Hot Takes on My Travels to (and from) the Pacific Northwest

Controversy can be fun! Well, at least if it’s about something as inconsequential as vacation observations. I know that I am making some flying leaps into subjective judgments based on extremely limited experience. But still… Why not?!? They’re all in good fun. Here are some of my “hot takes” from our family’s recent cross-continental trip to (and back from) the Pacific Northwest…

Idaho is better than Oregon.

This is not to diminish the greatness of Oregon, but rather to exalt the greatness of Idaho. If Idaho had access to the Pacific Ocean, this one wouldn’t even be close. They have more of the high plains that I love so much. They have more of the snow-capped mountains. The state shares a border with arctic Canada and desert Nevada. Idaho’s interstate speed limit is higher than Oregon’s, and Idaho lets you pump your own gas. Without hardly any of the traffic congestion and scuzzy city stuff in the western part of Oregon.

The Bison should be the national animal of the United States of America.

The bald eagle is an impressive creature. We even got to see a few of them on our family vacation these last couple of weeks. Still, every time I see a herd of bison, I swear: I want to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s just such a powerful, unique, American animal. It exhibits strength in individual expressions and (even more so) in communal expressions, which seems like a useful metaphor. And who knows?!? If we would have chosen the bison for a national symbol, maybe their geographic range would still cover three-quarters of United States territory.


Burgerville’s burgers are forgettable. But their shakes are fantastic.

People in Akron rave about Swenson’s. People from California love their In-and-Out Burgers. And, it seems, people in the Pacific Northwest are crazy about Burgerville. But really, they’re all pretty much the same. A step up from McDonald’s or Burger King, to be sure, but not all that big of a step. Sentimentality is one of the strongest seasonings, I think. So if you grow up with a certain burger, you really love it. But my outside perspective on the Burgerville burger experience was, “Meh.” The Portland Cold Brew Coffee Milkshake, however, was tremendous. So good that we even drove 30 minutes out of our way to get a second one the day after we had our first one.

North Dakota has the best sunsets.

I understand that this is a highly-subjective field of study. But to me, there’s just something extraordinary about the wide skies over the Great Plains. It feels like you can see forever. And the oceans of grasses in western North Dakota are a perfect canvas and complement to the colorful skies. Every now and then there’s a butte or a section of badlands to break up the landscape. But it’s mostly just the sunset and the sunset’s observer. Which is kind of perfect.

The Parking Lot at Snoqualmie Falls was more enjoyable than the Waterfall itself.

This waterfall, just outside of Seattle, is absolutely a wonder of nature. But the government authorities kind of ruined the aesthetic with the way they equipped the falls for hydroelectric power and tourism. The viewing areas are awkwardly-positioned and overcrowded. So we looked at the waterfall for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, and then we were ready to go back to the parking lot for a picnic lunch. We had twice as much fun over twice the amount of time just relaxing in a grassy area between parking spots: eating, kicking around a soccer ball, and reading books.

My kids love Colorado even more than I do.

I was born in Colorado. I’ve been to Colorado far more times than my kids have been to Colorado. And I really, really, really love Colorado. But this trip made it apparent that my kids love Colorado even more. They willingly chose to wake up at 4:45 AM, on the day of our drive from Idaho to Colorado — just so they could maximize our time in Estes Park. And they made good use of the 36 hours we had in the state: hanging out with friends, playing sports, eating food from our favorite Estes Park eateries… I saw that my kids think of the YMCA of the Rockies like a lot of kids think about the summer camp that they attended while growing up. And I think that’s pretty cool (full disclosure: the photo above was taken on Mount Rainier, in Washington State; still, it’s highly evocative of the spirit of Colorado).

The Dramatic Increase in Americans’ Use of Their National Parks system is a Good Thing.

It seems fashionable to complain about the “overcrowding” of Yellowstone, or Yosemite, or the Rocky Mountain National Park, or whatever. And I will confess that there were a few times in the past few weeks when the crowds got frustrating. Overall, still, I think it’s great that these natural areas have been valued and protected. The surging popularity of the National Parks system should eventually lead to more areas being preserved and more resources allocated towards the protection of existing preserves.

Let me know if you have any hot takes about my hot takes. We can argue about it sometime. Real friendly-like.

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