THE COOLEST SMALL TOWNS IN THE U.S.A.

Hood River, Oregon

Pop. 6,360

By Melissa Jones, Tuesday, Mar 21, 2006, 1:14 PM

Bryan McGeeney, owner of 10-Speed Coffee

(John Clark)

After towing a trailer across 46 states looking for a new place to call home, Boulderites Mike and Brooke Pauly found their sweet spot in Hood River, about 45 minutes east of Portland. "Within three hours we knew twenty-five people by name," says Mike, who designs and sells kiteboarding and windsurfing sails. While her husband works with sails, Brooke keeps Hood River residents afloat in cocktails at Brian's Pourhouse, where the blackberry kamikazes are made with freshly picked local berries (606 Oak St., 541/387-4344, $7).

"Think locally" could be the town motto. At Sixth Street Bistro (509 Cascade Ave., 541/386-5737), hormone-free meats come from Painted Hills Natural Beef in central Oregon; organic greens are from nearby Zion Farms. Acting globally is equally important: Sixth Street's leftover fryer grease fuels the company's biodiesel vehicle. Along with her partners, co-owner and general manager Jacqueline Carey just opened a new restaurant, Celilo, in an energy-conserving building. (Even the glass was made in Hood River, at Cardinal Glass.) On the menu are skillet-roasted mussels for $9, and a salad of confit duck and Oregon blue cheese for $7.50 (16 Oak St., 541/386-5710).

Hood River is on the Columbia River, and the consistently strong wind attracts windsurfers and kiteboarders. Locals are as athletic as they are eco-conscious. When Bryan McGeeney isn't steaming soy milk at his café, 10-Speed Coffee, he's training as a triathlete (1412 13th St., 541/386-3165). His café plays up his two passions; the chairs are recycled Schwinn seats.