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A Practical Guide To Western Washington

I’ve been meaning to write this article for quite some time, but for a variety of reasons it kept getting pushed down on my to-do list. I have novels to write, and articles about life to write, so an article about Western Washington just didn’t have a strong pull for me.

Today it sees the light of day!

Why a guide about Western Washington?

We are tucked up in the remote corner of the Continental United States, far from other major urban centers. As such we are sort of an afterthought when it comes to national news of any sort. We just do our thing up here in the corner, and consequently few people really know what goes on here in the Evergreen State. Do a survey about Washington and most people will say Seattle exists in that state, as do Microsoft and Starbucks, and it rains a whole bunch there . . . that’s about the extent of information most people in the U.S. have about the 46th state of the Union. And the world? Forgetaboutit! The average citizen of Taiwan might be surprised to learn that our state even exists, and I’m quite confident they couldn’t find it on a map of the U.S. That in no way is a slam on the people of Taiwan, but rather a commentary on our lack of identity.

I’ve been roaming the nooks and crannies of Washington State for the better part of seven decades, so I feel secure in the knowledge I’m going to share with you. Don’t worry, we won’t get too complicated in this article. I’m going to simplify things for you as best I can. I don’t want to weigh you down with too many facts and figures, but I do want to satisfy your curiosity if, in fact, you are curious about us coffee-drinking, pot-smoking, sandal-wearing rejects from reality.

So let’s get started!

Olympia, the Capitol of the State

Olympia, the Capitol of the State

There Are Actually Two Washingtons

This is a guide about Western Washington but, as the very name indicates, there is also an Eastern Washington. We are separated from each other by the Cascade Mountains. Western means industry and clouds and moderate temps and Democrat-controlled politics; Eastern means farms and ranches and more extreme temperatures and Republicans. Let me put it this way: there are 7.6 million people in Washington State, give or take a baby born while I’m writing this. Of those 7.6 million, approximately four million live just in the Seattle Metro area in Western Washington.

You can guess which way the political wind blows in this state. There are little pockets of Republicans to be found in Western Washington, but by and large they are ignored in the political arena. This is Bernie Sanders Country and always will be.

The Weather

For as long as I’ve lived people have mistakenly believed that it rains a great deal in Western Washington. In point of fact Olympia, the city I live in, receives about 52 inches of rainfall during an average year. Seattle, sixty miles to the north, receives, on average, 35 inches of rainfall per year. And there is a small city called Sequim, up north, that barely gets over ten inches of rain per year.

By comparison, there are quite a few cities across the Southern United States which exceed the 52-inch total, including Miami, Florida, with a whopping 61-inches per year, but yet Miami is known for its sunshine and warm temperatures, and we are known for our rumored web feet.

We get a bad rap!

What we do have, however, is a whole lot of gray. We only have, on average, 85 days of sunshine per year, which is not a lot out of 365. The sun comes out and we are blinded by the bright light. Oddly, we lead the nation in the sale of sunglasses. Go figure!

The Pacific Ocean propels our weather. Storms arrive unimpeded here, but the ocean also moderates our temperatures. Western Washington has relatively mild weather with regards to temperatures. Our summers rarely have 90-degree days, and our winters rarely see temps dive below 20-degrees.

If you like vanilla weather, come to Western Washington! For those in Europe reading this article, I would say England probably has fairly similar weather to what we have in Western Washington.

Recently, things have changed. Again, I have the perspective which comes from seven decades in one area. I don’t have scientific data to support my statement, but I do have experience, and things have definitely changed. Summers are warmer here than they once were. We have set records for heat the last four years. Two years ago we had ten days over ninety degrees and I swear, I thought people were going to leave the area in droves because of the heat. I believe it is a sign of climate change. Republicans in the state don’t believe that for a second. Since I’m writing this, we’ll go with climate change/global warming.

POLITICS

I touched on this earlier: Democratic along the I-5 Corridor in Western Washington, the large majority of population living in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and the Olympia areas; Republican throughout the sparse expanse that is Eastern Washington. Truth be told, if you combined Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon, you would have one large Red state, and if you did the same with the western sides of both states, you would have a large Blue state.

And since populations determine representation, is it any wonder that Washington is considered a Liberal state?

Racial Diversity

Oddly, and I say oddly because it’s always baffled me, Washington State is not terribly diverse. We are, in fact, lilly-white. We are 70% White, 12% Hispanic, 4% African American, and 8% Asian. Compare that to the U.S. statistical breakdown of 60% White, 18% Hispanic, 13% African American, and 6% Asian.

