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Left Coast / Right Coast: An outsider’s view of the Pacific Northwest

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Frank Hammer.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Frank Hammer.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

I am a relatively recent transplant to the West Coast. I have lived (born and raised) in the Northeastern US. So these observations are based upon “living the dream” in the Pacific Northwest.

The majority of East Coast residents, especially those who haven’t travelled much beyond where they were raised, don’t know that there is much of anything beyond Chicago (and that’s giving them some credit). After all, Northwestern University in Chicago, founded in the 19th century, was at that time the far-reaching “western terminus of the U.S.,” hence its name.

So what? Well, for starters, people like me when they arrive here are quite surprised at what is here. For example, the University of Washington is in the top five U.S. universities in receiving federal funding for research. It is internationally renown for work in the medical field. Some of the leading edge medical research in cancer detection and treatment and the related pharmacology is done right here. Who would have thought?

The greater New England area is considered to be a key incubator for high tech startups. Many are MIT and/or Harvard spinoffs. Yeah, we know Silicon Valley is now equally famous. But many Silicon Valley (and West Coast) companies have Northeastern roots. HP was started by an MIT graduate. Leland Stanford, founder of that “other” famous university (some Harvard types will acknowledge that) was raised in Watervliet, NY, and educated at two New York schools; Clinton Liberal Institute, and (law) at Cazenovia Seminary.

And that “other” guy Gates, is an infamous Harvard dropout. This observer will grant, “It’s a draw.” They have theirs, we have ours.

Flatlanders: I owned a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire – at the foot of the White Mountains. We were very proud of Mt. Washington (highest peak in the east at about 6,000 ft.) When comparing it to the Pacific Northwest, it doesn’t really register. Many peaks over 10,000 feet, snow-covered year round.

There is Tuckerman’s Ravine on top of Mt. Washington. You can hike up (three hours each way) to the ravine and ski into July. At least in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to hike three hours to take a run.

The Water: Northeasterners have the Atlantic Ocean. We have the Pacific. Frankly, you must give a check mark to the Atlantic. Why? Because you can actually swim in it – without a wet suit. Yeah, sometimes in winter, certain salt-water bays off the New Hampshire and Maine coasts actually freeze. So what, there’s ice racing. The season is over four months long in winter – especially on the frozen lakes in upcountry. You can also drive your car out onto certain frozen lakes in winter – where they have plowed out a road course – allowing you to wind up in a snow bank.

The other fun sport in New England is betting on “ice out.” On Lake Winnipesaukee, there is a stretch of water between one town and a large island in the lake. The winner of the bet is the one who guesses what date and time you can navigate a small boat from shore to shore without hitting ice.

The other related sport is guessing when all the bob houses (the wooden houses ice fisherman sit in to fish in winter - I actually think the sport is mostly about drinking and not fishing, what are you going to do sitting in a frozen ice house for four hours in mid-winter?) will sink as the ice breaks up just before the winner of the “ice out” date wins the annual contest.

Also related to “water” is the Seattle “shuffle.” That’s when you attempt to drive from point A to point B and discover “you can’t get there from here” because there is another in the never-ending bodies of water in the way.

I give credit to the city planners in that the street names are very consistent. It’s just that 35th NW street is broken up into three parts – separated by two bodies of water.

In New England, most older roads were at one time, cow paths. And few cows had a good enough sense of direction to actually walk in a straight line. So the roads “meander” everywhere. Unlike Seattle, roads will turn 90 degrees and still have the same name. Here, the road changes names every time there is a bend. Not sure which is less confusing.

That’s it for this pass. Next time I’ll have something to say about Seahawks and Mariners fans and the famous Snoqualmie Falls.

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