Finishing Up — Letter Deliveries

One of the last hours on the road... we were in high spirits to be finishing!
One of the last hours on the road… we were in high spirits to be finishing!

 

 

By Chalk

Apologies for posting so late!  We finished our multi-week outreach trip along Line 5 over a week ago, on Sunday August 21st, at about 4pm in Superior, WI.  The last conversation we had with community ended up actually being one of the longest (we spoke with an entire family and they were quite engaged), and led to us running late!

Immediately after, Korey, a local indigenous organizer, led us in a water ceremony right along the Nemadji River in Superior, a mere yards away from where Line 5 starts.

By Monday, the bikers had parted ways and resumed their separate lives.  Zach rode back with folks traveling east to Ashland, Iona took a Greyhound bus to Boston on Monday morning, and I stayed in Superior/Duluth a little longer.

 

 

 

 

 

Just before we all parted ways, we along with local community members, activists and musicians came together to celebrate our collective work in resistance to dangerous Enbridge pipeline projects in an event called “End of the Line”.  As it turns out, Bike the Line was only one of at least three different journeys along Enbridge pipeline infrastructure in the midwest this past summer.  Folks from Honor the Earth traveled on canoe, foot and horseback along Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper route, and a group called “Sacred Water Sacred Land” traveled on foot along the path of Enbridge Line 66.  All trips had a common goal of raising awareness as to the issues surrounding these Enbridge projects in the hopes of shutting them down.

Musicians at the "End of the Line" event.
Musicians at the “End of the Line” event.

“End of the Line” was marked with musicians, food, and general merriment. 🙂

attendees at "End of the Line"

***

On the Monday immediately following that weekend, local activists and I arranged a few letter deliveries to Enbridge offices in Superior.  The letter came from MICATS/Bike the Line, written up just the day before, and is reproduced below:

Dear Enbridge!

We are “Bike the Line,” a project of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS).  We’ve just spent most of our summer biking along the entire route of your “line 5” crude oil pipeline, in order to raise awareness about the dangers surrounding its continued operation, particularly in the Straits of Mackinac.  We’ve gone door-to-door for 57 days to talk with every community member that lives along it.  We’ve even met a few Enbridge employees on the way!

We bike in solidarity with the resistance to your other pipeline projects, in particular the Sacred Stone camp, and the Sandpiper resistance by Honor the Earth.

We’re concerned that the way you do business is endangering communities, land, water, and air.  You took 17 hours to shut down Line 6B in 2010 after it ruptured.  You’ve been out of compliance with the State of michigan regarding anchors along Line 5 for years now, and are only trying to come back into compliance now after receiving an ultimatom from the Michigan Attorney General Schuette.

In general, we’ve seen how you use “maintenance” as an excuse to replace aging pipelines with bigger ones, turning maintenance into expansion projects, without adequate environmental review and at community expense.  And in a time of climate crisis, your business model is further endangering our planet.

With your lack of transparency and abysmal safety record, communities along Line 5 and throughout the Great Lakes agree that Line 5 must be decommissioned.  So long as Line 5 and your other reckless projects continue, so will our efforts to stop them.

We urge you to think 7 generations ahead in all that you do.  We invite you to contact us to discuss further.

Sincerely,
MICATS/Bike the Line

writing letters to Enbridge
writing a letter to Enbridge

The first office in Superior to receive this letter did so rather kindly and acceptingly, despite the surprise it must’ve been to receive a hand-delivered letter.  The second office, on the other hand, wouldn’t even meet with us or allow us to even drop the letter off, and when we asked them where we should mail it to, they said “I don’t know”.  They asked for my contact info., which I offered, but alas they haven’t gotten back to me and I suspect they never will.  And the third office wouldn’t even talk with us, merely saying somewhat aggressively “you need to leave right now”.  Mind you, we weren’t exactly barging in with torches, rather we were quiet, not holding signs or megaphones or even a confrontational stance about us.  We just wanted to deliver that letter…
Needless to say, our experiences with the Enbridge offices in Superior were in marked contrast to most all of our experiences engaging with community members along Line 5 all summer – including when it was an Enbridge employee living along Line 5.

***

Our trip is over.  I’m thankful that we made it without any significant mishaps, be it health or bike reliability or logistics… it’s time to take what we’ve learned, and more importantly the new connections we’ve made, and do new meaningful things with them!  Cheers.

To talk more about all this, and what could be to come, please feel welcome to contact us at biketheline@riseup.net.  We’re not on the road anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’re done.  🙂

Cutest Day Yet

Written by Chalk

Pertaining to a Series of Remarkably Adorable Events which Transpired on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

***

Hi friends,

Yesterday stood out as by far the single cutest day of the entire trip so far.  And by that we mean cute little kids running around or otherwise engaging in magnanimous innocent human behavior rarely found amongst the teens and adults among us who’ve been broken in by the relatively dismal realities of adult society.  And to be sure, it’s not that kids were so much cuter on this day than on any other… it’s that there were so many of them out and about…

My biggest sorrow is that we couldn’t capture all the innocence on camera because it would have seemed dubious for a pair of dudes on bikes with flags on them to be taking pictures of children on the street!

