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Booted From Gardens, Moonscapes, and Lava Rock Love: Mick McMenaminuses takes the COBA Tour of Homes 

Husband and wife team Guild and Gould went big in old town with a classically inspired super-du(per) plex.People don't like home invasions. And those opening

click to enlarge Husband and wife team Guild and Gould went big in old town with a classically inspired super-du(per) plex.
  • Husband and wife team Guild and Gould went big in old town with a classically inspired super-du(per) plex.
Husband and wife team Guild and Gould went big in old town with a classically inspired super-du(per) plex.People don't like home invasions. And those opening their doors for the famed COBA Tour of Homes annual event last weekend can now relax. The streams of curious couples, bargain shoppers and transients like myself have slunk back to our abodes, heads full of ideas yet wallets still light

So when assigned to cover this event, I decided to start where I live, Awbrey Butte, my chic locale for the past few weeks. Mind you, I don't actually live on the Butte, rather in a '79 Ford RV named Harrietta Ambages, and the notion of "home" is a parking space with shade, an electrical outlet and the occasional shower.

Stoking Harrietta and rounding another street that goes nowhere but up. I finally found a "High Desert Garden." The single-story home is standard Bend but the garden is utter United Nations with each part echoing a different country-Mexico, Greece, North Korea (an unfertile plot with a single statue).

I didn't get the garden's builder/owner/seller's name because we were interrupted by, "Where's your ticket?"

"Ticket?"


"Your ticket," insisted the graying lady in elastic grandma denim, "If you don't buy a ticket you have to leave."

So I did. Adios Awbrey.

click to enlarge Porches, time period fixtures and honest-to-goodness hallways round out the Lava home.
  • Porches, time period fixtures and honest-to-goodness hallways round out the Lava home.
Porches, time period fixtures and honest-to-goodness hallways round out the Lava home. Into actual Bend, amongst my people. To Rob, my connection for brain medicine and our new reality. He bought when Bend was tied with Las Vegas, for both population growth and Viagra consumption. A two-story westside craftsman, Rob's now considering walking away. "One-ninety-nine." he coughs when asked what he's listing his house for (he bought for nearly two-fifty). "I get a lot of traffic, but no one's buying."

You won't find Rob's home on any COBA tour. He isn't here to show off but to sell. Of course he could replace the missing shingles on the façade and maybe drain the algae experiment in his deck's water receptacles, which could incite a young family to make an offer. One major upgrade Rob did do, however, is what he took away-12 tall plants growing in the upstairs bedroom, bright lights and reflecting walls. The house reeked of bud for weeks after the plants were removed (all medical, mind you) and the realtor and browsers at last came in.

Rob set me straight, so I went back to the scene of the crime along Riverside and Drake, where my friends Susan and Paul own a straw-bale house made mostly of reclaimed lumber. Solar-paneled and efficient, imagine their bliss when Pacific Power informed them that all of their energy savings(a nominal check instead of bill each month) and modest generation went to low income consumers.

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Paul has problems of his own. A carpenter by trade, as if that isn't the kiss of death in Bend, his new neighbors are from Prineville. Wearing boots and Levis but rarely shirts, they blast Dave Matthews and drink Coors. A blight has befallen Paul's community; Prine-tucky renters off to the Riverside Market for another twelve-pack, shirtless as usual, my good friends are besieged. Wishing Paul well, I went to honor the 40th anniversary of the moonlanding.

Tetherow (Clackamas Indian for "You will weep here") is a barren development perfect for late-night biking. I'm sure it will be a sublime golf-luxury community but presently resembles my last RV park. Sewage and electric hookups springing from the earth, this place is praying for McMansions to magically fall from the sky. Yet Judy McCombs, a broker with Cushman & Tebbs, hinted at signs of life in the local high-end market.

At Pointswest, a new development near Seventh Mountain, several build-ready lots are speckled with "SOLD" signs. Sixty-two new homes will be built here, Judy explained, and the model townhouse we toured together is listed for $595,000-Which she readily admits would have been $100K higher a year or so ago.

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"The four that are under construction are sold already, and we have three new presales. We just sold another larger floor-plan like this on the fairway that will be around the $600,000 range, and another on the river that will be more mid-$800,000," Judy details, pointing to the lots bordering Widgi Creek Golf Club. When asked if the market is improving, Judy afforded with a smile, "I feel like it's turning around. I work with Sotheby's, so the high-end market has taken a little longer to turn around, but seven presales in the townhouse market is pretty strong."

If the high-end sprawl that came to epitomize Bend a few years ago is starting to regain steam, how about downtown? For insights, I hit  number 33 on the COBA Tour: 406 NW Lava Road, on the corner of Georgia. Many know this place right behind McMenamins both for its unending construction and weeks of blasting away lava rock. In my humble opinion (take it as you will, living in an RV and all) 406 NW Lava Road is the most impressive address to be toured. Two duplexes, which are actually triplexes (including the garages and laundry rooms) that husband/wife team Jim Guild and Nunzie Gould have poured their sweat and savings into since March of 2007.

"A lot of people felt we took too much time," explains Jim with an air of defensiveness, undeserved after seeing what he and Nunzie have created on two narrow lots, "But I've described this as the poster-child for developing the downtown inner core. We didn't intend to make it this fancy," continues Jim with a grin, "but my wife had something to do with that."

The details are so thoughtfully considered that many are nearly missed: An antique pedestal bathroom sink, five fabulous red doorknobs (they couldn't locate more), ironing boards sunken into the walls of both duplexes' master bedrooms, pocket-doors and custom tile work, even a hidden yoga room, making duplex #2 really a quad-plex.

Revitalizing downtown Bend is the vision and the reason why Jim and Nunzie went to such lengths. "The proximity to downtown was everything. From here you can walk wherever you want."

The lengths they went to can be measured in yards-of lava rock removed from the site. "We hammered for three weeks straight," recalls Jim with a sigh-and an apology to neighbors, "1,600 total yards of rock." So much lava rock came with a reward: $.50 credit per each yard for other materials.

Ironically, in order to have the home available for COBA's Tour of Homes, Jim and Nunzie had to put it on the market. But that isn't their intent; instead they would prefer long-term leases for the two du-tri-quad-plexes. They've simply put too much into this Lava Road home to fully part with it.

I can relate. After touring such a breadth of homes in Bend, I returned to Harrietta and looked about.

"Ah-hah!" 

Pair of shoes put in the storage space below the bed, dirty boxers bagged and an old spaghetti stain wiped off the counter, my home is now perfect. COBA will be calling me anytime now for a tour.

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