Our three month “avoid winter at all costs” stay in California is coming to an end. We’re leaving for our first major cross-country excursion of the year on Monday.
I knew we’d like California, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as we have. Here are some of the things I’ll miss the most… and least:
Pro: Friends. We’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with friends, which has been awesome. That includes frequent runs (and post-run drinks) with Shacky and Vanessa, running races with Pablo and Krista, and feeding my inner shoe geek with long discussions about the state of the industry with Jon. We’ve also met a ton of super cool people.
Con: Traffic. This really just pertains to the metro Los Angeles area. We’ve been to every major metropolitan area in the US, and I can safely say LA has the worst traffic. It’s entirely possible to sit in gridlock for four hours anywhere within a fifty mile radius of the city.
Pro: Mountains. I never expected California to have such spectacular mountain running. I’ve run in the northern Sierra Nevadas at Western States, but the Southern California mountains were a surprise. We had access to five or six excellent mountain trails within 30 minutes of our campground outside San Diego, and the mountains surrounding LA were shockingly rugged. The Los Pinos trail was humbling and Mount Baldy hit 10,000 feet+. This stuff rivals Colorado.
Con: Lack of public restrooms. It’s as bad as Europe. I’m glad I’m an ultrarunner that has developed the ability to go anywhere.
Pro: Attitude. Californians have a laid back detachedness. The people are friendly and accepting, but tend to keep to themselves. Most people are pretty liberal and are happy to let you do your own thing. There’s not a lot of judgmental cliquishness. It’s less like middle school and more like college.
Con: The ominous threat of major earthquakes. This sort of freaked me out when we first arrived. I routinely imagined scenarios where we’d be rumbled back to the stone age in an Armageddon-type catastrophe. I avoided parking near overpasses. I hoarded water. I sharpened my hatchet (you know, in case the new society that emerged from the smoldering wreckage needed someone adept at chopping thin sticks and kindling). After a few weeks, I chilled out.
Pro: The Pacific Ocean. It puts Lake Michigan to shame.
Con: Gas prices. Gas is expensive everywhere… but California is ridiculous. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if we weren’t driving a Sherman tank. I was relieved to get to Texas where gas was sold for the rock-bottom price of $3.50/ gallon.
Pro: Local “flavor.” California is the only place we’ve visited where the homeless don’t actively ask for money. Every homeless person I encountered either passively held a sign, struck up a conversation without asking for anything, or asked for cigarettes. It was equally common to be approached in parking lots by well-dressed people asking to spare some change. They always had an outlandish story explaining why they were stranded in the Lowe’s parking lot and needed gas money to get home to their small children, which were presumably left alone. They were always itching their arms for some reason…
Con: Poison oak. I still don’t know exactly what it looks like. And I’m still itching from the last encounter… two weeks ago.
Pro: Dry heat. My current side trip has taken me to Austin and Fort Worth Texas, Wichita Kansas, and Oklahoma City. The temperature is roughly the same as San Diego… except for the damn humidity. I’m not looking forward to the late spring/early summer humidity in the Midwest and East Coast. I’ll miss the arid air of the Southwest and Southern California.
I’m going to miss you, California…