Placerville Fun Even in Pouring Rain

Poor, poor Placerville. Overlooked as a destination except for those in desperate need of a restroom and a hot drink on their way home from Tahoe.  Or just an exit to get to Apple Hill. So unfair. Of course the town is laid out more to please itself than visitors (and bathrooms are scarce).

Lunch at the Farm Table at 311 Main Street

My friend Cameon had spied Placerville’s latent charm when she passed through with her kids. She thought we should go back and explore. So one Saturday we did. It just happened to be raining cats and dogs.

Our first intention was to check out Lofty Lou’s yarn shop. If you Google it a photo of the old shop comes up. They have moved to a much roomier place at 263 Main Street. Lucky for us it was also a short jog from the public parking lot. It is a lovely store with a great variety of wool and other fibers. They also offer a lot of classes and have a classroom space.

We also found hard to find candy, and terrific Christmas ornaments. It does not take more than an hour and a half to circuit the main part of Main Street with stops.

We ended our visit with a delicious lunch at the Farm Table. They describe themselves: charcuterie – good food – provisions. We warmed up with a tasty soup and shared a salad. There is not a lot of sit down dining space, but there are choices for picnic lunches and pickled preserves to go.

The best thing going for Placerville is how close it is to downtown Sacramento and Folsom–different and yet not more than a 45 minute drive. It offers a different vibe–because it is essentially a mountain town to serve the local community. I mentioned our adventure to a friend and she asked if I had checked out the hardware store. She gushed about how awesome it is–an old fashioned, hard-to-find anymore hardware store.

Cameon and I also just went to old town Folsom for breakfast and shopping. It is much closer (especially for Cameon), with good food options. We ate at Peaches for a wholesome and tasty meal. The shopping options were also good, although my favorite store Roost is closing at the end of January. By comparison it is more quaint than Placerville. Aside from the farmer’s market on Saturday, it is designed more for visitors than Folsom residents. It is a destination for cyclists and runners using the American River trails, or for antique hunters.

Both towns are great options for something interesting to do with a friend on a Saturday morning.



Perfect Day for Rafting the American River

The blimp was over Carmichael to cover the Masters' Golf Tournament.
It was a high of 92 degrees with light cloud cover. Perfect for rafting, cycling, and golfing.

I stopped my bike along the American River Parkway to watch the hundreds of river rafters floating downstream. It brings back so many good memories of rafting as a teenager. My son and his friends also have spent many a day on the river. It is a lot of fun and best when hot but not too hot. You can rent a raft around the Sunrise Boulevard bridge or launch your own craft from one of the parks on either side of the river. It takes a couple of hours to float down to Ancil Hoffman park or to Arden Park. A small part of me worried that none of the boaters has their life jacket on and I know they are drinking alcohol.  (Boating and alcohol should not mix!) I did not wear a life jacket as a teenager either as tan lines were more important to me than safety. In spite of the drought Lake Natoma and the American River from Orangevale to where it meets the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento are at normal summer levels because it is regulated by releases from the Folsom Lake reservoir.

Looking across to Negro Bar on Lake Natoma.
Looking across to Negro Bar on Lake Natoma. The Aquatic Center has hosted the NCAA Pacific Region rowing championships.

Lots of people were also boating on Lake Natoma. This manmade lake stretches from the Aquatic Center at Hazel Avenue to the Rainbow Bridge in Folsom (about 5 miles). The bike/horse trail makes a ring around it. I cycled 56 miles round trip from 9-2:30 today. I was still recovering from 30 miles yesterday in the 104 degree heat. This is all about preparing for RAGBRAI so it is miles + time in the saddle. Speed is less important. I am finding that it is a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. I shared with my cousin John that I am worried I will not be able to ride the full length, and he chuckled and said he gives himself permission to take a day off and go play golf. I felt better and decided I will do my best. Keep my eye on the prize: have fun. On the ride home I noticed the blimp in the sky. At first I thought it must be passing through on its way to or fro an event in the Bay Area. Then I remembered the US Senior Open Golf Tournament in Carmichael. I hope none of the old duffers playing yesterday expired in the triple digit temperatures. I imagine today’s high of 92 with breeze was a relief. I hope the television gives the audience some views of the river.

