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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

Donations are NOT tax-deductible under U.S. law…but you knew that.


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

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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.
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For Thanksgiving, 2020

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s 2020, and what do I have to be thankful for? Well for one, the opportunities I’ve had to take to America’s open roads every once and a while. 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.

Want to live out a Freedom voyage vicariously? Here’s a photo log of the nine days I spent on the road last September, starting in Colorado Springs, Colorado where I live, and traveling through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois to reach destinations in western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana.

I enjoyed Fall sunshine on eight of these nine days. Nothing better than sunshine on a trip! Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2020. Day 1: Colorado Springs to Seneca, Kansas

I left home on a Friday morning at 5:30, before dawn, and drove eastward to see the sunrise. I have plans and reservations for Friday and Saturday, but I’ll make decisions about the rest of the itinerary on Sunday morning. Across the Kansas state line, I officially enter the Midwest and get a chance to enjoy Casey’s General Stores, their breakfast pizza, and their new blueberry flips.

Casey’s General Store. Colby, Kansas. (lower gas prices than in Colorado)

A slice of Casey’s breakfast pizza was consumed too quickly to make the photograph.

Blueberry flip and coffee for the road.

From Colby, I head northeast to reach U.S. Route 36 for the rest of the drive across Kansas. It turns out that this happens to be Treasure Hunt weekend all along Route 36, so each town has yard sales along the roadside.

Treasure Hunt in Norton, Kansas.

I stopped at several sales that afternoon, mostly for the conversations rather than the merchandise.

Improvised yard sale along Route 36. Farmlands near Esbon, Kansas.

After eight hours I arrive in Seneca, Kansas, a pleasant town of 2,000. I arrived early enough to take some photos in the evening light.

Fall home decorations in Seneca
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca. Its steeple is the highest point in town and can be seen for miles around.
Dinner (beef with tomatillo sauce) at El Canelo Mexican restaurant in Seneca, Kansas

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Seneca
El Canelo Mexican Restaurant in Seneca
Altenhofen Inn & Suites in Seneca

Saturday, September 19, 2020. Day 2: Seneca to Clarinda, Iowa

I had a lazy Saturday in store for me today as I planned a short ride into Nebraska, across the Missouri River into Missouri, and then on to one of my favorite towns — Clarinda, Iowa. The first stop is Brownville, Nebraska, a historic old Missouri River trading town established in 1854 as a river port. The coming of the railroads drove most of the river traffic away, so today Brownville is mostly a tourist town with the air of a museum.

Didier Log Cabin. Brownville, Nebraska
Old Lone Tree Saloon building. Brownville, Nebraska
Brownville coffee shop and friendly door hostess
Welcome to Iowa!

Clarinda, Iowa has a population of about 5,000 and features several sites including the birthplace of Glenn Miller and the historic Page County Courthouse. First stop — the Robin’s Nest Cafe for lunch.

Reuben sandwich plus the best vegetable beef soup I’ve ever tasted!
Autumn colors starting to show on the tall shade trees in Clarinda.
Glenn Miller’s birthplace and boyhood home. Clarinda, Iowa
Glenn Miller home hours of operation.
A steak and potato dinner at J. Bruner’s in Clarinda, Iowa

The town of Clarinda was laid out in classic Midwestern fashion with a central square surrounded by the town’s small businesses. The county courthouse occupies the middle of the square:

Page County Courthouse at night. Clarinda, Iowa

Page County (Courthouse) in Clarinda
Robin’s Nest Cafe and Bakery in Clarinda
Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Clarinda

Sunday, September 20, 2020. Day 3: Clarinda to Paducah, Kentucky

Sunday morning was decision time. From Clarinda, I could head north into Minnesota, or Northeast into eastern Iowa and Illinois, or southeast to western Indiana and Kentucky.

I usually let the weather forecast make these decisions for me. Today, Indiana/Kentucky had the best forecast outlook for the week so off I went to the southeast. Sunday’s drive would take eight hours through St. Joseph, Missouri, across the state of Missouri on U.S. Route 36 to the Mississippi River, then southeast to St. Louis, across the Mississippi at that point into Illinois, then south to the Ohio River and across it into Kentucky.

But first, breakfast at the Robin’s Nest:

Meat-lovers omelet and raisin toast at Robin’s Nest Cafe in Clarinda. Hashbrowns are off to the side.
Lunch from a gas station in eastern Missouri.
Taken from the driver’s seat on Interstate 64 while passing Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is in the background and the Mississippi River Bridge is just ahead.
Dinner in Paducah, Kentucky. The house chili, a baked potato, veggies, and bread.

Monday, September 21, 2020. Day 4: Paducah to Owensboro, Kentucky

Breakfast at Burger King (my usual fully-loaded croissanwich), then a 2 1/2 hour drive to Boonville, Indiana, including a 1 1/2 hour stop at a Dairy Queen parking lot in Henderson, Kentucky to take part in a business call. It’s nice not having to be chained to an office, isn’t it?

