Mark Simon

Being a native of California, I was compelled to drive great distances over the long holiday weekend, gathering notes, quotes and dust motes.

This time, I moseyed through California’s Gold Country. This meant passing by or through small towns and countless wineries that dot long, rolling two-lane highways and roads with such decorative names as Running Quail Deer Creek Run Road.

Judging by the number of housing developments I passed, there is a building boom underway in the Sierra foothills. Several of the people I spoke with ascribed this to the cost of housing in the Bay Area, which is driving people to places where they can buy acreage and build sprawling homes. They also said traffic and congestion was forcing people to run for the hills. And more than a few said it was so people could get away from the liberals who are ruining the Bay Area. Other explanations centered — well, not so centered, really — on how much Gavin Newsom is ruining the state and driving people to Idaho.

Anyway, I spotted more than one home under construction that featured four (4) garage doors. Based on the number of vehicles I spotted going to various recreational adventures, at least some of that garage space is for kayaks, canoes, boats and paddleboards.

The housing growth is stunning for both the sheer amount, and the location. It may not be in the middle of nowhere, but it is within hailing distance. Each of the developments has new trees and lush lawns, which stand like oases amidst parched, golden hills from which the Golden State takes its nickname.

These two-lane highways take you over creeks and rivers and past reservoirs, all of which looked low. Of course, it is midsummer, so they would be low, but to see this in the middle of a drought and an ever-expanding fire season is — let’s see. Unsettling. Puzzling. Unsustainable. Nevertheless understandable. Pick one.

I guess you could say the same about the explosion in wineries. Everyone wants you to come to their tasting rooms. I am sure someone has done a report on the conversion of California’s economy from farming and cattle to vineyards. Grapes take less water to grow, but it would seem that there is a market saturation point out there somewhere.

As you drive around, it becomes quite apparent that this is not the Bay Area, which often is referred to people as a bubble, but my pal Birdlegs likes to call an oasis. There are lots of signs still supporting President Trump’s reelection, and billboards with American flags, Christian messages or the Pledge of Allegiance.

I was in the neighborhood initially to accompany a friend to a family wedding on July 4. The ceremonies and the reception were held outdoors on a piece of property that was smack in the middle of one of those developments. Once a dry, dusty property, it had been lovingly transformed into a stunning spread of gardens, a Greek-themed swimming pool and even a three-hole golf course.

Seated at the wedding, I heard someone behind me say that “liberals are all scaredy-cats.” I was going to inquire further, but I was too scared to turn around.

Everyone was genuinely friendly and hospitable. What little political conversation there was focused largely on the aforementioned conviction that Gov. Newsom, liberals and the news media were ruining the state. Mostly, we talked about the always-safe topic of real estate prices, which are ballooning in the Sierra, too. A broker with whom I spoke said there are 20 agents competing for every property that comes on the market.

The day before the wedding, we roamed over to the town of Colfax, which holds its big Fourth of July celebration on July 3. Colfax is a quintessential example of the Gold Country towns that are spread throughout the area. There were several thousand people there, and two things stood out.

There were countless items of apparel festooned with replicas of the American flag. This always hands me a laugh because I can remember how upset people got in the 1960s when Abbie Hoffman wore a jacket made from an American flag.

And Colfax must be one of the great centers of COVID-vaccinated populations. No one was wearing a mask.

By the way, whenever I am one of these driving trips, and I come to one of those sharp turns with a yellow speed limit sign, I think of Big John, who insists those turns are rated at twice the posted speed. So, a sign that reads 45 mph, can be driven at 90. I have never tried to see if this is true.

Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at marksimon@smdailyjournal.com.

Being a native of California, I was compelled to drive great distances over the long holiday weekend, gathering notes, quotes and dust motes.

This time, I moseyed through California’s Gold Country. This meant passing by or through small towns and countless wineries that dot long, rolling two-lane highways and roads with such decorative names as Running Quail Deer Creek Run Road.

Judging by the number of housing developments I passed, there is a building boom underway in the Sierra foothills. Several of the people I spoke with ascribed this to the cost of housing in the Bay Area, which is driving people to places where they can buy acreage and build sprawling homes. They also said traffic and congestion was forcing people to run for the hills. And more than a few said it was so people could get away from the liberals who are ruining the Bay Area. Other explanations centered — well, not so centered, really — on how much Gavin Newsom is ruining the state and driving people to Idaho.