I really have no explanation for it.

I literally did not know a black person until I arrived at college, in Seattle, in my nineteenth year. Truth!

A whole lot of white

A whole lot of white

ENVIRONMENT

Stunning physical beauty! Those three words perfectly describe Western Washington. The Olympic Mountains rise in the northwest. The Cascade Mountains, including Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams, all rise in the east, a physical barrier between west and east.

Washington is called the Evergreen State and rightfully so, with lush firs and pines and spruces and cedars wherever you look. Lakes and rivers are seemingly everywhere, the inland sea, Puget Sound, is dotted with islands, and speaking of islands, the San Juans will provide you with days of exploration and kayaking and whale watching.

And yes, we have the Pacific Ocean, gray and endless and damned cold even on the warmest of days. Anyone thinking of swimming off the coast of Washington needs to have a psychiatric test administered. It’s that cold.

Stunning scenery!

Stunning scenery!

Social Problems

Western Washington is far from Shangrila. We have all of the social problems any major metropolitan area has. Homelessness seems to run rampant these days in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. City budgets have been gutted by COVID-19. Police forces and social services are ill-equipped to handle it all, and there seems to be on consensus on a solution to it all.

Those hoping to own a home along the I-5 corridor better think again. Seattle homes are out of touch for the average American. Tacoma is quickly becoming another Seattle with regards to property values. Even Olympia has seen real estate prices rise to ridiculous levels. Still, if you are willing to live outside the cities, you can find property which is within the reach of someone making fifty grand a year – but the commute will be a daily headaches because, well, planners simply did not plan for the huge influx of people into the area in the last fifty years, and roads are often clogged.

Yes, schools are underfunded. Choose wisely if you are looking for a good school district for your children. They do exist but it takes some research to find them.

EMPLOYMENT

Since I’m writing this during the pandemic, what I’m about to say may not be accurate in a month. The virus has taken a toll on us here just as it has in most economies.

The Seattle Metro area, including Bellevue and Renton and Redmond, have high-tech companies like Microsoft and Redfin, and the giant Amazon, which call Seattle home, but even those companies (with the exception of Amazon) are taking a hit. Boeing, long a major supplier of jobs in Western Washington, is on life-support after the 737 debacle.

Olympia, the state capitol, is all about government, and Tacoma, which transformed itself from a logging, shipping, and smelting city into a modern tech/artsy/micro-business hub, is struggling, but not nearly as badly as Seattle.

The tourism industry is almost non-existent at this time. Billions of dollars have been lost. If we ever return to a normal not dominated by the pandemic, tourism will thrive once again.

Under normal circumstances, unemployment in Western Washington is usually in the 5%-7% range. As of the writing of this article, August, 2020, it sits right around ten percent, down from a high of 19% in April of 2020. There is reason to be optimistic, but that optimism is based upon historical data and not particularly on the landscape we see daily in 2020. I doubt any of us can really predict what employment will look like in six months.

We have a statewide minimum wage of $13.50 per hour, so there’s that. Some cities passed laws raising that to $15 per hour, so there’s that as well. But with property values as high as they are, that minimum wage will pretty much get you the sofa in your parents’ house.

Characteristics of Western Washington Residents

If we have an accent, I sure can’t detect it. Call us bland with regards to speech and let’s move on.

Are we friendly? Sure, I guess so. Let’s say yes! If you pass someone on the street, more often than not they will look at you and say hello. Smaller towns are friendlier than larger cities, but it’s my experience that’s true in all states.

We are an educated collective in Western Washington with higher levels of high school and college graduation than in Eastern Washington, and we score higher than our neighboring states.

Is it a good place to live? I must think so because I’ve been here most of my life. I can’t answer that question for other people, but by and large I hear few complaints about life among the evergreens, few complaints other than “Where in the world did I put my sunglasses!”

Would I recommend it to someone else? It’s a matter of taste, right? Someone accustomed to the constant noise and turmoil of NYC might find it a bit bland here. Someone from Nebraska might find it too raucous. Californians seem to love it here with our lower property values; there are a whole lot of Californians considering moving here after the current forest fire season. We have very few forest fires in Western Washington. The same cannot be said for Eastern Washington, which seems to burn a bit more with each new summer. However, having said that, Western Washington has set new records the last two years, 2019 and 2020, for forest fires, so maybe we should discount that previous statement.

