In my two years working for the Curry Coastal Pilot, I thought I had seen it all.
Rebecca Page and Jason Blanton are joined by their pet potbelly pig Petunia as they travel across the Chetco River bridge Thursday. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
With Brookings located on Highway 101 – along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world – it is inevitable that we get regular visitors stopping by while they are pursuing some kind of life-changing trip.
Summers in Brookings bring cyclists by the hundreds, riding the coast from Canada to Mexico. Car clubs with vehicles from Model Ts to Ferraris drive through almost daily. Hikers and transients, traveling musicians and circuses have all passed by the Pilot’s front-row location.And then there are those who walk (or bike or ride) with a cause.
On Monday I met Geordi, a recovering alcoholic who is working through his addictions by walking from Canada to Mexico. Geordi doesn’t use a last name, he said. Like all of his worldly goods, he left it behind in his past life.
Geordi sees a pair of challenges to his recovery. First is the physical challenge of the isolation and the weather of the Pacific Northwest. There are long stretches where there is no food to be had nor sheltered place to sleep.
“I’ve almost given up and gone back a couple times,” he said of the physical strain.
But now, the blisters have turned to calluses and, wearing his third pair of boots, Geordi continues.
The southern portion will be tougher, he said. Once into the big cities in California, Geordi expects a new test – a test of his will over his addiction.
Few people would think to ask Geordi about his travels. His entirely “normal” appearance catches little attention. Geordi visited the Pilot when he arrived in town, eager to spread the word that people can find healing and peace through meditation. Otherwise he was just another hiker taking in the scenery.
For other wanderers, their presence announces itself and invites questions.
Pilot Publisher Charles Kocher came to me Thursday, saying, “I got a call that there’s a woman with a pig in a stroller walking across the country.”
“OK,” I replied.
What else could I say?
It is surprisingly difficult to find a pig in a stroller in Brookings.
I started at Dairy Queen. After all, there is only one bridge out of town, and to get to it, the pig had to pass by the DQ.
There I found witnesses.
“I saw them up in Bandon,” said one customer, a tourist from California.
“My boyfriend saw them yesterday,” one of the employees said.
I finally caught up with the group at McDonald’s on Chetco Avenue.
Petunia, the potbelly pig, was riding in luxury on a pillow in a large bicycle trailer/stroller, pushed by Rebecca Page, 36, and Jason Blanton, 34, of Cannon Beach, who are walking to Virginia.
“We want to touch our toes in both oceans,” Page said.
That trip may take as long as a year.
The trio is hiking to the East Coast to live their lives in memory of Blanton’s 39-year-old cousin, who recently died of cancer.
People live their lives with plans to chase their dreams tomorrow, or after they retire, Blanton said.
“Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come,” he said.
The pair decided to make their tomorrow today, and hit the road with Petunia.
“We brought her because we couldn’t find anyone willing to pigsit for a year,” Page said.
Their plan is to travel down Highway 101 to San Francisco, then head east on Interstate 50, then south to Tennessee and Virgina, Blanton said.
The stroller-riding pig isn’t the only head-turning sight to visit Brookings.
In January 2009, Marcelo da Luz hummed through town in a spaceship – or at least a solar-powered car with Formula One/UFO aspirations. The odd vehicle stopped people in their tracks.
Two months later, in March 2009, Carol Cruise, a one-legged woman with a three-legged dog hiked through town, planting cross-markers every mile on her walk around the perimeter of the continental U.S. She did so to prove to doctors she could do more than they said she could, and to give hope to others with similar disabilities.
Then in April 2009 a much faster set of visitors arrived, er, paused, while coming close to setting Highway 101 speed records.
A Canadian car club flashed through town in April 2009, but not fast enough to escape local law enforcement.
A Canadian car club with rides including Maseratis, a Lamborghini, Ferraris and Corvettes tore through Brookings at speeds up to 80 mph, leaving behind a few traffic fines before making their way out of the county.
Then this April there was Bill and Amarins Harrison, who rode into town on a bicycle built for five. The couple was travelling from Kentucky to Alaska with three children, age 2, 4 and 6, on their 18-foot long bicycle.
Keep your eyes open. Who knows what will find its way to Brookings next.