Bicycling notes: Bike Fest, Sept. 26 at UOP, adds to growing cycling enthusiasm!

Bike Coalition riders prepare to depart for a late September ride in 2014 on the Calaveras Bike Trail

Bike Coalition riders on the LSD RIde ("long, slow distance" ride), May, 2015

Riders who took part in the 'Best Ride Ever' ride out of Lodi's Lange Twins Winery, earlier in 2015.

Here’s a follow-up to my Record feature and blog post a week ago; what with the San Joaquin Bike Fest coming September 26 to University of Pacific’s lovely campus.

Take a moment to consider the positive aspects this event will bring to bicycling in our city and county. Local media will publicize and build excitement, leading right up to the event on Sept. 26. It starts at UOP’s pretty campus and offers a choice of short, long and longer tours of Stockton, and finishes with music, food trucks, beer and family fun;  so local will also be drawn to our superior bicycling topography.

Also consider that some of the nicest months for riding occur in late September to mid-November; while we await a hoped-for El Nino, we have pretty nice riding weather almost year-round.

As for safe riding options, look to the area to the west, north and east of Lodi for scores of quiet back-country roads through beautiful vineyards and orchards, search the city of Stockton’s website for it’s map of bike trails, bike lanes and relatively safe cycling roots and consider south-county options in Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy.

Also, become Facebook friends with the San Joaquin Bike Coalition, and check their web site,  – this group leads monthly rides for newer cyclists as well as veterans, emphasizing safe and fun cycling in the city of Stockton and the county.

Safe cycling has been enhanced by recent new State of California law mandating “giving cyclists 3 foot of space”; though cyclists are urged to obey the law (ride with traffic, not on the sidewalk; don’t ride two, three or more abreast (it irritates drivers), and, stop at stop signs and red lights. Always, always ride on the assumption that a driver does not see you – at least until he/she and you make eye contact!

A few more suggestions:

• Study city bike lanes/paths and, while driving, pick out safe routes.  Always, always wear bright colors, purchase an inexpensive rear-view mirror, or eyeglasses mirror.
• When riding, use proper hand signals
• Never assume a driver approaching from the rear, front, or from the side, sees you until you make eye contact

Once you have exhausted Stockton and county riding options, explore there nearby gems:

  • American River Bike Trail (Jedediah Smith Trail), from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake
  • Sacramento River Parkway/Sun Dial Bridge to Shasta Dam, in Redding, CA.
  • Susanville Bike Trail (a rail-conversion trail)/the Biz Johnson Trail, and,
  • The many bike trails in the Bay Area (San Francisco, the Peninsula, East Bay, South Bay)

If these rides intrigue you, grab your phone or GPS, or city/county/state map to polish your routes.  Stockton’s web site offers a downloadable map profiling current and planned bike trails/routes. And, mark your calendars for the September 26 Stockton Bike Fest!

For more info: Stockton Bike Festival and San Joaquin Bike Coalition,; Stockton Bike Club,; for Stockton Bike Route map,

Contact Tim Viall at Follow him at

Happy pedaling in the west!

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Yosemite’s high country – beautiful in late summer, early fall!

My spouse and I just returned from 3+ days in Yosemite high country, following Hwy. 120/the Tioga Road up to Tuolumne Meadows. While the rivers are running low, and some of the waterfalls have dried up – this is still stunning country, clean air and worth your visit. Posting some pictures of Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, May Lake, Lembert Dome and more. My full feature is coming soon in the Record newspaper. Consider booking a lodge or a campground and get up there before rain and snow closes Tioga Road come sometime in November.

Here are pictures to whet your appetite!

How to get there: From Stockton, it’s 140 miles and three hours. Take Hwy. 4 east to Copperopolis, turn right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road and follow Hwy. 120 past Chinese camp and Groveland (two great Gold Rush towns) into Yosemite, following Hwy. 120 (which is also Tioga Road in the park).  Take a side trip into the stunning Hetch Hetchy Valley, which is the destination of the Toulumne River that you will see in Toulumne Meadows (for Hetch Hetchy, from Hwy. 120, go north on Evergreen Road to O’Shaunessy Dam).

For more info: Go to: The park headquarters is at PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389-0577; phone: 209.372.0200. Camping can be booked through, or 877.444.6777.

Author Tim at May Lake, 9329 feet, with Mt. Hoffman behind

View of Half-dome from Olmsted Point, on the way up Tioga Road.




For other inspirational destinations in CA, see my Record blog:!

The Tuolumne River, meandering quietly through Tuolumne Meadows.

Happy travels in the West!

Tenaya Lake, looking east

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Bicycling Stockton and San Joaquin County; favorite rides and Stockton Bike Festival, September 26

Adult and youth cyclists prepare to depart the University of Pacific campus prior to the 2013 Bike Fest.

