This summer, I had the privilege of spending three months in the Seattle/Redmond area working for Microsoft. While it’s not the first time I’ve spent the summer away from home—I’ve spent a couple summers here at RPI doing research—it’s the first time I’ve been across the country for such an extended period of time. Despite the fact that Seattle and its surrounding suburbs are part of the United States, the time I spent there was radically different than my time on the East Coast. Here are just some thoughts of an east coast panda spending time in the West.
I can’t do a comparison of the two without mentioning the weather. For those of you who haven’t spent time at RPI in the summer, the weather out here is hot, muggy, and prone to afternoon thunderstorms. I’ve grown to love these thunderstorms because it tends to cool down after that, only to return the next day to its hot, humid state. In contrast, the Seattle area was consistently gorgeous: it never got too hot nor too humid. Over the course of my three month stay, it rained four times. Apart from these times, the weather was almost always sunny.
Let’s talk about driving. When I drive from New Jersey to RPI, I’m almost consistently slightly over the speed limit. I’m almost never the fastest vehicle on the road and if I happen to be occupying the middle lane, I’m consistently passed by cars in both lanes that make me look like I’m parked. When I was driving around the highways out west, pretty much everybody was going the speed limit. Going even the slightest bit over made me the fastest thing on the road, which felt a little strange. Another issue I found is that drivers from the Seattle area tended to be passive sometimes to the point of danger, which can be somewhat aggravating at times.
Redmond’s treatment of pedestrians and cyclists is also way different than the way we’re treated back here. Cyclists have a dedicated lane on almost every road, and if there isn’t one, there’s always a sidewalk present. Sadly, trying to cross busy roads here in Troy can sometimes be deadly (see the accident on Hoosick that happened earlier this year). When there are large gaps between street crossings, Redmond and surrounding towns often have pedestrian crossings with a dedicated stoplight. For crossing smaller, yet active streets, I saw some yield signs with lights that automatically activated as you started to cross, forcing cars to stop. Not that they were necessary; the drivers were always nice enough to let you go if you were at some sort of crosswalk. I wish drivers around Troy would be more like the drivers I dealt with this summer so I could feel safer trying to cross some of the busy streets around here.
I could go on, but I’ll finish with the Cascade Mountain Range. Even though I was only able to do a few of the more well-known hikes through Snoqualmie Pass and Mount Rainier, what I saw totally blew me away. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t think of an equal for the gorgeous meadows coupled with forests and cliffs for views of Rainier and the valley below. Crystal clear lakes and rivers make for an excellent end to a hike. Although from what I hear, the one thing that I would miss dearly is the turning of the leaves every fall. That would make this area perfect, with the addition of one other missing staple of my life: a beach with soft sand and swimmable water.