Bend, OR

Bend! Besides being the home of famed cluster balloonist Kent Couch (undoubtedly the first cluster balloonist to fly in a lawnchair from Bend to Idaho), Bend is also known as one of the most scenically scenic places around.

“Excuse me,” interrupts Attractive Girl, delightfully.

Well, it’s been a while! I was almost afraid you had moved on to someone else’s blog.

“Nope, not every girl is like that,” she replies, winking.

You have to stop winking like that, it’s very distracting.

… What was I talking about?

“Bend. And what I want to know is, why Bend? It wasn’t originally on your itinerary.”

I went to Bend because of —

MPM: THE LONG ARM OF RAMON.

— um, yeah. Geez, we had two entire posts with no narrative devices and now this.

I had not yet located a host on the way towards Boise (the next stop) so Ramon very generously bought me a night at a bed & breakfast in Bend, which was pretty much exactly halfway to Boise from Portland.

“Hey,” says the ugly passerby, “did you by any chance steal that phrase about Ramon’s arm from a song by your friend Michael Olson, entitled Long Arm of Love?”

Dang, you caught me. Can I continue?

“I knew it!”

On my way to Bend I saw many scenic scenes. I even, on a lark, decided to follow a sign for a “Scenic Route” which ended up adding only a half hour to my trip, and negligible distance.

Watch for runny noses, next 12 miles. On the way up McKenzie Pass.  So scenic!

A few times the scenic route actually came out from amidst all the trees to give me a view of something, but unfortunately it had started misting.

Look!  The mists of time!

At one point, I knew I was really high up and there was a ridge to my left so I got out and climbed up the ridge…

Just over this rise...

I thought if I just went a little further I could have a spectacular view. At last, I came over the top of the ridge and saw:

Wow.

Ok, not quite so nice. But I turned around and got a decent shot of my car.

Car, by road, near deceptive ridge.

Finally, I reached the summit. It was dark.

Taken from a moving car at night.  Not bad!

The bed and breakfast I stayed at was called Country Inn the City. It was a nice homey place run by two very kind and motherly young ladies.

The Kind and Motherly Ladies of Country Inn the City

I had a bed!!!

It was pretty much like visiting my grandmother.

The following day, after an exemplary breakfast, I was on my way. I poked about Bend for a bit before heading along towards Boise.

Mountains.  I think some of them are sisters (of the Three Sisters). Driving through the bustling downtown of Bend. More mountains.  I think one of those is The Bachelor. There must be something interesting in this photo, but I'm not sure what it is.

On behalf of Attractive Girl, the ugly passerby, the mob of teenagers, Movie Preview Man, everyone who hears and enjoys the final product, and of course myself, thank you Ramon!

NEXT: Boise — where is it and why doesn’t it rhyme with “tortoise”?

Spokane, WA

Washington, unlike Montana, was full of happening peeps. In fact, it was pretty amazing just how many happening peeps happened to be happening in Washington. The first of such peeps was a fellow in Spokane named Steve, who plays a mean guitar.

“How mean?” asks a nearby international student. “Does it trip the old lady and shout at the passing child?”

What a great sense of humor you have, international student. Anyway, Steve, of whom I forgot to take a picture, has his own little music room (about the size of a king-size bed) which is crammed full with a drumset, guitars, amps, and recording equipment. Totally awesome.

“Which guitar was the mean one?” asks the international student.

Um, it’s not as funny the second time.

“Excuse me? I just want to know which-”

Yeah. So Steve and I spent a pleasant evening together recording and listening to each other’s stuff. Steve leans heavily in a metal direction, and he can shred in a way that actually sounds musical! Which is a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t sure if it even could be done. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to work up any harmonized butt-rock guitar solos, but we did put down a handful of various electric guitar tracks.

