December 16, 2010
America's best kept secret...
Writer and globe-trotter Aric S. Queen waxes lyrical about the virtues of Bend, Oregon, perhaps the greatest little city in America.
Bend. Bend. Bend.
I was sick of hearing about Bend.
Not because it didn’t sound like a wonderful place, I was just sick of hearing about what a wonderful place it was.
Through a random occurrence of a few absurdities, I found myself on a million-dollar bus traveling the States from coast-to-coast. If it was a highlight on any postcard, we visited it – the cheap sunset cocktails of Key West to the overpriced cocktails of Sunset Blvd… and everything in between. Yet nothing, even the Grand Canyon at 6am with warm cups of coffee could match up to Bend.
Or so said the two bus owners. And it got to be annoying. Nothing, no beer or meal, valley or beach could compare to Bend’s… and Bend doesn’t even have a beach, but that’s how bad it got.
So we went to Bend.
And brother, I have to tell you they were right.
It is, simply, the greatest city in America.
They asked me not to write about it, but were also the ones who wouldn’t shut up about it.
But let’s not look at this like every other ‘America’s Best City’ poll, with its ‘closest proximity to schools’ and ‘average income potential’ formulas – things like children and salaries are boring… let’s look at what Bend, Oregon simply is.
It’s gorgeous – set uniquely in Oregon’s high desert, but dwarfed by the majestic Cascade Mountain Range, not to mention the weather which rarely drops below 40 in the winter, nor above 83 in the summer. And if the weather ever does drop below/above those numbers, then everyone is given cake.
The food… and by ‘food’ I mean beer. If there was a zeitgeist of beer wonderfulness, Bend, Oregon would be… well, directly on the zeitgeist. Microbrews are taken as seriously as Gore-Tex and a simple walk down the Deschutes River – conveniently placed downtown – will tell you this quiet little town takes its hops seriously.
And the outdoors – look, I don’t know a lot about America’s ‘greenest’ city, but I would be willing to put Bend on the Top 5 List. Everyone you see is either hiking, jogging or riding their bike… and if they are driving, then you can be assured that secured somewhere on their vehicle is a hiking/jogging/bike-riding apparatus. Skiing, fishing and camping are not only expected, but required by local law to take part in. ‘It’s insane how many pro athletes retire here’, says a well-known television producer who asked to remain unnamed because she’s a well-known television producer. ‘ I’ve no idea how you’d look it up, but it’s nuts. Everyone, I mean everyone, is tall. Even the kids, offspring of the freaks of nature we watch on ESPN’.
Lastly – downtown. Old schoolhouses turned into beer gardens-slash-movie theatres and a huge outdoor area for the almost-shocking number of bands that insist on stopping for a few days between Portland and Seattle gigs. Record stores hidden between cafes and oven-baked pizza joints and would you believe a bar that has old school arcade games?
Look, I only spent a month or so there, but would ask you to experience the same thing I did… which means you need to read and re-read this little article ad nauseam until you actually go there. And then you too can tell people. And then all of those lucky ‘freaks’ in Bend will stop being so damn happy.