I’ve been selling the charms and benefits of living in the Pacific Northwest for most of my adult life, mostly to high school seniors who had a good curveball or could shore up my infield defense.
You see, before I got into the construction biz, I did a twenty-year tour as a college baseball coach, which means I talked with a lot of families – mostly from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Hawaii — who were considering sending their boys to Portland to play for me. While the native lads were already familiar with the onions and roses of life in the PNW, those who came the farthest seemed to fancy the place in ways that we, inexcusably, can sometimes take for granted.
Despite my own unforgivable — even if only occasional — bouts of overfamiliarity with my home turf, two decades of recruiting and team travel to other parts of the U.S. led me to this question about the Pacific Northwest: Why would anyone choose to live anywhere else?
Below is the highlight reel I shared with my recruits.
It’s neither the heat nor the humidity.
In promoting the scorched earth climates in which they live, my friends in Arizona and other desert locations attempt to rise above their Mid-West and East Coast counterparts by blaming seasonal discomfort on high humidity while giving their own ungodly temperatures a full, Nixon-like pardon. That ain’t right. Sure, Chicago and Miami suck in the summer, but the heat in the desert most of the year is enough to make you sweat like Mike Tyson on Jeopardy.
“But it’s a dry heat,” they say.
Indeed, not a single drop of moisture anywhere. Just like the oven I roast the Thanksgiving turkey in.
Wet or dry, hot is hot.
Here in Vancouver, Washington, we enjoy a mild climate. Summer temperatures average 82 degrees with relatively low humidity and the average winter low remains above freezing. We get an inch or two of snow about every other year, which is enough to cause bedlam in the streets and panic in the offices of school administrators. Honestly, folks from the Midwest must laugh at us. Let’s just say that the heart attack you might have had shoveling snow in Ann Arbor is more likely to be caused by thumbing through your Twitter feed.
As they say, every place has a pile of s*%t, it just smells different. Rather than insufferable heat or unrelenting snowstorms, our malodor is rain. According to U.S. Climate Data, it rains 42” per year in the Portland/Vancouver area. That’s too much for people who buy rain gear to hang on a hook. Besides, thanks to Northwest companies like Oregon’s Columbia Sportswear, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.
Stunning beauty and an outdoor playground.
The beauty of our landscape often sucker punches visitors to the Pacific Northwest. Their comments range from, “I can’t believe how green it is here,” to “I’ve never seen so many trees in my life,” to “The mountains are amazing!”
Once, while beginning the approach into Portland International Airport on a return flight from Texas, a silk-scarfed member of the Dallas-based flight crew excused herself before leaning over my lap to take a picture of snowcapped Mt. Hood. D.B. Cooper could not have looked through an airplane window with a greater sense of wonder.
One of the best reasons to live in the Pacific Northwest is the accessibility to outdoor recreation. Head east from Vancouver and you’ll find the windsurfing capital of the world in the Columbia Gorge and three ski areas on Mt. Hood. Head west and you can watch the sunset over the Pacific while wiggling your toes in the sand. And you can do it all in two shakes of a lamb’s tail — that’s about 75 minutes by car. In between, you’ll find miles of hiking trails, cycling routes, and an endless number of lakes and rivers that supply our residents and local restaurants with the most amazing seafood you’ve ever let past your soup coolers.
If dining out is your thing, Portland-Vancouver has you covered on both sides of the Columbia River. From The Ringside Steakhouse (get the onion rings!), the likes of which would make Sinatra and DiMaggio cancel reservations at Toots Shor’s, to funky, ethnic food carts that fly every flag imaginable, there is truly something for every palate. Since you’re in the Pacific Northwest, we recommend you try the fresh seafood and don’t forget to tip your server.
With NBA basketball, MLS soccer, and minor league hockey and baseball teams, the Portland-Vancouver area provides team sports fans with excellent opportunities to see the stars of today and tomorrow. A day trip to Seattle — less than three hours drive, each way — will have you cheering on the Seahawks, the Mariners, and soon the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken.
In 1984, two brothers from Portland bought an old dairy tank, converted it into a mash tun, and spawned an industry that has spread throughout the Northwest. People like Kurt and Rob Widmer turned their passion for brewing beer into a regional trademark, like politics in DC only way better. Today, Vancouver has dozens of breweries with cool names like Bearded Brothers, Trap Door, Ghost Runners, Final Draft, and the Heathen Brewing and Feral Public House. It’s a safe bet that John Fazzolari has tried them all.
If you don’t expect to make a living as the sixth man for the Trailblazers, brewing beer in your bathtub, or recommending an oaky cabernet to pair with the rib eye, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to fill up the pickle jar.
While the Fazz team is busy pounding nails, our friends work in tech fields, education, timber products, food and agriculture, aerospace, forestry, medicine, law, and public services like law enforcement and firefighting. And with working from home currently trending like never before, imagine doing so with a view of the Columbia River, Mt. St. Helens, or Yale Lake. Pretty cool, I know.
If you’re an air travel consumer, as I was for two decades, you’ll be interested to know that Portland International airport is a 10-30 minute drive from just about anywhere in Clark County and most parts of the Portland Metro area. Adding to its convenience is the fact that PDX is, in my opinion, the best major airport in America, due to its parking, covered arrival/departure roadways, and ease of terminal access — no train rides to get to your gate. They even have a Burgerville, a local chain headquartered in Vancouver that represents the mountaintop of all burger joints on the planet Earth. You In-N-Out fans can zip it.
Thinking of building or remodeling?
Be warned: For the reasons mentioned above, many of the boys I recruited from other areas grew roots here after graduation. If you are new to the Southwest Washington area and are considering building a new Vancouver area custom home or doing a major remodel to an existing house, give Fazzolari Construction a call. We’d love to meet you, even if you can’t hit a lick.