Cycling Montezuma Hills Road

While driving to Oakley for a meeting I noticed the rolling hills near Rio Vista. A light bulb turned on, “Biking hills!” To prepare for my multi-day rides in Yorkshire in July, I have been driving to Folsom for hills. This morning I drove out to Montezuma Hills and Birds Landing Roads.Montezuma Hills Road

I set off with some trepidation. I decided to ride 5 miles out and then turn around and cycle back on the same road. Montezuma Hills Road is well paved to serve the windmill farms that dot the hills. I immediately began pedaling up a hill alongside curious sheep staring through barb wire.

The journey out was a challenge but the last 3 miles was all downhill. Of course this means uphill on the return. Also from a car I did not factor in the wind. Afterall, there is a reason for all of the windmills. With the wind at my back I was flying downhill. On the return I went as slow as 7 mph into the steady breeze. (I wondered if my computer has negative numbers if I started rolling backward.)

I rode 5 miles out in 15 minutes and back in 35 minutes. The ride boosted my confidence. I did not have to stop once except to take this photo. Shifting gears is still challenging. I am going to consult the used copy of “Greg LeMond’s Complete Book of Cycling” for tips.

After I loaded my bike rack, I slowly turned my car around. A woman cyclist appeared from Montezuma Hill Road so I waved and called out, “Where did you ride from?”  Rio Vista.  She stopped and she explained that she and 2 friends were riding to Collinsville and back. They often windsurf in Rio Vista but since the wind was not strong enough, they decided on a training ride. One is preparing for a triathlon and the other two for the Vineman Aquabike.

I am definitely going to research riding from Rio Vista to Collinsville and back. Hope Sarah Harriet can go with me next time. And, after a quick consult with Joe at Freewheeler I learned to improve my gear shifting. Good thing because I would not want to be stuck in my big gear for my first ride with the Davis Bike Club tomorrow.


Powell’s Books Box Arrived Today

It is like Christmas. Or the day the Scholastic book order arrived in my classroom!  I forgot some of the books I bought: some great used books on cycling and World War I. In among the treasures lay a book called Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra. Enjoy the poem below while you watch the video from YouTube.

Penguins First Swim by Judy Sierra

Ten little penguins all in a line–

One jumps in, and now there are nine.

Nine little penguins, how they hesitate–

One tumbles in, and now there are eight.

Eight little penguins pushin’ and shovin’–

One slides in, and now there are seven.

Seven little penguins, scarcely more than chicks–

One slips in, and now there are six.

Six little penguins can’t decide to dive–

One falls i, and now there are five.

Five little penguins huddle on the shore–

One flops in, and now there are four.

Four little penguins fidget fearfully–

One hops in, and now there are three.

Three little penguins wonder what to do–

One rolls in, and now there are two…

Two little penguins missing all the fun–

They both leap in, and now there are…

Ten little penguins, brave as they can be,

Splashing in the waves of the salty southern sea.

Antarctic Antics


24 Hours in Portland

Recently spent 24 eventful hours in Portland for my friend Lisa’s birthday party. I flew in on Saturday morning in time to meet friends Dale and Erik for brunch. We texted back and forth while I was riding the MAX red line in from the airport. We settled on Mother’s Bistro and Bar. We enjoyed a delicious brunch and a great catch-up conversation. We walked to Powell’s for a book shopping expedition. (Hooray for Powell’s shipping service!) Then split up to go our separate shopping ways.

I promised other friends, Jen and Leslie, I would meet them at their hotel for a drink before the birthday party. I had a couple of hours to walk a couple of miles with my shoulder bag to my hotel in NW Portland. I was about 2/3 of the way to my destination and feeling a little foot sore when I spied a tea house in the middle of “nowhere.”

Steven Smith Tea tasting rooms
Steven Smith Tea tasting rooms

I entered the tea room and my spirit was immediately refreshed. After consultation with the barrista, I selected Kandy, a black tea described as “fragrant and intense, yet light in liquor, named for one of the sweetest towns in Sri Lanka.” My pot of tea was refreshing and I did a bit of tea shopping in anticipation of UK Sarah’s upcoming visit.

Steven Smith Tea tasting room
Steven Smith Tea tasting room

I continued hoofing it to my hotel (wishing I had brought my Brompton bike afterall).  My hotel, the Silver Cloud Inn,  was worth the effort: great price, spacious room, and good amenities.

I took a Radio Cab to the Sentinel Hotel and met my friends in the majestic lobby and lush bar. The cheese platter was the perfect amount for three to nosh on.

Lisa Goren is a very talented health care speaker, super smart, and wickedly funny friend. Over 50 of her lovely, funny friends gathered to celebrate her birthday. The food, the talent show, and the Ruby Jewel ice cream made an evening to remember.

The next morning some of us gathered at Clyde Common restaurant for a late breakfast. So much good food! The restaurant is next door to the super hip Ace Hotel. After a good long visit I caught a ride to the airport and was on my way to back to Sacramento.

