Stoke Factor: 5
Miserableness Factor: 5
Snot Rockets Blown: 34
Miles: 29.60 + 40
Avg Speed: 9.5mph
Two weeks. I couldn’t believe it had been two weeks all alone on the road. Of course, I was never truly alone. The segments of time between being on the road were typically filled with meeting the amazing people of small towns. I reflected on that thought- how many friends had I made? Surely more than I could count on two hands. However, friendship was fleeting; I never knew if I would truly see any of these souls ever again. I thought that was the best part, being able to leave an impression. My only hope was that each experience I had was met with as much fondness as I had for them.
In the “city” of Arco, I opened up the blinds in the early morning to find a layer of frost and condensation on the interior window of the motel. I carved “70 miles” into the glass using my finger- was I going to be able to do it? The shower welcomed me as I scrubbed myself clean to no avail. Though I soaked the floor in runoff, I could smell myself wreaking havoc on my nostrils with the musky scent of body odor. The clothes I put on didn’t help- if anything, they were twice as smelly as I ever was.
I didn’t waste too much time getting packed up. The night before I caught a wind advisory for the stretch of road I was about to skate- gusts of 45mph southwestern winds were expected from 11am to 8pm. It was 8am as I took my first push. I wasn’t wearing much more than my base layer and hat- although the cold nipped at my fingertips. My GPS router insisted I deviate from the highway and find some trail parallel to the road. However, at 8am, nobody was on the road. The highway was entirely mine while I swapped incoming and oncoming lanes, pumping gracefully before the winds came.
The road pavement was actually worse than the shoulders as I pushed. However, since the first 20 miles descended almost 1000ft, I didnt feel safe on the steeper sections with such a small shoulder. Cat tracks gouged the white lines- there’s no denying how easy it could be for a driver to fall asleep on the road after driving through so much nothing. Hundreds of miles on the same straight line headed east brought sights of open land. The most interesting thing I saw was a baby coyote running alongside me, yelping and yipping as it broke off, beyond my eyesight and deeper into a land where less was the norm.
20 miles seemed like it had passed in minutes. Everything was blissful while conditions agreed with me. In the distance I saw isolated mountains, but they grew closer and seemed so small in comparison to the elevation I had climbed by that point. “I could get up there in less than a day,” I thought. I listened to Journey’s discography, only scraping the surface of their collection while I carved and pumped along the most amazing 30mph downhills.
By 11am, I was well beyond where I thought I would have been. I was already halfway there. The elevation profile for the route showed a 1-2% grade uphill for the next 20 miles. Instead of pouting and feeling bad for myself, I strapped on my winter hat and gloves, threw on my sweatshirt, and pounded it out. The next 10 miles made me happy- I was working hard and loving every minute of it. The wind hadn’t even started to get nasty by then.
Up ahead I watched a 4×4 make a u-turn in the middle of the highway. I just crossed where the 20 deviated from the 26 and worked up a sweat. The car scooched over towards me in the oncoming lane, and a woman poked her head out to ask if I needed a lift. I thought about it- at that time I was actually enjoying my skate quite a bit. After pondering for far too long, I decided to jump in. Individuals willing to help strangers in Idaho were few and far between. What if I wasn’t able to make it all 70 miles?
A couple was in the car. The car was missing the interior door panel in the passenger seat, and the gas light was on, signifying a time where they obviously needed gas. They could have filled up back in Arco, which would have been the only place they came from, so I surmised that these were good people potentially going through a financial struggle. Who was I to judge? I was welcome in their car.
They asked about my story, and we jabbered for a while about their story and my own. Coming from a history of homelessness and addiction, they lived in their car but made a habit of picking up hitch hikers. I pondered whether or not I was a hitch hiker- none of the rides I was given from Oregon to that point were asked for, though appreciated. At no point had I ever put a thumb out, or asked for help. Help had been given to me by those who wanted my safety and a well-being of my person.
We drove into Idaho Falls and I had them bring me to a Subway location. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and never finished my meal from Pickle’s Place, so thinking of a quick meal where I could fill up preoccupied my mind. The best one was the one in Wal-Mart. That was the first Wal-Mart I saw in the entirety of my trip. I offered to buy them lunch, but they only wanted a couple of tall can beers. I was obliged to give them whatever they wanted. Kindness is a virtue and should be rewarded. It’s always the less fortunate who help me out. Whether it was the man with 450,000 miles on his truck, the amazing girl living in a camper, or the couple hitting the road with no gas and a string of legal issues. It doesn’t take a genius to acknowledge the greed of American society. Once you have it all, why should you give anything to those who don’t? Of course, they WORKED for it, right? Those damn freeloaders want everything. I just find it amazing how simple acts of kindness are passed up in lieu of having a higher sense of self worth. If people were worth their money or possessions, I would have never been able to meet the amazing people I have.
At Subway, I had a double meat buffalo chicken sandwich. The teenager behind the counter burnt my sub roll- the same sub roll I already had to settle on because they neglected to bake enough Herbs and Cheese rolls. Sometimes even the simplest of jobs are made to look difficult. As someone who has spent years of her life working in food industries and service jobs, I never failed to be impressed by the sheer stupidity of other employees.
