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Archive for the category “Freedom Road Trips”

North-central North Dakota: the People behind the Places

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

November 14, 2021

Welcome to another Freedom Voyage! These trips give me the chance to see the width and breadth of the USA — 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.

I choose my road trip destinations with two primary considerations in mind: a) have I never been to this place before; and b) what’s the weather going to be like when I get there? For this trip, I saw an opportunity to see 15 North Dakota counties I’d never traveled to before, and under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.

Want to live out a Freedom Voyage vicariously? Experience a bit of joie de vivre? My purpose here is to try to convey the experience, the joy I feel as I travel the country. I hope in this way that you can also enjoy these sights, whether you are unable to travel or simply do not have the time or resources to do so.

With that, here’s a photo log of the eight days of clear skies and verdant fields I found in north-central North Dakota. Nothing better than sunshine and a road trip! Enjoy!

Jumping off from Gillette, Wyoming, the Freedom Voyage wanders through north-central North Dakota, starting east of Bismarck to Jamestown, Devils Lake, and Minot and returning to Gillette

Freedom Voyage Day 1, Saturday, June 26, 2021: Colorado Springs to Gillette, Wyoming

My overall plan was to reach Bismarck, North Dakota by Sunday night. That’s a 12-hour drive from Colorado Springs so I decided to split the travel into 2 legs — up to Gillette, Wyoming on Saturday and then on to Bismarck Sunday.

For the drive to Gillette, I stayed on Interstate 25 up to Douglas, Wyoming. There I switched to Wyoming 59, a two-lane highway that takes you through the massive coal fields of Converse and Campbell counties. There aren’t many towns along this road but the coal trains keep you company until you reach Gillette, 115 miles north of Douglas.

Gillette, Wyoming (population around 20,000) services the energy industry in northern Wyoming. The strong business climate for energy, especially during the Trump administration, has provided over a dozen business-class hotels to choose from, including at least one member of each of the larger US hotel chains. I chose Candlewood Suites for this stay.

Freedom Voyage Day 2, Sunday, June 27, 2021: Gillette to Bismarck, North Dakota

Day 2: Gillette, Wyoming through western South Dakota and then to Bismarck, North Dakota

Good Sunday morning from Gillette! A short morning walk brought me to the local Perkins restaurant for breakfast:

Eggs, bacon, hash browns, and crepes at Perkins Restaurant in Gillette

After church at St. Matthew’s, I got on the road at noon: east on Interstate 90 from Gillette, past Devil’s Tower (which can be seen off to the distance from the roadway), across the South Dakota state line, skirted the northern edge of the Black Hills, and then turned north. The roadways through western South Dakota are some of the most desolate stretches of highway in the state, punctuated by some dormant volcanic cliffs. After a few hours, I reached the border with North Dakota. The gallery of 3 photos below shows my sleek chariot, a herd of cattle grazing on the grasslands, and a cross-roads trucker enjoying a rest as the prairie highway winds out into the distance.

Nice country, North Dakota. Although the names of the two states are very similar, North Dakota has a more verdant landscape than its southern neighbor. I drove the 2-lane highways through some farmland until reaching Dickinson, then joined Interstate 94 heading east toward Bismarck.

Statue of a giant Holstein, named “Salem Sue” near New Salem, North Dakota

Just west of Bismarck I pulled off the highway at the Scenic Vista point:

Scenic Vista off I-94 at Mandan, North Dakota, looking east toward Bismarck

In Bismarck, I ate dinner at a great Mexican place called Charras and Tequila, which was next to the hotel where I would be spending the night. Due to today’s long drive, I had skipped lunch except for some convenience store snacks, and so I went full bore mode at dinnertime: chips & salsa, queso, pico, and carne asada with rice and beans. Plus a margarita, of course:

Bismarck is the state capital of North Dakota and has a population of 133,000. Plenty of lodging and dining choices are available in Bismarck. I checked some prices and chose a Wingate by Wyndham.

