|On Tuesday, after the Labor Day Weekend, we leave Anacortes for a very long day of driving on a gray, rainy day that took us thru both Seattle and Portland to Eugene, OR. We had made reservations at the Deerwood RV Park, a few miles south of Eugene, at I-5 and Highway 58, for two weeks to give sufficient time for the computer to be returned to Dell, repaired, and sent back. Though a bit pricey this is a beautiful, well-maintained park with manicured lawns, flowers, trees and nice facilities.
Eugene is another of our "Favorite Places" though each time we return we complain of its growing population, now approximately 150,000, and all the traffic much compounded by the constant I-5 construction going on to facilitate the influx.
There is always something going on in town and much to see in surrounding Lane County, with a unique mix of arts, culture, and recreation. Eugene, Lane county's largest city, is hailed as the "World's Greatest City of the Arts and Outdoors". Also home to the University of Oregon, a world-class research institution, with a super football team, the Ducks, now rated 13th in the nation.
Our first weekend coincided with the annual Eugene Celebration, with this year's theme being "Lighten Up". The mood in town for the 2+ day event was definitely appropriate for the theme with 8 hot air balloons launched Saturday morning and young and old alike celebrating community, friendships and reinforcing why Eugune is such a special place. There was plenty of food & drink, music, parades, arts and crafts, plus a great classic car show. And on every street corner loudspeakers announced the Ducks kicking some major Michigan behind!
And then there is also the "world-class" Eugene Farmer's Market, probably the best we've ever been to, though the Ferry Building market in SF is pretty tough to beat. Touted as the oldest, open-air market in the U.S., it offers great local, organic food and produce, local handcrafts and live entertainment and is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from April thru November! We had just missed cherries in Washington but our timing was perfect for the white peaches and nectarines in Anacortes, and in Eugene it was all about the berries; the best raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries we have ever had......And hazelnuts: we are now "hooked on hazelnuts" and even made a special trip to the Dorris Ranch, a commercial filbert farm, public park and historical treasure, in nearby Springfield.
We had a bit of "down time" waiting around for computer pick-up and delivery and had to send it back for a second time when the new AC adapter Dell sent us wouldn't charge, though as it turned out it was not the fault of the charger but the computer also needed a new base plate and heat-sink in addition to the new mother-board previously installed.
Determined not to get discouraged, we figured a day of visiting and sampling the delights of the numerous local Lane County wineries was in order! We started off at the downtown Visitor's Center for a map and overview and since it was almost lunch time and King Estates had a restaurant, that was our first stop. Located southwest of Eugene, near the town of Lorane, King Estates has a pretty impressive venue with tasting room and restaurant serving local, seasonal ingredients many of which come from their own organic gardens and that pair beautifully with their prize pinots, both gris and noir. We both had the lamb sandwich (yes, I do recall seeing sheep grazing on the hillside!) with a glass of pinot noir. Then it was on to "Sweet Cheeks Winery" (how could you not love this place!), Iris Hill, actually our favorite and most fun - especially the winemaker, and further southeast in Cottage Grove, Saginaw Winery, definitely a small family concern with several acres devoted to blueberries and quite unique in it's very laid back style and approach. How about "We'll give you 50% off a case of 2005 Pinot Gris cause it's already turning bad!" What computer!
We are not far from Junction City so a visit to the Country Coach factory seemed in order. The new Intrigues, our model, cost a hundred zillion dollars and are 100' longer! We needed to get replacement hardware for our glass cabinet and closet door knobs and cabinet door "closers", also gas struts for our basement compartment doors. There had been a recall issued on our Dometic refrigerator which was taken care of at a local RV repair shop.
With 20 covered bridges, Lane County has the distinction of possessing more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi. Seventeen of these bridges are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and I was determined to see as many as possible (much to Howard's dismay)! We compromised on the 10 or so in and east of Cottage Grove. The drive was beautiful, the scenery terrific but most of the bridges were much the same.
On a rainy Sunday we decided to take a drive thru the University of Oregon campus and found, much to our delight, that the Museum of Cultural and Natural History was open. This seemed a perfect way to spend a few hours and we were so impressed with the exhibits, the very knowledgeable docent, and the history and cultural background imparted. We never even knew there was a Lake Missoula that during the Ice Age meltdown, one of the largest and most powerful of floods and erosive forces that has ever occurred created the Columbia Basin landscapes, and bringing to the Willamette Valley the rich mineralized and fossiled soil that now produces these lush crops! We later celebrated all our new knowledge with a trip to the downtown Public Market on 5th St. for an ethnic lunch of Indian curry for Howard and Mexican tostado for Lynda followed by a little walk-about!
And for the best of walk-abouts, you can't beat the extensive walking and biking trails throughout Eugene and for miles along both sides of the Willamette (as in dammit) River. We parked at the Valley River Center and covered about 4 miles total, especially enjoying the Owen Rose garden in Skinner Butte park. Tired and hungry we then opted for a movie at the nearby cinema, seeing the Brave One with Jodie Foster (terrific!) with a large popcorn.
And lastly, one of those incredible "small world" happenings that highlight our gypsy lifestyle! We are outside polishing the motorhome on a beautiful, sunny day after all the grit and grime from the drive down from Anacortes. I look up as this handsome gentleman approaches and immediately say "you look familiar" and then realize it is Tom Heath, friends we met thru George and Judy a few years ago who, at that time, were about to sell their home in Roseville and go full-time RVing. He and wife Carol are parked right next door to us in their Alfa See-Ya and have been for days. It has been probably 3+ years since we met them and since then they have really embraced traveling and also workcamping at various parks and locations. We finally got together one evening and so enjoyed hearing all their stories. One in particular that I would encourage Carol and Tom to write up for all of us to benefit from, was a life threatening experience that Tom suffered during their travels in June 2006, a double aortic aneurysm that had him in ERs from AL. to TX. and finally to Dartmouth University Hospital in New Hampshire, where he spent 6 weeks in the hospital undergoing extensive surgeries and reconstruction, and 6 weeks recuperating in a nearby RV park. At one point Tom could no longer drive and had to be airlifted while Carol was left with the RV. She called FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn.) and they put her in touch with a volunteer driver and his wife who immediately showed up and drove the coach and tow car some 200+ miles to Dartmouth and stayed with her for help and support until Tom was out of danger. After that I thought, would I have thought to call FMCA and also the Escapees club provides the same support! Good stuff to know!
Finally, the computer came home, this time with all its parts in good working order. We have had a wonderful time in Eugene but it's now time to get back to Petaluma so we left on Thursday, Sept. 20, and decided to take the coast route as before. With no reason to stop along the way and bore you with pictures already posted, we drove to Eureka, CA. the first night, staying at their Elk's Lodge. Friday afternoon we are here!
Stay tuned for upcoming episodes that will include Christina's First Birthday and Howard's 50th CAL Berkeley Reunion!