In Boonville, I found a stately old courthouse…

Warrick County Courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

…a piece of Americana inside the courthouse…

Statue of an American bald eagle in American flag colors. Boonville, Indiana.

…a Lincoln-related historical marker…

…and some eclectic food choices from the bar in the town square:

Yesterdaze: Steaks, Fiddlers, Frog Legs, and Pork Chops.

Look at this business block. Couldn’t this be just about any Midwestern small town?

Locust Street businesses across from the courthouse. Boonville, Indiana

I had a footlong and a shake at a nearby Tastee Freeze.

T F Ice Cream at the corner of Walnut & Main Street. Boonville, Indiana

Upon seeing these photos April Gregory asked if I had seen Jack and Diane outside the Tastee Freez? Why yes I did April, just like in the song!

The Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial is 20 miles east of Boonville in Spencer County, Indiana. Lincoln spent his childhood years on his father’s farm here before going off to Illinois as a young man to be on his own.

Abraham Lincoln boyhood home (reconstructed)
Lincoln boyhood home — actual site and hearth
Gravesite of Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother

Off to Rockport, Indiana, the county seat of Spencer County, on the banks of the Ohio River. The town is situated on a bluff above the river, allowing for some million-dollar views on a sunny September day.

Ohio River at Rockport, Indiana
Ohio River at Rockport. Homes line the crest of the bluff overlooking the river.
Classic home in Rockport, Indiana

I next drove downriver to Owensboro, Kentucky, for a night at the Holiday Inn Riverfront. But first, dinner at Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits.

Wedge salad for starters
Pecan pie topped with ice cream then whipped cream and then chocolate sauce for dessert.

I forget what the main course was.

Sunset over the Ohio River. Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro, Kentucky

Holiday Inn Riverfront, Owensboro
Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits, Owensboro

Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Day 5: Owensboro to Tell City, Indiana

Sunrise over the Ohio River. Owensboro, Kentucky

First things first — find the town’s signature diner. That’s Dee’s Diner on East 4th Street in Owensboro.

Ham slice with eggs at Dee’s Diner. Owensboro, Kentucky

No red gravy was available with their signature ham slice. Drats!

Owensboro is a sizeable river town with a population of over 55,000. It was settled in 1817 as “Yellow Banks”, and the downtown area boasts some fine 19th Century architecture.

Colby’s Fine Food & Spirits
Smith Block. Owensboro, Kentucky
Old Coca-cola sign. “Relieves Fatigue”

Look closely at the inscription on this monument and who it honors. Such monuments have come under fire in 2020.

Daviess County Courthouse and Civil War Monument. Owensboro, Kentucky

Modern Owensboro is known for its bourbon distilleries and for bluegrass music.

Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Owensboro, Kentucky

Heading out of town into the Kentucky countryside, I saw several celebrations of the Fall season:

Hancock County, Kentucky

…and just as many of these signs of the season:

Yard sign in Hancock County, Kentucky
Old Hancock County Courthouse. Hawesville, Kentucky

Lunchtime at The Brak Restaurant and Meeting House, Hardinsville, Kentucky. This is a small diner in a small, remote town. The Brak has no web presence, but the food is good and so is the company.

The lunch special of chicken fried steak, gravy, coleslaw, and sliced apples

Further on down the road:

Tobacco leaves dry in a shed. Near Stephensport, Kentucky

I next crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and drove downriver a ways to the town of Tell City. Tell City, Indiana was settled in 1857 by a group of German-speaking Swiss immigrants looking for a new life in the new world. As a side note, all the settlers of Tell City were German-Swiss; a settlement of French-speaking Swiss in Vevay, Indiana, 100 miles upriver from Tell City, was founded in 1813.

Tell City was of course named for legendary Swiss liberator William Tell. City Hall boasts a sculpture of an apple near its front entrance. The apple lights up red at night.

City Hall. Tell City, Indiana
Tell City, Indiana
Statue of William Tell and his son. Tell City, Indiana
St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on Ohio River floodwall. Tell City, Indiana
Murals on the Ohio River floodwall. Tell City, Indiana

I was looking for a biergarten for dinner at Tell City, but the best I could do was a brewpub/sports bar called the Tell City Pour Haus.

Baby back ribs at the Tell City Pour Haus

Dee’s Diner in Owensboro
Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro
Tell City Pour Haus in Tell City
Holiday Inn Express in Tell City

Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Day 6: Tell City to Vincennes, Indiana

For all the money people spend on “fine dining,” there’s actually nothing better than a great breakfast!

Swiss omelet with ‘scatter browns’ (hash browns covered with scattered cheese) at Julie’s Tell Street Cafe.

