Chalk It Up! in Sacramento

This weekend was the 28th annual Chalk It Up! at Fremont Park in Sacramento. Each Labor Day weekend, hundreds of artists invest a lot of chalk, sweat and creativity into a square on the sidewalk. Most of the mini murals have various sponsors. One artist drawing cartoon characters on the sidewalk also signed up for a double square for a dental group. He was going to draw Austin Powers with his goofy teeth before and after dental work.

People create art with a message or just for the beauty of it. There is also food, crafts and other vendors along the middle walkways. There are also many restaurants within a block of the park including Starbucks, Hot Italian, Magpie Cafe, and others. It can be a challenge to find parking, so consider riding one of the region’s red Jump bikes or walking to 15th and P from anywhere downtown.

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There is a kids zone for them to draw with chalk., plus a playground in the park.

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Chalk It Up promotes and supports Youth Arts by offering small grants to K-12 classrooms, and youth arts organizations throughout the Sacramento region. We do this in large part with our annual Chalk It Up! Festival which encourages artistic expression of all kinds through a three day celebration of chalk art, live music, and regional food and craft vendors.

Seeking a Little Comfort on the Morning After Paris Attacks

Stanely Donuts at 3710 J Street can be counted on to serve up yummy donuts.
Stanely Donuts at 3710 J Street can be counted on to serve up yummy donuts.

I had been making good eating choices all week and even before I knew of the terror attacks in Paris I had decided to get a donut in the morning. I was up early finding solace in a email chat with my daughter. Eventually Lulu’s woeful looks got me up and I took my dog for a walk.  Then I went to the Midtown Farmers Market. Usually the Sweet Dozen food trailer is there serving up donuts. Not today. Then I remembered they were supposed to be at Chocolate Fish in East Sacramento. I was too hungry to bike there on an empty stomach. So I warmed up leftover Thai food and watched a comfort episode of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having on PBS.org.  I watched the Paris episode and prayed for the citizens of this great city: may they find comfort today too. Though I watched Phil dive into fussy pastries and pull apart a messy croissant and it only deepened my craving for the humble donut.

I jumped on my bike and headed to East Sacramento. By the time I arrived the Sweet Dozen trailer was shuttered. No donut. I got in line for one of Sacramento’s best flat whites and I realized what I really wanted was a donut. I plugged “donuts near me” into Google Maps and up popped Stanely Donuts at 37th and J Streets. I could check my P.O. Box, and then stop on my way home.

In my experience the best donuts in California are made by Cambodians. I learned this from friends who work in Cambodia and seek out donut shops run by Cambodians to practice their Khmer when they are in California. Turns out there is a bit of a Cambodian donut cartel once you step outside of the “gourmet” donut world. These are fresh, yummy donuts offered in super clean stores with regular hours. Stanely you have my loyalty!

After a lovely chat with the proprietress (who gave me an extra free donut!), I walked across the street for a Starbucks coffee in a controversial cup and free wifi. Next up: a quick stop at Geographica, a delightful map and art shop where I always seem to find a great gift or something I cannot live without.

I am so thankful for the relative peace in my little part of the world today. Praying for all those caught in conflict around the world today. Peace be with you.

Let’s Talk: Traveling with Bikes and TSA Confiscations

Let’s talk. What is your experience shipping your bicycle for a special ride by plane or delivery service?

Thule bike case allows you to ship your bike safely.
Thule bike case allows you to ship your bike safely.

I am flying to ride RAGBRAI via Southwest Airlines to Des Moines. They allow 2 checked bags to fly free. I read somewhere that this includes bikes in a case. I was checking a bag through to LAX today so I asked the Southwest employee handling my suitcase if there is a fee.

Als, they do charge $150 each way for “oversized luggage”. I asked if Southwest charges for golf clubs. No. I smiled and lightly protested sports discrimination. She said she would pass my comment along to management.

I was planning to rent a Thule case from Mike’s Bikes for $50 a week or approximately $100 with my travel time tacked on to the 7 day ride across Iowa. So this would be $100 plus $300 Southwest luggage fees or a total of $400.

Versus $110 each way shipping with FED EX with my bike in a box. The helpful FED EX representative in Davis gave me that quote and encouraged me to bring it to them because they have a lot of experience shipping bikes. Say it is slightly more expensive, shipping with FED EX  is still $250 compared to $400. I will probably ship my bike to my Cousin David in Des Moines and save the box for the return shipment.

Any advice?

Let’s talk. When is Homeland Security going to review the rules around what we can bring through security?

As a seasoned traveller you would think I would know better than to try to bring a small jar of very thick, premium chocolate sauce through security. TSA confiscated it.

I would say “bring on board” instead of through security except I am sitting on the plane a vente ice tea that I bought at the Starbucks in the terminal.  Why my jar of chocolate sauce from Ginger Elizabeth so thick it doesn’t move until you heat in the microwave is more dangerous than all of the liquids I can purchase after security, I fail to see. Starbucks ice tea

I offered to pop the seal and show them how solid it is. The security person and the supervisor declined to investigate and just said no. I confess in my frustration I accused them of just wanting my chocolate sauce. She said it will go straight into the garbage. Sure, but will it stay in the trash?

How many of us want to speak up about the many indignities that are now a regular part of air travel but do not out of fear we will be put on the No Fly list? Are we really any safer because TSA daily confiscates thousands of dollars worth of expensive hair gel or chocolate sauce or jam that exceeds 3.5 ounces?

