Oregon Trip Provides Lessons (Jeff Hankins Publisher's Note)

Oregon is one of those states that you need a specific reason to visit and would never just pass through in ordinary travel, so it wasn't on my radar until Arkansas State University scheduled a football game against the Ducks in Eugene.

My knowledge of the state in a nutshell prior to last week's visit was this: Home of Nike Inc., home of the University of Oregon (specifically good football, bright uniforms and a famous track and field facility), located on West Coast, endures mostly rain and fog. We experienced typical Oregon except for the weather, which was sensational.

Here's what I learned:

• The popularity of cycling transportation was stunning, particularly in downtown Eugene and around the campus. I've never seen so many bicycle lane markings, particularly some that were down the middle of the streets. I left feeling fortunate that I didn't run over anyone.

• Oregonians take recycling very seriously. From the campus to the restaurants, multiple trash bins were common. However, they don't use the word "trash" for signage. It's "compost," which I thought referred to organic matter. Perhaps I just didn't understand their system.

• The agricultural industry appeared to be very diverse, with everything from corn crops to vineyards to fruit orchards seen from Interstate 5.

• I have visited many college towns for ball games through the years, but I've never encountered a nicer group of fans. Obviously ASU wasn't a big rival coming to town, but the people of Eugene genuinely appreciated their guests. One local couple bought our lunch at a sports bar, and walking through OU's tailgate city we were welcomed over and over. (We later determined they knew how their team was going to put it to us in the first half so they just gave us something to smile about for a while.)

• Activism and protests are alive and well in Oregon, as one might expect from a predominantly Democratic state. Both Portland and Eugene residents apparently are protesting issues related to public transportation.

(Jeff Hankins can be reached via e-mail at JHankins@ABPG.com, followed on Twitter @JeffHankins and connected with at Facebook.com/Jeff.Hankins and Linkedin.com/in/JeffHankins.)