The road out of San Francisco included a stretch of highway that was steep, narrow and had hardly any shoulder. And it was getting dark. It was called Devil’s Slide. We had been warned to go a different way. We had read the guide book, we knew the horror stories. But we didn’t listen. This is our pre-Devil’s Slide mini freak out…note our safety gear **[vimeo https://vimeo.com/50155762]
It is funny how life pulls us along in such definitive cycles. Things have certainly come full circle for us birds. Not too long ago we began our journey at my parents house in Tsawwassen. We spent a hectic evening and morning preparing for our adventure, and then set off south, on our laden bicycles from my family home. Now just over a year from when we ended our trip, we are all back together and back in Tsawwassen. Its been difficult to find the time to all get together to work on this project. Excuses, excuses..again. But being busy artists in a city and working full time at jobs that are not our art work, proves difficult to maintain a creative practice. This is a struggle I am going to continue to consider…that whole balance thing is a hard one. But for this week, we have taken some time and carved away some space to try to get some things done. And hopefully you will see some of the fruits of our labours in the coming days, as we re-organise, re-vitalise and re-fresh our blog – digging out all that footage we compiled down the coast. And putting it out there for you to enjoy.
I look up from my laptop, across my grandmother’s oak dining room table that we have turned into mac book technology central and I see Lauren, Hailey and Josie crowded around another computer giggling at some ridiculous footage – the time Josie tried to help a fly escape from our tent. Its good to be all together again, and its good to be working.
So, as they say, stay tuned. Stories and silly videos to come.
Haley and the Birds
A year ago today The Birds set off south. A year ago today it was a chaotic time of bike maintenance, moving, graduating, job quitting, lover-leaving and wisdom teeth extracting. It was a lot all at once and yet we managed it. We rode the coast. Yep, did that.
To call the trip a life changing event would gloss over the finer details of our tour. It would gloss over all those times we sat in grocery store parking lots smelling like soggy tents, bike grease and sweat. All those times we told ourselves we’d be up early and get out of camp at a decent hour only to leave in the early afternoon, go for a beery long lunch, end up cycling well into dusk and setting up camp in the pitch dark. And it would certainly gloss over the finer details of all the interactions we had along the way. The people we met whose hard work and creativity inspired us to tilt our heads a fraction of a degree and see the world in an entirely new way. Calling the trip life changing wouldn’t even begin to describe it.
After the trip The Birds scattered. Some back home to spend time with family, others to school. Now we’re all back in Vancouver and instead of riding our bikes in straight lines we’re circling back home every night to sleep in the same bed. Hailey Gooch is working as an intern at an architecture firm here in Vancouver, Haley Hunt is splitting her time between working at a bike shop, the Public Library and has plans to go to web design school in the fall, Lauren Elkmother spent three months in Nelson, B.C. doing a teaching practicum and has three more months at UBC until she gets her degree in Arts Education and Josie is getting plays produced and working as a bike courier downtown. And we’re all dreaming about our next bike trip.
We’ve been watching the hours of footage we shot and experiencing the pains and joys of reliving the trip. We miss it. We’ve also been procrastinating like crazy trying to digest the three months and craft a documentary from it all, a particularly tricky feat when you’ve never made a film before. We’re reminding ourselves though, we’d never before done a trip like the trip we did, so we’ve got experience working in the dark. We’re also reminding ourselves that though life’s tendency to roll by is strong, equally as strong as procrastination’s power, we’ve got a lot of experiences and people we’d like to share with you. We miss sharing with you. So, our film is coming. Not to a theatre near you by any means, but it’s coming, one way or another.
So. Here’s to a year filled with wonderful people, beautiful country and spinning bike wheels! Now you can swig your craft beer and eat a doughnut to celebrate.
And as always… stay tuned!
Hello Birds fans and friends,
Just wanted to clarify something. Ya it’s November 30th, 2011 and we are still posting about CALIfornia. You see, as most of you know, or well, our moms do for sure, we finished biking a little while ago. In August actually. But the whole blogging, filming, biking thing proved dificult so by the time we landed in San Diego, we still had many stories we had to tell. A backlog actually, a whole State really. The Story has become quite an incredible one. Incredible, I mean in the sense of it’s need to be told. One’s adventure tales are always amazing, and ultimate. Personally humbling and mind expanding in a way that is often dificult to convey. But since that was one of our goals of this adventure/trip/project…we are still trying to finish telling you those stories, albeit slowly…tantalinzingly slowly.
