In a Town This Size, There is No Place to Hide

by Nancy Bestor

bridgeOur town of Ashland, Oregon has a population of about 21,000 people. Coming from the Bay Area 22 years ago, Ashland felt like a really small town. After living here as long as we have, I’m certainly used to small town living now. There are so many things that I love about it – running into my daughter’s pediatrician in the park and having her ask me if she is feeling better and does she need more medicine; having the UPS man deliver a package to me even though it was incorrectly addressed; and the lack of any traffic whatsoever. There are certainly times, however, when I long for the Big City. Thus on city visits for business or family time, I try and soak up as much atmosphere as I possibly can.

Last month I was in the San Francisco Bay Area for business and family combined, and enjoyed two great big city experiences. Every Friday night, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) sponsors Friday Nights @ OMCA. From 5-9pm gallery admission is half price, there are about a dozen Off the Grid food trucks parked outside, a cash bar set up (outside-ish), and live music and dancing near the museum steps. This is every Friday night, all year round. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice now, and have loved it both times. It is so fun to watch the wide array of people—young and old—dancing salsa or swing or tango. I’ve seen folks dancing interpretatively all by themselves, grandparents cutting a rug with their grand-babies, teens boogie-ing in groups, and fabulous couples who move effortlessly as one, obviously after years of experience dancing together.

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On my most recent visit, my sister, brother-in-law and I even took in a few exhibits inside the museum. This included a short term Day of the Dead exhibit and a permanent exhibit on the history of California and its settlers. Both were fascinating. I highly recommend a visit to Friday Nights @ OMCA, and a half-price ticket to the Oakland Museum is well worth it if you have the time.

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Another fun Bay Area experience was a walk I took one Saturday morning along the “new” span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The east span of the Bridge was replaced in 2013, with an entirely new look. It is now the world’s longest Self-Anchored Suspension Span and includes a pedestrian/bicyclist pathway (approximately three miles one way). This pathway offers a fabulous view of the Bay, the 525 foot Bridge tower, and the old bridge, which is currently being dismantled/demolished. On the day of my visit, a portion of the old bridge was dynamited at 7am, and when we walked across the Bridge at 11, cleanup was till taking place on the water below us. It’s a noisy walk, as cars and motorcycles are whizzing by you across the Bridge while you’re walking, but you really can’t beat the views back to the city of Oakland and its ports, and forward towards San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area really is a beautiful place, and a walk across the Bay Bridge just amplifies that allure.

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So yes, I’m happy to live in my small town, and to enjoy its truly special advantages. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my forays into the big, anonymous City, where I can pretend to be a great dancer who just happens to stop by Friday Nights @OMCA to show off my salsa dancing skills. Until, that is, I actually start dancing.

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