Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On The Hope Valley Overlook Trail

Soon after returning from Italy, I joined Howdy and his gang of hikers for a weekday hike in the Hope Valley area off Highway 88 in the Sierra's. The timing could not have been better for fall colors. The Hope Valley Overlook Trail starts near Sorenson's Resort and ascends 1,200 feet for a round trip of approximately 5 miles. Besides great fall colors, this hike offers great views of Hope Valley. Click on the picture below to go to my photos on Picasa. Once there, start a slideshow or view manually.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bike Travel

Here are some of my favorite bike pictures from travel and locally. Go to my photos on Picasa by clicking on the picture below. Once there, start a slideshow or view manually. Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Travels in Italy

Kay and I finally travel to Italy, a country we've wanted to visit for many years. We had one week each in Venice and Florence followed by two weeks in Rome. The amount of time allotted for each city was much more than the average visitor, but it gave us the time to proceed at a more relaxed and sustainable pace over the four weeks. We flew into Venice, trained to Florence and Rome, and flew home from Rome. It's a popular route and perfect for our first trip to Italy. Each of these cities exude its own unique character. Venice is romantic and mysterious with its maze of canals, narrow streets and alleys; Florence is charming and enchanting with a big city feel and the distinction of once being the Capitol of Italy; and Rome is exciting, bustling and timeless; but all were historic. To live in these cities is to live within your history. Historic buildings and sights can be found at every turn dating back hundreds to thousands of years, and older if you're willing to dig. For our culinary taste, Venice had the best pastas and cannoli, Florence had the best gelato, and Rome had the best pizza and tiramisu. Kay still talks about her lamb shank dinner in Rome. This trip was everything we had hoped it to be and more leaving us with many fond memories. For a pictorial of our travels, please go to our pictures on Picasa. The pictures are grouped by city. Click on the picture below to go to each photo set in Picasa. Once there, start a slideshow or view manually. I welcome any comments.

Venice


Florence


Rome

Northeastern Bike Tour

During the summer of 2011, four friends and I completed a self-contained bicycle tour through the northeastern states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The four of us from California flew into the Buffalo International Airport and cycled to Niagara Falls, Ontario to meet up with Tom who cycled from his home in Watertown, NY. It was a good to have a local in our midst since this was my first trip to this region. Our pace was reasonably comfortable for a bike tour, the group had good camaraderie, and the touring conditions were better than expected. I feel comfortable in saying that the countrysides of upstate NY offered some of the best cycling roads I‘ve encountered to date. Weather wise, there were brief periods of high heat and humidity as well as rain, including a record setting day of 102 deg., but nothing sustained and unmanageable. Our accommodations, whether camping or in motels, were nice enough for the likes of us. The northeastern states proved outstanding for touring with lots of history, great local sights and eateries along with wonderful scenery. Our travels included places like Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes, Thousand Islands, Adirondacks, Kancamagus Highway and Acadia National Park to name a few. To conclusion, it was another great tour!

Although I had created an itinerary, we followed it loosely at best. The itinerary did prove helpful, however, in keeping us on track as we progressed eastward ensuring we would complete our tour within the allotted time frame since we had prearranged flights out of Portland, Maine. My Smart-phone and Bob’s GPS proved themselves as invaluable tools for bicycle touring. Besides making calls, the devices enabled us to easily get information on accommodations, eateries, schedules, etc., and to find bike friendly routes in uncharted regions. The devices gave us the freedom to head off the plan route and still meet our needs for food, comfort and shelter quickly. They are now a permanent part of my travel kit. It took time and effort to determine the route and to find accommodations for the five of us during this trip, but I love bicycle touring and I was glad to be able to share this tour with friends. Total distance was 1,360 miles with 60,100 feet of total climbing, 260 miles more than our itinerary. For a pictorial of our tour, go to my photos on Picasa by clicking on the picture below. Once there, start a slideshow or view manually. I welcome any comments.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Visiting Cousins

Kay's cousins from Hong Kong drop in for a quick visit during a short trip to the States. From Sacramento, they fly to Las Vegas, then L.A. For the family, it's dinner out at Fortune House followed by lunch at Mizu. Click on the image below to see pictures in PICASA.