I can't believe I was able to capture this on camera before it flapped away!
I can’t believe I was able to capture this on camera before this Monarch butterfly flapped away!

The picture at right doesn’t show *human* “cuteness” but it also happened to happen on the Cutest Day Yet, so here it is.

***

Cuteness was sighted in full earnest as we got to the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin.  There came a certain point where Line 5 crossed a community of multiple homes; it was one of the densest areas in terms of folks living near the pipeline, but not as dense as Indian River, MI or Marysville, MI.  As we reached out to folks in the neighborhood, one little girl repeatedly interrupted her mother from speaking with us because she wanted to show her something she was doing close to a trampoline.  As she realized her mother’s attention was taken, she wandered off and started doing her own thing.

As we rounded the corner, we noticed a traveling crowd of ~5, just wandering.  One of the five was pushing a child in a stroller.  They were a ways away, so we hadn’t engaged with the group just yet.  As we continued to canvass, there was another home where we spoke with an adult, and in the background one little kid popped out from inside the house out of curiosity, then his little sister out of curiosity too, both just staring.

A few houses later, a boy on a bike (let’s call him “Rolling”) came up to us and engaged us in conversation.  He was curious about a lot, where we were coming from, where we were going, why…  At some point Rolling was interested in traveling with us:

Chalk:  “You should consider getting a helmet.  If you travel a great distance like we are, it would be safer.”

Rolling:  “Can I go with you?”

Chalk:  “Yes.  But only if you get a helmet.  And if your parents say you can come.”

Chalk:  “…But just a fair warning, they’ll probably say you can’t.”

Rolling:  “Yeah I think you’re right.”

Rolling:  “What are you going to do when you get there?”

Chalk:  “I may bike back, Iona’s getting on a bus.  Actually, Iona won’t take his bike with him so we have to figure out what to do with it.  Maybe I can bring it back here and you can have it!”

Rolling:  (Excited)

Chalk:  “Actually, I’d have to ride it back like this”  (Chalk shows Rolling what ghost-riding the second bike would look like) “and that wouldn’t be safe, so I probably can’t”.

***

Rolling continued to converse with us for a bit longer, then we proceeded door-to-door as he watched from the roadside.  Soon after, the crowd of 5 came along, who all appeared to be friends of Rolling, whom Rolling helped bring over after biking off for a bit.  I hadn’t realized until just then that they all were little kids, including the girl pushing a younger child on a stroller.  They were very curious what a pair of bikers with flags were doing in their neighborhood, so we told them about what we were up to in simpler terms than we were used to telling.  I proceeded to pass off literature to all the kids, telling them to read it if they could, and if there were words they couldn’t understand, to show their parents and ask them to explain it to them.  The girl pushing the stroller told me matter-of-factly “I can’t give this to my parents right now but I can give it to them later today.”  One of the kids was so young it seemed they would hardly understand what they were given.  But I figured they might become sad if they perceived others getting a “gift” and them not getting one too, so I gave a pamphlet to the child anyway.

***

The aforementioned community was fairly decidedly opposed to the pipeline, but we did come across at least one person for pipelines in general, and passively for Line 5.  We spoke with him as the evening set in, and his daughter popped out to meet us.  She had a bright smile and was excited to meet visitors.  Conversation went sort of like this:

GirlPeeks out from behind father’s leg and says “HI!!”.  Goes back to hide behind father’s legs.

Chalk (to the girl): “HI there!”.

Chalk (to the dad):  “we’re opposed to the pipeline because it’s 63 years old and crosses through the Straits of Mackinac.  It’s operated by a company with a terrible safety record.” (etc…)

Dad:  “well I support pipelines…”

Girljumps back out from behind father’s leg and smilingly says “HI!!!”

Chalk (to the girl):  “HI AGAIN!!”

Chalk (to the dad):  “we’re not oblivious to the fact that we still all use oil, but no infrastructure lasts forever, yet Enbridge wants Line 5 to.”

Etc…

***

Our Cutest Day Yet ended with a beautiful sunset.
The Cutest Day Yet ended with a beautiful sunset.

Anyhow, by that point yesterday was definitely already the cutest day yet, but there was yet more childlike innocence we came across just before the sun set.  And just after it, we got to Ashland, WI and camped on the shore of Lake Superior for our first time so far.  Almost done… there are fewer than 100 homes left to reach out to.

 

***

Addendum:  two days later, at sunset on Thursday August 18th, at the end of Zach’s first day of community outreach with us, the daughter of a supportive community member offered Zach some flowers.  We were able to capture the moment with her parents’ consent:

Maria gives Zach some flowers.
Maria gives Zach some flowers.

The Rains of Gogebic

Written by Iona in Ironwood.

