Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Interiors Life in general Painting Sketchbook Pages

Port Costa Cafe and Car Towing

Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Burlington Hotel Cafe, Port Costa, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

My sketch trip to the funky little town of Port Costa got off to a rough start. On the way into town I spotted an interesting old school and pulled off the road to sketch it. Literally. Off the road. I didn’t spot the drainage ditch and my car ended up teetering with two wheels hanging and two wheels on the road.

Hanging off the road
Burly but nice tow truck guy

The tow truck driver was funny and took a movie of me and my car, dictating the facts of the case at the same time, I guess to prove to AAA that it was all fixed. I waved and smiled at his phone and said thanks.

Photo of Burlington Hotel Cafe

After my ordeal and late start I didn’t feel like setting up outside with the rest of my plein air group. I needed a place where I could relax and this charming café in the 100-year-old, disheveled Burlington Hotel was a delightful place to hang out.

A bunch of 20-somethings had stayed at the rundown, barely-renovated, bat-filled hotel for someone’s birthday and had drunk themselves silly slumming at the Warehouse (biker) Bar across the street the night before. Their hangovers and stories of their wild evening climbing fences along the railroad tracks provided amusement while I sketched.

Building Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Life in general Painting Photos Places Sketchbook Pages

Port Costa Post Office and Bikers

Port Costa Post Office, ink and watercolor, 5x7"
Port Costa Post Office, ink and watercolor, 5x7"

Port Costa is a strange, tiny, rundown town and a popular destination for motorcyclists out riding the winding roads in herds on noisy Harleys. At the end of  town, by the railroad tracks and behind their cracked and crumbling Post Office I sketched above, is the Warehouse Cafe, a seedy bar in a ramshackle warehouse with cheap, stiff drinks, a funky outdoor deck, and a surly female bartender (perfectly described in this collection of hilarious Yelp reviews).

Port Costa Bikers Saddling Up
Port Costa Bikers Saddling Up in Front of Post Office

The bikers roar into town, have themselves a breakfast beer or two and ride out. While they seemed like a bunch of  tough, old burn-out guys with beer guts and women who looked “rode hard and put away wet,” they were very polite when I asked them questions about their (very expensive) bikes.

Bikers Lining up to Leave (Arrow is where I was sitting to sketch)
Bikers Lining up to Leave (Arrow is where I was sitting to sketch)

It turned out that the corner where I was sketching (red arrow in photo) is where they line up before tearing out of town in a caravan of ear-splitting noise, leaving behind a cloud of flying dust and gravel from the barely paved road. I had to pull my sweatshirt over my face and plug my ears every time a group tore off. My friend Beth Bourland posted some great pics of the day here including one of me so focused sketching I didn’t even know she took the picture.

Besides the bikers, it’s a fun place to paint so my plein air group meets there once a year. And then same thing always happens: we set up for our critique on the patio at the Warehouse Bar and just as we start to talk about the day’s work, they crank up the music on the outdoor speakers so loud that we can’t hear a thing and have to move all our stuff down the street to a quieter spot. Is it a coincidence? Does their music always go full blast at 1:15? Or are they trying to keep away the wrong sort of customers (us)?