If you grow up in California, leaving all that sun and warmth isn’t easy. “I do miss California,” says Cole Bettles ’13. “I miss the ocean, and I miss surfing and my sandals.”
Bettles and his friend, Joey Roth ’14, call Southern California home. Bettles hails from Ojai; Roth from Laguna Beach. Sitting in Trim Dining Hall during finals week in December, just as the chilly reality of winter was hitting campus, Bettles and Roth came up with a plan for a California adventure, a long bike trip down the coast starting north of Los Angeles in the small town of Ojai and ending in the upscale San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla. Along the way, the pair would hold beach cleanups, film their travels for a future video, and surf. Throughout the trip, they hoped to raise awareness about the coastline’s fragility. The beaches and ocean may be beautiful, Bettles says, but they need to be protected.
After lining up sponsors to provide a camera, clothes, and help in marketing one of the cleanups, the pair kicked off their eight-day trip in January. The trek was supposed to cover about 240 miles, though wrong turns and mishaps added another 40 miles or so. That’s a lot of pedaling for two guys who didn’t do any training. “The first five miles every day were miserable,” Roth says. “Luckily, we headed downhill most of the time.”
Almost from the start they faced a setback when the cart they were pulling broke. The cart had carried their surfboards and gear, but with help from Bettles’ father, they used pipes, connectors, and glue to build jury-rigged racks that attached to the side of their bikes. These makeshift racks couldn’t hold all of their gear, so Roth and Bettles had to leave some behind. Extra changes of clothes, for instance, were a luxury they no longer had. The two bikes and their loaded-up racks made for a strange sight rolling down the road. People constantly approached Roth and Bettles and asked questions. “Even in Venice Beach, we were turning heads,” Roth says. “People would just look at us and say, ‘Explain.’”
At night, the pair either crashed on friends’ couches or camped, which could be tricky. Nights outside were chilly, given that their tent was another item left behind.
Sunset also brought a sense of urgency. Once the sun started going down, they needed to find a place to settle for the night or be left riding in the dark. As the sun set one evening on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, they realized they couldn’t make it to the nearest campsite, so they pulled off the road onto a beach and fell asleep by the water. In the night, Bettles says, “I heard the waves crashing, then getting louder and louder.” Finally, in the wee hours, the tide came in. It was nearly lapping onto their sleeping bags. Roth nudged Bettles awake. “Dude, we should move,” he said.
With the footage they shot, the pair are putting together a short film and working with their sponsors to figure out how to distribute it. Looking back on the trip, Bettles and Roth realize it all didn’t go smoothly, but that doesn’t matter. They organized three cleanups and talked with many people about the environment. And they surfed. “You should not be afraid of mishaps,” says Bettles. “They shouldn’t scare you away from doing a project worth good.”—John Crawford