Thursday, April 21, 2011

Azalea Walk

Spring is simply a beautiful time in Sacramento. The blooms of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and dogwood trees in particular burst out in a blaze of glory.

The neighborhoods of Old Land Park and South Land Park Hills have soils particularly suited for the acid loving plants and and they thrive in this environment. These two neighborhoods are at their best during the spring bloom.

The azaleas are one of my favorite plants and are especially showy this time of year.

Today, Herb, Kay and I took a 6 mile walk weaving our way through the neighborhood streets to admire all the beautiful color, landscaping and homes.

Mid-way through our walk we stopped off for lunch at one of our favorite Chinese Restaurants, Macau Cafe near the Zoo, and finished our day with ice cream at Vic's.

It was a gorgeous day in the neighborhood.

The following pics highlight our lovely urban walk:

Click on pic for enlarged view

Azaleas are in peak bloom

As well as the pink dogwood tree

Large rhodo tree peek through the V-notch

Herb and Kay in front of a heritage sycamore tree

Great Japanese maple

My favorite . . .

A gorgeous cascading Japanese maple . . . and it's only one tree

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mt. Hamilton

Lick Observatory and several smaller observatory domes sit atop Mt. Hamilton

Two of the tallest peaks in the Bay Area are Mt. Hamilton at 4,360' and Mt. Diablo at 3,849'. These two peaks with sinuous roads snaking to the summits are popular rides with mountain goat road cyclists.

Spring when the temperatures are cool and the hills green with emerging wildflowers is the ideal time to challenge these mountains. Hoping for a couple clear days, we targeted this week to attempt the big climbs.

We based ourselves at the Best Western Motel in Livermore which lies between these two mountains. It is an ideal place to bivouac for several days with many fine restaurants, a redeveloped downtown, idyllic country-side with many new wineries and home to Livermore Cyclery, one of the finest bike shops in the Bay Area.

Our plan was to ride Mt. Hamilton on Tuesday, have a rest-day on Wednesday, and ride Mt. Diablo on Thursday. The weather god was smiling down on us since we had two clear days on Tues. and Thurs. and rained on our rest-day, on Weds. How lucky were we . . . !!

The following two blog entries highlight our two big climbs.

Click on pic once/twice for enlarged view

L-R - Bob, Gordy, Mike, Herb, Eric
Front- Frank

On Tuesday, seven of us rode 86 miles and climbed 8,250' on an out-n back ride starting at the junction of Mines and Del Valle Roads to the summit of Mt. Hamilton. It was one tough, gnarly ride and took us over 10 hours.

The Amgen TOC will follow this same route on Stage 4 next month.

We rode up Mines Road through spectacular oak-woodland country-side

Gordy, Team Giant, leading the pack

BA and Eric -
Two domestiques grinding up Mines Road

Mike cruising on his new Cervelo R3

Great oaks dot the horizon

Looking back down the valley

Goldfields, the first of the early spring flowers

Stopping to smell the poseys

About 24 miles up Mines Road, we take a break at the Junction Cafe. The Cafe doesn't open until noon so we hit it on the way back.

Aside from the Junction Cafe, there are no services for the entire ride. We take along our own lunch, snacks and water.

It's time to pummmp me up!

Mike takes in oxygen before tackling the steep hills ahead

Nothing but buccolic scenery on the back-side of Hamilton

Mines Road - beautiful scenery, absence of traffic, huge climbs - one of the finest cycling roads in the region

Cows amidst wildflowers

Jim Regan buzzed down on his motorcycle to taunt us


About 35 miles into the ride, the serious climbing begins

Hey Bob! . . . are we having fun yet?!

The last 5 miles average 8% with several double digit grinders thrown in

Mike snaking along the yellow line . . . appears flat but it isn't

Herb with his new R3 dancin' up a very steep section

Frank and Eric

Many hair-pin turns on the steep climb

Looking down sinuous Mines Road from where we came. The last 5 miles of the back-side are unrelenting.

Finally, at the top. Looking down the front-side toward San Jose

Me and Gordy at the top - Giant vs. Cervelo . . . who won?
Not that we're competitive . . . :-)!

Group foto at the top of Mt. Hamilton - we all made it!

Wild boars are common in these hills

On the return leg, we stop at the Junction Cafe to slake our thirst and refill our empty tanks

Spent cyclists are the biggest customers at the Junction. We got 24 miles to go but its mostly downhill, thank goodness!

Man vs Chips

Back at the Best Western for more snacks. Five of us book massages at Massage Envy on our lay-over day. End of a very grueling but exceptional day.

Scroll down or click on "older post" for Mt. Diablo climb