Sierra's Blog



Supercommute 8: Victorian Swan Pedal
Time: 6 hours 19 minutes

After two months of surreal commuting, Supercommute is over, and the Supercommuter is tired and mentally drained.  Yet the project relied on the help of many others, and they may also be relieved to hear the swan song.  I hope I'm not going to die or stop making art, but I might sleep a little later next Monday because I'm not going to class at 7 in the morning.  Instead I'll lie awake and ask myself "Now why did I do that again?" 

After I dropped my mom off at the airport, I took the swan, Hattie May, back to her home at Mountain Lake Resort on Tuesday.  She seemed to be at peace in the calm small lake after her great sea adventure, but I'm sure she won't forget the time she swam with the cargo ships and oil tankers.  The weather was perfect and it really was just a nice stroll in the port, not unlike the summer conditions on the lakes in Boston where Hattie May was invented over a hundred years ago.  Of course she wasn't being used for transportation, but for leisurely afternoon rides. 

Three beautiful ladies in the port seemed appropriate for the finale commute, because after all, a good ship is a woman and a bad ship is uhh . . . sunk.  I managed to survive Supercommute without sinking, drowning, or getting demolished by a semi.  Now the challenge is the exhibition display, but I'm sure I'll have that figured out by April.




Supercommute 7: Hobie Sail
Time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Some of the photos from Monday's commute make it look as though I was sailing off into the Puget Sound; I wish I had been, but it was just a foggy day in the Port of LA.  Captain Herman wanted to call it off because he felt it was not safe to be sailing across the shipping channels in such thick fog, but I reassured him that I wouldnot get lost and that I needed to get to class.  I noticed a countless number of pelicans resting on the federal breakwall as we followed it for guidance toward Long Beach and I could only conclude that they do not like to travel in the fog either. 

I watched the cargo ships and imaged them sailing instead.  I think it would be possible since that’s how we used to move stuff around the world, but I think it might be more efficient to just make our own stuff here.  At this point we would need too many sails because we import so much stuff and it might be easier to just grow food in our yards and sew our own clothes. 

Sailing takes a long time and I'll confess that I didn't actually rely on Monday's wind.  It would have taken me all day and since the Long Beach Windsurf Center supplied the Hobie craft with foot pedals, I decided to use them.  The foot pedals work much better than the typical pedal boat, because they are designed after penguins.  Next weeks Supercommute may take a little longer, but it should be fun.



Supercommute 6: Polar Bear Run

If I've learned anything during Supercommute, it's that the general public likes polar bear mascots and not razor scooters. As I ran disguised as a friendly fuzzy polar bear, I could sense surrounding enthusiasm despite my handicapped vision. Motorists honked, and other street viewers yelled, laughed, and smiled. Although I hadn't actually planned to wear the costume for the entire 16-mile journey I had no choice but to keep the costume on if it made pedestrians and truckers happy.

Yet when I thought about it, there's really nothing happy about a sweaty running polar bear. As the main icon for global warming, polar bears are drowning to extinction and most likely would not end up searching for a life in Wilmington. But as with any species, including humans, loss of habitat often leads to either extinction or a migration to the city. In this case, a lone Supercommuting polar bear somehow washed up on the shores in the Port of Los Angeles and had no alternative but to start running. And then drink a Coke.



Supercommute 5: Extreme Razor Scooter

Usually the phrase 'extreme sport' conjures up images of helicopters and custom helmets in dangerous inaccessible locations for thrill-seeking hard-core athletes.  Extreme sports consist of big drops, epic glacier jumps, 360s, and back flips in such activities referred to as heli-skiing, heli-snowboarding, and heli-surfing.  Only select individuals can do these sports, and even then, sometimes they die.

After scootering 16 miles through the industrial ghetto of Wilmington, I have decided that I am the latest example of an extreme athlete. Dodging18-wheelers moving toward me in all directions required fierce focus and commitment if I was going to make it from one extreme to the other.  Semi-trucks, SUVs, inconsistent pavement, and unpredictable curbs replaced the typical avalanche or 60ft wave.  But I made it alive, and now I am going to razor everywhere because the adrenaline is unmatched.  I recommend razor scootering to work for any adrenaline junkie.  Razor scooters rule!! And they' re relatively cheap.



Supercommute 4: Paddle

The 12 mile paddle put me down for the week after 5 hours and 41 minutes of serious pain (hence my postponed writing about the event).  Besides the fact that paddling in the same uncomfortable position for over 5 hours is not something that a back should go through, the elements were not in my favor.  There was a south swell and an outgoing tide creating difficult currents.  Extreme Santa Ana conditions provided a head wind, choppy dirty water, and poor air quality, and the fires created an apocalyptic surrounding, making me feel small and insignificant.  Working as a wildland firefighter on a hotshot crew for 4 years, I had a difficult time focusing on much besides the eeriness of the situation.  Ron Stewart, the Supercommute photographer, pulled a no show as he was stuck for 12 hours on I-15 watching burning vehicles stuck in traffic, and I was concerned for my fellow firefighters while I simultaneously wanted to be out there with them.

The port had an uneasy quietness and it seemed as though the only activity in the harbor was by my side.  Yet, I was amazed by the generous amount of support I had beginning with Byron Design Surfboards.  With last minute notice, Byron Olson shaped a custom 9ft longboard for Supercommute in support of the environmental purposes of the project.  The port authorities also showed support by sending out an escort boat for a paddle that would grant some large fines under typical circumstances. My support boat, the Blackjack housed captain Herman driving, Louie Carasco (who learned to use my camera five minutes before we left), and Diandra from the Press Telegram who has a tendency toward seasickness.  Jocelyn Foye paddled a kayak next to me, distracting me from shoulder and back pain, as she told stories throughout the whole journey.

