WHEN I LIVED IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY twenty years back, Washington Street boasted at least three breakfast joints, The Miner’s Shack, Wilma’s (nee: the Europa) and a place on the ground floor of the Sonora Inn. As things evolve, breakfast seems to no longer be the most important meal of the day and pastries at The Gunn House would have to suffice.
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Gold seekers from throughout the world flocked to the narrow band of rolling hills from 1849 through the mid fifties and beyond. They built towns of brick and timber, many of which have returned to dust, some of which are mere place names and some of which still stand as reminders.
The streetscape includes the abandoned brick general store with evidence of its conversion to electricity. Our heels echo on the boardwalk that may have been first constructed at a time when roads turned from dust to mud in a matter of hours.
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Oakhurst is at the southern foot of highway 49. On a whim, we skimmed along the ridge tops the route takes for its final nineteen miles. I hoped to park the bike under the marker reading California 49 with a rectangular sign reading “end.” There wasn’t one. There was that typical mix of brick and board buildings harkening back a century and a half. We lunched in Coarse Gold.
Over the ridges, skirting biker Mecca Hollister, we routed through San Juan Bautista, where Patty Reid’s doll resides at the state park. Names on the landscape are more Hispanic. The hills rolling, green and pastoral. It is understandable why Fr. Serra and his ilk found this land of milk and honey fit for civilizing. If one didn’t save a soul on a particular day, at least the weather would be pleasant.
Miles further, we connected with State Route 1 and, like Fremont a hundred and seventy years back, aimed for Monterey. A sunny spring day had warmed the coastal plain and the air mass above it lightened and rose. Furiously rushing in would be the cold, bitter air from over the Pacific. The winds of the San Joaquin became mere child’s play as we batted down 1, gripping the bike’s saddles in a manner we had not assumed our butts could actually grip, peppered by blowing sand, and greatly concerned that the next gust would blow us into the path of a passing Freightliner.
Gudde, Erwin G, California Place Names – the Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names, University of California Press, 1949, 1960, 1969, 1998.
Randy Boek (rhymes with “heck” or “wreck”) is a business consultant. He works in leadership development. He believes in the power of people working together toward clearly articulated and commonly understood goals. While much of his focus is on private sector success, there is much that he has to offer leaders in education and other public endeavors. For more information, see http://www.route2results.com/ His insightful blog may be found at http://randyboek.wordpress.com/