TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Sheridan, Wyoming: Retirees Home on the Range

September 26, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1997 and September 2010)

Main Street Sheridan, Wyoming, looking just like the Old West town that it is.

Sheridan, Wyoming seems perfectly happy with its current size and situation. This north-central Wyoming town of 17,000 lies at the eastern edge of the Big Horn Mountains. Runoff streams provide ample water for nearby tree-lined pastures.

Sheridan has both a hometown feel and a retirement feel, and the combination complements both groups. Main Street would not be five blocks of bustling shops without the workers from the surrounding farms and ranches.

The Mint Bar, a cowboy bar. Main Street Sheridan, Wyoming
Dan’s Wyoming western wear and work wear. Sheridan, Wyoming
Downtown pharmacy, formerly J.H. Conrad General Merchandise. Sheridan, Wyoming

Alternately, Main Street would not be five blocks of bustling shops without the retirees supporting the merchants. I came across retirees seated on Main Street benches who offered me advice on which buildings to photograph.

J.C. Penney’s building. Sheridan, Wyoming

The retirees also support the arts — the old WYO theatre has been converted into a playhouse to serve this demographic.

The WYO theatre. Main Street, Sheridan, Wyoming

Both retirees and tourists enjoy the local fishing opportunities.

Flyshop of the Big Horns. Sheridan, Wyoming

Named for Union Civil War General Philip Sheridan, the town was founded in the 1880s. Eventually the railroad came through town and nearby coal deposits were mined to provide coal for the locomotives. By 1910 Sheridan was prosperous enough to build a 3-story, well-ornamented City Hall building.

City Hall. Sheridan, Wyoming

Wyoming vies with other western and midwestern states as the most Republican state in the Union. Sheridan is a Republican town.

GOP headquarters. Sheridan, Wyoming

Sheridan is the county seat of Wyoming’s Sheridan County. A well-kept structure surrounded by massive cottonwood trees, the Sheridan County Courthouse anchors the south end of Main Street.

Sheridan County Courthouse. Sheridan, Wyoming
Sheridan County Courthouse with bronze cupola. Sheridan, Wyoming

To the old timers, cottonwood shade trees denote permanence on the northern plains. Such permanence is the ultimate satisfaction — it seems to last forever, as veterans memorials are meant to.

Sheridan County Bicentennial Veterans Monument. Sheridan, Wyoming

Here’s a bonus photo: I copied this photo from the web page of The Mint Bar on Main Street in Sheridan.

Interior of the Mint Bar. Sheridan, Wyoming. Photo copied from the Mint Bar website.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos taken by the author on September 21, 2010, except for the final photo showing the interior of the Mint Bar which was copied from https://www.mintbarwyo.com/, the Mint Bar website.

Neil Armstrong’s Hometown

August 31, 2021

This photo taken at the edge of town — Wapakoneta, Ohio — on August 2nd, 2021. I arrived about an hour after sunrise. Wapakoneta, Ohio, has a population of about 9,000 persons. It’s the birthplace and hometown of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.

Welcome to Wapakoneta, Ohio, Hometown of Neil Armstrong

Wapakoneta follows the common custom in small towns across America of posting photos of their servicemen and women, past and present, along downtown light poles. Armstrong’s service as a Navy flyer earned him a banner bearing his Navy photo. A banner for Astronaut Armstrong is nearby.

Street banner honoring Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Wapakoneta, Ohio

At the center of town, Armstrong is depicted in a statue waving to crowds as he rode in a convertible during the ticker-tape parade through the streets of Manhattan. The parade, of course, celebrated the return of the Apollo 11 space mission, the first instance of man landing on the Moon.

Statue of Neil Armstrong waving to the crowds. Downtown Wapakoneta, Ohio

Opened in 1972, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta contains artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission and other contributions to the history of aeronautics and space flight. The museum is located at the edge of town, and attracts over 40,000 visitors per year.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Mockups of the Gemini Spacecraft (left) and Apollo Command Module (right). Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Neil Armstrong’s old flight logs and other artifacts from his boyhood in Wapakoneta
Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s actual backup spacesuit. Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio
Moon Rock. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is in many ways a typical Ohio-midwestern small town. In the late 17th Century the Shawnee tribe settled in this area after having been driven their lands further south by white settlers and the Catawba, Cherokee, and Chickasaw nations. The name “Wapakoneta” might be from the Shawnee language for “place of white bones,” but that’s not certain.

Classic buildings at the central intersection in Wapakoneta. Junction of Auglaize and Willipie Streets.

In 1748, three decades dbfore the American revolution, the French built a fort here called “Fort au Glaize” after the Auglaize River which runs nearby. The river flows northward, eventually joining the Maumee River to drain into Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio. “Auglaize” is French for “river of great clay.”

In the 21st Century, the City Bakery on Auglaize Street (shown) provides a good selection of donuts.

Classic buildings and storefronts, including the City Bakery. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Happily, the town theatre, known as the “Wapa,” is not politically correct about the image displayed on its sign.

The Wapa Theatre, 15 Willipie Street in Wapakoneta

As can be imagined, many photo opportunites exist for tourists to associate themselves with the town’s main hero. This one is on Auglaize Street in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

Astronaut photo opportunity. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is also the seat of Auglaize County, Ohio. The Auglaize County Courthouse was built in 1894 and is still in use today. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio

The courthouse’s statue of Lady Justice stood atop the building until 1953 when it was taken down due to deterioration. In 1994, to commemorate the courthouse’s centennial, the statue was restored and placed in the courthouse atrium, or Great Hall, on the main floor.

Statue of Lady Justice. Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
“America 1928.” Artwork inside the Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Artist’s rendering of the French-built Fort au Glaize, or the Wapakoneta Trading Post, along the Auglaize River. Auglaize County Courthouse.

Finally, another statue of Neil Armstrong can be found in front of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, this one of him as a boy. The story goes that Neil begged his parents to buy him a 10-cent balsa-wood glider. They did, and then the dreaming started.

Statue of Neil Armstrong as a boy. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos taken by the author on August 2nd and August 3rd, 2021

The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota

July 30, 2021

(photos and memories from July, 2021)

The town of Rugby, North Dakota was named for Rugby, Warwickshire, England, and was founded in 1886 as a railroad town along North Dakota’s Great Northern Rail Line. The railroad had financiers from England and so several other towns along the line were also named for English country towns.

Rugby Train Station, an Amtrak stop

Amtrak stops here in Rugby. The line of giant grain elevators along the train tracks is truly impressive. From towns like Rugby, the amber waves of grain are stored and then shipped throughout the world.

Grain elevators along the railroad tracks. Rugby, North Dakota

Rugby has a population of 2,800 souls — small, but to its credit the town seems larger and more vibrant than what those numbers would indicate. Shops are open all along Main Street.

Main and 2nd Street. Rugby, North Dakota

Around the corner is a combination haute couture salon and coffee shop. See the websites for Stylin You salon and spa, and the Solid Ground Cafe, which serves great coffee!

The Solid Ground Cafe (and Stylin You). Rugby, North Dakota

A few blocks down 2nd Street, the 1910 Pierce County Courthouse is a perfect example of proud and grand engineering. Back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the new settlers to the old Dakota territories brought with them a shining optimism and love of country, and the architecture shows it.

Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

On the inside, stairways are made of brown marble and the banisters are brass. Marble slabs line the walls in all the hallways.

Atrium. Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

The ceiling underneath the cupola features four murals: three of agricultural activities and one of an Indian buffalo hunt.

Buffalo hunt. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse
Early settlers. Mural from the Pierce Cunty Courthouse
Early farm machinery. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse
Agriculture. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse

The courthouse staff gathered some old equipment into displays of the early days of the courthouse.

Display of early office machinery once used in the courthouse
Display of old office bureau, chair, and filing system.

In the hallway, I found two interesting black and white photos depicting town life in the 1950s. The first is a photo of the 1957 courthouse Christmas party. The second is of a judge’s retirement party in 1950. In both cases the employees carry a very serious demeanor, and clothing was much more formal than today.

Pierce County Courthouse Christmas party. December, 1957
Pierce County Courthouse. Justice Grimson’s Farewell Party in February, 1950

One house in Rugby stands out. This house stands on 2nd street in between the coffee shop and the courthouse.

Colorfully painted house on 2nd Street. Rugby, North Dakota

Finally, a monument just outside town denote’s Rugby’s place as the geographic center of North America.

Geographic Center of North America. Rugby, North Dakota

All photos taken by the author on July 1, 2021

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Vincennes: The Town that Made Indiana American

June 30, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1998 and June 2017)

What is the “Northwest?” It depends on your perspective of course. Americans of today might nod to the states of Washington and Oregon, and maybe Idaho and Alaska too. But from the perspective of American Revolutionists in the late 1770s, the new nation consisted of the 13 Atlantic seaboard states. Some visionaries also eyed the “Northwest Territory,” consisting of those lands northwest of the 13 new states, specifically north and/or west of the Ohio River.

