AMGEN Tour of California, Midtown Fashion Show and More

I had such an exciting morning. It is a great way to warm up to a busy and fun Mother’s Day weekend.

The entrance to the bike trail is just behind Blue Diamond Almond factory on C Street.
The entrance to the bike trail is just behind Blue Diamond Almond factory on C Street.

I am getting ready for RAGBRAI (7 day bike ride across Iowa in July). After 7 days off my bike because of travel to Southern Utah, I was trying to find the motivation to begin training. The good news is there is a cool training plan by David Ertl on the RAGBRAI blog. I am getting a late start, so I set out to ride for 2 solid hours and see how many miles I cover. As a bonus I thought I might see some professional bike teams working out before the AMGEN Tour of California.

I was about 4 miles down the trail when I saw a lone rider in a Trek team kit. It was one of my all time favorite riders: Jens Voigt! I said something like, “Are you Jens Voigt?” He said yes and he needed directions to his Sacramento hotel. I gushed about being a fan and was so excited that I left out an important left hand turn in my directions. I continued riding and felt an adrenaline rush. It was as exciting as the time I saw All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw at breakfast in Chicago. Only this time I was not so gobstopped and I was able to say something to him. Maybe it helped that I met Jens before in Yorkshire.

Riders from the Trek Factory Racing team were among the very first people to sign my California state flag.
Riders from the Trek Factory Racing team were among the very first people to sign my California state flag.

Afterward several more teams passed me from behind. You can hear them coming from a distance–they sound like a light rail train. It is not a question of being “dropped” since I could not keep up with them for any pedal strokes. It is great for inspiration. Team Giant-Alpecin, Team LottoNL-Jumbo, Cannondale-Garmin, and Hincapie Racing, Optum Pro Cycling, Drapac Professional Cycling teams whizzed past me. The much larger Tinkoff-Saxo team has a different standard for passing space (barely any)!

I turned around after 70 minutes and one the way home I saw Jens Voigt returning with the Trek team. He recognized me and gave me a big “hey” wave. It made my day. It also reminded me of my wonderful Tour de France experience with Trek Travel in Yorkshire when I collected the signatures of the entire Trek Factory Racing team on my California state flag. It is framed and hanging above my couch. You can experience your own one-on-one moment with Jens Voigt. The Tour de California is selling tickets to three meet and greets with Jens with the first one for Stage One in Sacramento on May 10 (tickets only available for Stages Four and Six). You can download the map for Stage One and watch the race near the Capitol or along the Delta route.

The Tour of California is going to go down 18th Street and turn onto L in the closing circuits of Stage One on Sunday. But first on Saturday I am throwing a little supper party before the fashion show on Capitol Avenue and 19th Avenue at 6:30 p.m. to benefit WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment).

Then on Sunday after the kids and I go to church it will be the Amgen Tour until mid-day. I am really looking forward to it.

Mooching Around Midtown Sacramento

I moved to midtown Sacramento to be in one of the liveliest places in Sacramento, which is not saying much in a relatively sleepy place. It is the first Sactown neighborhood to re-embrace mixed use with restaurants and shops on the first floor and apartment living above. Plus it hosts the Second Saturday for Art events and a lot of other celebrations. It is loud and lively most every night from Thursday through Saturday.

Hoping for a kinder, friendlier police force.
Hoping for a kinder, friendlier police force.

I chose this light and spacious apartment 2 floors above the Rind restaurant to keep from becoming a hermit and to cycle to work and shopping (even more than in Davis).  I am finding that I interact with all sorts of people much more here. Just now as I type I can hear a duo busking with their guitars in front of Capitol Dime bar. I compare it to my experiences in Chelsea NYC.

My dog Lulu also gets me out of the house 3-4 times a day. And this week I am caring for Dozer and so my life is dominated by the dogs’ schedule–something I call living in dogtown. People are very interested in the dogs and this opens conversation as well as providing an excuse to cut it short and move on.

Beautifully restored home and garden near where I worked in the 1990s.
I used to walk past this dilapidated home and garden in the 90s and imagine how I would restore it. Someone else has done it beautifully.

I am enjoying riding my cruiser to church and around town for shopping errands or picking up my mail. I need to get on Map My Ride and begin making longer rides. Indeed, to prepare for RAGBRAI I restarted Bike Your Butt Off by Selena Yeager and.Leslie Bonci.  It is 12 week program that will peak July 4.

I love the Saturday Farmers’ Market at 20th and K Streets. I shopped at the Davis Farmers’ Market, but now I have a decent kitchen. So I am cooking at home more and making an effort to eat more healthy and fresh foods.

