A Wintery Walk – The Holidays Day 10

One of the things that I miss the most while living in South Korea is the ability to go outside and take a stroll after a nice snow storm. I can do it, but I find myself deep in the city crowd, and it is not really fun because the wind bites, and the cold digs down deep into my bones clinging to them for hours after I return home. Being in Central Oregon at Black Butte Ranch, I was able to take the time to go out on one of these walks through the various bike paths and enjoy the scenery and the calm and quite.

Black Butte Ranch turns into a place where I can breathe easier and reflect on life during the winter. When I left on my walk, I thought that I would be the only person out on the bike paths, but I was surprised at the amount of people out there doing the same thing. Most of them were families taking the time away from their televisions and warmth of their houses to enjoy what the Ranch has to offer. Or they were out to give their dogs a little bit of time in the snow. But they were few and far between, so most of the time I felt like I had the whole place for myself.

Every turn took me to a place I was familiar with due to all of the time I have been able to spend out here during the summer. But with a blanket of snow over it all, it gives it a new look like it was the first time I was seeing it. I know I was out on the Ranch by myself, and not sharing these moments with anybody else, but it was the fact that I was out there by myself that made me feel like I was walking away with something that was completely mine. It was the walk that returned me to a simpler time when I had these moments to myself instead of the hustle and bustle and the constant contact of the busy city.  Even though it was a little bit of exercise, the walk was the thing I needed in order to recharge the batteries I needed to take on the last semester at my school.

I love the activity that can be found at this vacation spot during the summer as I hear the voices of children laughing from the various pools or the folks taking their voyages on the horses that they can rent out there, but I think the winter time is my favorite time at the Ranch. The fact that there is not as much to do forces me to take the time to stop and look at the Ranch a little more closely. The ruddiness my cheeks gathered and the calm I collected made it one of my favorite moments on this trip so far.

 

A Citizen without a Government – The Holidays Day 9

It was time for a change of scenery yesterday, so I left Portland behind to head off to central Oregon. I went from skies covered in clouds spitting out rain to clear skies and ground full of snow. It was nice to get into this winter landscape and watch the change along the way. The driving got a little slow over the Santiam Pass because the roads got icy, and there were a bunch of people who had the same idea that we did as they traveled the same path, but nobody was in a hurry, so it just added to the scenery, and made for an enjoyable drive.

Along the way, there was a discussion about how the closing of the government would affect the common man, and if we would ever see any of the effects. Granted we could watch the market as it did its crazy dance everyday, but as long as we did not panic with all of the other traders, it should not affect us very much. I do feel sorry for those people without work right now because the people governing this country couldn’t come together to come up with a solution to the problem. I would hope that they would eventually get their jobs back or find something to hold them over in the meantime. There was also a talk about how the National Parks would be closed, but what exactly that meant. Did that mean that they would put gates over the parks, and not allow anybody to enter, or would they just leave them open so people could come and go as they pleased. It didn’t really hit us until we stopped at the Sweet Home Ranger Station in the Willamette National Forest. This is a nice half way point where we can usually stop for a bathroom break, and get the dog out for a bit. Even with our conversation, we did not think ahead enough to think whether this station would be opened or not.

It was obviously closed. It looked like the trailheads that were there were still available to hike if we wished to do so, and there were some port-a-potties outside that we could use, but nobody was keeping them clean. Luckily, we were early enough into the shutdown where they weren’t too trashed yet, but it was only a matter of time before this would change. There were no rangers there to guide us, and no maps or information made available. The forest service was one of the organizations that was no longer working. It was a little of a discomfort, but it did not affect us too much. On the news later that night I found out that the National Parks in warmer climes, such as Joshua Tree, were still open for people to drive through but the visitors’ centers were closed and they were not collecting money to maintain the beauty of these places. The parks in colder climes, such as Crater Lake, had closed the road up to the more scenic sites because of the danger involved with keeping them clear for visitors. It has caused some problems right now, but if this continues to when it gets warmer and visitors come out to see these sites, it might be a bigger problem with how things are maintained.

