Based on the advice of one of our older and wiser friends, we took a beautiful detour along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta on our way back from an otherwise nondescript trip to Sacramento, and spent a couple of hours in the teeny-tiny historic town of Locke, in California. This is a town which was built entirely by and for Chinese residents in the early 1900’s, and the fact that it was still standing piqued our curiosity.
We almost missed it – but said older and wiser friend also warned us of this possibility, so we managed to screech to a halt on the highway in time to turn in to the one narrow hillside road that leads down into the one-block-long town.
We decided to first drive slowly through because, like certain well-advertised yard sales that you drive out of your way to find, sometimes tips like these aren’t really worth following up on once you get there and see all the old beat-up blenders and spit up-stained baby clothes strewn across the lawn. It’s safe to say I’ve been disappointed by many a yard sale…*shakes fist at the sky*.
Luckily, we were so instantly fascinated by Locke that we couldn’t wait to get out of the car. Tall, ramshackle buildings with signs swinging above the doors as they had been doing for probably the last hundred years; souvenir shops selling faded postcards and bright, silky Chinese pajamas; an old schoolhouse where one can imagine adding up sums on a chalk tablet. It brought to mind Little House on the Prairie – perhaps because the nearest town is Walnut Grove, and we went through a pretty serious LHOP stage a couple of years ago (as in, we dressed as the Ingalls family for Halloween, so…yeah, we were into it).
But I digress. There are some significant differences from that once-entertaining old show.
We got a pretty good dose of Locke’s history and somewhat sordid (but fun!) past while perusing the boarding house-turned-visitor’s center, and I’d tell you about it here, but I think you should just go and do your own learning, mmkay? Plus, there’s not too much to do in Locke, so this will help pass a few extra minutes for you.
We walked up and down the wooden sidewalks, taking in the sights of dilapidated buildings and nods to the town’s rich Chinese heritage and culture along the way. Off the beaten path, we nodded hello to one of the only 60 or so full-time residents, then we found a succulent garden housed entirely in old toilets. We had lunch at Al the Wop’s, the go-to restaurant for tourists like ourselves, where my sandwich was so tall it made me mad, I’m not even gonna lie. Then, we gathered some very important lessons on gambling for the kids to tuck away for the future, courtesy of the Dai Loy Museum which is filled with old gambling wares.
As quick stops along the way go, Locke was such a cool old slice of a bygone era we don’t often get the opportunity to check out. If you don’t need your destinations to be too ‘pretty’ or ‘clean’ or ‘completely standing up and stable’, Locke is a good bet.
(GET IT?! That was a gambling joke!)
I’ll just finish with that one…I’ll leave the brothel jokes for Vegas.