Tuesday, May 15, 2012

California vs. Oregon

I live in Bend, Oregon, population ~70,000.  I'm currently in Union City, California, population ~70,000.  Their population is just about the ONLY thing these two towns have in common.  I was actually born only a few miles away, but have lived in the PNW most of my life.  I spent a brief moment in time (2 1/2 years) living in California as an adult, but have been living in Bend for over 11 1/2 years now, so it's amazing the contrasts my brain realizes as I'm driving around here.

Bend is the nearest "big city" for a lot of people in most of the state, but yet it's still pretty rural--the nearest town is at least 20 minutes away, with plenty of farm and/or empty land in between towns.  Union city is just one of MANY suburbs that all abut each other in a major metropolitan area (the Bay Area, CA--UC is in the East Bay, but is still spitting distance to San Francisco). 

In Bend proper, the highest speed limit is 45 mph, though in the region, you can legally drive as fast as 55 mph.  You have to drive over 100 miles to finally reach the state's maximum speed limit of 65 mph.  In Union City, many speed limits are 65, and I'm guessing there are 70 mph signs somewhere around here, even if I haven't seen them yet.

In Bend, we complain about having to go across town, because there are never any direct routes to anywhere (especially due to the parkway), but crossing from one side of Bend to the other takes only 15, maybe 20 minutes, tops, and "horrible traffic" means you're the fifth car back waiting to get into a roundabout.  In the Bay Area, stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic is a way of life, though freeways are more efficient in theory than our maze of surface streets, roundabouts, and stoplights.

In Bend, we have probably 10 valid stations on the radio dial, but except for NPR, a few chatty morning shows, and the required allotment of commercials, they contain a lot of music with a limited selection of genres.  Here, I was CONSTANTLY pressing the seek button on the radio, and while there was a station every couple of decimal points, it went like this:  Spanish, classical, Spanish, talking, talking, sports talk, commercial, Spanish, commercial, commercial, talking, the end of a song that I don't love but can stand, commercial, Spanish, commercial, talking, talking, talking, commercial...  Seriously,  I think I only paused to listen to a station twice on the entire 45-minute drive through traffic, across the bay, and down the freeway to work, not for lack of trying.

In most of the rest of the civilized world, a junction or freeway on-ramp sign will include ordinal directions AND the nearest major town in that direction.  For example, in certain areas of Bend, you can get on 97 North toward Redmond, or 97 South toward LaPine.  Or you can get on 20 West toward Sisters, or 20 East toward...I think it says Bend.  But anyway, if you know that you plan to generally head northward, you know which way to go, even if you aren't from around here and don't know your LaPine from your Prineville (I still sometimes get them mixed up because of their similar-sounding names, even though I do know which is which).  Anyway, in California, and I noticed this when I lived in Sacramento, too, they only give the nearest major city, and don't actually tell you the direction you'll be heading.  Which is highly annoying until you realized this is probably by design, because the web of freeways in the more populated areas means that there are situations such as a patch of freeway where you're on (now don't hold me to this--it's similar but not exactly this) 880 North, 580 West, and 680 East, and you know what--you might actually be heading in a southerly direction on this particular patch of highway.  So I guess you really can't blame them for not clarifying, but it must be annoying when you see a sign for 880 toward Oakland and 880 toward San Jose, and you don't actually know which way is Oakland and which way is San Jose, but know you want to be heading south.  Or am I the only one that frequently knows the general direction I'm going, but not necessarily which towns are in that direction and which towns are in the opposite direction?

And lastly, you know what else?  Here in good old California, you have to pump your own gas AND pay sales tax on almost all purchases!  Sheesh!

1 comment:

  1. And that is why I will never move back, Friend!!! JE