Stoke Factor: 8
Miserableness Factor: 3
Snot Rockets Blown: 16
Avg Speed: 9.7mph
It was Halloween. Scrolling through social media all I saw were pictures of people in costume- some scary, many slutty, and others with family. Halloween is easily the strangest holiday to me. I find that people really get excited to dress up funny or weird and parade around attracting attention, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What bothered me about it was that these people wait 365 days a year for one day where they can let loose. I never understood it- nobody stops anyone from dressing as they please. If you so choose, you could dress up in a green shirt and brown pants and carry a sandwich around with you every day and tell people your name was Shaggy if you wanted. You could wear a playboy bunny outfit and go outside if you pleased any day of the week. I couldn’t grasp why people were so afraid to let their freak flag fly any other day of the year.
People are fickle. Appearances matter when they shouldn’t. People are so scared of what other people think. They’ll spend $40 on a cheap material costume to look like a witch when they could have designed their own witch robe and wore it every other day of the year. Halloween, to me, was always a time where I could be Supergirl. I remembered the first time I left the house as a woman in a Supergirl costume. I could never forget when I was invited for a ladies only picture, and the time someone came and danced on me from behind. Just being accepted was great. Of course, every other day of the year I was a boy in makeup to the world, but under the guise of a costume themed holiday, I was whoever I said I was. If only people weren’t so afraid to be themselves. Then everyone could be whoever they wanted all the time.
Badger came home from work early. He tried to have conversation with me but I pretended to be asleep. He jumped in bed, boots and all, and passed out. Once I heard him snoring, I began packing my things. When I returned from the bathroom lodge, I slammed the door accidentally and woke him up. He offered to take me to the border (which we had already agreed he would do), and in a moment’s time I started his truck and sat in the passenger seat.
Badger tried to tell me that the roads were slick and I should wait it out another day. I couldn’t fathom being cooped up in the RV for a moment longer. He really tried to convince me to stay. He didn’t want to lose my company. Over and over he talked about how he couldn’t wait to see me again. I know it’s not the end of the Ballad of Badger O’Boyle, but at that moment’s time I needed to leave. Even if it was a snowstorm, I would have left. We drove up i80 and all the way into Nebraska. If I walked, it would have been a horrible experience. I would have been picked up from the police.
Once we made it to where the Lincoln Highway (route 30) diverted from i80, I made Badger pull over. He drove beyond the Nebraska sign, which was annoying to me. I really wanted a picture with that sign. Regardless, I took a picture with him instead, and gave him a hug he waited 27 years for. He teared up. I was going to miss him, and him me, but I had to keep pushing. The air was brisk, and the trains roared as they went by. The roads were empty.
He watched me take my first pushes off into Nebraska and I waved him off. I was grateful for a 2 day, 2 night stay at Chateau Badger. The road into Nebraska was long and straight. Nothing to the left but train tracks, and nothing to right but a clear sky and a 5 mile visibility over the plains. The road was a slight downhill, and I was able to keep a wonderful pace. Though the shoulder was non-existent, I was able to swap lanes of traffic as cars came and avoided being a nuisance to the cars. After 11 miles, a woman police officer put on her lights and pulled me over.
She asked where I was going. “Boston, of course!”
Her eyes widened. “Well Kimball County keeps getting calls of a boy on a skateboard causing trouble to traffic.” That was a lie. I was never in traffic’s way, and with the visibility I had on the straight road I was out of the way for every car. She may have gotten calls, but I wasn’t causing trouble. “We’re going to have to help you move along out of the county. Can I give you a ride?” She didn’t leave me with many options. She asked for my ID and patted me down for weapons. Of course, a knife and some bear mace was in my pack but I didn’t tell her.
She drove me all the way across the county and her and I had a conversation. I explained what I was doing and she was impressed. “Well, the next county said they don’t want you skating through there either, so they’ll probably pick you up and move you along too.” We talked about responsibility and the differences in being able to sell everything to see the world versus having a kid, a home, and a storage unit. She changed her attitude as I asked more questions about her. I wanted to know what it was like to be a police officer in a county with only 2,000 people. My hometown had nearly 50,000 citizens back in Massachusetts.
