Sunday, October 31, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Dive Bars of the Motherlode

Dive Bar: A dive bar is typically a small, unglamorous, eclectic, old-style bar with inexpensive drinks and may feature dim lighting, shabby or dated decor, neon beer signs, packaged beer sales, cash-only service, and a local clientele. (Wikipedia)

The history of the Sierra Foothills region is rife with gold mines, old hotels, mining towns, ghost towns, and more. Part of that history is that the people of this region enjoyed their leisure times with a pint of this or a shot of that in the many saloons and taverns that dotted the landscape. 

That tradition continues today with the many bars, lounges, wineries, and breweries that are still liberally sprinkled throughout the landscape. One of our passions is to visit the many dive bars in the area where you can share a drink and a chat with some of the friendly locals.

Our tour starts in the north, continues south, and...of only a sampling of the many watering holes in the region.

Way up in the Plumas County town of Quincy is the Plumas Club, which is a friendly Clamper's bar, meaning it also serves as the clubhouse of the local chaper of the E Clampus Vitas Society (click on that link to learn more about that).

Along with all the Clamper memorabilia on the walls, you can sidle up to the bar or squeeze into a front-window table and cool off with a cold brew or a strong shot while chatting up locals wearing their many pins on their vests.

It's a great little place smack dab in the middle of Quincy's downtown.

In Nevada City, keep an eye out for the Mineshaft. Looking a bit like a well timbered mine shaft, you can keep up on the lottery with their self-service machine or the Raiders game on one of their TVs.

On the west end of Placerville's Main Street is one of Tim and my favorites, the Liar's Bench where everyone gets carded, no matter what. It's in a great location where we can pass time with the friendly bartenders and Hangtown locals while Letty gets a dose of retail therapy in many of the adjacent shops.

If we get hungry, we can also get some great food and craft beer at the Main Street Taphouse a few more doors to the west.

Continuing south on highway 49, we pass a couple of bars that are in the past...the Nashville Restaurant and Bar along the Consumnes River...and the Drytown Club which didn't make it through the Covid pandemic (but Feist Wines of Sutter Creek has bought the building and it turning it into their tasting room - Ed).

A 10 mile detour on highway 124 will take you to Tilly's Club in Ione. Here, you can see the old mural on the wall that owner Loretta uncovered during a renovation. You may still rub elbows with miners as there are still a few sand and silica mines operating in this town.

Going back to highway 88 and heading  back into the hills on highway 49, you'll find a couple of bars in Jackson. The Main Event and Jackie's Hideaway on Main Street.

The Main Event sits at the spot of an old 1850's gunfight and the bar inside almost looks like it's of that era. Jackie's Hideaway, on the other side of the street, is really too new to be a proper dive bar but it's a good one to find an accessible bathroom.

That's not to say that it's not a worthy stop on our dive bar tour. This used to be the historic Fargo Club that was located down the corner, across from the National Hotel.

Moved in 2019, the old location (above) is pretty much literally falling apart but dates back to the days with Jackson was wide open with casinos and brothels as late as the 1950's.

Crossing into Calaveras County over the Mokulemne River and after a bit of windy road, you'll eventually come to the town of San Andreas, the county seat. At the corner of highway 49 and Main Street, you'll see the old rock building housing Gooney's.

Named for Gooner Everson, who acquired the saloon for $18.60 in back taxes in 1863, the current owners have been operating it since June of 2019.

This popular watering hole also has a nice menu of good food. We particularly liked the steak sandwich we had there. It's also got a talent for making craft cocktails.

Another ten miles down the road will put you in Angels Camp. Mark Twain spent time here in a saloon where he heard a story about a jumping frog. "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" launched his career and the town celebrates it with a jumping frog contest each May and images and statues of frogs all over town.

The tavern that Twain went to is gone (but the building is still there) but at the other end of downtown is My Bar (formerly Gold Diggers), another proper Gold Country dive bar.

While you can buy a three dollar hot dog off of their weenie ferris wheel, it's more about the drinking here. One of the few bars on this list that also takes credit cards.

