I waited for my luggage to appear on the single carousel at Eugene airport and wondered what this town had in store for me. My reason for being here was kind of whimsical, based on a recommendation by a stranger posted on a blog I’d written several months earlier. His enthusiasm for the place piqued my interest enough for me to add it to my itinerary.
The airport is possibly the smallest I’ve ever touched down in, but it has a few interesting items dotted about which filled my time before the carousel cranks into action. I can already sense the slightly quirky nature of the area from the airport decoration, which includes a lifesize model of a plane that will never fly, and two model ducks that tower a couple of feet taller than the people they greet.
Like most people I’ll meet in my time in Eugene, the shuttle bus driver can’t quite put into words what made him choose to settle in Eugene over 30 years earlier. An indescribable force made him put down roots and leave behind his native L.A.
The smell of incense drifts along the corridor as I make my way to the hostel reception. People wearing tie-die t-shirts sit behind a counter lined with an assortment of crystals, checking people in and smiling readily.
After dumping my bags, I explore the area. The pleasant smell of hops cloaks the streets around the hostel, drifting from the nearby Ninkasi brewery. I discover independent shops and eateries on my wander and take in the quirky houses and gardens.
People are cycling and I see more bikes than cars on my short walk, and I wonder whether I’m still in America. Front gardens spill onto the paths and everything appears a refreshingly verdant green after the dry conditions of California.
A large trumpeted blue flower helicopters from a tree branching over the pavement and comes to rest in my hair. I pluck it out and examine it, smiling. I realise I feel something I’ve missed in the hectic cities on my last few stops: contentment.