When I turned thirty, I remember feeling like the end of the world was coming upon me and soon I would need to worry about things like fiber and mom jeans. The cure for that panic attack was a trip back to Los Angeles. Ryan and I worked our way south by way of Santa Cruz and celebrated my transition from 20s to 30s by visiting all things familiar. The trip to LA felt so good that I pledged to make birthday road trips an annual event. The following year, for thirty-one, we headed north—destination, Oregon border and back down through the Mt. Shasta area. Looking back, at my first two-part LA-normal post on that trip, I remember the feeling of freedom and a well-needed disconnect that can only be found in the middle of nature, civilization free. This year, I wanted to recreate that feeling. I wanted to rekindle the romance between us and our state. After undergoing extensive research of all our options, we carefully selected California’s historic Gold Country for year thirty-two.
My initial draw to heading inland was how much out of our comfort zone it was. We had experienced a huge sense of adventure during our trip last year and it was primarily a result of us going places outside of our usual. Last year we went further north than we had ever been. This year, I wanted to go east. We are very coastal people so traveling away from the ocean was huge for us. The second and only other contributing factor in the Gold Country selection was our mutual love of all things gold. Home accents, fashion accessories, any sort of metallic adornment, you name it, we most likely love it and have something similar.
Before we could head to our prospective destination du jour, we had a pit stop to tend to. Months back we had committed to a concert in the middle of farmland with some very good friends. Our midweek musical extravaganza was at the remotely located Sleep Train Amphitheater in Wheatland, CA. Accompanying one of our favorite couples from home and meeting up with my cousin and his awesome girlfriend, we taxied from Yuba City (middle of nowhere) to Wheatland (past the middle of nowhere) to a concert oasis, with food and drink. There were so many highlights that ensued shortly after our arrival to the notorious Bonanza Inn in Yuba City, that it is hard to pick a winner. From our endless search for a liquor store, the lifelong bond made with our to-and-from taxi driver, Rob, to the solid performances by Matt Nathanson, The Fray and Train, the kick-off to my last days as a thirty one year old was more than I could have asked for.
Noodle Note: Random heritage fact, my father went to high school in Yuba City and I personally spent a lot of time there growing up. My father’s family lived in a small neighboring town, Colusa, and Yuba City was were we went for the “big city” activities. Memories of going to the multi-screen movie theater, shopping at the mall and wondering the aisles of Ernie’s Toyland. RIP Ernie’s Toyland.
We left Yuba City the next morning as bright and early as we could handle and endured the journey to the promise land. The drive seemed to be cut into short chapters, farm towns, country side, tree lined sections fading in and out. After not too long, strips of downtowns started to come and go until we found ourselves turning off the freeway and onto Jackson’s, well preserved, Main St. Looking like an old western movie set turned into a row of antique stores and modern day boutiques, the street was narrow, although not the most narrow we would experience during the trip, and ended at the front doorsteps of the grand National Hotel. Soon we would be seeing numerous downtowns, very similar to our new temporary residence but, in that moment, the novelty of immersing ourselves into the nostalgia of the Wild Old West had turned me into a kid at Disneyland. I wanted to photograph everything. Walls, windows, doors, colors, roof lines, street views, everything. But first, I wanted to eat.
Our first meal in town was at Rosebud’s Cafe, towards the south end of Main St. Rosebud’s occupies one of the more brightly colored store fronts, mint green with lavender trim, and specializes in local, organic, homemade everything. The relaxed atmosphere greeted us at the front door. I felt like I was walking into my grandmother’s home. It was warm, colorful and inviting. We elected to take the window table for two so we could watch passersby and analyze the neighborhood. With a need for something refreshing, I ordered the lemon drop cocktail served in a stemless champagne flute, brimmed with sugar. If we weren’t on a mission to explore as much of our surroundings as we could before dark, I would have ordered a few more. For nourishment we both ordered the chicken sandwich on focaccia bread with a side of rosemary seasoned sweet potato fries. The chicken sandwich was moist and full of flavor from the caramelized onions, melted cheese and home made dijon mustard. Everything was fresh, so fresh I wouldn’t have been surprised if it all came from the back yard. It tasted like it had been prepared by someone who truly cared about the food they were using and the people that were eating it. Farm to table at its finest. I will most likely use it as a basis of comparison against all future cafes I ever eat at, forever. We left knowing that we would be back.
We managed to cover a lot of ground on day one. We had exhausted the exploration of Main St. by strolling up and down both sides, twice, although we would tour it again at least one more time before the end of our stay. We perused every antique store, which there were a plenty, scoped out a few clothing boutiques and made a purchase at the local candy shop. Soaking up the tail end of the afternoon, we made a solid attempt to locate Daffodil Hill, a feat we ended up failing miserably. We had driven miles on unknown back roads that led to empty fields, views of golden wheat covered hills as far as we could see. Feeling of complete isolation. After a quick cruise through Amador and Sutter Creek, we stopped short of sunset at some sort of nonfunctioning metal structure. My total uneducated guess is that it marks some sort of left over remnant of the land’s mining days. If I get really imaginative I can almost picture it holding up a giant pulley system carrying pans of gold dusted, muddy water. We must have sat at the base of that thing for an hour. Silently, off the side of the road, shooting and reshooting with every cloud shift, we admired our first up close sign of the area’s history.
We returned to our humble hotel room at the Amador Inn, Best Western, with great enthusiasm. The minimal unknown territory we had ventured into already felt like the best decision ever. We had seen exactly what I had hoped we were going to see. We had found a piece of California that had somehow figured out a way to preserve time. I felt like we were on borrowed land that still belonged to the pioneers before us. Safe to say, I had gold rush fever and I had it bad.