West Palm Beach to Port Salerno
Avg Speed: 8.3mph
Elevation Gain: 692ft
Avg Temp: 81.6°F
I found sleeping at Rusty’s, on the couch to be particularly difficult. Maybe it was just the comfort of a pillow and blanket that I lacked, or just the idea that there I was again, sleeping at stranger’s homes trying to accomplish a long journey on a skateboard. Rusty’s roommate, Rusty himself, and Spencer all had their own couches to sleep on in “the inner circle” of couches in the home. There were 5 in total. Nobody had pillows, nobody had blankets. It wasn’t even like we shared this great, fun, drunken night where we slept where we lied- for the roommate and Rusty, it just seemed like that was the way. Given the nature of just how many things were packed into the home, I could only let my imagination decide what was behind the doors to their rooms.
I checked my clothes I swapped from the night before and they were still wet with sweat. I had never been in that position before. My journey across the USA was at the start of winter- things were just colder and though I sweat quite a bit, it didn’t amount even a slight amount to what was going on in Florida. I put on my sports bra, and it’s icky, sweaty, nastiness stuck to me with the rising sun’s humidity. I walked with a limp. My left calf was bulging with tenderness to the touch and my right thigh was simply exhausted. My sunburns were at their worst.
What topped any of that was the blister on my ankle. It hurt so much. It hurt beyond anything I ever felt before. Slipping on my shoe was like signing a contract with the devil to sell my soul. I winced with pain as the innards of the shoe pressed right against the deep cut. I couldn’t bear to think that we were going to aim for another 70 mile day. Spencer was picking up conversation with Rusty again and eating a bowl of something for breakfast while I packed my belongings. I wished I could have showered again.
Rusty walked us outside and snapped a photo to remember the moment. We waved goodbye and pushed off after a few exchanges of hugs, and I couldn’t even hold my balance. I was all out of sorts with my body condition. I looked at Spencer, who was seemingly more optimistic than myself at the time, and told him I needed to get to the nearby drugstore and get something for the blister. Spencer also needed a hat- his neck was sunburned and his helmet wasn’t going to cut it.
I spent $30 on sunblock, blister treatment, and water. I immediately sat down outside and began piling up moleskin on my blister, taping it with climber’s tape, and ensuring full mobility. It honestly did feel better. A homeless man approached me and asked if I could spare a cigarette. Of course, I don’t smoke, and had nothing to say to him. He turned a simple question into a whole monologue about the Florida healthcare and police system built to keep guys like him down. I felt bad, but as he delved into talking about his abuse of drugs, it became apparent that he never tried to pull himself out of his predicament and wanted the government to fix his problems for him. I wished him the best before he went on to talk about his drug dealing days.
Going forward, I did feel better. The moleskin helped infinitely, but I was worried I would have to sacrifice $30 a day just to ensure I could make it each ride without searing pain. A worry for another time, I thought. Following Rusty’s directions, we made it to route A1A again and we were off. I decided to start early looking for places to crash for the night, but each host was few and far between. There seemed to be this influx of hosts that had nothing to do with cycle touring and were just porting their Couch Surfing profiles over to accumulate more guests. I was highly disinterested in meeting any more Couch Surfing hosts- though they are decent and well meaning people, they just aren’t able to grasp the immensity of adventure through using foot powered vehicles. Cycle tourers were great because we were able to share route info, experiences, and find a connection that didn’t have to be forced.
When I first got to Miami I stayed with a man in his apartment on South Beach. He was an older guy who insisted on a naturist way of living- that is, fully nude. It wasn’t my first nude experience and I doubted it would be my last, but the idea of finding connection through showing our naked bodies was distant to me. It’s a big world and bodies simply aren’t that interesting to me. Other people would say my body was interesting to them, but that was besides the point. I guess a part of me just wanted to meet other adventurers, and not just people who sought experience by living vicariously through other’s anecdotes.
The weather was on our side. We strolled through a beautiful, affluent area with great pavement and a woman stopped us in our tracks to see a manatee floating in the water by the docks. She insisted it was dying, but I was moreso convinced that it was just a manatee being a manatee. Further up we passed by fishermen along the water and frankly I just felt like I was in great company. We were on the hunt for a bridge that would take us to another inlet. Spencer kept saying it was close by, but I couldn’t wait to find it. Since I didn’t eat breakfast, again I was starving. Getting to the inlet meant there would usually be some sort of hub to refuel.
