Traveling away from home everything takes on a new shiny façade that intrigues and invites a second look. However, times being what they are many of us are not going far from home as frequently. It’s time to take a fresh look around.
What treasures are hidden in this county that makes it so special? There are the obvious tourist destinations like Mt. Diablo State Park and the Old Borges Ranch. Or perhaps a trip to John Muir House is in order or an evening at the Lesher Center to take in the current performance? Whatever your preference, there is something in this county to fill you with wonder and joy.
Today is sunny, again, in Contra Costa County and the hills are green after our little bit of rain. The boy scouts are out picking up trash along Clayton Road and there are groups of cyclists (bicyclists, that is) gathered on several corners in the area. Everyone is out doing things and seeing the sights.
It seems like a good day to leave the immediate locale and head out Highway 4 to one of my favorite places: Port Costa. With my camera packed and extra batteries in the bag, I set out to visit the quiet little town that often comes alive on beautiful weekends with travelers who like winding roads and open spaces. There are often several groups on motorcycles stopping for a quick bite to eat and lots of sport car enthusiasts out with their tops down.
It is interesting to note, this once thriving town was established in 1879 as a landing for the railroad ferry that carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to transport wheat to the Port of Oakland. It lost importance when the railroad built a bridge across the strait in 1930 and has now become a favorite venue for antique hunters and adventurers from the nearby cities and suburbs.
The train still runs between the town and the waterfront, clacking past with an authoritative air. Train tracks were always fascinating when I was a child; my brother convinced me that putting pennies on the track would derail the train. While we were visiting family friends in Capitola one summer we snuck over to the local tracks and put pennies on them, along with some ice plants that grew nearby and then hid in some nearby bushes to see the spectacle. I was terrified, he was excited and when the train whizzed by, mere squashing the items in its’ path I was so relieved I didn’t even get angry with him for lying to me. It always makes me wonder if other kids tell those tall tales to their siblings, too.
The winding road off of Highway 4 that leads to the little town leads down the hill lines between groves of eucalyptus trees and pastures where cows graze peacefully. Intersections along the way lead you more roads that are dotted with old barns leading to Crockett, Martinez and eventually to Lafayette if you continue far enough along the interconnected byways.
I love the buildings and the old town feel that still remain intact in Port Costa. The main street is short and they boast a population of about 850 residents. The numbers swell on the weekends when the warehouse is open for business serving beer and casual fare for the traveler’s that venture in.
An Amtrak train rumbled by on the tracks today during our visit. Close on its heels a cargo vessel drifted down the strait amid sailboats and surf skis. The pitted dirt parking lot resembled a series of ponds more than parking spaces after the recent rains, but was still filled with vehicles of all types whose owners were walking along the tracks or resting in the tavern or on the patio nearby. Girl Scouts had set up a table in front of the hotel; troop 30661 from Pinole had several enterprising young ladies politely offering their cookies for sale. They are a troop that encompasses Daisy, Brownie and Junior level scouts and had representatives from both Brownies and Juniors out for the sale today. Some thin mints managed to find their way into my bag on their way to my hips before I took my leave, a mere $5.00 lighter for the purchase.
Inside the Warehouse, built in 1839, resides a collection of odd and interesting articles that had lives elsewhere before taking residence in this facility. Bank doors and antiques, old signs and vintage windows have places of honor. There’s so much more than that, but you should go explore it yourself. It’s fun finding interesting relics everywhere you turn used for new purposes, or displayed reminiscently along the walls.
Wandering the street and enjoying a pulled pork sandwich and beer are pretty much the last things to do after admiring the architecture and ambiance of this small town, so we climbed back in the car to cruise back up the curving road that brought us to our visit.
If you’re planning your own visit, be sure to go on Friday, Saturday or Sunday when the stores and restaurants are open. Dogs are welcome on the patio, but not inside the restaurants so make sure your canine buddies are ready for an outdoor adventure if they come along. The town is a quaint, wonderful surprise at the end of a drive that will make you remember why people used to go for Sunday drives.