DOWNTOWN — It took Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins more than two months and roughly 1,800 miles to ride from Vancouver to their hometown of Santa Monica, taking with them two bikes, a few bags and half a dozen jars containing a murky mixture of plankton, water and some colorful bits of plastic.
And they aren’t done with their trip just yet.
After three-day rest, the newly-married couple plan to set out on the last leg of the nearly 2,000 mile trip down the West Coast to preach about the dangers of plastics in the ocean to marine life and ultimately humans, leaving Saturday morning for a relatively short trip to the U.S. border.
“We didn’t do much training going in so I was a little concerned with that aspect of it,” Cummins, a native Santa Monican, said. “We got in shape really fast, going between 30 and 70 miles a day, so it was very manageable.”
Both marine biology experts at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the couple began the journey called “Junk Ride 2009” in early April, stopping in about 17 cities where they gave presentations to the public about the environmental impact of plastic and met with city officials and legislators about enacting bans that would curb its use.
They brought with them jars containing samples collected from the North Pacific Gyre, a giant whirlpool of trash sitting about 200 miles off the coast of Japan, commonly referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” About 40 of the 10-ounce bottles were handed out throughout the trip, including to the mayors of Portland and San Francisco.
Cummins said the threats of plastic goes beyond marine life to reach humans who consume fish that contain plastic. A sample of her blood was taken during the trip to assess the level of certain chemicals. The results are being held until the couple can come up with the $4,000 cost to pay for the test, having raised about half that amount so far.
“We are trying to show the human health connection to the plastic debris issue,” she said.
The couple plan to leave Saturday at 7 a.m. for Long Beach where they are scheduled to give a talk at the International Surf Day before heading another 30 miles to Dana Point. The final 80 miles to Tijuana will be spread out over the next seven days, concluding on June 27.
Several dozen riders are expected to join the final portion of the trip.
There are two moments that stand out to Cummins when recalling the past two months on the road, the first of which was in Sacramento where the couple was allowed to display a “Junk Raft” made out of 15,000 plastic bottles on the steps of the state capitol.
Eriksen made and sailed the raft 4,000 miles from Hawaii to Los Angeles last summer, gathering samples along the way. A friend brought in the junk raft to Sacramento and helped reconstruct it.
The raft attracted numerous passersby, including legislators.
The other significant moment was the couple’s wedding ceremony at the Treebones resort in Big Sur about a week ago.
Pacific Grove Councilwoman Deborah Lindsay offered to officiate the ceremony when she met Eriksen and Cummins in Monterey, driving down to Big Sur.
They wed in front of a small audience consisting of just Lindsay and her husband, who doubled as photographer.
It was a fitting time and place for the couple, who got engaged a year ago out near the gyre with a ring made out of a fishing net.
“It was the perfect setting and perfect cap on the story of our relationship,” Cummins said.