Now, I’m not going to claim that my childhood home of Columbia, SC is a big city. With a population of merely 133,000, it’s really not that much bigger than the population of my current city of Eau Claire, which stands at 67,000. Of course, when you look at the metro areas of these two cities, Columbia sits at 800,000, whereas Eau Claire is only 161,000.
Of course, with all that being said, the two cities are fairly similar. I started putting together a list of similarities, but ultimately, the deal here is that they both have the basic amenities of city life, where the distance you have to drive to purchase items for daily living is the same distance you’ll drive for luxury items.
So, although my mind has always considered Eau Claire to be small town living, it really is still city life. Our downtown area may be much smaller than the one in Columbia, our buildings may not touch the sky, but really, they’re mighty similar.
In the next month, I’m making the move to Colfax, WI, a town with a population of 1,158 as of 2010. There is no metro area to consider. If anything, this small little burb is probably included in the metro numbers for Eau Claire. It’s tiny.
Our first day in town, I decided to run into the little downtown area (which runs about 3 blocks), to see if I could find any quick food. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Subway has found its way there, but it was obvious the real fast food choice was the gas station fried chicken (which is what I ended up getting and it was glorious). That same night we drove back into town to get pizza from the pizza place downtown (there’s only one other restaurant within a less than 10 minute drive for us…and I think only 2 more than that in less than a 30 minute drive). The kids and I explored the public library while waiting for the pizza to be made and made friends with the librarians.
Later that night, I realized we needed an extension cord, so I ran back into town to see what might be available and learned that the same gas station with the good fried chicken serves as the local hardware store (thank goodness!).
Whereas, back in the city, where we spend the majority of our days yet, until we complete the sale on our house, we have multiple choices for pizza places, I’ve barely had a conversation with the librarians even though we’ve been there multiple times, and there are at least a handful of options for hardware stores, all not being purveyors of fuel for my vehicle.
Our neighbors are just close enough out there that if they were using binoculars, they may be able to tell that we’re naked, should we decide to go on a streaking party across our yard. Yet, I’ve already met a handful of them, compared to the months it took us to even strike up a standard “Hi!” with the people who can look into our windows without getting up from their couch inside their own home. (To be fair, we did become close friends nearly immediately to the couple who lived across the street from us)
I’ve met Good Don, Bad Don, Duron “Don”, and Buck and we’ve only been there a couple days so far. And you can tell who the other neighbors are because they do the slow roll past the house as they drive by, waiting for us to look so we can exchange friendly waves.
I’ve learned the history of the area, learned where the good fishing spots are, have been given free range over the giant corn field behind our land for tobogganing, told about the 14 point buck I should expect roaming my yard, and, well, you know, just been given butt loads of information, simply because my neighbors are actually excited to have us there.
And I think that’s the thing here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found both of my primary previous hometowns to be incredibly friendly. I remember being struck by how rude the folks out in LA were when we visited last fall (to be fair to you Southern California residents, we were hanging out primarily in touristy areas, so it’s probably not entirely you to blame), but never have I been so welcomed to a new home.
Our neighbor keeps pressing us to make sure to get his help when we decide to tear down the couple of outbuildings we need to tear down. That’s just how close knit this community is, even though walking to the nearest house is more than a bit of a chore.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m a tad anxious about the concept of living in such a foreign style to what I’m accustomed to. The idea that I’ll have to take a forty minute drive if I want to see a movie in the theater is not exactly an exciting one. Of course, considering how frequently I’ve been to the movies lately, and how we’ve already got plans drawn up for our own outdoor theater, that may be a bad example.
But, I’m still excited about this new adventure, and more than ready to get out there for real. Just to be able to sit outside and see the stars without the light pollution getting in the way and hear the wildlife without the sounds of sirens getting in the way has already proven to be a spectacular experience.
And with Amazon offering free two day shipping for prime folks like us, who really needs a Target in driving distance, right?