Stoke Factor: 1
Miserableness Factor: 9
Snot Rockets Blown: 4
Avg Speed: 9mph
Waking up in the nudist colony, I heard the rustling around of Branson getting ready. I was not looking forward to the day whatsoever- Branson and Buzzfeed in general would be leaving me, and I was so far off track from my route. Dubuque was already off of my route, Chicago was off my route, Valparaiso was off my route. The appeal of appearing in a viral media feature drew me further from where I intended to be quite literally by a state’s width. Of course I never complained, internalizing my thoughts and keeping my happy face on. Luckily the rain of the day before had dried away, and the air was cool. Minus a bit of wind bothering me, it was a great day to skate.
I had explained to Branson that along my route I often ate at diners, and for good reason. The employees and owners of diners were real people- they had emotion, took time off their duties to talk to me, and showed interest in my journey. The people of corporate businesses, chain restaurants, and otherwise anything that wasn’t local employed mostly apathetic workers who just wanted to go home. In the diners I went to, the most exciting part of their day might have been serving the trans woman skateboarding across the country a cup of coffee. The other aspect of local vs corporate business, outside of good conversation and potential friendship, was the fact that many diners I visited comped my meals.
I remembered back in Rock Springs, Wyoming, when I stumbled into a KFC and everybody inside asked me questions and showed interest in me. The cashier, however sweet she was, did not have the opportunity or time to waste chit chatting with me. A few small, “Oh my god, really?” exclamations, and she was back to counting money from one hand to another. She had a job to do, and if she took time to talk to me, she wouldn’t have been doing her job. She was literally a slave, her work was not enjoyable to her, and she had no luxury of friendship to extend.
The point Branson made about asking me of the diners and their tendency to give me my meals for free was that they wanted to catch it on camera. They looked up a local diner in a surrounding town, and we had essentially planned to entice the employees to feed me. We devised this plan, obviously sociopathic in nature (the idea of manipulating people into giving me free food left me uneasy), to have them sit in a different booth while I ate alone- they wanted to film all of my interactions.
I rolled out of bed. Branson urged me to move quicker, and there I was, back on somebody else’s clock. I debated whether or not I was happy being a slave to the clock. It wasn’t my time that was running out, it was theirs. They had to catch a flight out of Chicago to get back to work. Somehow that plan for them to get back to Chicago meant that I was going to be left in wherever I was. I wasn’t happy about it one bit. Intermittently staring at my phone devising my own plan and trying to find a state park or campground to stay in, hundreds of miles off of my own course, I was staring at a camera. I hated it. I detested everything about being where I was. I dragged myself along.
Leaving the nudist colony, we hit the main road and used the GPS to drive us to the diner. It was all staged. Not that I didn’t have a part in staging it (I too wanted a free meal), but it felt very evil. We talked about parking in the back of the lot so I could walk in with my board and backpack and attract all kinds of attention to me. We talked about how we would go in at different times so we didn’t even seem like we were together. But in the middle of talking at a stop light, I was taking a picture of a sign that read, “Get all your trans needs here!” for the hilarity and relevance of it (it was an auto mechanic garage), and a police siren flashed. I didn’t know what we did wrong, and neither did Branson.
So we pulled over. I couldn’t believe it. Skateboarding across the country and I got pulled over in a car. I was pathetic. Branson was sweating, I sighed in disbelief. Authority didn’t scare me, but for them it seemed like the end of days. Hush whispering ensued as a female officer approached us: “License and registration please.” Branson didn’t know what to say- it was a rental. Flashing their California license, myself a Massachusetts one, we instantly raised suspicion. I was still in disbelief, and downright angry. I absolutely fucking hated the police.
I remembered when before my trip a fellow cross country skateboarder extraordinaire yelled at me for posting a Facebook status that read, “The only good cop is a dead one.” He said he would stop supporting me if I continued to portray such an attitude. I apologized to him, but by no means did it change my opinion. We’ve seen it already in my travels and encounters with police: none of them positive, all of them scary in their own way, and none of them necessary. I said it once and I’ll say it til the day I die: All Cops Are Bastards. If I lost friends in maintaining my mentality on the matter, good. No friend of mine supported the police.
