Sunday, May 7, 2017


Stumbling across the Carnegie Library in Bayliss, CA

Circumstance has dictated that once every two or three weeks, I drive from northern Sonoma County to Chico, California.  An aging mother enjoys her son’s visits.  The route from Cloverdale to Williams is pretty static, involving a good chunk of CA 20 over the top of Clear Lake and through the Coast Range.  Wonderful ride even after the first dozen or so times.

Once in the Sacramento Valley, a grid of state highways, secondary roads and gravel byways offers almost unending choices to get from point A to point B. 

Some routes cross vast rice fields that in the winter months are thick with migrating geese and cranes and throughout the rest of the year visited by herons and egrets. And other waders. 

Their reflection in the glassy, flooded fields against an azure sky (or a gray one) is always a delight.

Other routes split walnut orchards that in summer invite the passer-by to seek the cool shade and pause for a roadside picnic. 

There’s a great collection of long dead Chevy and GMC trucks near the intersection of River and Ord Ferry Roads. 

And lots of old barns both nearby and distant.

The old US 99 W parallels a frenzied I-5 passing through one-time bergs established as whistle stops along the old California Northern Railway: Maxwell, Delevan, Logandale, Artois, Grapit…

Boarded storefronts and tiny crumbling streets remind us of what once was. 

In some places, nothing reminds us.

Ten miles east of the freeway, CA 45 traces the west bank of the Sacramento River. 

The portions atop levees offer sweeping views of a riparian forest with peeks at sloughs now filling what used to be the river’s channel. 

There’s a nice little store in Princeton to stop for a beverage and a snack, a high school and an elementary school and a little other commerce. No working gas pumps, however...

Just north of town, the skeleton of the Princeton Ferry rests, pulled up to the landing where cars – including our ’54 Ford – once boarded to cross the river.

Glenn has a post office and little else.  Same with Ord Bend although a manufacturing plant churns out something at the crossroads. 

Butte City, Afton, Jacinto, all have pretty much come and gone.

Recently, I traversed the valley on Bayliss-Bluegum Road; Bluegum being the out-of-town spot where many young high school boys may have – or may not have –  “become men” after the prom or some other such celebration.  The motel there is now no longer a motel. 

Heading south on CA 45, I turn west.  Signs indicate the Jacinto Grange would hold a pancake breakfast on an upcoming Saturday morning, and if I miss that one, there’d be another next month.

The walnut orchards near the river give way to rice fields on the fertile flood plain of the Sacramento.  Lettered roads – “County Road S, County Road T,” etc – that are little more than driveways, lead to houses and barns a mile or so north or south.  Wading birds stand like statues in the still canal waters next to the road. 

Weed encrusted implements dot the field edges, coated in rust and field dust.

Then, just ahead on the right: a copse of elms or cottonwoods at a crossroad.  Perhaps something major?  I hadn’t seen a store, a post office or a filling station.  Not even a bar.  But I was coming to a something.

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant businessman and philanthropist.   Pivotal in expanding the American steel industry, he founded the company that would become US Steel.  By the late 1900s, because of his investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks, he became one of the richest people ever in America.  Palling around with the likes of English poet Mathew Arnold, English philosopher Herbert Spencer and American humorist Mark Twain, Carnegie’s affinity for the written word and the import of literacy manifested itself, first with the construction of a public library in Dunfermline, Scotland.  His efforts led to there being more than 3000 libraries built throughout the world with nearly 1700 built in the United States.  There’s probably one near you.  (Chico people, check out the Chico Museum on Salem between 1st and 2nd; folks in Roseville, check out the building adjacent to the arched bridge crossing the UP tracks heading north out of town.)

A placid white building, circa 1910, stands near the shade of those elms in what once was Bayliss. 

I stop for a look.  The paint is fresh.  The lawn is trim.  The hours are posted.  Serving the southern section of Glenn County, California, they’re still loaning books.  

Just not the day I happened by.  Besides, my library card expired decades ago.

I stand on the lawn thinking about the visionary accomplishments of this immigrant industrialist, glad to see that the fruits of his love of literacy still flourished.

What else is to be found by the casual visitor to Bayliss?  Not much.  There’s the store.

And an excuse for me to take a picture of an old truck repurposed as a source of power to pump water into an irrigation canal.  Or maybe it’s just stuck inside a cyclone fence.

A few miles further on, I come to I-5 with all of its frenzy and fury and high-speed, gotta-be-there-yesterday travel.  In moments, the Carnegie Library of Bayliss, California is a century behind me.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. stomping grounds. High School in Princeton, lived in Glenn (my dad turned the old school into our brother and his family live there now.) 4-H at the Jacinto Grange...first legal drink at the Butte City Bar...thanks for the memories.

  2. I always manage to learn something with your posts, thank you.

    Great pictures too. It looks like a beautiful route to see your mother.

    1. Always appreciate your comments and insight, T. It amazes me, also, how much there is to see and experience that, if we're not careful, we just whiz past...