Last weekend we headed for Downieville which is in the middle of nowhere and the better for it.
It takes four to five hours to get there from Oakland: you drive towards Tahoe, turn left at Auburn and go for another hour. Is there anything better than tubing down the lazy river, charred BBQ chicken and gooey s'mores? They are the classics and can't be bettered (except for maybe the charred chook).
This was Labour Day Weekend which makes this post a week old, but life, wine and politics have intervened (there, I've found my gravestone epithet).
Lucky for us we were joining a long-standing group of three families who have been holidaying together since their first babies were born 13 years ago. Joining Anne and team is like vacationing with the cool aunts. They are organised, their equipment is in shiny good order and they take care of everything (except for the charred chook which - you guessed it - we cooked) plus they are oodles of fun. Kevin and I are resigned to being the weak link on this trip. Kevin always says about us: "Just as well we were born when we were. As pioneers we would have withered and died. " That's true, ask me to write a soul-searching 400 word piece in half an hour about the pros and cons of the Louboutin red sole - I can do it, I am your person. (Though in all fairness it's something I've thought through extensively - a friend uses a black sharpie to eliminate the red). But ask me to put up a tent, boil a billy of tea, put batteries in a torch and I will run close to tears. I just can't handle gadgetry or common sense stuff.
Speaking of labour, I wouldn't want you to think I am lazy. Setting up camp is out for me, but I can clean like a demon for weeks. Many summers I worked at a camp ground cleaning the women's toilets all day long, that's all I did. During the school year I cleaned house for the head of the law department where I was a student. One day the head of the law department called me into his office, I assumed to berate me for consistently poor marks. In fact, bizarrely, he wanted to offer me a top summer job as his research assistant, a position usually only offered to the A+ students. (I hated to tell him I had "collaborated" on my library assisgnment and was very vague about how to use the library). "But" I said to him "I have really bad marks even when I do pass" He conceded the point: "Yee-ees" he said " It's true, I normally wouldn't be offering you the job." " But"... he added, "you're such a good cleaner!"
We were staying at the Lure Resort right on the Yuba river. While the rest of the group took cabins without bathrooms and kitchen, we are wimping out with all the accessories. I am not the staunch kiwi woman I would like to be. In fact: I don't like camping. There I've said it. I wake up feeling exhausted and I don't like traipsing across the road seven times a night to use the bathroom.
Anyway the idyllic Downieville was named favourite small town for getting outdoors by Sunset Magazine, you can bike, hike, raft and climb; "this town welcomes adrenaline junkies". But this weekend exhausted by the start of school, I was quite content to laze in a chair all weekend, my only decision whether to have one marshmellow or two on each s'more. Or sipping a supersonic Gin and Tonic, mixed adhering to the rigorous two finger rule (scientific measurement of gin in the glass) invented by Arthur Brettkelly.
Downieville was a busy gold mining town and the first state capitol, but really best known for the fact that it was the only town to hang a woman. Even after the big rush a housewife found $500 while sweeping up her dirt floor. Choice. Housewives tips, my mother used to say when she found coinage in people's pockets while doing the wash.
It's the usual mountain town mix of age-ing Harley Davidson riders - look how precisely these German bikers lined up their Harleys above- lycra-ed out boy racers and the odd Deliverance character mooseying around. And of course the locals. Cindy, above, who owns the hardware store is one of the 325 residents, and she has lived here here off and on for most of her life. She has raised three kids here and her youngest is just about to graduate from high school with a class of seven. "Of course the kids miss out on some opportunites but they gain others..." she mused philosophically...I guess we could all learn something something from being forced to be with a very small group of people for a long time.
The others checked all the river and lake boxes: hiking, tubing, fishing and rafting around for hours and being very happy. I even jumped off the rock with the kids but I will save you the pleasure of the photos of my legs and arms flailing.
That night we did the Anne tradition of singing all sorts of camp (as in Cher) songs and doing the Chicken Dance. Does it get any better than singing along to Cher's Dark lady and trotting around the camp fire. No, Sir, it does not. Especially if you can return to a comfortable bed and a mechanical comode in the next room.