Last Days Of The T-1 Ramp Part 1: Joe Rich And Ryan Corrigan
14 Years of the Temple Of Roast comes to an end...
Words and photos by Rob Dolecki (Unless otherwise noted)
Back in March of 2002, it’s doubtful that Joe Rich realized what he was getting into when the decision was made to immediately start building a 7 foot-tall mini-ramp in the backyard of the newly rented T-1 office on the then rough-around-the-edges East side area of Austin the day the keys were acquired. Yet, fourteen years later and a shit-ton of sweat, grit, and money for materials, a Disneyland for two wheels had evolved. It became more than a ramp; it was an icon, an Austin, Texas landmark, a hub for the riding scene, a place that created some of the most heated sessions of roasting on a bike ever. It became the terrain countless riders from all over the world would dream endlessly about riding.
And many of these dreams were realized, as an unwritten open-door policy for anyone wishing to session was a given. Yet beyond all the insane bike tricks, all the outrageously high altitudes reached daily, and the amazing wood concoctions constructed by Joe and Ryan Corrigan that resulted in the masterpiece that was the T-1 ramp, there was something special created. It was an energy, an atmosphere that those who lived it will probably never forget and cherish forever, even though the ramp is now only a memory. Last week, the final 2X4s of this iconic structure where removed from the back of that now-famous yard on the corner of 6th and Chicon St. It’s an end of one era, and the beginning of a new one for Joe, T-1, and the whole Austin scene.
Joe and Ryan are respectfully up first on their thoughts on the history and legacy of the ramp; keep an eye out here for more on the some of the most intense last sessions at the T-1 ramp with Ruben, Garrett Byrnes, Tom Dugan, Chase Hawk, and Clint Reynolds. And thanks to etnies for making those few days documented a reality; the T-1 ramp section in 'Chapters' is going to be a treat.
How did the ramp first come to life?
We (Joe and Taj Mihelich) started T-1 at the end of 1997, and moved to Austin a year later. We built the first stage of the ramp in March of 2002. It was basically a forty-foot wide, seven-foot mini with a ten and a half-foot vert wall. At the time there was a new skatepark up north, and when it moved from down south, they built all new ramps. One of the things they built was a seven-foot mini with an eight-foot extension . It was so much fun. That size just felt so good. There was 9th
Where did the Skatelite come from?
The Skatelite was a hookup we got through Taj. He originally made his contact when he lived in Washington and was building his Thunderdome park (RIP). The Skatelite has had a big role in what's kept the ramp in such good condition over the years. Communication with them always varied, so we never really knew if we would ever be able to get more. On one occasion, we had been trying to get a hold of them, but had no luck. Taj had emailed them but never got a response. So we kind of forgot about the next ideas we were talking about in regards to the ramp. Then one day, thirty sheets just showed up without warning. Ha. At the time, we had no money to put towards for lumber. My credit card was at zero, and I was like fuck it, I don’t care, let’s run it. It was six grand for lumber. So we got what we needed and Ryan Corrigan grabbed was off and running. We had finished this new addition a week before I left on the train trip with Ruben back in 2005. Our trip was six weeks long and the very last stop was the Soul Bowl vert event in England. I entered and somehow got second in the contest. As luck would have it, I won the exact amount of money that the new addition on the ramp cost me before I left. I came home, deposited the check, and paid my credit card back to zero. Talk about the special powers the ramp had! I remember when they told me I got second and how much money I won, it was like someone bringing me a spine, an eight foot quarter, and giant hip landing onto the podium.
Where did the money for materials come from?
A lot of great people have come together to give money and help make this happen throughout the years; friends, Etnies… I’ve sunk a shitload of personal money into it, T-1, Empire. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. It’s been a collective effort for it to get this far.
"There’s no tragedy in getting 14 years to do exactly what you want."
- Joe Rich
Who has helped build the ramp over the years?
