EXPLORING THE CALIFORNIA DELTA ON 1850cc

October 23rd, 2013, by Steven in California, United States.

“Manmade deltas and concrete rivers. The south takes what the north delivers.”

-Pavement, Unfair (1996)

In the fall of 2007, Bill and I were working and living in Berkeley, California. The environment of rose gardens, soy lattes and meatless pizzas was a far cry from our Midwestern hometowns. On weekends, we needed a break from Berkeley’s froufrou.

Plunging headfirst into a mid-20s crisis, we both bought motorcycles. Bill – a purple Harley Sportster 1200cc; and myself – a cherry red Yamaha V-Star 650cc.

Bill’s Harley in its California glory (photo by Bill)

Riding our motorcycles in the city didn’t quite satisfy us. Going west was impossible, due to an ocean. North and south too hair-raising; so we often headed east, regressing back into true American farmland, across the Coastal mountains and into the pastoral California Delta; the Midwest of the West.

Get There

 

 

The journey would begin in Berkeley with 24 miles of freeway to get out of the sprawling San Francisco suburbs. After passing by Mt. Diablo, things would flatten out past Pittsburg. Then, we’d cross the windy, often dangerous Antioch Bridge, a kind of culture warp between the SF Bay Area and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta- a land of pickup trucks, Coors Light, fishing trips, houseboats and high school football- much like Ohio.

427616775_94ad61dcb0_o

A piece of Ohio in California (photo by Steven)

The Sac-SJ Delta has only existed for 10,000 years and has only been reclaimed for agriculture since the mid-1800s. The Delta is a network of waterways that is actually not a ‘true’ delta (like the Nile or Mississippi), because the water has flowed inward. The only other delta located so far from the sea is the Pearl River Delta in China.

A slice of mundane Americana (photo by Steven)

A slice of mundane Americana (photo by Steven)

Anyway, it’s a great place to ride a powerful bike. The roads are flat, have nice gentle bends; the air is warm and the sky blue. Traffic lights and stop signs are few. A rider can really open up on these roads and enjoy what their bike can do. Plus, as one of America’s most fertile farmland, a rider is served with the scent of almonds, asparagus, artichokes, pears. Makes one hungry…

wheretoeat

 

 

So, onto the food. The tiny town of Isleton is famous for crawfish. The town itself resembles something found behind a levy in the Mississippi Delta- with clapboard houses, bait shops, Bed & Breakfasts and friendly locals. My kind of place. No stop in Isleton would be complete without a crawfish lunch or dinner at Isleton Joe’s- the fulcrum of town activity and a near-perfect bar / restaurant.

IMG_8670

The west facade of Isleton Joe’s (photo by Steven)

 

wheretostay

 

 

The Ryde Hotel
14340 California 160, Walnut Grove, CA. (916) 776-1318

http://www.rydehotel.com/

I’ve stayed at the Ryde Hotel a few times and I like the character. Located on a country road between Isleton and Walnut Grove, it has a rural location on a waterway and the sunsets seem to last forever. Rooms begin at $85 and are simple and comfortable. It’s really the location and the grounds that make this place a special place to relax after a day on the bike.

photop

 

 

The flat landscapes and excellent light make the California Delta an ideal place to take photos. It doesn’t really look like California, but rather some fusion of Louisiana and California. Of particular interest is the town of Locke, which has a clapboard Chinese heritage and fascinating main street. Check out the River Road Gallery in Locke for some local art, design and photography.

The Delta’s Asian Heritage

After Isleton, you can push east into the heart of the delta. I’d recommend two distinct towns with a unique history. The are just one mile apart: Walnut Grove (Japanese heritage) and Locke (Chinese heritage). The two towns are like something out of a movie set, complete with clapboard houses, faded signs in foreign languages and old saloons and restaurants. The place gets a bit spooky after dark.

Chinese heritage in Locke (photo by Steven)

required_listening

 



View Larger Map

Steven (84 Posts)

Steven is a roaming traveler, writer and urban planner based out of Asia. Connect with Steven on Steven Muzik on Google+!








Recent Articles

25 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING IN THAILAND

Thailand, with over 26 million foreign entries in 2016, can be a very touristic place to visit. By some accounts, 20% of the Thai...

5 of SAIGON’S BEST HIDDEN COCKTAIL BARS

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a place of surprises, much of them elusive to first-time visitors with just a few days on the...

The 5 Best Night Markets in Taipei

Taipei is inarguably one of the top street food cities in the world. Taiwan is known as the land of snacks: they have literally...

8 of the Best Cafes in Hanoi

The big cities in Vietnam have a cafe culture that is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Don’t expect a Chemex of...

How to Order Coffee in Vietnam Like a Local

Vietnam is a country that runs on coffee. There is a cafe on just about every block in Saigon and Hanoi and they’re packed...

10 THINGS I CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT

Recently I’ve taken a four-month break off of travel to settle into a comfortable life in a quiet town. It’s been nice, mostly.

I do...

LIVE LIKE A LOCAL: RENT A SHORT-TERM APARTMENT WHILE TRAVELING

If you want to experience the true life of a place, experience it like a local: get an apartment in a true neighborhood. Wake...

SIEM REAP’S 10 BEST BARS: CLASSY, HIDDEN DIVES JUST OUTSIDE OF ANGKOR

Every year I find myself in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. It’s inevitable, and always enjoyable.

Angkor Wat is, along with Bagan in Myanmar,...

‘A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY’: THE TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE THAT EXPLORES OUR NEED TO TRAVEL

“a place around the bend where he could jump off”

Created during a time (1959-1964) when American television seemed eerily clean and domestic, The Twilight...

SURVIVING BORACAY ALONE

In March of 2012, I was nearly finished with a 3-week journey moving west through the Visayas region of The Philippines. Visayas is famous...

NEVADA’S ROUTE 50: AMERICA’S LONELIEST ROAD

Highway 50 is one of those generous, eternal American roads that goes from coast to coast (nearly). It begins in Sacramento, California and ends...