When I moved to Bend, Oregon in June 2019, I knew there’d be an adjustment period. (See: #NeverInNewJersey Round 1 and Round 2.) What I didn’t realize, but probably should have given that I lived in New Jersey for 37 years, was that my people prefer clothes more than your average West Coaster that adjustment period would continue well into my second year in Bend.
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT H – Finders Keepers…Or Not
These photos are just from this summer – that’s how common this central Oregon phenomenon of being…what’s it called…honorable…is. Lost glasses, keys, jackets, and water bottles are constantly placed in logical, visible spots, clearly with the hope that their owners will return. I’ve even seen a $200+ bike helmet.
And things like this [on a local community Facebook page] are far from uncommon:
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT I – BEHOLD ALL OF OUR RULES…Or Not
I just love this sign so much. This is where my mind went as soon as I read it:
A group of stodgy, suited stiffs enters a windowless conference room, each taking a seat around a long, mahogany table.
“THIS MEETING OF RULE SETTING FOR CENTRAL OREGON IS NOW IN SESSION,” the woman at the head of the table booms, while her assistant jots down her every word with quill and ink. “RULE ONE: NO ONE MUST PARKETH AT ANY NATIONAL FOREST SITE WITHOUT A PASS.”
“RULE TWO: NO ONE – I REPEAT NO ONE – MAY MAKETH A PEEP ONCE THE CLOCK STRIKES TEN P.M.,” another councilperson adds.
“RULE THREE: CANINES MUST BE KEPT ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES,” a third man continues, frowning. “AT. ALL. TIMES!” He clears his throat. “You know…except if the sweet little boofalicious doodle-y wonderfulness gets hot and needs a wittle drinky poo for his wittle mouth oh yes who’s a good boy he is yes he is.”
See what I’m saying? So. Great.
#NEVERININEWJERSEY EXHIBIT J – No, Really. It’s lawlessness here.
Look at these rogue cows, on hiking trails, giving zero f*@%s:
Not unlike these these cows:
This parking spot shouldn’t be allowed:
This beach-all-to-myself definitely shouldn’t be allowed:
And who does this frog think he is?
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT K – DON’T YOU PEOPLE WORK?
I noticed something strange as soon as I moved to Bend last June. No one seemed to follow a schedule. “It must just seem that way,” I told myself. “Because it’s a tourist town.”
But then I started seeing lots of these:
That’s right. Mid-week yard sales. They’re everywhere out here. They’re everywhere, and I don’t understand. In New Jersey, yard sales happen on Saturdays and Sundays. You know. When people are…available.
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT L – That family inside a new picture frame? They live here.
I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and did a double-take. “Wait. Do I know these people?” I thought.
I had to stare at the gorgeous family for several long seconds before realizing it was an advertisement.
Do you live in a place that catches you off guard? Are these examples surprising or commonplace to you?
Two dozen ice cubes hit the bottom of six water bottles. I paused halfway, switching hands, my left fingers already numb from reaching into the ice bin for the eighth time.
Uncle Jesse’s collar rattled as he pranced from paw to paw, letting out a low whimper every few seconds. His evangelical nature revealed itself every time I began our sacred ritual: Water bottle…yes…backpack…YES…leash…YES!…sneakers…PRAISE JESUS YESSSS!!!!
I wonder if he knows what he’s in for today, I thought, pulling a package of tortillas from the fridge.
With water bottles filled, I turned to sustenance, folding a few falafel balls into a wrap for me, and a sweet potato into one for Uncle Jesse. It was getting harder to believe the entire world was on lockdown, with Mother Nature beginning to show her sweeter side, beckoning restless souls to pack a picnic or meet some friends for happy hour around a sun-soaked table.
OH GOD I MISS THIS.
I checked the weather one last time. High of 60 with “abundant sunshine.” I was still getting used to the latter. Springtime on the east coast usually brought warmer temperatures by mid-April, but also a lot more rain. Bend, Oregon, on the other hand, still saw frigid nights and little precipitation.
As I packed my hiking bag, I went the extra mile (pun sooo intended), grabbing an empty shopping sack and stuffing spare socks, a shirt, Band-Aids, an extra hat, and a hand towel into it. I cast a glance at the calendar where I’d been counting down the days until this moment.
