LEGO: Denmark’s Most Popular Export

IMG_1185If you love Danish butter or cheese, you may take issue, but ask any kid and they’ll pick LEGOs out of a line-up and agree that this, more than any other claim to fame, puts Denmark on the map. The headquarters of The LEGO Group is in Billund; and there is a LEGOLAND a 6 hour bus ride from Copenhagen, also in Billund.

If you are only touching down in Copenhagen, there is a wonderful store dedicated to LEGO at Vimmelskaftet 37, on the main pedestrian shopping street. You can get or use a LEGO VIP card. You will find a great variety of LEGO toys. It is an energetic, happy place.

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There is a saying in Denmark, “You learn best when you play.” Lucky for the rest of the world that LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen took that and founded his toy company. If you love these colorful building blocks, you’ll thoroughly enjoy A LEGO Brickumentary.

If you have children or adults in your life who will be thrilled to receive LEGOs from DK, get thee to the store! Plus they are light to carry back.

What is Your Travel Stake?

stakeI am about to embark on a wonderful holiday in Denmark and England. Even though the logistics of the trip are mostly planned out–I have all of my hotel rooms, but not all of my train trips and ferries sorted–I am getting clear on my travel stake before I pack my bag.

In my leadership training with CTI I learned to be very clear about my stake, that is what my goal is for myself or for the organization or group I’m leading. I have found this concept helpful in planning a travel adventure–especially with others, and even when solo. When I haven’t thought about my stake I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the competing agendas of other travelers and my trip experience is diminished.

For example, for this upcoming trip, my stake is about reconnecting with old friends and keeping space open for meeting new people. My intention for this adventure is mostly about relationships. If I look back on my time in Denmark and England from Heathrow airport lounge, I will be very happy if I had plenty of time for long talks with Susie and then UK Sarah, and if I had a few memories of conversations with new friends I made along the way. Sure, there are things I want to do (bike rides) and places I want to see (Winchester Cathedral), but they can make way for people if that is what is needed in the moment.

Being clear about your stake is even more important when traveling with others. I often ask the question of my travel companions: What is your highest priority for this trip? Or what would you regret not doing on this adventure? I share mine, and then we are clear and we each do our utmost to make sure that everyone is able to experience at least this one thing. It may be eating at a fantastic restaurant, or having time to hike a certain trail, or time every morning to sit in a cafe with a flat white and read a book. Or maybe it really is spending time with the person you love and the rest is just background.

I have a tough time traveling with medium size groups. There are so many competing stakes and I get swamped by the friction. You would think that the trip itinerary is everyone’s stake, but each arrives with another sometimes secret agenda: gelato from the famous place in Siena, cycling around Lucca, or tasting as much wine as possible in 7 days. A good tour guide or group leader discovers what those things are for their guests and works to make it happen. I now accept that my travel style is either solo, with one other friend, or in a small family group, or maybe in such a large group that I can still carve out my own stake. Medium size groups are not for me.

Of course a wise travel planner also leaves room in the schedule for the unexpected invitation to join a birthday party for an 80 year old woman who does an awesome Tina Turner impersonation. But that is an Irish tale for another day.

Pro Cycling Shines in Sacramento

20170514_152403It is hard to beat Sacramento for watching a bike race on a sunny day. AMGEN Tour of California Stage 1 ambient temperature was a perfect 73 degrees with barely any wind. The only kink in my plans was the coincidence of Mother’s Day. There were many fans along the road and in the VIP tents, but it was still possible to find a place to watch the finish at about 3:15 p.m.

20170514_152209World Champion Peter Sagan moved to the tail end of the Quick Step lead out train for Marcel Kittel. Then it looked like he might get boxed in. Across the line it was Marcel Kittel first, Peter Sagan second. Thrilling!

20170514_152831Afterward I hung out to watch the jersey presentations and delighted to talk to the first female commissaire that I’ve ever seen at the international level. I asked her how she earned her spot. She said she paid her dues refereeing local races. Normally she rides along in an automobile. Today was one of the few times she was on a motorbike. I asked if she had to prove her ability as a motorcycle driver. The UCI provides a driver and she rides along. I asked how many women there are at this international level–not many. This race has three!  Could this be my third career? haha.

Safety First in Cycling

share the roadI pulled my June 2017 issue of Bicycling magazine out of my mailbox and inwardly groaned–another issue focused on rating new road bikes. You’d think based on the number of issues dedicated to it that every cyclist buys 4 bikes a year. I dove into it today to see if there was anything of interest to me and I was thrilled to find that much of the issue was dedicated to cycling safety.