"We're silly here," the bartender tells me as the locals laugh at another joke and the drinks come easy.

At the southern end of our tour, we end up in the town of Hornitos. You might actually call it a ghost town and, with a population of 75, no one would really challenge you on that.

One thing still hanging on is the Plaza Bar, across the parking lot from the post office.

Looking just like a quiet, dusty saloon from those gold rush days, patrons used to visit and drink with the legendary Manuela Ortiz. Manuela has since passed on but the bar is still owned by the Ortiz family.

We do like to stop in, chat, and have a shot of Hornitos in Hornitos.

There's a sampling of the colorful and varied local watering holes of this historic area. We still have a lot more we'd like to visit before they're just another page in the history of the Motherlode.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Great White North Finally Lives Up To It's Nickname

We've come prepared for the worst weather but we've had remarkably clear skies while here in Canada's third largest city and, for the most part, up north in the Canadian Rockies for the week before this. Maybe a sprinkle here and there but nothing more than mild and temporary.

Waking up on this last morning in Calgary, I look out the window. Fall and the sunny weather is nowhere to be seen. There is a blanket of snow on everything and it is still falling steadily.

Hilton gave us a late checkout (2pm) and we'd planned on doing a couple of things around town before heading to the airport for our later flight home tonight at 7:00.

Those plans are pretty much dashed by the weather so we lazily spend the day packing up, eating the rest of our snacks, and gradually getting ready to go.

Finally, it's 1:45 so we'd better checkout.  I get the car from the lot across the street. It's now very windy to go with that steady snow and it's freezing outside.

Gingerly, I transfer Tim into the front seat of our rental Ford Escape.  This is where he'll stay until we pull into the rental car return later which is, thankfully, indoors and under a roof.

I have to gas up the car before we get to the airport so we find the nearest Costco where we get two pieces of bad news.  The first, a mild letdown, is that our Costco Visa card nor our Costco membership card will work on the gas pumps up here. They use a Costco Mastercard up here and, despite our card being called Costco's 'Anywhere' card, we can not get it to work.

The other, more tragic, bit of news we find out while Tim and I sit in the car while Letty runs into the main Costco store to look around...we hear that one of our favorite musicians, Tom Petty, had died of a heart attack.

A Tom Petty marathon suddenly breaks out on the FM station that we're listening to. I find another station for gas and slowly make our way to the airport listening to a playlist of the best of Petty.

We check the car back in with Enterprise, make our way into the terminal, change out of our winter clothes back into something more suitable for L.A., and check in our bags.

One thing that's nice and convenient for U.S. travelers here in Calgary is that TSA, ICE, and Customs are all stationed here at the airport so, once you clear those three (which goes by surprisingly fast and easy), once you deplane in the U.S., you're free to go straight to baggage claim and leave the airport without any additional barriers.

Inside, we while away the waiting time at a very nice Belgian cafe in the departure lounge before taking a very easy and quick flight home.

Catch up on the rest of our Canada posts below:

Jasper National Park
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Monday, October 25, 2021

A Couple of Adventures Still Looming Over Us...Literally!

There's one thing I do not want to leave Alberta without doing. This is Canada's premiere cattle country. There's the world's largest outdoor rodeo here each summer. The land is filled with ranches, cowboys, and oil workers.

I want a good steak before I leave.

Watch the Video!

In addition to that, there's been something looming over us at almost every step we've taken here.  At over 450 feet above downtown, there's the Calgary Tower.

If you know Tim, he just can't pass up a good, tall tower. He's been above the skyline in Seattle; to the top at the CN Tower in Toronto; gazed over the Empire State in it's eponymously named building in Manhattan; and even been to the top of the orange tower at Magic Mountain.

It's Sunday and quiet in downtown Calgary. The weather's cooling off from the glorious few days we just had. Calgary's patios and pubs are nowhere near the hive of humanity they were on Stephen Avenue just yesterday.

A couple of stops on the C-Train get us to where we need to be. Actually, two stops would have but we went three and now we have added another couple of blocks to our walk.

