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There are no stupid questions.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

People visit Lane County, or consider moving here, for all sorts of reasons. Mostly, they're intrigued by the area's reputation as a progressive, environmentally conscious community in a land known for rain, liberal campaigns and the story of a track star named Prefontaine.

Not to mention something that borders on the insane - a contest to crown a new slug queen.

People like it here, they say, because we do not stray far from the mountains, nor the coastal plain.

Whatever the rhyme or reason, those who come this way, especially in the summertime, come full of questions about this strange and mysterious place. Questions such as - How far is the beach? How much snow do you get?

Where is Pre's museum? Seriously, they ask that.

Some questions come in person, some by e-mail and some by phone.

For the folks at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Association of Lane County and those who man the information booth on East 13th Avenue on the University of Oregon campus, the questions never end.

And, just like your teacher always told you, there are no stupid questions.

OK, maybe a few, along with some really, really weird ones. (Can you send me a sample of your rainwater? How about a dirt sample?)

"We're touring the campus, do you have any literature?" asked a man in a van Thursday, as he stopped by the information booth in front of Oregon Hall on campus. Yes, travelers like a good book now and then. Actually, the man was looking for a map to orient himself.

To the other side of the booth came an older couple with not-too-pleasant-looking expressions on their faces: "Can't get through - says not to enter!" the man said. They had passed the booth and continued west on East 13th Avenue, only to come to the intersection at University Street and find the sign that said they could go no farther.

"You can't believe how many different license plates I see," said Gary Davis, who works in the UO booth. Or how many lost folks.

"I had one person ask if we were Beavers."

Huh?

"They pulled off the freeway too soon. They were looking for Corvallis."

Questions at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce come in both the "quantitative" variety and the "qualitative," says Dave Hauser, the chamber president.

"They have an unlimited appetite for the climate, the housing market, schools and the size of the city," Hauser says.

They also want to know about the city's character and its history. "Sometimes, they're asking questions, and they're not even sure what they're asking."

You don't have to tell Meg Trendler that. The visiting services manager at the Convention and Visitors Association of Lane County, or CVALCO - where you can buy your very own tie-dyed T-shirt - has heard it all.

"I have two hours, what is there to do here?"

That's the most common question visitors have when they pop into CVALCO's office near the corner of Seventh Avenue and Olive Street in downtown Eugene, Trendler says. "Generally, you have to ask them more questions before you can answer that," she says.

Most often, the travelers are sent off to places such as Hendricks Park, Spencer Butte or Mount Pisgah, Trendler says.

If they stop at the chamber's office near 14th Avenue and Willamette Street, they're most likely to get directions to the Fifth Street Public Market or the Saturday Market, says Dina Fortier, the chamber's executive assistant.

Of course, in today's world, a lot of folks start searching for information about Lane County on the Internet, Hauser says. They go to Web sites such as www.visitlanecounty.org and www.coli.org, a cost of living index created by the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association. What they often discover about our area is that it's on a lot of "Top 10 Best Places to Live" lists, Hauser says.

The Chamber has even started its own annual magazine, "Images," to help promote the area and answer questions. The first issue came out in January and includes statistics on Lane County, along with articles about "Track Town USA," local wineries and the arts.

But there's nothing like another human being to clue you in, Trendler says. "There's so much to offer here," she says. "It's not an easy conversation. It's a long conversation. And they walk in from all over the world."

LANE QUESTIONS

Here are some actual queries thrown at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Association of Lane County and the University of Oregon, followed by our (mostly tongue-in-cheek) answers:

Where's the Animal House? In toga heaven.

Where do the Emeralds play? In Vancouver today.

Do you have any toxic waste dumps? We have middle schoolers, and they have bedrooms.

Where is the Oregon County (sic) Fair? Not in Lane County.

How many days of sunshine do you get? 12

Do you have any cool statues? Define "cool."

Are there any bus tours of Eugene? Yes, it's called LTD.

Are there any shuttle buses to Portland? Go Greyhound.

Does Veneta get less rain than Eugene? Next.

Can you see the ocean from Eugene? No, but we can visualize it, along with world peace, and whirled peas.

What is the elevation at the coast? Sea level.

Do you have campgrounds in Eugene? Sort of.

How many dogs are there in Eugene? 12.

Is it true they've cut down all the trees out there? Only the ones with people in them.

How many earthquakes do you get? 12.

What day do the leaves change color? On the 12th.

Is there housing near the Eugene Speedway? Yes. In fact, it's now ON the speedway.

What's cool about downtown? What downtown?

Where's your sperm bank? You don't want to know.

Are people really depressed here all the time? Man, that questions bums us out.

CAPTION(S):

'Can you see the ocean from Eugene?' 'Have they cut all the trees down?' 'Where's the Animal House?' 'Is it true that it rains here all the time?'
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Title Annotation:General News; But sometimes, tourists' queries about Lane County invoke a sense of wonder
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 23, 2005
Words:1013
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
Next Article:County feud brews over fairgrounds.


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