer heat is hard. Camping was awesome, eating was awesome, and skating spots acted as a type of a breather, so we skated a lot of spots every day of the trip.
Do you guys have a ton of extra raw footage that didn't make it into the video? How much of the trip was really captured and released in The Backstreet Atlas Guide to New Jersey?
AA: We have a ton of footage. I’d say maybe 10-15% got used, but probably even less. The essence of the trip is all there, though.
I'm sure there were a million crazy stories but was there one thing in particular that you guys can remember from pushing around the state for 10 days? Any sketchy run-ins with people or anything like that?
AA: I bet Zach says the exact same one as this. We were at a real local Pine Barren watering hole near Fort Dix, a military training base. We were looking crazy and some “military guys,” as we were told, were sketched out by our potential as terrorists. It cooled off pretty soon.
ZB: Yeah. We put our bags down inside the bar, I step outside, and this local is outside having a cigarette. Dude goes, "I gotta say, there's some ex-military guys in there that you're making real nervous. I dunno, they're saying you guys might be terrorists." After that I was ready to get the hell out of there, but Adam, being the charismatic young filmmaker that he is was able to make some friends and get some cool interviews.
Is this all self-funded? How much money does someone have to spend on a ten-day skate trip like this?
AA: Well, the trip is one thing--making a movie out of it is another. The trip is awesome because it is dirt cheap. You camp, meet people, crash where you have to. The movie is another story, though… You don’t want to end up spending the night in super cutty places with all your gear. You also have to own or buy gear, expendables, batteries. Long story short, though--no, this wasn’t self-funded! This time around we were given some money from our friends at Carhartt Work in Progress. They really helped out, supported what we were doing, and were down to be a part of it.
ZB: I have spent more money in a couple days of vacation than I do on these week plus jaunts. The more we make these movies, the more I learn about the bottomless expenses of making a film. The guys at Carhartt WIP definitely helped us make it happen, everything else comes out of our pockets, which is fine.
Did you camp every night? Some people might wonder about showers, etc. Was that an issue or a thought for you guys?
AA: We didn’t camp every night. Though I know people who’ve gone way farther than us and camped the whole time. Since it was our home state we knew people all over the place and had places to stay. We showered…a few times. A shower isn’t an issue though. You’re going to be pretty dirty pretty fast every day and you’re really tired when you get to sleep.
ZB: Gold Bond powder is tight. I showered if we were staying in someone's home, more just trying to be a good houseguest.
Seems like you guys ate pretty well, too. Those shrimp tacos looked pretty good. Are you carrying food and water with you while you push or do you just stop at convenient stores as you come across them?
AA: Thanks! We always try to eat well, even on the move. We’re just stoppin at stores when we come across them. New Jersey’s got the stores covered. Convenience, mall, mini-mall, bodega, chain, you name it; they got it.
ZB: We carry water on us at all times, find places to eat on our phones, and get groceries as we approach the destination for the night. Thank you. The shrimp tacos were awesome.
Did you ever run into any weather issues? What would you do if it just started raining on you in the middle of nowhere?
AA: No weather issues whatsoever. During the trip from Boston to New York we had a few rain delays, though. You wait ’em out or toss on a poncho and walk. I suppose you could just push it in the rain, but we weren’t really about that.
ZB: Our first day of our first trip, it rained until almost sundown. We lurked, walked, and skated twenty miles that day. It hasn't rained since.
For those people out there who might get inspired by your guys' story, what is some advice you have for them?
AA: In an attempt to not just say “Go for it!!!,” I think some practical advice would be to have an attainable goal. What we learned was that anyone, anywhere can be interesting so you don’t have to go too far or do anything too outlandish to uncover something that might surprise you.
ZB: Go for it!!!
Anyone you want to thank or shout out?
AA: Another big shout out and thank you to Carhartt WIP, they held it down so hard and were a huge source of support. Our friends who lent their professional talents to the flick; Reed Adler, Andrés Cardona, Tom Gorelik, Silver Sound in NYC. Anyone who spoke with us, kicked it with us, all our friends and family for their continued love and support no matter how weird we start to get. The shops, the skaters, any places that screened the flick, the people out their pouring the crete and pounding the pavement. And y’all, Transworld, Brian and Jaime, for providing a place for skateboarding discussion and content literally since I’ve started skateboarding and now letting us be a part of it. Thanks, guys.
ZB: Adam Abada, Mom, Dad, Rachel, Penny, Crave On, Boytoy, QTY, The Dirty Fences, Fur Helmet, Jason Sibilia, Gillian Powell, Bruce Springsteen/Mona Okada/Jelena Groznadich, John Cruz, Andrew McLaughlin, The Nieratkos, Gabriel Angemi, Leks, the guy at the gas station who gave us bananas, everyone who skates, builds, makes stuff, does freaky stuff--you’re rad. Peace to Young Will from Providence.
For the first Backstreet Atlas trip, click here: vimeo.com/64576083