Part 3: Three Days of Play

Continuing the story of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 & Part 2 here).

Somewhere east of Sacramento – the city where the reunion was held – we passed the halfway point of our trip, miles-wise. So far, we were pleased with the EV’s performance, comfort, and the availability of superchargers.

Amador County, California

We were looking forward to spending the next several days with my brother and sister-in-law exploring Amador County – an area famous for gold mining in the 1800s, and now known for producing wine. The fact that we would also be celebrating both our anniversary and my brother’s birthday while there, was a bonus. Besides visiting a few wineries, our plans included taking a tour of an abandoned gold mine operation, exploring a deep cave, and wandering around several gold rush-era towns and historical cemeteries.

Like many retirees, we prefer to travel in the off-season. After Labor Day, the summer crowds have dispersed, and reservations often aren’t necessary. That’s the good news. Traveling after Labor Day, especially mid-week to smaller towns, can also mean facing “Sorry, we are closed” signs in shop and restaurant windows. More about that later.

Kennedy Gold Mine  

Kennedy Gold Mine headframe, where the miners were lowered into the mine shaft. Photo credit: my brother, Gary.

On our first day in Amador County, we took a tour of the Kennedy Gold Mine, one of the deepest mines in the world. Part of the tour included viewing old black and white films that showed the mine in operation. The mostly immigrant labor worked long hours in dangerous conditions. Despite the mine producing over $34 million (not adjusted for current prices) until it was closed in 1942, there was little indication that much of the wealth trickled down into the pockets of the laborers.

Although the actual mine was closed to visitors, we would have the opportunity to explore beneath the Earth’s surface the next day.

Black Chasm Cavern 

Waiting to enter the cave with the naturalist.
Stairs leading down into the cavern.
Just one of the beautiful formations we saw in the cave.

Not for those who are prone to claustrophobia or who have a fear of heights, the Black Chasm Cavern was a dazzling experience. The deep, cool cave, with its stalactites, stalagmites, and rare crystal formations called helicites, was the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the sun.

Historical Towns – charming… and closed

When we weren’t exploring mines, caverns, cemeteries, or wineries, we spent time wandering around several small towns whose founding dated back to the gold rush days. The main streets were quaint and lined with enticing shops and tempting restaurants. Sadly, because we were there at the beginning of the week, most of them were closed. Living in a big city, when everything is always open, this hadn’t occurred to us as a possibility.

Hours of operation were very iffy… and, sadly, closed when we were there.

Fortunately, we were able to find a nice(ish) restaurant that was open on my brother’s birthday. The next night, though, when it was our anniversary and their turn to treat, the only thing open was the restaurant attached to our hotel:

Not exactly elegant, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

I have to admit, although I have no recollection of what we ordered – most likely it was off their 55+ Special Savings menu – it was an anniversary celebration dinner that we won’t forget. Ever.  

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