Media Life: Newcastle contractor constructs Johnny Cash Trail span

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or (530) 852-0232. Also catch Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.


Folsom’s new $3.8 million overcrossing on the Johnny Cash Trail gets the ribbon-cutting treatment on Saturday with the Man in Black’s daughter Rosanne Cash helping out.

Folsom, Cash and Co. have a Newcastle contractor Westcon Construction Corp. to thank for the work that took place to reach the opening stage on what is certain to be a regional landmark.

Westcon was working under a tight deadline, with the 80,000-pound pre-fabricated bridge arriving from Minnesota less than two weeks ago. The span was dropped onto footings by crane and Westcon was able to have all the pieces – including 40-foot-high towers replicating the prison’s pseudo gothic architecture – in place for the weekend ceremony.

The timeline was tight because the ribbon-cutting was set to coincide with an appearance in Folsom by Rosanne Cash for a concert tonight at the city’s Harris Center.

Eric Campbell, Westcon president and founder, said that one of the nuances that Westcon was pleased in helping provide was a finish on what would have been a plain concrete entrance wall  that mimics the granite of the circa 1880s prison.

With Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” known around the world and bringing Folsom a fortunate claim to fame as a result, the city is honoring Cash with a distinctive overcrossing as part of the Johnny Cash Trail. The trail is planned to eventually extend over the city’s historic truss bridge to Green Valley Road, traversing prison property and linking El Dorado and Placer counties to Folsom’s historic district and the American River Parkway.

The public is being invited to view exhibits and take in entertainment from 9 a.m. to high noon Saturday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony starts at 10 a.m. 

And, no, Cash never served a millisecond of time in Folsom Prison. A passionate advocate for prisoner’s rights, he entertained in dozens of similar facilities. It just so happened that his recording company gave him the green light to film at Folsom and the performance became one for the ages.

It’s not that Folsom Prison didn’t handle its share of notable inmates over the years. Singer Rick James, he of  funk-pop “Super Freak” fame, spent five years behind bars there in the 1990s. He left in a limo.

Other alumni include Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult in 1960s Los Angeles, 1940s “Red Light Bandit” Caryl Chessman, LSD advocate Timothy Leary and tough-guy actor Danny Trejo. Among the executions there was one in 1906 that ended the life of Auburn quadruple killer Adolph Weber.

Game on for Auburn’s Erwin

Signing to Parlophone this year has meant a big jump in international visibility for Los Angeles band Saint Motel, which includes expatriate Auburnite and Placer High grad Greg Erwin on drums.

With its new single “My Type” included in the FIFA 2014 soccer game from Electronic Arts, Saint Motel is reaching a global audience in the tens of millions. FIFA 2013 sales reached more than $1 billion and World Cup fever this year should produce an even greater demand for the latest edition.

“My Type” has made it onto the charts in England and Italy, and concert appearances have followed. Vanity Fair Italia had a feature on the band in its September issue. “My Type” can be heard in a South Korean Hyundai commercial. And United Kingdom phone company Phones4U also has “My Type” providing some Saint Motel mojo to its musical background.

Fall color time

Fall is in the air and the leaves are starting to turn. This year, the U.S. Forest Service is helping Placer County visitors and those ranging farther afield to see the colors of the season at their peak. The agency has established a Fall Colors 2014 website that features social-media tools to help tourists plan trips to witness the fiery reds and yellows of fall.

The Fall Colors 2014 website offers a map that shows when trees are peaking in California and around the nation. The map is shaded in green, when areas have yet to peak, bright red (peaking) and brown (past their peak and ready for winter). Another map helps visitors find the national forest near them. In Auburn’s case, it’s the Tahoe National Forest, and the website is already showing a dusting of snow in upper elevations.

The colors have yet to break out in Auburn but if the rains stay away, fall foliage should again be spectacular. Some favorite Media Life spots include the area around the Maple Street Victorians in Old Town and the view from Highway 49 over the American River onto the El Dorado County side of the canyon dotted with bursts of autumn color.

Media Life will continue to keep readers updated on some of the best views this year – in a count reminiscent of locating great Christmas or Halloween yard displays.

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or (530) 852-0232. Also catch Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.