I had quite a few potential hosts in Seattle, but none in Spokane, and by the time Steve and I finished, it was too late to make a run to Seattle, at least not if I hoped to stay with someone. So, it was Car Night #4. I found an out-of-the-way spot in some incredibly scenic mountains (

Montana's mountains were rugged and dirty.  Washington's were lush and cold.

). It was like a little turn-off had been made for my car.

Probably two cars drove by here during the entire night.  And it only took me five minutes to get back out on the highway from here.

Also, there was entertainment in the form of this sign:

What I love about this sign is that if you read it the right way it means the opposite of what they want it to mean.  Yay English!

This is when I realized several important things:

  • My tour has taken longer than originally planned. This was meant to be a summer project, where I could always wear shorts and get a nice tan. Not freeze to death while trying to sleep in my car. Which I pretty much did.
  • It’s good that I did the eastern half first. That way I could be impressed by the Adirondacks and the Smokies. Then, when I got to the northwest, I could be doubly impressed by the real mountains.
  • The international student actually thought the guitar was mean! I’m sorry, international student — “he plays a mean guitar” is an idiomatic expression meaning that he plays guitar really well.

    “Ohhh! Thank you!”

    Don’t mention it.

    “Sorry.”

    No, I mean… you’re welcome.

NEXT: If a peep is happening somewhere, he’s likely to be happening in Seattle!

Montana

Montana! I’m pretty sure that if it had an ‘ñ’ instead of just an ‘n’, it would be Spanish for mountain. Which is appropriate, considering that Montana had a bunch of those.

I was driving in the vaguely hilly, sparsely vegetated land of Wyoming for a while, then went up towards Billings, and then things took a turn for the west.

“As bad as that pun was, I think I have to give you some grudging respect for it,” confesses Attractive Girl, her brow furrowed cutely.

How grudging?

Very grudging. So grudging that I will require years of therapy.”

Wow. I will endeavor to use less respectable puns in the future.

“You know, it’s better if you don’t use any.”

But I’m an English teacher, I have to use puns.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so?” She looks at me in newfound wonder. “Because in that case my repect is not grudging. Teachers can make the stupidest puns ever and still be pretty cool.”

Yeah, so I was driving along westward for a bit when suddenly (and by “suddenly” I mean “very gradually”) I came upon a bunch of mountains!

There they are, suddenly approaching.

From here on out it was mountains, mountains, mountains.

My First Mountain (by Fisher-Price)

And bugs, bugs, bugs.

Think this is bad?  It will get much, much worse.

Unfortunately again, no one from Montana had contacted me about recording, but I did manage to find a host: one Jeffrey James. He owns some property north of Missoula, whereupon he lives, raises chickens, builds his own mini-golf course, and sells cars. More information about his property here (in particular, check out that mini-golf course; it’s pretty amazing). He also built a tiny little guest house for Couchsurfing visitors to use!

My home away from home which is also slightly away from my host's home.

It was the first time a Couchsurfing host has set me up with an entire building all to myself! The funny thing was that the weather was at the point where the warmer interior of the room was attractive to insects at night, but when the sun was shining it was too hot for them. And there were evidently a few little places where crawly things could find their way in, because I woke up to this:

Which one is their lord?

It was pretty awesome, and I’m wishing now that I would have recorded it. It was constant erratic buzzing.

This dude gave me the mad hookups. I spent the evening eating a terrific burrito and lounging in a hot tub under the Montana stars. The following day I got the grand tour of his property, which is located in beautiful mountainous countryside,

Said beautiful mountainous countryside.

including chickens,

b'CAWW!!

both a limo and a bus,

Limousine, bus, tree.  A still life by Zach Bardon.

and a Mystical Rock. He found the rock buried in the ground when he was running some new pipe or something, and decided he would pull it out and stick it in his yard, aligned perfectly with the highest mountain visible from his property. Ooooh.

Jeff on his Mystical Rock.

And that was that. Next thing I knew, I was headed into Washington.

NEXT: Heading into Washington.