Freedom Voyage Day 3, Monday, June 28, 2021: Bismarck to Jamestown, North Dakota

Day 3: From Bismarck to Jamestown via Steele, Fessenden, New Rockford, and Carrington, North Dakota

Good Monday morning from Bismarck, North Dakota. According to Wikipedia, North Dakota was a popular destination for 19th Century immigrant farmers and laborers from Scandinavia and Germany. I quickly found a Kroll’s Diner nearby, which is a chain of German restaurants with locations in Bismarck, Minot, and other cities in North Dakota. Their slogan is “Sit Down and Eat,” and that’s also their web address: www.sitdownandeat.com. Choosing from their list of German specialties, I settled on a Fleischkuechle: seasoned ground beef, wrapped inside a pastry and deep-fried.

Fleischkuechle at Kroll’s Diner. Bismarck, North Dakota
Kroll’s Diner, Bismarck (this section was not in use while I was there as if it were part of a museum)

Over the next few days, I’ll be meandering through the north-central North Dakota countryside visiting small towns and county courthouses. Most of these towns will have populations less than 5,000 — they’re quiet but hard-working.

Heading east out of Bismarck my first stop this morning was Steele, North Dakota, with a population of 715 and county seat of Kidder County. The photos below show the STR United Methodist Church (top left), Kidder County Courthouse (top right), view down Broadway Avenue (center right), and Veterans Park behind the courthouse (bottom). Note that the church has a sign outside offering a chance to join services either on Facebook or YouTube. Steele’s storm warning sirens are stationed above the buildings at the far left of the photo looking down Broadway. No storm was coming this day, those clouds are just some morning humidity.

Most towns have a Veterans’ Memorial, but Steele’s is different because its Veterans Park highlights two specific soldiers and their stories. It’s a case of the town explaining the people behind the memorial.

Memorial to Alfred “Skip” Thomas, Vietnam era, including his bronzed boots.
Memorial to Sgt. Elwyn O. Vanous, US Army WWII — POW for 1 year who escaped and walked 700 miles to freedom.

Heading north out of Steele, I stopped next at Fessenden, North Dakota, with a population of 479.

Wells County Courthouse. Fessenden, North Dakota. Constructed in 1895 and still in use

Fessenden: old Quarve Block, largest business building in town (left); Main Avenue (center); and a friendly beagle (right). Not pictured: I walked past about a dozen grade school kids heading down to the town pool for a noon swim — I didn’t think it was a good idea for a stranger to be taking photos of children in bathing suits!

Lunch at the lunch counter at the Main Street Diner: Grilled ham & cheese, tater tots, and homemade chicken dumpling soup.

I next stopped at the larger town of New Rockford, having a population of 1,391. Photos below: the Eddy County Courthouse, erected in 1899 (left), courthouse main lobby and plaque (top right), New Rockford street scene (bottom right). The old courthouse here is still in use — in fact, a trial was taking place in the upstairs courtroom while I was there.

On my way to New Rockford, I drove by this herd of buffalo but didn’t stop to photograph them. After visiting the town I thought I might have missed an opportunity and came back to take a photograph of the herd. They were right up against the fence when I first drove by but by the time I got back they had moved away from the fence. He who hesitates is often lost!

Private buffalo herd. Near New Rockford, North Dakota

By the way, I prefer the term “buffalo” to “bison,” although I am told every so often that “bison” is the correct term. I don’t care. Buffalo is an iconic term of the old American West and it conjures up too many rich images to be replaced in common speech.

My last visit for today would be to the largest town of the day, Carrington, with a population of 2,065.

Foster County Courthouse. Carrington, North Dakota

This courthouse, like most of the old courthouses in this region, was built in the late 19th to early 20th Centuries and was built with a great deal of pride — not only pride in the people but pride in their state and their nation as well. Like many other courthouses built throughout the United States during this era, this courthouse was designed with a sense of grandeur and uses granite exteriors and marble and brass interiors. Vibrant murals depicting county history are painted on the ceiling under the central dome and can be viewed from the building’s atrium two floors below.

Words of wisdom are inscribed into marble walls along the second floor above the atrium, referencing wisdom from both the ancients (Aristotle, Sophocles) and from modern Americans (Webster, Lincoln):

Painting depicting daily life hung on the wall of the Foster County courthouse. Carrington, North Dakota

Feeling thankful for all the eye candy I saw in the courthouse, I strolled to downtown Carrington to get a beverage and write my notes: Headlocks — a sports bar (Minnesota Vikings bar), the Garden Gate — a combination wine bar, coffee shop, and gift shop, and the bank building.