8 miles @ Maston
Crazy hilly 13 miles @ ?? Butte
Easy 5 miles @ Shevlin Park
18 Miles @ Tumalo Reserve incl. ?? Butte (seriously does it have a name?)
Every square of 2020 was filled with pencil scribbles tracking my progress, even though the Bend Marathon, originally scheduled for April 19th, had been canceled in March, courtesy of COVID-19.
As a final step, I put two extra sandwiches, water, and a can of Coke into a cooler bag. I clicked my race belt on, grabbed my hat, and put on my dusty and trusty Altra trail running shoes.
“Allons, mon chien!” I declared, tossing Uncle Jesse’s leash and my ear buds into the shopping bag as we headed outside. Neither four months of marathon training nor eighteen months on Duolingo French would be in vain!
I took a gamble on a new trailhead about 25 minutes east, near the Badlands, and landed in an empty parking lot just before 10:30am. Scoooooore. It was rare to find an empty trailhead on a Saturday morning, even during a pandemic. While a huge part of me felt guilty every time I got in the car to find a quiet place to run, it still felt safer to pick an open, abandoned trail than play ‘dodge-a-pedestrian’ while running on my neighborhood sidewalks.
Before COVID hit, I’d spent countless hours trying to find the least-used trails in a 30-mile radius – research that now paid off handsomely.
I moseyed over to the trailhead map, popping my ear buds in and snapping my water-filled backpack around my chest. Delighted to find a network of trails long enough to cover 13+ miles (meaning I wouldn’t have to do more than two loops on the same trail), I started my audiobook, locked the car, and began jogging. Uncle Jesse eagerly darted from side to side, making sure no stick went un-sniffed.
The wide, sandy trail was packed down, mostly flat, and totally deserted. A cool breeze wafted by as if I’d placed an order. Wow. Okay. This will work. I’d spent so many training runs trudging through thick sand, narrowly missing mountain bikers, and/or getting snowed on, that this felt like running inside Darren Criss’s smile while petting puppies.
The first hour flew by, even if my pace was nothing like flying. I was 6 years older and 2030 40 (thanks, COVID-15) pounds heavier than the last time I thought I could run marathons.
But I was also four years plant-powered and properly trained now, with a rock-solid faith in both my legs and my mental fortitude. I was a week ahead of schedule [for the originally scheduled Bend Marathon on April 19th], so if I couldn’t make the six hour cut-off time today, I’d simply try again next weekend, with no one the wiser.
While I may have missed the adrenaline rush of cheering squads, the aid stations, and the course markings of an official race, I didn’t miss the hard pavement, early start time, or collective anxiety, which usually peaked 20-30 minutes before race time in the form of mile-long port-a-potty lines. I especially didn’t miss the well-intentioned, but severely misguided “Good job!” and “You got this!” cries of much faster runners as they whizzed by.
Hour two was harder than the first, as I began to realize there was no shade whatsoever; parts of the trail grew sandier while my backpack seemed to grow heavier. In hell, a mountain of sand and nothing but warm Gatorade and Donald Trump speeches will await me. Around the same time, I accepted that I would chafe in new, exciting places, despite wearing entirely road-tested gear.
I stopped just before hour three under a rare, shady tree. Uncle Jesse stared at me with big, questioning brown eyes. I pulled out our wraps and we ate them quickly. The other bonus to jogging vs. running long distances seemed to be that I could eat whatever I wanted without gastrointestinal distress. GU? Electrolyte chews? Energy bars? You can keep ’em! On all of our longer training runs jogs, we had simply stopped at the halfway mark and eaten sandwiches.
The high desert sun grew more intense, though there was still a strong breeze, and our water grew warmer as we neared hour four, running along a dreary stretch of power lines. I made the executive decision to turn back to the car for more water, cursing inwardly as my toe collided with another lava rock hidden in the thick sand.
“And the making of a hero…,” the British narrator continued on my audiobook, Natural Born Heroes. Though I’d normally hang on Christopher McDougall’s every word, I tuned in and out, distracted by trying to retrace my steps.