Since our departure from the Lac Vieux Desert Indian Reservation on Wednesday afternoon, the weather hasn’t treated us entirely kindly, though perhaps we should be grateful for the respite from the oppressive heat that we have been dealing with for much of the trip. However, the rainstorm that met us on Wednesday night and Thursday morning did cause some obstacles. Most significantly for me, an imperfect installation of our rain fly led to a leak in the tent that submerged my phone and could have made it permanently inoperable. But I am happy to say today that after a treatment of a day’s isolation among rice in a sealed bag (good thing we hadn’t yet eaten all of it!), the device appears to have been saved. Besides that, we arrived in Wakefield soaking wet, but had the chance to change clothes, rest, and utilize internet at a friendly café called Ma’s Place. Furthermore, supportive connections for the past two nights (Tom of warmshowers.org, and Bean & Pan of chance encounter by the Wakefield library) gave us shelter from the elements that we are quite grateful for.

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In search of our host’s house on Thursday evening.

Our canvassing for the past four days has been varied. One new experience has been ski resorts; Line 5 passes through three of them in Western Gogebic County, two of which we visited on Friday. Neither one had much going on during the off season, but at the first of these (Indianhead Mountain), we were able to hand off a few pamphlets to an employee at their office. Like always, we encountered people both supportive of our message and those critical of it. In the latter category, we spoke yesterday with a man who had an overall very negative impression of “tree huggers” and who felt that asking for Line 5 to be shut down to be too extreme of an ask, though he agreed with many of the safety concerns that we expressed. In our longer conversation with him, we touched on our fears that the risks posed by the pipeline to the Great Lakes are quite extreme, as well as our hopes for a world where our dependence on fossil fuels is significantly curtailed. Though there were deep philosophical differences between us, it was great for this chance to speak with him and to understand where he’s coming from, sharing our own message in the process. On the other hand, we met people in this area very sympathetic to our trip’s goals. In my opinion, some of our best interactions might be not only with the people whom we canvass (who usually have some familiarity with Enbridge, receiving PR materials from them regularly), but with the people whom we encounter by chance off the route, such as the elderly party in the café today who weren’t previously aware of Line 5. I was happy that we have enough extra literature these days to pass on to people like them, which they read and promised to share, before wishing us luck on the remainder of our trip.

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Admiring the view from a ski slope on Friday afternoon.

By the way, the main reason we came to Steep Creek Café today was to utilize their WiFi for participating in a virtual panel that took place at Power Shift 2016: Midwest, in Detroit. This is one of several regional yearly conferences bringing together youth organizers to organize for climate justice, against fossil fuels and for renewable energy. Chalk and I were represented on a panel on “pipeline journeys,” together with organizers from Love Water Not Oil (a canoe and horseback journey along the proposed Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines) and Sacred Water Sacred Land (a walk along Line 66). These other pipelines are also all the work of Enbridge, and speaking at this panel allowed me to better understand our own trip in the context of the broader campaign against this corporation, and by extension, against fossil fuel infrastructure overall. And in eight days, we will join these other travelers in a final joint “End of the Line” event in Duluth, with live music and food to celebrate our ongoing collective resistance.  We hope you can join us there, and otherwise, until our next blog post! 🙂

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Preparing to virtually participate in Powershift 2016: Midwest, in Detroit, on Saturday morning.

Interested, Pensive and Pissed

By Chalk

***

Here’s a quick update on how things have been going…

Iona, camped and cooking in Iron River.
Iona, camped and cooking in Iron River.

We’ve canvassed communities and a few institutions from Crystal Falls all the way to Watersmeet.  In terms of schedule, things have started to lighten up, our daily schedule is not as stressful as it has been in the eastern UP.  Folks in the western UP seem particularly friendly… people have invited us into their homes to discuss Line 5 in the comfort of their kitchens, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in talking about Line 5.  Even folks who don’t agree that Line 5 needs to be shut down have engaged with us in thoughtful conversation.

One person we spoke with was the only Republican in a family of Democrats, which put her in an interesting position.  When we talked about the dangers of Line 5, she spoke of how if fuel prices went up as a result of Line 5 being shut down, the poor would be hardest hit by that.  We stressed that weighing what’s at stake involves taking into consideration that this crude oil pipeline is constantly putting *the entire Straits of Mackinac*, as well as lakes Michigan and Huron, at risk, and that the two can thus not really be compared.  I also emphasized that industrialized societies tend to be wasteful, pointing out that 40% of US food goes to waste.  If we can be even just a little less wasteful, we definitely could do without a pipeline through the Straits.   But then she countered with examples of how grocery stores attempted to give away food that was going to waste, but got sued in the process and henceforth couldn’t do it.  We backed-and-forthed for a while that way, but ended in agreement that social change is needed, and that it only happens when people push.

We met one elderly woman who had lived on her property her entire life, and was even around when Line 5 was installed.  She considered signing our shut doen Line 5 petition but was fearful of what the consequences could be.

