Day 1: Nuevo Miami, Florida
[The camera blinks on.]
[The speaker is dressed colourfully, still dark-haired but with grey streaks starting to show, flashing a grin at the camera and throwing up a peace sign. They're seated on something moving, clearly - behind them, beaches scroll by. The corner of a pile of boxes can be seen at the edge of the video.]
We good? Cool. Hey, everyone! I'm Calliope, Cal for short. I'm sixty-six, Pennsylvanian by birth, San Franciscan by choice. Gonna be vlogging our attempt at the Sea Change Challenge!
[The camera zooms out, revealing Cal's position: seated on top of a peculiar-looking contraption that looks very much like a yacht, only on land. The seating area has boxes, yes; it also has a vegetable garden set in low frames, a solar array, and a satellite dish. Cal gestures outwards.]
Welcome to the Terrajack - like one of those skipjack boats they used in Chesapeake, yeah? Only for the land. Sitting areas up here on the deck, living quarters below. We're gonna be using wind as much as possible, and we also have a motor using these solar panels here. For those who aren't familiar with Sea Change, the idea's to only use renewables, so like - there's a bunch using solar, a bunch using wind, a few using biofuel using recycled oil and stuff that they're gonna collect en route.
And a bunch of us are going, like, legit full Oregon Trail! Starting from the east coast and heading into Independence, then following the whole route, oxen and all. I mean, the real Oregon Trail probably didn't have wagons kitted out with solar panels and there's a no hunting rule, but they're following the whole of the proper trail from Independence to Portland just using oxen. And I think someone's using horses, some on bikes, all sorts.
Anyway. Renewables only, Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa, although I reckon it's cheating if you just, like, cross southern Mexico because it's way shorter, at least ten inland stops, document it in writing, as a documentary, or something, thirty days to finish the whole thing. We're going one of the southern routes, starting in Neuvo Miami and ending back at home in San Francisco. First stop is the Everglades, we're gonna do a biological survey at the dive sites there, then - it's not part of the official stops but we're going up to Cape Canaveral to see one of the Mars launches, which will be hella cool. There's a bunch of Sea Changers going to be at the launch before we start bearing west.
[Cal gives the camera a thumbs up. They look calm, but there's a hint of excitement there too; a gleam in their eye.]
So we're coming up on Miami for the official launch, so I'm gonna go. Wish us luck! Catch ya later!
Day 2: Everglades Marine Park, Florida
[The camera switches on. Cal, hair still wet, waves at the camera. Behind them is what looks like the sea, although the tops of trees poking out of the water indicate that not all is as it appears. Wetsuits are drying on the Terrajack rail.]
First stop down! So, uh, Terrajack might have sails, but we're not a boat, so we hired a real one to head out to the dive sites. I mean, it's not really deep, in some areas it's just a couple feet and you can just walk through it, yeah? But the areas that were lowest before the Inundation are all underwater, and it's hella surreal to dive under water and see trees and stuff. Like at one point I actually saw a park bench. There's parts that have the sea walls up, and it's dry on the other side, but. Yeah, it's weird.
[They shrug, fiddling with their hair, gaze flicking away for a moment before they brighten again.]
Oh, but I saw a halocline! Salt water and fresh water have different densities, right? So where the fresh water from Okeechobee comes in meets the sea, and where it's still enough that it's not just brackish, you get this really cool effect where the sea water sinks. So I was snorkelling, yeah? And I could look down and see what looked like the surface of the water, even though I was already swimming in it. Super weird, super neat.
Although - it is kind of, uh, bad, you know? We were doing one of the surveys, and a lot of the freshwater species are disappearing pretty fast, even in the areas that are still mostly fresh. There's brackish-adapted species that are moving in, and if they can tolerate both, they both totally dominate the area. Lots of invasive species, we noted 'em all down for the rangers. Did some water quality samples too, and the mercury and phosphorus is up again.
Also, alligators. Those guys are gonna survive the apocalypse.
[Pulling a face, Cal leans back against the side of the Terrajack.]
This is kind of depressing, huh? But that's what Sea Change is for in the first place. Finding out what things are like, then working out how to fix that shit.
[They stop short.]
...Sea Change. Seeing change. Oh my god I just got the pun. I'm too old for this shit.
[And Cal just drops their head in their hands.]