If you are not a cyclist you may be thinking, bicyclists should follow the rules! This is the most common response I hear when people learn that I ride as my main form of transportation. And I get as aggravated as you when I see bicyclists riding on the sidewalk or jamming unsafely through an intersection. Arrogant and reckless cyclists hurt all of us because they erode respect for our vulnerability. But when I’m behind the wheel of my car I remember that cyclists (and pedestrians) are so much more vulnerable, cars are so much more numerous on the road, and road design is car-centric.

There have already been a few high profiles of professional cyclists hit by vehicles while training and some have died. The risks of dangerous drivers are real if you ride regularly. Italics are quotes from Bicycling magazine. 41% of you who pedal four or more days a week have been hit. 66% of you observe distracted drivers on most or every ride.

Dangerous drivers are sometimes intentionally aggressive: 31% have been the target of a thrown object. 52% of women say they experience aggressive driver behavior on at least some of their rides. 33% of men say the same.

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Bontrager tires with reflective sidewalls keep you on the right side of the law and are extremely effective.

This issue also includes many stories about the lack of concern by law enforcement when there are altercations between cards and bikes. Two pages are dedicated to the names of people killed by drivers in the last two years. They represent just 36% of the estimated 1600 cyclists killed.

The good news is that cycling is getting safer. And this issue shares research on the benefits of daytime running lights. Cyclists who draw attention to their moving parts are up to 83% more noticeable. Human eyes are wired to see motion. While a reflective jersey is good–highlight your feet, ankles and legs with reflective materials.

I am guilty of taking more precautions for children than for myself. This information is motivating me to invest in some reflective gear for my daily commute. It is worth it because the health benefits of cycling way outweigh the risks of riding alongside cars.

 

 

24 Hours in Monterey, California

I had a little less than 24 hours in Monterey on a Wednesday-Thursday. Monterey takes some effort to get to since you have to get through San Jose traffic. Every time as I approach the peninsula I wonder if it really is worth it–and then I see the Monterey Bay and ‘yes!”

Ever since I saw my friend Jen’s photos of the penguin parade at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I have been hankering to visit. I lived in Pacific Grove in 1984-5 and when I return I like to eat at my favorite restaurants and check out favorite beaches and walks. A lot has changed in 30 years so some flexibility is needed.

I was driving up from Bakersfield after a business meeting, so I got there too late to eat at my favorite dinner place SandBar & Grill on Wharf #2. I checked into the Lone Oak Lodge on north Fremont Street. It deserves the good reviews it received on Trip Advisor: clean, comfortable and spacious in a good location for under $100 a night. After a long day of driving I was ready to stop. I made a cup of decaf with my in room coffee maker and checked my email on the free wifi.

After a great night’s sleep I checked out by 8:30 so I could try a new breakfast place, LouLou’s Griddle. It is located on the same wharf as the SandBar & Grill. It was a beautiful, brisk morning. The wind was already blowing so I was relieved to find hot coffee and a seat at an inside table. It is a popular place and once you taste the food it is obvious why. The food is excellent in addition to the classic diner charm in a great location.

I returned to my car and headed to Pacific Grove to enjoy the ocean views at Lovers Point. Pacific Grove was originally a Methodist church camp with many of the smaller homes built as cabins. Lovers Point was Lovers of Jesus Point. There is a trail and walks from Asilomar to the Aquarium in New Monterey. The views are incomparable with opportunities to see otters and other sea life.

I like shopping in the Pacific Grove village. Over the years some things have stayed the same, like the classic post office and library, and other things have changed. Holman’s Department store closed. You can still buy books at the Book Works shop. I discovered a new shop Tessuti Zoo with unique gifts and colorful crafts made by the shop owner.

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a couple of hours of fun. (more to follow) I walked around Cannery Row and a ways down the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail. Next time I’ll explore bike rentals at Adventures By the Sea bicycle rentals at 210 Alvarado Street. You can cycle over 3.5 miles to Pacific Grove via Cannery Row.

I was ready for lunch around 1 p.m. and I really craved Gianni’s Pizza. Alas, they are only open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I circled back to Vivolo’s Chowder House that I passed at 127 Central Avenue. It was a happy discovery. It looks unimpressive from the exterior but it is elegant and the clam chowder deserves its local favorite status.

I debated doing more in Monterey, but the traffic is always miserable going through San Jose at rush hour. I decided to drive back via Santa Nella so I could see how full San Luis Reservoir is and enjoy a less stressful drive. The reservoir is completely full and the hills are the greenest I’ve seen in 7 years.

All together a very happy adventure.

