Stroll Among the Tombstones

October is the perfect month to visit the Sacramento Historic Old City Cemetery.  Located at Riverside Drive and Broadway (just off the Capitol City Freeway; across from Target).  Something about Halloween at the end of the month stirs interest in all things dead and decaying.  In the autumn with the roses almost spent and leaves gathering on the ground, it fits one’s mood to take a walking tour of a cemetery.

The Sacramento Historic Old City Cemetery is the oldest cemetery still in operation west of the Mississippi River.  The oldest gravestone is for a man who died in 1849, but was probably erected later since no one had time during the gold rush to carve such an elaborate headstone when there was your fortune to be found.

There are many great stories and if you can, sign up for one of the guided tours from the volunteers with the Old City Cemetery Committee.  They enjoy researching the “residents” of the cemetery and telling their stories.  With an estimated 30,000 people buried, there are many stories.  There are prominent people in history, of course, but also the many graves from a cholera epidemic. There is a  section for firemen, and a section for Civil War veterans.  There is also an archive in the old chapel where you can research your own family tree or find someone buried in the graveyard.  For more information about tours, or access to the archives: http://www.oldcitycemetery.com.

The cemetery also attracts many gardeners–some to admire the plants including pioneer roses–and others to volunteer through the “adopt a plot” program.

Self-guided tours are available during regular hours.  Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays; March through October: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October through March: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enter at 10th Street and Broadway and make a small donation for a brochure with map.

Lucy’s Italian Dining in Rio Vista

My mom and I drove to Rio Vista today and picked up her friend Joyce at the impressive Trilogy retirement village and drove into town for lunch.  Joyce suggested Lucy’s Cafe.  I had done some research on Yelp and it was on the top of my list also.  We drove into town and pulled into a parking space right in front of the restaurant.  It is an old-fashioned place with booths and tables.  (If you want a view of the water then you should go to The Point Waterfront Restaurant).

Lucy’s fare is good solid food served promptly from a friendly waiter. The lunch menu has some Italian dishes with a good sampling of hot sandwiches.  My Mom ordered the meatball sandwich with a salad.  The salads arrived before the sandwiches and had tasty cherry tomatoes and beets over lettuce.  My mom joked that she ate the pattern off the plate as there was only a pool of water and salad dressing within a few minutes.  Joyce ordered the tuna melt sandwich and salad.  At Joyce’s recommendation I got the cheeseburger with fries.  All of our sandwiches arrived together and everyone was very happy with their choice.  The cheeseburger was served on a roll instead of a bun and with lettuce, tomato, thousand island sauce and  tasty onions.  The plank fries can also be ordered with garlic.

My Mom was very pleased with the meatball sandwich.  It had the right amount of sauce and the meatball was very tasty and is our recommendation. Prices are reasonable for breakfast and lunch.  (I’d have to see how much food you get for your $17-25 to tell you whether the dinner menu is a good price.)

Lucy’s Cafe

95 Main Street, Rio Vista

(707) 374.3939

Rio Vista: Funky River Town

Today I got my first taste of Rio Vista.  Located next to the Sacramento River on Highway 12. It is a 30 minute drive from Stockton or Fairfield.  It has a couple of small hotels and 9 restaurants in the “downtown”, so it is definitely small town.  You can walk to the end of Main Street with your fishing pole and throw your line in on the dock with the other half dozen fishermen.  And this weekend (October 13-14, 2012) you can compete in a bass tournament or enjoy the carnival in town.  for more information on events: http://www.riovista.org.

We ate at Lucy’s (see review), walked around town and poked our heads into Foster’s Bighorn bar & grill.  Foster’s would be fun for a drink, but I can’t imagine keeping my appetite with the head of the gentlest of creatures, a giraffe, looking down at me.  Or an elephant.

 

There is a farmer’s market on the far side of the bridge and coming in 2013 a Delta Discovery Center.  If you are riding your motorcycle on a Saturday, or going for a Sunday drive with your car club, then Rio Vista is a good destination.  It also appears to be a fishermen’s paradise.  Check it out.

Lambtown, USA in Dixon

I am an avid knitter and raised sheep in 4-H as a kid, so I was anticipating this festival of sheep for many months.  Dixon is the self-proclaimed capital for sheep in California.  They celebrate the food and fiber in an annual festival that has moved from date to date in the past few years.  This year it was October 6-7 at the Dixon May Fairgrounds.  I attended on Sunday as I wanted to lend my needles for the attempt to break the world’s record for the most people knitting in one place.

It is an easy 10 minutes off I-80 to the fairgrounds (along Highway 113).  Dixon is still a smallish town with just 18,000 people.  The downtown is quaint and more interesting than the pit stops at the freeway exits would suggest.

I paid $5 to park and then $2 to enter the fairgrounds.  The exhibit buildings had a fiber market and an art show.  There was live entertainment in the beer garden and a half-dozen food vendors with only a couple featuring lamb products.  In the far off livestock building there were a number of sheep ranchers with market lambs and wool breeds showing for prizes.

In the arena where the sheep dog trials and the horse demonstrations also occur, we gathered to break the record.  We needed 1200 knitters and barely mustered 200.  Still, it is fun to sit in the stands enjoying the camaraderie of fellow knitters even if for just a half hour.  Many would have stayed and kept knitting together except that it was very hot and the sun intense.