We crossed a giant bridge that overlooked where Tropicana orange juice had a shipping facility. It was neat to see the workers driving those huge rigs to move the shipping boxes around. I was definitely feeling a bit of emotion, thinking that there were all these talented, devoted workers who essentially worked to provide a service that would go unnoticed. Perhaps it was just me- I don’t want to go unnoticed. I feel like I have something to say. I wondered if maybe they simply just didn’t have anything to say.
Over the bridge was a chain restaurant sub shop disguised as a fast food joint. It had a cuban vibe to it. I ordered the most cuban thing I could on the menu, neglecting to see that Spencer obviously made the right choice in ordering the cheesey mac or something burger. I was jealous. Mine came with a pickle. Why Cubans like pickles so much will never make sense to me. Why anyone likes pickles will never make sense to me. I find myself detested at the thought of them. There’s this common transgender trope that trans women adore pickles and eat them constantly. I never understood that. Part of me attributes it to just the idea of the trend- with the internet being what it is, what one person in an idillic situation prefers to eat would be followed by someone who idolized them. The science behind it is that pickles have all that salty vinegar around them and it satisfies the body when it is on Spironolactone, a common anti-androgen that dehydrates the body and blocks testosterone. So a trans woman would typically either need to drink more water, or eat lots of salty things- pickles seemed to satisfy both. Regardless, pickles are nasty and if you eat them you should be ashamed of yourself.
I was completely revived after our lunch. We launched forward some more, delving into this pseudo-Florida tourism area where it seemed like all the people who couldn’t afford the more southern cities flocked to. It was a lot more settled, showing that there was a population of people who actually lived there. Why would anyone live in Florida? I wasn’t sure. It was hot in January, yes, but any other season and it was rainy and humid beyond belief. I didn’t even like visiting Florida. I would never go to Florida if not for the Ultraskate race held every year.
As we made a junction in Tequesta, we hopped over this bridge that was on it’s way to being raised while we were on it. It seemed every bridge we crossed was being raised while we were there. I could speculate all day whether it was coincidence or divine intervention- once a bridge was up, we had ample time to take full control of all of the road with no traffic coming at us. It was a blessing. Crossing Tequesta, however, meant that we had to go into another inlet. That time, it wasn’t as great as the others. The inlet lead to the Hobe Sound Beach, and tucked its way in through a very wealthy neighborhood with narrow roads and poor sidewalks designed only for pedestrians.
We pushed as far and as fast as we could so as to not disturb the traffic. It was strange: normally, as a poorer person (in wealth) I look at the rich and think they’re genuine assholes. You know, the ones that call police on homeless people sleeping on park benches when they live a mile away? Or the ones who pay for their son to get on the travel fast-pitch baseball team when he isn’t any good. This experience was different. A man in a Mercedes stopped to ask if we needed a ride. Of course we said no, but the gesture was completely unexpected. Pedestrians we passed looked at us with awe and huge smiles, stepping slightly off their path to leave room for us. Maybe they thought we belonged there, or were a part of their community? Maybe, just maybe, they were good people? Who could say.
Something that isn’t mutually exclusive in terms of how nice people are is the relation of wealth to police presence. Hardly a few miles into the inlet, an officer flashed his lights at us and told us to get on the sidewalk. There were signs all around encouraging to share the road with cyclists, and signs saying the sidewalks were for pedestrians only- he was completely out of line to even approach us. His boisterous announcement of his presence was braggart and unwelcome. I felt a rage boiling inside me, mentally preparing an argument, but Spencer followed orders. I didn’t think Spencer was a boot licker, and he never showed himself to be one- I think we both just wanted to avoid altercation and keep moving. Had I been alone, I would have told the cop to fuck himself sideways or made some “oink oink” notions at him.
Getting on the sidewalk meant that every 2 houses or so had gravel or pebble driveways. Some were even seashells. This caused us to have to pick up our boards and drag them to the start of the next sidewalk. It was tedious and unnecessary. The cop rode by a few times to ensure we were following his orders. What a fucking prick. It was my understanding that A) skateboarding in Florida streets was allowed, and B) the neighborhood welcomed us kindly so he had no business sticking his nose in ours. After we had gone far enough, I was able to take my phone off camera mode in case I needed to do any impromptu filming to expose an officer abusing his power. What a relief. We jumped back on the road and pushed on to Hobe Sound Beach.
