It’s always fun to see your own hometown through the eyes of a visitor. Recently, we took our newfound friend, Flat Simon, on a tour of our city of Bend, Oregon. How he got here is an interesting story in itself!
Before he arrived at our house, he was known as Sellincourt Sid back home in London. Sellincourt was the school that he went to. Sid always wanted to travel to see the world. He was especially interested in visiting America.
How Sellincourt Sid became Flat Simon and how he got to our house in Bend, Oregon
We met one of his teachers five years ago on a trip to Namibia, Africa. Sid must have seen our address as a return address on one of the letters that we sent to correspond with her. He didn’t have enough money to buy a plane ticket all the way over here and he didn’t even know which airlines to fly to get here. Heck, I’m not sure he even knew what part of the USA Oregon was in. But it sounded good to him, so he devised a plan to get here. He had enough money to buy postage, so he decided to wrap himself up in a package and mail himself to us.
There were a couple of things Sid didn’t count on. First, the flights were very long and he was VERY hungry when he got here. Also, he didn’t count on the mail sorting machines squeezing him so hard that it made him flat. But once we opened the package and he saw us, he was very relieved! We gave him a snack and cleaned him up. When he realized that he was now a flat boy, he wanted us to call him by his middle name, which was Simon. After a good night’s rest, Simon said he was ready to explore our town.
One of the first places we took him was to visit Pilot Butte State Park. Pilot Butte is a cinder cone inside the city limits, on the East side of town. Simon had never seen volcanoes before, so he was intrigued by our unique landscape. Usually, we hike the one mile up the Butte, but since he had such a tough trip, we decided to take him up the road to the top in the car.
Simon saw different trees and vegetation than he was used to back home. There were mostly sagebrush on the south side of the butte, but lots of Juniper on the other sides. Some hikers were walking up the road. His eyes were wide with excitement as we neared the top.
At the summit, we walked around the top of the butte to get a different view in each direction. Simon really liked looking at the Three Sisters, a group of composite volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Those mountains block much of the moisture of the westerly winds, making Bend, Oregon a steppe ecosystem, which is just a tiny bit wetter than a true desert. Many people call Bend part of the “High Desert”, but a true desert has to have less than 10 inches of rain per year, and we have almost 12. Simon wasn’t used to calculating in inches, so we told him that 12 inches of rain was about 300 millimeters. He understood that better. He also asked us how high the mountains were. I told him that South Sister was the highest one of the three and that it was 10,300 feet high. He looked perplexed. Then, I remembered that he is used to measuring in meters, so I converted that number to about 3,140. Boy, was he impressed! The highest elevation in his home country of England was only 978 meters.
Next, we went over to the other side of the butte to view what lay to the East. We showed him the hospital and then when our house was located beyond that. He saw Powell Butte in the foreground and then the Ochoco Mountains in the distance.
I started to explain a lot of the Geography of the area to him, but then I thought he might remember it better if he read it for himself, so we visited the informational plaques on top of the butte. There, he read about the Geology, History, and Ecology of the region. He seemed to be a good student!
After that, we decided to take him downtown. Our town had only 24,000 residents when we moved here many years ago. Now it has grown into a large town of about 100,000 people and is a center for tourism. As we drove down Wall Street in the downtown business district, Simon noticed that a lot of cars had license plates from other states than Oregon.
One of the historical buildings we passed by was the Tower Theater. It was refurbished several years ago and special events are hosted there.
From there, we parked behind downtown and walked to Mirror Pond, which is a man-made lake by damming up the Deschutes River which flows through town. We explained to Simon that the town is named Bend because that’s where the Deschutes River makes a wide Bend. Deschutes means “Of the Falls” in French, as the first white men to come through here were French fur trappers. Now, Mirror Pond is surrounded by Drake Park, a great place to enjoy nature in the middle of the city!
