Stoke Factor: 3
Miserableness Factor: 3
Snot Rockets Blown: 4
Avg Speed: 8.4mph
I woke up less than excited to leave the warmth of a bed. My next plans were just to head deep in Wyoming, right at the edge of the Yellowstone National Forest. I couldn’t find a single detail of what heading Northeast would entail using my phone, and my GPS unit couldn’t find a signal. I still hadn’t showered- the dried blood of my minor fall the day before had crusted itself to my body and every time I licked my lips I got a mouthful of salt. I tried to braid my hair, but I gave up partway through it. I simply was unable to do a good braid. I never had the chance to braid my friend’s hair as a child. When I was a kid, my mother took away the Barbie doll my aunt gifted me. There was no way for my life to have led to a point where I could have practiced a braid. Although I spent time trying to braid by watching Youtube videos, the girls describing how to do it ignored the most basic details that could have been essential. “Whatever,” I said.
I didn’t even want to brush my teeth. The water in the motel smelled like a horrible 2:1 mix of sulfur and rotten eggs. I had been drinking the water I packed before, from a bottle. Besides, was I even “dirty”? Since I had no expectations of seeing humans for the next couple hundred miles, getting clean seemed like something I didn’t have a minute to spare for. I put on my clothes, which were practically on fire after laying them next to the heater all night. I had the thermostat set to nearly 90 degrees because I kept the window open all night so I was able to smoke weed without leaving bed.
I walked out of the motel and headed towards the gas station to get breakfast. The importance of saving money has become ever present the further I get. However, because I wanted some more information about what my push would have me walking into, I decided to get breakfast at the cafe. The cafe was a little place and from the night before, I knew they had huge portion sizes for only a small amount of money. I sat at the bar, and the waitress from the day before was working again, so she remembered me.
“Looks like it’ll be a beautiful day for a skate!” she said to me, with a big smile. She knew it and I knew it- saying that intrigued everybody else in the cafe. I could feel the peering eyes looming on my back as I stripped off my backpack and laid my board on the wall. Their eyes seemed to say something to me, like, “Where the fuck are you going to skate?” I ignored them and kept my head down. The waitress and I talked about my plans. She was incredibly worried about me. She continuously told me about how difficult it would have been to cross the continental divide, and after looking at a map, I had to agree- I was headed straight for it.
The waitress told me she thought I was a hitch hiker, because typically a lot of hitch hikers and gypsies and Native Americans would pass through Farson on their way to Rock Springs, where they could get on a Greyhound to head to Jackson, or east to Cheyenne. “Cheyenne…” I thought. It wasn’t on my route but I knew I had contacts there. I looked at the weather forecast, I looked at just how far it was going to be before I saw another town, and I looked at my elevation. There was no hope for me. A couple across the bar said they wouldn’t have been surprised if they found me dead. On top of everything, they said that the particular area I was headed for recently had a bear attack on someone much like myself- uninformed, unprepared, and unwelcomed. I had to admit it, I was scared.
I ordered breakfast but I wasn’t hungry much. I just knew I didn’t have food and I might not have gotten any for a very long time. I had to stuff it down. The portion was huge. I was more interested in the coffee, it warmed me right up. My attention diverted from the breakfast as I looked into busses. I checked my bank account to make sure I could afford it, and had to decide on whether I wanted to keep that money for an emergency motel or to give myself a 250 mile jump across the state. I chose the bus. It wasn’t a difficult choice. I stared my biggest challenge in the face and it wore me down piece by piece. And I had only skated 300 miles into it. Wyoming was utterly a no go. Of course, since the scope of my adventure had changed from a world record attempt to a survival and people meeting journey, I wasn’t upset. Without tools to cook with or carrying food, and with how grateful I had been for the rides I was offered, I surmised that my skateboarding adventure was exactly that- an adventure. No longer did I have to adhere to rules I created and be guilty for having thoughts about breaking them; I was directly in the pit of my greatest life experience, and by god was I going to experience it.
So, instead of launching myself northeast into bitter nothingness, I pushed South to Rock Springs. Before I left the cafe, the waitress told me the couple from before paid for my meal. A smile grew on my face. Though I was upset about the price of the motel and the waste of a day before, that tension was released. Even though I never said a word to them, and they left before I did, a subtle and genuine kindness was sent my way in good faith. The truest gestures are the ones that need no thanking, and until that moment in my life I never experienced such a kindness that I hadn’t even shown a need for. My heart felt heavy- I desperately wanted to say thank you. My smile never left as I threw my board down and moved on.
