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12 Things Oregonians Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners

by Henry Miller Oct 25, 2016

1. Our whole state absolutely rocks at brewing beer.

You may have heard this about Portland already, but you gotta bear in mind that that isn’t necessarily the cream of the crop. Hood River, Bend, and Eugene are well stocked with their own celebrated breweries.

2. Most of us live off I-5.

The interstate connecting Seattle to San Diego cuts right through the hearts of our most populous areas, making it pretty easy to navigate the Cascade portion of the state. Just remember: if you see Doug Firs, you are tops two hours away from the West Coast’s major artery.

3. We are farther north than Chicago.

Climate-wise, western Oregon is pretty chill. Not freezing or hot to the extreme; we are just a bit damp all the time. One thing to remember, though: we have lots of overcast days and it gets dark by four in the winter. Bring your happy pills (or buy them at your local pot shop).

4. The Cascade Range is only a third of Oregon.

The other two-thirds is a split between the arid Oregon High Desert (also known as the Oregon Outback) and the majestic Columbia Plateau. The Plateau is host to both the Mighty Columbia River, the Mississippi of the West, and the Snake River, each forming parts of Oregon’s border.

5. We are more purple than you might think.

Eugene, Portland, and Salem are pretty much the only reason we’ve been electing mostly Dems for decades, and there are plenty of voters east of the Cascades and on the coast who don’t much care for it.

6. We are Hollywood’s backyard.

Having so many diverse climates and classic Americana towns only a border away from California means that Oregon is the backdrop of some of your favorite movies and shows. From One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Animal House, The Goonies, Stand By Me, The X-Files, to Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, Grimm, Portlandia, Bates Motel and so on: there are plenty of reasons why your first visit to Oregon might give you some potent déjà vu.

7. You may be a Duck or a Beav, but you can’t stand USC.

Regional competition in the Northwest runs deep, but if one of our teams plays some folks from below Ashland, you can bet your ass we want the Californians to lose. Same goes for the Seahawks and the Blazers. Viva Cascadia!

8. Our outdoorsy-ness fuels our economy.

Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Dakine, Keen and Adidas US are all headquartered in Oregon, and not without reason: our countless rivers, deserts, mountains, valleys and sea cliffs make this the perfect outdoor testing ground for cool new gear.

9. Why yes, there is a very uncomfortable reason we are so white.

There is a whole history about Oregon as a “white utopia” that is as fascinating as it is upsetting. Some signifiers of our unnerving past include the pathetic fact that we didn’t ratify the 15th Amendment until 1959, nor did we technically ratify the 14th Amendment until 1973. If you were wondering why the cast of Portlandia is so white, you can start by looking at Oregon’s 1857 constitution, which banned black people from entering the state.

10. Getting naked is Free Speech.

Here’s another, perhaps cheerier, sample from the Oregon constitution: “No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatever.” Thanks to an oft-cited 1982 Oregon Supreme Court Ruling by Justice Hans Linde, this mandate for freedom of expression includes full nudity at licensed venues (which is a huge part of Portland’s strip club and burlesque nightlife culture).

11. Folk is our thing.

From strip clubs in Portland to roundups in Pendleton; from the nation’s Woodstock-iest Country Fair by Eugene to one of the world’s biggest Shakespearean festivals in Ashland; from our brewer’s festival on the Willamette to our music festivals by the Gorge, we try to make it perfectly clear that Oregon has this Hippie Cowboy thing on lock. So stop trying, Colorado.

12. We are the embodiment of Green.

From our trees to our energy policy, recycling bins and bike obsession: we give a damn about our environment and try to live accordingly. You can mock us for all the other kitschy nonsense above, but this is who we are.

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