Greetings, to my new series – Road Trip! Recently I realized, my 18 year old can stay at home alone! Now we can do what he considers boring stuff. Young people need constant action and entertainment, I can sit with a cup of coffee on a bench in the sun for an hour, watching mama ducks with their babies. Of course, our whole family can get behind a snowboard trip.
So, we headed up to Oregon, where they got more snow this year, to check out the scene around Mt. Bachelor. Not that I would give up on Sugar Bowl – but I been through these drought thingees many times, they can go on FOR YEARS. Get used to it – you must make alterations. I remember in the 70′s, it got so bad, people just turned on each other. Otherwise nice old ladies in Paradise were jotting down license plate numbers of freshly washed cars, it was pretty ugly.
Yes, they have more water in Oregon, but are still suffering the same drought we got. Bend is supposed to be enduring a couple of feet of snow right now. There’s cinder (which they use instead of road salt) on the streets and sidewalks from earlier storms, but last week they got several days of rain that washed away most of their snow pack. The mountain looks good, but we didn’t even go up there, we put all our money in gas, a hotel room, and a damned good steak and salmon dinner. We wanted to see what kind of accommodations they have, it’s an overnighter.
Wow, Bend is the picture of what some people want Chico to be – snooty, overpriced, full of rich tourists and vacation home owners. They drive like they literally own the road, and I guess they do. You can just see the property taxes dripping off the street corners, everything’s real fancy. Friendly? Absolutely not – well, you know, the food servers will lick your butt clean until they get your last order, and then as soon as they hand you the check, you’re yesterday’s news, and why are you taking so long to put your coat on?! Same at the hotel – sure they will serve you and it’s clean but they’re already looking at the door behind you halfway through “Hello!”
The town itself, well, you know – a nice place to visit but I would never live there. It’s a tourist toilet, long on superficial charm, but lacking in actual community – the kind of people who make instant friends based on make of car. Sure, they have a lot of nice stuff – the streets are public art, the buildings are covered with it – all paid with private money from Downtown property owners. They can pay – they sell expensive stuff and meals and booze, and they draw in the rich crowd by looking rich.
We have a trout fountain, Bend has a salmon fountain. The point being, nobody is bathing or sleeping or camping in this one. And, it wasn’t paid for by the public – this and much of their “public” art was paid for privately and sits on private property which is accessible to the public.
Here’s another gem, paid for by a local business, placed on the sidewalk. You can sit on the bench with this fellow. I’m not sure what it was made of, it looked like pewter.
You can’t look like Chico and expect expensive people to feel safe wandering around town half pissed – rich people have to feel secure to get snockered and start laying down money. Chico is the kind of town lately, where you clutch your purse tight to your bosom, and keep a hand on your wallet, even in the middle of broad daylight. People have complained it’s not safe to reach into your pocket to get change for a newspaper, Goddess forbid they should approach an ATM. And it’s like some kind of frontier town after dark – you take your chances drinking, getting too drunk, making a offhand remark or letting your eye wander, and somebody’s loading your gut full of a blade. Sounds like Shinbone! Look out for Liberty Valance!
Another problem with Chico is, the city treats visitors like Big Daddy Bucks – if you can spend a dime, well Sir! You can spend $100! First they fleece you for parking. I just don’t get it, and I’ve sat in on many conversations Downtown – they complain nobody wants to shop Downtown, so they raise the price of parking, saying it will keep away the ne’er do wells who take up parking but don’t buy anything. Well, I happen to have known a few old “rich” ladies in my day – they get insulted when they are treated like cash cows. A few of them came into those meetings, and some others wrote letters to the papers, saying, why should I pay to park Downtown, when I can park for free at any major shopping center from Redding to Sac-o-tomatoes? But the city continues to gouge for parking, and has brought enforcers Downtown who are told they need to produce parking revenues for the city in order to pay their own salaries. Oh no, that doesn’t sound like a racket, oooooh nooooo!
In Bend, there’s free parking as far as the eye can see. As long as that eye isn’t watching the end of it’s own nose too closely.
There’s beaucoup free parking in Bend. That’s French for, “what the hell is Chico thinking, charging people to come Downtown to spend money?”
