I Like Living in California

I like living in California. There—I said it. And I found myself thinking it a lot yesterday. This was something of a surprise to me. I was born here and have lived here most of my life. I lived for six years in Mexico as a teenager. I went to college out-of-state. And I taught for two years in Indiana. So you might expect me to be partial to California. But if there’s any region I’m partial to, it’s the Great Pacific Northwest, especially western Washington.

I travel a fair amount, nationally and internationally, so I’ve had the privilege of comparing many places. And everywhere I go I think about what it would be like to live there. I’ve had moments of contemplating a year-long stay in China or living in England. Most recently, Germany has been on my radar. But the reality is, I’d probably rather travel and visit places I’ve been and places I haven’t than live outside the U.S.

For several years I’ve had two crazy notions. One is that I think I’d like to live in Manhatten for one year, followed by one year on a ranch in western Montana. I’m totally serious. And it would have to be in that order!

Second crazy notion? Divide the year into three segments and spend the months of January through May right here in southern California, then migrate to the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington for the summer months and September, and wind out the year in New England, preferably coastal Maine.

I know. Crazy. Twice over.

I’m a native of southern California, but I’m not a die-hard. Especially with all the congestion and hyper-activity. But I do have a great job here, and the spring is hard to beat. Summers tend to overheat, and fall and winter aren’t sufficiently “seasonal.”

As I said, though, yesterday got me thinking. And my motorcycle had a lot to do with it. This is one place where you can ride comfortably year round. And there really are some great places to ride. Yesterday I discovered one by accident, which maybe is the best way.

The weather was perfect—blue sky, brilliant everything, and not too hot. After an appointment, I rode down to Corona Del Mar and met my family and some relatives visiting from . . . Washington. The beach, a favorite in our family, was over-the-top spectacular. To keep my refreshed spirit alive on the way home, I wanted to take arterials and stay away from freeways. Consequently, I got myself lost. I rode north on Jamboree and turned right on Santiago Canyon Road. Right away I knew I was going the wrong direction. But I kept going. The road, the scenery, and the brilliant sky just kept moving me, both literally and figuratively.

I “didn’t have time” for this—one of the major problems of living in southern California—and I didn’t have all that much fuel in the tank, either. So after about ten miles I found a little turn-off into a diminutive but high-scale neighborhood surrounded by horse country and looked for someone who could tell me the distance to the nearest gas station. At the top of a hill, as I was pondering a map that didn’t have where I was, a man and his wife drove slowly past me in their old pickup. I flagged them and asked my question.

It was like I was in Kansas. Very friendly people. Told me of one spot for gas. Then suggested I follow them since it would take me past another station. And before we headed back to the canyon highway, they asked about my motorcycle. We probably could have chatted there until my bike ran out of fuel and I was hitching a ride with these hospitable folks!

I followed them down the hill and along the road into a kind of village—if you can call a town in California a village. I noticed they had a bumper sticker that indicated they were from . . . Kansas. When we were at the corner with the service station, the guy pointed it out with his arm and index finger, jabbing the air so I couldn’t miss it. He continued on down the road, waving to me as he went.

I like moments like that. And because they’re so rare where I live, they’re even more special when they happen in my native state. Motoring back towards home in north Orange County, I had that satisfying feeling of place and people that makes California so varied and interesting, even refreshing.

I have to say, I like living here. I had just forgotten about it until yesterday.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

2 Responses to I Like Living in California

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    That’s right, Don, you might have gone right by Irvine Lake, as I did.


  2. donstuff says:

    I think I was lost in the same general area once. I was leaving the UC Irvine area and heading to San Diego and decided to take what I thought would be a shortcut (somewhere around Jamboree). I ended up lost, but found my way out (eventually – and after seeing the same area a couple of times). I could have used your friends from Kansas.


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