October 13 2010 by Jason Fogelson
We ate breakfast in LewMarNel's Steak and Spirits, on the grounds of the BEST WESTERN Station House Inn. The staff has been there for years, and they really pull out all the stops for hotel guests. Instead of the usual breakfast buffet, the restaurant features a real menu, cloth tablecloths, daily specials and great ambiance -- all included with the price of a night's stay at the hotel. The place is charming and comfortable, with lots of personal touches, like signed wine bottles lined up along the dining room's rafters. According to Jimmy, our waiter, guests who order a bottle of wine with dinner are invited to sign their empty bottles and add them to the room's decor. Some guests return year after year to visit their bottles, and to add to the collection. LewMarNel's Steak and Spirits also serves lunch and dinner.
No wine for us today. We had some serious riding to do. Instead of taking the easy, more heavily traveled route along US 50 to the north of the Sierras, we'd be riding out of town on Route 89, then on Route 4 across Ebbetts Pass, over 8,500 feet. The road through the Sierras is one of the more challenging and beautiful roads I've ever ridden. Constant changes in elevation, sharp switchbacks, low shoulders and narrow passes dress every mile. The scenery is stunning, the air is clear and clean, and on our day of travel, traffic was light. We made one quick stop for water in Bear Valley, a lovely little ski town in the middle of the mountains. Hydration is key at high elevations, so we were taking no chances.
After several hours of amazing riding, we emerged from the Sierras into Gold Country. We took Route 49 North to the heart of where it all started, historic Sutter Creek, "the Jewel of the Mother Lode." Sutter Creek is right near the site of the original gold strike in 1848 that started the Gold Rush of 1849, which lasted until 1854. The town of Sutter Creek retains the Old West facade of that heady era, but is now a very pedestrian-friendly little artsy village, with great local goods, shops and galleries. We had lunch at Sutter Creek Palace on Main Street in the heart of town, a former hotel and bordello with a friendly bar and authentic decor. We left our gear at the restaurant and walked around the village, poking around in the shops and galleries and taking in the feel of the place.
Our favorite little discovery was the Monteverde General Store Museum. The museum, which opened as a country store in 1896, is like a time capsule of a local general store from the early 20th century. The shelves are full of dry goods, hardware, and the other items that a small town store would have carried. The store closed in 1971, and has been preserved intact as a museum. Very cool.
After a few hours in the heat of the day at Sutter Creek, we geared back up and headed back south on Route 49, through the town of Angel's Camp and into Sonora, where we checked in to the BEST WESTERN Sonora Oaks Hotel. I was thrilled to see designated motorcycle parking in front of the hotel, and I pulled in to a comfortable space near the hotel lobby. We certainly felt welcome as motorcyclists.
I went for a quick swim and a soak in the outdoor hot tub while Robin got ready for dinner. We had every intention of riding back into Sonora to explore the town and find a nice place for dinner. But the hotel had its own restaurant, the Pine Tree Inn, and upon check in we received a coupon for a free beverage or free desert with dinner. Inertia got the better of us, and luckily, the Pine Tree Inn turned out to have a very decent plate of fried chicken on the menu. Yumm.
Tomorrow, a complete change of scenery as we head toward California's majestic coast.
215 miles ridden
Next: Day Four: Sonora to Monterey, CA