Saturday, October 24, 2015

AIA Downtown Architectural Bike Tour - 2015

I never thought I would live to hear the words "hip and cool" and Sacramento in the same sentence.  But believe it or not, Portland has come to Sacramento.  In the last maybe five years, and in particular, the last couple, downtown has been evolving into a lively and entertaining venue.

Midtown has been cool for some years but who would have thunk the K Street Mall would ever come alive . . . but it has, and with the new arena opening up in another year, it'll be unbelievable.

Sacramento will actually have traffic jams downtown at night . . . not just during the rush hour.

People are already crying about how difficult it is to find parking.  Uber and Lyft apps are going to be on everyone's smart phones, even for old geezers like me.

The other district that is quickly catching up to Midtown for millennial action is the R Street corridor which has quickly and dramatically changed from its former declining industrial base into hipsterville.

It was only a matter of time and with a new generation of young, hip developers coming of age and putting their money behind some really innovative developments, Sacramento is transforming its image from being a halfway stop between the Bay Area and Tahoe, to a dynamic city with a "there, there."

For it's third year, the local AIA chapter led a bike tour of downtown (and nearby) development projects. Most were in the core area and R Street.  But with the development momentum taking a wider arch in the new economic recovery, the tour took us to the South of Broadway area to see The Mill and to Oak Park to visit the Triangle.

Our tour leaders - Bob Chase and Peter Saucerman - arranged this year to have a few of the developers and/or architects of some of the major projects brief the group on their respective developments.  This was really a nice touch to hear about the background and vision for their projects.

For Bob and Peter, this was the third year of leading the bike tour and I would have to give them high marks for this one.  They are getting better with experience.

And with many of the developments we visited nearing completion and new ones in the pipeline, these tours can go on for many years without repeats.  I just can't wail until next year.

To view the bike tour album, click on "AIA Downtown Bike tour 2015" below photo:

From AIA Downtown Bike Tour 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Empire Mine State Historic Park Hike

Empire Mine State Historic Park near Grass Valley was the destination for the October hike of the Sac County Hikers.  Twelve hikers led by Rich Blackmarr participated in the excursion to the foothills.

The 856-acre park with a maze of 367 miles of deep mine shafts and tunnels, some as deep as 8,000', was once California's richest gold-producing mine.

The impressive and unique feature of this state park is the juxtaposition of the mine's rustic 13 buildings on barren earthen ground in contrast to the lush landscaping of the Bourn Family residence and gardens.

The park has a Jekyll and Hyde personality and the dramatic contrast between these two areas are unlike anything I had ever seen.  It was like visiting two parks for the price of one.

The state park in its entirety is a real gem and well worth a visit.  Within the visitor center is a crude but very interesting 3-D model of the network of tunnels and shafts and a audio narrative of how the labyrinth was created using "hardrock" mining methods.

The docent led tour of the Bourn Cottage and Gardens was very informative and the self-guided tour of the mine structures and operations were excellent.  Most of the buildings at the park have been restored.

Although the hike itself was short (2 1/2 miles), the outing to the Sierra foothills and tour of the state park were outstanding.

To view the album, click on "Empire Mine Historic State Park Hike" below photo:

From Empire Mine State Historic Park Hike

Sunday, September 27, 2015

US Route 66 Bike Tour

US Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road was one of the original highways within the US Highway System.

Route 66 was established in 1926.  The highway became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago ILL, through MO, KS, OK, TX, NM, AZ ending in Santa Monica CA.

It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song, "Get your kicks on Route 66" and the "Route 66" TV series in the 1960s.

Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, and officially removed from the US Highway System on June 27, 1985, after it was replaced by the Interstate Highway System.

Portions of the original Route 66 remain and been designated a "National Scenic Byway" or "Historic Route 66".

Recently, Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) released the Bicycle Route 66 map series following as much of the original route as practical for bicycle travel.

Through New Mexico, Route 66 is not one continuous roadway but is broken up into remnant sections interrupted in places by Interstate 40 freeway.

The plan of our group - Bob Anderson, Peter Saucerman and myself - was to do a drive/bike tour of New Mexico's Route 66 using Bob's pickup truck as our sag vehicle and cycle only the authentic sections of Route 66 and drive the freeway portions.

Quoting Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities, the tour turned out to be "The best of times and the worst of times."  Everything was working as planned and the tour was fantastical until we got within 5 miles of Santa Fe when Bob got into a most unimaginable and freakish accident.

Long story, short - two cars collided head-on right near where Bob was riding and flying debri hit Bob's front wheel causing him to go somersaulting over the handle-bars.  He suffered major but not life-threatening injuries and after treatment at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Santa Fe, life-flighted back to a rehab facility near Santa Rosa where he is recuperating.

This put a real damper on the tour and Peter and I aborted the cycling portion of the tour in Santa Fe. Making the best of a bad situation, we continued some sight-seeing in Taos and on the long drive back to Sacramento visited Ship Rock, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Las Vegas and the Eastern Sierra.

To view the tour album, click on "US Route 66 Bike Tour" below the photo:

From US Route 66 Bike Tour

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lassen NP Hiking Trip

Steve Gibson has been the volunteer camp host at Warner Valley Campground located on the eastern edge of Lassen National Park for the past nine years.  As an admitted creature of habit, Steve takes his tiny teardrop trailer to Warner Valley every summer to administer his camp host duties.  He loves this life-style and enjoys the solitude of one of Lassen's more remote campgrounds.