With just 24 hours you can still literally get a taste of Portland and have Portlandia type experiences. Case in point, one of my cab drivers engaged me in conversation and shared his 2 pager on what’s wrong with the world’s economy.  I would go back to Portland in a heartbeat.

Whole wheat pancakes with strawberries throughout makes for yummy goodness.
Whole wheat pancakes with strawberries throughout makes for yummy goodness.

IFragrant and intense, yet light in liquor, this blend is named for one of the sweetest cities in Sri Lanka.

Amazing Mac&Cheese at Homeroom

Homeroom restaurant We arrived by bike and the sheer effort to get there created an appetite worthy of the Homeroom’s famous macaroni and cheese. We signed in because even at 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday there was a line. We waited about 20 minutes during which we drooled over (at a safe distance) the outside diners’ food. Mulitple friends had insisted that Austin try Homeroom with raves about the mac&cheese so we waited with much anticipation.

Macaroni and Cheese

We decided to split an order of mac&cheese so we could also enjoy fresh asparagus in balsamic vinegar and save room for dessert. There are many variations to choose from and we went for the Macximus–a Greek inspired recipe with artichokes, spinach, feta cheese and we added chicken. Both the asparagus and the mac&cheese were delicious. We may not have had a lot of room for dessert and yet we were anxious to continue the dining experience. We ordered banana cream pie (in a mason jar) and a brownie sundae with caramel sauce. Both were incredibly satisfying. Now we were full.


The food is reasonably priced and makes an affordable urban dining spot. The service was excellent, and the decor in keeping with the theme of the schoolroom. The food may be inspired by the idea of food we loved in school, but I do not remember any of my cafeteria meals tasting this good!

4OO 4Oth Street, Oakland, CA 946O9  •  (p) 51O.597.O4OO  •  hours: Sun-Sat 11am-1Opm, Closed Monday


Tour of California Time Trial in Folsom


I pedaled my Brompton across town and then jumped onto the train from Davis at 9:24 a.m.  I asked the Amtrak conductor for a free transfer onto Light Rail once in Sacramento. Then I rode those rails to the end of the line in Folsom. All in pursuit of a day being a bike racing fan at the Amgen Tour of California. Today’s stage was the 12.5 mile time trial with a start and finish in old town Folsom. I arrived at 11:00 a.m. and spent time in the fan zone checking out the booths and picking up free samples of Jelly Bellys, and an Amgen TOC lanyard. I also bought a “Adios Jens” t-shirt at the Trek Racing Team booth. I also wandered around to get an idea of my viewing options.

At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen's Bakery
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen’s Bakery

The start ramp was on Sutter Street right in the heart of old town Folsom. The finish had a challenging 90 degree turn onto Leidesdorff Street 150 meters from the finish. I decided I would stake out a spot along the barrier after I grabbed lunch at Karen’s Bakery. The Bakery is a popular spot for cyclists and the finish was right in front of the outdoor dining space. Karen rented sold out the space at $200 a seat, all you can eat.  That is a good deal, however, I prefer being right on the rails.

I used my REI portable chair and enjoyed almost an hour of time knitting before the race began. The couple next to me went to the race in Sacramento on Sunday. It was fun learning more of the details about that stage. A large television screen across the road began broadcasting the race at 2:00 p.m. The first rider left the gate at 1:05 and it took over 26 minutes to finish. Thus began the ritual of cheering 128 riders approximately every minute or so.

The last time I watched an Amgen TOC time trial was in Sacramento. I was able to download the order of riders and take a printed copy so I could track our progress. I went to the Amgen welcome center and got a program. They said the order of riders is on the “Tour Tracker” application. I had downloaded the app the day before, so I found the list, only it did not include the rider’s numbers and when they left the gate the disappeared from the list, so it wasn’t helpful for knowing when your favorite riders would be riding to the finish. Nonetheless, our fan group at about 125 meters enjoyed ourselves. We especially enjoyed competing to see who could catch the riders with our cameras.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky
Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky

As the afternoon wore on the riders finished in faster and faster times. 24:02 was the time to beat until Bradley Wiggins started his time trial. This is only the second stage and the first stage ended in a bunch sprint, so Mark Cavendish was wearing the yellow jersey and was last to ride. Of the general classification riders, the favorites are Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney. The winner of the Olympic Gold Medal and the Tour de France 2012 decides to make a statement and he blistered the course. I am surprised I caught him on film. He finished in 23:18. Taylor Phinney rode well and placed third in the time trial but is now chasing Wiggins by 52 seconds.Mark Cavendish

The final rider is one of my favorites: Mark Cavendish, aka the Manx Missile. I only caught the beginning of his bike, though in this shot you can see the television screen and the barriers more clearly. No one expected Cavendish to stay in the yellow jersey but there is something about being the leader and as often happens he rode the best time trial of his career.

At this point I had to decide whether to stay and watch the awards or head to the Bike Valet and pick up my Brompton and catch the Light Rail back to the Sacramento Valley Train Station. After all of the sun, I was ready to head home. Great day and a great reminder of why I love watching cycling live.