Today this area includes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But they all might have stayed in British possession after the Revolutionary War — except for the actions of George Rogers Clark.

Monument honoring Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark. Vincennes, Indiana

In February 1779, George Rogers Clark led a company of what can only be called “backwoods Virginia badasses” across winter snows and icy, flooded rivers to surprise and capture British Fort Sackwell here at Vincennes, in present-day Indiana.

Clark’s victory ensured that America would occupy land north of the Ohio, which allowed U.S. peace negotiators in Paris to press for the boundary of the new nation to be set along the Great Lakes. Without Clark’s victory at Vincennes (and Kaskaskia), the new United States/British Empire boundary would have been set along the Ohio River. The Northwest Territory would have become part of Canada, and the Northwest Ordinance would never have been written. A United States limited to territory south of the Ohio River would have been dominated by slave states and history would have turned out much differently to say the least.

Without Clark, Indiana would likely be part of Canada today. Without the 5 northwestern states included in the Union as non-slave states, the history of the Civil War would have been much different.

Clark’s victory at Vincennes is celebrated with memorials in the Vincennes Historic District along the Wabash River.

George Rogers Clark Memorial along the Wabash River. Vincennes, Indiana

Murals inside the memorial explain the history of the region.

Mural inside the Clark Memorial. Vincennes, Indiana

The park includes a statue to the Italian-born Francis Vigo. Vigo, a former Spanish soldier, played an important role in surveilling the British presence at Vincennes and relaying the information to Clark. Vigo County, Indiana, was named for him.

Statue of Francis Vigo and young admirer. Vincennes, Indiana

The historical area also makes a nice place for a riverside park.

Wabash River at Vincennes. Indiana

I photographed an impressive shade tree I found on the Wabash banks, and asked some Indiana Facebook friends what kind of tree it was. A Hoosier replied, “the great big kind.”

Great Big Tree on the banks of the Wabash River. Vincennes, Indiana

Vincennes began as a French settlement, and its French influence can still be seen today. The Old French Cathedral and Cemetary is adjacent to the Clark Memorial in the Vincennes Historic District.

The Old French Cathedral. Vincennes, Indiana
Cemetary at the old French Cathedral. Vincennes, Indiana

The four-story Vigo County Courthouse here in Vincennes features the French style.

Vigo County Courthouse. Vincennes, Indiana
Memorial at the Vigo County Courthouse with flags which have flown over Vincennes in the past
Portraits of Francis Vigo (left) and George Rogers Clark (right). Vigo County Courthouse. Vincennes, Indiana

The city of Vincennes has some charming old architecture. Their local-boy-made-good is comedian Red Skelton. His likeness can be found all over downtown Vincennes, on murals and on lampposts.

Mural honoring Comedian Red Skelton. Downtown Vincennes, Indiana
Downtown Vincennes, Indiana

Having lunch at a sidewalk table on Main Street here feels like being in a canyon. Buildings on either side rise four and five stories using brick construction. The architecture is old, dating from the late 19th century. Although a few buildings are abandoned, most are occupied and thriving.

Downtown Vincennes, Indiana
Vincennes, Indiana

All photos taken by the author on June 27, 2017

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Go West Again! The Sacramento Valley and California’s North Coast

June 25, 2021

Hello everyone and welcome to another Freedom Voyage! These trips give me the chance to see the country — its landscapes, its small towns, its cities, and its courthouses. Along the way I take and share photos of what I see and what I eat — and whatever I’m thinking.

Although I visited California just last month (link to that travel log is here), once again the weather forecast for northern California was just too good to be ignored. No road trip through Utah and Nevada this time — instead I decided to expend some of the gobs of airline miles I’ve saved up these fast few years while staying home and working.

Want to live out a Freedom Voyage vicariously? Here’s a photo log of the eight days of clear skies and cool temps spent in the Sacramento Valley and along some of California’s north coast. Nothing better than sunshine and a road trip! Enjoy!

Saturday June 5, 2021. Day 1: Colorado Springs to Sacramento, California

My free travel took off from Colorado Springs airport around noon, connected in Denver and arrived in Sacramento in the early evening. I watched from my window seat as the plane flew north from Denver all the way past Cheyenne, Wyoming before turning west, just to avoid some thunderstorms over Colorado’s Front Range. Nice views of the mountains near Elko, Nevada and of Lake Tahoe further west.

Sunday June 6, 2021. Day 2: Sacramento to Placerville, California

The California benedict plus a cinnamon roll at Brookfield’s. Sacramento, California

After church and Sunday breakfast at Brookfield’s (okay, it was more like lunch), I drove downtown to visit Sutter’s Fort. Although I’ve been to Sacramento many times I felt guilty about never having stopped at this truly historic place — a locus of history visited by Generals John C. Fremont and William Tecumseh Sherman, a homing beacon for California’s pioneer emigrants, and a gathering spot for its 49er gold-seekers.

Sutter’s Fort. Downtown Sacramento, California

Sutter’s Fort was built between 1841 and 1843 by Swiss emigrant John Sutter (born Johann August Sutter). Sutter built this Alta California outpost in the hope that it would become the cornerstone of New Helvetia (or New Switzerland), Sutter’s empire in the New World. His efforts might be said to have become the centerpiece of a new empire, but it wouldn’t be Swiss.

This is the central building within the fort and one of the few parts of the original structure that remain.

Sutter’s Fort. Sacramento, California
Reproduction of a prairie schooner which would have brought settlers here from Missouri
Office of John A. Sutter inside the central building within the fort.
A copy of a guidebook used by some emigrants in the 19th Century to traverse the American prairies on their way to California.

After visiting Sutter’s Fort I was off into the foothills to see Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, famous for being the site of the discovery of gold in 1848, leading to the famous California Gold Rush. But first, taking all the back roads on a beautiful summer’s day, I stopped for some blackberries at a strawberry stand:

I paid four bucks for the pint of blackberries, and so I’m somehow reminded of that scene from the Field of Dreams movie: “they’ll pay $20, Ray, and they’ll hand it over without even thinking about it, for it’s money they have but peace they lack.“ I found the movie clip on YouTube (link here). I wasted a good half hour eating those berries and taking photos of the area, and it was time well-wasted.

I’ve long thought that California’s gold country was some of the prettiest country in the world. Here’s proof:

Countryside near Coloma, California.

I found several old Trump signs on my way through those hills to Coloma. The green flag on the left is for the proposed new State of Jefferson, to be made up of breakaway counties in northern California and southern Oregon that are disgusted with their state governments.

Signs on a farm in the country. Near Coloma, California

This is Sutter’s Mill, built by carpenter James Wilson Marshall who accidentally discovered gold here in January 1848. The mill was a sawmill, meant to provide timber for sale and use at Sutter’s Fort. Marshall and his boss, John Sutter, tried to keep the gold discovery a secret but they failed. The aura of California as the “Golden State” started here.

Sutter’s Mill. Coloma, California
Site of Sutter’s Mill along the South Fork American River

This is an example of the kind of landscape which I find so attractive in California’s Sierra foothills. The gold hillside grasses provide a perfect contrast to the sporadic green of the oak trees. The human eye appreciates contrast — bright red tie with dark gray suit for example. These hills would be less attractive if they were monochromatic tree-covered hillsides.

Hillside along South Fork American River. Coloma, California
Some gelato and a vial of 24-karat souvenir gold, marked Made in the USA.
Statue of James Marshall, carpenter and gold-discoverer. Coloma, California

The Sutter’s Mill site and park is only a short distance from Placerville, California, where I had dinner and spent the night. Here’s carne asada & tortilla soup to complement a margarita and chips at Cascada Restaurant and Cantina, Main Street, Placerville. You just hafta love a Mexican restaurant that brings you 3 types of salsa with your chips (actually 2 types of salsa and 1 bean dip.)

Carne asada and tortilla soup

Every Mexican dinner should include Kahlua flan for dessert, right?

Kahlua flan

Monday June 7, 2021. Day 3: Placerville to Redding, California

Here’s a monument in a Main Street Placerville traffic circle. It’s pretty rare to find a monument to Druids in America. Good Monday morning from Northern California.

I tried breakfast at Sweetie Pies Restaurant and Bakery on Main Street, Placerville. I checked the menu for odd and unusual items and settled on the spinach & bacon scramble covered in Parmesan cheese with a side of cheese blintzes covered in blueberries and olallieberries. (I had to look up “olallieberry” in the dictionary. It’s like a blackberry. And it’s good.)

May be an image of food and indoor

With that dinner the night before and this breakfast this morning — Placerville is a big win.

On to Woodland, California, county seat of Yolo County. Woodland is a farming town, but influenced by the nearby UC Davis campus.

Below: A Victorian house off Main Street, the Yolo County Courthouse, and a street mural in downtown Woodland.

I’m back on the road heading northeast. Here are the Sutter Buttes — an island of mountains rising up from the middle of the Sacramento Valley. Some call them the “world’s smallest mountain range.” A set of Titan I missile silos were installed here in the early 1960s; they’ve since been decommissioned and the land sold back to private ownership.