After we made it to the border back in August, le sigh, (see here for proof..?) we spent some time at our Bird Momma Alice’s house in San Diego, beaching, sleeping, eating and coming to terms with The End? whatever that means. The End… but only the first part I am going to call it…We decided who would tell which story from what we had left and then we went our seperate ways. Right now the Birds aren’t actually flocking together. Josie is down in San Diego, Hailey in Edmonton, and Lauren and I are here in Vancouver. But don’t worry, its only temporary and the dream is still alive. We decided we would take these few months off to work, recover, go to school, find studios, and then to regroup in the New Year to get crackin’. Its amazing how much time is needed to recover. Our muscles have heeled, mine have shrunk, but there is still the untangible, invisible healing. Mind space, physche, creative endurance. The Creative Soft Tissue, the stuff that just takes more time. In January we will be back together again. Back and re-Freshed for round two. The Film!?!…dun dun dunnnnn.
But for now, the stories will continue to trickle in. Trickle I emphasize. The creative process takes time I am learning. And patience. Thank you for yours. But yes indeed, as I have been asked a few times now, we made it, and now we are Home. Even if it doesnt seem like it on the blog.
Thankyou for reading, and loving and dreaming with us.
Bird kisses and bicycle wishes,
The Birds xo
We extracted ourselves from the comforts of Jill’s house and took the beach route through town to Arroyo Burro Beach. With some roadside internet research we found the Santa Barbara based educational organization, Art from Scrap which promotes environmentally sound practices: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost, pollution prevention and organic gardening. Solid mandates. We scheduled a mid-morning visit to their Watershed Resource Center not 50 yards from the beach shore. Jill Cloutier was there to greet us in front of the handsome gray building. Its pathways and exteriors decorated with colorful depictions of the Santa Barbara coast: the Channel Islands, fish, seaweed. Jill welcomed us into the Center apologizing for any incoherence on her part- she was up late the night before working on a project. We never noticed. Her enthusiasm for the Center, for Art from Scrap and for our endeavor proved to ignite her, or distract her exhaustion. With her purple skirt, sandals and matching purple hair barrette (how I imagine a Santa Barbara Ms. Frizzle to look) she gave us a tour of the building.
Once the residence for the State Park Ranger, the county handed over the building to Art from Scrap when they proposed a watershed based educational center for the site. Renovations were completed in 1999 and the building is now one of the greenest in Santa Barbara. The floors are recycled from a discarded basketball court at a local children’s center, the siding and roof are made of fiber cement- recycled material, the decking and staircases are recycled plastic, all the lumber used was sustainably harvested, the sinks and countertops were salvaged from the Santa Barbara City College biology labs, all glues, coatings and paints are non-toxic, the bathroom has natural linoleum made from linseed oil and wood flour, all the cement, pathways and retaining walls contain fly ash, a waste product from coal fired plants that usually chokes landfills, solar panels on the roof power the center and there’s even local art constructed from washed up trash to decorate the walls. As Jill gave us the detailed tour she reminded us how much water is used in manufacturing. By salvaging materials like the sinks, countertops and floors, the center saved gallons upon gallons of water, again keeping in line with the Center’s theme. Even the surrounding landscaping is native and helps sustain the natural riparian ecosystem (we learned this term in California, riparian. It refers to flora native to water sources that helps filter the water and sustain soil solidity.)
Jill told us the Center is mainly used for fieldtrips during the school year and camps in the summer. Kids are able to use the hands-on labs to learn how pollution makes its way from the storm drain to the ocean. The WRC is also available to environmental groups to use as a meeting place of venue. And it’s also the home to the local Chumash tribe’s Tomol, a traditional redwood planked longboat that they row from the California Coast to the Channel Islands 21 miles away.
After our tour, we pose with Jill in an odd looking environmentally conscious Today Show panel formation so we can ask her some more questions. The parent organization to the Watershed Resource Center is Art from Scrap. It was started by a group of parents concerned about their children’s art education. They started recycling used and discarded knickknacks for their children to use in art projects, everything from old computer parts to forgotten buttons. Eventually local businesses began donating their unwanted items, like skateboard wheels, large tracks of carpet or obsolete business letterhead. There were so many supplies they had to store them in an airplane hangar. Now the storefront is closer to town, just off the main Santa Barbara drag and houses all types supplies: kitchen tiles, half-full cans of paint, tendrils of colored plastic that look great as jellyfish tentacles. There is even a gallery space upstairs that showcases art made from reused supplies. We got the chance to pop into the store for one glorious hour after our interview with Jill. We spent it with our eye glued to all the wonderful things in there even though we couldn’t justify hauling it in our already stuffed panniers. It was a bittersweet visit.
