Sagebrush and Juniper

I’m standing in front of the supplements in Whole Foods in Bend, Oregon trying to find a certain kind of turmeric. It’s apparently liquid soluble and thus more “bioavailable,” and it must be said that when I took it before my digestive system felt better than ever, though that could’ve been because I was supplementing magnesium or any number of other factors. In the end I don’t find it and thus leave with only two wares: a hop tea by Hop Lark, and a Zevia black tea blood orange flavor. Neither of these have any calories, which is ideal. I can’t have calories. I’m fasting.

I traverse the parking lot to the Costco section where I parked. This is Bend, Oregon, known as an outdoor paradise, but I’m in a Costco parking lot, which is decidedly less paradisiacal. My plan when I get in the car, though, after drinking one of the beverages, is to drive east. I don’t know where I want to go, just not here, somewhere without cars, where the only things are dirt, sagebrush and juniper trees. I want to hear the sound of the wind on the high desert, to not be surrounded by cars and buildings and people. This will prove more difficult than I imagined.

I head east on Neff Road and pretty soon things are how I wanted. It’s just me and a road. No traffic behind or in front of me, and the houses are gone now, given way to ranches, and pretty soon these are sparse, too. With the help of Google Maps I make my way to where I think there should be some trails to hike up to some cliff-looking formations where there might be boulders, too. But every time I think I’m getting close the road either becomes a dead end or a private road or simply impassable. Every damn parcel of land out here is owned by someone. Every sage bush, every juniper tree, has a human owner, and the ones I see in the distance on the butte next to the cliff, though presumably free of any owner, are blocked by private land. There are no trails, only roads that turn into driveways adorned with hostile “Private. No trespassing signs.”

Private driveway.

Dead end.

No trespassing.

The butte looms in front of me like a dream and that’s all it will ever be for me, since access looks impossible. I briefly contemplate just driving down one of the private driveways but imagine some guy in a cowboy hat toting a gun sauntering off his porch to point it at me. I don’t feel welcome out here. I’m sure the people are welcoming once you get to know them but if you’re just driving around in your ’97 Subaru looking for a place to look at some damn rocks it certainly doesn’t feel welcoming.

Finally I give up and turn around and start driving towards Bend. After a few minutes I stop to pee and there’s a dead coyote lying near the road, flies buzzing around it, its fur the same color as the brown grass, soon to be fertilizer for the brown grass. I thought it might be silent here but above me power lines crackle and every 30 seconds or so a car comes screaming by. When I finally get back on the road I’m immediately tailgated by a man in a Jeep who’s so close I can see individual stubble clusters on his face. Eventually the degenerate passes me, and I’m free again for a short while. I have the road (sort of) to myself. As we get closer to Bend, though, the traffic becomes thicker, and pretty soon I’m back at the strip mall that houses the Whole Foods where I was just looking at the supplements. I failed on my quest to go to the butte, but it still felt good to get out of the city for a bit, amongst the juniper and the sagebrush, even if I barely left my car.