Today I took a long drive out to Prineville, a pretty little town about 40 minutes northeast of Bend, and up the scenic Crooked River toward Bowman Dam for no particular reason other than to blow the stench of Bend off myself and get the sight of strip malls and clogged highways out of my eyes.
I was glad I did. I was reminded of what we originally moved to Bend for, and what Bend doesn't have anymore: small-town charm, friendly and down-to-earth people, a slower pace of life, affordable homes, wide-open spaces, unobstructed views, no traffic congestion. (Two cars passing each other on Main Street at the same time is almost a traffic jam; see photo above.)
Bend offered all that and more 25 years ago, but thanks to decades of hell-bent-for-leather development it's been uglified and crappified and suckified beyond all recognition -- especially on the Eastside, where I have the misfortune to live.
A quick examination of the climate charts on city-data.com indicates that Prineville also has at least a somewhat milder climate than Bend. For example, the average daily high in Prineville in mid-April is 60 degrees; in Bend it's 55. The average daily high in Prineville in mid-May is around 68; in Bend it's 65. I can't be certain, but the graphs for sunshine and cloud cover seem to show that Prineville gets a little bit more sun too.
This tends to bear out the fact, well-known to locals, that Prineville is the Banana Belt of Central Oregon. Gardeners can grow plants there that wouldn't survive in Bend outside of a greenhouse.
I'm not saying Prineville is paradise. It's even more isolated than Bend, for one thing, and has even fewer entertainment options and cultural amenities. And the political climate is so conservative it makes Bend look like Berkeley.
So I don't think we'll be pulling up stakes for Prineville in the foreseeable future. But it's good to pay the place a visit once in a while just to remember what Bend once had, and stupidly threw away.