Seeing Bellevue, Washington, at night, imparts a certain sense of perspective when you're a native born-Oregonian and a long -time Portlander.
I don't often get a chance to step outside my currently rather circumscribe lift. A chance to run up to visit with an SCA acquaintance in Bellevue presented itself and I jumped at this.
We got started between 16 O'clock and 17 O'clock. Of course, this being winter along the forty-fifth, we were'nt too far out of Clark County before it got black as...well, night. It, as may Portlanders who have Seattleites will know, is about three hours, or a little more, to the great Seattle conurb, and The Wife[tm] and myself passed that time talking, joking, relating, and laughing...that is, things we don't usually do these days for a variety of reasons, good and bad.
Western Washington is, in a way, a lot like Southwestern Oregon (only less rugged) or maybe the Willamette Valley (only more rugged). Countryside with the occaisional roadside town, though, it must be said, no Valley town has a freeway running through the dead-middle, like Kalama (which has a beautiful big red neon sign denoting a restaurant, which, of course, has at least two letters out at any time. This night, northbound I-5 travellers were invited to come see ESTA ANT. We must sometime go).
Once you hit the Sound (or, I should say, once your road takes you near it) your country-kin perceptions get whack upside the head.
Now, I know many people currently calling themselves Oregonians came from somewhere else. Your experience will be different. I am a native and have spent, less some significant episodes in my life, all my live in this happy valley of small big towns and big small towns and agriculture at your doorstep. In the Sound, you think you've begun to hit Washington's throbbing heart but it's not quite yet; the Nisqually floodplaing makes an emphatic break. But you get to Tacoma's southwestern outskirs, near McChord AFB and Fort Lewis, and you know this is a different place...almost a different planet. It's people, people everywhere. It's Oregon if Tom McCall had never been born, if Oregon's senators and representatives had tried to get more bases sited here.
Oregon City was the end of the trail, but for all the people there, you'd think it actually ended at Puget Sound.
Downtown Bellevue at night is an interesting thing to behold. The official population of Bellevue, Seattle's largest suburb, is just a little above 117,000. This puts it, in size, behind Salem and Eugene (at about 145,000 each) and within sight of Gresham (at 90,000). But it feels like a much larger town than any of them. I-405 ties travellers into the center of town in a massive spaghetti-bowl, and something like six to ten office towers of fifteen to twenty-five stories dominate (not just command) the surrounding landscape).
If Oregon's primary cities are big small towns, this is a small big town.
Downtown gives way, east of I-405, to undifferetiated suburban-style development. The Wife[tm] and myself both agreed that NE 8th Street in Bellevue reminded us of nothing so much as SW Murray Blvd south of Farmington Road in Beaverton.
Everywhere was this impression of size and importantce.
Wanting to get a feel for magintude, I looked up some numbers. Very revealing.
Area: Oregon, 95,997 sq.mi. Washington, 66,554 sq.mi.
Washington has nearly twice Oregon's population on two-thirds the land.
Population:Oregon, 3,421,399. Washington, 6,131,445.
Cities over 100,000 population:
Oregon, 3: Portland, Salem, Eugene (In that order).
Washington, 5: Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, Bellevue (in that order).
In Washington, even the small towns are big: Everett is nearing 100,000, Yakima is 80,000. Washington's eastside is also more populous; Yakima is near dead-center of the state of Washington. If you go to the same place in Oregon, there's nothing-at lots of it. The largest town east of the 'Cades, Bend, has about 65,000 population, but that's a recent thing. Most of my life it's been a little burg the size of Pendleton and The Dalles (about or just less than 20K). They've had wicked growth in Bend, though; Pendleton and The Dalles are still about that size.
I can see I'm rambling a bit, so I'll try tying up ends. The incredible urban presence in the Puget Sound area gives an urban presence that just doesn't feel like anything anywhere in Oregon, even in the most populous corners (downtown and NW Portland come to mind) The Seattle area feels just a little too big. Desipte Portland and Seattle's sizes (both are above 550,000, and within about 25,000 of each other) the difference in atmosphere is almost palpable.
Portland has a rep of being a 'big little town'. It, I am convinced, is not for nothing.
And our visit to our friend? Productive. He gave us two Wintel boxes he just had lying around; both P2's, both in very good shape. They work. They will replace our old Pentium MMX 200 with a dying power supply and a busted CD-ROM drive. They have networking (ethernet, USB) built in, which, though they be modest, will take our home computing experience up to the next level, even possibly being our first attempt at home networking.
And I had a killer taco salad at the Denny's at NE 30th Street and 148th Avenue NE. If the Denny's down here in PDX worked more like that one, we'd visit 'em more often.