Going south was easy. The shoulder was wide and the wind was quiet, which was uncharacteristic of the Wyoming I so greatly feared. I held a 10mph pace for 20 straight miles of gradual flat land. Thise first 20 miles had me in my greatest element, even though a small number of obstacles came to surface. At mile 5, a working farming couple stopped to watch me go by and waved at me. As I waved back, the neighbor across the street had two loose dogs- huge herding dogs. They bolted after me with barking jaws and had their teeth shown. I raced for my life to push away but they held a line and came dangerously close to me. I jumped off my board to use it as a weapon but it was no use. The dog jumped and nipped at me, taking my hat clean off. Terrified, I turned and tried to hold my ground. I swung my board around and used my deepest voice to scare them off. As I stepped towards them, the neighbor gently called to them and they were obedient as ever. As they ran back across the highway, a PT Cruiser narrowly missed hitting them, screeched and braked, hurtling around the road and all over it. Everybody stood in disbelief, nobody said a word, and we all moved on.
Further up the road a lost dog was standing on the yellow lines and barked nonstop. I almost missed seeing it. A car rode up to my side and said, “is that your dog back there?” And I was confused. Why would that be my dog? The dog looked scared and lost as ever. I decided to turn around to try and help it off the road, and as I did, it disappeared across the plains. I had no idea where it thought it was going, but surely it was coyote bait in the direction it went.
At 25 miles, after a small walk up a hill, I stripped out of my heavy clothing and reduced my layers. A white SUV rolled up next to me from the oncoming lane and there was a man inside. It was obvious to me we were going in different directions, but he didn’t seem to catch that. He asked where I was going and I said, “To Rock Springs and across the country,” but he wasn’t impressed. He asked if I had a cigarette and I just walked away. That many was utterly oblivious. Part of me thought that it might be my first encounter with a negative hitch hiking experience, but in reality he might have just been dumb.
On I went. Google Maps had me turn on Yellowstone Rd, 3 miles away from where I was. There was a 12 mile, 8% grade downhill in my sights. I decided to just send it down- my entire being clenched as I picked up more speed than I ever had before. My watch speed continued to rise: 25mph, 35mph, 45mph, 58 mph. I was going too fast to foot brake. I was terrified and anticipating a huge fall- the precise moment where my helmet would have given more confidence. I envisioned the Facebook comments that would ensue had I fallen, and was determined not to run into that situation. Cracks in the road were 2 inches wide and my whole board slipped under my feet with each one- systematically they were about 10 feet apart. At 60 miles an hour, I practically flew over them, but my stance on the board was almost Hang Ten. I had to keep my weight all the way to the front to avoid getting speed wobbles, and subsequently dying. My fingers snapped as I fidgeted and feared for my life with each passing crack, begging the passing cars to speed past me so I could get on the road. The road didn’t have cracks and if I was in the lane, I would have had room to carve and shed some of my speed. Airbraking was hopeless because I was only in my base layer, and if anything it made me more aerodynamic than I ever was. The tension built as I was only a half mile away from my exit, maintaining 58mph, and had semi trucks coming from both directions. Tears welled in my eyes from the speed, but as far as anyone could tell they were tears from fear. If I was on any other board I could drop down and Coleman slide myself to a stop, but with the weird angles of my trucks the leverage simply wasn’t there to initiate it.
Coming up on my turn with a beeping semi truck hot on my tail, I leaned into a hard right and peeled off, through gravel, and onto the correct route. The gravel loosened my footing, which was cemented forwards, and gave me an opportunity to start a foot brake. I bent down and held the front of my board, dragged my foot on the ground, and prayed for dear life to come to a slow- directly in my way was an incoming cattle guard in the road. If I couldn’t stop, my options were to drop to a rocky death or launch myself forward to death. My foot became hot as I dragged it and slowed down.
I survived. I jumped off the board, picked it up, and tossed it forward. I jumped for joy. Not only did I just live through the most heinous downhill experience of my life, but I did it on a setup that had no business going that fast. Though my shoe was worn, those tears of fear turned to tears of joy. If there was any moment that made me say I was the right person to be having this journey, that was it. The road I turned on was the only road in Wyoming I had seen that had poor pavement. I remembered when Charlotte told me, “Wyoming has two seasons: Winter, and construction.” Seemed like that road had only ever seen winter.
The shoulder became tiny as I rolled into Rock Springs. Once at the sign announcing the town, I had to walk. The downhill was too much for me to commit too with the crazy traffic. It was the first city I had been to in days. Though it was not a large city by definition, it was bigger than anywhere else I had been. I answered a phone call from my father, who had recently decided that instead of being angry at me for neglecting my student loan bills to live the life of a road dog, he would support me. We actually had a great conversation as I hiked a hill- it was simple and jokingly enjoyable. It was the relationship with my father I never had. He wasn’t drunk nor was he angry. We just talked, and it was good. He repeated himself over and over worrying about being safe with hitch hiking and staying with friends- I tried to reassure him of my findings that the world was a good place with good people but he had other views. I envision that it would be hard to agree with me if you spent your days watching Fox News as he did. I tried to assure him that I was a fighter and warrior, but he wasn’t having it. Normally that would annoy me, but it was good to know I was worried about. Sometimes I convince myself that I am unloved.