Just as we neared what I was (…pretty…) sure was the path to my car, I spotted a man and his dog – the first person I’d seen all day. Guhhhhh. I did an about-face and started off in the opposite direction. The unexpected detour meant it was almost five hours in before Uncle Jesse and I reached Suba-Ruby.
If we’re not even close to 20 miles, I’m calling it, I thought, defeated. I glanced at my Fitbit. 21.5 miles. I grinned maniacally.
“Oh, less than 5 miles. We are making this happen,” I said aloud. Uncle Jesse tilted his head in response.
I took a few gulps of deliciously frosty water from the cooler pack, quickly refilling Uncle Jesse’s Water Rover and my go-to bottle. I gleefully swapped out my ill-fitting bigger pack for my beloved little Camelback, and we set off to conquer the last few miles.
During the final 45 minutes, stiffness settled into my legs and every minute crawled by. I refused to look at my watch until I couldn’t bear it. Knowing I could do all 26.2 miles offered little comfort; I still had to do it. I imagined sitting on the couch with my cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s bubbly, eating whatever the living f#@& I wanted, watching my long-awaited Redbox rental, Little Women – including all of the special features, dammit.
When we finally rounded the bend back into the parking lot, I had to do two more tiny loops before my watch signaled that we’d hit our target distance. I let out a small laugh.
“You’re a marathon man now!” I shouted to Uncle Jesse, 10-year-old Vegan Wonder Dog, who had already climbed into the backseat and was staring at me with tired, but alert, eyes. Par for the course, his expression seemed to say. He hadn’t missed a single training run.
I poured water on a towel and wiped off my wind and sunburned face, wedging my “2020 Bend Marathon” trucker cap on, having finally earned it. I fed Uncle Jesse another sandwich, snapped a photo for the obligatory social media show-off, and we headed back home, where we sat on the hallway floor and shared a pint of Coconut Bliss ice cream.
Though I laid low and downed a couple of Aleve the next day -mostly for my back which wasn’t used to carrying such a large, heavy pack during runs- by Monday we were right back at it, running jogging eight miles like it was nothing.
I’m almost 38, overweight, drink like a [quarantined] fish, and have no business feeling this great after running a marathon – much more than I can say for my younger, thinner, meat-eating self.
Also I love you. And if you’re a nurse, that love is, like, getting weird.
None of these things would have happened in ye olde Garden State.
Thanks to Rainbow Cloudjumper, I even have the hashtag #NeverInNewJersey to complement this ongoing trend.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had an entirely new set of examples. (For examples A-D, click here!)
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT E
This catalog, from Central Oregon Community College, landed in my mailbox the other day. I giggled as I scanned its front page offerings.
I can’t remember exactly, but I seem to recall my local New Jersey Community College brochure looking a little more like this:
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT F
I recently went to a clothing/item exchange where a group of eight women all brought things from home that they no longer used or needed. When I arrived, I was shocked to find my friend’s living room transformed into a GoodWill-style shop. It was ridiculously impressive and I walked away with an entire bag full of quality wares. This isn’t even the #NeverInNewJersey part (though it certainly gets an honorable mention)!
As I was unpacking my spoils, I noticed a strange scent. Was that… could it be… cologne? One of the items I brought home was a lightweight running top that was likely menswear.
It was probably the faint remnants a pleasant, manly deodorant, but the point is, it stood out so drastically because: NO ONE HERE WEARS COLOGNE. I sat next to a guy at a film festival last week (benefiting the local environmental center and which required filmgoers to bring their own cup if they wanted anything to drink…#NeverInNewJersey honorable mention #2) and almost choked on his spicy aroma.
Coming from the land of gold chains and Axe body spray, I never thought I’d say this, but: I don’t miss it one bit.
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT G
All you need to know to understand this final exhibit, a Facebook group chat, is that I now live in a town boasting a beautiful river and waterfront amphitheater.
Stay tuned – I’m sure it won’t be long before I run out of alphabet letters!
After spending the better part of my 37 27 years in New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I moved to Bend, Oregon last June. I was pretty sure I’d completed my Oregon transformation by the time I embarked on my first backpacking trip in September.
