I live in California’s Central Valley. It’s a long way–culturally, at least–from the hipness of the San Francisco Bay Area or the palm-trees-and-movie-stars vibe of Southern California. This area is hot and dry and conservative and poor. The bulk of the economy is agriculture-based. It’s not a part of the state most people think about much. And sometimes I whine about living here.
But the truth is that there are some great things about living here. No snow and ice, but I can easily visit wintry weather in the mountains. I can grow nearly everything, and there are abundant produce stands very close by. Our oven-hot summer days are also very dry, and in the evening the Delta breeze usually comes through, cooling us down by 30 to 40 degrees. And there are about a million interesting places to visit within about a 2-hour drive.
The other day we took a short drive–less than 45 minutes–to the tiny town of Knights Ferry. It was founded in 1848. Named after William Knight, who–obviously–ran a ferry across the Stanislaus River, at least until he was killed in a gunfight.
Knights Ferry has the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. It also has the oldest still-operating general store in the state. There are the ruins of a flour mill along the river, and the old jail still stands.
I love exploring old cemeteries, and the one in Knights Ferry didn’t disappoint. I love the “no horses” sign at the gate. My older daughter spied the 141-year-old typo on one stone, while I admired the lichens on another. It’s very difficult to read the lichen-covered one, even when you’re there, but I did make out that the man was killed while mining his claim.
The area around Knights Ferry is cowboy country–horses and cattle–but at least one local rancher has chosen slightly more exotic stock.
I know of at least one other person not far from me who has a camel, but this may be the only zedonk in the region.
Knights Ferry may be tiny, but it’s colorful. And I love how places like this give me ideas for my stories. It’s a good reminder that we don’t always have to travel far to find inspiration.
Do you have quirky places near where you live? Please share in the comments.