Welcome to the South Sound for the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course. If this is your first time in these parts, here are a few things you should know about the area and those of us who call it home.
• University Place, home of Chambers Bay, is not a suburb of Seattle; it’s not “outside Seattle” or even “near Seattle,” as some in the national media have been describing it. If you fly into Sea-Tac International Airport and try to navigate south on Interstate 5, you will quickly figure that out. University Place is at least an hour’s drive from the Emerald City on a good day.
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You can’t see Seattle from University Place, but that’s all right because you can see Mount Rainier instead.
• Speaking of Rainier, we tend to just call it “The Mountain” — as in, “The Mountain’s out today.” When the weather is nice, The Mountain is out a lot. Other times, it seems we can go for weeks without seeing it. However, we like that even if we can’t see it, we know it’s there.
Still, many of us are a little afraid of The Mountain. If you venture out into East Pierce County, all those lahar evacuation route signs suggest why. We gaze lovingly at Rainier, but we know she has a fire in her belly.
• There’s another big mountain kind of close by, Mount St. Helens, though it’s not as big as it was before May 18, 1980, the day it erupted.
There are a few places where, on a clear day and your eyesight is sharp, you can spot the snowy summit from around here. One of those places is on Bridgeport Way, driving down the hill near the intersection with Chambers Lane West. If you can spare the time, a road trip to see St. Helens close-up is very much worth the drive and braving I-5 traffic around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
• JBLM may be the source of a lot of our freeway traffic, but it’s also a big reason many of us live here. We’re proud of our military ties, even if we tend to grouse about the occasional artillery noise (aka “the sound of freedom”) and the roar of C-17s as they fly over Tacoma and Lakewood.
Thousands of us work at the base, are related to someone stationed there or have a job that is heavily dependent on business with the base’s soldiers, airmen and their families. Many who served at JBLM have chosen to retire here, no doubt attracted by our miserable weather. (More about that later.)
• Depending on where you’re from, you might be wondering about the grass around here. And we don’t mean the fescue at Chambers Bay.
In Washington (and Colorado), it is legal to walk into a state-licensed shop and buy marijuana for recreational use; Alaska joins the very small club in 2016. There are no such shops in University Place, but several in adjacent Tacoma. They even advertise in The News Tribune.
Edibles — candies and cookies that are laced with the active ingredient of THC — require special caution (just ask New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd). You may have difficulty hiking around Chambers Bay if you’ve overindulged.
• You might have heard that the weather around here is frightful, so what’s with all the sunny, dry days you’re seeing?
Those are complete aberrations. The climate here is awful. Winters are horrible, and summers are even worse. Tell everyone that when you go home. We don’t want any more people here to share our misery.
But please, do enjoy this very brief, rare and unlikely to be repeated respite of halfway decent weather as you attend the U.S. Open. And we hope you visit again sometime.