“I’ve always believed that a lot of the trouble in the world would disappear if we were talking to each other instead of about each other.”
State 21: California - November 26, 2017
We woke up at a Walmart in Merced, CA excited about the day’s events! Today, we drive 114 miles Northwest to Sacramento to visit the state capitol. California’s capitol city of Sacramento has a population of 493,025, and is the fastest growing city in California. In addition, Time Magazine named Sacramento “America’s Most Diverse City”. The capitol city is also known as “Tree City USA”, because it has the most trees of any US city. Sacramento has so many trees they actually form a canopy over the roadways throughout the city! Although 500,000 people is a little too populated for our preference, the Cross Country Couple celebrates diversity, and we also love trees! Hopefully, we will enjoy our visit to California’s capitol.
We turned down the street leading to the capitol building, and saw massive palm trees towering over us along the entire length of the street. We pulled up to the capitol building, and found a parking space directly across from the front door! Wow, that never happens! Since we were visiting on a Sunday, parking was free! So far this was shaping up to be a very good day! The external construction of the capitol was 2 tone granite constructed in Neo Gecko Roman Architecture bearing a striking similarity to the US capitol. As we crossed the capitol’s courtyard, we saw two cranes erecting California’s Christmas tree! Please see the pictures below.
Government has a talent for taking relatively simply concepts and complicating it in the most frustrating manner. Case in point; entering a capitol building. We walked right up to the front door of the capitol, and it was locked with a sign that said, “This entrance is closed. Please use the South entrance to your right". When we arrived at the South entrance to the right, there was another sign on the door that said, "This entrance is closed. Please use entrance to your right" Seriously? I am already standing at the South entrance to the right! We continued to walk around the building to the right, because neither of us had any better ideas! We finally found the 2nd South entrance to the far right, and after being searched by security, we were FINALLY able to enter the California State Capitol.
We proceeded to the basement in search of our tour guide, and came across a display called; The Geological Survey. This machine continuously measures seismic activity at 5 different points in the capitol building, and publicly displays the results in real time. Although most go unnoticed, California experiences over 700 earthquakes per day! We saw 3 earthquakes occur on the seismograph while we were standing there, and it was extremely interesting to see! Please see the pictures below!
Since we were 30 minutes early for the next tour, we were directed to wait next to the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of Reagan down the hall. Off we went in search of the Great Communicator, the Dutch, The Teflon President, The Gipper, and our 40th president of the United States of America; Ronald Reagan. I have seen my fair share of bronzes on our cross country trip, and have developed a deep appreciation for bronzes as a muse. The bronze of Ronald Reagan was very poorly done! The proportions were all off! The shoulders were too broad, torso was too small, head was way too big, and his face didn’t even look like Reagan’s actual face. Apparently, California must know the bronze was poorly executed, since they decided to display the sculpture in the basement of the capitol. Please see the pictures below! I included a picture of Ronald Regan so you can judge for yourself.
After 10 minutes passed, I got kind of bored waiting for the tour to start, and decided to have some fun with Ronald Reagan. Lori captured a few pictures of my shenanigans. Please see the pictures below.
Soon thereafter, we were greeted by our guide, and the tour finally began! First, we were lead to the House of Representatives, which was largely unremarkable. Next, we were led to Senate Chamber, but for some unknown reason, we were not permitted to enter. Our research revealed, on the wall of the Senate Chamber hung a painting of George Washington with a very interesting history! The early 19th century painting of Washington was gifted to California from Washington DC after the California Gold rush ended in 1855. The painting was displayed in the Sacramento Court House, until one day the building caught on fire! Then California Governor John Bigler ran into the burning building, rescued the painting of Washington, and Lake Bigler was named in his honor! However, during the Civil War, California was a free state, and Governor Bigler was a Confederate sympathizer. After the Civil War ended, Lake Bigler was renamed to what we know today as Lake Tahoe. It is a shame we were unable to see that historic painting of George Washington during our visit.
