Truth to be told, in all but the narrowest technical sense (driving the car) she brought me; it was my wife Paula's inspiration and effort that got us here. In any case the move and settling-in process account for the lack of posts here in the last couple of weeks, but now RM is up and running again.
In itself all this has nothing at all to do with space travel, but it does inspire some further thoughts about space stations. Recent discussion threads have included noteworthy heresies on this point.
In the traditional understanding that we all grew up on, an orbital station had two primary functions. One was to serve as a center for orbital operations such as communications, weather observation, and so forth; the other was to serve as a transport nexus, the meeting point between shuttles coming up from the surface and deep space craft arriving from other worlds.
Time and technology spoiled the first of these. All the observation and communications relay functions that Clarke and Heinlein expected space stations to perform are instead done by a host of satellites, and no crews are needed to change burned-out vacuum tubes.
The comment thread heretics challenged the second function as well. For a long time to come, spacecraft (or the modules that make them up) will be built and serviced on the ground, where the industrial infrastructure is. Work on orbit will be limited to final assembly, requiring no large staff of orbital workers. Deep space ships may well arrive and depart from individual parking orbits, with no need and no advantage to matching orbits with a big fixed orbital facility.
Space stations, in short, may have become obsolete before any had been built. The ISS, so far as I can tell, serves exactly none of the traditional functions of a space station. For practical purposes it is not a space station at all but a sort of training ship for future deep space missions.
Being obsolete is, in a surprising number of cases, no bar to success. San Francisco was technologically obsolescent from the very beginning of its history as a major city.
From a pre-industrial perspective it is the logical location for a seaport, a transhipment point between oceangoing ships and craft serving the vast inland waterway formed by San Francisco Bay and its outliers, which in turn provides access to rich agricultural regions: the wine country, Santa Clara (now Silicon) Valley, above all the Central Valley.
The railroad era - already well established by 1849 - changed all that, at any rate in principle. San Francisco, at the end of a rugged peninsula some 60 km long, is not a convenient rail terminus (except from the south). The original transcontinental railroad had its western terminus far inland at Sacramento, accessible to water transport; the line was later extended to Oakland, accessible to seagoing ships. And indeed Oakland eventually did supplant San Francisco as a seaport, though it took more than a hundred years, and the physical transformation of port facilities by the container revolution, to accomplish it.
What Oakland has not yet managed to supplant is Gertrude Stein, whose quip, "there's no there there," is practically her sole claim to fame. (Along with Alice B. Toklas brownies.)
San Francisco did not become a suburb of Oakland because of a combination of local circumstances and sheer inertia. Steamboats long remained more economical for regional transport around the Bay Area, and railroads were expensive to build so far from existing industrial centers. By the time these factors changed, San Francisco was already a major port, and network effects took over. It had infrastructure and port services, and the availability of these more than made up for the potential freight charge differential for east-west rail traffic.
Even when the port finally declined a broader network effect continued. In the current era San Francisco is, functionally, the downtown core of the Bay Area metropolitan region, accounting for about a tenth of the regional population but a much larger proportion of metropolitan services. These services to and beyond the region have only an incidental connection its original function as a seaport.
Unfortunately for space stations, the particular circumstances that allowed San Francisco to grow as a port even in the railroad era do not seem to apply in space. On the other hand, cities have always been defined less by their initial primary functions than by the secondary and tertiary services that they are uniquely suited to provide. If - for whatever reason - there are a large number of people in Earth's orbital space, they will probably aggregate in ways that allow them to have lunch together without having to undertake space missions just to get to a restaurant.
Where people go, cities will probably follow.
The image of San Francisco and environs was taken from the ISS.