Crockett, CA

So I started a new job. It’s a position I’ve been after for a while and I’m happy to say I’m finally there. I have clients with offices around the Bay Area so I’m doing a fair amount of driving. Sometimes if I don’t have anything pressing to do, I like to take the long way home. In this case, that meant finding two towns I didn’t even know existed. The first of which, is Crockett, California. Named after Joseph Crockett, a former California Supreme Court Judge, the town was started in 1866 when a man named Thomas Edwards Sr bought 1800 acres of land from Judge Crockett and built his home, which stands today as an historical landmark. In 1906, an agricultural cooperative of Hawaiian sugar cane growers built a sugar factory in Crockett that was to become the very well known C&H. According to Wikipedia, there are rumours of underground sugar caverns under Crockett. If that’s true, they are unfortunately closed to the public.

I’ve spent many years passing the C&H factory on the Amtrak that goes past on its way from Sacramento to Fremont. I’ve never had the opportunity to take any pictures of it until this day. As I was on my way home from a client site in Petaluma, I decided to detour and get as close to the factory as possible. This led me off 80 and into the dirt parking lot of a little bar and restaurant on the water called The Nantucket. I love finding little, out of the way places like this so I had to park and go inside for a beer. They were closed, but there was no limit to the things I would find while exploring the property. I found massive piles of rubbish containing household goods, construction waste, and even boats sitting out the rest of their days landlocked and weathered.

I followed some train tracks down to the C&H factory, but couldn’t get a good vantage point at such a low angle. I headed back the other way and saw a shirtless man sanding down primer on the side of a 1970 C10 Camper Special. I have a particular affinity for this truck, specifically the ‘72 as I’ve owned two of them. I started talking to him about the truck and found that he lived there, in one of the boats. His boat was next to an early '90s jet ski. They were both on land. Right beside the truck. He said the area used to be really big for boating, skiing, and fishing, but everyone just kind of forgot about it. He said he looked after the property and that The Nantucket had good food.

The second town I discovered was Port Costa. This place was straight out of a dream. Leaving Crockett, I followed Carquinez Scenic Drive east until making a left on Canyon Lake Drive. This, as it turns out, is the main and pretty much only road into and out of Port Costa. Everything was lush. The houses, maybe a hundred years old, stood strong, flanked by green trees, shrubs, and ivies.

Port Costa, California was founded in 1879 as a landing point for a railroad ferry called the Solano. Operated by Central Pacific Railroad, it was a paddleboat that would carry entire trains across the Carquinez Strait between Port Costa and Benicia as a part of the famed Transcontinental Railroad. That is spectacular. What’s even more spectacular, is that before its younger sister ship, The Contra Costa, The Solano was the largest ferry boat ever built. Port Costa was actually the busiest wheat-shipping port in the country, but after wheat output fell and Southern Pacific took over Central Pacific, building a bridge over the Strait, Port Costa fell mostly into obscurity. A 2010 consensus showed Port Costa has having only 190 inhabitants down from 232 in 2000. Since the '60s, it’s been a place for antique shopping and a gathering place for bikers.

Heading down Canyon Lake Drive, I passed an amazing school on the right. The road led me to the waterfront, where I found an incredible bar called The Warehouse. It was quiet at the time, but filled with the most interesting found artifacts from stickers to signs to lamps to a real-life, standing polar bear behind glass in the corner. I had a beer and a sandwich and was on my way. I can’t wait to come back to this place on a weekend to do some more exploring.

I tried to drive out to Port Chicago which has its own rich and very interesting history, but ran into a security checkpoint for the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery pictured below. I'd really like to find another path out there and write about what happened in 1944 when a munitions explosion killed almost 400 people.