Small Towns Are No Longer Small

hiking trail

When you think about small towns you may be thinking remote, off the beaten path with very little things to do. There probably are some small towns today that fit that description perfectly, but many that don’t.

Many small towns these days are located on the outskirts of large metro areas or in resort areas. In these towns you still get the feel of a small town, but with many more resources nearby.

Near these small towns there is probably a large regional shopping mall within easy driving distance. Some excellent gourmet type restaurants are located in small towns.

When I moved to a small town a couple of months ago, I was concerned about how far away I would have to drive for basic things like grocery store, drug store, dry cleaners, restaurants, and retail stores like Kohls or Target.

Google maps has been a wonderful help to me by locating these stores and giving driving directions also. With GPS on my smartphone, all I have to do is say “Pulix” if I want a brand or just “grocery store” for all, into the google search microphone.  My phone says there is a Publix 2.9 miles away and another 3.4 miles and another 5.2 miles away.  I have been to the closet Publix, the “new Publix” as it is called, and it has everything and more than my suburban Publix did before I moved.

There are two Kohls with 5 miles, and three dry cleaners within three miles, and a CVS within 3 miles. There are several independent banks close by but my credit union is about 8 miles away and is the only thing that takes a little driving to make deposits.

The new 100 bed hospital is less than one mile away and that was a major reason we liked this location.  Doctors and hospitals are the one thing you better check on before moving.

Driving to the largest shopping mall in the state only takes 15 minutes but on the way I pass farm houses, a lamas farm, barns, and traffic is light.

By the way, I love my Amazon Prime account with free two day shipping.  I have ordered just about everything I need without making any trips.

However I downsized quite a bit before moving and I am really going to try not to buy too much stuff, a lot of which I would use infrequently.

So small towns are not so small after all.

We moved to a Del Webb Active Adult Community in a small town so we get the bonus of feeling like we live in a cosmopolitan areas with people from all over the country moving here. Plus all the socialization opportunities and activities are right outside my door.

We have 9 miles of hiking trails and I can enter the trail about 100 yards from my front door.  I ordered two walking sticks from Amazon and will be out tomorrow to get them a try.

The suburban community we moved from had no activities, busy neighbors, very little socialization except for our good friends who lived next door and no hiking trails.

I think this was a good move for us.

Remote Possibilities: Dubois Wyoming

Wyoming

“I wish we had known we wanted to move here 5 years ago,” my new neighbor Karen said rather wistfully a few days ago. “But we didn’t know!

She was speaking about one of the most remote places in the middle of nowhere: the town of Dubois in the upper Wind River Valley of Wyoming. Like so many who have chosen to retire here, Karen and her husband came once on vacation, returned and returned again, and gradually fell in love. Others have fallen in love right away.

When my husband suggested actually moving to Dubois rather than just visiting, the idea seemed crazy and impossible. Leave New York City for the wilds of Wyoming? But it’s only wild in a wonderful and different way, and 8 years on I’m deeply grateful that we moved here.

How is Dubois remote? It’s more than an hour’s drive to the nearest big towns (Jackson, Lander, and Riverton), and 3 hours to the nearest Interstate. Most of the surrounding terrain is public land, much of it officially wilderness, owned by the US Forest Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, or the state of Wyoming. By one standard, a survey from the US Geological Survey, is only about 40 miles away as the crow flies from the most remote spot in the lower 48 states, in the southeast corner of Yellowstone Park.

Nonetheless, we do have many of the advantages that residents from Washington DC, Chicago, even Paris and Stockholm may consider essential to the good life. Dubois has a choice of good restaurants with different cuisines, two places to buy a latte or cappuccino, and two taverns. It also has world-class Internet service, thanks to the fact that the head of the local telephone company was a prime mover in the national effort to bring broadband service to rural areas of America. (Telecommuting is a distinct possibility: I worked from Dubois for a large international corporation for 8 years before I retired, and others here also have Internet-based careers.)

Surrounded by some of the most spectacular vistas in the American West, Dubois (it’s pronounced “dew-boys”) is home to a diverse mixture of active and very interesting people who are deeply committed to maintaining what we love about this village of 1,000 residents that swells to 2,000 in the summer:

The variety and beauty of the landscape: Situated near the Continental Divide, we live about an hour’s drive from the south entrance to Yellowstone Park, on the ecological dividing line between high Alpine forest and red rock badlands. We are surrounded by two major ranges of the Rocky Mountains, the Absarokas and the Wind River Mountains. This may be the only place on earth where you can see all three mountain-building processes (tectonic, volcanic, and sedimentary erosion) from one location.

The nature of the community: A combination of the traditional independence of the American West and the vitality of its newcomers, Dubois’ community is deeply self-reliant and also welcoming. Generally, people here don’t care what you used to do or the size of your bank balance; they care how you relate to your neighbors. We mind our own business but respond quickly if someone is in trouble. What’s more, the proceeds from almost any event in town (and we’re ferociously busy in the summer!) go to local charities.