One of the most fascinating things about moving across the country has been observing the utter lack of jadedness among my new neighbors. And how, in a town of over 100,000, EVERYONE KNOWS EACH OTHER. I find myself constantly sending the New Jersey crew texts like, “I don’t remember what a car horn sounds like,” and, “Someone just BOUGHT MY GROCERIES,” and, “[Sara] and I just realized we went out with the same guy.”
In fact, this happens so regularly that I’m about to fill an entire blog post with examples FROM THE PAST WEEK ALONE.
I instinctively lifted my foot off the gas pedal and gripped the steeling wheel. My car slid backwards as I stared in the rearview mirror, wondering when the pick-up truck behind me would realize what was happening. Before or after we collided?
I can’t believe this. I cannot believe this.
The truck narrowly missed me, charging up the steep hill while I reached a trembling hand toward my hazard lights. As if it was my poor, low-riding, two-wheel drive Acura’s fault for not being able to overcome central Oregon’s lack of snow management.
F$&@%. What am I going to do?
Over the coming days, I moved countless boxes over icy sidewalks, painted walls and ceilings that felt like sandpaper, and waited for my couch to arrive so I could collapse at the end of each long day in anything other than a cold, metal camp chair.
And my couch did arrive. …Three weeks later.
I also checked my inbox repeatedly for any updates on a job offer I’d accepted earlier in the month. By the second week of December, with the apartment still in partial chaos and no news on the job, I flew to New Jersey for my twin niece and nephew’s Sweet 16, a.k.a. A New Circle of Hell that Requires Its Own Blog Post.
Throughout the last few scattered and uncertain weeks, I kept myself sane by continuing my marathon training and French lessons, binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and creating the greatest calendar the world has ever known.
I also became an expert in cheap furniture assembly…
…learned how to paint ceilings in high heels…
…spent my first Christmas without my family…
…learned I can no longer party like it’s 1999…
…and attended my first drum circle, along with 66 other women.
Though life kept marching onward, a familiar soundtrack accompanied every moment. Am I doing the right thing? Will I like this new job? Is this really the proper place and time to spend all of my savings on furniture plant roots? Will I ever find TRUE love? Why is Uncle Jesse looking at me like that?
It seems I forgot to read the fine print on the “Live Your Dream Life!” manual.
Despite taking a series of ballsy actions over the past year (like quitting a steady corporate job, selling all of my stuff, and moving across the country), building my dream life has felt a bit like parasailing. You experience the thrill of soaring freely through the air, all the while still tethered to whatever beliefs, constraints, and values you had before. Crippling insecurities, societal expectations, questionable past decisions… they don’t go away the minute you decide to spread your wings.
Now, from the comfort of my new couch, Suba-Ruby sleeping soundly in the parking lot, I feel my pulse finally beginning to settle. Though the past six months have brought wave after wave of change, and though I cried at my friend’s Thanksgiving table when talking about having to sell my old car often think I might capsize beneath it all, I know I’m home. Because that boat I’m tethered to isn’t my shortcomings or my past or my fears – it’s my heart. No matter where I go, I can’t be anywhere BUT home.
What are you hoping 2020 will bring? (Psst, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’VE MISSED YOU EVERY DAY.)
I went over my emergency plan for the twentieth time. I had my winter jacket, gloves, plenty of food and water, and a half a tank of gas. If my car decided to crawl into one of these cavernous potholes and never come out (I have a history with potholes), I’d probably survive. Maybe. I mean, I think so. I glanced at my temperature gauge.
I should have known this road trip wasn’t going to end well.
After an hour of navigating treacherous national forest roads between Packwood and White Salmon, Washington, I was never happier to see pavement. I’d been on the road for nine days ogling the Pacific Northwest.
With promising job prospects on the horizon, I figured it might be the last opportunity for a while for this Jersey girl to freely explore the terrain outside of Bend, Oregon (my new hometown).
From Mendocino, California to Cannon Beach, Oregon, most of the trip was fog-filled.
I began to wonder if it was a metaphor. (With no one but Uncle Jesse to keep me company, I had plenty of time to work on Deep Thoughts with Go Jules Go.) Even though it felt like my life was finally headed in the right direction, was I still not seeing things clearly? Was this a reminder to keep moving forward, even if I couldn’t make out what was ahead?
