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On the road with roadies

Now the seats are all empty

Let the roadies take the stage

Pack it up and tear it down

They're the first to come and last to leave

Working for that minimum wage

They'll set it up in another town ...

If you think flying off a quarter-pipe on in-line skates is living la vida loca, you should spend a few hours with the guys who build the street course.

"Danger?" scoffed 20-year-old Darren Boyd. "You never know what will happen. I nearly had my eyes poked out by a bird the other day when we were setting up."

His co-workers nodded in agreement.

"It was ugly," his brother Danny recalled. "He hasn't been the same since. He keeps waking up at night screaming."

The brothers, two deck hands on John Tyson's Vertical Productions crew that travels with the X Trials, said, bird attack aside, their jobs are pretty sweet.

"Lots of pretty women," Darren said. "I've had girls come up to me and ask me to sign their chest."

"But that's because they thought you were one of the pros," brother Danny interjected.

Darren shrugged his shoulders. "I guess," he said.

The VP roadies roll into town with their nine tractor-trailers of ramps and scaffolding a week before the X Trials begin.

"When we show up, we're the cool guys," Tyson explained. "Then the athletes show up and we're just blue-collar workers. But then the athletes leave and we're the cool guys again."

Tyson, 27, built skateboard ramps in friends' back yards a decade ago. "We did it for fun," he said. "I never thought I would make a living at it."

But thanks to increasing X Trials and Games popularity, Tyson employs a seven-man crew nine months a year.

"Every January we hold a design meeting with two athletes from each sport," he said. "The hardest part is getting them to agree. The skateboarders want one thing, the bike guys want another "

Armed with that information, Tyson and his colleagues sit at the computer and design a 12,500-square-foot street course, complete with 40 to 50 obstacles.

"We try to keep it interesting," he said. "The athletes would get bored if they had to ride the same thing year after year."

Then Tyson and his crew lock themselves in a warehouse in Santa Rosa, a small town north of San Francisco, and cut and screw and bolt until they have what they need, then they take it all apart.

"It has to be mobile," he said. "We get about five days to set it up and two days to break it down."

Then they pile everything in the trucks and hit the highway. "We are just glorified roadies," Tyson said. "It is like working in a carnival."

They drove from San Francisco to Lake Havasu, Ariz., the first of four stops on the road to the X Games.

"We had everything set up, went to bed that night and woke up the next morning to 70 mph winds," recalled Mario Panagiotopoulos. "The storm picked up one side of the course and dropped it on the other side of the course. We had to start all over from scratch."

At 33, Panagiotopoulos is the "old man" of Tyson's team. He is legendary among his co-workers because of his patented "fatback" ramp adjustment maneuver.

"I weigh 230 pounds," explained Panagiotopoulos. "Those little guys just don't have it in them."

From Lake Havasu, the VP crew drove to Louisville. From Louisville, it drove to St. Petersburg. And once in Florida, Darren and Danny Boyd, traveling under their on-the-road aliases of the dreaded Banano Brothers, spent every minute they weren't working trying to meet girls.

"We always thought California had all the beautiful women," Danny said. "We were wrong. They're here."

But Tyson said looking at the beauty the X Trials attract isn't the greatest benefit. "We all skate and ride," he said. "So, of course, we have to sample our work."

When the crowds leave, they break it down and load the trucks. And it is off to another town to do it all over.

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps

Haul them trusses down and get 'em up them ramps

Cause when it comes to moving me

You guys are the champs ..

_ The Load-Out, Jackson Browne and Bryan Garofalo.

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