Weekends of 24-Aug and 31-Aug, 2019
Our old neighbors moved to Bend a year or so back; Sarah had kept in touch with them though, hearing about life in the high desert and what it was like getting acclimated to the town. Bend’s definitely an interesting city, from what we heard – similar to Hood River in a few ways, but much bigger and a bit more intense. Also, with more activities that Sarah and I are into, so… definitely worth hearing about.
When they messaged Sarah, asking if she’d be free and willing to house-sit and dog-sit for them while they were away on a family road trip, the answer was a very quick “yes!”
We packed up, and hit the road. The plan was for me to start in Portland for the week, and to come out and visit during the weekends – That way I wouldn’t have to burn up too much vacation time, but would still get to join in for some of the adventures and exploration.
The hiking can be seen in a few other posts (Ed. Note: See “Hiking Misery Ridge”, along with “Hiking out to Moraine Lake” for those!) but for here, let’s talk about Bend itself. It’s absolutely an interesting city, and we had a really good time exploring and playing tourist for a few days. It’s fun, you know? We effectively took a vacation to a strange city and explored, all without having to get on a plane or anything. It makes me curious how many other cities are nearby that we should explore…
Back to Bend, though.
It’s a neat place!
In the “downtown” area, the contrast between old and new is really stark; it seems similar to Hood River in that way. It may just be my perception, but it seemed like Bend was a town that was quickly trying to grow and catch up to the people in it – and the line between “things for boomers” and “things for millenials” was very stark here. Literally a river, in fact…
On one side of the river, we walked through tiny boutique shops full of vintage, single-source, hand-crafted jewelry and art, sprinkled with cute bistros and small cafes. All of them situated in small reclaimed buildings that were small and sometimes cramped, but every one looking like it could have been a house a few days ago.
On the other side of the river, we explored an outdoor mall, with sit-down family restaurants and familiar stores. All custom-built, with soaring entries, beautiful woodwork and interesting sculptures dedicated to the history of the town and the area.
On the banks of the river we explored the Art in the High Desert festival, attended primarily by older and more affluent folks browsing art priced from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
On the river itself, we saw young tech folks floating, carousing, and enjoying the weekend off from their jobs. Some in kayaks, but most on inner tubes… and some in huge inflatable castles.
We never really found the “main city center”, though we did look around. The area above was more of the new Bend, which looked to be less than 10 years old maybe? Farther out was a more familiar desert town, with some amazing Mexican restaurants and your standard assortment of grocery stores. Even a LEGO store, interestingly enough.
Of note – the food in Bend was excellent, and the lines / waits were quite reasonable. A big difference from Portland, and very much a welcome one. Especially when Sarah and I went out to brunch and only had to wait a few minutes for our table.
Thankfully for your intrepid adventurers, we weren’t alone on this exploration. No, I don’t mean Ollie. She was around, but… she wasn’t any more helpful than she ever is. She can find dog treats from a thousand yards, but can’t help us find an interesting comic shop or neat cafe to have lunch.
Our neighbors, however, were excellent hosts even if they weren’t there in person. They’d left Sarah a whole list of places to explore, which her and I worked through one by one. We found awesome bookstores, interesting breakfasts, and other explorations. It was fun, and a really good chance to re-connect and relax together while exploring a new place.