California differences

I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay area for six years now, after having lived in North Carolina before then. Here’s a random list of things I’ve noticed:

  • Silicon Valley really is a valley. There is one string of mountains running down the peninsula, to the west of the major cities, and there is another string of mountains maybe 40 miles to the east, on the other side of the San Francisco Bay. The land between the mountains that isn’t underwater is basically flat, and is increasingly hillier as you approach the mountains.
  • The weather is very consistent. I think the Pacific Ocean and the mountains act as regulators. It seems like the ocean keeps temperatures from getting too hot or too cold, and the mountains trap air and reduce the impact of pressure changes and the associated cold fronts and heat waves. (Disclaimer: I don’t know what I’m talking about.)
  • Humidity is very low, so the air warms quickly when the sun is out and cools quickly when the sun is down. The average temperature change between night to day is around 20°F.
  • It doesn’t rain in Silicon Valley in the summer. It’s basically a desert. There would be far fewer plants if they weren’t artificially watered.
  • I think because of the lack of water and the cool nights there are way fewer bugs here than in North Carolina. Almost no roaches!
  • The spiders here tend to be spindly and not meaty.
  • There are banana slugs in the mountains between here and the Pacific.
  • There are squirrels here with all black fur. Especially in Palo Alto.
  • Gas pumps are harder to use. They have an extra hood to reduce the amount of emissions that leak into the atmosphere when fueling. But the pumps still drip all the hell over the place when you take the nozzle out of the tank. Somebody should really come up with a design that doesn’t suck.
  • Insurance, residences, land, and labor are all much more expensive. Everything else is just mildly more expensive.
  • “Barbecue” means “to cook food on a grill, usually outside.” It does not imply the use of barbecue sauce or specific types of meat.
  • The phrase “parking garage” is much more common than “parking deck.”
  • “The City” generally refers to San Francisco.
  • Bay to Breakers” is a yearly “race” through San Francisco, from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, where the waves break. I say “race” because only a small percentage of people actually run… a much larger percentage parties.
  • “Fleet Week” is when the US military does various demonstrations in San Francisco. The Blue Angels perform two very popular shows at the end of the week, on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Military aircraft often land and take off from Moffett Field, on The Bay between Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Usually Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Occasionally fighter jets.
  • If you order an entrée with “California” in the name there is a 97% chance it contains avocado.
  • There are far fewer churches here. Especially considering that the population density is much higher.
  • Liquor is fairly cheap, can be sold at more places (not state owned), and can be sold at more sane hours (Sunday).
  • Cabo San Lucas is a popular beach vacation spot. It’s in Mexico, at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula.
  • Lake Tahoe is a popular skiing and hiking destination. It’s a 4 hour drive to the north east.
  • Redwood trees! Giant sequoias have a tiny range and I don’t see them very often, but coast redwoods are all over the place in the Bay Area.
  • California is one of only a handful of states that has paid maternity and paternity leave.
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