That’s a 3-egg omelet with bacon, sausage, ham, onion, peppers, tomatoes, and swiss cheese with a plate of cheesy hash browns on the side. No one needs to consult a Michelin guidebook to eat well.

The weatherman said that today would be dry but overcast, the only overcast day of my trip. My plan is to drive upstream along the Ohio River on the Indiana side for an hour or so, then turn north toward the towns of English and Paoli.

I stopped along the Ohio River in Rome, Indiana. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. The waters are flat behind the Cannelton Dam just 10 or 20 miles downstream and the fish were biting like crazy! The overcast conditions come from some high clouds ahead of a tropical system coming ashore along the Gulf Coast.

Ohio River at Rome, Indiana
Ohio River at Rome, Indiana

My old high school friend Mark O’Donnell saw these photos on Facebook and gave me thumbs way up. I wonder if he was planning on a fishing trip excursion to come down here from his home in Pittsburgh. This is a great fishing spot — quiet, plenty of fish, dozens of river-side rental cabins.

Frogs on a mailbox. Near Rome, Indiana

After winding east along the Ohio River for an hour or so, I headed north through some hilly, wooded miles to the town of English, Indiana, perhaps the most remote county seat in the whole state.

A washed-out bridge over Camp Fork Creek in English, Indiana

On to the town of Paoli, the county seat of Orange County, Indiana. The courthouse here has been in use since 1850 and is still in use today. I went inside — all the basic offices were operating: county clerk, assessor, judge, etc.

Orange County Courthouse. Paoli, Indiana
View from the Orange County Courthouse balcony looking south toward Gospel Street.

This part of Indiana is rural country, and in fact very hilly. Some Hoosiers actually refer to this part of their state as “Kentucky.” Appropriately, on my way driving out of the area, I was able to stop at the hometown of “the hick from French Lick.”

Larry Bird poster in the pool room inside Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick, Indiana

I arrived in the city of Vincennes, Indiana around 6:00 pm, in time for dinner at Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta. I chose Procopio’s because it was highly rated on TripAdvisor, but going to Byron Bobe’s Pizza House as Stacy de Rose suggested would have been even better. Alas, I saw her Facebook comment too late.

Spinach salad at Procopio’s. Vincennes, Indiana
Alfredo at Procopio’s

Julie’s Tell Street Cafe in Tell City
Legendz Sports Bar & Grill in French Lick
Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta in Vincennes
Byron Bobe’s Pizza House in Vincennes
Holiday Inn Express, Vincennes

Thursday, September 24, 2020. Day 7: Vincennes to Terre Haute, Indiana

It’s a bright sunny morning and I’m off early, driving north through the farms and fields of western Indiana. I was making good time until I saw a roadside establishment called “The Big Peach,” and couldn’t help but stop for some “supplies.”

The Big Peach. Along U.S. Highway 41 near Bruceville, Indiana.
A large bottle of Peach Cider for the road

Next stop, the town of Sullivan, Indiana, a beautiful Midwestern town basking in the shade of its tall trees.

Sullivan County Courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana
Pumpkins for sale at the town square. Sullivan, Indiana
Sullivan business blocks across from the courthouse. Sullivan, Indiana

The next county to the north is Vigo County, home of the city of Terre Haute and Indiana State University. “Terre Haute” is French for “high ground,” and there is a lot of French influence around town, starting with the courthouse.

Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana
Vigo County Courthouse. Terre Haute, Indiana

The courthouse is a magnificent example of Second Empire-style structure.

From the Wikipedia entry on the Vigo County Courthouse:

“Designed by Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, the building was constructed by the Terre Haute Stone Company at a cost of $443,000. The courthouse is made from Indiana limestone gathered from Stinesville, Indiana quarries…Originally, the main floor consisted of offices, with two large, high-ceiling courtrooms on the second floor. Elegantly finished and furnished, the courthouse was heated with steam from a detached building to the south and featured a hydraulic elevator.”

Bustling downtown Terre Haute, Indiana
French influence in the buildings in Terre Haute, Indiana

Lunchtime in Terre Haute. Question: What’s the best part of ‘Frenchness’? Answer: GUMBO!

Chicken and sausage gumbo at J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Barroom inside J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute

Terre Haute is sometimes referred to as the “Crossroads of America” since the intersection of 7th Street and Wabash Avenue was also the intersection of U.S. Routes 40 and 41 — both are cross-country routes. The roadsign will explain the details:

Crossroads of America sign in Terre Haute, Indiana
Crossroads of America in Terre Haute — also the birthplace of the Coke bottle design.
Indiana Theatre and Event Center, 7th & Ohio in Terre Haute, Indiana

After toying with the idea of staying the afternoon at J. Gumbo’s, I decided instead to drive the old National Road east one county to the town of Brazil. Nice place. They have a Vietnam-era Air Force fighter jet parked on their courthouse lawn.