By the time I got to “NF-23” in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, nine days in, I was ready for sunshine.
Thankfully, I got just that as I neared the Columbia River Gorge. Squinting, I pulled down my car’s visor and decided to do a quick loop to check out The Dalles and Hood River before settling into my AirBNB in White Salmon, WA. As I approached The Dalles, a white SUV zoomed past me and suddenly did a U-turn.
Oh my god. Are those…am I…being pulled over?
“Ma’am, I clocked you going 68 in a 55.”
Seriously? 55? On a highway going downhill?
“I’m so sorry. I’ve never been here before.”
I’ve only ever gotten one speeding ticket…when was that…14 years ago? God, I’m old.
With trembling hands, I forked over my license and registration, Uncle Jesse letting loose a series of piercing warning barks. When the officer returned a few minutes later, I was sure the paper in his hands was my big, fat ticket.
“I’m going to let you off with just a warning this time. You take care of yourself.”
“Thank you so much,” I breathed, shocked. “I’m so sorry.”
I drove off checking my speedometer every .00009 seconds. When I finally made it back to the AirBNB, I knew exactly what would calm my nerves: Korbel’s finest and the latest episode of Counting On. (You do know this blog’s original name was Go Guilty Pleasures, right?)
I pulled up the wifi network and entered the password.
Fog or no fog, one thing was clear: It was time to go home and see what was around the next bend.
How do you fare on the road and with The Great Unknown? Any advice?
Sights whirred past as I tried my damndest not to go over 80 MPH. A giant, snow-capped mountain greeted me in the distance.
Not bad. Not as nice as the Cascades…
When I reached my destination, the little mountain town of Mt. Shasta, California, I parked the car and let Uncle Jesse stretch his legs.
Every passerby -not that there were many- smiled and said hello. While my new home in Bend, Oregon seemed to have ruined me for any other town, there was one consistent theme along the west coast thus far.
Also the hats. A lot of hats out here.
“I’m Georgie, by the way!” the adorable receptionist-slash-barista said as she extended a slender hand. By now I was checking out of my hip Mt. Shasta motel and we’d spent the past ten minutes chit-chatting.
“If you and your husband are ever in Bend, you have my name and I have a second bedroom!” I said as I waved goodbye.
Earlier in the week, I had decided to tick a few more west coast cities off my bucket list, and was pleasantly surprised when I found I could greet strangers like old friends as I wound my way from central Oregon to northern California. This whole…trusting…thing was kinda…nice.
During a recent trip back to New Jersey, my home state, I was startled to realize just how far I’d already let my guard down. After only four months in Bend, I’d forgotten how to avoid eye contact. To jump to the worst possible conclusion. To regard every kind act with suspicion.
I used to wear my cynicism, like most east coasters, as a badge of honor. You’re handing me a flier? Asking me how my day is? Hah! Go scratch, pal! I’ve got things to do! Places to be! Scowls to perfect!
But after just one week in Bend, I’d made a dozen friends and felt the reassuring hand of something I never knew I’d been missing: Community. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to ask for -or offer- help. A ride to the airport, some extra boxes, paint supplies, you name it. My new hometown’s selfless generosity was infectious.
Here I am getting free metalsmithing lessons from the one and only Jim Dailing!
And sure, you’re gonna have to steal my sarcasm and pizza standards from my cold, dead hands (which I hope are buried under some beautiful flowers), but this whole neighborly love thing?
Bring it on.
Did you grow up in a don’t-make-eye-contact kind of environment, or a here’s-a-cup-of-sugar-you-didn’t-even-ask for place? Do you prefer one over the other?
The following entries have been recovered from the diaries of beloved blogger and former Jersey girl, Go Jules Go. Her current whereabouts are unknown. Presumably because, according to her new neighbors, “The service here sucks.”
Day 1: Arrive in Bend, Oregon. Apartment appears well-appointed, though several disturbing items were left on the counter. “Gifts,” the landlord claims. I remain suspicious.
Day 2: Attend first social gathering under the guise of celebrating someone’s birth. I do not trust these people. Why do they look so…happy?
