May 23-30, 2011 – Yuba City, CA and Surrounding Area

We left Oakhurst on Monday morning and headed Northwest to Yuba City.  On the way we stopped at a strawberry field near Merced and bought some wonderful fresh picked strawberries.

We are staying at Travel Home Park RV Park in Yuba City.  We are going to stay here until the 31st so we will not be traveling over the Memorial Day weekend.  It is a small park and our site is almost big enough for us.  They have no place to walk the dogs so we are walking them in the surrounding neighborhood which is enjoyable as there are flowers everywhere – lots of roses, honeysuckle, rhododendron and many others.  Almost every yard has flowers blooming.

There is not a lot to do or see in Yuba City and it rained almost every day, so we took some drives in the surrounding area.  Here there are less citrus orchards and more cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and nuts.  There are also a lot of strawberry beds and vegetable fields.  One surprise we saw was the number of fields of rice being grown here.  We found an orchard that has the best cherries and down the road bought some fresh picked strawberries, sweet onions and garlic. 

Wednesday we drove about 70 miles to Fairfield and toured the Jelly Belly Candy Co. factory.   The family candy company started in 1869 when the Goelitz brothers emigrated from Germany and bought a candy shop.  It was the invention of the first gourmet jelly bean in 1976 that brought the company international recognition.  Cute Jelly Belly Bugs at the front entrance.

We got to see how they make Jelly Belly jelly beans and, of course, sample some. They were making red apple jelly beans the day we toured – Mmm are they good.   They also make chocolate and gummy candies – over 150 types of candy.  After the tour we went to the gift shop and bought a variety of Jelly Belly jelly beans and some wonderful chocolate pecan and almond clusters. We also bought a big bag of Belly Flops, which are the reject jelly beans (too big, too small or wrong shape).  The Belly Flops are about half price and taste just the same!  There is also a café where you can buy hamburgers and pizzas shaped like a Jelly Belly jelly bean.  We had a great time here and it was well worth the drive.  Nancy leaving with our Jelly Belly loot!

Another day we drove into the Sierra Nevada’s to South Yuba River State Park.  The park runs for 20 miles along the South Yuba River and has a lot of hiking trails. During the gold rush the mining claims along this river were some of the richest in California.  This covered bridge in the park is the longest single span covered bridge in the country.
We also visited the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Grass Valley.  We got a wonderful tour of the museum and workshop by a very knowledgeable docent. The museum is operated by the Nevada County Historical Society and all the reconstruction work is done by volunteers. The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad began operation in 1876 to link the mining districts of western Nevada County with the Central Pacific railroad in Colfax.  During 66 years of operation, it hauled more than two-hundred million dollars worth of gold, along with passengers, mining machinery, lumber, petroleum, and merchandise.  The railroad also was the first in the US with a woman president and boasted the highest bridge in California for its day.  The outbreak of World War II, and closure of the gold mines, led to its abandonment in 1942.
Also in Grass Valley is the Empire Mine State Historic Park.  This hard rock mine was started in 1851 as the Ophir Hill Mine.  The Bourn family owned the mine from 1869 through 1929.  During this time the mine became famous as one of the most progressive and best managed mines in America.  The mine closed in 1957.  We took a self guided walking tour of the mine yard.  This building is the main mine office, refining room and assay office.  Rocks from the mine were used in the construction of this building.
This is looking down the main mine shaft.  The miners rode ore skips down this shaft at a rate of 600 feet a minute and ore was transported at a rate of 1,200 feet a minute.  This shaft continues for 4,650 feet with many branching tunnels, the deepest of which ends more than two miles from here and more than 5,000 feet below the surface. There were over 372 miles of tunnels within this mine. All are flooded now.

This beautiful English manor home was called a “cottage” to differentiate it from the other larger homes the Bourn’s owned in San Francisco. Rock from the mine was also used on the cottage.

The gardens in front of the house were beautiful with 2 fountains, a waterfall and reflecting pool.

The gardens in back were also very impressive with four landscaped tiers.  There are approximately 950 rose bushes on the grounds. Some of the flowers were blooming now but we are sure it is most spectacular in the summer.

It started raining so we decided to go inside the cottage.  After being admitted by the butler, we visited with Mr. and Mrs. Bourn and Mrs. Starr, the wife of the mine superintendent.  Inside the house it was 1905.  The house was paneled with beautiful hand planed, heart redwood.  Mrs. Bourn told us that this cottage had electricity and her house in San Francisco did not.  Mrs. Starr was excited because her husband recently bought her a new electric car.  Mr. Bourn told us all about buying a stove for the cook from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  They showed us the dining room, living room and reading room.
We also spoke with Katie, the cook and housekeeper.  She showed us her sitting room, her kitchen and the stove from Sears that was shipped all the way from Chicago - it cost $25, which included shipping.  She was also excited that the house had electricity and told us they also had hot and cold running water – again the house in San Francisco did not.  We also met the maid who showed us the larder and the butler’s pantry.  She told us it was nice to have the inside plumbing here as at her home she had to walked down to the stream with buckets to get water.
This is a wonderful State Historic Park with lots of history and beautiful grounds. We really enjoyed our visit and getting to interact with the historical characters.
We spent a couple of days just relaxing, taking care of chores and taking the dogs to a park so they could play in the grass.


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