Eugene, Oregon: Population = 166,575, elevation = 430 feet, Average January low temp = 34.5º, Average July high temp = 82.2º, Average precipitation = 46.12”
The last time we passed through Eugene it was May and the rhododendron forest in Hendricks Park was in full, exhilarating bloom. Spring flowers were erupting from every lawn and garden. The weather was perfect. This year we were just in time for a record-setting streak of hot weather. Temperatures were in the 100s and upper 90s for our week in a house without air-conditioning! Blasting fans turned the house from oven to convection oven. So, to save ourselves from melting, we spent most of the 100 degree days inside movie theaters, breweries, restaurants, and museums.
We had some help with the breweries. Eugene’s Visitor’s Center has a “Eugene Ale Trail” passport with the names and addresses of 17 breweries. Go to just 8 of the breweries, have them stamp the passport, and collect an (empty) growler. After just three 100 degree days, we had our growlers. (Note: Usually I take photos of untasted beers. When it’s 100, the first gulp come before the first photo.)
Besides the heat wave, we were dealing with smoke and pollen. There had not been any rain for a long time and the greenery was crunchy. Off in the distant woods, forest fires were burning down vast tracts of tall pines, filling the sky with smoke. Across the Willamette Valley, a half million acres of lawn grass seed crop pollen was wafting throughout the valley. A haze loomed over the city, torturing our sinuses and bleary eyes.
When it got a little cooler (mid 90s) we went to see a museum. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History has exhibits both anthropologic and geologic. The cultural history traces the history of indigenous tribes, settlers, gold miners and loggers, trains and roads. The natural history tells of tectonic plates shifting, converging, and subducting to form mountains and valleys. A chart of CO2 in the atmosphere predicts future changes to the world.
With the outdoors somewhat livable again, we set off to see some of the local culture. There are a lot of community events in Eugene. Every week, the Wednesday Farmers Market springs up near downtown with blocks full of vendors, food, and music. Saturday is the Lane County Farmers Market. Parks all around the city have lots of fun weekend events, including movies, plays, and music. We got to see the One More Time Marching Band perform some classic martial music. A short ride across the river brought us to the very strange 2nd Star Festival, a sort of arts and craft event by people in fantasy costumes.
Our first pass through Eugene put it firmly on our short list of possible places to settle down. This trip raised some questions. We know that a scorching week is just weather, not climate. It happens. The annual dry, smoky, pollen-laden skies were an unpleasant surprise. I guess the search continues…
Next up: Coos Bay, Oregon