I always used to have this dream: I’d be married, maybe to a man, maybe to a woman. We’d have a house somewhere around my hometown, and we’d be throwing a birthday party barbecue for my adopted son. When I sent out the invitations, I neglected to remember that my old friend who was in town for the weekend was married to a police officer. No matter how much I loved her, and hadn’t seen her in years, I still uninvited her to my party. Even as a completely innocent tax paying and law abiding citizen, no cop in or out of uniform would step foot on my property.
Of course that entire scenario was fictional. I’d never get married, nor would I have a home, nor would I adopt a child. I’d never have a friend who would want to catch up with me and I’d likely cut all communication once I learned she married a cop anyways. The point of the matter was that my distaste for authority was not something up for debate.
I got a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. A $25 fucking ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. The officer, who didn’t do anything other than her job, left me with a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. Should I have been wearing my seatbelt? Maybe, but I think as a free citizen of a free country, I should get to choose whether or not I want to do that. Branson said “Thank you officer” before the cop left, and I was absolutely infuriated by it. What the fuck were we thanking her for?
I let out a couple of pig squeals and snorts, and waved, “Goodbye piggy! Bye! Oink oink piggy!” to the officer. My complete lack of care for where I was, the situation I was in, and everything going on shined brighter than the north star. Branson literally put the car in park and scolded me for doing that. They talked about how the car was a rental under Buzzfeed’s money, and how if they were in real trouble (or if I had started real trouble) it would cost them their job. I did realize what a jerk I was. I apologized. I felt bad for being the cause of any anxiety. I was, without a doubt, a fucking asshole. I threw the ticket in the backseat. I would never pay it. Ever.
When I posted on Facebook about the ordeal, somebody commented, “Why the disrespectful attitude?” and I replied, “That’s what I asked too.”
We rolled up into the diner parking lot- exactly as we planned. I strolled in and sat down. They gave me a full booth to myself, so I could sit across from my backpack and next to my board. It was a full table. I ordered the standard breakfast- eggs, meat, hash browns. It was all the same. No matter the diner, no matter the state, no matter the cook, breakfast was universal in the good old U.S. of A. A waiter asked me, “Long trip?” and that began it all.
The filming of the interactions was not nearly as organic as it sounded in our thoughts. They sat Branson far away from me- I had no idea if my microphone was on, and overall, I hated trying to gaud genuine people into my viral video trap. I wanted breakfast. We gave up rather quickly, regrouped, and explained that they were filming this portion of my trip. Everything was so much better once honesty was on the table. I was able to relax.
We hosted a short interview in the diner- I didn’t think it was very good on my end, but Branson specifically wanted to ask me about one thing: I had mentioned three demographics of people that would not be able to do the same adventure I was doing. They were A) People of color. B) Anybody without male privilege. C) Anybody with dietary restrictions. I’ll go further into detail:
A) People of color. Let’s not ignore the rampant racism of this country. Let’s not ignore the fact that the only times I saw anybody of color, it was a lowly worker or in an urban setting. The west that I had traveled through was white washed to all hell. I had no faith that if there was a black person, or even a Latina person, they would receive the same graciousness I received. That wasn’t to say I thought anybody who helped me was racist, but more so that people in the west would be less inclined to pick up a person of color skateboarding on a main artery in the middle of winter.
B) People without male privilege. I have never been oblivious to the fact that in some instances (most), I get taken for a man. My voice is deep, if I went too long without a shower I would sprout a 5 o’ clock shadow, and for fuck’s sake, I was a behemoth of power carrying a large rucksack on a 4-wheeled plank. I think that if a cisgender (”cisgender” meaning content in the gender they were assigned at birth) woman were to attempt this trip, she would need a friend, or at the absolute least, a weapon. I think a few of the men I stayed with had their own aura of creepiness about them, and in certain situations, any woman sporting a vagina would have been at risk. I think they’d be less likely to be taken as seriously as I was. Frankly, I think a woman attempting to skateboard solo was ambitious on it’s own, but my saving grace was that I packed a wiener in my pants as a deterrent for something sinister.
C) People with dietary restrictions. First of all, good luck finding a diner with a vegan or vegetarian option out in the middle of nowhere. You know what they eat out there? Cattle. LOTS of cattle. I could never forget stopping in at the Brothers Stop Spot in Brothers, Oregon. Talya, the owner, looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her if she had ANYTHING green on the menu. That repeated everywhere I went. There were no grocery stores, and no co-ops. No fancy eateries, and hell, nothing even to forage in the winter. If you had an allergy to anything considered normal, you’d be shit out of luck. Of course, you could always cook your own food, but you’d have to carry it. You’d have to carry it for hundreds of miles between major cities.
