Filed under: Joy's Work — joy at 10:37 am on Friday, August 20, 2010
The short story I read last week is now up on Bang Out’s site, so now you can read it too. It is called “Five People Describe Burning Up,” in keeping with the heat theme. Excerpt:
1. Debbie: I’m coming home from school when suddenly my best friend Trudy says, “Your feet are lighting up when you walk.” I look down and see that flashes of blue are coming out the back of my shoes whenever I move. “Cool,” I say and start skipping so that the blue lights follow me to my house, and Trudy is laughing and saying, “That’s so weird” over and over again. I feel like Tom Hanks in the movie “Big,” when he lights up the giant piano with his feet, and I’m pretending to play “Heart and Soul” in the driveway when my mom comes out and starts screaming. “Debbie,” she says, “Take off your shoes.” But I’m laughing, because the blue lights are coming out of the side of my feet now, and I feel like I’m wearing jet packs. My mom shakes me and says, “Don’t you know fire when you see it?” and I take off my shoes, which are hot around the edges. The fire is still coming out of my feet, snapping like the ends of a lighting strike, and I’m not smiling anymore. Mom tells Trudy to run a bath, and I think about how they have been teaching us in school that if the sun exploded, it would take 9 minutes for us to know about it because it’s so far away. It would take 20 minutes for the fireballs to reach us.
Filed under: Personal — joy at 11:14 am on Monday, August 9, 2010
So where was I? Ah yes, that night, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Muphys called Dunbar House. It was built in the 1880s. I forgot to take a picture, so here is one from the hotel’s website:
There isn’t a lot of reliable information on the Internet about staying in gold country if you don’t want to stay at a Best Western or something, so I feel it’s relevant to add that Dunbar House is a great B&B. Marcia and I stayed in an attic room with a private bathroom and an adjoining private deck. It was clean and adorable and full of antiques. There is an English garden surrounding the house, which is where we had our breakfast: soufflé, basil scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit. They also gave us complimentary coffee, wine, beer, a snack plate, cookies… whew! Quite a value, plus the owners are nice.
The next day, we were refreshed and ready to continue on. The first stop was Moaning Caverns.
This is a cave where people like to risk their life by dropping 165 feet into a hole. You can either climb down a rope into this black hole or you can take the 240-some stairs instead.
So which tour did I take? Are you kidding? The stairs. Let me describe the tour for you. You and 30 other people, many of whom are overweight, crowd into a little room. A teenager tells you the history of the cave, explaining all the numerous people who have fallen to their deaths throughout the cave’s history. On one side of you is a pit with ropes disappearing into it for people who want to climb down into the pit. It is decorated with signs warning how you will die if you make a mistake on the rope. On the other side is a glass case full of the bones of the people who died in the cave. The teenager is particularly proud of a skull of a 7-year-old Asian girl who fell down the hole 1,700 years ago. You start to get the feeling that the cave is a Venus flytrap for people and you wonder how smart it was to pay $14.50 for a ticket.
Then the teenager leads you through a narrow passageway full of narrow steps, and after awhile, all you can see is a wall and the people around you. Then you step out on a platform and are confronted with a dramatic, plunging cavern with no end in sight. To your left is the stairs you are supposed to go down. It is a long spiral staircase surrounded by a tube-like cage. The stairs are rickety and made of wood. Here is a picture:
Now you start to realize what you are in for. Because, cage + 240-something steps + lots of overweight people + spiral staircases + extreme heights + rickety stairs = not something I want to do. Ever.
I actually would have gone if it weren’t the mental image of being trapped in a cage with all those people. As it were, the stairs did not sound fun to me. If it does sound fun to you, wear exercise clothes, because it looks like a lot of work.
So we left the cave and went to the town of Columbia. If is a fully functioning National Historic Landmark, with all of the original buildings and people walking around in period clothes. It is the kind of place where people make candles:
Or sit around wearing sunbonnets:
There was an ice cream parlor, a decent museum (much better than Coloma’s museum), a bookstore, Western shops, pretend blacksmiths, a hotel that you can stay in, and of course, stagecoach rides:
Marcia and I decided to ride in a stagecoach. It’s $6 to take a 10-minute jaunt around the town. Money well spent. The stagecoach is really bumpy. Riding one all day would be exhausting, but it was great for 10 minutes.
Halfway through the ride, we were accosted by a masked bandit:
Luckily, he didn’t think we had anything worth taking.
After Columbia, Marcia and I drove back home. It was a fun trip. I saw all the historical stuff I needed to see for my research, and also, I saw a deer:
ETA: The whole trip, “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man kept running through my head. And not just the tune, but specifically Ron Howard’s part, complete with lisp.
Filed under: Personal — joy at 8:45 am on Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Last week, Kyle went to conferences in Las Vegas and I dragged Marcia on a road trip to the gold country. It was for research on a project I’m working on. Suddenly, I found I needed to check out historical gold-rush sites, so we piled in the car and got some road-trip food:
We got beef jerky because that seemed like something pioneers would eat. The cheetos, well… I don’t know what it is about road trips that makes me want to eat cheetos.
The first stop was in Sacramento at Sutter’s Fort. Built in 1839 by Swiss pioneer John Sutter, it was the first non-Native American building in the Central Valley. It was a common stopping place for pioneers once they got to California. In fact, the fort was where the Donner Party ended up after they were rescued.
(Part of Sutter’s Fort)
Sutter also owned the sawmill where his foreman James Marshall discovered gold. I was surprised to learn that Sutter was swindled out of this discovery. Somehow, despite owning the land where gold was discovered, Sutter didn’t just not make any money on the gold rush, he lost his entire fortune in the process. Marshall, likewise, never earned a dime from the gold rush and died alone in a cabin a bitter, sad man.
At the fort, we saw a covered wagon and I learned that most pioneers walked the 3,000 miles. I had always thought they road in their wagons, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They hooked a team of oxen to the wagon and walked alongside. Sounds hard! I am glad I have a car and cheetos for road trips.
(Man teaches people how to use a gun at Sutter’s fort)
After Sutter’s, Marcia and I drove to Coloma, which is the town where Marshall discovered the gold. Here is a replica of the sawmill where they found the gold:
Honestly, as important as this site should be, if you’re interested in history, you can skip it. The museum doesn’t have much in the way of information, unless you want to see statues of Native Americans surrounded by taxidermy. The town was hot and unpleasant, you can’t go into any of the buildings, and it’s boring there. You don’t get anything from walking around Coloma that you wouldn’t get by driving by it. Skip it and go onto Columbia, which I will talk about tomorrow.
After that, Marcia and I drove through gold country, looking at little towns and the scenery:
She also indulged me and let me look at some of the abandoned Gold Rush buildings that have been left on the side of the road to rot. For example, this place, which a sign informed us was once called Butte Store:
And we also saw whatever this was:
In both cases, the ruins were by themselves in a field, a weird testament to the fact that at one point, there was a town there. How strange.
Tomorrow: Murphy’s, Columbia, stagecoaches, and scary caves! Stay tuned!