Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Top of Eugene

The short version of the story is that my two cousins, Nicole and Andrew, came through Eugene the week after Thanksgiving and prolonged the holiday family love fest. And it was all thanks to a wayward jacket of supreme importance.

I was secretly glad that Andrew had to backtrack to Portland for The Jacket because it meant that he would come through good old (boring) Eugene. I guess I felt like there was some hospitality to repay or something, but I hadn't exactly convinced him that Eugene was worth his while until the jacket mishap presented itself and the only logical thing for him to do was to come right on down the old I-5 and make a pit stop in Eugene. Nicole had tagged along for the ride, wisely seizing the opportunity for an impromptu road trip. (I believe you should always seize the opportunity for an impromptu road trip. More on that later.)

So yay! Out of town guests. Now what? See, there's not much to do in Eugene on a cold and rainy day in December. Of course we were going to end up at the Ninkasi brewery, that was a given. But how to fill the day?

I decided that we would climb Spencer's Butte. Sure it was cold, sure it was rainy, sure we would be dragging the kids along with us. It didn't matter- it was an adventure! Cold, check. Rainy, check. Muddy and windy, double check. It was a true Eugene outdoor adventure. But I noticed a strange thing on the way up- we were actually having a lot of fun. And somehow Jack managed to hike THE ENTIRE WAY. This is the kid who will often throw a temper tantrum when you ask him to wash his hands. He hiked UP and BACK. I am still shocked by this. Where was the whining? The complaining? When I complimented him on his perseverance, he gave me the look of incredulity that the young often give the old and replied, "I'm really good at hiking. My dad takes me all the time." The "duh" was implied.

We reached the summit and were assaulted by a vicious wind that just about knocked Jack over. Sawyer was, once again, refusing the comfort of gloves and preferring the epic meltdown approach to generating body heat. He fell asleep on the way down.

Can you find a camouflaged Jack hidden in this picture?

We were muddy and cold by the time we reached the car, but I felt that I'd given Nicole and Andrew a taste of the Eugene experience. Then it was time to sample some of the Eugene beer experience, sans kiddos. We dropped them off at Doug and Mary's house and headed for the brewery.

Brent and I are shamelessly obsessed with Ninkasi beer. I am serious, it is so good. Since we just so happened to have a keg of Ninkasi Sleigher on tap in our garage, our guests had had plenty of "sampling" of that one already, so we ordered a couple of rounds of tasters. I will drink with wild abandon just about everything that brewery puts out, but I had to draw the line at the ConventionAle Stout. I never thought I'd say this about a Ninkasi beer, but yuck. Nicole and Brent concurred.

To each their own, however, and Andrew gulped it down, taking one for the team. But then again, his palate might be more refined than ours, having been raised on Guinness and other fine European beers while Brent and I cut our beer drinking teeth on PBR.

It's a funny thing, spending so much time with cousins and realizing how dominant some of our family traits seem to be. I've always identified myself closely with my Scottish side of the family, mostly because my 80 something year old grandmother vehemently proclaims Scotland pride and pretty much insists that we do the same. My family and I all seem to possess some particular traits that we apparently share with our relatives across the pond.

1. Beer. We like it.
2. Wanderlust. Most of us have travelled pretty extensively. We crave new experiences and savor the open road.
3. A very particular brand of humor. Some people would not think it funny or appropriate to discuss the plot of "Deep Throat" at the dinner table with your entire extensive family present.

While Andrew was here and we reminisced about the time that Nick and I stayed with his family in Belfast, I pulled out my old travel journals. It was with trepidation that I found the entries based on our visit- had I said anything bad about them? Had I waxed philosophical about my own insecurities at that point in my life? Had I complained about the food?

No, I had not. And we pored over the old journals and laughed at my observations about Irish and Scottish culture and Nick's first foray into the bar scene (Belfast is no place for a newbie, FYI). I had written so many details that were now meaningless to me, but some things triggered really great memories. Those journals are priceless, just as the time I spent in Europe is. I am so glad I took the time to write while I travelled.

And it all made me realize just how important this little old blog is to me. People ask me all the time why I would want to write a blog. Why did I start it? Who reads it? The truth is that I started this blog because I miss my mom. I miss knowing how it was for her when we were little. I miss knowing what we ate for dinner or who gave who what for which birthday. I would love to have a window into our lives so that I could see the things I can't remember. And I would kill for her Twice Baked Potatoes recipe. So I guess I started this blog because I want to document the most important journey that I've ever taken. Forgive the cliche metaphor. It's the truth.

I've gotten a few raised eyebrows lately when I mention my upcoming trip to San Francisco. Yeah, it's pretty crazy to think that I'm going to leave my kids behind and head south instead of cherishing the first days of my winter break at home with my family. Yeah, it's probably selfish and maybe even unfair. But I have to do it. It's been too long since I've seen the open road. Travel is a part of who I am and I haven't acknowledged that part of me for awhile. I need to seize this opportunity, because it might not come again.

And I really want my kids to know that part of me. I want them to grow up jumping at opportunities for adventure and trying new things. Hiking is normal to Jack because Brent does it. I want travel to be the same way.

So come Friday morning, off I go. No guilt. No regrets. Camera in hand. Ready for the adventure.


  1. Have fun in SF...if you are driving and need to stop you are always welcome here in A-Town!

  2. Just think of how much sweeter the days will be when you return. Have a great time!