Bike Fest celebrants depart the University of Pacific campus bound for historic downtown Stockton at start of the 2013 Stockton Bike Festival.

Sam's Market, on the Delta north of Tracy, is a favorite refueling stop of Matt Beckwith!

Shadow rider follows the Weston Ranch Bike Trail, a favorite of Matt Beckwith.

A group of family riders takes a break at Buckley Cove Park, a favorite loop of Kari McNickle.

Group of LSD riders ("long, slow distance") heads north on Lower Sacramento Road north of Lodi, part of the first-Saturday monthly LSD Ride staged by the San Joaquin Bike Coalition (


A grand bicycling event is just a month out: the San Joaquin Bike Festival, Saturday, September 26 at University of Pacific. With bicycling fun for all ages, the free event aims to provide a safe and educational environment to help residents discover great places to ride in Stockton.

Veteran bicyclists realize that Stockton and San Joaquin County offer a bicyclist’s dream; lovely weather almost year-round, few hills, a variety of safe and scenic routes to flex those leg muscles and several clubs that cater to new and veteran cyclists!

Some bikers choose the Lodi-Woodbridge roads through vineyards, the county’s east-side challenging foothill routes, biking through quaint tree-lined Stockton streets to the historic downtown waterfront, or cycling along Manteca’s paved biking trail that offers a bridge across the Stanislaus River. Cyclists rate San Joaquin County as a solid biking destination and with huge future potential.

Others might question safety of cycling on city streets.  A couple of tips: always anticipate that drivers don’t see you – ride defensively.  Follow the laws (stopping at stop signs and red lights), and ride with traffic, single file (while a cyclist has a right to the lane, riding two or three abreast hogs the lane and irritates drivers).  Wear the brightest colors – day-glo yellow, red or orange. Finally, Invest in a rear-view mirror for about $20 – allowing riders peace-of-mind by seeing vehicles approaching from the rear.

For those who want inspiration prior to the Bike Fest, I asked several local cyclists for their favorite Stockton and San Joaquin County rides. Kari McNickle, chair of the San Joaquin Bike Coalition, Matt Beckwith, Coalition board member, Don Blount, managing editor of the Record  and I offer several favorites:

Kari McNickle notes, “my favorite rides are destination-based – nothing like working your way to a rewarding breakfast or beer! From the Miracle Mile area, pedal west along the Calaveras River Bike Trail, perhaps making a loop up towards Buckley Cove and around the Brookside neighborhood. Next, head north on Feather River past the dog park, and hang a left immediately after the bridge (watch for traffic!). Wind your way around Grupe Park to 14 Mile Drive, and enjoy the smooth road until you hit Stockton’s largest hill, levee up to the Marina! Complete the arduous climb, and treat yourself to waterfront breakfast at Bob’s, or the great happy hour specials and a sunset at Garlic Brothers. The hard part is pedaling back after all the good eats”!

Matt Beckwith (who in late 2014 pedaled every city street in Stockton, logging over 1560 miles in three months) adds, “I enjoy riding throughout Stockton. Even though like to explore new routes, I often go out for one of my favorite, in-town rides: the “Weston Ranch 30”. From my house in north Stockton, near Hammer and I-5, I ride north on Don Avenue and Meadow Drive to Alexandria Place and over the colorful footbridge to Grouse Run and McGaw Street to Stagg High School. Take the Calaveras River bike path east to University of the Pacific then ride south on Kensington Way and Baker Street to Fremont Street. Depending on my mood I’ll either take Center, Sutter or Stanislaus Streets south to eventually ride down French Camp Turnpike to Carolyn Weston Boulevard and up on the bike path and back toward home. It’s a great 30 mile ride through some easy-to-ride, bike friendly parts of Stockton”.

He adds, “there are many great bike routes throughout San Joaquin County, a favorite takes me south through Tracy. From north Stockton, I ride out to French Camp and then head west on Mathews Road / Howard Road which ends at Tracy Boulevard. A few miles from the turn on to Tracy Boulevard is Sam’s Market, an oasis 30 miles from my home and a perfect place to stop and rest and refill my water bottles. I ride through Tracy and then out to South Kasson Road to the edge of San Joaquin County and then ride through Manteca on my way back to Stockton. This ride is 75 miles or so, depending on if I add a few extra roads, and is a great way to see parts of Tracy and Manteca that many people don’t”.

