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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ringing In The New: Predictions for 2010

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 3:37 AM

2010 is here and with its arrival every pundit in American is making predictions as to what the new year holds. Not be outdone, I offer my fearless predictions based not on fact but on gut feel and hunches. I'd rather rely on those than facts anyway.

And so without further ado, here's some things that will happen in Central Oregon in 2010.
Weather: It'll be warmer and wetter than usual for the remaining winter months. Ski and boardaholics will be in despair come April. A dreary spring will lead to a hotter than normal summer.
News Coverage: More stories of local white-collar crime will come to light as the last vestiges of the "gold rush" era play out. Many financial institutions will be rubbing slime off their faces and airing mea culpas.
Paradise: Bend will yet again be singled out by at least one trendy outdoor magazine like Outside as a "must-live" place. And in case you want to know ahead of time what other towns will be included in said article, it'll be usual suspects: Boulder, Colorado, Austin, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, Burlington, Vermont, Ashville, North Carolina, Durango, Colorado, Taos, New Mexico and New Paltz, New York.
Sarah Palin: That's right, Sarah will make a Deschutes County appearance much to the delight of locals pols who will all rush to have their picture taken with her and have her endorse their future runs for office.
Tiger Woods: Tiger will not appear in Bend but it will be revealed that he had a local paramour lo those many years ago when he rented a house on Awbrey Butte for a short period of time.
Sports: The first innertube world championships will be held on the Deschutes River on a course running from Farewell Bend Park to just above Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Local tourism officials will proclaim that the event will: "bring at least $6 million into the local economy."
Movies: There will be a remake of the 1984 college pranksters at work "B" movie classic "Up The Creek". And just like the original, it will be filmed in and around Bend and use hundreds of local extras along with a handful of never-heard-of Hollywood has-beens in the lead roles.
Summer Events: There will be at least two weekends during the summer when there will be a dozen high- profile (read expensive) music, food and general entertainment events competing for the public's dollars. And with these two weekends, Bend will lay claim once again to being the most "over-evented" town in America.
Politics: The Bend City Council will become the subject of a new reality TV show broadcast not on CSPAN as originally planned but on BRAVO between episodes of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta".
So, here's to 2010, may it be a better than 2009.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Au Revoir 2009: a look back at this past year

Posted By on Sun, Dec 27, 2009 at 11:03 PM

As 2009 comes to a close it’s time for a few personal observations about the year. First and foremost it was a remarkable year in that Bend seemed a much more livable place. Why? In part because gone was the bluster and BS of the boom years, or as one local architect likes to call those heady days: “the gold rush years”.
I could be wrong but this past year people seemed more civil, the pace of life much slower and there was an apparent return to real values. No longer was living in a 5,000 square foot home with a $6,000 monthly mortgage considered a major status symbol. Making do in whatever abode you could afford looked really smart.
As reality set back into Bend even the “if you’ve got it flaunt it” crowd stopped eating out at restaurants six nights a week and actually became familiar with their kitchens. “Oh my gawd Martha, we actually own dishes. how quaint is that?
So here’s to 2009 for being a year when Bend was truly much more livable.
By the way, when thinking about gold rushes, booms and speculation bubbles, and the like I strongly urge those who enjoy good books to pick up a copy of  “City of Gold-Dubai and the dream of capitalism” by Jim Krane.  It’s an absolutely fascinating read by an author who spent years in Dubai as a UPI reporter years and used that experience plus exhaustive research to create the book.
Dubai’s rise from a desert village to perhaps the most amazing city on earth makes Bend’s explosive growth seem, well, very minor league by comparison.
What is noteworthy though is the underlying element of greed in both Bend’s and Dubai’s stories. Greed, along with white collar collusion helped unravel things in Bend and are beginning to in Dubai.
It’s a cautionary book full of lessons only the very wise will follow come the new boom cycle.
2009’s Best Events
So as Bend got back to normal and the town was suddenly devoid of wheeler-dealers looking to make the big real estate score, quite a few good community events took place.
Topping my personal list of best community events in 2009 was the Tour des Chutes. Over the past several years, this annual bike tour has raised great deal of money for cancer research as well as bringing together all sorts of cyclists from the fast and fanatical to the relaxed and casual for a day of fun cycling.
I always ride the short route designed for kids and families and find it one of the more rewarding experiences of the year.
So hats off to Gary Bonacker and his crew for making this a true community event.
And while on cycling, cheers to the organizers of the cyclocross national championships. The week of races came off so well proving that Bend is a big (well maybe not the winter Olympics) event town.
And there’s not a better event than the Footzone’s annual Dirty Half run. Also their Pie Run on Thanksgiving Day this year proved a true family event. Kudos to Super Dave Tomasen for being the guiding light behind both events and for keeping them fun and well-organized.
Veteran’s Memorial
Although not an event per se, the work of Dick Tobiason and friends on creating the new Veteran’s Memorial was exemplary of the community getting together for a worthy project.

