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Canadian Cyclists Visit Monterey Bay On Their Way to Cancun

The Sierra Youth Coalition (SYC) is a Canada wide youth environmental organization. Since its inception in 1996, SYC has worked extensively toward raising awareness around critical social and environmental issues. This summer SYC has its sights set on the upcoming World Trade Organization negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

Cyclists on the "Deconstructing Dinner: Caravan to Cancun" stopped in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Salinas before spending a couple of days in Cambria, Nipomo, and Isla Vista. They took the time to visit various community projects in the Monterey Bay area including the Homeless Garden Project and Free Radio 96.3fm in Santa Cruz and ¡Vote!, an organization dedicated to the support and organization of migrant farm workers in Salinas.

The SYC's Deconstructing Dinner campaign aims to provide information dissemination around the complexities of the WTO Trade Negotiations to communities across North America with a specific focus around trade, agriculture, and migrant farm workers.

Audio interview with Amy and Melissa of the Caravan to Cancun (1/2hr mp3)
Santa Cruz, Monterey via Salinas, Cambria, Nipomo, and Isla Vista

"OK everybody, let's just keep moving, 'cause we don't wanna get busted by the cops tonight."
-Aeon, to eighteen tired cyclists, late at night, in the woods.

BARTed out of San Fran, fresh off of three days of city living, in the company of two new deconstructors, Sonia and Steve. By the end of the day we had also picked up Stone, an ex-Monsanto exec who had decided to spend his severance package biking around the States, and Valgier, a brazilian biodiesel guru and a master of the free lunch.

Santa Cruz was a beautiful city - we met Cat, a volunteer for the homeless garden project there - she gave us veggies and the garden low-down: CSA, skillshare, education and experience for participants. We hear the cost of living in Santa Cruz is possibly the highest in the US - she lives with her family in an RV behind the garden. We also had a half-hour radio show with Vinny on his pirate station - freak radio - a call-in show. Mel's favorite call: "Do you have anything you'd like to say about being a vegetarian?" We spent the night never-you-mind exactly where, in the open air by the fire with some really beautiful folks singing and chatting.

In Santa Cruz we temporarily lost Jean-Marc and Jen, who stayed with Valgier to check out the farmer's market. All three would later go to Selinas, and eventually they all met up with us at Kirk Creek campground.

The next couple of days were absolutely crazy. While one group of dedicated cyclists made their way along the coast to Monterey, a few of us piled into Sally and drove inland to Selinas to check out ¡Vote! - an organisation dedicated to the support and organisation of the migrant farm workers in the area. The place was inspiring; and we learned some of the ins and outs of the business. What was most revelatory was the discovery of the contractors - farmers and agribusinesses don't hire illegal workers directly, instead they let a contractor, often a former migrant worker himself, take the risk and they hire him to provide their workforce. Of course this opens up all kinds of possibilities for abuse and complications.

We were especially excited to learn that every morning, thousands of workers converged on the local safeway parking at 4am lot to pile into the contractors buses and headout to the fields. So we formulated a plan. The next morning we woke up at (ugh) five in the morning - late! and rushed out down the street. There were still the last, most senior workers there, sipping coffee from vendors and chatting. Many of the woman wore head coverings, gloves, and masks to protect themselves. We distributed flyers for ¡Vote!; the responses surprised us - many people didn't know about ¡Vote! but also weren't interested - they didn't want to pay union dues and didn;t have the time or interest to get involved.

We weren't satisfied with merely talking to the workers in the lot and filming them. Together we piled into Sally, and chased one of the busses out of the lot and for a half-hour down the freeway and into the strawberry fields. We filmed the workers and talked to them here, checked out the pesticide spraying apparatus, and discovered that the strawberries were being packaged with french/english labels - clearly destined for Canada.

Meanwhile the crew at Monterey whiled their way down the coast. We eventually all converged at Kirk Creek campground for the night - where some very generous folks shared there site with us when we discovered the place was full up. The next couple days proceeded at a more relaxed pace. We stopped in Cambria and had an excellent meal provided by our host, Sandi, and stayed in a nice little place up the road called Ocean Pines - where we debriefed and showed some of the video from Selinas. The next day took us to Nipomo, where we stayed at Bill's Farm Hostel (Definitely the most eccentric hostel I've ever stayed at). Here we began to lay down the groundwork for Mexico.

The departure from Nipomo was a mist-laden ride through mono-culture farms. We in Sally were fortunate enough to be able to film a helicopter dusting the fields, as is it zoomed in and out over the road, swept under the powerlines, and vanished into the mists where it's thumping could still be heard. It was a long, hill-laden morning, but an easy-going afternoon that included a relaxing beach stop and a "shark" attack when a pod of dolphin's targetted Rosa. Here we are now in Isla Vista, about ten miles out of Santa Barbara, in the college ghetto, relaxing and chilling at the local food co-op and generally having a hell of a good time. Tomorrow we ride to Thousand Oaks, and on Tuesday we arrive in La - only five riding days left to the border!

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