Clay County Courthouse. Brazil, Indiana
Bustling National Avenue (U.S. Route 40) in Brazil, Indiana

Now back to Terre Haute for some dinner and a night’s rest.

BBQ at Rick’s Smokehouse & Grill on Wabash Ave. Terre Haute, Indiana

It turns out that Rick’s Smokehouse is a favorite stopping place for country music bands touring through Terre Haute. Poster’s tacked on the wall are signed by the artists (some now famous):

Florida-George Line at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana
Jana Kramer at Rick’s Smokehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana

That evening I checked my Facebook traffic. Jim Street asked me, “what’s the occasion for your road trip, Tim?” I answered:
—free time
—a few bucks in the bank
—summer warmth won’t last forever
—life is short
—my old car is still reliable enough for long trips. That won’t last forever
—weather forecast said this whole week would be sunny and pleasant in the Midwest
AND FINALLY:—a big election is coming up. I feel confident but if it goes sideways THIS COUNTRY WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. I wanna see it now, at its best. Thanks for the question, Jim. It gives me a chance to put all things in perspective.

As if those reasons weren’t enough, I learned just 25 minutes later that my high school friend Mark O’Donnell had just passed away. He was 59. He had liked my Ohio River photos just two days before. Another old school friend, Drew Podnar, posted the news. Mark will be missed.

Life is short indeed.

The Big Peach in Bruceville, Indiana
J. Gumbo’s in Terre Haute
Indiana Theatre and Event Center in Terre Haute
Rick’s Smokehouse BBQ & Grill in Terre Haute
La Quinta Inn & Suites in Terre Haute

Friday, September 25, 2020. Day 8: Terre Haute to Seneca, Kansas

Time to go home. All good things must come to an end. I have two days driving to do from western Indiana through the farmlands of central Illinois, across the Mississippi River, through the farmlands of central Missouri, across the Missouri River, then on to Seneca, Kansas to spend the night.

First, breakfast at Denny’s in Terre Haute:

All-American Slam breakfast at Denny’s. Terre Haute, Indiana

But that only fills the stomach for now — what about food for the road? That’s why God created donuts. And in Terre Haute, that means a place called Square Donuts.

Square Donuts. Terre Haute, Indiana
Plenty to choose from at Square Donuts, but Cash Only, please!
The cream-filled donut is the King of the Donuts.

After a few hours of driving, I crossed the Mississippi River into Hannibal, Missouri. That means lunch, and it also means one of my favorite duos of literature — Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Statue of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn above Main Street in Hannibal, Missouri

I posted this at the time: “Meet two of my heroes: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Huck is a Rousseauian type, a noble savage who disdains civilization, while Tom is more of an Enlightenment boy genius. I try to take after one or the other of these two, depending upon the situation.”

Phil Costopoulos responded: “Tom was a management genius. I talk about him all the time in staff meetings.”

Tom Sawyer’s fence in Hannibal, Missouri
Mississippi riverboats moored at Hannibal, Missouri

Lunch from Java Jive on Main Street in Hannibal. Now time to hit the road again.

Lunch from Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri

After a few hours of driving, I crossed the Missouri River into Kansas. The town of Wathena, Kansas is a few miles beyond the river and a great place to stop for ice cream. Try the Dairy Barn for ice cream — or buy the place — the owner has put it up for sale.

The Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas
Ice cream fudge sundae at the Dairy Barn. Wathena, Kansas

I got into Seneca an hour or so later. Dinner tonight is at the Willows Restaurant and Bar. I have their fettuccine alfredo — with andouille sausage instead of chicken — and a side of sweet potato fries and tea.

Willows Restaurant and Bar. Seneca, Kansas
Home away from home. Starlite Inn. Seneca, Kansas

Square Donuts in Terre Haute
Java Jive in Hannibal, Missouri
Dairy Barn in Wathena, Kansas
Willows Restaurant and Bar in Seneca, Kansas
Starlite Motel in Seneca, Kansas

Saturday, September 26, 2020. Day 9: Seneca to Colorado Springs

I have an 8-hour drive home ahead of me, mostly along U.S. Route 36 in Kansas. By now I’m glassy-eyed determined and I only make stops for gas, and for lunch.

Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

One more lunch behind the wheel on my way home. Peach pie for dessert. Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Lunch from Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

Third Street Bakery in Phillipsburg, Kansas

I’m home now. Thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed my trip even half as much as I did.

All photos were taken by the author in September 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.
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Calm and Community

July 31, 2020

Radio personality Todd Herman described the upcoming 2020 elections as a choice: “Chaos and Communism or Calm and Community.”

