TAK­ING IN THE SOUTH­LAND

Some local knowl­edge for your up­com­ing visit to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia

The Oakdale Leader - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES - By CARY ORDWAY Cal­i­for­ni­aWeek­end.com

Ask some­one what they think about when they think of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and you’ll no doubt get the stan­dard re­sponse: palm trees, swim­ming pools, movie stars and, of course, gorgeous weather. All of this is ac­cu­rate to some de­gree, but vis­i­tors to the south­ern reaches of the Golden State might be at least mildly sur­prised by some of the other things found in the re­gion known by lo­cals as “So­Cal.”

Tele­vi­sion and movies prob­a­bly are re­spon­si­ble for a lot of the per­cep­tions about South­ern Cal­i­for­nia with many movies and TV shows filmed in that re­gion. If you’re old enough, you’ll re­mem­ber the lead-in to the Bev­erly Hill­bil­lies – “swim­ming pools, movie stars…” – and that prob­a­bly was your in­tro­duc­tion to So­Cal and all it has to of­fer. But once you visit So­Cal – or live there for 14 years, as we have – the area re­veals much more of it­self.

Here are a few se­crets about South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that may sur­prise you:

Sunny yes, but not every­where all the time – When you visit South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the like­li­hood is that you’re go­ing to have great weather. Even in win­ter, the skies are blue and day­time tem­per­a­tures are at least as high as a nice spring day in the north­ern climes. But the re­gion has quite a di­ver­sity of weather, with the sun­nier and warmer weather just a few miles in­land from the sea and the cooler and some­times cloudy weather on the coast. In fact, the area’s res­i­dents re­fer to “May gray” and “June gloom” to de­scribe the seem­ingly in­ces­sant ma­rine layer of clouds that comes in off the sea at night and takes sev­eral hours each morn­ing to re­cede back to the ocean and re­veal that fa­mous So­Cal sun­shine. The closer to the coast you get, the more you ex­pe­ri­ence this weather pat­tern.

Al­ways put a “the” in the front of your free­way num­ber – If you’re vis­it­ing So­Cal and tell a local you’re headed down In­ter­state 5, he just might not know what you’re talk­ing about. That’s be­cause ev­ery­one in these parts refers to In­ter­state 5 as “the five” or “the I-5” and do that with all the free­way names. Just tune in to the local weather and traf­fic fore­casts and you’ll see what we mean.

Peo­ple just dress bet­ter in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia – Okay, that’s a broad gen­er­al­iza­tion and prob­a­bly un­fair, but it’s true that more peo­ple seem to em­brace the lat­est cloth­ing styles and, let’s face it, just take care of them­selves bet­ter than we’ve seen in many other parts of the coun­try. We have not seen any sci­en­tific stud­ies, but our guess would be that peo­ple in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ex­er­cise more and eat health­ier foods – not to­tally un­re­lated to the fact that So­Cal res­i­dents can­not cover their bod­ies with win­ter coats for half the year as peo­ple can in the north­ern climes.

Foreign cars rule – This is only anec­do­tal, but it seems to us we see a much higher per­cent­age of BMW’s, Mercedes, Volvos and other foreign ve­hi­cles on the road in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia than other parts of the coun­try. This is es­pe­cially true com­pared with our na­tive state of Wash­ing­ton, but we’re guess­ing the pat­tern will hold with most other states. The big­gest con­cen­tra­tion of foreign lux­ury ve­hi­cles seems to be in Or­ange County, again based purely on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence and, of course, the oc­ca­sional look at TV shows like the OC.

Traf­fic, the good, the bad and the ugly – If you’re vis­it­ing South­ern Cal­i­for­nia by car, you likely will not get any­where with­out nav­i­gat­ing the re­gion’s fa­mous free­ways. Yes, the traf­fic can be ex­as­per­at­ing and any­time you’re on one of the ma­jor free­ways you’re play­ing a kind of Free­way Roulette, hop­ing that this par­tic­u­lar trip will not be in­ter­rupted by a traf­fic tie-up ahead of you that can de­lay you for hours. On the other hand, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s free­ways are as wide as any in the coun­try, most of­fer­ing mul­ti­ple lanes in each di­rec­tion, and there are many times dur­ing the day you will skate through with lit­tle or no de­lay. It all has to do with tim­ing your trips through the cities, avoid­ing rush hour traf­fic and pay­ing at­ten­tion to radio alerts about traf­fic prob­lems on your route.

CHIPS are out­num­bered – Smaller states with fewer ve­hi­cles on the road of­ten are able to make their state pa­trol units highly vis­i­ble, which acts as a de­ter­rent to speed­ing. In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, just be­cause of the sheer vol­ume of traf­fic, you can go for days with­out see­ing a Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol car. Not sur­pris­ingly, the re­sult is that few local drivers strictly ad­here to the posted speed lim­its.

The best beaches aren’t where you think they are – There are the fa­mous beaches like Coron­ado and Santa Mon­ica which al­ways get na­tional at­ten­tion and ap­pear on some­one’s list of best beaches in the U.S., but the best beaches for a true es­cape might be lesser-known stretches of sand that are lo­cated off the beaten path. For ex­am­ple, San Cle­mente of­fers miles of beaches in its res­i­den­tial area that, on week­days, have few vis­i­tors com­pet­ing for blanket space. Mal­ibu also has some great beaches avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic that are quite close to the beach homes of fa­mous movie stars. In gen­eral, the more fa­mous the beach, the more crowded it will be – es­pe­cially on week­ends.

Movie stars don’t grow on trees – Truth be told, you prob­a­bly will never see a movie or TV star on your visit un­less you make a se­ri­ous ef­fort to go where they go. A gos­sip site like www.tmz. com can give you a feel for which restau­rants and nightspots the stars are cur­rently fre­quent­ing – and they do change, as places go in and out of style. You might see a star on a movie stu­dio tour, but the last sev­eral tours we have taken have not re­sulted in any sight­ings. Ac­tu­ally, we’ve seen the most stars by vis­it­ing lo­ca­tions where we knew film­ing was tak­ing place – web­sites such as www.on­lo­ca­tion­va­ca­tions.com list the places where movie and tele­vi­sion shows are sched­uled to shoot on any given day.

You’ll be com­pet­ing with the lo­cals – Plan your visit to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia when you’re not com­pet­ing with the lo­cals. Yes, we know, that’s eas­ier said than done when you have kids and a school sched­ule that only per­mits you to visit dur­ing sum­mer months, the busiest time of year. Dis­ney­land in sum­mer is a zoo, but mid­week dur­ing the school year it can be down­right en­joy­able. The same holds true for other pop­u­lar theme parks and at­trac­tions. So our ad­vice is to do what my parents did when I was nine years old – they took me out of school for a week to visit Dis­ney­land and then I made up for it by re­lay­ing my travel ad­ven­tures to the class when I got back. Ac­tu­ally, now that I look back, this was my very first ex­pe­ri­ence as a travel writer.

A bon­fire on a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia beach.

Dis­ney­land dur­ing the sum­mer is a zoo.

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