I’ve been in southeast Michigan now for six months and a few other things have come on the “hmm, this is different” radar.
- One of the things that was actually attractive to us when we came to the area is that there are more people here. My wife and I grew up in metropolitan areas and we understand traffic, congestion, and suburbia. In a sense, coming to the suburbs north of Detroit was like coming home.
- Humidity – West of the Rockies, we just don’t get real humid weather. Even in the northwest where it rains frequently and moss grows on house rooftops, it doesn’t get as humid as the south and Midwest parts of the continent. Being here about half-way through the summer, I am reminded of a meteorological reality: summer rain is a regular thing. In southern California, you get your last rain in May and it doesn’t rain again until October. Even in the northwest, you’ll get summer showers, but they are brief and light storms. Here near Detroit, when it rains in the summer: it dumps in a thunderstorm and the puddles last for a couple of days.
- Additionally, as I was driving around, another reason there is so much water in the air is clear: not only is Michigan bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, but there are a gazillian smaller lakes and ponds scattered throughout the land. There is probably some study to show the percentage of water surface to land surface here and my guess is that the percentage is much higher here than anywhere in the west.
- The terrain is also different. It is flat here. Again, in the west you don’t have to search far to find a hill or mountain somewhere in your view. On one hand, this can be disorienting for me as during certain times of the day in certain weather (noon-ish with overcast skies), I can’t tell compass direction. On the other hand, it does give a wider vista. Somehow sunsets are more spectacular.
- The coastal northwest does one better, of course. The prevailing tree type is tall and narrow. Therefore, even driving along the Interstate, you can actually have your view of the terrain blocked by trees. In southern California, there aren’t many trees so your view of the terrain is remarkably clear.
- At least in this part of Michigan, this flatness translates to a pleasantly broad landscape. The roadways are built with wide margins between street surface and sidewalk. The notorious “Michigan Lefts” do have the benefit of creating wide medians along major streets.
- “Pop.” OK, this is pretty mundane but I grew up calling soft drinks, “soda.” Here, you go into a restaurant and when the waitress asks what you want to drink, saying “soda” is going to create confusion. “Pop” is the term. And there is a fairly important devotion to regional favorites. Vernor’s ginger ale is bottled locally and is a favorite (though not drunk as frequently as is claimed, I observe). Additionally, “Faygo” is a local soft drink bottler with their own brands and flavors.