Home for the holidays – take visiting guests on a tour de grace!

Guests in town for the holidays? Take them on an exploration of our city and county’s special places.

Lighted Boat Parade, returns to Weber Point in Stockton on Saturday, December 3!

Christmas lights: Take a driving or, better, a walking tour of Meadow Avenue, just west of Pershing, for the city’s most spectacular Christmas lights.  Take a thermos of hot chocolate and enjoy the holiday spirit! And, if you have guests in town this weekend, take in the grand Lighted Boat Parade, coming to Weber Point shortly after dark on Saturday, December 3.

The Haggin Museum in Victory Park; "can't miss" attraction!

Haggin Museum and Victory Park: The stately Haggin is one of the west coast’s prime museums and art collections, anchoring Victory Park for 84 years.  First Saturdays offer free admission, and Second Saturdays offer up special programming targeting families with kids.  Deemed one of “California’s undersung gems” by Sunset Magazine; the museum focuses on the city’s history from founder Captain Weber, to more modern leaders like Benjamin Holt (inventor of the Caterpiller-type tractor), Tillie Lewis (the “Tomato Queen”), and Stephens Brothers wood boat builders.

Among its art collections are scores of paintings by 19th and 20th century American and European artists, and breathtaking panoramas of the Yosemite Valley.  Ongoing special art shows make the Haggin experience one that varies by the month; for insight and special holiday activities, hagginmuseum.org.

Jack Taylor pilots a big bus at the Stockton Children's Museum; fun for kids of all ages!

Kid’s activities: The Children’s Museum (childrensmuseumstockton.org) lets the kids play on a fire engine, fly a helicopter, prowl in a police car and discover so much about the world they reside in.  In Lodi, the wonderful World of Wonders Science Museum offers high-tech activities for kids 2 to 19, wowsciencemuseum.org.

Downtown Stockton history and waterfront: Explore from the Ports Ballpark and Stockton Arena on the north side to  Weber Point, the Cineplex/Hotel Stockton at the head of the Channel, then west to the Children’s Museum, Waterfront Warehouse and Stockton Marina on south channel, this is the heart and soul of Stockton.  Once the Gold Rush port to the Mother Lode, it brought miners, merchants and helped build an agricultural empire second to none.

Historic Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre in downtown Stockton is a gem dating to 1930!

Park near the Ports Ballpark on Fremont, and take in the view with a walk or bike ride along the waterfront promenade (grab a bite to eat at Nena’s in the Waterfront Warehouse, once part of the huge Sperry Flour facilities), take in a Stockton Heat hockey game or events at Stockton Arena or the historic Bob Hope Theatre.  More info, downtownstockton.org.

Miracle Mile, shops and restaurants: The Miracle Mile, on Pacific from Harding Way north to the University of Pacific campus, was Stockton’s original suburban shopping center. Today it is resurgent with scores of quaint, walkable shops and some of the city’s finest restaurants.  Stroll the Mile and stop for food or drink at favorite places like The Ave, Centrale, CoCoRo, Mile Wine Company, Valley Brew, Whiskey Barrel Tavern and many more. Not to be missed on the Mile is the Stockton Art League’s Goodwin Gallery, located at 1902 Pacific Avenue, a non-profit gallery supporting local artists at this location for 13 years.  For insights, stocktonmiraclemile.com.

University of Pacific campus: For performing arts, sports, provocative lectures, adult education, UOP’s beautiful Ivy-League-like campus was the site for the filming of dozens of great Hollywood movies (like Raiders of the Lost Ark).  It’s a compact, walkable and bikeable campus (the Calaveras Bike Trail runs along the north edge of the entire UOP campus).  Stop at Burns Tower for a parking pass and a campus map, tour the shady campus, and stop for a snack at the DeRosa University Center.  During your tour, check out the Long Theatre, Faye Spanos Concert Hall, Spanos Center, new Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center and other venues for future returns for theatre, performing arts, sports and more.  Info, pacific.edu.

The DeRosa University Center on UOP's shady campus is a fine stop on a walking or biking tour.

Ethnic dining: Stockton offers dining diversity like no city other than Los Angeles, so get creative in your culinary tastes!  My list could offer scores of good choices, but downtown is rich in diversity (Cancun, Casa Flores, On Lock Sam, Yasoo Yani, see downtownstockton.org), as well as the Miracle Mile (Suzy’s Mexican, Saigon, CoCoRo, New Wok Inn, Siamese Street, see stocktonmiraclemile.com) and many more throughout the city.  With such culinary and ethnic dining diversity, skip the national chains and eat local!

