Randi Kreiss

What you get, and what you give up, out West


This is us in Herald territory: We slog along Sunrise Highway on a Friday afternoon, just trying to get home from work, shopping, school or some late-in-the-day chore. It drains the spirit to just inch along, A.C. blasting against the fetid humidity pressing in around the car.

Perhaps we distract ourselves with music or a podcast or phone calls. It used to be considered rude to call a friend while you were driving, as if we were trying to cross something off our to-do list while working our way home. Now it seems a necessary use of traffic time. We’re all too busy all the time.

Where I’m reporting from now, traffic is not a consideration. We’re renting a house in the Sierra Nevada an hour from Reno, which is also the only and nearest big town. When you don’t have to think about traffic, you can be more spontaneous. Late Friday afternoon? No problem to drive into Reno for dinner. Of course, it is Reno. The tastiest food comes out of the Laughing Planet, a chain of good-quality rice bowl restaurants.

This is us: In our towns along the South Shore, August has been a succession of hot, sticky days. Friends report trips to the movies on weekend afternoons rather than heading to the beach or a golf course.

Up here at 6,700 feet, it was too cold for me to get out of bed this morning. The thermometer outside said 43 degrees. Of course, by 11 a.m. it was 85 and sunny, which it is every single day in July and August and part of September. So you can make plans here that aren’t contingent on weather because there are no surprises, except for the occasional wildfire.

This is us: There are neighbors on my block in Woodmere, as we come and go through the year. Friends drive by the house and let us know if a package sits on the step or if a shutter has come loose. And when any of us decide to exercise or play at the beach or see a show and enjoy a delicious meal of pretty much any ethnicity we choose, we can. Damn, we have the Big Apple at our doorstep any time we decide to take a bite.

Our kids ride their bikes up and down the block. Most of us have sidewalks and streetlights. Many parents don’t feel comfortable allowing youngsters to wander too far out of sight.

Out here, children as young as 8 and 9 walk or ride bikes to school. They seem to have much more freedom to roam, because it feels safe. Today, for example, my grandkids rode their bikes around a pond and across a field to have breakfast with us. Parents do not hover.

This is us: In Herald territory, we do our back-to-school shopping in our towns at a variety of well-stocked stores. If a phone dies, there is someone to fix it. If we need a prescription, we can pick it up within an hour. We have stuff and convenience, and it’s all easily accessed. We can run out for milk at 3 a.m.

Out here in the far West, one has to be much more self-sufficient — and organized. You can’t forget to buy milk when you shop, or you might go without milk for a few days. The kids need school supplies we can only get in Reno. Neighbors are far-flung. I imagine that in winter, if the heat went out, it could become a life-threatening situation.

You get the wide-open spaces when you live here. You get stars at night and rivers to swim and fish. You get peace and quiet. The easy access to hiking trails and wilderness and the deep night skies is life-affirming.

This is us (and it is huge): In our communities, we have the safety net of great medical care locally, and world-class specialized hospitals within an hour’s drive. It doesn’t matter until it matters, and then the issue becomes critical.

Here, where we are currently dealing with a family medical situation, quality care is a problem. My daughter is basically commuting to San Francisco, nearly five hours away, to get the procedures and follow-up she will need. The remoteness of her hometown compounds the stress of major surgery.

Here, the proximity to nature and the joys of hiking, biking, paddleboarding and skiing are compelling. Many people dream about living this life. I respect my kids’ decision to settle here, and they have the skis, snowshoes, rafts, tubes, scooters, boards and kayaks to establish their bona fides.

For me, though, the balance tilts toward the East Coast, and specifically toward our towns along the shore. I miss the boardwalk and the deep sand beach. I miss stepping out for dinner in Park Slope or out East, or just sitting on my porch, watching the fan spin in the hot August night.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.