Celebs & Weirdos: With the grandchildren in Puyallup. I can only pronounce Puyallup after a fashion and many years of practice — trivia for you Trekkers — which has led to spending long hours on the road between here and there.
And I’m noticing more mobilized weirdness; the I-5 Alive Drive between here and Seattle seems to have morphed into Burning Man on the move and I’m wondering if cannabis — now legal in all three western states — isn’t partly to blame. You’ve got counter-culture bumper stickers, happy hipsters ambling along at 40 mph in ancient gold Buicks faded to diaper brown. Smoke trails from their windows, not their exhaust pipes, pungently skunk-toned. Oversize big rigs slowly pass other big rigs, engaged in slo-mo dosado the Germans call elefantenrennen, dragging us all to a crawl. The truckers don’t seem to be high, just oblivious.
More of Hollywood’s elite — some would say elitists — seem to be sliding up and down hwy 101 incognito. Recently comic actor Will Ferrell was spotted in Paso Robles, munching down carbs to fuel a multi-day cycling adventure, while Justin Timberlake paused in A-town to inhale some expensive caffeine and recharge his electric car. Timberlake got plenty of requests for photos, being among the first in the boy band genre, if you don’t count the Monkees.
Actually, former Monkee Mickey Dolenz was here too, performing at this year’s Mid State Fair. Older ladies danced while Mickey shored up a few of the teen pop band’s classics with what’s left of his voice.
Moisture: This is a good juncture to take stock, and appreciate the rain that broke our decade-long drought. Although Paso Robles got just about its normal rainfall this year, the mountains around were soaked; Rocky Butte got 87 inches of rain, which is over seven feet, if you’re counting, leaving reservoirs brimming.
And last winter was a doozy; even though the new Pfeiffer Creek Bridge in Big Sur was set to open in record time on Friday the 13th of October, the iconic highway will still be a dead end until next summer when the $40 million Mud Creek slide repair project is complete.
My own visits to the Pacific Northwest, where tap water tastes like bottled and free fruit grows wild by the side of the road, and the wildfires we’ve had are a reminder that down here we pay a price for our fine weather. Water is and will always be a precious commodity, never to be taken for granted.
B & B Blues: I admit I’m a bed and breakfast customer; hotels are overpriced, many are dirty and competition near nonexistent. A recent TV news program aired the industry’s literal dirty laundry: many hotels no longer change the sheets between guests. Visitors looking for an attractive alternative to motels are finding it the overnight version of Uber: the nascent small bed and breakfast industry.
Not everyone is thrilled though, critics cite the change in neighborhood character when neighboring homeowners start renting out their rooms to visitors.
Nor is the view for homebuyers in northern San Luis Obispo County especially rosy as private bed and breakfast consolidators like Air BnB reinvent the vacation rental business online. Fewer homes for sale are driving up prices, giving already tightly stretched homebuyers headaches.
Instead of selling, homeowners eye the potential profit of turning unused rooms or entire homes into personalized oases for overnight guests. Recent figures show Paso Robles home prices higher than they’ve been since the pre-recession boom of 2007, leaving many prospective purchasers digging deeper, or worse, walking away.
Watts Mine: It was a noble idea. Most people don’t know that California suspended utility choice when the energy crisis of the early 2000’s hit.
But nothing stopped local governments from looking into a three county alternative idea labeled Community Choice, to compete with big utilities like P.G.&E. Central Coast Power was born.
The failed launch framework of that noble idea was laid to rest after a decade-long study found that such a consortium would never be able to compete with the big boys, because we have not just one, but two big public utilities serving the region.
Ironically, the explosion in residential solar photovoltaics and the promise of battery storage will probably do what Central Coast Power could not; the power to control our own energy future.