Goodbye, California

Been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. Tomorrow I pack up my stuff and leave California. I won’t say I’m leaving forever – I already left once and never thought I’d come back, but this time the odds are not in the formerly golden states favor. Why? Two reasons; cost of living and lifestyle. For 2011 the ACCRA cost of living index has my city, San Jose, as the 6th most expensive place to live in the country. A very average 30+ year old track home in a decent school district goes for north of $700k. Property tax is 1.25%, so it’s not unusual to be paying $8-10 thousand dollars a year just in tax. Sales tax is 8.25% and projected to increase in 2012. San Jose has experienced a decade of budget deficits with no real hope of turning that around. Analysts put the overall California budget deficit for 2012 at $13 billion. 17 of the top 25 most expensive cities for gas prices are in California (thank you special-blend gasoline!). It’s a grim picture that’s only going to get worse. The state and cities have only one real option to increase revenue – raise every possible tax and fee they can get away with.

Money is certainly not the only reason to leave. Basic quality of life plays a huge role… and more so the older I get. The irony of living in the bay area is that, on paper, it offers everything you could want. An hour to the beach or the culture of San Francisco. Four hours to the mountains and fantastic skiing or hiking in Tahoe. Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking. Beautiful weather. So what’s the problem? People. Lots and lots of people. My work commute was routinely an hour-plus of stop-and-go, bumper to bumper traffic to go less than 20 miles. Leave for Tahoe on a Friday any later than 3pm and your four-hour drive becomes an eight-hour traffic nightmare. Don’t even think of heading to the beach on a sunny weekend day unless you want to leave super early in the morning to have a chance at finding parking, etc… Enjoy camping? State park reservations sell out six months to a year in advance.

As for mountain biking, bureaucracy, lawsuits, and powerful hiking lobbies rule the roost. In my local area there are, count-em, five different park agencies that control the trails. Each with different rules, regulations, and parking fees. Many popular trails sport rangers with radar guns who give tickets for exceeding trail speed limits. California, land of legislation.

Even with all the negative, it’s still hard to go. It is a beautiful place. Leaving family and friends is hard. Social media makes it much easier to stay in touch these days, but it’s certainly not the same as popping in for a weekend barbecue or bike ride with friends. I was born here. My roots are here. I remember when much of the Santa Clara valley was still apricot orchards. I remember surfing at the ‘hook before they put the concrete access stairs in. I remember $21 lift tickets at Sierra Ski Ranch and Kirkwood. Sleeping in my car in the parking lot to get first tracks in the morning. I’ve lived in 10+ places in the valley and watched them all change. Change that’s neither good nor bad – just different. Let’s just say that in many of those places, english is no longer the primary language. It’s the nature of our world these days. My sister the teacher would probably argue that my garbled prose barely qualifies as english, so I guess it all works out.

I first left California eighteen years or so ago, positive we’d never come back. A couple of states and six years later we found our way back. Fast forward twelve years and it’s time to head for greener pastures and new adventures. I’ll save the where for future postings. Suffice it to say that I leave with mixed emotions. Sad and happy at the same time. Nervous about the new direction and adventure, but brimming with excitement as well.

One thing I do know – you only go around in this life once and I’m not going to wait around dreaming of what could be. There’s no guarantee of a tomorrow in our contracts!

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