Saturday, July 17, 2010

Track Stars

As mentioned in a previous post, my mom recently visited the Northwest. Her week and a half-long trip stretched over the 4th of July weekend, but initially I had no idea how to celebrate the holiday. When some good friends mentioned a prospective trip to Eugene, Oregon for the Prefontaine Classic track meet, I jumped at the chance to tag along. Mom was up for anything, so we claimed the back seat of the Subaru for the four-hour drive to Eugene. None of the group had ever been to Eugene before, so it was an adventure for all. We arrived a bit earlier than expected, so we quickly buzzed around the University of Oregon grounds. There was definitely a small college town feel, but we were surprised to learn that there are well over 100,000 people. I am pretty sure that out of those 100,000+, at least 95% of them are runners. Steve Prefontaine, Nike, and the stand-out Oregon track teams put Eugene on the map as "Track Town, USA," a title that, as far as I can tell, is certainly deserved. We were dodging runners left and right; in fact, on the morning we left town, a race sped past the house we rented. Rather than stay in a hotel, our friends found a house to rent in a neighborhood fairly close to the university. The house was cute and very clean. The proprietor was, thorough in her "house rules." So specific that as we were cleaning up prior to our departure, she requested that we re-start the washer and add bleach (which was NOT in the original instructions, for the record). But she was also very helpful and willing to share several suggestions on things to do and places to eat (even though her recommendations didn't quite pan out the majority of the time). The neighbors were also very friendly. In fact, we were even invited to the keg party they were hosting...complete with live band. How thoughtful. Like the last trip we took, we once again adopted the "WWJD?" ("What would Jon do?") motto...meaning that we hit up the first brewery we could find. We weren't disappointed. The beer was good and the company even better. We engaged in one of my all-time favorite activities: the "let's-talk-about-Bamberg" game. I could pretty much do that all day (and I only lived there for five months). But the whole reason we even went to Eugene was the Prefontaine Classic. I'm pretty sure my mom had no aspirations of watching a track meet after I graduated high school, but she was a good sport about it. Speaking of good sports, the three-hour meet (they didn't do all the events of a traditional meet) flew by with one world-class athlete after another. So much was going on that it was hard to focus. I especially enjoyed watching the steeplechase, javelin, and pole vault (which was directly in front of us). But the highlight occurred when the runners of the Men's 5000 Meter race were announced. One of these runners was none other than Lee's Summit's Matt Tegenkamp. I remember seeing him dominate at countless high school meets; it was sort of surreal to see him compete professionally.

Tegenkamp is the tall white guy in the middle.

We were pretty tired from our strenuous spectating, so we passed the afternoon and evening fairly uneventfully. We hit up another brewery, but that should come as no surprise. Our relaxing weekend in Oregon came to a close on our nation's birthday, so we headed back north and celebrated in true American fashion by having a barbecue.

Out of the many options we had to view fireworks, we opted for the nearby coastal town of Steilacoom. Immediately upon our arrival, we realized how bad we were at watching fireworks. Grossly unprepared, we had no snacks, beverages, or games to occupy the hour and a half we would have to wait. Maybe next year.

We did remember to grab blankets, which was fortunate because it had grown quite chilly by that time. Naturally, we thought hot chocolate sounded good, so a few of us walked a couple of blocks to a coffee shop of sorts. We really can't complain because we did it to ourselves, but we literally waited an hour in line, only to get in on the very last gallon of milk. The espresso machine ran out of steam (which baffles the mind because I thought steam was just hot water), so really, we drank "warm chocolate." Regardless, we made in back just in time for a pretty spectacular show over Puget Sound. Not only were we able to see Steilacoom's fireworks, but we were also treated to several other displays in the area.

All in all, a pretty good way to enjoy the 4th of July weekend.

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