Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Riding into Tammy World

I could hear it coming down the street and the noise seemed to get deeper and louder as it slowed down right outside my window.  The roar of that vehicle was like nothing I had heard approaching my house before, and then it actually stopped.  After a journey of more than 1300 miles the shiny, black and blue motorcycle pulled into my driveway and beneath the dark helmet I faintly recognized my sister Pam.   She was here in Tammy World and it was a happy day!

Mileage on Pam's motorcycle odometer from her home in Oklahoma to my house.

Pam in Tammy World

Pam had a 2 week vacation last month and decided to get on her Yamaha bike and ride halfway across the country to see her son, who lives a couple hours from me, and to visit me here in Tammy World.  She was already a day late because of rain that started when she crossed the North Carolina mountains and unfortunately that rain would be a harbinger of things to come.  

I have written about Pam West in this blog before with this entry about friends being one instance as well as this one, Off to the Beach, about meeting her in person for the first time in Carolina Beach this spring, among others.  We started chatting on the internet in late 2011, right about the time I entered therapy, and she had already started gender therapy.  We bonded pretty quickly online and over the next year and a half our transitions have mirrored each other in many ways, with Pam seemingly a step ahead of me in most instances.  When we started talking I had been going out presenting female for a couple of years and was more experienced and comfortable in public than she was, but she finished therapy, started hormones and went full time before me.

When Pam first told me she had a bike I wondered if it was a 10 speed.  I hadn't known anyone with a real motorcycle since I was kid and rode a friend's minibike a couple of times.  More recently I have met several trans Facebook friends that own and ride motorcycles so I am used to hearing about "bikes" now, but I guess Tammy World was pretty limited at that time and I was a little na├»ve, to not even know what a real bike was.  After seeing Pam's bike and following the excitement of her trip east, then getting to take a spin on the back of it in my neighborhood, I have a sense of appreciation for the whole 2 wheels with a motor experience.  In fact, next month for my birthday, I am getting a bike of my own!  Mine will have pedals though and I don't think I will ever want a motorcycle but I do plan to get a helmet before Pam comes down on the bike again so that I can take a proper and legal ride.

Out and about with my sister during her stay in Tammy World.
Pam arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and I decided to give her a proper southern welcome by frying some chicken for supper.  It had been awhile since she had deep fried chicken and we both ate way too much of it, then talked the rest of the night and watched some television.  Wednesday was a fun day here in Rocky Mount and we started out with breakfast at my parents' house.  Mama and Daddy had yet to meet any of my friends and Pam made a good impression because she is so nice, makes a good presentation, has a good job to talk about has been through a lot of the same things that I have.  About mid day we headed over to the mall to get our brows threaded, do some shopping and get manicures/pedicures at Exotic Nails.   It was a fun afternoon of girl time at the mall then we ate subs at a pizza place before coming home for the evening.

Thursday I had a doctor's appointment in Cary for an annual physical and Pam rode up in my van with me.  She had to sit in the waiting room for an hour and a half while I waited, then had my blood tests, exam and doctor visit.  After all that we were both ready to relax and do something fun while in the city, so we went to my favorite place in the Raleigh area, Crabtree Valley Mall.  I had been fasting since midnight so the first thing we did was have some Japanese from the food court for lunch.  After that we did a lot of walking and window shopping and even bought a thing or two.  When we left the mall I rode downtown to let Pam see a little more of Raleigh before stopping by Whole Foods for dinner.   The dogs were really happy to see us and hungry for their supper when we got home a little after dark then we spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

Pam and I in Crabtree Mall.
Taking a break from walking and shopping to get some ice cream and water at Highway 55 Diner.  Pam is wearing the new outfit she got at Cato in Rocky Mount, doesn't it look cute on her?

Mitchell came down to see me Friday afternoon and the three of us went to my parents' house for a little while then went to Wal Mart and the mall.  I cooked supper for us, steaks for them and the dogs and some Mahi Mahi for me, and we hung out here at my house that night.  Pam was waiting to hear from her son as to when she could go up to see him, so she didn't ride down to Charlotte with Mitchell and I on Saturday to attend our friends' birthday party.  She stayed here Saturday night and ended up riding up to Virginia early Sunday morning to spend the day with her son. 

