Saturday, March 31, 2012


I set foot in California for the very first time in my life earlier this week and it was just one of those times when you think to yourself, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” California is a place that lives in its own little world, or so I’ve heard it said. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

We all do, really. I am most definitely a product of the Midwest and there’s not anything wrong with that either. It’s because we can’t choose who our parents are or where we live until we get out on our own, and by the time that happens, a great lot of who we are is already ingrained in us.

But no one stays the same and there’s a lot of us left to change and move, and many of us do just that when we get the opportunity. A good friend of mine from high school moved to California after she graduated from OSU and got married (she said the weather made them do it). She and her husband lived there for many years, then moved up to Seattle, where they’ve lived for the last 20 years.

If you recall, I was ready to move to Seattle after the first two days I was there last summer – my first visit to that place, too. I still think I could live there just fine, but I’m certain it won’t happen. My husband’s job is here, and family is here, and our first grandchild is on the way. Here. No way am I moving away from that.

I think I can be content wherever I am and with whatever I have, which I’m convinced is the key to happiness. And the more I travel, though I absolutely love doing it, there really is no place like home.

Here are some observations from my first time in California:

  • Palm trees. It’s always the palm trees that stick out to a Midwesterner, because we don’t see those, except in gigantic pots in the mall center court.

  • Mountains. You SURE as heck don’t see those in Ohio. Not my part of the state anyway. In fact, northwest Ohio is as flat as the Bonneville Salt Flats, which my seatmate on the flight from Chicago to San Diego had never heard of, in spite of being a brilliant brain (I could just tell) on her way to a chemistry symposium. She was just young.

    View from the air, shortly before landing in San Diego

  • The fragrance. I was going to say “smell,” but for some reason that makes it sound like it stinks, which it doesn’t. It actually smells like a greenhouse. All green and herbally and fresh and sometimes sweet. It’s probably because of all the vegetation and flowers blooming everywhere, including citrus. I just have to find out what all those charming little orange and yellow daisy-like flowers are that are blooming all along the side of the roads and up the hills. I could live with that. All the flowers and the smell. Not that Ohio doesn’t smell good, too. It’s just different.

  • Rattlesnakes. As I was checking into the hotel, the desk clerk got a phone call. I heard her say, “Oh no! Do you know where the rattlesnake catcher is?” O. Kay. A rattlesnake was on the driving range, which was across from the parking lot. She cautioned me not to go to the driving range. No problem. I saw a rattlesnake up close and personal once and I’m thinking once is enough.

  • Alien boulders. There are these gigantic boulders that look like something out of a sci-fi movie. You know, like an asteroid exploded all over the mountains or something. I wonder if they’re like icebergs - bigger underground than above. I think they have to be or else they’d roll down the mountain. Weird, but kinda cool at the same time.

  • ATMs at the gas station kiosk. I had to fill up the rental car before returning it and I pulled into an Arco station and noticed right away there was no credit card slot on the pump. There was an ATM where you were supposed to pay with cash or a debit card. No credit! So, for the second time in my life, I used my debit card. It comes in handy sometimes, I guess. Oh, and they had attendants giving free windshield washes while you got gas. When is the last time you had a gas station do that? Nice!

  • Cold nights. Now that was a big surprise. This is southern California, right? I figured it was tropical like Florida. Wrong. Every night when I got back to my hotel room, I immediately went into the bathroom and spent some time with the hair dryer to get warm. I just can’t get over how cold the nights are, and I’m told this is normal. I could probably get used to it, but there’s nothing like a warm summer night when you want to take a late walk and you can do it wearing the same amount of clothing you wore during the day.

  • Traffic. Even out in the rural areas, there are major freeways. I suppose the mountains hamper infrastructure to some extent. It’s darned expensive to blast away mountains to make way for roads, so there are fewer of them than where I live, where the land is mapped out in mile squares. Missed your turn? Just turn left three times and that will put you on the road you missed. Southern California? Can’t do that.

    Succulents at Proven Winners West

  • Way cool plants. Imagine clivias growing in the ground year round. Or all those fabulous succulents like Echeveria, Crassula, or Aeonium. I could go on and on.

  • Way cool homes. Stucco! Tile roofs! Multi-levels! Style!

  • No-grass yards. Well, with all those way cool plants, who needs grass, right? Although it's no secret that I love my grass, I have to remember that southern California also needs to conserve water. This isn't an issue where I live. Northwest Ohio is home to the former Great Black Swamp, which threatens to return whenever we have our spring or otherwise heavy rains.

