Day 24-26: Rest Days and Reflection

I've been off the bike now for three whole days. The legs are feeling loose, the bum a little better, and the stomach satiated, but more importantly, my head is fresh. The immediate concerns of the road have been at bay and and in their absence, I've been able to look back at the journey so far and think about the things we've seen, and not seen.

We've seen coastline; lots n lots of coastline. Ever-changing, ever-roaring surf, chipping away patiently at the land, grinding it from giant cliffs into the finest of powder. Every day we ride and come back to the ocean, still churning as it was when we left it in the morning-- as it was when we left it in Cape Flattery. The vastness and endlessness of it continues to mystify me.

With this coastline, we've seen coastal people and coastal towns. Most have been on a spectrum from recreational to industrial; industrial towns mainly have focussed on natural resource extraction (logging and fishing), while the recreational towns rely on seasonal tourism (all your favorite beach activities, and sometimes other natural wonders-turn-attractions). The best of these towns have a mixture of both, neither dominating the other, giving the town a little more resiliency. and a little more diversity. This feeling is obvious when we ride through town. Others, swing hard to one side or the other, and it's far less comfortable. We've seen it in the many mediocre beach towns hoping to harbor a few families for the peak summer weeks at their ocean-side motels and the like, ensuring their stay with beach persuits of all manner (kite-flying, surfing, sun-tanning, bird-watching, metal-detecting, jet-boating, tide-pooling, gambling, etc...). On the other side, there are the fishing towns and the lumber towns. These places had their heyday.  Even the ones that are doing reasonably well aren't making anyone rich. They just get by.  More often than not, the resource that put the town on the map is going or is already gone: the old-growths or the fish runs. These can be some of the most depressing places, because even though these resources should be renewable, they were never harvested that way and it doesn't look like they will be. Mixed between these, of course, are the native towns, oddly modeled after the aforementioned models, struggling just the same, on top of all the other issues these communities are facing.

Most often, we interact with people in the recreationally-oriented towns. These places have the infrastructure for tourists, like ourselves. Though we have a cause, we are in the end, tourists. Because of this, our interaction with industrial towns is far more liminal: we observe, and only take part in the occasional service (grocery, laundromat, etc...). This is something we didn't entirely anticipate, and we've begun to realize the difficulty of representing the experience and perspective of these people. It's something we hope to improve upon, but it's unclear how.

Then, there are the things unseen. These have been some of the most noticeable because I was looking for them. What do people on the Olympic Peninsula think about the declining population of the Southern Resident Orca whales and their food source: chinook salmon? What do people on the oregon coast think of the current administration's plans for offshore oil and gas development? What are their opinions on offshore wind? From all the smoked salmon stands, you'd think the were just as many salmon as ever. As for offshore energy, it might as well be in Russia-- there was no sign of discussion.

Thinking about all this and the road ahead, I'm evaluating what our role should be. It's true, we're far from experts on sustainable fishery management, but what we lack in knowledge we make up for in passion: this trip has reinvigorated my love for the ocean and all the wonder it harbors. I realize how we are all reed grasses on the edge of a huge pond that no one fully understands. Perhaps where our strength lies in this mutual fascination and joy in the abundance and exoticness of the sea. We love the ocean and all that we reap from it. Don't you? Don't you want your kids to be able to experience that too? Let's invest in this abundance, recognize the potential it has to sustain our world, take only what we need and be smart about how we do so, all the while protecting those areas precious to us and marine life alike. With all this doomsday stuff going around, that's something I can get excited about. How about you?