Thursday, September 30, 2010

Impressions of California - Bay Area and Central Coast

We are finishing up our trip to California's Bay Area and Central Coast today. We are in the SFO terminal waiting for our flight back to North Carolina.

My first impression of San Francisco is that it is crowded. Even in the more residential areas, people live, to use a Southern expression, cheek by jowl. However, once you get out of the city, there is a lot of open space.

Driving along the Pacific coast, one can see why surfing is so big on the West Coast. It's the waves. You just don't see waves like this at East Coast beaches. The scenery is outstanding and the beaches are everywhere. And in many areas, there is little to no inhabitation.

Another quick impression - and that is all it is - of this part of California is that the high-tech cities and suburbs are heavily Anglo and Asian while the more agricultural or industrial areas are heavily Latino or Hispanic. I haven't checked any data on this but when comparing the Silicon Valley suburbs to Salinas, this seems very evident.

If I were a wine drinker, I'd be in heaven. We found very good wine available directly from the winery as low as $60 per case. And little vineyards are everywhere both north and south of San Francisco.

Another impression is how vital agriculture is to the California economy. Whether along the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz or inland in the Salinas Valley, agriculture is king. Along the coast we saw tons of Brussels sprouts and artichokes being grown while inland we saw the grapes, lettuce, etc.

Gang violence is a problem in some areas. While we were in Salinas, there was a 17 year old who was gunned down while walking with a friend. The friend ran away and the kid died. It was suspected to be gang related.

Finally, this place is mountainous! Whether inland or driving along the coast, the hills were everywhere. However, unlike my native Smokies, these hills are sparse and brown. I can see why wildfires are a major problem - one spark and you can have a grass fire. Moreover, with so many houses built on steep slopes, firefighters have a hard time just getting to the site.

It was a fun trip. The GRPC conference was great. We ate well, we tasted some nice wines, and we met some nice people. That said, it'll be nice to get home even if we just had 3-4 inches of rain from a tropical storm. Regular blogging should resume tomorrow and into the weekend. There is a lot to write about and just not enough time!


  1. My father (from SoCal) claims there's no surf or mountains on the east coast.

    My mother claims to have gone skiing Saturday and surfing Sunday - I can't think that's possible east of the Rockies without using an aircraft

  2. Glad you had a pleasant visit to our People's Republic. Hope you brought some of your American gun laws with you (to stay). Happy to have you take home some of our wine and or produce. ;>)