Every so often I get to play tour guide which is nice because that’s what most people think I do anyhow. This time around, I was the personal tour guide for noted travel writer Richard McComb. Richard is from Birmingham, England and flew out to California for a week to explore the region and, if I didn’t screw it up too bad, he’ll be writing some nice words about Sacramento soon.
So did I screw it up? You be the judge. Here are the top ten things I did with Richard:
- California Craft Brewers Summit Festival – What better way to start his trip off than with California’s largest beer festival? Plus, it’s only California breweries so he didn’t have to deal with any of those pesky Oregonians.
2. Folsom Prison – January 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of Johnny Cash recording “Live at Folsom Prison”, so Richard really wanted to see the stage where he performed. Turns out – without committing a horrible crime – it’s really hard to get in to a prison. When the state officials declined to let him in, we considered doing a “reverse Shawshank” but – in the end – decided just to visit the museum/gift shop instead. Still, there’s some good Cash stuff there.
3. Placerville + Poor Red’s – Richard fancies himself a rib connoisseur since he has judged bbq contests in Alabama, so I needed to show him that California literally does everything better. So we went straight to Poor Red’s in El Dorado, CA just outside of my hometown of Placerville. Of course, the ribs came through and there was the added bonus of the Golden Cadillac cocktails (or for me, a Brown Cow) which is basically just a boozey milkshake.
4. Lake Tahoe – Then I let Richard loose from my white-knuckle grip and let him go relax in Lake Tahoe for a couple days. He was surprised that it was at 7,000ft elevation and there was world-class skiing nearby. Someone needs to let the Brits know this stuff! Oh right, I guess that’s my job. Lay off me! I’m doing my best.
5.Marie’s Donuts – Marie’s is real Sacramento tradition. Like all good businesses, their hours are 11pm-4pm every day. Nothing like a hot Marie’s donut coming out of the fryer at 2am. Of course, I can’t stay up that late, so we went in the morning like old people. Still delicious.
6. Legends of Wine – It can’t just be all donuts & ribs all the time and it’s important to have balance. By “balance” I mean trying all 50+ wineries that were hand-selected by Darrell Corti to pour at the Legends of Wine. This event really classed up Richard’s itinerary, so I felt good about that.
7. The California Delta & Locke – There are some weird spots that a lot of folks don’t know about just south of Sacramento in the California Delta. The whole area is an interesting mix of scenic river views, orchards, roadhouse bars and wineries. Richard took about 500 pictures in the old Chinese town of Locke.
Then, as a special treat, I took him out for a Bud Light at Giusti’s where he marveled at the assortment of trucker hats on the ceiling. This is authentic tourism , folks.
8. Sacramento Burger Battle – The Sacramento Burger Battle championship belt is one of the most prestigious awards a restaurant can win in Sacramento and Richard was lucky enough to get to be one of the judges.
That meant he “had” to eat 15 burgers. As an added bonus, I tagged along and “got” to eat 15 burgers. Richard helped crown Empress Tavern the Burger champ and, man, that was a tasty burger.
9. Old Ironsides – There are a lot of very cool new places in Sacramento, but sometimes you just have to stick to the classics. In Sacramento, it doesn’t get any more classic than Old Ironsides – our oldest bar and the place where I spent most of my 20s watching local bands play in the green neon glow of it’s intimate stage. Richard got to take in hard-working local band 50 Watt Heavy and feel like a real Sacramentan.
10. Gold Panning in the American River– Richard had his heart set on gold panning since he was visiting the center of the historic California Gold Rush. Of course, he had no idea what was involved in actually finding gold, so I figured I’d take the lazy way out and just let him dip a pan in for a minute right by the monument that says “On this spot in 1848 James Marshall discovered gold…” You know, just enough to let him feel like he really did something. As it turns out, you don’t really have to put much effort in or have any clue what you’re doing to find gold in that exact spot. It only took Richard about 15 minutes to strike it rich…if you think like one tiny flake of gold makes you rich….which I do.
So those are the Top Ten things I did with Richard. I think I did a pretty good job as tour guide, but we’ll see what he ends up writing about. Probably none of this.
Oh and, before I go, here’s a photo of my dog wine-tasting at Boeger Winery…which didn’t make the Top Ten list but probably should have. I mean, a wine-tasting dog???? Adorable.