It was a pleasant way to pass a few hours.  I drove around Dixon a bit and I may go back if the price of gas drops.  If you read a bit of let down between the lines, you’d be correct.  Enjoy this video.

Bab’s on the Suisun City Waterfront

On a recent weekday in Suisun City, I had time for lunch and found easy parking near the Marina.  There are two restaurants with outdoor dining–one serving Greek food and the other American diner fare.  They both looked equally popular and I chose Bab’s Diner.

I needed to eat indoors to have access to an electrical outlet for my computer (it was a workday). The welcoming waitress accommodated me though it meant a single at a table for four at the lunch hour.  She quickly brought my diet coke and took my order.  I decided on the BLT on sourdough bread with fries (unseasoned).  I inquired about the tomatoes and the waitress was uncertain of their provence.  This is a diner not a “Diner” and the tomatoes were pale and tasteless.  The bacon was great (crispy and meaty) and the fries cooked just right.  The waitress was efficient and very friendly.  My guess is that she’d be just as cheerful if you were an elderly couple splitting an order or a family with three children under 5 years.

I’d meet a colleague at Bab’s for lunch, or stop in for a hot breakfast after boating in the morning.

 

Odd Little Suisun City

The challenge of writing about the Delta is that it has so much unrealized potential.  Suisun City is just such a case.  It has lots of unrealized charm and interest, but it is as if the various elements are strewn about the landscape and not quite put together yet.  The city’s boosters describe it as a “San Francisco Bay Area gem with a touch of Cape Cod charm.” The key words that keeps them from fibbing is “a touch”.  It has an Amtrak station so you can arrive by train and there is a solid station with restaurants on the spot.  It is a short walk to the marina, the main hotel and conference center, and shopping.  Most people likely arrive by car from Highway 12.  As you exit the freeway you see a new Harbor Center and Hampton Inn and a lot of concrete waterfront walkways and “parks”.  This doesn’t yet relate well to the rest of town, which is much older.

Even in the older parts of town, the buildings appear to have a fear of touching.  Nonetheless, it is a great location.  You can launch your boat from the marina or the public boat launch and enter the Suisun Marsh; or unload your bike and head to the wildlife area at the end of Grizzly Island Road for some excellent bird watching.  For more details, check out http://www.visitsuinsuncity.com/outdoor-recreation.

So the dilemma is that if you live in Sacramento or the Bay Area, this is a great diversion and probably someplace you haven’t yet explored. But if you are visiting from out of the area, there are so many places nearby that have more to offer.  However, it is easily accessible to the Bay Area thanks to Amtrak, and if you are looking for an outdoor experience, it has much to offer.  Note: California duck hunting season opens the third week of October and extends for 100 days.  The Suisun Marsh is packed with duck clubs, so if you want to enjoy the marsh during the season, you may want to avoid the most popular hunting days: Wednesday and Saturday.

On the first Saturday of October, the city hosts the Waterfront Festival, boasting art, chocolate and wine.  For more information: http://www.suisunwaterfront.com/Events/

 

Tale of Two Cities: View through a Farmer’s Market

If you are visiting the Sacramento area and you want a quick snap shot of how different different places are from one another, look no further than the Farmer’s Market.  The Davis Farmer’s Market is frequently awarded for its excellence.  The city has built a solid structure to house it on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.  Located in the heart of downtown in Central Park at 4th and C streets, it attracts hundreds of residents per hour mostly arriving on foot or by bicycle.  It is a celebration of neighborliness, challenging a serious shopper to bob and weave through the clusters of friends catching up, buying tickets to the high school musical, and arranging play dates for their kids or dogs.

quintessential Davis

 

The selection of fruit, vegetables, honey, eggs, cheese, meat, bread, coffee and flowers is impressive. There are also crafts, community groups and musicians.

 

You can mock how groovy it all seems.  Or you can find it incredibly charming. Your choice.  It happens every week, so if it is a performance, then they are consistently good.  Parking is easy to find within a few blocks and if you walk a few blocks to your car you’ll also find good restaurants for breakfast or lunch and more shopping.

If you are coming from the Bay Area, there is an Amtrak station about 10 blocks from Central Park and an easy stroll through town.

Sacramento has many Farmer’s Market (see post on Oak Park), but the largest of all of the Certified Farmers Markets is the one beneath the freeway in a State parking lot at 8th and W Streets.  Held each Sunday from 8-12, it is great if soccer schedules keep you from getting to the market on Saturday.  The roof of the market is the Capitol City Freeway (locals call it the WX freeway).  A picture is worth a thousand words:

 

I was struck by the same great variety of vendors, although fewer community groups are represented and a musician would struggle to be heard over the roar of freeway traffic.  It is much harder to find parking as few people walk or bicycle to this market.  This is a market, first and foremost, with hundreds of people looking for a bargain (either actual or perceived: quality not found elsewhere).  This is a place where you swoop in to buy your oysters, fresh feta cheese, mushrooms, asian vegetables and get out.  There are lines at some stands to pay and an interesting mix of people but very little interaction among shoppers.  Is it fair to say this is quintessential Sacramento? Perhaps in neighborhoods within Sacramento you’d find a different vibe, or among families at a school carnival. At the same time the vast numbers of discount stores, thrift stores, and Costco-like superstores speaks to the inner skinflint in every Sacramentan.  This location is also practical, so what if it is devoid of any joy.  After all, Sacramento is saving its public dollars for a new arena.