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.