Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian A woman tidies up the sidewalk in front of her shop in Locke, a small town on the Sacramento River.

Editor’s note: This is the final part of reporter Tarmo Hannula’s trip to the Sacramento area. Stay tuned to The Pajaronian for his future travel exploits.

One the last day of the short road trip my wife, Sarah and I took from Watsonville to Sacramento, we started out with the grand breakfast that comes with your room at the Embassy Suites, which is stationed on the edge of Old Town Sacramento and the Sacramento River. 

By plan, we met relatives at John C. Fremont Park near downtown Sacramento and had a ball with grandkids joining them in their Easter egg hunt.

We left the city on Highway 99 and worked our way back to Locke for a deeper dive into its history.

We parked on the main drag of Locke and worked our way along several back streets and absorbed the rich flavor of the place. 

One rickety wood home or business after another, with the wood awning overhead, a few wood sidewalks and several dirt streets that run beside ramshackle cottages felt like wandering into a Vincent van Gogh painting. On one sidewalk, a woman swept the path with a worn out broom; a man washed his car beside a leaning house; a couple of cats darted away from us and disappeared beneath some overgrown and dried out hydrangeas. If there was ever a place where time stood still, Locke is certainly a candidate for the shortlist, in our view anyway. 

Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian A market window features an early day Wonder Bread sign in their window in Walnut Grove.

A brass plaque in town reads: “A thriving Chinese town in its heyday, Locke residents exhibited a resilient spirit to survive and persevered throughout the twentieth century. Together they withstood the constant threat of fire, floods, the pain of poverty; the bitterness of discrimination, the despair of neglect, the emptiness of social abandonment. In 1971 Locke was  listed in the National Register of Historic Places and by 1990 Locke was named a National Historic Landmark.”

We continued south along Highway 160, at times following the river, through Walnut Grove and onto Highway 5, south.

Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian The old meets the new in downtown Walnut Grove.

We passed massive fruit and nut tree orchards under shifting dark clouds and  sporadic bursts of rain as we sailed past Patterson and Neman until catching Highway 152,  west. It was refreshing to see San Luis Reservoir brimming full. We’ve always found it to be a worthwhile stop to pull into Casa De Fruta. Granted, it has the tourist luster and commercial trappings, but they have a nice cafe there, an ice cream counter and plenty of outdoor beaches where we sat back to enjoy our refreshments while watching the wild peacocks roam among the crowds, a rewarding way to cap a short but engaging journey.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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