From Carrington, I drove down to the larger town of Jamestown to have dinner and spend the night. Keeping it light tonight I chose a steak salad with a gin & tonic at Sabir’s Buffalo Grill. Eat beef when in cattle country!

Steak salad at Sabir’s Buffalo Grill. Jamestown, North Dakota

Jamestown is a small city adjacent to Interstate 94. There are plenty of lodging options available here. Checking prices, I chose the My Place hotel, part of a new and expanding hotel chain in the west and midwest.

Freedom Voyage Day 4, Tuesday, June 29, 2021: Jamestown to Devils Lake, North Dakota

Day 4: From Jamestown to Devils Lake via Courtenay, Cooperstown, Finley, Pekin, and Lakota, North Dakota

After spending the night in Jamestown (population 15,000 and change) it was time to have a look around. First stop, Casey’s General Store for some of their breakfast pizza. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Casey’s is a convenience store chain with hundreds of locations throughout the Midwest, but only a few in North Dakota. Their breakfast pizza is my absolute favorite.

Breakfast pizza at Casey’s. Jamestown, North Dakota

The locals here refer to Jamestown as “Buffalo City” so I drove by the National Buffalo Museum before it opened in the morning. They have a herd of about a dozen animals (that I could see), both adults and calves enjoying the early morning sunshine and prairie grasses near the World’s Largest Buffalo statue. The statue is visible from Interstate 94 nearby.

Jamestown has been a center of commerce since its founding in 1872 at the point where the Northern Pacific Railroad would bridge North Dakota’s James River. The town was named after Jamestown, Virginia, and today has a vibrant core of old buildings and plenty of restaurants.

People who live in North Dakota have to account for harsh winters, so their bars and taverns tend to be more spacious than those found in warmer climes. The Corner Bar is one such cozy watering hole providing comfort, community, and warmth.

The Corner Bar at 1st Avenue South and 2nd Street SW. Jamestown, North Dakota

Just around the corner, you can find everything for the sportsman at Gun & Reel Sports.

1st Street West. Jamestown, North Dakota
Looking south down 1st Avenue toward the Catholic Basilica of Saint James. Jamestown, North Dakota

Completed in 1914, the Gothic-style Saint James Basilica is one of the oldest buildings in town, and in many ways, it’s the center of town. People in Jamestown are extremely proud of this church, seeing in it a great achievement erected upon the vast expanses of the North Dakota prairie. The driving force behind its construction was Father Edward Geraghty, an immigrant Irish priest.

Saint James Basilica. Jamestown, North Dakota
Saint James Basilica, interior.
Saint James Basilica, stained glass windows.

Here is a link to a fascinating 16-minute video that provides both the history of the church and of the early days of the town itself. Among the remembrances narrated is the time in 1883 when famous Lakota Chief Sitting Bull visited Jamestown, offering his autograph to residents for 25 cents each. History of St. James Basilica – YouTube.

The 700-mile James River originates north of Jamestown and flows southward to join the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota. This river bisects Jamestown but, oddly, the town was named for Jamestown, Virginia, and not for the river. The Lakota called the river “E-ta-zi-po-ka-se Wakpa” (“unnavigable river”), while French trader Jean Trudeau named it the Riviere aux Jacques in 1794. Ultimately the waterway was anglicized into the “James River” by early American settlers. It’s a landmark in the wide prairie. Here is the river making its slow, lazy way through the center of town.

James River. Jamestown, North Dakota

Here are some more photos around Jamestown (counterclockwise from top left): a sturdy home near the center of town, a typical residential street where the trees are twice the height of the homes, Stutsman County and Jamestown town logos, and the Stutsman County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Heading north out of Jamestown I traversed wide-open country dotted with small upland lakes. Finally, I arrived at a point dividing the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean drainages. Here’s your sign:

Continental Divide between the Atlantic and Arctic watersheds. Near Courtenay, North Dakota

A few miles further east of this sign is Courtenay, North Dakota (population 45), a small farming town.

Here’s a beautiful home in Courtenay that I couldn’t help but stop the car and photograph. I so admire the perfect workmanship of the awnings above the front windows and the porch. The bright colors of the flower pots and flowerbeds perfectly complement the greens of the lawn, the trees, and the house.

A beautiful home in Courtenay, North Dakota

Here’s another view. This home is someone’s pride and joy, and I assume the exquisite trim was done by the owner himself or herself.

