Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rich California

Big Sur
Originally uploaded by amsterboy
It’s quite amazing. It demonstrates such strength and beauty in a way that forces you awe, halt and breathe it in. It is far more captivating than the touristic Hollywood Walk of Fame or the rainbow celebration of San Francisco’s Castro. It is not man-made like the glory of Las Vegas, actually it is largely untouched by a human hand. California is more than Chinatowns, SUVs, film studios and excessive capitalism. It is vast national parks, mountains and the home of one of the most impressive coastlines in the world. Seeing this explains in part why here a Republican governor understands the importance of fighting climate change.

I am writing this post on a slow and run-down dinosaur called an Amtrak train. Even with magnificent views, the train is a strong example how the American government has consciously ran down its public transport system. The train is already an hour late and takes twice the time the same distance would take by car. But that does not really matter now – summer holiday is not about timetables.

Over the last few days we drove from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo down the Pacific Coast Highway. The road winds down the coastline and takes you to beautiful smaller cities such as Pescadero, San Luis Obispo and Monterey. You can actually opt out on McDonald’s and visit an 89-year-long family-owned grocery store instead. The drive shows you the richness of California beyond Hummers and bling bling. You see redwood forests changing into neat rows of palm trees, sea lions and pelicans as your soundtrack, vast deserts and blooming artichoke fields, the grass and bushes destroyed by the recent fires, sea going through all shades of blue, thick San Francisco fog making way for blue skies and the steep cliffs fighting with the sea for their existence. You drive down that road, ocean all the way to Japan on your right and the entire North American continent on your left. It is not a word we Europeans use very often: awesome.

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