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.
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.