Wednesday, October 10, 2012

After the Goldrush

We flew into Sacramento on Air Alaska and took a van downtown to the Best Western Sutter House. After Victoria, Sacramento was looking distinctly sorry for itself. Nearby Stockton has declared bankruptcy and there was evidence that the Golden State has been living beyond its means. But who could resist the old town, by the Sacramento River, with its glittering railroad heritage waiting to be explored. Our first evening we strolled to McCormick & Schmick's for supper in the bar at the Elk Building. The downtown looks quite sorry for itself with its share of boarded up shops and the usual racetrack one-way streets. Sacrificed to the motor car the place is largely deserted at night. The light rail cars connect to the suburbs.

Next morning we sample a Jim Denny's breakfast in an old diner adjacent to our hotel. This is the authentic experience. A mountain of home fries keeps us going all day. Other customers are faced with gigantic pancakes. We walk a few blocks to the old town and the California State Railroad Museum. We split our visit in two in order to take the short excursion train ride. Coffee at Steamer's Coffee & Tea Exchange prior to departure. The museum tells the tale of the Central Pacific which built east from here to join up with Union Pacific in Utah, the first transcontinental railroad - a trip we will be taking shortly. I buy a copy of the book "Stealing the General" by Russell S. Bonds, which tells the story of railroad shenanigans during the American Civil War. We also visit the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware store, reconstructed on a new site, brick by brick, and the Wells Fargo Museum. Supper at the Capitol Garage, 1500 K Street. "You were hungry" says the waiter. Breakfast at the Ambrosia Cafe, 1030 K Street, sunday morning and walk to the Capitol Building, with its marvelous arboretum.
We walk on to the California Automobile Museum where we are shown round by docent Jim Whent. A Rambler convertible in the parking lot catches my eye. A special exhibition featuring vehicles from 1968 is well done with familiar auto magazine covers round the walls and an Austin America front and centre. We walk back to the Crocker Museum of art, an air-conditioned legacy of California railroad riches. Supper at Bangkok at 12, a Thai restaurant at 900, 12th Street, curry special.

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