Some people live the California dream, and others just dream it. Those who are caught inbetween live in the Inland Empire, a grandiose name for an area completely devoid of any of the things that make California fun to live in.
The Inland Empire1 covers an area approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles and 120 miles north of San Diego. It contains several cities of moderate population but little importance nestled in a valley that isn't quite desert, but which has aspirations to deserthood.
The Inland Empire boasts nothing except proximity. If you want to go skiing, the mountain resorts are only 20 miles away. If you want to go to the beach, it is about 40 miles away. If you want to experience the night life of a major city, LA is only 60 miles away. Disneyland is nearby. Water parks are all around. Las Vegas is just a few hours drive.
This underdeveloped dustbowl originally began as a bedroom community; people lived here but worked in Orange County or Los Angeles. The entire area consists of houses and strip malls. In some ways this makes it sound like a suburban sanctuary, but this is not the case. The area is rather poor, and gangs and drugs have as strong a hold here as in any inner city.
So why would people live there?
Space. This is one of the few areas in Southern California where you can still buy a two-storey house with a two-car garage and a back yard big enough for a swimming pool.
Price. That house costs much less here than in other areas closer to the coastline.
Climate. Sure, the smog gets held in by the surrounding mountains, but healthy lungs are a small price to pay if you've just moved from Michigan and used to see the sun for only three days a year.