Friday, December 9, 2016

Pondering Location and Home

I am currently on a last minute trip to provide assistance to relatives in California. The trip has mostly been about manual labor (something my body rebels against, yet I seem to always find myself involved in somehow), but there have been a few moments to slip away to find some reflection and recovery time. I've made trips to this location many times over the last several years and grew up not far from the area, but I've noticed on this particular visit that there are more cyclists on the roads than I've taken note of in the past.

The weather is cool here in this area (cooler than I remember for the time of year, if I'm honest), but still far warmer than it is presently at home in Colorado, so I can't help but wonder if this is a usual occurrence and I've just not noticed it in the past, or perhaps it's more to do with not being in the area often enough during this time of year.
I never seemed to have a camera handy when the cyclists went by, but I managed to catch this fellow riding a couple of days ago.
As I've found time to slip away, I've taken note of the large number of people on bicycles. At first, I was simply noticing commuters on the roads, likely using the bicycle as transportation. Then, I noticed what appeared to be individuals out on more of sport, group rides, and most recently I came in contact with several, separately traveling, touring cyclists with bicycles loaded up. Each were dressed a bit differently, but this is one of the few parts of the country where I don't find it odd seeing a cyclist in shorts and sleeveless shirt in December. It's making me dread my return home to below freezing temperatures and snow!

It's amazing to me how cycling infrastructure has changed in this small community as well. Each time I return, I notice more bicycle lanes or find new paved trails. As is the case in many areas, I did note that several of these paths or trails tend to end abruptly and without warning, causing me to wonder why the municipality didn't continue to pave the path for cyclists. Perhaps it is in the works and if I were to come back in a year's time, things would look different yet again.
This trail was fantastic, but ends just around the bend at a signal and forces riders out onto the busy road with motorized traffic.
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll have that opportunity. My family that is living in this area is preparing for a move out of state in the spring, so I likely won't have reason to visit this small community again.

Between this trip and a recent e-mail conversation with a reader, I've been pondering the things that make a community "right" for an individual. I've always loved this area because of the mild climate, and seeing more cycling infrastructure come alive causes me to appreciate this community all the more. When I was growing up, it was a very small farm community and few people actually lived here, but it has grown and changed, and I appreciate the changes that have taken place. It makes me want to live here.

Of course, there is bad to consider here as well. For instance, this area has been particularly hard hit by the California drought and has seen little in the way of rain, even though both southern and northern California have had a bit of relief with some periodic rain. Additionally, it's an expensive place to live, particularly for a community that has little in the way of providing income. The people who survive seem to be 1) farmers, 2) entrepreneurs, 3) independently wealthy, or 4) retirees who moved to the area before it got outrageously costly. I can't help but wonder what people do to make a living when they don't fit into the above categories (and they do exist). I suppose living anywhere is possible, and there is always give and take.

If I were to pick out my ideal community to live in, I think about the qualities I would want it to possess. Things like cycling infrastructure/bicycle friendly businesses and access are high on the list, as is the ability to earn a living, cost of housing and cost of living in general, temperate climate, friendly and open residents, dog friendliness (I take my pooches just about everywhere with me), and the list could go on.

As each year passes, I also realize that I likely have limited time to share with older family members, and a part of me always wants to be closer so that visiting isn't so infrequent. So, I begin to ponder the idea of following those that leave and wonder if there is a happy point that meets somewhere between my idealized mental list and absolutely none of the items I would want in a city or community.

So, I find myself posing the questions to you, reader. How do you feel and what do you think about your chosen home location. Where do you live, and what do you like about your community? Is it small or large... or somewhere in between? Did you grow up in the area or move to your current home town in adulthood? What keeps you in your community? Have you visited other communities that you prefer over your own? What prevents you from moving? I would love to hear about other places around the country (and even outside of the country) and how you and/or your family arrived or chose your place of residence. Meanwhile, I'd better get back to work!

6 comments:

  1. I did not grow up in the area I live now, the District of Columbia, but as long as I am working, I think that I will stay here. I grew up in the Midwest so I am a fair distance from family that still lives there. That bothers me somewhat, but D.C. suits me better. Winters are less severe, summers are manageable, and I can ride my bike EVERYWHERE. Being able to ride a bike or walk as my main form of transportation has become one of the most important factors I weigh when thinking about where to live. Also, although I'm far away from some of my family, with National Airport so close to the city, it is easy (despite being a bit costly) to travel when I need to do so.

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    1. It sounds like you've found your place, MG, and I think that is so important. I don't think it's ever easy to be away from family, but it's nice that you can go and visit and still be in a place that works for you.

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  2. I grew up in a smaller community 10 miles outside of where I live in Burlington, Vermont. After traveling across the country and a 6-month stint in Houston my husband and I settled in Portland, Oregon. We stayed there for 10 years and what I considered at the time my ideal location. In the 90's there were very few bike commuters, but I fell in love with the climate, the volcanoes, the wide open spaces of canyons and high desert. I thought w'ed stay there forever. But the pull of family is strong - family that never moved our would contemplate resettling in the Northwest, so wanting to grow our own family, we moved home after a year abroad getting the travel bug out of our system. I pretty much can ride a bicycle any where, whether it's the Northwest or Vermont so residing near family has taken precedence. But cycling has taken a front seat in the past 20 years personally and city-wide fortunately. Burlington is a lively city with a beautiful waterfront trail, effectively providing wonderful cycling opportunities with the great lake expanse which still gives me my contemplative open space. It is not cheap to live here, but being nearly family has made it worthwhile and I've grown to adapt to the colder climate.

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    1. I love seeing your photos of rides on waterfront paths. I agree that it can be difficult to be so far from family, so I can completely understand how you ended up back in Vermont. I'm sure it's fantastic to see that things have changed and improved in regard to cycling over time too!

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  3. We came to Memphis for our jobs, and it took a long -- very long -- time to grow on us. But it has become home. Our friends are here; we love our workplaces and colleagues; my research projects and passions are here; and the city has become very bike friendly. Now that we've moved downtown, I also find it much more walkable. So, at least until retirement, this is home.

    Like MG, I find that compatibility with active transportation is one of my highest priorities when choosing where to live. When we were looking for a new place, we didn't even consider a place that wouldn't work with my bike commute. Downtown is perfect for this. It's an easy 6 miles to work in midtown, there are tons of businesses, museums, parks, and other places to walk and bike right out our front door. We love being right on the river. Best of all: The very day we moved in the "Big River Crossing" opened. This is a railroad bridge across the Mississippi that now has a protected bike/pedestrian path. It's wonderful!

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    1. I think jobs are quite a common reason for moves. I can also identify with it taking time to adapt to a new location, but having the opportunity to pursue passions is a big part of life.

      It sounds like your new home is working out spectacularly!

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