A beautiful home in Courtenay, North Dakota

I was ready for lunch by the time I made it to Cooperstown.

Nana’s Cafe & Coffee Shop on Burrel Avenue in Cooperstown, North Dakota

Ladies and Gentlemen, fair readers, inquiring minds — I had an exquisite lunch meal at Nana’s Cafe — the best meal of the whole trip. Those are glazed smoked sausage slices — probably locally made — next to loaded red-skinned mashed potatoes filled with a pool of melted butter, plus some delicious, buttery fried cabbage. As I sit at my desk today writing this description, I wish I had ordered two meals. I wish I could have that meal again. I’d like to go back to Nana’s Cafe for lunch right now. I recommend it highly.

Lunch at Nana’s Cafe. Best meal of the whole trip!

Down the street from Nana’s, the local pharmacy was holding its annual Customer Appreciation Day. You’ll notice the barbeque grill parked in the street next to the vacant lot. Free bbq and sides for everyone today, come on in! The business and its customers are just one big family. I’ve heard of such things before, but I rarely see them anymore. But I guess they still happen in small, family-sized towns in North Dakota.

Cooperstown Drug Customer Appreciation Day. Cooperstown, North Dakota
The Original Griggs County Courthouse. It was built in 1884 and recently retired. Cooperstown, North Dakota

Artifacts from the old courthouse, truly from the town’s founding, are on display in the new courthouse. These include old machines, portraits of the founders, and a group photo of Cooperstown’s 50-year settler’s reunion.

Griggs County Courthouse. Cooperstown, North Dakota
Old Settler’s Day — June 17, 1923. Cooperstown, North Dakota

Just outside the courthouse, the county maintains the old Opheim cabin, which was built in 1878 and is marked as the first permanent settlement in Griggs County, North Dakota. Some of those pictured in the settler’s reunion might even have memories of the old Opheim place.

The Opheim Cabin. Cooperstown, North Dakota

It’s five days until the Fourth of July and preparations were well underway for Independence Day festivities. The portable fireworks cart displays its wares, including the “Manic Energy” of President Trump. Although this area supports the ex-President “bigly,” they aren’t afraid of having a little fun with his energetic personality. At the far right, the town grocery store, Miller’s Foods, provides a float for the annual parade.

It was a great day in Cooperstown. Even the clouds above Cooperstown looked like they were throwing up a set of flares as if they were cheering for me.

Mid-summer high clouds above Cooperstown, North Dakota

Just outside Cooperstown, I came upon this: the “November – 33” Minuteman missile launch facility (decommissioned 1997).

Several historical signs explain the purpose of the site, its operation, and its maintenance:

What surprising things you find when just out for a drive!

Next stop: the small town of Finley, North Dakota — tons and tons of grain and four-hundred people. An old Air Force plane next to a POW/MIA flag greet you at the edge of town.

Finley War Memorial. Finley, North Dakota

The grain elevators dwarf the town’s buildings which include the Rumors Tavern and an old Methodist church building just a block away.

The Steele County Courthouse in Finley was built in 1925. From the outside, the courthouse could easily be mistaken for a 1930s WPA project, but the interior has marble trim and old-fashioned lettering that one would never see in the aluminum-based WPA structures. Notice the Vietnam War memorial plaque next to the staircase in the central photo. Recalling the POW/MIA flag I saw at the edge of town, I wonder if perhaps Finley suffered local sons lost during Vietnam? Such a loss would leave a mark in a town of 445.

After a northward drive of an hour and a half, I reached Lakota, North Dakota, with a population of almost 700.

Nelson County Courthouse. Lakota, North Dakota

Main Street Lakota runs northward until it ends at the Art Deco style of the Lakota Public School building.

Although Main Street was pretty quiet today, its signage had some personality:

The offices of the Lakota American Newspaper, the official paper of Nelson County.
Caution! Norwegian Crossing! Main Street, Lakota, North Dakota

From Lakota, I drove 30 miles west and stopped for the day at the Fireside Inn and Suites in Devils Lake, North Dakota. This is a privately owned motel catering mainly to summer and winter sports fishermen on Devils Lake. The inn has a small lounge where fishermen can enjoy a brew while swapping fish stories! On this night the Fireside Inn offered their guests free ribs and potato salad with a free drink. I couldn’t pass up a free meal!

