The 51st state. The closer you get to the Oregon border along the 5 Freeway, you begin to see signs announcing the State of Jefferson. After a quick Internet search, you discover that this is a grass-roots movement begun in 1941 to create a state composed of counties from Northern California and southern Oregon. The capital of the proposed region is Yreka, a mining town with a population of about 8,000. With Western-style architecture and turn-of-the-last-century homes, Yreka is more than just a place to sleep on those long drives to the Pacific Northwest.
Since 2006, the Yreka Third Street Inn (326 Third St.;  598-0615; rooms from $95 including breakfast) has operated as a four-bedroom bed and breakfast within walking distance of downtown shopping on Miner Street. Before that, the Victorian home, built in 1897, was a private residence, meaning it's not on hotel-laden Main Street. Each room features its own Victorian aesthetic as well as a private bathroom.
The aptly named Grandma's House (123 E. Center St.;  842-5300; no single item more than $18.95) offers comfort foods such as fried chicken, mashed potatoes, turkey dressing, pancakes, eggs and pies, all served in a setting decorated with jewelry and tapestries. There's even a gift shop with lotions, cards, wine glasses, spoon holders, salt-and-pepper shakers, musical clocks and postcards. Basically, it's kitsch heaven. If it's something healthful you desire, head to Nature's Kitchen (412 S. Main St.;  842-1136; no single item more than $11.25), where salmon burgers and tofu wraps balance all that junk you've been eating in the car. Because you're here, be sure to pick up much-needed vitamins, organic fair-trade coffee and organic whole wheat bread made in the on-site bakery from grain grown in nearby Scott Valley.
Politics aside, Yreka is an outdoor enthusiast's playground, thanks in part to fishing and hiking trails in Greenhorn Park (use South Main Street to Greenhorn Road for Upper Greenhorn Park entrance and Ranch Lane for Lower Greenhorn Park entrance), a replicated sweat house at Native American Heritage Park (419 W. Miner St.) and views of Mt. Shasta from nearly any spot in town. Or stop by the Yreka Chamber of Commerce (117 W. Miner St.; (530) 842-1649) for free maps detailing walking tours of the historic downtown.
The lesson learned
There's no better way to act as though you're in the Wild West than to have a drink, so head to Rex Club (111 S. Main St.;  842-2659) where you'll find locals gathered at a 36-foot wooden bar chatting about topics as diverse as recent happenings at the Siskiyou County Courthouse and the San Francisco Giants. Behind the bar are pictures circa 1930 of the Davis family (they've owned the joint since it opened in 1928), including former owner George Davis with a cigar in his mouth. This ambience makes you feel as if Billy the Kid might come stumbling through the door.
Not counting the full gas tank or two it takes to get here, a visitor can have a getaway for less than $150 a day, thanks to the $95-a-night room at Yreka Third Street Inn, a $15 lunch at Nature's Kitchen and dinner at Grandma's House that costs about the same.