Les Arts
Someone noted the other day that apart from reporting on pop culture, our local indy paper seldom, if ever, covers cultural events that might appeal to an “older” audience. So here’s a report on what you missed reading about if you’re over 35 and into culture.
Jazz at Joe’s     
Surprise, there are a lot of loyal jazz aficionados in Central Oregon and Joe Rohrbacher of Just Joe’s Music continues to fill the need for live jazz with regular concerts at the Cascade Theatrical Company. Over the past year, the gigs have featured a variety of accomplished Northwest musicians playing at a high level.
Sisters Folk Festival
Although I question the Festival’s seeming programming stray from its folk roots, it’s still one of the best, if not the best, weekends of music one can experience even if they’re not a folkie.

Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival
This down home Fourth of July festival in Fossil is a pure delight with free concerts and the whole town transformed into music city. Add in a classic old school Fourth parade and it’s a surefire winner.

High Desert Chamber Music Series
What a joy to be able to listen to live “high brow” music in Bend and to listen to it at The Tower.
Nature of Words
Bend’s sole true literary event got a real shot in the arm this year with enough departures from its tried, and getting a bit stale, author-reads-works-from-podium format to make for some stimulating moments.
I have two for 2010.
1)    I will stop calling Bend “paradise” as is the case in every bit of real estate and promotional ad treacle. This is a wonderful place to live but frankly would have some stiff competition if there ever was a contest to name a paradise on earth. So ease up on the paradise and try substituting phrase like: “it’s a very unique and enjoyable place to live.”
2)    I will not give a standing ovation as Bend audiences give every music act no matter how bad they are. I’ll save my standing O’s for the truly extraordinary musical/artistic moments.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Skin Game: trying to ascend Mt. Bachelor the old fashioned way

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 8:17 PM

Thanks to the efforts of Kevin and Molly Grove, Brian Barry and Lee Stevenson, among others, last night skiers intent on maintaining the right to climb/skin Mount Bachelor had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Mt. Bachelor, Inc president Dave Rathbun and representatives of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
35 skiers showed up for the hour and a half meeting that took place at the Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District offices.
Introductory remarks from those representing the ski community stressed a willingness to work cooperatively with Mt. Bachelor to rescind the now-in-place ban on uphill travel at the ski area.
After pointing out why skinning up is popular (exercise, practicing and perfecting backcountry techniques, photography, early morning solitude) it was noted that the majority of the current crop of uphillers are: a) highly experienced and safety minded skiers and, b) are, for the most part, Mt. Bachelor season pass holders.
Those skiers, Kevin Grove cited, seek a safe, responsible and least restrictive access to the mountain.
Mt. Bachelor’s Rathbun responded by laying out a plan that calls for a single uphill route starting at Sunrise Lodge following I-5 to the top of Rainbow where there would be a kiosk informing skiers if the upper reaches of the mountain were open to uphill travel. Kiosk signage would also indicate the hours during which the upper portion of the mountain would be open to uphill and subsequent downhill travel.
From the kiosk, the uphill route heads to Beverly Hills and then towards the summit.
Acknowledging that the skiers in the room were well versed in mountain travel and safety, Rathbun noted that his and the area’s concern was with people not as well prepared and competent. He cited several instances of uphill skiers being in harm’s way on the mountain last year.
Rathbun reiterated that safety concerns with regard to uphill-downhill skier conflicts, avalanche control, and grooming operations (especially winch-grooming) were the primary reasons for instituting the current ban on uphill travel.
He offered that once the kiosk is up and in use, that Mt. Bachelor could also post that information on its website so skiers could know whether or not to travel to the mountain on a given day.
With that said, Rathbun maintained that even after the kiosk and new uphill route are established that uphill travel would most likely be limited to the period between the mountains’ official opening and closing times.
This could be a major sticking point in future negotiations in a meeting that has been proposed between a designated group of uphill skiers, Rathbun, and key Mt. Bachelor grooming and ski patrol personnel. The date for that meeting has yet to be set.
So where does that leave things? From all indications, a safe, designated uphill route will come into existence, but when?
Leaving the meeting one skier offered, “More meetings and negotiations are really more foot dragging and I don’t expect anything to happen until next year. By then, I think Bachelor and the USFS hope the problem will go away.”
The morning after the meeting, that same comment was echoed in e-mails and phone calls. On a slightly different note, an avid uphiller who stopped me at Juniper Swim and Fitness said: “It’s shame Bachelor didn’t get the skier community involved in this earlier. Just when you think Mt. Bachelor is becoming more community minded, they go an do this and unravel much of the goodwill they’ve been able to create more recently.”
That remains to be seen as the optimists among us think that Mt. Bachelor will listen to the uphiller’s pleas and create a plan that will be in place sooner than expected.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Cross Nats-Bend at its best

