The drive from White Salmon, WA to Bend, OR is nothing short of fantastic. The drive starts after crossing the Columbia River on Oregon Route 35. This took us down the eastern side of the Hood River Fruit Loop that we had been on the previous day. The road then continues seemingly straight towards Mt. Hood. The road slowly climbs in elevation, twisting and turning all while the forest getting thicker and the trees getting taller. After not seeing the mountain for a few minutes as the trees are so thick, we came around a bend and BAM; the craggy peak of the mountain appeared.
Mt. Hood’s peak isn’t rounded and smooth at the top but pointy and sharp, sort of like a villain’s lair in a superhero movie. It’s really one of the more interesting mountains that we had driven past because of this. Route 35 continues on the eastern side of the mountain passing hiking trails, ATV parks and trails as well as Mt. Hood Ski areas. It then connects with Oregon Route 26 and continues south.
A Family that Rafts Together, Stays Together
The road then slowly loses elevation and the landscape transitions from forests of tall pine trees to the eastern Oregon desert. Around lunchtime we reached the town of Warm Springs and stopped at a small park and boat launch located adjacent to the Deschutes River. While traveling this is our normal lunchtime routine. Find a park/recreation area of some kind, park, make lunch and do a little people watching. The people watching today was excellent. As we were sitting there, we see a guy floating down the river on a homemade raft complete with cooler, lawn chair bolted down to the crafts floor and an umbrella over the whole thing for shade. He had rowing style paddles and looked like he had been at it for a while. Out of a mini van parked near us emerged a woman and her daughter and as the man came into shore they walked over with supplies and after a little bit of organization all hopped on and continued their way downstream. We were not sure of their final destination, but this was not something that we saw every day!
After lunch we continued south on Oregon Route 26 then onto Route 97 and eventually into the town of Bend. Julie & I had been to Bend two years prior. We had driven down from Seattle while Bubbles was in the shop for a month waiting on parts. Our good friend Tyler from Tampa was in Bend for work and we wanted to see him. We were there for 2 nights and loved it so much we wanted to go back again. Bend, much like Austin, Texas has a “Keep Bend Weird” kind of vibe; although on a much smaller scale. The city is fun & quirky, has a ton of great restaurants, breweries and the people here are just great.
Upon arriving in Bend, we found parking downtown and started to walk around. After stopping in a few gift shops to get postcards and a tee shirt we needed a bit of a caffeine fix and stopped at Bellatazza Coffee for an americano & espresso. I was in need of a cigar as well, so we walked a few blocks to the Cigar Chapel where I stocked up. We then walked around poking our heads into a few shops before hopping back into Bubbles and heading to the campground to set up for the night.
“The Camp” Campground
Generally, it’s hard to find “camping” in a city or urban area that is close enough to walk or bike to where you want to go. This wasn’t an issue in Bend, however. After a little internet sleuthing, we found a campground called “The Camp”. The Camp was located in the city of Bend and just a 10-15-minute bike ride from the downtown as well as most of the breweries. The Camp had half its spaces open for RV’s, 5th Wheels and Trailers and the other half had vintage (and restored) 1940, 1950 and 1960 trailers that you could stay in much like a hotel room. The property was set up with the road in the middle in a big U shape with spaces all along the edges. There were bathroom and shower trailers in the front and in the middle, it had common space with tables, chairs and grills for use, free of charge. It really was one of the neatest RV/Camp ideas that we had seen.
Boss Rambler Beer Club Brewery
After getting set up and checking out “The Camp” we decided to check out a few of the local breweries that we had missed the last time in town. We hopped on our bikes and took off. Since we had been in Bend 2 years prior, we had started following an Instagram account that was based in Bend called BendBeerSnob. We reached out to find out if any new breweries had opened or what he recommended. Boss Rambler Beer Club was recommended; so off we went. Boss Rambler was a little over two miles from The Camp and as we had been in the car for a lot of the day, we decided to take a more scenic route. We rode over to Bend’s downtown biking along a few of its main streets before heading down to its main park, Drake Park. It was a warm and sunny day and as such we saw a ton of people swimming and putting their tubes into the adjacent Deschutes River. We continued on a short distance until we reached Boss Rambler.
Julie and I had visited a lot of small breweries over the past 2 ½ years. While we do love and have a passion for beer, visiting these small breweries wasn’t only for the beer. We found that in general, the bartenders and patrons at the breweries were friendly and gave great advice about what to do and see in their town. After chaining our bikes up we walked in and took a seat at the bar. Boss Rambler had a really cool vibe. The atmosphere to us seemed to be a Southern California beach resort that also had a coffee bar. Julie & I each had a beer here as well as an order of fries from the adjacent food truck. Once we were done, we hopped back onto our bikes.
We headed back into downtown and were a bit hungry. We looked at a food map on our phones and decided that as we had not had Mexican food in quite a while, we should stop at Worthy Brewing Taps & Tacos. A brewery & taco shop all in one? Yes, it’s true! We sat on their sidewalk patio and ordered at the bar. Julie had their Lights Out Stout while I tried their Sports Pilsner. Both were delicious and paired extremely well with the fish and short rib tacos that we ordered. After finishing we settled our tab and rode off towards our last stop of the night.
We rode back towards The Camp then went 1 mile past it before we reached Bevel Craft Brewing. This brewery was pretty neat as to our surprise it was part of a much larger property. The brewery took up the actual building on the property but behind it there was a food truck/cart area called “The Patio @ 9th Street Village”. There were picnic and Adirondack style chairs in the middle with 4 food vendors surrounding the seating. You could go in and order a beer then walk out and order food from one of the vendors. It was a pretty neat scene. Julie and I walked in and ordered a beer. We then walked back outside, found seating and did some people watching. There were a few smaller disc-golf holes in the middle between a few of the picnic tables, so we played a bit while drinking our beers. We were a bit sad that we were not hungry as the food looked and smelled pretty great around us. After finishing our beer, we hopped back onto our bikes and rode as the sun was setting back to our campground.
The Planets Last Blockbuster Video
The next morning after packing up and having a nice chat with Tim, the manager of the Camp we had one last stop to make in Bend before we left; Blockbuster. Yes, that Blockbuster, the huge video rental chain from the 1990’s and early 2000’s. There is still one left and its located in Bend. It was only a few miles away from where we camped and as we turned the corner, we spotted it. The store looked just as I had remembered it (as they all generally looked the same, big block letters in yellow and blue spelling out BLOCKBUSTER on the roof). We took a few pictures on the outside and even met a family from Winnipeg Canada who were taking a few pictures next to us and had come all the way to Bend just to see this Blockbuster.
We then went inside, and nostalgia really hit home. Besides DVD’s now filling the aisles, the store looked exactly the same as the ones that had graced the streets back in Rochester. There was a sign telling you what movies were coming out and when as well as another that had current staff picks. There was the candy and popcorn section as well. The only thing different about this Blockbuster was that they had a small apparel section where you could buy Blockbuster shirts with a slightly different logo that said, “Last Blockbuster on the Planet”.
It was really pretty surreal being in a Blockbuster in 2019. People were still coming in and renting DVD’s just like they did 20 years prior. We asked one of the guys working how and why is this place still here. We were told that as outside of Bend is pretty rural people don’t get great internet service. Streaming services can be pretty bad and it’s just sometimes a lot easier to come into Blockbuster and rent basically whatever you want. This made sense but still it was crazy that we were still standing in the last Blockbuster. Julie and I couldn’t leave without getting anything, so we bought a shirt and a magnet before heading out and back into Bubbles.
Next up…We head to Oregon’s most famous National Park….Crater Lake National Park!