Tuesday 9 June 2015

Road Trip Diary: Eugene, Oregon

24. Bend to Eugene
Wednesday 27th May 2015

Leaving Bend with heavy hearts we made our way to the next stop, Eugene. I briefly searched where our route would be taking us and the road going through the Willamette National Forest, one small part of the much bigger Cascade range, looked stunning on a smartphone screen but was even better in the flesh.

We briefly stopped at very cute little town named Sisters. Grabbed some bread rolls for lunch and some Pico de Gallo (we've become hooked on this stuff, it's a really spicy salsa) and I begrudgingly stopped at a local thrift store. Now, with any decent relationship there's a bit of give and take. Having a most beautiful and brilliant wife as I do, I have to put up with some of her loves/quirks which in this case is buying any old tat! Only joking, Ellie has a fantastic eye for some amazing bits, plus we hadn't stopped off at any thrift stores yet, so I gave in to her pleads. She came away with two belts and a t-shirt for a few dollars.

Slowly ascending into the forest, we stopped off at a viewpoint of the Mount Washington and the surrounding area which looked to have been caught by wild fire to take some snaps before carrying on to stop for lunch.
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We eventually saw a sign for a picnic area at a recreation area called Clear Lake in the middle of the Cascade range. We parked up and ate at a bench in the shade of the trees and had a walk by the beautiful lake, made so blue and clear because most of the water is snow run off. We watched some Steller's Jays fighting for crumbs, a swarm of butterflies at the waters edge and chatted with a hitchhiker who had seen Robert Plant the same night we did in Bend. Meeting people along the way has been one of our favourite parts of this trip so far, so many stories to hear.
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We didn't know what to expect with Eugene. It's conveniently placed between Portland and Bend and seemed a logical place to stop over. We dropped our stuff at our motel (America's Best Value Inn- probably our worst yet- noisy and just a bit crappy) and made our way into town. We had a few drinks downtown- lots of great bars and very chilled- then stumbled into a local Buffalo Exchange (a sort of thrift shop/exchange) where I came away with a sweet cowboy/western shirt and Ellie bought a couple of tops before making our way home, but not before taking in a Five Guys burger on the way back. We surmised that this was probably our best burger yet, beating even In-N-Out, which we thought was near impossible. All about the fries and the free monkey nuts.

25. Eugene
Thursday 28th May 2015

After both having a rather poor nights sleep in the motel (a combination of the noisy main road and a stuffy room) we were eager to get out of the room so we drove to the top of Skinner Butte (no sniggering in the back you!) which offered a good view of the city before having a walk around Eugene.
We bought ourselves a Voodoo Doughnut to enjoy in the afternoon before returning back to have a rummage in Buffalo Exchange again. Ellie, quick of eye, has the ever expanding suitcase which will have to be addressed at some point.

We had lunch at the Oregon Electrical Station, a beautifully restored train station which has been converted into a restaurant. We were welcomed in by the host who happened to be a fellow Englishman, the food was great- another burger for me and a chicken club sandwich for Ellie.

We still needed somewhere to eat our doughnuts, so we drove over to the Alton Baker park and sat on the grass under some trees. By this point it was only half two and we didn't fancy going back to the motel, so we hunted for local attractions. Luckily, we stumbled upon the Cascade Raptor Centre.
About twenty minutes from Eugene, it was a mere $8 to get in and we could wander freely, reading all about the backstories of the birds who lived there. Ellie fell in love with a snowy owl called Archimedes who pulled some excellent faces. The centre's main aims are to rehabilitate and release orphaned, sick and injured birds of prey and to educate the general public, using the disabled/non-releasable birds as advocates and learning tools.
They are doing such a fantastic job and, though it was sad to see so many permanently injured birds (reasons for non-release range from becoming too used to human contact to birds with brain damage and a couple missing eyes!), the efforts that they go to to release the healthy wild birds was very inspiring. I'm so happy we were lucky enough to visit the Centre and donate to their great work.
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