Her voice was very subtle and almost whisper-like. She didn’t really want anything to do with me. Maybe it was my makeup, maybe my long hair, or even just the skateboard, but in the back of my mind I had a feeling she was just going to bring me to jail and let the state police decide what to do with me. She ran my license, purposefully ignoring the big “SEX: F” on it and reported me as a “white male.” The ride eventually ended and I grabbed my things. Quickly, I pushed on.
Not even a mile down the road another cop SUV pulled me over. It was a guy this time. Short hair, big mustache, chewing tobacco dribbling down his lip. He was a bit more friendly, but gave me a full frisk and asked about weapons. He too wanted my ID and made sure that the information lined up. “You know your license says you’re a female, right?” he asked. “You should get that fixed.”
I asked him about life in Nebraska and he was extremely apathetic. “We don’t know how to have fun here,” he would say. “There’s nothing to do. No hills to ATV on, no snow to snowmobile on, and the nearest mall is in Denver, Colorado.” I was surprised at what a boring guy he was.
“If you hate it so much, why don’t you leave? Why put your kids through the same boring life you’re living?” I asked. No answer.
That county was a lot larger. Though he was a strange, boring man, he was very friendly. We didn’t get into a conversation about gender, but he said, “You stick out like a sore thumb ‘round these parts.” I couldn’t disagree, There were awkward silences as we drove. I wasn’t sure if he thought he was helping me or if he was doing good by getting me out of the county. We didn’t talk about much besides corn and the crazy people who live on the outskirts of town. In a county of 1,000 people, he knew everybody. Everybody knew him, too. I felt like that would make it difficult to be an officer of the law, being everybody’s friend. I scrolled through Tinder as I sat in the back seat, where they keep the detained people. I found him and swiped left.
When we got to the county line, another cop SUV was waiting for me. That car was much more updated. Brand new updated decals, and two officers sitting inside. Both of them were fit, strong white men with shaved heads. That made me nervous. Inside the car was a K9 unit. If I didn’t think I was getting detained before, I did then. I was extremely anxious. Out there in the middle of Nebraska, under control in the back seat of a cop car with nobody knowing where I was, they surely could have taken me out to the corn fields and shot me dead. Nobody would have known. The two officers didn’t say a word to me. We were all uncomfortable.
Driving on, they stopped at “California Hill,” a major point in the Oregon Trail. The pioneers hiked California Hill and had to decide whether to move on towards their target, Oregon, or head to California, where they heard of a new gold rush. Many pioneers split ways at that point and may have never seen each other again. I thought I was never going to be seen again. How poetic it would have been to be shot in cold blood by two bigoted officers of the law where so many died before. “Calleigh died on Cali Hill.” My headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.
They let me out of the car, and just drove away, saying nothing. I was surprised the police dog didn’t bark because of the weed in my bag. I wondered if the dogs were trained to only bark when commanded to look for drugs. The dog had to have smelled it. I smelled it. In fact, I kept my weed in the same compartment as my clothes as a way to deter the smell of B/O, which was always ever prevalent. Most days the smell of weed was comforting, or helped me to not think about how truly grotesque I was.
Anyhow, I pushed on. I passed by a few small towns. I didn’t have any water or supplies. I was in such a rush to leave Badger, and the cops pushed me out of their counties so quickly that all of my plans had disappeared. I was supposed to camp at a reservoir out in Kimball county, but at that point I was nearly 150 miles East of there, or more. I set my sights on Ogallala- I saw a big lake on the map and knew there would be closed camp sites. State parks were more appealing because generally there would be less of a threat of somebody calling the police. Camping on private land could have resulted in a call I didn’t want. Also, camping in a town park could have produced the same result.
It was relieving to be back on my board. Miles and miles of flat, semi-downhill pavement with nice shoulders for me to skate in made the day pass. Though I didn’t have any water, I didn’t mind. The town I aimed for was big enough to have some support for me, and was going to be open by the time I got there. When I was only 5 miles from town, I saw an A&W restaurant. A&W meant root beer. It also meant root beer floats. Once in my life I visited an A&W restaurant in Massachusetts. It was the only one in the whole state. The last time I saw one was in Idaho, but I was too busy to stop.
