A Family's Visit to Eugene/Springfield, Oregon

December 27-31, 2004

Photographs of our trip

Photo Art Exhibit by the children

Not exactly the Griswolds but close (Dr. Rodney Chang and family)

      Our family business trip/vacation was a success.  All had a wonderful experience in their own way.  For myself and my wife, the visiting of listed residential property gave us the current state of real property in the area, at least within the price range that we limited our search.  There was always the conflict between selecting something practical - close to University of Oregon, in a desirable rental area, and in a location with property appreciation potential- and a vacation ranch further out for country style living, something that has eluded me all my life on this crowded tropical island of Oahu.  In the end practicality won out and we had our offer accepted for a home in beautiful Eugene. 3/2, new appliances and roof, but no storage available for art storage. And if rented, no place for me to hang my hat part time in commutes between Eugene and Honolulu.

    We lived in the Eugene Hilton for the week.  From there we rode daily our rented Mazda minivan, succeeding in remaining on a demanding schedule for the trip.  The first two days were dedicated to property visits, first in Eugene close to U.O., then newer homes on smaller lots, and lastly some country homes on acreage in Springfield.  Some of the wild life that is a part of life in this town include ducks flying in a wedge formation, deer on front lawns, squirrels scurrying up and down trees, and a raccoon was spotted at a garbage bin.  Out on the farms we enjoyed viewing horses, sheep, cows, chickens and even a bull.  Besides pasture land, many residential properties included mature landscaping including the shade and natural beauty of maple and oak trees. Douglas firs abound to give the area a Christmasy air.  To our surprise it did not rain most of the time and the temperature remained a tolerable mid-forties for us Hawaiians acclimated to the 80s.

     The children enjoyed some hours in an game arcade, fishing on the MacKenzie River (they got 1 day licenses) and learning to ski at Mt. Bachelor. Two out of three managed to go up and down the ski slope lifts and ski back down without falling too much.  There the temperature dropped to 24F and it snowed! It was the first time the children  saw and felt snow first hand.  The white snow covered pines along the highway to Mt. Bachelor was like driving through a real life Christmas card.  It was December 27th, close enough to sing "White Christmas" to each other in the parking lot.  The ski lounge was a zoo!  It was holiday season and there was fresh thick snow so everybody showed up.  We were lucky to find open stepping on a stairway to sit along the side and eat our meals off trays.  All the other steps were also occupied by diners, seated on both ends of each steps.  So much for my anticipated fantasy of coming to a ski lounge and sitting next to a fireplace and sip red wine with my meal.  It was more crowded than McDonald's!  But all in all, the ski trip from Eugene was a highlight of our trip.  

     We enjoyed the company of new friends.  There was Jackie and Kathie Robidou, our realtors at Caldwell.  They held up showing us about 15-20 properties.  I worked on producing my first large (40x50" and 30x40" giclee' canvases) prints with Janet Smith and her fiancÚ' Rich in Springfield.  We passed by Emerald Art Center in downtown and I plan to rent gallery space upstairs.  They  assisted us to meet Mary Unruh, director at DIVA or the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, and Robbie Hawkins, director at the Hult Center arts performance center.  We were very impressed with the multi-million dollar concert complex, especially the huge capacity first class performance theater and stage with the design of guilded gold balconies. Besides performance including the symphony, drama, and ballet, there is a formal space for visual arts exhibition.  I hope to someday exhibit in there as this seems to be the coveted space to have a show in Eugene.  There is no art museum.  We took in the current show of artists from around the state of Oregon at the Hult.  Later we were invited to visit and dine with Kathy and Greg Whittle and their teenage son TJ.  The boys shot hoops under the garage with TJ in 38F.  We enjoyed chatting about Eugene, our mutual acquaintances (my sister's family that lived next door to them in Beaverton once upon a time), and about our kids over dinner and wine, and watched on TV the Beavers trounce the Fighting Irish in the bowl game.  I got to know Dr. James Riddley better as we sat together on the bus to and from Mt. Bachelor, a 2-3 hour ski trip.  We both aspire to someday own a gallery that promotes his woodwork, glass art that is so eminent in Eugene, and my Giclee print editions.  We became acquainted with Vicki and their son, also TJ, as she had come to pick her family up upon its return to Eugene.  We found Mr. Berg of Berg's Ski Shop to be a caring, warm entrepreneur.  He assisted us in gear to ski and to survive the weather up at Mt. Bachelor.  We were impressed that in his shop he had a live feed of the slopes up at Mt. Bachelor.  We never found out why it's called that.  I wonder if there's a connection to a range of mountains named "Three Sisters."  