California did a very nice job displaying their Hall of Governors. A large 3 foot by 4 foot painting of each former governor hangs in the hallways throughout the capitol! After departing the Senate, the paintings of 2 very famous former California governors immediately grabbed my attention! The first painting was of our former president Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States, the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, a Hollywood Actor and twice President of the Screen Actors Guild; a labor union for actors! In 1980, Reagan won the Republican nomination defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide becoming the oldest elected U.S. president! The 2nd most famous painting in the hall of governor's featured Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an actor, producer, businessman, investor, author, philanthropist, activist, politician, former professional bodybuilder, and from 2003 to 2011, served two terms as the 38th Governor of California. Arnold wanted his picture to be the largest in the Hall of Governors, but California law sets the maximum dimensions of the painting. He circumvented the law simply by eliminating the frame!
Despite all of his success, apparently the Governator suffers from an inflated ego or an inferiority complex! I was shocked to discover he is only 5’8! Please see the pictures below of California’s 2 most famous governors, alongside pictures of their most famous movie roles.
Next, we were led to the outside of the Governor’s office, but unfortunately were not permitted inside. However, the one noteworthy feature located outside of the Governor’s office was a large metal sculpture of a bear, which has come to be known as “Bacteria Bear”. The California grizzly bear is the state animal for California, and is even pictured on the state flag. Interestingly, the California grizzly bear was hunted into extinction in 1922! Back when Arnold was Governor, he came across a bear sculpture at a ski resort in Aspen. Since the sculpture reminded him of the state animal; The California Grizzly Bear, he purchased the sculpture, and had it shipped back to the capitol with his own money. Interestingly, the bear turned out to not even be a Grizzly Bear! Nevertheless, when Arnold left office, he gifted the bear sculpture to California, and it is one of the most photographed spots in the capitol. Over 1.5 million visitors per year, sit on, rub, climb on, and take a variety of comical poses with the metal bear leading to the sculpture being lovingly named “Bacteria Bear”. We decided to stay far away.
There are 58 counties in California. The only reason I know this is because the hallways outside of the governor’s office featuring display cases for each county to promote what makes them great! Some displays were interesting, others were high tech, and some appear as if they hadn’t been touched in over 50 years. What a creative idea to promote tourism throughout the state, which I have not seen before at any other capitol! Please see the pictures below!
Although California does not have an official state museum, they have creatively turned designated areas on the first floor of the capitol building into a museum. There were two rooms of specific interest we visited. The first room included a display of historical artifacts significant to the state of California, which are rotated out regularly! The most interesting artifact on display in this room included a signed proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. The 2nd Room featured a display of the most significant publications to the history of California. Artifacts on display included: 1st edition of California’s 1st newspaper 1846, 1st book printed in California Figueroa Manifesto 1835, and a map of a gold mine from the California Gold Rush. Other noteworthy artifacts included: 1st edition of the Webster Dictionary 1828, 1st edition of Encyclopedia Britannica 1771, and most impressive of all, a single page from the Gutenberg Bible. The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed after the invention of the printing press in 1440. The Gutenberg Bible was written in Latin and printed in Germany. Between 158 and 190 copies were printed in 1454 and today only 49 copies, or partial copies have survived! No complete copy of the Gutenberg bible has been sold since 1978, and it is widely considered to be the most valuable book in the world! Publicly displaying significant literature is a very unique and impressive approach to tell a state’s history. It is unfortunate California did not have their most important document on display; The California constitution! The artifacts are pictured in the order they were mentioned. Please see the pictures below.
Just as we were about to leave the capitol, we heard the most beautiful Christmas Carols being sung, and followed the sound of the voices. Soon thereafter, we arrived at the capitol’s central room, where the Sacramento Gay Men’s Choir were performing live! Founded in 1984, The Sacramento Gay Men's Choir is a singing group aimed to foster a sense of community, and provide support for gays and lesbians in the Sacramento area and beyond. Through musical performance and outreach programs, the chorus has grown to become an integral part of the Sacramento community, and a voice for the gay and lesbian community. Their mission is to build a community where no one will be afraid to sing one’s own song. We took our seats, and enjoyed their singing for almost an hour! They were all extremely talented and sounded professional! Nate hates Christmas songs, and even he enjoyed their performance. Please enjoy the pictures below of the California Capitol’s central room, and the Sacramento Gay Men’s Choir.
Here are some additional pictures of the beautiful architecture of the California State Capitol.
After departing the state capitol, we drove 26 miles Southwest Dixon, CA where we found a Walmart to spend the night.