I thought I would give myself a challenge of picking one activity out of Sactown Magazine or Sacramento Magazine and do it each month. It turns out I do not need an official challenge. I have been inspired to try new restaurants, drink coffee in new places, go to the movies more, and generally enjoy the neighborhood amenities. I shop at Time Tested Books instead of the Avid Reader. Monday I will go to a Rivercats baseball game and in a few weeks a soccer game. Now I have a local wool shop in Rumplestiltskin. There are so many places within just a few blocks to watch rugby that the upcoming World Cup will be awesome.

Every move gives an opportunity to purge belongings, create new patterns, and make new friends. It also takes a while for my molecules to settle again. I have not learned to sleep through the night noise yet so I am tired in the afternoons. I look forward to the return to normal levels of creativity and energy.

Mostly I am glad to be here in this present moment and to explore my new neighborhood as if I were living in a foreign land.

Coming up: The Handle District will host the second annual Dress Up, Wine Down on May 9th between 3 – 9:30 p.m. The block party will be on Capitol Avenue between 19th and 18th Streets for a fashion show and wine tasting. Free to the public, donation to WEAVE suggested.

One Really Good Reason to Visit California in May

Visit California May 10-17, 2015 to be precise.  The AMGEN Tour of California will be hosting men’s and women’s bike racing throughout California. The route was announced yesterday and there are some exciting new changes. I plan to watch Stage One where the cyclists will ride along the Sacramento River, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with a dramatic finish in front of the State Capitol.  I will also check out the Stage Two finish in Lodi for the first time. They are also expanding the racing opportunities for women.

Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen's Bakery
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen’s Bakery

They are staking themselves as “America’s greatest race.” It certainly showcases the beauty of the majestic state of California.

Watch this video to see all the reasons you will want to make California a destination in May.

Otago Central Rail Trail Day 4: Rock and Pillar to Middlemarch

Cloudy sky

My note in my journal for today’s ride is “Too short.” At this point, I was feeling very strong, though a little tired. I only needed to ride 12.5 or 13.5 kilometers depending on the signs you read. Nick designed the days so on Day 4 I could ride to Middlemarch and still catch the train to Dunedin.

Central Rail Trail

I felt very melancholic about completing the ride. It was also one my final days for my adventures in New Zealand. I did my best to savor each moment. In no time I was in Middlemarch. First there was the finish at the official signs and stamp. Nick recorded my feat.

Then I rode further into the old rail station buildings and Quench Café. We loaded my bike in the trailer and walked to Quench to get a Flat White. I pulled out my Picnic candy bar to celebrate. Nick presented me with a certificate celebrating my accomplishment.


I had already packed my bag and so once I returned my cycling gloves, there was little else to do but head to the train station.

I loved cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail. I would do it again for sure. I spent a lot of time on the trail imagining how the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta could benefit from a similar rail trail. The rail trail is terrific for families, for school groups, and for cycling clubs or for individual cyclists like me.

Nick from Off the Rails
Nick from Off the Rails

This trail is the first of the Great Rides. Built and maintained by New Zealand’s excellent Department of Conservation. Nga Haerenga-The New Zealand Cycle Trail offers 23 “Great Rides” varying in difficulty from easy to advanced. You can discover all of the trails at

Rail Trail

Otago Central Rail Trail Day 3: Ranfurly to Stone and Pillar

Waipiata Man greets cyclists along Rail Trail.
Waipiata Man greets cyclists along Rail Trail.

I ended Day Two in Ranfurly so I began Day 3 just behind the Information Centre.It was a pleasure to wake up and roll out of town with little fuss. I borrowed a pair of gloves from Off the Rails because the sun and wind had burned the back of my hands the previous day. It was also cooler and cloudier so the extra warmth felt good.

Rail Trail between Waipiata and Kokonga.
Rail Trail between Waipiata and Kokonga.

I still was not sore from cycling, just tired. I was confident in my ability to cycle the 44 kilometers to Rock and Pillar.

The plan was to ride to Hyde for lunch and then finish the day mid afternoon at Rock & Pillar, giving me ample time to get cleaned up and go curling before dinner in Naseby.

Beautiful home in Daisybank.
Beautiful home in Daisybank.

I packed my rain jacket in my pannier everyday—a wise precaution in New Zealand where the weather is changeable. Today I wore it to ward off the chill and “just in case” although it never actually rained.

Red Dwarf HutI stopped frequently to take photos as the scenery was even more gorgeous than previous stretches. The place names are sometimes Maori, sometimes reminiscent of somewhere in Great Britain. I loved “Daisybank,” which likely describes the place in springtime. I saw some picnicking couples but otherwise I had the trail to myself.

