Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Green River

Kim and I made a couple of road trips up the Sacramento River Delta this July. I had not been up that way for at least a year and I missed being there. There's a little restaurant in Isleton called River's Edge Cafe that has some special home cooking on its menu. Run by Clay and Lil Bodenhamer, Lil makes her own mayonnaise, bread and Walnut-Garlic salad dressing. They have a Russian Ural motorcycle with sidecar and also much artwork on display inside the restaurant. I've enjoyed myself there, reason enough to return to the Delta.

Antioch Bridge approachThe route runs from home to highway 4 out to Antioch, then over the bridge and up highway 160 toward Sacramento. The highway runs on top the levees, with the river on one side and farm fields and orchards on the other -- the farmland being infamously below sea level. The Delta is a collection of the islands surrounded by San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers as well as man-made sloughs. I feel strange when I register the incongruity of sunny farm fields on my one side and water-skiiers on the other. When I take a side road off the levee down into the fields I get a definite sense of being down in a hole, partly because of the quiet, although I'm surrounded by a wide expanse of fields.
A slough slowly becoming overgrown with purple flowers

The islands are connected by various bridges, some of which are very elaborate to allow big ships to pass between the Bay and the Sacramento and Stockton harbors. The Sacramento river is fairly busy with commercial shipping. There are also a couple of car ferries near Rio Vista. I've enjoyed sitting on the dock at the Martinez marina watching big oil tankers and cargo ships piloting or being push through by Tugboats to their various docks or on up the river. But on these trips up and down the Delta I've only seen pleasure boats for fishing and skiing. I can imagine working in one of the fields and looking up toward a levee burm to see a huge cargo ship floating by, much like that dramatic scene in Laurence of Arabia where they are days in the the Sinai desert when a ship's horn brings their eyes' up to catch the surreal view of tanker floating through the sand.
A bridge on Sherman Island
There is a peace and serenity that I sense when I've traveled in this area that is a soothing relief from the suburban and urban areas of daily life. I find myself recollecting and imagining my mother's experiences in her native Kansas, country roads, small towns, and country life. Urban life and modernity is definitely present, in the recreational boats and in the commercial farming, but the sun on land and vegetation creates a strong country glow.

Mt. Diablo, behind the boat, is close to where we live.

Something particularly strange that we saw on The Delta Loop drive is a strategy for home-building where, next to a high levee, the house is on stilts with a foot bridge from the road to the front door. There were a variety of house styles, built custom and at different times, with this one consistent strategy. I imagine the stilts give you a view of the river over the levee as well as a spectacular view over the fields on the other side of the house. I would hope you are not a sleep-walker living up there, but I suppose you get used to it.
It's for sale! ($1.8M)

AAA's member magazine, Via, has several good articles on this route for a day's drive. It's attractive to me for its simpleness, not touristy at all. I've yet to make it all the way to Sacramento without doubling back for home. I wonder what the drive into that city is like after traveling through the Delta. When we were coming back over the Antioch Bridge I was struck by the green of the muddy water and recalled John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival's famous songs. A road to Lodi passes over Sherman Island... don't want to get stuck there again.


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