You’ve got to change your evil “waste”
May 10th, Arcata CA
Marcus here. Anna’s always riding ahead of me. I like to think it’s because I’m playing Mr. Safety taking up the rear, but the truth is that she’s a stronger cyclist. I catch up on the downhill thanks to the momentum I throw around. We’re hustling from town to town making our way through Oregon to Arcata, California before we turn inland over the mountains. Surfrider Charlie Plybon in Newport whipped out his rolodex of surfers and observers he knows down the coast, giving us a place to crash every 40 miles. On May 2nd we hit the 101 against a fierce headwind. We’re giving a talk at the public library in Port Orford.
We meet Leesa, Alisha and Briana, who work for POORT – the Port Orford Ocean Research Team. We give our talk, enjoy a great barbeque dinner, sleep soundly and rise early for a tour of Port Orford.
“There are no boats in the water,” I say to Alisha. This is one of the few ports that plucks it’s commercial fleet out of the water after every trawl. Twice a day the fishermen drop into the sea to run their long lines and crab pots. “No nets!” Alisha proudly declares. Before working with POORT, she was an observer, hired by the state to join fishermen on their boats to monitor what they catch. “Net’s account for the most bycatch,” she says, referring to the unwanted or protected fish that are caught and thrown away. POORT is about public education and policy change. One of their recent achievements is the creation of a marine reserve, which designates a “no catch” area along the coast. Recently, at the Blue Visions Summit in Washington DC, POORT was acknowledged for their “Seaweed” efforts (what landlovers call “grassroots”) to sustain our seas.
After the tour, we’re off to Gold Beach, 30 miles away to stay with another observer, Sandy and her two dachshunds, Pebbles and Cinnamon. “You guys ought to stay here tomorrow, there’s a storm on the way,” Sandy warns. Her habit as an observer, watching fishermen on boats for a week at a time, is to keep up on the weather. “I don’t think you’d get very far with a 70mph headwind.” Over dinner she tells us about the challenges of observer work in Alaska and Oregon. Being the lone woman monitoring fishermen at work on their own boat can be interesting She’s dealt with rude curmudgeons and gentleman captains, all salty sailors with stories of the giants that got away and mountainous waves. All seemed fanciful until one storm sent their boat rocking from side to side, horizontal at times, 40ft. waves crashing into the captains deck on top of the boat. “That’s why I watch the weather,” she adds.
The next day we sit in the book store staring out the window at horizontal rain, road signs vibrating with each 50-70mph gust, an the windows and walls vibrating. This is the Pacific Northwest.
Gold Beach to Brookings, to Crescent City, crossing into California, to Klamath, and into redwood forests. The road from Klamath veered off the 101 through the Prairie Creek Redwood Forest winding among millennia-old trees, in and out of sun. It’s warmth descending between clouds and through a skyscraper canopy. These trees are massive monuments to living resilience. I enter the forest bummed about my sore body from the waist down, and exit with a Cheshire grin. It’s impossible not to be awestruck. The coastline opens again at Patrick’s Point near Trinidad. Anna and I sit on Wedding Rock, thinking of our own to come.
Trinidad, California is a town of 311 sitting atop a bluff overlooking the ocean. On the morning of May 8th I slowly roll out of bed, knowing I’ve got a couple of hours till we visit Trinidad Elementary. Anna’s already up and ready to put in an hour of internet time at the WiFi coffeehouse across the street. At 9:30 we meet 120 K-8 students in the cafeteria. There are paper cutouts of fish and seashells hanging from the ceiling, in preparation for the ocean dance tonight. After out talk, we visit a couple of classrooms to show a few students the regurgitated remains of a albatross bolus from Midway Atoll filled with plastic fragments. “Let’s sing them a song,” one student yells. We’ve never seen students so eager to sing, but they belt out a loud and harmonious version of Santana’s “You’ve Got to Change Your Evil Ways”, but “ways” is pronounced “Waste”, and the lyrics match the theme of ocean pollution.
From Trinidad Elementary it’s another 16 miles to Humbolt University, where we give a talk to the local Surfrider Chapter in Arcata. After a day of rest we head out on Hwy 299 for an uphill climb over the coastal range. We’re due in Chico and Sacramento next week.