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History on Wheels: Learning Bend's past on bike with Let it Ride 

Let It Ride takes visitors and natives alike on tours to learn the rich history of Bend.

click to enlarge bike-tour_electric_james-williams.jpg

As a transplant to Oregon, I'm embarrassed to admit that I remain largely unlearned of the rich history that is Bend's past.

I imagine I'm not alone in this ignorance, which is why the folks at Let it Ride may be onto something. For $45 you can get a two-hour guided tour of downtown Bend. But get this: the tour is on electric bicycles. You get to see plenty of historical Bend without getting tired!

The Pedego-brand bikes look similar to most cruisers. They sport six gears, a plush seat and big, wide handlebars. Unlike a normal cruiser, the Pedego has a throttle that controls its electric motor. If you want to go for a ride, but are turned off by all those pesky hills, the Pedego may be the way to go (aside from tours, Let it Ride also rents the electric bikes for $30 per hour).

I joined Let it Ride director Josh Harned and an older couple visiting from Redding, Calif., on part of a recent tour to see just how these contraptions worked and I learned a heap of interesting Bend trivia along the way.

Our first stop was Pioneer Park, which as it turns out, served as a camp in 1851 for pioneers who were waiting for the temps to rise and the snow to melt before trying to cross the Cascades into the Willamette Valley, the terminus of the Oregon Trail.

And apparently there used to be a public swimming pool just upstream of the First Street rapids. For 10 cents a day, moms could drop off their children to play in the Kirtsis Swim Tank, a 50-by-150-foot pool filled with water from the Deschutes River. Built in 1927 and heated by a burner that ran on sawdust from the Bend mills, it was said to be one of the largest outdoor pools at the time.

"There has been some pretty interesting stuff we've discovered since we began these tours," said Let it Ride owner Kevin Rea.

The Let it Ride tour also brings to light Bend's rough-and-tumble past, marked by the sensations and scandals that stretch well into the early-to-mid 1900s, due to the relatively late arrival of railroads to Central Oregon.

"We have a fresh history here. We might think of it as all Wild West and buckaroos, but it's much more recent than that," said Rea.

Learn more about these tours at

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