Ribs, potato salad, and a White Claw courtesy of the Fireside Inn and Suites. Devils Lake, North Dakota

Freedom Voyage Day 5, Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Devils Lake to Bottineau, North Dakota

Day 5: From Devils Lake to Bottineau via Langdon, Munich, and Cando, North Dakota

Old Main Street Cafe. Devils Lake, North Dakota

I had breakfast at the Old Main Street Cafe in Devils Lake. Actually located on 4th Street downtown, it’s a nice place — small, intimate, and includes a bar for late-night gatherings. Very efficient of them to have their space double as both an early morning and a late-night venue.

Chicken-fried steak and eggs with hashbrowns and gravy underneath. Old Main Street Cafe in Devils Lake, North Dakota

I found an interesting old photograph on the breakfast counter showing the local high school marching band parading down Main Street. Between the photo being black and white and the style of the parked cars, I’m guessing the shot was taken in the mid-1960s. Look how serious they are!

Photo on the breakfast counter (under the varnish) at the Old Main Street Cafe

The Ramsey Photo Lab in Devils Lake offers 19-cent digital prints, plus custom framing. I imagine photoshops have a tough time in the digital age. Nevertheless, other downtown businesses are doing ok; few storefronts are vacant downtown.

A typical Main Street building in Devils Lake, North Dakota

Here are a set of impressive public buildings in Devil’s Lake (clockwise from top left): Ramsey County Courthouse, the old Fire Station, the old Central High (now a middle school), Carnegie Library, World War Memorial auditorium, and the old Masonic building.

The town was named for the nearby body of water — “Devils Lake” or “Spirit Lake” as the Dakota tribe refers to it. This is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota. Devils Lake is a highly saline, closed system whose waters only flow outward to the Sheyenne River during times of extreme precipitation. More information on the formation and history of the lake can be seen in the historical sign below.

Historical sign explaining the evolution of Devils Lake
Devils Lake, North Dakota. The town of Devils Lake is on the far shore.

Heading northeast, I passed through miles and miles of flat farmland and small lakes. I soon came across wide fields of canola. These always make for great photos:

Canola fields. Cavalier County, North Dakota
Canola fields and farm road. Cavalier County, North Dakota

The town of Langdon, North Dakota, has a population of 1,800 and sits just 15 miles south of the Canadian border.

North Dakota Highway 1 as it enters Langdon from the south.
St. Alphonsus Church. Langdon, North Dakota.

Some of the smaller towns in this part of the country have a wonderful tradition of posting photographs of their graduating seniors on Main Street lampposts. I’m a little jealous of these kids — both for the fanfare they’re receiving and for the quality of their photographs. My senior pictures didn’t look nearly as good as any of these kids’ photos do! Here are some of the graduating seniors of Langdon Area High School Cardinals, class of 2021:

It was a hot day today in North Dakota. 87°, clear skies with little or no breeze. Great weather for the crops, while the people were indoors and life was lazy.

My next stop, the town of Cando in Towner County, is about 50 miles southwest of Langdon. The county courthouse is a three-story yellow brick structure constructed in 1898. The old jail was included inside, even though it has not been used for incarceration since 1977.

Towner County courthouse behind a wall of shade trees and spruces. Cando, North Dakota

Inside the old building, the second floor’s wooden floors creaked. The winding wooden staircases at each end of the hallway also creaked, but they look beautiful — demonstrating the great craftsmanship needed to withstand the pressures of 120 years of use.

Cando has a population of just over 1,100. I had a late lunch at the Cozy Café on Main Street, which was empty except for the wait staff and her friends. They made me an awesome grilled cheese and bacon sandwich with fries. After lunch I spent 10 or 20 minutes walking around town, sweating off the calories.

I left Cando around 3:00 in the afternoon so that I could get to the famous Pride Dairy in Bottineau, North Dakota, before its 5:00 closing time. I had been to Bottineau a few years ago but had missed the Dairy during that trip, so I had made sure to include a stop here while planning this trip.

The Pride Dairy is special not only for its excellent ice creams and cheeses but also for having the license to produce vanilla ice cream using Thomas Jefferson’s own vanilla ice cream recipe. (The recipe is recorded in the Library of Congress and it requires imported Madagascar vanilla beans.) So when you eventually make your pilgrimage to Bottineau make sure to ask for the “Thomas Jefferson vanilla.” You can also find this special flavor on sale at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, and at the International Peace Garden, North Dakota, and Manitoba, Canada.

