Tarun and I spent a week in Orange County (OC) in Southern California. This was my first extended visit to the area and I had every reaction from wow, ugh, to WTH.
The Weather. Cool in the am and night and mid 70s in the day. Bright and sunny. Every. Single. Day.
The East-coaster in me, used to buffeting high and low temps, was simply baffled. The closer we were to the ocean, more temperate and consistent the weather. In Laguna Beach, dogs and humans relished the panoramic views, the soothing sounds of the ocean, and the chill of the evening.
The Freeways. I want to transplant the freeways to the east. 6 lanes in each direction. Imagine that as a replacement for the atherosclerotic I-495 near us. Even the other arteries have 3-4 lanes. When I returned to our congested and scrawny two-lane access road, I wanted to cry.
The Hills. OC views whisk you off to the Mediterranean. The stucco homes with orange tile roofs, dotting the hills and valleys reminded me of small towns in the south of Europe. While some homes sit precariously on stilts on the edge of the hills, most others are safely nestled on steps.
Polite Drivers. It took three days to run into the first impatient driver. One lady pulled up in her car to return my hotel key which had popped out of my back pocket while Tarun and I were walking. This was no small task. She stopped her car, stepped out to pick up the card, then continued to drive until she caught up with me to deliver the card. No kidding!
The Flowers. Bougainvilleas as far as the eye could see!
Fire. The hydrants around us were not the garden variety ones I am used to seeing - puny red things that barely stick out of the ground. These were the Mother of all fire hydrants. Like giant sculptures they rose out of the sidewalks. Naturally, I wondered how the fires start and here's what our friend told us. A falcon flew out of its enclosure, landed on a power line, and fried. Engulfed in flames, it fell on to the dry hillside causing a fast-moving fire that nearly destroyed his home. It took seven fire trucks to battle the blaze and his neighbor's house was destroyed. Fire happens without notice and spreads wildly before you can react.
Creepy Crawlies. Of every shape and size. On our walks I would hear rustling in the bushes and my brain would freeze with fright. Whether it was a tiny lizard or a bigger crawly, to me they were all dinosaurs. I was sure that they would sting, bite, and eat us without warning.
The Gridlock. Legendary and everywhere. Even though the traffic moves, you have to be at full attention for loooonnng stretches. It can get exhausting for the driver. For the passengers, no problemo to stew in the sun.
Motorcycles. The land of activists and eco-friendliness has allowed motorcycles to weave in-between cars on highways. Go figure! While you are driving steadily, making sure cars in nearby lanes don't veer into yours, you'll hear a growing roar, and then a motorcycle will zip by you at light speed. They barely miss cars, they rely on every driver being cognizant of their presence, and they are ubiquitous. A few trips ago, one of these miscreants took out the side view mirror on our rented car. Whomp and then the mirror landed in the middle of the freeway. We were not pleased.
Brown Hills. I have nothing good to say about the brown hills. I call them “Mangy Hills” because they reminded me of dogs afflicted with mange. Ugly brown brush. On the other coast, I am used to lush greenery and this was the most painful sight to behold. The green we saw in OC was from HOA money that goes into watering the trees and bushes. That's a lot of money and a lot of water! Left on its own, I think OC would be a giant stretch of brown.
We didn't feel any earthquakes so that didn't make my "ugly" list. Barring a massive fire, we will be back again. If not for anything else, most definitely for the weather.