On a recent road trip to Tuolumne County, California we were the epitome of Murphy’s Law. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong yet we still managed to squeeze every ounce of fun out of the beautiful destination. Tuolumne County is your front door to Yosemite exploration, Gold Country discoveries, and High Sierra adventure. We enjoyed both indoor and outdoor entertainment and when the weather wouldn’t cooperate, we found hot coco, delicious soup, and mac and cheese to warm our hearts. With accommodations in Sonora, all of Tuolumne County was at our fingertips. Find out how we explored, witnessed, and marveled at the beauty of Tuolumne County on our two day road trip.
The drive to Tuolumne County from El Dorado County wasn’t particularly windy or mountainous yet Athena still managed to throw up all over herself and the car. It wasn’t the best way to start our two day road trip in Tuolumne but we had to figure it out just the same. She had never been sick in the car before and we were driving in a rental so I wasn’t prepared. That was my first mistake. We didn’t have water, wipes, or anything to clean up the mess. Athena’s scarf was covered in sickness so I automatically threw that out along with her shirt. Her jacket wasn’t much better but we needed it for the rest of the trip so it would have to be cleaned.
I stripped off her clothes as she cried. I wanted to cry with her and throw my hands up in defeat. Instead, I reassuringly told her that it wasn’t her fault and we’d get her cleaned up shortly. With new clothes, and throw up still in her hair and on parts of her body, we drove to the nearest gas station. I stripped her off again and washed her with paper towel and hand soap from the bathroom. It’s what I used to clean the car as well so you can probably guess that the smell wasn’t completely gone. Thankfully, we had leather seats but we were greeted by the lovely smell of puke for the rest of the drive.
I asked for a plastic bag at the gas station and I pushed all the dirty clothes into the bag, tied it up, and put it in the trunk to deal with when we reached the hotel. After washing my hands and arms repeatedly, we got back in the car and continued on our journey.
We arrived at the hotel about two hours later. I drove slowly for fear of repeating our latest adventure but we still arrived well before our scheduled check-in.
I asked the lady at the front desk if we could check-in and she offered us one of the rooms that was ready. I grabbed new clothes for Athena from the trunk and we went in to shower. I only brought enough clothes for the trip and I’d already used three outfits in three hours.
With Athena finally clean, I brought the rest of the stuff in from the car. I washed her jacket in the shower and hung it to dry over the shower head. I showered, dressed, turned up the heat in the room, and climbed into the bed with Athena to watch tv and rest.
The staff at Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks Hotel were exceptional. They gave me cleaning supplies to clean the car and offered to help in every way. Even allowing us to check-in at 1 pm was a huge help. Our room was spacious and complete with cable satellite TV and free WiFi. It included complimentary full breakfast, free parking, and an onsite restaurant and lounge. It allowed us to settle in and see the rest of the trip with optimistic eyes.
We stayed at the hotel until it was time for dinner. Then, we enjoyed an evening of dining and games at Black Oak Casino Resort on the Family Floor. There were a few dining options but we opted for The Mill Sports Bar & Grill. Located next to the bowling alley with a casual atmosphere, it was the ideal choice for us. I ordered a hot bowl of chili and Athena went with her usual pasta. The staff served us quickly and our drinks were never empty. Our day was looking up.
We followed dinner with a string of bowling and I could tell that Athena was feeling much better. She happily threw the bowling balls and enjoyed the game. I was glad to see her smiling and feeling like herself. Excited about our sledding adventure booked for the next morning, we returned to the hotel to prepare and sleep.
Anxiously, we went to Pine Tree Lounge for breakfast before driving up to Leland High Sierra Snow Play. Athena and I were excited to sled at Leland. They have exceptionally well-groomed snow and a tow-up to bring you back to the top of the hill. It was a major part of the reason we chose Tuolumne County for our road trip.
I checked the weather as we ate our breakfast and it said 90% chance of rain. Not even snow; rain, and for the next four hours. I would love for it to snow and I’d be equally happy with sunshine but I didn’t want to sled for hours in the rain. We’d be soaked and cold and miserable. We decided to cancel.
Instead, we took a drive up to Indigeny Reserve, a hard cider distillery. I’d heard it was a beautiful drive and it was possible in the rain so we opted for a dry drive rather than wet snow play.