San Joaquin Delta: Start a tour of the some of the 1000 mile waterways of our vast  Delta with lunch at Bob’s at the Marina or dinner next door at Garlic Bros. Restaurant (from their decks you can see Village West Marina and several miles of Delta waters, and spectacular sunsets highlighting distant Mt. Diablo).  The San Joaquin Delta stretches all along the west side of the city (many waterways stretch well into our city).  Gather more inspiration along Highway 12 west out of Lodi, and tour the Delta Loop (Moore’s Riverboat II Restaurant a fine stop), just past Bouldin Island, or Hwy. 4 west (the extension of Martin Luther King Blvd. in south Stockton).  Explore Delta back roads, count how many historic draw bridges you cross and watch for huge cargo freighters along the way.

Sun sets over Mt. Diablo, looking west over the San Joaquin Delta from the deck of Garlic Bros. Restaurant.

Lodi/Woodbridge wine country and varied wineries: Start at the Lodi Wine and Visitor’s Center at the corner of Lower Sacramento and Turner Road for wine tasting and maps.  From there, fan out to visit some of more than 80 local wineries that have put wine tourism on the map over the last 25 years.  Throughout the season, a variety of festivals of wine, chocolate, music, good food and more offer many opportunities to tickle your palette!  During your tour, stop for breakfast at Richmaid on Cherokee Lane, or lunch in downtown Lodi (one of the Valley’s gems of historic downtowns).  Reliable choices include Lodi Beer Company, Rosewood Grill and School Street Bistro on School Street and the new Fenix in the theater complex.  For info: lodiwine.com, or visitlodi.com.

For a variety of other special destinations and events, contact visitstockton.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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Bear Valley opens today!

Bear Valley opens with limited terrain, but, it’s open!

For those of you following the openings of Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge Ski Resorts…, the closest skiing to Stockton and San Joaquin County:

This just in from Bear Valley:

Bear Valley Opening Day is Friday, November 25

Opening weekend includes Winterfest celebration

 Bear Valley, Calif. Bear Valley will kick off the 2016-17 winter season this Friday, November 25, thanks to snowmaking and a little help from Mother Nature. Cub Chair lift will start turning at 9 a.m. and guests will have the opportunity to enjoy an entire weekend of skiing, snowboarding and family activities.

The inaugural weekend kicks off with special pricing of $49 for adult and teen lift tickets.  The weekend will also feature Bear Valley’s annual Winterfest Celebration in Bear Valley Village, with fun activities for the entire family, bonfires, movies, great food and more. In addition, the Bear Valley Cross Country area opens on Friday, November 25 as well. Find more on cross country, snow shoeing and sledding options, and complete list of activities is available at http://www.bearvalley.com/events/winterfest-201617.  


A photo from last year, Bear's ski runs looking northwest from the Day Lodge.

This weekend, Bear Valley is planning to open Cub chair lift providing access to beginner terrain. Beginner lessons are available for ages 4 and up, both group and private lesson options.  Day Lodge services including food and beverage, rentals, retail, season pass services will open at 8:00 a.m. with lifts turning from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Visit www.bearvalley.com to book a lesson or for more information.

About Bear Valley Mountain & Bear Valley Village
Bear Valley Mountain and Village is the premier family mountain sports and lodging destination in the Central Sierra.  Located between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe on National Scenic Byway Highway 4, and surrounded by two of California’s largest federally designated wilderness areas, outdoor activities in Bear Valley are abundant. Bear Valley Resorts is known for its warm, welcoming staff, affordable ticket prices, a variety of terrain, and a commitment to providing the ultimate mountain experience.  The ski and board area offers 1,680 acres of varied terrain, more than 70 trails, two terrain parks offering more than 18 features, and 1,900 vertical feet.  Bear Valley averages over 30 feet of annual snowfall per year.  Bear Valley Village is home to a variety of services, shops, restaurants and a wide range of accommodations.  Winters provide skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.  Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, camping and a variety of cultural events make for a perfect summer of activities. Top the areas natural wonders and activities off with a Family Adventure Park, located in Bear Valley Village, featuring Bungee Trampoline, a Ropes Challenge Course, a 40’ Rock Climbing wall, Pump Bike Track and swimming pool all the “backyard” at the Bear Valley Lodge. More information is available at www.bearvalley.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!



