Gold Launched Sacramento CA into the Headlines


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November 5th 2014
Published: November 23rd 2014
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The drive from Tingley Lake Estates RV Park in Klamath Falls OR to Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento CA would be about 300 miles and would take just over 5 hours according to MapQuest; however, my elective 1.5 elapsed time adjustment factor would make the trip closer to 7 ½ hours. Fortunately, about 225 of those miles would be on interstate highways with no side roads, traffic lights or villages where I tend to drive more cautiously and, thus, more slowly. I comfortably could jack up my speed to 60 or 65 on the Interstate, would cut 30-45 minutes off the trip time and would arrive at the RV park before the office closing time of 5 PM. (Despite getting poorer gasoline mileage at the higher speed, my fuel window when pulling the Pilgrim is much less than 300 miles under the best of circumstances so the time taken for a refueling stop would not be a factor.)

My journey south on U.S. 97 began under overcast skies that, fortunately, didn’t produce any rain for the entire trip. Shortly after crossing the California state line, I encountered an agricultural inspection station, and the Pilgrim underwent a cursory examination. My apple passed with flying colors! The unanticipated stop cost me about five minutes but not because I was singled out – every “cargo carrying” vehicle was inspected. I rounded a curve in U.S. 97 and found Mount Shasta was right in my face. Amazing! Apparently, I was not the only awestruck motorist, because there was a well-placed scenic vista a mile or two down the road. I couldn’t help myself and pulled in for a quick picture.

I caught I-5 in Weed CA and wondered if the town was named or renamed in the 1960s or 70s!!! I also noted a speed limit of 55 for any vehicle pulling a trailer. So much for 65, but I pressed my luck at a steady 60. As I approached Red Bluff CA, I decided to exit I-5 north of Red Bluff for food and fuel and then take a reminiscent drive through Red Bluff. In 1976, I was offered an internship in emergency nursing at the hospital in Red Bluff and spent eight of my last 10 weeks of nurses training in Red Bluff. The town looks exactly as I remember – NOT! The remainder of the trip was uneventful, Irene
A Floating Restaurant On The Sacramento RiverA Floating Restaurant On The Sacramento RiverA Floating Restaurant On The Sacramento River

Old Sacramento State Historic Park - Sacramento CA
Irene (my GPS)directed me to the RV park without fail and check-in went without a hitch. The park manager commented that I had told them I’d be there between 3 PM and 5 PM and said I couldn’t have been more precise, noting it was exactly 4 PM.

Plan A, as of early October, had me stopping in Redding CA and Bakersfield CA to be a tourist and then in Riverside CA to visit my cousin and her husband. Encountering so many attractions that were closed for the season after Labor Day in the other Northwestern states I had visited had prompted me to rethink my itinerary and plan a stop in Sacramento. After all, the state capital would have attractions that are not seasonal. I learned from the state web site that reservations to tour the capitol are highly recommended and found that the first available tour was in December! Oh well, so much for spontaneity! The state Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also in Sacramento, doesn’t require reservations and is as important to me as is the capitol.

Sacramento not only is the capital of California and the county seat of Sacramento County but is the focal point
The Cobblestone Streets Add To The QuaintnessThe Cobblestone Streets Add To The QuaintnessThe Cobblestone Streets Add To The Quaintness

Old Sacramento State Historic Park - Sacramento CA
of much of CA’s early history – the beginning point for the western end of the Transcontinental Railroad and the western terminus of the Pony Express. During all that, there was gold! When James W. Marshall found shining flecks of gold in the tailrace of the sawmill he was building for himself and John Sutter on the South Fork of the American River on January 24, 1848, everything in and around Sacramento changed forever. During the next seven years, approximately 300,000 people came to California (half by land and half by sea) to seek their fortunes mining for gold. Some decided an easier path to fortune was in the vending of equipment and supplies to the gold prospectors.

Those who came by sea arrived in Sacramento via the Sacramento River in what is now Old Sacramento State Historic Park – my destination on Thursday, October 30, 2014. I didn’t leave the RV park until about 10 AM, hoping the morning rush would be ebbing by then. This 28 acre historic district is perched, actually this country-minded fella would say marooned, between the River and a maze of freeway interchanges. Of course, Irene wanted to place me in the middle
All The Displays Are Interesting And Well DocumentedAll The Displays Are Interesting And Well DocumentedAll The Displays Are Interesting And Well Documented

Sacramento History Museum - Sacramento CA
of Old Sacramento and protested vehemently as I ignored her instructions and pulled into a parking garage. I lucked out and found a space with adequate room to maneuver the Ram about as close to Old Sacramento as I could get.

