We're in California right now, and what I'm seeing is truly incredible. I'm on a beach, sitting back on a towel. I'm eating a hamburger. It's hot and fresh.
We're not in a major metropolitan area, but the folks back in Harlen were nice enough to send us toward a small group of people that act as intermediaries between the Harlen area communities and Google (and the survivors who live nearby) to the north.
I even went swimming. Granted, the water is about sixty degrees, so it wasn't for long, but I went. The world is a darker and more scary place than it was two years ago, but I'll be damned if my first trip to the west coast was going to be made without a dip in the ocean.
It's funny to me that we've faced zombies and other threats, fought for our lives time after time and scrabbled in the dirt to make our own food grow...yet when presented with a safe section of beach and a hot meal, I can fall right back into the old comfortable feeling of the way things were. Right now we're being fueled up to head north (since our last stop was further east and much more southerly than where Google is) and the locals told us to take a load off, enjoy some relaxation.
Can't say it was a bad idea at all.
In talking with our hosts, I've learned quite a bit about this area of the country. A lot of people have survived around here, and the zombie population is nowhere near as bad as you'd expect. The sheer numbers of people in places like Los Angeles, for example, kept the zombie population down even as the outbreaks spread. One person would turn, and six would kill the new zombie. Then five. Then four, and so on until the zombies were thinned out to small numbers and the remaining survivors had learned to steer clear of them. Fighting the undead is sometimes necessary, but successfully hiding from them is always smart.
It helps that California is huge and capable of supporting many different kinds of crops. Yeah, it gets fairly cold here, but nothing close to what we deal with back home. It's about fifty degrees out right now, and it feels good to me. No rain. The guy cooking the burgers (there's a huge cattle farm about an hour from here) is wearing a winter coat. It's unzipped, but still...
There are also several different industries being kept up in this state aside from the work the good people at Google are carrying out. Estimates are that nearly half a million people are still alive in this state, though I have to think that's probably a very high guess. I'd say realistically about half that, since two hundred thousand is the last number put together by any kind of census. It's enough people to manage large-scale farming all over the state, work metals, even build new structures and vehicles if there are parts available.
In fact, there is way more than enough being produced here than the various communities need. Moving any of it on a large scale to those of us who want to trade for it, especially as far away as my old Kentucky home, is the problem. Fuel will only last so long. Google is hopefully going to help us come up with a solution.
I have a few ideas of my own. We should be there by tomorrow night if all goes well.