By Jeanette Scarsdale Kitsap Sun
BREMERTON — Nineteen-year-old Mark Chavez will be riding his longboard 30 miles a day for the next year.
At least, that’s what he needs to do if he’s going to accomplish his goal of getting from Bremerton to Maine, a 6,000-mile trip he’s taking on his longboard to promote peace, nonviolence and compassion.
The 2009 Olympic High School grad is launching his trip on Saturday from Evergreen Park in Bremerton. With only a backpack, longboard and helmet, Chavez will take to the highways and byways on his board.
From Bremerton, he’ll head south. A friend will accompany him on the first few days of the trip. But as he aims toward Oregon and California, then eventually east toward Texas and Florida and north toward New York and Maine, he’ll be longboarding solo. He plans to speak to politicians and college students along the way about creating a peaceful society.
The idea for the trip came after moving to Colorado with his brother following high school graduation. During a conversation with a roommate, a quote by John Lennon came up.
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
After the conversation, Chavez decided to combine his desire to create peace in the world with his love of longboarding, which he’s done for the last eight years. He’s been planning his “Pushing for Peace” trip ever since.
When he came home for Christmas, he told his family about his plans. While they were initially skeptical, they soon rallied behind him and helped him gather the supplies he’ll be taking with him.
“He’s tough,” said his father, Rick. “He’s given it a lot of thought.”
Though he’ll be solo most of the way with few comforts, Rick Chavez said his son is intelligent enough to make it on his own.
“I’m not too worried,” he said.
On the 6,000-mile trip his backpack will hold a single-man tent, sleeping bag, camping stove and mess kit, water purifier, sleeping pad, a change of clothes, personal items, a map and extra bearings for his board, adding about 40 pounds to his back.
He expects to end his trip in Maine next August. He’s hoping his trip will end with minimal run-ins with the law.
“You can get a speeding ticket on a longboard,” Chavez said. “I figure I’ll probably get arrested.”
While the Washington State Department of Transportation provided him with a letter acknowledging the legitimacy of his trip, once he crosses state lines he may be ticketed for skating on highways or, if he gets fast enough, speeding.
“Hopefully along the way, it’s one of those things where they’ll be understanding,” he said.
Chavez believes that while people are willing to discuss issues and problems, few are willing to take action.
He often wonders what life would be like had civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. not taken action for the causes they believed in and made lasting changes.
“I know it’s not going to happen in a year,” he said. “But hopefully it’ll be a step in the right direction.”