Urban Bicycling in Oakland, California

Emeryville train stationNeeding to stage a trial run for my Le Tour adventure I arranged to meet my friend Austin for a day of cycling, eating, shopping and fun in Oakland. I barely made it to the Davis station before the train’s departure. The station manager helped me purchase my ticket and directed me to the right car. I pushed my Brompton onto the train and folded Black Beauty and stowed her on the luggage rack. I was a little nervous about leaving her on her own as I climbed the stairs to my seat.

Riding the train is so much more fun than driving. 1. No traffic. 2. I can use the time to finish my book, or stare out the window; either way it is very relaxing. 3. My round trip ticket cost $54 for an adult fare. If you compare to the mileage ($0.56 per mile equals $72.80) plus bridge toll ($5.00) plus potential parking fees.  Temescal Alley

Austin and I exchanged emails earlier to share ideas about places to go and things to see. I have been collecting Oakland travel articles from Sunset Magazine and other publications. It was 9:30 a.m. and we set off on our bikes to Temescal Alley, featured in two magazines. Have you noticed how some places get all kinds of attention and then you go and wonder what the fuss?

We parked our bikes and stepped into Doughnut Dolly for a creme filled donut. Dolly has a focused approach to doughnuts–you select either raised doughnut with granular sugar or powdered sugar, then select a filling and they inject them and they are ready to go. It’s an interesting idea and we munched our doughnuts on a bench outside. We compared our Yelp rating systems and I like Austin’s. One or two stars neither of us bother to review. Three stars we would go back if friends all wanted to go there. Four stars is awarded to a great place we would return to if we were in the neighborhood and five stars for a fabulous place that we would go out of our way to visit again and again. Doughnut Dolly was a 3 for me and a 3.5 to 4 stars for Austin.

Bee Healthy HoneyWe took off on our bikes to Telegraph Avenue towards downtown Oakland. We made a U-turn to stop at the Bee Healthy Honey store. We both love bees and are fascinated with beekeeping. It is a lovely shop and smelled like hamsters (pine shavings from the newly constructed hives reminded us of a clean hamster cage).

Continuing on our way we took a slightly circuitous route to the Oakland Museum. I have been meaning to go to this museum for years. We looked at the current exhibits and decided we really wanted to see the Giant Robot exhibit. My Crocker Museum membership includes a North American reciprocal benefit so I did not have to pay the $15 entrance fee. The “SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot” exhibit was super awesome.

And when did museums step up their quality of their cafe dining? I bought a bowl of sweet potato pistachio soup at the museum’s Blue Oak Cafe and it was delicious. Note to self, bring protein to eat with donuts to avoid bonking from sugar rush and plummet.

Next we rode around Lake Merritt. The trails around the lake are not exactly bike friendly. We stopped at one point for a march organized to keep attention to the plight of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. By this time we were feeling peckish so we began riding our bikes to Homeroom, a highly recommended eatery in another part of Oakland. (Review to follow in next post). We departed from the recommended route on Google Maps and discovered that Google Maps bicycle routes had probably been saving us from big hills. Black Beauty’s brakes work.  I also discovered Oakland has not paved some of their streets for decades (think cobblestones) and the Brompton is a comfortable ride. By the time we got to the restaurant we were ready for a good long lunch break.

Yarn and fabric storeWe had one more stop: a yarn store called A Verb for Keeping Warm at 6328 San Pablo Avenue. The yarn and fabric store is terrific and we enjoyed a good browse and a little shopping.

At this point we were close to the Emeryville train station and we pedaled there. The return train trip was very relaxing and just as easy to travel with my bike. The day made a successful test drive.

I have to figure out a lightweight option for locking the Brompton. And my bike repair classmates feel I should always keep my Brooks bike saddle with me. I am also very interested in the foldable helmet that my friend Hetta brought to my attention.

Children's book author Austin Lan was my bike buddy
Children’s book illustrator Austin Lan was my bike buddy

Let’s Go to Hip Winters, California

The city of Winters just keeps getting hipper and hipper. Located in Yolo County (on the edge of Solano County), it hugs Putah Creek and offers the charm of small town with very cool community life.

Ficelle's and Steady Eddy'sIt is a cycling hub with Mike’s Velo City bike shop, and several places to stop for coffee or breakfast including Steady Eddy’s.  It has an impressive restaurant to citizen ratio. My favorite is Ficelle with tapas and other delicious small plates.Putah Creek Cafe

Putah Creek Cafe is a great diner that also serves Sunday dinners. It says pies on the awning, but I have not found pie available the times I went (disappointing!).  The Buckhorn Steakhouse is an institution and terrific. We celebrated a family birthday the other night; the service was off the charts and my rack of lamb was so good I was gnawing on the bones to get every bit. Steakhouse prices, so we will save it for celebrations.

There is a crowd of young people who are starting wineries and breweries and cheese shops. First stop: Turkovich Family Winery for wine tasting.

They even have a yarn store, a fabric/quilting store, and a piano on Main Street!Public piano in Winters, CA





Adapted from a post that first appeared on Bay Delta Tourist blog.