Don Blount offers his Stockton ride, “from north Stockton: Alexandria Place south to Swain Road, west on Swain to Cumberland Place, north on Cumberland to W. Benjamin Holt Drive, west on Ben Holt to Embarcadero Drive. Follow Embarcadero to the Meade Drive intersection, east on Meade Drive and follow the road around Grupe Park to Sea Gull Lane. Go east on Sea Gull Lane to Feather River Drive, follow Feather River south to Brookside Drive, then west on Brookside Drive into Brookside and follow to Buckley Cove.  One can add as many loops along the way to lengthen or shorten the ride.

For San Joaquin County and wine country, he offers, “ride Thornton Road north to DeVries Road, east on Armstrong, south on North Fury Road, east on Live Oak, south on North Tully, short jog and west onto Comstock Road, south on Tully, west on Baker. Go south on Waterloo Road and stop for libations at the Fruit Bowl. For return trip, south on Waterloo, north on Alpine Road, west on Live Oak, north on North Fury to Armstrong to Thornton”.

Finally, I offer my “historic downtown Stockton” ride.  Use Matt’s suggestions above to get to downtown, where you’ll find the 1910 vintage Hotel Stockton, 1890 Bank of Stockton, 1930 Fox Theatre and a downtown rich in history. Call the Downtown Alliance for a downtown historic tour map, (209) 464-5246.

If these rides intrigue you, grab your phone or GPS, or city/county map to polish your routes.  Stockton’s web site offers a downloadable map profiling current and planned bike trails/routes. And, mark your calendars for the September 26 San Joaquin Bike Fest!

For more info: San Joaquin Bike Festival and San Joaquin Bike Coalition,; Stockton Bike Club,; for Stockton Bike Route map,

Contact Tim Viall at Follow him at Happy pedaling in the west!

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Bodega, Bodega Bay and the Sonoma Coast; exploring with kids the filming of ‘The Birds’, Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller

Granddaughter Jessica reveling in the glory of a first visit to the ocean along the Sonoma coast!

Jessica and grandmother Susan in front of Potter School, the school filmed in The Birds.

Naked ladies line the roads and fields around the Sonoma Coast.

Movie poster from the Hitchcock 1963 movie hit 'The Birds', filmed in Bodega and Bodega Bay.

Jessica, exploring a campground tree at Sonoma Coast State Park.

Mouth of Russian River, with cadre of harbor seals across river, from bluff above Jenner, looking south.





























Exploring with kids the coast and the filming of ‘The Birds’, Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller movie.

Our short vacation goals were several: to spend a few days on the scenic California coast, find a pretty campsite near the water and to share an exciting adventure with a 10-year-old granddaughter who had not yet been to the ocean.

We chose the Bodega Bay/Russian River area for multiple reasons. It offers close proximity to San Joaquin County and a rugged, scenic but accessible coastline for wading and exploring. And, our granddaughter, her brother and mother are fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic movie ‘The Birds’ – much of it filmed and set in Bodega Bay. Hence, exploring several film locations seemed like a fun bonus.

Additionally, Bodega Bay is a quaint town set on a quiet bay, with campgrounds on the edge of the city and nice restaurants and motels for those who don’t camp. The nearby Russian River, with towns of Jenner and Guerneville and the old Ft. Ross just further north all offered nearby places for additional exploration.

Part of the fun of getting there is taking Highway 12 through Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Hwy. 116 out of Cotati to Sebastopol, and then west on Valley Ford Road. Our route took us directly to the town of Bodega, a small hamlet set in the foothills 4 miles from Bodega Bay. We took the first left, motored two blocks up the hill and found Potter School (called Bodega Bay School in the Hitchcock movie). It dates to 1873 and was placed, with film magic, in the town of Bodega Bay. Since the film, it’s been a restaurant and is now a private residence – providing a perfect backdrop for Jessica and her grandmother Susan to pose proudly in front of the old schoolhouse.

While most of the exterior shots for The Birds were filmed in Bodega and Bodega Bay, most of the filming inside buildings, such as the post office, was done on location at Universal Studios in Hollywood (Hitchcock didn’t like filming on location).

In Bodega Bay, we had brunch at The Tides restaurant – featured in the movie. Though the movie restaurant burned in 1989 and the current restaurant is part of a much larger commercial complex – the entryway features signed movie posters by the movie’s star Tippi Hedren, scenes from the movie and restaurant staff is happy to discuss its and the town’s role in the flick.

To celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary in 2013, Hedren made an appearance at The Tides Restaurant. Actress Hedren played much of her part in a stunning green suit by Edith Head  – to accommodate her many scenes and rough treatment, Hitchcock had six identical suits made for her; Hedren’s 2013 appearance at The Tides was in similar garb.

We camped in the main campground at Sonoma Coast State Park just north of Bodega Bay, offering about 160 campsites, including two loops with pretty, treed sites just a short walk to the bay itself. It’s always amazing to me how kids can make their own excitement while camping; Jessica found a campsite tree worthy of climbing for several hours of entertainment.  Evening s’mores made for fine campfire treats, as well. Wrights Beach Campground, a few miles further north in the same state park, offers a dozen sites right on the beach itself – though they book months in advance.