With a hat tip to Mr. Herman, I’ll borrow his phrase to describe what I saw on a little vacation road trip through Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Nothing but Calm and Community up there. Here’s my road trip chronicle — including breakfast photos! To drum up business for the deserving, I’ll throw in some links to some local businesses I patronized.

Nine Days Total. Enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2020, Day 1
6-hour drive from Colorado up to Lander in central Wyoming, just northwest of historic South Pass. Lander is a smallish town (population 7,487) oriented towards tourists seeking outdoor recreation. Main Street boasts a brewery with live music on summer weekends and two ice cream stands.

Veterans Memorial outside Fremont County Courthouse. Lander, Wyoming
Elk statue in front of the Pronghorn Lodge in Lander, Wyoming

A few links:
Pronghorn Lodge
Holiday Lodge Lander
To quench your thirst try the Lander Bar. Outdoor live music on Friday night.

Saturday, July 11, 2020, Day 2
Up with the dawn (5 am) and out the door by 5:30 in time to catch McDonald’s opening hours for an Egg McMuffin breakfast to go.

Just outside Lander along US 287, I caught some mid-summer hay fields in the early morning light. Those are the Wind River Mountains in the background.

Like something out of Van Gogh, hayfields in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley

As the combined routes US 287 and US 26 head northwest towards the continental divide at Togwatee Pass, the human stories of this land become as dramatic and colorful as the scenery surrounding it. I pass Crowheart Butte — named for the grisly outcome of a long-ago battle over hunting grounds between the Shoshone and Crow tribes.

Historical sign explaining Crowheart Butte
Crowheart Butte

At a turnout a few miles up the road, the scenery gets even more colorful where Wind River breaks through a red rock canyon.

Highways 26/287 continue past the mountain town of Dubois, Wyoming, and on toward the Continental Divide. The road reaches the divide at Togwatee Pass.

On the western side of the pass, the peaks of the Grand Tetons come into view, getting larger in the windshield as the miles went by.

For the next 4 hours I drive west through Idaho farming country, stopping only for a Jack-in-the-Box burger in the industrious town of Rexburg, Idaho and at a gas station in Dell, Montana along Interstate 15.

Lemhi Pass, where Lewis & Clark crossed the Continental Divide on their way across the continent to the Pacific.

Lemhi Pass, looking westward into Idaho
Lemhi Pass looking eastward back into Montana
Historical sign explaining the crossing of the Continental Divide by Lewis & Clark at Lemhi Pass
Continental Divide
Lemhi Pass looking west. I posted this on Facebook along with the caption below:

Looking west from the summit of Lemhi Pass. On August 12, 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis finally reached the Continental Divide at this place. Lewis viewed the same aspect as in the attached photo — mountain ranges as far as the eye can see — and realized that there was no Northwest water passage along this route. Today, July 11, 2020, from the very spot where Meriwether Lewis stood in 1805, I dictate my words into an i-phone, take a photo with that same phone, and post both the words and the picture for the entire world to see — instantly.

The ‘High point’ of the journey
The steep road down the western side of Lemhi Pass

Sunday, July 12, 2020, Day 3
Sunday was a day of rest, mostly, except for a drive along the rapids of the Salmon River.

Salmon River, downstream of North Fork, Idaho

After crossing the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass, Lewis and Clark figured they would make dugout canoes from the local timber and just float their way downstream until they reached the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Captain William Clark, a master boatsman, reconnoitered the Salmon River on horseback for some 20 miles below current day North Fork, Idaho. Seeing the river’s extreme rapids and rocky banks, it was near this exact point that Lewis and Clark gave up on the water route down the Salmon.

Salmon River near where Captain Clark turned back.

The Salmon River rollicks through these mountains for hundreds of miles and is, in fact, far too dangerous for travel by dugout canoes. These days, however, scientifically designed inflatable rafts take whitewater rafters downriver all the time — young and old, human and sometimes canine, with oars and usually beers in hand.

The dirt road along the banks of the Salmon ends just below the point where the Middle Fork of the Salmon joins the main branch. Beyond this lies the River of No Return Wilderness, perhaps the most remote area in the continental United States.

The carving on the log reads: Middle Fork of the Salmon — Yonder lies the Idaho Wilderness

Monday, July 13, 2020, Day 4
Salmon, Idaho has beautiful mornings:

From the hotel room balcony. Salmon River foreground, Beaverhead Mountains background.

Breakfast at the Red Dog Diner on Main Street, which is actually part of a gas station. Aren’t all the best bbq places located in gas stations, like Joe’s in Kansas City? In this gas station, you get breakfast and can listen to the local old men talk politics.

Red Dog Diner. Salmon, Idaho

Here’s a look around the calm community of Salmon, Idaho, population 3,112 and county seat of Lemhi County:

Main Street. Salmon Idaho
Lemhi County Courthouse
Salmon River

Bear Country Inn
Stagecoach Inn Salmon
Red Dog Diner
Junk Yard Bistro
St. Charles Catholic Church, Salmon

Back in the car by mid-morning. I’m heading north to Missoula, Montana the east to Helena.

