5 Surprising Observation about Durham

I moved to Durham, North Carolina about 3 weeks ago. I’ve previously lived in Goldsboro, North Carolina for the last twenty years and in three weeks, I’ve been surprised that a 60-mile difference in location in the same state would be so different. My good friends will tell you that I’ve had my eye on Durham for over ten years. My daughter graduated from Duke University and my son graduated from the NC School of Science and Math, both of which are in Durham. I think the idea originated when I was sprawled on a blanket in the middle of Duke’s East Campus, listening to my daughter perform in the Duke University Symphony Orchestra. There, among the Georgian architecture and the sprawling green grass, hundreds of folks on camp chairs and blankets listened as the orchestra played showtunes masterfully. It was captivating. I remember thinking, there and then, I would like to be walking distance to campus and be able to take in lectures and performances whenever my heart desired.

One of at least seven tiny lending libraries on the Durham Greenways

My father had always espoused the merits of living near a university. Ironic that he himself never did so, even in retirement. But in January of 2022, I had nothing to hold me to Goldsboro. I had retired from my full-time job, sold my lake side home and my son had moved from Miami to Charlotte. It was time to take the leap and I have been more than pleasantly surprised.

My 5 surprising observations about Durham:

Greenways

My home is in the Woodcroft neighborhood of Durham. No, it’s not walking distance to Duke or UNC but it has an extensive system of greenways. I had no idea there were upwards of 30 miles of greenway within the Woodcroft and New Hope Valley neighborhoods with numerous pet waste stations and tiny lending libraries along the route. For the first week that I lived here, I could walk in any direction without having to walk on a shoulder of a roadway. 70% of the greenways are lined with trees with homes backing up to it, without cars racing by at 40 miles an hour. I was really surprised to find a Calisthenics workout park at the crossroads of three greenways without any way to get there except on foot. Like a hidden workout gym without any parking. I’m super excited to experience the transformation of the seasons here. 

Quiet

My home is quiet. I am 1 mile from Interstate 40, 10 miles from Raleigh/Durham International Airport and 100 yards from Woodcroft Parkway. I don’t hear any traffic, flights or most importantly, trains. Yes, it could be insulation on the house or the location of my bedroom, but I am amazed that I moved from the sleepy little town of Goldsboro with its 4 AM trains and 10 PM fighter jet maneuvers from Seymour Johnson Airforce base to the silence of the “big” city. 

Food

I’ve been a vegan (plant-based) for over 3 years. Trying to eat plant-based east of Interstate 95 is always a challenge. I can’t think of one restaurant in the entirety of Wayne County (where Goldsboro is located) that is a vegetarian, let alone, vegan restaurant. Now, when I search “vegan restaurants near me”? There are 23. 23 restaurants that cater to my lifestyle choice. There is also an array of grocery stores within a 10-minute drive, everything from Whole Foods to Harris Teeter, Wegmans, Sprouts or Fresh Market. All these stores have entire sections of plant-based food. Amazing.

Wildlife

On one of our first walks on a greenway, I was taken aback by the broad-winged hawk, sitting motionless on top of a birdhouse. I felt like they were checking me and my dog, Baci out. I ran into three deer crossing a greenway and there has been a cacophony of bird song as we meander on the trails. Perhaps, most importantly of all, there are a multitude of squirrels to bait my dog Baci. I’m not sure what made me think that Goldsboro had the corner on the market for squirrels, but Durham has not disappointed.

Diversity

On my walks with Baci, we have seen every age, gender, ethnicity, and color. There are young men walking their dogs, old men running at 6 AM with headlamps on, elderly women sitting on one of the many benches along the greenway, a young couple with a newborn in a stroller, foreign middle-aged couples debating in French, and the young father with his daughter riding a Strider bike. What is fascinating for me is that almost all are quite friendly. Most folks are quick to smile, wave or share greetings. Perhaps I had assumed it was more like a big metropolitan city, where most folks stare blankly forward, but these Durham-ites are friendly. 

I think this is all surprising because Durham County is three times the size of Wayne County.  I wouldn’t expect it to have greenways, food choices and wildlife that are so accessible and yet still maintain a quiet, friendly environment with access to major universities and an international airport. I am surprised but happy with my decision to move.

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