The Good in America — and in Bend, OR

The Good in America — and in Bend, OR

After the horrifying Newtown tragedy last week, it’s not so easy to see the good in America.

But that’s exactly what Trek Kelly is doing, and has been doing, for almost a year: seeking out the “Good in America.” Trek set out on his journey in January 2012, spending a week in every state, taking photographs, blogging and compiling notes for a book by the same name. 

His transportation for the 50-state tour is an old-school van emblazoned with Evil Knievel graphics. Oh, and the van has a name: Chief Joseph. And Chief Joseph is, um, let’s say “vintage.” That van logged its first miles when Nixon was president.

Trek Kelley and his van, Chief Joseph

Trek rolled into Bend amidst snow flurries this past Friday. Oregon is the 44th state he’s visited so far. Trek sleeps in his van, Chief Joseph, most nights, with Walmart parking lots and restrooms serving as a sort of ersatz American pensione. Please note, Chief Joseph has no heat, and lots of “ventilation” meaning the wind whips through the cracks in the floorboards, adding to the ice-box effect.

When Trek arrived at my house, I sort of expected him to be little grumpy and melancholy after Chief Joseph nearly careened off an icy cliff just a few hours prior — not to mention the cumulative stress of a year of countless mechanical failures, sleeping in parking lots, and feasting on canned food. 

Trek wasn’t remotely grumpy (God knows I would’ve been, where I in his shoes). Sure, he seemed psyched to sit next to my fireplace, but other than that, had endless stories about the good samaritans, brilliant minds, fiercely creative artists and generous souls he’d met along the way. I’ve known Trek for years, and it was a treat to see him light up like a Christmas tree recalling the goodness of the people he’s encountered over the previous months.

Over the next two days I showed him a few of my favorite things about Bend (park after park, CHOW, Ranch Records, Crow’s Feet Commons, Devore’s, Thump, etc) and watched him sniff out the goodness in my little city. The man doesn’t rest, every conversation was an opportunity to learn about someone’s passion and about the good they’re doing in the world.  

Trek taking notes, plotting the adventure

It was almost like a scavenger hunt. Each conversation with interesting strangers pointed us towards another place to visit or another person to meet. We hopped from place to place, person to person, just listening and learning. Tagging along with Trek reminded me to get out of my head and really “see” the people and things in front of me. It was about being present, but more than that it was about expecting to find good and being boldly curious.

I think we all could use a little dose of bold curiosity in our lives. In a way, that’s all it takes to uncover the good in our country, in our state and in our hometown… Be interested, look for the good, ask questions. The good might not show up where or when you expect it. Just scratch the surface a little and you’ll find it.

Take time to look for the good in Bend today, especially in unexpected places.  And check out the Good in America, as seen by Trek Kelly, via Facebook, Twitter (@USAtrek), and Trek’s blog.

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