Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Roaming the Rust Belt (2017)

Road and rail

I managed to find a traditional diner that was open for breakfast on Sutter Creek's Main Street. As I ate and thought over the day ahead, I realised two things: first, with my journey home starting on Tuesday, this would be my last full day of sightseeing; and secondly, my planned programme was once again based solidly on driving Highway 49. (Did this make me a 'forty-niner'? Nope, didn't think so!)

After checking out of my hotel I set course for Murphys (formerly Murphy's Camp), around 40 miles away to the southeast, using a combination of Highways 49 and 4. A former gold-rush settlement, the local economy is now firmly based on wine production. Murphys is an affluent community, known locally as the Queen of the Sierra. It amused me that it was officially designated a village, yet the place was only slightly smaller than Nevada City.

Next, I again moved on in a southeasterly direction for the short drive to Columbia, a small town where the historic downtown area has been made into a California State Historic Park. The central area, which operates as a working open-air museum with staff dressed in period costume, has also been recognised at US level.  Hopefully the combined attention from state and national governments will ensure that the town's surviving gold-rush-era features are properly preserved well into the future. Simply because of the way that the day's timings were working out in practice, I chose to make Columbia my lunch stop before moving on.

Next on the list was a visit to Jamestown, the second stop on the combined Rust Belt / Gold Country trip to bear this name. (The first was Jamestown, New York.) My plans here were twofold: take a quick walk along the 'main drag' and then visit the second California State Historic Park of the day, Railtown 1897.

ABOVE: A stroll along Main Street in Jamestown
BELOW: My visit to Railtown 1897

With all of the above under my belt, I made my way to my final US overnight stop, on the outer edge of Sonora. As I settled in for the night, I took time to contemplate the trip that was rapidly drawing to a close. Bruce and I had started out in an area that was nowadays probably best known for its economic decline, and then I had moved on for a flying visit to a state which, if it were suddenly to declare independence from the USA, would instantly have one of the top ten national economies in the world. But the focus of my western mini-adventure was the Gold Country, a part of California that had itself experienced boom and bust long before anyone had heard of the Rust Belt, and had clearly managed to find its feet again. Perhaps the target area for the second part of my trip could provide some inspiration and comfort for the larger swathe of territory back east that is currently undergoing economic decline.

My journey home was split over the following three days: returning my Ford Focus to the rental company at San Francisco International Airport, then experiencing Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for the first time as I returned to the UK, and finally with a short hop northwards to Edinburgh to bring to a close yet another fabulous trip.

Monday 04 Dec

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