Search This Blog

Monday, July 25, 2011

SoCal vs. NNM-A (Very) Random Comparison

During our recent trip to Southern California, I couldn't help comparing where we used to live to where we live now. It was a major change in so many ways. Along with moving to a different locale, we have a different culture, different infrastructure, different ways of doing business. Tom calls it "The Bubble," with several levels, each one going deeper than the other. It starts around Las Vegas, New Mexico, with consecutive layers as we get closer to the middle. When we get to the center of "The Bubble," we're home. We all have our bubbles, our spheres of influence, and The Nickel and Dime Ranch is our center.

 So here's a random list of differences between OC/IE and Northern New Mexico (NNM) I noticed on our trip. I'm not saying one is superior to the other; it's just what I find interesting after 6 months away from California. When we get away from our bubbles for awhile and then return, we see things differently, maybe a little more clearly.


Look at all those people and houses! The population density for Lake Forest, CA, where we stayed, is 4315.9 peeps per square mile. In Mora County, NM, it's 3 people per square mile.

Houses-Tract home on City Lot/Single Wide on Acreage 

In OC or the IE, we live close together. My sis-in-law finds comfort in hearing her neighbor singing in the shower. In Mora County, although there are many different types of homes, for many in our area the single wide mobile home is king. It's quick and easy to set up, and you can get a new model or recycle the one grandpa was living in until he moved to town.


In South OC, the tile roof is king; in NNM it's red, green, blue, tan, shiny or rusty metal.

Breathing-A Hitch/Clear Sailing

A few days after we arrived in SoCal, that little hitch in my breathing returned.  In NNM, even with this high altitude, the airways are clear unless I'm sitting in a nest of fur where the cat has been for the past couple weeks, waiting for us to return.

Water Sports-Surfing/ Fishing and Hunting

Surfing is still king in OC. In NNM people are pulling trout out of the lakes and streams and hunting elk, deer and turkeys in (and sometimes out of) season.

Buying Stuff-Consumer/Survivor

In OC/IE shopping is a pastime, something to do for fun or for therapy. In rural Mora County people shop for stuff they need at the ranch or food for the family. If a produce truck overturns, you can bet a freshly canned jar of salsa that people will gather the proceeds.


There are many dogs in OC, but they are mostly companions. They have a backyard and spend time inside waiting for their good owners to come home from work and take them for walks. In NNM dogs work moving cattle, herding sheep, protecting alpacas. They often sleep outside and don't mind it one bit. On cold nights they may come into the kitchen and sleep next to the wood stove. (Ms. Pearl sleeps inside and pretends to herd the cattle, but #19 will have none of this charade.)

Greeting at Store-Hello/How are you?

In SoCal, the clerk at the store says, "Hello." They do not expect an answer, usually. In New Mexico, the shopkeeper says, "How are you?" I think they want an answer, so I say, "Fine. How are you?"

Trash on Side of the Road-Plastic Grocery Bags/Budweiser Cans and Boxes

The ubiquitous plastic grocery bag stuck to chain link fencing is there to greet you alongside SoCal freeways. Interestingly, the roadsides along the interstate in Northern New Mexico appear clean and spotless. On our country dirt roads, though, there is trash, most of it Budweiser cans, what some folks call the Official State Beverage.

Fast Food-In-n-Out/Fund Raising at the Grocery Store

Some cities in OC and the IE have more than one In-n-Out Burger restaurant, so you are never without a double double protein style with extra crisp fries. Although there are no fast food restaurants near The Nickel and Dime, on weekends some team or organization is usually selling homemade burritos outside the grocery store in Mora. Quality varies.

Summer Weather-Hot and Semi-Muggy/Warm and Dry

Southern California seems to be more humid than when I grew up there. I read it's because all the houses and their lawns cause more moisture to collect in the air. I never needed moisturizer until we moved to NNM. My hands are like that commercial where they look like lobster claws. Monsoon season moistens the air a bit right before it rains.

Department Store-Nordstrom/Popular Dry Goods

My favorite place to shop in SoCal is Nordstrom but alas, they don't have the piano player anymore. Looking at all the stuff for sale with my friend Linda and having lunch at Nordstrom is the ultimate in recreational shopping. In Las Vegas, NM, it's all about Popular Dry Goods, where you can buy boots, ranch wear, and anything Carhardt. The customer service is equal to Nordstrom and they always ask, "How are you?"

Air Quality-(Almost the) Worst (IE)/ Best (Santa Fe area)

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside County was listed as Number 1 for high ozone days and Number 2 for year round particle pollution. No wonder there's a hitch in my breathing when I am there.  Santa Fe-Espanola is listed as Number 1 for cleanest in ozone days and Number 1 for cleanest in particle pollution. No wonder I breathe easier here! I don't think they counted those bad air days when the fires were raging, though.

It's fun to look at different places and wonder what it would be like to live there. For years we did just that each summer as we traveled  throughout the United States. Travel is good for the soul, connecting us to others we might not otherwise encounter, giving us a chance to move out of our bubbles and appreciate how others live in comparison to our own lives.
 I'm not sure if any place is better than another; it's what works for you.


  1. Loved reading the comparison. I don't think we're ready for your NNM bubble as our center, but we've progressively moved our center to more rural America. We're still a "Townie" but love that within 5 minutes in any direction we can be in corn/soybean/whatever fields...

    We moved here from dense population but little house previous to that we were in the center of population AND commerce - our refrigerator broke and I was overjoyed to be able to shop at 5 places (each less than 5 minutes from my house), pick out a new fridge and have it delivered the same day. Now...not so much but I can go pick fresh corn, berries, fruit, etc. anytime.

    You're's what works for you and I think we've both found that works changes over time...

  2. Good stuff. I think I'd prefer the burritos outside the grocery store to the In-N-Out. We have no fast food in Logan either, unless you count the Subway that popped upon Hwy 54 last year. What we do have is, like you, clean air, friendly (sometimes prying) folks at the grocery store, working dogs and no dog parks, and silence at night. Lived in ABQ for years, but don't think I can now talk myself into going back. . .Thanks for the great post.


I love your comments! What's on your mind?