  • Earthquakes. My host said she experiences an earthquake nearly every time she visits California. I kept waiting for one, but all was quiet on the Western front. I think Californians like it that way.

  • Randomness. As I was sitting in the San Francisco airport, a young man flew by on a skateboard. Really. In California, that just seemed normal.


Brent Kryda said...

The cold nights tend to go away during the summer months, but they will still be noticeably cooler than the daytime highs, often by twenty degrees or more. It really is amazing what they can grow out there, fruit wise. Avocados, Oranges, Grapefruits, but then also pears and apples. Frosts are not uncommon (except right on the coast), and yet everything manages to thrive so well. Unfortunately, the garden paradise that is has become has pushed out much of what natural beauty it had.

Terra said...

I enjoyed your take on my adopted state of California. I moved here at age 22 from the midwest, promptly met my husband, who had also moved here from the midwest, and we settled down here. I love the midwest and California too.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

You have a great sense of humor, and I like that! Enjoyed your words and pictures! I love California.

Jim (Wasco) said...

The gas thing is particular to ARCO - they quit taking credit cards 20 years ago, or longer. It has nothing to do with California. Although, on my most recent trip to Whidbey, I saw that the ARCO stations in Washington were now taking credit cards for an extra $0.10/gallon.

Kylee Baumle said...

Brent ~ Yes! I could see that! It's amazing. There were avocado fields very near the Proven Winners facility near Bonsall. I saw oranges and grapefruits, even picked a couple of oranges at the large house you see in one of the photos.

Terra ~ I think every area has its strong points. It seems that we are always taken by those places that are so unlike what we're used to, at least initially. It's what makes traveling so much fun!

Tatyana ~ HI!!!! So good to hear from you! :-) Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to California!

Jim ~ Since ARCO only has a presence in five states (AZ, CA, OR, NV, and WA), that was new to me. I don't recall seeing them when I was in Washington, but I'm sure we passed some along the way.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Now you'll have to come and experience "the other California" (some call it the "real California) other than a layover in SFO. We're a world away from the south geographically, climatically, and culturally. And the farther north you go in the state, the bigger the mountains get as well as the trees. There's nothing like being in a stand of giant redwoods... nothing. It's lush, green, and wonderful.

BTW those flowers you saw on the side of the road were probably either ice plant (a brilliant flowering succulent) or gazanias (native to South Africa) that year-round throughout most of the lower 2/3 of the state.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Kylee Baumle said...

Cindy ~ I'll just come visit YOU! :-) Yes, I know northern California is much different, and I just know I'd love it. I've heard nothing but good about it!

No, those flowers weren't either of the two you mentioned. They were much smaller than gazanias, which I grow in my own garden most summers and I've grown ice plant too. I saw LOTS of both when I was there, in fact, that red carpet in the front yard of the house in one photo is ice plant. These plants had daisy-like blooms that were very small, not much larger than an inch in diameter. I've been told they're likely a species Osteospermum and that seems right to me, based on appearance. They were beautiful and so dainty, just blowing in the breeze. :-)

Andrea G in Morgan Hill, CA said...

I agree, you have to come to Northern California - not so many palms [but some] and generally cooler. It's so cool in the evenings, even in the summer that restaurants have those gas heaters for outside tables. An acquaintence said "you are heating the AIR?". But it is great when you have a 90 degree day, to have a 70 degree night! You will love it here! However, I have never had a better tomato than the tomatoes I had in my native Indiana... WOW...

Kylee Baumle said...

Andrea ~ Yes, every place has its strong points! It's a trade-off, going from one area to another. And like I said, that's what makes traveling to different areas so fun! :-)

Jason said...

This summer I visited an old high school friend who had ended up in Los Angeles. We saw the gardens at the Huntington Estate and Venice Beach. We live in Chicago and southern California does feel like another country. A strange but mostly friendly country. My old friend is quite happy out there, but I would feel completely out of place.

Carri @betweenthelimes said...

Yes- come to the OTHER California! I've lived in CA all my life and consider it such a blessing to be just a couple of hours from the snow in Tahoe, wine tasting in Napa, the romance of SF, the beach, waterfalls in Yosemite, etc. There are so many amazing things to see in my little corner of NorCal that it's hard to want to venture out of state!

L said...

Welcome to California! Hope you enjoy it here.

Nutty Gnome said...

California is very, very different to North East Derbyshire where I live in the UK! But then, so is Ohio! :)

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