“So uh, the vibe here is way different than last time.”
There is no one “type” of tourist that visits Locke, California. One weekend there is a brigade of motorcyclists, the next, grandma and the grandkids are on a weekend escapade along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Since investing in a motorcycle, most of my “long rides” (I don’t even know if you can call them that) have been along the delta. Before riding a motorcycle, I had lived in Sacramento for 15 years and not once had I ventured onto River Road.
River Road—my experience with this road began as what seemed like a fairy tale. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this vision of what would be the most romantic rendezvous—a privileged one albeit, but none the less, a dream. It consists of a spontaneous trip in some sort of open vehicle (convertible, motorcycle, truck bed, etc.). It’s summertime; the warm wind gently kisses our faces, the trees above carve a natural tunnel with the long soft branches hanging so close you can almost touch them as you go by. My feet hang out the window, my arms spread wide, rays of sunshine flirt with the slight separation of leaves and perhaps nearby is a body of water that reflects these sun rays. In this moment, everything is perfect. I must have read a children’s book or watched an old cartoon at some point that embodied this visualization.
On a first(ish) date, I was offered a ride on his motorcycle. Keeping my fanatical excitement in check, we casually rode through the city as I held on gently, keeping my cool. What seemed like moments later, a dream I envisioned since I was a small child began developing into reality. No, it was reality. I lifted the face mask, felt the warm air on my cheeks, opened my arms to the sides and looked up to see a romantic covering of trees. With my arms spread I could nearly touch the soft branches and a glistening, flowing river was beyond. We rode past grapes and blackberries along the side of the road and waved to other people on motorcycles riding by. This, was River Road. Since then I have been countless times, with said “boy,” by myself, with my parents, and every time is just as great as the last. Though, that first time really blew my mind.
OK, enough with the romance, but seriously you guys, this drive is amazing. Whether you are in a car, on a motorcycle, a bicycle or walking, you need to take a stroll down this little slice of heaven.
As you meander down the road there are various stops along the way such as wineries, bars and small towns strewn about. One town specifically that I suggest you visit, is named Locke. Hidden off the main road, Locke is a small town about three blocks in size known for its Chinese history. Built in 1915, the town blossomed into a Chinese community and today is one of the last standing Chinese communities in the area.
A good friend and I took a Sunday trip down to Locke recently, and upon our arrival we headed to the only bar in town, Al the Wop’s. There’s history behind the name—just ask about it when you go. A miscellaneous assortment of condiments littered the bar top when I noticed peanut butter and jelly among the collection. Swiftly ordering banana peppers, my friend opened the PB&J, handed me a spoon and introduced me to one of Locke’s traditions (though, I’m pretty sure this one isn’t Chinese).
The town is old and beautiful; a handful of museums reminisce on its history and the grade school brings back memories I hadn’t felt in years. There is a traditional Chinese medicine shop and a statue of Confucius. Families sit outside in their yards while the kids run and play together. There are wooden-planked alleyways and big barn doors etched with writing. The town has some real culture and although it’s small, it packs a punch with its authenticity. I highly suggest getting out to Locke or one of the other River Road towns, but at the very least, enjoy the wonders of the River Road Delta that is so close to our home of Sacramento.
**This piece first appeared in print on page 14 of issue #238 (April 24 – May 8, 2017)**