A Different View of California

What do you think of when you think of California? From my conversations with people when I’m traveling, or people who end up here one way or another, I’ve heard a few typical perceptions of California. The top five impressions of California that people think of (in my experience) are:

1) Los Angeles
2) San Fran
3) Silicon Valley
4) San Diego
5) Yosemite

Among all these, the one I most want to claim is Yosemite, both for its proximity to my home town and for my inclination toward nature. My ideal image of California would look like the pictures I was able to take today – my family, in the mountains, at a lake with a beautiful blue sky. This area, perhaps a little ironically, was recently all over the news because of the Rim Fire. We couldn’t have gone up to this area two weeks ago because the smoke in the air would’ve made it unbreathable. Today, however, things were quite nice.

Walking around the lake
I admit I’m pretty proud that our one state has so much to offer. I’m obviously quite proud of the place I live for all of its beautiful ocean views, beaches, mountains, and cities. There’s always somewhere to go, something to see or do. I can drive 2-3 hours from my home and get to any number of places that I suspect many people would love to someday get to visit.

For all of this, I feel the need to inform you that there is yet another side to California that isn’t bursting with tech start-ups or celebrity sightings. There’s a place that looks a lot more like the midwest, growing and harvesting crops & meat in abundance. Where Rurality is a real thing, and where you can still find land that’s been relatively untouched for the past couple hundred years.

I find myself stepping into a position where I am an advocate for rural areas, for the reality of the needs of underserved populations and locations. Not quite sure where this is going to go, but I do know that it’s going to mean talking more about this California that exists between the Bay and SoCal. Central California, where locally grown was a way of of before it was cool, and where only 15% of the adult population has at least a Bachelor’s degree.

This means that even on a day where I can drive 60 miles with my family to be in the mountains, I can turn around and drive home with them and see the hills whose rumors of gold brought people west in the first place. It’s a very different view from the cityscapes and mountain ranges that I like to post, but this is still very much what California looks like. There’s pride for me in being from this place, but I do wish that people realized there’s more to the state than the cities & beaches.

Back roads

How about you? When you first think of California, what image comes to mind?
Does my photo of a gravel road with yellow hills surprise you? What image of California do you feel should represent the state?