The Norcal Nomad

Traveling in Northern California

Destination: Port Costa

Written By: Deborah Linnekin - Mar• 09•14

 

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.

The Warehouse Cafe; Port Costa, CA

The Warehouse Cafe; Port Costa, CA

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.

Biker Dog in Port Costa

Biker Dog in Port Costa

 

 

 

 

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.

Lazy Dog Comes to Concord

Written By: Deborah Linnekin - Mar• 05•14

Last year El Torito vanished from the Willows Shopping Center in Concord. As the demolition dirt settled and the local goats made quick work of the vegetation by the creek nearby, Lazy Dog restaurant raised its roof and piqued our curiosity. After all, what would a restaurant named “Lazy Dog” serve? Hot dogs, perhaps? That was the most frequent guess among my friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.
As the restaurant emerged, the theme seemed clear: a beautiful stacked stone building reminiscent of a mountain lodge supplanted the previous adobe structure. Large west facing windows and beamed ceilings surrounding a huge stone fireplace in the open, vibrant restaurant that also incorporates a bar and a patio area near the front entrance. But look around a little more closely and you’ll start to see it: the menu is proudly displayed on a very tall fire hydrant, the door handles are huge cast metal bones, paw prints are evident on the tables and the menu and the walls are filled with pictures of, you guessed it: dogs! Would your canine companion just love it here?
Needless to say, they do not serve hot dogs. They do, however, serve a wide variety of everything else. I found starters as varied as hummus, dim sum and poke alongside Cajun fries and calamari. The menu continues with Campfire Pot Roast, Ginger Soy Salmon, Bahama Chicken and Thai Noodles among the extensive list of entrees. My personal favorites to date are the grilled cheese sandwich and Butter cake topped with French vanilla ice cream!
The bar is available for meals as well as drinking and is self-seating if you prefer not to wait for a table. They have a unique offering of beer that they will provide in a set of sampler size glasses if you would like to try out several to find a favorite. Wine flights are also available for the grape lovers among us.
Have special dietary needs? They have a menu for that: Kids 12 and Under, Gluten free, Happiest hours and a brunch menu are actually all available online at www.lazydogrestaurants.com. The biggest surprise, though, is their dog menu. Yes, they have a special menu and cater to your canine companion on the patio. With their own special food served while you eat your furry friends are sure to feel pampered when they accompany you to Lazy Dog. Perhaps an adoption day celebration is in order just to try it out?
Whether or not you’re traveling with furry friends, Lazy Dog is a delightful place to gather for a meal. They have several locations, all in California, so stop in and enjoy the casual atmosphere and friendly staff.. While it is a large cavernous room, it does not feeling overwhelmingly noisy or frenzied so join the fun: meet me at the Lazy Dog.

Hello world!

Written By: Deborah Linnekin - Jan• 09•14

Hello World! I will be taking  you on tours of California and perhaps further from home as time goes on. It’s a beautiful place to live and I want to share our secrets with you. Welcome to Northern California!

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