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Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley Ski Resorts prep for opening of 2016-17 ski season

The closest snow to home is just two hours from Stockton!

Though another big storm is required before our county’s nearest ski resorts can open, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort and Bear Valley Ski Resort are prepping for another snowy season.

Grandson Jack Taylor took quickly to snowboarding last season after lessons at Dodge Ridge Ski Area.

Both resorts are closer than other options in the Lake Tahoe area, family-friendly, less expensive than more distant ski hills and don’t require summiting a mountain pass to reach the ski areas. From my north Stockton home, Dodge Ridge is just 98 miles, Bear Valley, 106 miles – each only about two hours distant!

Dodge Ridge is celebrating its 66th year, one of the Sierra’s granddaddy resorts. Notes the resort’s Adam Fox, “we have focused on continued improvements to learning programs and rental and demo equipment for the new season. The family friendly atmosphere is perfect for one-of-a-kind lessons, customized for every age and level of skier and snowboarder”.

Adds Fox, “The resort’s Intro to Snow program provides one-on-one introduction to skiing or snowboarding for kids as young as two years old, a two-hour program available daily. Kinder Club is another program tailored for beginner skiers and riders aged 4 and 5; the Kid’s Club offers full day and half day lessons for ages 5 to 12. Last season, our six year-old grandson Jack took to snowboarding immediately, assisted by friendly Dodge Ridge instructors and benefitting from two carpet lifts.

Family of five gathers in Dodge Ridge's Boulder Creek Canyon area for photo op!

All lesson packages include lift ticket, equipment rental, and helmet. The Dodge Ridge Rental Shop is stocked with specialized ski and snowboard equipment specifically designed to fit kids as young as two years old. Reservations are highly recommended.

Dodge’s Progression Pass is a gateway to a lifetime’s enjoyment of skiing and riding for guests ages 13 and over. The Dodge Ridge Progression Pass offers a season’s worth of unlimited beginner lessons, rentals and a lower-mountain season pass. Skiers and snowboarders are able to progress all the way up to intermediate levels with new Elan gear”.

Master’s Clinics, for veteran skiers 50 and older, allow fine tuning of skiing skills in a relaxed, social atmosphere. These workshops are offered twice weekly throughout the 2016-17 season, starting mid-January. Save Mart or Lucky Supermarkets offer discounted lift tickets.

Skier schusses through the Sonora Glades just off Dodge Ridge's Chair 8 quad.

Dodge Ridge offers a variety of cross-country ski trails emanating from the base area, as well as other choices on the access road and in Pinecrest.  The area features a number of dining options at the ski area, including the Creekside Lodge and Café; on weekends and holidays, the North Fork Bistro in the Family Lodge is a fine place for families to dine and slopeside dining is offered at Local’s Café, bottom of Chair 7.

Other reliable dining options nearby: The Steam Donkey (steaks, seafood, pasta), in Pinecrest and Mia’s Italian, Cold Springs, are favorites. Overnight lodging is offered at Pinecrest Lake Lodge or Pinecrest Chalet, the Christmas Tree Inn, Mi Wuk Village or the Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn.

Bear Valley continues to evolve under new ownership, and is celebrating both expanded snow making and new ski runs down to the Bear Valley Village area. Bear Valley has installed more than $300,000 of improvements in its snowmaking and grooming operations in anticipation of the 2016-17 season. The enhancements include a better and more efficient snowmaking system along with new snowcats to groom increased production of snow.

Skiers bask in sunshine at Bear Valley, looking northwest from the Day Lodge.

“An upgraded pumping capacity will allow us to operate continuously during optimum temperatures for snow making,” says Bear Valley’s snow product manager, Tim Schimke. “This important improvement will allow uninterrupted operation of our snowmaking system for weeks at a time, translating into more snow production.”

Bear Valley has installed a full automation snowmaking control system along with the addition of automated snowmaking towers on the mountain. “Automation will provide the ability for our system to respond to optimal temperatures for more efficient snowmaking,” added Schimke. “We have also started the process of adding fixed emplacement towers for more efficient snowmaking in trouble areas on the mountain. To accompany the improved snowmaking system, Bear Valley has upgraded it snowcat fleet to process the snow and make it skiable with newer models”.

Kids enjoy a 'Ski Bears' lesson in the sunshine at Bear Valley Resort.