Another woman we met told us of how she and her husband contacted Enbridge when a change on their land indicated the pipeline was sagging.  Enbridge came to fix it, but even after the fix it sagged again.  When the couple contacted Enbridge yet again, Enbridge failed to correct the issue.  This was a year and a half ago.  The couple is now fearful of doing machinery-based work on their own land, for fear of the pipeline breaking.

One of the bikes, sitting in one of the forests we camped in.
One of the bikes, sitting in one of the forests we camped in.

Multiple folks complained about how, because there’s a pipeline easement running through their land, and because Enbridge and/or other companies (such as TransCanada and DTE) with pipelines also running through the same area need to clean up their easements from time to time, they have to deal with other community members driving through the easement along Line 5 using All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATV’s).  We ourselves, while biking by have seen people on ATV’s drive right into the Line 5 easement.  Folks don’t like that because it’s not safe for the pipeline, also because by doing so, people are driving right through other people’s property without their consent.

People have been calling Line 5 “a mess”, or “a disaster”.  Because the pipeline was installed so long ago, it appears to be only 3 feet underground, and that makes it virtually impossible for many community members we spoke with to do any kind of machinery-based work on their land.  Folks have complained that they can’t move wood across their own property, can’t work on tractors to farm, etc.  One community member described pipelines coming through their property as basically a “steal”, forever.  And it’s very much true, when on a practical level you’re no longer allowed to do what you want with the land you possess.

In one case, a community member spoke of how a neighbor was using a construction machine… he wasn’t even working anywhere near Line 5, but was being hounded/harassed in some way by a patrol helicopter flying overhead which was trying to make sure the construction machine wasn’t going to come near the Line 5 easement.  So in a very real sense, folks are actually being harassed because of the presence of this pipeline.

So, by and large, folks in the western UP seem to be quite pissed about this pipeline.

Open road in US-2... maybe monotonous, but always beautiful.
Open road on US-2… maybe monotonous, but always beautiful.

***

I’m writing right now at the Lac Vieux Desert Resort and Casino, where just last night we presented on the issues surrounding Line 5 (specifically, the broader issues surrounding the Straits of Mackinac crossing).  The group we presented to was very welcoming, and so genuinely interested, they were full of questions that we fielded all throughout the presentation.  They definitely kept us on our toes!  We’re hoping to stay in touch to further explore Line 5’s relationship to Lac Vieux Desert.

***

I’m getting enough sleep on a day-to-day basis, but we’re biking significant distances almost every day and my body is offering clear signs that it’s aching for some sort of deeper, more intense rest.  Thankfully, we’ve got just one and a half weeks left. 🙂  Onward to Wakefield, Bessemer, Ironwood, and into and through Wisconsin!

Rolling Through Yooperland

By Iona, published from Crystal Falls, MI

On the evening of Tuesday July 26th, we assembled in front of a casual eatery just off of the last exit onto I-75 before the Mackinac Bridge. At this point, we were down to four, Caroline having departed two days before for her Chicago home. We waited there for perhaps ten minutes until we noticed that our ride had arrived: a pickup truck bearing the words “Mackinac Bridge Authority,” with a long flat trailer attached to the back. We walked over to meet this vehicle on the shoulder of the interstate, and after a few minutes of working with the driver to arrange and secure our bikes on the trailer, we entered the cab of the truck and crossed the bridge, entering the Upper Peninsula. On the other side, we earned the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to legally bike on the shoulder of an interstate highway, at least until the immediately available exit that took us into St. Ignace.

 

It would be presumptive to claim great deal of familiarity with the UP at this point. After all, we have spent less than a week in this corner of the world. But what an interesting place it is, with its own vibrant Yooper regional identity, with its own dialect of American English, and for the great amount of natural beauty for which it is known, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (which we had visited on a break day with our invaluable supporter and co-organizing MICATS friend Dave), and parts of Hiawatha National Forest (where Chalk and I had recently camped and biked through!).

For us, the UP has been a place of two farewells: with Kevin, who left us in St. Ignace biking north towards further adventures in Canada, and with Fred, who had stayed with us for a week longer than originally planned but ultimately had to leave too, with their father who drove all the way from Maryland to pick them up! Chalk and I already miss them (and Caroline too!), and all the different personalities, perspectives, skills, and stories they brought to Bike the Line. We continue west as just a team of two, but we certainly plan to stay in touch! 🙂

Biking the Line, along US 2 in the UP.
Biking the Line, along US 2 in the UP.

So far, the UP has brought us many new experiences. We distributed literature at the Schoolcraft County Fair, bringing information about Line 5 to such an important venue of local culture. Thanks to the advice of a local shopkeeper, we drank some of the freshest and coldest water we had tasted on this trip from a pump in a seemingly unremarkable grassy clearing by the side of the highway. And I can mention the opportunity Chalk had to connect with a local bike shop and do repairs on both of our bikes at their location.