Day 4: Kissimmee, Florida
[A video taken at night. There are fires in the background, people, strange vehicles of all shapes and sizes; Cal is clearly holding the camera themself.]
Hola! There's a big-ass camp just outside the city here that a lot of the Sea Changers are using, and there's usually not so many of us here in one place, but the Mars launch earlier was a pretty cool sight. So, I'm gonna give you a tour!
[The camera moves (slightly dizzyingly, Cal clearly not being a professional film crew), then focuses again on what's apparently the Terrajack, going by the painted name on the side. It looks very much like a yacht, only with wheels; the sails are folded for the night.]
Home sweet home for the next three and a bit weeks. This is the Terrajack! Can't show you the sails or anything right now, so I'll do that next time I do a daytime vlog, but isn't she pretty? Reclaimed wood, lots of cork and stuff on the inside, which is renewable and super light. Sun cabin at the stern end, uses solar glass so we get a nice battery boost during the day.
[They zoom in; there's indeed a nice little cabin entirely made of coloured glass.]
Solar arrays on the deck at the front, you've seen those from my first vlog. That's also our garden and rainwater collectors, and we have stores below deck. Rice and beans for our main staples, they last ages without needing refrigeration.
[Turning the camera again, this time, Cal focuses on two women and a preteen girl sitting at one of the campfires. They spot the camera and wave.]
My fellow Terrajackers - my daughter Sadie and her wife Rose, and their daughter Ciela. Sadie's the main navigator, Rose comes up with the program, although me and Sadie have input too, and Ciela's given some good suggestions as well.
[One of the women (Rose, apparently) laughs, holding up a tablet with an elaborate map, calling out, "It's a full time job!" Cal gives her a thumbs up from behind the camera.]
Ciela is learning as much as she can, and my job is supplies, mostly! I'm good at logistics and stuff. And making the vlogs, which is more for like. Life on the road, I guess, instead of the main doco. We're all doing the exploration stuff at the stops, and we're all doing filming for the doco, and I guess this is an extra.
So, these are some of the others!
[This time, the camera moves to take in the others around the fire, each wave or nod or smile at the camera as they're introduced.]
Brin and Loa - they have these bike-pulled trailers, pretty neat. Kess and - I'm totally sorry, what was -? Jax, right - and their kids, they're using a solar cabin and are doing the full diagonal up to Alaska, which is gonna be interesting as hell. Liam's going solo and retro, going for a horse-drawn buggy.
[Liam gives an exaggerated shrug, holding up both hands. "I'm not going solo, Epona's my team mate!" Cal gives an apologetic laugh from behind the camera.]
Yeah, sorry. Okay, Liam and Epona are going retro, then. I get that reference. And Shell and Mateo and their son Gael, who's nine and totally heart-eyeing our Ciela, they're using solar and wind, except they're using turbines to power an engine, not a sail.
[Gael ducks his head; Mateo laughs and ruffles his hair. Music starts up somewhere nearby, the camera blurs a little as Cal turns.]
Oh, sweet. Someone's starting up a gig, so I'm gonna go get some food and go listen. Later!
Day 6: Somewhere in Alabama
[Not so much a vlog as an impromptu performance. The camera is focused on the green green grass, and from behind the camera, Cal sings along to Sweet Home Alabama.]
[At the end, they turn the camera back around; they look windblown.]
I mean, we're in Alabama. I don't even like the song that much, but when you feel the spirit, you gotta, y'know?
What's Watergate, anyway?
[They shrug, brushing some windswept hair out of their face with one hand.]
We're doing transit, mostly. Just did one of our stops in Ocmulgee, that's in Georgia, and now we're going to the Freedom Riders monument. I actually remember when that got added to the list, I was a teenager at the time. President Obama, one of the okay ones.
It's weird, you know? Like that there was a time when there was segregation and slavery and just - I mean, people like me wouldn't even exist. Well, like, we did, but it wasn't pretty.
[A shrug, and finally giving up and yanking their hair into a messy ponytail to keep it from blowing all over.]
Weird trade off, though. Like back when I was a kid, the seas were much lower, it was cooler, there were less storms and fires and stuff, the Inundation hadn't happened. But there was also seriously gross racism and homophobia and shit. It's like when the land was good and safe, the people were terrible, and now that the land isn't safe any more, we're nicer. We gotta stick together, y'know?
