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!