Ryan Corrigan has to be the first name mentioned. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what he's done here. Not only with his time, knowledge and abilities, but also with being able to work with me, my ideas, and conceptualizing things in order to make them the best we could come up with. He always loves the aspect of making something odd, or bigger or a little bit crazier. Nate Wessel, Ryan, and Pat Schraeder headed up the first version of the ramp we put in. After that, Ryan took the reigns from there. But once again, the amount of friends that have put time in back there as well are just too many to name. Thank you all!
How many stages of the ramp have you seen over the whole time?
The first change that happened to it is what set it off. Taj had an idea at the time while I was gone on the world trip. A month into the trip he sent me and email with some photos. He had added the big back section where the vert wall was moved, vert bowl corners were added, along with a good hip and coping that disappeared into the corners. It was so incredible, how it all blended together. That started the idea of expanding it more. The ramp always grew by how it rode. You come flying out of a corner, pointed in a certain direction, and then it’s, “Let’s put this there.” The stuff that we added sometimes was influenced by something fun we rode somewhere else, or a set up we wished had existed. The fun came in having to morph those ideas into the space that we had out back. There was probably four builds that gave the overall area of the ramp, then another four big ones that refined it.
How did the ramp affect the Austin scene?
What’s the difference between a backyard ramp and a public skatepark?
I’ve always dug the backyard ramp scene, because that’s what I grew up with; there were only a handful of skateparks sprinkled across the country. So they were more like unicorns than spots that you could actually ride on the regular. There were barely riders or skaters. Knowledge of a new ramp was always something that seemed surreal. If someone made the effort to build something, you were almost tiptoeing over there in hopes you might be able to ride it. And I was always very grateful for what they were sharing. It’s very similar to trails. I kind of feel that in this town, there are a lot of people that just come and go, and kind of get what they need for their responsibilities for sponsors with footage or photos. And then there’s the pockets of people contributing towards creating, building, and making stuff happen. I feel like people that are constantly adding to a scene should get a green pass anywhere.
What happens at parks sometimes is something I can’t relate to. I don’t think kids even notice they have a different vibe than a backyard scene, because they didn’t go through the cycles of emotions that I went through growing up. It may be a difference of generations more than anything. If they have everything riding-wise laid out for them all the time, they just expect that. Sessions out back are always really good thanks to an ongoing shared effort. They come here and have a great time. No bullshit. That just makes me feel good.
One thing also, is that the chiller sessions, can be every bit as good as the heavy ones. It’s all perspective. I get so much out of them all. You’ll mess around with stuff that you never would if a park was crowded and you always had to wait to try and squeeze a run in. It’s cool to have somewhere that you create for yourself and friends that is always there for you to appreciate in different ways. That part of it makes for the endless progression there can be in your mind.
I’ll be the first to say I had no idea how to ride a bowl corner before we had corners on the ramp. It almost feels like an amusement park ride but way better; you feel the g-forces. Once I felt that, I wanted to feel it more. My three favorite things are tables, alley-oops, and ripping a corner.
"The only thing that could be tapped out is your own imagination."
- Joe Rich
Has it ever felt like all the lines were tapped out?
No, the only thing that could be tapped out is your own imagination. There’s so much; it’s limitless. It’s very easy to see when people come by who’s never been here. You’ll see them hit something in their first or second run that might be new for everyone who rides here all the time. That’s something that has been really cool to see. That is something that has kept a fire lit with it for so long when being very aware that you still have so far to go with what’s possible.
I was listening to Ryan talk last night, and about everyone roasting the shit out of things. But one thing that I’ve always felt, is that it can be really overwhelming due to how you see people riding it. But at the same time, even just watching someone like Ruben take his first few runs of the day, is just as good. If you take that perceived constant roast element out of your head, that it’s actually really forgiving and it can present a whole side of riding that isn’t what you think of, due to the lines and layout and how much it could help someone just starting out. You can do just as much at or under coping and it would be equally impressive. You don’t have to air eight feet to get something out of this ramp.
