California – Spring Days In A Carriage

IT is safe to say that ninety-nine out of every hundred visitors in California miss one of its pleasantest possibilities,—the little driving trip. When you ask one of the ninety-nine just returned from the Coast, “Did you take many carriage trips” You get for an answer, “Why, no; you see the railroads and the electric cars take you into all the sights;” or “Of course not, we had our automobile shipped out and went everywhere in that.” Yet to our mind, the trip par excellence is the carriage trip. Its leisureliness comports particularly with the spirit of this land of the afternoon, and it possesses the practical advantage over motoring of permitting many an interesting short cut and detour from the best-roads districts, not feasible with comfort in an automobile.

In California, and particularly in Southern California, the traveler by unbeaten ways meets with a minimum of difficulties. The roads as a rule are good; the weather, after the rainy season is past, say in April or May, settles down to a succession of heavenly days as fresh and balmy and sparkling as those first-created days of time’s dawn must have The prospect of such a trip extending over a period of about two weeks, appealed to us vigorously one April day, after reading “Ramona,” and we decided unanimously to lay our itinerary through some of the country made famous by that romance. It was our first year in California and we knew little of its geography, but with the aid of the ac-curate maps of the United States Geological Survey we planned a route in advance that should find us every night in some settlement where there should be a roof to shelter us. Then, too, we set on foot diligent inquiries among our friends as to the available comforts and general characteristics of each place. The data thus secured we set down in orderly fashion in the note-book for reference as we traveled. The next step was to engage a strong, gentle horse tested in many drives during the previous winter and known to be fearless of electric cars and automobiles—never start with a strange horse on a protracted trip—and a stout top-buggy roomy enough to hold the needful baggage and supplies which will be referred to in detail in a subsequent chapter.

We made our preparations to cook the noonday meal under the sky by the roadside, stowing in the back part of the buggy-box the provisions for several meals, and the cooking utensils, packed separately in two chip baskets, so as to be conveniently lifted in and out. This plan was partly to insure one substantial meal each day amid the culinary uncertainties of a country which, it may as well be frankly said, has much to learn in the cook’s art; and partly for the benefit of a good rest and noon-tide grazing for the horse. While such a procedure in the East would be apt to stamp the participants as gypsies, it is taken quite as a matter of course in California, where people whom one passes on highway or trail dressed in dusty khaki and driving their pack animals before them, are, as likely as not, personages whose next appearance may be in faultless evening dress at some social function.