Sunday 19th August

It took a few hours to drive to Sacramento from San Francisco, and then down to Elk Grove where Susan and Howie live. It was dark by the time we got there. Howie and Susan’s house is also occupied by their Mum and three dogs who greeted us for sometime when we arrived. It’s a pretty spectacular house with a pool and Winnebago in the back yard, the latter also being the guesthouse where we were to stay for the next three nights.

We were so impressed by the size of the fridge that I took a photo of Glyn next to it, it had double doors!! I’m pretty sure that most Americans wouldn’t find this unusual as I’ve noticed that in the USA most of their electrical appliances are larger than ours in the UK. The washing machines, tumble driers and freezers generally are the size of a small British terraced house, or thereabouts.

Another difference we’ve noticed between the USA and UK is the mpg on cars. The Yaris we’re travelling in has an mpg of 31.6 but in the UK we reckon it would be about 50. Howie and Susan had a far larger vehicle (I must ask what it is) and it had an mpg of 17/18.

Susan and Howie took us to a local pizza joint called Pizza Bell where funnily enough we had pizza and Howie and I partook in a pitcher of beer.

Later they showed us how to use all the stuff in the Winnebago. It is HUGE!!! The driver’s seat is an armchair and there’s a tv monitor to show the driver what’s going on behind. There’s a telly in the main area plus a tv in the bedroom. Along one wall are two two-seaters and a table then another seat, all of which can be extra beds. The kitchen area has a coffee machine, sink, cooker, microwave and pantry. As well as loo and sink and shower, there is actually a bath in the bathroom! And then the bedroom has a queen bed. The whole Winnebago has the ability to extend widthways and thus it was bigger than some bedsits I have seen.


Monday 20th August

Howie cooked us a ton of pancakes for breakfast plus coffee that is made one cup at a time. I had maple syrup with mine and Glyn also had bacon. What we couldn’t eat (and there was lots!) the dogs got.

We went to Oldtown Sacramento where we met Tracy outside the museum. The weather was the hottest we’ve encountered in the USA since we got here. The temperature was around 36 degrees or over 90 in American.

Sue took us on the Underground Tour where we learnt about the early history of Sacramento. It was made of wood and burnt down and then rebuilt, then flooded then rebuilt. At this point, the main buildings were made of brick and a decision was made to raise it by 20 feet or so. So each building was slowly raised on many jacks, a few inches per day and it took a few years to complete. Why they bothered, I do not know, it seems a long way to go about things, but it does leave us with an interesting underground tour to this day.

Tracy took us to a saloon for a couple of drinks where they served peanuts in their shells and the floor was strewn with the empty shells.

Susan then drove us to an Indian Museum that told us about the Maidu Indians who seemed to have spent most of their time peeling, soaking, mashing, soaking, mashing acorns so that they could eat them. I can’t say that the lifestyle appealed to me but it’s still very interesting.

We then went to Jess’ house where she’d prepared a lot of food for us. She had stuffed mushrooms and vegetable kebabs. There were various meats – Glyn can comment on that as I don’t eat meat. Jess said that her area was a bit ghetto (we were somewhere in Sacramento itself). She said that the neighbours had robbed them but it was ok because the home insurance covered it and she and her partner, John had just erected a huge (taller than allowed) fence plus installed cameras. The house was lovely, she had a massive barbecue and hot tub, plus a metal /German/ moose room with a giant saw for decoration!


Tuesday 21 August

Howie couldn’t sleep and so had been up since 3am sorting our breakfast. We had been intrigued to know what ‘biscuits and gravy’ are, so he wanted to show us. He made a veggie version just for me too. The biscuits were more like flaky pastry scones than the biscuits I know of, but very good.

Susan and Howie took us up to Coloma which is in the hills and naturally, very scenic. Tracy and Jess met us there and we were all given an hour’s lesson in gold panning. This was done in a long trough that the people in the gold panning centre had previously laced with tiny gold flakes and some garnet. Tracy was more overwhelmed at finding a garnet than gold as it’s her sister’s birthstone.

There’s quite a technique to gold panning, you have to scoop it and shake it vigorously. Gold is a lot heavier than dirt, rocks and water so technically, it should stay at the bottom of the pan. There are some ridges in the pan that should keep the gold from washing away. I say should….. I ‘found’ a fair bit of gold and placed it in the vial provided. There are no nuggets as these are removed before we start! The lady who showed us how to pan said that she did it a lot faster when in gold panning competitions, I was intrigued and had to ask, are there really gold panning competitions?! I was made to feel daft for asking, of course there are and there’s an English panning team DIDN’T I KNOW?

We then all went down to the river to try panning for real. Not so easy as we waded into the river that had loads of slippery rocks which blocked our scooping of the soil. But the cool river was awesome in the 36 degree heat. We kept moving the rocks off sections of the riverbed to get to the silt underneath, but I’ll bet that we’ve only moved the rocks back to where they were when the last people were trying to pan. Saying that, I did find a few tiny, tiny flakes of gold plus a fair bit of fool ‘s gold. Glyn and Jess also found gold and I believe that Jess found some idiot’s copper. Tracy found lots of pretty stones.

Susan and Howie then drove Glyn and I up to the Marshall Memorial. He’s the guy that first found gold in Coloma and failed to keep it a secret thus creating one of the greatest migrations in the world.

On the way home, we stopped by the Red Hawk Casino. I’ve never been to the like in all my life. The plan was to blag enough points to get money off food in the extensive buffet. Each of us had to join and receive membership cards, a pen and some playing cards. We then had to go to a kiosk to see how many free credits we could win to gamble. I got $15 worth, the point of this was to win points to use to get money off the meal. I have no idea how to use fruit machines or slots, so I soon lost most of my ‘free’ $15 and came out with 20c. Glyn had 4c and Howie had nothing. I think Susan was successful with around $14. Nonetheless we went for food and got $5 off a $14 all you can eat buffet – a real bargain as the food is varied and tasty. There was sushi, Chinese, American, pizza, salad, plus much more! Susan kindly bought us our meal too.

By the time we got home to Elk Grove it was getting late, just enough time for an interesting chat about politics, religions and comparing social issues in both our countries. Susan and Howie then presented us with a book on Bodie (our next destination). That was very thoughtful, in fact, they have been very generous and kind throughout our stay and Glyn and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting them.

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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