An Open Letter to the Rest of America: You’ve Got Washington All Wrong
Dear the rest of the United States of America,
My name is Pete and I've lived in Washington for the past two decades. I'm fully aware of what you think Washington is like. To be fair, I thought the same thing at first.
My earliest memories of Washington are from when I was five or six. I was living on the Oregon Coast and we would drive up to visit my aunt and uncle when they lived in Pasco. I remember my dad explaining to me what the Tri-Cities were. When we moved to Iowa, we visited Tri-Cities less but we eventually moved here. When I told my Iowa friends I was moving, they had two common misconceptions.
"Are you going to meet the President?"
"What are you doing in D.C.?"
"No, Washington state."
"It must be very rainy there! And you'll see lots of Christmas trees!"
It may be hard to believe, but not all of Washington is a rainy, forest dreamscape. The Cascade Mountains make the eastern and western halves of Washington feel like different states altogether.
Western Washington is everything you think it is. The forests are dense, clouds are a regular sighting, and a rare sighting would be clouds without rain. But eastern Washington is closer to western Idaho than western Washington. Instead of an ocean or sound, we have big rivers. Instead of jellyfish, sturgeon. The rain only seems to come just as you think the brown grass will spontaneously ignite itself.
I don't think many outsiders understand just how much eastern Washington contributes to our national agricultural needs. Wine and apples are obvious exports but wheat, dairy, beef, hay, and hops are among Washington's top exports. Washington's biggest export, however, may surprise you.
Fish & seafood exports generated over $1 billion in 2021, with Washington's biggest customers being China, Japan, and Canada. To further confuse you, how about this one; Washington made more money on frozen french fries than apples last year.
Politically, Washington is much more nuanced than the majority of Americans may believe. While Washington votes blue in presidential races, it's much more split than that. The majority of eastern Washington tends to vote Republican, even though the state hasn't elected a Republican governor since 1980, the same year Washington's electorates went to Ronald Reagan.
Even despite their difference, both halves of Washington seem to agree on a few things. First of all, flannel is always cool. Farmers, hikers, and indie rockstars alike love flannel. The alcohol is amazing in Washington, whether you pour yourself an IPA from the west side or a glass of wine from the east. Fishing is huge in Washington, too. The methods may be different depending on what body of water you're on, however. While east and west will argue over Cougars and Huskies, everyone unites under the Seahawks and Mariners flag.
Before you think you know Washington, visit Washington.
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