It puzzles me sometimes. This is gorgeous country, colorful vineyards roll into the horizon, and it is the most historical part of the state of California.
Still, parts of the Motherlode...California's extremely historic gold mining region...go begging for visitors. Oh well, we'll enjoy it by ourselves and continue to extol its virtues.
This is trip number...well...we've lost count. We've fallen in love with this area and visit it with a somewhat alarming regularity. Someday, that visit will never end and we'll just move up here.
We check in with Ken and Marie, the friendly innkeepers at the Shenandoah Inn in Plymouth. This basic but spic 'n span motel along Highway 49 is our usual base camp for travels up here. The room is clean, fairly accessible (adapted tub but no roll in showers), and the views out the window and along the pool area are stunning.
The diner, Speed's, at the bottom of the hill is no longer in business. That's a shame because they served one of the two best versions of chicken fried steak I've ever had, along with some superb biscuits and gravy.
Ken says that the owner had health issues and couldn't go on.
On the bright side, that means we can finally try another mom 'n pop diner we've always wanted to try. Down the road in Drytown is the Old Well Motel and Cafe, a very classic roadside inn and diner.
As goldfinches alight on the feeder outside our window, we feast on chicken fried steak, French toast, and eggs. Not quite what we got at Speed's but still very good.
The owner chats with us, telling us about the historic building in Eureka whose pictures grace the diner's walls. He also tells us the next door motel has an accessible room but is is now occupied by a long-term tenant.
At it's peak during the Gold Rush, Drytown had thousands of miners, a couple of dozen saloons and brothels, and a church or two. Now, you'd hardly know it existed, just a few buildings along a bend in the highway...a few antique shops, the motel, this diner, and the last saloon across the street, still packin' 'em in at night.
The county seat is Jackson. The largest town in Amador County has a staggering population of 4,554. It is the big city of the county.
Except for the paved street, Main Street Jackson of 2016 looks a lot like Main Street Jackson of 1860.
Squeezing our van into a public lot next to the Century 21 office, we set off to explore the block. Letty spies a yarn shop and Tim and I wait for her, having two dollar Amberbocks, at The Fargo Club.
The bartender is watching a House Hunters marathon and we're munching on the complementary popcorn with our beers, taking bets on which house the people will choose and criticizing their choices mercilessly.
Our usual pawn shop is going out of business here so we take advantage of their half-price sale. Downtown Jackson seems to go in boom or bust cycles. It has been booming the last few years since the last time we saw a very recession damaged street but it may be time for another down cycle. We'll see...
A few miles away is my wife's favorite Gold Rush town, Sutter Creek. While she browses the shops, Tim and I browse the back alleys and corridors, mapping out a wheelchair-accessible route to this ancient boardwalked downtown.
We check in with the Hotel Sutter and are pleasantly surprised to find they have not only an elevator but two fully accessible rooms. That information could come in handy for a future trip.
We continue to the south end of the street where the town's namesake creek flows through.
The water is clear and cool but not as cold as we expect. It's a gloriously sunny day and many of the town's youth are having a blast splashing in the refreshing waters of Sutter Creek.
Letty and Tim find an accessible bridge and meet me on the side of the creek. It's not quite water-side accessible but close enough that we can splash Tim with some cool drips of water.
On the way back to the motel, we make another stop in Drytown to sample the wares at Drytown Cellars, one of the premiere wineries of the Sierra Foothills.
They'd just had a mishap and spill in the barrel room that they were cleaning up but still nice enough to chat and pour a few tastes. We also find that they've lowered the prices since we were last here so we reward their patience and their new prices by taking a mixed case home with us.
Back at the Shenandoah Inn, we take advantage of the pool lift to put Tim in the slightly frigid water and swim in the wonderfully empty pool, soaking up the incredible view between sips of soda and wine.
Sandwiches were picked up in Jackson at the Main Street Deli, so we finish off with a picnic dinner poolside on some very delicious sandwiches and a bottle of Drytown's finest.
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved