Week 6

The Mobile Headquarters, at camp in Story City, Iowa

Our project did move northward this week, though not as much as in some other weeks. Partly, this was intentional. Dana returned to Edina in a weekend rental car with our children, to collect passports and other supplies, visit our cats and friends, and to allow the adults to take a short break from each other. When facing many challenging situations day after day, we accept that it is important not to make one single other person the reference point for expressions of emotional stress, if possible. We returned to the road north on Wednesday, with rejuvenated enthusiasm and endurance for our project.

On Wednesday, several fortuitous events graced us. First, a sophomore at the local high school in Ames, a capable community-organizer and a passionate advocate for our environment by the name of Angela, discovered us with our carts on the edge of Bandshell Park, preparing to march north across the city. Angela and her mother Cheryl spoke with us at some length – and Angela decided to take us up on our invitation to walk with us for the afternoon. Angela started an environmental group when she was in middle school, and recently joined forces with a similar student group at Iowa State University in Ames. By the time she parted company with us, Angela had experienced what it is like to hand-pull a painted cart in rush-hour traffic, deal with a toddler who has a flair for melodrama, and make public announcements with a bullhorn while walking through a crowded shopping district.

Apparently, she was inspired, because she intends to coordinate our offering an informal climate seminar this weekend, and a larger presentation when we return this fall.

The second dose of serendipity came from the family who owns a pretty trailer park, ten miles north of Ames. When they learned that we were in the area, they requested that we come stay, and offered us a small work-exchange arrangement for our camping costs.

However, at the same time, on Wednesday evening, as we were beginning to search for a secluded spot to leave our carts at the end of the day's walk, another Good Samaritan by the name of Keith invited us to his home, a fantasy of flowers, not far from the highway. Keith offered us hospitality that was a kind of blessed generosity, from a place to sleep in his house, to food and homemade drink, to car shuttle rides to fetch our trailer.

Keith helped us arrange a photo opportunity with a reporter from the Ames Tribune, who came to snap our picture at the park the following morning, before we set out. Thus, we were at last featured again in a daily newspaper on Friday, and the message of the caption was substantially our own.

Thursday was a day of dramatic fortune, too. While Gavain drove ahead to set up camp at the trailer park mentioned above, Dana and her children Egon, 10, Poppy, 7, and Tillwyn, 2, set out north on the highway, with a 20 mph following wind that made the principle work of it one of preventing the carts from sailing forth faster than the person pulling it could pace. By the time they had walked five miles, though, one of the large, Amish carriage wheels on the Pacing Wagon was barely turning, making a loud grinding sound with every revolution. It finally locked up 100 yards from an intersection – the only intersection for miles – where there happened to be a shop that specializes in trailer repair.

It was a funny sight to have our Pacing Wagon raised up on a floor jack, while the mechanic removed the wheels and chipped off the broken bearing set inside. (We had failed to grease the bearings well enough from the start, it turns out). He was able to order replacement bearings, and have our carts ready by the next morning.

On Friday, we discovered that the starter in our truck was kaput...even though it had been rebuilt this past winter. Sychronistically, we had it towed to the same remote intersection where our repaired carts were waiting for us: only this time, the opposite corner, an engine repair shop. Luckily we are at this campground with the gracious hosts who invited us personally, and we can afford to wait until Monday to receive our (hopefully, working) truck, because we can exchange our labor for our rent fee.

All the while, we are aware that there are others in Colorado who may well lose their homes tomorrow due to monster forest fires that are shaped by climate change from start to finish – from the over-wintering pine beetles that are ravaging the trees and turning them into acres and acres of tinder, to the hot, dry winds that swell the inferno. We don't bring this up for sensationalism. We must fully awaken to our plight: we are the slower contenders in a race with nature. Climate change is dashing ahead this summer with full effect.

This month, for instance, NASA snapped a satellite photo of the entire state of Alaska, almost without a shred of cloud cover. This freak occurrence is related to anomolous high temperatures which climbed into the upper 90s, a troubling situation for arctic land that historically averages in the 60s and 70s in June. Meteorologists report that an atmospheric “blocking pattern” has kept a high pressure dome over Alaska, and sent the mercury rising. These blocking patterns are tied the recent abrupt melting of the arctic sea-ice.

President Obama is expected to deliver a suite of carbon pollution initiatives on Tuesday. At least one is meant to deal with existing fossil-fuel power plants. For all the power of his office, though, considering the rate that climate change advances, will his administration be any more effective addressing climate change-mitigation than this one family right now in the middle of Iowa? If you are chuckling wryly at that, well, we are too.
(Maybe he doesn't have to deal with a 1980s Chevy on the fritz)

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