When we arrived at the Alamitos Bay entrance, I saw a couple waves break inside the harbor and it was my dream to surf one as part of the commute.  Unfortunately, I couldn't paddle into a wave due to a complete lack of strength.  It took me most of the week to recover from the paddle with fatigue, a cough, shoulder and back pain, and some stomach issues most likely as a result of ingesting port water. 



Supercommute 3: Rollerblade

Rollerblading is not a common way to commute, but under the right conditions it can be fast, efficient, and safe.  However, Monday's extreme rollerblade commuting conditions called for highly skilled and experienced bladders.  Fortunately, I have close to twenty years of rollerblading under my belt and my dearest friend, Kaili Gordon, who flew out from Albuquerque to join me, comes from a serious rollerblading family and has been on wheels since the sport was invented.  We not only had to be able to anticipate curbs, cracks in the pavement, broken glass, and debris, but we also had to be aware of dangerous amounts of traffic along the entire route and complete lack of sidewalks in many areas.  Observers honked as we bladed defensively through Wilmington and Long Beach trying not to get smacked by a truck or car.  But on a positive note, we made it safely with the reunion of a nostalgic rollerblading friendship and only one minor battle wound.

This summer my truck was broken into while I was traveling to Colorado.  The truck was striped to its shell so that every minute item was stolen including the ashtray, glove box, swim cap and goggles, and even my coffee mug.  Yet, my rollerblades remained.  I can only conclude this was due to the fact that rollerblading has gone utterly out of style.  The anomaly of rollerblading as a form of transportation or even recreation was reinforced by the confused stares by motorists and any other spectators along Monday's rollerblade commuting route.

Two weeks ago my catalytic converter and muffler were stolen from under my truck.  Today when I went to fill up my gas tank and gasoline spilled on the concrete rather than filling the tank, I realized that sometime in the last few days fuel had been siphoned out of my truck by cutting a large slit though the rubber hose leading to the fuel tank.  My truck, the Giving Tree, has nothing left.  It strikes me as if I was rollerblading to class while someone was simultaneously siphoning my gas.  Is it coincidental that my truck is becoming less and less drivable just as I am trying not to use it?  The fuel crisis is apparent and I look forward to the day I can rollerblade from A to B safely without a support vehicle.


Supercommute 2: Bike

Monday's cycling event seemed somewhat anti-climatic in comparison to last weeks swim, but it was a wonderful day side by side with the semi-trucks. I was fortunate to have my friend Christen Sperry-Garcia join me for the bike portion of Supercommmute yesterday, and my focus became our conversation, rather than the poor cycling conditions. About half way through our journey, our friend Kyle Johnson who lives along the route also joined in the commute. He rode with us for a couple of miles until he arrived at his coffee stop where his commute ended. It was an experience of human interaction that rarely occurs during a typical car commute, and a reminder that commuting by bike or foot can start the day on a positive note and encourage a kind of social interaction that our modern car culture has possibly lost touch with.

However, the bike commute did present us with some dangers. It became apparent that the road was not designed for bicycle use when Christen fell crossing a set of train tracks that sit at a slight angle to the road. Brad House, from Back on Track Productions and San Pedro's Bike Palace, said that the tracks had caused many cycling accidents. Kyle said that he had almost gotten hit just before tying in with us (wear a helmet next time Kyle!), and to say the least we all inhaled exhaust.

I can't wait for next week's rollerblade adventure!


Supercommute 1: Swim

When I dove into the port yesterday morning, I realized that my idea of the Port-to Class Supercommute was quite different than the actual execution  of the concept.  Self-doubt began to roll in as soon as my crew waved for me to start crossing the first shipping lane.  My support boat went ahead to make sure the crossing was clear while the LA county lifeguard boat stayed behind.  I felt vulnerable because at that time I didn't exactly know what was going on, and my dad, who was my guide on a kayak, motioned for me to follow him.  I realized that I just had to trust him. 

My friend was nearby on an aluminum skiff with his dog and I could hear the props turning as he zoomed around the other boats. As I noticed people lined up on the fuel dock waving their arms, I also became aware that the channel 11 helicopter was still somewhere overhead. "What did I get myself into this time?", I thought.  All of these people were here to support me and watch the most boring spectator sport possible, long distance swimming.  I started to feel uncomfortable about the attention, but fortunately I couldn't speak, hear, or see clearly, so I reminded myself that I did have a purpose and if people watch Brittany Spears then anything is legit.  I felt nervous and under-trained because I had only done eight ocean training swims, all under 6 miles, and I was never a competitive swimmer.  Yet I just keep moving my arms considering the fact that many have swum farther. 

Yesterday's port swim felt like something out of the imagination, a surreal slow-motion navigation through moving cargo ships, anchored oil tankers, and a sense of being a mute spectacle.  Although my left shoulder hurt from tendonitis, the continuous diesel fumes throughout the port made me feel sick, and at one point I was fatigued, my greatest challenges were mental.  Around mile 9, I noticed a tall building on the coast.  Every time I turned my head to the left to breathe I could see that same building.  Breath after breath its location did not change.  Was the current suddenly against me?  I became sure that I was not moving, and through anger and frustration I kicked harder and moved my arms faster.  But my swimmers temper tantrum was not getting me anywhere, and I could still see that same building.  It was at that point in the swim that I realized that swimming is a slow form of transportation and I must engage in the experience rather than fight it.  I had to forget about our faced paced culture for a moment and enjoy the view of the building on Ocean Boulevard.  If I could not do this, I wasn't going to finish.  This is what it feels like to not drive.