Friday, July 13, 2007

25 ways to tell you're out west

1. Dramatic topographical changes, like above. This pic was taken on the way to Portland; on the hill, you can see the trees come to a pretty abrupt end. There's a line there somewhere that delineates the forest from the high desert. This isn't like the east, as I can't really think of anywhere within a five-hour drive that would be vastly different than what's it like here; and even if I could, the change wouldn't be nearly as dramatic.

2. The desert. Even if it's the high desert.

3. Large trees. They make our forests look diminutive.

4. Large freaking mountains. In the photo, you can see Mt. Hood to the right. That whiteness isn't glare; it's snow. And this photo was taken on July 10. Are there any peaks in the east that even stretch past the treeline, let alone have year-round snow?

5. A long drive to get anywhere. It took us three hours to get from Bend to Portland - i.e., central Oregon to northwest Oregon. In that time from D.C., I could be in any one of seven states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and possibly North Carolina). Mark, my brother-in-law, suffered through a 10-hour drive to get home to Idaho; that would likely put us in Atlanta.

6. Les Schwab Tires.

7. Taco Time. (Though, rather inexplicably, there's one location east of the Mississippi: Altoona, Pa.

8. Laid-back attitudes, which do not equate in the northeast cities.

9. Resort towns, like Bend. It's hard to imagine even places like Killington fitting this sort of definition.

10. One of a hundred places in Bend to get a mocha.

11. The presence of buttes and foothills. (Here, they're called mountains.)

12. Volcanoes, which Mt. Bachelor was, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens are.

13. Cities laid out in a logical manner. (We're looking at you, Boston.)

14. Hearing Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver mentioned in the same way we talk about Baltimore, Philly and New York.

15. Hippies, which were in abundance in our trip to Powell's.

16. Sitting down to dinner and already knowing if the Phillies had won or lost.

17. Open ranges.

18. Cattle guards. (That story about the sheep is hilarious.)

19. Listening to the radio and hearing KQAK and KWLZ or watching TV and seeing KTVZ. It feels unnatural.

20. Realizing that Oregon became a state more than a century after my alma mater was founded.

21. Seeing a ranch.

22. How could I have forgotten this until now?! NO HUMIDITY. We went golfing one day when the temperature reached into the high 90s; it was hot, certainly, but not oppressive. And I didn't even feel sweaty! The sweat instantly evaporated in the dry air.

23. The chance to live waaaayyyy above sea level, which kicked my ass for most of the trip. Bend is about 3,500 feet above sea level; my in-laws' house a little more than 4,000. I'm happy to be able to walk up and down steps and not be out of breath anymore (while also admitting I'm grossly out of shape).

24. Driving on I-5. My normal commute takes me on the complete opposite, I-95.

And, lastly...

25. The big sky. I played softball just down from the Washington Monument, and I took the time to look: The sky really does seem bigger out west, though I have a feeling that is due in part to the vastness of the landscape. It's hard to see beyond a few miles anywhere in the east; when we took the photo above, we were still a good 30 miles (if not more) from Mt. Hood.

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