Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 20, 2018

Twenty-Five Years in California

It’s an anniversary. As I write, it’s been 25 years since I arrived in southern California after driving west for three days, covering about 2,200 miles.

I had a specific reason to come here, and that motivation has been justified as reason enough — and more — for all time.

On each year’s anniversary, I ask myself some version of the question, “What have I learned?” If I haven’t learned anything in a quarter of a century, I’m not paying attention.

I’ve lived in portions of Los Angeles for the entire time, and some uncountable number of things I’ve learned are related to what it’s like to live in a metropolis of ten million people, after spending several decades in a small, Midwestern city.

IMG_3411 110 traffic (640x480)

I’ve covered a reasonable swath of the town, but if it were my life’s mission to exhaust what there is to see in L.A., I’d fail. Too large, too diverse, too widespread.

That — in essence — is the challenge that faces lifelong residents and newcomers alike who hope to understand what “California” is. And that’s what’s made these 25 years so stimulating and endlessly challenging: There’s always more to see, more to learn.

A well-known simile compares the difficulty of summarizing large, complex matters to a committee of blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant by touch: One person finds the trunk, four people find legs, another the tail, and so on.

One can never hope to find THE California: there isn’t just one. What do you think of when you envision California? A Pacific Ocean beach?

Redondo Beach Brad Nixon (640x478)


Disney Paradise Pier Brad Nixon 8332 (640x473)

Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada?


Giant Redwood forests?

Redwood NP Marcy Vincent 8306 (480x640)

Or, some part of the vast tracts of the Mojave Desert, only a portion of which is encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree Brad Nixon 6226 (640x471)

That list ignores a thousand miles of coastline, volcanoes, more deserts, theme parks, movie studios, forests, grasslands … cities. We even have cities other than Los Angeles, and the first thing you think of when you hear “California” might be in one of them.

Golden Gate Brad Nixon 4349 (640x484)


I’ve also left out wildlife, and architecture — all the libraries …

Lincoln Heights Library Brad Nixon P (640x317)

… an enormous number of not-to-be-missed things. Not to mention the people I’ve met, whose diversity, energy, intelligence and creativity make them like people you meet everywhere: endlessly, fascinatingly unique — each one of them.

If this subject comes up at dinner time, each person around the table might name one of those iconic places, or any number of other vastly different California environments. Yet, an enormous portion of California gets overlooked by almost everyone, because it doesn’t have enormous cities, ocean beaches or even many palm trees. Nevertheless, some significant portion of the food you’re eating at that dinner may have been grown in California’s immense Central Valley, which produces about 60 per cent of the produce grown in the U.S.

Central Valley Marcy Vincent 8764 (640x405)

That’s what I celebrate on this anniversary, and what it is I hope I’ve learned: the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to see so much of California. I’ve been blessed by good fortune. The brief list and few photos above are a small portion of what I’ve seen.

And I celebrate a hope my blessings continue, and I’ll keep going. I’ll never see it all, but there’s more out there. In fact, let’s climb up here and take a look around ….

BN on Obsidian M Vincent 3902 680

Oobop shebam

Links in this post connect to some of the hundreds of articles I’ve written about California.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Redwood National Park, Central Valley and BN on Obsidian Dome photos © M. Vincent 2018. Used by kind permission. Thank you, Counselor, for 25 years of discoveries.


  1. Well! Happy Anniversary !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on your 25 years in LA. Have only been as far south as Big Sur, so have more exploring to

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters in the long view. You’re a mighty traveler.


  3. Fantastic photos! Thank you for sharing!


  4. A celebration indeed. Onward to many more years of exploring!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve certainly made the most of your time here (more than anyone else I know), and we are the beneficiaries of your many discoveries. Congrats and Thanks so much.

    I’ve driven through the Central Valley a few times and always made a point of stopping at one of the fruit stands along the way. After paying the vendor, I then immediately chomp down on some of that fruit. There is nothing comparable to Central Valley sweet, juicy, freshly picked fruit. Heavenly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, wherever you go — Central Valley, a cornfield in Iowa, a produce farm in Jersey, peaches in Georgia! — Nothing’s better than something you didn’t have to get off a truck that drove a thousand miles to get it to you. Thanks.


  6. Because I never made it to southern California, I’ve enjoyed and been intrigued by your posts about that part of the state, and have to confess that a few stereotypes have fallen. I’m eager to see what else you’ll be turning up in the years to come.

    I think my favorite photo of this group is the one of the central valley. For a year, I spent time each week in Rio Vista — the town that Humphrey, the hump-backed whale visited — and that’s so reminiscent of the scenery along the drive, especially in the fall when the grasses had turned.

    Probably my most memorable drive in California was somewhere along the Lost Coast. I may well have been on an old logging road, and probably shouldn’t have been there in a distinctly non-off-road vehicle, but when I made a hairpin turn and found the Pacific laid out below me, it was worth it. That’s the beauty of travel and exploration; you never know what’s next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And there, you name experiences I haven’t had in 25 years — places I’ve never seen. I’ve been up 101 to Eureka, but a lack of time prevented us from even getting to Ferndale. That entire region, including the Lost Coast is on The List. With only a few exceptions the immense Central Valley is something I’ve seen only from the highway. That photo was shot in July, 2017, some months after our massive rainy winter, and it was D.R.Y. Those folded, flowing hills are memorably beautiful, another world. Thanks. On we go.


  7. It’s so varied isn’t it. That’s why we love it. So much yo explore.

    Liked by 1 person

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