Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Downieville 2011 - What's not to like?

The Downieville show, much like the Canyonville Oregon show, has earned it's own nickname. Friends and "family" these days just call it D'ville .

And the answer to "What's not to like?" is simple and to the point. Absolutely nothing~ It's all good! Nestled in the highest of the High Sierras, Downieville is the ideal location for one of the west's premier bottle shows and get togethers. The shows slogan should be, "step back in time". That hits the nail on the head.

Deb, my wife, had never made the trek, despite the fact that I've been a regular from day one. This year, as full retirement fast approaches, I put my foot down. Make time, reschedule one of the labs that you teach, and lets go forward, into the past. And much to my surprise, she did.

The drive from J'ville to D'ville is wondrous. We head out of our 1851 Oregon gold rush town, drive for about a half hour on back country roads and then blast into the present on Interstate 5. Barreling south at well over a mile a minute, we rocket to Corning in record time. From Corning we head southeast, stopping briefly in Chico at Trader Joes (priorities...), finally arriving in Oroville for both people and truck refueling. And then the regression begins. Lazy one lane roads meander through the scrub oaks and Jeffery Pines as we wander eastward through the Sierra Foothills. As we cross the dam at Bullard's Bar, a wondrous transformation takes place and we emerge in the High Sierras. Sugar pines, yellow pines and tall cedars replace the lowland vegetation. The air is clearer, cleaner, crisper and bluer. Before we know it, we turn left on Hiway 49 and trek north as the North Yuba River dances downstream, outside the passengers side window. And then suddenly we round the last bend. Magically, we return to the past in J'villes California counterpart. Downieville aka "D'ville", ca. 1849. We've arrived. Forward into the past.

It's around 4PM and it's 90ish and change; warm, real warm, by D'ville standards. As Tim, Rick and Lou dealt with setup logistics, we decided to wander around town for a bit. Talk about dejavu. Downieville, like Jacksonville, is akin to turning the pages of a Norman Rockwell book of prints. History is around every corner. Well preserved and restored historic buildings abound. Friendly folks smile and say hi~. Local dogs meander, kids play, fisherman try their luck at the river and the mountain bikers slowly come back in to roost. With an hour to kill before things start getting into gear over at Simiville, we decide to check into our home away from home for the weekend.

Located just before the iron bridge as Hwy. 49 crosses over the Downie River, the Carriage House Inn perches on the west bank on Commercial Street. It's cute, it's clean, it exudes personality. And Liz, the "sole proprietor", is wonderful. She's perky, attentive, and a great conversationalist; (not to mention very attractive). We were fortunate to be assigned room #3. It has a private bath, queen bed, microwave / refer, a leather sofa, and a balcony overlooking the river. Wonderful for kicking back and taking in the D'ville late summer afternoon.

Around 5:30 we decide to migrate upslope to prospect for a party. We stopped to check our pans about a quarter mile up Main Street. We'd heard that a serious pay streak was rumored to have been discovered on the grounds of the old D'ville Brewery. Man did we hit the mother load there! There were "prospectors" from all over the west congregated.

Wil and Jeanne Clark had the 49 Wines tasting booth set up. Standing room only. Wil has been a great mentor to those of us that enjoy wine, but still need to polish up on the finer points of appreciation.

Much like the rendezvous of 150 years ago, bottle prospectors came together to enjoy a night of festivities that will not soon be forgotten. As always, the food was simply awesome! Memorable snapshots include the ever present karaoke inside the Simiville Saloon, which started with  a couple of the ladies (L & J) bursting forth with a rousing rendition of Love Shack. Followed by a couple of the ladies (J & L) bursting forth with yet another rousing rendition (or two) of Love Shack. Lane, not to be outdone, proceeded to test the theory of gravity. Yep, Newton was right. And gravity still works just as good these days. Rick and I visited outside while the gang inside put Simi's framing abilities to the ultimate test. The '06 S.F. Earthquake could not have rocked the Simiville Saloon any harder. And yet, it stayed on it's foundation. No small tribute to the master builder!