Stickering the Montana sign has become a popular pastime for bicyclists and hikers.

Following Lewis & Clark’s route (for a while) north into Montana’s secret Bitterroot Valley. Huckleberries grow here and I had to include them in my lunch in Hamilton, Montana (population 4,348 and growing fast).

Lunch at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Hamilton, Montana. Huckleberry pie included.
Pie and Pastry display
Calm and Community at the Coffee shop

Coffee Cup Cafe, Hamilton, Montana

On a whim, I decided to get off US 93 and take a backroad up to Missoula. I stopped for this:

Ranchland in the Bitterroot Valley. Near Stevenson, Montana
An old Montana homestead. Available.

Link: Holiday Inn Express, Helena, Montana (population 28,190)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020, Day 5
Breakfast at Steve’s Cafe in Helena!

Chicken Fried Steak with hashbrowns. Eggs over easy.

Link: Steve’s Cafe, open for breakfast and lunch among friends. Click the link — just looking at the photo will make you hungry.

Today I’m off across the Montana plains to see some small towns and courthouses. First stop, Townsend (population 1,878).

Broadway Street Townsend, Montana
Photos of seniors from the Class of 2020 have been placed up and down Main Street.

The practice of putting photos of graduating seniors on town light poles will become a theme among Montana towns I visit today.

Missouri River Trading Post, Antique store.
A bungalow on Broadway, Townsend, converted to professional offices.

On down the road, through some hills and ranches to White Sulphur Springs, Montana (population 939).

2 Basset Brewery White Sulphur Springs
Main Street White Sulphur Springs
Inside the Meagher County Courthouse

Next stop: Harlowton, Montana (population 997)

Statue at the Wheatland County Courthouse, Harlowton, Montana
Old bank building, Harlowton
St. Joseph Church, Harlowton
The old Graves Hotel, Harlowton, Montana

Late in the afternoon, I arrived in Billings, Montana (population 109,577). I took some photos from the ridge above the city.

Billings, Montana from the airport area

I’ve enjoyed each of my many visits to Billings. Billings has a surprisingly vibrant downtown with a good choice of hotels, restaurants, steakhouses, brewpubs, and Montana casinos. A few short blocks away, old-town Billings has its own group of bars and restaurants clustered around the old train station.

Links: most convenient yet affordable lodging in downtown Billings: The Clocktower
Fanciest restaurant in Billings ($30-50 per person): Walkers Grill. See and be seen at the bar, if you’re into that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2020, Day 5

Breakfast at Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Link: Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery

Breakfast is free with a night’s stay at the Clocktower. Opens early at 5:30. Dare yourself to walk out of this place without one of their giant cinnamon rolls.

Pompey’s Pillar:

Pompey’s Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar National Historic site lies about an hour east of Billings along I-94. The rock formation along the Yellowstone River has been used as a landmark and register for travelers for centuries. Its most famous signatory carved his name into the rock in 1806:

W. Clark. July 25, 1806

William Clark and half of the Lewis and Clark expedition came this way on their return trip from the Pacific in the summer of 1806. Clark inscribed his name and named the edifice “Pompey’s Pillar” after Sacajawea’s infant son, who was nicknamed “Pomp” by the crew. Captain Lewis and the other half of the company were exploring the Marias River in northern Montana at the time. The two groups would rendezvous at the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers shortly thereafter.

Visitors can climb up to see the preserved markings:

Pompey’s Pillar

The area has a calm, park-like setting.

Yellowstone River at Pompey’s Pillar
Yellowstone River
A beaver or groundhog, or some other critter or varmint-like mammal enjoys an early feed before more people arrive.

I stopped in Baker, Montana (population 1,741), near the North Dakota line, to find another town honoring its graduating seniors with lamppost fame. Perhaps the town does this every year, but it’s a very nice gesture for the class of 2020 who didn’t have a formal graduation ceremony. I’ll do my part to make them famous.

Link: Corner Bar Saloon, Baker. Sandwiches for lunch for me. Sat at the bar without drinking. Stuck a $20 in one of the Montana video poker games and quit with $22.50. Pool tables were not being used during the lunch hour.

Into North Dakota. Wide fields of canola near the town of Bowman (population 1,650) in the extreme southwestern part of the state.

Farmers at work (aren’t they always?)

Amidon (population 20), Slope County, North Dakota once billed itself as America’s smallest county seat, but no longer. Wikipedia has the skinny (link):

Amidon was the smallest incorporated county seat in the 2000 census. When the 2010 census reported its population as 20, it became the second-smallest incorporated county seat after Brewster, Nebraska, with a population of 17. In 2000, Amidon had 26 people to Brewster’s 29.

