I’m a naturalized ATLien. I wasn’t born there, or in the south at all, but I lived there from early high school on. Nearly 30 years, all told. From there I moved temporarily to Phoenix, another large city. And from there I moved to my current hometown of Bend, Oregon, population roughly 90,000. Prior to moving here I anticipated what “small town” life would be, including its difficulties. Limited restaurants, limited stores, limited entertainment possibilities etc. Among the things a wise person doesn’t do in Bend are purchasing a car. Cars old and new are easily 30% more here. I’ve debated having a buddy back east flatbed me cars sought after here to resell. Even with the cost of ‘bedding them I think a decent profit could be turned. Thrift stores here will surprise you as well. Bend has the most expensive Goodwill I’ve ever been in, and I’ve shopped Goodwill in various super-high rent coastal California towns (protip – if you’re in a high dollar hood and have the time, hit their Goodwill. Rich folks take some amazing shit to Goodwill). You also don’t buy furniture here, unless you’re looking at custom stuff, which is well out of my league. If you’re after IKEA quality furniture, you plan a trip to Portland. While you’re there grab some Indian food or some Italian, because the Italian restaurants and one Indian restaurant here in town suck.
One thing I didn’t think about was healthcare. Unlike Indian food or Subarus, that shit’s important, and when you need it you’re usually not in a position to shop around. The lone hospital here is insanely expensive, variable in quality and – thanks to Bend’s retirement class and “active” lifestyle living – fucking busy. A friend recently badly broke her humerus snowboarding, and the hospital loaded her up with percoset, sent her home, and made her wait over a week for the surgery she needed to set it. A week. With a snapped humerus. Similarly (though not nearly as painfully), my wife’s been loaded up with painkillers so she can wait the two weeks they’re telling her it’s going to take to squeeze her in for a much needed root canal. There are all of 2 – count ‘em, 2 – endodontists in the all of Bend. We’ve discussed making the 3 hour drive to Portland just for dental work… when we’re not discussing going to Costa Rica for it, which makes more and more sense these days especially with my craptastic insurance coverage (High Deductible Plan For The Lose!).
Not too long after we moved here I got a kidney stone that woke me in the dead of night with excruciating pain. The hospital ultrasounded me, diagnosed me, and sent me packing with a bottle of painkillers, a paper hat to piss in, and a bill that amounted to them making well over a thousand dollars an hour off of me. I told my wife ‘The next time I tell you I feel like I’m dying, hit me in the head with a hammer and take me to Portland.”
After living in gigantic cities, small town life is groovy. There’s tons to do here in Bend. That which they call traffic is laughable. People are (mostly) very nice. The pace here is slower than big city living. It’s beautiful. The air is cleaner, the sense of community strong. It is all the things that a person moves from the city to a town for. But it’s also expensive, inconvenient, limited and oftentimes frustrating. Having lived here for over a year now I’m surprised that people retire to towns like this one. Me, I’d probably rather be somewhere closer to a metropolitan city, where I can get top of the line healthcare when I need it.