We made it to Florida! After a few hours of mostly uneventful driving — does an “emergency bathroom break” count as eventful? — we arrived at Pensacola in time for lunch.
Pensacola’s a fairly small city, but they were very welcoming, at least the people we met. We were greeted at a public event by a few members of the city’s official Climate Change Task Force and some members of 350 Pensacola. Ever since the task force was formed about ten or fifteen years ago, they’ve helped turn Pensacola into a model of both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. All of the city’s vehicles are electric and they’re working on using eco-tourism and a few other green development projects to replace the revenue lost due to their eroding beaches, flood damage, and so on.
Honestly, we did less volunteering in Pensacola. After the greeting from the city, there was an informal discussion and a tour of green projects in the city. A few of us volunteered for a while at a project to rebuild and repair in an area damaged by a recent storm. Ten and Harold met up with a small group of people at a community garden and were gone for most of the day. The rest of the group just relaxed, took a day off, and maybe helped with a few odds and ends in other parts of the city.
After Jess, Ermete, and I finished our volunteering, we actually spent some time out on the beach! New Orleans isn’t really a beach city, even though it’s on the ocean, so this was my first real chance to spend some time enjoying the ocean.
It was wonderful! Since I’ve been talking so much about sea level rise, global warming, Miami, and so on, it may seem like I have a big fear or resentment of the ocean. And I will admit that at times, I do resent what human activity has done to the ocean, whether it’s the rapid sea level rise, the terrifying amount of acidification, the stalling Gulf Stream, and so on. But none of that is the ocean’s fault. The ocean is beautiful, powerful, liberating. When I go out in the water, or even just walk along the sand, I feel complete, at peace, at home. I can feel the ebb and flow of it even after I get out of the water. This is what’s been missing from my life for the past three months.
After a wonderful time at the beach, we headed back to the bus and van for the night. The people in Pensacola were friendly, but not friendly enough to find us all free places to stay. So rather than waste limited funds on several hotel rooms, we decided to camp in our vehicles. It’s a clear night tonight, so I’m actually sitting out in the boat and typing this beneath the stars. We’re not right on the shore, but even from here, I can smell the characteristic salty scent of ocean air. It feels good.
We’re in the home stretch now. Our vehicles have been providing a very good range per charge thanks to Ermete’s modifications, and the fact that we’re traveling in short bursts has kept us all from going stir crazy. Jess sometimes jokes about being stir crazy, but that’s just because she likes to make little jokes to keep us all entertained. I thought I might get tired of it eventually, but it’s actually quite endearing. It keeps us laughing. She calls all of this a big adventure — a road trip to end all road trips, a journey to the lost city of Atlantis. It’s funny and the laughter helps keep us in good spirits.
I don’t want to say our exact route in case anyone out there is reading this and intends to cause trouble for us. But we should be home in about two and a half more days. We’ll be stopping in two more cities along the way with the third city being Miami. I’m feeling a mix of anxiety and anticipation, but mostly anticipation. Even though the Miami I grew up in has slipped beneath the waves, it will still be good to be back home.