Playing Tourist in Old Sacramento

Tall ship in front of bridge, Sacramento

Despite the fact that we’ve pretty well worn a groove in the road to Sacramento since my husband’s first foray into vaping advocacy in spring 2014, there’s never been time to explore the city.

I’d had Old Sacramento on my “places to visit” list for years, and had even put the California Automobile Museum and the California State Railroad Museum into the GPS, but until I spoke at WordCamp Sacramento, we’d never managed to go anywhere but the Capitol Building, Vapor Spot, and Vapour House.

So my first visit to Old Sacramento was in the dark, for the speaker dinner at Ten22 this November. Old Sacramento is a difficult place to drive in the dark, not only because of the cobblestones (which are just as bumpy by daylight) but because the 19th-century style streetlights do not actually light the streets. There’s also a certain lack of stop signs at many of the crossings.

My husband and his colleagues had a meeting with the Attorney General’s office yesterday. We decided to drive up a day early and engage in some tourism. Naturally it poured rain on Thursday. We need rain, but it’s not conducive to walking around and taking photos.

Instead of strolling through Old Sac, we went to the Auto Museum (which was freezing cold and had leaks in the ceiling, though the cars are great. Stefan has a photo of the two of us in a car from the early part of the 20th century–maybe a Model T or Model A, though I don’t remember. I’ll post that when I get a copy of it. There was also an exhibit of campers and trailers, including some that were remarkably similar to the tiny and adorable mini-camper I saw at Hardcastle. (I thought I had written a post about that, but apparently not.)

Once we’d seen all the cars, we went for lunch at Ten22. I’d been impressed with both their food and their service at the WordCamp Sacramento speakers dinner, and they did not disappoint on this occasion, either. They’re very accommodating about special dietary requirements, though the menu warns you that your food will be cooked on equipment shared with things you don’t eat.

The rain had let up just a little after that, so we headed for the Sacramento History Museum to learn some more about the history of the era. This museum was in good repair and focused substantially on gold mining and panning. Sacramento’s population exploded during the Gold Rush after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, though many of those who had hoped to get rich quick ended up in different lines of business. The mill itself looked ready to collapse by 1850. I’m not at all sure I would have wanted my grain ground there, so it’s as well the place turned out to be good for something else.

After that we checked into the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, which is just across the street from the Capitol. I checked my mail and did a little client work (since of course a slew of client messages had arrived right before we left home). Eventually we met two of Stefan’s colleagues for dinner at Dawson’s Steakhouse in the hotel. The steaks are great and the wild mushrooms are amazing.

Naturally Friday dawned bright and sunny. Since the AG’s office didn’t need to talk to me, I headed out to play tourist and take photos, starting with a few shots of the neighborhood around the Hyatt. There was one problem with this plan: I hadn’t charged my camera recently. I did get a number of photos of Old Sacramento before the battery died completely, but I did miss out on a few possibilities.

Once I’d walked myself out, I stopped in the Railroad Museum. Himself isn’t that into trains, but I have always liked traveling on trains, and 19th-century locomotives are beautiful. It’s a really well-done museum, aimed substantially but not exclusively at children. Downstairs are numerous lovingly restored locomotives–including a prototype of the controversial bullet train.

There are also a sleeper car and a dining car from the 1930s that simulate movement on the tracks. They don’t make trains like that anymore, and they especially don’t make dining cars like that. The friendly docent explained that by the 1930s trains had competition from airlines and tried to lure customers by offering luxury and exceptional service. (This attempt ultimately failed.)

Upstairs are more train cars plus an amazing collection of model trains and a Thomas the Tank Engine play area for kids.

Since I hadn’t been able to take any pictures, I bought a book in the gift shop and headed out into the sunshine…only to be accosted by an especially persistent recruiter for GreenPeace.

We’d discussed having lunch at the Rio City Cafe on the water (the menu looked promising and the view is terrific), but ended up at the Esquire across from the Hyatt. There’s no parking to be found in that neighborhood, but fortunately the pass from the Hyatt still worked on their garage.

We headed home at about 2 PM and are both back at work today.

WordPress fangirl, ghostwriter, linguistic alchemist, podcast consultant, and accidental vapor advocate. Married with 2 cats.

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