After a long ride, some of it in heavy stop and go traffic, Mitchell and I checked into a nice hotel suite in Charlotte Saturday night and went to the party at a local pub.  I got to hear him sing karaoke for the first time and I have to admit he mesmerized me even more singing in that public venue than he does when he sings for me here at home.  Hearing my man sing everything from George Jones to Poison made that whole long trip worthwhile, but it was also fun seeing a new place, hanging out with friends and meeting some new people.

Mitchell singing to me in the karaoke section of the bar.  I really hate that Pam missed this party, but she got to see her son and Mitchell and I had a good little trip out of town.

It rained all the way back from Charlotte Sunday and when we got back I heard from Pam that she was heading back to Tammy World and would arrive late that evening.  Unfortunately it rained on her all day and apparently riding in the rain on a motorcycle is not ideal.  On the bike, you don't have the comfort of a roof, air conditioner, radio and windshield wipers. But she did pull into my carport wearing full rain gear so at least she didn't get soaking wet.  I appreciate her feeding and watching my dogs Saturday night and was happy to have another full day to spend with her before she had to get on the westbound highway for Oklahoma.

Monday was another cloudy day with rain off and on.  Mitchell left early that morning to go back to work in Virginia and Pam and I did a little shopping and took a long country ride in the flat farmlands east of Rocky Mount.  When we got back into town it was still raining so we decided to have an early supper at a local favorite barbecue and fried chicken buffet restaurant.  I need to stay away from buffets and I need to stay away from fried chicken, but even though we ate too much (me in particular) we did enjoy a good last meal together in Rocky Mount.  After supper the rain let up a little bit so we went to the park with big rock formations on the Tar River, where Rocky Mount got its name.  These are tiny rocks compared to what we have in the mountains several hours west, but it is a nice spot.  We got a few pictures, then came back to the house to enjoy a couple of beers and some good conversation.  Pam is the type sister that I feel I have known all my life even though we have been talking less than 2 years and just met a couple of times this year.  We were comfortable with each other from the moment we met.  I hated that she had to leave the next morning but the good news is that we will get to see each other one more time this year, when she comes to Virginia Beach this fall for work.
Pam and I on he "rocky mound" where Rocky Mount got its name.

Falls of the Tar River at the old mill dam in Rocky Mount.
Sisters on the Mount.  Even though I live a long way from the mountains, the area around the falls of the Tar River in Rocky Mount where the Coastal Plain meets the Piedmont has some mountain like vegetation and rock formations.

Tuesday morning rolled around and the sun finally came out.  I was hoping for a break in the rainy weather system for Pam's long trek home that included a detour through the Smoky Mountains, including a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  After breakfast she packed up and gave me my first ride on the mighty Yamaha Star 1300 motorcycle.  Since I don't have a helmet, we just took a short ride around my neighborhood, but I could feel the power of the bike and the pull of wanting to travel on 2 wheels.  She took off about 10:00 am heading west on the interstate and I followed her trip on Facebook.  Unfortunately I saw that by the time she got out of town good it started raining even though we had a fairly dry but cloudy day here.

No, I didn't actually drive it, lol.

Sisters on the Star 1300!

Pam made in to the North Carolina mountains by the end of the day and stayed in Ashville, at a hotel right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Apparently, the Parkway is a mecca for bikers from all over and I can understand why.  It is a winding, wide 2 lane highway with no commercial traffic, a leisurely speed limit of 45 mph, magnificent scenic overlooks and it can be a challenging ride with dramatic elevation shifts.  The next day, Pam rode on the southern leg of the Parkway on what many consider the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and then took a similar road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Tennessee.  I was disappointed for her to hear that she experienced rain all day and really couldn't enjoy the scenery.  It was a tedious ride going over the Eastern Continental Divide under those conditions but she did make it all the way to Nashville, Tennessee by Wednesday evening when the weather finally broke.  She made it home the next night after a 12 day journey that encompassed over 3100 miles on the road.  I am just glad that Pam got to spend a week here in Tammy World and I can't wait to see her again this fall!