Ice cream sundae using Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream. Pride Dairy, Bottineau, North Dakota

Just north of Bottineau, Turtle Mountain rises some 400 feet above the surrounding countryside. The plateau straddles the US-Canadian border and includes many parks and lakes for recreational activity.

I was also here last year. On Turtle Mountain both then and now, I’m reminded of an old Neil Young song called “Sugar Mountain.” The lyrics begin like this:

Oh to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons

Of course, there are no barkers or colored balloons or circuses on Turtle Mountain. But there are a great many summer houses nestled among the woods and lakes here so it is a very festive place in its own way.

Satellite view of Turtle Mountain. Notice the numerous lakes within the forests. The horizontal line through the middle is the US-Canadian border. Mystical Horizons is the US side at the western edge of the mountain along the main east-west roadway.

At the western edge of Turtle Mountain, the privately-built Mystical Horizons site offers sweeping views of the North Dakota prairie below. These photos were taken at 8:49 pm Central Daylight Time on June 30th, eight days after the summer solstice. At this latitude, at this time of year, sunset doesn’t occur until 9:49 pm.

View from Mystical Horizons on Turtle Mountain, looking west.
View from Mystical Horizons on Turtle Mountain, looking south.

The Mystical Horizons site includes stone and cement structures designed to view the summer and winter solstices and the equinox, mimicking celestial observation configurations at the Stonehenge site in England. A working sundial is also part of the Mystical Horizons site.

Structure for observing the sun’s position at the winter solstice (left), spring/fall equinoxes (center), and summer solstice (right). On each of those respective days, sunlight shines directly through the appropriate notches. Mystical Horizons site.

Bottineau is a small town so there are only a handful of places to stay the night. I chose the Cobblestone Inn, which is a nice place and part of a small chain of hotels found mainly in the Great Plains states.

Freedom Voyage Day 6, Thursday, July 1, 2021: Bottineau to Minot, North Dakota

Day 6: From Bottineau to Minot via Towner, Rugby, Minnewaukan, Fort Totten, White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, and Anamoose, North Dakota

Good morning from Bottineau, North Dakota! The summer sun’s up early in these high latitudes and so am I, and so is everyone else in this northern farming town. A great breakfast place is the Family Bakery & Restaurant on Main Street.

Eggs, sausages, hash browns, and an English muffin at the Family Bakery & Restaurant. Bottineau, North Dakota

It’s 40 miles to my next destination, and luckily, the Family Bakery & Restaurant includes — believe it or not — a bakery where I can acquire some essential sustenance for the trip. I somehow limited myself to a mere three perfect pastries:

Main Street Bottineau, North Dakota. A fine American town on a fine summer morning.

40 miles south of Bottineau lies the town of Towner, North Dakota, having a population of about 500. Yes, it’s “the town of Towner” and refers to itself as the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota.” Friendly place of course. The McHenry County courthouse, constructed in 1907, dominates the town with an architectural style typical of its time.

McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota

I was able to find and photograph some gems from inside the courthouse as well:

Judge’s bench in the 3rd-floor courtroom. McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota
Wolf hides and snowdrifts — life in rural North Dakota, from photos on display inside the county courthouse. Towner, North Dakota
County memorabilia and clerical tools — a slice of Americana on display inside the McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota

Here are some scenes around town: Main Street, the Towner Presbyterian Church, the J & J Market, and the old bank building.

Just 20 miles east of Towner, the railroad town of Rugby, North Dakota was named for the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England, by the original English financiers of the Great Northern Rail Line. Several other North Dakota towns along this rail line — such as York, Leeds, and Berwick — were similarly named for English country towns.

Below: Rugby train station (served by Amtrak), massive grain elevators storing tons of grain beside the railroad siding, Rugby’s downtown business blocks.

The town of Rugby sports a top-class combination coffee shop and styling salon. Their websites are here: The Solid Ground Cafe (and Stylin You salon and spa)

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

A few blocks down 2nd Street from the Solid Ground Cafe, the 1910 Pierce County courthouse is an excellent example of the proud and grand engineering typical of America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This was President Teddy Roosevelt’s time — Bully! New settlers to the Dakota territories, many from northern and eastern Europe, left the “Old Country” for the new world, adopting their new country’s shining optimism.

Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
Courthouse atrium featuring marble walls and columns. Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

Courthouses built in the late 19th or early 20th centuries usually included a great deal of artistry and detail. They were a focal point of pride in one’s town, one’s state, and especially one’s country. Even though this is a small, rural county, the Pierce County courthouse construction included a grand central cupola and murals depicting county life and history.

Painted murals on the ceiling depicting county life and history. Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
One of four murals on the ceiling of the Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

I especially enjoy old photographs hung on the hallway walls of these courthouses because they’re like viewing the contents of a time capsule. Here’s a photo of the 1957 courthouse staff Christmas party, where all classes and ranks gathered together to share some holiday cheer.

Pierce County courthouse Christmas Party, 1957. Rugby, North Dakota

For a few more photos of the courthouse, see my earlier blog post on the town of Rugby: The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota.

One particular house in Rugby truly stands out from the rest, and it’s intentional:

House in Rugby, North Dakota

I don’t know the back story of this house, but I can see that the paint job is meticulous so I doubt it was done as a passing fancy.

There’s also a pink garage and basketball hoop behind the house, in the shadow of the town’s grain elevators next to the railroad tracks.

Pink garage, basketball hoop, and grain elevators in Rugby, North Dakota

Just a mile or two south of downtown lies a point of interest almost always shown as that red dot on your Rand McNally road map:

Geographical Center of North America. Rugby, North Dakota

Back on the road again, I’m heading eastward to get to the south side of Devils Lake. The next stop is tiny Minnewaukan (population 224), the county seat of Benson County.

Benson County courthouse. Minnewaukan, North Dakota

Minnewaukan, North Dakota: a quiet mid-day, mid-summer Main Street; the Minnewaukan City Library/Office and Internet center; the Dakota Spirits liquor and convenience store next to the offices of James Wang, ‘Attornly’.

Benson County also includes most of the Spirit Lake Dakota Reservation, home to the Pabaksa, Sisseton, and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota Tribe. The tribe has over 7,000 enrolled members. The reservation grew out of an old army post called Fort Totten, which is a tourist attraction today.

I came to the south side of Devils Lake to drive through White Horse Hill National Game Preserve (formerly Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve) for some photographs and a hilltop view of Devils Lake. I got what I came for.

Buffalo resting in the shade. White Horse Hill National Game Preserve.

The preserve includes some hiking trails, scenic drives, and a visitors’ center. I wanted to get to a hilltop overlooking Devils Lake.

Hilltop view of Devils Lake.
Hilltop view of Devils Lake

After getting in some spectacular views, it was time to head west again to get some dinner and a good night’s sleep in Minot, a decent town that I’ve stayed at before. The 2-hour drive to Minot took me through 100 miles of rural North Dakota farms and fields. The locals are vocal supporters of their country and its former president — displays such as this one are fairly common:

Political signage among the farmland near Anamoose, North Dakota

By the way, this particular drive passes through the town of Velva, population 1,000, and home to Dot’s Pretzels, a homegrown-turned-national snack food brand.

I arrived in Minot thirsty and in time for dinner. When in Minot I usually choose Ebeneezer’s Irish Pub. The roast beef plate was the Thursday special. For entertainment, I got to enjoy a few baseball games on the big screen. In a separate room, a local piano player sang “Desperado” and other popular songs for the crowd.

Roast beef and Guinness at Ebeneezer’s Irish Pub. Minot, North Dakota

With a population of over 40,000 and the large Minot Air Force Base just north of town, Minot offers plenty of reasonably-priced lodging choices, many on the southern edge of town. Checking prices, I stayed at the Noble Inn in Minot.

Freedom Voyage Day 7, Friday, July 2, 2021: Minot, North Dakota to Gillette, Wyoming

Day 7: From Minot to Gillette, Wyoming via Max, McClusky, Washburn, Fort Clark, Center, and Belfield, North Dakota

Good Friday morning from Minot! Although Minot is probably more Scandinavian than German, I couldn’t resist the call of Kroll’s German Diner (Güt for da Gut) on the south end of town. I particularly had to try their highly-touted knoephla soup this time — a mixture of knoephla dumplings and potato chunks in a buttery broth. Yes, it was delicious.

