FROM SNEAKERS TO SKIS
Cross-country skiing is to Bend what strolling the mall is to suburbia: the thing to do ― during lunch hour, on weekends, after school. We spend the afternoon gliding along the groomed trails at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park with Justin Yax, Bend's easygoing PR guy. Justin and his wife, Mary, moved here seven years ago and couldn't be happier. Or healthier. "We wanted to get to Bend so badly, we both quit and moved here without jobs," says the sort-of active Seattleite turned avid cross-country and alpine skier, road and mountain biker, fly-fisherman, and golfer. "It just happens here," he laughs. "I'd never competed in anything before in my life. Next thing I know, I'm doing triathlons."
Even the people who aren't getting paid to talk up Bend, do. On a naturalist-led snowshoe through old-growth hemlock, we meet a woman originally from Oakland. "My only regret is not moving here earlier," she says. Is she some sort of plant?
By the end of the weekend, I'm starting to catch myself veering toward for sale signs and picking out my would-be coffee shop, my future friends, my hangouts.
Bend Brewing Co. is my favorite of the five microbreweries. But at the Old Mill Martini Bar, the blackberry-muddled martinis with locally distilled vodka taste pretty good too. As does the wine and cheese at Portello Wine Cafe, where we park between two Porsches.
Despite such increasing pockets of city swank, I'm reminded the next day that Bend is still a small town after all. We drop by Maragas Winery's two-stool tasting room, where we meet soft-spoken, silver-haired Jim Young. Turns out he's a former mayor of Bend. And yet another transplant ― a pioneering one at that, having moved here back in the '80s.
"I was on a motorcycle ride from San Francisco up to Canada," he recalls over a juicy Zinfandel. "I just happened to pull over in Bend. This place is unbelievably beautiful, I thought, with the desert to the east, the mountains to the west. I came right back with my things ― and have never left."
Hmm, you don't say?