A record-holding endurance motorcycle rider and biker activist experiences first-hand what America is sacrificing to maintain the myth of energy independence and other false promises of natural gas hydraulic fracturing.
Tuesday 2 September 2014 marked the end of 5 days and 3,755 miles in the saddle for me. My two-wheeled trek began with what the Iron Butt Association should certify as my 55th IBA ride and 22nd Bun Burner GOLD 1500. The BBG1500 requires a documented ride of at least 1,500 miles in 24 hours or less, and in this case I covered the 1,534-mile distance from Miami Beach Florida to Del Rio Texas in 22 hours and 1 minute.
At 8:07am ET Thursday 28 August 2014 I logged a gas receipt in South Beach to mark the start of my ride up the Florida Turnpike through Orlando to I-75 North, then west on I-10/I-12/I-10 through the Panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana into Texas, where from San Antonio I continued west on US-90 arriving in the border town of Del Rio at 5:08am CT the next morning.
As a Native Texan exiled in South Florida, I have ridden deep into the heart of the Lone Star State and back again many times. And like many times before, the weather was warm and dry from end to end so I rode the entire stretch with my face in the wind. But unlike any rides of the past, this time riding mostly lidless and always shieldless from SoBe to South Texas exposed me to more than just sunshine and starlight:
Hidalgo – my 1999 Harley-Davidson FXDS – has a stock 4.9 gallon fuel tank which requires me to stop and refuel every 2 to 3 hours. And at almost every pit stop from Okeechobee on, I had to take my faded blue bandanna and wipe off a thin film of some kind of gunk that was collecting on my shades. What was coating my sunglasses and no doubt entering my lungs I can’t say, but when I typed “substances found “ into a search box Google quickly added “suspended in the air” …
… and when I typed “pollutants in “ Google’s recommended completion was “the air”:
The air was different – and so was the sky. I’ve ridden west into more sunsets over Louisiana than I care to count, but the skies over Hammond around 7:00pm that Thursday simply did not look like they used to. The sky was still basically blue, the sparse clouds basically white, and the sun setting behind them basically yellow with pink glows and red radiants – but the colors were all softer or milkier than, and the clarity and contrast not as sharp as, they used to be. I can’t really put into words what I saw or why it seemed different, but the the impact of pollution on sky colors may explain it:
By the time I rode across the Sabine River bridge into Sweet Mother Texas the sun was completely down and the light of a crescent moon somewhat obscured what might otherwise have been a star-filled night sky. But after crossing over the backbone of the ongoing fracking ecocide that is the Eagle Ford Shale Play, I was reminded once again that what filled the cool night air was not starlight:
The beard on my chin is about 4 inches long and normally white with a touch of gray in color. But after completing my ride and checking into single-star accommodations on the Del Rio US-90 strip, the beard I saw on my soot-covered face in the mirror was as black as asphalt! It took a whole bottle of motel shampoo, most of a bar of motel soap, and several minutes of scrubbing to get all the sticky tar-like goop out of my matted whiskers. When I was finished, the rinse water in the sink looked as nasty as backed-up sewage. And thinking about what the lining of my lungs looked like has made me mad enough to march:
I know it takes oil to keep my Harley on the road. But if we have to poison the land we love, pollute the air we breathe, and condemn our grandchildren to life in a Mad Max ecological wasteland to produce it, I’d rather ride a horse.