I walked around the historic district, stopped in a couple of shops and happened upon the Sacramento History Museum. The discovery of gold is not ignored in the museum, but the history of agriculture tends to dominate the attraction. Even the dredging of the Sacramento River to improve shipping and to create levees to prevent flooding includes an agriculturally-based footnote – the fertile silt was used to enhance the existing farmlands of the Sacramento Delta.

One anecdote I found interesting relates that during the 1920s, Mexican migrant workers began to outnumber all the other ethnic groups in the California fields. And there are those who would argue that the migratory workers issue was born in the late 20th century! When a small group of cantaloupe pickers attempted to organize to obtain better working and living conditions, mainstream labor ignored their plight. Indeed, Paul Scharrenburg of the American Federation of Labor is quoted as having said, "Only fanatics are willing to live in shacks or tents and get their heads broken in the interest of migratory workers."

The only group willing to accept the workers regardless of race, ethnicity or class was the American Communist Party which established the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) in 1930. By 1933, 67,000 members had participated in thirty-three work actions. As the capital of the state, Communist organizers were headquartered in Sacramento. The exhibits focus on the events leading to charges being brought against eighteen union organizers and the 1935 trial of those organizers. Very interesting.

Next door to the Sacramento History Museum is the California State Railroad Museum. Here’s a short heads up – watch the very well done orientation movie first. The exit point from the movie positions the visitor for a very nice, docent-led overview of the museum. From there, one can revisit artifacts and venues as desired. This museum is not as much about railroading in general as it is about the people and the events responsible for the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The completion of a railroad connecting the east with the west began as early as 1832 when Dr. Hartwell Carver embraced the building of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon. The discovery of gold in California in January 1848 had set off the California Gold Rush, and the number of settlers going to California skyrocketed. By 1850, over 120,000 settlers had arrived in California. In 1856, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives recommended the adoption of a proposed Pacific railroad bill by stating that, "The necessity that now exists for constructing lines of railroad and telegraphic communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of this continent is no longer a question for argument; it is conceded by every one.”

With the American Civil War raging and a secessionist movement gaining steam in California, the need for the transcontinental railroad became more urgent. After the secession of the southern states, the House of Representatives finally approved the Pacific Railroad Act on May 6, 1862 with the Senate following suit on June 20. It was signed it into law by President Lincoln on July 1. The act established the two main lines—the Central Pacific from the west and the Union Pacific from the mid-west. Other rail lines were encouraged to build feeder lines.

With steamboat service connecting it to San Francisco CA, there was little question that the western terminus would be Sacramento. Council Bluffs IA/Omaha NE was selected as the eastern terminus from three candidates on the Missouri River because it was well north of the Civil War fighting in Missouri, was the shortest route to the South Pass in Wyoming and would follow a fertile river valley that would encourage settlement.

The Transcontinental Railroad was constructed between 1863 and 1869. Survey teams produced detailed contour maps of the options on the different routes. The engineering team looked at the available surveys and chose the "best" route. Survey and engineering teams closely led the work crews and marked where and by how much hills would have to be cut and depressions filled or bridged. Coordinators made sure that construction and other supplies were provided when and where needed and that additional supplies were ordered as the supplies were consumed. Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was a massive logistical undertaking, particularly through the Sierra Nevada.

The manual labor to build the Central Pacific's roadbed, bridges and tunnels was done primarily by thousands of Chinese emigrant workers under the direction of skilled non-Chinese supervisors.
The Dining Car KitchenThe Dining Car KitchenThe Dining Car Kitchen

California State Railroad Museum - Sacramento CA
To carve a tunnel, one worker held a rock drill on the granite face while one or two other workers swung eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advanced into the rock. Once the hole was about 10 inches deep, it would be filled with black powder, a fuse set and then ignited from a safe distance. Nitroglycerin, which had just been invented, was only used to help construct the longest tunnel, the Summit Tunnel, which stretched 1,659 feet in length.

The Chinese built 15 tunnels for Central Pacific. Most of these tunnels were about 32 feet high and 16 feet wide. Some tunnels with vertical shafts were dug to increase construction speed. Workers would be lowered into the shaft and work outwardly toward the other crew. By using vertical shafts, four faces of the tunnel could be worked simultaneously – two rock faces in the middle and one at each end. Even then, the average daily progress in some tunnels was only 0.85 feet per day per face or 3.4 feet per day.

This absolutely is the cleanest railroad museum I have ever visited – I doubt there is enough dirt to make a smudge
The Irregular “Rip” Between the Granite Slabs Is PuzzlingThe Irregular “Rip” Between the Granite Slabs Is PuzzlingThe Irregular “Rip” Between the Granite Slabs Is Puzzling

California State Veterans Memorial - Sacramento CA
on a NASA white suit. The displays and the artifacts are immaculate and very well done. Cribbing provides a smooth transition over the railroad tracks. This museum is not only about the Transcontinental Railroad, but, to be forthright, I must say the Transcontinental Railroad (and the people who made it happen) truly is the focus. The California State Railroad Museum is highly recommended. Allow a minimum of three hours.

