With a population of 2,231 people (2016 Census), this is the second smallest town that I’ve lived in. It has turned out to be the perfect place to test the rent-free lifestyle of living out of my truck and camping. In turn, this lifestyle has also nudged me to assimilate more into the community than I would have had I been renting a place. Lucky for me, people are used to seasonal government employees drifting in and out of town for summer fieldwork and are happy to help me set up everything I need, from getting a P.O. box to using wifi at the library.
Even after two weeks, I still have to keep reminding myself, “I live here, I live here.” Outside of town I have passed quiet mountains and lakes and am happy to know, I live here. In town, people are kind and make me feel, I belong here.
One of the first things that I noticed about this place was the lack of chain stores and restaurants. After perusing town quite a bit, the only chains I have found are Subway, Safeway, car dealerships, and a Super 8. I felt it was my duty to investigate the dubiously named “Burger Queen” and was founded in my suspicions; it is a greasy burger and ice cream joint.
The second distinctive and charming feature of the town is that it is a walking and biking community. Nearly every home has a truck and RV parked on the lawn, but you will always see people walking around town, even in the pouring rain.
Josh and I started walking in the evenings because there is a weird period of time between dinner and bed where there isn’t anywhere we can hang out, yet still a couple hours of daylight left. The coffee shop here closes early and so does the library on most days. This is a challenge of chosen homelessness, but an exchange we’re willing to make for now.
Evening walks have revealed the the nooks and crannies of the town. A lot of the restaurants and services are somewhat hidden and can only be found from paper fliers posted on bulletins, a radio ad from the local station, or stumbling across it. We like to examine the different houses and have speculated that so many are for sale because the area is so remote. The houses alternate between adorable and loved to rundown and abandoned. The dogs run up and down the fenced yards, trying to play with you.
The quail believe that they run this town, scurrying around in groups of 8-30. Their tiny legs jet them across the streets and in the evening they roost in residential trees. There is also a large presence of mule deer, who roam the roads and bed down in any yard they fancy.
We finally had the opportunity to explore more of the surrounding area the weekend before work started. We attempted to camp in the forest next to town, but it was raining heavily that night. In the dark I accidentally turned into a cow pasture and upholding my infamy, I got my truck stuck in the mud trying to turn around. After about 20 minutes of trying to dig-and-board my way out, Josh could no longer feel his hands. Luckily, a stranger came by and pulled me out with his truck.
We went back to town and slept in my truck in a parking lot. I didn’t have cash on me to thank the man who helped us. He gave us his phone number and we plan to thank him in the future with some beer or a skillet pie.
Soaked, but not downtrodden, I at least re-enforced two key lessons:
- Find your camp site in the daylight if you don’t know where you’re going
- Always carry some cash
The next day we did manage to visit a nearby lake, explore the shore, and even found evidence of a coyote’s hideaway.
We also hiked a trail that overlooks the town.
I’m enjoying living 93 miles away from the nearest Starbucks.