I live in the area of VT/NH known as the “Upper Valley”. Upper Valley isn’t really a well-defined geographic area (it’s one of those definitions like “Upstate New York”, that means different things to different people), but the definitions range from the Census’ Lebanon Micropolitan Area on the exclusive end of things, to an inclusive definition including most anything in the Connecticut River watershed between approximately Charlestown, NH to Bradford, VT.
It’s actually a very pleasant place to live, but one of the things that defines the area, and is something faced by both myself and my friends and coworkers that have moved to the area, is that there are a lot of things we don’t have around here. This isn’t a major metropolitan area, or even a minor one. We don’t really have shopping malls, and aside from Route 12A in West Lebanon, and Washington Street in Clarement, both of which have a modest collection of retail stores, we don’t really have much retail anyways. Same with restaurants. Same with IMAX movie theaters. And same with all sorts of other things.
Don’t get me wrong, mostly it’s a good thing. I like my hiking, skiiing, and snowshowing. I love the quiet winter nights and the lack of traffic. I love the scenery. But sometimes, we also need to remember what we don’t have, right or wrong. Especially when dealing with things like the relatives that show up and want to go get Starbucks coffee. Or the ones that email us incredible offers for Chik-Fil-A. Or tell us that the getting the item we need is as easy as going to the nearest Macy’s or Lowe’s. Or the baffled customer service agent who didn’t believe me when I canceled my Target card, when I gave as a reason that it was more than an hour to the nearest Target.
So, with that in mind, I decided to start keeping track of some of these places. So, here’s the list of places we don’t have in the Upper Valley, and don’t have within an hour’s drive of Lebanon, NH (more-or-less the epicenter of the Upper Valley):
Food and Drink:
- Starbucks. This is the one that really shocks people, and has actually resulted in disbelief in a new coworker. We don’t have a Starbucks location anywhere near here. Really, check the Starbucks Store Locator (enter ZIP code 03766). We truly are beyond the Starbucks frontier. The nearest are in Tilton (50 miles, but the route is mostly 35 mph), Concord (60 miles), and Keene (two, including one in the Target). So if you really are feeling the need for an authentic Starbucks venti 1 pump caramel, 1 pump white mocha, extra ice frappuchino with whip and extra caramel (sorry to Carol’s relative who actually ordered that in front of me once), you’ve got at least a two-hour round trip to get it. Cope. (Although if you do get desperate, we do have some actual Starbucks coffee at the Dartmouth Bookstore’s coffee bar, although they don’t do most of the fancy drinks).
- Chik-Fil-A. Well known as the purported inventor of the breaded chicken breast sandwich, and a well-regarded one at that (I do like a good Chik-Fil-A sandwich). And also known for not being open on Sunday. Well, around here they aren’t open the other six days of the week, either, since the nearest Chik-Fil-A is in Nashua, NH.
- Arby’s. America’s premiere vendor of low-grade roast beef sandwiches. Just not around here.
- Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. While Ben and Jerry’s was founded not too far away in Burlington, VT in 1978 (you can visit the spot, but it’s now a parking lot next to Pacific Rim Cafe), and their main factory is in Waterbury, VT (90 minutes away), once their Hanover, NH location closed in 2009, that’s now the nearest place you can go to get yourself stuffed with a Vermonster sundae. At least we can buy it in the stores…
- Domino’s Pizza. Nope, don’t have that, either, since the West Leb Domino’s closed. No big loss, IMHO. We’ve got several halfway decent local pizza places.
- Dairy Queen. Not even sure where the nearest one is. Tilton, probably. But again, we’ve got plenty of good local ice cream places, especially in the summer months (Dairy Twirl, Whippi Dip, Fore-U Ice Cream, …)
- Sonic Drive-In. I’m still searching for a good source for cherry limead.
- Target. NH has them, but not locally. Heck, until 2000, this was pretty much just Kmart territory, but we now have Walmart and Kohl’s. I still miss Target, and often find myself stopping in at Target in Hooksett or Concord when I’m down that way.
- We now have a Lowe’s in Claremont, NH as of 2010, so the southern half of the Upper Valley now has access to Home Depot’s major competitor (and heck, if I had made this list before 2005, Home Depot would be on it as well, and we’d also still be complaining about how we had to drive an hour to Concord since LaValley’s sucked so much).
- Urgent Care or Walk-In Centers. This one still irritates me, since we live in an area where the largest employer is a hospital (Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center), and “health care” is one of the largest injuries, but if you need anything between a normal doctor’s visit (“Oh, yes, I just looked at the Purple Team schedule here at DHMC, we can fit you in sometime in two weeks”) and an actual life-threatening emergency, your choices here are (a) suck it up and wait, (b) go to the ER, or (c) drive to Concord. Even more irritating, the last time I went to the ER (deep puncture wound to leg, and there was no friggin’ way I’d drive any further than the ER with all that blood), I got both a nasty letter and a phone call from Anthem BC/BS about how people like me are destroying our healthcare system by going to the ER instead of our local, convenient urgent care center. But when I ask where the nearest urgent care center is…. they tell me Concord?