Steve invited some of us "flatlanders" to spend a week of hiking some of Lassen's iconic trails.  I'm always eager to take "Musubi", my teardrop trailer on a road-trip so I took Steve up on his invitation.

Herb Lee, Peter Saucerman, Frank Gerace, Rich and Linda Blackmarr joined me on this outing.

Using Warner Valley as base camp, we tackled three of the Park's iconic trails - Mt. Brokeoff, Lassen Peak, and Cinder Cone/Fantastic Lava Beds.

To view album, click on "Lassen NP Hiking Trip" below photo:

From Lassen NP Hiking Trip

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands Hike

It's an island I crossed a thousand times driving into San Francisco but never set foot on until today.  Yerba Buena Island and adjacent Treasure Island were the destinations for the July day hike of the Sacramento County Hikers.

Located literally in the middle of SF Bay, these two island's history is as colorful and fascinating as any of the communities in the Bay Area.

Briefly, Treasure Island is an artificial island connected by a small isthmus to Yerba Buena Island.  It was created in 1936-'37 for the 1939-'40 Golden Gate International Exposition of fill from the bay.

Treasure Island was planned and used as an airport for the Pan American Airline's Pacific Rim service of the famed China Clippers flying boats.

After the 1939-40' World's Fair, the Navy offered to exchange Mills Field on the SF Peninsula near Millbrae for the island.  The City/Co. of SF accepted the land swap.

During WWII, the island became part of the Treasure Island Naval Base and served largely as an electronics and radio communications school and major departure point for the soldiers leaving for the Pacific campaign.

In 1996, Treasure Island was decommissioned and opened to the general public and the property reverted back to the ownership of the City/Co. of SF.

In the 1990's and 2000's, Treasure Island old aircraft hangers served as sound stages and used in film and television productions.  Some notable films include Matrix, Indiana Jones and Lost Crusade, Flubber and Patch Adams.

In 2005, the City/Co. of SF entered into a contract with a major development company to redevelop and transform the islands into a self-sustaining city.

The master plan calls for a mix of low-rise and high-rise towers consisting of 8,000 residential units, a mix of commercial, office and hotel uses, a new ferry terminal, organic farm, wind farm, and 300 acres of parkland.

The master plan is designed to be as car independent as possible.

To view the album, click on "Yerba Buena/Treasure Island Hike" below photo:

From Yerba Buena/Treasure Island Hike

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 Wendy Tour

The 2015 edition of the Tour-de-Licious, aka Wendy Tour, stayed a little closer to home.  A Wendy Tour is a supported bike tour organized and supported by Wendy Sigerson, a professional caterer.

This year's 7-day tour started in Sacramento and the route took us into some of the finest countryside in Northern California for cycle touring.

The 285 mile tour took in Napa Valley, Russian River valley, along the coast of Sonoma and Marin counties, over Mt. Tamalpais into San Francisco.

On the final day, we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, caught the SF Bay Ferry to Oakland, and returned to Sacramento on a Capitol Corridor train.

The weather was glorious the entire week.  Even the coast which is usually thick with marine layer during the summer months was clear and we had a spectacular finish to the tour on Ridgecrest Road.

This year, 13 riders participated in the tour.  One major logistical change was the use of a U-Haul truck to carry the food and cooking equipment rather than cramming everything into Wendy's van as we did the previous two tours.  With age, we are getting smarter.

We also took advantage of two particularly scenic areas and scheduled layover days at Casini Ranch and Olema Ranch campgrounds to have extra days to explore these areas.

To view the tour album, click on "Wendy Tour #3 (2015)" below photo:

From Wendy Tour #3 (2015)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kyoto Yoga Tour

I'm entering an era in my life where I am seeking unique and unusual travel experiences.  I still love cycling and hiking trips but now I am open to diversifying my travel adventures.

When Carrie Meyer, a yoga instructor at It's All Yoga Studio, announced that she offers a 10 day tour of Kyoto combining daily yoga practice with tours of the city, the light-bulb in my head lit up.

"Wow!" I said, that sounds really cool and unique.  I mentioned this trip to Peter Saucerman and Susan Twining who attend yoga sessions with me and they thought this would be a fun trip.  They never been to Japan before.

Susan mentioned the trip to her sister, Kris, and a few other friends and before we knew it, Carrie had the required 7 people to sign on which is the minimum number she needed to do the tour.

Historic Kyoto with over 1,200 temples and gardens was fortunately spared from bombing during WWII.  It is an amazingly beautiful city and I consider it to be the Florence of Japan.

Carrie, who lived in Kyoto for 3-4 years back in the '90s, put together a 10 day tour featuring her favorite places.  We stayed in two hotels during the tour - first a western-style hotel and the second, a traditional Japanese ryokan hotel.

We visited some incredible temples, gardens and special places, with each succeeding day exceeding the previous day's experience.  She took us to a wide variety of restaurants which Kyoto has no shortage.  Some were really unique and all were outstanding.

On the two free days we visited Nara, another major historic city, and a bicycle tour of Kyoto on the other.

Each morning, we started with yoga in the Imperial Palace Park.  I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming when laying on the grass in front of the Imperial Palace.  Unbelievable is an understatement.

The tour was well paced, very interesting, the food outstanding, and most of all - FUN!  The camaraderie among the group was great.  The total experience was beyond awesome!

To view the album, click on "Kyoto Yoga Tour" below photo:

From Kyoto Yoga Tour