Friday night, Erica and I left southern California for our whimsically slightly-planned road trip. I was a bit delayed getting to her house, but we packed up as quietly as we could (trying not to alarm the doggo) and started on our way to Sacramento (our first stop). As the I-5 alluded to our future, we remembered we had forgotten someone very important. We went back and forth on the issue, of whether it was right to call our friends at two in the morning to pick him up, but ultimately decided they enjoy our whimsy and made the call. We managed to get a hold of one of them to make sure the house was open for us.
We got there: the lights were off, the door was open. We petted the doggo, and took our prize.
The other thing we forgot – I had a cooler full of fresh fruit and veggies just waiting to decompose without proper storage, so we stopped by the 24 hr Ralphs and grabbed some ice. Liberace helped out.
[Liberace Ice Photo]
And after that, we were off. During the 6 glorious hours of night driving (it is the best), we ran into an exceptional amount of fog. We expected it to clear up after a couple of hours, but the fog went well into noontime. Being that I could barely see the surrounding areas, I didn’t want to stop for a potty break until we had gotten to Sacramento. As soon as we hit city limits, I looked up a Starbucks (I find their bathrooms are consistently more trustworthy than other establishments, and genderless, generally) and Waze detoured us about a mile off the freeway. As we were driving, I spotted a sign that said “Fairy Tale Town” and freaked out. Erica didn’t see it, and as soon as I got out of the bathroom, I went in search of this fabled land. I spotted another sign, and again, Erica didn’t see it. This pattern follows of the signs passing by before she sees them, and she begins to think I am imagining things.
That is, until we pull in to this absolutely gorgeous park. The mist envelopes a landscape of reds, yellows, and oranges so bright and foreign to ones used to a southern Californian park of evergreen and brown. I slow the vehicle as we pass by a set up for pony rides, feeling that we must be close, and certain that Fairy Tale Town can’t just be pony rides. As we continue on, I spot it – enshrined in a protective layer of green gates is this little town of fables. I park the car and jump out, to see a train with a red face, and behind that a giant’s sandaled foot. I run around spastically as I wait for Erica to get out of the car, and as I take it all in, I see this dense conglomeration of trees, flowers, herbs, and cobblestones before my eyes catch the sign “Rock Garden.”
Walking through that Rock Garden is like walking through the ethereal, magical experience Disney attempted to recreate with their Pixy Hollow presentation at Disneyland, except 100 times more authentic and more magical. The land was thick with moss and stone, blocks of rock etched out the walkway, and trees free of their leaves stretched their branches out in all directions. Within its depths were bright magenta flowers and long grasses, with bluebirds and hummingbirds flitting between the trees and flowers.
We finally make our way out of the Rock Garden, taking in the expansive park, with its calm ponds and beautiful fountains. We pass by an amphitheatre begging to put on a production of Shakespeare in the Park.
Feeling the bite of the morning cold and losing circulation in our feet from the damp foray into the rock garden, we find the entrance to Fairy Tale Town, which was closed until 10am. Feeling the end of this adventure, we stop for a few glamour shots with Liberace, and hop back in the car.
As we exit the park, the houses that passed alongside us echoed a history that is hard to find in southern California, and impossible to find in Orange County. We could not comprehend how gorgeous the falling leaves were – a sight we could only relate to through bishoujo anime or Stephen King adaptations. The leaves were bigger than our heads and so multitudinous that if no one ever raked, Sacramento would surely be buried in their litter. Piles of leaves lay outside every house, and for a southern Californian who only ever interacted with leaf piles at grandma’s house, I had to jump into them, dampness be damned. I regret nothing.
We took advantage of the spooky morning mist and hit up a row of cemeteries in an effort to find the Old City Cemetery, which houses the oldest graves in Sacramento.
Our first attempt took us into the Masonic Lawn Cemetery, and we found some neat graves there. Way in the back is an Asian couple born before 1800 who died 90 years later, but got pretty darn close to a full century. We found a couple of people who died too soon to be dated, whose life was only marked as “baby.” Many of the graves near the back died around the 1920s at the latest, but towards the center of the Masonic Lawn there were some whose deaths were before the turn of the century. Erica was drawn to the little graves, which turned out to be infantrymen. Directly next to the infantrymen was a plot laid out for what had to be a general, with a massive relief of a military leader on a horse. It seemed so strange to me that people should die for the same cause and be remembered so differently.
We stumbled our way over towards the left, and ended up in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which we didn’t realize until we moved our car over and discovered we had to enter an entirely different gate to get there. We drove through and found a lot of mausoleums. Lots of families with some real money, I guess. A good portion of the graves in this cemetery were newer, with the oldest we could find dying in the 1920s.
At this point, we wanted to go explore the part of the Masonic Lawn cemetery that we had missed out on – much further to the right. It seemed to be a series of gardens. We had initially avoided it as there were a lot of workmen cleaning the place up and landscaping, but our curiosity got the better of us. There were no roads that we could see to get that far over, so we parked on a right-most street and began walking over.
Immediately, we saw how much older this side of the cemetery was. Gravestones lay in pieces, markings were rubbed away by the test of time, and statues were losing shape. Erica hopped from statue to statue, admiring the work. More mausoleums lay this way, grander and more elegantly designed. Many of them had gates that were easier to look into. As we got further into the cemetery, we realized the gardens we saw were built over graves. We breathed in deep the smells of lavender, sage, mint, and freshly mown grass. We found a memorial to the pioneers, and some elaborate monuments built in their honour.
What was truly interesting about the graves in this cemetery, as opposed to ones I’ve been to on the East Coast or closer to home, is how important it was to those who died to remember where they were from. We are so used to seeing old gravestones commemorating someone as “mother,” “husband,” “son,” “wife,” “daughter,” for their love, or for their spirit. But the people who died in these cemeteries by and large were travelers and pioneers, transplants from all over the world who came to Sacramento to try their luck in a harsh world. People came from all over the United States, all over Europe, from India, from China, from the Middle East, from Greece, from Russia. They were all represented in the cemetery.
Erica and I split paths at some point, with her taking more care to look at statues and me taking more care to read the gravestones off the beaten path. We made our way back to the car, driven by a growing hunger, and stopped by at one last grave before departing the departed.