While I’m staying at my sister’s house for almost a month, it’s my job to empty and clean out my mom’s old apartment, since she’s recently moved to a wonderful assisted living home. Driving the eight miles to the apartment in approximately ten minutes seems like both a great distance and a very fast trip – because there’s only one stop light in the first seven of those miles (and it favors my direction) and the speed limit is 55mph. It was only a slightly shorter drive from my Portland apartment to my part-time job in Sellwood, and it involved no less than a dozen stop lights, at least half of which I was guaranteed to be stopping for and never got over 45mph (and if I drove to the downtown job? Two miles, one draw bridge and even more stop lights).
In addition, the time of day has very little effect on how long it takes to get anywhere. There are significantly more cars – well, mostly trucks – around five-six pm, to be sure. But that just means you might have to go slower than 55mph, and you might not be the first one at any stop light you might get caught at. It does NOT mean that you’ll ever have to wait through more than one cycle of that light, or that your destination will be crowded when you get there.
This is wide open spaces. This is what rural looks like. I’ve only been visiting in the last 28 years or so, never trying to get things done like a resident. It’s got a lot to recommend it, but I’m not sure I would go back to it on a full-time basis.
I have started paying attention to my gas gauge again. My car has mud on it. And I have remembered what a washboard is.
The POS status of my car is MUCH less noteworthy here than in Portland. I hardly lived in the ritzy area of town, but as close to downtown as I was, neighbors who were short funds often skipped owning a car altogether – fewer places to park them and fantastic biking and public transit options. I’ve seen half-dozen Escorts of a similar 20-year old style as mine in just the one week I’ve been here, and vehicles of all shapes and sizes older and less-well-preserved than mine make up a significant percentage of those on the road.
Of course, average household income is much lower here, and available land to park that marginally useful vehicle is cheap and abundant. But every tenth yard seems to have some kind of earth-moving equipment, whether it be for farming or construction or things I can’t even identify. Lots of snow machines and ATV, and every driveway with at least one pickup.
The air regularly smells of wood smoke. True darkness is easy to find. And those mountains everywhere I look feel like home.