A few weeks ago, a website called Movoto, an online real estate site, published an article on the Top Ten Most Boring Cities in America. Chesapeake, VA was rated #3. Chesapeake, VA also happens to be the city in which my business, The Chop Shop, operates and in which we reside.
It’s important to note here that the list is actually derived from the 100 most populous cities in the country. So super tiny, blip-on-the-map towns went under the radar and above the knife. But despite this pretty major oversight, within mere hours of this article being published to what was a completely unknown site to me prior to this incident, friends and family were texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, emailing and calling us to tell us the news, “OMG, this article says Chesapeake is boring!” Uh-huh. I could have told you that.
I’ve lived in Chesapeake, on and off, for over a decade. Even before I lived here, I went to schools in Chesapeake from Kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I know this city pretty well. I’ve lived in more “interesting” cities like Richmond and Norfolk, VA. I’ve also lived in much more “boring” towns such as Knotts Island, NC, where I grew up. Knotts Island has zero stoplights, one store and two churches. At its peak in the 90’s it had three operating restaurants until one shut down and one burned to the ground, leaving just “Pearl’s” as the solitary dining establishment, where the most interesting thing that happens is the annual “catfish rodeo.” So I also know my boring.
Despite being pretty much in agreement with what Movoto had to say about the city I felt like, after buying two houses, spending a third of my life, and paying real estate, personal property and business taxes in this city, that it was sort of my civic duty to defend it. The problem is, the claim is indefensible. Chesapeake is boring. Even the mayor, when asked by a local reporter to comment on the article said “If by boring you mean a safe city, some of the best schools, a place where businesses and families can grow and prosper, then I’m happy with boredom.” Yawn. Even the guy who runs this town could not be bothered to come up with some compelling argument in its defense.
images | Visit Chesapeake, VA
So while I can’t convince you that Chesapeake isn’t boring, I will defend my tax dollars with this new list – now go Facebook it to your Chesapeake friends’ walls!
Our Top Ten Reasons We Love Living in Chesapeake and Don’t Care What You Think About It:
1. Family. Although both my family and my in-laws still live in super-sleepy Knotts Island, it’s a mere 35 minute drive from our house. Additionally, both of my parents work in Chesapeake and are within a 10 minute drive almost every day. My sister is a 20 minute drive into Norfolk and the rest of my extended family (save one rogue cousin who is still within VA state lines) is all in the area. I realize some people will think we are crazy right off the bat for this being a reason we love it here, but what can I say? We love our family and being close to them is the most important thing for us when considering places to live. If we ever move, there are about 30 people who have to come with us, which seems a little inconsiderate, so we’ll just stay right here, thanks.
2. Friends. A few weekends ago for our friend’s 30th Birthday, eight of us got together for lunch, dropped into a bar and had a few day-drinks, then headed over to a paintball field where we shot hysterically at each other for three straight hours, spent the afternoon comparing welts and bruises, then went back home with one of our war-battered friends for a few bottles of wine and some Wayne’s World (party time!) Every single hysterical, fun, and painful moment of that day happened within Chesapeake city limits. Boring is relative to who you’re with, not where you are. Our friends are here, and they are fun, so it’s never really boring for us.
3. Price. A year ago we bought our second home in Chesapeake after selling our first home less than a week after it went on the market. We bought a beautiful four bedroom, three bath house on 1.5 acres in an extremely desirable area in one of the best school districts in the state. I can confidently say that this house on this land in any surrounding city would have cost us about $100,000 more than what we paid. And with the money we saved on the house, we can travel to more “interesting” places. Places that are probably a pain in the neck to live in because tourists like us are always coming up in there and taking all the dinner reservations and touching stuff and asking for directions. No thanks.
4. Big City, Small Town. Despite the fact that Chesapeake is a city of over 230,000 residents, people know each other. I met both of our neighbors (one of which is one the other side of an acre of woods – I use the term “neighbor” loosely) within a day of moving into our house. My dad owns a store in the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake and nearly every day two of the customers will recognize each other and start chatting it up on the sales floor. When I tell people who my pastor is, they tell me stories about how they went to high school together. The people here are nice, and small-town-ish, despite this being a pretty large, sprawling city, and coming from zero-stoplight island, I can appreciate that.