View of the Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley
Another score from a roadside fruit stand — apricots and blackberries. All next to all my travel paraphenalia.

Next stop was Yuba City, county seat of Sutter County. The Sacramento Valley can get pretty hot in the summer and so palm trees can be found throughout.

Yuba City downtown. Several of the businesses use Spanish as their first language.

More Yuba City photos: Sutter County Courthouse (left); palm trees galore in a downtown square (right).

Across the Feather River from Yuba City, the town of Marysville lies at the place the Yuba River joins the Feather River. These two rivers drain much of the northern Sierra goldfields, and during the mid-1800s the combination of railroad construction and gold mining brought large groups of Chinese laborers to Marysville. The town known as the “Gateway to the Goldfields” was eventually named for Mary Murphy Covillaud, a survivor of the disastrous Donner Party.

Bok Kai Pavilion. Marysville, California
Yuba County Courthouse. Marysville, California

Some more photos from the Chinese section of Marysville, California:

By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and I drove north an hour or so to the town of Oroville. Oroville, built during the gold rush days, lies along the Feather River near its exit from the mountains.

The photos below show downtown Oroville, a gold mining supply store still in business, and the Feather River as it passes through town.

I left myself just enough daylight to see Oroville Dam, about 15 miles upstream from Oroville:

Here are views of Lake Oroville and the resevoir behind the dam:

Oroville Dam’s spillway was severely damaged by heavy rains in February, 2017, and nearly collapsed. If it had actually collapsed, the town of Oroville and many others would likely have been destroyed by flooding. See this link to a YouTube video from Practical Engineering explaining the crisis, its ultimate causes and resolution. (Hint: there was a fundamental engineering failure underlying the spillway damage which can’t be blamed on the rains.)

Today was a great day and I made it to Redding for the night, so I’m celebrating. I really wanted to celebrate with a margarita but the hotel bar closed at 9:00. I’ll settle for an IPA instead at the Alehouse Pub. Cheers!

Tuesday June 8, 2021. Day 4: Redding to Colusa, California

Here I am in Redding, California. Since the breakfast at the Best Western wasn’t enough, I had to supplement it with some downtown eats at the Hearth Cafe and Bakery:

May be an image of food and indoor
Brioche breakfast sandwich with potatoes and a “cronut” — a cross between a croissant and a donut

Almost everywhere I look in Redding see a combination of Douglas fir trees and royal palm trees. I think the city fathers are trying to communicate that Redding is the transition point between the rainy Pacific Northwest to the north and the sunny central valley of California to the south.

Shasta County Courthouse. Redding, California

The wall mural downtown demonstrates what the local retirees do in Redding every day. Then there’s the old-style Cascade theatre here and a family-style motor hotel, a throwback to the kind of a place where families driving vista cruisers would stop for the night during their summer vacations.

I started driving south out of Redding, but purposely avoided Interstate 5 for whatever back roads Google Maps could find for me. That’s a great use of Google Maps if you don’t know it already — use a setting called ‘avoid highways’ to stay on the 2-lane roads and (occasionally) off pavement as well.

Wendy Lou’s mini mart in Cottonwood, California. Here’s another business sporting the green State of Jefferson flag.

About a half hour south of Redding, the valley town of Red Bluff lies at the head of navigation on the Sacramento River.

Red Bluff is the seat of Tehama County. The new county courthouse stands at the edge of town.

Tehama County Courthouse. Red Bluff, California

I understand the need to modernize public buildings, to allow for additional security features and the like. But couldn’t they build new courthouses to look as stately as the old ones? Below are photos of the old Tehama County Courthouse and its central atrium. The courthouses from the 19th and early 20th Centuries were usually built with a sense of grandeur; the new courthouses are built to be merely human processing centers.

Red Bluff does remember its hometown heroes though. The memorial for World War II ace Ken Carlson is an incredible story.

Here are some photos around Red Bluff: Sacred Heart Catholic church (dedicated 1906 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Sacramento River near downtown (the head of navigation in the steamboat era), and an old style neon sign for Elmore Pharmacy (Elmore’s has been in continuous operation for over 150 years).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Bluff’s historic claim-to-fame — the annual Red Bluff Round-up. Maybe Red Bluff is still a cowboy town after all?

Red Bluff Round-up Mercantile
May be an image of drink and text that says 'Jack in the box'
Liquid Lunch from Jack-in-the-Box. A cherry-topped strawberry shake.

Since starting this morning in Redding, I’ve been mainly following old US Highway 99W south through the Sacramento Valley. The next stop today is the farming town of Willows, California. They’re setting up for a Monday night street fair to honor the graduating seniors, the ‘Honkers’, Class of 2021.

This is the Willows Post Office building, constructed in 1917 and still in operation. Notice the detail in the classical columns and the Roman-style carvings in between the arches. Willows never was a large town; it’s population was only 1,139 in 1910 and 2,190 in 1920 — but you didn’t need to be large to think you were special. Back then, California public buildings reflected a common perception that the Golden State was a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Western Civilization, and their architecture is proof of that.

The Glenn County Courthouse is currently under renovation. By its style I’d say it was probably constructed in the same era as the post office.

Glenn County Courthouse. Willows, California.
The Museum (formerly the Carnegie Library). Willows, California

Many of the homes around town are well-preserved, even stately. I was wondering why this little town became so prosperous, but my research could not uncover a reason except for hard work and good land. Many of the homes were flying American flags, and I found another house with its flag flying upside down, signaling that the country is in distress.

Continuing south, I drove east to meet the banks of the Sacramento River. This area boasts a simply unbelievable wealth of agriculture.

Sacramento River near Princeton, California
Fields along the Sacramento River with the Sutter Buttes in the background.

Walnut groves with the Coast Range mountains in the distance.

Driving further south, I stopped in Colusa, California for the night. I’m keeping it simple for dinner—bar food. Here’s my club sandwich on pita bread with a side salad and a gin & tonic at Rocco’s Bar & Grill in Colusa. Easy choice — Rocco’s is the highest rated dining choice in tiny Colusa! The bar is packed; it seems like all the locals are here tonight even though BBQ night isn’t until Wednesday. The women’s college softball championship is on tv, and after dinner and drinks I stroll just 3 blocks to my motel room at the Riverside Inn. Happy Tuesday night everyone!

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Mid-summer sunset along the Sacramento River at Colusa

Wednesday June 9, 2021. Day 5: Colusa to Fort Bragg, California

Question: What’s the best name for a coffee shop? Answer: Caffeinated!

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Coffee and a home-baked strawberry/cream cheese turnover at Caffeinated. Colusa, California

Here I am in the town of Colusa, California and here is the Colusa County Courthouse. Built in 1861, the courthouse looks like a southern manor. This is no coincidence since most of the settlers in this particular area arrived here from southern states. Flowering magnolia trees are planted all around the grounds, making the grounds feel like a courthouse in Mississippi or Louisiana. The old statue of George Washington is now kept inside the courthouse for preservation.

The historical marker for the Colusa County Courthouse

Although California remained a Union state during the Civil War, the town of Colusa had many southern partisans. Upon hearing of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April, 1865, several persons in Colusa were reported to have made “exulting expressions” and so forth at news of the President’s death. Fearing rebellion (but probably motivated by anger), a contingent of Union troops was sent to Colusa to investigate. The troops arrested eight persons, held them in Alcatraz for two months, and ultimately convicted them of “disloyal language” or something akin to that. Their punishment was similar to that given to surrendering Confederate soldiers back east — take an oath of allegiance to the United States. After doing so, they were released.

Historical marker explaining some Civil War-era history in Colusa, California

After leaving Colusa, I turned west toward the Coast Range mountains and Lake County, California. Lake County is named for Clear Lake, a large natural lake nestled in the mountains in between the Sacramento Valley and the Pacific Ocean. Here are views of Clear Lake from the highway approaching Lakeport:

The town of Lakeport is the county seat for Lake County. It’s a picturesque little place on the shores of the lake with some old business blocks, pleasure boats, and a few good views.

Lakeport, California with Clear Lake in the background
Lake County Courthouse. Lakeport, California

Here are some photos around Lakeport (town park, docks, gazebo, and old business block):

Pan Am clipper service from Honolulu to Lakeport in 1943? I wonder if the flight ever actually existed, or if it was just a flight of someone’s imagination?

Street mural in Lakeport, California

Heading west from Lakeport, I crossed some more mountains to reach the town of Ukiah, seat of Mendocino County and part of California’s North Coast. This area, along with Humboldt County/Eureka to the north, has long been known as a “hippie hangout” even before marijuana was legalized in California. Even here though, among the “long-haired, maggot-infested, dope smoking FM types” (as the late Rush Limbaugh used to call them), some are with us!

Ukiah Landmark, the Marks Building at the corner of State and Perkins Street.

