We live in an amazing place. It is a small, unincorporated village on the California central coast, about three miles from the ocean as the crows fly. We are a 10-minute drive from beaches, a couple of them being world-renowned tourist attractions. In the afternoon, we often get a fantastic ocean breeze, and in the evening, we are blessed with magnificent sunsets. Our little town boasts the best overall climate in the entire nation, with an average winter temperature of 53 degrees. It was even mentioned in a question from Alex Trebek on Jeopardy: “Where is the most consistent weather in the United States?” This small town is where Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph, Migrant Mother, was taken in 1936. It became a symbol of the misfortunes impacting migrant workers during the Great Depression.
Our town has seen a considerable growth over the past twenty years, and even since I arrived in 2018. It is located just off the highway in a section overlapped by the beauty of California’s famed Highway 1, so there were already some gas stations and fast-food options here. There was a Carl’s, Subway, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and a Starbucks. There was one grocery store (Vons) and an Ace hardware store. This little town grew from 4,000 households in the 2000 census to more than 5,600 households in 2020.
Coming from a mid-size college town in the Midwest, the vibe here is considerably different. I joke with Richard that we live in the literal “wild west.” In the modern landscape of 2023, I would have thought that places like this had ceased to exist. But I’ve grown to absolutely love the unique environment here. Despite living across the road from a busy elementary school, a county library, and a community park, we still hear boisterous roosters on nearby properties crowing in the morning; and just blocks away, there’s a large goat farm right across the street from a large apartment complex and several blocks of newly built homes. It is not rare to see people riding horses on the sidewalk or in the park. It is also not rare to see missing turtles, peacocks, and other interesting animals besides dogs and cats listed on our local Lost and Found page. This is quite a special little town.
When I moved here with Ares, there was a place nearby where kids used to hang out called “The Rec,” although it really should have been called “the wreck.” It was an abandoned property that used to be the site of a local recreation center than burned down. By the time we moved here, it was private property, but kids still hung out there with their skateboards. Sadly, this site was littered with trash, rampant drug use, and the influence of a nearby homeless encampment. There was no supervision other than an occasional CHP car that would park in an adjoining lot for a few minutes. It’s not surprising that this hangout became a magnet for youth and trouble. Even small towns have big city issues.
While much of this small town doesn’t even have sidewalks, there’s a new Dutch Bros. Coffee, a Wendy’s, a second grocery store, and a Tractor Supply store where the Rec used to be, and a newly constructed skate park just opened in the community park across the street and down the road a bit from our home. There is a wonderful view of the hills from the skate park, and it is on the edge of the community park, right next to one of the busiest streets in town. This gives everyone an interesting view, whether they are looking out at the scenery from the park, or watching the skaters’ acrobatics from a car at the corner stoplight. We live so close that we can share the excitement right from our front yard. What an amazing place to live. Utopia.