Saturday, April 2, 2011


I COULD TELL it was finally spring. The temperature had ratcheted itself you by six-degree increments over the previous three days. Buckets of rain had stopped falling. Looking the month of April squarely in the face, it had been at least four weeks since the GS saw the outside of the garage. The storm had collapsed the back fence, but the back fence could wait.

I packed the camera and a bottle of Fiji water. The line no particular place to go ran through my head. Here, then is a summary:

THE CALIFORNIA DELTA has a maze of levee roads that twist and curl between Sacramento, Stockton, Rio Vista and beyond. Getting lost in the Delta is no tragedy. It is a gift. Having briefly stopped at Elk Grove Powersports ( to check out their new inventory of Triumphs (the old dealer went under in November) and drool at a sexy Moto Guzzi Breva Sport, I found myself on a couple of secondary roads splitting the Cosumnes River Preserve. Snowy egrets stood watch in the flooded flats and flotillas of Canadian honkers rose and fell on slightest waves. In three places, water topped the pavement and I found myself tip-toeing the GS through. I didn’t stop for pictures.

I motored on to Walnut Grove to glimpse a Sacramento River well within its levee constraints, but higher than I recall ever seeing it. Catching SR 160 I traced the embankments down to Isleton. In a normal year, the pear, peach and plum blossoms would appear as a carpet over the fertile bottomlands, but this year, the heavy rains washed many of the pink and while petals away. Isleton, Sacramento County’s smallest “city” provides a sturdy and clean public restroom just a few steps from the river. Its streets are Mayberry quiet – nice for strolling – and the Levee Café provides a fair hamburger.

I HADN’T CHECKED OUT the Western (formerly California Electric) Railway Museum in a dozen years, so that would become my next non-particular destination. Trough Rio Vista and west on SR 12 about sixteen miles, one comes to Vista Junction. A hundred years ago, the Sacramento Northern (nee Northern Electric) ran through these parts as electric inter-urban trains ran from Oakland to Sacramento and up to Chico. Before the automobile became ubiquitous, folks could catch an electric train and easily travel from point to point throughout the Sacramento Valley and down to the bay. At Vista Junction, some of this history is preserved and in May, most of the rolling stock is powered up for public rides. This day the museum was closed, but through the gate, I could see they’d constructed a nice new building. Didn’t stop for a picture. Must go back on the weekend when it is open.

I DID CHECK my DeLorme’s California Atlas and Gazetteer and realized that Suisun City was a brief jaunt up the highway and that there a tiny road I’d not taken before begging my attention. Rolling past legions of three-propped aliens, it appeared that the Solano wind farm would go on forever. I thought about Battlestar Gallactica and wondered if these creatures were actually Cylons in their native form. I didn’t stop for a picture.

Continuing west-northwest, a huge, gray L-1011 (perhaps) converted for military use practiced touch and go at Travis Air Force Base. Riding the BMW feels like flying, we’re told, and it felt as if my flight was far faster than the lumbering activity of the jet. I paused in line with the end of the runway, several miles off, and watched the beast touch the tarmac and ascend for another go.

WEST OF FAIRFIELD – turn of I-80 at the weigh station – Suisun Valley Road courses north into the Coast Range. This road was new to me. It begins as a four lane but quickly downsizes to a pair just past Solano Community College. A few miles up the road a four-corners named Rockville invites pause. There’s a nice nursery, a coffee place and, I think, a little mom and pop. From freeway to farm life in about six minutes, this community would support the bucolic vineyards further up the road.

The Suisun Valley Road is a delight. In the lower reaches, it traces the angular boundaries of property. Further on it changes its name to Woodinville Road conforms to route of a stream course. The road rises and falls away and twists through stands of oak. Every flat half-acre is planted in vineyard. Years ago, there was but one winery in these parts, the Wooden Valley Winery, but over the course of three-plus decades, more have sprouted up with new tasting rooms constructed to look old and quaint. I wish I’d stopped for a photo.

Woodinville Road dead-ends into SR 121 five miles east of Napa. This route I know well having taken it so many times when Auntie DeVonne was hospitalized last fall. The SR 121-128 combination carries much more traffic and many bikers. Coming my direction were two fights of about 20 motor patrol officers each, I’m assuming in training. As their Harleys roared by, I shared a salute with many of them.

THE LAST STOP THIS DAY would be the Monticello Dam confining Lake Berryessa. In deep need of a stretch I paced the viewing area and discovered, much to my horror, that Berryessa has a “Glory Hole” instead of a spillway. A spillway allows excess water to slip into an engineered channel rather than over top the dam. A Glory Hole is like a huge concrete tube, perhaps thirty feet across, that sticks up in the middle of the pool a hundred yards or so back of the dam. Water eclipsing the rim of the glory hole rushes down into this darkness and shoots out into the creek. I picture myself in a rowboat, feverishly paddling against a lake top current, only to be sucked into the glory hole and spit out at the bottom. Engineering feats to be sure, these things scare the hell out of me.

Google Images

The remainder of the shakedown cruise was on roads I too-commonly know. 128 through Winters; 113 to Davis; I-80 home. The eighty-degree day, clear sky, dry pavement, camaraderie with others and the burger in Isleton, made the first two-hundred miler of the year a nice day and another chapter for the Church of the Open Road.

Tomorrow I would fix the fence.


Since I left my camera firmly strapped to my belt for this entire excursion, you might be interested in further photos and facts found by clicking:

California Delta Visitor’s Bureau:

Western Railway Museum:

Wind Farm of Solano:

Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum:

Suisun Valley Wineries:

Lake Berryessa and really scary pictures of that “Glory Hole:”

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is scary. Don't you think they have some kind of rope set up so that boaters can't get sucked in?