A decision to head toward the nearest Firestone garage ended in a 40-minute round trip, in which brakes miraculously “cured” themselves. Blessed be the Lourdes name.
Realize it’s been FOREVER since my prior visit to Calistoga (and then, mostly to see their “Old Faithful” geyser [see associated “page” 2007/05/29 for photos]), so a nice “walkabout” seemed in order.
(For those to whom “Calistoga” is but a brand name for carbonated water, a word: about 60 miles north of San Francisco, natural geothermal activity has been converted into an elaborate set of businesses supporting health spas. Thus, Calistoga’s “main drag”, Lincoln Avenue is a series of spas, resorts, and wine bar, tony restaurants, and boutiques required to keep clients from becoming mud-entombed prunes.)
Step into Visitor Center and confuse staff with a request for a “walking map”. DO manage to get directions, so wander up charming Cedar St, over to Washington, and back along Lincoln, checking out an “abundance” of Sam Brannan (Calistoga’s founder & first “salesman”) cottages.
Tree-arcaded Cedar offers modest, Victorian era thru near contemporary homes of colorful gardens and well-tended lawns.
That Russian tiny Orthodox St Sophia Church is not open, disappoints.
Along Washington St, very similar homes, but also a Ben Sharpsteen Museum which offers a historical sense of how Calistoga has evolved. (for more photos, see associated “page” 2012/06/21)
After lunch, head up CA-29 past Robt Louis Stevenson State Park (locale for his “Silverado Squatters” novel) to pause briefly in Middletown. “Big doin’s” at high school, as Amazon-sized young women practice volleyball with an intensity and force which challenges any thoughts of suggesting them to be “the weaker sex”. Pause at their Senior Center for some post-luncheon discussion with retirees sharing their latest medical diagnosis and their disappointment that contemporary politics seems unable to “reinstall” an “America” vision they continue to love deeply.
(Remain intrigued by its Cowpoke Cafe, and remember fondly a funky sculpture garden out in their Trailside Nature Preserve [for more photos, see associated page 2007/05/29])
Continue up CA-29 to rummage through Lower Lake’s charming old Schoolhouse Museum. (A bit more upscale than the two-story, two-room Jarretttown/PA schoolhouse in which, with grades 1-4 on the ground floor and grades 5-8 a level above, Miss Royahn dutifully taught me A-B-Cs.)
Their Lower Lake County Park, just north of Main St, looks to be a great picnic, or reunion site, but, no camping facilities. Am almost out-of-town before noticing CA’s smallest jail.
Shift onto farm field lined CA-53 and then onto CA-20 over to Williams where I-5’s heavy truck traffic wipes away images of 19th (or even 20th) century rhythms.
Spend an hour traipsing around near-empty streets in Willows: a charming Civic Center, murals anchoring a small parking lot, a Carnegie-gift library converted to historical museum… but, it’s the unintended irony of an F W Sweet mortuary which captures my irreverent, Jackie Gleason influenced attention (Again, for more photos, see associated page 2012/06/21]
Being a Taurus purist, abjure I-5 for more rustic CA-99W to get up to Orland.
Having visited Orland’s Heritage Park some years back err by not “re-visiting” (yeah, ‘spect, as it’s late in the day & it’s not as tho there is not already a cache of memories imprinted), but do take a short stroll through its tiny downtown. Driving to exit, mosey about a bit further into “neighborhoods” am am astounded at a number of churches seemingly excessive for Orland’s physical size. (Again more photos, see associated page 2012/06/21)
Again, laid-back CA-99W provides a relaxed entry into “Olive Capital” Corning. Having explored it before ( see associated page 2008/08/04, for more photos), am surprised to find that, while my attention drifted, they’d put up this brand new historical train depot (as a wannabe train buff, to have missed a depot w/a control tower would be an admission of serious malfeasance).
But, enough activity for one day. Time to eat, sleep, and make wary.