Smile. You’re in Bend.
I was taken aback. Was he cuckoo? Was he on his phone? Was he smiling at me?
The answer seemed to be “no,” though I did smile back and he waved and we went our merry way in opposite directions.
But it got me thinking about how often I see people around Bend grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason. Well, there’s one apparent reason. They’re in Bend.
So here are a four specific things about Bend that make me smile on a regular basis.
There’s a reason I thought the aforementioned guy might be smiling at me, and it’s not that I’m too sexy for my shirt.
Strangers smile at each other all the time here, whether they’re passing one another on a mountain biking trail or while shopping in the Old Mill District. I’ve traveled a lot in my 41 years on this planet, and I haven’t been too many other places in the world where people are this outright friendly to folks they don’t know.
It’s one of the things I love best about Bend.
I’m not talking about the smells emanating from the backseat when you’re on a road trip with kids (those are rarely smile-worthy). I’m talking about the unique-to-Bend olfactory triggers that make you breathe a little deeper, then sigh and say, “Man, I’m glad to be here.”
My two personal faves are the smell of desert sage warming in the sun and the oh-so-Bendesque scent of juniper after a rainstorm. And speaking of rainstorms, few things smell more amazing than the ozone in the high desert air when a mid-summer thunderstorm hits.
And let’s not forget food smells! Stroll around Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District about an hour before dinnertime to have your senses filled with the most delectable aromas wafting from dozens of award-winning restaurants lining the banks of the Deschutes River or dotting the quaint, historic downtown streets.
If one of our local breweries is working up a fresh batch of beer (which is pretty much always) stop and savor the hoppy, malty fragrance drifting along the breeze. Consider it your own little reassurance that it’ll be even better once it’s poured into a pint glass and set down in front of you.
If you’re ever having a bad day, drive to one of Bend’s eight off-leash areas, sit yourself down on a bench, and observe. If you’re not smiling after five minutes of watching that parade of tail wagging, butt sniffing, giddy-doggy happiness, you’re probably dead inside.
Bend is a dog town (as evidenced by Dog Fancy naming us the nation’s dog-friendliest city) so you’ll probably witness canine glee even if you don’t visit a dog park.
Not really a dog person? No problem! You’ll find plenty of fluffy and not-so-fluffy critters all over Bend, and their antics are sure to make your cheek muscles twitch. Scope out otters at the High Desert Museum, or ogle pigs and cows on the Farm & Ranch Tour from the Well Traveled Fork.
For a roundup of 10 places to get your critter fix in Bend, go here.
I was running late for work the other day and got caught at a traffic light. As I sat there in my car muttering to myself about slow drivers and my own inability to dress myself in a hasty fashion, I caught sight of the mountains shimmering in the distance beyond the stoplight. I stopped muttering and thought, “Man, I’m lucky to be here.”
Plunk yourself down virtually anywhere in Bend I guarantee there’s a breathtaking view within a few hundred feet of where you’re standing. From the big things like rivers and mountains and sunsets, to the small things like the small, hopefully-bright wildflowers poking through a fissure in some lava rock, there are a million beautiful things in Bend that will put a smile on your face for no cost whatsoever. It’s the cheapest form of therapy around.
Now get out there and enjoy it.