By VINCE REMBULAT
209 staff reporter
About a month ago, my old college buddy Neal decided to take the train from Fresno to Stockton for a quick day trip.
He had one previous visit to the Port City within the last 10 years. Back then, my son Josh was still in grade school so we took Neal to places such as Bob’s On the Marina (6639 Embarcadero Drive) for the “Almost Famous Hamburgers” followed by stop over to Paradise Point Marina at 8095 Rio Blanca Rd., just off Eight Mile Road along White Slough.
Neal was a boat salesman right out of college. So he maintained a fascination with boats and other water vessels over the years.
This recent trip was different.
Neal sent me a text that he was aboard Amtrak train No. 711 – In reference to the 7-Eleven convenience stores, I jokingly asked him if they were serving up ice cold Slurpees – arriving at little past noon.
While waiting, I became wowed by this historic Mission Revival San Joaquin Street station built in 1900 for the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railway.
The single-story depot featured a hipped red tile roof, contrasting with the white-painted stucco walls. Another impressive look to the station is the colonnade under the shed-style roof on the track side. In 2005, the San Joaquin station was rehabilitated to what it is today.
Neal’s train did arrive on time. From there, I took him to the Waterfront Warehouse at 445 W. Weber Ave., which was probably no more a mile or two from the train station.
We had lunch at Nena’s Mexican Restaurant, where flour tortillas are fresh and handmade. Outdoor seating was also available, giving us a great view of the marina, Banner island Ballpark (home of the Oakland Athletics’ Class-A affiliate Stockton Ports), the Stockton Arena and the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel from across the Deep Water Channel.
After a quick stop home – I live in the Collegeview area adjacent to the University of the Pacific, so we did skirt through campus, passing the Faye Spanos Concert Hall, which is was an exterior scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – we headed to downtown Lodi.
In the late 1990s, School Street was part of the revitalization project consisting of laying old-fashioned bricks on streets, planting 30-foot tall Sycamore trees. Installing informational kiosks, and adding colorful potted plants.
We killed plenty of time – and at same time stayed cool – by browsing through some of the shops and businesses.
From there, I drove him past one of the original A&W restaurants, which is also the birth place of A&W Root Beer, on our way out. Just before heading back to Stockton along Highway 99, I took Neal on a quick detour through Morada, where some of the choice homes in entire San Joaquin County can be found along Morada Lane.
What trip through Stockton would be complete without a stroll along the Miracle Mile?
This stretch of road along Pacific Avenue, from roughly around Castle Street to Harding Way, was the first shopping district outside of downtown Stockton.
In recent years, this part of “the Avenue” is now a destination for dining, services and shopping, according to Miracle Mile Improvement District formed in 2007.
We only had enough time to walk a few blocks to the Empresso Coffeehouse at 1825 Pacific Ave. The former home of the Stockton Empire Theatre – it opened in 1945 as “The Stockton” showing Hollywood premiere movies – is home to a large selection of gourmet coffees and traditional espresso drinks.
I didn’t mean for Neal’s one-day excursion to be an historic travelogue of the area.
Yet history is all abound – even when it comes to old friends.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.