mountains

Westward Bound

· 6 min read ·

A Subaru, a loaf of bread, and a dream

Last we left you, we were headed over Willamette Pass to Bend, Oregon. I’m sure since that day, you’ve been thinking to yourself every hour: “I wonder where She & Jim are??! Are they still in Oregon? Did they decide to move to Bend?!?” Worry no more, dear Reader(s). The moment has come — your laments have been heard. While we wait for our friends, Rich & Maryne, to fill out their Meet the Host questionnaire and fill you in a little more on the incredible time that we spent with them, we can also summarize our Oregon trip for the curious mind and provide you with a satisfying mental picture of all our latest exploits. Dry those crying eyes and read on!

(“Drama level high!” Sheila declares. “You should just put that in.“)


Bend — blue skies and snow
Bend — blue skies and snow

Bend: Mountains, Snow, Incredible Vistas

Over the pass we went, into snowy Bend. We met up with our friend Michelle, who’s been living in Bend the past few years. After narrowly avoiding walking into the wrong brewery when we went to meet her (by virtue of two breweries behind side-by-side), we got the lowdown on the charming mountain town whose population has pretty much exploded in recent years. It was heartening to hear that despite the growing pains presented by a sudden influx of people, she still had a lot of love for Bend. It’s an amazing place for fermentation lovers of any kind; for those that love dogs or just want to walk them as a side hustle; for snow sports, mountain sports, hiking, and snowshoeing; and live music enthusiasts can find a surprising variety of bands who end their tours in Bend. Pretty much the only thing that it doesn’t have is an airport (which is probably for the best). The She & Jim crew + Maryne got the chance to walk around the Bend downtown with Michelle and her boyfriend Christian — many dogs were seen and some were even petted.

We spent a good portion of the trip cooking and eating, as every trip should be spent. We made gluten-free pizzas (with roasted squash and goat cheese, YUM 😋 ), spaghetti, and a wild gluten-free take on James’s grandma’s FAMOUS sour cream cake — the perfect solution for anybody who’s ever been in the “how did we even get here?” situation of having too much sour cream (which Rich & Maryne found themselves in)! Other than eating, we also enjoyed some excellent coffee drinks at The Fox Tail (too bad we didn’t think of that black walnut latte while we were in NH, there had to have been a million black walnuts in the yard at some point!), and the Loony Bean (two coffees, a pastry, and a view along the river for under five dollars? Is this 1999??), and enjoyed a great Hatha yoga class at Wild Thing Yoga (would recommend).

We did a fair bit of walking in Bend as well, but we were looking for a little more movement on our last day and took Michelle up on a recommendation to walk up Pilot Butte — “the big mound you can see from town,” — as she said. While not a true hike, the rest of the region was totally snowed in and we only had a our walking boots. We had high hopes and not a clue that our plans for the summit would be foiled by ice! We reached our high point about halfway up — the icy apex of the approach where each step of ours entailed sliding two feet backwards. Luckily, this happened to be the exact spot where there was a bench with a scenic lookout. Figuring to cut our losses, get a view, and perhaps take a photo, we slid over to the bench and commenced gazing. As we stood there, we saw two kinds of people: those who had on the proper footwear (spikes), and those that did not (who started sliding exactly where we did and beat a hasty retreat home). One such young lad approached in sneakers. He was moving quickly, and there was a moment in which we actually thought his confidence might gain him the summit instead of defeat, but as he grew level with us he did a double-take. His head was wrapped in a scarf and his face was obscured by sunglasses. We heard him say: “NO WAY … James & Sheila??!” We stared at him. There’s always an awkward part to the situation when one person recognizes someone else before the other person does, and we were definitely on the back foot in this case, waiting for him to reveal his identity. He unwrapped his scarf with care, removed his sunglasses, and we briefly had to pick our jaws up from the ground when we realized it was one of our old coworkers, Ben! He was about 3000 miles from where we expected him to be, and was just in town for the day. What luck! It seemed we were fated to meet him halfway atop this icy mound as the Earth span round the Sun.

Ben! What a pleasant surprise on Pilot Butte
Ben! What a pleasant surprise on Pilot Butte

A Little Oregon Summary

The Hobbit Trail
The Hobbit Trail

The rest of our time in Oregon was happily spent visiting with Rich, Maryne, and Ocho, though we did take a day trip to see the Oregon coast. Florence and Yachats were two towns that had been recommended both by our friends and the internet research that Sheila did, so off we went to observe the rugged grandeur of a truly untamed coastline. We were also clearly there in the off-season, as pretty much everything was closed! The trails were open, though, and we definitely enjoyed the Hobbit Trail, which leads through an insanely lush forest (where the color neon green was invented, if we had to guess) right down to the beach. There the waves crashed down hard on the sand, the wind whipped, and we beheld the Pacific without another soul in sight. It was beautiful, and also a little forbidding. We were but tiny specks, observing the might of Mother Nature. A massive log that Sheila ran along — towed onto the shore after who knows how long at sea — lay testament to the crazy power of the ocean.

Sheila & the Pacific meet
Sheila & the Pacific meet

We also got to see our friends Lacey & Micah! The astute She & Jim fans will remember them from our somewhat grueling drive from Ljubljana to Munich all the way back in June! It’s really special to be able to look back on our big trip from last year, and re-meet up with some of the same characters that colored those pages with us. We also got to climb with Maryne at Elevation Bouldering in Eugene, several times, and enjoyed her yoga class there twice (the second time of which Lacey also attended)!


Welcome to our lives for the next four days
Welcome to our lives for the next four days

The Journey Westward Has Begun

We’ll return to Oregon in memory with our Meet the Host for Rich, Maryne & Ocho. Suffice to say, our time in Oregon was pretty great. But the clock was ticking on our time in New England, and we set sail back Eastwards with the intention to pack and leave for Colorado in three days. After a long day of travel, the sight of Sheila’s dad waiting for us at the airport was truly a blessed thing. We got back to the Concord area at midnight … and then crammed a whole lot of goodness into the next few days. We not only packed — we got to say goodbye to friends and family. We also gave out the very first annual She & Jim awards to a small group that had gathered at the Murray household. By Monday, January 27th, the car was packed and we still had enough room to see out of the back window. We considered stuffing Mango into the car for good measure. We’re still thinking about it, truth be told, though we’ve traveled many miles since then.

From NH, we drove through Vermont and parts of New York, stopping for a time near Syracuse to visit with Sheila’s grandparents (Oma and Opa). It was so nice to see them, and we exchanged sourdough slices for clementines (as well as possible royalties in our business ideas)! We ended the day’s driving in Rochester, first visiting the family establishment known as Wegmans for a fine à la carte salad dinner, and then following it up with a healthy serving of Abbott’s iced custard (which is not ice cream), a Murray favorite! So here we are, listening to the surf of Lake Ontario, writing a blog post to you, thinking about our overnight oats and the long, scenic journey onward to Chicago tomorrow. We are feeling very grateful for our hosts, both of our past journeys and this present one, as well as our supporters, readers, assorted grandparents, animals (Erin, give Tiki a treat!), and fans, worldwide. (Always gotta give it up for the fans). OK, very tired. Bye byeeee.

We are gonna post this tomorrow from the road, so we apologize that by the time you read this, we’ll already be on the next leg of the journey. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!!

From us to you, thanks for reading!
From us to you, thanks for reading!
It's us!

Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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