The water was cold. I was soaked with sweat but couldn’t justify getting in the water. My blister seemed fine, but I got sand in the wound and the moleskin was covered in it. Regardless, I was pleased to take a break. Spencer jumped in the water but I just watched. I was happy. We were very close to our goal location. Clouds loomed overhead very quickly, chilling the air around us. I had a short list of things I needed to accomplish on our break: go to the bathroom, change my phone battery, fix my blister, and go. Around us was a plethora of older people, many of them playing board games or walking a dog.
Once we finally left, we traveled down the road through giant Buttress trees in a shaded area. The trees were beautiful and weird in their own special way – I had never seen anything quite like it. In order to maintain our morale, I popped on some Motown music to dance to – Spencer and myself got weird with the music and we really had good heads on our shoulders. Spencer had remembered that his friend William lived nearby and hadn’t seen him in a long time. Once the idea to see if we could sleep at his house was concocted, it was almost immediately fulfilled. William was happy to get us and meet us in the area.
Skating out of the Buttresses, we stopped for a brief break along the sidewalk. I was so tired of skating on sidewalks. The consistent vibrations tortured my poor feet, which were already in poor condition. You know those terrible patches at the end of a sidewalk, placed to signify to a blind person that there is an intersection or driveway? They’re called rumble patches, and they’re garbage for skateboarders. When the road, like it was, is too narrow to share with a car, we get forced onto sidewalks and those things completely kill speed and ruin feet. The irony was that as soon as I cursed out loud about them, Spencer looked at me and said, “Did you see that blind guy back there?” In truth, I hadn’t. He didn’t see me either.
Regardless of such woes, the sky closed up with a curtain of clouds and began to rain upon us. The rain turned from light, to torrential, to heavy, and back to light all within a 15 minute period. My phone was soaked, I was soaked, everything was soaked. My phone wouldn’t play music anymore and I had no good cotton to dry the phone. Without music to amp us up, we buckled down over the train tracks and booked it for the nearest place William could have met us.
We poured into a Publix supermarket along the way, stacking all of our gear into a shopping cart and perusing the store, obviously causing a scene. Two soaking wet kids, with all that gear…we attracted quite a bit of attention. Luckily we were only there for some more Mountain Dew. I hadn’t had any endurance fuel all day, so the sodium content was welcomed into my system. We sat upon a bench and out of nowhere, while we waited for William, a homeless man named “Jeff” approached us.
I was so tired, so soaked, and so burnt out that I wanted nothing to do with him. I had realized now that all I wanted was to be back in Massachusetts, with my girlfriend I had just formed a relationship with. I didn’t want to meet Jeff, I didn’t want to meet William, I wanted to get away from skating with Spencer, I wanted to be out of Florida, and I wanted to heal and rest. My mood was poor. Jeff was obviously drunk, as he rolled up to us and said, “Look at the beard on this guy,” referring to me, then corrected himself saying, “Oh, that’s just a girl with long hair.”
Jeff continued to pester us, talking about who knew what. He pulled out his harmonica and began to jam in front of us. Luckily for me, Spencer was into the interaction, and I certainly wasn’t. First of all, harmonicas are wildly obnoxious, and second, Jeff had no tone and no singing voice whatsoever. He absolutely stunk of alcohol. Had this been my journey across the country, I might have followed down the rabbit hole to join Jeff and see his way of life like he invited us to, but this time, I just wanted to go home.
William showed up in the rain to greet us in a nice Astro Van. I used to have an Astro Van. I loved mine- I gutted it out, applied insulation, and began building the inside. My goal was to live in it, until the engine blew and I was forced to ditch it in Massachusetts. Not even a week later I decided to hop on a plane to San Diego, and that’s what began my life in the unknown. I found William’s van to be nostalgic for me. I was at peace. He was a bigger guy with a large, unkempt beard and smaller glasses. Everything about him screamed “Mormon,” but he didn’t act like it.
