Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Streets of Bakersfield"

Thur & Fri - Dec. 29th & 30th

On the road again, our first stop is Bakersfield, "The Country Music Capitol of the West", where we visited the Buck Owen's Crystal Palace on Buck Owens Boulevard. He sang "The Streets of Bakersfield" with one of my favorite singers, Dwight Yoakum. It is a restaurant, museum and theater, designed to look like an old west town with shop fronts, and windows into the shops on the inside where the exhibits are displayed. John decided to sit down and get to know a couple of the locals before we went in, but they weren't very talkative.

In the foyer was this bronze of Buck Owens by Bill Rains of Billings, Montana along with ones of Willie Nelson, Johnnie Cash and John's favorite, Bob Wills, the King of Country Music. Never heard of him? Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, probably before your time. I think he was even before my time. (Remember the bet, Mark, that cost John a keg?) Buck had 21 #1 hits back in the 60s and performed on the TV show "Hee Haw" for many years.

This car is mounted on the wall behind the bar. It was originally built as a gift for Elvis Presley by Nudie..."Hollywood Tailor to the Stars". It's been said that Buck won it in a poker game in Vegas in 1976.

It has long horns on the front, calf roping ornaments on the hood, six shooters on the front fenders, six shooters for door handles inside and outside, a rifle mounted on the trunk, and check out the upholstery with the saddle mounted in the center.

If you recognize these folks, you must be at least as old as me. Buck Owens, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Roy Clark. "Happy trails to you, until we meet again..."

There were many hundreds of pictures, but this one caught my eye, Jimmy Dean. Dawn has his song, "Big, Bad John" as the ring tone on her phone when her Dad calls. Yes, he was known for something besides his sausage. Dawn told one of her friends that he had died and she said, "You mean the sausage guy?" I suppose Paul Newman is only known for his salad dressing these days. What is the world coming to?

I suppose this is as close as I will get to touching my favorite guy, George Strait", although I have been lucky enough to see him in concert a couple times. They also had statues of Hank Williams Sr., Elvis, Garth Brooks and "The Hag". Merle Haggard is a local Bakersfield boy who started out playing in honky tonks here, when he wasn't in one joint or another. He and Buck shared that guitar-driven sound that came to be known as the Bakersfield Sound, a line up of #1 hits and an ex-wife named Bonnie Owens, also a local singer of note.

We drove about 40 miles southwest to Taft where they put up a new monument to the oil workers in 2010 for their 100th anniversary. The town was built for the workers when oil was discovered and named for President Taft. A lot of the streets are named for the presidents who preceded him.

The Oil Worker's Monument. They also have a replica of Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, that was built here in 1940 on the 100th anniversary of the original fort. It was a WPA project.

Back at the River Run RV Park we went for a hike on the River Walk along Kern River next to our campground. This is the scenery right in town. It is definitely oil country. I believe Merle Haggard wrote a song or two about Kern River and Kern County.

Now that's a tumbleweed!. John had to move it off the walking path, so we could continue on our way. "Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds..." I believe that's the Sons of the Pioneers, another of John's favorites, that you youngsters have probably never heard of.

On the recommendation of one of our fellow campers, we went to dine at one of the local Basque restaurants. Bakersfield has one of the largest Basque populations outside of the Pyrenees (between France and Spain). We drove through there from Paris, when John and a friend went to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. We stayed at a beautiful, seaside B & B in St. Jean de Luz. Remember Bruce? Anyway, the meal was awesome! It was served family style at big, long tables. There were bottles of a wonderful red wine, vegetable soup, ceasar salad, cottage cheese, blue cheese, salsa, baked pinto beans, pickled tongue, cold glazed carrot salad and fresh baked bread for starters. And it was all delicious! Then came the roast, carrots and potatoes. I assumed we were done, except for maybe dessert. Then came really good ribs, then spaghetti and then wonderful homemade french fries. And they would bring more of anything you asked for. Finally they brought the ice cream. To top it off, we sat next to some colorful locals and enjoyed some very entertaining conversation. The name of the place is the Noriega Hotel in kind of a seedy looking part of town, but I highly recommend it.

There are lots of things to do here in Bakersfield, theaters, sports, museums, wineries, orchards, farmers markets, zoo, etc. But we have campground reservations at Santee Lakes just a few miles northeast of San Diego, for New Year's Eve and the first week of the new year, so we are heading there Saturday.

Cheers to you all! And Happy New Year!


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