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 7:27 PM

If there was ever any doubt that Bend can host and be party to a great sports event, it was laid to rest on Sunday at the U.S. National Cyclocross (Cross) Championships. The venue, racing and crowds were terrific. And from an outsider’s point of view it looked as if the event organization was close to flawless.
Of course there is the sport of Cross which luckily, unlike bicycle road racing, is easy for non-cyclists to understand and more intriguing to them because the racing is over mud and ice and gook and…well you know it’s a dirty world out there for Cross racers.
Dirty for riders but apparently profitable for local merchants, restaurants and lodging establishments. Speaking of the latter, I know of two local vacation home rental businesses that rented every property on their books to Cross teams and people here to watch the races.
The event’s major sponsors seemed happy. I ran into Deschutes Brewing chief Gary Fish at the Saturday races and he was effusive in his praise for the event. Looking over the part of the course laid out on the Brewery property he laughed: “it’ll give our landscapers something to work on this spring.”
Best of all, there was a lot of good energy at the races-Bend energy. Locals came out to support the riders with their cheers, support local food vendors with their purchases and welcome athletes from all over the country.
What struck many longtime Bend people interested in self-propelled sports is the change in attitude among our local tourism agencies regarding outdoor sports events. Time was when their attitude towards self-propelled sports and events featuring those sports was patronizing at best. Sports to them were golf and shopping. Honestly, shopping was always a top tourism priority.
Thankfully at least one new person in the tourism promotion game, Doug Laplaca of Visit Bend, knows the value of events like the Cross nationals, the national road cycling championships and the Cascade Cycling Classic.
Now how about trying for the national cross-country running championships, the national mountain bike championships, etc? Bend has the potential of becoming the go-to self-propelled sports events capitol of the U.S.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mercury Down: Baby it's cold outside in Bend

