Friday, July 29, 2011


“Mark Twain wrote here.”

WHETHER WE TRAVEL ALONE or with children – especially with children – finding a pleasant place to ‘hit the head’ can be a challenge. The best pauses to refresh must be conveniently located, easily accessed, clean – flush toilets preferred – and well-maintained, and provide the bonus of something else to do once the deed is done.

It is best if there isn’t a candy counter, a soda cooler or a t-shirt rack on the premises as their absence prevents those can I have? arguments that so spoil a good road trip. It’s nice if there is something to do, something to watch or something to learn so that we can stay out of the car or out of the saddle for a few minutes longer. This cuts fatigue once on the road and leads to safer driving.

WHY THE MARK TWAIN QUOTE? Back east, that statement would read: “George Washington slept here.” Out west, particularly in California and Nevada, Sam Clemens did more than his share of newspaper reporting. This fact is lost upon those whose interactions with his work never travel further west than the Mississippi. His “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (published November 18, 1865) was set only a couple of miles south of this point.

A statue of Mark Twain greets us as we enter Utica Park in Angels Camp, California in search of another great potty stop. Angels Camp is located on State Route 49 about a half hour north of Sonora and about a half hour south of Jackson – both places where you may have overloaded on coffee or, perhaps, indulged in a Big Gulp.

The park is on the west side of the road. Access from the north is via a narrow one-lane street just north of the old Frontier Auto Supply – a larger white stucco building. The turn is easy to miss. From the south, after passing through historic Main Street, hang a left on Bush and you’ll find it.

Click to access text.
Stainless steel facilities are housed in a clean cinderblock building. Maintenance is regular and thorough. Outside, a granite marker tells the history of the Utica Mine. It is a brief and very informative read.

Not far away, a large jungle gym invites activity for the youngsters.  A stroll across the manicured lawn brings one to the shade of a huge Sequoia under which one might wish to cap nat. Picnickers are afforded a large covered area with tables and charcoal grills.

For those of us with more time, forty minutes will allow enough to walk both sides of the picturesque Main Street. If someone has to have a snack, this’d be the arena. If you don’t want to fight the battle, stick with the cool jungle gym back at the park.

The upside of making a purchase in town is that a fraction of the commerce will likely go to support such small-town features as city parks – especially important in this era of declining support for public good.

Rider buddy Jeff's 2001 MG Jackal with 104k on it.  Wow!

UPON LEAVING “ANGELS,” be ready to delight in historic footnotes and great vistas. Take your time. North on 49 takes you to the northern mines; south toward Yosemite. East on State Route 4 presents a rugged and challenging crossing of the Sierra, west through the foothills to the valley. You cannot take a wrong turn from this spot.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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