Instead of going straight to the bus stop, because my bus didn’t leave for another 10 hours, I decided to stop in at a KFC to charge my devices and get a cheap meal. KFC was weird- it was also a Long John Silvers and had an all you can eat buffet. When I walked in, a huge group of kids ran up to me and wanted to know about my skateboard. I told them I was skating across the country and one of them asked for my autograph. Even though my name is worth nothing, I thought it was extremely fun to do that. The whole restaurant flocked around me while I smelled terrible and was shivering from the drying sweat on my clothes. I only wanted to eat and sit alone. Eventually they all got the memo as I pulled away from them and one parent pleaded with her child to give me space. I didnt know what it was, but I got claustrophobic and blocked myself into a corned of the place. The girl at the register gave me her employee discount, which was really nice of her.
I spent the rest of the day until 10pm minding my own business in the KFC. I watched Netflix and counted down the minutes until my bus arrived. I got to see the restaurant from a strange point of view- the rush hour, slow times, clean up and end of day tasks. It was all clockwork. The predictability of humans can be measured in a science, and the formulaic work environment thrived on it. It was a Saturday, but everyone knew what they had to do. During the slow times I went to the bathroom. First I went in the women’s, and later the mens. I just wanted to see if the employees had a reaction, but they did not. Bathroom genders are facetious, especially in single throned rooms.
At 10pm, I still had two hours to wait. I slowly walked out of KFC and over to the bus stop. It was in a 24 hour McDonald’s parking lot. I wondered why I didn’t just wait at McDonald’s all day, but my question was answered: it was endlessly busy. The slow and busy times I observed at KFC didn’t exist at McDonald’s. People of all ages rolled into the drive through non stop. For the two hours I sat there, there wasn’t a single minute the lanes were empty. I checked the bus schedule, and my bus was delayed for 3 and a half hours. I wasn’t too upset- I had all the time in the world and I wasn’t freezing even though it was 23 degrees outside. I could have gone inside the McDonald’s and waited, but I was comfortable by my lonesome.
After 3.5 hours passed, I got cold. I broke out my sleeping bag and the bus was nowhere in sight. The Greyhound bus tracker said it was still in Salt Lake City, Utah. I debated setting up my tent and chilling out, but I didn’t want to get too comfortable and miss the bus. I ended up sleeping under the stars, with nothing but my bag. I crushed up some of the last of my weed and smoked myself stupid while I waited. I waited and waited, holding my eyelids open so I wouldn’t miss it.
I waited 7 hours for the bus. When it finally got there I was asleep, but the people poured out of the bus and caused a ruckus which woke me up. I rushed to get on. Having never taken a bus in Wyoming before, I was unsure of the process. I stood like a fool by the door while the bus driver smoked a cigarette, ignoring me. I walked over and said, “Excuse me, do I show you my ticket?” And he straight up ignored me.
I asked again. He walked away from me and onto the bus like a real fucking jackass. After waiting in the cold for 7 fucking hours with no explanation, the man couldn’t even give me a minute to help me figure it out. I followed him towards the bus and he screamed at me. “CAN YOU JUST WAIT A FUCKING SECOND? IM ON MY FUCKING BREAK!” He treated me like I was an asshole when all he had to do was say, “I’ll help you in a minute.”
More time passed as he took his sweet time to ignore me. Eventually he asked for my ticket, and as I unfolded it he said, “You know what? Fuck this. I don’t have any room for you on my bus.” He got on and closed the door and drove away. I did nothing wrong and Greyhound completely treated me like an asshole. The bus stopped at the exit for McDonald’s and the driver opened the door. “Looks like I have a seat. You got your fucking ticket?” I gave it to him. He came and opened the side gates for my bag and board, and I told him I’d rather keep it on me. “I’ll leave without you. Either it goes in here or you don’t get on.” Without objection I put my things inside. It was the first I had ever been separated from my things. I was panicking. The bus was completely packed with people who wreaked of cigarette smoke. I hated it. I wanted to be on my board. I knew I wasnt going to get any sleep, and I had a 6 hour ride, no water, and no food, all while cramped next to a guy who was talking on his phone and took up half my seat.
Even though I had one of the best pushes of my journey that day, the fire had left me. My adventurous spirit flew away from me and I just wanted to be back in my bed. The same bed I gave to the people who loved into my room back in San Diego. The only thing I felt was loneliness.