Stoke Factor: 4
Miserableness Factor: 4
Snot Rockets Blown: 0
Woke up late. The after affects of skating the marathon took a toll on me. Though every day I pushed I was putting in a maximum effort, it was a different set of muscles required to race. My thighs hurt especially. I was sore all over- a 14.5mph pace was nothing short of an amazing feat, even by my standards. Maintaining that for nearly 2 hours was something to be proud of, and the soreness was my reward.
Covered in cat hair, I rolled around on Izzy’s couch for as long as I could. While Izzy prepared us Belgian waffles for breakfast, I took an opportune shower and freshened myself up. Izzy wanted to do two things: skate across the Mississipi River with me and film it, and check out Chicago. Chicago was an easy 3 hour drive from Dubuque, meaning that Izzy alone would have ushered me almost 600 miles across Iowa and into Illinois. We fooled around with bullwhips in his yard prior to leaving for the long journey- I was incredibly out of practice. My greatest dream when I planned to skateboard across the country 3 years before was to be something of a superhero: equipped only with a shortened combat whip for defense, tackling homophobia and transphobia one state at a time. Had I brought my whip with me on this journey, surely I would have ditched it much like the majority of my gear back in Oregon. Luckily for me, neither homophobia nor transphobia were found to be rampant in any part of the country I visited. There was something unique about a whip that I liked. Whenever I brought it up others would joke and create sexual innuendos about it that I never found humorous. The reality of a whip was how extremely versatile it was, and dangerous if used correctly. For me, a whip was the perfect balance of tact and vigor. It could be deadly if used as a stranglehold, and alarming at a distance. Surely anybody who entered a fight and came face to face against a whip could be warded off from a distance, including wildlife.
We drove to the Julien-Dubuque Bridge on the border of Iowa and Illinois and I strapped my gear back onto me. My ads developed a bruise just where the right cheek met my thigh- clearly from sustaining the entire weight of my being and backpack over all of the distance. I was still sore. I wanted anything else but to be carrying that pack again. Each push felt like I had just broken out of some amber-esque casing for millions of years, and was using my legs for the first time since. It was damp, overcast, and windy. Nothing about entering Illinois excited me. From getting driven there to the pain in my bones, I was feeling incredibly disconnected from my adventure.
Back in the car we drove forth. We made a brief stop at McDonald’s, where I ate a quick chicken sandwich that entirely grossed me out. My sickness from the Giardia was ever present. In fact, ever since being in Iowa I had taken non stop diarrhea dumps on the daily. They would dehydrate me quickly and I would race to make up the volume. It was never enough. All along the lengthy drive I continuously farted the worst gasses I ever smelled. By that point, I was confirmed in my mind that I contracted the parasite. Drinking that much water, feeling numb, and having violent diarrhea were not things I usually did. It was so strange to me that once sick, I could never remember what it felt like to feel healthy again. Beyond the gas, I had endless sneezing fits and a cloudy mind. Paired with the poor weather, I was miserable.
Illinois did not surprise me in the least. The towns looked normal. The landscape looked normal. Normal lives were happening there. Rained poured down the further east we went, and I was anything but excited. Upon entering the city of Chicago, we parked near where I was planning to stay for the night with my next host. The rain ruined our plans to skate the city and grab a deep dish pizza, so Izzy was in a mindset to go home. However, I convinced him to stay. If there was any way to repay him for the massage, food, drinks, and rides, my company had to do it. We skated through the rain and towards a pizza place. The first stop didn’t have a dining area, so we explored a bit and went to another down the street. Unfortunately for us, it was more of a unique, contemporary place with college-style deals and pizzas with strange toppings.
Post-pizza (I ate significantly more than Izzy), we somehow got the idea to see a movie. Amanda, the girl who offered to host me in Chicago, was hard at work studying for an exam and I didn’t want to bother her. A movie was the perfect excuse for me to waste time on a rainy Chicago day. We checked movie times and saw that IMAX was playing Thor 3: Ragnarok in the next 20 minutes nearby. I had already seen Thor, back in Nebraska with Bryan, but Izzy wanted to see it so I wasn’t going to fuss. I also wasn’t going to pay, so that upped the ante for why I was going to see it.
Two tickets to IMAX cost $45. It was ridiculous. I hadn’t figured out where Izzy got all the money to pay for such a fun-filled adventure we had, but I didn’t ponder on it too long. Between all of the food and beer, the gas, the massage, and the movies, he really, really outdid himself. Strolling into the theater at the exact perfect time, I took the chance to kick back and enjoy it. Personally I would never see a movie twice in the same month if I didn’t have to, but Thor was actually an enjoyable movie even though I hadn’t seen the others.
After the movie it was time to go. The sun set in our absence and the rain never let up, albeit a drizzle. I wasn’t looking forward to the forecast whatsoever- nothing but rain and overcast skies predicted for the rest of the week. I knew that at some point I would see and skate in the rain, but since I avoided it entirely until literally halfway across the country, I was less than keen on doing it. We rolled into the hospital parking lot- Amanda was in school to be a nurse. She had this amazing devotion to her studies, which was something I never personally experienced or even saw in anybody I went to college with, even though I too went to a nursing college. It was obvious before we even met.
Izzy handed me off to Amanda. It was my final goodbye, until next time, to Izzy. I had such a fun time hanging out with him that it felt surreal to have a whole other half of the country to traverse. I didn’t want it to end, and I could tell that he didn’t want it to end either. Regardless, our time came to a close. Amanda introduced me to all of her study friends, who were happy to have a distraction from staring at their books. They all had questions for me and I was happy to answer them, but I also wanted nothing more than to just hide away. Luckily for me, Amanda took my entrance as a way for her to finish up for the night. I handed out my business cards to all of the students and made a prompt exit.
Amanda drove me back to her house, which was relatively close to the hospital she went to school at. I knew nothing about where I was. In general, my thoughts of what Chicago was going to be like were all fueled by media- gang violence, dangerous places, and utter cold were the only things that came to mind. Amanda even told me she wasn’t in the best neighborhood. Apparently, a nearby park called Humbolt Park was the location of numerous shootings. Her house, despite that reputation, was nice. It was large (3 stories!) and she lived with her family. As a Mexican, I knew from my past experiences (namely Thiago in Idaho/Wyoming) that I could expect to be safe and taken care of. That’s the thing about people who hail from other countries – they are simply just nicer people. In the house I could smell some sort of dish. It smelled good, but I could’t even think about eating. I had a killer headache and my nose was running as if it were the first woman to take on the Boston Marathon.
I laid on her couch- I wanted to write. I kept telling myself I was going to write. The cloudiness in my head and the constant cramping in my stomach stood in the way of that. One hand on my stomach and the other swiping left on every guy Tinder threw at me, I begged silently for a bed. Eventually, she relinquished her own bed to me. I was surprised- she didn’t have a room or even a spare bed for me to sleep in, but chose to give up her own room entirely for me. I couldn’t have expected that. Grateful doesn’t begin to describe what type of feelings I had in the face of such kindness. More than that, her bed was comfortable. It was like being on a cloud. The short intermission between Bill and Saraleigh’s guest bed where I slept on Izzy’s couch was matched by Amanda.
Still hellbent on writing, I picked up my phone to begin and felt my eyes closing. I was running out of energy. I felt like I might not have woken up.