Around the Bend, It’s Bleek
After the night at the snow-locked Santiam Pass cabin, we headed to Bend for a quick one-night getaway. Snowshoeing had tuckered us out, so we took it easy, preferring to be pampered there, not even making it to the Mount Bachelor ski resort, the main attraction that lures winter tourists.
Still, with its sky-high unemployment rate due to a housing boom gone bust, the Bend businesses and hotels seemed eager to have our business. Bend’s Deschutes County in February had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the state. And the metro area’s jobless rate is one of the country’s worst, which is particularly poignant since just two years ago construction and tourism jobs were plentiful in the outdoorsy paradise formerly named one of America’s best places to live. Bend’s leisure amenities–skiing, hiking, kayaking, rock-climbing, etc.–are what lured the Cessna plant there. Upon graduation, my sister almost went to work for a hedge fund that chose to headquarter its office in the adult playground that is Bend, just because they could.
Though the height of spring break season, we had no problem snagging a last-minute room at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis Hotel, a Catholic school the Oregon beer barons converted into a cozy chalet in 2004. But it’s so much more than just a hotel. The school’s former gym is a living room-style yet spacious movie theater, where we caught the filmed-in-Oregon teen vampire flick, Twilight. And we soothed our sore-from-snowshoeing calves and heels in the bathtub-warm, open air soaking pool, the site of the school’s former chapel. Mosaics of Jesus performing certain miracles greet you when you enter the pool. And a room-service root beer float there reignited our obsession with that childhood dessert.
We had a hearty brunch at The Victorian Cafe (but bring your own real maple syrup for the pancakes) and an average dinner (good Steelhead rainbow trout-like fish sandwich but watery lamb stew) at the Bend Brewing Company. The downtown Deschutes Brewery Pub was packed (locals night burger specials, not the spring break crowd), but we still managed to sneak in on the last tour of the actual Deschutes Brewery that afternoon. As the 7th largest (I think) microbrewery in the U.S. and one of the Oregon behemouths that is still well-crafted with local character, the free brewery tour is not to be missed. And Deschutes treats you to generous samples in their taproom, including rare ones not available by bottle such as Oregon’s 150 Ale, a lambic-like blackberry and marionberry-infused brew to celebrate the state’s sequestiential.
But the dry high desert clime and nouveau-riche air of Bend made us happy to return to our more humble and verdant Willamette Valley. Corvallis is starting to feel like home.