I’ve never held a job for more than a year. I found service jobs degrading, albeit easy. The simplicity of rubbing butter on frozen bread and turning a dial on a stupid-proof oven, preparing for a weekend day at a grocery store seemed like something you could do in your sleep, had you been good at your job. Service jobs always enjoyed hiring me because of how quickly I learned the position- to me, it was just common sense. After coming from lands where hard workers literally went hand and knees to help others, I probably should have had less of a horrible opinion of that particular worker, but I had generally surmised that the employee wasn’t a hard worker at all.
If you aren’t going to put 100% into everything you do, why do anything at all? You are where you are because you chose it. At any moment you could leave your $9 minimum wage job and get $11.25 in a different state for a similar position. So, should you choose to be where you are, you better damn well make sure you’re the best at it. In a world of 9 billion people and counting, never forget how entirely replaceable you are in work, love and life.
I split from the couple that picked me up and caught up on social media. The only preplanned stop I had along the entire 3,300 mile stretch of the USA was with Jonathan, an adventure “bikepacker” living there in Idaho Falls. He offered to pick me up from Wal-Mart and bring me to his house. I felt bad that I arrived so early- getting a ride along the route surely deducted my time on the road. Regardless, it was Sunday and he informed me his plans were to do nothing but relax. The winds stood in the way of an enjoyable weekend ride, so I had arrived at a great time.
We went to a camping store and he showed me the differences in silk/polypropylene/merino wool fabrics. I purchased a few base layers- getting into Wyoming I would be 7000ft in elevation at the tail-end of fall. It would be windy and cold. I find hunting stores fascinating. There was a -35 degree sleeping bag that weighed 17 pounds. I boggled around the idea that if I ditched my tent and sleeping bag, I could have literally lived in that bag. However, 17 pounds was as much as my pack weighed without water. I decided against it, and left the stock to the hunters who drive out and shoot elk without having to skateboard there.
Jonathan took me to his home, it was absolutely beautiful. I saw my first trees in 525 miles, dropping their leaves and changing in color. The home was on a ranch with horses and secluded from the quaint downtown of the city. Idaho Falls was the first place I visited since Boise with over 5,000 people in it. He showed me straight to the shower, acknowledging how I smelled like body odor from my travels. I ensured that I would scrub and scrub until the smell dissipated. I took the opportunity to shave my legs- what an amazing feeling that was. I felt like the masculinity escaped me finally and I was able to be free to be myself. Though Jonathan was a stranger, we had been Facebook friends prior and he knew who I was. I was more comfortable than I ever was.
Downstairs awaited a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese on rye. How much more perfect could a traveler’s meal be? The warmth of both was welcome and necessary. We chatted for hours, sharing stories of my adventure and all of his. What a different conversation it was to speak to someone who knew what it was like to experience adventure in its rawest forms. He showed me to the laundry machines and I was finally able to give my things a wash.
Jonathan showed me Lael, inarguably the fastest adventure cyclist on the planet. A winner of all races and pioneer of her own route through Baja California, I was endlessly inspired by her sweetness and grit. Jonathan also showed me Johan, a cyclist who took on the Yukon and Great North via bicycle in the middle of winter, traversing ice roads that were so intense there was literally a reality show about doing them in 18 wheelers. I could only hope to one day be as inspiring as them. My adventure is merely a baby step towards reaching their status. Of course, distance skateboarding has such a small following and interest- there is zero possibility of gaining the status as either adventurer on four urethane wheels. Perhaps one day after this feat, I could find a bicycle and take on my own challenges and break into a world of some of the most amazing and daring adventurers I had ever seen.
Over dinner and after tending to the farm animals, Jonathan, his wife Cat and I discussed transgender issues and the topic as a whole. I think it’s an interesting topic and one worth talking about. Cat recalled that along her wildly impressive hike across the Camino, she had met a trans woman from Australia. The topic of bathrooms, makeup on adventures, and the difference of being on hormones for years versus just beginning were all discussed. Along with the comfort of being in a home that had everything I needed to stay out of the wind and cold, I was comforted to be with people who showed discretion, understanding, and openness in mindset. I ate, slowly and like a mess (as I do), the spaghetti and salad cooked for me. The salad was so necessary and amazing, my only regret is not having a big enough stomach for a second helping.
Jonathan and I watched Baby Driver as the night came to a close. The movie was incredibly entertaining, and was the second movie I had seen since watching RV back in Juntura. My eyes watered as I struggled to keep them open towards the end. I thought about how certain animals will only reveal their stomachs if they trust their surroundings and feel safe. To me, being able to be curled up on a couch, having the option to sleep or stay awake, and in good company was the equivalent of me revealing my stomach.
We both retired to bed and I was asleep in mere minutes. Onward I went, once again experienced in the amazing hospitality given to travelers, after resting in a comfortable bed. Up next, Wyoming.