After two years of trying, I finally saw a naked man in Bend. Not that I was trying very hard, or that I really even cared, but still, he was naked and I saw him.
I hadn't actually been in search of a naked man for 24 months. It was six months to be exact, spread over a span of two years. I discovered it was hard to find a naked man in Bend January through March. Perhaps it was too cold and dark.
It didn't help matters that I went to bed at 6 p.m., rose at 8 a.m. and headed straight for the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, or Virginia Meissner Snow Park. I didn't see any naked men in either of those places.
So after a spring in Oakland and a summer in New Jersey, I returned to Bend in September. Not to find a guy in the buff, but to do some cycling. And that's what I was doing in the bike lane on Century Drive, pedaling west toward Mt. Bachelor, when a naked man appeared. He was a few yards away, up among the lodge pole pines.
I was riding to Mt. Bachelor because I was upset. I had just learned that my house in Oakland had been robbed. In broad daylight things had been stolen: electronics, jewelry, wallets and other items of sentimental value. As my housemates in Oakland attempted to sort out the mess, I decided the best thing I could do was to ride uphill for as long as possible. I wasn't expecting to encounter a man in his birthday suit.
But there he was, naked as a jaybird, except for a cowboy hat and boots, and maybe a pair of wool socks. I can't be certain of their color or thickness. I heard him before I saw him. There was loud, incoherent shouting, some rustling in the bushes before he appeared fully frontally nude. It wasn't exactly the kind of naked situation I like to get myself into.
"Oh shit!" I heard him yell. He squatted behind a mini Manzanita, but I could still see him.
"It's not what you think," he explained as I rode by. "My clothes have been stolen!"
I wondered for a moment if I should cross the highway and ride on the other side. But he looked so pink and vulnerable cowering behind the too-small bush that I stayed on track and continued to pump up the hill.
"Your clothes were stolen?" I shouted, looking straight ahead.
"My friends took them, but I'll get them back soon," he yelled.
"Good," I said, and I kept pedaling.
Later that day, as I headed down the mountain, I mused at the randomness of meeting a naked man in the woods whose clothes had been stolen while one or more thugs invaded my home and ripped off precious belongings. And that's what I was thinking when my bike hit a big pothole in the pavement, careened out of control and skidded sideways. Virtually eating asphalt, I swerved across two lanes of traffic and found myself miraculously upright in the opposite bike lane, headed in the wrong direction.
No longer brooding about the nude guy or my losses in Oakland, I pedaled cautiously back to my house-sitting gig on the westside of town and recovered.
That night I told my friend, Sven, what had happened.
"Doesn't this prove that you finally need to move to Bend permanently?" he asked.
"Seeing that naked guy is a positive sign. Having your house in Oakland robbed is serious proof. You need to buy a place here where it's safe. I bet you could find a house for cheap and a realtor who would throw in two naked stable boys just to sweeten the deal."
But later I heard from other Bend friends about stolen snowboards and canoes, a trailer full of kayaks gone missing, a flock of chickens pilfered, a goat, an elderly llama, the entire contents of a two-car garage filched. My Oakland thieves had at least left my telemark skis untouched.
I also heard about naked men sightings from across the country. There were naked men in the woods in Maine and Georgia, Colorado and Arizona, Ohio, Kentucky and even Nebraska.
Hell, I had my own naked sighting tales: an unclothed guy crossing University Avenue in downtown Berkeley, a naked hiker in the Oakland hills, two dudes in San Francisco with nothing on but flip flops walking identical purple poodles nonchalantly towards Starbucks.
A guy I know told me about a naked woman on a bicycle in Bend. "It was a cherry red Fisher Superfly 100 Elite, I think," he said. "Carbon 29er, fully suspended with Bontrager racing wheels and a rear swingarm and E2 head tube." I nodded solemnly.
Another acquaintance suggested that since I liked bike riding so much I should join the naked ride in Portland. "Thirteen thousand people," she claimed, "and to tell you the truth, it isn't all that pretty." To prove her point, she gave me the website address and told me to check out the photos.
That night, after the burglary, the near-death bike accident, and all the naked talk, I went to my 78-year-old friend's house for dinner.
"Let's have a toast," she said.
"Here here," I agreed.
"To more nude men in Bend!" she shouted. We clinked glasses and laughed.
Susan Parker is theauthor of Tumbling After, Pedaling Like Crazy After Life Goes Downhill (Crown, 2002).