Since its early days Art from Scrap took on non-profit status and has started expanding to different avenues of environmental education, like the Watershed Resource Center. Their programs work in accordance with the Santa Barbara School District’s curriculum which makes the WRC a unique tool in educating Santa Barbara youth about their specific ecosystem and how what they allow to enter their storm drain affects the overall health of the ocean. Jill made note of a color-coded map out front of the center that demarcates specific watersheds based on geological formations, which for this area of the coast means canyons. If you live in one canyon you’re part of one watershed, while your neighbors in the canyon over are part of another. Jill says that being able to identify with your watershed fosters responsibility for its health.
Having grown up in a similar coastal ecosystem in San Diego, I was amazed at what the WRC had to offer school kids in Santa Barbara. It took me till high school biology to realize the land I lived on directly affected the ocean I played in (that and a family friend contracting Hep C when surfing after a rain storm). In the compartmentalized educational system that places ocean and terrestrial science in two distinct units, or solely in science classes for that matter, I was never given the holistic view that the WRC gives to their students.
The WRC and Art from Scrap also seem incredibly upbeat in their approach. They are realistic about the state of the oceans, the dangers that growing landfills pose to the environment and the overwhelming apathy governments throw at the situation, but their education is positive. They are teaching children that their help is a contribution to a solution. They are creating things.
Jill gave us some of her rare extra time to tell us more about herself. She began with Art from Scrap about ten years ago and is now their P.R. person. Raised in Santa Barbara, before Art from Scrap she worked at a juvenile detention center teaching a course on gardening and self-sustainable practices- “Hippie 101” as she coined it. Now, in addition to Art from Scrap she hosts and edits her own podcast, Sustainable World Radio that discusses current initiatives that promote sustainable practices. Oh and she’s making a movie, about soil. She’s busy. In the course of our chat she had some interesting advice for us too, in addition to all her good information. She told us that if we want to do something, we shouldn’t wait around to become experts at it, we should just do it. She said she had never made a movie or a podcast before she got started with her projects. If she hadn’t just jumped into it, she never would’ve done it. We told her that’s how our project came around and the bike trip itself. None of us had ever done anything quite like this before. We just bought a camera, hopped on our bikes and started asking questions. Jill’s enthusiasms for her work, for the WRC and for Art from Scrap were contagious. There were plenty of times on the trip when we were lost, hungry, tired, disillusioned with freeways and trucks and pretty ready to call it quits, so to hear Jill’s and the organizations’ encouragement in the face of all the obstacles they face meant a lot to us Birds.
-Hose (aka José (aka Josie))
We rose early the next day. Trying to start on the right foot, you know like 60 some odd days into the trip, we were finally figuring out the whole getting up early and leaving camp at a reasonable hour thing. We still had a 3 hour long breakfast, and were one of the last groups to leave camp, but it was like 10am and that was pretty darn good in our books. Before making major tracks, we hit up the post office in the bustling down town of Oceano. Not. Then we set off for Lompoc after hearing a story in the post
office how cyclists weren’t really appreciated in this area and that recently
one had been fatally hit on the stretch of road we were about the ride. The
terrain moved inland, as the highway was skirting around the Vandenburg Air
Force base, which meant it was much warmer, smoggier and dirtier. The air was
thick that day.
As we were heading out of Oceano and away from the coast, there was an intersection where we the route got a little confusing. A bike sign pointed to the right, but The Book said to head straight, up the big giant hill. Just as we were debating what would be worse, the hill we could see, or the seemingly flat road to the right, but with a potentially worse hill in the distance, an old roadie pulled up to us, out of nowhere and told us to head straight, it was the better way. And then he was off. Fortuitous that he happened to right by exactly when we needed a little bit of help…
We stopped in Guadalupe, a small, sweet and predominantly Spanish speaking town. It felt like it had been abandoned, as we rode down the main street, with vacant store fronts and the town’s art deco movie theatre advertising a show from last October. We were on the prowl for coffee, and found a bakery and a little cafe around the corner off the main drag. We stocked up on Mexican pastries and made ridiculously epic sandwiches on the lawn in front of the cafe. The nice lady let us use the employee restroom.