I liked answering that question. It was my own honest take. Did I think nobody besides myself could do it? No, of course not. I just thought there would be an exceptionally hellish time for anyone who didn’t look, act, or sound like a man when it counted. While I cherished and embraced my femininity, there was no room for it out on the road.
I headed off to the bathroom after our interview. When I returned, the bill had been paid for (by Buzzfeed), and everybody wanted a business card. I reluctantly gave it to them- I knew that I would be writing this blog entry, and I didn’t want them to read it. I had done that before, but I think the importance of documenting and including the people who were a part of my journey existed. Back in the car, we had to think. I knew my time with Buzzfeed was just about at it’s end- which was good for everybody. I had fallen back into the same mindset that pushed CNN out of the project. They were no longer helping me, but instead just getting their materials for their story. I was going to be left in the middle of nowhere in Indiana.
We filmed more of me skating. I was over it. The idea of filming me skating somewhere where I wouldn’t be skating, expending energy I needed to save, only to be left to my own devices made my blood boil. Branson didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. We grew tired of each other very quickly. Of course I wasn’t tired of Branson, who did nothing but offer a positive attitude and be a true help along the way, but I was tired of filming. I was tired of cameras, talking about lighting, putting on a microphone, or finding a location for a shot. I missed the earlier days of pushing my heart out and feeling good about it. Somewhere in Iowa it became lost on me. Branson was tired of me- I fucking sucked. I picked a spot for them to drop me off, but they dropped me off at the first road side stop they could find. With a big hug, it was over.
Somewhere along route 30 in Indiana, I had no idea what I was going to do. Cars flew by me. The next town was miles away. I was running out of money. I didn’t have to worry about money since Buzzfeed showed up in Chicago. They paid for everything, which I was grateful for. In the time of not worrying about money, I neglected to even realize how much I didn’t have. At that moment when Branson drove off, I felt helpless.
I pushed anyways, through some gridded farm counties along nicely paved roads. There was nothing and nobody around me. I was at peace. I took to the internet to try and raise funds for myself and had a huge success. My biggest supporter, Jess, a fellow trans woman who encouraged me from the get go, offered to pay for a hotel for me if I made it to one. Another friend donated $50 for a meal. MXK Skate, my shop sponsor, dropped $200 additionally to ensure I was safe. Even though I was lost, off my route, left for nothing, and without anything positive, I had friends everywhere. The moment I saw the outpouring of support, my heart smiled. I felt like the Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes that day.
I jumped back onto the main road. It was only another 25 miles to the next town, where I could get that fabled motel. I tried to call a few local camp sites, but since it was so late in the season, they weren’t even there to pick up the phone. Every silver lining, however, had a touch of grey. It began to rain on me. It wasn’t a hard rain, but it was enough to bother me and make things worse. With half the day spent at a diner and filming, the looming sunset incoming, and nowhere to be, I had to put my head down and push on. Luckily where I was had a relatively flat geographic location. I was able to keep a great pace along, until a car drove into the break down lane.
It was a small, black, two-seater- packed to the brim with junk in the rear. The door opened as I walked towards it. “Where ya going?” I said. He pointed in the direction he was traveling. “Far.” I hopped in. I told him I was headed into the next town with a motel, and we began talking. His name was Alex- younger than me in age but full of smiles. He explained that moments before he met me he posted a Facebook status that read, “Be nice.” Picking me up was his chance to be nice.
Alex was headed to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Luckily for me, that was exactly where I was heading. I wouldn’t have gotten there for another two days, so I figured why not ride with him all the way? He said he would help me find a place to stay. We instantly became friends. The drive was long, as it was a two day skate from where he picked me up. I was happy to be in a car with somebody my own age. He had a very hipster vibe about him: dirty car, large beard, thick rimmed glasses, flannel shirt, black beanie. In fact, he was the exact representation of what I would call a hipster.