Bear Valley’s Rosie Sundell adds, “We have added new intermediate trails, a major project approved by the forest service in 2012.  These are beautiful trails that originate at the top of Koala Chair and will give guests that enjoy long groomed trails a scenic ride almost two miles long down to Bear Valley Village. These trails reside in what is known as “Sunrise Bowl”, historically only available to expert snow enthusiasts.  Intermediate skiers and riders will can enjoy this amazing terrain that offers a spectacular view of the Dardanelles known as Cape Horn Vista”.

Bear is also remodeling several guest areas including tickets, season passes, and major improvements at our Kid’s Learning Center; in the Village, the Bear Valley Lodge is being remodeled and expected to complete half the rooms before winter season. Bear Valley Cross-country Ski Center, with 38 trails over 3,000 acres, adjoins Bear Valley Village.

A family that boards and skis together, at Bear Valley.

Bear Valley offers a variety of food and drink choices at its mid-slope Day Lodge; in Bear Valley Village, the Lodge offers light fare in the Grizzly Lounge, steaks and seafood in the classy Creekside Dining Room and pizza and pasta in the Trattoria, for families with big appetites!

Closer to the Valley, one can find numerous dining options in Arnold, and even more good eats in Murphys, including the highly rated Alchemy Restaurant and the historic Murphys Hotel.  Arnold and Murphys both offer a variety of hotels and motels for overnighting.

How to get there: From Stockton the start is the same for both destinations; take Highway 4 east to Copperopolis.  To reach Dodge Ridge, go south on O Bryrne’s Ferry Road and east on Highway 108 to the ski area. For Bear Valley, continue on Hwy. 4 all the way to the ski area.

For more information: Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, dodgeridge.com, 209.965.3474; Bear Valley Ski Resort, bearvalley.com, 209.753.2301;

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Think snow, and happy travels in the West!

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Festival of Trees makes December perfect time to visit San Joaquin Historical Museum!

Anytime is a fine time to visit our county’s historical museum in Micke Grove Park near Lodi, but December is the “put it on your calendar” time! In December, the museum complex comes alive with both Christmas cheer and the stunning Festival of Trees!

A decorated tree stands in the historic Calaveras School building for the festival.

Featuring more than three-score beautifully decorated unique Christmas trees, the San Joaquin Historical Museum’s 25th annual Festival of Trees is Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum (located in Micke Grove Park, south of Lodi a mile west of Highway 99 and just south of Armstrong Road).

Visitors will be greeted by docents in vintage Victorian and pioneer clothes, lending to the air that guests have stepped back in time to celebrate Christmas! The museum’s exhibit buildings will overflow with scores of festive trees, each decorated according to a unique theme by different individuals and groups from throughout San Joaquin County.

The museum’s Christi Weybrecht shares, “It’s a step back in time to walk onto the festive museum grounds with historic buildings, displays and docents dressed in vintage Victorian and pioneer clothes. The museum’s eight exhibit buildings will be brimming with more than 60 festive trees, each decorated according to a unique theme by different individuals and groups from throughout San Joaquin County.

Museum docent and young guest make pioneer dolls two years ago at the festival.

The festival also features charming Christmas exhibits, entertainment and food for purchase. There will be many special things to see including demonstrations of woodturning a child’s toy and an extensive model train layout with the Polar Express theme for viewing. Vendors will be on hand to sell unique handcrafted items, and docents will sell a variety of handcrafted wares in the Docent Boutique.

For children, there will be many hands-on activities including decorating cookies, making rag dolls, dipped candles, punched tin ornaments and other crafts. There is a nominal fee of $1 to $3 to make the crafts. Children also will be able to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, and families can purchase photographs of their children with Santa”. Entertainment fills both days; food and drink will be available for purchase.

Museum docents prepare holiday decorations for the festival.

In addition to all the holiday festivities and decorated trees, visitors will enjoy the museum’s diverse historical exhibits. A year ago, the museum expanded its Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years. The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, with very rich cultures and lifestyles. They put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California.

Museum executive director Dave Stuart notes, “Native people are such an important part of our County history that we expanded the exhibit space and now tell their stories in an up-to-date way; 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.”

The "trackless train" takes visitors through museum grounds at last year's festival.

The Native Peoples Gallery showcases a circular high-tech wooden bench; with the push of a button, visitors can listen to 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). A third tells of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and County were named.

