Thus, I have come full circle and to reflect, as most people do on where I have been, where I am at, and where I might go. My previous resident Salinas, California have manifested it self on my lips after I have bitten into a ripe red luscious strawberry, grown in the fields of Watsonville, California although purchase from Kroger grocery store here in Indianapolis. And still my thoughts will drift, from time to time after a glass or two of a Northern California Merlot, as I reminisce while reading the wine bottle label; the wine came from the Blackstone Winery, located just off Highway 101, the salad bowl of the world Salinas Valley, a place where my roots also run deep. Ahh…. California has a special place in my heart, especially the central coast area, ‘Monterey Bay’, from Santa Cruz to Big Sur and places in between. The breath and width of the West Coast I also know well, from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California I have been privilege to live or travel. Here now, in the heart of Middle America, I live, not only at the cross road of America, but also the cross road of my life. The West Coast style is different in topography, cost, architecture and people, when compared to Middle America i.e. Indiana, the differences are profound yet there will always be subtle similarities.
One of the striking differences of the central coast is the omnificent Pacific Ocean, which lies at your doorstep. Standing on the sand cover beach with Santa Cruz Boardwalk to your back, the chill of the salt sea lapping your feet and ankles, the cool smell of the sea and the decay of seaweed wash to shore. If you look due west beyond the ocean, you might see the other side of the world. It is hard for me to get that feeling no matter how hard I try, while standing on the beach at Eagle Creek State Park. Yet, as the sun settles in the west, a stunning wash of glowing amber light will nonetheless cascade over the park and on visitors who walk, run, and bicycle on trails throughout, creating a picturesque scene of peacefulness.
As I consider the Santa Cruz Mountains I recall how they gradually climb up from the coast, eastward bound, cover in tall pine trees toward the beautiful campus of Santa Cruz. Far different from the Indianapolis downtown cityscape of vertical buildings, both magnificent in there own way. Not far to the east, just on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains you will bottom out into the Owens’ Valley. There sits the cities of San Jose in the middle, Menlo Park sitting just north of San Jose but south of San Francisco and if you take Hwy. 101 south of San Jose the Garlic Capital of the world, Gilroy, California will be waiting. Just south of San Jose, know too most as Silicone Valley. The megalopolis of Northern California in its entire splendor from the San Francisco Bay to Gilroy, California has highways 101 and 280 both going north to south covering the distance for commuter’s traffic.
The Northern California coast is an up thrust of the earth produce by the San Andres fault that runs the length of California. An igneous rock that pushes toward the surface that seems to glow a warm gold and tan with the kiss of the sun, or turns to a cold greenish gray slate when cover in an early morning or a late evening by an ocean shrouded fog. This act of nature creates a rugged coastline with caps of pines and oak that can be followed north or south along Highway 1. As you travel south from Santa Cruz the shoreline begins, flatten out and curve inland near the garlic, broccoli and artichoke fields of Watsonville. As we continue south traveling pass the coastal city of California first capital, Monterey; the thrust of the crust again begins to rise again, south towards hamlets of Pebble Beach, Carmel to Big Sur a panorama along the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1. This famous highway goes either north to coffee houses of San Francisco and beyond in the direction of Oregon or south towards the glitter of Los Angles to San Diego.
With California in my past, I have had several occasions to drive throughout Indiana. I notice the almost flat horizontal farmland, green with tress of Maple, Sycamore and Beech, the sparse like golden hair sprouting from the tops of corn during the spring, that begins to turn gold, yellow and the trees orange and scarlet red by late summer and early fall. I have a better sense of the passage of time, mark well by the four seasons. With no great body of water, I would have to go north, to Lake Michigan or be satisfied locally with the man made lakes of Giest reservoir or Eagle Creek. There are rivers that run through Indiana, the Wabash to the west, White River in central Indiana, or the Ohio River to the south, that meander tranquilly across the plains made by great glaciers formation over 400,000 years ago.
The formation of the land has had a direct affect on the people of Indiana. Indiana has a large farm base economy that plants and harvest as dictated by Mother Nature, that requires a responsible and sober attention of the farmer. A life that lives from season to season on an almost flat terrain is a hearty people, who for the most part “don’t cotton to radical change to much”. The Amish community comes to mind of a place and a way of life that has stood still as the progress of the so-called modern world passes them by. If one wanted to see the life of the ‘Hoosier’ folk before the turn of the twentieth century, one would have to look no further. With my recent summer class on ‘Indiana in the World History’ under my belt, I have learned a great deal about my home state that I did not know before. As a class, we traveled to several points of interest, such as Indian Mounds State Park in Anderson. Our class met there and given a tour by the Park Ranger who taught our class about the several burial mounds and their celestial orientation created by native people long ago. The class visited Crown Hill Cemetery located on the highest point in Indianapolis. We visited President Benjamin Harrison home located near downtown Indianapolis on Delaware Street and also visited the Fort Benjamin Harrison located on the north east side of Indianapolis. The study of Indiana this summer has enlightened me about the land and its natural formation, the native people who once lived here and settlers that arrive.
While California has an abundance of different, ethnic groups the mixture students and vitality of a youth orientated culture is evident. Maybe it is the year around mild weather or the lay of the land. From mountains to beaches or the inland central plain to the desert, California has endless variety. The cost of all this good fortune requires a higher standard of living, for shelter, fuel and wages, especially near the coast. This in turns quickens the pace of life in California and the assumed lay back style attributed to Californians may not be quite what it seems to be; as view from afar, here in the Heartland of America. People are on the move, driving twenty or thirty miles is a given, and with gas at over two dollars a gallon for regular, it is wise to have a fuel-efficient car or deep pockets. Needless, to say the people for the most part are open yet in the class structure separated by wealth and there-in lies the contrast. Areas that are different as is location is to culture. A better way to put it is you can visit Carmel, California and enjoy the cafes, visit the art galleries and purchase items at fine boutiques, but you could not afford to live there. Now, on the other hand Carmel, Indiana is an enclave of the ‘well to do’ that is still affordable for the average middle class American. “I know it does not have an ocean.” However, people by the thousand continue to move to sunny California, ever year looking for that piece of the American dream. That is why the price of homes there continues to rise so astronomically over the years.
As I consider the differences of the West Coast, it has style that Indiana is far and away removed in substances, talent and money. However, Indiana is quaint, safe, and stable; also much, much more affordable. Avoid the traffic of the megalopolis, get tickets and see the Pacers or Colts play, and there is nothing like fall and golden dome at Notre Dame. With style all its own, your dollar can go a lot further “Back Home in Indiana”, but for luxury, visit California if you can afford it. I recommend the central coast and visit the next Monterey Jazz Festival, the oldest jazz festival this side of the Rockies.