>Wow! That's great!! I'd be very interested in seeing your
>research once it's done.
The research is almost all Paul's. I'm just the photographer, along for the ride.
I got the one in Sonora indexed and photographed this morning. Tomorrow I think I might head up to Grass Valley and Nevada City and do those, too. I've already done the Mokulumne Hill and Placerville ones. The only two gold rush ones left after that are in Sacramento and Marysville. The museum also owns or controls eight more, six in California, one in Oregon and one in Canada. I don't know if those eight are supposed to be included in the project, though. At this point I have no plans to work those.
Anyway, the trip got off to a real bang this morning. Literally...
I woke up early, so I figured I'd head north early. I was out the door at about 4am. An hour later I was approaching Bakersfield. It's a four lane divided highway, two lanes for each direction, and I was headed west in the right lane with my cruise control set at 70mph. There wasn't much traffic at that time of morning. Just me and one or two other people.
About 20 miles outside of Bakersfield, someone in an older, small pickup truck passed by me in the left lane. He was probably doing about 75 or 80, I'd guess. As he passed me, the truck drifted a little to the right, out of his lane, and hit the dots dividing the lanes. That got his attention, and he straightened back up again. Maybe 30 seconds later, he did the same thing, but this time to the left. Again, he straightened up. I was wondering if he might be drunk or falling asleep, so I backed off. I was about 10 or 12 car lengths behind him and keeping a close eye on him, thinking that if he kept that up I might call 911 and report him as a possible drunk driver.
A couple minutes later he started drifting left again. This time he didn't correct it. His tire caught the dirt on the shoulder and the truck went airborne. He rolled a good five or six times in the dirt median kicking up a huge dust cloud, with parts flying everywhere, then something caught the truck and flipped it back into traffic lanes where it rolled several more times before coming to a stop upside-down, straddling the right lane. Someone was laying in the left lane. I don't know how many people were in the truck, so I have no idea if it was the driver or a passenger. Me and a guy behind me pulled to the right shoulder, and the other guy immediately ran to the center of the freeway frantically waving at a couple big rigs that were bearing down on us, to get them to stop before they plowed into the truck or ran over the guy in the fast lane. It looked to me like there might have been another body laying in the center divider, but I'm not completely sure about that.
I called 911 and told the woman working at dispatch that there was a bad roll-over accident about 20 miles outside of Bakersfield. She asked me what freeway I was on, and that's when I realized I didn't really have a clue where I was. I even went blank on the freeway. I said I thought it was the 53 or 58, and that I was heading from Mojave to Bakersfield. She said that was the 58, then asked what the nearest exit was. I don't know the area. I wasn't paying attention to the street names for the exits I'd been passing, since I wasn't really looking for anything. There was a sign about 500 feet in front of me for the next exit, but it was still pitch dark outside and I couldn't read it.
So, I went jogging up there until I could read it, told her it was Edison, and she said she'd send everyone out. It was kind of surreal as I walked back toward my car, past the upside-down pickup truck. The dome light was on and the stereo was still playing...
By now, several people had stopped and were helping. They had moved the guy who had been laying in the left lane to the center divider, which was actually probably a stupid thing to do. You don't move someone who could be hurt badly, especially if there's a possibility of a back injury. Anyway, they did it to free up one lane so people could drive by and continue on their way. There were so many people stopped now to help (on both sides of the freeway), that I decided it looked like I wasn't needed any more, so I drove away, too.
What a way to start the trip...