The new exhibit offers hands-on activity for younger visitors and a large mural of an Indian man and woman bedside a lush riverside. “The new exhibits work perfectly with the other exhibits,” said Stuart. “Visitors can follow the Native peoples, to early trappers and founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to the early American settlers, then to exhibits on the Gold Rush and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The history and evolution of wine grapes and wine-making is also featured. Stuart suggests, “For a starting point on history of the Lodi-Woodbridge winegrape appellation, stop at our Tree and Vine Building, with a host of displays of historic wine-making equipment.  The museum preserves a remnant of William Micke’s 1922 Flame Tokay vineyard; Tokay grapes dominated the area into the 1950s and were used as table grapes and for making brandy and even some wine”.

Young visitors admire old farm truck loaded with historic fruit crates.

Also featured is an historic Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) rail car which transported iced produce to distant markets like the east coast. During prohibition in the 1920s the shipments of wine grapes actually increased as home vintners bought grapes with which to make their own wine for home consumption. Visitors can also enjoy the museum’s new Innovations in Agriculture exhibit in the Cortopassi/Avansino Building, with one of the largest collections of tractors, agriculture equipment and tools west of the Mississippi (kids will love them).

For more information: General admission tickets are $10 and $1 for children 2 to 12 years old. Children under 2 are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Music Box, 101 E. Lodi Ave. in Lodi, the Music Go-Round, 944 W. Robinhood Dr. in Stockton, or by calling the museum at (209) 331-2055. With advance tickets, the $6 parking fee into Micke Grove Park is waived. Tickets also may be purchased at the event. For more insight, call the museum at (209) 331-2055 or (209) 953-3460 or see www.sanjoaquinhistory.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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Gold Rush cruisin’; gold’s discovery in Coloma and nearby Gold Rush history!

Gold’s discovery in Coloma and nearby Gold Rush history…

The fork of the American River that would fuel Sutter's Mill and help change the course of history in California and the west.

With the extended Thanksgiving holiday fast-approaching and family/guests in town, take a day’s tour of California’s Gold Rush history. Your exploration should include Sutter’s Mill in Coloma’s James Marshall Gold Discovery Park, just 80 miles from Stockton, and a scenic tour down Highway 49 through a handful of historic cities on your return home.

Sutter's Mill, site of gold discovery, in Marshall Gold Discovery State Park.

John Sutter (also plan a visit to Sutter’s Fort in central Sacramento), a Swiss immigrant, received a Mexican land grant in 1839 giving him rights to develop a good portion of the Sacramento and American River Valleys. As his empire expanded, he needed lumber to fuel his construction projects and he partnered with James Marshall to find and build a nearby lumber mill in the Sierra foothills.

Marshall, along with John Sutter’s Indian guide, Nerio, found accessibility in the valley of the Cul-Luh-Mah Native Americans, plenty of pine trees and a river (the South Fork of the American) strong enough to power a sizable sawmill. Since the area around Sutter’s Mill was beyond his grant, he signed an agreement with the Nisenan Indians.

The first boards destined for Sutter’s empire in Sacramento were milled in March, 1848 and millwork would continue until only 1850. Marshall would discover gold in the tailrace of the mill on January 24, 1848. Due to gold’s discovery, the land soon became too valuable, the Gold Rush was on, California’s population would quadruple and land around the mill was sold for gold claims. The mill’s dam was removed, the mill fell into disuse and floods in 1862 destroyed what remained.

Interior of Mormon Cabin, millworker's abode, in Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma.

The Marshal Gold Discovery Park tells the story not only of Sutter’s Mill, but of gold mining in the Sierra from 1849 until the latter part of that century. In the park are re-creations of the Arrastre, powered by horses or mules and used by early Spanish settlers to crush rock for gold and small and large crude stamp mills to pulverize rock to release the gold.

Nearby is the huge nozzle of an hydraulic water monitor (cannon), used to wash down the hillsides so the gold could be placer-mined. After streams, rivers and even the San Francisco Bay began to silt-up, hydraulic mining was outlawed by the state in 1884.

The Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is located on Highway 49, 8 miles north of Placerville. From San Joaquin County, go north on Interstate 5, east on US Highway 50 to Placerville, then north on Highway 49 to the park.

Hydraulic water monitor (canon) in Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Coloma.

From the gold discovery Park, return southbound on Highway 49 come across Highway 50 and tour downtown Placerville, offering 10 blocks of quaint, historic shops and restaurants.

Continue south on Highway 49 to Plymouth, with several blocks of Gold Rush history and eateries, including the regionally-acclaimed Taste restaurant – wonderful food but reservations required. The nearby Shenandoah Valley offers 40+ wineries for sampling of Zinfandel and other regionally noteworthy wines.

