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Friday, April 8, 2016

The Last Man Standing in Oildale...Rockwell and His Honky Tonk

Each time we come to this city in the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, we find something new to see or experience.  There was the first time we went to the Crystal Palace. Then, the old town streets of the Kern County Museum and the Oil Museum. Letty getting to be the darling of the game at the local minor league team's game; tasting the great margaritas at Mexicali; the outstanding food of Los Tacos de Huicho, Urrichio's, and the area's many Basque restaurants; hiking along the Kern River...the list goes on and on.

So what will we find on our latest stay in this very underrated travel destination?

I've got two free nights at the Springhill Suites courtesy of the Marriott Rewards program and a day and a half to explore. We're thinking of going honky tonking tonight but can't decide if we should go with the safe bet of the Crystal Palace or be a little adventurous and head over the river to the more rough-and-tumble Oildale.

Our Bakersfield guide says that there are local bands jamming all day at Trout's...billing itself at Bakersfield's last "true" honky tonk...we head over there to see the action.

Mid day on Friday, though, there is none.  We do settle in to have a drink and introduce ourselves to the bar's owner, Thomas Rockwell. Rockwell is what he prefers to be called, so Rockwell it is. He's very nice and a gentleman to take a few minutes to chat with us before heading over to the other end of the bar.

There, a camera crew has set up and is interviewing Rockwell for a show. He's in very high demand as Trout's, and the Bakersfield Sound, is getting a lot more attention these days. Even the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville has set aside a wing to salute the Bakersfield Sound (very distinct from what comes out of Nashville) and hometown heroes like Buck Owens and Oildale's most famous product, Merle Haggard.

While the bartender sets Tim and I up with a couple of good microbrews (I know, in a honky tonk?) and makes a red velvet cocktail for Letty, we wander around the two stages, snapping a few pictures and listening in to the interview.

We learn that Trout's has been at this location since the 1940's and in business going back over 80 years.  Rockwell is trying to spiff it up a bit but there are still corners of the building that are off limits because of ongoing repair issues.

Back out into the harsh, Central Valley sunshine, we pile back into the van and head back to Rosedale Highway for dinner.

We'll fill up on an extensive Basque meal at one of our favorites, Benji's, sitting behind derelict derricks and other oilfield detritis just east of the 99.

After the drive from Gold Country, we end up too tired to go out for the show, so we just relax in the suite and enjoy some after dinner wine before turning in for a long night's rest. Tomorrow, we'll go find another new pleasure in our favorite underrated travel destination.

Stay tuned for that.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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