Ultimate Road Trip

You work there, but you’re here?

As much as our hearts wanted to climb on Sunday, our fingertips said no. There are worse places than Bend to be, though, on a sunny Sunday. I went for a run along the Deschutes River Trail. Though it was getting hot at that point, the tree coverage on both sides of the river was decent, and the trail itself was excellent. It wasn’t just a flat, paved path as most river trails are—it had rolling hills and even some technical terrain.

We used the free time to run errands, first stopping at Trader Joe’s to get the luxury snacks, then Fred Meyer to get the essentials. In between, we went into World Market, which I had seen before but never entered. A curious place. It’s full of home décor, but also different food sections from around the world. We bought discount “Hawaiian Maui Onion” potato chips [not a product of Hawaii] and porcini and truffle gnocchi for dinner later. At less than $5, we’ll take it.

Returning to the house with our haul, we made a sort of charcuterie lunch and watched TV, waiting a couple hours for the heat to die down. We then made our way to downtown to explore some. Though not as lively as the Old Mill District, there seemed to be plenty of solid restaurants and shops in this area. We walked to the riverfront and watched people on paddleboards and in kayaks gliding by. Before returning, we caught the second quarter of the Cowboys v. Giants game (Ryan is a Cowboys fan; I suppose I’m a Giants fan, but after this disastrous showing, I don’t want to admit it).

Now it was nearly sunset, so we parked the car back at the house and walked a short way to an overlook that connects you to the river trail. From there, you could see the concert hall where the Lumineers would be playing, and in fact, James Bay was already warming up. We found a couple groups of friends seated in the grass, effectively tailgating the concert. A few called to us, telling us we could join them on the grass and that they had plenty of food and drinks to share. Others trickled in alongside us, blankets and lawn chairs in tow. The sunset over Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters was beautiful, and it felt special being a part of this little listening party overlooking the Old Mill District. There are times when it really feels like humanity has gone to the wayside, and then there are moments like these—folks sharing space and food and drink and company to appreciate music together—that remind me that not all is lost.

Back at the house, I cooked the gnocchi with some vegetables and high-class Ragù sauce, and we sat down to watch Disney/Pixar’s Soul. I’ve seen the movie a couple times and have wanted Ryan to watch it for some time. I don’t recall crying at the ending in the past, but I certainly did this time.

Monday was both unremarkable and extraordinary all at once. We woke up early (Ryan to work, me from existential anxiety) and I made the huckleberry coffee I purchased in Glacier. Around mid-morning, we headed out to run along the Deschutes River Trail, me leading Ryan north as opposed to the southern loop I did the previous day. The weather was cool yet sunny, and the willow trees lining the river so lush. The winding trail was positively perfect, and we finished 10K feeling refreshed.

A couple hours later, we ventured out for some food. We picked up a fresh loaf of bread from Big Ed’s Artisan Bread; a marionberry scone and a giant chipotle chicken sandwich from Nancy P’s Cafe & Bakery; a bag of medium roast coffee from Backporch Coffee Roasters. It was all routine, but the roaming around was comforting and peaceful.

After a bit more work, cleaning up the house, packing up, and saying goodbye to the kitty, we drove to Redmond, the town north of Bend outside of Smith Rock. Unlike our usual bop-around-town exploits, Redmond did not really capture the imagination. The sun beat down on us, but none of the shops we passed really convinced us to go inside and escape the heat. We walked around for an hour before we surrendered at the car. We were trying to delay climbing to avoid getting roasted on the rock again, as well as keep from getting to camp so early that we’d be bored.

At 3:30ish, we committed to heading to Smith to hit a crag that gets shade most of the day, called the Rope-de-Dope block. This area doesn’t have any routes harder than 5.10b, which is pretty moderate. Still, we figured we’d tackle all of the 5.10s it offered (there are 6). And we did.

None of the routes were necessarily extraordinary, but all had at least one or two interesting moves. They were well-bolted and generally easy to follow. There were other climbers hanging out around us. It was kind of zen; we just worked our way left to right along the routes, trading off who put up each one. After a few hours, we were back at the car, a little fatigued but thoroughly content.

Sunset at Smith

We drove back to the campsite at Steelhead Falls, where we made veggie burritos for dinner and had one of our favorite “desserts” (an invention of Ryan’s): Clif Thins spread with peanut butter and topped with bits of dark chocolate. We were in the rooftop tent at 8:30.

