Washington, District of Columbia. It's a mere 20-30 minute drive from where I live now, and even though I live outside of the beltway, Fairfax is considered part of "the Metro area." Everyone's heard of Washington. In Luleaa and Boden, people went, "Oh... I know that place! Capital of America. Wow, how exciting!" To many people around the world, I live in "Washington, America." They probably think I can see the US Capitol from my windows like how people in America thing everyone in Paris can see the Eiffel Tower from theirs. No, probably not, they're better educated than we are. What surprised me is when I lived in Reston, not less than two Swedes said, "Reston! That's in Northern Virginia!" followed by some tale about how they knew that.
Northern Virginia doesn't "feel" like the rest of Virginia. There has been some discussion of whether we'd qualify as a separate state. When I think of Virginia, I think of four major made-up regions: Northern Virginia, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and the middle of nowhere and points west of it. Like islands of buildings in a sea of mountain greenery. I am sure those living in places like Linden, Blacksburg, and Roanoke think I am a right snobbish bastard about now, and I probably deserve it. The truth is, a lot of Virginia is made up of one-horse towns. It seems this is more common knowledge to people outside of Virginia than those who live in Northern Virginia. I am not ashamed of this, but a lot of people in other states think all Virginia consists of are hillbillies living in the mountains, picking banjos, chasing hound dogs, and riding in rusty pickup trucks. I am sure Tennessee and Kentucky can relate.
Virginia if pretty, though. I mean, once you leave Northern Virginia. When I was young, most of Fairfax County was pretty rural. But now it seems like every inch of space that didn't have a building on it now has something on it. The huge swaths of trees that used to filter out wind and pollution are now gone, and ugly houses stand in their place. Some are townhouses, some are huge mansions with postage stamp sized lawns. A few are megalithic shopping centers. But once you drive about 20-30 minutes west, you approach the Blue Ridge, and see the old farms, a few warehouses, and the 6-line roads narrow down to just two. Someday, they, too, will be suburbs of the great DC sprawl.
Already the area between Baltimore and Washington is called The Baltimore Washington Corridor. I expect by 2040, the BWC will be incorporated as one area, like how San Diego and Los Angeles are now. You sort of drive from Richmond, pass some suburban homes, shopping centers, and retirement communities for a while, then the city gets bigger and bigger. At some point, you pass over what used to be the Occoquan River and Potomac (which will then be a series of underground pipes) into the beginning of the huge city around Woodbridge, where the "Historic Potomac Mills Mall" will sport a "Coca Cola Welcomes You to South Baltington" sign. At this point, you could go up through Historic Washington, pass several mega-malls, and end up at North Baltington, aka "Historic Philadelphia." Then starts the logical district of the Jersey-York Sprawl.
I think I'll start start practicing saying "US East," when the next person asks me.
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