We drove into Fort Wayne and it was still light out. Our first stop? A bar. It was a really cool bar. We were the only two in there minus one other customer and the bartended. Graffiti, art, band stickers, and posters lined the walls. The TVs on the overhangs played viral fail videos as punk music blasted overhead. That place was a breath of fresh air. I felt like I could be myself. Additionally, the bartender even said that I was in the perfect place to be myself. The rest of Fort Wayne? Not so much.
I attempted to organize a Warm Showers host, but with a tad bit of transmisogyny, I was denied a place to stay. Normally I would never drop the fact that I was trans as the reason I didn’t get something, but it was once I explained my gender that the host told me they could no longer host. They were on their way to meet me prior to hearing that small detail about me. I got drunker and drunker at the bar. The drinks were cheap, the company was good, and I didn’t have a care in the world. My bad day turned into something I was absolutely stoked on. How lucky was I to meet a guy like Alex?
Alex told me that he was a supervisor for a business that hired people to hold signs for closing businesses. He offered me a job for the next day, holding a sign for 5 hours for $50. I liked the idea of that. Even though I did just gain donations, I needed to earn my own income out on the road. $50 could be the difference in a bus out of a bad situation. So, agreeing to his job offer, we decided to spend the rest of the night together.
People started to come into the bar as the hours winded down into the night with the setting sun. There I met a few people- there was the shortest girl I ever met in my life, who was adamant that we all knew she was over 40 years old, and there was the crowd of amateur comedians. The comedians were all there because it was open mic night for a comedy show- hearing the words “open mic” and “comedy show” together began to make my mind wander. I instantly began piecing together an entire show I could do. I was beyond ready for it. The short girl was also interested and began reciting her jokes off to us. I didn’t think she was particularly funny, but for the drunkest girl in the bar at the lowest altitude, the stage presentation was immaculate. Alex cheered me on. He was excited to see me try and do my first comedy routine to strangers in the reddest state America had to offer.
Before too many drinks were consumed, we left to hunt down some food. I wasn’t opposed to buying our meal or splitting a motel room for us. We found a place that served these tiny burgers, comprised almost entirely of onions. The vibe in the restaurant was just gross. It was a tiny, camper sized diner with old school signage and dirty windows. Old men sat at the bar, slurping the onions off their buns and washing them down with Coca-Cola. Before we entered, we both found our own corners to piss in the parking lot. I was drunk. I was definitely already drunk, freeballing my way through the lot and zipping my pants up as I entered the diner. I scarfed down a few sandwiches. They reminded me of Krystal Burger, a chain burger joint down south that I tried in New Orleans years back when I attended Mardi Gras. I’ll never forget the taste of those burgers coming up after drinking my “to go” drink out of a random bar on Bourbon Street. These burgers here in Indiana tasted no different.
I was still hungry, but I wasn’t sure I could eat more than the 5 of those burgers that I did. Alex was satisfied, obviously not used to seeing somebody with a 5,000-10,000 calorie a day diet. I told him we could go find our motel, and if I saw a place I wanted to eat at we should stop along the way. We never stopped- both of us really wanted to get back to the bar to partake in the comedy show. The motel we chose was the greasiest, dirtiest joint in all of Fort Wayne. Had I not been bundled up in my hiking and camping gear, I would have felt like a cheap hooker setting foot in there. The cost was fair, and I was happy to have Alex to split the cost with me. If I did it on my own, I’d be out of money in no time.
After finally finding a safe resting spot for my belongings, I was ready for more drinks. I never even considered the implication that Alex was probably as drunk as I was- we were driving like maniacs all over the road. It was fun as heck at the time, but for whatever reason, all across the country to that point, I always seemed to be in the car with drunk drivers. At least Alex wasn’t nearly as bad as Badger was in Wyoming. Badger truly scared me.
The bar was LOADED with people by the time we got back. Our bartender from earlier was no longer there to serve us discounted drinks in exchange for good conversation. There was a bigger guy, who was stoic in appearance but obviously overwhelmed. It took forever for us to grab a few draught beers. I followed Alex around like a puppy- he had friends there and knew lots of people. He was unashamed to introduce me to his friends, and many of them were comedians who were performing at the open mic night.
Standing outside while everybody smoked cigarettes, I made my introductions and tried to figure out how I was going to get on the show. Everybody I asked had this reaction that it was some forbidden thing to do, to ask to be on the show. I felt like I crossed a line even wondering if I could speak. Nobody had to care whether or not I was on the show, because they were already on it. The novelty of somebody skateboarding across the country as a trans woman who wanted to do a comedy routine seemed lost on the people of Fort Wayne.
