Here’s a little fact about me….one of my favorite actresses of all time is Reese Witherspoon! Even if some of the movies she’s starred in are cheesy, I still love every bit of it and will re-watch them a million times! Legally Blonde (1 and 2), Sweet Home Alabama, This Means War…the list goes on and on! So, of course, when Walk the Line came out in 2005 I had to see it. I knew very little about June Carter or Johnny Cash, but I became an instant fan! Every now and then I feel a little bit country and can’t help singing along to the soundtrack or listening to the Johnny Cash station on Pandora.
This brings me to a little story about my recent week in Sacramento, California. It was a work trip (certification class), in a city I’ve never been to, and I was stuck for a week without preparing one bit for any type of sightseeing. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the best advice I can give you is ask around for guidance or suggestions. When people want to visit Chicago, I honestly won’t shut up about my city (the BEST city in the world!!) and others tend to do the same.
Since everyone in my class knew I was from Chicago they suggested I try Chicago style pizza and the best spot was in Folsom, California. Now, I didn’t tell them this because I felt incredibly ignorant, but what went through my head was “Folsom….as in Johnny Cash Folsom Prison?” I few days later I found out that it was EXACTLY what they meant. Unfortunately, the pizza place was closed so I decided to see what was happening at Folsom Prison. You know…the prison that’s no longer in use and has a nice big museum and gives you informational free tours???? WRONG. I was so very, very wrong.
It started of well. I spotted the entrance via a stone sign and drove in. It seemed safe and I made a note of the welcoming and natural landscaping. Nice touch Folsom, nice touch. “Exactly how a museum entrance should look,” I thought.
I parked in what I thought was the museum parking, but quickly noticed that this was also the parking for prison visitors. “Hmm, what prison visitors?” And then I saw it. A van pulled up and let off real prisoners in neon jumpsuits. Here’s what went through my head next, in order:
1. Wait…this is still an active prison? I’m in stiletto heels and totally overdressed for a prison.
2. The prisoners are looking at me in my stiletto heels and know I’m totally overdressed for a prison…but they probably like it. Creepy.
3. OMG, I think the entrance to the museum is where they let out the prisoners.
4. Yes, I am correct.
5. How fast can I run, in my stiletto heels, back to my car if one of the shackles breaks off?
The prisoners were quickly escorted away, clearing a path for me to walk to the museum. Behind the security office, I saw this.
Not what I was expecting, but I went in anyway. There was a nice man at the counter who took my $2 museum fee and told me to look around. The space is very small and there is a lot of stuff so you have to take your time to read all the little informational cards next to each cased item. Of course Johnny Cash posters and newspaper articles are everywhere.
Other than pointing out the Johnny Cash memorabilia, he did mention some additional “highlights.” One was that all the California state license plates are made at Folsom. Interesting. Next, he told me that Rick James was a prisoner there and that the museum houses his guitar. Strange. Here it is.
Overall, for $2 and very last minute planning, it was fairly interesting. It did leave me wondering a bit more about Folsom Prison and the history. I did find some additional information through Wikipedia and then watched a video about some of the history behind his visit.
Before I left, I snapped a quick shot of the prison. The same shot that Johnny Cash once took that’s now quite iconic.
Feeling satisfied with my visit, I headed back to the car and back to Sacramento. If you’re ever in the Sacramento area, I would suggest stopping by! It’s only 23 miles away and there is a nice quaint downtown area that you can spend time in if you’re not up for the whole prison thing!