After breakfast, I drove south through the beautiful North Dakota prairie, passing over the Missouri Coteau and its plethora of sloughs — also known as kettle lakes or prairie potholes. These sloughs are the result of ancient glacier activity which left small, water-filled depressions in the surrounding plains. Since it was still early July and these canola fields hadn’t yet bloomed, here’s a photo I took during my travels to Minot in late July 2020:

Late July canola fields and prairie sloughs. Along US 83 south of Minot, North Dakota

Further to the south and east, the town of McClusky, North Dakota, population 380, holds its place among these prairies. The Sheridan County courthouse is here in McClusky. I caught a morning photo of the 1940 structure, and a photo of snowy county life from a picture hanging on the hallway inside the courthouse.

Here are a few photos of McClusky, “Heart of North Dakota”: (clockwise from top left) water tower; courthouse marker; Main Street pharmacy, realtor and law office; and town park.

It’s Friday. This has been a great week but it’s time to head home. My stop for the night will be in Gillette, Wyoming, 7 hours and 450 miles away, but there’s still enough time to stop for a photo or two should a good picture present itself.

Crossing the Missouri River at Washburn, North Dakota

Traveling along in the afternoon, I came across signs for the “Scientific Geographical Center of North America” near (by extraordinary coincidence) the town of Center, North Dakota. This central point was found using more modern calculations than those used when Rugby, North Dakota, was determined to be the center of North America. Center, North Dakota, was established in 1902, decades before modern calculations were done.

After passing through Bowman, North Dakota, and western South Dakota down to Spearfish, I crossed into Wyoming and made it to Gillette by nightfall.

This is the Railyard Bar & Grille in Gillette, a fine steakhouse for my “last supper.” I return home to Colorado Springs tomorrow so I decided to punctuate this trip with a fine steak dinner and a wedge salad, plus a shot of Jack Daniels. The steaks out west always seem to be better and at lower prices.

Again, the town of Gillette, Wyoming offers many choices for decent lodging. This time I opted for the Arbuckle Lodge, a favorite for both hunters and rock bands playing the CAM-PLEX multi-event facilities across the street.

Freedom Voyage Day 8, Saturday, July 3, 2021: Gillette, Wyoming to Colorado Springs

Home now. I hope you enjoyed the trip!

All photos were taken by the author in June and July 2021, except for the photo of the exterior of Ebeneezer’s Pub in Minot.

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

I do this as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.

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

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

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 (the 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 — a bright red tie with a 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 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 three types of salsa with your chips (actually two types of salsa and one 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.)

Breakfast in Placerville

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

On to Woodland, California, the 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 was 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 paraphernalia.

The next stop was Yuba City, the 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 reservoir 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:

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
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; its 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!

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!

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 the 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, the 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, the 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 — a 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 scoutmaster/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 almost 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. Afterward, 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 through the famous Napa Valley Stags Leap Wine District. I’m not that much into wine so I won’t be stopping and doing any wine tasting. 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 the 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’s 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 anymore?”
“Not a drop,” he said.

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 were taken by the author in June 2021

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

I do this as a hobby and not for a living (yet). Donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan

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List of all Freedom Voyage posts in TimManBlog

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

Here is a list and links to all my Freedom Voyage posts (Last updated November 14, 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.

North-central North Dakota: The People and the Places
A trip taken throughout north-central North Dakota including the towns Jamestown, Devils Lake, Bottineau, Rugby, and Minot in June and July 2021.

I do this as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan

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

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

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 traveled 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 afterward — 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.

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 are somewhat optional. Coffee afterward.

Next stop along US 50: Utah!

Utah State Line. Along I-70 & US 50. — The colorful sign is a very popular photo stop for travelers.
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 traveled 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!

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:

Traveling 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. A 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.

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 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

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 as served at Powers Mansion Inn. Auburn, California

After Auburn, my next Gold Rush town was the little burg of Nevada City, the 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 a merchant’s shop. Nevada City, California

Following the winding roads north of Nevada City, it took me an hour to reach Downieville, the 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 CA 49 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.

The 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.

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 daughter 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 has 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 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.

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

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 Shooters Grill, a western-themed place where the wait staff is encouraged to wear pistols on their belts.

Lunch at Shooter’s Grill in Rifle:

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

I had the brisket sandwich with sweet potato fries. Shooters 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

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.

I travel as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan

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