We haven’t really lived here in Riverton, Wyoming long enough to talk about life in a small town. Not really. But there are a few things I have learned. And not just here and now.
When we first moved to the Prescott area of Arizona in 1993, compared to where we had previously lived (Walnut/Diamond Bar area of southern California), it was a small town. Even so, 28 years ago the city of Prescott and the town of Prescott Valley combined had maybe five times more people living there than Riverton does today. But it contrasted so greatly with the greater SoCal experience (you know, how one city sort of blends into the next one with little definition and so you feel like you are living squished in with several million other people) that it felt like a small town.
In 1993, you could walk down the main street of Prescott and expect to see maybe a couple of other people doing the same. More often than not, pleasantries would be exchanged and might turn into a full-fledged conversation over a cup of coffee.
It took all of about 15 to 20 minutes to get from our house in Dewey to downtown Prescott. There was one traffic signal in Prescott Valley and only a couple in Prescott. When we left the area, it took a full 45 minutes or more to travel the same distance. I lost count of the traffic signals. There were just too many.
I remember that just before we left Walnut in California to move to Arizona, I worked at a shop in a mall that was six miles from our condo. It took me half an hour to make that drive and it would have been longer if I had gotten on the freeway. Morning rush hour in southern California was brutal. I can’t imagine what it must be like now.
So here we are now, in Riverton in Wyoming. The population tops out at about 11,000. The speed limit on the two main streets is 30 miles per hour. And even at that it only takes about five minutes to get to Wal-Mart from our house and maybe ten minutes to get to the far western end of Main Street where the Smith’s grocery store is.
We can walk to City Hall if we want to. There are a number of shops within walking distance. It’s like another world. Shoot, we could even walk to Wal-Mart if we had the need (it does snow here and the roads can be a bit icy sometimes). It’s not that far.
All the people we have met in our neighborhood and in professional capacities have been kind, friendly and very helpful. It was like that in the Prescott area in 1993 as well. But as the population boomed there, it became less and less so.
I’ve stayed in touch (well golly, we’ve only been gone for about a month) with friends in Arizona. Several of them have said how unhappy they are with the way things are going. The influx of people from California is changing the whole esthetic. It’s not a new complaint.
When we first moved to Arizona, you didn’t really want to tell people where you had come from if you came from California. Even back then, the locals were not happy with the changes that we brought with us. What they didn’t realize was that not all of us who relocated wanted to bring California with us. Some, like us, wanted to leave it far behind. We didn’t move there for the beneficial difference in house values. We moved there for the difference in life values.
While it’s true that part of our motivation for moving to Riverton, Wyoming was financial, it wasn’t the only reason. We were once again looking for those life values we lost with the burgeoning population of the Quad Cities (Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt). We are pretty sure we have found them once again.
But we are not the only people to have discovered Riverton. There are others moving here as well. Some of them from California.
My hope is that they are also looking for a better way of living.
Small town life isn’t for everyone. Living within city limits is taking some getting used to (more traffic driving by our house all day long, street lights lighting up the night sky making it hard to see the stars). And there’s no Costco. There isn’t a Costco anywhere in Wyoming. But for sure, we’ve found what we were looking for. A quieter life. Friendly people. Great weather. Ease. I can do without Costco for all that.
I don’t know if all small cities are great, but this one sure is.