     As for food I subsided on baked potatoes, eggs, and sausage in the Hilton restaurant, also enjoying cupfuls of strong black coffee.  The hotel seems a bit slow at this time of year.  We managed to grab a bite at the local McDonald's and also try the food at the Chinese restaurant across DIVA and close to our hotel.  The wan ton soup was OK but the dishes were all so Americanized - chopped up stuff and the use of sugar. I hate "sweet-sour."  One evening we searched for snacks and ended up in a cafe section of a gift shop mall close to the Hilton.  Everything was closing so early, like the rest of downtown Eugene. But before 9 pm, we gave up on the horribly sludge with a burnt taste that we overpaid for called "onion soup."  At the Whittles we had some nice spaghetti-like linguini with baked bread and white wine.  She also made some delicious and colorful mixed fruit gelatin dessert.  Most of all I enjoyed the coffee in Eugene, so warming for 40F weather.  Upon arrival back at Honolulu Airport via a stopover in San Francisco, Bronson and Rochelle enjoyed their creamy latte drinks at Starbucks.

     The children and my wife got to experience life, at least during the winter holidays (U. of Oregon was a ghost town campus), in Eugene.  The pace seems much slower than Honolulu and everyone was so friendly.  For example, two homeless young men informed us as we returned to our van that we had left the side sliding door open all the time we were gone but they watched it for us.  Mary of DIVA made me feel so invited as an artist looking to become part of their arts community.  She's the obvious spearhead/workhorse to get art and culture moving forwards in the downtown area.  Since the timber industry slipped, so I was told, the economy has suffered.  You wouldn't guess this with real property having increased by 7% in 2003 and 2004.  However I did see many empty commercial spaces at street level as we drove about.  I hear University of Oregon is the main employer of Eugene,  Go Ducks!   Mr. Hawkins of the Hult Center took us on a private tour including the back stage of the performance hall as well as the art exhibition.  It was interesting to see all the autographs on the walls backstage of past performers.  I motioned to my teenager to put away his graffiti felt marker.  The streets of downtown were squeaky clean and without much traffic or noise.  It did seem quite empty with a lack of commercial activity but this could be due to the time of year, that period between Christmas and New Year's.  Rochelle noted she only heard an ambulance once. Here in Honolulu its almost every day.  The property we bought is OK as investment property, middle class in a good safe neighborhood just below ridge were 500K to million dollar residences are poised.  The silence is broken during the course of day and night by Pacific Union Railroad trains.  Rochelle and I got to see a long one pass only 50 feet away, stopping local traffic as it moved by.  One of the best memories of the kids will probably be visiting and fantasizing that their parents might actually buy one of the ranches we looked at.  I believe they got a sense of living space that they never experienced in Honolulu.  They walked a 2 acre farm, besides visiting its small barn.  Fronting the home was a fenced 1 acre of pasture.  Now that's a yard!  I fantasized on carpeting it with a green turf to create the dignity of an estate.  Lose the cows! We were all spooked when Greg Whittle said out there on farm land we have to be careful of night prowlers of the creature type, such as coyotes, wolves, deer, raccoon, snakes, black widow,and a rare occasional mountain lion, black bear or cobra.  He advised having a gun.  But others said wolves are extinct in these parts for a long time and the only thing we'd probably ever encounter would be the harmless deer.  

      The trip was a success in regards to finding a vacation/investment property, introducing the children and wife to Eugene and Springfield life, making new acquaintances, start to network in art and dentistry, have a ski adventure, taking in some of the town's cultural resources, producing giclees for New York City with a local printer, and sampling local style living through visiting around 15-20 residences including couple of farms.  Houston looks forward to going back someday to catch a trout just as Bronson was able to do on this trip.  He now mutters "Springfield," "MacKenzie River," "trout," and "salmon."  Salmon run two times during the year, in the spring and October so I'm told, some up to 20 pounds.  Fishing licenses are required above the age of 14. 

     I'll continue to pursue my quest for an Oregon dental license through the required paper process.  Fingerprints are a must and are sent to the FBI.  Bronson and the others had the opportunity to visit the impressive campus of the Ducks.  Most of the buildings are red brick.  We passed the fraternity house used in "Animal House." We secured a property that may be used to house my children should they be accepted and enroll at U.O.  I still will search for a small countryside property to convert to my future art studio and storage.

   The children provided the effort to document our trip through their cameras.  Enjoy seeing Eugene/Springfield through their eyes.  Judging from their photos here, a friend wrote in email that the art gene runs deep in my kids.  There's hope!

Our Sherwood (left) and Hershey are glad we're back!  Regular food again!


Photographs of our trip

Photo Art Exhibit by the children