Monday, November 3, 2014 found me headed for the capitol grounds to visit the California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the way to the Vietnam Memorial, I happened upon the California State Veterans Memorial. The monument to all veterans of all wars actually is four granite columns that form an obelisk. Between the columns an irregular, jagged edge remains as though the columns were torn apart. I’m sure there is some symbolism fostered there, but I could find nothing to enlighten me (or you). Several images are etched on the granite commemorating World Wars I and II, the Mexican-American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. Surrounding the California Veterans Memorial are flags from the different branches of the United States Military.

My next
The Memorial Is A Fitting TributeThe Memorial Is A Fitting TributeThe Memorial Is A Fitting Tribute

California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Sacramento CA
stop was the California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Memorial is circular in design, and the American and the POW/MIA flags fly from a mast at the center of the Memorial. Inside the circle are five life-size bronze sculptures of service men and women depicting various aspects of life in Vietnam during the war – grunts, a nurse and a POW. Next to the four figures around the inner perimeter are engraved plaques depicting scenes from the war as well as the Bill of Rights and (at least portions of) the Constitution. In the center of the circle sits a figure representing one of the most important activities for those serving in Vietnam – reading a letter from home.

Outside the circle, the names of 5,822 of California's dead and missing are engraved on twenty-two black granite panels. The names are arranged on the panels by the hometown of record. A stand-alone index lists the names alphabetically. In an outer ring around the granite panels, stone benches provide a place to sit, to remember and to reflect. Visiting the state Vietnam memorials remains a central theme of The Great Adventure, and I have seen many of those memorials. The
Six Plaques Frame Each SculptureSix Plaques Frame Each SculptureSix Plaques Frame Each Sculpture

California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Sacramento CA
California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial is not the most unique among them; however, it is the most moving I have seen thus far. My hats off to the State, and my thanks to its citizens.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 found me taking a one hour drive to Coloma CA and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. So, so sad!!! This historic site, in my opinion, is one of the dozen or so most important sites in United States history. The discovery of gold by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848 changed everything in the United States – FOREVER!

The deteriorated condition of this historic treasure is shameful at best. If I were a California resident, I would say embarrassing. Placards are unreadable. Saplings are growing through or within some of the artifacts. There were no museum brochures at the pay station, as one might expect, nor was there any rack or holder indicating where the brochures normally would be kept. I suppose one might obtain a self-guided brochure at the museum – if one could reach the museum. In spite of a large sign proclaiming the museum is open, my three attempts to
Coloma’s First Post Office Opened In 1849Coloma’s First Post Office Opened In 1849Coloma’s First Post Office Opened In 1849

Marshall Gold Discovery SHP - Coloma CA
reach the building (where the sign was being shown – I suppose that is the museum) met with barricades or barrier tape with no detour guidance. Expecting to spend three to four hours, my visit lasted about 60-90 minutes before I left in disgust.

The only other stop I had planned for the day was at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown CA – some two hours south of Coloma. About an hour into the journey, I happened upon a Ma & Pa diner in Drytown CA and stopped for an early lunch. On the face of the diner menu is a brief history of Drytown. Once home to over 10,000 people and 26 saloons, the town’s population has now dwindled to 79.

After a nice meal, I continued my journey south – still fuming about my experience at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and wondering just what surprised awaited me at the California State Historic Park in Jamestown. I was well aware that I really needed to get the oil changed in the Ram before departing Sacramento the next day, so when I happened upon an oil change business in Jackson CA I reconsidered
It Doesn’t Get Much More Ma & Pa Than ThisIt Doesn’t Get Much More Ma & Pa Than ThisIt Doesn’t Get Much More Ma & Pa Than This

Marlene & Glen's Diner – Drytown CA
my priorities, aborted the trip to Jamestown and got an oil change. Perhaps some day…. From Jackson, I had Irene direct me back to Sacramento.

My visit to Sacramento was almost spontaneous. I had not prepared as well as normal and had not requested a local tourism packet. (California has no statewide visitor guide!) I had a nice time in Sacramento. The attractions I did visit (with one MAJOR exception) were great. It makes sense to me that, with 38 million residents plus tourists, a reservation system is vital for those wanting to see the capitol and that all the slots were filled well into the future. Disappointed, yes; upset, no. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the capitol but doubt that my next visit to California will revolve around such a visit.


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Sacramento History Museum - Sacramento CA
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Sacramento History Museum - Sacramento CA
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California State Railroad Museum - Sacramento CA


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