Eventually, we make it to the corner where the tower sits.

After paying our admission, the elevator takes us pretty quickly up to the observation deck at the top of the tower. As soon as we roll out of the cab, we see the star attraction.

At 450 feet above the street, standing on a glass floor is not what you naturally want to do. It's bad enough to see other people do it but getting out there yourself is another matter.

Tim gives me a week's worth of butterflies when he rolls right onto the glass.  I instinctively grab his chair with one hand and a pole with another as if he were to suddenly crash through the glass I would somehow be able to hold him and his chair in midair until rescue were to arrive.

Realizing the folly of that, I let go and Tim is no worse off because of it.

I gingerly step out onto the glass. We take some pictures and then proceed to soak in the views from above Calgary.

From here, we can take in the Stampede and the surrounding buildings that were raised for the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted here.

The Bow River and Fort Calgary can also be easily seen.

Several buildings down below have their names painted on the roof so people in the tower can find them when they get down.  The Palomino Club entices me for a drink later.

After seeing the sky-high view of the city, we exit through the gift shop and make the trek over to the nearby Inglewood neighborhood. It's here where Letty can browse one of the local yarn shops while Tim and I chat over a beer.

Later, it's time for dinner. One more thing...we head to the Keg, which is in the lobby of the Westin Hotel, for some of that Alberta beef.

I'm torn between deciding on the New York strip and the prime rib but the roast eventually wins over the steak. 

Letty gets a top sirloin topped with shrimp and scallops.

Tim gets some prime rib sliders.

It's very delicious and easily satisfies my cravings for that Alberta cow I've been dying to eat.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 22, 2021

Flaming the Jets...It's Hockey Night in Canada

The one big activity we have planned while we're here in Canada's third largest city is to go see a hockey game. It'll be the most Canadian thing we do while we're here.

It's Saturday night, which is hockey night in Canada, and the Calgary Flames are hosting the Winnipeg Jets in their final pre-season match before the season starts next week.

Watch the Video!

We had learned from our adventures yesterday that it would be just as easy to walk the half mile from our hotel as to take the train. The weather report is a bit threatening but when it's time to leave, it's still dry. Walking it is, although we'll leave the return by train option open if the weather has turned nasty after the game.

Straight as an arrow, we walk the street from our hotel to the Saddledome. As we're approaching, a police officer points us to the accessible ramp to enter the arena. It's pretty well hidden and it's no wonder we didn't see it on our walk yesterday.

"It's the only way you'll get in," he tells us.

Collecting our tickets from Will Call, we proceed inside. Of course, this only accessible entrance is almost exactly on the opposite side of the arena from the wheelchair seating so we have to walk halfway around to get to our seats.

At least, this gives us a chance to see what kind of food offerings are available to us for this night of hockey.

We get to our seats which are located on a row across three or four sections at the top of the first level. Basically, in this old arena, they just cleared out a spot on the concourse for wheelchairs. There is no 'built in' seating.

Another thing is that Canada today is like the U.S. was 15 years ago in companion seating requirements. We are only allowed buy one companion seat to go with Tim's wheelchair. I give that to my wife, my assigned seat is about 10 rows away.

I decide to sit in the empty seat next to Tim until and unless the ticket holders for that seat show up...with the usher's blessing, of course.

(As a side note, the ADA was amended a few years ago for the United States where is is now law that you must sell up to at least three companion seats for every wheelchair seat but, of course, this is not the United States)

The pregame activities begin with a warning that there will be fireworks. This turns out to be nothing more than flames shooting out of the scoreboard but it's still a nice effect.

The game starts and about halfway through the first period, I feel a tap on my shoulder. A lady and her husband in a wheelchair are here to claim their seats. I immediately get up as nicely as I can but still get the wish-of-my-immediate-death stare from the caregiver. this an example of the famous Canadian hospitality I've heard so much about?

I move to the other side of Letty and Tim. Pretty soon, a mother and her disabled son show up to claim the seats I'm sitting at.