Are there opportunities here? Sure, I guess, but I actually believe there are opportunities anywhere.

Bottom line, I’m not sure if it’s better, or worse, than any other area in the United States, but I can almost guarantee the coffee is better here in Western Washington.

Come visit! We’ll be happy to take your tourist dollars. And if you want to move here, I’ve got a spare sofa you can sleep on for $300 per month.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 27, 2020:

I'm so happy you enjoyed our state, MG!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Bill, I spent more thana month in Washington and it was a great experience. Reminded back of that time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 26, 2020:

You are welcome any old time, Rajan! I eagerly await your visit. :)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 25, 2020:

You have crammed up all the important information one needs in this short but succinct article, Bill. Your state surely has ignited my desire to visit it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 25, 2020:

Nashville, Jo, Nashville....Tennessee would be a great place to visit, but as you said, I'll stay right here for living.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on September 25, 2020:

Really enjoyable article, Bill. As a traveler makes me want to come to see it. For living, I think I'll stay right where I am.

When we travel to other countries we find few people know where Tennessee is or much about it. The two things that are recognized all over the world are Elvis Presly and Jack Daniels.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 23, 2020:

But I will buy you a coffee if you do, Mary! I'm counting on a wonderful time visiting with you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 23, 2020:

Thank you very much, Devika!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 23, 2020:

I love your description, as it is very engaging. It made me smile as I read it. I have not been to Western Washington, but from what I have read, I might pop up one day. Not to worry as I won't end up on your sofa.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 23, 2020:

Bill you know how to get your reader's attention and showed that here too. Enlightening us about another part of USA

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2020:

I'm happy to hear you loved our fair state, MG! Thanks for stopping by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2020:

I don't remember the last earthquake, Denise. I suppose we are overdue. Why not? That would fit in quite well with the rest of 2020.

Blessings always

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2020:

And more rain, Ann.....and more rain!

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2020:

It's a date, Bill!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 19, 2020:

I have been to Washington twice and loved it.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 19, 2020:

I'd love to visit. You probably haven't any trouble with earthquakes. Of course, my husband and I have been discussing going even further by leaving the country. That is if certain people are voted into office again in November.

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr from SW England on September 19, 2020:

Glad to hear you got the rain, bill.

Ann

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 19, 2020:

That would be great, Bill. We would love to meet you and Bev in person.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

Flourish, it's bad and getting worse. If Seattle has a plan for homelessness, they are doing a good job of keeping it a secret.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

For sure Vancouver Island, Ann, and especially Victoria. I love Victoria! I'm not much of a world traveler, but I can always say I've seen the loveliness of Victoria.

Happy Saturday to you, Ann, on this rainy and joyous morning.

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

The couch is always waiting for ya, Zulma, and Maggie is wagging her tail in anticipation. Toby? He's too busy digging up the garden right now, but I'm sure he'll be excited to see you.

Happy Saturday, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

Like night and day, Linda! Most definitely a huge difference.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

God, Bill, I don't know how I missed that. I read it three times. lol Thanks for pointing that out. Next time you are out here we will definitely hook up for a meet and greet. I would love to talk to you in person.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

Thanks Lori! That's a thing in the country, the waving thing; I noticed that while living on the Peninsula as well. It didn't take me long to get into the habit of lifting a finger off the steering wheel as I passed another car. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

Oregon is pretty, Pamela, much like Washington. Not quite as much water, but the pretty much the same. If you ever make it to my neck of the woods, let me know so we can arrange for a visit.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2020:

Emese, at the very least, if you visit this side of the mountains, give me a call and we can meet for coffee. And stay the heck out of Eastern Washington, with the exception of Leavenworth. That's worth a visit.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 19, 2020:

I visited there several times when I was doing the corporate thing and loved it. We had an office in Bellevue. I was taken a bake by Seattle’s homeless population, however.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 19, 2020:

It sounds like a great place to be. I think you're right about the similarities of weather here. Beautiful it certainly is, as your photos show. It's a region, along with Vancouver Island, that Id love to visit - who knows?!

Hope your having an evergreen weekend, bill!

Ann

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on September 19, 2020:

Hi, Bill.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your neck of the woods. Felt more like a chat rather than a standard travel article. Maybe you should do more of these.

And if that $300 a month includes playtime with Mags and Toby, I'm all in. lol

Catch you later, Bill.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 18, 2020:

It was interesting to learn about the area where you live. I didn't realize that there were major differences between Western and Eastern Washington.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 18, 2020:

Great hub, Bill. As you know, I am particularly fond of your state and my brother and his family live in Bellevue. We have made perhaps 6 to 8 trips out there over the last 25 years or so, and it is one of our favorite places to visit, especially in the summer. The scenery in western Washington is stunning and the San Juan Islands are a must for anyone visiting the area.

On our last visit in 2017 we experienced a number of days in the 90s and a few days with smoke from fires in Canada. Looking back to our visits in the 1990s and early 2000s I do not ever recall these conditions so I do believe the weather is changing there due to global warming. To me a visit to Washington always meant 75 to 80 with no humidity and crystal clear skies. My kind of weather. What a shame if this continues to change.

I always thought that once I retire from my day job that we would spend part of our summers out there because I hate the humidity here. Plus we love being outdoors and Washington is an outdoor lovers paradise. We’ll see what happens in a few years.

Loved this hub. I definitely learned some new tidbits of info. Have a great weekend. Btw, in the section where you talk about Boeing I think you meant 737, not 357.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on September 18, 2020:

Fabulous! I love the waterfall video. I love living here, especially on the Key Peninsula/Gig Harbor area where every square inch is beautiful. The moderate weather is a big deal for me. When I returned here with my own family in 1990, one thing that struck my husband and I was that strangers always wave at you. My husband and I would be driving down a country road and someone would wave at us.

"Lori, who was that?"

"I don't know, I thought you might know them."

In unison: "Then why were they waving at us."

Now I wave at everyone too.

You covered some topics I didn't expect, like the political statistics, social problems, and racial diversity. Those aren't usually found in articles like this.

Well done Bill.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 18, 2020:

You have written a great overview of western Washington. I think I would really like it there. I watched a few of those shows where they come in and remodel the home in Seattle and the house prices were way up there. The scenery is beautiful though.

Many years ago I attended a work seminar in Portland for about a week. One day I did drive over the bridge into Washington and drove for a while. I didn't do anything unique, but I thought it was beautiful. I spent a lot of time touring Oregon instead when the seminar ended. It was beutiful too.

Emese Fromm from The Desert on September 18, 2020:

Love this article, Bill! And, as much as I think I know about your state, I still learned a few new things :)

I always thought of Washington as a liberal state, but I noticed some small towns ... well... too red for my taste. Yes, we were in East Washington; we almost never visit that side but wanted to see it for a change, lol. Never again. We'll just stick to your neck of the woods when we visit.

Hope things start getting better next year - for all of us. And next summer we can go back for another visit. If we do, I'll let you know this time :) . We might take you up on that sofa if we can't find a good rental.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

Eric, I had no idea Flagstaff got that much snow. Wow! We might see a foot during a winter. 260 days of sun? My God, that sounds blinding to me. lol Thanks buddy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

I was worried about that, Linda! Hopefully we won't see too many newcomers in the next year. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

Thanks Peggy! It is definitely warmer here than when I grew up. Anyone with some years under their belt will tell you the same thing. The arguments begin, though, when talking about the cause of that climate change. Even Washingtonians will argue that issue.

The smoke is leaving us, but some fires continue down south.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

Howdy, Mr. Happy! Thanks for the visit. I just thought you should know something about the state you send cards to. lol

Numbers in writing....you caught me being sloppy. The rule I follow is be consistent. If you are going to use numbers, use them all the way through the document. That is not the golden rule, however, which leans towards using words instead of numerals. Anyway, just be consistent, unlike what you saw in this document.

Have a great weekend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

Sha, we do not have a state income tax. We make up for it with some stiff sales taxes. One way or another, the government is going to get their money, right?

At one time I had thought of writing a Washington travel series, but that idea fell by the wayside. I really should have started writing when I was younger.

You would love Washington, Sha! Maybe some day, right?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

Thanks Shannon! Glad you enjoyed it. Although Walla Walla is in Eastern Washington, I actually love that city. It's a great place to visit with some great shops and historical sites.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 18, 2020:

Well this is just great. I needed to know more about the Pacific Northwest. My daughter is an Oregonian.

Your Eastern and Western is quite interesting. My home state is divided North and South. Flagstaff where I grew up gets over 100 inches of snow a year. Where as, guess how much Phoenix gets.

You run 40 inches of rain. Here we run around 9. We have about 260 mostly sunny days. I thank you for this. I love my west coast.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 18, 2020:

Ahh darn it Bill now everyone will want to come here. You've done a great job of describing our little corner of the world. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2020:

I love articles like this telling us about areas of the country we may or may not have visited. My mother, niece, and I did spend some time up there one year on vacation, combining it with our trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The scenery is spectacular, as is most of the west coast. It is fascinating learning tidbits, such as the use of sunglasses, and the political leanings.

It saddens me to know so much of the west coast is affected by the wildfires. I am in your camp with regard to climate change. The year we were in Seattle, we thought that we would escape some of the hot summer heat in Houston. They were having a heatwave that year when we arrived, and it was in the mid-to-upper 90s!

Take care, and stay safe!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on September 18, 2020:

"I literally did not know a black person until I arrived at college, in Seattle, in my nineteenth year. Truth!" - That's strange indeed. I mean, I did not see my first black person until I was probably close to six years old but I grew-up in a dictatorship, under the Iron Curtain.

"populations determine representation" - Only a little. If populations truly determined political representation, Al Gore would have been President and Trump would have lost the last election but no, populations do not always determine representation. Not when it's important anyway, haha!! I'm fighting for proportional representation (here in Canada but I am introducing the notion to many Americans as well).

"the Pacific Ocean, gray" - it's gray? I thought it'd be blue. Never seen any oceans though so, I don;t know.

"Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains." - I was supposed to know all this? LOL

"Still, if you are willing to live outside the cities, you can find property which is within the reach" - The problem is, there aren't many job opportunities outside cities. So, one can get cheaper properties but then have little, or no work. After-all, that is why humans flood to cities, world-wide.

"As of the writing of this article, August, 2020, it sits right around ten percent, down from a high of 19% in April of 2020." - Technical writing question here: You used numbers instead of letters to describe numbers for the most part but You wrote out the number "10" here. Was is on purpose, or does it even matter? I've come in the habit of either using numbers throughout a piece of writing, or letters to portray those numbers, not both. I think it is a rule I was made to conform to at some point and now I just do it to keep conformity in my sentences and pieces of writing. What do You think on the topic of either numbers, or letters, not both, for portraying numbers in writing?

"I’ve got a spare sofa you can sleep on for $300 per month." - That's pretty cheap. It's about twenty pounds a night in London and fifty bucks here in Toronto (for renting someone's living-room couch for one night).

Alrighty, this was fun and certainly long over-due. You waited over 70 years to write this lol I shouldn't say anything though. I've lived in Toronto for over thirty years and have not written anything about this city. I'm not very much into cities. They're more, or less all the same.

You have yourself a great week-end. Cheers!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2020:

I know, right, Heidi? I went way off base with this one. I don't know why I decided to write this. Just a wild hair I had to pluck. Glad I didn't bore you with it. Happy Friday my friend!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 18, 2020:

What a great introduction to your neck of the woods, Bill! Coffee drinking, pot smoking, sandal wearing folks are drawn to Washington? Why the hell aren't I there?! LOL

The landscape is stunning; I know I'd love that, but twenty degree weather in the Winter, ugh! I know that's mild compared to other places and I've lived in cold climates during my lifetime, but I don't like being cold. You can't have everything, tho, right?

One thing you didn't mention is whether or not Washington has a state income tax. We don't have state income tax here in Florida, which is one huge plus about living and working here.

I'd love to learn more about your area and hope this becomes one of your wonderful themed series.

How 'bout you and Bev go on a drive-about/walk-about taking pictures and videos to give your adoring fans a first-hand glimpse of the restaurants, parks, landscape, etc.?

I thoroughly enjoyed this, Bill. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon Henry from Texas on September 18, 2020:

Interesting. Of course, I always find the travel articles more interesting that are from a personal perspective and don't just robotically spout out factual information.

I'd like to visit Washington someday. My dad has lived in Walla Walla. Not sure where that is exactly, though. Sounds like a beautiful state by description from those I know who either live there or have lived there.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 18, 2020:

Well this is quite a departure from your norm! But, wait, not really since it does include a fair amount of editorializing.

Sometimes it's really interesting to take an outsider's view of your location where you have an insider's view. Fascinating, right?

Thanks for sharing the tour! Happy Friday!