After the feeding frenzy we continued riding, heading through farm land and then made our way to the Lompoc hill called Harris Grade. It was an elevation gain of 600 ft, in 3 miles. The clouds had burned off by then and we climbed the steep hill in the bright hot sun. It felt long and hot and slightly brutal. But we made it to the top in no time, and stared at the hazy view while eating peaches and tangerines. There was a note written in spray paint on the shoulder, saying “it’s all downhill from here – from the 3 Amigos”. We had been noticing more and more of these notes on the road. Directions, arrows, words of encouragement. I’m not sure who the 3 amigos were, but their notes always came at the right time. Indeed it was all downhill from there. We soared into Lompoc, “City of Arts and Flowers”, actually quite a large town, I mean city, and we had no idea as usual, and merged into the heavy evening rush hour traffic. As we got into town we pulled into a Jack in the box driveway to try to figure out what to do next. It was actually a reasonable hour, like 5:30ish, there was still daylight. Crazy, no seriously that rarely happens. And because of our excellent time management skills that day we were thinking of rewarding ourselves by going out for dinner. Just as we were scratching our
heads, and pulling out The Book wondering where to go, a car pulled over and the driver asked if we needed any help. We said well we are ok, but do you know of any good Mexican restaurants. The driver laughed and told us how to get to his favourite place, not fancy he warned, but cheap and good. We said have you seen what we look like? That’s sounds perfect. He wished us a good dinner and a safe ride and off he went. I don’t know what was up that day but somebody was looking out for us.
We braved the four lane traffic and made it to the restaurant, devoured the complimentary chips and salsa and perused the menu with gusto, while nursing our Negro Modelos. The food was indeed cheap. And good, Josie navigating the menu to find the most healthy and colourful dish, with actual fresh vegetables, while the rest of us, as per usual got the cheesiest, beeniest, carbiest, largest dish we could find. When our bellies were bursting we hobbled back onto our bikes and rode the last few miles to our campground, a private RV park just on the outskirts of town. The tent area, if you could call it that, was interesting, there was apparently a hiker biker site, and our Austrian buddies were supposed to be meeting us there, but the site already had a few bikers who had set up shop, and there was a vacant spot with a bright blue picnic table
down the dirt road, so we set up there. As we were bumbling around, trying to find some flat ground to pitch the tents, where to pay and where the showers were, another cyclist pulled up. With four plastic buckets rigged up as panniers, those funny separated two shoes and a fluorescent pink hat on, I knew I wanted to be friends with him. As we were standing on the road by the information board, trying to shove an envelope full of cash into the slot that we hoped was the official money slot, and not just a random hole, the cyclist stopped, put both feet down at the same time, turned around and came over to
us. I yelled out “Nice buckets!” for some reason thinking that was an appropriate greeting to a complete stranger, but the cyclist smiled and said “oh ya, thanks”. We chatted about the buckets, bikes, touring…we learned the cyclist’s name was Dave, and he was on his first tour, from San Francisco to Laguna Beach where he was from to go to his 10year high school reunion. We told him he was welcome to camp in our site. …and off we went to finish setting up and have those showers.
The next morning we all had breakfast together, with Dave and the lovely Austrians too! who had appeared at some point in the night. Dave pulled out two melons, a bunch of ripe bananas and a large bag of dates. We learned Dave was a raw vegan and was practicing a diet called the 80-10-10. He was shy to talk about it, but said it was going really well, accept for finding fresh veggies when he was going through Big Sur, but he had just scored some melons, so things were good. We ate our breakfast morning oatmeal-quinoa punch, the Austrians made a kind of punch too, and Dave ate three melons.