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 6:13 PM

The whining has begun. It's too cold. We moved here expecting a milder climate. Our real estate agent said it seldom, if ever, got this cold in Bend. My car wouldn't start. The streets haven't been cleared of snow. What'd mean there's a City ordinance that I have to shovel my sidewalks? All the flights to Phoenix are booked.
Here we are with a hint of "real" winter and with it the realization that it can get pretty cold around here come December and January.
Now if you moved here from the upper Midwest, the Rockies or New England, In that case, you're taking it in stride thinking the weather is downright tropical compared the winters you went through when you lived elsewhere.
I lived elsewhere for one year before moving to Central Oregon That winter was spent running the cross-country ski school at Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin. Cable (population 150) is located in the northwestern part of the State in what many fondly call, "The Northwoods".
That winter in Cable, it didn't get above thirty below for thirty days and above freezing for ninety days.
Cars were plugged in at night so the batteries would work the next morning and the first few miles of any drive were always done on "square" tires that would slowly come into round.
But no matter how cold it got, we taught skiing every day. Our lessons were an hour in duration, divided into two half-hour segments. We'd get people on snow for a half hour then take them back into the lodge to warm up for a half hour before going back outside and finishing the last half hour of the lesson.
When we weren't teaching skiing we patrolled the trails checking people for frostnip. The precursor to frostbite, frostnip is obvious when white spots appear on exposed parts of the face (cheeks, nose) and on the tips of the ears.
Apart from checking ski tourers for frostnip we also looked for performance skier who were going at top speed gulping in the frigid air without any thing covering their mouths.
The problem with not filtering the air with a particle mask, facemask, balaclava helmet or scarf over the mouth could result in serious lung damage.
After a full winter in Wisconsin, three of us traveled back to our home base in California. Along the way we stopped to ascend Terry Peak, South Dakota's highest point. We climbed in tee shirts in twenty-degree temperatures that felt so mild after out frigid winter.
Later we skied the Sierra backcountry around Mammoth Lakes, California thinking it was too warm even though thermometers said it was in the thirties.
Speaking of Mammoth Lakes, I ran into a former resident at the gym on day two of this cold snap. "Why, "she mused, "are people bitching about this weather. It's nothing."
True, it'll be gone soon and the whining will stop. But to be honest, after thirty-five years of winter I'm in the mood for change. And while I won't whine loudly, I will be checking on-line for cheap fares to places where shorts, a tee-shirt, flip-flops and a cocktail with an umbrella in hand in are the uniform of the day.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Champagne: wallowing in the real stuff

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2009 at 7:06 PM

One of the most persistent local myths (besides the old 300 days of sunshine a year one) is that the Central Oregon Cascades have "epic" powder snow conditions every winter. Let's get real. Our local mountains arguably get some of the best powder snow by West Coast standards but nothing like what falls in mountain ranges east of here.
Utah with its "greatest snow on earth" license plate statement does and the Wasatch Mountains (among other mountain ranges in the State) are where skiers get truly epic powder snow. That's epic as in champagne sparkly, can't-make-a-snowball-with-it, virtually moister-less, dry, flyaway powder.
I’ve skied both Alta and Snowbird when the champagne ultra-fluff was two to three feet deep and the skiing was, well- heavenly.
Further east there's the fabled Aspen/Vail Colorado Rocky Mountain high powder. South and bit east, there’s the Taos, New Mexico powder. Again, both places/regions have dry fluff with champagne powder.
But why head to Salt Lake, Aspen or Taos when we suddenly have powder heaven on earth in right here at home. Go outside and check out the snow that fell on Sunday. You don't need a shovel to move the snow because it's so light. Just take a broom and sweep your sidewalk clean in a couple of minutes.
Speaking of clearing sidewalks, we did a lot of that during Bend's last big (1993/94) winter. Snow fell consistently for almost 100 consecutive days and it was cold and light.
So perhaps this recent localized snowfall is a harbinger of things to come.  And if we're in for a repeat big snow/cold snow winter, it'll mean that by the end of the winter people will have skied or rode Lava Butte, Pilot Butte and tracked out the ridge to the west of OMSI at the end of Skyliner's Road.
We have a classic champagne powder moment at hand. Carpe diem and ski and ride the fluff now and forever store the experience in your memory to cherish for years to come.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Old School: taking in the big game at the corner bar