"No worries," she says, "we'll just scoot down one spot and you can continue to sit with your family."

That's more like it.

A little while later, an able-bodied man and his four able bodied kids encamp in the seats on the other side of the mom (the usher said it was OK but he'd have to move to his assigned seats if someone else showed up).

When the mom and the kid take off to the bathroom, that family immediately scoots over to take the seats they just vacated.

OK, this is getting a bit ridiculous. The lady was so nice to me that I feel obligated to defend those seats. This is a big, burly, mean looking guy but someone has to say something and it looks like it's going to fall to me. I steel myself up for a confrontation...

"Excuse me, but those seats are already taken," I tell the gent getting ready for the inevitable shouting match.

"Oh, I'm sorry...come on kids, let's scoot back over here," came his gentle and courteous reply.

I guess that the first caregiver that gave me the death stare was an anomaly. There really is a overwhelming courteousness to these people.

The game continues on. I get some hot dogs and popcorn for Tim and me...which were really very good...while Letty has some pirogi poutine. She says it's the best poutine she's had the entire trip.

It's a hard fought game with the lead changing a few time.  At the end of regulation, the game is tied 2-2. At the end of a five minute overtime, the game is still tied 2-2.

If you know hockey, you know what comes next.  Each team takes a turn sending a lone player onto the ice to shoot a puck at a lone goalie from the other's the shootout!

It's a very exciting and quick way to decide the match.  A Jets player shoots and missed. Same with the first Flames player.  Another Jets player misses. A Flames player scores. The games over and the audience goes nuts!

Horns blow and more flames shoot out of the scoreboard.

We make our way out and it's just starting to rain with a steady drizzle.  We decide it's not too bad and walk back to our hotel.

Hockey Night was a very fun night for us here in Calgary.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 18, 2021

Experiencing History at Calgary's Heritage Park and the Elephant in the Room

Darn. I have to finally get the rental car out of the parking lot for today's excursion. I was hoping I wouldn't have to drive again until we went to the airport but it is quicker, by far, to get to today's destination of Heritage Park by car rather than transit.

The reason I'm not so happy about that is that it requires me to transfer Tim into and out of the car, not to mention folding up his chair and fitting it into the hatch of our rental car. I can do it...I have been doing it mostly up in the mountains...but it does get tiring and takes its toll after awhile.

Watch the Video!

It's a bit cloudy and threatening but for the moment it's not raining. We take the drive to Heritage Park, find a spot to park, and head in.

I downloaded a two-for-one coupon at the hotel before leaving.  At the ticket window, I ask if they have any discounts for the disabled. I'm told no but a caregiver can go in for free so Tim and I get in for the price of one while Letty gets in for free.  We get to pay for one ticket for the three of us.

(As an aside, I've noticed that no one will volunteer that a discount is available at attractions while were here in Canada. Only when I've asked did I receive them. One lady at another attraction told me "you'd be surprised that no one asks for discounts." My response is "maybe you could volunteer that information?")

A plaza is next to the ticket booth with a restaurant, cafe, and a couple of shops. An automotive museum called Gasoline Alley is just inside the gate. It's about a quarter mile walk from here to the heart of the park. up a slight hill.

We walk up. There is also an accessible bus that will take you from here if your unable to.

At the top of the hill, there's a windmill, a train crossing, and a lake off to the left. Crossing the tracks, you are now in the village. It's kind of like a combination of Knott's Berry Farm and a museum.

It's possible to make a big loop and take it all in so we break to the left which takes us by some rentable party tents before getting to the antique midway.

Old rides, such as this caterpillar ride with wooden wheels, are available to ride on.

There's also a swing ride, a carousel, ferris wheel, and a few others.  None are accessible.

We watch for a few minutes before I see a station for the old steam engined train that makes a circuit around the park.

"Let's go see if that train is accessible," I tell Tim.

We see nothing to suggest it is, there's even a sign that strollers must left at the station.  I ask a gentleman working there if it is.

"No, it's an antique train and it's impossible to adapt it to wheelchairs," is his answer.