Anyway. Sweet home Alabama and all that stuff. God, this wind is ridic!
Day 9: Lafayette, Louisiana
[A rare video from inside the Terrajack! The camera is briefly obscured, then Cal can be seen sitting back against their bunk, Ciela nestled against their side. It's mostly dark, the video illuminated by a wall-mounted lamp.]
Almost at the one third point! We're most of the way through the southeast, next is Texas, which is basically a country in and of itself and indeed almost was, and then there's the southwest, which is going to be super different. We've just done our stop at New Orleans, did another dive there, but there's storms for tonight and it's not safe there, so we went more inland to Lafayette. Can you hear it?
[Cal holds one finger to their lips, and indeed, the sounds of the storm outside can be heard, the Terrajack creaking.]
I mean, it's still pretty low - all of Louisiana is - but it's still twenty-six feet above sea level instead of New Orleans, which is - um, not.
It was super eerie, though. Like the Everglades were weird, seeing the trees underwater. But New Orleans was a city, you know? It was this whole... place where people lived and worked and everything. It's just so stupid. Like there was this storm, Katrina, when I was like three? That nearly destroyed it, and that was before the Inundation. And they still didn't do anything about it?
[They shrug helplessly, then wince as the Terrajack rocks visibly. Cal turns their head as a door creaks; a voice speaks indistinctly.]
Okay, gotta go help bail out the pumps, later!
[They drop a kiss on Ciela's forehead, and the camera switches off.]
Day 12: Glen Rose, Texas
[Cal waves for the camera, back atop the deck. The sky behind them is huge and vast and blue; there are no clouds.]
Ayyy, we're in Texas! We lost a few days 'cause of the storms, but it's cleared off and we're back on the road. Got a few stops here - Fossil Rim Sanctuary, which is today's, Big Bend, and Sierra de Guadalupe, which is a combined one with Carlsbad, which is technically in Nuevo Mexico. Didn't get the permit for Lechuguilla, but that's okay. It's really fragile.
[...A shifty expression.]
We're also going to Six Flags Over Texas, which is allegedly for Ciela but totally for me. 'Cause I might be an old fart but that doesn't mean I'm gonna be boring. Gotta go fast!
Anyway. Glen Rose, that's the town we're in, is an interesting place, y'know? Like it has Fossil Rim, which is this really cool sanctuary - it started as this ranch and ended up as a kind of zoo, except mid-century they changed business model entirely and made this fantastic naturalistic sanctuary. It's about as close as you can get to a wilderness area while still being protected, so we're gonna do some volunteering there.
And it also has this dinosaur park - except that got in trouble once for faking prints and stuff, including ones that implied that humans and dinosaurs were walking around together. And it even used to have this dodgy-ass creationism museum, legit! So there's this weird combination of actual conservation and paleontology, and. Well. Creationism museum. Young-Earth and everything. Even other creationists were saying it was dodgy af!
[They shrug. Whatcha gonna do?]
Still. Fossil Rim should be good. Then Arlington for Six Flags, Big Bend, then the Guadalupes, and then we're on to the southwest and into the second half of the trip! Later!
Day 16: Big Bend National Park, Texas
[A gorgeous natural setting! Cal has the camera in hand today, and is carrying it with them as they speak; there are cliffs, flowers, the Rio Grande in the background.]
It's gorgeous here. The bluebonnets have come back since the wall was torn down, and the last few surveys are showing a nice steady increase in biodiversity. We didn't actually see them, but there were javelina tracks right near the Terrajack this morning, and we were listening to the animals all night.
[Cal exhales; it catches on the mic.]
I remember that... unfortunately vividly. I was seventeen at the time, and furious I couldn't vote out the Moldy Cheeto until the next year, just becoming politically active. I had been conscious of what had been happening since the 2016 election - kind of had to as a matter of safety, being a mixed queer nonbinary kid, you had to - but I think the wall was the first protest I actually went to?
No, wait, March For Our Lives was first, but the wall was pretty soon after. But that was when things were starting to change, you know? During the Obama years, people were aware but there was this kind of stagnancy, he didn't have control of the houses and things were so 'business as usual' that no one paid any attention. Then the Cheeto got in. It became a matter of life or death - gun control, immigrant rights, climate change.
[They turn the camera now, address it face on. Their expression is serious, gazing intensely at the camera.]
We didn't know what the next years would bring. That we'd end up in deep shit before we found a paddle again. But it was around that time when people started changing, too - that we realised that all these corporations, all these politicians - they didn't want to let go of the power they had. That the world was going to change, was already changing, even while they were trying to keep what power they had. They had no idea how strong people can be when we're fighting for our lives.
[A shake of the head.]
Well, I don't know. That was fifty years ago. The world did change, and that was because of us, both the bad and the good. You don't know what you're capable of until you have to do it.
[Cal laughs; turns the camera back around to the view, is silent for a moment.]
Well, we're at the halfway point. If you can't get all introspective and shit then, when can you, right?
Day 18: White Sands National Monument, Nuevo Mexico
Yo. Check out these sands!
[Indeed, behind Cal are some blindingly white dunes, stretching off into the distance with a haze of darker, more distant mountains behind them. Cal has a wide-brimmed, floppy hat on; there's a little solar charger tucked into the brim like a flower.]
So, we're here in - don't fall over in shock - White Sands National Monument. It's gypsum crystals! Hella cool, they don't retain heat like quartz sand does so you can walk on it barefoot even in summer, and it's nice and cool. See?
[Cal points downwards, and whoever is filming aims the camera down; indeed, their feet are bare, just an anklet decorating one ankle. And back up again!]
Anyway. Double stop here - we're checking out the sands themselves, of course, but we're also going to the Trinity Peace Museum, which is an anti-nuke retrospective kind of thing. Nature and history stops. Ha, this is where - the southwest, I mean - this is where we really need to narrow down our stop choices, because there are so many. Like there's twenty-seven national monuments in Nuevo Mexico alone, and that's not even getting into the rest of the region!
We're actually going to wiggle up for a bit instead of going straight across, too - heading up to Chaco Culture historic park, then up into Colorado for the Rockies and the Florrisant Formation. Straight shot across northern Utah without seeing the salt flats, we don't have any stopping permits for Smith-Young Republic and they're iffy at border control. Into Nevada for Black Rock Desert, then down south to Tule Springs, then down to Mead Lakebed Park.
[A pause to catch their breath. Also, to wipe their forehead, it's hot today. Well. It's hot every day.]
Okay, let's see. From there into Arizona, following the river across to the Grand Canyon. Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, Saguaro - both halves, staying in Tucson - and then, then we start heading west again, up into Death Valley... uh, Magic Kingdom, Carrizo Plain, where you can actually see part of the San Andreas fault, then up route 1, the most gorgeous road on the planet, and home!
[Cal actually pumps their fists in the air at that.]
And then we sleep for a literal month, because sometimes adventures need a rest at the end. Still, there's a long way to go before that - we have twelve days left, so we'd better get cracking to the museum before we stop for the night. Later!
Day 20: Near Colorado Springs, Colorado
[A very different environment! The Terrajack is set up with a lush forest of trees behind it, and beyond them, the southern Rockies, the bright red of the lower slopes sharp against dark green. The sun is just starting to set, staining the rocks red. Cal waves, perched back atop the main deck.]
At the two thirds mark! We had our stop at Florrisant Formation today, and poking around the mountains; tomorrow we're going to drive the entire day to get across Utah. Overnight camping in the desert, and then...
[They grin wildly, and get out... a helmet?]
Then, on the twenty-second, we're taking part in a race! See, the playa of Black Rock Desert is, like, one of the flattest environments in the country. They've set land speed records, they've tested rockets here. Now, we're not going to be hitting over twelve hundred miles an hour, but we are going to be taking part in a land sail race! Some Sea Changers, some others coming in especially, combination of travel vehicles like the Terrajack and some actual sports ones that will one hundred percent kick our asses, either way, it's gonna be fun!
Anyway. It'll be cool. We're spending the entire day in the desert before setting off, since we have a nine-hour sail down south the day after. Still, tomorrow's going to be the real marathon. Gonna get an early night tonight, since we're leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow!
Day 22: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
[There's a sense of pageantry in the air. Similar to the camp in Florida, a gathering has arisen, this time out of the desert. Fires and camp sites dot the flat surface, vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and the dark skies are alight with stars. Cal looks pleased with themself, holding up a carved wooden disc.]
