‘I don’t care where you are as long as you’re somewhere’ (or the Fern Ridge slump)

There’s an old expression in journalism: “News is what happens to editors.” What does that mean? Well, here’s an example: A long time ago, I worked as a newspaper reporter. The editor of a paper I worked at had a daughter, maybe 10 years old. One day the girl went skiing, fell off a chairlift and broke her arm. This prompted the newspaper to publish a multi-day, front-page, investigative series of articles about chairlift safety.

There you have it. “News is what happens to editors.” And their kids.

This blog is not immune to this phenomenon. I have written a number of times about Coburg Road — because I spend a lot of time there.

I don’t write much about the Fern Ridge path, because I don’t travel it much. That’s where you come in. Thankfully, an alert reader (as Dave Barry used to say — don’t you miss Dave Barry?) tipped me off to the Fern Ridge slump:

Slump is a fantastic word. It’s when a bunch of earth higher up on a hillside decides that it wants to be lower down on the hillside. Which is what happened along the bank of Amazon Creek by the Fern Ridge path just east of Garfield Street last week.

Here’s a view from up close on the path side. That’s the Garfield Street underpass up ahead:

You can see crews have been putting rock in as they try to repair things.

I didn’t think this looked too terrible. But apparently it’s a fairly serious problem.

The slump is “threatening to take more” of the bank and path, said John Bohnam, who is a project manager with the city of Eugene’s Public Works department, not the late drummer for Led Zeppelin. “We are working diligently to both repair the slumped location and [prevent] future potential slumps. … I am unsure how long it will take for them to complete this work.” In the meantime, there’s a recommended detour.

You may remember that a stretch of Fern Ridge path was repaved last summer. More is scheduled to be resurfaced this coming summer — including this stretch where the slump happened.

But Bohnam says the slumping means that the path may need far more extensive repairs to the “substructure” than were planned. That may mean the repaving of this stretch doesn’t happen this summer and is delayed a year, maybe two (the work involves a federal grant, various permits and environmental issues, so changing plans evidently involves some red tape).

[UPDATE: For more background on this situation, see a post at WeBikeEugene.]

The good news is that this whole thing led me off on a wild detour from my normal commute.

And that reminds me of another thing from my long-ago reporting career. I had a city editor who offered a piece of advice one day that has stuck with me for about 20 years. Which is really something, because not a lot has stuck with me for 20 years, least of all advice from people in journalism.

We were having one of those daily meetings that reporters have with their editors, where everyone describes what they are working on for the coming days’ papers.

Apparently, on this day, our city editor felt that we were spending too much time in the office, too much time lazily reporting stories over the phone.

“Look,” he said to his assembled reporters, warming up to what would be a small shiny gem of wisdom: “I don’t care where you are, as long as you’re somewhere.”

This is one of the most brilliant things anyone has ever said to me. I mean, he wasn’t the most eloquent guy, but basically what he meant — I think — is that we should get the hell out of the office, talk to some people, see some stuff.

And after my roundabout trip to work the other day, sparked by my desire to see the big slump, I felt invigorated. I saw lots of stuff I don’t usually see.

I saw this (again)

I spotted this charming front-yard residential bike rack:

I saw more crazy, big-ass stuff happening at Ninkasi. Our little local, baby brewery is getting all grown up.

Wow, I wonder how much it costs to bring in a crane like that for the day.

I stumbled onto Wandering Goat coffeehouse, where I’ve been before, but which I don’t think I could find if I were actually looking for it. And by God if I didn’t decide to stop and have a coffee.

Man, was I late for work.

But what fun. I recommend it. Take a new route to work. Go 15 minutes out of your way. Or 30. See some stuff you don’t usually see. Stop for an impromptu coffee. You’ll be a better person for it — if not a better employee.

5 thoughts on “‘I don’t care where you are as long as you’re somewhere’ (or the Fern Ridge slump)

  1. Here is another handy excuse to “see some stuff you don’t usually see”.
    Ride on out to the Greenhill road terminus of the Fern Ridge Bike Path and starting at about the point that you cross the railroad tracks you will see many painted dots on the path. There are hundreds of these dots in about six different colors. What i really want to know is what they are there for? Do you have any idea? Every single time I happen by that area I wonder, and have come up with a few different crazy ideas. Was it some sort of goose poop study perhaps?

  2. That bike-house is lived-in owned by a nice guy named Brian. He’d talk to you, if you spot him.

    The Wandering Goat is a great place! Between 4th and 2nd on Madison, and has a number of bike racks, especially considering the size of the place; sometimes they even get filled up.

    I moved up to Portland this year after 6 years in Eugene, but I appreciate your reporting. Thanks!

    1. Yeah, I think I’ll make a point to stop at Wandering Goat now and then. I just don’t know my way around the Whitty that well, though. But that’s kind of fun, because I always stumble upon something fun and/or bizarre.

      Thanks for reading.

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