North up the coast we toured, stopping at several beaches, allowing Jessica to revel in the surf and the cold waters of the north Pacific (the water’s too cold for swimming except for the hardest core swimmers). For a 10 year old making her first ocean introduction, her sheer delight in romping through the surf is not an overstatement!

Just a few miles further north, we crossed Hwy. 1 over the Russian River, and headed west to the town of Jenner, located on the bluffs above where the river meets the ocean. We stopped at our favorite restaurant, the Rivers Edge, with an outside deck offering views of a colony of sea lions that live near the mouth of the Russian River.

If you have the time, only a few miles further north is the historic Fort Ross, established by the Russians in 1812 to 1841 as part of their southernmost occupation to colonize the Americas (the Fort Ross State Historic Park does a fine job showing off life in the early 1800s on the windswept coast).

Returning home, we toured east up Hwy. 116, through charming Russian River towns of Duncans Mills, Monte Rio and Guerneville, each stocked with cute shops and eateries; we made a mental note to return for a vacation outing in the Guerneville area!

How to get there: Take Hwy. 12 west out of Lodi, then connect to Hwy. 116 just beyond Napa and Sonoma (both offer marvelous diversions if you want to extend your trip) to Sebastopol, then Valley Ford Road to Bodega, and connect to Hwy. 1 along the coast.  Bodega is 110 miles and about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Stockton.

For more information: Bodega Bay Chamber of Commerce,, 707.347.9645; Ft. Ross State Historic Park,, 707.847.4777; for camping reservations for Sonoma Coast State Park,

For additional travel inspiration, follow me at, or contact me at

Happy travels in the west!

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New exhibits on the Native Peoples of San Joaquin County opens Thursday!

New Native American People's exhibit opens this Thursday at the SJHS!

News from Dave Stuart, Exec Director of the San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park…

Did you know that Native Americans have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years? That Native nations carefully cared for local habitats—landscapes that early white explorers mistook for primeval wilderness? That shortly before Europeans arrived, this area had the densest population of Native people in the entire North American continent, north of central Mexico?

Did you know that the current County was home to many nations of Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with very rich cultures and lifeways? That Indians here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California?

New exhibits in an expanded Native Peoples Gallery at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park reveal these facts and more about the California Indians of our region. The new exhibits officially open on August 21, 2015, and may be enjoyed during regular Museum hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Native people are such an important part of our County history that we expanded the exhibit space devoted to them and now tell their stories in an up-to-date way,” said David Stuart, Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Historical Society. “We added videos showing traditional basket making, acorn preparation, and deer hunting—we hope folks will associate artifacts displayed in the exhibit cases with those shown in the videos.” Small children will also enjoy a kids-level video of swimming salmon.

The second room of the Native Peoples Gallery has a circular wooden bench. With the push of a button, Museum visitors can sit and listen to three recorded messages. In one recording Glen Villa, Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording is of a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts). The third recording tells of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and County were named.

In addition to the bench, the new room has a hands-on activity for younger visitors, a cannon barrel like the ones used by the Mexican army that fought against Estanislao and his patriots, and a large mural of an Indian man and woman bedside a lush riverside. “The mural is a photo-mosaic made up of more than 7,000 small photos,” explained Stuart. “The small photos depict important plants, animals, landscapes, and so on—representing the close connections that Native peoples have with their homelands.”

The expanded Native Peoples Gallery was funded by the Nature Education Facilities Program, created by the 2006 Clean Water Bond Act. “The new exhibits work perfectly with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building,” said Stuart. “Visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Then to a new exhibition on the early American settlers, which was dedicated in February of this year. And on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery. So the stories of early San Joaquin County are now nicely introduced in the Erickson Building at the Museum.”

The San Joaquin County Historical Society operates the 18-acre Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park. The Society provides a Critter Corral of small farm animals on summer weekends. It conducts programs for school groups, including “Valley Days” and “Pioneer School Day” (in the 1866 Calaveras School). The Museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information see

So, plan a trip out to the always cool and informative San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park, and soak up some insight about our Native American forebears!

For additional travel inspiration, follow me at, or contact me at

Happy travels in the west!


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Sierra foothills cruisin’; late summer/early fall foothills destinations in Gold Country

View of Sutter Creek's Main Street, alive with shops, restaurants and wine-tasting, from Hotel Sutter balcony.

Band plays most Friday and Saturday eves at Helwig Winery in the Shenandoah Valley.

Fiddletown's old community center, with giant fiddle over the door, stands guard over the old downtown.

