I am about to hit the 2 year mark living in HumCo and that is giving me some food for thought. One plus for working at the local hospital is that I work with patients who live all over the North Coast--Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and even Northern Mendo counties.
A couple of things that come up regularly in conversation is that many of the more scattered folk look at Eureka as being "The Big City". I hear the phrase "You city folks..." an awful lot and the relative concept blows me away. See, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. SAN FRANCISCO, is a big city. OAKLAND is a big city. BERKELEY is a big city. San Jose WANTS to be a big city and not some wanna-be urban sprawl, but only sort-of makes it. The downtown is just not enough of a city center. In any case, the greater Bay Area is host to about 7 million people. Yipes!
I spent a good part of my life poking about these places--more than 40 years. So when people here refer to Eureka, with its population of 26,000 people as the big city, I have to chuckle. I don't mean to make fun of what I see as a bit of naivete, but compare it to my hometown of Fremont. The whole of Humboldt county has about 126,500 people. The city of Fremont, which is a true suburb wedged between Oakland and San Jose has a current population of 200,000. That's 7.5 times larger than Eureka and that with NO open space north, south or west. The hills to the east are still sort of undeveloped, but every time I visit, I see new buildings defying the so-called "no-growth" ban. Drive a very short space and you are out of Eureka in pasture, marsh, forest or farmland.
That leads me to the concept of commuting. If someone commutes from Crescent City to Eureka every day, that is hardcore: 80 tough miles over windy roads. Patients have come from as far afield at Zenia, Gasquet, Branscomb, Salyer and so on. Quite some big distances. Still, when I hear someone carrying on about how terribly FAR is is to come from Fortuna, which is 15 miles from Eureka, again I chuckle because it is all so relative.
During my 16 year career in biotech, my shortest car commute was 13 miles. None of my commutes were less than an hour each way due to traffic. I drove for 13 years from Fremont to Palo Alto over the Dumbarton Bridge, sitting in traffic and at the bridge tollgate, growling at other drivers, surfing my radio. Now I have a .85 mile commute. If I drive, I can't even get through a single song on the radio. I even walk when the weather is good. I love it!
I hear about the "traffic" in Eureka and I have to remind myself how good we have it here, relatively speaking. I suspect some long-timers would talk about how things "used to be". I feel that way, too, about the old Fremont that was all apricot orchards and gladioli fields--both long gone under housing tracts.
I find myself growling now at 5 car traffic jams and I pause and think--"Gee, it really could be worse!" My husband dubbed the Greater Bay Area "The Termite Mound" because of the dense traffic. So, what constitutes a crowd or bad traffic is relative. Life is good here in HumCo and we who are fortunate enough to live here should take a deep breath of clean air and thank our lucky stars.