These truckers were paid tourists today

| April 01, 2012

I learned today a bit about Sacramento, Calif., Old Sacramento, railroads, the First Transcontinental Railroad, the Pony Express and more. Learned by visiting this city as a tourist.

Diane and I woke up this morning in a retail area in West Sacramento. We are laying over in the area, waiting to pick up freight on Monday. Tourist plans made yesterday were acted on today.

After cleaning up and eating breakfast in the truck, we drove about five miles to the Amtrak station in Sacramento. A Google Maps search of the area showed a big parking lot where we thought we could park the truck. We would walk from there to the Sacramento History Museum to begin our tourist day.

That did not work. Thinking the lot would be mostly empty on a Sunday morning, we were surprised to find it nearly full. We were also surprised to see that they charged for parking there. Depending on the spots, we would have to pay for five or six of them to park the truck, if they let us in, and if we could get in.

Having no Plan B, we went into a spiral driving pattern to find a place to park from which we could walk to Old Sacramento. We worked our way around the blocks and the area in a progressively widening spiral hoping to find a spot. No joy. There were lots but all were pay lots. At a $10 daily rate per spot, we were not inclined to pay $50 to $60 to park the truck.

Eventually our spiral was so wide that walking back to the center of town was not an option. Thoughts of giving up started creeping into our minds. We would have been better off leaving the truck where we woke up in it this morning and taking a cab into town. That would not work now because too much of the day had already passed. By the time we got parked and took a cab back into town there would not have been enough of the day left to enjoy a leisurely walk through the attractions.

Before giving up and heading to a parking place near tomorrow’s freight pick up to spend the night, we started looking for a place, any legal place where we could stop and gather our thoughts. After some more driving around, in a random pattern this time, a large motel parking lot appeared and in we went.

That would be a great spot if the motel would let us stay. It was only a mile from Old Sacramento and a walking/bike path went straight there. We went inside to offer the manager $10 to park for the day. He told us to keep our money, enjoy the day and to be sure to see the Railroad Museum.

As I was securing the truck, a man in a car parked on the street very close to our truck in the motel lot. He was lost and wanted directions to Old Sacramento. Knowing the way, I gave the directions and then it dawned on me to bum a ride in return for guiding him in. He agreed and Diane and I had shoes on the ground in Old Sacramento a few minutes later.

A few steps later, we found ourselves in front of a small military museum. Intrigued, we went in to check out the gift shop and ask about the museum admission price. Because I am a veteran, we were admitted for free. With free parking, a free ride and free museum admission, Sacramento was bringing smiles to our faces.

Since this is more of a trucking blog than travelogue, I am emphasizing the truck parking part. But I will say that Old Sacramento is a worthy tourist stop. The Railroad Museum was especially interesting and very well done. We spent most of our time there and enjoyed every minute.

The weather was perfect; 63°F, mostly sunny, mild winds. After walking most of the Old Sacramento streets, we walked back to the truck to get there before sundown.

Because we are truckers, we got to spend the afternoon in Old Sacramento and then take the short walk “home.” We were paid to drive to this city. Lodging was free in the truck. We were never far from the comforts of our home on the road (the truck sleeper).

Our food costs were the same as usual on the road; except for three ice cream cones. We each started with one cone. Mine was especially good so I was required to have another later in the day — it’s a California regulation.

Expediters sometimes call themselves paid tourists. Diane and I were certainly that today.