Some Things Sunday: California Ramblings

In my last post, I explained how we’ve made a big life change this year. We are now officially Californians! Beach, mountains, perfect weather… I think we’re onto something.
I’m posting this a bit late, but I wrote it with one week and three days down as a resident of Southern California. It ain’t the Midwest, that’s for sure!
Wanna know some of the differences and the quirks about living here so far?


First of all, they’re not called highways or turnpikes. They’re called freeways and tollways.
Orange County, in comparison to Chicago traffic, is much easier to drive in.
Chicago traffic simply becomes a parking lot for no reason. Here, people are still moving at 30mph (slowest) at the busiest times. Disclaimer: this is in Orange County. LA is a different, much worse traffic nightmare. As long as you catch the right time of day, it’s not bad at all — morning rush hour seems to start really late here and last longer in the evenings, that’s all.
Source: Zimbio

Source: Zimbio

Also, people don’t drive like mad here in traffic. You know the type: changing lanes to advance 3 car lengths, constant tailgate brake lights… I just haven’t seen it here. Driving is only slightly more stressful here, but with a million times the volume of cars in Indiana.

But, tolls are absurdly expensive; I drove 3 miles on the 73 and it cost me $5.75. Highway tollway robbery!  …That was intentionally written as “the 73.” Why? ‘Cause every freeway/tollway number is referred to as “THE”… The 73, The 405, The 5, The 22. “Yes, I think I’ll fit in just fine,” says the graduate from THE Ohio State University.


People talk about the weather for days when it’s not going to be beautiful and sunny. Raining on Wednesday? We’re going to be hearing about it on Sunday. And when it did rain, it was a drizzle that wouldn’t even make the morning forecast in the Midwest.

Marine layer. This is a California way of saying fog/humidity. Marine layer means it’s going to be kind of cloudy/hazy and there won’t be any direct sunlight until it gets burned off. When that happens can vary — sometimes it’s at 9am, sometimes it doesn’t happen until 4pm. Either way, we get sun and consistent weather even during the “May Grey and June Gloom.”

Every day: sunny and awesome. Photo source:

I had the misfortune of driving to work during the morning rain (seriously, let’s call it a drizzle) when normal speeds of 70mph dropped to about 30-35mph for my entire commute. People forget how to drive! They *claim* it’s because of the oil the rises to the top of the water and makes roads dangerous. I think people just can’t drive in rain, and that’s ok. Cautious is ok!

You have to pay for just about everything. 

Wanna not drive around for 20 minutes looking for a parking spot? Valet it.
Wanna park at the park? That’s $3 a pop.
Wanna take the tollway? I think we’ve already been grossed out enough by the price that for today.
Wanna register your dog*? That’ll be $25, please.
*Yes, you have to register your dog with the county so they know you have one, especially if you want to use the dog parks. Enforced? I don’t know.

Obvious things that cost way more than usual:
1) Rent/mortgage. Take your Indiana cost of housing and double it, and maybe triple it. Got that number? Good. Now you’re paying the So Cal cost of living.
2) Gas. Suddenly the hybrid vehicle pays off!! $4.15 for regular unleaded last time I checked. [Edit: 4/20/2014 – we’re looking at about $4.35/gallon now – ouch!]

On the flip side, here are a few things that cost less:
1) Food. (Feeding my avocado habit isn’t so expensive anymore! 70 cents a piece, <$1 each organic. Boom – what!)
2) Registering your vehicle. Indiana is an expensive state to have a car, it costs almost half here.
Irvine Farmers Market

Irvine Farmers Market

The people of So Cal belong to the church of Yelp.

Californians use Yelp like it’s their job. I first caught onto this when my friend Ben mentioned, “Just look up some places on Yelp.” I’m not saying that Yelp isn’t used anywhere else and certainly not saying that it hasn’t been yelpful (haha!); I’m just saying that 364 Yelp reviews for one In-N-Out Burger location is kind of excessive for a chain fast-food restaurant. I mentioned this observation during one of the group runs, and someone responded, “People around here love Yelp so much, they would Yelp this run that we’re on right now!”
Yelp ALL the things!

Yelp ALL the things! Source: Yelp

House Stuff. 

This is a weird little thing in the scheme of things, but when you move out of your house in SoCal, you take your fridge with you. Washers and dryers are negotiable as usual. Also, people don’t mow their own grass here; they get hired help. You’re probably a bumpkin from Indiana if you’re pushing your own lawnmower… or if you even have your own lawnmower.

Holy Snails!

There are snails everywhere. As it gets dark, the snails start to come out in full force. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve stepped on one or something else, but I choose to believe it’s “something else.” On the note of wildlife, there are lizards everywhere.
EWWW. Source:

EWWW. Source:


Having lived in San Diego a lifetime ago, Erin warned me that people in California just aren’t as friendly as they are in Indiana. She told me, “People are going to know immediately that you’re a Midwesterner.” I both agree and disagree with the idea that people are really disconnected. Last Sunday, I got really lost during my run and asked for help/directions from employees/customers at a Starbucks and a CVS. Not a single person was willing to provide directions, and they shut me down when I asked if I could borrow or if they could look them up on a smartphone. It was getting dark, and I was seriously getting scared (not for my safety): I had no water, no ID, no money, and no phone. People are probably so used to the “Can I have a few dollars to buy some gas?”-type solicitation ruse in the parking lot that they can block it out when a stranger legitimately needs help. That was a really discouraging first day here.

I disagree with Erin in talking about small communities. I have encountered a few small communities in my first 10 days here: the apartment complex (dog park/dog owners), work/office, and running groups. 90% of the people in this apartment complex are happy to make smalltalk and chat, play with Toby, etc. At work, everyone is extremely friendly and super willing to help out!
My best surprise has been with the running groups I ran with for the first time this weekend:
Saturday morning with the South Coast Roadrunners — It a fantastic welcome. Someone in the group introduced himself to me right away so I knew I was in the right place. I had a chance to introduce myself to the big group, and they’re all just easygoing runners wanting to know my story/running/etc. Great group to run with and fun people… I can already tell there are a lot of characters in this crew!
Sunday morning with the Aliso Trail Runners — I found ‘em in the parking lot, and fortunately they keep all of their run info up to date on their Facebook page daily. I tacked in with two mountain running rockstars for a couple of miles, but when I couldn’t keep climbing at that pace, those two guys waited for me every .25 mi or less on the mountain trails. They were also more than happy to explain and point out other trails, where they go, and mountain lion stories. Oh, and then we had Cuties (you know, those delicious clementines) at the end of the run. It was a blast!
Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 7.47.20 PM

A few months ago, it was scary to think about all of the changes and new experiences – both positive or negative – that I’d have here. But, it’s not so scary anymore, and I really do love it here! Nearly every day has been an adventure in big and small ways. It’s exciting to think about what surprises are in store the next week, month, and year in California!
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