Here’s Something To Quack About

Catching up with an old friend. Photos from Don Chapman

Just back from a fantastic trip to Oregon primarily to watch my U of Oregon Ducks football team run over Arizona State before 60,055 people, the largest crowd ever for a sporting event in Oregon.

Returning to Eugene to cheer on the Ducks and take in the majesty of endless maple, elm and oak trees turning golden and red among the evergreens has become a nearly annual jaunt for me. And for anyone who attended college on the Mainland, I highly recommend a return trip. It’s a ton of fun soaking up the excitement of an autumn Saturday football game.

When asked why I’m such a huge Ducks fan, I can offer several reasons, including that they play exciting football, played in last season’s national championship game and are ranked No. 6 at this writing. But the biggest reason is that I am certain I would not be enjoying this wonderful newspaper career and wonderful life if it had not been for my time at the University of Oregon.

But there was much more to this trip than hollering Oooooooo, and I’ll share a few tips for folks who may be traveling that way.

Best Eugene restaurant: Oregon Electric Co., which features the best Steak Diane anywhere. Nice salads, seafood and wine list too.

Oregon’s fall foliage is spectacular

Best pizza I’ve ever had anywhere: Track Town Pizza on Franklin Boulevard. The “Decathlon” pizza included a multitude of meats and veggies and was topped with sliced fresh tomatoes, added after cooking perhaps two tomatoes in all on a medium pizza. It’s located directly across from the amazing new Matt Court basketball arena funded by Nike founder Phil Knight and named for his late son. He also built UO’s new law school and named it for his father.

Best fish and chips: Newman’s on Willamette Street. Choices include cod, salmon, halibut and lobster, in a fun, funky ambiance.

One experience, however, I would urge you to avoid. That would be renting a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV) from Sand Dunes Frontier to ride the sand dunes just south of the coastal town of Florence. Huge dunes, some rising more than 100 feet, spread across more than 40 miles of the central Oregon coast. And for the first 20 minutes of what was supposed to be an hourlong ride, we were having a blast. Then, just as I realized that we had strayed out of the illdefined Frontier area (which is not supervised) and were heading back, my machine conked out. It’s a rather lonely feeling, being stranded in a vast sandy landscape, and realizing nobody had brought a cell phone and that darkness was just a couple of hours away. Fortunately, four Good Samaritans on private ATVs saw us and came to the rescue, towing my machine a mile and a half to a state campground. Our rescuers had a cell, but the folks at Frontier were not answering their phone. A call to 911 led to a call to the state forestry department police. Long story short, we made it back to the Frontier office, but they charged me an extra $100 for returning it late although their machine broke down. Not pleasant folks to do business with, and they obviously need a better mechanic.

Otherwise, the coast was sunny and cloudless for three days. And thanks to my old high school battery-mate from Salem, Terry “Crab Master” Thies, who brought his boat over to Newport Bay and caught 11 Dungeness crabs, which four of us happily consumed while watching Monday Night Football as the sun set over the ocean, washed down with some fantastic Eola Hills (Willamette Valley) Pinot Gris. Life doesn’t get much better.

In Portland, visited both the world-famous Rose Garden which boasts more than 8,000 rose bushes and more than 600 varietals, and where the air is a pure pleasure to breathe and the adjacent Japanese Garden, which is really five different gardens in one and is said to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside Japan. Truly a tranquil place to linger a while.

If you love seafood, Jake’s Famous Crawfish downtown is the place. It has special memories for me my dad took me there as a boy when we attended a ball game or a movie in Portland. But don’t take just my word GQ magazine and The New York Times also rave about the place that has a new menu daily based on what fresh seafood is available, and has been there since 1892.

Anyway, it was good to be gone, great to be back.