In the whole of the U.S., only two other unincorporated county seats are smaller than Amidon: Mentone, Texas (population 19), the county seat of Loving County, and Gann Valley, South Dakota (population 14), the county seat of Buffalo County, South Dakota.

Slope County Courthouse. Amidon, North Dakota
Gone but not forgotten
1919: American Legion First Annual Encampment after the end of the Great War. Amidon, North Dakota

I end the day with a long drive to Minot (population 40,888), North Dakota, past oil wells, fracking towers, and wide bright canola fields sprinkled with glacial ponds called ‘sloughs’ (more on those later).

Link: Staybridge Suites Minot

Thursday, July 16, 2020, Day 7
Hotel breakfast. Mistake. Should have eaten at Denny’s down the road.

I was rewarded with an early morning view of the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, northeast of Minot.

A lone black bird photobombs my landscape
Souris River
Canola Fields

The town of Mohall (population 783), Renville County North Dakota. This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip — a city worker using a heavy forklift to carry a crate of water and a sprinkler attachment to water all the town’s flower pots.

Using heavy machinery to water the town’s flower pots on Main Street
Memorial Courthouse, Renville County, Mohall, North Dakota
St. Jerome’s Church, Mohall, North Dakota
Main Street, Mohall North Dakota

Finally, this. Found in a basement meeting room of the county courthouse.

Read this. It was probably written during one of the World Wars

The town of Bottineau, North Dakota, with a population of 2,211.

The town’s namesake, Pierre Bottineau. Trapper and guide.
Grain elevators. A common sight on the Plains

In the background of the next photo, Main Street can be seen ascending into the heights north of town. These heights are a plateau known as Turtle Mountain. More on Turtle Mountain later.

Main Street, Bottineau, North Dakota
A bank becomes a bar

Somehow I missed the highlight of Bottineau, the Pride Dairy. They are the last small town creamery in North Dakota, yet they supply their ice cream, cheeses, and syrups to locations as far away as Mount Rushmore. Hint: try their ice cream bars, called ‘Cow Pies.’ Larger and more delicious than the average ice cream bar.

Link: The Pride Dairy

The International Peace Garden:

Entrance to the International Peace Garden, on the boundary line between the United States and Canada

Link: The International Peace Garden. Situated literally on the boundary line between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba, this park was dedicated on July 14, 1932, to peace between the two large North American neighboring countries. This site in particular was chosen with a nod to its location near the geographical center of North America.

It was here in the Peace Garden gift shop that I first tried ice cream from the Pride Dairy in Bottineau — and was so sorry I hadn’t stopped at their ice cream parlor when I was in town. Their ice cream is fantastic!

One last photo of the Peace Garden shows an international boundary marker and the clearing marking the boundary extending in the far distance.

The International boundary between the United States (left) and Canada (right)

I took some back roads I had found on the map on my way back to Minot for the night. These little roads led along the crest of Turtle Mountain within five miles of the Canadian border. At one point I saw a highway road sign that simply said “Point of Interest” with an arrow pointing to a driveway off to right. No other explanation. Ok, I like mysteries, so I pulled up the driveway, around a bend, and found this:

Mystical Horizons

It’s a small park called Mystical Horizons (link) and it’s not shown or advertised on any map — I don’t know why.

This one or two-acre park, unmanned, has a replica of Stonehenge-like astronomical clocks, a sundial, and a Polaris sighting tube (to be used in finding the North Star). The park sits atop Turtle Mountain with spectacular views of the North Dakota countryside below.

Sundial at Mystical Horizons showing 3:00 pm (4:00 pm Daylight Time)
Astronomical observatory. Sunlight shines between the slots on the equinoxes and the solstices.
Looking west from Mystical Horizons
Yellow canola fields and blue ponds can be made out in the distance

Back to Minot for dinner.

Fish and Chips at Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub, with a well-earned Guinness

Links: Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub
Staybridge Suites Minot
and once again,
Mystical Horizons

Friday, July 17, 2020, Day 8
Time to return to Colorado. It will be a 2-day drive. I left very early, before breakfast, heading south on US Highway

Canola fields and sloughs south of Minot, North Dakota

For miles and miles, the landscape was simply covered with canola fields interspersed with bright blue glacial ponds. I stopped on the side of the highway to take photos. After a bit state highway patrol car pulled up behind me to see if I was taking pictures or “just having a bad day.” This was near 7:00 in the morning. The trooper and I talked a bit, saw a deer running through one of the canola fields. I asked her if people around here referred to the water as ‘lakes’ or ‘ponds’ and she said they called them “sloughs” instead.

After another hour of driving, breakfast!

Hashbrowns are under the toast, and the patties are sausage patties, not corned beef

Link: Rolling Hills Restaurant at the Flying J Travel Center in Mandan, North Dakota. Mandan (population 22,752) is across the Missouri River from Bismarck. There’s nothing like a cooked breakfast at an Interstate truck stop!