Replica of Sutter's Mill on the American River in Coloma honors the site where gold was discovered in California in 1848.

Kids can pan for gold in Columbia; they'll usually turn up agates, and, occasionally, the preciouse gold metal!

The Wells Fargo stagecoach offers rides to young and old in scenic old Columbia!

With kids back in school and the summer crush of tourists waning, it’s time for a weekend getaway in the nearby Sierra foothills.  Highway 49 is just an hour away, so take a day or weekend tour of Gold Country and sample history, quaint towns and scenic attractions along the route!

Start your tour at the place of gold discovery in California. In the 1840s, Captain John Sutter of Sacramento hired men to develop saw mills to supply lumber to his growing empire.  James Marshall chose Coloma (to local Nisenan Indians, Cullumah) to cut timber and mill lumber on the South Fork of the American River.

Marshall’s discovery of gold on January 24, 1848 would change the course of the nation and speed California’s statehood.  Coloma almost overnight swelled to thousands; fueled by gold fever, California’s population would jump from 100,000 in 1850 to over 400,000 by the 1860s!

The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park should be a “first stop” for any visitor or Californian seeking to understand the gold rush that brought tens of thousands of new immigrants to the state.  Visitors can see a replica of the old saw mill that Sutter commissioned and over 20 historic buildings including the jail, mining digs, stamp mills that crushed quartz so gold could be mined, houses, blacksmith shop and old stores.

Touring south on Hwy. 49, Placerville, the old “hang town” where frontier justice too often prevailed, offers a quaint and walkable downtown.  For a good lunch stop try the Powell’s Steamers Restaurant in an 1890s building. In the fall, visit Apple Hill, just east up Hwy. 50 from Placerville, a fine detour for all things apple, from cider to pies to apple wine!

Plymouth traces its history to the 1870s when prospectors stopped there in search of quartz and gold. For gourmet travelers, the new Taste Restaurant in Plymouth draws rave reviews from around the region. The city has a cute public park with bandstand, the old Plymouth Hotel and other eateries, all crowding several blocks.

From Plymouth, take a detour eight miles east on Fiddletown Rd. to Fiddletown; which predates Plymouth. Established by prospectors from Missouri in 1849, it quickly grew in the 1850s and 1860s as a center of trade for many mines located nearby. Visit the Shenandoah Valley, a growing wine region just east of Plymouth.  The area’s 30+ wineries offer tastings (some of them no charge), weekend entertainment and, with late summer/early fall beginning to turn the leaves yellow and orange, it’s gorgeous country.

Just off Hwy. 49 are the richly preserved Gold Rush boom towns of Amador City and Sutter Creek. Amador City blossomed with thousands of miners, shopkeepers and restaurant/saloon workers.  The Keystone Mine was formed in 1853 by consolidating several smaller claims and produced over $25 million in gold with the main shaft reaching 2,600 feet into the Sierra hillsides.

Just south, Sutter Creek’s quaint Main Street offers a walkable stretch with a wealth of historic buildings dating from the 1850s, many of them marked by plaques offering historical anecdotes – all of them home to busy shops, restaurants and wine-tasting rooms.

Stop for lunch or dinner at the Hotel Sutter/Bellotti Inn. Opened in 1860, it is one of the oldest hotels still in continuous operation in the state. Three blocks east of Main on Eureka is the old Knight Foundry, the only water-powered foundry in the US, that, until recently, was in continuous operation since 1873. Sam Knight designed the water wheel which was used world-wide, powering early hydroelectric plants throughout California, Utah and Oregon.

Jackson and Mokelumne Hill are both worthwhile historical stops on your way to another “must stop”, Columbia State Historic Park. Columbia was founded March, 1850 by Dr. Thaddeous Hildreth and others who settled and began prospecting. Soon, Hildreth Diggin’s had found the precious metal and more than a 1,000 miners descended on the area. Renamed Columbia, the Park preserves the town as a museum of living history!

Columbia’s business district is closed to cars – foot- and horse-traffic only – and businesses, shops and volunteers bring the town to life, much as it appeared in 1855!  Pan for gold, take a stage coach ride, visit blacksmith and livery shops, get a free tour led by period-dressed docents, grab lunch or an ice cream and take in life as it was more than 150 years ago! Best of all, admission, parking and guided tours are free, and open seven days a week all year, a day spent here is easy on the wallet!

How to get there: To reach Coloma, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 north to Sacramento, go east on Hwy 50 to Placerville, then north eight miles on Hwy 49 to Coloma; it’s about two hours from Stockton.  From there, follow Hwy. 49 south to Placerville, Plymouth (an 8 mile detour on Fiddletown Rd. to Fiddletown), and all the way to Columbia State Historic Park. You can make this Gold Rush circuit in one long day, but better to plan two!

Nearby attractions: Indian Grinding Rocks State Park offers insight into Native Americans, Murphys and Ironstone Winery, Black Chasm Caverns offer an opportunity for would-be spelunkers to ply their craft, and fishing in New Melones Lake. Parrott’s Ferry Bridge is just west of Columbia – take a close look at the center-span of the graceful concrete bridge and note the five foot droop that caused the contractor to have  to shore up the bridge with additional steel girders!

Where to stay: Most of these towns have a host of motel, hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations,  restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores for provisioning. A number of public and private campgrounds offer scenic camp sites.

For more information: Coloma,, the Marshall Gold Discovery Museum and Visitor Center, 310 Back Street, Coloma, CA 95613, (530) 622-3470; Plymouth and Fiddletown,; Amador City,, or city staff, (209)267-0682; Sutter Creek,; (209) 267-1344; Columbia,, (209) 588-9128.

For additional travel inspiration, follow me at, or contact me at

Happy travels in the west!

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Bicycling in San Joaquin and Stockton; Lodi Bike Summit is August 15

Riders stop at Cosumnes River Farm, north of Thornton, during the Best Ride Ever!

Riders tour along Lower Sacramento Rd. in Lodi, as part of the San Joaquin Bike Coalition's "Long, Slow Distance Ride", held first Saturdays each month.

Perhaps you are a local bike rider who thinks “there are no safe places to ride in my city”, or, you have not discovered scenic by-ways locally to challenge you to pedal.

The Lodi Bike Summit, this Saturday, is for you!  The Bike Summit runs August 15, 2015 @ 8:00 am – 12:00 pm, held at Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins Street, Lodi, CA 95240; best of all, it’s FREE!

The day starts with a leisurely bike tour of Lodi at 7:45, and the summit gets underway at 9 AM (secure bike parking available during the Summit).

At the event, you’ll discover cycling opportunities and new routes that will delight. You will hear experts share how the area can be even more bike-friendly, and how you can be part of the process.  Make your voice heard for future biking improvements in your city and the county!

I have cycled semi-steadily in San Joaquin County for about 23 years.  One of my favorite scenic routes was featured at the Best Ride Ever, when it stopped at Cosumnes River Farm, 208305 North Thornton Rd., just north of Thornton.  The Farm offers wine and olive oil tasting in a beautiful setting with a shaded outdoor patio and plenty of seating to share wine and good times!

Best of all, it’s just a mile north of Thornton, and a 1/2 mile south of the Cosumnes River Preserve. Thornton is a cute little town on the north edge of our county, with a new bakery and several stops for coffee.

Just north of the Farm is the Cosumnes River Preserve, which showcases the intersection of the Cosumnes River and Mokelumne Rivers. The preserve offers hiking and biking trails that take you through low-lying country around both rivers, showing off a portion of California much is it looked like to Native Americans hundreds of years earlier.

The several mile stretch is a great place to bike ride, sample local wines and olive oil, and appreciate the rivers that feed the San Joaquin Delta, and the flora and fauna that thrive in such an environment; start at the Cosumnes River Preserve, or Thornton, and enjoy these pretty and quiet back-county cycling options!

So plan a day, take the bikes, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy this beautiful country between Lodi and Thornton, right in our backyard!

And, please send in your favorite cycling routes, and a photo or two if you have them, and we’ll continue our series of “favorite cycling places” (send to my email,

And, see you at the Bike Summit!

For info: Lodi Bike Summit, go to; for City of Stockton bike routes,; San Joaquin Bike Coalition, “like” their Facebook page and see their web site,; Stockton Bike Club,; Consumnes River Farm, 28305 N. Thronton Rd., Thornton, 209.334.5544,, and

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Happy cycling in the west!

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Vacation recommendations from fellow travelers; northern CA and Oregon!

The beautiful Hope Valley offers quiet scenery and wonderful fishing and hiking opportunities!

Trinidad State Beach showcases the rugged north California coast!

Scenes like this come at almost every turn in the Bend, Oregon area!

A few weeks ago, I put out a request to Facebook pals to share their favorite vacation destination, within a 5-6 hour drive of Stockton and San Joaquin County (and to send a picture or two, if they had one).  Here are a few early suggestions; I will share more as I get them:

Bend, Oregon, from Lori Dixon of Bend, OR (formerly a local resident, moved to Bend 15 months ago): “Bend, Oregon where the mantra is, “Be nice, you’re in Bend” is my favorite place to vacation. I favored it so much that I have been a resident for 15 months now. Bend is about a 7 hour drive from San Joaquin County or a short flight from Sacramento to Redmond Oregon.