The Mendocino County Courthouse is across the street from the Marks Building. The mural of Lady Justice is from an interior stairwell:

Ukiah began as a timber town, and there must be millions of dollars of timber surrounding this valley. The sawmills and lumber yards are still here, just not prominent.

Typical street in downtown Ukiah, California, with forested hillsides beyond.

Time for an afternoon snack at Schat’s Bakery Cafe, also across the street from the courthouse and behind the Marks building. This is an old Dutch bakery, and I went for the triple-berry cheesecake & coffee. I also snuck (sneaked?) a photo of some typical locals.

Seeing from Facebook that I was in Ukiah, Mike Donovan pointed out that the Doobie Brothers (of course) wrote a song called “Ukiah.” It’s from their album “The Captain and Me,” released in 1973. Although 1973 is ancient history and therefore before the age of MTV, someone has put together a YouTube video for the song. Here’s the link.

Hippie mosaics in Ukiah’s town park seem appropriate for the area, as do the mushrooms, but check out what they did to American Gothic!

Now I have just one more set of mountains to cross until I finally reach the ocean. There’s no hurry however. Hurry and you might miss scenes like these, and little critters at your footstep. These were taken on a hilltop along California Highway 20, just west of the town of Willets:

Finally, I reached the coast at Fort Bragg, California. This is not to be confused with Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the military here is the Coast Guard. Fort Bragg is a small harbor town at the mouth of the Noyo River. It boasts about 7,000 people and a wharf where those who enjoy catching and eating sea creatures/monsters can enjoy themselves. (I don’t like fish–can you tell?) It’s a small, beautiful place nevertheless.

Noyo River outlet leading to Fort Bragg Harbor

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Fort Bragg, California. The photos are from my balcony at the Beach House Inn on Pudding Creek. I can heartily recommend this place — a short walk to the beach with great ocean views, yet affordable.

Not many good dining options here in this little seaside town (unless you like seafood) so I went with a simple triple cheeseburger and fries with hot chocolate. Hot chocolate because it warms the belly — temperatures get down into the 50s here.

Thursday June 10, 2021. Day 6: Fort Bragg to Sonoma, California

I planned this part of the trip as a day of driving down the coastline along California Highway 1, known as the Shoreline Highway. This route hugs the ocean while Highway 101 runs through the valleys further inland. Today will be mostly a day of driving and stopping for a few photographs until I reach Bodega Bay and head inland toward the towns of Santa Rosa and Sonoma. So here we go. I’m using the second photo in this set as my computer desktop image; help yourself to a copy of your favorite:

Mendocino County Coast, California
Mendocino County Coast, California
Mendocino County Coast, California
Mendocino County Coast, near the town of Mendocino, California
Sonoma County Coast, California
Sonoma County Coast, California
Sonoma County Coast, California
Sonoma County Coast, California
Sonoma County Coast, California

After a long day of driving the coast, I turned inland and arrived at the city of Santa Rosa, county seat of Sonoma County, around 4:00. Santa Rosa might be said to be a northern suburb of San Francisco, very affluent and quite “woke”.

Sonoma County Courthouse. Santa Rosa, California

I drove on to the town of Sonoma to stay at the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn for the night. This is a decent place a few blocks from the Sonoma Plaza — an historic place where in 1846 Californians (back when they had testosterone) raised the Bear flag and proclaimed California a republic free of Mexican rule. A statue known as the Bear Flag Monument marks the event, and I ran into some Cub Scouts being shown the monument by their scout master/father.

Bear Flag Monument. Sonoma, California

The old Sonoma Barracks is across the street from the Plaza.

Fighting a cold I picked up last night, I avoided all the busy restaurants around the plaza for some good, hot, Thai curry in my hotel room. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” is still good advice.

Friday June 11, 2021. Day 7: Sonoma to Colusa, California

I had a good, quiet sleep in Sonoma so I skipped the hotel breakfast and drove off toward Downtown Joe’s Brewery and Restaurant in the nearby town of Napa.

But first…but first…I had to stop and take some photos of the Sonoma Valley vineyards where the California wine industry truly began.

Now on to Napa. When I walked into Downtown Joe’s in the heart of Napa I was greeted by the bartender with a friendly “don’t bother with the mask” and a recommendation that I should try “the best bloody Mary in town.” So it was suggested; so it was done.

Bloody Mary with Huevos Rancheros at Downtown Joe’s — yes that’s 2 strips of bacon in the Mary:

Conveniently, the Napa County Courthouse was nearly across the street from Downtown Joe’s. I guess lawyers always attract the best restauranteurs.

Napa County Courthouse. Napa, California

Here are a few photos of downtown Napa. Nice place.

Sidewalks along the Napa River with hills in the background. Napa, California
Looking down 3rd Street to the First Presbyterian Church. Napa, California

Of course, nearly every shop is wine-related — a paradise if you’re an oenophile.

Enough of the wine business, I’m off to see a Mountain Man.

After searching for nearly an hour, I found the grave of mountain man Jim Clyman in Tulocay Cemetary, Napa.

Last resting place of James Clyman. Tulocay Cemetary, Napa, California

This man had a rich life. It traversed great excitement, crossing the paths of George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to the Oregon Trail to the California gold rush, and ended as good as any life with a quiet 40-year retirement raising walnuts on a Napa Valley farm.

Clyman was born on one of George Washington’s farms in Fauquier County, Virginia in 1792. His family moved to Pennsylvania before settling in Stark County, Ohio. When Clyman became of age he joined the army to fight against the Shawnee during the War of 1812. After the war he farmed in Indiana and Illinois before becoming a surveyor, surveying lands along the Sangamon River in Illinois. When he went to St. Louis to collect his pay for the work, he met and joined Ashley‘s fur-trapping expedition, which became the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. During that time, he witnessed Hugh Glass’ ordeal with the grizzly — the story is still retold today — See “The Revenant” and my own blog post “Keep Calm and Look Far.” He also discovered the famous South Pass along with Tom Fitzpatrick. The discovery of South Pass made possible the later wagon roads across the continent and ultimately, American western emigration itself.

After leaving the fur-trapping life Clyman returned from the mountains to try a stint at farming in Wisconsin, but his partner was killed by Indians there. He then joined the military once again during the Blackhawk War, possibly beside a young captain of volunteers named Abraham Lincoln. After that short war was over Clyman decided to become a guide for wagon trains heading west on the Oregon Trail. After reaching the Oregon country he found the place unsatisfying (too rainy) and traveled down to California. Afterwards, he returned east to the United States, backtracking along the California Trail, and met the Donner Party on their way west. He warned the Donner Party not to take the dangerous Hastings Cutoff but the Donners did so anyway, and the rest is history.

Back in California, Clyman learned of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill before the rest of the world did. But, eschewing the hard work of gold mining, Clyman chose instead to settle down on a quiet spot in the Napa Valley and began an orchard. For 40 years he faithfully attended to his fruit trees before passing away in 1888, nearly 90 years old, with his family by his side. R.I.P.

Jim Clyman kept a diary of his travels and published it after retiring to his farm. The book served as a significant basis for Bernard DeVoto’s famous history “1846: the Year of Decision.“ You can buy Clyman‘s book on Amazon. I did, and enjoyed it greatly (as well as DeVoto’s).

I suppose everyone except the hardened atheist wonders exactly what heaven is like. For Renaissance painters heaven is seraphim and cherubim singing the glories of God. For Billy Joel, it’s a place less desirable than hell since he sings “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints.” For me with regard to heaven, I have another one of my pipe dreams (like the pipe dream that only certain persons actually have souls, the rest are mere biological zombies). My pipe dream is this: should I make it to heaven I hope to be allowed to choose a past earthly life to relive as it happened, sort of like piggybacking inside some favored historical figure without them knowing that I am there. If I get that chance I’d like to live Jim Clyman’s life, and maybe John Coulter as well. These men lived adventure, they bravely strode to places where they knew not what lay beyond the next hill or tree branch. They lived their lives to the very fullest. For me, I’m doing the best I can with my rental car and Google maps.

Now I’m off to visit Peanuts.

I passed throug the famous Napa Valley Stags Leap Wine District. I’m not that much into wine so I won’t be stopping and doing any winetasting. I’m living dangerously here; I’ll be disowned if my old graduate school roommate ever finds out that I was in both Napa and Sonoma valleys and didn’t stop at any wineries at all.

Now back to Santa Rosa to see the Charles M. Schulz Museum, aka “Peanuts.” I’ve been waiting for this moment all week!

Greetings from Charlie Brown! Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa, California

I grew up with these characters. I read the comic strip in the paper nearly every day and the weekly colored Peanuts strip was always on the outside of the Sunday newspaper. Every year I measured the start of Christmas season from the night “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was aired on CBS. I can replay the song “Linus and Lucy” in my head. I never missed “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” either. Childhood during the 1960s nearly revolved around those Peanuts characters.

Here are some photos from within the museum, including a re-creation of Schulz’ drawing studio in his home. Put the museum on your own bucket list. You’ll thank me.