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 8:21 PM

During a recent month-long ESPN sports film festival one of the featured films dealt with Baltimore’s loss of their beloved Colts and how it affected the fan base, especially those in the all-volunteer Colts marching band.
In a story of never ending loyalty the Colts band stayed together in spite of the team being hustled off to Indianapolis in the middle of the night by its owners to and the city being left without a pro team for years.
A smaller theme running through in the film was how NFL football fans used to watch the game and the importance of the local bar or tavern in that viewing.
Time was when the big game, heck any game, was on, the best place to watch it was at the joint around the corner. That’s because, by some form of unknown magic, the local bar seemed to get the best television reception, and probably had a bigger, like maybe a 24-incher, black and white television set than the one you had at home.  So instead of watching the game on your 14-inch screen while fooling with the rabbit ears to get a decent picture, you could enjoy a beer, some eats, some camaraderie and some pigskin at a place that by comparison made the “Cheers” bar set look like the dining room at Hearst Castle.
One of my favorite East Coast corner bars was so dingy, the owner, former boxing great Willie Pep, used to keep the interior lights even on the sunniest day so you could see three feet in front of you.
Now the corner bar is pretty much a thing of the past or on well on its way out. Watching the game at the corner bar started losing favor with fans when more affordable color television sets came into being and took a precipitous dive when cable became a mainstay. Once fans started watching games at home, there was little hope for the corner bar.
But then along came the Vegas idea of the corner bar-the sports bar. I’m no fan of sports bars. I consider them impersonal and watching a game at one has all the zing of watching a lounge act at a third-rate casino.
This year’s Civil War enticed me to put my sports bar prejudice aside and venture out to see the game at one. I found a place close to where I live that looked, from the outside through tinted windows, to have a mix of corner bar coziness and sports bar television technology.
When I walked in the joint in question Thursday night, I didn’t get the old “hey Bobby how ya doin?” greeting I used to get at a bar in Manhattan I used to frequent to watch the New York football Giants on the small screen while swilling Knickerbockers (“Knock for Knickerbocker New York’s favorite beer”) and eating greasy bar food.
I was acknowledged and sat at a table near the bar. On looking around, it became clear the bar’s décor was more disco/lounge than I expected. Expected was the mandatory attractive waitresses wearing a tee shirt imprinted a sports expression that could be taken an entirely two ways- one tame the other titillating.
Soon the place was mobbed with people in Duck and Beaver colors. Despite the getups, most of them seemed to be there more for the socializing than the game.
That is except for the four Beaver Believers seated next to me. They were 100 percent into the game, the food (decent) and the beer (also decent).
Yet even that small band of rabid fans, the decent eats and the booze didn’t diminish the lingering sense of detachment in the room. It was if people had been detached into small pods unable to interact with other pods made up of people rooting for the same team. It was too civil.

As the gridiron action heated up the second half, the bartender started doing stupid bartender tricks like the ones actors did in that one-star movie of a few years ago-juggling open bottles, pouring shots from six feet above the bar, and make behind-the-back bottle and glass passes.
I surmised that the bartender felt the Ducks and Beavers were beginning to steal his limelight so he trotted out his Cirque du Booze act to get it back.

Somehow his sideshow took the edge off the game and I slouched out of the bar and headed back home to catch the last quarter on the small screen accompanied by my pal Jack Daniels who wasn’t poured into a glass as I cart wheeled across my living room floor.
And that’s how my hope that there was still a chance to watch a big game in the comfort of a cozy corner bar (dive) was dashed.
To get back that corner bar big game feeling back, I guess I have to head to Philly, Cleveland, Pittsburg-someplace east of the Rockies where corner bars still thrive exist albeit now it with 50-inch high-def televisions sets.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Going Deep at Mt. Bachelor-It's a matter of inches

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 12:17 AM

Time was when a lot of local focus this time of year was on when the snowpack at Mt. Bachelor would reach 100 inches. 100 inches was the magic number. I can only guess that back then a100-inch cover meant all the rocks, downed trees and stumps were totally covered.
How important was the 100-inch total? Apparently very important as at least one local radio station (there were few back then) held a contest to guess the day when the magic mark would be achieved. The winner would get dinner for two at a local restaurant and bragging rights for a year.
But as Bend grew, 100 inches didn't seem to mean much anymore. I know, I tried to revive the contest in the pages of the Source to little avail. I got maybe ten entries the first year I ran the contest. A year later, ten became six and then one a year later it was down to one contestant and I stopped flogging the contest idea.
Now it seems any amount of snow at the mountain over 12 inches is considered more than enough. More than enough to elicit e-mails from people declaring "awesome powder conditions" when I know there's nothing but a foot of boilerplate.
A more recently a spate of e-mailed pictures show thin backcountry cover with the comment that conditions were, "excellent." Wow, you could have fooled me.
But then I know it's old-fashioned to want a lot of snow cover down before trusting my skis and body to the groomers and the backcountry. Good skis cost money and ripped out edges and gouged bases are not what I'm after. As to my body, it's been banged up enough already.
So, I propose, just for the fun of it, to declare the 100-inch contest re-opened. Log on with the day you think the Mt.Bachelor's reported snowpack will hit 100 inches and win a six pack of your favorite local brew (must be 21 or older to qualify).

Winning beverage in hand, you can kick back knowing that you are weather and snow forecaster supreme.
My guess is that the mountain won't get 100 inches until February 4.

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