Vince's California Report
Well, I have lived in California for 3 months now, and traditionally I
write up my experiences. I've lived in enough differing
places by now that it is less likely for me to be disoriented by strange
First, to answer the most commonly asked concerns from Easterners:
- No, I haven't felt an earthquake. You're probably more likely to be hit
by a hurricane on the East coast than you are to experience a major
earthquake out here. Despite that, many of the local papers do publish
earthquake report maps in the weather section.
- No, I haven't been trapped by a wild-fire. There were a few in the area
though, and when you fly over those areas in an airplane it is very
surreal looking to see the blackened earth.
- No, it is not cool and pleasant where I live. Yes, San Francisco
is only 30 miles away, but often it is 30 degrees warmer where I live.
The whole area is dotted with "micro-climates" and temperatures vary wildly.
I would leave 102 degree tempteratures to visit friends in Berkeley who
would be complaining of the recent 80 degree heat-wave.
The hardest thing to get used to is the complete lack of rain, and a total
lack of clouds in the sky. The entire 3 months I was here we had maybe 3
cloudy days, and two bouts of light drizzle. The whole idea of having
"rain-dates" for events is just unheard of.
You might expect because of this that the ground would be bleak and barren
and dead. But at least in the populated areas there is large
amounts of irrigation, leading to lots of trees, and grass lusher than you'd find back East.
It is hard to believe the water situation is as dire as people claim when
the lawn sprinklers run 3 times a night and you have to avoid stepping
in huge mud puddles in the morning when it hasn't rained since early May.
As I mentioned it gets quite hot where I live, but there's barely any
humidity. So unlike being in a thick unhealthy sauna (which is what
Maryland tends to be in August) instead it's like being in a dry oven with
unfiltered sunlight baking you relentlessly. It is a lot more pleasant at
equiverlant temperatures (sweating works!) but you better have sunscreen
if you are as melanin deficient as I am. On the plus side there are few
insects and no mosquitos.
I live in Livermore, which is in a valley almost completely surrounded by
hills. It makes for very dramatic scenery, but the pictures I take just
don't do it justice.
Here is a picture of a eucalyptus tree. They are everywhere, there was a
massive campaign to plant them a hundred years ago. No koala bears though:
Walking around the neighborhoods reminds me of movies. I suppose lots of
movies take place in California and that's where the feeling is from.
I constantly feel like I am living in Hill Valley of Back to the Future
fame. I couldn't get a good picture showing this, but here's where the
housing development ends, followed by a vinyard and then the distant hills:
Speaking of vinyards, the Livermore valley is apparently known for producing
a lot of wine. Here's a vinyard I walk by often:
There are a huge amount of windmills on the nearby hills; it is the Altamont
Pass, site of the biggest windfarm in the US. As with the hills though,
pictures of the windmills never seem to turn out.
And that's about all I have to say about the area. The only think I might
add, is as expected traffic on the highways can be horrible. I-580 and
I-680 seem to be constantly busy no matter what time of day you attempt to
Some San Francisco Pictures
You might recall I went to San Francisco with Kristina back in
January, you can see pictures from that
My brother Kevin came out to visit a few weeks ago,
and we went to many of the same places that I saw in January.
So I only took pictures of new things.
The first day we took the BART in and got out at the Embarcadero.
We did the typical walk to Pier 39 (where I found
Peach Mentos). We saw the sea-lions, got some figs
at a farmer's market at the old cannery, and went to the maritime park.
The line for the cable-car was way too long, so we walked up the hill
to see Lombard Street.
We then decided to go see Coit Tower,
which I had neglected to do when Kristina was visiting.
We climbed down one hill then back up to the top of Telegraph Hill.
Here's a picture of the tower, with Christopher Columbus in the foreground:
We took the elevator to the top (after buying tickets in the world's
strangest shaped giftshop). Here's a view looking at the Bay
Bridge and Embarcadero (where we had walked earlier):
And here's a view of the San Francisco skyline:
And after all of that we headed back, because Kevin wasn't feeling well.
The next day we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately it was
completely shrouded in fog, to the point that from the base of the towers
you couldn't see the top. We walked halfway across, and then back.
We then went to Muir Woods. It was much busier than in January, and
we had to park 2 miles away. Suprisingly it wasn't that crowded.
After that we went to Stinson Beach. It was foggy and cold! There were
plenty of people there but they were all bundled up in blankets.
We ate lunch at the snack-bar (corndog and fries) and they were doing a
brisk trade in hot cocoa.
We drove on Highway 1 back towards civilization. The highway is curvy and
right on the edge of a cliff, with no guardrails. All of those movies
where people plunge to their deaths make a lot more sense once you've seen
We stopped at the Muir Beach overlook, which I had managed to overlook
(pun intended) last time. The overlook is a bit of rock that juts out into
the ocean. There was a lot of fog, making it look spooky and Myst-like.
It's hard to see here, but looking back you can see some fortified bunkers
in the hill. They were used as artillery ranging outpots during WWII.
And we returned safely to Livermore. And this ends the summary of my time
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