We all started to pack up and Dave was moving at the same pace as us so we decided to ride together. We of course needed to go to the grocery store to stalk up on various fruit and bar items, so Dave came along. It was a Vons, which is basically a Southern Californian version of Safeway. We proceeded to kill about an hour getting groceries, peeing, getting coffee, having morning snack number two..Dave was antsy, and wanted to make it to the Santa Barbara farmers market that afternoon, so he decided to head off. We hugged goodbye, got a passerby to take our photo, exchanged emails and off he went. We figured it was too good to be true that he would want to ride with us. No one had had the patience to ride with us so far. But it would not be the last time we saw Dave. He would indeed ride with us again and prove to be an honorary bird, a boy-bird, a Boyd! But that comes later…
Finally, we were ready to go too. It was 1pm. Our day’s 52 mile ride began with a slow, hot 15 mile gradual incline along Hwy 1 as it made its way back to the coast and the 101. It just kept going and going. Finally we reached the top, and soared down the other side for 2.5 miles to the juncture of the 101, which was now a bustling, 4 lane freeway. We turned down a side road leading into the Gaviota State Park and Sandwiched on the curb in front of the Ranger station. A local biker rode by as we were shoving food into our faces and told us a short cut how to get onto the highway, which involved going over a bridge and a hilarious squeeze through a fence…Then it was a noisy, dirty blur along the shoulder of the highway as we headed into Santa Barbara. About 6 miles outside of the city, Goocher got a flat. I sat on the side of the road and fed her trail mix, as she fixed it. Unfortunately her whole tire was really worn down, and had many punctures so we didn’t know how long it would last. It wasn’t too late, probably 6:30-ish, which is usually quite good for us, but we still had maybe another 15? 20 miles to go and actually had a warm shower accommodation arranged, and our lovely host was preparing dinner for us. We were going to be late. We met up with the other two speedy birds and dodged the road work, and made our way into the city. Straddling our bikes at an intersection we called our host, confused about where we were and to warn her we were, wait for it, running behind schedule. She gave us some vague directions and off we went. As the sun was setting and we were running low on energy and everything Hailey’s patch/
tire blew. We were so close to Jill’s. Josie got on the phone and I, did what I seem to do best in those situations, and flagged down a truck to take Hailey and her bike the rest of the way. Worried that we would get lost, Jill said she would just hop on her road bike and come find us. We asked where should we meet you, and she said” ill just come get you”..We stuffed Hailey’s bike into the back of the nice mans fancy pristine truck and said “see ya soon (we hope)” and we kept riding hoping we would find Jill, or that she would find us. But then there she was all of a sudden, soaring down the hill that we were slowly trudging up, she cut across traffic, looped around to the front of us, and yelled a hello, and to follow her. She whizzed along, shouting out landmarks and
directions and we panted behind her, and then… we were at her house. And Hailz was too thank goodness. We piled up our bikes, but didn’t lock them, because as Jill said “This is Santa Barbara, come on!”. Jill gave us a quick tour of her place and told us to relax, get settled, she would whip up dinner. It was probably 8 or 9 by then. She made salad and fish and pesto pasta and shared with us her favourite beer, the Jubilee Ale (I believe) from Isla Brewing Company in Santa Barbara’s neighbouring town, Carpentaria where Jill works. We all sat down together in the Living room and Jill told us a little about herself. She had a degree in engineering, and worked in Carpenteria 15miles south as a computer software engineer. But in between school and now, Jill had lived in Seattle, raced road bikes competitively. In one race she told us about she had participated in the qualifier for the Canadian Olympic team up in Whistler. American cyclists were invited to participate to amp up the competition and participants. Jill placed 3rd. She would have gone to the Olympics. After that she had gotten into the outdoor adventure excursion industry, doing everything from planning, preparing, and leading the trips and went on to start her own company catered towards women. Then after
she had had enough, she decided to get back into engineering, figured California would be a nice place to live and moved down. Jill was awesome! I’m sure she had so many amazing stories, but she was humble and almost shy with her tales, we would have picked her brain if we had the chance.
After dinner Jill gave us a quick tour in her car around the city. It was 10pm and dark, and we were mellow and rosy cheeked after eating and sitting for a spell. She showed us where the grocery stores were, the Trader Joes, the route we could take to bike downtown, the mission, then downtown, and the waterfront. It was late by then, but nice to get our bearings and to see some of the city.
Since Jill worked such long hours, and had a pretty busy schedule, we didn’t end up seeing too much of her after our first evening together. We communicated through notes and texts over the next three days we were in Santa Barbara. She encouraged us to stay an extra night, to relax, make ourselves at home, and that if we stayed on to the weekend she could bike with us through the sketchy stretch of highway to Ventura. We did, very much make ourselves at home. The day we left SB, in Carpenteria we finally got to spend some more time with Jill and to have one more delicious Jubilee Ale straight from the brewery itself.
Santa Barbara was good to us. Indeed the Universe was good to us. We spent our first day tending to the dull chores that become so exciting when you are on a 3 month bike trip, such as doing laundry and having a shower, then having a delicious brunch with the lovely Austrians, getting new tires for the Goocher, trying on bathing suits in Macy’s (ahem), computering it up in the Santa Barbara Public Library, eating a delicious Italian meal at a popular local hangout downtown, and biking home in the dark..
And stay tuned, for day two in Santa Barbara when the Birds met Jill Coultier from Art from Scrap and learned about the Santa Barbara Watershed Resource Centre….
– Haley (Hunter) (the curly one)