Friday, July 1, 2011

SFMOMA

Visiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which is exhibiting a special showing of the Stein Family's collection of avant-garde painters like Matisse, Picasso, Paul C├ęzanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and others from early 19th century Paris. Photographs were not allowed within the special exhibit, but alright else where. Click on the picture below to see a slideshow of our visit.
From SFMOMA

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mumbo Gumbo at Jessie's Grove Winery

Mumbo Gumbo performs at Jessie's Grove, part of Jessie's casual annual Summer Concert Series at their winery in Lodi just off Turner Road. Kay and I join friends Kevin and Bella, and Den and Deb for a picnic under the old oak tree and an evening concert that rocked the grove until well after dark. Concert goers were ready for a party and Mumbo Gumbo did not disappoint. Mumbo Gumbo offered a unique blend of celebratory danceable music from rock to soul, afropop to lush balladry, and zydeco to country; so dance we did until the night finally settle in. Great music and a wonderful evening with friends. Click on the picture below to see a short slideshow.
From Mumbo Gumbo at Jessie's Grove Winery

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mt. Shasta Zodiac 2011

In June, I joined the Sacramento Wheelmen on their second annual Mt. Shasta Zodiac for 5 days of pristine riding out of Mt. Shasta City in northern California. "Zodiac" is the name given for multi-day rides away from home. Much thanks goes to Dale and company for organizing this ride. For the riders, the rugged terrain and low population density of northern California meant cycling mostly on quiet rural roads within sight of the ever majestic Mount Shasta looming high above its surroundings at 14,162 feet elevation. Over the 5 days, I rode about 211 miles climbing a total of 14,730 feet and explored an awesome new region by bike. Definitely worth the trip north. It was a climber's paradise and the riding couldn't get much better than what we experienced. I skipped some of the climbs, otherwise I'm sure the 5-day total would have exceeded 20,000 feet. For a short slideshow, click on the image below. Also, check out Geno's blog
From Mt. Shasta Zodiac 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The First of June

Crazy to say, but it has been a dynamic day of weather from bright sunlight to short heavy downpours, hail, and tornado warnings just north of town.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Sacramento Small Wheel Society rides again

Peter, along with fellow members from the Sacramento Small Wheel Society including yours truly, host a Moulton enthusiast from the UK and his two associates for a quick Sunday small wheel ride. With some exceptions, the principle mode of transportation was three Moultons from Peter's collection and three Bike Fridays from members of the Small Wheel Society. With great camaraderie and enthusiasm for the small wheel, we rode from downtown to breakfast at Bella Bru using the American River Parkway, one of the true gems of the Sacramento region. For the complete story, click on the picture below to link to Geno's blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amgen Tour of California: Race Day at the State Capitol

It's race day at the State Capitol and the skies are threatening rain. Given that we've had a very wet winter, I'm not surprised! At the last minute, I decided to head downtown to see what I could see, rain or not. Perhaps it's the weather, but there appeared to be less attendees than previous years. Due to the late hour of my departure, I did not have to wait long before the peloton arrived to complete three laps around downtown and the State Capitol. I managed to get some pictures before Britain's Ben Swift of Team Sky Procycling won the shorten stage riding a Pinarello. Cervelo, where are you! It appears the bad weather in the mountains forced Amgen TOC officials to start Stage 2 from Nevada City rather than Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA.
From Amgen TOC: Race Day

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tour of the Inland Passage

Another fun time had by all. Between the comings and goings of various people joining the bike tour in part at different places and those doing the entire tour, there was a total of 10 participants. The bike tour went for 10 days covering 457 miles with 12,362 feet of elevation gain all thanks to the organizational skills of Geno. With a rest day at the Pinnacles National Monument, the tour went south from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo by way of an inland route along the central valley and through the coastal ranges until we dropped down to the coast at Cayucos just north of Morro Bay. Our overnight places were Rio Vista, Tracy, Santa Nella, Mercy Hot Springs, Pinnacles National Monument, Fort Hunter Liggett, King City, and Paso Robles concluding in San Luis Obispo at Harvey's home. Thanks for putting us up Harvey. Also, thanks to Bob, we were able to return home via his truck and trailer. Logistically, everything worked like clockwork thanks to Geno's good planning. As for the tour, it was another great trip and in particular, it was wonderful to be able to do this with so many friends. For people who like cycling and traveling, bike touring is the perfect combination. You get to ride all day enjoying the changing landscape day after day and eat all you like. What's not to like about that! Yes, there's traffic, it can't be avoided. But there are miles and miles of quiet scenic roads, even in a populous state like California, if you choose your way carefully. For the complete story of our tour, go to Geno's blog and here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3. Click on the link below to view my pictures from the tour.
From Tour of the Inland Passage

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to take this show on the road

