Great Towns: Eugene, Oregon

Great Towns: Eugene, Oregon

One of my favorite features to living a life in which the bike plays a dominant role is the way that simple device takes me to new places. Were it not for the bike, I’d probably never have encountered Santa Cruz, California, Crested Butte, Colorado, Vaison-la-Romaine, France, or Santa Rosa, California. The bike has been both a great way to encounter new places, but it serves as a reminder to keep my eyes open.

I’d been hearing from friends that Eugene, Oregon, is Super Record among Nuovo Record, that it was big enough to sustain a real life, but small enough to remain intimate and quick to get out of town. For my trip up for the Oregon Gran Fondo I decided to make my visit a bit more than three days to give me a chance to wander the town and sample its charms. IMG_8042

Of course, the Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson house (above) isn’t typical of all of Eugene’s homes, but this Victorian stands as an example of the kind of vision and creativity on which Eugene was founded. I was tempted to take a tour of the place, maybe stick around for high tea, but the timing didn’t quite work out.

Saturday morning I met up with a few Rolf Prima and Co-Motion employees for a ride out into the country, which took all of five minutes to reach. Brian Roddy, Rolf Prima’s owner confided to me that the loop we were doing was their typical post-work loop. I alternated between being reminded of my days in Northampton, Massachusetts, and seething envy. The riding was varied as an iPod on shuffle and beautiful as the vistas in a national park.  IMG_8056

It would be hard to get tired of the riding in and around Eugene. Very hard.

The town did have one rather stunning challenge, though. I’m as allergic to pollen as Dick Cheney is to kindness. My buddy Alan Cline, who works for Rolf Prima and dark:30 sports, served as my guide for my visit and he warned me, before I ever boarded my flight, that Eugene sits at the southern end of the Willamette Valley and the prevailing winds blow south toward town, carrying with them stunning amounts of pollen from all the grass grown specifically for seed. I dealt with it by taking 24-hour Allegra every 22 hours. I haven’t had that allergic a reaction to a place since I left Memphis, Tennessee. Gads.

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  1. Pingback: Neither here nor there or talk me out of moving to Portland - Page 7

  2. ScotJ

    It is hard to not to love riding up here; however, take it from someone from NorCal, if you are use to 300 days of sunshine, Western Oregon weather is hard to get use to from November through say March or April. It really does rain 20 to 25 days a month during the winter months and well into spring. You know it is not so much the rain, but the upkeep cleaning and lubing the bike that gets old. Oh and cleaning of the shower with all the road grit and embrocation products that get imbedded into the bathtub! Moss literally grows on cars here! From July 6th (official start of summer) to October 10th there are not many better places to throw a leg over a top tube and ride a bike then Western Oregon!

  3. Author

    Anthony: I’m aware that it rains a little bit super-frequently for nine months or so of the year. That would be an adjustment, but normal rainfall for Eugene is actually well below that of Memphis, where I grew up.

    ScotJ: I do hear people complain about how gray it can be in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve already made my peace with gray by living in the Beach Cities of SoCal. People tend to think we’ve got weather that’s sunny and 73 for 360 days per year, but where I am has a heavy marine influence and it’s gray here for whole months at a time and even the sunny days start out gray. It’s not uncommon for us to have sunshine here from noon to three and marine layer for the rest of the day. But there’s the cold.

    I have a clear awareness that I saw Eugene on the night of her prom—at her absolute best. That’s one of the funny things about cycling. It doesn’t take you to too many places when they are deep in the throes of crappy, except with early spring racing and a few cyclocross races.

  4. Rob Beard

    I think these Eugene dudes protest a bit too much–“it’s actually terrible up here, don’t move here,” etc. Sort of like all those stealth camping sites I swear don’t exist (don’t try camping anywhere except approved campsites near Big Sur, nothing else exists).

    Padraig, I know you and I have very different political leanings, but I thought the Dick Cheney comment was a bit beneath you. One of the two of us has met and worked with him and has an opinion of the guy based on actual experience, including watching him deal with people when the cameras are off and no-one else is around. I get that you hate his politics, but I don’t see the basis for the personal attack. I guess I’ve never seen you be anything but a nice guy when I have encountered you on rides, such as Levi’s GF last year, so this took me back a bit.

    Thanks for all you do!

  5. Big E

    I live in Salem, OR. Grew up in a small(ish) town northeast of there called Silverton and went to University in Eugene (Go Ducks!).
    What the other guys say about the weather is true. However, I always go with the proverb: There is no bad weather. Just bad clothing.
    Also, your observations on precipitation amounts are correct. But back east the rain generally comes down super heavy for a little while and is done. We get drizzle for days on end. That’s why everyone thinks its so “wet” around here. But that rain makes everything as green. So I’m happy for it.
    Another thing to consider is that the Willamette Valley is THE worst place in the country for people with allergies. Between grass, tree and fungus we rock impressive pollen counts almost the entire length of the year.
    I’m so glad you got a chance to come up and get a taste of the cycling in our area. The roads are good, the views are great and the people are (generally) very friendly. If you’re ever in the northern valley I’d love to take you out on one of our Group rides.

  6. Author

    Rob: I used Cheney because he made for an excellent illustration to my point, which wasn’t political. His public persona—suddenly back in the media to defend something we won’t go into here—is reviled by most of the world, even by some people who agree with his politics. Of course no one would think that he’s incapable of kindness—he has two children and who among us is not moved by their own offspring? The larger point is that his public reputation is that of someone with no social graces, limited decorum, and a generally prickly manner—in short, someone woefully shy on kindness. Had I meant my comment as a truly political screed, I’d have gone a good deal farther, and not stopped with just him.

    More broadly, I mostly leave politics out of RKP, but I do believe the bicycle is inadvertently political here in the U.S. I have made cracks from time to time about “civilized” countries, and while some have misread those comments as an example of my “arrogance” (I’m really not), they’ve been meant to point out how nations in Europe don’t see the bicycle as leftist, subversive or even socialist. Other nations spend on infrastructure in a way that doesn’t marginalize the bike the way the U.S. has for generations. Now, finally, that’s beginning to change, and for better or worse (maybe both), the people leading the way happen to sit on the left side of the spectrum.

    1. Steve Garvin

      Padraig: All you need to do is apologize for the ad hominum attack. As I tell my kids, when you are in a stupid hole, stop digging.

      When I see you throw in a cheap shot about Obama’s arrogance then I’ll know you are an equal opportunity snark.

      Cheers, Steve.

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