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 new locales.

First, to answer the most commonly asked concerns from Easterners:
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:
Eucalyptus Trees

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:
Livermore 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 go anywhere.

Some San Francisco Pictures

You might recall I went to San Francisco with Kristina back in January, you can see pictures from that here and here.

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:
Columbus and Coit

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):
Embarcadero and Bay Bridge

And here's a view of the San Francisco skyline:
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 this road.

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.
Muir Overloook
Muir Overlook

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.
Muir Overlook Artillery

And we returned safely to Livermore. And this ends the summary of my time in California.
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