Heading further south on Highway 49, take the old Hwy. 49 turn-off to Amador City and Sutter Creek.

Old photo showing hydraulic mining; after washing down silt into the American, Sacramento Rivers and into San Francisco Bay, the practice was outlawed in 1884.

Amador City was founded when Jose Maria Amador, pioneer settler and farmer, mined along an unnamed creek in 1848 and 1849 and found gold. After the easily accessible gold was removed, deep rock mines began to multiply. The Keystone Mine, organized in 1853, became the city’s most famous and eventually produced $24 million in gold before closing in 1942. Portions of the old mine, including the rusty headframe, can still be seen towering on the hillside above the town’s visitor parking lot.

Amador City offers a quaint five-block walking tour of livable history, including the Amador Hotel, the Imperial Hotel, the Amador School House, a host of old homes and the Keystone Mine. A fine place for lunch or dinner in the city is the Imperial Hotel and Restaurant at the end of the historic district. The hotel offers nine refurbished rooms while the restaurant offers regionally-acclaimed food in a classy, historic setting.

Just two miles away is our favorite gold rush town, Sutter Creek. The old city offers a 10 block stretch of old Main Street complete with bed-and-breakfast, tasting rooms, shops and restaurants. The Hotel Sutter on Main Street is a fine place for lunch or dinner; great pizzas can be found at Gold Dust Pizza, just off Main on Eureka Street.

Sutter Creek's Main Street and historic Hotel Sutter.

Your tour will cover almost 200 miles and offers plenty of diversions.  Plan an early start, pack your walking shoes and binoculars and enjoy a tour of the scenic foothills and the history that put California on the world map in 1849!

Nearby attractions: Indian Grinding Rocks State Park offers additional insight into Native Americans, Murphys and Ironstone Winery offer more history, Black Chasm Caverns affords an opportunity for would-be spelunkers to ply their craft and Columbia State Historic Park further south along Hwy. 49 is a wonderfully preserved Gold Rush town.

For more information: Coloma, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484, the Marshall Gold Discovery Museum and Visitor Center, 310 Back Street, Coloma, CA 95613, (530) 622-3470; Plymouth, historichwy49.com/amador/plymouth.html; Amador City, amador-city.com/, (209)267-0682; Sutter Creek, suttercreek.org; (209) 267-1344.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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On-line travel features…over 270 choices!

On-line travel features in the Record offer a huge variety of destinations and travel topics!

Did you know the Record offers a wide variety of travel features, well over 270 strong, that can be selected by “Category”?

Hence, you can go to the RECORD’s blog site, choose ‘Valley Travel: Little Places That I Know’, go to the upper right-hand corner of my home page (under my winsome picture), and you’ll find “Categories”.

Find the "Categories" option in the upper right-hand corner of my travel blog home page. Yep, right under that 10 year-old pic!

Those categories include:
Canada, Eastern,
Canada, Western,
Central California,
East Coast US,
Midwest US,
Mountain West (Montana Wyoming, Utah, Colorado),
Northern California,
Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho),
Sacramento/Capital region,
San Francisco Bay Area,
Sierra Nevada,
Southeast US,
Southern California,
Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas),
Stockton/San Joaquin county,
Teardrop and tiny travel trailers,
United States beyond

Hence, if you’re headed to the Pacific Northwest, click that category and you’ll find dozens of articles on places and special sites in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. If you have a hot spot for teardrop and tiny travel trailers, click that category for scores of articles about touring the US and Canada in tiny, efficient travel trailers.

Hence; freshen your travel planning with advice on just those places you want to go, places you’d like to get to, or modes of travel! We’re about to enter a New Year; time to freshen up your travel “bucket list”!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!


Posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, United States beyond! | Leave a comment

Amgen Tour announces host cities for 2017 event

For those of you who enjoy the excitement of world-class bicycle racing and seeing world-class cyclists up close and personal, the Amgen Tour just announced the host cities for next year’s special event.