By now it was time to find a place to lay my head for the night. It being Friday night, accommodations anywhere near the Wine Country were being offered from between $300 and $500 per night. Who pays such prices? (Government officials on expense accounts HA HA!) Certainly not I, so I decided to make the two-hour drive back to friendly Colusa for the night before my plane trip home Saturday. The drive would take me from Santa Rosa, back through the Napa Valley, through the Clear Lake area, and then finally into the Sacramento Valley and Colusa.

Napa Valley vineyards above Calistoga, California

I made it back to Rocco’s Bar & Grill in Colusa for the night, first imbibing a shot of Jack Daniels to put the final nail into this cold. Rocco’s is packed tonight. This is a town of only 5,000 and this bar has a lot of seating, but it’s still packed. A 10” pizza is on its way.

A shot of Jack and a glass of tea at Rocco’s Bar & Grill in Colusa, California

Meanwhile some sort of parade was going on in front of the Colusa high school. I asked the guy at the bar sitting next to me what the parade was all about. He said they have the parade every year together with the county fair, but this year they’re only having the parade and not the fair.
“Why no fair this year?” I asked.
“Because Governor Newsom {unintelligible},” he answered.
“So you mean no one has any testosterone any more?”
“Not a drop,” he said.

May be an image of pizza and indoor
Yes, I eat pizza with pineapple on it if it comes from Rocco’s!

Saturday June 12, 2021. Day 8: Colusa to Colorado Springs

End of an epic week. Here’s my souvenir from the Schulz Museum.

No words.

All photos taken by the author in June, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.

List of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog

Here is a list and links to all my ‘Freedom Voyage’ posts (Last updated June 25, 2021):

Calm and Community
A trip taken through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska in July, 2020.

For Thanksgiving, 2020
A trip taken through Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana in September, 2020.

Go West! Along the Loneliest Road to the Gold Rush Country
A trip taken through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California (and a little bit of Oregon) in May, 2021.

Go West Again! The Sacramento Valley and California’s North Coast
A trip taken from Sacramento, California through the Sacramento Valley, to the Mendocino and Sonoma County coasts, and then to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys in June, 2021.

Go West! Along the Loneliest Road to the Gold Rush Country

June 6, 2021

After finishing an arduous 4-month contract with Microsoft (their Services Division) it was high time for another Freedom Voyage! These “Freedom Voyages” (h/t to Elizabeth Rosas Barber for the moniker) give me the chance to see the country — its landscapes, its small towns, its cities, and its courthouses. Along the way I take and share photos of what I see and what I eat — and whatever I’m thinking.

Back in 2017 — before the Trump economy kicked into gear and got me working again — I travelled US Route 50 from Pueblo, Colorado eastward as far as my free time would take me — Cincinnati, Ohio. For this trip, I’m taking US 50 westward all the way from Pueblo to the end of the route in Sacramento, California.

Want to live out a Freedom Voyage vicariously? Here’s a photo log of the eight days I spent on the road , starting in Colorado Springs, Colorado where I live and traveling through Utah, Nevada, California, and back.

I enjoyed May sunshine on seven of those eight days. Nothing better than sunshine on a trip! Enjoy!

Saturday May 8, 2021. Day 1: Colorado Springs to Grand Junction, Colorado

It’s Saturday. After doing the usual Saturday morning things I packed the car, connected the I-phone tunes, opened the moonroof, and drove south toward Pueblo where I picked up on Route 50 where I left off a few years ago. This time I’ll go West. Road Trip!

From Pueblo, Colorado, US 50 heads directly west through the town of Canon City and then into Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Between Canyon City and Salida, Colorado

That’s the Arkansas River coming down from its source near Leadville, Colorado. Notice the train tracks on the opposite side. My father told me that he crossed the country twice on troop trains during World War II; he probably rode on those very tracks.

Past Salida, Colorado, US 50 climbs up toward the continental divide at Monarch Pass, elevation 11,312 feet.

Monarch Pass along US 50

Now on the western slope of the Rockies, the first sizeable town you reach is Gunnison, Colorado. Main Street has a few popular drinking establishments to quench the thirst of skiers and hikers. Notice the clouds looming — a storm front passed by a few minutes afterwards — a lot of wind but hardly any raindrops.

High Alpine Brewing Company. Gunnison, Colorado

Beyond Gunnison, US 50 follows the course of the Gunnison River and its tributaries. Along the way I took this photo, part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area:

Dillon Pinnacles. West of Gunnison, Colorado

From there US 50 winds down the western slope along the Gunnison River, through the Colorado agricultural towns of Montrose and Delta until it reaches the Colorado River at Grand Junction, Colorado. Grand Junction was so named for the junction of the Grand River with the Gunnison River, but later the Grand River was renamed the Colorado River (as we know it today), yet they didn’t rename the town “Colorado Junction.”

“GJ” as it’s sometimes called is a convenient place to eat and lodge for the night.

I had dinner at a British pub in Grand Junction, Colorado called The Goat and Clover Tavern. The tavern walls were decorated with a variety of British things including pictures of The Beatles, kilts under glass, and Guinness beer posters. Although this seems all very ‘British’ to us Yanks, the scene would make no sense to an actual resident of any part of the British Isles since English, Scottish, and Irish pubs are each distinct places over there; the ethnicities are not mixed when it comes to pub life.

That night I saved some money and stayed at a Red Roof Inn. The Red Roof chain has been buying up old roadside motels and refurbishing them with new beds and clean wood-tile floors. It’s a good choice for a budget stay.

Links:
The Goat and Clover Tavern. Grand Junction, Colorado

Sunday May 9, 2021. Day 2: Grand Junction to Ely, Nevada

Sunday morning means church first, then travel, and so I patronized St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Junction. Masks somewhat optional. Coffee afterwards.

Next stop along US 50: Utah!

Utah State Line. Along I-70 & US 50. — The colorful sign is a very popular photo stop for travellers.
I-70 & US 50 from a hilltop rest stop just inside the Utah state line
Dry canyons at the I-70 rest stop just inside the Utah state line

Interstate 70 in eastern Utah is a lonely stretch from the Colorado line to the town of Green River (where the road crosses the Green River). Beyond Green River the highway cuts through the San Rafael Swell, a 70 by 40-mile geologic upheaval which has been cut, shaped, and formed over thousands of years into a crazy assembly of sandstone buttresses, canyons, and plateaus.

I-70 & US 50 cutting through the wall of the San Rafael Swell

(Apologies for the old photo from my archives. It’s an i-phone photo taken from behind the wheel some many, many i-phones ago.)

There are no services along this desert stretch of Interstate 70 for 50 to 100 miles or so. Finally, upon reaching the welcoming town of Salina, Utah, I was able to find Mom’s Cafe at the corner of Main Street for some lunch and refreshment. I’m pretty sure that Mom’s is family-owned and family-operated since I saw what looked like a mom, a dad, and teenage sons and daughters taking orders and serving food.

Lunch at Mom’s Cafe. Salina, Utah

The pastry-like thing on the right — it comes as part of the $12.99 lunch but I don’t know what it’s called — is some sort of fried bread, and when covered with honey butter (the 2 brown packets next to it) is simply delicious!

US 50 breaks off from Interstate 70 in Salina, and weaves its way through some mountainous terrain, eventually crossing the north-south Interstate 15. West of I-15, US 50 crosses miles and miles of stark sagebrush desert with the only neighbors being various US military installations off in the distance.

Looking south from US 50 towards Sevier Lake, western Utah. About 50 miles east of the Nevada border.

My Rand McNally road map said that there was some military experimental firing range out there in the distance. I stopped on the highway (no cars for miles either way) and snapped the photo. Then I posted it to Facebook — why do I have cell phone connectivity way out here in the desert? That’s strange. Richard Thiele conjectured in a comment: “That oval shaped, big, high cloud is hiding ‘the mother ship’ and you will soon see smaller flying disks streak out of that cloud.” I never saw any spaceships; they were probably there, just invisible.

50 miles later…

My personal chariot at the Nevada/Utah state line along US 50
US 50 in Nevada: The Loneliest Road in America

This is Nevada’s portion of US 50, America’s Loneliest Road: a long, lonely two-lane highway with little traffic, sagebrush desert on either side interspersed with a few abandoned mining camps, weaving through tree-less hills and rocky mountainsides for a few hundred miles. I travelled during daylight hours — I imagine the UFOs all come out at night.

The Loneliest Road in America has become a notable tourist draw. They have a good website here, and a time-appropriate motto: “Social Distancing Since 1862.”

Along US 50 in Nevada, there are only 3 significant towns between the eastern border with Utah and the Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada, near the western end of the road. I stopped for the night at the first town, Ely. I lodged and ate the Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall. The in-house restaurant is called “Margaritas” and features Mexican fare. When doing Mexican food carne asada is one of the best choices, and my steak dinner was at least twice as excellent as this excellent photo shows:

Excellent carne asada at Margaritas, inside the Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall. Ely, Nevada

Grilled steak, grilled onions, warm tortillas, rice, beans, guacamole, and chips with two kinds of salsa (already consumed). One of the best meals I had during the entire trip!