What a deal – two hours of free parking. That’s more than enough time to wear out your shopping possibilities, have a cup of coffee or lunch with friends, or go to a class at Chico State. Something I never understood about the city of Chico – they have a college and multiple coffee shops and eateries Downtown, but whenever they discuss Downtown parking, they want to get rid of college students and people who just want a cup of coffee or a take-out meal. And Downtown employees are expected to park in the more removed residential neighborhoods, no matter how late at night they get off work.
This offstreet parking lot, situated next to the public park, is where I found the “Parking free for 2 hours” sign. This is only one row of free parking, right Downtown. This taken at about 9am, on a Saturday when shops don’t open until about 10am. When we left at 11am, it was about two-thirds full, and cars were coming and going pretty regularly.
And while it’s true most of the shops and restaurants are a little pricey and impractical (lots of high-end nic-nack shops)…
…they aren’t afraid of businesses that show a little imagination, and cater to the students and the working class crowd. Here I’ll mention, Bend has a college, but is not dominated by it.
So, I’d say, if Chico wants to take the tourist route, they are so far up the wrong tree, they will never make it. I don’t want to be Bend Oregon anyway – I’d like Chico to go back to the working class town of my childhood and early adulthood. I don’t believe Downtown will ever be a tourist destination. The biggest “tourist” events Downtown are graduations at Chico State. Families load hotels from Willows to Corning, and Chico gets the first pick. I don’t like taking advantage of these people, just like I don’t like taking advantage of their kids, but that’s this city’s other cash cow – college kids. Other people’s kids, from other towns. We don’t seem to lay too much emphasis on educating our own kids around here, because we have predatory business owners who look at those out of town kids with dollar signs in their eyes. I’m not proud of that “economy.”
I certainly want to welcome tourists. I guess the Concours still brings people to Chico, but not Downtown anymore, for obvious reasons. How soon we forget – the Concours was one of our biggest events in town, Artoberfest couldn’t touch it, never will. For years they brought crowds of spend-happy auto enthusiasts to Chico State, loaded Downtown restaurants and local hotels. Then I heard attendance was dropping, with complaints of Downtown drunkenness and creepy street people, and now it’s held at Butte Creek Country Club. I’m guessing a lot of out-of-town guests are heading to stay at the casino at Corning, I’ve heard it’s really nice and not expensive by their standards. Johnny’s is nice, I’ve sent friends in there and got good reports, but they said, don’t stay after 8pm, and they wonder – how is it for hotel guests? Owner Wayne Cook has said the transient problem is hurting his bottom line, and his manager Joe Montes is running for city council on a sort of safe and clean campaign.
I certainly see their point. When I travel, I like to walk around. After being in the car for hours, that’s the only way I can sleep. We don’t stay places that aren’t walkable – we wouldn’t stay anywhere in Chico. We’d probably head for Corning – when you travel, what’s another hour to a hotel in a better area? The idea of being a stranger walking around Chico is completely unattractive, especially when compared with towns that do it so much better.
My conclusion – I don’t want to live in a tourist town, but they’re nice to visit. I’m not worried about it – Chico doesn’t have nearly what it takes to be Bend Oregon, and I’m sorry – never will. Chico needs to start working toward serving it’s citizens instead of trying to milk a pipe dream. And yes, college students are citizens and their parents are welcome guests. The city of Chico does need to take further steps to make not only Downtown, but all of Chico safer – including the South Campus area. And hiring more cops that will refuse to do their job is not a solution. When the fish stinks, it’s the head of the fish, folks. In this case, a fish with many heads. We need to replace Chief Trostle, and change the charter to make the police chief elected by the voters. And, we need to dump our current council who has masturbated away so much staff time=$$$$ without solving any aspect of the problem.
Not that I’m endorsing anybody, but I have invited council candidates Andrew Coolidge and Joe Montes in to the library – Coolidge on April 27, and Montes on May 25, both at noon, hope you will come in for a good discussion. There are other issues, but this issue has been on everybody’s lips lately, and given the stuff I’ve been seeing myself, I have been thinking about it too. It’s definitely a hot topic for Election 2014.