Chalk & Fred at the Schoolcraft County Fair in Manistique
Chalk & Fred at the Schoolcraft County Fair in Manistique

Yesterday afternoon we’d just arrived in Crystal Falls, MI, the site of the most destructive of all the over 18 leaks of Line 5 that we are aware of in its history. There, in 1999, 220,000 gallons of crude oil and liquefied natural gas spilled into marshland. After local residents were evacuated, Enbridge tried to contain the disaster by igniting a cloud of vapor. They sparked a fire that burned for 36 hours, scorching eight acres of land. We will be discussing this incident in the context of our larger journey at our next event, at Contrast Coffee Co. in Iron River this Saturday August 6th, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM. For those of our readers who are in the area, we encourage you to come hear our presentation. Otherwise, keep reading our blog and expect future updates from days to come. Until then!

The Wastelands

written in Manistique, MI by Chalk

July 20th:  from Indian River, we were only about 33 miles away from Mackinaw City (the “Tip of the Mitt”, where Line 5 crosses the Straits of Mackinac coming from the Upper Peninsula).  Normally that would be less than a day’s travel, but because we weren’t sure enough what the roads would be like, in particular whether more sandy roads would reduce our pace to a crawl, it seemed like a formidable distance.  As it turned out, most of the rest of the roads were well paved, and the next few days were much more manageable.

There are a lot of homes along Line 5 near Indian River.
There are a lot of homes along Line 5 near Indian River.

After spending the rest of that Wednesday catching up with logistics, most of us canvassed homes just west of I-75 and just north of where Line 5 reaches and passes through the Calvin Campbell Municipal Airport, the first of 4 airports the pipeline crosses on its way to Sarnia, Ontario.  From what we’ve seen/analyzed so far, it seems that this cluster of ~30 homes/buildings may be the densest in terms of people living by Line 5.  It’s also particularly vulnerable because of a waterway that feeds into Indian River that seems to run right along the path of Line 5.

On Friday night we stayed over at the home of a supportive connection near Levering.  She had an adorably small yet quaint and unique home which was well-decorated on the inside.  She spoke of a transformative spiritual journey she undertook involving walking for hundreds of miles, and remarked that she saw Bike the Line in a similar light.  It was humbling to hear someone speak of Bike the Line as more than just an activisty mission, as being more of a spiritual journey.

The very next day, we got to the Straits of Mackinac.  I’ve been there before, had the pleasure of seeing a massive body of water that I was actually able to drink from (which was a huge deal for me because I grew up near the undrinkable saltwaters of an Atlantic coast).  But to see my four other teammates reach the Straits and get to experience its beauty for the first time was itself exceptional, and brought new feelings.  I was thus compelled, on arriving at the Straits, to pass hugs around to every one of them and say “congratulations”.

About 12 miles from the Straits of Mackinac, the team views the Mackinac Bridge for the first time (barely visible here).
About 12 miles from the Straits of Mackinac, the team views the Mackinac Bridge for the first time (barely visible in the photograph).

I also said this knowing that three of the five teammates were stopping there, would not continue with us much further in our canvassing expedition (though one of them, Fred, later changed their mind and continued on with us for another week to Manistique).  It definitely changed the team dynamic to lose 2-3 vibrant personalities, interesting folks who brought and took back with them their backgrounds, skills and lived experiences.  I say this in Manistique having just said goodbye to Fred:  the team’s now down to two, Iona and myself, as we were when we began in Marysville.

***

A few hours after reaching the Straits that Saturday, we were gifted with the presence of yet more folks on a clearly spiritual journey.  A traveling opera theatre group known as Children of the Wild (COW) had been making its way west from Massachusetts to Minnesota, passing through the Great Lakes in the process.  Little clue had most of us Bike the Line folks that COW arranged to be at the Straits of Mackinac when we got there.  They arranged, prepared for and performed the Wastelands, what was easily one of the most well-done and meaningful performances I’ve seen in years.  What especially struck me was how amazingly thought-provoking it was… it wasn’t theatre merely for entertainment’s sake, but it seemed as though the performers were aspiring that their audiences would think hard about their ways and the ways of society, and act on what they learn in meaningful and socially transformative ways.  I was also very impressed by how well integrated the performance was to the space it was held at.  (Which, by the way, just so happened to be a mere block away from and in clear viewing distance of Enbridge’s brand-spanking-new Mackinac pump station.)  In fact, the Wastelands, as performed at the Straits, actually ended on Lake Michigan.  Literally.

The Wastelands, performance by Children of the Wild
                  The Wastelands, performance by Children of the Wild

Special thanks to them and supporting organization Great Lakes Commons for making all this happen!  And by the way, friends in Detroit should definitely attend their performance this Saturday at the upcoming Sidewalk Festival.  🙂

***

There’s more to this trip than any of us can ever write about.  But to briefly touch upon a few other things, we had a community bike ride the following day, then Children of the Wild and Great Lakes Commons facilitated a conversation about how groups can support one-another in protecting the Great Lakes and planet at large, and soon after most everyone left the site (which again, was right next to the newly-renovated Enbridge pump station which Raven Security was guarding), a Raven security person stopped me while I was biking off to converse with me about stuff.  I wasn’t sure where he was going with it since I wasn’t doing anything at all, but he was sure to tell me he recognized me from previous Enbridge events, and that he himself cared about the Great Lakes, was glad for protestors because they gave him business and that despite his work, he wanted the pipeline shut down too! Lol…

Always Learning

ants
Wow! Look at that massive ant hill!

