A roadfood.com journey - OR to FL - 2
Day Two finds us leaving Arcata in a deep fog – it’d be rare to be otherwise. We’re taking Route 299 through the Trinity alps through Redding to Lassen Volcanic NP. I’m eager to invoke my newly gained status as a Golden Age pass holder – I just love that feeling of power, as I breeze through the park gate, financially unmolested, while all others fork over a $10 buck admission. Hey, there’s got to something now and then to level the playing field!
As we rise into the foothills east of town, the fog clears and a beautiful sunny day emerges. We couldn’t ask for better conditions to enjoy the unique beauty of this route, which will take us through some of California’s remaining wilderness areas. Actually, this road never gets too high, and presents no traveling difficulty, but you know that all you’d need to do to get your heart racing is to venture off to the left or right and disappear down one of those ubiquitous logging roads. We’ll save that for another day.
At Willow Creek, the Trinity River begins its co-joined path with Rt. 299, giving the traveler frequent and spectacular views. Recent rains have swelled the water levels, and many fisherfolk have emerged to play their part in the annual salmon ritual once again. We stop often to hopefully witness the battle, but it’s not to be today. As a potential angler, I’m afraid I’m all too easily reminded of a comment made to me by an oldtimer once; “10,000 casts equal one salmon”. Still, it adds to the ambience of this beautiful moment in time.
Not the least of the attractions of this route are the little historic gold mining towns along the way, many of which are stuck back in time, some well beyond the limits of the memory of us golden agers. I can never resist stopping at Weaverville, its anachronistic character draws one to a halt. However, during the three times I’ve had this opportunity, the town has always left me with a feeling that it was in the middle of a touristic remake. It is a town with infinite potential, but apparently lacks requisite visitors. This is, after all, a byway, not a route to somewhere. Nor is it near any metro center. Currently, both the Weaverville Hotel (1930) and the New York Hotel (1864) are in process of renovation, a condition shared by much of this gem of a town. We stop in at Mamma Llama (208 Main Street) for our mid-morning coffee, and catch up on the latest town gossip with the proprietress, who, noting that the pot is down to 1/3 full, tosses that and makes us a new pot (we northwesterners take seriously the quality of our coffee!). While the coffee perks, we learn that The Weaverville Hotel is in active redevelopment, but sadly, The New York Hotel, arguably the pearl of Main Street, is in limbo, and has been for more than ten years.
While some would consider this a failing, others would note the fact that towns such as this remain close to the surface of their historical roots. How many times have we seen such places lost forever to “Disneyfication”? BTW, our coffee, and the apple-crumb muffin we eat with it were better than they should have been.
We stop in Redding for picnic lunch supplies – a planned cost saving device we would soon tire of. Not only do we buy tend to buy more than we can eat or keep cool, but we consistently find the hard to locate tables well guarded by yellow jackets. Lassen, with its visually stunning terrain and steaming potholes, would teach us of another of our planning flaws – not allowing enough time to see everything. Although our schedule was loose, we did promise the relatives in FL that we’d show on schedule, so …, maybe it wasn’t so loose. We left Lassen knowing we’d only scratched the surface.
Given our research failures to come up with anything promising in Susanville, we knew dinner was going to be a challenge. So I dropped to the default position upon arriving and sought the advice of our innkeeper. Now, I know this is a risky venture, but my sense is that when you have nothing to go on, this is about as good as counting cars in parking lots. Immediately I knew I was in the presence of a tout, as he handed me a little card from the local Native-American casino for a two-for-one dinner. But he then looked me in the eye and said, “Not only will you get 2 for 1, but this casino gives out of town visitors $5 cash for walking in the door! Not $5 playing money - $5 cash! Besides that, if you’re a senior, you’ll get another 25% off your bill. If I were you, I’d go over there and have two T-bone steaks tonight. We do it all the time.”
With mixed emotion I must tell you that that’s exactly what we did – our total bill was $6+ tax and tip. The steaks were fine, and for $6 I can overlook the canned green beans and iceberg lettuce salad. But still, something inside of me keeps telling me that somewhere in Susanville there remains a worthy road food place that remains undiscovered. Please forgive me for failing to rise to the challenge.