If you’re a fulltime RVer exploring America, you have to work to be bored because there’s something interesting to see and do around every bend in the road.
When he heard we were going to be in Eureka, California, longtime reader Nelson Cooper e-mailed to tell me to check out Blue Ox Millworks, a combination historical park and school of traditional arts. When Nelson told me that among old tools, printing equipment, and other things they have on display is a collection of looms and spinning wheels, I knew Miss Terry would never forgive me if we didn’t stop by.
Operated by Eric Hollenbeck, one of the most interesting people we’ve ever met, the millworks uses old time craftsmanship, tools, and techniques to produce authentic custom millwork for private homes and commercial buildings across the country.
But more than just a custom shop, Blue Ox is also a school where high school age kids who don’t seem to fit into a traditional academic environment can come to learn a craft while they discover a path for their lives. Another program coordinated through a local college makes it possible for combat veterans to work at Blue Ox and gain a sense of giving something back to the world while they learn valuable job skills. To date, the most impressive project Eric and the vets have undertaken was this exact re-creation of the hearse that carried Abraham Lincoln to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois. The hearse is now on display at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield.
Eric gave us a tour, demonstrating some of the vintage equipment they use, including this foot powered scroll saw.
Another room houses the print shop. They have one of the largest collections of old lead type I’ve seen anywhere.
Upstairs, Terry was in awe of the beautiful old looms, spinning wheels, yarn weasels, and other fiber arts equipment.
Outside we toured the old logging skid camp, blacksmith shop, and ceramic studio.
Eric is a mechanical genius and up to any challenge. He built this rustic trolley from an old Greyhound bus, cutting off the original body and building his own custom one.
Wandering around the grounds after our tour, we met these two friendly fellows.
There is no way to tell you all about Blue Ox Millworks in this blog, but to say we were impressed is an understatement. We will have a feature on the millworks in the next issue of the Gypsy Journal.
After leaving the millworks we drove a few miles south to the little hamlet of Loleta to visit the Loleta Cheese Factory. While not as big as the cheese factory in Tillamook, Oregon, the friendly service was first rate and the selection of cheeses was excellent. We sampled several kinds and Terry bought a garlic herb havarti blend that really caught her attention, as well as some cheddar jack. We spent a few minutes chatting with owner Bob Laffranchi, a friendly man who really made us feel welcome.
Back at the Elks campground, I took a short nap, and then we went to dinner with our friend Nancy Kissack. A lot of people have been telling us to try the Samoa Cookhouse, which started life as a logging camp cookhouse back in 1890.
Meals are served family style, and the menu is whatever they are cooking that day. This time around it was salad, beef barley vegetable soup, huge slices of bread, ham, friend chicken, red potatoes, and corn. Dessert was a pineapple cake with butter cream frosting. It was all delicious.
The restaurant also has a small museum of logging equipment that we stopped to admire after we finished eating.
The small Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum is located on the grounds of the Cookhouse, but was closed. We’ll have to try again the next time we’re in the area.
We’ve been on the go a lot and we’re tired, so today we plan to hang around here and not do much. Then tomorrow we’ll probably go on down the road to our next stop, Brookings, Oregon.
Thought For The Day – The young don’t have to be taught anything, they just have to have the problems made interesting enough to spark curiosity – Eric Hollenbeck
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