Stoke Factor: 3
Miserableness Factor: 7
Snot Rockets Blown: 8
Avg Speed: 7mph
I woke up super early at the lake. By super early, I meant about 4am. Coyotes yipped and yelped in the distance, geese honked and bull frogs cooed. The ultimate outdoor experience was right there at Lake Anita. It was too early for me to get out of my covers – the night dropped to 12 degrees and the darkness would have made navigating impossible. Paired with my horrible vision, anything could have happened. I rolled around in my sleeping bag. I wasn’t cold in the least. Condensation in the tent was at a minimum and I was fully charged with my electronics. Though I was refreshed in most aspects, the 3000ft climb of the day before could be felt in every fiber of my being. My legs were stiff.
Around the time I left Dan’s house, I started producing noxious gas from my rear end. I spent all of Nebraska being constipated – I would push for at least an hour to no avail. Bryan asked me “were you having a baby?” every time I tried to go. I wasn’t sure if it was important to say anything. Despite my constipation, the farts were never-ending. For the first time in my life I felt like I had no control over my own asshole. I used to be able to hold it in, but that was no longer. I hated my own scents, between the body odor from testosterone pulsing through my body and the methane production I recently started. I had to shit. I had to shit bad. Luckily I was able to keep it in through the rest of the morning until the sun came up.
I packed up and headed out of the campground at the break of dawn. I didnt pay for the campsite I stayed at. Somehow the service on my cell phone managed to squeak through a message saying that electric sites were $11. I didn’t carry cash on me. I couldn’t justify it- I was there for less than 10 hours. I enacted my finest “leave no trace” camping and left. From what I learned at the Bruneau Dunes in Idaho, the rangers usually showed up at 9 to verify payment, so I was golden at 6am.
Coming out of the campground, I had to stretch my legs in a way different than the repetitive motion of skating. I had been doing all of these miles with one leg and one leg alone. Even though I ditched my ankle brace back in Glens Ferry, I still didnt have full range of motion and didnt feel comfortable pushing off that foot. I decided to walk. I walked to the town of Anita, about 2 miles from the lake, and took stock of my options. In front of me was a diner with a big sign that read “FREE WIFI,” so I took the opportunity to catch up after being off the grid for so long.
When I walked in to The Weathervane Cafe, there was one group of men sitting around a table. Everybody looked at me when I crashed through the door, head to toe in winter gear and carrying my backpack. One guy said, “What’s the password?” in an attempt to be funny, but I truly didnt know how to respond. I said “I don’t know” and he took it as an opportunity to mumble back at me, as if to make fun of me. I was instantly feeling unwelcome, but the waitress changed that. She came over and asked, “long trip?” and I explained my situation. She put on the biggest smile ever and we talked for a bit. She made it a point to continue to bring me hot cups of coffee. I didnt have the heart to tell her that my heart was going to explode if I kept drinking it, so I just kept drinking.
I only wanted coffee and the Wi-Fi, but the Wi-Fi was down. I ordered a meal because the waitress made me feel so welcome. It was extremely cheap- I could have eaten like a queen for merely $4. I continued to try the Wi-Fi to no avail, so the waitress went way out of her way to fix it. Finally connected, I decided to stay even longer. The winds outside were some of the worst I faced, and I wasn’t ready to test them. It was still only 12 degrees out. Though I needed to get to Des Moines, I had plenty of time to make the 50 mile trek.
Upon finally deciding to leave, the waitress told me she was giving me my meal for free. I was so grateful. After feeling like I was made to be a home she truly brought together what I had learned the Midwest was all about. She took care of me in the best way possible. I told her I would send a postcard once I made it to Boston.
Back out in the wild, I pushed against the winds and up the hills for only 7 miles before a younger guy picked me up. His name was Meehan and was about my age. He only drove me about 20 miles, but I was beyond grateful. Between food and ride, I started to love Iowa. He dropped me off in the best location he could on his way to work. He said he didn’t mind being late- he was already 2 hours late so an extra 20 minutes to meet the person tackling the USA by skateboard was well worth it. I thanked him and ran off towards the east, still following route 6.
I left my sunglasses, the ones gifted to me by Bryan (and the same ones I left in Dylan’s car), in Meehan’s car. I knew I would never see them again. I couldn’t comprehend why I had no grasp on responsibility when it came to eyewear. Nearly halfway through with my journey and I hadn’t lost a single thing, minus my mind. Either way, my sunglasses were a small price to pay for safe passage. The rest of the way was less hilly and the wind began to subside. The sun peeked its shiny face out behind the mountain views and my mood was changed for the better.
My legs weren’t yet ready, but after continuously huffing and puffing my way on the road, they joined my plight. Completely in sync, I made it through a few small towns before I was forced to go north. I had two options- stay on route 6 and piss off the traffic, or take a parallel road to the same location. I made the wrong decision, and took the parallel road. It was all uphill and 7 miles long. No traffic except a few dump trucks. I only got the sweet release of downhill once, but the wind was so strong I couldn’t get over 7mph even on a 13% grade hill. My only wish was that I could walk faster.
The road seemingly never ended. My gps couldnt find a satellite so I begged with the god of pavement to show me the end. He never responded. Luckily I had a host planned for the night. Dan had linked me up with his friends Bill and Saraleigh in Des Moines, so they were able to coach me on how to get there the easiest way. I was running out of water- I neglected to fill up at the cafe, so I only had about a liter to make it in. I was mislead into thinking the towns would have food and service because of their closer proximity to each other (compared to Idaho and Wyoming). The towns were tiny and had nothing to offer me. As I finally neared the end of the northern road after a 2 hour walk, I was depleted of resources and the town of Redfield had nothing nearby for me to get. I linked up to a bike path that went all the way into the city.