Time to take this show on the road again! A group of friends and I will be headed to Los Osos along the Central Coast on a 10-day tour just as great spring weather is about to make a showing. After the wet winter, I've got my fingers crossed. As a member of the Sacramento Small Wheel Society, I've decided to ride my 20" wheeled bike. Compared to traditional sized bikes, using a small wheel bike like my Bike Friday for loaded self-contained touring does have its small benefits. For example, the small bike usually looks so overloaded with all the panniers that it invokes a response from people who see it. Thus, it's a great way to start interaction with locals along the way. In addition, the smallish bike is easier to store in crowded motel rooms, storage rooms, cellars, and trains; or in a vehicle should the unexpected occur. From past road experience, it's easier to get a great draft off another bike because the small front wheel allows you to get right up on their tail. Just hope they didn't have beans for lunch. The small wheel bike handles the weight of heavily packed panniers better due to its lower center-of-gravity. Also, with my Bike Friday, I can easily swing my leg over the top tube when mounting and dismounting; a real godsend after a long long day in the saddle. Finally and not the last, it's so cute and you look like a clown on a little bike.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's New

It must have been a subconscious desire, my coveting a new carbon bike. As of late, I had been encouraging Geno to purchase one of these new high-tech carbon bikes with statements like; “Life is short”, “You deserve it”, “You’ll climb even better”, “You can afford it”, etc. while denying any personal interest. But, unbeknown to me or at least I’ll not admit it, deep inside I wanted and envisioned a new carbon bike in my future. So when the time finally came to start window shopping for carbon bikes, I didn’t hesitate for one moment to tag along. After all, I was just going to help Geno make the right choice. Yeah, that’s what I told myself. I’m sure my eyes were as big and wide opened as Geno’s and Mike’s when we finally walked into Davis Wheelworks which is known for their great selection of high-end carbon road bikes with names likes Felt, Pinarello, Scott, Cannondale, Look, Kestrel, Ridley, Seven, Colnago, etc. It is the dream shop for cyclist with numerous colorful, curvaceous and lustrously finished road bikes nicely displayed throughout the floor space. Image a car enthusiast walking into a showroom filled with Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, Jaguar’s, and Mercedes to name just a few. Fortunately and thanks to recent glowing reviews of the Cervelo bikes, we had a starting point in mind. We wanted to talk Cervelo and Tim at the shop did not disappoint nor did he dispute the reviews; they were “great bikes” where all others are “good”. And so our road toward the Cervelo’s began. To conclude and in the interest of brevity, after more research and reading as well as one awesome test ride in region of Cantelow Road, I offer the picture below of three new happy owners of Cervelo Bikes. For the complete story of our inaugural ride, go to Geno's blog by clicking on the image below.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Birds of the Neighborhood

This time of year as we begin the last month of winter, we usually encounter the greatest variety of birds in our neighborhood as migratory birds, those in transit or returning home, mingle with the wintering birds. The return of summer birds in our vicinity is the first sign that the great bird migration northward is under way, some from as far as the southern hemisphere. For now, I’ve still got birds in my head so I’ve been testing the capabilities of my Canon SX20is in regards to bird photography. With this camera, the key to good sharp photographs appears to be bright sunlight, getting as close as possible, a steady hand, and a cooperative bird. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA. My images only show a small fraction of the birds in the area.
From Birds of the Neighborhood

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spenceville Wildlife Area

One needs not to always travel afar to find small wonders for they may be within our own backyards if we look. This week, we did a short easy hike of about 5 miles to Fairy Falls along open roads and trails over rolling terrain within the Spenceville Wildlife Area. As described on their website, the Spenceville Wildlife Area, which varies from 200' to 1200' elevation, is comprised of 11,942 acres of blue oak and gray pine woodland characteristic of the Sierra Foothills. This wildlife area, which is bordered on the west by Beale Air Force Base and by privately owned ranches on the north, south, and east, contains numerous ponds, creeks, trails and riparian zones as well as an abundance of wildlife. The steepest parts of the hike was the terrain immediately around the falls should you want a more intimate view of the water. I’ve lived in the Sacramento all my life and this is my first trip to Fairy Falls. It’s well worth your time. The dam and overflow at the Camp Far West Reservoir is also worth a stop when the water is high. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA.
From Spenceville Wildlife Area

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wayward Bird

A wayward bird, of which I have not seen in the immediate vicinity of my home, but afar typically outside of the city in rural fields and most often amongst cattle, hence its given common name of “Cattle Egret”, has been roaming our neighborhood the pass week feeding off the green lawns of my neighbors. It can be seen stalking along intently eyeing the grass for large earthworms driven to the surface by the wet winter soil or simply perched on the roof ridge of surrounding homes. It’s probable that the abundance of large earthworms typically encountered in our lawns after watering or heavy rain, will keep it returning for a while. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA.
From Wayward Bird

