Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tour de Woodland

The City of Woodland has long been known for its beautiful Victorian neighborhood and historic Opera House, the first of its kind in the Sacramento Valley.  A slow but steady revitalization of the Downtown District has been occurring over the last few years adding to the attraction of this pleasant valley town.

Peter Saucerman who spent his youth in Woodland is intimately knowledgeable about the trends in Woodland and even has old high school classmates involved in businesses on Main Street.

He organized a bike tour of Woodland and led us on a tour of the city's historic sites and points of interest.

Woodland is approximately 20 miles north of Sacramento.  We had a delightful out and back ride on Old River Road along the Sacramento River.

Joining the tour were Jim Regan, Rich Blackmarr, Barbara Greenwood and Frank Gerace.

To view tour album, click on "Tour de Woodland" below the photo:

From Tour de Woodland

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Aztec Dance Festival

A most colorful event took place in Southside Park today .  The Xilonen (pronounced she-lon-un) or Aztec Dance Festival made it's 40th annual appearance in the city.

Xilonen is a coming of age festival for young girls to honor Xilonen, the goddess of maize.

The ancient Aztec festival draws performers from across the US and Mexico.

The ceremonial costumes were unbelievably beautiful and colorful.  The entire performance was sensory overload.  I arrived before the parade and dance began and was able to talk with some of the dancers and watch them prepare for the event.

One of the cool things is that the dancers are very proud of their costumes and more than happy to pose for pictures.

To view the album, click on "Aztec Dance Festival" below photo:

From Aztec Dance Festival

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tour of UCD

After watching an episode of Road Trip with Huell Howser where he visited the Peter J. Shield Oak Grove, the Vet School Horse Barn, and the Raptor Center on the campus of the UCD, I planned a bike trip to take a look at these cool attractions.  I'm always on the look-out for new and interesting things to see, especially by bike.

Accompanying me on this trek to Davis were Herb Lee, Peter Saucerman, Frank Gerace and Rich Blackmarr.

We spent a good part of the day checking out these attractions.  The Peter J. Shield Oak Grove located in the campus's Arboretum was especially note-worthy.  The Grove, containing 89 species of oak trees from around the world, is the largest collection in the western U.S.

The remarkable tile works executed by Donna Billick and Diane Ullman in collaboration with the university's students and Davis community was integrated into the landscape of the Oak Grove.  It was nothing short of "amaazzing" to quote Huell.

To view the album, click on "Tour of UCD" under the photo:

From Tour of UCD

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two Bridges Ride

The two newest bridges crossing the Carquinez Straight, the Alfred Zampa Bridge built in 2003 connecting Vallejo and Crockett, and the George Miller Bridge built in 2007 connecting Benicia and Martinez have incorporated exclusive bike lanes.

The local jurisdictions in collaboration with the East Bay Parks District have designs to connect the dots to facilitate bike travel between these two bridges.  In September 2014, the Carquinez Scenic Drive between Port Costa and Martinez is scheduled to be opened to the public.

Right now, you can travel between the two bridges through a combination of on and off road bike lanes, mostly on-road.  The good news is that most of the on-road travel is on lightly trafficked streets and country roads.

Since the completion of the George Miller Bridge (south-bound bridge) in 2007, riding the loop between the two bridges have been on my "to do" list.

I found a recommended route on the internet (shown on the blog album) connecting the two bridges - 31 miles with about 1,800' of climbing.

Today, Dick Fraschetti, Herb Lee, Kristina and David Vandershaf rode the loop with a side trip to the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo.

It's a beautiful ride through pleasant low-key communities of Benicia, Crockett, Port Costa and Martinez.

To view the album, click on "Two Bridges Ride" below photo:

From Two Bridges Ride

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Prologue - Juneau

We flew into Juneau at the beginning of our 20 day trip to Alaska.  We added 2 1/2 days to our itinerary before the bike tour to spend time in Juneau to check out the sights.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is a picturesque city with a population of 33,000. Its major economy is state government and tourism.

It's a major stop for the big cruise ships and there were five tied up when we arrived.  With about 3,000 passengers each, it means about 15,000 tourists descend on the town each day.

The sights we visited were the Mendenhall Glacier, Mt. Roberts, the state capital and city museum, and a walking tour of Chicken Hill, one of the city's prominent residential neighborhoods.

After our stay in Juneau, we caught the ferry to Skagway, where we rendezvoused with Stew and Jim to begin the bike tour portion of the tour.

To view the album, click on "Prologue - Juneau" below the photo:

From Prologue - Juneau

Tour of Yukon Territory and Alaska

The main purpose of coming to Alaska was a 12 day, 700 mile bike tour of the Yukon Territory and Alaska.  Weather wise, June is suppose to be the best month to do a bike tour.

Stew Patrignani of Davis, planned and organized this tour, and invited nine other cyclists to join him and his wife Paula. Stew's acumen at tour planning was off the charts.  He laid out a 12 day route on the remote Alcan Highway, now called the Alaska Highway, where lodging and food are far between.

There were some very long days since lodging were unavailable at reasonable intervals.  Due to the size of our group, he made advance reservations for each night to insure we had a pillow to lay our heads.  Being early in the season, it was sketchy whether some of these places would be open.

He planned lunch meals out of the ice chest, and arranged group dinners at some of the lodges where they had no dining room.  Everyone rotated driving the sag truck and stopped at timely intervals to provide support for the riders.

With all the variables that could go wrong on such a tour, the tour came off without a hitch.  My hats off to Stew for his leadership and organizational skills.

As far as the tour goes, I did not know what to expect since I've never been to Alaska before.  Without overstating the case . . . it was FRIGGIN' AWESOME!!

There are four things that impressed me the most:  The mountains, the lakes, the rivers, and unexpectedly, the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people.  These are genuine people without pretension.

It reminded me of our country of the 1950's when life was pretty simple and people were sincerely nice to each other.  It was an out of body experience.

Four people we met, all women, who singularly ran their lodges without male support, were the most memorable - Amanda, Buck Shot Betty, Mary, and Mabel.  They did all the work themselves - cleaned the rooms, prepared the meals, served the meals, ran the office, chopped the wood, maintained the buildings, and did all the heavy lifting.

They are truly what you would call independent, hard-working pioneer women.  You wouldn't want to mess with them either.  They carry fire arms.

As you will see, the scenery is beyond great.

To view the tour album, click on "Tour of Yukon Territory and Alaska" below the photo:

From Tour of Yukon Territory/Alaska

Epilogue - Anchorage and Kenai Fjords National Park

After the bike tour, we spent 3 1/2 days in Anchorage where we had a full itinerary sight-seeing and visiting friends for dinner.  Major highlights include the Anchorage Museum, the Alaska Native Medical Center, the Native Heritage Center and a day trip to Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Looking back over the 20 days of our tour, I would have to say without hesitation, this was one of the most remarkable and amazing trips of my life.  The scenery, the wildlife, the genuine warmth and hospitality of the local people are things that I will always remember about Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

The trip was made even more special because of my ten fellow travel companions who were so easy-going, fun and adventuresome.  Special thanks to Stew for organizing - truly - a trip of a lifetime.

To view the Epilogue album, click on "Epilogue - Anchorage and Kenai Fjords National Park" below photo:

From Epilogue - Anchorage and Kenai Fjords National Park