By Olivia Cavanagh, YELP participant
When I and my best friend Anna set out on our car-free road trip down the Oregon and California coast everyone had a warning for us, from grandmothers to border guards, concerned about two 18 year old girls travelling by bicycle.
Anna and I, both part of Sierra Club BC’s Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP) had spent many hours dreaming up this carbon neutral adventure. Planning and daydreaming about the miles of sand dunes and dune buggies, lighthouses, small towns, and the redwood forest, kept us going through writing our final exams and preparing to leave high school. We would not let anyone talk us out of our adventure, and the farther we cycled down the coast, the more I believe that nobody should discourage anyone from travelling by bicycle. Families, couples, nine year olds, and solo young women all have proven how empowering cycle touring is. I can’t deny there were sketchy times while biking down shoulder-less highways, encountering terrible drivers or cyclist-hating dogs, but with common sense, we avoided unsavory trouble.
The community of people to meet ‘on the road’ are an inspiring bunch, who enjoy sharing meals, stories and secrets to avoiding the dreaded saddle sore. Some people you might only meet for an hour and never see again, others you might leap frog for a whole week. One night we had a 15 person cycle tour sleepover at a community centre with a massive lasagna dinner.
It is always a pleasant surprise to roll into town (to the grocery store of course) and find another bike outside fully loaded with panniers and camping gear.
My last stop on my journey was an avocado farm southeast of Santa Cruz. I was WWOOFFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) digging and weeding in exchange for room and board.
I learned a lot about the work that goes into raising these delicious fruit from my WWOOF host and owner of the farm; Ken. When Ken started the orchard 20 years ago he dreamed of producing 100,000 avocados per year, snf with close to 200 trees he is on his way there. Unfortunately, avocado trees are easily stressed and because California has endured a drought for the past 4 years, the orchard is at risk.
On the farm we try to start work early to avoid blistering midday heat. Ken explained how the ‘high heat day’ count has gone from five per year to 85 per year, conditions which put the avocado trees in a weakened state. Coupled with the heavy winter storms from the predicted El Nino, Ken worries his orchard will be literally washed away down into the ravine at the bottom of the property.
After learning through YELP about the effects of climate change, attending and leading actions, and hoping people will wake up before they are facing trouble, it is scary to experience the actuality of severe water shortage. Only 1733 km from home and climate change is no longer a foreign idea but a reality everyday people, farmers, and animals have to live with.