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Raven's Quest: 200 down, 949 to go!

Hitting 200 releases in a long-standing quest
by whiteraven13
February 9, 2009
Here are some things you might like to know: This is part 3 in a series. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Markeroni, the Gentle Art of Landmark-Snarfing, is a website I started in 2003 that brings people and history together in fun; it provides information about where historic sites and plaques are, and then gives people a place to log their visits. Oh, and it inspired this release challenge too.

And now...Part 3.

There are times when I laugh myself silly at statements I've made in the past.

Five and a bit years ago I started a little adventure called Raven's Quest, the idea being to release one book at each of California's 1149 state historic landmarks. Two years ago I did my 100th release and predicted it wouldn't take me three more years to get to 200. It didn't. But it took almost two. And then I wrote, "Markeroni is as complete as it's getting."

Yeah, right. I'm in the process of adding New Zealand as we speak, and expect to start on South America and Europe later this year. Complete? I was only just getting started. ;)

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that on August 26th 2008 I made my 200th release in Sacramento, at a landmark that in grand California style not only no longer exists, but has no plaque. It was state historic landmark #1040, the site of the Pacific's first salmon cannery, and it's beside the river in Old Sacramento. Now, I'm used to the older landmarks having neither site nor plaque, but to find one just barely a year or so old is just a tad disappointing.

But that's the way it is with landmark-hunting; and if there's something the last five years has taught me, it's that I should go with the flow.

Take, for example, my first stroll around Old Sacramento. I'd painstakingly made a map with all the landmarks clearly marked, approaching the whole thing like a military operation. So what happened? As I crossed the lemon-yellow Tower Bridge, a puff of wind plucked the thing out of my bag and jettisoned it into a busy roadway. Since I lean towards not getting squished by traffic, I let it be...and of course, I still had fun.

My release philosophy has changed subtly, as well. I now reside in an RV with around 150 square feet of living space; this means that bookshelves are a thing of the past and libraries have become my friend. So if I don't have enough books with me for a Quest trip, I go to a thrift store, buy up a bunch of paperbacks, and release them at a crossing zone or campground. I am no longer hung up on leaving the books in the wild at the exact location of the landmark; practicality has intervened.

Last July I left one such "in honor of" book at a cafe in Dunsmuir, a little railroad town in northern California. Someone took it, joined BookCrossing, read it, left it at the train station...and the book later emerged in Portland, Oregon with a second new BookCrosser. As the original journaller said, "It could go anywhere from here!" The Portland BookCrosser has since left it in the wild again, so who knows? It might show up in Malaysia (wouldn't be the first time).

This time two years ago I was restricting my visits to the landmarks in the San Francisco Bay Area, thinking that the story would make a good book. That worked fine until we moved twice in six months, bouncing form Lodi to the boonies of northern California. (There, incidentally, I bumped into a Book Crosser and Markeroni member...courtesy of Freecycle).

I gave up and started logging landmarks willy-nilly.

My hundredth release occurred during a visit to the University of Berkeley. I went with a former student who happened to be a history major, and got a wonderful guided tour. It's taken me another 15 excursions to get to 200, and I've mixed it up no end. San Jose, Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco all offered great walking tours and civic adventures; I've developed a liking for Art Deco movie theatres and classy old post offices. I've also been on beautiful rides through rural San Joaquin County, north almost to the Oregon state line, the Napa Valley, and up into the history-rich Gold Country. Not too long ago, I learned that wiggledy state route 49, cutting for 300 miles through this latter area, was named for the gold rush Forty-Niners!

I've been struck by intriguing connections, too. Reuel Colt Gridley's statue in the Stockton Rural Cemetery is a state historic landmark, but I'd already "met" him when I found his store in remote Austin, Nevada. What I didn't know was that he raised thousands of dollars for the predecessor of the American Red Cross...by auctioning the same bag of flour over and over.

I've seen where the three-wheel slot machine was invented (San Francisco). I've been to historic, ivy-clad wineries (Livermore). I've bumped into Sam Brannan in both Calistoga and Sacramento. And I've seen sites from the other Gold Rush, way up in Trinity and Shasta Counties. All of this looking around has led me to a stronger appreciation of the history of my state, and has whetted my appetite for more.

I'm well on the way to the next hundred, but I'm not going to make any more predictions about where I'll be and when that next happens...unless someone wants to buy me a crystal ball?

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