California Bayou


California’s bayou country lies at the confluence of the mighty San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers where they continue westward to the Pacific through a break in the coastal mountains. Like Louisiana this area is swampy lowland, and there are hundreds of miles of it here in California. Farmable land is found at the bottom of these drained Tule swamps, and like Holland, the land can be astonishingly productive once it is drained. Roads top the dikes, and Cal Trans operates an island ferry system, making bicycling a fun outdoor activity.

"The first ferry is right there.” Rory pointed to a Cal Trans sign ‘Ryer Island Ferry’.

Leaving the car, Rory and Katie removed the bikes from the rack, loaded the bike bags, and rode a short distance to the ferry landing, waiting almost five minutes for the boat to come across from the other side of Cache Slough. The craft moved from one side of the slough to the other by wheeling along an underwater cable stretched between the banks.

After a car unloaded, Katie and Rory walked their bikes onto the ferry.

“Hello.” The operator greeted them from the wheelhouse as he winched up the end gate.

“Hi,” Rory looked over the edge to see the cable tighten when the boat’s winch whirred, plying its way across the waterway. At the other side the ferry jerked to a halt, and the exit gate dropped.

Here Katie, let’s go this way.” He walked his bike to the top of the levee. There were two ways to go around this island, clockwise, or counterclockwise. All the delta islands are made this way, with the roadways conveniently placed on top of the earthen dikes.

Rory decided to head south, which put the river on their right. To the left acres of grape vines stood in neat, straight rows, their feet solidly anchored in carefully weeded, deep brown soil. It was an unnatural feeling, to see water higher than the ground. The dry fertile soil was protected from disastrous flooding by the dirt levee, and the twenty-four hour whirring of giant pumps that threw seeping water back into the river.

It was a peaceful bike ride, the air was still, the breeze was gentle, and small waves were softly slapping the rocks and driftwood along the shoreline. The only man-made sounds came from the nearby pumping station and a motorboat somewhere upstream, its' humming cutting harshly through the quiet.

As they rode further, they approached another cable ferry. The green and white sign said ‘Grand Island.’ This boat was the J-Mack ferry.

“Let’s go over there, onto Grand Island,” Rory suggested. “This island hopping is fun.”

As soon as they landed he took the lead, this time to find a picnic area, settling on a place called Hogback Park.

“Let’s take a break; I want to check this out.” Rory steered his bike across the empty asphalt parking lot onto the grass. Leaving the bike leaning against a concrete picnic table, he walked to the water’s edge and smiled. Removing his shoes and socks he waded into the water

“Hey Katie, come here! It feels so good.” Rory took his shoes off, then his socks. Katie did too.

The wet grass, still cold from the morning mist felt refreshing on her bare feet. She followed onto the beach watching as Rory explored the bottom of the riverbed with his toes. She glanced around. The park was empty. Looking around once more, she removed her shorts and shirt, entering the water in her panties and bra.

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t want to get my clothes wet.”

“What if someone were to see you?”

“There is no one here to see me, Rory. I have an idea!”

“I’m afraid to ask.”

“Can you go back to the bikes, and pull out our picnic cover? I want to lie down for a while in the sun, maybe get a tan.”

“Katie, you’re already tan!”

“Good, then I won’t burn.” She left the water, walked up to him, grabbed the sheet from his hands, and spread it on the sand. He went back in the water.

“You know, you asked for this. It was your idea, anyway.” She removed the rest of her clothes.

“How can this be my idea?” He was uneasy, and he glanced around, not sure she was right about the park being empty.

“You told me you would need more bedtime to figure out if you could come to the Grand Canyon, remember? I just made a bed for you. Come check it out.”

He took too long to make up his mind.

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