We had no expectations for our first 'Descend on Bend' experience. We set out late Thursday night, later than we wanted too. We made sure we packed everything we may need for a windy, rainy, and very cold weekend in Oregon. We packed Mr. Heater (of course) with extra propane and extra firewood for a campfire that sizzled and sparked for a week straight. That fire made it possible to talk and laugh, while seeing our breath, all night long. That fire was so large and so hot you had to rotate constantly so you didn't catch fire. Not everyone was so lucky.
We packed all our food and drinks, however, we decided somewhere just outside of Klamath Falls, where we stayed the night at a rest stop, that we didn't have enough garbage dip for the potluck dinner Saturday night, so we headed into Bend, Oregon for extra ingredients and weather stripping for a leaky skylight; westy owners understand.
As we drove into Bend, our anticipation mounted as we began passing van after van driving in the opposite direction towards the Hole in the Ground. We set out for what was supposed to be a speedy in and out attack on Bend, but who could have guessed that this small town was so popular. If you're ever in Bend be prepared to sit in a lot of traffic. After spending too many hours in Bend, we finally headed south, back towards our destination. The excitement in both of us was palpable. We made our turn off highway 97 and began looking for the yellow arrow signs that read 'descend'. As we drove and bumped down the dirt path, we saw it, or rather we saw all of them. We had arrived at our first 'Descend on Bend'.
We made a right turn and two attendees greeted us with excitement, stickers, and parameters as to where we could park. We picked a spot along the ridge with a great expansive view of the Hole in the Ground which also happened to be located in very close proximity to the homemade (out of recycled materials) bbq, campfire, and party zone. We were going to be in the middle of everything.
On this Friday afternoon, the weather had lightened up a bit, cold, but not biting, and a few sprinkles now and then. This was a good thing sine we needed to level out our van in front of everybody. Normally, I'd say we are, well Steve is, pretty good at this parking thing. On this particular day however, the pressure was on and it was felt. It probably took us about 30 minutes to get us less tilted. We made it work.
Once we were leveled, I grabbed my camera and a glass of wine, him a beer, and we walked the many miles past all the westys and westy owners meeting whom we could on our first day. As we walked and met, more and more vans kept arriving. Word on the street is that the number of vans allowed capped out somewhere between 300-325. I heard that the number of vans that showed, probably due to the weather, was between 250-275. That is a lot of people.
Over the weekend, we met people we follow on social media, people from the Pacific North West and Canada, and those from as far away as the fly over states. We met westy owners who have traveled all over the United States. One woman traveled across the states from west to east only to drive back west to attend this third annual meet-up. Great lady. We met a family of four with a dog and two cats. Yep, you read that right, they have westy cats. So amazing! We met the owner of GoWesty, ambassadors of Silver Moon Brewery and Hydroflask; a few of this years sponsors. We met owners young and old, some who lived or had just started living out of their westy full time, and those, like ourselves, who take it out on weekends and few big trips a year. No matter whom we met, we all shared the same interest, with stories we can relate to, about a passion we share about a better life lived in 40-square-feet.
On Saturday, as the storm gained steamed, we hiked around the hole as other cycled by and when you stopped directly across from where we all were, all 200 plus westys lined up, and packed three deep, we knew we had to do this again year after year.
That evening, as we all huddled together hoping not to get frost bite, we listened for our raffle tickets to be called with hopes of winning either something dark brown to drink that could warm our insides, or a Rumpl quilt to warm our outsides. It was so exciting when our number was called. I yelled, "that's us, what did we win?!" Steve went up to claim our peach vodka. At least we now have something for the gift exchange in December. Thank you to whomever donated that. We appreciate it. Afterwards, and after standing in a very long line with plates in hand, we ate like kings. Hundreds of pounds of marinated bbq chicken was served along side hundreds of side dishes and desserts. Our potluck was fun and filling. There was laughter, and camaraderie, drinks passed around and shared, and a great night that I am told went on into the wee hours of the morning. Steve and I wouldn't know. We were snuggled up in front of our 'lil buddy' before midnight.
As Sunday began to break, so did the sun briefly. And as we awoke, slowly and with a bit of sadness, we all came together and began cleaning up.
'Leave no Trace'
Slowly and with ease, each one of us began saying our good-byes and wishing everyone a safe drive to their next destinations. As for us, we know that this was an experience worth having and one we look forward to again.
So, until next time...
P.S. A special thank you to those who came together and worked tirelessly to make such an amazing weekend come to fruition.