Back To HSU: All Mimsy Were the Borogoves, Or, Welcome To Arcata

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Installment No. 1 of the Arcata Eye’s yearly Back To HSU Guide for incoming students and townsfolk alike For much more information, see the physical newspaper, available in multiple locations through the Humboldt State campus.

Eureka – you found Arcata! With any luck, you’ve found a not-too-heinously expensive place to live (thanks a lot, growers!), and now you are leisurely figuring out your way around town. Maybe today you’ll get some furniture and even some Ramen.

Well, welcome to the Arcata Eye Back to HSU Guide, Week 1: Settling In. Keep in mind as you peruse our colorful grids that this vast region has only one area code (707), seven-oh-heaven, so we’ll save some soybeans (literally) by leaving it off.

In this and ensuing installments of the Back to HSU Guide, we’ll lay out some basics for survival in Arcata; stuff you would figure out after a while, but why wait? Even oldtyme Arcatans might learn something – we sure did in compiling the data.

We hope to assist you in the Arcatanization that has, whether you realize it or not, already begun to reprogram your DNA. In fact, if you’ve read this far, you’re through Arcata’s looking glass. You’ll never be the same as you were, or want to be.

Getting Around Town

Getting around Arcata is pretty simple, and you have lots of transportation options, all of them complete with deep philosophical underpinnings.

Just so you don’t get neck spasms looking at your smartphone the whole time, know that downtown Arcata is set up on a grid, with lettered streets going roughly North-South and numbered streets going more or less East-West. It’s as easy as pie, or, actually, brownies.

But Arcata brownies, so there’s an I Street and a J Street and some joker named other streets Eye Street and Jay Street. Thanks, bud.

The Plaza is our olde Americana town square, bordered by Eighth and Ninth streets and G and H streets. Under the swaying palms and in the shadow of Mr. McKinley’s stolid, disapproving flanks, you’ll find your highest concentration of sweet little shops, offering everything from fun stuff to essentials.

You’ll find that a lot of the stores and noshing establishments are immersive environments in which you just want to be.

For further shopping rewards, venture further afield, such as the K-borhood (the quirky-hardy little shopping enclave along K Street), or Northtown (the northern part of G Street, near campus). And for a little taste of mainstream America, there’s Valley West… which is the northern part of town boasting strong representation by many great American motel chains but with some huge, long-in-the-making development and environmental projects in progress, and that makes sense. Really, it does.

Walking: Get a good pair of shoes and walk around. Even if this doesn’t end up being your primary mode of transportation, you’ll still use your shoes to go hiking in the Arcata Community Forest. But, seriously, Arcata is a small place and you can easily live here without ever owning a car or even a bike, especially if you also invest in a sturdy backpack.

Always bring both an umbrella (or raincoat) and sunglasses. And a hoodie. You’ll get plenty of cardio (rule no. 1) and also adapt to the slower pace of life in Arcata. See the handy Shoe Stores grid. You can also get used shoes and boots at a number of thrift stores and re-sale boutiques. See next week’s Back to HSU Guide, Week 2.

Biking: Arcata is a bike-friendly town (or so the signs claim, though bike-car hostility smolders ’neath the surface), but like every place in the world, you still take your life in your hands when you ride a bike. Once you have your bike, it’s not a bad idea to get a helmet, as someone is spending all sorts of money to fill your head with knowledge and it would be a shame for your brains to wind up all over Arcata streets, which does happen.

Follow the rules of the road, as pedestrians and drivers sort of expect you to stay in your lane and stop at stop signs.

Please don’t ride on the sidewalk; it’s not a sideride, it’s for people on foot, and in exchange, pedestrians should refrain from lollygagging in bike lanes.

Invest in lights and reflectors, or risk a ticket. Get some fenders and raingear. Finally, you may have noticed the big hill that separates downtown from Northtown; unscientific experimentation has already amply proven that it’s a really dumb idea to ride down that with a fixie, especially if it’s brakeless and its rider is brainless. This one guy… oh, you don’t wanna know. See the handy Bike Shops grid.

Skating: So you’re a skater. It’s OK, we don’t hate. But read all the biking advice above, because a lot of it also applies to skateboards. Be courteous to pedestrians, stay off the sidewalks, and be safe. Arcata has a great skate park at Sunset Avenue near U.S. Highway 101 – check it out. AMPT Skateshop is the place to get your board, wheels, safety equipment, stickers, and community. Look for the blue house at 1040 H Street, 822-9500.

