Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

I want to thank those of you who have written me in the past few days.  The Internet access situation has been spotty, so I haven’t even had a chance to get through a fraction of the messages but the number of you offering to show us around towns, drive us to or from the airport, answer any questions we have, or just meet up for a quick bite to eat has been humbling.  I forget that people – real people, who actually exist – read this blog since it’s normally an outlet for whatever is going on in my mind at the time.

[mainbodyad]In all seriousness, I might take some of you up on your offers once we narrow down the areas that interest us either during this trip or return trip in the future.  Right now, we’re running around Southern California in a rental car, Aaron driving as I have a notebook and we make detailed notes about various areas.  Some were immediately on the “yes” list, some were “no”, and some made the “we’ll consider”.  It’s funny how personal community selection is.  For example (and with sincere, deepest, heartfelt apologies to those of you who love it), I was not a fan of San Clemente.  The stats are good but it feels wrong.  I can’t describe it.  I looked around and it just isn’t home.

We were both impressed with a town called Rancho Santa Fe because it felt like the parts of Missouri we love – not too many people around and affluent – while still being relatively close to everything.  I also liked  Laguna Beach / Niguel / Dana Point.  We stopped and grabbed a bite to eat in Gelson’s Market at Dana Point; the whole area felt pleasant.  I could see raising kids in that environment.  There was a Ritz Carlton resort near the water we’re thinking about circling back around and visiting, but it just depends on how much time we have before I have to get back to the office.

Last night, we drove into a vineyard growing region and stayed in a town called Temecula, which people kept telling us to check out if we had the chance.  The mountains and rows of grapes are breathtaking.  I can’t get over how cheap the real estate is compared to everywhere else, which is due almost entirely, I’m told, to the fact that most people here commute in to San Diego.

Here are a few photographs from our drive thus far … all the pictures should enlarge if you click on them.

Driving Into Laguna Beach

The drive into Laguna Beach …

Laguna Beach Aliso Water

We stopped at a beach on the side of the road in Laguna. It was called Aliso …

Laguna Beach Aliso Right

Another shot of the Aliso park in Laguna Beach …

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve San Diego

The drive up to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve near San Diego …

La Jolla CA

We looked through La Jolla, too.  It’s weird to think of Benjamin Graham retiring here.  In my mind, he’s associated with New York. It was very nice but very crowded.  I’d consider living here, but it’s not my first choice.

The Drive Into Temecula from Rancho Santa Fe

The drive into Temecula from Rancho Santa Fe, which keeps coming up on the list, as well …

I think what we’re going to do is pick the 1-2 communities we would consider living in here in Southern California, as well as the 1-2 communities in a handful of other states, including tax-free Florida.  Then, make a final assessment as to the pros and cons of both.  The biggest disadvantage California has going for it is the enormous income tax burden, which is offset by the dirt-cheap property tax and near total lack of utility bills in certain parts of the state.  But it feels as if it is seducing us, slowly, mile by mile.

We’re going to checkout Palm Springs / Rancho Mirage tomorrow, I think, then later in the week head up to Santa Barbara, Montecito, Ojai, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Yorba Linda, etc.  We’re basically making a huge series of loops to eliminate anywhere we wouldn’t like in the first pass.

Once we have the cities narrowed down to a handful we like, we’ll go from there and begin researching in-depth, maybe contacting those of you who are locals and can give us insight into specific towns.