Maybe you can tell by my slightly snarky tone that am experiencing a horrible, no good, very bad day. I want to go to Australia.

20 Hours in Las Vegas

I met up with a college chum in Las Vegas, Nevada for a brief stopover on our way to St George, Utah.  We live on opposite coasts so we like to meet up in the middle of the country for spa weekends. It is only a 2 hour drive from Las Vegas to St George, so an overnight is not required, but why not?

Unfortunately we were oblivious to “the fight”. It was only Wednesday and the boxing match was on Saturday. Who knew that people would already be pouring into Las Vegas for this event. It impacted our car rental at Hertz (we could not pick it up early).

In front of the pervy mirror.
In front of the pervy mirror.

We checked into the Cromwell Hotel. It is in a great location right on the Strip. The staff at the Cromwell did a super job. Dana, our bellman was outstanding including pointing out a “special” feature of the room. If the lights are off in the bedroom and on in the bathroom then the giant mirror on the wall becomes a window into the shower. Combined with the bordello decor we decided the decorator was a pervy man.The Mirage Steakhouse

We changed for dinner then dashed through the smoke filled casino to the Strip and walked to the Mirage. We had reservations at Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak House. The restaurant is a calm oasis in the middle of the casino. The steak, asparagus, and potatoes were pricey and good (not great). We were enjoying a nonstop conversation. The service was attentive without interrupting.

The new ferris wheel, the High Roller, in the background.
The new ferris wheel, the High Roller, in the background.

We walked back to our hotel via the Cinq, stopping at Starbucks and Sprinkles for cupcakes. We wandered through the Flamingo. Carole had a go at the Batman penny slot machine in memory of her brother Timmy. Eventually we made it back to the Cromwell.

Our beds were comfortable but the noise in the room was odd. It sounded like a monorail was just outside. At first we thought we might be by the elevators, but we were not. Sleep came eventually.Batman penny slots

The next morning I participated in a conference call while Carole collected the rental car. When she returned we went down for a late breakfast in Giada’s restaurant. It is the Cromwell’s main restaurant that also prepares room service. The menu was created by the chef of same name on the Food Network. Our food was delicious and the view of the Strip was even more amazing. Our wait staff all had charming Italian accents and provided excellent service. We would have lingered over lover coffee except we were anxious to get on the road to St George, Utah.

Extra notes: Carole introduced me to the podcast, Satellite Sisters. We listened to it on the Stitcher app on our drives. One podcast included a sister’s report on her recent trip to Las Vegas. She gives the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show 2 thumbs up.

Breakfast at Guy Fieri'sOn the way home Carole stayed an extra night in Vegas before flying to East Coast. She offers: I went to Guy Fieri’s restaurant for breakfast this morning and had the French toast with maple candied bacon. It was delicious. The service was great too. I would go back there. On the way to the M&M store I stopped at the chocolate shop we saw at Paris Hotel and had the most delicious cup of hot chocolate I’ve had outside of Switzerland. Highly recommend going back there too.

Eat, Sleep, Bike in Seattle

Seattle skyline from ferry
Seattle skyline from ferry

A blue sky day like this one is the kind that suckers Californians into moving to the Pacific Northwest. Of my three days in Seattle I had this stunner, and rain, and clouds and rain. I traveled to Seattle for a combination of personal and business reasons. I have not been to Seattle in a few years and it has increased its cool factor in my absence.

Eat

Pizza from Serious Pie
Pizza from Serious Pie

I ate so well that I am glad I took my Brompton to get some exercise each day. And it was Pi(e) Day on my last day there!

Dahlia Bakery
“Bite” of Pie at Dahlia Bakery

I stayed in the hip and chic Hotel Andra, centrally located in the heart of downtown and surrounded by a number of Tom Douglas restaurants. My colleague and I had a great meal at Serious Pie. I ate a tasty greek salad at Lola, although the slab of feta was a challenge to eat in bite size pieces. And after seeing the Pi(e) Day reminder, I started my day with a slice of coconut cream pie and coffee at Dahlia Bakery.

Starbucks Coffee
Drinking local means Starbucks

I also enjoyed coffee guilt free at Starbucks. Where else can you drink local coffee, at Starbucks? My colleague and I had an adventure trying to find the Pike Street Fish Fry that UrbanSpoon said had amazing fish and chips. We started at Pike Place Market and walked most of the way to Capitol Hill before we found it. It was worth the effort.

Pi(e) Day inspired me to seek out a berry pie at A La Mode Pies across from the Woodland Park Zoo. If I did not already have my heart set on Marionberry Hazlenut, I would have been torn between Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart and Star-Spangled Sour Cherry.

Slice of Marionberry Hazelnut
Slice of Marionberry Hazlenut

Sleep

I received an email from Stash Hotels telling me about Hotel Andra. I looked up the reviews in Trip Advisor and then making my reservation via Booking.com. I enjoyed every aspect of my stay. The staff especially excelled in making my stay a success. the bellman especially offered great advice about biking routes. My room was very comfortable and the wifi very fast. I will gladly stay here again.

Bike

Bicycle and jogging path through the Sculpture Park.
Bicycle and jogging path through Sculpture Park

I brought Black Beauty along so I could be sure to keep my commitment of riding my bicycle every day for 30 minutes. I had a terrific ride along the shoreline one morning. Another day I rode to the Seattle Center and around downtown. Seattle has invested in bike paths and there were large numbers of bicycle commuters on the street. Impressive considering the inclement weather.