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Just Another Death on the River Road

By R.V. Scheide

The first death of the Memorial Day weekend was a good friend of mine, he died just after midnight on Saturday morning. The river road took him and almost took her. I’ve heard this so many times before.

How deep have you gone into the Sacramento Delta? Deep enough to realize that Al the Wops, located in the historical Chinese fishing village of Locke, thirty miles from Sacramento, home to various famous artists, with all the tourists, marina trash and local rubes you can imagine, is the read deal? If you have realized that, then you know about the river road.

The river road runs on both sides of the Sacramento River, at least to Isleton. Depending on which side of the river you’re on, sometimes it’s State Highway 160, and sometimes it’s just an anonymous strip of asphalt unfolding in front of you. The river road mesmerizes. It follows the river on both sides, and lures you into its rhythm.

It is the rhythm of the river. Even the fish follow it. The cars of fisherman hoping to catch the salmon, stripers and other large fish found in these waters crowd the bends of the roads that follow the Sacramento River’s winding course to the bay. That’s where the fish are, for some reason. You have to look out for them. The fisherman. They are the worst drivers in the world.

I claim this only because I’ve made this journey at least a thousand times, from Sacramento to Locke, back in the early aughts, in the daytime, in the nighttime, under a full moon, stone cold sober and totally fucked up out of my mind. I remember the time I was the most fucked up out of mind of all time, and set the average speed record for the thirty-mile trip from Sacramento to Locke, which is one hundred miles per hour, or roughly about 20 minutes.

You have to fly down the straightaways to average that speed, and I was hitting about 130 when I saw a car in front of me in the darkness about a half-mile away. I didn’t want to scare them, so I touched the brakes, crossed the dotted-line and blew past the county sheriff, who was doing about ninety. I didn’t even try to hide the crime. I pulled over before he even hit the lights. I didn’t get off the bike. It was the only thing holding me up. As he walked up beside me, I opened the windscreen of my helmet and didn’t say shit.

The first thing he did was let out a heavy sigh. At first I though he was amazed at how fast I was going, but when he spoke, I realized he was really just nauseated by my own stupidity.

I gave him my license.

“Mr. Scheide, do you have any idea how fast you were going?”

“Well, when I passed you, I was doing about ninety.”

He shook his head.

“Where do you live?”

“About three miles from here, in Locke.”

He gave me a warning.

“Don’t ever blow by me like that again, or I’ll have your ass.”

It didn’t stop me of course. There’s no stopping the river road. It mesmerizes you, says you have to get home as soon as possible, you have to blast through the night and make the miles and the time disappear. The curves sing to you, saying take me as fast as you can. But sometimes the curves stop singing.

They stopped singing last Saturday morning. A good friend of mine informed me that our mutual friend had been killed in a car accident along the river road, while trying to make it home.

There will by all kinds of explanations for this later. But I know why he’s gone.

The river road takes no prisoners. I have treated it with disrespect many times. The river road doesn’t forget.

I can’t think of a better reason to never ride the river road again.

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