Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Hanging Out in Duckdom

My wife and I secretly rooted for our daughter to go to Seattle University so we had a built-in excuse to visit Seattle, one of our favorite cities.

duckOur daughter decided to attend the University of Oregon, so now we face the prospect of hanging out in Eugene for the next four years.

There is no point trying to compare the two universities or the two cities. In many ways, they are worlds apart.

For us the difference is we know what we would do in Seattle, but have to figure out what to do in Eugene. Luckily we know enough about Eugene that tie-dye isn’t mandatory.

Family weekends at UO afford an opportunity to spend a little time with your college student and maybe attend a sporting event. There is a Museum of Natural and Cultural History and Museum of Art on campus. The university offers degrees in fields that didn’t exist when we went to college, which offers a moment of amazement and generational regret.

We’ve located the Duck Store, nearest Starbucks and Beppe and Gianni’s Trattoria. But that still leaves a lot of extra time to fill.

There are plenty of excellent wineries within reach of Eugene, such as Abacela, an hour or so south in Winston and literally an electric fence away from the Wildlife Safari, and King Estate, a lush oasis on the top of a hill with great Pinot noir and a restaurant.

jaqua-centerWe could spend four years trying to get invited into the John E. Jaqua Center for Student Athletes. Or we could watch the Oregon Duck train to do all those push-ups at football games.

When I Googled for suggestions of what to do in Eugene, I got some predictable suggestions – go on the Riverwalk, check out the local farmer’s market and see what’s happening at the Hult Center. One adviser made a less predictable suggestion – “just go to the beach and ride the sand buggies.”

Nobody mentioned going to the ballpark to see the Eugene Emeralds play. Nobody even mentioned going to track meet to see a world-class athlete who may be on the Duck track and field team.

As we contemplate where to explore, we are still trying to figure out where to stay. For the 2-day college orientation our daughter is attending now, we landed a great room at the Inn at the 5th. It is new, bright and has a small terrace. Unfortunately, for almost all the times we anticipate being in Eugene to see our daughter, it is booked – along with almost every other clean, semi-clean and lighted hotel and motel in town.

We actually looked at a room in Cottage Grove, 20 miles south of Eugene, for homecoming weekend. Clearly, our first discovery about Eugene will be how to book a room in advance for a peak period.

The Office of Student Life at the UO offers 101 suggestions, which include feeding the ducks  at Alton Baker Park, ordering a hot fudge sundae at Prince Puckler’s Homemade Ice Cream, attending the Mushroom Festival at Mount Pisgah or playing a round of Frisbee golf around campus.

Eugene-Skyline-by-Jamie-HooperMy absolute favorite suggestion of what to do in Eugene is to go back to college. Why waste the trip to Eugene just to visit the campus where your daughter goes when you can join her by going to class. What a chance to catch up on all those philosophy lectures I slept through during my undergraduate years. Remembering what Immanuel Kant thought could be a lot more important than I realize.

There is no rush to cobble together our 4-year Eugene itinerary. We still have two months before Sophia has to show up at the UO for real.







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