Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cross country driving

At a reunion today for my father's 80th birthday. We're holding it in Colorado Springs, so I flew into Denver International Airport and drove down. I forgot to pick up a map, but the signs put me right onto I-25, and I steered south.

Hours passed, the country opened up into rolling, arid Colorado farmland. The last main town had been Castle Rock, and the farther I went, the more it seemed like I must have missed Colorado Springs. I finally jumped off and backtracked to where I could find a map in a rest stop.

I was actually on-track, it's just much farther than I'm used to driving. It's almost a three hour drive to ColoSprings: in the Netherlands, that would span the country top to bottom. After a year of driving an environment where towns are separated by a few kilometers and there are no large open spaces, my perspective has changed more than I realize.

More generally, living in Seattle, I accept that skiing is an hour away, Vancouver two hours, Portland four. In Europe, an hour brings me to Amsterdam, Antwerp is two hours away, Paris is four. Its all a very different scale, but one that few people in the US can relate to. For them, a trip to Paris is a once-in-a-lifetime experience: for me, it's a convenient weekend trip.

I have to admit that it makes me sound pretentious when I talk about life here: "Oh, I was in Luxumberg last weekend" Yeah, sure... "No, really, it's only a couple of hours drive..." but by then they've written you off as a snob. Now, I just avoid it.

Even here, it's hard, because the Dutch don't drive distances at all (except on summer holiday, when they go far and fast: 20 hours straight through to Austria seems typical). Anything over an hour will meet with raised eyebrows and confusion. "Oh, I was in Leeuwarden last weekend" Yeah, sure... "No, really, it's only a couple of hours drive..."

Just different outlooks all around: I've found that definitions of "Local" are very....local...

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