Solace For The Other 49 States: It’s (Not) Always Sunny In California

It isn’t always sunny in California. It only just seems that way for those of us who live in colder climates. On Thursday, it rained in Los Angeles. I swear, there was no sun or blue skies to be had anywhere. Before I travel anywhere, I check the forecast for my destination obsessively and I can tell you that this is the first time there’s been rain in L.A. in at least 6 or 7 years. Or it least it seems that way.

I’ve traveled extensively around California over the past 30 years and this was actually the first time I have ever – ever – felt any significant rainfall in this glorious state. Perhaps I’ve just been remarkably lucky, but I think Californians are actually quite unused to inclement weather.

On the drive to out hotel we were listening to the local NPR affiliate in Los Angeles and the hosts noted that there had been 188 crashes on L.A. freeways that morning, which, they said, was a big haul, even for L.A. The hosts chalked this up to the rain and I almost burst out laughing.I grew up in Buffalo and my adopted hometown is Chicago. The notion that large numbers of people are crashing their cars due to the fact that it was 65 degrees with a light drizzle seemed delicious, preposterous, wonderful! Only in a place with a truly glorious climate could people forget how to safely operate their vehicles because they are so shocked or unaccustomed to a little harmless precipitation.

Most travel writers like to wax poetic about how they don’t mind rainy weather while traveling. And most of them are full of crap for the following reasons. 1) They spend most of the year traveling and thus have a completely different perspective than someone who has just a few precious days to savor outside their office each year. 2) They typically aren’t traveling with small children they have to find ways to amuse in bad weather.

Anyone who travels frequently can tell you stories about how awful the weather was on one trip or another they’ve taken. Other than California, which has been my lucky destination over the years, I seem to have a knack for brining bad weather to even the sunniest of places.

Italy is a prime example. I’ve encountered day after day of torrential rain and winds in places like Capri, Polignano A Mare, and Siracusa, to name just a few. And on each occasion, everyone I met assured me that the weather we were experiencing was like a freak, supernatural experience. It’s NEVER like this! They say. Or, more commonly, The weather was perfect until you arrived.

I don’t care what anyone says, the truth is that no place looks as good in the rain as it does under blue skies and sunshine. You make the best of bad weather and sometimes it forces you to do some fun things that you wouldn’t do otherwise, but if you get nothing but rain in a place, the chances are, you probably won’t like it as much as if you’d had good weather there.

If you’re traveling with small children, inclement weather takes an even greater toll. If you aren’t with kids, you can lie in bed and curl up with a book or hit a museum, but you’re options are much more limited if you have small kids in tow. You can throw on a movie for them, but it’s hard to do that all day long for days on end. Bitching about the weather won’t help either, but it can be therapeutic.

Our first two days in California have been rainy, with yet more rain in the forecast and the weather is getting warmer in Chicago. It was 63 and rainy in L.A. on Thursday and 54 and sunny in Chicago, so take your pick. According to, though, L.A. had zero days with measurable precipitation in October and just two days with a wee bit of rain in November prior to my arrival. But L.A. averages 2.37 inches of precipitation in December historically, not much different than Chicago’s 2.57 inches.

Never mind the fact that Chicago is 50 degrees colder. (And there are microclimates all over California, so if you want different weather, just get the car and drive a bit) But on Saturday, we were in La Jolla, basking in the sunshine. And after a couple gloomy days, we appreciated the warmth of the sun all the more so. You can never take good weather for granted, even in California.

[Photo credits: Neil Kremer and Thomas Hawk on Flickr]