Hyde Central Hotel cafe one of my favorite stops.
Hyde Central Hotel cafe one of my favorite stops.

There was another tunnel and quite a few bridges. It seemed like no time and I was rolling into Hyde. We stopped at the charming café Otago Central Hotel after quickly admiring the World War I memorial. The women in the teashop were very friendly and the cheese scone yummy. I warmed up with some tea and a little time out of the wind.

Crazy cloudsI was whizzing along lost in my thoughts and I rode right past the stamp stop at Tiroiti and also did not see the sign that indicated the memorial for the 21 victims of the Hyde rail accident. Fortunately the café in Hyde had the stamp for Tiroiti and Nick was happy to stop at the Memorial after loading my bike on the trailer at Rock and Pillar.

Then it was just 14 kilometers to Rock and Pillar. I clouds in the sky were spectacular. I felt like I was flying along.Rail Trail

Hyde Rail Accident

Hyde Rail Accident Memorial
Hyde Rail Accident Memorial

The 4 June 1943 Hyde rail accident was horrific. Of the 113 people on the train, 21 were killed and 47 injured. The train engineer ought to have reduced speed before Straw Cutting but because of his own fatigue failed to do so. The engine and 5 carriages jumped the tracks, several of them telescoping into one another. Passengers were thrown onto the cold ground and there was risk of dying from exposure. Rescue efforts were hampered by wartime petrol rationing, lack of manpower, and busy telephone lines. Locals will share some of the remarkable stories of survivors.

Otago Central Rail Trail Day 1: Clyde to Lauder

The Otago Central Rail Trail is Grade 1 (easiest) most of the way with a little Grade 2.
The Otago Central Rail Trail is Grade 1 (easiest) most of the way with a little Grade 2.

My Off the Rails guide Nick arrived at my Queenstown hotel at 8 a.m. We were quickly on the road toward Cromwell. After about 45 minutes we pulled off the highway at the statue of supersize fruit. The original town of Cromwell was partially inundated by hydroelectric dam and reservoir. The project build a new town center and we stopped at the Tin Goose for a flat white.

We pulled into the parking lot at the Otago Central Rail Trailhead and Nick unloaded my bike and adjusted it for me. He put on a pannier and I loaded my backpack inside. I put my camera in the front “lunchbox”, and inserted my map. Nick had a snack and a water bottle for me to take along too. I was ready.Off the Rails bicycles

Lastly, he gave me my “passport” where I can collect stamps along the way. He explained that there are white kilometer markers along the way. I was ready to start my first 44 km of 150 km.

The railway was shut down in 1990 and then followed a period of construction. Between 100,000-120,000 people walk or ride on it each year—grinding up the rocks that make up the old rail bed. The trail started out flat and I found myself whizzing along stopping to take pictures as the landscape evolved from bucolic agriculture vineyards and paddocks to more open pasture and natural landscapes.

I stopped frequently to take pictures and drink in the beauty. Nick calls the trail “intensely scenic” and it is designated as an area of outstanding beauty, which is saying a lot in New Zealand where there are no ugly places.

It was 8 km to Alexandra, 7 km to Galloway, and 10 km to Chatto Creek. At each train station I stopped and stamped my passport and stopped to take pictures. Along the way Nick met me to make sure my bike was in good working order and that I was cycling without difficulty.

IMG_5234About the time my blood sugar was dropping I arrived at Chatto Creek pub and restaurant. I made the mistake of ordering the Bacon Buttie sandwich (bacon and brie). It was delicious and I ate almost all of it, which was fine until I got back on my bike and faced the hardest section of the day. I felt sluggish and heavy.

The first 8 km (of 12 km) on the way to Omakau is called Tiger Hill. None of the inclines are greater than 1:50; however, this section shifts direction so the wind from tail to the side. Plus it was 2 in the afternoon and had cooled considerably and the trail rocks were deeper and more difficult to maneuver through. At one point a beautiful egret was roused from the verge and flew overhead as a kind of encouragement.

I slogged up the hill and my reward was a nice downhill stretch for a couple of kilometers into Omakau. Then it was just 7 km to Lauder.IMG_5205

Nick met me and we loaded my bike. He dropped me at a lovely cottage built in 1906 in Ranfurly. It has two bedrooms, lounge, bathroom, dining room and kitchen. I have it all to myself this week because I am the only one booked on this tour. It feels a little odd but I am so tired that I am just glad to have a hot shower and comfortable bed.