Taking the Bus: It’s free for HSU students! Don’t expect a bus every five minutes; the main Arcata & Mad River Transit System (A&MRTS) buses go lots of places but they have very circuitous routes, stop at night have limited routes on Saturday and don’t run at all on Sunday. If you want to get out of Arcata, you have to use the Redwood Transit System (RTS), which has free Wi-Fi. You can catch buses at the HSU Library Circle. RTS is going to start offering Sunday service on Nov. 4, but until then, don’t get stranded in Eureka. Schedules are at and

Driving: The speed limit in most of Arcata is 25 mph. There are lots of stop signs, so you may as well drive slowly because you’ll be stopping a lot anyway. Driving a standard shift in Arcata can be frustrating, kind of a workout. If you’re ecolicious, look into getting a Zipcar membership at or fuelling up with Biodiesel or other alternative fuels (

For the lovamurphy, look out for pedestrians in crosswalks (you know, the painted stripes that cross the road). Pedestrians actually do have the right of way, which means you actually have to stop your car when you see someone that even looks like they’re contemplating thinking about maybe crossing the street someday.

Seriously, stopping for pedestrians is especially courteous when it’s raining, and you’re sitting in your nice dry car but the pedestrian is getting soaked.

It’s a small town, so like it or not, you have to be nice. The person you flip off or cut off in traffic may be grading your paper later on or making your pizza in a few hours… Plus, it’s the law.

Mind where you park – time limits are strictly enforced by officers in fugly little go-carts. The City make a lot of money off parking fines. Don’t tempt fate.

Let’s Eat!

All this getting around has made you hungry. You need some groceries. Check out the Groceries grid. Looking to eat out? Tune in to next week’s Back to HSU Guide.


Whether you’re new in town or you’ve come back for more, you’re going to need a few things, and you probably don’t have much money. For cripes sake, don’t snag furniture off the sidewalk. Seriously, stuff like that is a major bedbug/flea vector. Besides, if your new place is going to smell like spilt bongwater, it might as well be your own.

Here’s how to get everything you need pretty cheaply. Arcata is full of places to get all sorts of used furniture, housewares, and clothes and the difference is not only in price, but in how much effort the stores have put into selecting items and, sometimes, restoring them.

If slumbering on someone else’s used bed or smothering a used sofa in blankets is not to your taste, you’ll be looking for a new mattress, futon, or furniture, and you’ve got options in Arcata that will keep you out of the heinous-hellhole big box stores that sell stuff that begins to fall apart as you carry it into your house. See the Used/New Furniture grid.


Whether you got new stuff or new-to-you stuff, you’ll need a hammer and some nails. See the Hardware Stores grid.

Doh! Hospitals, Clinics and Pharmacies

Just in case…

Mad River Community Hospital is where you’d be taken in an emergency, and they also have a variety of physicians. It’s on Janes Road. 826-8266,

Open Door Clinic (on 10th Street between G and H) and NorthCountry Clinic (785 18th St.) are where you’d go if you don’t want to go to the Student Health Center for any reason. They do a full range of STD testing and treatment. Just sayin’. 826-8610,

Barnes Arcata Family Drug is actually a drug store behind a gift store front at 1080 G St. 822-2496

CVS Pharmacy is the large chain pharmacy located in the Uniontown Shopping Center on F Street near Seventh. 822-2414,

Medical marijuana dispensaries, of which there are three in Arcata alone, require a doctor’s recommendation. That’s easy to get for $150 from one of the 215 mills. Despite outsiders’ perception, marijuana isn’t legal in Humboldt because the laws are all scrambled and weird. But if you play the game you can hook up.

A couple of things. One time an HSU student was overheard at one of the cannabis centers complaining about how hard mid-terms were – as he was buying a bag of Brainwreck. HSU profs are way fed up with trying to futilely impart knowledge to the baked. You might as well know that Humboldt weed and information retention don’t get along.

Also, every fall, Humboldt’s emergency first responders receive phone calls from new residents who think they might be overdosing on marijuana. Please note that Humboldt medical marijuana is much more potent than that available in southern California and other parts of the country, and adjust dosage accordingly.

Get used to it

So this week, settle into life and classes. Try to slow down and adapt to Arcata time. In weeks to come, you know, when we get around to it, we’ll try and open some doors for you in the mini-universe that is Arcata.

Next week: Around Town