What if I have done most of the items on the bucket list?…

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Not listed was the mural walk, or Second Saturday, or the Kondos Gallery at Sac City College

What happens if you read the list of 51 things to do in Sacramento before you die and you discover you’ve done most of them? Sacramento Magazine’s cover story for January 2017 throws down the challenge. So over lunch at Plates2Go I read through the list and realized that I have very little to do before I die.

Of course I have lived here most of my 54 years so it is perhaps not surprising that I have done so much of what is on Anna Quinlan’s list.

So here is what I have done: (using their numbers)

2. Drink a $2 beer with the River Cats… I have been to numerous River Cats games, plus the Assembly vs. Senate ballgame, plus a 107.9 concert with SmashMouth. Great venue on a summer’s eve.

3. Dance on the Patio at The Pheasant Club. I have not danced, but I have dined at the Pheasant Club many, many times, including on the patio. It was former County Supervisor McGowan’s favorite place to meet. I sometimes wonder if they saw a dip in business when he got his Governor’s appointment. Supervisor Oscar Villegas prefers Broderick.

4. Find some food-truck fare. Not hard around the Capitol. But I have also been to Sactomofo.

5. Pack a picnic with items from Corti Brothers. I have shopped at Corti Brothers and it deserves respect for having a wide selection of gourmet items before anyone really appreciated gourmet in Sacramento. But if I am packing a picnic lunch, I am going to Selland’s on H Street.

6. Get a roast beef sandwich at Bud’s Buffet. OMG, get anything there and your delish meter will tilt, as will your fat and carbs meter. Funny how those are related.

7. Don’t walk past Moxie’s front door. It is in my neighborhood so I do walk past the front door, but I have also gone in and enjoyed an amazing dinner or two.

13. Cheer on the dachshund races. I have been to Picnic Day at UC Davis numerous times and I got close to the races, but could not get in. Happily settled for sheepdog trials instead.

14. Milk a cow at the State Fair. I have visited the livestock barns many, many times over the years…as a 4Her, as a cousin of a 4Her, and as a summer employee of the State Fair. I did not milk a cow, but I did get to ride a Budweiser Clydesdale early one morning at the Cavalcade of Horses.

15. Bet on the horses at Cal Expo. I remember when there were trotters.

17. Row a scull at the Port of West Sac. Okay this shouldn’t count but I’m going to try anyway… my daughter rowed one season at Lake Natoma and I watched.

20. Cheer on cyclists at Amgen Tour of California. YES! As a cycling fan I don’t miss this unless I am in Italy watching the Tour d’Italia.

21. Ring a cowbell at a Kings Game. Okay so I’ve sat a quarter at courtside courtesy of Southwest Airlines, and I have sat through many other Kings Games. I may not have rung a cowbell but my basketball days are done, so check.

25. See an indie flick at the Tower Theatre. Too many to count…

26. Take a friend to the drive-in… saw the first Star Wars there.

27. Pregame a show at Crest Theatre with drinks at Empress Tavern. Been to both more than once.

29. Go sledding in Strawberry. Check.

30. Check out the corpse flower at UC Davis Arboretum. I have walked around the arboretum too many times to count and I recommend you do too if you haven’t experienced it yet. My favorite is the oak grove.

31. Take a walking tour of the Christmas lights in the Fab 40s. My P.O. Box is right in the thick of the Christmas light traffic. Walking is a good suggestion. I have walked Dove Court in Orangevale with my family to see the Christmas displays. Counting it.

32. Tour the Old City Cemetery at Halloween. I have gone on a tour with a group of mystery writers. Highly recommend this experience with a knowledgeable docent any time of year.

33. Run to Feed the Hungry. Check.

35. White knuckle white-water rafting trip. I did this with a group of colleagues from the US Bureau of Reclamation as a team building exercise. Got my adrenaline pumping!

36. Take a historic river cruise. Check. Several times. They actually want you to take a cruise where they tell you the history. Technically I have done the river dinner cruise, and I’ve spent several evenings on the Delta King for various fundraisers.

37. Get a foot massage and Thai coffee in Sacramento’s Little Saigon. Thanks to my friend Anita and the Happy Day Spa, I’ve done this. Good times.

43. Tour the Capitol. It is a gem.

44. Pan for gold in Coloma. I was a 4th grader in Sacramento; my two children were 4th graders in Sacramento. Need I say more?

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Santa Lucia bringing cookies to the celebrants at St John’s Lutheran 2016

45. Light a candle at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. I have attended concerts at this beautiful church, but I regularly attend St John’s Lutheran and we have a wonderful tradition of celebrating Santa Lucia Day. At the end we light candles and process to a light supper and dancing round the Christmas Tree.

46. Go on a dive bar pub crawl. I’ve met people at these establishments over the years and I hosted a pub quiz crawl fundraiser one year.

