Friday, July 9, 2010

Section One - BAAM! (Plus a rant on water)

We are officially through the first section of our route. If you go onto our active water page there is a link to the first section and we are in the process of leaving Pueblo, CO today. This means that we are officially on the TransAmerica route, officially done the Western Express and will probably be running into even more crazy cyclists biking across the country. Goodbye Rockies, Hello Flatlands!

Pacella and I ended up staying in a motel last night, mostly because we couldn't find somewhere else to stay before dark and it had rained all day, so camping wasn't desirable. Mike and Jesse managed to get a free place to stay at the hotel next door. Mike should be a car salesman.

I'm sitting in a Starbucks; I stopped in the first one I found. Pueblo is an actual city with an actual amount of people in it. Something like 100,000. This means they have a Starbucks, a Walmart and a Barnes and Nobles. Guess where I'm stopping next? I'll give you three guesses and it's not Walmart.

Starbucks is playing chill music that I'm highly enjoying. I missed this.

See, the thing that I love about chains (God help me) is that when you walk into a Walmart and you've been on a trip for awhile, you don't have to talk to someone in the store and ask for directions because you already know where everything is located; not only do you know where everything is located, but you know it is actually there. You need a travelers pillow? I know Walmart has one, how do I know? Because I already got one at two different Walmarts. Food, camping stuff, little odds and ends that you think places would have and they don't? Walmart.

Small towns shops work because people can order the things that they need that they don't have through the stores. However, if you're on a cross country trip and you are only in town for a night, this is not going to work. Basically what happens is that every once in awhile you run into a Walmart and get everything you couldn't find for the past few weeks in small towns.

I even picked up the same shirt in Elko that I had bought back home at the Dundalk Walmart because I liked it so much.

Oh man, Starbucks is playing a version of Hallelujah that I haven't heard yet.

This trip is also about figuring out how I want to live. It's amazing, we've stayed with so many people who live in so many different ways that you can start to get an idea of what you would like to do and what you wouldn't. For example, I now know that I need to live by water. Clean water. There are places in Nevada with cancer outbreaks, where many people start cropping up in the same area with it. They check the water and find arsenic in it, so now because of the cancer scare and the arsenic everyone has to buy bottled water. So, living near rivers and the ocean is important to me, but not only that a clean water supply is important to me. I want to drink water out of the tap.

People in Nevada has water issues on their mind alread. The issue of water is everywhere. Not only is it difficult in some places in Nevada to get clean water, but it is difficult to get any water at all. A lot of people brought up what Las Vegas was trying to do to water in Nevada. Basically they were buying all of the ranches up north that had water running through them and redirecting them to Las Vegas. If they succeeded in doing what they were trying to do, the wells that everyone has spent all that money digging would be worthless. The irrigation systems, worthless. Everyone would have to spend a lot of money digging even deeper, if the water levels stayed reachable at all.

Water being used at that rate is not sustainable. It does not renew. People would be without water even more than they already are.

In Maryland, the issue isn't having water, it's having clean water. We've polluted so much of the Chesapeake Bay. What in the world are we doing? Chicken factories pouring waste into the rivers as though there are no consequences. Water that our parents used to swim in making people sick.

I've read the news, I've listened to NPR, I've taken the environmental classes. Hasn't everyone?

I was reading an article that predicted the oceans were going to become like the land. I thought it was interesting. What we've basically done is picked easily farmed animals and we've killed the rest. Goodbye predators, we don't want you threatening us and we don't want you threatening our livestock. The article predicted the collapse of the oceans fisheries, which we all knew was coming anyway, and the selection of 3-4 easily farmed fish. The end. This idea that the oceans are a vast and forever renewable resource because of it's very vastness, an idea that has lasted since humans looked out on the horizon and saw only water, is no longer viable. After all, how could we possibly run out of fish? It's like everyone knows what is happening and no one can come out of their stupor to do something about it, like we don't quite believe it. Obviously the problem is bigger than just the oceans.

