Our politics are liberal and we eat locally grown organic foods, but neither of us has ever owned anything tie-dyed. (I do, however, have an inordinate fondness for paisley.) Despite our deficiency of tie-dye, we always feel at home in Eugene.
We’ve visited Eugene many times, but mostly just as an overnight in our travels up and down the I-5 corridor. This time, as we traveled south toward our hometown of Ashland, we settled in for six days at the end of September.
The Saturday Market
Many towns now host open-air craft markets, but Eugene is where it all began. The first market opened on a rainy day in early May 1970. Given that half of the days are rainy in Eugene, that’s no surprise. Rain doesn’t deter locals (a sure sign of a tourist is an umbrella) and the market was a great success. Forty-four years later, the market is still going strong. It attracts up to 5,000 people every Saturday for a festival of handmade arts and crafts, locally grown produce, grassroots musicians, local food trucks, and people watching.
We spent several hours on a beautiful sunny Saturday eating handmade organic tacos, listening to music, and browsing the craft booths. Traveling in our little trailer means that I can’t indulge my passion for handmade pottery. This is something I find challenging about traveling full-time. In our previous years of part-time travel, we always enjoyed finding unique handmade art and crafts, and our home was filled with these treasures. Everything is now in storage, packed away in cardboard boxes.
Meanwhile, I’m contenting myself with things we can consume. Our bounty at the Saturday Market included gourmet lettuces, fall strawberries, tiny potatoes, pastured pork, and a dozen colorful eggs.
Down To Earth
I don’t often think of retail stores as must-visit attractions, but if you appreciate gardening, cooking, and all things natural, you’ll enjoy a visit to Down To Earth.
We happened to be there during the annual garlic festival and participated in the tomato taste-off (German Striped was our favorite). We also enjoyed the fermented veggie demonstrations and garlic recipe sampling. The only downside is that wandering the garden center made me miss our gardens. I found several varieties of garlic that I would love to plant, and a flamingo colored echinacea that I’ll be adding to our gardens someday.
Biking The Riverside Trail
Eugene is a bike-friendly town, and there’s no better place to cycle than on the Ruth Bascomb Riverbank Trail System. More than 14 miles of wide, paved paths meander along the Willamette River, with side trails through gardens, the university campus, and natural areas. We had a great time biking two days, exploring everything there is to see on and off the trail.
So Much Good Food
We always enjoy Provisions in the Fifth Street Marketplace in downtown Eugene. They have a fantastic salad bar of organic and local foods, including roast chicken, good cheeses, and interesting marinated vegetables. Not your usual salad bar. They also have a wicked French bakery, good coffee, and an excellent selection of gourmet items. We came home with smoked salt, saffron, dark chocolate chipotle almonds, and too many goodies from the bakery.
The gourmet restaurant Marche (also located in the Fifth Street Marketplace) is associated with Provisions and is our favorite for a special evening out. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner on the patio with a delicious fall-themed meal of roasted beet salad, grilled salmon, and braised lamb with root vegetables.
About The RV Park
When visiting Eugene we always stay at Armitage County Park, just a few miles outside of town in Coburg. The sites are spacious with full hook-ups, good Verizon coverage, and a brand new laundry (believe me, this is cause for delight among full-time RVers). There is an annoying $10 reservation fee, which isn’t too bad amortized over a week-long visit but makes an overnight stay expensive. If you plan to visit in the fall, make sure to check the University of Oregon football schedule—the campground is booked far in advance for the Duck’s home games.
A garlic fest – how fun. I’ll pass on the tie-dyed though :-)
So Ingrid, you’re not a fan of tie-dye either? I’m not sure how I escaped it as a teenager in the early 70’s. But I sure do love paisley anything!
thanks for the tips. I always enjoy visiting Eugene and finding new places to check out. Blacksheep Gathering is in June and that’s a fun weekend if you happen upon it.
Christine, thanks for mentioning the Blacksheep Gathering. I’d never heard of it, but it looks like fun! Eugene definitely has lots to offer.
Well here I go sighing over all your fabulous pictures. That wood duck is just fantastic. Love the pictures of all the locals. I don’t actually care for eggplant, I think I got sick of them because they grew so well in our early garden days and I was having eggplant every way I could think of. Lots of oil. BUT I loved your beautiful picture of them. Stop talking about what you are doing when you come off the road. As seldom as we get to see you, you cannot ever come off the road. You have to keep coming to Florida. :-)
Sherry, although there are things I miss about “home” and look forward to doing again, we’re not planning to stop full-time traveling anytime soon. We’ll be in Florida next fall and winter for sure, and are looking forward to spending more time with you and David. :-)
Ha ha! Hans and I were discussing Eugene this afternoon, then came home to your post! It is definitely our kind of town and we need to spend some quality time there, not just a quick stopover!
It’s a very fun town, Lisa — you and Hans would really enjoy the bike path and there’s a lot of hiking that we didn’t even get to. Next time!
We really enjoyed the time we spent in Eugene. We located ourselves in Salem and then visited from there. We loved Salem. I have never seen farmers markets like the ones there. This is where I fell in love with kale and swiss chard! Eugene needs more time for sure besides our two days of touring and bike riding. I love sounds of the Down to Earth Market! Thanks for all the suggestions:)
Pam, we’ve never spent time in Salem, but now I’m intrigued! Eugene deserves even more time than we spent there — we’ll definitely return, given that it’s often on our route.
And don’t forget us runners! Eugene is still Track Town USA, with its own awesome trail system, former Olympians zipping by, and the best running climate in the country. LOVE that town.
Of course! You are so right, Gretchen — Eugene is famous for legendary runners and the trail system is beautiful!
We love Eugene! The Saturday market was the highlight of our visit, and we also enjoyed the bike path. Good to know that the Armitage park now has laundry. A great addition to an already wonderful park.
Amanda, only another full-timer can fully appreciate the joys of a nice on-site laundry! :-)
We love Eugene and this post brought back some wonderful memories for me. The farmers’ market is probably the best I have seen and Down to Earth was heavenly. We spent lots of time on that biking trail. Armitage Park was a great tip from Nina (of course).
I agree with you Laurel, I also miss gardening. Since we are staying put most of the winter in So. Cal at Jojoba Hills, I plan to take advantage of the lovely gardens here and join in on the pottery class later this winter.
LuAnn, it’s so fun to know that so many full-timers have spent time in Eugene. We first learned about Armitage Park from Laurie and Odel when they were full-timing — and we actually met them there. It was a great find! How fun that you’ll be gardening and doing pottery this winter. It’s a nice addition to traveling.
If you like the River Bank Trail in Eugene, come on down to Cottage Grove sometime and check out the Row River Trail — 15.5 miles one way with beautiful scenery.
Colette, that sounds like something we would love! Thanks so much for the great tip. We’ll put it on our list for spring.
Oh my, we did stop by Eugene in 2012 but you have shown us what we missed or overlooked. We need to spend more time now that you have showed us what a cool town it is.
Pastured pork…yum…we are now craving for that delicious meat.
Laurel, you blended well with the beautiful fall asters.
ML, Eugene is a town well worth visiting more than once! Even six nights wasn’t enough (and we’ve been through Eugene many times for a night or two on previous journeys!).