By Kevin

On Sunday we wake up at The Place with all the Ants. Chalk had gotten up early and made a breakfast of oatmeal for everyone and Velveeta EZ mac for those of adventurous palates. After getting bit by some ants we try to head out but soon realize we have some pressing bike maintenance needs; all the bouncing around in the woods has loosened some of the hubs of our wheels. I help Caroline adjust hers and Chalk works on mine. Some ball bearings are mysteriously absent but we put it all back together and so far its been fine. Always learning! Finally we get on the road and soon we stop at a nice lady’s house. She had waved at me and I smiled and imploringly shook my empty bottle and she invited us in to fill up our  water! What hospitality!

The beautiful misty morning turns to a drizzly afternoon as we ride into Lewiston. Caroline and I think we’ve hit the big time when we find a bunch of returnable cans and bottles in the dumpster behind a grocery store but get yelled at by a manager when we try to feed them into the returnables machine. Apparently they only take cans the store sells and also we should stay out of their trash. Always learning! We wait out the rest of the rain in the foyer of the grocery store and also in a closed car wash across the street.

We bike together for a bit then split into two teams. The first person Chalk and I talk to is very receptive to what we say about Line 5 and also signs our petition. The second person cuts us off mid spiel to tell us she’s not interested. Even though I obviously think Line 5 is an important issue that people should pay attention to, thinking about all the times someone has come into my space and talked a great deal at me makes me respect her for doing that. Something we’ve talked a lot about is how to more fully engage people in a conversation instead of just unloading an avalanche of facts at them. Generally after giving a line about what we’re doing I’ll ask the person if they’re familiar with Line 5 and what they think of it and if they’ve had any contact with Enbridge. Always learning and all but if any of you blog readers out there have any thoughts in this regard, we’d love to hear from you!

Chalk & Caroline in front of the Johannesburg Library
Chalk & Caroline in front of the Johannesburg Library

Chalk and I bike off and meet up with the other folx under the awning of a closed library in Johannesburg, Fred and I go off to canvass another home but it turns out to be some uncanvassable industrial facility down a sandy road. We stand around wondering what to do next and eat some wild peas we find growing next to us and watch the sun get closer to the horizon. We head back to the others then are off again to look for a place to camp. After five or six miles we find a gate that says “closed except for public foot traffic” and let ourselves in to a nice night of camping on top of a giant hill.

The next day the skies clear up and we’re back to wondering around unmarked sand roads through the woods. Every day we seem to get a little bit further behind schedule and unfortunately the beautiful wilderness we keep getting lost in only adds to our headaches. Some eloquent person could probably speak a great deal on the irony of our fighting Enbridge, with their “productivity above all else” mentality, while ourselves cursing the sand and trees that stand between us and our objectives. Still, of all the places to be mired in existential crisis, a birch and fern laden wetland forest on a beautiful day with your comrades is pretty nice. Somehow we end up in someone’s backyard so it’s probably good they aren’t home when we try to canvass them. We go down their driveway and realize we’ve gone in a giant circle! Frick! We’re a little discouraged but continue on in a new direction to new unmarked roads and more houses with no one home.

Hours later Chalk and Iona miraculously navigate us to the Song of The Morning yoga and meditation retreat center and we emerge wearily onto their beautiful property. The generous staff offers us showers and left over chili, salad, and lo mein. It’s all so beautiful and delicious I can’t help feeling like I’m in a fairy tale. I start doing laundry in a bucket and more learning occurs when Chalk shows me how you can use hotel shampoo tubes as laundry detergent. Wow! We decide to switch our plans around and ask SOTM if we can camp there that night. They agree and some of us treat ourselves to some much needed relaxation. Others heroically plunge into logistics planning and routing.

The night passes pleasantly and the morning gets rearranged so we can help out in their garden for a few hours. We hit the sand about 4pm and canvass as a group for the rest of the day. Iona and I talk to a nice banjo maker who bemoaned letting Enbridge have a life long lease on his property for only $5000. “Thats like pennies for them,” he says. We also talked to a lady who agreed with everything we said about Line 5 but didn’t want to sign the petition out of fear of some sort of retaliation from Enbridge. This has become an unfortunately common reaction for us.

Thanks for the great route, Google!
Thanks for the great route, Google!

