Stoke Factor: 10
Miserableness Factor: 0
Snot Rockets Blown: 1
Avg Speed: 0
Day 7 was my long awaited rest day. I woke up late, very late, to the sound of my phone ringing to do an interview with Morgan over the phone. Very straight forward. I think she was a bit surprised by my voice- if you know my voice, it’s already mannish and deep, but catch me the minute I awaken and I sound like Kermit the frog swallowed some sulfur hexaflouride. In any event, CJ messaged me about how the family was going to do some downhill, and asked if I wanted to join.
Thinking about getting some downhill in both scared and excited me. Just one day prior, I found myself walking down an 8% grade hill out of fear. I wonder if, after this journey, I’ll ever bomb hills again. It’s hard to think about it, but at the same time, knowing that I never would have met amazing humans like CJ (Mama Wilky) and Dean only opens up a can of “what else could I miss out on?” After quickly dressing myself in my newly washed belongings, we hit up a hill in a newly developed area. Snowbirds were flying above us, doing air tricks and booming through the skies. Dean was really into it. He told me this joke and I haven’t been able to forget it:
“How did Canada get its name? They jumbled a bunch of letters together- C, eh? N, eh? D, eh? OH CANADA! And that is also how they got their anthem.”
I drove the car as Dean blasted down the 10% grade hill at 45mph on his gravity bike. That thing was beyond cool. I love how the culture of skating downhill motivates people to innovate. It was his first time welding and invented this crazy chopper style bike you kneel on and just huck yourself down a hill. I was wildly impressed. I decided for myself not to skate- the risks outweigh the stoke. Getting hurt so early in my skate would destroy me. I’m not sure I could face humanity if I were not able to finish the adventure.
We moved on from the hill with a few more locals and met up with the rest of the Idaho Downhill scene at a hill dubbed Sweet Potato. One thing I noticed was that everyone had the same style board- short wheelbase, Don’t Trip trucks, Cuei wheels, and a super pronounced kicktail. Thinking about how Southern California fangirls around Ronin trucks and how this scene had their niche put a little perspective into the cultural differences throughout the country. It was cool to have it laid out in front of me.
I played follow car driver as the boys sent it down the hill- CJ blasted to the front on her luge. I’ve never been more impressed with a lady skater in my life. To see a woman so honest about her age and health seemingly fearlessly laying down in a group of younger guys and blowing by them put the biggest smile on my face. Women are amazing, and how far we go to assert ourselves in an industry made for others blows my mind. Coming to Boise was inspirational. Getting to see CJ in action was both dropping and motivating. The hill they skated felt like Glendora Mountain Road, except longer. The speed was about the same, and I felt like I surely missed out on some amazing skating. At brass tax I could have borrowed some gear and sent it myself, but I had to remember thd task at hand- get to Boston on a skateboard.
I hitched a ride with others to REI and split with the Wilkinson family for a while. My intention was to pick up lighter gear. I tried out some really amazing tents and sleeping bags but couldn’t commit. I told myself that if I made it this far, I could go further. I’m partial to my own sleeping bag. I nearly missed sleeping in it. I inspected some base layers and thought about switching up my clothes- it was too much to think about. Overwhelmed at a $600 price tag on new gear, I walked out of the store empty handed.
Walking back to the house I was staying for a second day, I wanted to get some local food, but found myself smack dab in the middle of corporate America. Target, REI, Arby’s…mall stores lined the street as cars flocked to shop. I chose to get a snack at Arby’s. I’ve always liked eating there for some reason. It feels less-bad for me than other fast food. Also, roast beef is a delicacy and specialty in North Shore Massachusetts where I graduated college. Sometimes I have dreams about late night trips to Bill and Bob’s for a three way sandwich. If you know you know.
Continuing my walk, I enjoyed the brisk air and the flat surfaces. My feet thanked me for a weightless travel. I was sweating in my gear. I am not concerned about layering up or being cold as I skate. I am only concerned about where I will camp and at what altitude. Things change per every 1000ft climbed. To date on this trip, I climbed over 6000ft in 6 days. That’s an accomplishment. Even the most challenging race course I’ve done only climbs 1500ft over 3 days. My hardest personal skate (Boston to Provincetown- 138 miles in 14 hours) climbed 1500ft. This adventure is shaping up to break every record I’ve ever been proud of, or already has.
Along the road I noticed that bikers would ride at me on the sidewalk even though a perfectly reasonable bike path was on the road. I refused to get out of their way and stood my ground as each tried to pass. One kid went on the grass. Another, likely with a smaller IQ, bunny hopped off of a raised curb at a parking lot entrance and toward the road. He didn’t make it into the road, as a large SUV barreled right into him and clocked him off his (likely) stolen Huffy bike. He stood up and hobbled to the side of the road as a police cruiser and nearby fire truck threw their lights on and circled at us. The SUV left, and I walked ahead before anyone wanted to question me. Knowing that the guy was seemingly uninjured, I couldn’t help but to laugh. If the guy was trying to impress me with his bunny hopping skills, he succeeded. I was impressed at how he was able to land so far away from his bike.
Back at CJ’s house, taco night was being prepared. I was once again grateful (the food was delicious- the organic salsa was so tangy and amazing), and did the dishes after. I thought back to my time spent living with my aunt- I always did the dishes after every meal. I feel like if you aren’t paying for a meal, doing the dishes is the best way to say thank you. In the spirit of showing how grateful I was to have a home to hang my hat on a day off I sorely needed, I did them with a smile.