As I settled into my new spot for the night, I wondered if the government would get back to governing instead of fighting all of the time. There are people who need them to do their jobs, and the things that make this country beautiful might be eventually be compromised. It is only a matter of time before American feel more of the effects of this shutdown, and it shouldn’t be about which side is right or wrong. It should be about compromise and making this a great place for everybody to live in.

 

Have Yourself a Rainy Little Christmas – The Holidays Day 6

I know that I spend a lot of my time bringing you pictures from around the world as I get to go to some exciting places and experience some truly amazing things. I enjoy sharing these things, and I love the pictures I am able to take with my phone. Most of the pictures I share are of the landscapes and sights from the cities or countries I am visiting, and my thoughts about what goes through me as I get to see them. I am always traveling with someone, but due to their privacy I try not to include them in my blog unless I know for a fact that they will be okay with their picture up for everybody to see. Then I come back to the Unites States, and I quit taking pictures, but still blog. It is not that I do not see amazing things when I am back home; it is more that I do not go out and hunt them down. My experiences in the States is to visit with family, and do the ordinary things that most Americans do on a regular basis. Not that I don’t find this stuff interesting anymore, and that many of my followers around the world might not want to know what life is like in the United States, but I find it so routine that I have a hard time coming up with a fresh way of looking at it.

But yesterday I was able to get out of the house for a little bit and not go to one of the malls packed with last minute shoppers. I got to experience Christmas in a way that I usually do not get to experience it, the Portland rain. I have been in Portland before for Christmas, but it has been a long time since I have been in its rain. I know that a lot of people will think that because I come from Colorado that I grew up with the cliche Christmas experience of trudging through the snow every Christmas morning and drinking hot chocolate while a blizzard raged on outside, but this was not always the case. I did get to have a few white Christmases, but there were other times that I was walking around in a t-shirt and enjoying the sun. In fact, my first post of the year talked about this exact thing.

But there are many people around the world that experience Christmas in a way that is not like the one that is usually depicted on the Hallmark Channel. They put up their Santa Clauses, lights and decorations, pretending that a big snow will come and give it that extra something that makes the holidays the holidays. But it never happens. It rarely snows in Portland. In fact, a typical Christmas here is usually covered with a rain cloud as a drizzle turns everything into a lush green. It is not the cliche, but it is not wrong. It is just the way that they enjoy the holidays in this part of the world.

It reminds me of the last couple of Christmases I have gotten to enjoy in New Zealand and Australia. There will never be a chance for them to experience snow on this day because Christmas comes in the middle of their summer. But this does not stop them from putting up the same decorations that we would see in the United States, and play the same carols over the shopping loud speaking that speak of snow. It felt out of place, but it did not take the holiday away.

I guess the thing that I took out of this recent experience is that the holiday is going to come no matter what. It might not be the same as it is pictured on postcards and television, but it is still a moment to spend the day with the people that make it special. It will take a force greater than the weather to not allow this day to come every year. So for all of you out there that celebrate this day, I wish you a Merry White One, or a Sunny Holiday or like where I get to enjoy the day this year, a Rainy Little Christmas.

Santiam Pass – Around the World Day 43

Yesterday was the last voyage west before the last big one back home to complete the whole circle around the world. It was a short voyage this time that did not involve a plane or a train. Instead I took a drive over the Santiam Pass from Central Oregon to make it over to the Portland area of Oregon. This drive is a beautiful drive most of the way, but there are a couple of places where you can see the skeleton of what was once a great forest but due to recent fires, it is now just a bunch of burned out trees. There are times where this look a little depressing, as if we have lost something great by having the forest fire. It is a little depressing at first but when I found out more about forest fires, they are not always the terrible thing that we think about them.

Forest fires, if they happen naturally, are an important part of the revitalization process. Pine cones need the heat of a fire in order to open in order to plant its seed and create a new tree. The old burned down trees add the much needed nutrients to the soil to let those trees grow. So even though it may look like a devastated landscape right after a fire, if you keep coming back to visit the same places where the fire took place, you will see that they are slowly starting to come back and turn into the amazing forest that you once remembered them as. There are a few places along the Santiam Pass that you can see this progress. There have been many times that I have gone over the pass and I can now start to see a significant change in what left behind. It makes me feel good that something can come out of so much destruction.