One big problem is that our technologies have gotten us into trouble because it seems that every time we develop something new, we use it before the public consciousness has caught up with the consequences. By the time people realize what is going on, we have become so used to the status quo that we can't even begin to imagine how to change it. After all, haven't we always eaten this much meat with every meal? Haven't we always had seafood in the winter? Haven't we always had this much food, period? Haven't we always had this many things?

We can now dredge the ocean bottom. We can take big nets and big boats and scoop up everything. We can destroy the whole thing and how delicious the demise.

You know, when they write the history books and analyze what civilizations did wrong and what lead to their demise, it seems so obvious. Especially when you're in grade school. How stupid, how could they not have seen that coming? When they write ours, if anyone is around to bother writing it, what will they say? They had it all. They had all the resources they could possibly ever need, if they had any sense. They had all the fresh water they could need and some of the most beautifully productive virgin soil in the world. They had animals to hunt and fish to catch and just like that, gone. They thought they knew better. After all, how could it run out?

And when it does start to finally run out, who suffers? The first world? I think we've already seen that's not the case. There is other land to buy, other places to farm until it's all gone. After all we have the money and who cares who it kills. Who cares who it subjugates.

Water is going to be the next war. It's already started. After all, water has always been important. We can't live without it, civilizations have been built and prospered around it. Wars have always been fought over the best harbors, the best places to fish.

But when we have too many people for it all to go around, as we already do, and when we have access to less and less clean usable water. Oh what spectacular wars there will be. The haves vs. the have-nots, just as it's always been and always will be.

Can we actually change ourselves and our thinking enough not to destroy? Can we actually want less? I honestly doubt it. The next 5o years are going to be very interesting, to say the least.

OK, I did not mean to rant like that. I'm not even going to read it, I don't want to know how nonsensical it sounds. These posts are published with errors, in case you were wondering, because I have a mental block on reading my own work. If I go back and read it, it will never get published, so I generally just sent it out warts and all because I can't stand to read it. This is also how I had to write (wrote, haha I graduated!) my papers for school, my poor professors.

My point was, that this trip has afforded me the ability to look at how I live. It has also caused me to think more about water and how it effects everyone. It highlights that I have the luxury of taking the time to look at how I want to live. Like one of our hosts said, her life is together enough that she can think about where to put each piece of her trash. The paper goes in this box to be collected on this day, the plastic with a one on it goes here to be collected on another day, the plastic with a six on it is driven to another location, the organic matter goes in the compost... and on and on. If you are having trouble making enough money to buy food or getting access to clean water, what do you care what package it comes in and what you do with it? Just look at how much we dropped during finals, how much we cared about our health, what we ate and finals wasn't even a serious problem; it was just time consuming.

What is important to me? Obviously water and resources and living sustainably are a big one. Apparently they tell me that you can bike across the country, this means I can definitely bike to work.

I've been keeping a list of what I want to do, when I get back maybe I can actually come back and do it.

I'm going to leave this Starbucks and go to the Barnes and Nobles to get a book on tape for the road. After all, I'm just one of the masses. Give me bread and circuses and I forget all that I just ranted about. It keeps getting pushed back because I get tired of thinking about it and look for a distraction. Something girly, perhaps Pride and Prejudice?

Signed rather sheepishly after her first online rant,
Shelly Kessler


  1. On chains (and consulting and scalability...):
    "The secret of Big Macs is that they're not very good, but every one is not very good in exactly the same way. If you're willing to live with not-very-goodness, you can have a Big Mac with absolutely no chance of being surprised in the slightest."

    On the environment:
    Are you familiar with the tragedy of the commons? Because that's what's happening with the oceans.

  2. Quality. I really like this post. I only sort of liked it, but then you came down off the rant and started to talk about the reasons why people don't care with their actions. Next up - Not caring about the future.

  3. Mike German has said that I made it look like the arsenic in the water was causing the cancer outbreak in Nevada... which I didn't mean to do and exists because I refuse to go back and read my writing.

    So: There was a cancer outbreak in Nevada and they don't know what caused it, There is arsenic in the water, people become frightened because of the cancer outbreak and arsenic and buy bottled water, the two aren't actually related but neither are good and both result in people buying bottled water.

  4. ALex, I am very familiar with the tragedy of the commons.