Thursday, June 28, 2007

Black Sheep or Bust, Part I--Traveling and Camping

I spent the last weekend in Eugene, OR, at the Black Sheep Gathering, one of the larger wool and fiber shows and sales on the West Coast. I spent way more money than was probably good for me, but everything I came away with I either needed or wanted, so it was a greally great show.

This year, I took Amtrak from Martinez to Eugene. The Wednesday night Coast Starlight is sort of the "Fiber Express," as it's the one most of the West Coast fiber people take, if they are going to take the train. I've traveled by train before, but never this long in coach (normally Stephen and I get a sleeper and travel 1st class for long trips). However, at less than $50 for a ticket, it seemed like a cheap way to get where I wanted to go. I wasn't truly travelling alone--several other members of my guild also went by train.

As usual, Amtrak was late getting into Martinez. We were supposed to leave at 10:54 p.m. on Wednesday night, but it was 12:11 when we finally pulled out of Martinez on our way north. One of the guildmembers had alerted the conductor that I was getting on in Martinez, so I had a seat near them. I had just started to doze off when we pulled into Sacramento, and my seatmate got on: a coach traveler's worst nightmare. I spent the rest of the night trying to sleep, defending my seat (Why are there no armrests to separate the seats?), and blocking out the overhead lights and the snores and coughs of my seatmate. As soon as it was light enough to quit pretending to sleep, I bolted for the Lounge Car, knitting bag in hand, and spent the rest of the trip in the Lounge Car.

The scenery on the trip north is spectacularly beautiful, especially this time of year. The route winds around Mount Shasta, along several rivers, and through lots of forest. It was the way I like to travel--pretty scenery passing by the window, while I work on a piece of needlework. Several other guildmembers did the same. We finally managed to get seats all together, and didn't give them up until lunch, afterwhich it was almost time to get off the train in Eugene.

This year, I decided to camp out with other members of the guild. Camping at the Lane County Fairgrounds is really pretty nice. The fairgrounds has a big, grassy field behind the buildings, right next to a creek, and the field is exactly between the show and sale, and the classes. There's no running water in the camping area, but there is a Porto-San in case of emergencies, and the fairgrounds' nice bathrooms (complete with showers) is only a few minutes walk away. Camping is also nice, because you have a place to hang out if you don't feel like going to a class, looking at sheep, or shopping, you can have an ice chest full of goodies to eat and drink, and (best of all) you save lots of money that can be spent on fiber! Our little encampment had about 6 tents surrounding a couple awnings, and the awnings became our "Spinning Central," where we could gather to chat, spin, and relax. We "potlucked" our meals, and each afternoon, somebody with a car made a trip to a grocery store to stock up for dinner that night and breakfast the following morning. Having at least 1 car accessible is a big help, as the fairgrounds are in what is now primarily residential, and the nearest grocery store is nearly a mile away. The weather was nearly perfect (we got a few sprinkles on Sunday morning), but the nights were cold. The photo was taken near sunset on Friday, and it had ready dropped into the upper 50s before the sun set. A good sleeping bag and a wool blanket made for perfect cover to sleep in my tent.