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Morgan Hill
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December 2, 2021

Our Town: Views of the Southwest, from Morgan Hill

Last month I took a nice motorcycle ride through the great American Southwest. This trip allowed me to reflect on life a bit here in our little community.

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I set out on the trip seeking an opportunity to get away and live every moment the way I wanted—a luxury in itself that few of us really get to experience very often.

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The morning after a Planning Commission meeting, I awoke to two weeks clear of commitments, put on a warm jacket, jumped on my motorcycle and headed out on a wonderfully cool morning; it would be the last time I would need to wear anything to keep me warm for the rest of the trip.

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It didn’t take long for the temperature to change as well as the landscape. It got warmer as I moved inland and started to see another part of our state.

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I’m not an expert in the study of regional politics and economies, but you can sure start to see how everything that makes up a region—from climate to landscape to dominant economic drivers—can intimately shape and impact lives.

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What really left an impression upon me in California was the presence of the oil industry and big agribusiness in the southern Central Valley. This area, dotted with small, “just barely there” towns, looked like you had to be pretty rugged to eke out a living. Maybe I’ve watched too many Hollywood “B” movies, but I just imagined people sweating and looking out a door at a dusty landscape longing to be somewhere else. This may be the dream locale for some, but not for me.

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Riding into Las Vegas always challenges my senses. Here is a big gleaming city where there really shouldn’t be a city. It’s a hot, barren place teeming with human activity.  

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Riding around it, I see the seemingly never-ending growth. Once almost entirely based upon gambling and entertainment, the City of Sin has become a little more economically diverse, which promises greater job opportunities while maintaining important affordable housing. People are flocking here, and I bet home ownership levels—and electric bills—are much higher than average.

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But it is a big, sprawling city that feels so impersonal with chain after chain of restaurants, stores, everything… It all looks so new and modern and, quite frankly, contrived.

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Past Las Vegas, you really get into the great Southwest. These are the wide open spaces, with so much solitude and beauty. The area is so sparsely populated that you really are left alone in your head on open stretches of roads.

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This solitude allowed me to reflect on how we so often compare other places to home. There are big cities, little towns and the ones like Morgan Hill, which are somewhere in between and just right.

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Do we really have it all?

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We have an incredible climate. We live in a beautiful landscape. Rolling hills to mountains to open meadows, we have a wonderful variety in our own valley. I could go on and on, but you know the rest.

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It may not be perfect, but it is the place I will always return to after comparing our home to those of so many others.

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John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, a city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected].

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