July 27, 2017
Boom, boom, boom True Rolling stone Vagabond to the bone Address unknown Open road's my home
Greetings from Bend!
The morning light seeps through the mesh of my quarter-dome tent a skosh before 6 am, letting me know it’s time for the day to begin. I am greeted by the evergreen disposition of un-perturbed Ponderosa Pines as I step through the tent flap. I breath in the fresh, country air slow and deep, then savor it in my lungs with the same delicacy as allowing a Hershey’s Kiss to fully melt on the tongue.
The National Forest Road (NFR) 4610 has served as my hideaway home for the past eight days. Tucked behind a thick curtain of trees and sagebrush, along the edge of the Deschutes National Forest, my refuge is about three miles yonder from the town limit of Bend, Oregon.
I pack my tent, sleeping bag, and hammock in the trunk of my car, as I have done for the past eight mornings, uncertain if I will return to this serene dirt road for another evening, or if I will venture beyond this wooded oasis. Footprints, tire tracks, and a dribble of Arm and Hammer toothpaste spit, are the only traces I leave behind. The latter will quickly be rendered to dry, white dust specks on this hot, July day, thus any trace of me will be gone with the wind.
Driving towards Bend, a town known for its annual free hot-air balloon festival, aptly named, “Balloons over Bend,” there is a creative fire in my belly. Along the way, I pass the unguarded RV park where I was able to sneak into and take my first shower in about four days. A few minutes later I pass another landmark, RE Jewell Elementary School. It was here, on a still morning, that I oooed and awwwed, as I watched hot air balloonists inflate their mammoth nylon crafts, and take to the sky. I felt like I was offered a view of unmitigated freedom, and shared sense of connection to the soaring balloonists.
I arrive at my morning office aka the Starbucks across form the natural grocery store. I purchase a tall drip coffee and gain access to hours of internet access, a power outlet, and a sink to wash my face and fill the collection of empty water bottles stashed in my backpack. I muse at the irony that life as a semi-off grid nomad offers an immense level of personal freedom, but properly washing my face comes at a price of $1.85.
The time fly by as I churn out material for the blog, or the tether that keeps me connected to my family and friends as I journey throughout the world and further into myself. I write for hours, until my rumbling belly demands that I hoist the white flag, surrender from the creative flow, and return to my Toyota Camry where a cardboard box full of provisions awaits. The menu consists of; canned beans (black or pinto,) spinach, corn, or carrots, a jar of peanut butter, three apples, dried Ramen noodles, and two bearding bagels. I decide to head to Drake’s Park for lunch.
The Deschutes River divides the town in soft, puzzle-piece fashion as the water bends around pockets of office buildings and flows past blocks of houses adorned by well-tended gardens. A gauntlet of roundabouts guides me towards the sprawling park and the modest, two-story, brick and mortar downtown scene.
The breeze tussles the grass as I find a spot in-between the piles of abandoned dog poop that blotch what is otherwise a beautiful, sprawling thirteen-acre park. I am close enough to the river’s edge to be able to drink in the tranquil expressions of inner tubers as they float by in lackadaisical procession. The serenity on their faces is intoxicating and inviting, so I close my leather journal, and recline in full reptilian mode, basking in the sun with closed eyes and limbs outstretched atop my navy and maize tapestry.
I decide to return to my evening roost where I will camp another night. As turn left off of the highway and onto NFR 4610, I take a moment to admire my chutzpah. Here I am, twenty-three-years old, camping alone in the forest, over 2,800 miles from home, and less than a mile from the highway. No gate, no guard booth, no forest ranger on duty, it is just me and whoever else that decides to spend the night along this strip of road. The true crime podcast listening side of me asks if I should feel nervous about being so exposed, but truth be told, I feel elated, strong, and confident.
Well-practiced by now, I set up camp in a flash and nestle into the crux of my Eno Hammock, where I concoct poetry and watch the dust that gets displaced from the occasional car that drives past. The particles shimmer in the golden hour like pieces of confetti thrown in exultation of another Earthly rotation. The sun offers a triumphant finale in a full spectrum of cotton candy hues.
Not every day on the road consists of bathing elephants in Thailand’s rivers or walking up waterfalls. Some days are rather plain and simple. There is a beginning, middle, and end with snacks in-between, yet these days are just as gratifying as the days I spent defying nature. No flash or bang, no hoopla or celebration, just me- enjoying the company of myself.
Feeling full, I decide to leave Bend tomorrow and head south to Mount Shasta. I figure that no one will have any recollection of me after I leave, but Bend, yes this town, will long remain impressed upon my mind. The nine days I spent here is the longest amount of time I have stayed in one place for months, and the longest I have gone without seeing an old friend or making a new one.
Bend has allowed me to find the balance between participating in traditional society while nurturing the nature-loving, one person Queendom I am sovereign over. Thank you Bend, for teaching me to how to fill my cup while remaining still.
That Blonde Vagabond