January 13-15, 2015
Our destination for the day was my brother Chuck’s house in Bend, Oregon. He moved there from Southern California in 2009, purchasing a house and getting a part time job with a veteran’s outreach organization, COVO. Both of these factors have had a positive impact on his life and we were looking forward to seeing him again, our first time back since our last visit in 2012.
As with our trip that prior year, we were a little concerned about road conditions traveling over the pass near Crater Lake, which can be covered in snow and ice so to be cautious we stopped at a tire store in Grants Pass to pick up a set of chains for the Highlander, figuring it would be better to pay the regular price then and not need them rather than pay an inflated price when we did need them. We also made a stop at our favorite toffee shop, Cary’s of Oregon, to pick up a couple of bags of their factory rejects, dark chocolate with toasted almond toffee. If you are a fan of this type of confection, I’d recommend trying a bag. Fortunately, they have a web site you can order it from, saving you a drive to southern Oregon.
Just before getting onto the I-5 southbound we made an obligatory stop at the Dutch Brothers Coffee Booth next to the on-ramp, our go to coffee place for the first road cup of the day. We traveled south towards Medford/Ashland, Joanna at the wheel for the first shift and exited in Gold Hill to take Highway 62 through Crater Lake National Park to Highway 97 which would then take us up to Bend.
We’ve done this drive twice, plus a section one other time coming down Highway 97 from Spokane to Los Angeles, each time regretting that we’ve not had room in the schedule or weather conditions that would allow for a visit to this remarkable lake, the deepest in the United States. Almost all the way through the National Park the road had been treated with a red-clay like substance to control icing. When combined with a bit of moisture and thrown onto the car, it created a dried on coating that made us doubly glad that we’d put the bikes inside.
We arrived at Chuck’s and settled in for a quiet evening. His choice for dinner that night was to grab a bake it yourself pizza from a Papa Murphy’s outlet not far from his house. We’d not frequented one before so were curious about what the final product would be like, that is would it be any better than buying a frozen version from a supermarket. We ordered a large half cheese and half sausage/mushroom, more than enough for the three of us. It didn’t take long for it to be assembled and we soon found ourselves back at the house cooking it in the oven. Joanna and I were pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the pie and at a cost of not much more than ten dollars, given its size and taste, would consider ordering one again should the occasion arise.
The next morning Joanna and took off for a long walk in the neighborhood’s adjacent to the house. Bend has grown significantly, having quadrupled and doubled in size since 1990 and 2000, respectively. Still not a large town at a population of roughly 81,000 in 2013, it relies on tourism and its identity as a gateway for many outdoor sports (mountain biking, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, white-water rafting, skiing, etc.) as the driver of its economy.
This is not a dusty little frontier town on the edge of the high desert. It sparkles and shines and this is reflected in an estimated median house or condo value of $246,800 in 2012 ($138,100 in 2000) and a higher mean than the rest of Oregon at $223,900. Chuck lives on the southern edge of town not far off Highway 97 and the area has seen much recent home building. We walked for 90 minutes or so, admiring the newer as well as more established home in this quiet, well tended environment.
We returned to the house and then set out for our afternoon activity, a visit to the High Desert Museum. I’d been before when I visited Chuck just after he moved here and knew that Joanna would enjoy its combination of historical exhibits and focus on the wildlife of the area. Founded in 1982 by Donald Kerr, this 100,000 square foot facility includes outdoor exhibits and the Birds of Prey Center, where visitors can see rescued wildlife such as eagles, owls, and are encouraged to engage in active discovery.
We finished up with a docent led tour of the Spirit of the West exhibit, which starts with a diorama depicting a Northern Paiute shelter that leads to other milestones of the era, including a French trapper’s campsite, a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, Oregon Trail wagon, hard rock mine, settler’s cabin and finishing with a recreation of Silver City, a mining boomtown near the Oregon/Idaho border.
We stopped at the Albertson’s supermarket near Chuck’s house for ingredients for that night, a breaded chicken breast dinner he is rightly proud of. Our quiet evening included a late night DVD that led us to another walk the next morning, this time north from the house for 90 minutes, through older neighborhoods and then back along Highway 97, stopping at one of those ubiquitous coffee shacks for a vanilla latte to warm the insides. We made a slight detour through the parking lot of the strip mall it was in to check out a Growler operation I’d spotted earlier next to the Papa Murphy’s. They weren’t open but I noted its hours, thinking about returning later that day.
We then made our way to the Old Mill District to take in the afternoon showing of the final installment of the Hobbit movie series, The Battle of the Five Armies, a great diversion on a cold winter’s afternoon. After the movie we adjourned to the Ten Barrel Brewing Company, a long anticipated return visit. Bend’s more famous brewery is Deschutes, which brews one of my favorites, its Mirror Pond Ale. We’d visited Ten Barrel our last time in town in 2012 and were curious to see if it had changed any since their recent acquisition by Anheuser-Busch/InBev, the world’s largest brewer by volume.
We ordered a couple of plates of fish and chips and the chicken pot pie special and I sampled two Apocalypse IPA’s, the regular and a nitrogen version. The later produces a creamier texture and mouth feel (Guinness Stout is the most well known of nitrogen infused brews) and although I can appreciate the quality it brings, in the end still prefer the liveliness and effervescence of its CO2 counterparts. The food and the beers were as good as we remembered, a good sign that not much had changed at the operation since its acquisition. Only time will tell if InBev’s infamous penchant for cost cutting will degrade the overall quality of the product Ten Barrel delivers.
On the way home we made a stop at the growler shop I’d noticed earlier, Big Dog Growlers. This interesting concept is a small brewpub with a large selection (29 on draft) of craft beers that can be purchased by the glass or by the growler. The staff was quite friendly and we enjoyed a pint of something local, leaving fairly early, as they are only open from 3-9pm on weekdays. Given the growth in brewpubs and growlers in particular, I think this concept has a chance of succeeding.
Fueled by good food and beers, we returned to the house for another night of movies on DVD, preparing for a long drive the next day back to Oakland. I look forward to returning to Bend when the weather is better, our only visits to far coming in wintertime. The lure of outdoor activities could keep us quite busy during the day and the range of craft beer outlets would keep us hydrated at night. Care to join us?
Dutch Brothers: http://www.dutchbros.com/
Crater Lake: http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm
Papa Murphy’s: http://www.papamurphys.com/
High Desert Museum: http://www.highdesertmuseum.org/
Silver City: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_City,_Idaho
Old Mill District: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Mill_District
The Battle of the Five Armies: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2310332/
Ten Barrel Brewing: http://www.10barrel.com/
Big Dog Growlers: http://www.bigdoggrowlers.com/