What the Duck is Going On?: In and Around Eugene

My brother moved to Eugene years ago, but this was the first time I have gone to visit him on his turf.  The day we pulled into town on the Starlight Express, he awaited us and swept us up on a whirlwind tour of the town, stopping in parks, soup shops, and Wandering Goat Coffee.  The last one was a bit of a cathartic experience for Sangbyeong and me, as we have been receiving gifts of Wandering Goat roasted coffee for years and we desperately needed this ambrosia after 24 hours of being on the train.  Adam knows us both so well…half the tour was made up of different super markets, ranging in offerings from organic, vegan-friendly cheeses to huge slabs of steak and salmon.  The following morning, we hit the road for a mini road trip.  We went up to Portland, the offbeat largest city of Oregon, where we attended the Saturday market along the river and promptly headed a few blocks over for the real reason we had come.  The original Voodoo Doughnuts.  Eugene has a Voodoo Doughnuts shop, but this is the first and an experience unto itself.  This included a 40 minute wait in line for our treasures.

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After satiating ourselves with creative, eclectic doughnuts, we headed to the large city park which includes the Rose Garden, where a great scene from a childhood favorite book takes place.  There weren’t many roses blooming yet, but we enjoyed strolling peacefully and dodging the hail!  In the later afternoon, we drove to a different neighborhood, where my brother wanted to attend an event where they were testing new games at a gaming shop.  Ever heard of Exploding Kittens?  He was there to sit down for a game with a prototype deck, as he had been an early supporter on what turned out to be the most successful Kickstarter ever.  We nerd out as a family.  That evening, we made our way back to Eugene, and the following day we had a picnic in the park and went to see a movie at the charming theatre that has sofas and craft beers on tap.  They simply play older releases projected from a DVD, and charge a couple bucks.  The atmosphere was very cozy and the beer was splendid.  Speaking of DIY film fun, we set up Adam’s projector and made a living room picnic for the first episode of Game of Thrones’ fifth season that evening.

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The next four days were dedicated to our Seattle adventure, but we were very glad to return to hang out for another nine nights in laid back Eugene.  Adam had arranged to take time off work for the rest of our visit, so he showed us a bit further out of town, showing off the extensive park and wildlife areas that make Eugene look more like a patchwork of green than a city.  He saved the big adventure for Saturday, though, as we packed snacks for the day and headed out to the coast and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area.  He let us in on all his secret favorite places to go spend a day.  The wind was wild and whipping when we were there, so we felt the sea spray and the sting of the sand…but we also found the perfect sheltered spot to picnic and peer out at the driftwood-strewn beach on one side, and the vista of dunes marching inland on the other.

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We spent a while longer frolicking through the dunes and dipping our toes into the icy surf of the beach before heading to the nearby town for a second lunch at a famous fish restaurant and then a leisurely drive along the coast road.  Huge waves broke and boiled against the cliffs below us, creating untamed views of the ocean and a fine mist of sea spray from the churning water, despite the cloudless sky and sunny day.  Wildflowers were also starting to bloom along the highways.  Using a different road to get back to Eugene, we went through elk country…including the town of  Elk.  Bet you can’t guess the mascot of Elk’s high school…

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On Sunday, we prepared another picnic, and this time headed further inland toward the Cougar Reservoir.  Another of Adam’s favorite spots, we wended our way up through the heavy pine forests into the area overlooking the reservoir below.  We enjoyed the view with our picnic before heading to the Terwilliger Hot Spring.  The trail to the hot spring is gorgeous, winding through moss-laden trees.  We even spotted a couple gigantic banana slugs.  All of us happily went to sit in the third tier of the hot springs…but only I braved the top tier, where the water is hottest and most of the bathers are nude hippies (warning: there are a couple pics of nude bathers below…if you are repressed or somehow repulsed by human bodies, best not to look).

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On the way back to Eugene, we passed a fishery, where the boys got to feast their eyes on all their potential catches.  Namely, red stripe trout.  For the next two days were dubbed fishing days.  The boys rented a canoe and went out on the lake one day, and hit the banks of the river the second day.  They also hit up some famous salmon shops, and happily brought home several flavors of salmon on skewers, or as Adam calls them, Salmonsicles.  I spent the time happily wandering the nature trails and city streets of Eugene, sipping tea and finishing the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Laarson.

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Midway through the week, Adam took us on the Eugene beer crawl.  We hit four of the craft breweries in town, going for the sampler at each place and just sharing them between us.  First up was Steelhead, then Oakshire, followed by Hop Valley, and last (and most famous) Ninkasi.  Oregon is rightly famous for its crops of hops, so we focused on the local IPAs and other hoppy beers as much as we could…but there were also espresso stouts brewed with Wandering Goat coffee and other delicacies.  Not since our days in Belgium had we seen such variety of beer…but here we could afford to sample all of them!  Such a range of colors and flavors.  How will we ever go back to drinking that yellow water they pass off as beer in Korea?

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The following day was our last full day in Eugene and Oregon, so we turned our heads to the other libations and made a tour of the wine tasting rooms (all featuring Oregon wines) and a new cider tasting room.  We made final pilgrimages to Voodoo Doughnuts, Townsend Teas, and Adam let us in on the local secret of amazing Sizzle Pie pizza.  On Friday morning, we packed up the car for a longer road trip…but we did make one last stop in town to visit a local vineyard and tasting room on our way to the border.  In total, we had spent eleven nights in Eugene and my brother had acted as the perfect tour guide.

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While it was time to say goodbye to Oregon, we still had a few days to spend with Adam, so, in true Hawkinson-style, we embarked on a road trip.  We were on our way back south to California.

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