Athena didn’t seem upset about the change in plans. She played under a covered bridge at the distillery and found Christmas decorations that caught her attention. She loved the colorful leaves and putting the moonroof back to smell the fresh air.
She asked me if we were going to see snow on the trip so we took a drive up to Cold Springs to find the snowy mountains.
We found some! Athena excitedly ran for the snow and asked if she could stand on it. She’s only seen snow a handful of times in her life and it’s still magical for her.
Lunch at Mia’s was the perfect way to warm up after our short time in the snow. Mac and cheese was on the menu so Athena found herself joyful once again. The day was shaping up nicely. (Jump back to the Murphy’s Law comment and you know something’s brewing.)
A Christmas Story at Sierra Repertory Theatre was on our schedule for 2 pm. Based on the motion picture, A Christmas Story is inspired by Jean Shepherd’s classic American stories about Christmas – and growing up – in the Midwest. It’s one of my favorite holiday features and I was excited about sharing it with Athena.
The theatre was quaint and the staff seemed to step out of the midwest themselves with friendly, charming demeanor. Athena was a little rambunctious and I took a minute to explain my expectations and ask her to settle into her seat.
The production opened with Kevin McKillip as adult Ralph. His powerful voice rang through the theatre and his comedic storytelling was spot on. Athena enjoyed that it was about two children and I smiled at the references to snow and cold. As an eastern Canadian, I can truly appreciate the context.
I was enthralled by the performances but noticed Athena getting more and more fidgety. Was she tired? Was she too young for the show? Was something else going on? I really couldn’t tell at that point. She laughed at the jokes and watched the children on stage, especially when they pretended to be in the snow and at school, but she was still antsy.
By intermission, Athena had gone from a little annoying to most definitely annoying to me and to others around. No one said anything but I was the embarrassed mother distraught with my child’s behavior. She wouldn’t sit still. She was talking. She was banging around in the seat. At one point, she even “shushed” me. I was livid but confined to a quit room and an ever-growing annoying child.
Many of the other guests stood up for a walk or to use the restroom during intermission. I asked Athena to put on her shoes and told her I needed to go to the potty. She put on her shoes and headed toward the door.
When we reached the main entrance, I scooped her up and said we are leaving. I knew that if I did it before then she’d make a huge scene. I wasn’t wrong. She started yelling, “I don’t want to leave” and kicking to get down. Calmly, I held her and said, “you weren’t behaving well enough to stay despite my warnings.”
She was furious and it was difficult to even get her in the car. She yelled and fought all the way back to the hotel (thankfully it was close).
Once inside, I ignored her for a bit until I calmed down then I talked to her about her behavior. I was disappointed to miss the rest of a performance that I’d longed to see and in our afternoon-cut-short.
We stayed at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn’t until dinner time that we talked more about expected behavior and we got ready for dinner.
Dinner at The Standard Pour was exceptional and so was Athena’s behavior. We ordered a few small plates and appetizers to enjoy together. The Kobe Beef Sliders with Sriracha Mayo and the Sesame Pork Pot Stickers with Honey-Ginger-Chili Glaze were delicious and I’d highly recommend them both but it was something that wasn’t even on the menu that blew my mind. They served a pecan dessert that was as good as my mother’s baking on Christmas Day. I wished I hadn’t eaten so much before the dessert because I wanted to order another piece. When you visit, ask for the pecan desert and order it first so you have plenty of room.
Hoping for a well-behaved child to emerge from her grumpy slumber, we went to bed early.
We strolled through an authentic Gold Rush Town, Columbia State Historic Park, the next morning. It was all decked out for the holidays and a photographers dream. I only managed to take a handful of photos before the rain started heavily. Annoyed with our inability to control the weather, we got back in the car to head home.
We’d hoped to visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown and have lunch at The National Hotel, but with the rain, my spirits had dampened. Athena was behaving like the little princess I know and love traveling with so we decided it was time to begin our seven hour drive home.
Tuolumne County can be a beautiful winter wonderland, a fall colors delight, and a authentic Gold Rush town all within one day. It’s packed with mouthwatering restaurants, outdoor adventures, and quaint indoor entertainment. Even with adverse weather and poor behavior from my normally lovely child, we still managed to see the beauty and wander of Tuolumne County.