47. Grab a late night sweet at Rick’s Dessert Diner in midtown. Check.

49. Refuse to share a buttermilk bar from Marie’s Donuts. Well not the buttermilk bar per se…

50. Scream for Ice Cream… Yes, I have tried all of these ice cream establishments except Burr’s.

51. Customize a box of chocolate at Ginger Elizabeth. I lived above this shop for a year so I have eaten my fair share of delicious chocolate.

These ideas are worth pursuing:

 

One. Go to an event at The Barn in West Sacramento. Good idea, I hope to someday soon.

8.Score a ticket to the Tower Bridge Dinner. Want to take me?

9. Eat at The Kitchen. I am probably the only one of my friends who has not eaten there.

11. Get a degree from Cocktail Academy at Hook & Ladder. I don’t drink much but it still sounds like a fun and useful skill to acquire with friends.

18. Take your down dog off leash at Yoga in the Park. I enjoy yoga. I might try this. I did take my dog Radar to McKinley Park for dog training many Saturdays ago–so I’ll watch where I put down my mat!

19. Join the Tower Bridge Battalion at a Sac Republic Game. Really, really want to do this.

24. Dance at the Crocker Ball. I am not an enthusiast for getting all dolled up, but I do love to dance. And I love the Crocker Art Museum. Maybe if the right fella asks me.

38. Dance to the sound of Taiko drums at the Buddhist Church bazaar. I love percussion. I am game for this.

39. Eat a gyro at the Sacramento Greek Festival. Sure why not.

 

 

Sorry, I am not into that…

10. Ride the SacBrewBike. Oh, they are ubiquitous on a summer evening in Midtown. I don’t begrudge them their fun, just would rather ride my own bike to Big Stump Brewery for Pub Theology with St John’s Lutheran crew.

12. Book a limo tour of Amador County’s best wineries. Pass.

16. Get your butt kicked at SacTown Fit Crawl. Nope, if I am going to get sweaty it will be a Zumba class with Paco at Sierra II.

22. Let your freak flag fly at SacAnime. Hey, I enjoy seeing you all come into Starbucks when the the various conventions are going on, and I enjoy looking at Bill Reid’s photos of “freaks” but I will stay on the sidelines thank you.

23. Wear white after Labor Day at Diner en Blanc. I don’t enjoy getting dressed up. In fact, I have a friend’s fancy dress birthday party on the Isle of Wight in June and I am already getting stressed about what I’ll wear. Besides I’m sure to spill and then it would be Diner en blanc, and green, and yellow, etc.

28. Go paddle-boarding on the river. They are suggesting paddle-boarding from Discovery Park to Crawdads. Hmmm. I participated in Young Life’s Raft Race back in the day and I’m not sure I’d recommend paddleboarding on the Sacramento River.

34. Get on board the beer train. No thanks.

I’m not a super huge live music enthusiast: 40. Claim a front row picnic blanket at Pops in the Park; 41. Rock out with Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera; 42. Be an audience for One Man Band.  I have enjoyed the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert.

47. Smoke a hookah and watch the belly dancers at Kasbah Lounge. Allergic to smoke.

Planning 2017 Bike Trips

It’s that time of year. Tomorrow the ISO will announce the official 2017 Tour de France route. Rumors are flying on Twitter and Facebook about some of the stages being more than 400 kilometers. Ugh. When will they learn from the Vuelta and the Giro that shorter stages are more competitive? The race is already an endurance test. As a fan, the main reason you should tune in to the route announcement is to begin planning your own adventure–especially booking your hotel.

You can cycle or spectate with an official tour, such as Trek Travel or Thomson Bike Tours. Or you can plan your own adventure. I recommend looking for places where there are starts and finishes close together. The Pyrenees are also terrific: beautiful, many viewing spots within reach, lots of hotels to accommodate teams and fans.

The catalogs for bicycle trips are also arriving. Trek Travel’s beautiful brochure arrived and I spent several happy hours looking at the possibilities. With Trek you know your hotel will be fabulous, the food fantastic and the guides/support reliable, and you pay dearly for this top of the line experience. The Adventure Cycling Association tour catalog also landed in my mailbox this month. These trips are less expensive, generally a bigger time commitment and a bigger physical challenge than your typical bike tour. Two people in my RAGBRAI 2015 group met while riding across the USA with Adventure Cycling Association and they had all positive things to say. You can select from fully supported, Inn to Inn, self contained or van supported rides (and more).

I’ve been dealing with some health issues so my goal is to work my back to the place where I can consider one of these adventures. My ideal trip in 2017 would include the start of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf, Germany in July. What destination is in your future?