The trip The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I took over the Thanksgiving holiday was somewhat atypical to the usual vacations we have often taken as 1) It involved no children; and 2) It largely involved small towns and cities and scenery.
To be fair, I far more identify with small towns and small cities than I ever have with larger urban centers as I grew up in a small town. At some point of course as one become older it becomes a choice of course, especially as many people either by design or chance spend some time in a large urban center. But urban centers - at least to me - remain largely sterile of desirability. Certainly you have every convenience under the modern sun, but you also have everything that comes with packing people in densely (or as our friend Hobo says, "Human Feedlots"). So even when I am in our current large urban center, I still prefer the sights and appearances of small towns and cities.
During out trip, the largest urban center we got to was around 50,000. Most were at least have that in population if not less, some 6 or 8 traffic lights length of street to drive on, others just a slowing of speed before it picked back up and the town was gone in a blur.
There is a certain desolation, an inconsolable sadness to me as we drove through such places. On the one hand, these are the small towns I remember of my youth, where each place was in some extent a self contained unit, back before the days of malls and mail order and home delivery of everything. But most of these towns have not made the conversion that some towns have made to essentially being destinations for dwellers of the large urban centers with their cute knick-knacks and classy restaurants (and thus, now dependent on those same large urban centers). As one drives through them, faded signs suggest what used to be there even as the covered windows and doors indicate they are that no longer. In some cases the town has a theme, which is then propagated throughout the town, sometimes in awkward ways. In other cases the original stores are gone but other stores have migrated into their place.
Development, where it happens, almost only and ever takes place on the outskirts of town (which, of course, multiplies the economic problem as people no longer go "into town", as all the new and cool things are outside it). And so the buildings with their call of yesteryear and odd curious shops and eateries which might be fascinating (but one never knows) sit staring outward onto far different streets than when they were built.
It may sound like an overly nostalgic view - and I freely admit that in some ways it is. I grew up in a small town; I remember the sense of feeling trapped by the limitations of what was there and the thrill that going to a larger city provided at the time. And yet, now that I have spent more time in a large urban centers than small town and cities, I wonder what, if anything, we have truly gained.
An interesting sub-note to me is in the great social discussion of - call it what you will, "tiny dwellings" or "back to things we used to know" or "being universally unconscious" - the idea of re-energizing and re-invigorating small towns is almost never discussed. It is not as if there is not real opportunity in some of these places or that in some ways things are a less expense (housing, for example, is a tremendous difference). It is as if there remains this sort of urban arrogance, that (once again) the only acceptable solution is the one that is "common knowledge" - and that common knowledge only extends to the large urban area limits.
In my happiest of worlds, I would see the great urban areas depopulated and small towns much more prevalent and thriving. But, as is commonly acknowledged, I tend to see the world a bit in reverse anyway.