If Vallejo could be best compared to any of the songs on Train’s California 37 album, it would probably be “50 Ways To Say Goodbye,” because the mariachi-themed brass part of the song would work well with the general population of the town. Although the first time I had been to Vallejo was when we first visited our driver’s sister’s house, I have to say that after this trip I can better understand how Vallejo is structured as a city, whether or not that is necessarily an enjoyable thing. I have to say that I gained my experience and knowledge about Vallejo in a straightforward way, and that is by exploring the city, such as it is with the city being a bit more than 100,000 people and being the closest town in the North Bay area to the Inner Bay as a whole, just across a bridge that costs $6.00 to escape the San Francisco area on I-80 going eastbound. Given that the wrong turn can lead one to be dumped across a bridge and into the Inner Bay very quickly, Vallejo is not the ideal town to get lost in.
What can be said about Vallejo from exploring it? Well, the city was twice briefly the capital of California, and is currently a town which feels as if it has a bit of an identity crisis. The city is at a confluence of various transportation means, including I-80, I-705, I-605, and CA-37, the eponymous highway of the Train album listed above. It appears as if the core of old Vallejo is an almost triangular area on the side of some land close to San Francisco, but there is also a growing area on the other side of a lagoon, where our driver’s sister happens to live, and it was not an easy matter to get over to the other side of the town, because it is not until one drives either quite a bit south or along one of the highways before one is able to reach Sonoma Boulevard, which gives access to the east side of town where Discovery Kingdom is and which has a combination of commercial as well as lower cost residential dwelling than the west side of town.
Interestingly, one of the reasons we got turned around so much in Vallejo was that our driver was trying to stay close to the water. Of course, staying close to the water in Vallejo provides a lot of options, including driving around some nice neighborhoods, visiting historical sites including a defunct shipbuilding plant, making an unexpected trip over some bridges, and eventually finding the other side of the water that one has been driving near to find where one is looking. And once we got there I had the chance to sit and read a good deal while our driver did some repair work on the mobile home where his sister lives. We had treated her out to dinner when we visited her last week on the way down from Oregon, and it appears that she wanted to return the favor so she cooked some and we ate and chatted and enjoyed her shy and skittish cat.
What does one gain from explorations like this? To be sure, I do not expect to spend a great deal of time in Vallejo. But I would not have expected to visit Vallejo nor did I know much of anything about the town or the area. Sometimes one simply goes to places and waits for the places to trigger stories that one might not have known otherwise, as places that would not immediately seem to be all that important turn out to be full of unusual importance, where people work and live and make the best of the circumstances that they find themselves in. There are far worse things than being a bit turned around in a town where one has memories and where memories can be made. Some of the greatest explorations that one can find are not necessarily the ones one is intending to do, but rather the ones that happen to present themselves along the way, as was the case here.