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On the Trail of Ales, Frauds and Fools 

Now THIS is my kind of hike: Visitors to Bend this summer will be able to travel "The Bend Ale Trail," a tour of eight local craft breweries.

"Known throughout the world as one of the top outdoor recreation meccas, Bend, Oregon has now also emerged as one of the premier craft brewery capitals of the United States," says a press release put out by Visit Bend, the city's tourism promotion agency. In recognition of that fact, Visit Bend is introducing the "Bend Ale Trail," which it describes as "a multi-faceted, interactive tour of the city's craft breweries."

People hiking or biking the Bend Ale Trail will carry a "passport" that will get stamped at each of the breweries they visit. If they get it stamped by all eight, they can turn the passport in at Visit Bend's office and get a prize - a "commemorative Silipint® folding silicone pint glass for beer drinkers on the go."

The press release says a survey conducted last year found that a surprising 28% of Bend visitors listed visiting breweries as one of the activities they engaged in - ranking it fifth on the list of top touristy things to do.

What's even more surprising, considering that the press release touts Bend as "one of the top outdoor recreation areas," is that three of the top five tourist activities - shopping, dining and brewery visiting - are done indoors.

Then again, considering how crappy the spring weather in Bend typically is, maybe it isn't surprising at all.

Anyway, I think the Bend Ale Trail is kind of a neat idea, and Visit Bend ought to explore ways to apply the concept to other areas of interest.

For instance, in view of Bend's status as Real Estate Bubble Capital of the United States, how about a "Fools 'n' Frauds Tour" that would take visitors to some of the area's most outstanding examples of fraudulent and/or stupid real estate development?

It could start off with a look at some of the sites where Desert Sun claimed to be building its phantom projects, swing by a few of the scraped-bare vacant expanses that were supposed to sprout crops of McMansions, peek in at the offices that used to house Tami Sawyer's real estate firm, and wind up at The Shire for wine and cheese.

Swiss cheese, of course, to symbolize how full of holes the Bend real estate boom was.

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