So the comedy show began, and my head was spinning. I hadn’t been that drunk since I lived in San Diego. Everything was funny to me. I couldn’t tell if I was laughing at the jokes or if I was just pandering to the scene so that by some good grace I would be allowed to speak. The whole ordeal was very off putting and cliquey. The first comedian, a man who was even shorter than the girl from before with some medical handicap, was a complete riot. He was very self aware and his jokes didn’t require some sort of “awe, he’s crippled” reaction. Up next was a black man, who carried a Hannibal Burress-esque demeanor about him. His jokes were very race oriented but appealed to the obviously overwhelming white crowd.
After he went up, I asked the short guy who had made himself known as the organizer for the event if I could go on. He immediately said no. He was nice about it. In fact, he even said, “Sorry, Calleigh.” I had no idea how he knew my name. I should have realized by then that word of my adventure tended to spread fairly quickly and that was no exception. I was beyond disappointed. I ordered up another round of beers for Alex and I and grabbed a chair, no longer wanting to be entertained by the event. It crushed my drunken spirit.
The next comedian was a white guy in his early thirties, joking about being a white guy in his early thirties. His entire routine failed to even reach my ears until he started talking about going on a date with a “transexual.” His verbiage was wrong and showed he truly had no relevance, and was likely just a made up story to talk on a topic apparent in popular media. I was irked by that. The way he spoke of the fabled trans woman made her out like she was nothing more than the subject of his joke.
His joke turned even more sour for me when he moved on to talking about having sex with the trans woman. He closed his joke by saying that even though she was 67 years old, he didn’t mind because she had a new pussy that was like fucking a 6 year old. I couldn’t think of a worse way to end that joke. I gritted my teeth. I looked at Alex and said, “I’m about to lose my shit.” He gave me a nod. He made me feel like I was right for reacting the way I did. I didn’t think on any level, between the child predatory comment or the irrelevance to trans women, that it was remotely appropriate.
So as he was being clapped off the stage and celebrated, I walked right up to him and pushed him. I said, “Did you really think that was a funny joke? Did you think that was an appropriate joke to make?” He began to retort, but he started yelling, and everybody was looking at us. My quickest reaction was to throw the guy in a head lock and start pounding his face with my free hand up against the wall. I got a few quick smacks in, but it was the entirety of Fort Wayne versus Calleigh. A guy laid a hammer of a hit on me and I found myself in a headlock, taking the wailing of anybody around who could land a shot. My drunkenness fueled me and I ripped myself clean out of the headlock.
I was pushed out of the bar, and everybody was shaming me on the way out. I dropped my hat, to which I saw Alex procure it for me. I put up two hands to show I was done being aggressive, and they let me walk out of the bar with dignity. I think everybody knew exactly why I was upset, but they simply just didn’t want violence in their bar. I could understand that. I immediately began apologizing. Alex looked around inside for a few things I thought I lost, but it turned out I didn’t even have them with me. All accounted for, I was met outside by all of the performers who wanted to ask what went wrong.
I was far too fired up to make any sort of debate. I couldn’t hold my own in conversation and had no defense to exclaim why I decided to hit the guy. I looked like an idiot. I took on a bar of 100+ by myself. My adrenaline was surging through my body, empowered by beer. The comedians weren’t angry at me. Only the handicapped event organizer was mad and demanded an apology because when I hit the other guy, he caught a slice of my hand and I knocked him off his barstool. I was quick to apologize. The black performer said he empathized with me, and we hugged. I even apologized to the guy I hit.
Honestly, making enemies was never my intention. The entire day began on a poor note and ended on a poor note. My attitude defined every situation I found myself in. That bar in Fort Wayne was the first place in all of the states I didn’t leave with a new friend. As I hugged everybody goodbye and made my apologies, I walked with my head down to Alex’s car. I felt bad that I ended our night. I had no idea what time it was, but I knew we both wanted to drink more.
We hit up a liquor store on the way back to the motel- naturally, we left the beers we bought in the car, and as soon as we stepped inside the room we were both passed out. I fought another bout of shitting and puking like I did in Omaha. Shit in the toilet, puke in the sink. Repeat.
I deserved it.