3 Reasons to Love Bicycling in California

1. Oh my gosh! If you did not see the finish to the Tour of California then you need to get on YouTube and watch some video. All 8 stages excited, but the last couple of days amazed. Stage 6, the time trial, had to moved because of snow in May. This is just plain weird, especially for Southern California. At the end of the time trial Peter Sagan had the overall (general classification) leader’s jersey. After 5 years winning the green points jersey for sprinting, Peter has found another gear and he is winning sprints on the hard days and, thanks to time bonuses for the top finishers, leading the race.

I believe he loves California. When I was following the Tour de France I staked out his team bus one morning when I had a VIP pass. I waited patiently as all the other team members collected their bikes and rode off to the start. Finally, Peter Sagan emerged from the team bus. The crowd pushed forward. I stood my ground with my California flag and sharpie (and a friendly smile). He fine tuned his bike with the mechanic for about 10 minutes and then turned to leave. I was the only person he stopped to give a signature and I believe it was the California flag!

Now he has even more reason to love California. While he lost the leader’s jersey by just a few seconds to Etixx-Quickstep’s Alaphilippe. However Sagan turned himself inside out to finish so close to Alaphilippe on Mt Baldy on Stage 7.  This performance shows how Peter Sagan is really in a league of his own by finishing so strong.

I remember when Tour de France had time bonuses for the top 3 finishers of stages in addition to the intermediate sprints. Now they just give points toward the green jersey. The Amgen Tour of California does give these time bonuses and this makes it possible for Peter Sagan to be in contention for the GC. Mark Cavendish and the Etixx-Quickstep team did everything they can on Stage 8 to thwart Sagan and keep Alaphilippe in the leader’s jersey. Cav did win the intermediate sprint at 40k from the finish–but Sagan got second. And Alaphilippe got third! (Thanks to teammate Mark Renshaw.) Now only a second separated them so if Sagan got a time bonus for one of the top three at the finish then he would win the entire race.

Watch the finish! And remember to never give up.

2.  California is usually in the top ten lists for bicycle friendly states, but often edged out by Washington or Oregon. But seriously, there are so many fantastic places to ride. I have been reading Ann Marie Brown’s book Northern California Biking with more than 160 suggested rides. I am using to identify rides as I train for RAGBRAI. I need to be riding 20, 30, and up to 60 miles in a day. And I need to ride 4 days in a row, so my go-to ride is on the American River Parkway. It is 1.8 miles from my doorstep and I can ride 60 miles if I ride to Folsom Lake and back. It is wonderfully entertaining–I see deer, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, snakes, turtles, and more. Yesterday I also saw women plowing with draft horses on an urban farm in Rancho Cordova.

The paved bike path hugs the American River. Many river rafters pull their boats out at Ancil Hoffman park.
The paved bike path hugs the American River. Many river rafters pull their boats out at Ancil Hoffman park.

3.  Putting aside a freak snow storm in Big Bear, California aside, the weather is fantastic for cycling. One of the benefits of drought is perpetual sunshine.

As I get ready for RAGBRAI, I am also working on my friendly factor. People in Iowa are much friendlier than people in California. So I am developing the habit of saying “good morning” to cyclists and joggers I pass before noon, and “G’day” to those I pass in the afternoon. By projecting friendly energy I have had many great interactions and conversations with people–including Jens Voigt!


RAGBRAI starts in 64 days. I am spending at least 8 hours a week in the saddle putting in the miles to prepare for riding 462.2 miles. My biggest effort to date has been 4 consecutive days in Otago, New Zealand. This will be 7 consecutive days and longer time/miles each day.

My odometer turned over to 700 miles on one year anniversary. Good reminder that I am still learning.
My odometer turned over to 700 miles on one year anniversary. Good reminder that I am still learning.