Feeling the vibe from the police earlier, I stopped on the side of the road and removed my eyeliner. I did not feel safe or welcome in Nebraska whatsoever. It felt like the fact that I had black lines over my eyes could have been the difference between life or death. I spit water onto my fingers and vigorously rubbed my eyes. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. It was getting late, and I hadn’t eaten all day long. I had a saved Subway sub from a few days ago in my pack, but I felt like if I ate it I would get sick. For all I knew, it was exactly what made me sick the day before.
Rolling into town, the A&W restaurant was attached to a gas station. Kids were everywhere, fully in Halloween costumes. I forgot it was Halloween. I could have just played my eyeliner off like a Halloween costume like I had in the past. That didn’t seem right. Being a woman was not a costume and choosing my gender hurt my heart every time I had to appear masculine in order to gain a little respect. Even though nobody said anything about it to me over all of the miles I skated in a negative way, the fear was present. It could have just been anxiety.
I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and a root beer float. The float was everything I dreamed of. The sweat began to cool my body and I shivered between the wetness on my back and the ice cream in my throat. I was freezing cold and had no way to fix it. I probably shouldn’t have had the float. Out the windows of the restaurant, I saw the sun began to set. I was hardly 60 miles west of the time zone change, so the sun was setting at almost 5:30pm. My time had run out. I looked at my map for the way to get to the lake I planned to camp at and it was 10 miles away.
10 miles is nothing when you’re on a straight, nearly downhill road. I could do it in less than hour without a problem. However, the road to the lake was all uphill, then slightly downhill. My phone was dying and I didn’t have time to sit in the restaurant and charge it anymore. Scarfing down the food, I was still hungry. Still, I had no time to order a second meal. I headed out and made haste towards the lake.
WikiCamps, Google Maps, and my GPS all told me that there was a state campsite by the lake. I fought hard to get there. The wind was against me. I rolled through two baseball fields, a soccer field, and children’s park. I should have just camped between the trees, but part of me wanted a picture with the sunrise on the lake. I pushed hard for it. The roads were dark and I constantly stepped off to make room for the cars that weren’t looking. I rolled through neighborhoods and children and parents alike were already out trick or treating. Part of me wanted to just ask for help. I was beyond tired. What a long day it had been.
Once I got on route 61, I knew I was nowhere again. There wasn’t a town for almost 100 miles if I stayed that way, but there were plenty of campsites along the lake. Although the Nebraska fish and game commission website gave maps of the land, they made no sense to me. They didn’t match up to what I saw on Google Maps. I knew that the further I went, the more lost I got. The uphills destroyed me as it became darker and darker. It became harder to see.
I finally found a small beach, but there was a group of men tailgating in the area. I didn’t feel safe setting up camp and walked past. I reached the turn that my GPS told me to take and I saw a big sign: “No public access. Not a through way.” In my experience, any sign that says it’s not a through way typically is a through way, but they just don’t want people to use it as an abutter would. They would put those signs all over Cambridge, Massachusetts and I would just drive through them because I knew my city like the back of my hand. Out in Nebraska, however, I didn’t know anything. Besides, the road was unpaved. It was going to be a long walk.
I threw up my hands in disbelief. What was I going to do? Set up on the beach with a bunch of rowdy men nearby and risk my safety, or trudge through the woods on a small unpaved road to hope that what I wanted was there? I had no choices. Otherwise, I could have just kept walking. Luckily, I didn’t have to.
A 4×4 truck rolled up next to me. “Hey dude, do you need a ride?” It was a younger guy, wearing sunglasses at night. That perplexed me. I told him I didn’t need a ride because I wasn’t really going anywhere. I just asked where the campsites were. He had no idea what I was talking about – my information was very much wrong. He told me to get in the car and he would help me look. I tossed my things in the bed of the truck and jumped in. He introduced himself as Trent. He was stoked on the fact that I was skating across the country. He told he just got a board for himself and was dying to use it.
As we got to know each other and couldn’t find a suitable place to set up shop, he told me his parents owned the Admiral’s Cove resort on the other side of the lake, about 15 miles up. I was worried that if I went that far, I would have to spend a whole day getting back to Ogallala. He offered to put me up for a night, and also drive me back to town in the morning. I couldn’t have pictured a better situation. How lucky was I to run into him?