Links:
Mom’s Cafe. Salina, Utah
Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall. Ely, Nevada

Monday May 10, 2021. Day 3: Ely to Stateline, Nevada

Ely (pronounced “EE-lee” by the locals) has a population of about 4,200. That’s big enough for a casino-hotel and several smaller casinos along the town’s main drag.

Hotel Nevada. Ely, Nevada

Back in Hollywood’s heyday the stars used to use Ely as a stopping point on their way from Hollywood to points north. Hotel Nevada keeps a “Walk of Fame” on their front sidewalk to remember all their most famous visitors:

Travelling US 50 in Nevada is something like a roller coaster. Between Ely and Fallon, Nevada’s landscape consists of a series of north-to-south mountain ranges separated by deep desert valleys. So driving the Loneliest Road involves climbing a mountain range to its summit (mountain passes reach about 7,000 feet) and then descending down to a flat sagebrush valley. Then repeat. Sometimes the valleys have dry alkali lakebeds, sometimes they don’t. If you’re lucky you’ll see a herd of mustangs grazing the sagebrush (not this time though). The mountains always have a few spruce trees and sometimes they have snow-capped peaks.

The Loneliest Road in America (US 50). This stretch is between Ely and Eureka, Nevada.

Beyond that mountain range lies the town of Eureka, Nevada, population 400 or so. Gold was once mined here in abundance; some remnant mines remain. Here’s the 1879 courthouse still in use today.

Eureka County Courthouse. Eureka, Nevada

This is the District Courtroom in Eureka, Nevada. Old and new: the woodstove is on one side of the courtroom while the flat screen TV is on the other side.

2nd Floor courtroom. Eureka County Courthouse. Eureka, Nevada.

The rifle on display on the courtroom wall was used by drivers to guard the stage line between Eureka and Ely, Nevada.

According to Philip Mayo: “That’s a double barreled shotgun. Hence the term, ‘riding shotgun’ on the stagecoach. Most effective for close range. Just point and squeeze the trigger. Also, the barrels are short so the user could swing it quickly in all directions without hitting or getting caught on anything.”

Lunch at the Owl Cafe, Steakhouse, and Casino.

Lunch: Red chili, a grilled cheese, tater tots, and iced tea. Owl Cafe. Eureka, Nevada.

Back on the road again…

The Loneliest Road in America with the Toiyabe Range in the distance. US 50 between Eureka and Austin, Nevada.

…next stop Austin, Nevada, population about 150. Austin is another old mining town but it has a disproportionate number of churches for its size. Notice the Trump flag on the rectory next to one of the churches. I had coffee at the “International Café“ where the sign on the door said “no masks allowed inside” and “Maskless club members only.” I love it!

Anti-maskers. International Cafe and Bar. Austin, Nevada.

Beyond Austin, the Loneliest Road crosses a few more mountain ranges, a few more sagebrush valleys, and even a dry lakebed or two until it reaches the town of Fallon, Nevada. Fallon has a Naval Air Station installation where the US Navy trains its pilots to do bombing runs and the like. So Fallon is sort of a big city compared to Ely, Eureka, and Austin.

Beyond Fallon, US 50 makes its way back to civilization proper when it reaches Carson City, Nevada, the state capital. I’ve been to Carson City several times over the years, but now I’m seeing actual suburban housing developments outside of town. This is new.

Beyond Carson City, US 50 crosses into the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach the shores of Lake Tahoe and the California state line. Although US 50 continues on to West Sacramento, California, this feels like the end of the road right here.

View of Lake Tahoe from atop Harrah’s Casino. Stateline, Nevada

Harrah’s is my casino of choice in Stateline, Nevada. The top floor of Harrah’s features Friday’s Station Steak & Seafood Grill. They have a classy bar with great bartenders — I asked for a gin martini with a pearl onion and it’s “no problem.”

End of the loneliness. Gibson martini at Friday’s Station Steak Grill atop Harrah’s Casino.

I keep putting that ratty old Eureka College baseball cap in my pictures. Why? Here’s why: Eureka College (Illinois) is President Ronald Reagan’s alma mater and I bought this cap at their campus bookstore. I was originally planning to take this week as a ROADTRIP pilgrimage to purchase a replacement, but the weatherman predicted a cold and rainy Midwest for early May. So maybe I’ll make that pilgrimage later this summer.

Links:
Loneliest Road in America
Hotel Nevada in Ely, Nevada
Ely, Nevada in Wikipedia
Owl Club Bar & Steakhouse, Eureka
Eureka, Nevada in Wikipedia
Austin, Nevada in Wikipedia
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe

Tuesday May 11, 2021. Day 4: Stateline, Nevada to Auburn, California

I stayed at the MontBlue Resort in Stateline instead of Harrah’s, just to be different this time. Meh.

Today would be the final day of following US 50 to its terminus, but I couldn’t abandon Nevada for California before seeking an old fashioned breakfast diner on the Nevada side. I found it: the Red Hut Cafe in Stateline. They serve rosti: a Swiss dish that’s mostly hash browns but with cheese, bacon, ham, and sour cream added on the side.

Breakfast rosti at the Red Hut Cafe. Stateline, Nevada.

With a full and satisfied stomach I got in the car, got back on US 50, and crossed the state line into California. But then I called an audible — I’m here in Lake Tahoe so why don’t I do a circuit around the lake? The transit took about 2 hours out of my day, but it was worth it for all the photos. Here you go:

The flat waters of Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Lake boats at Tahoe City, California

This next photo was my favorite. I think my I-phone captured the green hues of the shallow water very well.

Lake Tahoe from Tahoe Vista, California

This next one is my second favorite because of the mountains on the other side. Some commenters suggested that the drought was evident from to the meager snowcap.

Lake Tahoe from Sand Harbor overlook, Nevada

One more before returning to my US 50 agenda:

Lake Tahoe from Sand Harbor overlook, Nevada.

US 50 is a very scenic drive beyond South Lake Tahoe, California. First the highway climbs a high pass overlooking the lake. Then after cresting the Sierra Nevada range US 50 follows riverbeds and canyons all the way down the slopes of the Sierra past old gold towns like Placerville and then to Sacramento. Speeds of 55 to 65 mph are maintained throughout. At West Sacramento, California, US 50 terminates at the junction with Interstate 80. Before the interstate system was built, route 50 traversed the remaining miles to its natural terminus in San Francisco by way of Altamont Pass and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

For me today, however, West Sacramento was the end of the line. I can say I’ve driven most of the parts of this transcontinental route — covering the road from Sacramento to Cincinnati in 2 pieces. I’ll finish the final piece — Cincinnati to Ocean City, Maryland — someday.

The Gold Rush town of Auburn, California is about 45 minutes east of Sacramento on Interstate 80. This is my next stop. This is Placer County, California, which might be considered the ‘ground zero’ of the California Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s. The first gold discovery was in this county near Sutter’s mill. The county seat is Auburn, however, and the county has preserved their stately old courthouse.

Placer County Courthouse. Auburn, California.
Samples of placer gold. Placer County Courthouse. Auburn, California
Statue of Claude Chana, who first discovered gold in Auburn, Placer County, California

Lunchtime in California in May means outdoor dining, and something light. Here’s a turkey-avocado croissant with a Greek salad and olives on-the-side (because I won’t allow olives in my mouth) at the Old Town Grill — in old town Auburn.

California lunch: turkey-avocado on a croissant

I found my hotel room and took a nap before dinner. I chose a bed and breakfast this time by booking a room at the Powers Mansion Inn in Auburn. Coming up the walk I was greeted with a sniff of my bags by a white German shepherd. Gentle, friendly and harmless. I didn’t meet the human innkeeper until the next day.

After a nap I chose a little Italian dining place (tre Pazzi trattoria) for some carbonara & chianti. I lived in Southern California some 30 years ago. In the time that’s passed I’ve forgotten how extremely pleasant evenings are in these California towns – while it’s hot all day the air cools down at dusk without getting cold — and there are no flying bugs to disturb you.

California outdoor dinner: carbonara with a glass of Chianti

Links:
Red Hut Cafe, Stateline
City of Auburn, California
Old Town Grill, Auburn
tre Pazzi trattoria, Auburn
Powers Mansion Inn, Auburn

Wednesday May 12, 2021. Day 5: Auburn to Susanville, California

The Powers Mansion Inn in Auburn doesn’t serve breakfast until 9:30, but one might say it’s worth the wait:

Breakfast served at Powers Mansion Inn. Auburn, California

After Auburn, my next Gold Rush town was the little burg of Nevada City, county seat of Nevada County, California. The population here is about 3,000 and most of them seemed to be running shops in the town’s 19th Century buildings.

Broad Street. Nevada City, California

Some of the best examples of architecture seem to be old churches and fire stations.

