Desk-bound Nature Lover

My Blog: Occasional postings about the joys of birding, hiking, camping, and sightseeing.

My life: I spend most of my days in offices, looking at a computer screen, and waiting for those few weekends when I can get out and enjoy some remnant of our precious natural heritage. But, boy, do I live on those weekends!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Things I Will Miss About the San Francisco Bay Area

For about two and a half years I have been travelling regularly from my home in Illinois to the San Francisco Bay area for business and staying for weeks at a time. That is going to more or less end in a couple of months. I will only going out to California once in a while now, and for shorter stays. I am happy that I will be spending more time with my family, and I will not miss the two thousand mile commute. (Each year airline seats seem to get narrower, and the other passangers seem to get fatter.) Still, I am kind of bummed out about this. I will miss California. Here is a partial list of the things I will miss.

Let’s get this one out of the way first, since it is the thing everyone always expects me to say on this subjecct, but it is the least important of the things I will miss. The San Francisco area is warmer than the midwest in the winter and cooler in the summer. In California, you can go camping in January. It’s great. But, if California had Illinois’ weather, and Illinois had California’s, I would still prefer California to Illinois, for all the reasons which follow.

They Have Their Land-Use Priorities Right Here
The Bay area has more state and county parks, more open space preserves, and more wildlife refuges, than any urban area I have ever seen. Compare this to Chicago. Some civic boosters in the Chicago area are proud of various slivers of forest preserve and specks of state park which are scattered amongst the otherwise unrelieved expanses of cornfields and suburban subdivisions. But really, they don’t amount to much. Most of these forest preserves a person can walk across in fifteen minutes, and even in the middle of the largest of them, you can still hear the noise of the highways which surround them. You could take the whole area of all the Lake County and Cook County forest preserves and put them in one corner of an average sized San Mateo County area open space preserve, and forget about them. The Bay area has lands you can get lost in, lands you can walk all day in, lands you can go to the middle of and feel a million miles from civilization, all within a short drive from any home in the area.

We’re Pretty Much All Democrats Out Here
Okay, not all Republicans are totally reprehensible. In fact, there are some people I truly love who are Republicans. But I definitely don’t want to live among Republicans. I prefer to live among people who are well informed and share values similar to mine. There are Republicans in the Bay area, but they are definitely in the minority, just the way I like it.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity
I like living in places that have a lot of racial diversity. Chicago has this too, of course, but San Francisco has even more of it.

On the Average, the Women are Prettier Here
You may have a hard time believing this. I wouldn’t believe it either, if I hadn’t spent time out here and seen it for myself. I am not sure why the Bay Area women are so much prettier than elsewhere, but I have a theory. It has to do with there being so few Republicans out here. Ask me, and I’ll explain it.

The Scents of Bay Area
There’s sage and eucalyptus. There are the rich scents of the seashore. The redwood duff gives the soils of the Santa Cruz Mountains a marvelous odor. More subtle, but also pleasant, is the scent of the California Live Oaks. Up in Marin County along certain streams there is some sort of botanical scent which I can’t even identify, but it smells just like heaven.

Public Transportation
I spent a year in Japan in my youth. That’s the only place I have ever seen which has better public transportation that the Bay area.

The Hills and Mountains
Furthest west, there are the awesome redwood covered Santa Cruz mountains to the south and the Marin Highlands to the north. To the east, the drier and more subtle beauties of the Hamilton and Diablo Ranges. Finally, still within a morning’s journey of San Francisco, there is the incomparable grandeur of the Sierras. It’s all wonderful.

And That Just Scratches the Surface
Throughout my childhood and youth in Iowa, I never really felt like I fit in, and I never knew why. Into adulthood in the Midwest, in Iowa, Ohio, and finally Illinois, something about my life never quite seemed right. It was only in my forties, when I came out to the San Francisco area, that I really came to understand what my problem was. It turns out, all my life I have been a Californian and didn’t realize it! Northern California, especially the Bay area, is where I really feel at home. There is so much to love about this area. Basically, California is just so not Illinois. Still, Illinois is where my family is, so I will make the best of it.


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