In late September last year, I moved to Bend. I arrived for the last eight days of summer. Sunflowers, daisies and jasmine were in bloom; the high desert sun never seemed to set; and the streets and river trails were overflowing with leftover Abercrombie & Fitch models—tan, lean specimens showing off their sun-kissed bodies. It was heaven.
But then, on the eighth day, temperatures dropped, trees began shedding leaves and suddenly everyone in town was sporting a puffy jacket (seriously, it happened overnight).
Begrudgingly, I traded in my flip-flops for wool socks and sensible boots. Yes, my first summer in Bend hardly counts; more like a brief, distant vacation. Or, maybe more like a faded dream. For the past several months, I have held on to the brief memories of those eight days like Lance Armstrong clinging to his story. (Too soon?)
I was starting to wonder if anyone else lived on my street. Occasionally, I saw hooded people scurry away in their Subarus and all-wheel-drive Audis, loaded with snowboards, skis and Ruff Wear-clad dogs; but that was it.
But now summer is back! Boo-YAH! My dreams bask in 16 hours of sunshine. The world is alive again. Birds are noisily chirping and flitting around like little hussies in heat. Sun hats, sandals and bare legs are de rigueur. Trek, Specialized, Santa Cruz, and Ellsworth bikes are perched atop every third car in the Newport Avenue Market parking lot, all covered in fresh trail dust. And, oh, hello, toes (how I missed you. And yes you, and you). Hello, outdoor dining (bring your dogs!). Hello, après-diner sunsets (hint: sunsets are prettier when sipping a beer from The Ale Apothecary).
Can I tell you, Bend, how excited I am for my first summer here? (Like an only child on Christmas morning.) There is the perpetual hum of a lawn mower in the distance, kids ride their bikes in endless loops on my street, families stroll the sidewalks, and the scents of sirloin waft into my (grill-less) backyard.
Yes, I know, I know, old-timers: You remember Fourths of July when snow, not fireworks, filled the skies. But you can't stop me now. Woo-hoo! I'm jump-up-and-down excited about my first real summer in Bend.
You only get one "first," and it will be forever emblazoned on your psyche. There's something delicious about first times—the anticipation, the expectations, the wonder of the "new." Your senses are heightened (assuming you're not 17 and drunk in the back of a 1987 station wagon), mystery blossoms into experience, and anything seems possible.
So, Bend, tell you what, I plan to do my first Central Oregon summer right. I intend to surrender to every ray of sunshine, to every weekend adventure, to every day I'm lucky enough to be alive in this Patagonia-poster of a town. I'm going to enjoy every single moment being barefoot in green grass, lazy summer nights, and taking my pup Betty for swims in the river. (Heck, I'll swim in the river too. I need to add that to my list.)
I know I'm preaching to the choir, but Bend is freaking glorious right now. Don't let summer slip by just because you're too busy, or you've been there, done that like 11 times. Before you know it, your feet will be crammed into boots again every day. Make a list. Enjoy the sun on your toes. Wade in the river. Soak up every juicy drop of summer in Central Oregon. Pretend it's your first summer in Bend. Let the season of magic and surprises tackle you and have its way with you.
Catrina Gregory lives in Bend with her Argentinian rat hound Betty, and likes the idea of bikinis more than she actually likes wearing them. She currently spends so much time plotting summer funtimes that she forgets to post on her blog: www.beginnersguidetobend.com. SW
To do: My first Bend summer
Pedicure from Chloe at Tangerine. (Seriously. These toes need some TLC.)
Paddle around on the Deschutes river in a bikini – upright (standup paddleboarding) and sitting down (kayak).
Buy an outdoor barbecue. Procure short ribs from local rancher. Make neighbors jealous.
Overuse the word "spelunker" while cavorting through the Lava Caves.
Volunteer outdoors for a sustainable farm like Fields Farm, in a bikini and shorts. (Hey, YOLO, my friends.)
Soak in local hot springs, then cool off under a waterfall (with or without bikini).
Sip a delicious milkshake at DRAKE, outdoors, at night, wearing a sundress without a jacket.
Frolic through the wildflowers at Canyon Creek Meadows...carefully (I'm not a cretin).
Do a whirlwind, multi-weekend tour of the Cascade Lakes, swim in all of them, and pick the best one... in a bikini, duh.
Religiously visit the Wednesday Bend Farmers Market downtown while it lasts, for produce, not just for the yummy Bonta gelato.
Loose the pasty-white, I-winter-in-Central-Oregon pallor, so all this bikini-ing isn't blinding to innocent bystanders.
Have dinner on the roof at Zydeco (opens June 15!), lean over the ledge and yell, "top of the world, Ma!"
Take my first real mountain bike ride on Phil's Trail (not in bikini; that's just silly).
See a concert at Elk Lake, with the rest of Bend.
Pedal in the Fourth of July Freedom Ride (note to self: buy sparkly red-white-and-blue bikini).
Make friends with zinc oxide sunscreen.