Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Byron Hot Springs and other New Years fun in California

I've been really slacking on my blogging lately. I'm blaming Facebook. Anyhoo, when I haven't been working or Facebooking, I've been traveling. We were supposed to go to Crater Lake over New Years, but our workhorse SUV got damaged from driving in the snow and ice of Christmas week. Our temporary replacement rental car wouldn't make it over the snowy passes, so we (by "we" I mean "I") decided we should go to California instead. Specifically, we (by "we" I mean "I") decided we should go to my lovely (ahem!) home town of Tracy. It's a *long* drive from Portland--about 10 hours for normal people and 12 hours for my family, because certain family members (I'm talking to *you*, Tony) are incapable of making a bathroom stop that takes less than 20 minutes.

Goodbye Oregon, Hello California!
Goodbye Oregon, Hello California

Mount Shasta from the car window:
Mount Shasta through the car window

We did finally arrive, late in the evening on New Years Eve. I headed out to a party (Hey, it was New Years Eve. So what if I'd been on the road for 12 hours!), then over to visit a friend, finally dragging my exhausted butt back to the hotel at about 3 AM. We spent New Years Day in San Francisco and San Jose, exploring Fort Point (SF side of the Golden Gate Bridge) and the Winchester Mystery House. Fort Point was beautiful but windy and cold. The Winchester Mystery House is interesting but a bit too expensive for what you get. Still, it was a fun trip. Here are a few pics:

Golden Gate Bridge from near Fort Point:
Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Plaque in front of the Winchester House:
Plaque in front of the Winchester House

Friday was, "Janet plays with her friends day." First was breakfast with Diana. Then I headed out to Byron Hot Springs with John and his daughter. If you haven't been out there, I highly recommend it. Byron Hot Springs was a 5-star hotel and hot springs resort, a playground for the wealthy from about 1870 through the 1940s. Eventually it closed and was abandoned. The ruins are still standing in what is now a cow pasture. The building is reasonably safe if you look where you're going (i.e. don't step into the elevator shaft or any of the many holes in the ground - and watch out for cow patties even in the building), and it's fascinating to explore. Even the graffiti is interesting. There's also an abandoned house on the property, plus the remains of a couple houses that burned down long ago. I think it would make a great setting for a low-budget horror flick or music video. It was so cool that I went back again later in the day, this time with the family. You can get a sense of the creepy vibe from some pictures:

Front and side of the old hotel:

Stairway into what was probably the lobby:
(That's Tony and Corbin in the doorway and Jerry on the stairs)

Jerry sits on the main staircase:

Anyone need a potty break? Or a broken potty?

Some positive graffiti:
Yes. Yes they are. And this trip provided lots of evidence of that.

Creepy hallway:

Elevator shaft. Lookout below!

Kitchen and lobby area:

And then there's the surreal--how about a cow grazing among the palm trees?

If you're interested in the history of the place, there's a book about it, which I have ordered from Amazon but not yet received. There's also a short blurb about it in the Wikipedia entry for Byron, CA and a page about the site's use as an interrogation center during World War II. The current owner is a wealthy developer with plans to restore the place to its former glory, according to this article on

Saturday we headed back to Portland. Apparently the family learned how to speed up their bathroom stops, because we made it in only 11 hours. Let's hear it for efficiency!

Can I go back now? I'm tired of the Portland rain! Maybe I could camp in the old hotel...

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