Water Water Everywhere

I moved to my present city years ago with a wife, two kids and no job. This is where I want to live for the rest of my life. I have absolutely no intention of moving. But I have a nomadic nature (runs in the family) and I picked up the habit of taking a Rand McNally Road Atlas to the bathroom with me from my dad. So, I’m constantly looking at places on the map. This leads to looking up places online, places that I’d consider moving to should the option become necessary. Ultimately, I’d just like to visit lots of places in the U.S., but the following would have the potential for becoming “home” had I not already found it. And they all share one common feature – water.

Coeur d’Alene, ID, nestled in the mountains and right off Coeur d’Alene Lake is a tourist economy, which I also find of interest. The pictures I’ve seen are lovely, but that alone won’t fool me because I know how good a talented photographer can make something look. Heck, our wedding photographer made me look decidedly un-troll-like!

Portland, ME holds a deep attraction for me as well. I’m a new urbanist and appreciate the whole New England town vibe, and even “big” cities like Portland have that small-town feel. Maine also has a pretty varied topography, so I’d most certainly like to visit this coastal town.

Wilmington, NC is one of the places I’ve actually visited. During the brief time my wife and I lived in Fayetteville, NC we took a trip to Wrightsville Beach – just outside of Wilmington. I’m not much of a beach person, but I thoroughly enjoyed our trip through Wilmington after soaking up the sun. It’s a beautiful town with lots of history. And it has two water features, the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

Sandusky, OH makes this list for only two reasons. I have no interest in moving to Ohio, but this little city sits on Lake Erie and is home to Cedar Fair Amusements. I’d love to work there!

I’ve also been to Harrisburg, PA. When Borders opened a bookstore there I seriously considered relocating years ago. I often travel the I-81 corridor and love crossing the mighty Susquehanna River! The hills to the north and the skyline to south are a favorite site along that route. Also, the city used an island in the middle of the river, City Island Park, to great effect. A few nice, small attractions along the island as well as a minor league ballpark. They really took great advantage of that water feature. Now, if we could just get rid of the politicians…

Chattanooga, TN was on my shortlist of places to live for a long time until I set my heart on my current home. The bend along the Tennessee River right next to downtown is a splendid site from the surrounding hills. Add to that the Tennessee Aquarium (which I believe is the largest inland aquarium in the U.S.) and the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and we got some neat sites.

Wheeling, WV sits between the Ohio River and Appalachian Mountains. Some of the shots I’ve seen with the old buildings reflected in the water with the fall foliage on the mountains are very rustic. As a sucker for old architecture I also want to see the older neighborhood with Victorian homes. Once again, I’ve seen pictures, but I want to see it with my own eyes.

Wisconsin is home to a few places that’ve caught my eye. Green Bay, home of the Packers, sits right off, well, Green Bay. The Oshkosh/Appleton area wraps around the northwestern quarter of Lake Winnebago. La Crosse sits along the northern banks of the Mississippi while Eau Claire resides along the Chippewa. And I’ve heard great things about Madison, nestled between Lakes Mendota and Monona.

You’ll notice that these are small-to-mid-sized cities/metropolitan areas. That’s more my speed. I’m not a big city guy. Even if I had to choose big cities, they once again have relatively prominent water features, the Ohio River along Cincinnati’s downtown; Lake Michigan and Milwaukee; the Columbia and Willamette Rivers of Portland, OR; and the three rivers of Pittsburgh, PA.

I can think of only two cities without prominent water features that I’d be willing to relocate to (which, once again, I don’t intend to do). Asheville, NC – one of the highest-elevation metros east of the Mississippi, if not the highest – and Lancaster, PA are the only two. But, once again, smaller cities.

Even with the water feature, only two are along the coast – Portland, ME and Wilmington, NC. I’m not a beach guy. I think what I like most about water features is how they reflect the sun when rippled and the landscape when still. You only get half of that with the ocean.

Therefore, I find it interesting that my home city has no such prominent water feature. The river that runs through town shows up as a narrow blue line on the map, and even on the western side it appears to be no more than a wide stream or brook. It is certainly not a large enough river at this point in its path to make much of an attraction. And yet, it’s home. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.


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