"I heard there's a Bulbasaur in Corporate Towers."
"Can you pick me up?"
Pokemon Go launched while I was visiting my family in my birth state of Connecticut. Connecticut, as you might imagine, is very different from my current home state of California. I was raised in the rural area, where historical landmarks are few and far between and the region's most notable characteristic is that everything is probably haunted. Living in San Francisco, important buildings and crowded city centers are a block away at all times.
Thus my conundrum: the world is a barren wasteland for rural Pokemon Go players.
Trainers in rural areas are already complaining about the lack of Poke Stops and Gyms. The nearest Gyms to me are a Jehovah's Witnesses church, a 15 minute drive away, and a decrepit bridge the same distance in the opposite direction. But I've come to find that even Pokemon appearances are few and far between; I walked for 20 minutes before I found my first wild Pokemon, a Bellsprout, and then another 40 minutes before a Weedle deigned to show up. I walked my neighborhood with my little brother--now 18 and of the generation behind me, who didn't latch onto Pokemon the way my age group did--to very little excitement.
Several years ago, my town built a walking trail along a river. I jogged down to the three-mile stretch of sun-drenched park early in the morning, hoping that the close proximity to water would at least throw a few Magikarp my way. But again, in my hour-long walk around the area, I came across only two Pokemon--a Caterpie and a Staryu--and two Poke Stops. One of these Poke Stops was a port-o-potty in the middle of the park. Several times, groups of younger children with at least one bored parent in tow saw me walking in circles and approached to ask if I had found any Pokemon.
Because I couldn't find any Pokemon or Poke Stops, I left my second day of training still nowhere near level 5, meaning I couldn't even use the two gyms I had found. I recognize that Pokemon Go is built on the back of Ingress, developer Niantic's previous augmented reality mobile game, but they should have understood that Pokemon's popularity may have necessitated some fiddling with the data. Maybe no one in rural Connecticut played Ingress, and as a result, we outside of cities are bereft of Poke-opportunities.
I was pretty upset. I couldn't do any of the fancy Pokemon Go workouts people have suggested. I had nothing to show for my obsessive walking but sore glutes and a handful of Weedles. So when my friend called me to tell me there was a Bulbasaur hanging out in a jungle of corporate buildings a few towns over, I was more than eager to go.
On our way to the buildings, I found the following Pokemon at the noted distances from my house:
- Weedle: 3 miles, 7 minute drive
- Caterpie: 3.2 miles, 8 minute drive
- Weedle 2: 3.8 miles, 9 minute drive (in a Subway drive-through)
- Haunter: 3.8 miles, 9 minute drive (in the Starbucks parking lot next to the Subway)
- Haunter 2: 6 miles, 10 minute drive
- Pidgey: 7 miles, 12 minute drive
In the Pokemon games, open fields and shadowed forests usually mean plentiful Pokemon. My friend and I found ourselves pulling off main roads onto dirt overhangs, chasing swirling clouds of leaves on our phone screens only for nothing to appear. We meandered like this for an hour, and only managed to catch the Pokemon listed above, which were few and far between. If we were lucky, two Pokemon would spawn in one shopping center, but every back road we took, every hopeful forest detour and trip around my town reservoir, left us empty-handed. My friend said that she had spent the past few days driving the long way to and from work, hoping to run into Pokemon, with nothing much to show for her efforts.
I finally became convinced that rural trainers got the short end of the stick with no thought when I found two unclaimed gyms right next to each other. Two gyms, with no affiliation, located side by side in a fountain in the middle of my town's largest corporate park. These wouldn't be the first unclaimed gyms I found--I stumbled on another as I was walking along the river in our downtown area, and another in our grassy town square as we drove by. This is more a reflection of the lack of Pokemon Go players in my area than anything else, but I can't help but think the obvious lack of available Pokemon had contributed to the unaffiliated gyms.
We claimed the gym in the corporate park (Team Mystic for life) and rapidly caught three Pokemon in succession: a Clefairy, an Eevee, and an Oddish chilling in the grass leading up to the building and just outside its parking garage. In that time, we ran into only two other Pokemon Go players, both of whom lamented the distinct lack of Pokemon in our area. So it wasn't just me who noticed. This cluster of company buildings likely had the highest density of people at any given time in my tiny town, hence the readily available Pokemon. But everywhere else, we were SOL.
Hopefuly in the future Niantic takes pity on rural players and plunks down a few more gyms and Pokestops, not to mention a handful more Pokemon to collect. As of right now, my sprawling town in the woods of Connecticut offers only five types of Pokemon, and two of those are ghosts (appropriate). If The Pokemon Company, Nintendo, and all involved want to keep the crazed interest in Pokemon Go high, they'll need to give a little more attention to players in less-than-urban areas, especially those without driver's licenses.
And I never did find that Bulbasaur.
Do you live in a rural area and are having more luck finding Pokemon? Let us know in the comments below!