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Funhouse

The Madonna Inn is definitely a unique theme hotel and spa, and just gaudy enough to be fun. Located within walking distance of eclectic downtown SLO, I could imagine this being that “special place” where couples might return numerous times. Once there, there’s little reason to venture afar until check out. At the Inn, you’ll find gift shops, two great restaurants, a well known bakery, a colorful lounge and dance floor, a large jacuzzi, a fabulous designer swimming pool, work out equipment, spa treatments and outstanding service. In addition to all this, the decor of each room is colorfully done, outrageous at times and unique. Returning guest could experience a different room on each occasion for years; it’s part of the fun. The brightly colored decor extends through out the establishment with amble use of hot pink and lustrous reds. If this doesn’t stir the passion within, nothing will! Kay and I missed their Christmas decorations which we were told included 30 trees, but their Valentine’s Day decorations were over-the-top. Guess we’ll be back. My pictures do not show nearly enough, so check the Web. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA.
From Madonna Inn

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Anza Borrego and More

As I’ve said to Kay, there’s more to Anza Borrego than first greets the eyes as you traverse the sinuous 11-mile descent along Montezuma Valley Road into the remote desert valley. Once there, you’ll discover a variety of restaurants and shops as well as other amenities essential for a positive experience. Two great places to eat are Jilberto’s and Kendal Cafe, great food and value. Long a haven for snowbirders from the harsh winters of North America, this area was not overlooked by industrious developers with pockets of homes, tennis courts, golf courses and resorts scattered around the valley, evident as we toured by vehicle and bike. Hidden in the desert terrain like an oasis are modern homes with designs right out of the pages of Architectural Digest. The luck of good weather during this trip thus far, ended during our first day in Anza Borrego with wind, cold and light sprinkles. Good time to check out the local shops and markets, and for a drive about; even managed a short hike within the state park. For me, as you would expect, the attractions of this region are the outdoor activities, be it biking, hiking or birding. There is also beauty here if one looks for it. Click on the link below to view all the pictures in PICASA.
From Anza Borrego and More

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bye Bye San Diego

Much to our chagrin, our time in San Diego has come to end and we’re off to spend several day in Anza Borrego before traveling homeward, rain or shine. This year proved much warmer and sunnier than last which makes departing more difficult, especially when news from home tells of cold and foggy conditions. Our condo in San Diego was outstanding; spacious, modern, and overlooked the beach. Our senses became accustomed to the harmonious sound of breaking waves lapping the sinuous shoreline of Pacific Ocean. In hind sight, two weeks was not nearly enough time. Perhaps next winter, we’ll stay for a month. San Diego is definitely at the top of our list as a great winter retreat. The region has much to offer; a diverse culture through its people and a multitude of outdoor activities due to its location. Unlike the Los Angeles area, traveling east from the coast of San Diego, the region becomes hilly and mountainous immediately. Bye bye San Diego, see you next year! Click on the link below to view all my pictures in PICASA.
From Bye Bye San Diego

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birds of San Diego

Once a birder, always a birder. Click on picture below to view a slideshow.
From Birds of San Diego

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Waves

Timing is everything! In San Diego, the timing of high tide and off shore wind generates bigger than normal waves closing the Ocean Beach Pier.
From Big Waves

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sun n Surf in San Diego

What a difference a day makes. Four hundred miles south and we are beyond the reach of the cold central valley fog and the gloom of winter. Sun and surf is what it's about here along the shores of Pacific Beach in San Diego.
From Sun n Surf: San Diego

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Streets of Vietnam


Life on the streets of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Face of Vietnam


The face of a country is its people.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Burger and Brew

Happy Birthday and Happy New Year! To celebrate Kay's birthday, we lunched at the Burger and Brew in midtown near 15th and R streets. We had been hearing from friends who are aficionados of the American burgers that it was one of the better eateries in town. Now was as good a time as any to see for ourselves.

The ambience is casual with a self-ordering counter, noisy with an eclectic youthful energy, and rustic with its red brick walls. The styling is typical of old converted brick warehouses from our past and sparsely decorated with some interesting posters; otherwise it's more about function. Although it was an hour pass noon when we arrived, it was still very busy with nearly a full house and a longish line for ordering which wound through the seating. Though busy, service throughout our lunch was great and I moved through the line quickly. I do not normally have patience for lines and this was not even close to setting off my nerves. That's service for you! Our meals were served within a reasonable timeframe, tables were bused often and quickly, and we were even asked if all was well. So far so good!

So how's the burger? I had a plain no frills burger and Kay had hers with avocados. One was medium well while the other a medium and I did notice a slight difference in the meat. We both agreed that this is one of the better burgers in town. Nicely balanced appearance, great tasting meat and a good quality bun. For me, the bun is often the overlooked ingredient on an otherwise good burger. I won't say "best burger in town" only because there isn't such a standout for me. There are a number of good eateries where I partake in a good burger and this is one of them. Will I come back? You bet! The only downside to my lunch was the garlic fries, but that's a another hunt and a different story. Go with the curly fries.