Now, we've been on plenty of antique trains south of the border that have very easily been adapted for wheeler with the addition of a portable lift at the station. This line of reasoning is not dealing with reality and points the way to assume that park management just isn't that creative when it comes to its disabled customer base.

We move on to the train shops and locomotive turntable, which are accessible, and check out some of the antique coaches and equipment stored within.

Back in the village, we find accessible points on the boardwalk and are able to go into a few of the shops but the majority are still inaccessible to wheelchairs.

It's not long before we're heading back down the hill.

We make a stop at Gasoline Alley which is completely wheelchair accessible and take in some marvelous pieces of automotive history.

The complex is named for a large row of restored antique gas pumps that you can wander down in addition to seeing the old autos and trucks.

This Cadillac is left unrestored so patrons can get a look at what the vehicles looked like before restoration.

A couple of Auburns take their place at the head of the large room.

A family wagon and travel trailer are on display in a special 'family vacation' exhibit.

We make our way out, and eventually back to Calgary when done. To address the elephant in the room, however, we do note that while Canada seems more progressive and inclusive for the most part than we are in the U.S., we continue to note that they seem to be a few years behind us in inclusion for those with handicaps.

This visit to Heritage Park brings it home for us, much of this park can easily be made accessible and adapted for those with special needs without destroying the historical nature of the buildings and equipment but the attitude is 'it's history and your kind wasn't accomodated back then so we won't do it either.'

Along with a real trial to find a good, accessible room in Jasper and the afterthought of the wheelchair seating at the hockey game, it's getting a bit hard to ignore (as was the inaccessible subway in Toronto a few years back).

We hope that Canada, which is a wonderful country populated with wonderful people, can address some of these shortfalls soon. We can say that the transit in Calgary, the sidewalks, hotels, and many other attractions are greatly accessible but there are still a few glaring examples out there that need improvement.

Well, we don't want to knock it when so much else is perfectly fine so we'll end today's report here and get back with some more accessible adventures on the next one. At least they only charged us for one ticket.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 17, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Calgary Pub Crawl

It took us a little while to find where the pubs and bars of Calgary were but Stephen Avenue in downtown was filled to overflowing with all the watering holes having extensive happy hours there.

Watch the Video!

While we didn't have time to partake in the beginning, we finally got around to doing a crawl before we left but then we found out why the pubs were so crowded on the preceding days...the weather was gorgeous, fall, "perfect temperature", outside weather and Calgarians were spending what would be the last of that great weather on their patios.

Patios to Calgary are what biergartens are to Munich...great, outdoor drinking spots where local go to mingle and imbibe.

Our day was decidedly chillier and most of those Calgarians seemed to be home in front of a cozy fireplace.  No worries, we're still out and about, let's go see what we can find...

Starting off nextdoor to the hotel, we're at a popup beer garden put up by the National restaurant chain at evJunction, a container park with little shops in each shipping container and entertainment via a local hip hop group.

The selection is a little limited, a blonde and a berry based brew are the canned choices here, and Tim and I lean toward the blonde while Letty likes the berry beer.

The C-Train gets us over to Stephen Avenue where we hit three more pubs, all within a block of each other.

Our first stop is Bank and Baron, a huge pub in a former bank. The bartender invites us to go to the basement to see the old vault and take pictures.

Tim and Letty go with the mimosas which are on special this day while I get my Molson Canadian fix. 

Yeah, it's a cheap beer but it's better than most of our cheap beers back home.

Across the street, we visit the James Joyce Irish pub

Here, we find a little privacy at a wheelchair-accessible nook near the entrance (while their 'secret' wheelchair accessible bathroom also comes in handy mid drinkathon).

Tim goes fruity with a strawberry colada, Letty goes with their special Moscow Mule, while I have a reserve Canadian Crown Royal whiskey shot with a Shock Top beer chaser (picture at the top of this post).

We end up around the corner at the Palomino Smokehouse where we have the best, juiciest brisket we've ever had. Seriously delicious food here.

As for drinks, Letty has a Rock Creek cider and I go for a local craft brew, a Big Rock Traditional Ale.