St. Canice Catholic Church. Nevada City, California
Old fire station. Nevada City, California

One merchant let us know he hasn’t forgotten:

Flag of Honor hung outside merchant’s shop. Nevada City, California

Following the winding roads north of Nevada City, it took me an hour to reach Downieville, county seat of Sierra County. I took a lot of photos here; there wasn’t a way to take a bad one. “Now you’re Touring…it’s Gorgeous all along Ca49 in the Mother Lode country…” said Tom Matthews.

Downieville, California
North Yuba River at Downieville, California

Downieville lies at the junction of the Downie and North Yuba Rivers, but the rivers’ names have changed over the years. As I explained to Philip Jordan, that’s the Downie River on the left meeting the North Yuba River on the right. It used to be that the whole system was considered the North Fork of the Yuba River and the confluence in the picture would be the North Fork of the North Fork of the Yuba meeting the South Fork of the North Fork of the Yuba River. But that just confused everyone so they re-named one of the tributaries the Downie River, and the North Fork of the Yuba River became just the North Yuba River.

Confluence of the Downie and North Yuba Rivers at Downieville, California

Downieville has a great founding story as told on one of the historical markers in town. In the fall of 1849, Major William Downie (1820-1893) led an expedition of nine miners (seven of them African American men) up the North Fork of the Yuba River to this spot where the river forked, and called the place “The Forks.” Gold was abundant in the stream and sand bars of the rivers here. Gold was so abundant in fact that Major Downie could afford to offer to “throw a hat-full of gold dust in the street” if the other miners would immortalize the town with his name. And so it was.

Downieville, California
Graduating seniors feted. Downieville, California.

I came here at exactly the right time of year. Many of the trees along the riverbanks were in bloom, and the perfume from their flowering leaves was simply overwhelming. I’m sorry the pictures can only hint at the aroma of a gorgeous spring mountain day in the Sierras.

North Yuba River at Downieville, California

Although this is an idyllic place (and how!), justice had to be swift and certain back in the Gold Rush days.

Old Sheriff’s gallows outside Sierra County Courthouse. Downieville, California

I was asked by Philip Jordan if the rivers in Downieville were trout streams, but I’m not a fisherman myself so I couldn’t tell for sure. There are some lodging places in town along the river banks, so with a bit of research I’m sure these innkeepers can provide the information.

As I drove away upstream I saw some more riverside cabins — not so many as to make the area crowded, but not so few as to make it exclusive. Near the crest of the Sierra I took this photograph:

North Sierra Buttes. East of Downieville, California

North of Downieville the landscape changes slightly as the Sierra Nevada mountain range gives way to the southern end of the Cascade Mountains. The Cascades are volcanic mountains and there are fewer steep canyons and flatter ground. The county in this region is Plumas County and its seat is the town of Quincy.

Plumas County Courthouse. Quincy, California

The town of Quincy was named for the Illinois farm of one of its early settlers, James Bradley, which in turn was named for our sixth president John Quincy Adams. Unlike the Gold Rush memories of Auburn, Nevada City, and Downieville, Quincy lies on flat ground and thus exhibits more of a ‘Main Street USA’ look and feel: houses, yards, picket fences, and (giant sequoia) trees:

Giant Sequoia. Quincy, California
Giant Sequoia. Quincy, California

Note the American flag displayed upside-down by the owner of this magnificent tree, denoting that the country is in distress. The sequoia lives longer than we do, thriving through both good times and bad. I hope we can one day say the same.

‘Without Ice Cream, There Would be Darkness and Chaos’

Today was a long day but a great touring day, a day that if I had to do over again I would split into two days.

Links:
City of Nevada City, California
City of Downieville, California
City of Quincy, California

Thursday May 13, 2021. Day 6: Susanville, California to Winnemucca, Nevada

Today was a pretty long driving day. Susanville, California is actually east of the mountains and closer to Reno, Nevada than to any California city. It’s a nice town though, a nice place to stop with plenty of places to stay and to eat. Lumber is a big industry here, as is ranching.

“Isaac Roop and his daugther Susan,” for whom Susanville was named.
Main Street Susanville, California, looking uphill toward the nearby mountain pass.
A stately home and shade trees in a residential section of Susanville, California

This is a photo of the old Lassen County Courthouse which as since been replaced with a much larger and more secure structure at the edge of town. Many old California courthouses once looked like this one.

The old Lassen County Courthouse. Susanville, California

I’m off from Susanville to the town of Alturas in Modoc County, California, the county in the far northeastern corner of the state, and probably the most remote of any of California’s counties.

US 395 heading north from Susanville to Alturas, California.

Alturas is a town of 2,800 souls. The town and county resisted the state governor’s orders to lock down due to Covid-19. They succeeded only to an extent. Here is the Modoc County Courthouse, built in 1913 and looking great.

Modoc County Courthouse. Alturas, California

I ate lunch in the park with a pizza from the remarkable Antonio’s Cucina Italiana on Main Street in Alturas. After I had walked in at noon and sat down, the owner told me that he wasn’t open for dine-in services. Sad. So I ordered a take-out pizza and a drink, and he didn’t mind me sipping my drink at the table while I waited. I had my pizza in the park instead:

Personal pepperoni pizza with pepsi on a picnic table in a park. Alturas, California.

Now it’s time to turn for home. I’ll to spend the night in Winnemucca, Nevada, some four hours drive from Alturas. The fastest route would take me briefly into Oregon, where I saw that Goose Lake looked nearly dry. Apparently the western drought is real. On my way to Winnemucca, in a deserted stretch of Nevada Highway 140 (in fact all stretches of Nevada 140 are deserted), I found this labor of love:

Roadside memorial to 2 fallen soldiers. Found along Nevada highway 140.
Roadside memorial to 2 fallen soldiers. Found along Nevada highway 140.

Will Hawkins and Jacob O’Malley, rest in peace. “Battle Born” is the motto of the state of Nevada.

Finally to Winnemucca, Nevada, where Basque sheepherders immigrated during the last century. I found a Basque restaurant, and being new to Basque cooking, I had to try it. Here is the chicken esparragossa (chicken with asparagus) at Bakarra Basque Bistro. Lots of seafood dishes were also available and are probably the house specialty, but I don’t eat sea creatures.

Links:
City of Susanville, California
City of Alturas, California
Antonio’s Cucina Italiana, Alturas
Bakarra Basque Bistro, Winnemucca
Holiday Motel, Winnemucca
City of Winnemucca, Nevada

Friday May 14, 2021. Day 7: Winnemucca, Nevada to Midvale, Utah

I spent most of today driving east along Interstate 80 through northern Nevada and then into Utah. It was a bit cloudy and so not too warm. Before leaving Winnemucca though, I found this gem:

The Griddle. A gem in Winnemucca, Nevada

The Griddle. Any breakfast place that includes crepes on its menu is a great breakfast place. You can quote me on that.

Menu from the Griddle in Winnemucca, Nevada

I had the raspberry crepes but I could have had the peach crepes instead or even the PECAN CREPES WITH BACON CARAMEL SAUCE! Are you kidding me? Life is good!

Biscuits and gravy with a raspberry crepe

During this long day I stopped a bit for a play on the video poker machines at West Wendover, Nevada. I hit a four-of-a-kind on the first or second roll then walked away with my $40 winnings. Take the money and run when you’re up against the machines. Then I drove 100 miles or so through the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah. These haven’t changed — still flat, white, and salty. I found a nice Holiday Inn Express in a nice Salt Lake City suburb and had a nice suburban dinner at a picnic table along the banks of the nice Little Cottonwood Creek in Midvale:

A double-double with animal fries and a chocolate shake

Links:
The Griddle, Winnemucca
City of Midvale, Utah

Saturday May 15, 2021. Day 8: Midvale, Utah to Colorado Springs

Today was another long day of driving from Salt Lake City back to Colorado Springs. I took the southern route through Provo, Utah, across the Utah desert through Price, Utah, and then meeting Interstate 70 at Green River, Utah.

While yesterday was about breakfast, today was about lunch. Interstate 70 passes through the town of Rifle, Colorado, which is home territory for freshman Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO). Before running for Congress in 2020, Boebert was best known for running a restaurant in Rifle called Shooter’s Grill, a western-themed place where the wait staff is encouraged to wear pistols on their belts.

Lunch at Shooter’s Grill in Rifle:

Shooter’s Grill. Rifle, Colorado
Display window at Shooter’s Grill in Rifle, Colorado
Menu. Shooter’s Grill in Rifle, Colorado

I had the brisket sandwich with sweet potato fries. Shooter’s is a fine establishment and their food is satisfying. In fact, it actually seems kind of normal.

Brisket sandwich with sweet potato fries. Shooter’s Grill. Rifle, Colorado

Links:
Shooter’s Grill, Rifle
City of Rifle, Colorado
Lauren Boebert, Member of Congress

I’m home now. Hope you enjoyed my trip!

All photos taken by the author in May, 2021

A list of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog can be found here.


Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth

May 30, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1997 and May 2013)

Butte is the 5th largest city in the state of Montanta with 33,000 residents, but it has the most colorful history of any town in that state. During its heyday in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Butte was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the West. Fortunes were made for many here, especially for owners of the copper mines. They were known as the Copper Kings.

Painting of the Butte Copper Kings. Silver Bow County Courthouse, Butte, Montana

Employment opportunities in the mines attracted surges of immigrants, particularly Irish immigrants. According to Wikipedia, as of 2017, Butte has the largest population of Irish Americans per capita of any city in the United States. I suppose that one descendent of those immigrants might be Rob O’Neill, a native of Butte, a Navy Seal, and the man who shot Osama bin Laden.

Old mineshafts in Butte, Montana

The city of Butte straddles the Continental Divide high in the Rockies and is positioned on the southwestern side of a large mass of exposed granite. The exposed granite mountain is riddled with rich veins of copper, gold, and silver ore which produced millions of dollars of precious metals during the last two centuries. Mineshafts criss-cross the earth deep below the town’s streets. A large open pit copper mine, called the Berkeley Pit, was opened in 1955 nearly alongside the town. Although this open pit ceased operations in 1982, several other mines still operate today extracting molybdenum ore among other metals.

The wealth extracted from the mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s also produced a wealth of ornate buildings and architecture in the city, and the of old bars, ethnic foods, and wild things that accompany prosperouse mining towns.

Ornate mining-era structures from the late 1800s and early 1900s in Uptown Butte, Montana

Since the city is centered at the top of a hill, the “downtown” area is uphill from the working class neighborhoods below it. For this reason, Butte’s “downtown” is known paradoxically as “Uptown” Butte.

Typical streetscape in Uptown Butte, Montana
Former Curtis Music Hall (theatre). Butte, Montana
The old M&M Cigar Store and adjacent structures. Uptown Butte, Montana
Piccadilly Transportation Memorabilia Museum. Butte, Montana

Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana. The county courthouse here was erected between 1910 and 1912 at the height of Butte’s mining boom.

Silver Bow County Courthouse. Butte, Montana

The courthouse currently features a sculpture of a World War II “Jungle Fighter” at the front entrance.

Silver Bow County Courthouse with “Jungle Fighter” sculpture. Butte, Montana

Butte’s mines had amassed great wealth for the city by the time it came to build this courthouse. The city and county Fathers spent $750,000 here, an outrageously huge amount of money for 1910. (The ornate courthouse was used as National Guard barracks when mine labor violence provoked the imposition of martial law in 1917).

The interior of the courthouse is one of the most ornate in the United States featuring gold and copper inlays, marble floors, and mahogany doors.

Marble pillars and bannisters, wall murals, and mahogany doors. Silver Bow County Courthouse. Butte, Montana

The second floor walls facing the central atrium feature murals of four pillars of civilization: History, Philosophy, Justice, and Geography. Above these murals are paintings of four presidents (respectively): Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and William McKinley. Below are photos of the murals and paintings:

Mural of History with Woodrow Wilson above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Philosophy with Abraham Lincoln above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Justice with George Washington above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Geography with William McKinley above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse.

It’s odd that Wilson was included on these walls since the building was completed in 1912, the same year of his election. Also, I find it odd that Jefferson was left out.

Here’s a view of Butte from a nearby highway overlook, and then an historical sign explaining the town’s development.

Butte, Montana from a higway overlook with mountains in the distance
Butte, Montana historical sign

Finally, one last historical sign and one last statue:

Our Lady of the Rockies, overlooking Butte, Montana

All photos taken by the author on May 7, 2013

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

List of all Photo Posts in the American County Seats series in TimManBlog

List of photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog (last updated May 30, 2021):

ALABAMA:
Mobile’s Mardi Gras

ARIZONA:
Kingman Arizona — Caravans of Cars and Camels

ARKANSAS:
Salem, Arkansas: Clean Livin’ and the Spitball

CALIFORNIA:
Climbing to Mariposa

COLORADO:
Doc Holliday and the Spa of the Rockies in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

IDAHO:
Emmett, Idaho: Gem of Plenty

ILLINOIS:
Dixon, Illinois: Three Presidents

INDIANA:
Vincennes: The Town that Made Indiana American

IOWA:
The Little Norse Town of Decorah, Iowa

It’s a Wonderful Life in Denison, Iowa

KANSAS:
Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimmaron, Kansas

KENTUCKY:
Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

LOUISIANA:
St. Martinville: Louisiana’s Acadian Capital

MASSACHUSETTS:
April 19th in Middlesex County, Massachusetts

MICHIGAN:
Manistique — The Battle for Michigan
Marquette, Michigan: Experience the Warmth!

MINNESOTA:
Summertime in Waseca, Minnesota

MISSOURI:
Civil War Scenes in Hartville, Missouri

MONTANA:
Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth

NEBRASKA:
Emigrants’ Return: California Refugees in Plattsmouth, Nebraska

NEW MEXICO:
Los Alamos:  A City on a Hill
Truth or Consequences — and Quixotic Occupy Wall Street

Taos
For ‘Days Gone By’ in New Mexico (Reserve, NM)

NEW YORK:
The Entire State is New York and Albany is its Capital

NORTH CAROLINA:
The Town of Sylva in Western Carolina

NORTH DAKOTA:
The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota

OHIO:
Neil Armstrong’s Hometown (Wapakoneta, Ohio)

OKLAHOMA:
Adventure and Victory: Frederick, Oklahoma

OREGON:
Enterprise, The Jewel of Eastern Oregon

PENNSYLVANIA:
Small Town Propsperity in Warren, Pennsylvania

SOUTH CAROLINA:
∙ February in Walterboro, South Carolina

SOUTH DAKOTA:
∙ Keep Calm and Look Far (Bison, SD)

∙ Along the Pathways of Exploration: Fort Pierre, South Dakota

TEXAS:
A Big and Notable Place — Lubbock, Texas
Christmastime in Johnson City, Texas
January Calmness in West Texas (Marfa, Texas)

UTAH:
∙ A Statue of Liberty in Heber City, Utah

WASHINGTON:
Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge

WISCONSIN:
January in Baraboo, Wisconsin

WYOMING:
Sheridan, Wyoming: Retirees Home on the Range

Emmett, Idaho: Gem of Plenty

April 25, 2021
(photos and memories of April 28, 2014)

Some years ago, I journeyed from Boise into Gem County, Idaho, on a clear, cool Monday morning in April. Many more years before, some of the Oregon Trail pioneers came this way, crossing from the Boise River valley to the Payette River valley over Freezeout Hill.

Idaho roadside sign atop Freezeout Hill with the town of Emmett down below.

When the travelers saw the well-watered valley of the Payette River below, many decided to forego the long road to Oregon and stay here. Permanent settlement began in the 1860s.

Payette River valley and the town of Emmett, Idaho

The valley below the Freezeout summit glows green like an emerald gem on this sunny April morning.  A little river winds though the valley between the distinct hillsides which enclose it.  Hills are green with speckles of yellow wild flowers, but down below farmers’ orchards bloom with anticipation of a new growing season.

Payette River valley and from atop Freezeout Hill

A minor gold rush followed from 1894 to 1910 until the ore ran out. In the 21st Century local citizens used the panormic perch provided by Freezeout Hill for a memorial to the lives lost on September 11, 2001.

September 11th Memorial on Freezeout Hill. Emmett, Idaho

Down in the valley below, the little town of Emmett (population 6,500; wikipedia entry here) provides both basic services and a small town home. The Hen House Home & Gift can be found on Yelp here.

Downtown Emmett, Idaho

HeBrews Coffee — “The Hub of Emmett.” Link here.

HeBrews Coffee in Emmett, Idaho
Main Street Emmett, Idaho. April 2014

I found this painting outside the old town telephone building. I checked, and Lily Tomlin didn’t come from Emmett, but the image still seems appropriate.

Painting of Lily Tomlin as town telephone operator. Emmett, Idaho

Here, an old corner service station has been converted to a combination Bakery-Deli-Gallery. The photo below was taken in 2014; the space is now the Newstead Farm & Market (link here).

The Gem County Courthouse is here in Emmett. This structure was a WPA project, built in 1939. The county was named for Idaho’s state nickname, “the Gem State,” and was formed in 1915. A new jail and sheriff’s office has recently been added behind the building.

Gem County Courthouse. Emmett, Idaho

I think every green courthouse lawn needs a Sherman tank. Every. Single. One.

Gem County Courthouse. Emmett, Idaho

Similarly, a fine county clock always improves the town square.

Gem County clock. Emmett, Idaho

Mountains in the distance on a bright April morning:

The intersection of Main and Washington. Emmett, Idaho

Finally, some town blooms. It’s no wonder Californians are leaving their state in droves for places like this in Idaho.

Emmett, Idaho

All photos taken by the author on April 28, 2014

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

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