(Text and photos by Mike Bowler
Fresno should post signs on all roads entering its county limits stating, “WARNING: LIVING IN OR JUST TRAVELING THROUGH FRESNO POSES SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS. Fresno air is chock-full of particulate matter from trucks, cars, fireplaces, farms being tilled, pesticides, herbicides, and other agriculture chemicals, including heavy metals, and can pose serious health risks including cancer, asthma, valley fever, emphysema, and other lung and heart problems. Enter at your own risk. Pregnant women are advised to stay out.”
In Fresno, spring isn’t the cruelest season. It is just the only tolerable season. During summer it is too hot to breathe and too dusty to want to. The only escape from the misery is to travel west until one runs into the Pacific Ocean where one can smell the salt water, feel the gentle sea breeze, and swim in the cool Pacific waters. The coastal escape is about two and half hours away, and coastal housing is expensive.
Also, eventually one must return, and the return can be painful, perhaps more painful than having spent the time in Fresno. If one doesn’t know of a pleasure, one doesn’t miss the pleasure when it is gone. Only junkies miss heroin when it is gone. People who have never experienced it will never miss it. If you are trying to escape a Fresno summer, remember it could lead to an addiction and the inevitable withdrawal when returning from an apparent paradise to the purgatory named Fresno.
Fall in Fresno is similar to summer but cooler. However, there is a danger in fall. Because of the coolness, the air is easier to breathe but just as dangerous. It is just a tastier poison and there are fewer escape destinations. Some travel to Yosemite or the nearby foothills and view the color change of tree leaves but soon realize Fresno fall colors can’t compete with New Hampshire or Canada. The Canadian fall is prettier and the people are nicer. Spending the money traveling to the North East may very well be worth the extra cash. If you are desperate, buy a book with nice pictures and save several thousands dollars.
Winter isn’t particularly nice in Fresno. It is cold, and the Tule Fog frequently sneaks in to provide drivers with zero visibility. This isn’t San Francisco fog that makes things romantic and artistic looking. No, it’s more like a blinding cold steam rising from the ground. Every year cars run into each other because drivers refuse to admit they can’t see past their hood ornaments and drive 70 miles per hour down the freeway. Also, the fog holds pollution in a similar way a sponge holds water. It is often painful to take a breath.
Of course, there are winter places nearby which are enjoyable. Again, they are two or three hours away and require some cost. And again, returning to Fresno is painful. Many escape the Fresno winter by trekking to either nearby mountains, which usually are blanketed in snow, or a desert such as Death Valley or the Mohave. The starkness of deserts is fascinating and beautiful so long as it isn’t summer when the heat will kill you. Literally, heat stroke can be a killer. The snow-covered mountains are a more popular escape. Sierra Summit attracts snowboarders and skiers, and nearby snow parks are great for tobogganers and budding bobsledders.
However, I have been to the snow and feel obligated to warn you, the white stuff called snow is wet, cold, and generally not pleasant. And since I don’t like stuff that is cold, wet, and generally uncomfortable I usually venture to the desert. If God had wanted us to frolic in the white, cold, and wet, he would have made us furrier than we are. This would make us all appear to be walking Chia Pets and probably be too warm for most summers. It would also save on clothing costs, but would be hard on the fashion industry. Also, it would solve the abominable snowman question.
But as an Old Guy, I digress. Turning 65 gave me the right to digress. It is actually a requirement of Old Guys.
Even without added digressions, we have one season left: spring, Fresno’s only survivable season. It is the only season not requiring going someplace else to enjoy yourself. It could be that compared to all other Fresno seasons spring seems better, or it could be in the spring Fresno is better. I don’t know which is true, but everything Fresno is better in the spring.
The nut trees explode in pink, white, and lavender flowers. The nearby rivers and lakes begin to fill with water, and the weather moderates. Gone are the winds, cold, and fog of winter. The sauna-like heat of summer is still in the future.
In spring the grape fields begin to bloom, and the marijuana fields planted between the lines of grapes begin to be hidden by the growing grapes and are no longer visible. I am told by those in the know even Fresno pot is better in the spring.