"A Mask and a Minivan" - Our Pandemic Road Trip (Part 6 - Oregon)
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
This is the sixth post about the 5-month road trip my wife, daughter, and I took in the first half of 2021. If you want to start at the beginning, you can go back and read a little of the background/ context behind the trip.
I took a long hiatus in finishing these posts, but am finally revisiting!
Leaving California was hard. We'd driven all the way across the country in order for my dad to meet his first grandchild and then didn't get nearly enough time with him due to our daughter contracting chicken pox. Still, when we headed north on our way to Oregon – which would mark the beginning of our circuitous route back to Kansas, we hoped that our string of bad luck was behind us.
Though I'd lived in the Bay Area for the first eighteen years of my life, I'd never driven north to Oregon (except perhaps once when I was a young child, but I couldn't remember this). Once we got passed the Sacramento area, the drive was completely new to me and I was again reminded how beautiful a place California is. After making the compulsory stop at In n' Out around Redding, we continued north through the scenic Mt. Shasta area before crossing the border into Oregon and stopping at our Airbnb, a little farm stay just a short drive from Crater Lake National Park. The plan was to visit the national park the next morning, before continuing on to Bend, where we'd stay for a week before moving on to Missoula, MT.
It was Mother's Day, the day we drove up to Crater Lake National Park from our Airbnb. We were staying in the small town of Chiloquin and it was about a 30 mile drive up Route 62 to the park. That morning, there weren't many people on the road and we drove through the foggy, rural landscape with Father John Misty as the soundtrack to our drive (this was about a year ago now and I remember that detail specifically as the music came on randomly and I'd never heard him before). It was already May so I was surprised by the snow we found on the ground as we entered the park and ascended the mountain up to the ridge overlooking the lake. In fact, there was so much snow on the ground that much of the road around the park was completely closed. Since we didn't have more than a few hours to spend at the park anyhow, we parked and walked around the rim of the lake for a maybe 3 miles up and back. Our stay at the park was short, but it was undoubtedly one of the most scenic, beautiful national parks we'd ever visited.
Upon leaving Crater Lake, we continued the few hour drive on our way through the Oregon desert to Bend.
As we entered the city of Bend and made our way to our Airbnb located just off the Deschutes River Trail, it immediately struck me how breathtaking Bend is. In addition to the natural beauty of the trees and the river and the mountains in the distance, the city itself is exceedingly clean with the buildings seemingly varying from tasteful new construction to beautifully renovated older buildings. At one point, several days into our stay – as we ate flavorful tacos from an outdoor food stand and sauntered down a manicured green lawn of a hill towards a sparkling river full of blond healthy-looking kayakers, the snow-capped mountains overlooking us like in some photo used for a microbrewery label – I joked: "Are we in the Good Place?" I half expected angels to start flying across the cloudless cerulean sky.
But that's getting a tad bit ahead of things.
Several days earlier we were settling into our week-long stay in Bend nicely. We'd already taken a hike or two on the nearby Deschutes River Trail (highly recommended, it's beautiful) when one afternoon, my wife took our daughter in the backpack for a walk with a friend from New York who'd moved to Bend. I was on a call with an interview candidate, when my wife returned with her friend holding our crying daughter. My wife's head and face were scratched up and my daughter was visibly shaking. Apparently, just outside our Airbnb, my wife – with our daughter strapped to her back no less – had tripped on her shoes and tumbled to the ground, before doing a sort-of roll forward. We weren't sure whether our daughter had hit her head, but when she started vomiting we called some doctor family members and eventually decided to take a trip to the ER.
At the ER we were forced to wait for several hours, all the while trying to avoid COVID patients. It grew late – way past our daughter's bed time. What a mess. And on top of everything else that had happened on our trip it all felt almost comical. We finally saw someone around midnight. Luckily, our daughter was fine.
Hospital visits aside (but how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?), our stay in Bend had plenty of highlights. In addition to the aforementioned Deschutes River Trail, one afternoon we visited Smith Rock State Park, which had views on par with (or better than) many of the national parks we'd visited. Additionally, the food scene in Bend is great and we thoroughly enjoyed most of the restaurants we visited.
Next up: on to a longer stay in Missoula, MT