We got to know each other some more. He had some troubles with the law and drugs, but he was a really, really genuine guy. He offered me a shower and so much food I couldn’t even comprehend it. We had a lot in common, despite the use of opiates. We shared arrest stories from the past, talked about relationships, and genuinely felt each other out. Once again, we were immediate friends.
Back at the resort, I was amazed. His parents owned the coolest place I had ever seen. There was a full kitchen and bar, convenience store, RV parking and camp sites, and just about every fun thing you could think to do on the water. Lake McConoughy, the only lake for miles in Nebraska, was monster sized and had a lot to offer. I remembered that cop back a few counties, and wondered if he ever thought about going there. I was sure that if he just went out on the lake, Nebraska might not have been so bad for him.
Trent’s cabin was more than a cabin. It was full house! It was so clean, too. He told me his girlfriend would be coming by later and he could give me something to drink, but I wasn’t worried about it. I was just relieved to have a spot to sleep. You never seem to appreciate the little things like four walls and a roof until you don’t have them. Trent saved me when I was at my most desperate. Trent had the cutest little kitten. His name was Otis, and he reminded me so dearly of my old cat, Charlie.
I loved Charlie. Charlie was the greatest kitten that ever was. A true hunter and warrior, but a total snugglebug and all around joy to be around. Even at a year old, Charlie was still a playful little babe. I missed him so much. Years ago, I complained to my landlord about a rat problem in the house, and he never did anything about it so I got Charlie off of Craigslist for $40. When I picked him, he was in a room with 10 other kittens. Charlie, however, was the only one to jump right up my leg and onto my shoulder. We were bonded ever since. A few weeks after raising him, I went to work and left Charlie at home as I usually did. My landlord broke into my apartment without telling any of us, and laid down rat poison. The next day, I couldn’t find Charlie. I thought he sneaked outside, but nobody could find him. I printed signs and posted them everywhere. Everybody I was friends with in college helped me look for him. I was devastated.
Charlie never left the house. I found him under my roommate’s bed, white as a ghost. He was too frail to meow and too frail to move. I didn’t know what was wrong. His body temperature was low. I was so worried, I put him in a stolen cat carrier I grabbed off a neighbor’s porch, and ran down to the vet. The veterinarian’s dropped everything to save him, and told me to sign a waiver to put him down. They told me to give him my last goodbyes. I cried like a damn fool. They said they would keep him warm and do everything they could for him.
Thinking he was dead already, the next days I was nothing but morose. After three days I got a phone call from the vet saying Charlie bounced back and was ready to go home. I dropped everything and skated down to the vet, and took him home. All I had to do was give him some Vitamin K twice a day. Some of the most touching moments were when I would pick Charlie up, flip him on his back, snap open his jaw and drop a pill in his throat, only to hold it closed until it was swallowed.
Charlie lived a full year after that. He moved back to my parent’s house with me and experienced the first days of my transition into Calleigh. Charlie didn’t give a fuck about my gender. All he cared was that he had me. I could never forget Christmas day when we were all opening presents under the tree. My mom gave me an ornament of a high heel shoe that read “Calleigh” on it, to show she finally accepted me. Charlie brought a full sized mama rabbit up the back porch steps and left it, dead, for us. The rabbit was bigger than he was. I loved that cat more than anything and the day his liver finally failed was the worst day of my life. I never got another pet.
Otis was basically Charlie’s doppleganger. Same colors and marks on his fur and the same lust for life. Otis snuggled right up to me as Trent went to help his mom paint. Together him and I fell asleep as the TV played in the background. Otis was a comfort I could have never expected. He made me feel like I was home. Trent giving me a place to stay meant more to me than he could have known.
When he returned, I struggled to stay awake. His girlfriend, Crystal, came into the house. I was eager to meet the woman that had such a good person like Trent to come home to every day. She was stressed and didn’t have time to meet me, and I was too tired to even think about it. I rubbed my eyes over and over trying to stay awake. Crystal finally introduced herself to me, and she seemed sweet as ever. It would have been hard for me to think that a person like Trent was dating a bitch. Though she thought she was rude, who could deny that living had stress. Sometimes we all get balled up in our own little worlds.
Eventually, I retired to the room Trent gave me and was out like a light. Part of me wished Otis would come snuggle, but Crystal and Trent could be heard playing with him. Everything seemed happy.