Pam on the Blue Ridge parkway.

End of the road, final mileage from Pam's June vacation odyssey.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day

Every Day is Independence Day here in Tammy World.  It can be for you too!

Yesterday was July 4th, Independence Day here in the USA.  It's a big holiday with lots of food, fireworks and a celebration of American freedom and patriotism.  In North Carolina, July 4th is also the Free Fishing Day, which is the only day all year that anyone can fish without a license.  Since I am currently between fishing licenses I decided to exercise that freedom by taking Buddy fishing.  We haven't been in over a year and missed out on the spring fishing because I don't want to renew my fishing license until I get my new driver's license with my new name on it, which will be soon I hope. 

I have always loved fishing and it's one of the few things I decided to carry over from my old life to my new one, its just something I had not experienced as myself yet.  I have owned a couple of boats in the past and I sold my last one last year but I enjoy fishing from the shore or piers better anyway.  To me, fishing is relaxation and boats are not all that relaxing.  They usually create headaches or, at the very least, add more work and a lot more cost to the experience.  I still own a canoe that I plan to fix up and use again but it does not require a motor, doesn't make noise and is small and light enough that I can handle it myself.  Still, you just can't beat standing on that bank or pier and throwing a line into the water to see what might bite it.  

When it comes to methods, fishing with artificial lures is what I enjoy most.  There is something about fooling a fish into biting a piece of metal, plastic or feathers that is much more satisfying than putting a worm or minnow on a hook to get a bite.  Lures add an element of skill not found in bait fishing and they are a lot less messy.  Also, I think its more ladylike to fish with artificial bait than it is to get dirt under your fingernails from using worms or handle smelly bait.


So I loaded my long time fishing partner, Buddy Matthews, into the van and drove out to the country.  We have experienced a lot of heavy rain lately and all the places I wanted to fish on the Tar River in and around Rocky Mount were kind of flooded out with very high, muddy water.  My thinking was that we could go north, closer to the headwaters of one of the creeks, and find some clearer water with better conditions.  We were quite a ways outside of town when we crossed one of the bridges over Swift Creek and it looked like a cup of coffee with lots of cream.  Our plan was to head even further north and fish that creek but it didn't look like it would be fishable anywhere on this day.  After a week or so of rain we finally a pretty day with blue skies and we were enjoying the country ride so I decided to keep going north into Franklin County, Buddy's original home turf.

We made a big loop on quiet country blacktops, hardly seeing any other cars, then crossed Swift Creek again where the water was almost as muddy as it was downstream and too high to get down to the bank and fish.  We came very close to the tiny community of Wood, North Carolina and then hit NC 58 South going back towards Nash County.  The idea crossed my mind to go to Bodie's Mill Pond, which was just off the highway on the way home, and toss a spinning lure into the water.  I didn't think we would catch anything there but at least there was a small area with free bank fishing access that shouldn't be flooded out.  

Nash County is growing green with agriculture

Nash County tobacco field
Driving south on 58 into Nash County, we hit the small town of Castalia and there were people everywhere in this usually deserted little town.  I had forgotten that Castalia bills itself as "The Place to Be on the 4th of July" and so there I was, on July 4th.  Traffic was not bad, after all this is a tiny town, but it was nice to see all the flags, vendors and people setting up chairs along the roadway in anticipation of the coming 4th of July parade.  The smell of food lured me in, so I pulled over and bought a $2 hot dog, forsaking the healthy lunch that I had packed.  There is nothing more American than eating a hot dog on the 4th of July so I am glad I got a chance to eat one, and in the perfect setting too.  Buddy didn't seem hungry and I hated to feed him anything with the word dog in it, so I only bought one.

All American lunch

Castalia is The Place to be on July 4th.