What is the one piece that has stayed the same, that was built and never needed to change?
The very first thing- the seven-foot mini.
Who’s gone the highest on the nine-foot quarter?
Tom Dugan, by far. The first time Tom came to ride it, somewhere around his third or fifth hit on it, I would definitely stand by my word and say he went at least thirteen feet. I have a photo of him at about eleven later in the day, but it was nowhere near that one blast. I just remember seeing him in an airspace that no one has come close to since.
Favorite riders to watch?
There’s way too many people in my mind. So many good sessions.
Is there someone who rides the ramp surprising well that you wouldn’t normally think of?
One of my favorite people to watch ride is my friend Logan (Balbirona); he’s my best friend. I never seen anyone smile as much as him. He can rip a bowl corner unlike anyone else. The amount of enjoyment I know he's getting out of it is incredible.
Are there any really standout moments over the years?
There’s been a lot of really amazing different things that have gone on with video premieres, benefits, bands playing, jams, barbecues, Thanksgivings, holiday sessions . . . I think that’s one of my favorite parts about the backyard is there’s never been one thing to judge it on. It’s just been filled with a lot of different moments of goodness.
Has it been difficult regulating the ramp?
People have always seemed to have a ton of respect for it. We’ve always offered for anyone to come ride as long as the gate is unlocked. The only time I’ve ever found people back here who jumped the fence were these guys who ran the indoor skatepark here years and years ago. I was more in disbelief than pissed off, just because of the dynamic of it.
Have you ever banned anyone?
You’ve had no issues with the city?
No. But the city has to know it’s here, don’t they?
Are there any issues people wouldn’t think of?
Living your life and trying being available for so many people’s schedule all the time can have its moments. At any time there could be a knock on your door. It can be a test of will for sure, because I might have plans or things I want to go do. But it may be someone's only chance they had to come ride while in town. So since this place has given me so much goodness, I want to pass that on as much as I can. Many plans have gotten changed for this reason, but I've gotten to meet and know a lot of great people because of it.
How many random animals have been back there?
Animals like Isaac? Matty Aquizap? Clint Reynolds? Ha ha ha. As in wildlife- not very many actually. One time we were fixing a section of flat-bottom and came across a surprise. There’s heaps of trash that blows down the alley way here. This huge possum had chewed his way through the two-by-sixs in the flat, collected all these plastic bags and completely built this horseshoe wall and nest under the flat. The plastic bags must have been insulation because there were hundreds of them. I was wrenching the crowbar on the last piece of ply, and had my hand under there. I break the thing loose and there was the giant possum looking up at me. We sat there staring at each other for quite some time. I managed to pull a garbage can over with my foot because I couldn't set the section of flat back down as it would have crushed him. I propped it up and sat back watching him. After a few moments he just cruised on out of there. Other than that, just cats.
How different would the ramp mean to you if it were still the original setup?
It’s hard to imagine that. I think that I would still love it, but it wouldn't hold the same place inside me. The progression of the ramp feels like it was directly in line with the progression I felt in myself and in my riding. I feel its great at showing you where your interests are, or where a certain internal part of you is. It’s not necessarily about something always needing to be new or different, it’s about honing in on what feels right, even if it’s not right at first. It’s a pursuit of something you know exists, it’s a feeling that becomes the driving force in you. The ongoing process of making our ideas a reality. Even when we built the new landing at the end of the summer, we knew we had barely any time left here. But we knew it would make it better. So we had to do it.
Why did the ramp come to an end?
This side of town is changing so much, and it’s getting insanely expensive. It feels like every month there is a new bar, restaurant, or set of condos being put up. I’ve had the best landlord, and he’s done everything he possibly could to make it so I could afford to be here as long as I have. But the reality is that the building next to this is getting torn down, and they are building a hotel that will encompass that property and ours. It wasn’t a surprise. We’re pretty much in the center of where the main focus of this town’s development is. There’s no tragedy in getting 14 years to do exactly what you want.
