UC Davis Magazine Online
Volume 19
Number 3
Spring 2002
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Campus Views

THE EDGE OF TOWNBack in Davis illustration

When my family first moved to Davis in the summer of 1976, we lived close to the edge of town—in those days that was where Covell Boulevard meets Sycamore. I used to ride my bike out there, amazed at the corn and tomato fields that seemed to go on and on forever.

Now the Marketplace mall sits at that location, complete with Safeway and Peet’s Coffee. Not that I’m complaining. When I was in high school I bemoaned the fact that Davis had no cafés and that the town effectively shut down at 9 p.m., just when a teenager gets that restless urge to go out. My best friend and I used to get nachos from Jack-in-the-Box just before it closed at 10 p.m. (the only food available at that late hour) and go see one of the two movies that were playing downtown. After the theaters emptied, it seemed we were the only people around for miles. We used to dream about moving to an exciting and romantic place—Paris or New York, for instance.

I couldn’t wait to escape. When I got my acceptance letter for Berkeley I swore I’d never come back.

But then, five years later when I applied to graduate school, I found Davis had just the program I was looking for and, in fact, offered me the best fellowship of all the universities I had considered.

So I found myself back in Davis, half comforted by the familiarity, half dreading the smallness.

Yet, like me, Davis had changed.

It didn’t feel small anymore. And it wasn’t just that the population had practically doubled since I left and that the edge of town was rapidly expanding outward. There were now cappuccinos and espressos to be found, multi-screen movie theaters, plenty of shopping and even a micro-brewery.

I had imagined university life at Davis would be similar to that at Berkeley, but after the hard-edged, lonely feel of undergraduate life at Berkeley, Davis was refreshingly friendly. I noticed the difference immediately when I began to TA: The quality of education and the level of the students were the same, but the cutthroat attitude was missing.

It’s funny the way a place can grow on you without you even realizing it. I left Davis again when I took a post-doc in New York City, the exciting place I dreamed of when I was younger. And sure, it is exciting here in some ways. You can’t beat the theater or the around-the-clock energy. But as I write this in January, when the sidewalks are covered in treacherous patches of ice, traffic jams go on for miles and miles, and it seems there’s no place to go without the sound of car horns and sirens and upstairs neighbors, I find myself thinking more and more about those uncrowded, bicycle-friendly streets of Davis. Of how nice it would be to ride my bike anywhere—to the grocery store, for instance, or to campus. Sometimes I even wish there were an edge of town here. How I would love to be able to pedal to a place where I could stare out on wide-open, peaceful fields that go on and on to the blue sky at the horizon.

Corie Ralston, Ph.D. ’97


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