People from L.A. have taken over the Napa Valley. They have recreated it in their own image. This is not good.
It began eight to nine years ago. At first the changes were subtle. If you stopped at a Napa Valley Mom and Pop grocery store, you noticed that the dress code changed. Instead of shoppers in jeans, t-shirts, Birkenstocks ... there were women with lots of gold jewelry, nice black pants, and Manolo shoes on a Saturday afternoon. A friend and I stopped by and we felt uncomfortable and underdressed. This was weird. We looked at each other and both said "L.A. people."
In normal communities in Northern California, even very wealthy ones, no one dresses up. Certain occasions -- a wedding, a funeral, Saturday night in San Francisco at a fancy restaurant or the theatre -- but that's it. We like it that way. This is a core value of a Northern California.
That was just the beginning.
Northern Californians occasionally go to the Napa Valley for wine tasting. The tastings used to be free (25 years ago), and we Northern Californians would visit one or two wineries and purchase one bottle of wine or have one shipped. But as more and more tourists came to the area, on vacation, the situation got out of control. Instead of *tasting* the wine, the tourists *drank* the wine, resulting in drunk drivers causing havoc. The owners of the wineries did not want the Napa Valley turning into Disneyland for drunks, so they started charging for wine tastings.
Unfortunately that did not really solve the problem as the tourists started to treat the experience as going to a bar, ordering a drink, hanging around to drink the whole thing and "ordering" "another tasting". They completely missed the point that if you tasted the wine and liked it, then you bought a bottle to take home and you left the tasting room without actually having an entire four ounce drink.
Maybe the Napa Valley winery owners needed to put out an etiquette book on wine tasting. In any case, they were between a rock and a hard place; they had no ability to differentiate between a normal wine taster who would purchase a bottle for later consumption, and a bar hopper.
Next came the bicycling phenomenon. This was a sure sign of L.A. occupiers. Bicycle rental places started popping up around the Napa Valley and the tourists actually rented them and rode them. To understand why this was a terrible idea, you need to know that the Napa Valley is agricultural like the Central Valley (home to Fresno). Both valleys grow grapes. Both are flat, hot, and somewhat boring. In the Central Valley the grapes become raisins. In the Napa Valley, the grapes become wine. Both products show up on your grocery store shelves (unless you live in one of those weird states where you cannot buy wine at the grocery store). The Napa Valley has a few more rolling hills in spots compared to the Central Valley, but other than that, they are one in the same.
Now why would you ride a bicycle when it is flat, dry, hot (over 100 degrees Farenheit) and you just had the equivalent of eight ounces of wine? Can you predict the results? Maybe the emergency room doctors in the Napa Valley wanted more business. The drunk driving car accidents get replaced by drunk driving bike accidents or they combine -- one car plus one bike accidents instead of two cars. A real Northern California cyclist either commutes to work by bike and/or does recreational riding in a cooler area with more hills, and in no case, would a real Northern California cyclist consume wine first. This is another core value of Northern California.
It seems the L.A. people who wanted to transform the Napa Valley into their own image, realized that there is actually NOTHING to do there (besides wine tasting), and decided to promote cycling as a tourist activity, and an activity for themselves, because L.A. people actually bought homes (second homes) and moved to the Napa Valley. I think they realized, after the fact, that there was nothing to do in the Napa Valley, and always concerned about their appearance, the, ahem, older L.A. people, embraced the full bicycling sartorial statement. Now you see them walking around the Napa Valley shopping areas with their lime green and hot pink spandex outfits and their funny cleated bike shoes. They are trim and tightly muscled from excessively working out, but the skin covering the muscles is old and sagging. I am sure they think they look really good. To me they seem really sad; they are clinging to some lifestyle and image that is so out of place, so unnatural and so unreal to the authentic inhabitants of the Napa Valley.
Finally, perhaps the saddest thing of all, is most Northern Californians can no longer afford to visit the Napa Valley, but can only drive through on a trip to somewhere else. For several years now, the least expensive hotel is $300 per night on the weekend in the Napa Valley. The decent and inexpensive chain motels in most California cities usually run about $125 - $150 per night. These are hotels like the Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and so on. These types of packages are not available on the weekends in the Napa Valley. I guess the L.A. occupiers want to keep the riff-raff out. If you are invited to a wedding in the Napa Valley on the weekend, that's what you will have to pay and the hotels that charge $300 per night are not twice as nice as the Hampton Inn. In fact, they are about the same experience.
So what can be done? The L.A. occupiers have transformed the Napa Valley into something grotesque and unholy. If you have ideas for putting it back to what it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, please add your comments.