It was a long, 100-degree hot drive down to Hot Springs (population 3,711), South Dakota. I was detoured around the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation due to Covid-19 concerns. They’re having a hard time of it there and are restricting travel to locals and those with special permits.

Link: The Hills Inn, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Saturday, July 19, 2020, Day 9

Breakfast burrito with green chili

That was a bit of a curveball after all the eggs and hashbrowns I’d been having this trip. Thank you to the Mornin’ Sunshine Coffee House (linked) for the excellent breakfast.

Hot Springs, South Dakota was once a very popular resort town back in the days when doctors prescribed “taking the waters” as a cure. Because it was built up at that early time the town’s buildings are mostly constructed of limestone blocks, giving the town an air of antiquity. It’s a great place and lies in a hilly country about 50 miles south of the Black Hills. I even saw a pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon.

The town’s claim to fame, of course, is its hot springs, shown here cascading down into the Fall River below.

One last photo on the way home. I passed by Pine Ridge near Crawford, Nebraska (population 997). I’ve stopped in this town before, usually for gas, and always for some Dairy Sweet as well.

The Pine Ridge of Nebraska

Home to Colorado Springs by late afternoon.

A most epic trip! Hope you enjoyed it with me.

All photos were taken by the author in July 2020

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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Kingman, Arizona — Caravans of Cars and Camels

February 24, 2019

Even though January has turned into February, it remains the year 2019 and so my 2019 New Years’ “Goals”, or Resolutions, still apply. One post per month I resolved — I wrote down the goal on paper and even worse, I posted my intentions on Facebook. Now that promise is forever on the internet, and there can be no excuses. So herewith is the February 2019 installment featuring an old friend — warm, sunny Kingman, Arizona.

Welcome to Kingman, Arizona

I’d seen Kingman several times before. Kingman is a crossroads.  Looking eastward from Los Angeles (where I lived during the 1980s) Kingman is the gateway to the rest of the country. I drove through Kingman to get to the Grand Canyon, Amarillo, Kentucky, and to my parent’s home back in Pittsburgh. If you’re traveling north and south instead of east and west, the long desert highway that is US 93 intersects the I-40 in Kingman, about halfway between Las Vegas and Phoenix. 

At first, I saw the town as a hot, dusty Arizona truck stop, but I wasn’t the first caravan to come through.

Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale, commanding a caravan of camels, blazed a wagon route through Northern Arizona Territory back in 1857-58. Beale Street in Kingman is named for him. (But apparently not Beale Street in Memphis. Wikipedia has Beale’s resume.)

Beale is remembered here:

Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, 1822-1893. Pioneer in the Path of Empire. Hero of the War with Mexico. Lieutenant in the United States Navy. Appointed General by the Governor of California. Commanded exploration of wagon route to the Colorado River with the only camel train in American history, 1857-1858.

Beale’s wagon route soon became a railroad route. Mining sprang up in Kingman and then receded. As cars followed trains, Route 66 followed the railroad route, then Interstate 40 replaced US 66. Even with the mines gone, Kingman is forever a crossroads and will never disappear.

An old Santa Fe locomotive in town park

Unless you get off the Interstate you won’t notice the snow-covered rocky cliffs above the historic buildings along old Route 66. Kingman has a few nostalgic hotels here, some old bars, and so forth.  The Beale Street Brews coffee house brings life to this street, along with the Red Neck Pit BBQ next door (now Floyd and Company Real Pit BBQ). Here are a few buildings and street scenes:

Snow-speckled mountains above old Route 66 in Kingman
The old Kingman Club (I wonder if Jack Kerouac drank here?)
The old Brunswick Hotel (now “Hotel Brunswick Suites”) Route 66, Kingman

A few blocks off Beale Street the Mohave County Courthouse stands like a Roman temple above the forum.  Built in 1914 of local gray stone, it emerges behind a line of tall, thick juniper trees.  The trees are three stories high; the courthouse is only two, but the cupola adds maybe another story and a half.  The building stands at the top of Fourth Street, looking down on Kingman from above – a good place from which to administer Justice. 

Mohave County Superior Court, Kingman, Arizona

As the courthouse was built in 1914, the front statue was likely added a few years afterward, following the end of World War I. This particular design — a doughboy holding a hand grenade aloft in his right hand — is a common design for World War I memorials seen throughout the country.

World War I Memorial

Finally, some more examples of old stone construction:

Mohave County Health Department (old building, scenic view)
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Kingman

I hope you enjoyed Kingman and are enjoying your February. March is just around the corner…

Mohave County in the state of Arizona

All photos by the author. Photos were taken in February 2010, except for the courthouse photos which are from October 2005.

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

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.


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