Here is the detail:

The 2017 Amgen Tour of California men’s competition is set to begin in Sacramento on May 14, 2017, while the 2017 Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM will begin three days earlier on May 11 in South Lake Tahoe. Full details on the 2017 Host City Announcement are:

The Host Cities & Stages for 2017:

The Woman’s Race: 

Stage 1 – May 11, 2017 – South Lake Tahoe

Stage 2 – May 12, 2017 – South Lake Tahoe

Stage 3 – May 13, 2017 – Elk Grove to Sacramento

Stage 4 – May 14, 2017 – Sacramento

The Men’s Race: 

 Stage 1 – May 14, 2017 – Sacramento

Stage 2 – May 15, 2017 – Modesto to San Jose

Stage 3 – May 16, 2017 – Pismo Beach to Morro Bay

Stage 4 – May 17, 2017 – Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita

Stage 5 – May 18, 2017 – Ontario to Mt. Baldy

Stage 6 – May 19, 2017 – Big Bear Lake Time Trial

Stage 7 – May 20, 2017 – Mountain High to Pasadena


For more information on the 2017 Host Cities, go to: amgentourofcalifornia.com.

Mark your calendars!


Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ghosts of downtown Stockton add Halloween spice to the city’s storied history!

Ghosts of downtown Stockton add Halloween spice to the city’s storied history!

Spooky… Music and the sound of party-goers from the old Hotel Stockton ballroom – but no one there. Footsteps and an apparition of a pioneer woman in the hallways of the old Philadelphia House, again no one around. Ghosts and swaying chandeliers in the old Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre.

At left, tour guides Laguna, Jr. and Howard stand next to Lydia, the apparition in the veiled outfit, as they address Ghostbuster's group outide Hotel Stockton.

A crowd of 60+ Ghostbusters met Downtown Stockton Alliance’s Manuel Laguna, Jr. and Friends of the Fox Theatre’s Kelly Howard outside the majestic Hotel Stockton on Sunday for the first downtown Stockton Ghost Tour. Laguna and Howard would lead the tour goers on the combination historical and ghost-story walking tour of some of Stockton’s most venerable buildings.

With the discovery of gold in Coloma in 1848, 49ers streamed from around the US and the world, more than quadrupling California’s population in the following 10 years. Stockton became the port city for the Mother Lode mines, with thousands of miners and their supplies arriving by ship, horse, wagon train and more.

The town that Captain Weber so meticulously laid out grew in rapid fashion, to become one of the largest cities and downtowns in the north state, rivaled only by San Francisco and Sacramento.  Our growing agricultural empire added to Stockton’s early success, as suppliers, implement makers, banks and retailers grew to supply the fast-growing regional economy.

Ghostbuster's tour group inside Hotel Stockton lobby listens as tour guide Howard shares ghostly stories about the hotel.

Stockton grew and its downtown blossomed with it, becoming one of the state’s most attractive and largest downtown commercial centers, adjoining a bustling world-class port. Stockton’s growth spurred hotels and theaters, and soon the downtown had a score of each and a lively entertainment district with a host of restaurants and night spots!

Today, much of that old commercial empire remains on the waterfront and nearby, as Stockton recreates a new, energetic downtown by building upon its storied history. And, the old downtown reportedly spawned numerous ghosts.

On their trail, our tour group moved into the Hotel Stockton lobby, built in 1910; the grand, business-men’s hotel would help speed Stockton’s rise to one of the top cities in the state of California. The two guides shared stories about ghosts within the hotel.  Laguna noted that current residents of the hotel often claim they “hear footsteps in fourth floor hallways and often hear music playing and sounds of partiers emanating from the old sixth floor ballroom, but find no one there”.

Howard noted “on the third floor, guests frequently feel unexplained cold spots”. He added that “modern-day Ghostbusters use equipment such as audio recorders set to record in the dark of night, cameras in full spectrum or infrared mode to capture apparitions, camcorders set up with motion detectors – all to catch evidence of ghosts from yesteryear”.

Bank of Stockton building, corner of San Joaquin and Main, once housed the venerable Yosemite Club, home to its own resident ghost population!

Members of the tour group then shared their own personal stories of ghosts in their homes and places of business.  I shared the story that Ed Coy, then head of the City’s Central Parking District, once told of ghosts said to inhabit the storied Yosemite Club, housed for well over 100 years on the 4th and 5th floors of the historic Bank of Stockton building. The oldest private club west of the Mississippi once boasted members including Benjamin Holt, Sheriff Robert Cunningham, flour magnate George Sperry and many more heads of Stockton.  Declining membership forced its closure in 2010.

The tour then moved north across the alley to the B & M Building, built as the Philadelphia House in the late 1860s. Laguna related, “former Parole Department workers reported the feeling that someone was behind them, items were moving, phantom smells of perfume and cigar smoke lingered, piano music and the sound of someone walking wafted down from the third floor – when the floor was vacant. Many also saw a woman that they lovingly nicknamed Lydia; she’s been seen by quite a few people through the years, including an Alliance employee”.

