800 miles south
through covid and climate change
We were in a holding pattern. Lockdown, uncertainty. A routine of Taiwanese milk teas, outdoor dance sessions, trying to stay sharp.
But something was tugging at us.
We kept mapping the route. Calculating mileage, looking at photos, reading blogs and guides.
Look, we said, if we’re going to do this, we need to do it now.
When we finally committed to biking the 800 miles from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California, we knew we needed a purpose.
So we began a journey. A journey that took us through 33 communities, 12 counties, 7.8429° of latitude, four climatic regions, two states, and a single divided nation.
A journey where we’d experience the integrated nature of climate change, COVID, and coastal communities.
It became a story of people, place, and change.
This is what we saw.
For the notorious, cold downhill weather
Rain Cover (1)
For sweating (5)
Bag o' Toiletries
life's hygienic necessities
To tie stuff down (5)
in case of rupture (1)
1 Pair of Sweatpants
For the breakdance
In case of a sudden staple puncture (2)
Roadside Emergenices (4)
Late night literature (2)
for the hydration (2)
For headspins (1)
A Lifesaver (2)
For warmth (1)
to match the Converse (3)
Late night reading (2)
Trader Joes Bag
For groceries & laundry (1)
We had no idea what we were doing.
When we told people about it, we'd get one of two responses: "That's awesome," or "You're insane."
Blogs talked about the narrow shoulders on the 101, the lack of bike infrastructure, the bridges and tunnels. The danger. The injuries.
Veteran cyclists got a far-off look in their eyes and talked about the glory of the experience. The joy of overcoming challenges.
It was a cold, clear morning when we finally crossed the threshold. By the end of the first day, our legs were already sore.
The Oregon coast was so rugged, so powerful.
We'd stop and gaze at the whitecaps, the miles and miles of sand. Sand without any footprints, marked only by the tide and the wind.
pacific coast on fire
We were still asleep when the fires broke out.
And when we stepped outside the next morning, the sky was an apocalyptical yellow. Something about all the smoke made the air seem thick--like we could swim through it, like we could touch it and feel it.
Flecks of ash began to gather on our shoulders.
Down the street, we saw headlights shine dimly through the smoke. A truck heavy with timber rumbled by--slow, like it was driving through fog or rain--and disappeared at the end of the block.
In that week alone, 1,000,000 acres would burn. 40,000 people would flee their homes. And that was just in Oregon.
I've heard the argument that when climate change becomes a real issue, we'll have the technology to solve it. We'll grow plants in space. We'll terraform Mars.
But climate change is here. And the fires still burned.
shuttered doors, taped signs
Intellectually, we knew masks and social distancing weren't confined to our hometown. We knew that everywhere people were struggling to survive, grasping for some sense of normalcy.
And still, we were surprised.
We could feel the frustration. Frustration at all the changes, the mixed messaging, the lack of control.
Businesses were shuttered, lights turned off. Signs were taped to dusty windows. Updated hours. Thanks for all the years. Sometimes, they were notes of apology.
People looked at each other with suspicious eyes now, they mentally measured the distance between us.
The Arcata plaza was silent. The burl art shops in Orick were dilapidated. The Oregon creameries required appointments.
Was it like this before?
What has changed, we asked. And what can never go back?
how we change
We fell into a rhythm.
The miles of road, wearing the same clothes every day, eating whatever we could find. It changed us.
We'd come into a city and the sound of cars, the smell of exhaust, the crush of people--it would seem overwhelming.
When we got back on the road, we could hear the silence.
We stopped to talk to locals along the way. The bikes, the helmets, the bright vests, it gave us a reason. It created a space.
For all the differences, for all the divide, we saw a willingness to try.
We didn't need much, we realized.