We bike on and get lost again and soon find ourselves talking to some nice people in a golf cart. They let us sleep on their lawn! One of them even drives Fred and Caroline to a grocery store in Wolverine. Chalk and Iona and I kick it with some of the other golf carters around a fire, I’ve been lugging around my accordion and Iona’s got his recorder with him (a much more practical traveling instrument) and we play some music with Jed, who lives there and plays a wooden box drum instrument. Willow, who also lives there, shows us pictures of her paintings (we wish we could post them here cuz they’re amazing!) and there’s one really cool one of a psychedelic cow! Caroline and Fred return and we make a big meal of rice, beans, and vegetables. Mmm! In the morning Chalk is up early again making oatmeal and I get up and help him make eggs that someone gave us cooked in some beef tallow I’ve been traveling with. Mmm! Also cooked was some greens with salad dressing used as cooking oil. We don’t have any other vegan oil so this is an experiment. It was OK but not quite “Mmm!” status.

We break up into teams again with Chalk and Fred zipping ahead and Caroline, Iona, and I hanging back and canvassing houses close by. We take off down the road and Petey, Willow’s lovely exuberant tiny pit bull, runs alongside us with his big goofy tongue slobbering in the wind. One mile and several turns later he’s still kickin it with us. He’s messed with some people’s dog and chased a rabbit and we yell “Go home Petey!” but he just pants and looks at us blankly. I decide to bike back to get him home and Iona and Caroline try to find the next house to canvass. We meet back up and struggle to make sense of our outdated map. Luckily a friendly mail lady stops and gives us some better directions. We get to all our houses and an additional one but unfortunately we aren’t able to talk to anyone except for one mean old fart of a neighbor who yells at us for being in someone’s driveway. We bike off and go through the town of Wolverine then get on a bike trail that takes us all the way to our friends working online at the McDonald’s in Indian River, MI. Hurray!

Hike the Line Part 2

…”Hike” the Line continued.  Read part 1 here.

***

That afternoon, we made a fateful turn onto a sandy road with the hopes that it would turn back to pavement soon. As the sand grew deeper, our tires got increasingly wobbly in the deep sand and we were forced to walk our bikes. Bike the Line had suddenly morphed into “Hike” the Line as we strained ourselves past sand intersection past sand intersection past sand intersection. It became apparent we were becoming increasingly lost as road signs disappeared and we became less and less sure of where we were headed. Thankfully, we managed to get a few bars of service in order to reach our much more well resourced support team to attempt to give us directions. Unfortunately, by this point, were over nine miles away from any semblance of paved roads. The only choice was to keep trekking. Wild blueberries lined our route, providing a quick distraction from our rather dire situation. Our spirits suddenly lifted when we spotted a porcupine climbing a tree, and we all stopped, transfixed at a mammal that seemed to be a mix of koala, badger, and cactus.

We stopped to admire the beauty of a porcupine in the wild.
We stopped to admire the beauty of a porcupine in the wild.

Trudging our bikes mile after mile, we finally retired to camp next to the path and cook a quick meal of black bean veggie burritos. Our water supply began to get dangerously low–but in a moment of serendipity, Chalk encountered a generous park ranger who gave him six plastic water bottles when Chalk went ahead to explore the route for the following day. We put up our tents and fell asleep almost immediately to the sounds of whippoorwills and howling coyotes, our tired bones eager for rest.

Our route forced us through sand roads for days... sometimes on the Line 5 easement itself.
Our route forced us through sand roads for days… often on the Line 5 easement itself.

We awoke early, eating leftover English muffins and Velveeta mac ‘n cheese for breakfast. The difficulty of the sand path only worsened as we forced our bikes through oil-like mud pits and steep sandy hills. We got more than a few very puzzled looks from people on four wheelers and dirt bikes. After a few more wrong turns, in the late afternoon, we finally reached a tiny town. I don’t think any of us have ever been so happy to see asphalt before. We refuel our bodies at a local grocery store and canvass a bit more before happily retiring for the night, putting up our tents between gargantuan ant hills. We slept in but when we woke up we felt ready to take on anything–as long as we could manage to stay on the road.

Teammates took a victory pic after spending the better halves of two days walking bikes along unbikeably sandy roads.
Teammates took a victory pic simply upon seeing asphalt for the first time after spending the better halves of two days walking bikes along unbikeably sandy roads.

“Hike” the Line: Part 1

On a bright Tuesday morning, we made a brief stop at the post office. Waiting in the parking lot, we met an exorbitantly friendly Michigan militia member who offered his lawn for us to camp on that night. After canvassing for the day around Bay City, we headed back to his house and he greeted us with a massive salad made from ingredients from his garden and introduced us to his Chihauhau affectionately named Taco. We sit on his deck as he talks at length, telling us tall tales from his days fighting the mafia, building coal plants, and Taco’s numerous run-ins with bears. The next morning he happily sends us off, and we leave with PB&J’s sandwiches, Clif bars, and considerable knowledge of the Michigan state’s gun laws.

Kevin passes a waterway...
Kevin crosses a waterway… because Google told him to??