I was happy for the first time in all my travels- I wasn’t being passed by cars and there was good pavement all the way. The wind continued to howl and it was nearly all uphill the entire way, but I didn’t care. I was only concerned about water. I could feel myself hurting from not having any- and I still never shit. My body started shutting down after 10 miles on the raccoon trail. I told Bill via text, and he was happy to meet me. I told him we could meet at Waukee, a town 10 miles from Des Moines. Getting there meant I would accomplish 40 miles, making 100 in 2 days and almost 5000ft of ascension. I huffed and puffed. I was the only one on the trail and it was impossibly cold. Being out of gloves meant my hands froze, so I had to stop using my phone to track my location. I begged for a warm room. I pleaded with myself- “if you make it there without finding a ride, you can do anything.”
I did make it to our meet up stop. I saw Bill and his early 2000s thunderbird, waiting for me. 41 miles. I really kicked ass to get there. It was a draining journey. Bill said, “You’re one badass chick” as soon as I showed up and I knew I was in good hands. Another family welcoming and open to my transgender identity- few and far between without having to have a discussion about it. I told Bill I hadnt eaten since early in the morning, and the first thing he did was take me to a local barbecue place. It was amazing, and I rewarded myself by drinking a root beer. God, I fucking love root beer.
After a short lunch and introduction, we went back to Bill’s home. He had a great condo in the city with his wife, Saraleigh. Bill retired after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and survived on funding from suing for payment for his time in the Vietnam War. He was exposed to Agent Orange- it was the first time I ever met anyone who fought in Vietnam. I could sense how horrible it must have been to have to shake like that uncontrollably. Regardless of that, the two of them together built a great relationship and life within the vast cycling community of Des Moines. I was in good hands- they were no strangers to hosting various people across the country. I was happy to be their first trans-USA skateboarder.
I was treated to a shower and my own guest room. I was completely content to be able to rest. They asked what I wanted for dinner, but I told them I would eat anything. It was true- I had grown into the world’s least picky eater. A free meal, bed and shower was more than the harsh outside world would give me. After cleansing myself completely, we shared a whiskey and beers, talking over my journey and the world. Between the two of them I had never met such open minds at their age. Typically I would get reactions like “I don’t care about your gender identity I accept you regardless,” but I was embraced in their home. We all got along very quickly.
Dinner was served. Spaghetti and meatballs (twice in 4 days!) and good conversation. I told them I needed an additional rest day and they were happy to give it to me even they had plans to get to Omaha for Saraleigh’s job interview. We went down into their tv room and watched 42- a movie about overcoming obstacles in the face of prejudice, and it resonated with me. I thought I was still going to have energy to write, but my eyes got heavy after doing laundry and I had to retire.
I was proud to hit my goals. I deserved a rest day. At that moment, life was good. I slept like a little baby in their guest room, clean and cleared for a whole day of doing nothing. Best of all, I finally got to shit. It was obvious I contracted Giardia from the river water in Wyoming I mistakenly drank. It was foul and floated and I couldn’t stop. But, after so many days of constipation, I felt like I was carrying half the weight of my being.
The next day, I slept in. My only plans were to check out REI because they were having a sale, so I could get some warmer gear. A light breakfast later, I told Saraleigh which shoes I thought looked best for her interview outfit (she agreed, I think), and took an Uber into West Des Moines. My driver didn’t speak English and couldn’t really understand me. I didn’t really care to have a discussion anyways- it was my day off and even though I was in the city I wanted nothing to do with random people anymore. He had a tip jar in his center console- I didn’t tip. Money was tight and mama needed an extra base layer after the horribly cold day I had before.
At REI I was dumbfounded by what they considered a sale. Base layers were $50 at minimum, and socks were $25. I tried a few things on, telling myself I would have been fine if I bought nothing. Truly I needed a rain jacket, but the only things at $100 were too heavy. I couldnt justify spending that money, no matter how much rain I was going to see. I ended up switching the tags on a few items and got a base layer that was too small for $30 and socks for $10. I had to get the smaller base layer, because the women’s garments were all too flashy. As awesome as I would have looked in a neon pink zip up, I just imagined myself being picked up by a stranger and being disappointed that I was trans. I compromised by getting grey. I still looked hot as fuck, without being too flashy and screaming “IM A WOMAN!”
In order to feed myself I ate at the gas station. $40 in clothes took a hit on me, so I thought eating cheap was my best option. I wanted to go to the library to write, but the world was observing Veteran’s Day and it was closed. I called another Uber- this time it was an older gentleman who enjoyed hearing my story. We talked about how the world was good. It was a good talk. I wondered if there was some subconscious racism I held that made me not want to talk to the guy earlier because of the language barrier – but I figured mostly it was just that driving in silence was more peaceful. I would have been fine if I didnt talk to the second driver.
Back at my host’s home, I struggled with the code for the door, but finally settled in. I was excited to write, but as soon as I picked up my phone my eyes got heavy. I passed out fully clothed in the bed and woke up in the dark. I was content with it- my energy levels were extremely low after such a hard effort the days before. Though it was seemingly rude to not explore the city like I intended, rest was more important. I ordered myself a Dominos pizza, kicked my feet up, and made no plans.
Bill and Saraleigh came back and shared my pizza with me. Dominos quality was lackluster per usual but it was cheap and I got root beer with my meal. Man, I just love root beer! None of us ate too much of the pie, but I saved us from a drawn out dinner. We were all tired. I joined them in the tv room once again, had a beer, but couldnt hang. We were all in bed shortly after. All in all, I couldnt have asked for a better rest day. When was the last time I was able to nap mid-day?