Recently, in order to break out of the rut, my wife and I scooped up the dog and went for a drive.  The last such drive sent us to Timbuktu.  Our destination would be a little town with a big history.  Rough and Ready, California.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready
(excerpted from

By the late 1840s, the population of the town of Rough and Ready had exploded to over 3,000.  The town suffered the effects of general lawlessness and a growing resentment for the government having imposed a Mining Tax on all claims.  On April 7th, 1850, a mass meeting of the townfolks was called to propose seceding from the Union.  The town  reacted by shaking its collective fist at the government with all its taxes and non-existent law and order.  The Great Republic of Rough and Ready was formed that day as a free and independent republic.  In the heat of the rebellion, they elected Col. E.F. Brundage as President. The new President issued Brundage’s Manifesto, which read in part: “We…deem it necessary and prudent to withdraw from said Territory (of California) and from the United States of America to form, peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must, the Great Republic of Rough and Ready.” Along with his Secretary of State, Justice of the Peace Hans Q. Roberts, they signed a constitution similar to that of the United States.

The Great Republic of Rough and Ready lasted only three months as one of the world’s smallest nations.  On July 4th, swept by a patriotic fervor, maybe feeling a little guilty (and possibly, according to some accounts, reacting to the refusal of Nevada City and Grass Valley saloons to sell liquor to the “foreigners” from Rough and Ready) another meeting was held.  The town gave resounding consent to immediately rejoin the Union.  Old Glory went up the flagpole and the whole episode slipped into history.

Today, the town boasts 963 souls (2010 census) and a highly skilled fire department as well as California Historical Landmark #294.  In addition to this there is wonderful re-creation of what I presume are highlights of the town in it’s glory days.

Wonderful, just what the doctor ordered for those cabin fever blues.  We’ll stop for a little photo op and just enjoy what this once sovereign nation has to offer.  This is where the unusual begins… right out of the Twilight Zone.

I see no obvious place to park, but then we’re on the highway through town.  I quickly slow down proceed down the drive on the left.  Immediately upon turning into this drive I spy that foreboding sign which says, “Private Property – No Trespassing”.  I look DOWN to the re-creation and it is indeed DOWN – there are no roads leading in and none leading out.  This photo was taken (not by me) at ground level.  It is at least 12 feet DOWN over the rock embankment to even enter this area by foot.

Being the conscientious tourist, I made my 5 point turn to get out of the private driveway.  Fully expecting we did not pass the parking area, we drive further down the highway.  About ¼ mile further we are obviously out of town and it is time to make a u-turn on California Route 20.  Traffic is virtually non-existent so I drive through town ever so slowly looking for the designated parking.  There is a huge (for this town) parking lot at the local fire station – but again, clearly posted is “no parking”.

About ¼ mile up the road, in the town center, is the post office and general store.  OK, so there is parking in this town.  We stop in the store for a quick snack to double what is likely the entire tourist income for that day.  I decide we’ll walk down the highway and check it out.  A little odd, thinks me, but hey it’s their town they can do things the way they want.

Now, for what seems like half of this distance the fog line (the solid white line on the right shoulder) is less than 1 inch from the edge of pavement and a several foot drop off.  At this point I have to say to myself – I wonder if there are paramedics in the fire department.  They must have at least one pedestrian-vs.-vehicle-traveling-at-high-velocity accidents a month.

Without testing my paramedic puzzling’s, we arrive at the re-creation, which the above photo does no justice.  There is a staircase leading into the depression which contains our goal.  A large sign on the staircase says, “KEEP OUT”.  Due to the position of this structure we can’t even get a great photo.  In fact the best photo op is smack in the middle of Route 20.

Best I can figure one needs to stop the car in the middle of the highway, take your photos and mosey on.  It might work in a horse-drawn covered wagon but that logging truck barreling up the road might not be exactly slam on those breaks.

Rough and Ready is a unique place indeed. This is a first.  A beautiful re-creation which is only intended to be seen from the peripheral vision while driving by too fast to notice there is no parking, there is no vista point, there is no point to the entire display.

In my opinion the ghosts have a very clear message in this town.  Don’t stop.

See my other forays into adventure.

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