He drove us to his house as the sun set upon us. When we entered, his grandmother, mother, and father were there greeting us. I hated greetings. I hated big hellos. I wanted to be home. After such a long, long day on the board ending in a downpour of rain, all I could think of was sleep. Of course, with Mormons, there was no way that was going to happen. I was first in the shower while Spencer caught up with his friend.
Getting out of the shower, I had to figure out how I was going to cover up my obvious breasts (since my sports bra was soaked) and my shaved legs. My facial hair was growing back so altogether I just looked very strange. William gave me a larger shirt, and the flowiness of it being oversized did me well. While Spencer showered William and I made small talk- I did not want to go anywhere without at least one of them by my side.
Dinnertime came right around when Spencer dried off- I would have preferred to starve, at the time, instead of sitting down with 4 Mormons for dinner, especially ones were outspoken against gay rights, or homosexual things in general, as I was told they were. Outside of that one thing about them, I found them to be outrageously nice and welcoming people. When we sat down for dinner, we did a prayer- with everyone else’s eyes closed, I kept mine open. How foolish prayer looks when you don’t partake…
William’s dad was from my neck of the woods, Waltham, in Massachusetts. We shared small nods in our jokes around the table that only we would understand. Occasionally the grandmother would pop in with some ignorantly racist comment about the towns we were about to skate through, or some news item she knew nothing about. It was frustrating to listen to. However, William’s mother was a school teacher in the area and we spoke on the topic of Tide Pods and their increasing popularity as a “challenge” among young kids- the asinine idea that people were literally eating chemicals for fun only made me angry, but I asked the question: “Surely when our generation was younger, we were doing dumb stuff like this too, right?”
Everybody said no. I had never thought about it. The increasing amount of ways information is spread with technology gives limitless ways for kids to become dumber and dumber. Beyond tide pods, kids are selling “slime” in their schools, made with chemicals found around the house. I supposed that my biggest chemical concoction in my childhood was mixing mustard with ketchup and forcing the neighbor to eat it. There was an obvious trend I found through the discussion that kids simultaneously have too much supervision, and not enough. Parents can limit a child’s Youtube searches, or call their kids home from school instead of going to play, but nothing was stopping them from finding ways to make chemical mixtures or being indoctrinated to a faction of the KKK. These are extreme cases, but all I learned was that the next generation under me was filled with an obvious abuse of too much information. Instead of choosing the necessary information, they opt for the fun and entertaining stuff. Kids today are great at multitasking, but they never choose to involve academia into their abilities.
I gorged myself on chicken and salad. There was a hefty amount of tomato in every part of the meal, and even though I detest them, I ate through it. I was respectful. Aside from racism, I was happy we did not speak on the subject of gay anything. Dinner ended, and I was free. William entertained us with him quick witted humor and between him and Spencer, there was never a moment of silence. They were very much the same person through and through. After dinner I looked with wide eyes and told myself there was no way I could spend another minute listening to the two of them.
Though I learned to appreciate Spencer, because without him I might have been eating stew with Jeff in a homeless camp, I still wanted to go home. The weather forecast was looking bleak- lots of headwind coming our way. I needed rest, and without Spencer I might not have gotten it. Plus, a warm meal, clean clothes, and a shower didn’t hurt. I was learning of the value of teamwork.
I began to tuck myself into bed (I was given my own room- William explained something about me being trans but I really didn’t get it). Before I was able to shut the lights off and avoid any Mormon-esque discussion, it happened. William’s father approached me and gave me the gospel. He told me he knew something was “off” about me, and that I needed to recognize that without Jesus, none of my accomplishments could have happened. I told him that he wasn’t the first person to say that to me- many times on the road people have given me rides and said God told them to do so. Essentially, the man was telling me to accept Jesus into my life or I’d be doomed as a young transexual in the world. He didn’t do it in a braggart way, nor in an angry or preaching way. He was just simply sharing his view and wondered if I would accept it.
I told him I would think about it. He did the most Mormon thing he could have done, and shoved a pamphlet in my hand. I didn’t read it or look at it. I entertained his ideas, and without controversy. That was the most I could offer in the face of god trying to nudge his way into my prowess. Out like a light, I was comforted by four walls and a roof, with the blessing of a bed. Was it god? Or was it just coincidence that there are nice people out there?