As the evening progressed, we spent time mixing with as many friends and fellow collectors as the hours allowed. Slowly, close to midnight, the crowd began to run out of gas and we all migrated back to our homes away from home for the evening. I'm sure my thoughts were mirrored by everyone else. What a great get together! The hours flew by; the evening over too soon.

Debs cell phone alarm went off early, way early, like 5:30AM early! Nothing like a technologically advanced four year old grand daughter to get your morning off to an early start. Remind us never again to ask "Alli" how to program the alarm before leaving on a trip; at least not until she's a teenager and wants to sleep until noon...

Wide awake (well sort of), we begrudgingly crawled into action. Shower, shave, Advil... and a banana washed down with coffee. Frankly, I don't recall a thing about the early morning, although somehow the racks got set up, the whiskies arranged, and folks started stuffing money in my hand in exchange for bottles. Around nine AM things started to gel again and I thought, heh, this is all good. Especially after Ferd was kind enough to snap a digital of me with the flash locked in the off position. I owe him big time~

The show saw a steady flow of folks through the doors starting early on. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest and sales of common stuff off my table like Sarsaparillas, Dr. Kilmers, cures, remedies, and the like. Sure, I had them priced cheap but at least there seems to be a renewed interest in entry level bottles by folks (both young and not so young).

And there was also an obvious interest in the top end of bottles as well. Here's a list, down and dirty, of some of the all stars that changed hands; Dr. Bell's Cocktail (?) Bitters shaped like a bell, 3- Dingens Napolean Cocktail (?) bitters - shaped like a banjo, Salutarius bitters SF in dark green, GO Blakes, J. Moore / Chielovich, Old Woodburn, California Clubhouse and an ST Suits, an Old Cabin Bitters in light amber, a yellowish Wormers pint, a couple of Tea Kettles, a complete and matching set of cobalt Carters Cathedral inks,plus God knows what else... By the time the dust settled, a healthy six figures in top end antique glass had changed hands in one day. Sounds like a new fangled gold rush to me.

Fast forward to Saturday evening and a renewed chance to relax at yet another BBQ. And once again, both food and conversation flowed. Being somewhat adventurous, I took a chance on a sausage that intrigued me. Rick mentioned that Tim had supplied it and it wasn't just your basic off the shelf Johnsonville Braut. Hmm, what a nice surprise. It looked like something I'd enjoy, since I'm well known in J'ville for creating my own brands of "Silva's sausage". Warren, sitting next to me, tried the same.  After a couple of bites, the real surprise set in. This wasn't just any sausage; it was nuclear sausage. Sweat poured out - beer and wine poured in. It wasn't enough. The heat just kept cranking. @#$%  ^*!!!! I felt like the star of Man vs. Food, and the food was winning; in a big way! Higgins, we owe you.

Saturday AM greeted us with the sounds of the Downie River gently gurgling past our room and continental breakfast on the verandah. A couple of trips to the truck, another brief chat with Liz, room checked out, keys turned in, and we were on the road again.

I thought that we'd try a different route on the way home. It was pretty, and pretty long~ Please remind me next year not to take the "shortcut" home via 49 to 89 to 70 to 36 and down into Red Bluff next year. (What the hell was I thinking?) 8+ hours home. Almost makes the Bullard's Bar to Oroville drive look like a cake walk...

Late afternoon finally saw us crawling down the long dusty gravel lane up to our place. Full of great memories of the D'ville weekend that we dream about every year.

Two simple words describe the show;
Great Job!


J.F. Cutter Extra said...

Fantastic write-up K.G.!

Your right -- there was nothing not to like about the show! Great Job by the D-Ville Crew = Great times for show attendees!

Mike Dolcini said...

Sad to have missed it but the weekend chosen is taken up every year by a preplanned event. Any weekend other than the week after Labor day would be fine.

Golden Plantation said...

Great article Bruce! Thanks for taking the time to write it. Hey If you can't handle the bad karaoke get outa the Saloon! "he he" That's how us girls get our ya ya's out after cooking & setting things up for the show. Hope we didn't scare Deb & you guys had a good time. C ya next month, Leisa

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