From Neal…

Two years ago we took a family spring break trip to San Francisco. Sean and Leo were already skating and, thanks to YouTube, they knew about some of the city’s better known skate “spots.” Unlike greater Los Angeles, which is filled with renowned skate parks, San Francisco has only a few skateparks. When we visited one of those parks in 2009, it was jam-packed and intense. So we left and went looking for a street-skating spot the boys had learned about, known as “Third & Army.”

Third & Army isn’t a skatepark, it’s an unofficial spot in the Dogpatch neighborhood. It’s near Third Street and Army Street, now known as Cesar Chavez Street. On our first visit, we took a train south of downtown and walked through an industrial area looking for Army Street, which we couldn’t find, unaware that the street name had changed. We finally discovered the spot, a semi-abandoned concrete promenade, along a canal on Tulare St. at Indiana Ave.

img 0824 Third and Army in the Dogpatch

Yesterday, we found the spot pretty quickly. The same taco truck that we’d eaten from two years earlier was parked nearby. The boys had two hours of fun, but were disappointed that a few of the structures that skaters had installed – a ramp and a “flat bar” – had been removed. Apparently the city is trying to prevent the spot from becoming a full-on DIY skatepark like FDR in Philly.

I learned from the boys that Los Angeles has heeded the call from skaters to create skateparks that replicate the experience of street skating by installing picnic tables, curbs, benches, and rails – structures you’d find in a public park or in a corporate plaza. A pro skater named Rob Dyrdek has helped build what he calls “safe spots” – street-style parks where kids can skate without fear of police or security officers chasing them out.

At Hollenbeck skatepark in LA I had chatted with Carlos Garcia, a skater who recently moved to Southern California from Rhode Island. He came to LA to be able to skate more freely, having gotten arrested a couple of times for skating in Providence. “The skating here is way better,” he said.

To follow the whole coast-to-coast, dads-and-sons adventure, check out


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