Sonora California – one unplanned day

Posted on August 14, 2013

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Sonora, California was not on our list to visit, but we found ourselves with a full day to kill in this small western town of 5,000 people. We actually went to Groveland, to buy a car from a friend. Groveland is an even smaller town – with just one main street – 26 miles outside of Yosemite US National Park north entrance.

Why would we drive nine hours from San Diego to Groveland just to buy a car? Because it’s not just any car. This 2001 Audio Quattro Turbo TT has had only two owners, very low miles and in perfect condition. Groveland is no place for a sports car but San Diego coast sure is!

How did we end up in Sonora? We wanted to get a full diagnostics check on the car before driving it home but all shops and stores, except for possibly one restaurant, are closed on Sundays – and most on Monday’s too!. The closest garage for Audi’s we found is in Sonora, CA. We dropped off the car at Miguel’s Auto Shop for a full diagnostics check at 10:30 am and wondered what to do?

Sonora reminds me of Bisbee (Arizona) or Julian CA (San Diego County) – historic mining towns with quaint shops and new and old businesses side by side on the “main” streets. With the help of Yelp (I LOVE my Yelp app), we found The Diamondback Grill right in the center of Historic Downtown Sonora. The Diamondback Grill has been operated by the same owner for 21 years but in this most recent location for four years. The burgers were a hit with us (many choices including vegetarian and salmon burgers), fresh local ingredients, and choice of garlic, sweet potato or regular fries, or salad ($9.50).

What to do next to kill some time? Shopping! We found a TJ Maxx, Ross, CVS, Grocery Outlet, Dollar Tree, and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts stores. We bought playing cards at Dollar Tree, so we went to Columbia State Historic Park to find a picnic table to play cards and relax while we waiting on news about the car. Three games of hearts, two games of speed, three games of something I don’t remember the name of, and we were done with cards. While trying to find some water, we stumbled on Fallon Hotel with an ice cream parlor (still inside Columbia State Historic Park). Sorry no picture of the ice cream – too busy eating it.

Next stop, Black Oak Casino, in neighboring, even smaller town of Tuolumne, but not to gamble as we had already spent enough money. We ate an early dinner at The Mill Sports Bar and Grill in the “family” section of the casino which includes a bowling alley and theater. I highly recommend the Whiskey BBQ wings ($7.00 for 10)!

Turns out it only needed a few coils and spark plugs and we set out at 6:30 pm for home, which was a perfect time to drive home turns out, as there was little to no traffic (although tons of construction). We made it home in 8 hours including 2 quick stops. Miguel actually called the next day to make sure we got home safe and see how the car was running! No garage has ever done that before!

Sometimes, the best days on “vacation” are the spontaneous unplanned ones.

We did spend a “planned” day biking around Yosemite Village (rented from Yosemite Lodge for $11.50 an hour). The waterfalls in August were not running much like they are in the spring, and the grass more of a yellow hue than green, but Yosemite is always awe-inspiring and majestic at any time of the year to me.

The day pass to Yosemite is $20.00 and annual pass $40.00 (gets everyone in the car in for the one pass). The Yosemite cafeteria was very crowded and the food not that great ($10 to $12 for an entree including burgers). I recommend having lunch at the bar of Ahwahanee hotel which looks out onto the grassy courtyard with the towering mountains as a backdrop. Although pricey ($17 to $18 for a sandwich, small salad $7.00) Lunch menu, it’s worth it to split something and take in the views and ambiance.

The Mill Sports Grill at Black Oak Casino

The Mill Sports Grill at Black Oak Casino

Sugg House, Historic Landmark

Sugg House, Historic Landmark

Sugg House, Historic Landmark

Sugg House, Historic Landmark

Delicious Burger

Delicious Burger from The Mill at Black Oak Casino

Salmon Burger and fries

Salmon Burger and FRIES at The Mill

Diamonback Grill, Sonora, CA

Diamonback Grill Sonora, CA

The Diamonback Grill

The Diamonback Grill

Fallon Hotel and Theater, Columbia State Park

Fallon Hotel and Theater, Columbia State Park

Yosemite Cathedral rock

Yosemite Cathedral rock view

Cathedral Rock

cathedral Rock

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Half Dome, Yosemite

Half Dome, Yosemite

Teepee, Yosemite Village

Teepee, Yosemite Village

Sequoia tree

Sequoia tree

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