Anyway, I spotted more than one home under construction that featured four (4) garage doors. Based on the number of vehicles I spotted going to various recreational adventures, at least some of that garage space is for kayaks, canoes, boats and paddleboards.

The housing growth is stunning for both the sheer amount, and the location. It may not be in the middle of nowhere, but it is within hailing distance. Each of the developments has new trees and lush lawns, which stand like oases amidst parched, golden hills from which the Golden State takes its nickname.

These two-lane highways take you over creeks and rivers and past reservoirs, all of which looked low. Of course, it is midsummer, so they would be low, but to see this in the middle of a drought and an ever-expanding fire season is — let’s see. Unsettling. Puzzling. Unsustainable. Nevertheless understandable. Pick one.

I guess you could say the same about the explosion in wineries. Everyone wants you to come to their tasting rooms. I am sure someone has done a report on the conversion of California’s economy from farming and cattle to vineyards. Grapes take less water to grow, but it would seem that there is a market saturation point out there somewhere.

As you drive around, it becomes quite apparent that this is not the Bay Area, which often is referred to people as a bubble, but my pal Birdlegs likes to call an oasis. There are lots of signs still supporting President Trump’s reelection, and billboards with American flags, Christian messages or the Pledge of Allegiance.

I was in the neighborhood initially to accompany a friend to a family wedding on July 4. The ceremonies and the reception were held outdoors on a piece of property that was smack in the middle of one of those developments. Once a dry, dusty property, it had been lovingly transformed into a stunning spread of gardens, a Greek-themed swimming pool and even a three-hole golf course.

Seated at the wedding, I heard someone behind me say that “liberals are all scaredy-cats.” I was going to inquire further, but I was too scared to turn around.

Everyone was genuinely friendly and hospitable. What little political conversation there was focused largely on the aforementioned conviction that Gov. Newsom, liberals and the news media were ruining the state. Mostly, we talked about the always-safe topic of real estate prices, which are ballooning in the Sierra, too. A broker with whom I spoke said there are 20 agents competing for every property that comes on the market.

The day before the wedding, we roamed over to the town of Colfax, which holds its big Fourth of July celebration on July 3. Colfax is a quintessential example of the Gold Country towns that are spread throughout the area. There were several thousand people there, and two things stood out.

There were countless items of apparel festooned with replicas of the American flag. This always hands me a laugh because I can remember how upset people got in the 1960s when Abbie Hoffman wore a jacket made from an American flag.

And Colfax must be one of the great centers of COVID-vaccinated populations. No one was wearing a mask.

By the way, whenever I am one of these driving trips, and I come to one of those sharp turns with a yellow speed limit sign, I think of Big John, who insists those turns are rated at twice the posted speed. So, a sign that reads 45 mph, can be driven at 90. I have never tried to see if this is true.

Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at marksimon@smdailyjournal.com.

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(7) comments

markolbert

On my motorcycle rides through the Sierra passes I’ve come to realize the San Joaquin Valley, far from being a source of food like I was taught decades ago in New York, is actually the Valley of Snacks and Treats. Which sometimes makes me wonder where my real food actually comes from 😀.

Great article!

Ray Fowler

Hello, Mark

Wonder no more... the Central Valley remains the nation's top agricultural producing region. Check annual yields for Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties. California routinely dominates the list of the country's top ag producing counties with the San Joaquin Valley leading the pack.

Sound like you might need more greens to go with your pistachios...

Mark Simon

Thanks, Mark. As Ray pointed out, the Central Valley is still an agricultural wonderland. The Gold Country was mostly cattle, I think, when people weren't prospecting, and now wine.

HFAB

My brother, a liberal in Idaho is cursing how many more right wing nuts, as he calls them, are being drawn there. There's actually movement afoot among right leaning people in Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to secede from those states and create a greater Idaho. Maybe they'll take some of those gold country folk with them.

Mark Simon

I'm sure the conservatives in Idaho are worried that all those Californians are messing up a perfectly fine state.

wlydecker

Seated at the wedding, I heard someone behind me say that “liberals are all scaredy-cats.” I was going to inquire further, but I was too scared to turn around.

Loved it!! The column reminded me of something by Mark Twain. Nice touch, Mr. Simon.

Mark Simon

What a nice thing to say. Thank you.

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