Day 8: A Thick Haze
Gold Beach → Brookings
↑ 1604 feet ↓ 1519 feet
“This doesn’t look good,” Cory said.
The morning light streaming into our motel room wasn’t normal--a thick golden haze in the
uncovered sliver of window.
I looked at my phone. 9am. Today was supposed to be an easy 28-mile ride to Brookings, just another day on our biking adventure. We pulled open the front door and stepped outside.
The sky was a reddish-orange, the air smelled like burning wood. Oregon was on fire.
We looked at the treeline, looked at each other. Did we continue on with our journey, or was this the time to call it all off?
“What do you want to do?” Cory asked me.
I turned to the road ahead of us, pulled out my camera to snap a few tentative shots. To my eyes, everything was a hazy orange, to my camera, an apocalyptic yellow.
“I say we keep going,” I responded.
We’d come so far and still had so much more to go. To give up now when everything was changing hour to hour, day by day didn’t feel right.
“All we can do is to pray for the people on the frontlines and continue to stay safe,” I said.
We were on the coast, right at sea level, so the air quality was the best it was going to be. But we had a 1,600 foot climb ahead of us, so we weren’t all in the clear. Cory paused, thinking deeply.
“I say we do it too,” he finally said. “We might be breathing in the equivalent of smoking four packs of cigarettes today, but I say we do it.”
Twenty minutes later, we were on our bikes, the ocean slowly disappearing from our periphery as we followed the freeway up into the trees.
A few days later, the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica published an interactive editorial on How Climate Migration Will Reshape America.
“Millions will be displaced. Where will they go?” read the sub-heading.
In the United States, climate change has often been perceived as something that will affect other countries and other people. And yet, as we were biking through the smoke, cars and trucks passing us in both directions, I knew that climate change was here, and it was--is--going to affect everybody.
We stopped for a quick water and snack break. The air had changed again--it felt a little clearer, crisper, cleaner. My head began to pound. The onset of a headache.
I thought about the millions of people who, like us, would have to make decisions about whether to move because of climate change. Some might choose to stay; others, to go.
Whatever the outcome, the reason is the same: the human pursuit of stability, safety, and dignity.