There’s a lot of really interesting history to Bend, Oregon and, as it turns out, the best way to experience it might just be on a futuristic device.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of hopping aboard a Segway before I visited The Bend Tour Company recently. I’d seen them gliding around town, but I was certain that I’d find a way to crash the ride and injure myself. (More on that in a minute.)
But one of the first things owner Bret Graham explains is that it’s impossible to tip over a Segway – either forward or backward. A quick introduction to the devices inside his store in Bend’s new Box Factory retail space revealed it was a lot like snowboarding – shifting your weight from your toes to your heels. And after an initial nervous lap around his indoor beginner course, it was actually easier than I thought it would be.
We made a short lap around the parking lot to make sure we knew what we were doing and we were off – a perfect adventure on an 80-degree day in May.
Bret offers several different tour options each day, including an Arts Tour, Brew Taps Tour and two and a half hour Summer Sunset Tour that includes the history and attractions on his traditional tours, but with stops at various brewpubs for samples (or a pint) and some food. That tour wraps up at the Crux Fermentation Project where the view of the sun setting behind the Cascades is absolutely spectacular. (Looking for a little more adrenaline rush during your vacation? Check out the heli-tours offered through BTC.)
His classic tour is an hour and a half history lesson on Bend as you roll through the Old Mill District, along the Deschutes River and through some of Bend’s original neighborhoods. He talks of Bend’s logging background and tells the story behind “Whisky Flats.” We stopped in front of Bend’s “2nd Most Haunted Place” and learned about a particularly interesting steel pole on the bank of the river.
The tour itself is an educational experience even for long-time locals like myself. I learned about a street in town that features homes with 17 different architectural designs, I saw Bend’s “greenest” home and I saw the spot of Bend’s very first brewery. (Hint: It’s NOT Deschutes Brewery.)
Speaking of breweries, we did make our way to Boneyard Brewing for a quick sample before calling our abbreviated tour a success. Well, mostly a success. One of the riders on our tour proved true what Bret told us during our orientation: it’s impossible to tip them over, and it’s nearly impossible to crash. (He – and the Segway – are fine.)
As we rolled back into the shop – literally – I was already planning ahead. My brother, an avid cyclist who lives in Nebraska has said he wants to explore Bend on two wheels – but he didn’t say it had to be by bike.
Now, if we can only figure out how to do a wheelie.