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Adventures on Interstate 5: Seattle to Eugene and Back

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With family in Eugene and Portland, we run up and down the interstate to and from Seattle more than we’d like to admit. The drive doesn’t get any better, though there are some pretty stretches when you get to the bridges in southern Washington and in season, you can roll your windows down and fill the car with the smell of sweet clover flowers just north of Eugene. Still, it’s a grind and the only way to make it less so is to stop and get out of the car.

Batdorf and Bronson serve a couple of different coffees “on tap” in Olympia’s old downtown. The cafe is in a huge space—one of those old buildings with high ceilings that must have been a bank at one time. We snacked and took a stroll past the city hall and the town square. Brick low-rise architecture and wide sidewalks—Oly is a nice spot for a break, a classic American smaller city. We didn’t visit the Capitol building though you can see it just over there from downtown.

We dropped in at State of the Arts to pick up a Mother’s Day gift – you know this kind of place—lots of pretty but not very interesting watercolors, some amusing sculpture or paintings, and some decorative pottery … maybe you bought some earrings in a gallery just like this. We picked up a birdhouse with an elaborate craftsman façade—well received by the giftee.

My Portland family members live in the Hawthorne district, walking distance from all kinds of goodness including Staccatto Gelato. I had a few moments of regret about our recent move from our urban neighborhood to the burbs—or was that envy—as we walked past the restaurants, bars, supermarket. The pistachio gelato was a big winner, as was the orange chocolate.

Fern Ridge Ridge Reservoir
, is a serious birder’s destination. I’m not so much a birdwatcher as a bird looker, but I’m always game for a hike in the woods or wetlands. Fern Ridge has both, large wetland areas with lots of opportunities to see migratory birds, and a densely mossy trail that’s a little slice of rain forest. We walked in both types of habitat, the wind out on the levees was a bit much but the wooded trail was quiet and protected and you could pretend it didn’t feel like October outside. We saw some people fishing on the slough, but that was it for other humans. There were lots of birds to be heard and some to be seen, swifts, killdeer, Canada geese, wood ducks, redwing and not so redwing blackbirds …

We returned via Portland again stopping for snackage, this time at Grand Central Bakery. We have a Grand Central here in Seattle but we are never ones to pass up pastry and coffee. Rhubarb pie, almond croissants and stiff cappuccinos are good fuel for a three hour drive.

Even though we’ve done this particular trip dozens of time and are likely to do it dozens more, it’s good to be reminded that there are lots out there we haven’t seen, right in our backyard.

Photo courtesy of Nerd’s Eye View

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