After spending time with CJ and chatting about anything amd everything while I manhandled the Rottweiler, Benjamin, Dean and I went over my next moves through Idaho, I was doubting myself. There’s no easy pass through the state of Idaho, and after, it only gets tougher into Wyoming. I’m staring down the smoky barrel of the worst two upcoming weeks of my life. My pack is unchanged, my route is changing, and the doubts are setting in. I’d give anything to spend the rest of my days reliving these past two. What an absolute treat it has been staying in Boise, Idaho.
I am still deaf in my right ear. CJ’s theory was that the wax buildup over the first few days of my skate swelled when I jumped in the hot springs at Juntura, and pressed on my eardrum. I figured a clean sweep with a Q-Tip would clear it out, but if anything it was just painful. Part of me thinks that one of those Red Mites that live in the springs got into my ear and can’t get out. Its a horrifying thought but the ringing in my ear is a bad sign. I would love to stop at a doctor and check it out, but I don’t have insurance and I don’t have time. I pray that I am not permanently deaf in my right ear- I am already partially deaf in my left. The ringing won’t stop and it has been giving me horrible headaches. The elevation changes haven’t helped. My ear will pop and it feels like cartilage is stabbing me in the canal. I wonder if I will ever have a day in my life I don’t experience pain.
In a rock and a hard place, I head South my next day to Mountain Home and make a decision- follow route 20 to Arco, or blow by Mountain Home to the Bruneau Dunes, and follow Dean’s route of farm roads to Arco. Either way, I expect horrible pavement and cold weather. At least the forecast is clear. These next days will predict how quickly I can escape the northwest and reach a state where it is still Autumn.
I am lucky to be able to face this challenge after coming from a home with people I get to call family. The Wilkinson family took me in, showed me a good time, and made sure everything I could have needed was covered. With a full belly and a clean slate, I get to leave with a sense of mindfulness and love. I haven’t felt so welcome anywhere in my entire life. It will be difficult to say goodbye.
it has been an interesting ride so far and a handful of people have asked- “What kind of blowback have I gotten as a transgender woman on this skate?” In all respects, I’m the first. I’m the first transgender competitive long distance skateboarder, and the first to win a major downhill race. I am proud of those accomplishments. As for the blowback, it has been minimal. Every now and again I run into some toxic comments on the internet, but in real life, I have traveled the country and competed comfortably as myself. There was the time during 2017 Ultraskate where my rival said, “If you’re going to compete as a woman, you have to pee like a woman,” and the time I skated an open division race and was told I should have raced with the women. Both times were drastically different, but both go to show what kind of situations I run into. However, at this point in my life, I have made my name in skateboarding. It would be unlikely for me to go to an event and not know most of the people in attendance- and they all know me. I think that overall, the women of the world have been welcoming to me. Of course, there was the time I won first place at the Central Mass 8 Skate Festival and the other girls didn’t even show up to the podium. I took it kind of personally, like I committed such a disservice by winning, but I rocked the podium with a champagne shower and a cash prize. I have never been able to let the little things get in the way of my success. The bottom line I stress is that I put in 100% of the work to win and be competitive, so everyone else should do the same. To feel like my accomplishments diminish other women’s prowess only means that they assume they are lesser than me- and to bring that full circle, if you think you are lesser than me, I have already won. I skate all the same miles and train just as hard to stay competitive. Before this last weekend in Bend, Oregon, I never won first place in a distance event. That was a big moment for me. I worked so fucking hard to get it and absolutely fuck anyone who wants to fucking take that away from me.
Every interview I’ve done so far has asked similar questions. I lay in bed thinking of them in the midst of a Facebook campaign where woman say “me too,” to show they’ve been a victim of sexual assault. It lead to me think about my own experiences as a transgender woman, a competitive skateboarder, and an adventurer.
Outside of the “you don’t look like a girl, or sound like one” comments, it only goes to show that others view women for what they can tangibly give to the world. Their voice, their grace, their looks…there’s so much more to it. Being a woman comes with the woman experience. Dresses and skirts never got me anywhere besides in the back of my own van getting my fucking face beaten by someone I thought was a friend, and promptly taken advantage of as I gargled my own blood. Using a feminine voice never got me anywhere besides left on the side of the road when I tried to say “it’s only a first date.” I have been talked over, told my accomplishments are worthless, and stepped on, overlooked and left for nothing. I have climbed through more piles of shit than your average housefly. Being a woman is a scary fucking thing in a scary fucking world. If my eagerness to win and rise above wasn’t burning a fire in my heart I’d still be sobbing at 3am because a man told me I was a liar for having a god damn penis in between my legs. My experience as a woman has been everything besides pleasant. My experience as a woman has drastically changed how I interact with people, and has changed how I can “shell up” in large groups. Despite everhthing I have worked for, the man next to me will always make me feel small. The entire world has done nothing but beat me to a pulp, and this adventure is my attempt to make orange juice. I am happy to let that out. Even though my life seems like an open book on the internet, there is so much I filter out even when it seems I have none. Very few times have I had a close connection to anyone to share the stories I lock under my mattress. Alas, I digress. The purpose of this story is to endure all of that: the poorly worded and bigoted comments about how I am a man, the evil stares and the side eyes, and the utter fact that my breasts are small and my pants bulge. If I can take on that pain, the next woman and the next transgender person to rise above won’t have to.