Always Learning

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!

One thought on “Always Learning

  1. Really dig your style of writing! I could imagine myself there with y’all at times.
    It is sad to think of folx being scared to fight for what they believe in … what they hold dear to their hearts.
    These heartless, corporate, scum-sucking earth destroyers must be stopped!
    Thank you for all of the hard work, energy and time y’all have put into this. I got nothin but love for ya!

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