But in order for these fires to work this way, we need to let the forests alone and let them go through the process naturally. This means that we should not be cleaning up the ground cover and letting it alone so so can let this rejuvenation process happen. But this can be very dangerous for communities that are near big forests that could go up at any time with one ill placed lightning strike. It leaves an interesting debate. How far should we go to keep people safe, and what does that mean for the forests that we love so much that we moved near them in the first place? This is the debate that is going on in-between the fire fighters whose job it is to protect those homes, and the environmental programs whose major concern it is to protect the forests for future generations. There should be some middle ground that can be reached that would satisfy both parties, because they are both important for future generations. It is interesting to think about, and know that during this crazy time of year where you turn on the news and see another forest fire destroying another community, that people are working hard to come up with a reasonable solution to both problems. But it is up to us to make sure that these fires are not started by us. We need to think about what we are doing while we are out in the wilderness, so we do not leave any destruction behind. That is the important thing that we can do for the future of the beauty of the outdoors.

Back to Bend – Around the World Day 42

My last post on Bend, Oregon might have been a little narrow-minded in the way the people who have lived there for a long time thought about how their town has exploded over the last couple of decades, so I went back to Bend yesterday evening to see old friends and enjoy the downtown area. I would like to give my opinion of that area of the town that does not involve the jaded view that comes from people when their town get crowded. Instead, I would like to look at from the point of view from the business owners who look forward to the busy tourist seasons that bring people to their stores, and how the downtown area caters to those people.

I visited two great locations while there, one to get a drink at, and the other to have dinner at. The first one was a Mexican restaurant called Hola!, and even though the food there looked good, I was really only there to get a margarita. It is almost impossible to find a good margarita in South Korea, so when I have the opportunity to have good one while I am in the United States, I do not turn it down. Hola does a great job with their margaritas, and it even comes in pitcher form. That can be dangerous, but when you share it with three different people, it is fine. We went for the blood red margarita which did not come with the usual off yellow color, but was still delicious. Also, being a Mexican restaurant, they served us chips and two different kinds of salsas. The strange thing about this side though was they used home made potato chips instead of corn chips. They were good potato chips, and it was good salsa, but the combination of the two didn’t really work for me, but I was able to forgive that fact considering the further north I get from Mexico, the weirder the Mexican food gets.

For dinner, I wanted a good hamburger because I have not had one yet all during this trip, and once again, it is an item that is not easily come by in South Korea, even though they are easier to find than a good margarita. I, of course, instantly thought of the many brew pubs that are found the downtown area of Bend. I first went to the Deschuttes Brewery because it was right down the street from where I was, and I remember them having really good food there. But I showed up to one of the major tourist destinations of downtown Bend at 6:30 on a Friday night during the height of the tourist season. I would have starved to death before I ever got a table in the place, so I went down to the other brewery that I knew had great food and was a little more off the beaten path, the Bend Brewing Company, and let me tell you it made all of the difference.

I found a place at the bar, and order an Exploregon, which they market as a hoppy lager. I usually enjoy the hoppier beers, such as IPAs, but the heat that Central Oregon is experiencing lately, made me want to have something a little lighter. This was the perfect choice because it still has a little bit of a bite like an IPA, but gave me that refreshing feeling that I was looking for in a beer. The food there was really good too. I was able to find that hamburger that I was looking for. But the nice part of the evening was that our beers were comped for us because the friend that Christine and I were meeting down there was also in town, but used to live in Bend for over ten years. She was really good friends with the bartender, and he was happy to see one of his old regulars back in town. It was nice to see that some things remained even through all of the growing pains that the town had been through over the years. This bartender was also really excited that things had picked up over the summer. He talked about how it was his favorite time of the year because it got easier and easier for him every year as business continued to grow.