The history: The first visitors to the area were the trappers who opened the West. Next came the hardy homesteaders and then the tie hacks who cut logs that supplied the railroad ties that opened the rest of the West. Butch Cassidy lived and owned property here. One of the best preserved gold-mining ghost towns in the US, South Pass City, is an easy day trip away near Lander. A recent and surprising discovery atop a nearby mountain, the remains of a Shoshone village, inspired a curator at the Natural History Museum in New York to call Dubois “the epicenter of Rocky Mountain archaeology.”

The activities: We may live in the middle of nowhere, but we have plenty to do. Artists, photographers, and musicians gravitate here, so weekends are busy with jam sessions or performances by musicians, art or photography shows, speakers about history or archaeology at the local museum, an eye-popping quilt show, or pack-horse or chariot races. You might join the tourists at the weekly square dance or rodeo. It’s often difficult to set aside time for what you might really want to do instead: fish, hike, golf, or get away in your camper.

The climate: The Shoshone natives settled here centuries ago partly because of the mild climate. We call it the “valley of the warm winds,” sheltered from wintry blasts by the Tetons over near Jackson and our hovering wedge of local mountains. Summers in Dubois are cooler and more pleasant than elsewhere in Wyoming (or almost anywhere). We often find the winters more temperate and tolerable than back in New York City. It may snow sideways for four days, but then it all blows away.

The economics: Real estate prices are modest. We traded a small 3-bedroom second home in Connecticut for a very large 4-bedroom log lodge with a cathedral ceiling. We don’t find prices of necessities any higher than anywhere else. There’s no Macy’s or Nordstrom’s, but we do have a Family Dollar.

The downsides: Dubois has only a part-time doctor, a full-time nurse practitioner, and a dentist. It takes over an hour to drive to a specialist or a hospital (but that could take just as long in New York City). Shopping is limited (but now, of course, there’s the Internet and FedEx). US mail generally takes a day longer than in a large city. The produce in the supermarket in winter is often disappointing, and you may have to wait for your next trip to Jackson if your recipe calls for chipotle-flavored mayonnaise or dried seaweed.

About this time of year, my husband and I begin to discuss exactly when we should head back east to spend the holidays with the rest of the family. I anticipate my return to New York City with pleasure, because it’s a chance to relax in a place where nothing ever happens (that I can’t miss) and where I hardly know anybody (after four decades). Before long, I’m dying to get back home to Dubois.
(Read more about daily life in Dubois at www.livingdubois.wordpress.com.)

Dubois WY

How is Living in a Small Town Different

Small town living

Smalls towns are not what they used to be. These days they appeal to most everyone who wants a brake from the rat race of urbanized living. Small towns offer so much more than they used to.

That being the case, what are some of the differences you will notice if you move from a metro area to a small town.  I am about to find out moving from a metro area that is getting more urbanized everyday to a small town out one the fringes of a metro area. This move will be to a Del Webb community and that seems to be their ideal location, far enough but not too far, from metro areas.

My post: Anticipating a Move to a Small Town

We have purchased the home and are downsizing our current household belongings, meeting with an interior designer who is giving us input on what to bring and will help set up our home in the new community.

So we are in the process of moving, but are following our new community with many visits to the community and surrounding area during our moving process. Observations are being made and I am updating this page with new observations.

The purpose of this posts will be to share my observations about how living in a small town is different and I have two observations to start this list and will add more as we move.

1. More Influence in the Community.

Kind of like you become a bigger fish in a smaller pond type thing. Your input and efforts make a bigger difference. Example: The county wanted to dig up one of the new tennis courts in my new community to lay a utility line and said they would return the courts to same or better condition.  They did not. They tried to repair the courts but they kept cracking. The county was not going to do anything further but talk.  In the recent county elections the community got behind a new candidate who took their tennis court issue seriously and with help of the community got elected. The new commissioner got this problem taken care of.  That is one example and I am sure there are more not just in politics but in volunteering and other causes.

2. Traffic is different.

Traffic is lighter and is less congested but some things are further away.  So you might drive further with a less congested drive and arrive about the same time. In fairness, many things are closer but some are not. I will hone this initial observation once I start living there everyday.

I very much look forward to continuing this list very soon with my observations of how living in a small town is different than living in a metro area.

3. Churches are Small Too.

Rather than the huge mega churches found in the city and suburbs, smaller churches are all around. In this area many of them are quaint architecturally.

4. Fresh Produce is available.

In the city, the organic farmers markets on Saturday were high priced and very little selections sold by middle men making their markups taking produce from boxes from who knows where. In a small town, there are produce stands selling fruits and vegetables that taste like they should at a reasonable cost.

Robert and Mary Ann Fowler