Day 6: Forced to attend nudist retreat. My plans to go unnoticed thwarted by bathing suit, yet how else do I protect myself amidst the steaming pools of hippie tears hot springs? Must not show nipples weakness.
Day 9: Have risen at 6am for three days straight to engage in something called “trail running.” Zero alcohol remains in my system, yet I suspect they’ve slipped something into my kombucha. I feel…well.
Day 12: Small children and classical music-listening puppies surround me. I fear I am beginning to crack.
Day 21: Ford raging river and sustain 923 bug bites. My survival skills have improved markedly.
Day 30: Discover Trivia Night’s discount beer and tots. They are on to me.
Day 37: Have begun making strange hand gestures following outdoor pursuits. The situation is becoming increasingly dire.
Day 44: Learn the art of metalsmithing from a man who would not accept compensation. What drives the human spirit in this land of zero expectation?
Day 57: The hand gestures have become second nature; I can no longer fight it.
Day 63: Have accepted that I will never know real pizza again.
Day 70: Complete something called a “10k race”… “for charity.” Would have been charitable to not force feed participants hard cider 30 seconds following this strange event.
Day 71: Witness skinny dippers in a frigid lake. Oregonians must fear clothing the way I fear I’ll never stop watching The Hills on Amazon Prime.
Day 80: Trucker hat and race “tech” shirt. Uncle Jesse no longer recognizes me.
Day 90: Socks with sandals. All hope is lost.
This is the last known recording from Go Jules Go. If you have any information, please contact 1-800-CRY4HLP.
Nevertheless, after 2+ years on the No Dating bandwagon, the temptation to peek at what was out there, 3,000 miles from the men with whom I’d repeatedly failed (please refer to links 1 to 1,373 listed above), proved too much to resist.
“All riiiiiight,” I groaned on the phone to my friend, Shawna. “I’ll try Bumble. AGAIN.”
And thus, with a trembling index finger, I downloaded a dreaded dating app on my hitherto untainted phone.
This time, though, I decided I’d cut right to the chase. “If you want to meet for coffee or beer sometime, let me know!” my initial messages read. (In the Bumble world, the women always make the first move.)
If the Bend, Oregon Bumble selection were an ocean filled with fish… No. I can’t even finish that metaphor. Because we are not talking “ocean.” We are talking lake. No. Still not right. Pond. Teeny, tiny pond.
I didn’t have a lot of time to dive in because almost as soon as I got to Oregon, I was off to Boot Camp. I returned to a message from “Dave” that made me laugh. (And if there’s one thing I promised myself, were I to ever dip a toe in the treacherous dating waters again, it was: He gots to bring it with the ha-ha’s.)
I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I scrolled through his photos again. F my life. I read his message again. I laughed again. OKAY FINE.
Two days later, I pulled into a brewery parking lot right on time and saw a guy leaning on the fence. That might be him…
I sent a text, “Just got here!”
The guy in question looked down at his phone, so I hopped out of my car and walked over with a wide smile and outstretched hand. Something immediately felt off, but I followed him inside.
“I’m excited to try this place!” I offered.
“Yeah yeah yeah, they have some good stuff! I always get the Sweet Ass.”
I snorted, spotting a sign that read, “Sweet As! Pacific Ale.”
He talked quickly and didn’t make eye contact, but offered to buy my beer. We were well within the happy hour timeframe, so I thanked him and we took our selections outside, where there was an impressively grassy outdoor area and live music revving up.
“Yeah so you just moved here, huh? Yeah?” he said as we sat down.
I eyed him closely. Coke. It’s gotta be coke. Or is he just that nervous?! The next two hours were filled with frenetic conversation, me asking question after question. He talked about his Aunt. A lot. And a former tenant of his garage apartment.
“Wow, so the guy just left after that?!” I asked.
“Let me finish the story!” he said in a tone so scathing I put a hand to my heart.
“I’m so sorry!” I gasped, completely thrown.
“No worries,” he gulped his beer and carried on.
When the two hour Suffer Fest was over, I pulled into my driveway, debating whether or not I should try to still salvage the night. Just then, someone came running up from the house next door, bouncing around the side of my car until she could give me a hug.