Simon was getting hungry. He asked if we could get some bangers and mash. We told him that he wasn’t in London anymore. We had something more healthy in mind, so we took him to Active Culture, a restaurant near the river.
We ordered a Bend Bowl with greens, nuts, cheeses, raisins, prosciutto, dates, apples, rice, basil and a special sauce! Simon liked it, but Beth ate most of it. So, I offered him some of my quesadilla. He enjoyed that too!
Active Culture is located on Riverside Avenue, at the corner of McCann Avenue. Simon asked if the road was named after us. I’d like to take credit for it, but it was actually named for another McCann who was a manager of the mill in town many years ago.
After lunch, we visited the Old Mill District. Bend used to be a lumber town a long time ago. Now, the Old Mill is a shopping district with an REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated), several stores and lots of restaurants. The Old Mill District is right next to the river, and lots of people float down the river here. There is an amphitheater for concerts at the river’s edge.
Bend has some of their Winterfest activities going on in the Old Mill District. Simon sat in the throne of the Fire King and pretended that he ruled over the whole Old Mill District!
Just after that, we walked out onto the Flag Bridge and watched people enjoying the river on a hot day.
One of the stores had a metal sculpture of an elk and Simon just had to ride it! Bend has a lot of art in town, and is a town full of art lovers.
We decided to grab a coffee because we were planning on driving up the Cascade Lakes highway and it is a long, but very scenic drive. Mick’s friends Richard and Rhonda own the Strictly Organic Coffee Company, and there are two locations in Bend. One is on Arizona Street and the other one is in the Old Mill. They buy coffee from employee owned cooperatives around the world and the quality is great. I drank a cup from Sumatra, while Simon tried one from Nicaragua. Now, we were ready to take a scenic drive!
First we drove all the way to La Pine, a town 30 miles to the south. Then we took the back way up to the Cascade Lakes Highway. Beth wanted to show him the route of a relay race she will be in next weekend. It is the Cascade Lakes Relay, a 132 mile (212.4 Km) race for walking teams that will take place over 2 days.
We stopped near Sparks Lake and took some pictures of the Cascade Mountains, which are the snowiest range in the lower 48 states. Part of Sparks Lake has already turned into a meadow. Mt. Bachelor Ski resort is in the background.
In the other direction, we got a close up of South Sister volcano, a peak that Mick has climbed several times. It takes all day to hike it, so we continued on after we took the photo.
Simon wanted to take picture of his own, so I loaned him the camera and he took this close up of Mt. Bachelor. Notice the ski runs on the west side of the mountain.
We drove up the highway to the entrance to the ski area. The East village is closed for the summer. We used to be able to snow ski until July 4th, but now the skiing stops at the end of May.
After a long day, we were ready to eat again. I suggested Tacos. There is a lot of Mexican influence in our cuisine and I thought it might be a treat for Simon to try it. We went to one of our favorite Taco stands, “El Sancho”, between DeKalb and Clay avenues just off of Third Street. Beth knows Joel, the owner. Joel started the business as a small food cart, but the food is so good, that now he has restaurants in two locations in town.
Not only does El Sancho have great Tacos, but they serve tasty locally brewed craft beers. Bend is famous for its craft brew culture. I like Vicious Mosquito or Hop Venom. Both are very tasty! They were serving Hop Venom today, so I got one. Many of the hops that are used in beer making are grown east of the Cascade Mountains. Simon wanted to taste it, but he was still in primary school and not old enough to drink alcohol. You have to be age 21 before you can drink beer, so I ordered him an iced tea.
Simon thought it was strange to drink tea cold, instead of hot, but he didn’t complain one bit!
We ordered two kinds of Tacos; Carnitas (Pork) and Barbacoa (Beef). I liked the Barbacoa the best, but Simon liked the Carnitas. Everybody was happy!
That was a big day for all of us. Time to go home and relax….We had a good time showing our town to a new friend and we hoped you readers liked traveling with us too. Simon’s school mates will be learning about lots of new places in the future!