In the post sub-prime and post-post dot.com world, what's a student to do? Pumping gas is always an option (this is Oregon after all) but there are some Karma issues and even good old unleaded is feeling the pinch as folks move to carpooling, biking, and, gasp, even walking. Restaurants have been hit hard, too. Rising food price and a downturn in customers have put the pinch on what was once a go-to industry for students.
Long time friends Peter Daucsavage and Spencer Hill started thinking early about how to turn a buck while home from school and came up with a novel idea. Brainstorming over Christmas the pair decided that they would try to cash in on Bend's summer tourism economy by offering cruiser bike tours of downtown Bend and the Old Mill. Operating with a shoestring budget the two, and a third partner Lucas Zettle, launched Bend Bike Tours. For $30 the pair offer a guided tour of the heart of Bend from Drake Park to the Bill Healy Bridge that includes fun "Did You Know" nuggets like Clark Gable once worked at the Brooks-Scanlon Mill and former Bulletin publisher George Palmer Putnam was married to Amelia Earhart.
Neither Hill, nor Daucsavage are history experts. But they grew up in Bend and took a self-guided crash course in local history at the Bend Chamber of Commerce and Des Chutes Historical Society. And what they lack in historical chops they make up for in self-effacing charisma -- the stuff that, if we ever had it, got pounded out of us long ago by 9-5 jobs.
Our tour started in Drake Park and was probably a little more laid back than the average tour as it was a freebie for family friends and one khaki slacks wearing, soon-to-be-totally-sunburned media nerd. We meandered up the west bank of the river, stopping to do things like look at the Old Mill Smokestacks - no real story there, just big self explanatory stacks, according to the guides, although we did learn that the mill recycled all of its prodigious sawdust, which was then used to fire the boilers. We also learned that the mills' small gauge railroad was the largest non-commercial rail line in the country - or something like that.
Business has been a little on the slow side, said Hill, who also owns a landscape (or at least aeration) company, but they've managed to schedule a few tours most weeks and got a call for another outing while we were cruising through the historic district at the tail end of our ride. Hill said that at this point the goal is pretty much just to break even. (Welcome to the not always glamorous world of self employment, boys.) But they're having fun and judging by the smiles on our groups' faces, so are the clients. Daucsavage, who is thin as a reed with a tousle of sandy blond atop his head, serves as the primary emcee for the tours and is also the DJ. He's a bit of a techie and managed to jerry rig a sound system on the back of his bike using a wooden box, some batteries, old computer speakers and, of course, an iPod. We cruised to the soothing sounds of Todd Rundgren, The Cars (Who's Gonna Drive You Home) and Paul Simon. Thankfully, the blue sky overhead reminded us that we were not, in fact, trapped in an elevator.
Hill, who is studying mechanical engineering, said he isn't sure just what the future holds for their pedal powered startup, all three owners are returning to school in the fall and are most likely to pursue internships next summer in their fields of study. In the meantime, though they'll just keep cruising.
Bike Tours of Bend
390-8646 or 610-5223. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rides by reservation. $30 adults $25 children (includes bike). $5 discount if you provide your own bike.