I have to remind myself that I only began riding a road bike last year. In fact I just recently celebrated my first year anniversary on my Trek bike. Before I bought my Trek Lexa, I rode my daughter’s road bike. I did not have clipless pedals though until I was properly fitted on my own road bike. Last weekend my odometer turned over to 700 lifetime miles. I will more than double this training for RAGBRAI.

I read an article in the Sacramento Bee about the trend among the pros for wider tires. Apparently the science has proven what seems counter-intuitive: wider tires are faster, especially on rougher pavement. The thought of trimming time off each day with just an equipment change was worth exploring. The Trek rep at the AMGEN Tour of California thought I could go up to 25 cm. I rode my bike to Patrick at Mike’s Bikes and asked him to outfit my bike. The 25 cm tires fit!

Fat tires are the bomb!
Fat tires are the bomb!

Today I took them out on the American River Parkway and boom! I gained a couple of miles per hour. Last weekend I consistently rode 20 miles in 2 hours (with some interruptions for phone calls). Today I rode 20 miles in an hour and a half. It is also more comfortable and the gears feel easier.

In other preparations, I made my flight and hotel reservations. I am registered with team Larry. I still have some shopping to do and a tent to learn how to set up. Really though, it is all about getting miles in my legs.

Tour of California Bike Race, Stage 1

18th and L in Midtown SacramentoThe 10th annual Amgen Tour of California bike race started on Sunday, May 10 in Sacramento. I have moved to midtown Sacramento so I was thrilled when I looked up the Stage 1 route and learned that the final circuit around Capitol Park would turn left at my building. Turns always mean a bit more drama.

The best part of the being the host city for Stage 1 is the teams arrive a few days before the start and you see them training on the American River Parkway. Sacramento has a well paved, wonderful 30 mile+ bike trail stretching from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake. Apparently some of the riders got a little careless and especially the great bike handler Peter Sagan bumped into some cyclists on the trail. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour but the flat wide trail with great pavement is too great a temptation.

The men’s race started on L Street at the North entrance of the Capitol. They cycled out of town on their way to Rio Vista. Shortly afterward the women’s Stage 3 circuit race began. We watched them go round and checked out the festival. I bought some Nuun. Stopped at the Trek Factory Racing booth to take a picture of the bike that Jens Voigt’s used to break the 1 hour record. I also asked about using slightly wider tires on my Trek road bike to gain a little speed in the hopes this will save me a little time in the saddle on RAGBRAI.

We all relaxed and napped while the riders were out on the road--even Dozer.
We all relaxed and napped while the riders were out on the road–even Dozer.

There were a lot of fans out on a Sunday and Mother’s Day. We bumped into a few family friends. We returned to my apartment home and watched the women from my balcony. I need to learn more about women’s cycling. I have been watching the men’s racing for years so I know the players and teams. I am going to invest some attention to learn more about the top women racers. Leah Kirchmann (CAN) won the Stage 3 circuit race and Trixi Worrack (GER) hung on to the yellow jersey to win the overall Women’s Race.

We downloaded the excellent Amgen Tour of California Live App on the iPad and phones. You can watch the video from 2:00 p.m. to the finish plus other features.

I dozed while I listened/watched the video. I sat up when one of the Jelly Belly riders went off the levee on the road winding along the Sacramento River on the return from Woodland. Lucky for him he let go of the bike and landed just before the riprap rocks. (He finished last; but he finished.)

This close!When the 3 breakaway riders crossed the Tower Bridge I ran downstairs with my camera to get a first hand look. The turn itself was 3 fans deep so I moved down L Street a little towards the Lutheran Church. I did not think about the physics, but it was perfect as the riders had to move to our side of the street on the curve. The first time around I was surprised by the wind/blow back and thrilled by the speed. The first two of four circuits Sagan’s Tinkoff Saxo team lead out train was in front. The last two times the front lead out train was Cavendish’s Etixx Quickstep (my favorite team).

Mark Cavendish's lead out train in front.
Mark Cavendish’s lead out train in front.

The last time round the church bells were pealing and the fans yelling and the cowbells clanging. We turned to the App to find out who won and there was a bit of a delay… Cavendish first, Sagan second.