At the end of May, we took the trip of a lifetime. It’s been in the works for awhile — almost every summer, we’d talk about finally taking a trip to Oregon. The thing is, Oregon is an awfully long way from Kansas…and an even longer way from South Carolina, when we lived there. With distance comes expense, with distance comes greater travel considerations, and so there were always reasons not to go.
This year, we decided, was the year. Traveling with a toddler may not seem ideal, sure, but LilRunr is an easygoing and easy-to-please dude who has proven to be an excellent traveler. Planning for this trip actually began in 2012, as we began scouting housing options and ticket prices. We were trying to basically take two vacations in one — spending 4 days in Eugene and then spending 4 more somewhere on the Oregon coast. There were weeks when it seemed like it wasn’t going to come together — when plane ticket prices increased dramatically for no apparent reason, or when our first, second, and third choices for vacation rentals fell through.
Then, it all came together. Plane tickets to Portland — check. Rental car to take us through the rest of the state — check. Hotels in Portland and Eugene — check. Tickets to the Prefontaine Classic — check. Super awesome beachfront condo rental — CHECK. (That one gets special treatment via all caps because it is RIDICULOUSLY difficult to find a vacation rental that will accept a toddler.)
Wow. Just wow. Take ANY ONE ASPECT of that trip, and it was an incredible vacation. Combine them all together, and it’s something that I’m having trouble summarizing in blog form…which explains why this post is just being published NOW, months after our trip.
So, let’s just take things one at a time. First up — our trip to Eugene.
We flew into Portland on a Wednesday, then drove to Eugene on a Thursday. The drive was easy and quick, at just under two hours. The only snafu we encountered was that the kid’s bike trailer Scott had intended to rent (and that we had called to make reservations for weeks in advance, only to be told that reservations weren’t necessary) had already been rented. This was more than a little aggravating, because we had intended to go for some family bike rides/runs and had left our jogging stroller at home because we thought that we had access to a trailer. Argh! By the end of the day, however, everything had been worked out and the trailer was ours.
Scott and I quickly decided that there was a rule in Eugene: when you’re in Tracktown USA, you’d better be running. He badgered me (in a loving way, of course) until I finally put on some running clothes for an evening run on Pre’s Trail.
Eugene is a fabulous place to run. The weather was in the 60s, there are paved and unpaved trails everywhere, there’s beautiful scenery. I spent so much time running around and gawking that I realized I couldn’t remember which turns I had taken to end up at the football stadium.
Wait…football stadium? WHERE AM I? Scott had told me which streets to take back to the hotel after I crossed the river, but I could no longer remember their names. Oh, drat. This is when a sense of direction would come in handy and NOW THE SUN IS SETTING oh gosh I might get eaten by a bear. After staring at the trail map conveniently placed for dummies like me, I eventually realized that (1) all I needed to do was run across the bridge, take a left, and follow the road back to our hotel and (2) the iPhone attached to my arm could also provide turn-by-turn directions. Crisis averted.
The next morning, Scott woke early and went for a bike ride, spotting several famous runners out doing their pre-race workouts.
When he got back, we loaded up LilRunr in the bike trailer (along with his water, crackers, stuffed animal, two toy trains, and a blanket…the kid travels light, ha!) and headed out for my 2nd run of the vacation. We learned that the pros don’t sleep in as late as I do (we had the trail mostly to ourselves) and that LilRunr will fall asleep in the bike trailer every. single. time he’s in it.
We returned to the hotel, and Scott decided to take the whole “when in Eugene, exercise” thing to extremes by immediately heading out for a run. That makes 3 workouts in one morning for anyone who’s counting. LilRunr and I decided to spend some time in the indoor pool. It was FREEZING cold, but the little guy had fun splashing me in the face. Awesome.
When Scott returned from his third workout of the morning, it was time to get cleaned up and find some fuel. We opted for the Original Pancake House, where Scott saw Allison Felix. (I caught a glimpse of her back as she was leaving…Scott is way better at celebrity runner spotting than I am.)
The rest of the day was a bit lazy. We spent some time at the hotel where — miracle of miracles — LilRunr actually took a lengthy nap. This was great for us, as we intended to keep the child up past his bedtime and watch “Distance Night” at Hayward Field.
Hours before the meet was scheduled to start, we got antsy and made the 1/2 mile walk to the track. Wow. There’s something about a track — any track — that instantly transports me back to my days of competing. The fact that the track we were ogling was the famous Oregon track only made things that much more exciting. We made an entire circuit of the stadium, watching athletes warm up and doing the tourist thing of buying up multiple “Prefontaine Classic” t-shirts.
The great thing about Distance Night is that there was no assigned seating and a half-empty stadium. This is maybe bad for the sport of distance running, but it’s handy for parents of a toddler. LilRunr enjoyed exploring our nearly empty row of seats and could be as wiggly and restless as his little heart desired without annoying anyone.
We went to the track that first night unsure how long we’d be able to stay before LilRunr got tired, cranky, and ready for bed. “Well,” we said to ourselves, “at least it’s the free night! We’ll just stay as long as we can.” The toddler lived up to his easygoing reputation by doing just fine. We were able to stay through the 10k, and Scott and LilRunr were even trackside for a victory lap high five. (Which, of course, I did not record in any kind of decent manner because I am a terrible photographer.)
The next day passed in about the same manner — bike ride, run, track meet. The main difference was that on Saturday, the meet was sold out and started at 12:00pm. LilRunr’s naptime. The child, bless his sweet heart, went so far in accommodating us as to TAKE AN EARLY NAP. This is unprecedented.
Off we went to the track once more. We had tickets on the home stretch, at roughly the 40m mark of the 100m dash. To my complete and utter surprise, LilRunr was happy to sit (mostly) still in a crowded stadium for over two hours, sometimes watching the action (he particularly enjoyed the triple jump and pole vault), sometimes playing games on my phone, and sometimes eating Red Vines, the candy currency with which we bought his silence and continued good behavior.
I had the impression that we were surrounded by friends — crazy nuts who happily paid money to come watch a track meet and loved the sport. The boys behind us were distance junkies. They knew the stats and season bests for just about every distance runner. The crowd in general was enthusiastic about every performance. The announcers were knowledgeable and WAY less annoying than their TV counterparts.
My favorite performance of the day would have to be the high schooler Mary Cain running the 800m. It is completely unreal that a 16-year-old can hang with some of the best middle distance runners in the world. I am simply in awe of her talent, and her sweet enthusiasm in the post-race interview was endearing. The rest of the distance races were awesome, too, and it was incredibly refreshing to be able to watch an ENTIRE 5000m without commercial interruption.
Scott was in charge of taking pictures, while I alternated between watching the meet and keeping LilRunr occupied. After the meet, we took a seriously tired little boy to Tracktown Pizza. He slept through most of the meal, then woke up grumpy. Before long, it was back to the hotel for our last night in Eugene.
Boy, do I love Eugene. It helps that the weather was gorgeous all four days we were there, but I think I’d love it even when it rains. Maybe someday we’ll be able to make a return trip. It’s a special place, but after 4 days of track fan fun, the time had come for us to move on to the second half of our vacation.
Next up, the Oregon Coast!