Water is all around us. As humans, we are comprised of 70 percent of the precious liquid. The oceans are enormous. Strange, then, that two Dutch bicyclists have dedicated, so far, nearly four months of their lives to raising awareness for water conservation through an international bike ride, for several more years to come.
Their method may seem absurd to some. Joost Notenboom, 28, and Michiel Roodenburg, 25, stopped by Cal State Fullerton on Thursday to spread word of their cause.
â€œWeâ€™re on a bit of a bike ride. Weâ€™re doing about 30,000 km down from the tip of Alaska to the tip of Argentina on our beautiful bamboo bikes,â€ said Notenboom.
The purpose of their trip is not only to spread awareness of water conservation, but upon arrival in Central and South Americas, to set up 14 separate projects, such as modernizing agricultural development in Third World countries or installing welling systems to provide water for those in need.
â€œWater is basically the first stepping stone to the ladder of development,â€ Notenboom said.
Under the moniker â€œCycle for Water,â€ the two speak about not just the water people drink or use to shower, but on being informed of the water used to produce everyday items such as chocolate or T-shirts, for example, the 4,500 liters of water used to make one steak.
â€œShower with a friend! The people in the Humboldt County apparently very much enjoy that,â€ Notenboom said, drawing knowing laughs from his audience. â€œShowering with a friend is cool, but itâ€™s not going to put a really big dent in water use.â€
Both Notenboom and Roodenburg followed similar paths in life that drew them together. Before they met, they had both spent time in different parts in Africa at different points in their lives. Both witnessed the effects of a lack of water on societies. It wasnâ€™t until graduate school that they met and went to Iran together for research.
While in the middle of the desert, they met a French man at a hostel who arrived on bike, covered in dust and sweat. He was on a bicycle trip through Asia to the Middle East, and his stories about his travels inspired the two of them immensely, Roodenburg more so than Notenboom.
The final push came in November of last year when Roodenburg showed Notenboom the story of Dominic Gill of the Take a Seat documentary in which he traveled from Alaska to South America on a tandem bicycle, picking up nearly 300 people to ride on the back seat as he went. Within minutes of hearing this story, Notenboom was sold. They immediately began formulating their plan that combined their graduate research on water and their love and interest in cycling.
â€œWe didnâ€™t have any training before we went on our little trip. Weâ€™re Dutch. We know how to ride a bike; you pick it up early on. (When we arrived), we were just standing there, â€˜OK, now weâ€™re going to cycle 30,000 km. How are we going to do this?â€™â€ Notenboom said. â€œI didnâ€™t know how to change a tire. I didnâ€™t know how to change a spoke. We just started. After a couple of days of pedaling â€“ a couple of horrible days, actually â€“ we got into the rhythm of things.â€
Along the way, the two men met many cyclists throughout Alaska, the Yukon and the northwest states. A 75-year-old man, rough around the edges, rode with them for a day. A trucker picked them up when they had their first flat tire in the middle of nowhere on a gravel road, pummeled by mosquitoes.
â€œHe was very proud to be from Alaska, very proud of Sarah Palin, and he talked about things Alaska was famous for exporting, like oil and lumber,â€ Roodenburg said. â€œHe asked us what Netherlands is famous for, and I said â€˜wooden clogs, tulips and gay marriage.â€™ The guy just looked at us like, â€˜What, youâ€™re a bunch of â€“â€™ so we changed the subject pretty quickly.â€
They slept in tents on the side of the road at night. They ate oatmeal and drank coffee in the morning and grilled hot dogs on the barbecue in the evening.
â€œWe get a little grumpy when we ride through the cities. It changes in a couple ways, like camping. Up north you can just camp in a bush, but here in cities, that changes,â€ Notenboom said.
On their stop at CSUF, the men spoke to a small crowd in the Humanities Student Lounge, an event set up by the Center for Sustainability.
â€œWe liked their story. That, mixed with the fact that Iâ€™m a big fan of cycling. Iâ€™d love to (go on a trip like them),â€ said John Marquez, 23, graduate assistant at the Center. â€œIn fact, when I graduated from Cal State Long Beach, I wanted to do a cross-country trip that never manifested, but Iâ€™m going to ask them if they need a riding partner to get down to San Diego.â€
Notenboom and Roodenburg are only a quarter of the way done with their extensive bicycle trip, but they remain positive and excited for each day handed to them.
â€œI canâ€™t stop smiling since I started this trip. Iâ€™m so happy. Itâ€™s just beautiful,â€ Roodenburg said, thinking back on the impressive scenery he has seen and the inspirational people he has met along the way.
â€œWe learned that if you take it one day at a time, and one hill at a time, and one mile at a time, then this big trip becomes totally manageable,â€ Notenboom said. â€œI think thatâ€™s also true for a lot of these water issues. Taken together, they seem very daunting, totally insurmountable. But if you break them up, then these issues become more manageable and solvable.â€