We split into groups to canvass again, and it turns out that Google Maps is not, in fact, flawless. We started to find that these gravel back roads often decide to spontaneously end with no warning. My group decided to trek through a couple mile long swampy field to get to the next house that happened to be something else that was awfully stingy–but also thankfully with a nearby anti-inflammatory of Jewelweed. Sitting on the road and crushed plant stems rubbing all over my itchy legs was not how I pictured Bike the Line would go–but the high spirits everyone maintained throughout the trip was infectious. Once out of the field, at the first house we canvassed we meet a wonderful guard dog named Molly, who upon seeing us, promptly sprinted up to us and rolled over onto her belly and looked up at us pleading for us to pet her. We make a camping version of steamin’ hot pho with ramen noodles and canned veggies for dinner, and once our bellies were full, we slipped into our sleeping bags before the next day’s adventure.

Caroline stands with the owner of Home Pub, a bar owned and operated entirely (and proudly) by women!
Caroline stands with the owner of Home Pub, a bar owned and operated entirely (and proudly) by women!

On Thursday, we met a retired high school teacher named Barry with a protective shih tzu named Morgan, who at first was quite suspicious of us comin’ up to surprise him at his very rural home, but after sitting with us for a while, he brought out ice cream, cherries, and plums and started to really come around to the idea of shutting down this pipeline. We barely spoke a full sentence to his neighbor, a man named Art, before he immediately asked what he could do to help our cause. That same afternoon, we met a whole range of supporters; a collie dog breeder, a junk yard connoisseur, a woman who collected every cardinal memorabilia she could find, and an incredibly amicable bar owner with a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tattoo that got nearly every person in her bar to sign our petition. Almost each person we met seemed to have a new story about Enbridge digging up the line near their house to fix something, or a nearby leak, and all of them agreed–you just couldn’t trust them with the Lakes when they were run by money.

Giddy in Bay City

By Caroline

Rubbing sleep from our eyes at dawn, we dragged ourselves out of bed and strapped on our helmets, arming ourselves with annotated printed maps and a plethora of granola bars. We were ready to take on the first day of canvassing. We split into two groups; one crew with Iona, Kevin and I, and the other with Chalk and Fred. The latter group had a bit more ambition and biked a full 16 miles to Reese while we biked around half the distance to Munger in order to reach out the community that lived along Line 5.

Our hands full of stickers, pamphlets, and petitions, we eagerly awaited on each stoop to spread the message about Bike the Line. After some unanswered doors, at the third house we met a man who didn’t know the pipeline ran directly next to his property that listened intently to us and commented, that you never could trust companies to do what they say when they are motivated just by money. He took a couple stickers and asked us extensively about the risks of a pipeline and our journey to shut it down. Each supporter built our confidence, and we approached each new house with vigor. The vast majority of people we talked with were not only interested but immediately wanted to know what they could do to contribute. A wonderful lady affirmed that although Enbridge kept in contact with her household regularly, she thought the vulnerability of a pipeline directly under the Straits was far too much of a risk for the precious Great Lakes. After enthusiastically signing our petition, she sent us off with some freshly made salsa, BBQ chips, carrots, and ice-water. There were, of course, a few people that did not feel too fond of strangers showing up at their lawn and told us we should be doing something better with our time—but the receptiveness and support from so many community members showed far outweighed the few negative responses. House after house shared our same concerns for a potential leak in the Straits to destroy thousands of livelihoods in Michigan.

Rare image of a community member signing our petition to shut down line 5. (We didn't often invite community members to be pictured because of how quick the overall interaction usually is.)
Rare image of a community member signing our petition to shut down line 5. (We didn’t often invite community members to be pictured because of how quick the overall interaction usually is.)

We stopped for a couple minutes when Kevin spotted some Lamb’s Quarter, a relative of spinach, growing alongside the road. We picked it for our daily greens before stopping at our last home for the day. The last man we met was quite familiar with Enbridge’s spotty safety record because his sister-in-law previously worked as the head of the clean-up for the Kalamazoo River spill. She subsequently quit in utter distaste of the company’s half-hearted efforts to mop up the million gallons of oil spilled–and now works for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Standing by our bikes at Wenonah Park in Bay City.
Standing by our bikes at Wenonah Park in Bay City.

Heartened by the last supporter, we headed back to town to slice up watermelon for our afternoon press event. Our generous hosts, Lauren and Patrick, warmly greeted us back home and had already prepared a feast of spinach salad and bean dip. We packed their car up and headed together to Winona Park for our afternoon press event. Once we arrived, a table was already chock-full of desserts (including a vegan apple cake!) set up by the Bernie supporters that were helping us organize the event to reach a higher turnout. The press arrived as people mingled around, talking politics, bikes, and oil spills. Each of us participating in Bike the Line stood up to explain what our goals and motivations were for Bike the Line, and why we felt so invested in the project. We all shared the common thread of feeling the need for another avenue outside electoral politics to enact the change we need in the world. People generously dropped their cash in the helmet we laid out on our info table for our food costs, and the Lone Tree Council, the organization our hosts were a part of, spontaneously decided to donate $150 to our cause! We left feeling invigorated by others’ support and filled with immense gratitude for all of the people that make this trip possible for us to continue. Onward towards the Straits!