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As a native Californian, I've been a little nervous about immigrating to Colorado. After all, the billboards reading "Don't Californicate Oregon" along our northern border are legendary.

I really didn't move here to ruin the place, but I was bracing myself for an inhospitable welcome. Reactions have been mixed. Some people sport that "Welcome to Colorado -- now go home" look. Some are awestruck. Why on earth leave San Diego for this place?

San Diego and Colorado Springs have a lot in common -- lots of military, lots of bulldozers -- but it's geniunely difficult to make generalizations. There are lots of extreme stereotypes dominating our images.

Maybe you're concerned about the fate of your state. Maybe you're tense about proliferating California corruption. Well, I'm here to say, "Relax. Don't worry! Colorado will never be like California." Here are seven reasons why.

1. Coloradans don't drive slow enough. Granted, Los Angeles takes the brass ring for road rage, but the rest of California is relatively laid-back. Commuters are resigned to their fate. Not so, here. Most drivers seem to believe that racing, stopping and jockeying for position will actually get them somewhere. The streets are littered daily with accidents. Maybe it's the thin air. I'm thinking it's the Air Force influence: All the would-be pilots figure if they can't make it in the wild blue yonder, there's always the street where you live.

2. There's not enough cash. California's got electronic funds-transfer wired. There are ATMs everywhere, and most retailers have debit-credit-card terminals at their counters. And the cards are free.

In Colorado, the banks will sell you an ATM card, which is different than a debit card (which they sell for another fee). Then, good luck finding an ATM without a service charge. To further diminish the cash flow, some places don't take credit cards. I recently ordered for a family of five at Taco Bell and was informed they don't take VISA. I told them to drop the chalupa.

3. It's hard to buy booze. In California, grocery stores sell wine. You can pick up your fettucine, portabello mushrooms and Chianti all within aisles of each other. Here, grocery stores can sell beer, but for reasons known only to some high-powered liquor-store lobbyist, you have to go somewhere else for wine and spirits. It's not only saving me money, but I'm seeing if the thin air can substitute as an antioxidant.

4. You don't have to speak Spanish. The Spanish were all over California. There are missions spaced one day's walk from San Diego to San Francisco. California was once part of Mexico. Every other street, town, canyon and mesa is named after a saint. Not so with Colorado. The Spanish didn't make it north of Pueblo, and "El Paso" is about the only foreign phrase you'll encounter.

5. Coloradans don't like breakfast. While thousands of Californians make a living running breakfast-and-lunch-only places, most restaurants in the Springs don't even open for breakfast. And if you find a place that's open, it's a challenge to find anything without ham in it. When the People's Choice for breakfast is International House of Pancakes, you know you're not in California anymore.

6. No one bribes you to recycle. Recycling is legal in California -- in fact, it's mandatory. Too many landfills are getting choked to capacity. There's a recycling center at every supermarket, and you get paid for your bottles, cans and newspapers.

In Colorado, you recycle because you really love it. No 85 cents a pound for aluminum. No nickel per plastic 2-liter bottle. Zip! Just the warm feeling you get from doing something good for the planet. (I think for Christmas, I'll be sending my loved ones in California all my aluminum cans!)

7. Cowboys read newspapers here. Hank the Cowboy's not looking at a street map, he's got a newspaper in his hand! Cowboys wouldn't be caught dead reading in California. Who needs it with all that free talk radio? In Colorado, newspapers are free. During my first week here, phone solicitors begged me to take the paper for pennies day -- The Gazette, The Denver Post. The Rocky Mountain News is charging $3.12 for a year's subscription.

God bless Colorado!

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