Where are the ramp pieces heading to now that it's being dismantled?
It’s being split up primarily between three new backyards. It was the right decision in keeping with the spirit of the ramp.
"More than anything, this place has shown me that you can do anything; it’s effort and being surrounded around good people."
- Joe Rich
Once the ramp is gone and you are living outside of the city, how is your view of Austin going to change, especially after living there for 20 years?
I think my view of Austin changes all the time. For me, a financial struggle that you’re never going to get on top of is not worth it to me, and that's why I looked outside the city. I would rather consider a next chapter than trying to squeeze something to death that doesn’t work the same as it once did. Even if you could pick up the ramp and put it somewhere, it wouldn’t be the same. At one point, my view of Austin centered around 9th
What does the T-1 ramp mean to you?
I guarantee that I wouldn’t be mentally and physically where I am without it. What it’s done for my soul, and the goodness for bringing my friends and new faces together for so long. And this continued energy that isn’t at all associated with a time frame of age. Ten years ago I didn’t feel as good as I do now. It’s pretty much re-written any pre-conceived idea on life in general. It’s about continuing to make ideas possible. It’s so cool to feel how the importance of that has never left me, while there has been the responsibility of a lot of different things with getting older. More than anything, this place has shown me that you can do anything; it’s effort and being surrounded around good people. Seeing that as a collective and seeing how it all worked together is the best feeling. This became something that I never ever could have dreamed it was. Just the fact that it got to exist in any way is something that I’ll never be able to express entirely.
You were involved in all the incarnations for the ramp?
Yeah, from the very beginning. The very first section of the ramp was Nate Wessel, myself and Pat Schraeder. My first real project solely in charge was bowling in the big end, with Paul Buchanan and a little help from Taj. Joe was on the world tour during the big end edition and came home and was very happy. After that it was the spine to quarter segment, then the box jump area, which was re-done quite a bit. I’ve been here for all of them. Over the past few years I get things started and have to leave town, and Joe would finish them, he’s stepped up.
How much do you think the ramp cost?
Without Taj’s Skatelite hookup, it probably would have never happened. As far as ramps go in the real world, Skatelite usually matches the cost of materials. Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to continue. As far as costs, if someone had to build it from scratch with labor, costs, materials, at least seventy-five grand. As far as what’s been spent out of Joe’s pocket, the little bit here and there from people who come ride the ramp, free labor from Austin and friends, who knows? Without that it wouldn’t happen.
Have you learned a lot about ramp building through building it?
For me, I used it as a place to experiment. How much I could bend wood, how much I could tweak corners, blends that I would never do for other people. Joe over the years was busy inside running a business to keep the ramp here and would feel bad that he wasn’t out working. I would tell him do what he’s gotta do to keep the ramp here, and I’ll work on it. Then I would leave town and it was only half-done. It’s how you learn- you jump in headfirst and figure it out.
What was the hardest part of the ramp to build?
I’m not sure how to answer it. To me, it’s tedious and time-consuming. It takes a while and some of it will suck, but there is no part that I could say hard. The far end of the big corner is about two feet off the ground. When we did it, in order for there to be deck, we had to cut two feet off of the entire existing ramp. I got jabbed back there with razor wire a few times. The big quarter addition- we did that mid-summer in 100 plus degree heat every day. It was miserable. I remember drinking two liters of water in twenty minutes, sweating so much and never peeing all day. There’s been ups and downs for each section.
It’s worth it in the end, right?
Yeah, this is why we are back there. It’s not an event, it’s not a contest, it’s not a ramp for some person that just wants to be cool. It’s for all of us to ride; it’s for Austin. It’s for kids all over the world that one to come here, which dumbfounds me. But it doesn’t on another side, since I was that kid.
Was there anything that didn’t work out?