The Bend Brewing Company has gone through a lot of change too since I first walked through their doors. There used to be two large buildings crowding it on either side. They were bought and torn down by another company who wished to create some housing, but the last recession put an end to that idea, and the lots remained empty while Bend Brewing Company continued to do great business. Apparently business had been really good lately because those two lots have now been added to the bar’s grounds. They now have a parking lot, and nice patio that looks out over the river behind its building. It is nice to see that the growth has helped companies that treat their employees well, and create a great product.

After dinner, we wandered down the river and were able to catch a live band that was set up for the entertainment of anybody who decided to come down to the area for the evening. There was an added bonus of them being a Grateful Dead cover band, and we caught two songs of their set, which means we watched about a half an hour of it. They were pretty good, and the lead singer sounded exactly like Bob Weir, so much so that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t him. They had set up a booth where you get one of the many craft beers that Bend has to offer, and another booth that boasted Oregon’s newest industry, marijuana. It created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect evening. So even though there are many people who are angry about the growing pains that the town is going through, there is still a corner of Bend, the downtown area, that has been able to hold on to that small town atmosphere and create a beautiful place to hang out, and meet friends both old and new. It will be hard to keep people away when the town has a place like this to boast about, and maybe it is the duty of the ones who do not like it to try to figure out how to live with it and grow along with it. The fact is that it isn’t going to change. Too much has been set in motion that it would be impossible to go back to the way it once was. I know change might be a scary thing, but it could also be the answer you are looking for. Embrace it and maybe the change that is made is one you are more comfortable with.

There is a Place – Around the World Day 40

I have been spending the last few days in Central Oregon, and like always, I have loved the time I have gotten to spend out here. Most of the time when people think of Central Oregon, they think of three different towns, Sister, Redmond, and Bend, but my home base is not any of these three places. Instead, I have been able to stay under the shadow of one of the smaller mountains in the area, but still one of the more prominent ones. It is a quiet collection of houses, a twenty minute drive from Sisters named Black Butte Ranch, and it happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

This is the place I go to recharge my batteries. After a long, hard school year, I need the time to collect myself and feel like a human being again. It has also been the perfect place to have a vacation from my vacation. I know it sounds kind of snobbish, but all of that running around I did earlier in the summer wore me out, and if I did not take a little time to relax and slow down, then I would not have been ready for the next school year. That is why this place is so important to me.

Black Butte Ranch is located in the middle of national forest, and its borders are limited, so it will never experience any growth, and the people who own places here like it just that way. It does have three different restaurants that a person can enjoy, each having a different level of service associated with it. It also has two world class golf courses that you can play with some of the best views I have ever seen on a golf course. If this is not your cup of tea, there are a bunch of tennis courts, and they have been adding a few pickle ball courts for people who do not like to run as much. There are four different pools, each having a different level of activity involved with them, so you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lounge next to a pool at one of them, or get crazy with the kids running around and screaming at another one. There are also a great amount of bike paths that will take you to many beautiful spots around the the place, and also make it easier to travel around the ranch on rather than driving a car all of the time. And there is also a small pond in the front where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes, or join the other people that go out there with their fishing gear to practice catching a fish or two.

Even though it has all of this to offer, it is not the thing that I enjoy the most about being able to stay here every year. It is the fact that the people who run Black Butte Ranch have made a conscious choice to keep all of the commercial endeavors from the place. There are a couple of shops that will sell some select items, and there is a small convenience store that you can get some basic necessities at, but if you want to do some serious shopping, you need to go off to one of the other towns around the area. It is an opportunity to get back to the simple things in life, and put those other concerns away. Every time I do this, I am happy that I get to slow down for a bit because that is what Black Butte Ranch forces you to do. And even though I do take advantage of the facilities of this place, it is more about getting back to nature, and enjoying what that has to offer. I am glad that I have been able to stop here on relax on my trip around the world. It had helped me get back to where I need to be in order to be effective during the rest of the year.

