Last month I visited family in the Bay Area of California – plenty of time to see some differences between Polk County in Central Iowa and San Mateo County just south of San Francisco. In the earlier post, more objective, quantifiable data were compared.
While some of the differences can be easily compared, it is harder to quantify other differences, such as
- food, gardening
- travel, commuting
- baseball, activities
Grocery shopping? California may have a big edge here.
- CA has New Leaf, Whole Foods, and Andronico’s, natural food stores where you can get everything you need; while the prices are a little higher on some items (especially the meat), the produce is ripe and fresh – likely because it doesn’t travel far.
- The only places like that in IA are the farmers’ markets: Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and other local markets; Iowa City’s New Pioneer Food Coop; Ames’ Wheatsfield Grocery. In contrast to CA, Des Moines-based New City Market and Campbell’s Nutrition are quite small by comparison.
- When it comes to the commercial chains (except for the produce) IA’s Hy-Vee and Dahl’s compare favorably with Safeway in CA.
Home gardening? This will get your attention! There is a wait of 4 to 7 years to get a 100 sq ft garden plot in the Fort Mason Community Garden. That is a plot about the size of a very small bedroom. We’ve had picnics at Fort Mason more than once, and it is a beautiful spot as you can see on the right; but it’s easier to find a spot to garden in Iowa.
Food, in general? My impression is that
- Iowa wins on beef and pork
- California wins on fruits and vegetables
Driving? I find it easier to drive in the Bay Area, but enough said about that.
Cars? This is a strange experience. I drove my sister’s hot rod Lincoln for 4 weeks, and you wouldn’t believe what I have seen and have not seen.
- I saw only ten 2009 Chevrolet Impalas in 20 days
- instead? Toyota, Mercedes, Lexus, Hyundai, BMW, Acura, Honda, Volvo and a few Ford cars and Chevy trucks
- twice to San Francisco and back (SamTrans bus and CalTrain)
- once to Oakland and part way back (walked a block to SamTrans buses then BART right to the Coliseum)
- around San Francisco (Muni)
Baseball? Definitely a lot of winners here! Whether you live in the Bay Area or Des Moines, you can see good professional baseball: San Francisco Giants; Oakland A’s; Iowa Cubs. I saw the A’s and the Tigers and my favorite Tiger Curtis Granderson (shown left), but the best part was spending the afternoon with my nephew John who rode BART from Berkeley. We had great seats, but you know, it’s hard to beat an afternoon in Principal Park right here in Des Moines!
Activities? There is more to do in both places than I can ever get to.
Stress? I am not sure that stress is the right word – intensity might be better. The pace is faster, and the crowd is larger in CA. It is a line-up kind of place, and longer lines – at the movies, banks, grocery stores, restaurants, traffic, bus/CalTrain/BART stops. It’s all exciting and intense, but it creates a little more stress. When the Purple Wren and I moved back after a year in CA 10 years ago, I said, “I could live in CA, but I wouldn’t live as long.” I’ll stand by that.
Well, you win some, you lose some, and sometimes you tie. I’m happy to be here; I was happy to be there.