After eating my hot dog and riding through  the carnival like atmosphere of Castalia on their big celebration day, we took a little detour on a dirt country road then headed to the pond.  There were a few cars in the small parking lot at  Bodie's Mill Pond when we got there, with a couple of little boats in the water and several people fishing on the grassy bank.  This is the site of an old grist mill dating at least as far back as the 1800's and there is a small dam on the creek that creates a lake of maybe a couple hundred acres.  I have been on this pond in a canoe before and it does go back a mile or more to the swampy headwaters.  The area around the little boat ramp where you can actually fish on the bank is quite small but Buddy and I walked over to the edge of the wooded area and found a spot to cast for a little while. The water was muddy with a lot of current and I didn't get a bite but it was good to finally wet a line and have a chance to fish as myself for the first time.  

Nash  County country road

Buddy walking along the pond's bank.

Dam and old grist mill at Bodie's Mill Pond
We didn't stay too long at the old mill pond and, having broken the ice by making my first casts as myself, I had one more place I wanted to try before heading home.  We stopped by the Historic Tree Park when we got back into town, as there is a little pond there I have never tried out.  The other spot we could have gone is the much larger City Lake, but it is usually crowded with a lot of people and a walking trail going around the entire lake so there is no way I could let Buddy off the leash there.  We have walked the dogs at almost all the parks in town and I had seen people fishing at this small park but never seen them catch anything, so I didn't have high expectations.  Still, this one more spot we could cast for awhile on this Free Fishing Day.

It was the heat of the day and extremely humid when we got out to fish at the little pond.  I was glad no one else was there so I wouldn't have any problem with Buddy following me around without a leash.  When I first starting taking him shore fishing, maybe 10 years ago, he would ramble around and sometimes wander off.  In the last few years he has settled down as he's gotten older and become the perfect fishing dog that doesn't stray far from my side.  We walked almost all the way around the pond making casts and though we had a couple of strikes we hadn't caught anything.  When we were almost back to the van I had one more little tap on my line and managed to reel in a small Bluegill.

Bluegill and the small spinner I caught it on.

The species Lepomis macrochirus, or Bluegill, is commonly referred to as Bream in these parts.  My mom has a picture of me on a childhood beach trip with my first fish ever.  I was a little kid about 4 years old standing on the beach holding up a small Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), which is kind of the salt water equivalent of the Bream.  So, my first fish of the year and of my new life as myself was a tiny Bream.  It is fitting to start small and work my way up but I was just happy to catch a fish, any fish, on this day, partly so I could have a picture for this blog.

The best thing about fishing is just being out by the water, enjoying the scenery, relaxing and having fun.  Buddy and I had done all of that on this day and we look forward to going again soon.  After coming home and cleaning up all three of us (Buddy, Nightingale and myself) went over to enjoy the rest of the holiday with my parents.  Having their love and acceptance makes every day seem like a holiday now, but we enjoyed watermelon, ribs and hamburgers to celebrate this Independence Day.



Independence Day is all about freedom.  Aside from all the celebrations, festivals and time with family its also a time to reflect on what freedom, or independence, means to us individually.  This year I celebrated my independence from a life lived trying to meet other people's perceived expectations of what I was supposed to be.  This year I celebrated the freedom I have earned to be myself and finally live my life for me.  I had no idea that in doing so I would actually better serve the people I had hid myself from and tried for so long to please by being something I am not, but that is how it has worked out.  I can do anything I want to do now, even go fishing, and because I do it all as myself it feels so right.  

If you feel like you are trapped in the prison of living a lie just to please other people, whatever that case may be, just know that it doesn't have to be that way.  You can live your life for you and those that truly love you will accept you, even if it takes time.  Your job will be accepting of you as you really are or its likely not the right job for you or you are not right person for it.  Only when you are happy and comfortable within yourself can you be the best person you can be.  Life can and will be better for you, your loved ones and everyone in your life if you are true to yourself.  You can be free.  Then every day will be Independence Day.