Michael Belazis and Sam Ecenia California Water Cycle @californiawatercycle
Michael and Sam took off on a 1,500 mile journey to promote water conservation. They biked, taught, and biked some more to share best water practices to students in local communities. These two buddies had some amazing highs, and some frustrating lows. We asked them some questions to dive a bit deeper into their short film. How old are you guys and where are you from? We are 25 years old. I am from Ohio and Sam is from Florida. What are your day jobs? I work as an instructor for Outward Bound California & helped open up a bakeshop in San Francisco before this project. Sam is a winemaker in Napa, Ca. How do you guys know each other? We were roommates at the University of Colorado, Boulder. We have been friends ever since. What struck first, the passion to bike or to teach? Our passion about adventuring through California on a bicycles admittedly struck first. However, we always knew that our intention was to do an adventure with a purpose. We later decided to teach students about water sustainability along the way. What were you specifically teaching the kids? With students, we believe in starting with the origins of water—how water travels from the atmosphere, to their local rivers and lakes, all the way to their faucets at home. We wanted to bring to light that water is a resource, rather than a utility. Once this baseline understanding is there, one can then begin to tackle local water issues, water conservation, protecting local watersheds, and beyond. Why water? We know the issues of the California water supply, but do you guys have any history in conservation? Both Sam and I have worked in conservation previously. I spent time in Madagascar studying biodiversity and natural resource management. Sam worked in Nepal with a Glacial Monitoring Program. You found those bikes fast after they were stolen, you must have had a pretty good idea of where they went? When our bikes were stolen, we had been sleeping in a campground that was unfamiliar to both of us at the time. When I chose to run into the woods in the middle of the night, in search for bike tracks, I got lucky. I found a few tracks, which led me to a homeless encampment full of bike parts, not too far from where we were sleeping. It was clear at this point that we were heading in the right direction. As our bikes were the bloodline of the project, we were very persistent, and persistence paid off. We found the bikes within 3 hours. What was your most rewarding moment on the trail? The most rewarding moment was probably leaving the house on day 1. Neither of us had ever been on a bike tour before. We spent all night building out this ridiculous looking trailer. We built a small water tower to symbolize our cause—it was not exactly the most functional vehicle of travel. However, we believed that a unique appearance would draw more attention to our cause. We spent months fundraising and hyping our project. It just seemed like we would never get there. But once we started pedaling, we were there. One (or two) moments that stood out above the rest? I will never forget the day we descended 2,000 feet of the Tehachapi Mountains into the Central Valley. After riding through heat and sand storms in the Mojave Desert, we reached speeds of nearly 40 mph, hooting and hollering our way down the steep grade on I-5. At the foothills of the mountains the interstate spit us out directly next to the Edmonston Pumping Plant. This plant is responsible for lifting water in the California Aqueduct over the mountain range towards Southern California. We sat for a moment trying to fathom how a series of channels and pipes could defy gravity and raise millions of gallons of water over a mountain range. Gaining an appreciation for the engineering and expanse of State Water Project, we rode on with a little clearer idea of the journey of freshwater in California. Just south of Santa Cruz we met an enthusiastic young Vietnamese kid named Hue who was on his first multi-day bikepacking trip. After brief small talk he insisted on seeing our touring set-up. Showing off our trailer and camping gear, Hue was beside himself with laughter. “Essential” items like coffee and sleeping pads nearly brought him to tears in the extravagance of it all. Hue was taking the lightweight approach, surviving off bread and bananas and carrying only a thin sleeping bag, tent, and rain coat. We looked at each other like he was insane to carry so little and for us to be hauling so much. Our interaction with Hue reminded us that there is no wrong way to go about living on a bicycle. Any more plans to continue biking to schools next year? We do not have any California Water Cycle events scheduled at this time. But, you never know! What bikes were you guys using? We were riding Surly Long Haul Truckers. Classic.