Every day is a vacation in Bend – whether you live here or not. In a town with about 81,000 residents, there are 70 parks/trails for recreation, not to mention noteworthy water – Metolius River, Deschutes River, and the lovely Mirror Pond (yes, that Mirror Pond of Deschutes Brewery Beer lore). A bonus is Bend is both dog and family friendly.

How to recreate in Bend? Mountain Bike, road bike, hike, walk, run, ski, float, SUP, kayak, listen to free music in Drake Park, listen to headline concerts in the Les Schwab Amphitheatre, shop local Farmers Markets, attend the too numerous Festivals to celebrate the seasons, craft beer, and freedom (!) or just get to know the locals by hanging out and eating at the many great restaurants and breweries or relax at “The Lot”.

Between the beautiful Cascade Mountains, the accessibility of over 20 pristine Alpine lakes along Cascade Lakes Highway, and the many opportunities to bike/hike/run/ski, enjoy music, savor craft beer and delicious wine, there is something to do for anyone of any age in Bend Oregon. Just remember, be nice.”.

The far north coast of California, from Eric Grunder (recently retired Record Business Editor): “You can rent a place in Trinidad, about 30 miles north of Eureka giving you easy access to Eureka, the college town of Arcata and to the Redwood National Park and Prarie Creek State Park. (Fern Canyon isn’t to be missed) Or you can just sit in the late afternoon sun with a book and a couple of beers and watch the sun set behind Trinidad Head”.

The Hope Valley, from Kristy Serratos Hillin (a fellow classic trailer traveler): “We recommend the lovely Hope Valley in the central Sierra, Sorensen’s Resort and Blue Lakes!”.

Send in your recommendations, and a photo or two if you have them, and we’ll continue our series of “favorite places” (and, Susan and I will find new destinations to put on our calendar!).

For additional travel inspiration, follow me at, or contact me at

Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Southern California | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco by bicycle; cycling the wonderous sights along the waterfront

Breakfast at the Ramp, about a mile south of AT&T Ballpark - right on the bay, with a view across to the Port of Oakland, it's a favorite restaurant destination!

Historic streetcars on the Embarcadero run from AT&T Park in the south, all the way along the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf.

A Brompton English folding bike was one of our choices for touring the San Francisco waterfront. Easy to fold and carry, they are perfect for totting onto public transit like streetcars of the SF ferrys!

Friends Christine and Steve (Christine would not relinquish her traditional bike!) with the Brompton folding bike in foreground.

The Wave Organ, at east end of Marina breakwater, plays musical notes due to tidal and wave action.

Friend Steve and author Tim on two Brompton folding bikes, with Golden Gate Bridge in distance.















               Our considerable challenge: could four of us bike San  Francisco for several days, avoid hills and traffic and test out a couple new “folding bikes”?

We began our San Francisco overnight adventure when we picked up our two friends in Fairoaks, and made our way to Practical Cycle bike shop in Old Sacramento. Here we acquired two demo Brompton English folding bicycles and owner Tim Castleman explained the nuances of these slick collapsible bikes.

We made our way to San Francisco’s Lombard Street and our favorite motel to park our vehicle and begin our two day exploration of the waterfront. Just a block to the north we cruised down Chestnut Street – a cute Marina neighborhood with the Presidio Theater, Chestnut Bakery, Pluto Restaurant (“food for a hungry universe”), the Ristobar, Squat & Gobble and many other restaurants and shops.

We pedaled north four more blocks to the Marina, toured the wave organ at the end of the marina’s pier (at mid- to high-tides, waves drum out a series of musical notes on the pipes, buried as part of the wave organ – a project of the Exploratorium).

We then toured west along the beach of Chrissy Field (once a 1930s army airfield) to Fort Point underneath the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. This Civil War-era fort is styled exactly like Fort Sumter, South Carolina; the National Park Service’s docents show you how soldiers served in the 1850s and 60s. While the fort never saw duty during the Civil War, it was ready to defend San Francisco Bay against Confederate attackers.

From this point, it would’ve been easy to head across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito – had we wanted to extend our pedaling. Riding on to Tiburon on bike trails would allow us to take the ferry back to Pier 41, not far from our motel; we’ll save that adventure for the next time!

Returning, we explored the Palace of Fine Arts, stunning remains of the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and it’s future impacts on California. From here it was a short pedal through quiet residential streets back to our motel. That evening, we cleaned up and celebrated our first day with dinner at Squat and Gobble, a quaint restaurant with lots of fresh choices.

The next morning, we checked out of the motel early, and made our way to our favorite relatively unknown restaurant on the waterfront, a mile south of AT&T park. The Ramp restaurant is named for its proximity to a boat ramp sandwiched between a large industrial shipyard on the south, and a lively commercial boat yard to the north.

