"Whoever visits bend, moves to Bend," people warned. So frequently, in fact, I took it to be the official motto of this always sunny central Oregon playground ― a blessedly bipolar high-desert home base, where you can trail-run along the rushing Deschutes River in the morning and hit the snowy slopes of Mt. Bachelor in the afternoon. My kind of town.
Exactly why my husband was a little worried when I took off with two girlfriends for a fun winter weekend. "You'll either never come home or have us packing when you do," he joked.
He knows I fall in love fast ― with places, that is. And though I've been firmly planted in San Francisco for the past 10 years, I tend to talk a big game whenever we travel ― which, as a travel editor, is often. I've considered everywhere from Bozeman to Santa Fe. Just back from two weeks of honeymooning in Italy, Tuscany is now on my running la-la-land list.
But given Bend's recruitment record, this trip seemed serious. I might really love this landlocked town enough to join the flocks of outdoorsy urban professionals, young families, and nimble retirees who've been relocating here in droves.
Bend's population has skyrocketed in the past few years (75,290 at last count), as have its once ridiculously affordable home prices (2006 saw a 30 percent one-year increase ― the highest in the country, according to The Economist). And, of course, all that arguably good stuff has followed: wine bars and martini bars, day spas, bakeries, and a burgeoning restaurant scene worthy of any big city.
Still, despite the influx of Californians and fancy cars, Bend remains a decidedly unpretentious, Carhartt-clad community, where folks prefer moonlight snowshoes over movies, and unfussy hotel rooms run about $100 a night.