Bender in Oregon

Too many people told me to go to Bend to ignore, this was my next destination. I'd just hitched up from California to the northern Washington coast, then to middle of the state to Leavenworth where I'd enjoyed the past week making new friends, getting some kick around cash and tasting some good beers.

A couple days before heading to Bend I'd hopped on to Couch Surfing to see if I could find a host there, and stumbled upon Billy Jensen's profile. I knew Billy Jensen from Salt Lake City, he worked at a brewery over there. I still had his number in my phone and gave him a call.

"Kenny!", he answered. Sure enough, he was living in Bend now working at a new brewery there called 10 Barrel. "My home is your home, come stay as long as you want", he told me. My birthday was just days away as well, coincidentally we had the same birthday, same year and all, so I'd be there for that.

Riley, one of the Vail hitchhikers I'd met and been staying with, was heading out of town and gave me a ride to the edge of it. I caught a quick ride from one guy as far as the next junction, then started walking, climbing up a steep hill amongst the beautiful scene of green. A truck seemed to slow down for me, but I had to run up the hill and just over it to where he had been able to stop. I happily hopped in, just out of breath, even happier to hear that he'd be passing right through Bend, still some hours away.

We cruised through the day, eventually arriving in Bend just after dark. I walked straight to the Deschuttes Brewery and sipped a beer until I heard from Billy, then left to meet up with him. He'd been running around with a group of people from bar to bar and I joined him in that.

"So I got you some work if you want it", he told me, "We've got a new bottling line and it's pretty finicky, so they could probably use your help a couple days, all cash".

Getting paid to be in a brewery, sometimes life is easy. After several bars, introductions to friends and brewers, kegs and good food at friends houses, we wound up back at his place with some more beers just shooting the shit for a while. He told me that he usually slept on his couch, so I was welcome to take over the bedroom as long as I wanted.

I ended up staying in town for a couple weeks or so. I stopped into the brewery several times with Billy while he checked the tanks, we'd sip beer after endless beer. A few days I went in and helped out, feeding bottles through the new bottling line, labeling kegs and assembling boxes among other things.

The brewery offered me two cases of beer for every week I worked there, for which I only worked part of one, that along with the fact that I was staying with one of the brewers meant the fridge was never empty.

Plenty of drunken nights flew by and stops to the brew pub for great food and beers there, going to beer tastings and brewery anniversary parties with Billy and the other brewers and home brewing with another friend of ours who'd moved from Salt Lake City as well.

One night I jammed with the neighbors and locked myself out of Billy's while he was at a girl's for the night, I slept on the neighbors deck. Another night Jack Black was in town for a concert and our mutual friend was heading to his hotel room to hang with the band, but I instead pursued a pretty girl at the brewery party. She was in town staying with Billy's girl, so they both ended up coming back to the house. The two of us were left on our own when Billy went with his girl "to water the basil at the neighbors", we somehow then transitioned from a conversation about string theory into a make-out session.

Most days I'd wake up late, Billy would be home or he wouldn't be, I'd walk or use his bike and head to a brewery tour or the library to get some coding or writing done until word of nighttime activities would come up.

It was a hell of a Bender in a hell of a town, a beer town to me and many people. Finally I had to go though, I had to move on to something new, get some more action in before hitching across the country to New York in time for the hot dog eating contest on the 4th of July.

One more hungover morning, munching a jalapeno from the previous nights Mexican food run, downed a couple more Apocalypse IPAs and a coffee for good measure, then Billy dropped me off just south of town. I was Chico bound, no reason not to be, going from one great place to the next great place.

May 19, 2012 to June 6, 2012