It’s BMX and skating; we always make things work, but sometimes you can change things to work better. It was on my own good will, wanting to build this thing. I don’t think anything never worked, but after some mods things worked better. It was more trial and error. From riding it all the years, we really figured out the lines; it was an organic creation. You see how it goes, and change it for the better.
Is there a difference watching people ride T-1 as opposed to something you built for an event?
For me the ramp versus a real job- there is that difference. For an event, people want it for a certain thing. Here, it’s for us. Joe and I will go back and forth when changing things. It’s not for a TV show. We want people to come in here and just be stoked. There were times when I was hesitant to open up the ramp when Joe wasn’t around. There were times I’d want to come ride for a half hour, I’d be about to leave and some kids from like Germany would show up. “It’s my dream to ride this ramp.” I gotta let these kids ride, just because, and miss out on whatever I was supposed to do. The difference is kids want to come here and ride. It’s become an epic spot to ride in BMX. It’s awesome to have created something that kids want to ride. Who has had something of this magnitude for so long. It’s a pretty much open door policy. If the gates unlocked, pretty much anyone is open to come ride and have fun. That’s what it’s about, to see the faces, to see the people who’s dream it is to come ride this. It’s awesome to see.
Have you ever felt the need to lock the gate?
There has definitely been times I’ve showed up, the gate’s locked and people are riding. I give them a little shit. If you’re going to ride it let other people enjoy it, though. There has been times where I rode by, and six or seven kids were in the parking lot next door, with helmets on, waiting for someone to unlock the gate. Since I’m kind of more under the radar from people to recognize - if Joe rode by they know who he is - I’ve ridden straight by and didn’t have the time. If I had already opened the ramp, it would be ok.
What is the most satisfying piece of the ramp?
One of the main things with the ramp has been that there is never one person from the outside dictating the ramp. In the beginning we never really considered the whole space. It’s not for the one big trick; it’s for having fun. The 9 foot quarter, that’s when people turned on the roast for real. For here, sadly it’s about money, but it’s also, “Let’s make it happen.” When we built the 9 foot quarter, I’d drawn out the whole radius, ready to go, and Joe tries to tell me to change the radius by an inch. There’s been the entertaining times just Joe and I bickering back and forth about stuff that is pretty minuscule. We both kind of enjoy it. In the end we know it’s going to work. So I'd say the 9' quarter. No deck, razor wire on the other side, The flat wall of the quarter is only 6' wide. It’s made for going up as high as you can and the road to it is just as much fun as airing it. Its been the most satisfying to ride. The last volcano hip roller blend was the most satisfying to build.
How are the backyard ramp vibe different from public parks?
When you are in the backyard, it’s your friends - it’s fun. There are no goons you don’t like. The backyard scene is what BMX is to me. My life isn’t at a skatepark that I kind of like (yet). The ramp is what we want to ride; it’s the scene we have created because its the scene we want to be in.
What does the T-1 ramp mean to you?
A lot of work and lots of fun. But it’s the work I wanted; it’s the ramp I want to ride with my friends. It doesn’t’ pay, but it’s BMX. That’s why we’ve done it. There are some times where I worked on it for weeks straight, then leave for six months working a real ramp job. Those jobs let me afford to come back here and experiment. It means what BMX is to me. In the yard of your friends house Riding with your friends having fun and not worrying about what the BMX media is dictating as cool. Remember the T1 ad of Taj? Why is that ten feet never gets old? Because it never will.
Are you going to miss the ramp when it’s gone?
Once the ramp’s gone, it’s going to change things for me. It’s been such a staple. For eight years I lived less than a mile from the ramp. I recently moved about seven miles away, even that’s changed. But I think for it not to be here, the fun, the camaraderie, the session with your friends where you’re laughing and having fun- once it changes, it’s going to be different. I’m going to miss it.
"When you are in the backyard, it’s your friends - it’s fun. There are no goons you don’t like."- Ryan Corrigan
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