Tour group eyes the ornate Tretheway Building facade, which crashed to the sidewalk during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Just east of the hotel on Weber Avenue is the old Mansion House and the ornate Tretheway Building. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake caused the huge façade of the Tretheway to tumble to the sidewalk – it’s rumored that some of the ghosts of the 700 killed in San Francisco carry a special place for this building in their hearts.

Kitty-corner from the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre is the historic Bank of Stockton building, where stories abound of the ghosts that inhabit the former Yosemite Club. Howard relates, “a culinary school that currently occupies part of the building reports swaying light fixtures, attributed to the club’s ghosts”.

Ghostbuster's group gets the low-down on the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre's resident ghostly tenants.

Following the showing of the classic film Phantom of the Opera, Howard led the Ghostbusters on a tour of the old vaudeville and movie house. The Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre opened in 1930; thousands lined up to get a look and to see the movie “Up the River” starring Spencer Tracy. A grand showplace with over 2,100 seats, it was home to musical acts, vaudeville and movies, active until the 1970s, when nearly torn down to be replaced by a parking lot.

The Fox California Theatre reopened again in the mid-1990s and 12 years ago received an $8.5 million restoration by the City of Stockton. Howard told tour-goers of numerous ghostly sightings and presence of apparitions in the theatre, confirmed by custodians, projectionists and other staff members, as well as theatre-goers.

Your downtown tour can also include a visit to nearby Weber Point, where you’ll find the footprint outline of Captain Weber’s stately home; some say that Weber’s family’s ghosts still haunt the Point!

An 1890 4th of July parade, along Weber Avenue, with the Capital Hotel/Mansion House and the Tretheway Building - 20 years before the opening of the Hotel Stockton!

More info: For future downtown Stockton historic walking tours, contact the Downtown Stockton Alliance, www.downtownstockton.org (the Alliance offers a booklet for self-guided walking tours), or contact Manuel Laguna, mlaguna@downtownstockton.org, 209.464.5246; Tours of the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre follow each monthly classic movie (next film, the Newman/Redford hit, ‘The Sting’, is Sunday, November 20, 2 PM), contact Friends of the Fox, Kelly Howard, Kellyhoward23@gmail.com, 209.858.9114.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!

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Sandhill Crane Festival is this weekend in Lodi and surrounding countryside!

OK, you have notice of a very cool event coming in a few days!

Sandhill Cranes congregate in wet, marshy lowlands (Chuck Higgs photo).

The 2016 Sandhill Crane Festival is November 4-6, 2016; register now for the 20th Annual Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi and surrounding countryside.

Tour Registration is Now Open!

The Festival has tours designed to appeal to everyone, led by experienced guides and experts in their field. Two and a half days of fun, from sunrise to sunset.

The choices are many: crane fly-out and fly-in tours; kayaking and cruise tours; birding field trips; expert-led photography field trips; and winery tours.

Granddaughter Jessica searches for cranes, egrets and other birds at Cosumnes River Preserve.

In between tours, check out informative presentations and workshops, plus the Art Show, Exhibit Hall and Festival sales table.  And don’t miss Friday night’s Opening Dinner.

So, plan a visit to Lodi and environs this weekend! You’ll not be disappointed in these majestic birds (many standing 5 feet tall with 7 foot wingspans) and our lovely Lodi and Woodbridge countryside.

Cranes migrate thousands of miles each year (Chuck Higgs photo).

For more information, go to the Sandhill Crane Festival website: cranefestival.com.

And, a special “tip of the hat” to my favorite amateur wildlife photographer, Chuck Higgs, who provided these photos!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!


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Calaveras Family Fun Day is Sunday, October 30, 11 AM to 1 PM, on the banks of the Calaveras River!

Here is a fun outing in Stockton, right along the banks of the Calaveras River and the University of Pacific campus. Friends of the Lower Calaveras River are teaming up with Kohl Open School’s Student Stewards of the LCR for some fun on the river we love – rain or shine! They invite families to join for this free event!

Activities will be spread along the banks of the Calaveras River between Pershing and Pacific Avenues, with the 2nd story deck of the University of the Pacific DeRosa University Center as “home base.” Parking can be found on either end of the footbridge on campus.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the west!



Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
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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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