I laid there awhile, reflecting on the day. While nothing particularly momentous happened, it felt inexplicably special. I suppose I was just grateful for all that transpired. You don’t always get runs that cruise so nicely. A marionberry scone paired with huckleberry coffee is a small treasure. Casually sending all of the hardest routes at a crag in a world-renowned climbing area is not something you do day every day. And who knew six months ago that I’d be crawling into a rooftop tent in Terrebonne, Oregon, not only excited to sleep there, but genuinely comforted? I can’t quite describe why it was magical. I just know it was.

Smith magic

Tuesday was another pleasant day. We started off at a shop right outside Smith called Redpoint Climbers Supply, advertising “coffee, gear, and beer.” (For a definition of “redpoint,” see this article.) We immediately fell in love with the place. One of the employees, scrambling to unlock the door for us at 8 a.m., explained that he was trying to cut his climbing rope and was currently searching for the midpoint. No trouble at all. We entered and set up at a couple tables, amid the racks of clothes and shelves of chalk and carabiners. The two employees in the shop—rope guy and a French woman—spent nearly the entire morning working on a puzzle. We discussed the bridge closure at Smith with them as well as our experience at Rope-de-Dope. It’s always rad to talk climbing with locals. We left by 1:00 with stickers, a new tank top, a cup of coffee, and a wistfulness that we couldn’t stay longer.

We were headed back into Bend one last time when Ryan proposed we go get more discount chips at World Market. We efficiently located the chips bags and I was practically chasing Ryan to the cash register, when things slowed down significantly. Our cashier was a good-natured elderly woman. She rang up the chips, and Ryan realized she hadn’t actually included the discount, which defeated the purpose of the whole detour. “Oh my,” she commented. “Let me see how to void that. I’m sorry, I’m so tired. This is my fifth day working in a row.”

We waved off her apology and patiently awaited her trying various methods to void the purchase and re-run it with the discount. “Are you working?” she asked.

“I work remotely out of Bethesda, Maryland,” Ryan answered.

Her eyes widened in amazement. “You work there, but you’re here?” Ryan nodded yes.

“That would be so nice,” she continued. “I should get a job like that. There are so many jobs out there, you know. I already have the computer and speakers and everything. I would just need a laptop. And then I wouldn’t have to leave my house so much! I wouldn’t have to stand all day!”

“Standing is good for you, though!” Ryan replied. “Don’t stop standing!”

“OK, but after five days in a row, I’m tired.”

“Haha, fair enough.”

“You two have a wonderful day now,” she said with a smile.

“You as well!”

I knew I’d write about this interaction the moment it began.

We continued into Bend to get some food. We hit a food truck recommended by Guy Fieri (side note: there is a ridiculous number of food trucks in Oregon, as if the entire state eats exclusively out of vehicles), Big Ski’s Pierogis. The pierogis were delicious, of course, and topped with sour cream and onions. Then we walked over to Monkless Belgian Ales, a brewery I really wanted to see; Belgian-style beers are my absolute favorite. Ryan gratefully was willing to sit with me as I tried their “FNG.” The menu described it as follows: “When the F’n new guy makes a mistake that becomes a happy accident, we name the beer after him! Balanced malt, toffee, caramel, notes of clove and pepper in a clean finish.” Too heavy for Ryan’s taste, but perfection to me.

Now we hit the road to Sisters, which I had heard might be one of Oregon’s best-kept small town secrets. We quickly found an abundance of camping just five minutes outside town, so we were able to park and walk around. The town was incredibly cute, and we noted a bunch of places to check out the following day. One spot, The Barn, had a lively courtyard of food trucks. Though we didn’t want to eat out, we wanted to be in the environment. So we sneakily made some burritos and smuggled them into the courtyard, just so we could eat in the fun atmosphere. Well worth it.

After dinner, we set up camp and relaxed, planning out part two of this trip. Ryan and I will both be departing next week for different destinations, but he’ll be returning much sooner than I. We compared various routes based on folks he could visit so we could see where I might join back up with him.

Now we are at Sisters Coffee Company with plans to head to Eugene later today. We’ll be linking up with one of my best friends from boarding school, Tara!

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