From here, it's not a long walk back to the hotel. Wobbly, maybe, but not far.


Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 15, 2021

Take Me To The River: A Surprise Calgary Riverwalk

We don't really have a lot planned out for our time in the city of Calgary. Last night's train ride through some of the dingier blocks of downtown kind of put a damper on things. Our biggest plans are to see a hockey game at the Saddledome, an arena that is visible from our hotel window.

Watch the Video!

Deciding that we should get out and about, plus it'd be nice to know where we need to go, we hop on the C-Train (Calgary's light rail) for one stop to the Stampede stop.

This deposits us at the edge of the fairgrounds that host the world's largest outdoor rodeo each summer. Today, it's a ghost town of closed buildings and empty parking lots. We notice it's quite a walk from the train station to the Saddledome at the other side of the grounds, about as far as if we'd walked all the way from our hotel.

Walking around the arena, we notice that the building is a bit dated and access ramps are not to be seen. We're guessing there must be elevators inside. That is something we'll have to find out tomorrow when we return for the game.

Blowing tumbleweeds would not have been out of place here, so empty, and a bit windswept on this cool Canadian morning. I pull out my phone to see a map of the area to see if there's see while we're here. It's way to early to return to the hotel for the day.

I notice that there's a river on the map behind the Saddledome. I tell Letty and Tim that we should go over there and, if nothing else, we can get some river pictures.

At the far end of the parking lot behind the arena is a pedestrian bridge. We go out, take some pictures (great fall colors on the day we're there, by the way), and notice a park on the other side.

Another map on the other end of the bridge let's us know that there's a walking path that continues down this river, the Elbow River, all the way to it's confluence with the Bow River and beyond to downtown Calgary.  We might as well follow it and see where it leads.

First thing we notice is the fine view we have of the Saddledome that we just left.

Next, moving just a little downstream on the river, it's a spectacular skyline view of Calgary.

ENMAX Park, the riverside area we're walking through, is much nicer than the down-in-the-dumps stretch of downtown we were in last night. This is much more of the Calgary we thought we'd see.

The bridge into the Inglewood neighborhood shows us a block of pubs and shops we'll need to explore later. 

Walking under a moving train crossing the bridge overhead, we get to the end of the Elbow River.

A pedestrian bridge provides a great viewing platform to see the merge of the two rivers.

To the left, a windmill and a garden mark the spot of Fort Calgary, the Mounties post where the city was founded.

We've got some time, so we go in and check out the museum here. It's twelve dollars (Canadian) to enter, although your AAA card will get you an additional discount. After paying, the counter lady gives us a brochure and I start to walk away.

"Wait, we're not done," she admonishes.


"No, I have to explain some things to you first."

With that, she tells us which direction we need to explore the museum and, as a special exhibit today, not to miss the original Treaty 7 which is on display here for a very short time.

Treaty 7 is the treaty between the British and several First Nation governments...mainly the Blackfoot tribe...delineating what would belong to each group and the price the British would pay to the natives for encroaching on their land.

Although it's been violated several times since it's adoption in 1877, it's still the basic governing document of this area of Canada.  It's kind of like a constitution of the area.

She also tells me we're allowed to photograph and film anywhere we want in the museum except that pictures and video of Treaty 7 are off limits.

We wander through, seeing exhibits on how the bison used to sustain the population. How they were decimated when the Europeans arrived. How the First Nations people suffered when diseases and whiskey were introduced.

The fort was an outpost for the Canadian government and the Mounted Police (the Mounties) and the soldiers, families, and support personnel eventually spread out into the surrounding area, becoming what we now know as the city of Calgary.

Inside, we see recreations of a telegraph office and a house of the era. 

I throw Tim inside a recreation of the post's jail. Calgary's Palace theatre is recreated here and shows videos on the history of Calgary.

Tim and I board a replica street car before we have to leave.

With that, we're only a few blocks from the hotel where we go to meet up with a friend and have a beer at the little pop-up beer garden nextdoor.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved