Flat and hot, the Central Valley landscape is uninspiring—unless you are moved by endless rows of tomato plants—but Davis is ideally situated between the San Francisco Bay Area and the northern Sierra Nevada. It is bordered by wetlands that support a fantastic bird population. And even its 100-degree days are a joy when you’ve lived in the San Francisco fog for more than a decade.
Since moving here six months ago, I’ve acquired a bike trailer for hauling kids around town, joined the local food co-op, and found myself buying Italian heirloom eggplants at the weekly farmers market.
To be sure, much of what I appreciate about Davis amounts to the difference between a big city and a small town: The swimmers at my new gym ask which side of the lane you want on rare occasions when the pool gets too crowded to have one all to yourself. Our neighbors invite one and all to frequent potluck barbecues, and the local public schools are all top-notch.
Other features are uniquely Davis: Cooperative housing and community gardens; kids riding unicycles; the burrowing owls that live along the nature trail near our house. Davis recently won a bid to host the new U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, further affirmation of its commitment to a greener way of life.
Of course, the local obsession with bicycles has a downside: You might get a citation for wearing two earbuds while pedaling (one is the rule) or for riding as much as a few feet on the sidewalk. But to be fair, the cops also ticket motorists for stopping inches beyond the white line.
Until I moved here, Davis was simply an exit off I-80 on the way to Lake Tahoe, albeit one with an In-n-Out Burger. Although two longtime favorites—Kirkwood for skiing and Santa Cruz for its beaches—still hold their charm, Davis has answered the call for a simpler lifestyle. It will take time to adjust to its quirks, but I think I’m going to like it here.