Check this shit out. We placed in the large-scale vehicle category! Gonna put it on the dashboard in the cabin!
[Ciela is in the shot; Cal hands her the medal and off she trots.]
But yeah, it's good, being able to hang out with the other Sea Changers, it's a bit Burning Man here - radical self-expression, leave-no-trace, everyone has an amazing story.
They've been doing some incredible stuff, you know? One group is going between farm co-ops and volunteering, there's one planting trees in every location, there's one installing solar panels and turbines in poor towns. Another is specifically focusing on Black history sites and is making a doco for Black History Month. A lot of Native stories. I've already ordered a copy of the doco someone is making for America's queer history in the south. Man, ours seems all over the place in comparison.
Still, it's the experience that counts. There's no such thing as useless education. We've got to help out, we've got to learn. Does it really matter that we don't have a solid narrative?
[A shrug. Cal is still smiling, a thoughtful expression on their face.]
We're reaching the home stretch, now. Another day in Nevada, then on to Arizona then California. Actually, if we wanted to, we could go straight home - it'd actually be faster to drive back to San Francisco than it'll be to drive to Tule Springs tomorrow, and we've technically done ten stops. At this point, we've worked out how to work well as a team, how to handle our stops, and the rest is just enjoying the journey. If it's just about finishing the challenge, I could be in my own bed tomorrow.
[They prop their chin in one hand and hums.]
But it's been good, yeah? Seeing the country, seeing what it's made up of. Helping people. Leaving no trace but kindness. That's what it's about, isn't it?
[Ciela pops back into frame, and stretches up to drop a fabric flower crown on their grandparent's head. Cal laughs, and lets Ciela take their hand and lead them off. There's a chuckle from behind the camera, and it switches off.]
Day 23: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
[The morning after. The desert is sleeping, the sky streaked with pinks and yellows; it's still and quiet. Cal is on the deck of the Terrajack, bundled up in a blanket to ward off the early morning desert chill, looking thoughtful. The camera is propped up on one of the boxes.]
Mm... bit of a family conference last night. Short version is, it's time to go home. In a couple hours, we'll set out, spend some time at Tahoe for lunch, and get in tonight.
What it comes down to is, we're just doing this for the journey now, and, well - we're a bit homesick. Like, I'd love to visit Arizona and southern California! But the thing is, we have the Terrajack now. We know we have that freedom, that opportunity, whenever we want. So we're going to go home, relax, and then think about what we can do next.
There are so many amazing people in this world, y'know? So many people who have done fantastic things. And more to the point, there's so many people who could do amazing things if only they had the opportunity.
So, that's what we're gonna do. We're privileged enough to be able to Sea Change. We have to use that privilege responsibly, to use it to help enable others, or else we're just as bad as the fuckers who caused the Inundation.
[Cal shakes their head. The medal from the race is still in their hands; they rub the surface of it.]
Races across the desert. It's kind of like those rich kids in the seventeenth and eighteenth century who went on a Grand Tour across Europe. Some of the groups we talked to last night, they're still travelling, but they're making changes while they do. If we're gonna do something good with the privilege we have, we've gotta rethink our approach. We've been given an opportunity. What can we do with it?
[There's a pensive silence, then Cal reaches forward and switches off the camera.]
Day 23: San Francisco, California
[The video earlier that day was dawn; now it's dusk. To the left: the bay, surrounded by glitter; to the right, the sun sinking into the Pacific. Ahead rises the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Terrajack making a straight shot down it towards the city.]
[The greenery of the Presidio, the mighty sea wall. The city beyond that, the Pyramid wreathed in its greenery. Off to the left, the Bay Bridge to Oakland is lit up as well.]
[The camera switches off.]
[Back on. Market Street, lined with night markets, with trees, with people and humanity. Down the middle, a stream meanders; on either side is a single lane for vehicles. The Terrajack moves down one of these now.]
[On again, one last time; a house, a veranda, greenery. Sadie is watering the plants; Ciela is crosslegged next to Cal, sorting through three weeks worth of mail. Cal smiles at the camera.]
Home sweet home.
Still, this is just the start. We have so much more to do. Tonight, we'll rest; tomorrow, we'll get started.
In the words of those immortal Old Wise Ones, William and Theodore - be excellent to each other, and good night.
[And the camera switches off.]