Oak Grove Lake Park
5. It takes a local. Sometimes it takes a local to know what’s really good. Some things don’t show up on polls put together by sites like Movoto. And while it’s true that Chesapeake has a disappointing ratio of chain stores and restaurants to locally owned businesses, if you take the time to seek them out, Chesapeake actually has a pretty awesome list of small, local restaurants, shops and services. Some of our favorite local places to chow down are (in no particular order): The Amber Lantern, Passion, The Cutting Edge, Cotton Southern Bistro, Great Bridge BBQ, Andrea’s, Julieanne’s, Yu-Mi Sushi, Sunrise Cafe, City Deli, and Courthouse Cafe, just to name a few. If you think it’s just a bunch of chains, you’re just not looking hard enough, and that’s on you.
6. The traffic. Specifically, the lack of it. This mostly applies to the Hickory section of Chesapeake where we live, but I have literally driven from our house to the closest Target without seeing a single car. Sometimes when you get on Hwy. 168 during the day, you’re tempted to think the world ended without you noticing, because there is NO ONE THERE. Now for those of you who have to cross the high-rise bridge, steel bridge, Great Bridge, Mount Pleasant Bridge or North Landing bridge, I’m sorry, I know this point does not apply to you. That’s why Hickory is where it’s at. Or actually . . . where it’s NOT at, which is why we like it.
7. Proximity. Sure, there’s not much to do here, but there’s a lot to do at places all around us like Virginia Beach (which is home to the Atlantic Ocean, maybe you’ve heard of it?) just a brief 20-30 minute drive; Norfolk is a hop-skip and an I-464 away, and despite being ranked at #31 on the list in question (sorry, a Norfolk tax-payer is going to have to take that on, I don’t have time) we happen to think it’s a pretty fun place with fabulous restaurants, art museums, festivals, shops and more. We’re also less than an hour away from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Being close means we don’t have to incur the traffic or tourists that those other cities do, so we can get back to driving to our Target (which also never has any lines!!) with no gridlock.
8. Keep it down. We’re not old, but we’re just old enough that we’d like to sleep through the night without being roused by some college kids puking over the balcony of their walk-up. When I lived in Norfolk I was once awoken by a man peeing right outside my bedroom window in the alley next to our duplex. I took care of this in much the same way I now take care of feral cats and raccoons – I threw the curtains open, banged on the window and hissed until he scampered away. Now we basically don’t have neighbors, except for the feral cats, who do sometimes throw up on the front porch and one of which actually is meowing outside our door right now. Good thing I learned how to take care of this back in the big city…
9. Safety first. Chesapeake has a scant amount of crime. When we got the paper, I used to love reading what was essentially the city blotter section. “Petty theft, stolen bike. Petty theft, stolen laptop. Petty theft, stolen 4-wheeler.” Every once in a while there would be a grand larceny or assault and that was a pretty big deal. When we lived in our last house, we once left in a rush, with the dogs, inadvertently leaving all the lights on and the front door wide open. When we returned many hours later that night, we thought our house had been broken into by a seriously tidy thief, until we realized we had left it like that and not one single person in our townhouse neighborhood had taken advantage of the situation. Living in a town like this is a real necessity for people like me who frequently forget to close, let alone lock, their doors.
10. It’s Boring. Yes, we like living here precisely because it’s boring. We love not being on the news (except for when it’s about how boring we are) or having people poking around and taking all the dinner reservations and asking us “how far it is to such and such and could we walk if we wanted to and what sort of food is it and is it any good anyways?” We love that there’s no one anywhere near us having a 3am jam session in a drunken fit of “I must be really good at playing the guitar because this sounds soooo goooood!!” We love our big, private backyard with our little garden and having friends over on the back porch for wine and walking the dogs at the playground across the street and kayaking the Northwest River and walking to church because it’s so close and eating at little local restaurants that the rest of the world hasn’t taken the time to appreciate and going to our blessed, empty Target that seems to stay in operation for my own personal needs and desires.
So that’s my list. I’m sure it didn’t convince you to move here, and that’s fine, I really don’t want you to come here because if I ever walk into that Target and I have to wait in line for more than 5 minutes, I will abandon my cart, drive home and start packing my bags in search of the next most boring place to live.