Day four starts in Bend, OR — a place I’ve actively boycotted due to its megasprawl, strip mall, bastardizing of the Cascades — the view that has blessed and cursed this town. We spend enough time in Bend to get coffee and gas and a copy of Bill Sullivan’s Eastern Oregon book — indispensable (couldn’t have done the trip without it).
On the road from Bend to Steens, we stop by Burns at the Harney County chamber of commerce where KP loads up on maps and brochures. From there, we head due south, to the Alvord Desert.
In the desert, we come to the Alvord Hot Springs, a great little roadside oddity. It’s a corrugated tin shack on the side of the road, unmarked. It’s fed by a sulfur-smelling spring that wells up roadside and is cooled down through a tube that feeds the pools.
It’s a beautiful setting (see photos) and the water is great. From there, we take the guidebook advice and head to Fields, Oregon for a milkshake. It’s a pretty good shake, and worth the 5-minute detour.
We head back to the Frenchglen Hotel, where we’re staying the night and have a nice family style dinner. The food is solid — Polynesian pork roast, garlic potatoes, bread, a salad and overcooked veggies.
Everything is great, but I’m freaking out. I’m about to propose to Katie, but I’m losing daylight. I need to be on the Keiger overlook at sunset, and from the looks of it, I’m going to run out of time. We bust out of dinner early and I scream up the rutted road to the top of Steens Mountain. I’m drifting on the curves, spraying gravel, trying not to miss my moment.
About 30 minutes up the hill, I know my moment has past.
But what’s that on the horizon? A full-moon, the size of a damn big-screen TV! I adjust and head to the East Rim overlook instead to catch the moon rising over the desert. We jump out of the car, into the cold night air at 10,000 feet. Katie puts on every piece of fleece in the car, including a goofy tasseled hat.
As KP looks over the East Rim, I wrap my arms around her from behind and ask her to marry me. She says yes, laughing, and then sees the box in my hands. Hysterics ensue. I can’t believe I kept the secret. Katie can’t believe any of it.
It was a great night — which we finish with a bottle of Oregon’s best Cabernet on the front porch of the hotel.