Friday, July 10, 2009
Tanya Hanson: Cold Spring Tavern...still standing after all these years
Howdy, ya’ll. Guess what? It’s possible to time-travel in Southern California not far from my homestead! Just twenty minutes from the coastal town of Santa Barbara, you’ll find Cold Spring Tavern, an original stage-coach stop that hasn’t changed much at all in 130 years.
Since my current release, Marrying Minda, starts out with a mail-order bride arriving in a strange town by stagecoach --wearing her white wedding gown no less, you could say I’ve got stagecoaches on the brain. And any time, any reason, Cold Spring Tavern is one of my favorite places to go. Although its name suggests just one spring, truth is, some 52 springs burble on the property set in a rustic, woodsy mountainside on the San Marcos Pass. If you come for lunch on a cold day, you can enjoy a gorgeous rock fireplace roaring with heat…and small wood-burning stoves throughout the tiny rooms.
Although game meat is often featured on the daily menu, my favorite is the chili burger…with extra pickle. Whenever I need an old-style western fix, my hubby and I take a drive through the pass and get lunch at the tavern.
The “necessary” is still an outhouse…with modern plumbing, and pictures and newspaper articles of the tavern’s past life adorn the walls. Built in 1856 for travelers braving San Marcos Pass, the tavern’s various owners have, fortunately, protected its original Old West appearance. Started in 1886 as a relay station for stagecoaches, the tavern saw drivers exchanging horses and adding two more for the arduous trip over the mountains. Passengers could stop for meals that, according to legend, were as delicious then as now.
Chinese laborers constructing the “turnpike” over San Marcos Pass in 1868 bunked in the old "Road Gang House" still situated on the property. Featured on many TV shows and at least once a movie set, the tavern has over the years hosted celebrities whose visits the owners do not publicize because “that’s why they come here.” A regular visitor brought his elderly father recently who claimed the place hadn’t changed a whit since his first visit years ago. That is my idea of preserving history!
In a recent poll. Cold Spring Tavern has been voted the most romantic place in California. I couldn’t agree more. If you’re ever in the Santa Barbara area, make sure you relax in the Old West ambience of Cold Spring Tavern. Although it isn’t far off the “turnpike” (aka Highway 154), it’s hidden a mile or so up the mountain, and you are literally in another world, far away from modern hustle and bustle.
Here’s a short excerpt of Minda Becker arriving in Paradise to marry….the wrong man. I’m thrilled her story has been a top seller at TWRP since its release. Enjoy!
Paradise, Nebraska, July 1878
Where is Norman Dale?
Minda’s heart thumped. The noon stage had run late, so he had plenty of time to get here. Unless he had backed out.
She swallowed hard. Nowhere on the empty street did she see a bridegroom bearing a bouquet of her favorite white roses.The gulp turned into a sob. They had signed a legal contract fair and square, and the dry official document hadn’t stopped them from falling a little bit in love with each other. His letters had been full of compliments and promises and excitement, too, about meeting face-to-face.
And today was the day.
Even in the stuffy interior of the stagecoach, Minda shivered with a chill of unease. After tossing her valises on the boardinghouse steps, the driver lifted her down. Minda shrugged out of the long linen duster she’d worn as protection against the grime of travel, for underneath she wore her wedding gown. Norman Dale’s last letter had sweetly insisted they wed the minute she arrived.
Trying to impart a radiant smile, she paid no heed to the reactions of her fellow travelers. The woman wearing an old-style coal-scuttle bonnet of green gingham had chatted pleasantly for the last five miles, but upon seeing Minda’s silk and lace, her mouth turned wide and silent as a full moon. And a grubby codger leered while showing off his two brown teeth.
She ignored them just as she’d paid no heed to her younger sisters’ claims that a spinster didn’t need a lovely white wedding gown. Well, Minda Becker might be a spinster and a mail-order bride on top of it. But she was a bride, and she was going to do it right.
In the hot dust of the departing stage, she drooped in disillusion at the hard-luck little town. Norman Dale’s letters had glorified Paradise. Truth to tell, her new hometown was one brick building and a dozen false-front wooden structures with miles of cornfields and prairie grass billowing around the edges. Her bridegroom’s own farm and fine wooden house must lie quite a ways outside of town.
She caught sight of a trim white church down the street and the slew horses and wagons hitched to rough-hewn posts along its side. Relief as sweet as her silk dress flooded her. Of course. Norman Dale must be busy greeting wedding guests who waited on a bride delayed by a stage running late. Of course he’d be along in a minute to fetch her. They’d already agreed to march up the aisle together. A widower had no reason to wait at the altar for a mail-order bride who had no one to give her away.
Past the church, tables piled with platters and baskets sat in the shade of big cottonwoods along the riverbank. Her wedding dinner. Goodness, she was about to become Mrs. Norman Dale Haynes. With a quiver of delight, she shook dust and wrinkles from her skirts and walked up the boardinghouse steps to seek a mirror and a bowl of cool water for freshening.
But a closed sign hung on the lopsided door. Minda smiled at her reflection in the grimy window anyway. Likely the innkeeper was a wedding guest already at church. After digging through a valise, she brought out the veil she’d fashioned from odds and ends at the millinery back home. Just touching the beautiful headpiece set a new flock of butterflies aflutter inside her belly. The froth of netting cascaded from a wreath of roses she’d crafted from scraps of ivory velvet.
As she arranged the veil, she heard her name. However, the angle of reflection didn’t let her see the speaker.
“Miz Becker? You are Minda Becker, right?”
She turned to see a man approaching, tall and lean in his Sunday best, awkwardly carrying her bridal bouquet.
Mr. Norman Dale Haynes. She couldn’t stop the outtake of breath. He was much younger and far more handsome than the daguerreotype he had sent her. Hair dark as midnight brushed each side of his neck, and tall as he was, her head wouldn’t reach his shoulder. Her face warmed. It wouldn’t take long at all to give him her whole heart.
Or her body.
Her heart hammered beneath her whalebone corset. Heat that had nothing to do with the weather poured over her like new milk. Merciful heavens, he must have wed young the first time around to have the teenage daughter he needed her to raise.
This man didn’t appear to have any flaws at all.
She tingled from top to toe, recalling how her three married sisters, with many blushes, had explained the delights of the marriage bed. She wanted the same for herself.