 

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

It has been about fifteen years since I first drove through the town of Bend, Oregon. Back then it was a small town at the base of the Cascade Mountains and thriving in its high desert environment. Not a lot of people had ever heard of this town set in the heart of Oregon, and the people of Bend never thought anybody ever would. They had a couple of breweries that sold their beers to the locals, and you could find a taste from one of them as far away as Portland. But during that fifteen years, something happened and the landscape of Bend has forever ben changed, but within that change is the people who always lived there while they watched their city change from a mountain community into the budding city that it is turning into today.

When I first rode through the streets of this town there were only 50,000 people living there, but according to recent reports there is over 90,000 people living there today. It has nearly doubled in size from those earlier days. What had brought so many people to this place? It can’t be the college there because the branch of OSU didn’t take its first freshman until the year 2015, and nobody moves to a town because of a community college, no matter how good it could be. It can’t be because some company decided to locate there and started to bring in people from out of town in order to run it because the number one industry in Bend, Oregon is still tourism. It can’t be the low cost of housing and cost of living because with the sudden influx of people, housing has risen to ridiculous heights which has caused the costs of food and basic needs to rise as well. There is not much in the way of living that would bring a person to change their lifestyles to come to this place to live.

It has to be the fact that this is just a beautiful spot in the United States. There are mountains all around for people to stare at. It has a great downtown area that has been around since the 1920s and has a feel of a European market. The Deschutes River lazily rolls through the center of town, giving people a place where they can swim or take an inner tube out on to so they can slowly travel the expanse of the city. If the numerous breweries bore you with their outstanding beer, then there is still wine that is brought in from right over the hill from Willamette Valley. The city attracts some great chefs that have opened great restaurants all over the place. There are a variety of outdoor activities from skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor in the winter months to riding bikes, fishing and camping during the summer months. For many people, it is the perfect place to open up shop and settle down.

But that is not what I am here to tell you about. I am here to tell you what I saw on a bumper sticker while I visited this town the other day, that “Bend Suck, Don’t Move Here.” This bumper sticker was obviously from one of the people who had lived through the growth and could remember the quaint town that they once belonged to. They could remember a time when they were able to make a living in the town and did not have to worry about a bunch of people coming in from all the different places in the world and transforming their town into the image of what they thought it should look like. For these people, Bend is going through some growing pains. It is like many places in America where the people who lived there sucked out all of the energy and worth of the place before tossing it away like a used banana peel to go off to find another place to suck out the worth there. They do not care about the community that much and look at it as a place where they can make some monetary gain even if that means the destruction of the people who have grown up there and find identity within its boundaries.

Now, I do not claim to be a resident from Bend. I only get to visit it from time to time, and it is one of my favorite small cities in the United States. I would love it if I got the opportunity to live there someday, but would be just as happy to see it a day or two every year. I do understand the pain they feel as they watch their town transform right before their eyes. I got to see the boom that happened to Denver, Colorado in the early 90s when it seemed as if the city could not build fast enough to accommodate the people who were moving there. I have watched the attitude of the place change from one that was laid back to one where a fight between the east coast and the west coast ravaged to see who could gain control of the city. I watched as the same people claimed that they loved the mountains just outside of the city and then not treat them with the respect that they deserved. I went from a place where I could stretch out to a place where I felt confined by the limited space I had. It disturbed me even more this last summer during my visit as I watched the boom start all over again. The city I grew up in does not even look the same anymore as changes are constantly happening. I see the same thing happening with Bend, and I understand the people’s pain because when the bust comes and the people are forced to find another town that they can exploit, then they are going to be left with the mess they left behind.

The best way I can explain the way they feel comes from a time a few years ago while they were still early into their expansion. I was sitting in a bar in downtown Bend with a couple of friends who lived there. An obvious tourist came into the place and asked the crowd for directions to some other bar. Someone from the back of the bar looked over at him and said, “Yeah, what you want to do is go south from here and keep on going until you reach California.”

I guess the lesson to learn from this is to love these places for what they are, but do not try to grab on to the magic that they create because you can’t if you are an outsider. They know what it is that makes their place great even though they might not be able to explain it to you. What your vision is to make it great is not what is meant to be there. Let the city live, and breathe, and grow at its own rate, and do not change it into something that it is not.