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September 08, 2009

Help me kill seven hours in Jamestown?

Normally, when people go on vacation, they have a great or not so great time, maybe solicit advice about where to have dinner or where the best hiking is in the area, then put up the pictures on Facebook, and that's that. Move on. Back to real life.

They don't make a big deeeeal about it. They don't go on and on about how they stopped for ice cream and how they were undecided between cookies & cream and mint chip, but finally did decide and didn't regret their choice.

And they certainly don't announce, "Look at me! I asked for directions to the museum!"

But then, most people are not bloggers.

And most bloggers don't write about asking for something daily (now almost daily).

So if you choose to read on, here's what you'll get, no more, no less: an account of how I asked my way from a boring day to an absolutely marvelous one, in the heart of California's Gold Country.


Mr. A and I drove up to Northern California for the long weekend at his behest, since he was completely overwhelmed with work. He was craving mountains and wilderness, after poring through mountains of reports all week. And I was game. Nature, blue jays, a cute B&B -- works for me.

We settled on a region based on where we could find lodging for three nights on very short notice. This area, between Yosemite, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, is like agate next to gold -- raw beauty, easily overlooked next to its brighter neighbors.

On the first day, we hit up the Stanislaus National Forest and hiked our way through a breathtaking stretch of land called Kennedy Meadow. The second day, we ventured to a tougher trail that led to a pair of lakes surrounded by a noisy gaggle of children jumping of cliffs into the icy water. Watching those children leap with abandon and egg each other on to race across the lake, I felt like I'd stepped back into a simpler time. Maybe 1920, after the cloud of war had passed and things seemed promising for the first time in a long time. I lay down on a hot rock and as the breeze rushed against my sweaty neck, I felt lucky to be alive.

The third day, Mr. A was ready for more. He'd eyed a strenuous hike that involves some four legged crawling up steep inclines. I decided to pass. So he dropped me off in Jamestown, an old gold rush settlement we had passed through on our first morning. Its Main Street, dating from the 1890s and lined with small shops, seemed like a perfect way to pass the day.

"Are you sure you're going to be okay here for so long?" he checked.

"Yeah! Totally. I have a laptop, there's a bookshop. I'll be fine. Take your time."

Before he left at 11, we set the rendezvous for 6. And then it hit me.

One street. A dozen shops. One cafe.

What the hell would I do there for seven hours?

I walked into a bookstore and bought A Hundred Years of Solitude for $3. It took me about 45 minutes to pick out the book, because first I leafed through 20 others.

Then I entered an antique and garden goods shop called La Petite Maison (which happens to have a nice online store). I took my sweet time, fingering cool magnets, picking up clocks to see how heavy they were, turning over hourglasses, touching soft blankets, smelling soaps. Finally I approached the counter and asked about one of the products.

The saleswoman mentioned she was having a calm moment in a busy day.

"I'm in no hurry, either," I replied. "I have a lot of time today."


"I'm going to be in town for seven hours," I continued. "What would you do here for seven hours?"

"Good lord! You're stuck in Jamestown?" (Not her exact words, but close enough.)

"Not stuck, I wanted to come here. My boyfriend is doing a heavy duty hike and I decided to take it easy, but I'm not sure what to do from here. Do you have any ideas?"

Did she! I could go antiquing, since that was the town's specialty. I should visit the railroad state park and ride the steam train. I could get a facial! Did I want a facial or a pedicure? Did I want her to call her friend who has a salon down the street?

"How about a manicure?" I replied.

She called her friend, set up my appointment for 2.

The rest of the day flew by. I rode a train from 1922 and lifted old iron welding tools in the railroad foundry to see how heavy they were. I got a manicure, which is a rare treat for me. I ambled up and down Main Street, stopping in antique shops along the way. I sat under a tree and read Marquez. I ate ice cream.

But I will spare you the play by play of how I decided which flavor to go for. Would hate to bore you with gratuitous details.

Results: A lovely day in Jamestown, thanks to the woman at La Petite Maison.

[pics courtesy of Bonita Jamaica and Western Mining History.]
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