There are many contexts to look at a town. My context here is that I have found myself in Eureka, California, after living for three years in Santiago, Chile. This is not my first time in Eureka, or on the Northern California coast.
The weirdest thing about Eureka is that you quickly forget how weird it is to be here. Eureka has a population of close to 40,000 people. Arcata eight miles to the north, adds in several tens of thousands more, as does Fortuna, to the south. If you add all these places together, as well as all the outliers, the area has around 100,000 people, give or take. That isn't small. Eureka has a shopping mall, and even though, like many shopping malls in 2019, it is full of emptiness, its a big, official shopping mall. Eureka has a downtown with charming buildings for tourists. It has several different shopping plazas full of chain stores for locals. It has residential neighborhoods and industrial areas. It is big enough to have a poor side of town and a rich side of town. There is a community college, The College of the Redwoods, about five miles south of town. The city is served by an airport, although its a ways away from town.
All of which makes it easy to forget what it is like leaving Eureka. To the south, the next city of the same size is Ukiah, California, 160 miles to the south. The next larger city is Santa Rosa, California, 200 miles to the south. These are not easy miles, as 101 winds its way through the steep, landslide prone hills of the California coast range. Eastward, it is 150 miles to Redding, not substantially larger. Northward...Medford, Oregon, 190 miles away, might be your best bet. The roads to these cities are even more tricky than the roads southwards. Everywhere outside of Eureka is covered with oceans of trees for a long, long time.
Perhaps a microcosm for the United States as a whole: it is easy to let those dark grey-green hills recede into the corner of your mind, to forget how much separates you from everything else. The island of comfort might be tenuous, but walking between the painted Victorians, idly searching through thrift stores, enjoying the full house of a city with two Dollar Trees, and letting the gentle sea breeze cool me off in a city that has never seen a temperature over 90F, it is easy to forget just how precariously Eureka is perched, here.