Looming over the Ramp is a huge Matson container ship and another large Navy ship is entirely out of the water in drydock. After our early lunch, with the Ramp’s blessing, we left our vehicle in the parking lot and peddled north towards AT&T Ballpark.

This route is almost entirely on bike trails and lanes apart from traffic and flat; it offers sightseers beautiful views of AT&T Park, commercial and Navy ships at nearby piers, San Francisco’s fireboat number one, public art along the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge.

We pedaled past the renovated old Ferry Building, alive with shops, restaurants and ferries arriving every 20 minutes or so, bound for Jack London Square in Oakland, Vallejo and other destinations. It’s a great place to grab coffee and a snack and watch people come and go amid the bustle of the ferry system.

Just north is the Exploratorium on Pier 15, with hundreds of exhibits, always an adventure for kids or adults. Check out the Bay Observatory Gallery, offering the history and geography of the Bay. By mid-afternoon, we reached Pier 39, admired the tourist-friendly shops and eateries, then cranked back to our starting point.

Folding bike versus traditional bike? My pal Steve noted “very comfortable, feels like riding a full-sized bike as long as you don’t look down to see the small wheels. Maneuverable, easy to get on-and-off, they took very little space in a small trunk, very cleverly designed and constructed – a quality product.  The challenge was the learning curve on collapsing and setting it up”. Certainly the folding bikes were easy to transport and easy to take on public transportation.

If you aren’t into biking, you can take much of this waterfront tour by hopping aboard the Embarcadero trolley which connects AT&T Ballpark north to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Complete your waterfront tour with a snack from one of the many nearby eateries, then hop the trolley back to your starting place!

What’s nearby: Just about all the attractions of SF’s waterfront from (south to north) include AT&T Ballpark, SFFD fireboats, the Bay Bridge, art on the waterfront, the Ferry Building, the Exploratorium, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Hyde Street Pier (old sailing ships), Ft. Mason, the Marina District, Chrissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge; for a 10 mile bike ride, the scenery cannot be beat!

How to get there: The San Francisco waterfront is 90 miles from Stockton, about 1.75 hours.  Take Interstate 5 south to Tracy, I-205 west to I-580 and continue across the new Bay Bridge (the concrete sections were made in Stockton); once in San Francisco, take the first exit to the right (Essex Street), follow the signs to the Embarcadero, and you have arrived!

What to take: Good walking shoes, bicycles if a cyclist, snacks, drinks, sunscreen, a good map or GPS unit, camera and binoculars!

More info: For Fort Point,, 415.556.1693; National Maritime Museum and Hyde Street Pier;, 415-447-5000; Ferry Building,, 415.983.8030; Exploratorium,, 415.528.4444; the Ramp restaurant, 855 Terry Francois St, 415.621.2378; Practical Cycle, 114 J St., Old Sacramento, CA 95814; phone 916.706-0077;

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog:; to contact me,

Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your favorite late summer or early fall vacation destinations…please share suggestions!

Morro Rock stands just off the beach at Morro Bay as horse-riders enjoy the scene.

Tufa towers stand like ghost ships along the shore of Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra.

Big Horn Sheep stand guard over Anza Borrego State Park (photo courtesy CA State Parks)

Group of bike riders in Discovery Park along the American River, Sacramento.

Families and empty-nesters are into the prime vacation season; with months of wonderful weather to come!

Once again, I am seeking your favorite vacation places in Northern California, southern Oregon or Nevada – anywhere within about a 5-6 hour drive or short flight from Stockton and San Joaquin County. Send me a short description of your best-loved destination(s), and a photo if you have one, and I’ll make it a subject of an upcoming column in the Stockton Record newspaper and my Record blog. Please send your ideas and a photo to:

Last week’s request prompted a couple suggestions where we have not been, or, visited long enough.  Those included the far-north California coast, up near Trinidad and Arcata (thanks, Eric Grunder) and the Bend, Oregon area (thanks, Lori Dixon).

To prime your creative juices, here are a couple of additional favorites, including:

a. The central California coast, from Big Sur south to Morro Bay,

b. the eastern Sierra (including old ghost town Bodie and Mono Lake) and the Mammoth Lakes area just south,

c. The California desert with such parks as Anza Borrego State Park, the nearby Salton Sea, and,

d. Cycling along the American River Trail in Sacramento, Jack London Square in Oakland or the San Francisco Embarcadero area.

So, send me a photo and short, one or two paragraph description of your favorite vacation destination(s)! I will plan to make a blog feature of your favorites, perhaps an article in the newspaper with enough response.  So, get sharing your best vacation faves!

Thanks, and happy travels in the west!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog:; to contact me,

Continued happy travels in the west!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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