A Yurt By Any Other Name

Roundhouse

Have you read “I’ve Got Baggage?” You might want to read that first.

I arrive in Portland after an on time and uneventful flight. I take the extremely long walk to baggage claim to pick-up my tightly packed luggage and do some more walking to get to the car rental airport shuttle pick-up. Portland International Airport (PDX) has some on site car rental but I was a bit “Thrifty”, or perhaps I should say “Budget” conscious. Actually a little of both.

About a week before the trip I reserved a rental car with Thrifty Car Rental at a not-so-bad price of $254.08 including all of the crazy taxes and fees. On Saturday, I played Priceline’s version of Russian Roulette, Name Your Price. As the Thrifty rate of $171.68 per week, not including taxes worked out to $24.52 per day, I bid $14.00 per day on Priceline. I don’t really care who I rent my car from as long as it’s an airport location. Budget Car Rental accepted my bid and I’ll be paying a grand total of $196.57 for the week. including taxes and fees, a savings of $57.51. I’ve kept the Thrifty reservation just in case there’s a problem with the Priceline reservation and I need backup. If you reserve directly with a car rental company, there’s normally no need to provide a credit card number ahead of time and no cancellation fee. Between that and the airport parking in Phoenix I’ve saved nearly $100 this first day. And I’ve declined the rental car insurance as I checked my MasterCard prior to traveling and, between that and my own car insurance, I’m good. As Jake and Elwood said, “We got a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes (um, not really, I don’t smoke) and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!”

I head on out of Portland (driving over the Willamette, of course) and, after a quick stop for a sandwich, I’m in Eugene two-and-a-half hours later. The only reservations I truly have for this trip are the first two nights (except for a guest house owned by my step-sister at which I’ll stay at the end of the trip). I’ve made those reservations through AirBnB . This is my first time using this well-known service which has become quite popular in the last year. People rent out rooms in their homes, or even entire houses or apartments on a nightly basis through AirBnB. As they are international, you can find places all over the world. I have found The Roundhouse which is a twelve-sided wooden structure in the backyard of Don’s home (he’s careful not to call it a yurt as, apparently, those are made of fabric). community libraryWhen I arrive I enter through the gate which Don’s pre-trip E-mails has described as being right next to the community library, a copper arched enclosed shelf. I purposely make some noise to let anyone know I’ve arrived. It’s strange walking into a stranger’s backyard while dragging your luggage behind you. As no one comes out, I proceed to make my way over the river rocks, which are beautifully landscaped though not at all practical when carrying two tightly packed suitcases and a tightly packed backpack.

Floor of Pennies

Floor of Pennies

I open the door of The Roundhouse and am pleasantly surprise; it’s well designed with hooks all around the inside to substitute for a closet and there are windows on each side as well as a skylight. There are collapsible tables attached to walls in order to make good use of the space. FYI – there is no television. Oh and the floor is made up of pennies! 59,206 to be exact. There’s even an old road bike should I choose to use it. Oh, and a dog, it comes with a dog! Okay, not exactly. His name is Boston and he’s a big, black, friendly dog who doesn’t seem to mind that strangers come and go from his backyard at all hours. Besides Boston, I meet Don’s son Nate. As Don is out of town for a couple of days, Nate is taking care of things.

Roundhouse backyard

Views from the Roundhouse

The one real drawback is that the bathroom is just inside the back door of the main house. It’s only about twenty steps away but it feels a bit like camping when you have to slip on your shoes and grab your flashlight (provided by Done, of course) when nature calls (and it always calls in the middle of the night just because you’re thinking of that walk). This is a good time to point out what you should bring if you stay here – a pair of flip-flops or other sensible, easy-on shoes for those late-night trips to the bathroom. Also, pajamas.

Your morning wake-up call should you forget your eye shades

Your morning wake-up call should you forget your eye shades

Yes, for those of you who sleep sans clothing, while Don and Nate are lovely people, I’m sure they, and their neighbors, wouldn’t appreciate you skulking around in their backyard wearing nothing but a smile (and sensible shoes, of course). Finally, eye shades. Even if you close all of the curtains on each of the five windows, there’s still that skylight. Trust me, bring the eye shades.

After getting settled, I head into downtown Eugene (about 2 miles away). I find parallel parking on Broadway, one of the main downtown streets. As I gather my purse, I notice the car in front of me has a sign in the rear window which says, “Homeless family of four living in car. Anything you can give is appreciated.” This is a great opportunity to mention the homeless factor here in both Eugene and Portland. There are a lot of homeless people here. One should be prepared that, if you choose to travel here, you will see this.

When I exit my car I hear bluegrass music coming from inside a storefront. Although there’s a closed sign out front, I enter and ask if I might listen. The five men with various stringed instruments agree. After their first song, I ask about this place. They tell me it’s the Jazz Station, a Performance Space and Gallery and every other Monday night local jazz musicians drop in for a jam session.

Jazz Jam Session

After listening to a couple of songs, I make my way down Broadway, one of the main streets in downtown Eugene, and stop in Jameson’s Bar. Oregon is known for their great craft beer and I aim to try a few on this trip. It turns out, this trip is starting out much like the storytellers I met on the St. John’s Newfoundland trip (read here) in regards to the strange men I seem to meet in bars on the first night. I strike up a conversation with a younger guy next to me who seems to know a bit about the local beers on tap. At his recommendation I choose a 10 Black which ends up being a fine choice. My challenge comes when I ask him what his favorite thing to do here is.

He answers, “I like to go pick wild mushrooms.”

Attempting to relate this to an activity which you might recommend to a complete stranger I ask, “Oh, so do you hike to go do this?”

“Yeh, there’s some hiking and some driving. Actually a lot of driving and a lot of getting lost.”

I get distracted for a moment by the ongoing bar trivia game and when I look to my left, he’s gone. Probably heading out on a mushroom hunt.

There’s now an older man who has taken his place. After some small talk I mention that I’m a bit shocked at how light it is still at 9:00pm. I then realize that it stays lighter later here as in Arizona we don’t do daylight savings time.

He shakes his head knowingly and says, “That’s because it’s a bunch of socialists there.”

Um, what? I’m not even sure what that means. I respond, “No, really, it’s just because it’s really hot and we want the sun to go down.”

Apparently, he disagrees and goes off on a tangent about naval ships with munitions racing cruise ships coming out of Puget Sound. Before long he’s mumbling to himself. I ask the bartender for my tab “before I kill him” and head off to my lovely Roundhouse in the Backyard.

Tomorrow – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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