I'd spent time in LA with my family 10 years ago during a tour of the California coastline. Though I'd spent the large majority of my childhood dreaming of sauntering down the red carpet outside the Chinese Theatre in downtown LA, I was crestfallen with the absence of glamor and abundant presence of litter in the streets flanking some of the best-known attractions downtown.
Growing up on the East Coast, the general conception of California is defined by images of Southern California beaches littered with the trim bodies of aspiring starlets and surfer boys or the hippies flanking Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco; this is despite the fact that the majority of California is desolate fields of farm land and vast valleys replete of crashing waves or glamizons. In fact, I've been told (and this is without researching, so pardon my perpetuation of "word of mouth" facts) that California's central valley supplies the majority of all US agriculture.
So it was after months of promises that I'd make the trip to LA to visit a good friend that I finally followed through and ventured south late Friday afternoon. Of my 6.5 hour drive, the bulk of the trip was careening through the farms, orchards and vineyards flanking Route 5 of the Central Valley. The rolling hills cupping the sprawling farms speckled with the glint of barn and silo roofs was reminiscent of my own home town in Pennsylvania. Though most generalize California to be beaches cluttered with celebrities or ski resorts, the majority off California most closely resemble the depictions laid out by John Steinbeck in the 19th century.
One of my favorite books in high school was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. After pillaging through the pages, I moved on to East of Eden, a "modern" twist on the biblical book of Genesis based in the Central Valley of California. I admit that eventually the zeal of a new favorite author diminished and I retired East of Eden to my book shelf (though it still is on my reading queue...), the depiction of the central valley intertwined beneath the character and plot development is accurate even as it stretches along highway 5.
Even though California is generalized by the stereotypes of LA or San Francisco, the vast majority of the state actually has more in common with my childhood Pennsyltucky than the glimmering lights of NYC. And I definitely love living in the city, but as I rolled along through Steinbeck's inspiration, I couldn't help but breath in the country air and feel a sense of relaxation.